HC Deb 02 March 1899 vol 67 cc1120-58

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. GRANT LAWSON (York, N.R., Thirsk), in the Chair.]

(In the Committee.)

Motion made, and Question proposed— That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 184,853, all ranks, to be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding Her Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1900.


The aspect of this Question which I propose to treat is that of finance. I do not desire to repeat the various arguments which I brought forward on the Estimates of last year, pointing out that the present system had hopelessly broken down, but I desire to show that for years past the expenditure, not only upon the Army, but upon the fighting forces generally, has been on the increase, and that, in spite of that fact, we are in no better position at the present moment than we were several years ago. Mow, Sir, I do not contend that there has been particular extravagance in any one direction; I strike at the whole system. I say that the present system under which we obtain men is a system which, out of the mouths of the authorities themselves, has proved a failure. I should like to refer to a few of the points which the honourable and gallant Member the Secretary of State for War has himself brought forward. Amongst other things, he referred to the garrisoning of the coaling stations. Now, Sir, we have over and over again pointed out that in the garrisoning of these coaling stations and naval bases there was an immense waste. Battalions and fighting units have been broken up for this purpose. By a very limited increase in the Royal Marines, who are much better adapted for this work, many valuable battalions would have been saved for active service. We have heard something of the chances of a great war, but it is always spoken of as very remote, or as next to impossible. Sir, surely the authorities should not look at things from this point of view. This nation is paying a sum for the maintenance of our Army Services out of all proportion to that paid by other nations, and the people have a right to expect that they shall have an Army upon which they can absolutely depend. France and Germany and other great military nations make a vast expenditure it is true, but then they are almost always absolutely prepared for war. I am assured on the best authority that if a war were to break out at a moment's notice between France and Germany, a complete army corps could cross the German frontier fully and thoroughly equipped within 24 hours. We have heard over and over again that we are in a position to place two army corps in the field. I think I showed conclusively last year that in many details even these two army corps are deficient. I showed that as re- gards the medical arrangements they are most defective; that, in order to thoroughly equip the medical service for two army corps, it would be necessary to draw upon the reserve of medical officers, a large proportion of whom are absolutely unfitted to take the field, and that it would be impossible to withdraw the medical officers from all the principal medical centres, and place those medical centres in the hands of other practitioners, because they have had no training whatever as regards administrative duties. Then, Sir, the honourable and gallant Gentleman referred to the proposed new batteries. Of the proposed 11 new batteries it was, however, acknowledged that only eight were completed. Now, Sir, if there is one branch of the Service which you cannot complete in a hurry, and which it is absolutely necessary to keep in effective strength, it is the Artillery. The greatest deficiency exists in this branch of the Service. It may not, perhaps, be generally known that artillery horses are most difficult to train to a high state of proficiency, and yet we find that we are three batteries of Artillery short. When we brought our case—and I speak on behalf of the majority of the Service Members—before the House last year, the demand we made was far greater than that which the Government conceded. The increase in the Army was less than that which we considered necessary to properly defend the Empire. Now, it may be said that I am paradoxical, and that I am arguing that while we should have a larger number of troops our expenditure should be smaller. I say that with a perfectly clear conscience, because I condemn the whole of the present system, root and branch. I say it is breaking down, and that you will never have an Army in this country capable of satisfying the requirements of the Empire until you have definitely decided to have a long-service Army for India, and an Army for home defence on an absolutely different basis. I am aware that the great difficulty is the recruits. I am, however, satisfied that that difficulty will be removed if any Government will place before the country the fact that if the present system continues they must be content to go on adding one, or two, or three millions a year to the expenditure, until the expenditure becomes almost prohibitive. If, in other words, the Government will, vulgarly speaking, take the bull by the horns, and, taking the people of this country into their confidence, point out to them that it is absolutely impossible, under the present system, to carry out the idea that the Government desires, viz., to be thoroughly well defended at a fairly moderate cost, I am satisfied that they will get the support of the country. Now, Sir, it may be asked, how is this to be done? If we are able to procure a voluntary Army at the present time almost equal to our requirements, we can certainly get a voluntary Army of old soldiers sufficient to defend our Indian and Colonial Empire. Then, it will be asked, what steps do I purpose taking for home defence? Well, Sir, I am sure that Englishmen will be fully prepared, provided they see, not an increase, but diminution in their expenditure, to adopt some system under which every man in the country shall be called upon to serve for some limited time in order to obtain sufficient military experience to be able to act in defence of his country. I may be told that I am only advocating conscription. Sir, I am advocating nothing of the kind. It is not generally known amongst the public in this country that under an old Act of Parliament every man in this country is liable to serve; but by an Act which we pass annually in this House, that particular Act is annulled. I am perfectly confident that a system could be evolved which would bring our Militia force up to such a point that invasion would become absolutely impossible. I know it may be said that this may work very well in so far as the Infantry troops are concerned, but will not touch the question of officers and non-commissioned officers, nor the question of Cavalry and Artillery. I maintain, Sir, that we should save many millions if we had a force composed largely of Infantry, but with a sufficient nucleus of Cavalry, and, above all, of Artillery. This Artillery would, moreover, be of immense value in the event of expeditions. Again, it may be suggested that we should fail in our supply officers to command the whole of these home troops. We have seen an advance in that direction by the appointment of retired regular officers to Militia regiments, but, Sir, it is becoming daily more difficult to get officers for the Militia service. As regards the men, the Militia is never kept up to its standard. The troops are troops upon paper. That is a point which the people of this country do not understand. Large numbers of men in the Militia serve over and over again in other regiments. This is always denied by officers commanding Militia regiments, who tell us that their sergeant-major goes down to the other regiments and that he invariably is able to detect any man who happens to belong to his own corps. Why, Sir, we know that the idea is preposterous. There are sergeant-majors of Militia regiments who, when they see their men out of uniform, immediately after the training, would be unable to recognise them, and it is a well-known fact that if you were to attempt to call out the Militia to-morrow there would certainly not be more than 75 per cent, available. I say that, in this respect at least, the people of this country are relying upon a broken reed. Now, I do not wish to say one word against the Militia force. It is a force in which I believe every man in this country would be prepared to serve for a limited time. We see the system in vogue in Switzerland and other countries where there is no idea of Imperialism. We have no desire to turn this country into a great camp like France or Germany; nothing would be more distasteful to the British people—of that I am confident. But, Sir, it would be distasteful to the British people if you put before them the fact—as my right honourable Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean has pointed out—that if you include the Indian forces, the Colonial forces, and the forces employed by the Foreign Office, there is a total expenditure of something like £40,000,000, a monstrous sum as compared with that expended by any other nation. If, I say, you officially put before the British public this fact, coupled with the fact that there is no prospect of that amount being decreased, inasmuch as the standard of living in all ranks and amongst every branch of the Services is increasing, and that, as regards war material of every kind, the cost, as the familiar expression is, is increasing by leaps and bounds, and, furthermore, that as long as the present system lasts no War Minister could place before the country an assurance that the Estimates of the Army shall be smaller in amount than they are this year. I am quite confident that the people of this country will rise to the occasion; and if everything is done to make the road smooth and easy for every man to serve, once between the ages of 17 and 22, or 23, for a limited time, say, some six months during the summer, the people will not be found wanting. Rut as long as the people are led to believe that they are in absolute security, as long as they are led to believe that they have so many hundreds of thousands of Militia and Volunteers to defend our shores in case of need, necessarily they will not be prepared to make those sacrifices. Now, Sir, perhaps the honourable and gallant Gentleman in reply will state whether he conscientiously believes that within the next two or three years he will be able to obtain men necessary for our battalions and batteries without depleting both the Army reserves and the Militia reserves. The present system seems to be that of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and this is what the people of this country do not realise. The honourable and gallant Member has spoken about the horses. It has been stated that 11,500 artillery horses are immediately available. I should like to know if he can give us any information as to how, in the event of mobilisation, we are to become immediately possessed of those horses, and at what cost to the State. I should also like to know how long, in his opinion, it would take to train those horses, in order that they may be suitable for drawing the guns. Because, after all, the honourable and gallant Gentleman did not say that there were sufficient horses to draw those guns. I should also like to know what proportion of these 14,5000 horses would be immediately available for waggon purposes, and how long it would take to train them. With reference to the Cavalry, I think the remarks made by the honourable Member for Belfast were very much to the point. A man has a right to soldier in the regiment in which he elects to serve, and to transfer him from a regiment in which he has a desire to servo to a regiment in which he has no desire to serve is not only straining the law but sailing very close to the wind. We have been told that no drafts would be taken from the Cavalry. Now, Sir, I am very anxious to know, if no drafts are ever taken from the Cavalry regiments when we have any of our little wars on, how thoroughly efficient drafts of men would be supplied to regiments on active service. We have 21 battalions under the Colonial Office, and I should just like to say a word upon that subject. It seems to me to be a very bad principle to have troops for whom, in a certain measure, the War office are, or ought to be, responsible placed, under the Colonial Office You create a sort of dual system; surely nothing could be worse for the efficiency of the Service than this division of responsibility amongst the heads of the various departments Now, Sir, I come to the first class Army Reserves, and I notice a certain number of makeshifts. I do not blame this Government one whit more than former Governments in this matter. For years past the whole question has been upon a wrong basis. It has been a case of tinkering with the ship from top to bottom, and we all know what happens in the end. You have to throw the whole vessel away, and go to immense expense to build a new7 one. In other words, you are throwing good money after bad. If the whole facts of the case were put before the people of this country I am perfectly satisfied that they would adopt the principle of buying an entirely new vessel. We have heard something about the payment of an extra shilling a day to a certain number of men. Now, Sir, if you go in for this system you will gradually deplete the Army Reserve to such an extent that, in the event of a great national disaster, and of your having to call out the entire Army Reserves, there will be practically no Army Reserves left; for we all know that the men who take the extra shilling a day are the élite of the Army Reserves. But, you not only deplete the Army Reserves but at the same time the Militia Reserves, and you are left in both cases with simply the dregs of these Services. I am satisfied that the breakdown of the entire system is not far distant. Now, I come to the Volunteers. We are the only country in the world which has ever been able to maintain a force such as the Volunteers are, because in Switzerland and other countries the forces which there exist are more in the shape of Militia; but an absolute Volunteer force such as we possess is unknown in any other country, and we are necessarily very proud of the fact. I do not wish to say one word against the Volunteers, but I would ask any Service Member present whether the Volunteers, destitute as they are of any arrangements which would enable them to take the field, and destitute as they are of artillery, in the event of one single army corps of a foreign nation landing upon our shores would not be absolutely valueless, and whether, through no fault of theirs, they' would not be in precisely the same position as those gallant Dervishes when they came in front of Lord Kitchener's guns.




An honourable and gallant Member says No. I have no doubt they would fight with equal bravery; but the honourable and gallant Member must know, as well as I do, that an army would be worthless without its guns If we look to the breakdown of the arrangements on Salisbury Plain last year, when 50,000 men assembled, I think he must admit that before the Volunteers had been in the field a week they would be destroyed or be in a state of semi-starvation. Without transport and without artillery our Volunteer forces are weak, and the sooner the War Office knows it the better. The honourable and gallant Member spoke of a boom in recruits. Well, Sir, that is exactly what has happened. Owing to the gallant deeds of our Army in Egypt a great wave of sentimentalism as regards the Army has swept over the country, and recruits were never more numerous than they are at the present moment. There is also a certain wave of Imperialism. Men are proud to be Englishmen. Although I am no Little Englander—(I firmly believe that trade follows the flag, and that when we endeavour to press our trade in a country where there is another flag, that country takes very good care to put such prohibitive tariffs upon us that our merchants are unable to do any business there)—I do not wish it to be inferred for a moment, because I make these remarks, that I am a Jingo. I am nothing of the kind. I am one of those who strongly favour arbitration and deplore the necessity for war; but, on the other hand, I say that if you wish to avoid war there is nothing like taking a firm stand, as we saw upon a recent occasion. Moreover, the people of this country ought to feel, in paying the enormous sum they do, that they can, as the expression is, "sleeps comfortably in their beds at night." I do not wish to say one word against the Navy. The country cannot be absolutely safe without its Navy. But if we should be drawn into war with a neighbouring country, as seemed highly probable some time ago, every honourable Member in this House who has considered the question knows that we should never be able to get the enemy's fleet out of port, unless we landed a powerful force on their coast, or in one of their Colonies. Should we have been in a position to do that recently? Manifestly not. There was a large proportion of our best troops in Egypt. We could not have withdrawn a single man. We should have been obliged to send out drafts in order to bring the force in India up to its maximum strength. Under these circumstances, I say that we should have so depleted the whole of the battalions that Ave could not have sent a force of any magnitude to one of the Colonies, and, at the same time, have had at home sufficient troops to defend our shores. Now, Sir, in view of these facts, I hope the honourable and gallant Gentleman will say whether he thinks he will be able to obtain sufficient men to keep the position of the troops up to the requirements of the Empire.


I should like to say a few words upon the Cavalry reorganisation. I do not like it, but we must recollect that the officers who formed it did so to avoid cutting off the list of the Army several historical regiments; I would urge that if a man is transferred from the regiment in which he enlisted to another, even though liable to be so transferred, he should receive £1 for disturbance. The recruiting is not really satisfactory on account of the great number of "specials." Something ought to be done to use men above 25 years of age in the Service abroad. I venture to submit for consideration that a man after three years' service should have the opportunity of commuting his Reserve service for a number of years' general service in India and elsewhere for a pension, and that the present value of his future pension should be paid by the War Office to the Treasury each year, so that each year shall bear its own burden. There was one remark made by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean with which I entirely agree. He suggested that part of the garrison Artillery at home should be Militia, and but for the necessity of relieving the garrisons abroad the greater part might be Militia. The garrison Artillery should not compete with the active branches of the Army for the youth of the country, but should consist of older men. I think one of the most important matters for consideration, though I am aware it does not apply to the War Office, is that all boys in the elementary schools should be drilled as a compulsory subject of instruction. In the first place, I think such a training would improve the physique of the country generally—that is the experience in Germany; secondly, it would increase the labouring capacity of the workers; and in the next place it would be of great advantage in the event of a serious emergency coming upon the country. The next point I wish to touch upon is that of the Marines. At the present time, I venture to say that they are not sufficiently utilised. They might, I think, garrison our small coaling stations, and I think there ought to be a battalion located in Australia and also in Halifax to supply the needs of ships in those waters. As to the question of expenditure, I venture to think that the cost of our Army is one which can be really only compared with that of the American army. I think everyone who wishes to curtail our expenditure ought to be able to put his finger upon the particular direction in which it is to be done. Lord R. Churchill's and other Commissions have gone into the whole question. The next point I wish to speak upon concerns the Volunteers. In my opinion, the Volunteers are not under sufficiently good discipline and control; they are placed under Brigadiers who, however excellent they may be, have left the Service and cannot be expected, therefore, to have a thorough knowledge of the latest military require- ments and tactics. I would venture to urge that there ought to be some officer of experience—one for instance who has been in command of a brigade at Alder shot—on the staff of the general officer commanding a district, in arranging the system of the drill of Volunteers in camp and supervising it. With the present staff it is not possible to do this. I would strongly urge that something should be done to place the Volunteers in some way under the very best officers you have in the Army. That is the proper way to make them thoroughly fit for their work.


There is, I think, considerable weight in the last remark of the honourable and gallant Member who has just sat down, that everything that can be should be done to increase the efficiency and perfect the discipline of our Volunteers. I should like to refer to a few of the points upon which he has touched. In the first place, he spoke about the drill in elementary schools. I think he will find—I know it is the case in Scotland—that it is possible under the Code for school managers to introduce physical drill in the schools. Everything, however, should be done with a view to the health and welfare of the people, rather than with the view of encouraging any military spirit amongst those who are of so tender an age. Then the honourable and gallant Member referred to Cavalry drafts. That is a subject which has been taken up and explained with great force and clearness by the honourable Member for West Belfast. But, as a matter of fact, all Cavalry officers have always lamented the necessity for these drafts being made. I do not think there is any difference of opinion on that subject. As, however, the Under Secretary said this evening, you have to weigh the advantages and the disadvantages of any particular evil of that kind. And you have furthermore to remember that it is part of a large system, and you must, therefore, submit to occasional and constitutional inconveniences, which are inseparable from a system which has hitherto secured the approval of the country. It is, I think, desirable that we should be able to take a fuller and more comprehensive view of our military forces and of our responsibilities throughout the Empire. We cannot separate the increase in our military forces from the increase in our naval forces. I do not think that sufficient emphasis has been laid in this Debate upon the cost to the country of what we are now doing. Everything seems to be accepted as if it were for the best, and there is an entire absence of criticism or reference to the great sacrifices the country is called upon to make in voting such large sums of money, and devoting such large numbers of our fellow-countrymen to the military service. We have to increase, or recruit, this year 10,000 men, which means taking 10,000 men from productive employments in the country. We cannot doubt the fact, and it is much better that we should regard it from the point of view of a sacrifice than as a duty lightly undertaken. This additional strength has not been obtained without extraordinary efforts, and yet, even this year, after every possible expedient has been adopted in order to bring the recruiting strength up to the proper limit, the result is that we fall far short of our requirements. Now, Sir, I believe that the true feeling that prevails in the country is to regard this as an extreme sacrifice—made willingly, I have no doubt—but to regard it as a sacrifice, more especially when one reflects that it is a sacrifice made in times of peace, which leaves very little margin when we are actively engaged in any serious complications with Foreign Powers. Then there is another point which appeals to me very strongly, and that is the sacrifice which you call upon the men to make in the Service. You take a large number of men and boys not only away from home, but away from civil life; and you cannot, without calling upon us as a country to face very grave moral and social evils, adopt the system of sending large bodies of men abroad, or even to defend the shores of their country, without demanding a very great sacrifice from them personally in times of peace as well as from the country itself. There is, in recent times, a very marked difference of opinion in the prevailing sentiment with regard to the expansion of the Empire. I am by no means one of those who desire to shelve our responsibilities, but the change of policy will strike anyone who institutes a compromise between what went on in India and other parts of the world in times gone by and what takes place to-day. Never before in the history of the world has there been such expansion and territorial aggrandisement; never before has that sentiment been supported by such a strong body of opinion as it is at the present time. There are some who go so far as to say that all this inevitable militarism is a good thing. Well, Sir, I wish to combat that view from beginning to end. It may be necessary, I admit, to incur responsibilities, but do not let us take the view that we accept them gladly, but rather as a burden which we only adopt under necessity and compulsion. I must say I fail to distinguish, when I compare the two great political Parties, the difference between the general attitude of the Unionist Party as expressed by the Leaders in this House and by the Party to which I belong. It has been stated—and, I think, not too soon, that those honourable Members on this side of the House, while they are willing to do their best to carry out such responsibilities as have already accrued to this country with reference to this expansion, think we have gone far enough; and we do not mean to give any support in any further attempt in the same direction. I was astonished to-night to hear the First Lord of the Treasury, before the House adjourned, lay down the dictum that Foreign Policy has nothing to do with this expenditure. It seems to me that it has everything to do with it. And I will quote the authority of Mr. Disraeli, who said, "Policy does depend upon armaments." Ever since the present Government has been in office, there has been some development which has demanded an increase in the British forces. There have been British troops in almost every part of the world—East Africa, West Africa, Uganda, Wei-hai-Wei, and Crete, while, in South Africa, you have what would have been considered in former days huge and unnecessary garrisons of troops. Now, the honourable Member for West Belfast has criticised what has been done, and declared that some great organic change is needed. I must say that I have listened to the honourable Member for West Belfast for several years in his criticisms on the present Army system, but I have always failed to find precisely what he would substitute in its place. He talked tonight of a great organic change. Now, if a great organic change means, as it seems to me it can only mean, conscription—




What does it mean, then? A long-service Army.


I have constantly opposed conscription. My view is that we ought to have a long-service Army for Imperial Service, and a short-service Army for exclusively home service.


Whatever the views of the honourable Member are, when reduced to figures, and whenever the practical working of his scheme is put to the test, either in money or men, I must say he has failed to convince me that any improvement on the present system would be gained by adopting what he proposes. Of course, if that is what he meant by a great organic change, I fully admit that I ought not to have alluded to it in those terms. But there is one point he took to-night about the Cardwell system, one point he has got rid of, and that is this. The House will remember that one of the cardinal points of the reforms instituted by Lord Cardwell was that he brought home large bodies of regular troops from abroad: he brought home, if I mistake not, something like 24,000 or 25,000 men, whom he withdrew from Colonial garrisons. Now, I do think that when we consider, as we are bound to do, when we are face to face with, what has been done this year and last year, when we are faced with the foreign policy of the country and the foreign responsibilities of the country—I do think we are bound to ask ourselves, Where is this all leading to? The honourable and gallant Member on my left discussed the question of sacrifices, and said what, I think, is perfectly true, and what I should like to emphasise, that there is no country in Europe which has conscription for an army which has to fulfil the duties which our Army has to fulfil. It is perfectly unreasonable, no matter what the opinion of the country is about it; it would be a fatal mistake of policy that I do not think any Government is likely to commit to suggest conscription for an army, one-half of whose duties at least lie abroad—perfectly out of the question! Sir, what we must ask ourselves is, From what direction is relief to come? I say relief may come, and in my opinion it should come, if it can possibly come, from the idea contained in that part of the scheme of Lord Cardwell. I do not see in the least why even now the Government should not use their influence and do all they can to increase the contribution in men and' money that the Colonies should provide. If it is good for us—I do not admit it, that is, on its merits, apart from the necessities of the case—to have an Army as an integral part of the population here, it is equally good for the Colonies to do so there, and it seems to me that it is most desirable that the attention of the country should be directed to working out the problems which undoubtedly must be worked out in these connections. I think that it is desirable to try and think a little of these things. I do not believe myself that we sufficiently admit in this House, or that it has been sufficiently recognised recently, that there are limits beyond which this country cannot go, either with benefit to itself, or with benefit to other countries, or with benefit to humanity at large. There are sacrifices which we cannot make, sacrifices which we call Quixotic, which can do no good to us or anybody else. I really think, just as we are in sight of having geographically consumed the whole of Africa, we are perilously near utter exhaustion of our recruiting resources in this country; that our Army, as it is at present, is bearing an excessive strain—because, as a matter of fact, it will not be for two or three years that we shall be able to see the result as to whether or not the contemplated addition of 25,000 men is possible—and in face of these facts we should be working out some possible relief, and endeavouring to find out from what sources relief can be got. I do not think there is any direction so hopeful as that of calling upon the various Colonies of British-speaking peoples which we have over-seas, of telling them that it is their duty—and it should be impressed upon them that it is their duty—to provide for their own home defences. As for the influence of this country abroad, as for the influence which has gone to build up the Empire—why, Sir, I remember very well that the Under Secretary of State for War, on the last occasion when he brought forward the statement on the Estimates, pointed out that of the men who reached the age of 18 in this country, one in four goes into the military or naval service of the country. Now, that is a very important fact. But British influence abroad is not due to our Army; it is due to men of intelligence and enterprise who have gone abroad; and if we go on subtracting these men we destroy rather than build up the influence we have exerted abroad. Again, if this country is called upon to make too great sacrifices, to overburden itself, to overweight itself with disproportionate sacrifices in keeping up a large Army in these islands, we must inevitably affect the social conditions and the social arrangements of the country here. And just as the intelligence and enterprise of the country has been one factor in building up British influence, so, I think, another great factor is in maintaining, and insisting upon maintaining, just conditions of government here, that men may grow up with a sense of justice and fairness, that their faculties may have full scope and freedom. I thank the House extremely for having allowed me to draw attention to what I consider to be an important characteristic of the Army Estimates this year, and that is that they give fresh and confirmatory evidence of the enormous self-sacrifice that this country is now being called upon to make in this direction, and no further proof is needed of the duty which lies upon our Government at the present time to seek some method of relief to the country from the burdens which this policy has imposed upon us.

COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)

Sir, I take it that I am not the only Member of this House who is somewhat puzzled to know what deductions to draw from the speech just delivered from the opposite Bench. I confess that I am unable to understand the honourable Member, either in the fears which he expressed or the conclusions—entirely illogical as I think, and ill-founded—which he has attempted to put before the House. The honourable Member who has just spoken has one panacea. He seems to think that the right way to assist the recruiting system is to draw upon our Colonies for the recruits which are necessary: his panacea seemed to be to draw on the Colonies for the recruits we wanted. A few sentences previous to giving utterance to that I hear that he had been regretting, as far as I can understand, the outbreak of the military feeling in this country which attracted so many recruits to the flag. Now, Sir, I want to know what are the feelings which he thinks induces our Colonial brethren to join the flag?


If the honourable and gallant Member will allow me, all I meant to suggest was for home defences—that is to say, for Colonial homo defences—it was not unreasonable to look to the Colonies themselves.


Sir, I again cannot follow the honourable Member. If the Colonists are to be regarded by the mother country as a part of the Imperial whole, we are not likely to call upon Colonial soldiers to defend only their country and have no interest in the Empire. I think I am interpreting the honourable Gentleman rightly when I say he expresses considerable regret at the immense sacrifice which, he said, was put upon the people of this country by the fact of the withdrawal of a certain number of men from the ranks of civil life into the ranks of military life. Again, I entirely fail to agree with him. On the contrary, I believe that the temporary abstraction of a certain number of men from civil life into military life is a good thing for the country. I think that these very men, by the fact of their training and their discipline, return to civil life much better citizens than they were when they left civil life; and if I was speaking even without any reference to the necessity of carrying on military operations, I would still advocate, as far as possible, the introduction of civilians into military life. The honourable Gentleman also introduced questions of Foreign Policy, which, I might have thought, were rather too large for a Debate such as that we are indulging in now; and I confess that I am entirely unable to see how he can at one moment give out that you are to consider it a sacrifice and an evil for men to join the Army, and at another moment point out that the consequence of the extension of the Empire, which we all rejoice in, is a matter for regret. Sir, I am perfectly confident of this, that the honourable Member is in a very small minority in the country on that line. The country has endorsed and has welcomed the action of the present Government in these directions, and it knew perfectly well when it endorsed and approved that action that it entailed a considerable increase of military expenditure, and the necessity for having a larger army to secure our possessions. I do not think, therefore, that the suggestions of the honourable Member are very likely to be taken into serious consideration by the Government, and I do not think that the country at large is likely to share either his apprehension or his general attitude upon this subject. But, Sir, I should like to turn from the speech of the honourable Member to one or two points which have been alluded to in this Debate; and I think I am only saying that which all military Members of this House feel, that we are very glad to welcome the honourable Gentleman who is now the Under Secretary of State for War, and we feel that the presence of a statesman who has made such a good beginning as he has to-night, and who has put before us a statement on Army affairs at once so clear and so straightforward and honest, gives us some assurance that in him, in all rational requests, Service Members will have a sympathetic friend and adviser. Now, I think it has been alluded to by honourable Members on both sides that the right honourable Baronet has suggested very large and sweeping reforms. It may be so. But if that is the case, if the ideas of the right honourable Baronet are based upon some very sweeping reform, it does not seem to me that this is the occasion upon which to discuss large and sweeping reforms of Army organisation; but such reforms, if contemplated, must be preceded by elaborate precautions, such as were taken when Lord Cardwell introduced his reforms. Any very sweeping reforms in Army organisation should be preceded by the same elaborate precautions. This Committee has not sent a report, but has issued a statement that the question is under consideration. It is rather beside the question to be indulging in visions which have not the slightest possible chance of being realised in fact. There is one point, amongst others, in which I do agree with the honourable Baronet on the opposite side of the House—in his criticism of the Government policy. He found, and I think with reason, a little fault because my honourable Friend the Under Secretary of State for War had seemed to lay paramount stress on the fact of our home Army being available for defence, and defence chiefly. I do not think it can be too widely recognised both in this House and in the country that one of the first considerations in regard to the home Army is this: that it should be available not only for home defence, but available for delivering a swift, rapid and effective blow wherever such a blow might be dealt in furtherance of the policy to be carried out. It is absolutely a mistake to conceive that it is only necessary to be ready to defend ourselves if attacked. I believe that it is of greater importance that we should be able to put a plaster on a foreign nation on any place where it would have most effect. That is one of the weak points of the statement of my honourable Friend, and I do believe that the necessity for such action as that is recognised by the War Office and by the chiefs of the Army at present, and that there is far more preparation in that direction than is dreamed of either by this country or by those against whom action would be directed in case of need. Now, I would like to make one or two remarks on the recruiting question, which underlies the whole efficiency of the Army. From my point of view, the most important question connected with recruiting is the question of the proper employment of the men when they have done their term of service. I have read with interest the Report of the Inspector-General of Recruiting, and I think we cannot but be struck by the great stress which he lays on the employment of the men when they have done their term of service. I do not think it is satisfactory, considering how strong the recommendation of the Committee of the House of Commons was, to find that so comparatively few old soldiers and old sailors find employment among the different institutions and Government offices which require the services of such men. The Inspector-General of Recruiting gives a long list of institutions and Government offices in which comparatively few old soldiers and sailors are employed. I think it is quite clear that the attention of the Government could not be directed to a better or more useful quarter than that of striving to increase as largely as possible the employment of old soldiers and sailors in those positions. In the Army Estimates we are considering tonight I find many Votes of money taken for the employment of civilians. I know very well that there are certain cases and certain positions in which civilians must be employed; but still, when I see that the pay of civilian subordinates amounts of £30,000 a year, I think there is some room for putting away some of the civilians and paying that money to old soldiers and old sailors instead of to civilians. I maintain that the list of civilians in Vote 10 is not justified. I think that with the higher and better class of recruits we are now supposed to be getting, the attention of the War Office should be turned immediately to the filling of these posts as much as possible by old soldiers and old sailors. Then there is the question of the cavalry recruiting which has been dealt with by previous speakers. It is quite clear that the present system cannot possibly continue. An instance came under my own notice which seems almost too ludicrous to be true. But it is a fact. A certain man, with that feeling which is so common and so commendable, enlisted in the cavalry in order that he might join his brother in a certain distinguished cavalry regiment in India. But he was shunted from one regiment to another till, I understand, he was twice in one regiment of Lancers, twice in another regiment of Lancers, once in a Dragoon regiment, and twice in a Hussar regiment. He had no fewer than seven different changes, and, finally, he became so muddled that he did not know to what regiment he belonged. That is a state of things that cannot possibly be continued, and I have no doubt that measures will be taken by my honourable Friend the Under Secretary of State for War which will go in the direction of reform. Another point which has been alluded to and which I hope my honourable Friend will take into consideration is the Return showing the length of service and the age of the men in each regiment. Pressure has been put forward in Parliament to induce the Government to render to us that Return—a Return which we had before, and which we want again. Most of the Service Members in the House think that the rendering of this Return is due to us. It was very useful to us before. I cannot see how the Return is to be withheld from us this year. It has been said that it would give information to foreign countries which ought not to be given, but I am sure that any military attaché of a foreign Government could get, and I know that they do get, that information without this Return. Such a Return enables us to see more accurately the progress of improvement which has taken place in the various branches of the Service, and I think my honourable Friend will be well advised to meet the wishes of the military Members in this particular, and allow us the Return. My chief reason for rising this evening was to urge particularly the question of the employment of old soldiers and old sailors when they have done their term of service. I am sure my honourable Friend is in hearty sympathy with the matter. I may congratulate my honourable Friend on the statement he has made. He will forgive me if I say that there are many things which we shall have occasion to criticise and ask for, and I am sure we shall find from him fair consideration of any arguments we put forward. Speaking largely and generally, I consider that the honourable Member has made good a great deal of the ground he has taken up.


As the cavalry depôts have been abolished, it is necessary to have men for India, and my impression is that the best way to obtain them would be to add 800 men to the cavalry, and distribute them among the regiments at home. No man should be sent out to India until he is thoroughly trained, but the fact is that untrained men are at present sent out. When it becomes necessary to send out reliefs to India, volunteers should be called for from men who have not less than three years' service, and who are thoroughly trained. I believe that in every cavalry regiment at home you would find a considerable number of men who would be only too delighted to volunteer for India. In that way, without, expense, you could recruit the Indian Army without the slightest injury to the Army at home.

MR. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)

The honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War in his speech to-night spoke mainly about men, but there is another matter quite as important—money; and it is on the money aspect of the Estimates that I want to make a few remarks. We have, of course, a very large increase in the Army Estimates this year. The honourable Gentleman has placed before us the views of the honourable Gentleman the Member for Montrose, who in a recent speech, pointed out how largely the Army and Navy Estimates depended on the policy of the Government of the day. The honourable Member himself, in his speech introducing his Estimates, in deal-in with the Cavalry used the expression that three Cavalry regiments were now permanently in Africa, and nine Cavalry regiments permanently in India, find that the exigencies of the policy of Her Majesty's advisers depended on these Cavalry regiments. Very similar language was made use of by the Secretary of State for War in his Memorandum. Now, I entirely agree with that, and I am sorry that the honourable Member for Montrose is not here to-night, for I think if he wanted to make any effective protest against what he objects to, he ought to make his protest against the growing expenditure. If he wanted to put an effective check on the Government policy in Africa, he ought to come down here and move the reduction of the Totes for the Cavalry regiments in Africa. That would be an effective way of going to work, and the best way of checking the policy of the Government. There are one or two minor questions I should like to ask the honourable Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War. He alluded to a new scheme of defence for our outlying stations, which the honourable Gentleman told us had been recommended by a Committee, of which General Brackenbury was chairman. And for that £431,000 was in the Estimates for the current year. Tart of that sum, I understand, is to be paid by loan and part by estimates. Could he tell us what the total cost of this scheme of defence will be, how few or many years it is to be spread over, and how rapidly it can be undertaken and carried into execution? I should also like to ask him about the new loan indicated in the Secretary of State's Memorandum. Part of the expenditure under this new scheme of defence is to be defrayed by loan and part by estimates—the works to be defrayed from loan and the guns from the Estimates. Well, I should like to ask if he can state now the total amount proposed to be borrowed under the New Barracks and Military Works Loan Bill. I assume it to be a fact that the Government are now embarking on a new barracks scheme, but have they exhausted all the money which was raised under the Barracks Loan Act of 1890? At the end of the previous year, 31st March 1898, there was a sum of £180,000 at the credit of that loan fund.


It has been appropriated.


Then we may take it as a fact that the accounts under the Loan Act of 1890 are closed, and that we shall not have two Barracks Loans Acts going on at the same time. Will we be told what the amount under the new Loan Act is to be? I should like also, if the honourable Gentleman will tell us, to know what is the total military expenditure for the year just closing, and as far as possible, the total of the military expenditure of the year about to begin. The worst of it is, in the Army Estimates we do not get the total military expenditure of the year. There are several omissions in the Estimates and in the statement of the honourable Gentleman which he might supplement, so as to give the House the total military expenditure. What has actually been spent in the year under the Military Works Loans Act? He ought to be able to tell us roughly what has already been spent. We have heard, I may remind him, in reply to the honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, a statement by the right honourable the First Lord of the Admiralty of what was spent under the Naval Works Act, and, therefore, we ought to be able to get from the honourable Gentleman an estimate, at arty rate, of the amount spent under the Military Works Loans Act. I gather from what was said a moment ago that the outstanding balance of the Barracks Loans Act fund of 1890 has been ex- pended. Well, we have got to add that to the military expenditure of last year. There is another point on which we might fairly get a little more information from the honourable Gentleman, and on which a little more information might be put in the Estimates. The honourable Gentleman told us that besides the men borne on his Army Estimates there were other forces raised by the Crown which were of great service in Imperial defence. Of course, there is the Indian army. But there is a Colonial force of 21,000 men. I think we ought to get from the honourable Gentleman what the cost of these 21,000 men is. I am not aware whether the whole of it is borne by the Imperial Exchequer. There are certain grants in aid, in certain Colonial Votes, towards that expenditure. I think we ought to have a note of the amount that comes from the Imperial Exchequer for the maintenance of these Colonial Forces, for I find, on page nine of the Estimates, we have set out various sums of Army charges which appear in Votes other than Army Votes. We know from other sources the amount of total expenditure that falls on the Indian Exchequer, but I do not think it is clearly brought out anywhere in the Army Estimates that the Imperial Exchequer gets considerable assistance from the Indian Exchequer—not merely direct, but indirect, aid. As a matter of fact, there are two Indian regiments in Africa which are doing Imperial work there and which are being paid for either from Colonial funds or Imperial funds. And there is also a British regiment in Mauritius. It is there, I understand, by some arrangement with the War Office, and I presume it is paid for out of Imperial funds. I think there ought to be some notes in the Army Estimates to show us what all these various charges are and what the total military expenditure really is. There is another point I alluded to the other night. It is the ambiguity of the estimates of expenditure from year to year. In order to get at the real Army expenditure of the year we have not merely to work through the Army Estimates of the year, and the various funds, like the Military Works Loan Fund, but the Supplementary Estimates of the current year and the Supplementary Estimates of the previous year. You will observe that for the year just ending no less a sum than £760,000 was voted for the service of the year 1899, while in the Supplementary Estimates for the year ending 31st March, 1898, there was a sum of £331,000. It is very obvious what difficulty and trouble anyone has in his attempts to compare the expenditure of one year with another. One is obliged to take a great deal of, trouble in order to get some explanation of the figures from, year to year. At page seven it is pointed out that there are two particular Votes—the Clothing Vote and the Vote for warlike stores—for which sums of money were voted in the Supplementary Estimates of last year. In both of these cases it is impossible, on the face of the Estimates themselves, to understand the difference between the two years. The honourable Gentleman shakes his head, but here is what Lord Lansdowne himself says— The real increase under the Clothing Vote, taking into account the Supplementary Estimates of 1897–98 and 1898–99, is £166,000. But that can only be made out by looking for what was in the Supplementary Estimates of the year following. His Lordship goes on to explain that the real increase on the Vote for warlike stores, as compared with 1898–99, taking into account the Supplementary Estimates of 1897–98 and 1898–99, is £299,000, which is mainly due to the programme of armaments. What I would like to ask the honourable Gentleman is whether, in view of the peculiarities on the face of the Estimates, and which I venture to think is an irregularity, he will take steps so that this irregularity shall not occur in future Estimates, or that, if it is a necessity that it should occur, there will be a note on the Estimates of the year pointing out that certain amounts have been already voted in the Supplementary Estimates of the present year. My purpose will be served if under these two particular Votes a note is appended showing that in order to arrive at a true comparison of the Votes, allowance must be made for the Votes in previous Supplementary Estimates.


I shall endeavour to answer some of the questions put to me by the honourable Member for Aberdeen, East. I am afraid he will be somewhat disappointed with the reply, because I am going to say a great number of his questions should be addressed to some other person than myself. His opening remarks were specially addressed to the honourable Member for Montrose Burghs, but I cannot discuss the dissensions in his Party. The honourable Member asked me if I could give the House the total amount which we intend in the long run to take for armaments—that is to say, for guns of modern construction and for emplacements. I could give him what I think the sum will probably be, but I do not feel myself at liberty to do so. It is a speculative sum, and the question ought to be addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. All that we can say on the part of the War Office, and all that falls within our province to know, is that we know how many guns we want, where we want them placed, and, of course, approximately, the cost. Then the honourable Member has invited me to give him the amount which we shall ask under the Loans Bill for barracks in this country, and for the emplacement of guns. I feel I must defer that statement. It will be much more convenient for everyone that we should deal with that question as a whole when it arises at a different stage of our proceedings. The honourable Member has asked me how much—if I understood him aright—the Colonial forces cost the country every year. He quotes correctly their numbers—21,376—but I can only give approximately the cost. This matter does not arise in the Army Estimates, but on the Colonial Office Votes. I think the cost is about a million, but I speak from memory. After all, it is quite enough for a man to take his own estimates. Then the honourable Member asked me to explain the position of the British regiment in the Island of Mauritius, or whether that was on the Army Estimates. There is only half a battalion in Mauritius from a regiment at the Cape.


There is an Indian battalion also.


Half a battalion of British troops and an Indian regiment. For the defence of Mauritius the scheme was that there should be one British battalion and two battalions of coloured forces there, but they are not all there yet.


My question is whether the War Office pays for the Indian regiment that is at Mauritius now.


The Indian Exchequer pays for it, and we repay India. It is an Imperial charge in the long run. The question of Mauritius raised by the honourable Member is an illustration of the great difficulty of laying down general principles for all cases. The general principle is that all Colonial Governments pay for the troops that we send them. In the West Indies, where we have put up certain guns on naval grounds, we do not expect the Colony to pay for garrisons. The amount of the Imperial charge has been arrived at on the very best advice. Passing from the Question asked by the honourable Member for Aberdeenshire, I come to that of my honourable and gallant Friend the Member for the Newport Division of Shropshire, and I thank him very much for the kind words he had to say about our Estimates this year. He took exception, however, to one point in my statement. He thought I had laid too much stress upon home defence against the risk of invasion, and not enough stress upon the desirability of being able to deliver a counter attack. If I did that I did not convey my meaning aright. I would suggest that, in reading my remarks, it should be remembered that the greater includes the less, and if we are in a position to put into the field three Army corps and four Cavalry brigades a fortiori we are in a position to put two Army corps on board ship and send them abroad. I am glad to have this opportunity of making it explicit that that assumption underlies my statement. I should like to make another remark. I think the very fact that the contingency of a great war, involving risk of invasion, is re mote, justifies us in depending on the Reserves in order to fill up our home battalions. A number of other subjects have been dealt with in the course of this evening's Debate. My honourable and gallant Friend the Member for Newport spoke in terms to which no one can take exception of the great necessity of finding employment for men who leave the colours. General Kelly-Kenny in his Report has dealt in an interesting manner with that subject at some length, and he proves conclusively that almost all soldiers who leave the Army with exemplary or good character can get employment. I am prepared, however, to go further, and to agree with my honourable and gallant Friend in saying that that is not enough. I venture to think with him that it would be much more satisfactory if it were in our power to hold out such prizes after service with the colours as would induce men of other classes than now join the Army to enter the ranks. I live in the hope of seeing the day when service in the Army and Navy shall be the doorway to positions of trust in later life for all ranks, as it is now to a remarkable extent in the higher ranks, as witness the number of honourable and right honourable Members of this House who have graduated in the Army and Navy. The honourable Member for Newington, W., in reference to my statement that we had two Army corps ready for the field, has inquired whether we have an Army Medical Corps for them. We have not, and that is precisely why we are taking a sum of money in the Estimates in order to make up the deficiency. We are taking £9,100 in the expectation that the officers of the Army Medical Corps will come up to the establishment during the present year. We are also taking a further sum of money, because we are adding a number of men to the establishment. A very interesting question has been put across the floor of the House by the honourable Member for Forfarshire, who, with other honourable Members, has criticised the short service system. It has been suggested that there ought to be a long-service army for India and a short-service army at home. But anybody in this House who has listened to my attempt to defend the steps we have taken to get rid of that which militates against esprit de corps must realise that no such proposition can possibly be entertained. How can you preserve esprit de corps if you have two armies? What regiment with a proud history extending over 140 years would exile itself for ever in India, and what regiment would be content to vegetate at home without taking its share of the risks of war? I do not think that that is a practicable scheme until the cult of esprit de corps, in which I share, has departed from this country; and I trust it never will. The right honourable Baronet has referred to the cost of our Army, and he suggested that it was very extravagant. But I do not think that we can admit of any comparison between the cost of our Army and the cost of Continental armies. I admit that the fact that we have no conscription does not account for the great difference. Take, however, the question of staff alone. Our Army is spread all the world over, and at every place where we have an Army we are obliged to have an expensive staff. We have to have a man in command, who not only is a general in the Army, but who also, in some sense, is a viceroy, who has to determine grave questions of policy at a moment's notice without advice from home. We have to pay our men more highly for undertaking these responsible duties of a semi-diplomatic character, and we also have to pay larger salaries, because our Army is so widely scattered. In Continental armies with compulsory service there is this great advantage, that they have experts in the ranks; they have artificers, tailors, and even doctors in the ranks, and the doctors take their turn in looking after sick comrades instead of shouldering rifles and doing other laborious duties. Then the question of transport must be taken into account. I am reminded by an honourable Friend that Germany has sunk capital to the extent of hundreds of millions in Government Railways which are part of the plant of the army, and may I point out that no other nation in the world has to ferry its troops backwards and forwards over the ocean as Great Britain is compelled to do. The right honourable Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean has asked me some questions about the three years' men, and I will make this general observation, not merely upon the three years' men, but also on the point introduced by the Leader of the Opposition as to accepting retransfers from the Reserve to the colours. The right honourable Gentleman said he viewed with some anxiety anything which tended to deplete the Reserve. Well, we must keep up the Reserve, and I believe we shall be able to keep it up, but I may point out that having a variety of terms of engagement saves us from having a huge overflow into the Reserve in any one year. The right honourable Baronet asked me whether the German four-gun batteries had, like ours, one wagon?


I said they never had fewer than 11 batteries in one place, and that they, therefore, had greater opportunities for drill.


The right honourable baronet said, in the first place, that they had more horses and more waggons than our lower establishment. As a matter of fact, ours have 58 horses and one waggon, and the German lower establishment field batteries have only 45 horses and no waggon, and when they mobilise they have to call from the Reserve 66 men, 92 horses and eight waggons, so that upon that point I think we compare favourably. It is true, as stated by the right honourable Baronet, that the German batteries are exercised together in brigade divisions; and the War Office fully recognise the necessity of exercising our troops in large formation. I may say that under the Bill which will be submitted to the House a large sum of money will be taken to allow of being exercised together on Salisbury Plain Cavalry brigades and brigade divisions of Artillery. I will not say anything in respect to the argument that has been used against drafting from Cavalry regiments, because I shall deal with that subject in a Motion later on. I think, Mr. Lowther, that I have endeavoured to reply to all the points raised.


Mr. Grant Lawson, we have had a very interesting discussion, but I should like to say a word or two in regard to the private soldiers, some hundreds of whom are my constituents at Aldershot. It has been said that recruiting this year has been better than usual, but I should like to draw attention to the fact that a great many of the men who have been engaged are "specials," and, therefore, undersized, but the War Office have been obliged to take them because they could not get better. The reason that a better class of recruit cannot be obtained is that the condition of the private soldier is not as good as it ought to be. I have often urged upon this House the necessity for improving the barrack accommodation, and I am glad to say it has been improved, but it is not as good as the accommodation which the ordinary labourers have in the country. If you want to get the best troops, you must make the accommodation equal to that which the men leave on joining the Army. It is a common thing in the country to hear parents bewail the fact that their sons have joined the Army. And why is this? It is, as they say, because their sons have to go into such bad company. I think if the recruiting sergeants were a little more particular as to the character of the men who join we should not only get more recruits, but a better class of recruit. I cannot understand why the War Office do not give their attention to this matter. Men are now allowed to join the Army absolutely without any character at all. Men can now join the Army however bad their character may be, and even if they are undersized, which is a very bad thing indeed. It prevents other men of good character joining the Army, and so becoming useful soldiers of this country. I do not want to dwell now upon the accommodation provided in barracks, but it is very bad. The men have one common room in which they sleep, and they are put to all sorts of inconvenience. There is an arbitrary law that the lights have to be put out at a certain time at night, usually at a quarter to 10 o'clock. Men of good character are allowed to remain out in the town till 11 o'clock, but when they return to barracks they have to find their way into bed in the dark. Their comrades are all sleeping in the same room, and I have heard from the soldiers themselves that the defective lighting gives rise to all sorts of disorders and disturbances in the barrack room. I cannot help thinking that if the men are allowed leave till 11 o'clock, some sort of moderate light ought to be allowed them in order that they may find their way to their beds. It is a very difficult thing for a number of men who sleep in the same room, and between whose beds there is no division at all, to find their way to their own beds in the dark. I am sure no honourable Member in this House would like to be compelled to find his bed under such conditions. The private soldiers are put to all sorts of similar inconveniences. I should like also to say a word with regard to the superior class of private soldiers—the warrant officers, who have had grievances for a long time. They formulated those grievances last year, and sent them to me and other Members, and we forwarded them to the Secretary of State for War, who promised to have an inquiry made into them. A Departmental Committee was appointed, which presented its Report in November last. Sir, you will hardly believe that the Under Secretary of State for War, in answer to a question put by me, admitted that the Committee had presented a Report, but that the Secretary of State for War had not considered that Report, and that, therefore, no answer could be given to the warrant officers or this House. I think, when an important class like warrant officers have grievances, and when those grievances are formulated and considered by a Departmental Committee, the least that could be done by the Secretary of State for War would be to give them an answer as soon as possible. I do not wish the time of the House to be taken up on this subject, but I do contend that the war- rant officers are entitled to have an answer, and also to have their grievances, or some of them, remedied as soon as possible. Another matter deserving notice is the treatment of the soldiers who were invalided during the manœuvres last year. A number of these soldiers—the House will hardly believe it—were sent sick and injured from Salisbury Plain, but without any medical officer, to Aldershot Station, where they remained four hours before they were taken to hospital, and these men, one of whom had his leg broken, had to depend on the private help and sympathy of civilians. That arose, I believe, through their not being accompanied by a, medical officer, and through their being sent, by some mistake, to Aldershot, when they ought to have been sent to Farnborough. It is almost incredible that these men should have been left lying in the station at Aldershot when the hospital was only a quarter of a mile distant. What I want to point out is that if you desire to get the best class of men to join the Army you must make the conditions under which they live as good as possible. When we discuss these great Army questions, although I have no doubt it is very important to pay attention to the guns, the horses, and the material which form the Army, it is still more important to discuss the condition of the men, without whom the Army would be nothing at all. I hope we shall always do our best to improve the condition of private soldiers. We did so last year by giving them certain allowances, which were highly esteemed by them, but I think my honourable Friend the Under Secretary of State for War world be wise in paying attention to the present grievances of the private soldiers arid in taking care that the character of the troops is improved. If this is done we shall get more men, and a better class of men, to join the colours.


Mr. Grant Lawson, I think the soldiers at Aldershot are to be congratulated on having such an admirable Member to represent them in this House. He has stated some of their grievances with great force and ability, but there is one portion of his speech to which I should like to refer—that portion relating to the recruiting of very young men. It will be fresh in the recollection of the House that the honourable Member for North-East Manchester asked a question this afternoon with regard to the carelessness or intentional mismanagement of recruiting sergeants in enlisting young men under 18 years of age. That case spoke for itself, but I should like to mention that among my own acquaintances I know a similar instance, where the son of a manufacturer who had got into some boyish scrape was induced to state that he was 18 years of age and to join the Army. I think that is a grave abuse, and I wish to express my opinion on that matter. We have had man interesting points brought before the House. I must say I listened with very great pleasure to the speech of my honourable and gallant Friend the Member for Forfar. The honourable and gallant Member for the Newport Division of Shropshire said he could not see what logical deduction could be drawn from the speech of my honourable and gallant Friend, but it seemed to me there was a very broad, plain, and wise conclusion to be drawn from that speech, and that was, that the future of this country does not depend so much upon guns and bayonets as it does upon the just and strong administration and character of Englishmen in this country and abroad. We have heard a good deal said about the conditions under which the Colonies can take their share in the defence of the Empire, and I must say I was surprised at some of the remarks which fell from the honourable Gentlemen opposite as to the Colonies being so bound to this country that we can move Colonial troops, like pawns in a game of chess, at our will and at the pleasure of the War Office. I think that is an unwise policy to adopt with regard to the Colonies. We welcome the action of the Colonies when in any emergency they volunteer to stand by the mother country, but I do not think it would be wise to endeavour to cement our relations with the Colonies by forcing upon them some general military com- bination. I must say that I dissent from many of the remarks which fell from my honourable and gallant Friend the Member for West Newington. He spoke about the Volunteers with a considerable amount of contempt. He alluded to them as a shadowy force which could be of no value. I have been a Volunteer in a small way myself, and I am proud of the Volunteers. I deprecate the disparaging remarks which have been passed on the Volunteers, and I would like to see a portion of our enormous Army expenditure devoted to the development of the Volunteer force, so that it may be a really effective weapon of national defence. The real question, Mr. Grant Lawson, which I wish to speak for a few moments upon, is the enormous increase in the expenditure on armaments, for it seems to me that if that increase is insisted upon much longer it will do the country irreparable injury. No set of Estimates is complete. We have Supplementary Estimates to such an extent that the whole thing is brought into confusion, and I venture to say this House and the country are left in considerable doubt as to what the real expenditure of any year is on the Army or the Navy. I think we ought to have some explanation why in the Memorandum an in crease of only £1,091,000 was stated, while in the Estimates we find the in crease is no less than £1,396,000. I do not speak as a financial expert on this matter, but I do think we ought to have some explanation. If this year follows the precedent of last year, we are likely to go on to an expenditure of 22 millions or 23 millions instead of 20 millions, before we come to the last of these accounts. This increase of expenditure is a very grave and serious fact for this country to face, and the country has a perfect right to know why it is necessary. The income-tax payers feel this heavy burden in a time of pro found peace, and, on behalf of my constituents, I protest against this continually increased demand on the public purse for the purpose of increasing the armaments of the country. I think we ought to consider the principles acted upon by Sir Robert Peel and the older school of English statesmen, and the principle which led Mr. Gladstone to frame his Budgets in a way which conferred so much happiness on the country. Lord Randolph Churchill, too, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, expressed his strong dissatisfaction at the great increase of armaments. I desire to protest against the spirit of militarism which has of late been deliberately spread through the country. That spirit has been responsible for the extinguishing of the love of liberty and the stamping out of freedom of opinion in Germany, and may be accompanied with similar results in this country.


Mr. Grant Lawson, may I be allowed to add my congratulations to the new Under Secretary of State for War, not only on his appointment, but on the straightforward and soldier-like manner in which he has made his statement. There were times in the course of his speech when I thought that the interests of the Army would come first, and the interests of the War Office second. But, unfortunately, the dark shadow—the dead hand—which grips so tightly at the heart of the Army has proved too strong for the honourable Gentleman. The right honourable Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, in one of his usual able and lucid speeches, drew attention to the great want of horses in the Artillery, and if the right honourable Gentleman had divided the House on that Question I should have felt it my duty to have voted with him, and against the Government and the War Office. The right honourable Baronet showed his great knowledge of modern warfare and modern arms, and also a wonderful acquaintance with the details. I only wish he could be one of the military advisers of the Crown. There has been a great deal of criticism of the transport waggons used in the autumn manœuvres. The Under Secretary of State for War defended the position by saying that it was inadvisable to draw on the Government waggons from the Mobilization Depôt, because it would be expensive in wear and tear, and that if war were declared, the fact that they were out of store would be a hindrance to the preparations. Such a statement is startling. If the manœuvres were really a rehearsal of preparation for war, they should, instead of delaying us in mobilising, be a help. I would urge the Under Secretary of State for War to make a thorough study of the mobilisation tables which exist at the present time, and he will find, on examination, that the areas overlap in a strange way. If there was an invasion there would be a most terrible confusion. I would ask the right honourable Gentleman to consider whether he could not simplify these areas, make a South British Army Corps, a North British Army Corps, and an Irish Army Corps, and allow the mobilisation of each to take place in its own area. I know this is a large question, and one which cannot be carried out at once, but is it not possible for the two Front Benches to come to some arrangement, as they have done about the Naval programme, and definitely settle that they should have an Army Corps system, and then, no matter what Government was in power, the same policy for the good of the country would be carried on. At the present time the country is, for military purposes, divided into districts, many of them dating from the last century. These districts should be re-arranged, given new areas, and turned from districts into divisions forming part of these different Army Corps, and in each of these divisions there should be brigade areas. Turning to the question of Army organisation, although I have an Amendment on the Paper for the reduction of 580 Cavalry men, I need hardly say that I am not actuated by any inherent dislike to the increase of our forces, whether Cavalry or Infantry or any other branch of the Service. But my feeling is that this increase of 580 men under the system which now obtains is of infinite harm to the Army, and especially that it would be harmful to the branch of the Service to which I have the honour to belong. I do not think it necessary to delay the Committee by pointing out how very important it is that a Cavalry soldier should remain in the regiment in which he is trained. If a man feels that he is likely to be transferred from one regiment to another against his will it goes a long way towards making him discontented with the Service. Let me instance what has happened in my own regiment, the Scots Greys. Sixty-nine men have been transferred since April last year to other regiments. This number may seem small, but I can assure the House, and the honourable Member, that these transfers take the heart out of a regiment, especially one with such ancient traditions as the Greys. There is no Cavalry regiment in the Service which is more strictly territorial than we are, and it is owing to the fact that this regiment is held in such favour all through Scotland that we are able to get plenty of recruits. I submit that the War Office has strained the letter of the Army Act in grouping regiments together and calling them corps simply to enable men to be transferred from one regiment to another. It is a distinct breach of Parliamentary faith. On 12th February 1897 the honourable Member's predecessor used these words— Let me make it perfectly clear that there is no intention to do away with the identity and historic associations of the present regiments. We are well aware of the importance attached to these distinctions, and Lord Lansdowne believes, in sanctioning this scheme as a most effective organisation for the Cavalry both, in peace and war, he has fully safeguarded the regiments in these respects. The late Under Secretary of State for War said it was the intention of the Government in no way to interfere with the regimental system, but I contend that this transfer is the greatest possible interference with that system. Unless the Government can give some satisfactory explanation I shall be compelled to divide the House on my Amendment. If the Under Secretary of State for War cannot give a distinct pledge that his predecessor's promise to the House of Commons in 1897 shall be observed, and that no man shall be transferred from one regiment to another in a corps or out of it without his own voluntary sanction, there is no other course for me to take, in the interests of the Service and of Parliamentary faith, than to ask for a Division on the Question. I beg to move the reduction standing in my name.

Motion made, and Question put— That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Captain Jessell.)

Agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.