§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 430,000, all ranks, be maintained for the service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding Her Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1901".
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
When we remember that we are discussing to-night, for the first time, a proposal for the expenditure of £61,000,000 for the military service of the Empire, I think it cannot be denied that we have had a most inadequate discussion of that very important proposal. I am bound to say that I do not think that the dignity 679 nor the efficacy of that discussion has been assisted very much by the contribution of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the late Secretary of State for War. I would ask any hon. Member who was present while the right hon. Gentleman was speaking to refresh his memory, and I would challenge him to tell us in that speech one single point of any national importance or any single suggestion that would help to a solution of the Army questions which are now agitating the public mind, although the right hon. Gentleman was for a long time responsible for the conduct of the War Office. Having studied these matters myself, I retain in my memory some recollections of the fragmentary discourse the right hon. Gentleman has favoured us with, and about those recollections I should like to say a word or two. I protest that at a critical time like this we have a right to expect something a little more coherent, something a little more in the nature of guidance, from the right hon. Gentleman who speaks on behalf of what is supposed to be a great party in the country. I am quite familiar with the ordinary course of events in this House, and I am aware that when one hon. Member on this side representing the War Department gets up and makes a statement another Member on the other side who has represented the same Department is bound to get up and say "ditto." I think that has been said to-day in a more perfunctory manner by the Leader of the Opposition than I have ever heard it said before. With regard to the system of raising troops, I shall have a word or two to say later on. I should now like to say something with regard to the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has given. He said that one point he had singled out for commendation was the proposal of my hon. friend to raise twelve new battalions, and that he was able to give his support to that because it was an admission of the success of the system which my hon. friend has been instrumental in sustaining and supporting. He went back once more to the Cardwell system, but I challenge the right hon. Gentleman and any hon. Member of this House who has the slightest knowledge of military matters to contradict my proposition when I say that, except for one or two remnants, the Cardwell 680 system is as dead as a doornail. Every single item which was characteristic of that system, save one, has now absolutely departed, and I will take one single instance which the right hon. Gentleman quoted as a sort of example which he said was a matter which he was happy to say had not been touched. He spoke about long service, and he said that anybody who knew the facts at Chelsea Hospital would admit that long service was out of the question, and that the Cardwell system was destined to endure for ever because the condition of the men at Chelsea showed that long service had been a failure in India. I want to point out this—that the period of service which was a necessary condition of the Cardwell system has long since ceased to be the period of service in the British Army; that so far from long service being discontinued by the War Office, there are at this moment serving in the British Army more long service men than there would be if the whole Army had been recruited on a twelve years basis. I entirely fail to see why it should be supposed that a man who has the ability to serve this long term should be compelled to serve that period in a tropical country, and I fail entirely to recognise the authorship of the argument which the right hon. Gentleman has repudiated to the effect that we ought to have an exclusively Indian Army and an exclusively home Army. I have often advocated—and those who agree with me have advocated a totally separate establishment for general service Army apart from that which we retain for home service, but no one has ever suggested that we should confine the general service army to India. When the right hon. Gentleman tells us we should look upon the Cardwell system as something which we are bound to preserve, I would point out to him that we have long ago abandoned the principle of that system. We began with six years and came down to five years; we then tried to get the men to retire after four years, and when we made a change it was all in the other direction, for we extended the service to seven years and then to eight years. During a period of war my hon. friend brought 5,000 men from the first-class army Reserve, all seven-years men, who are now serving for a twelve-years period; and now we are offering a bounty of 22 and paying £1,600,000 to bring back twelve years men to the ranks. It is a 681 perfect dream to say that this Cardwell system has any existence at the present time. If that is the only remnant of the Cardwell system, I am glad to know that that part of the scheme is as dead as the rest is, with one unfortunate exception, which I hope will be dead soon. With regard to my hon. friend the Under Secretary of State for War, I feel rather differently. He has addressed himself to a totally different subject. The House seems to have been carried away by the exceedingly attractive way in which he has presented his case, but I could not help feeling that my hon. friend's speech, to a certain extent, was like the tail of a comet, exceedingly brilliant but capable of being compressed into a teacup. When we come to analyse what he told us about things which we really wanted to know, we find that he told us very little, indeed. He picked out all those things which the War Office are going to do, and which we desire they should do. We have heard that they are going to do a great many things, which, to my mind, are the primary duties of the office, and of course when the hon. Member told us they were going to do those things we were glad to hear that they at least realised the importance of carrying them out. He also told us that these proposals were to a very large extent in the nature of emergency proposals, and certainly it does not lie in the mouth of any Englishman to interfere with the work of a great Department like his at a time when we know he is doing his very best to meet an emergency of which I am sure he does not exaggerate the gravity. But I am bound to repeat what I have said ad nauseam in this House, that while admitting the necessity for these proposals we do not admit by implication that although these things may be necessary this year they are necessary or desirable in any subsequent, year. That would be a most unfortunate admission. It so happens, however, that the two sets of proposals were almost inextricably bound together in the speech of my hon. friend. My hon. friend in one respect agrees with the right hon. Gentleman opposite—he implores us not to touch what he calls the ripe fruit of thirty years of War Office progress. It is all very well to appeal to us with regard to the ripe fruit of the War Office. My suggestion is that the fruit is rotten, not ripe, and I do not think it is hard to give proof of that. If it could be honestly shown that all 682 these years of effort have produced something of which we ought to be proud and pleased with, I would say: "Do not go to the root at all; prune it if you like." But that is not the fact, and the proof of it is this—that after all these thirty years of endeavour, the very first time we get into a serious war every single item of War Office procedure has to be overhauled. You have had to ask the House to vote millions for emergency proposals; everything that was condemned in the past is approved of in the present, and everything that we were invited to pass over and discard is now commended to our special attention. It is not correct to say it is ripe fruit; it is very rotten fruit indeed. I note that the Leader of the House has always cheered any statement to the effect that our system has provided all that it was expected it would provide. I think that fact affords a very unfortunate insight into the state of mind of my right hon. friend, and is a very strong reason why he should not take any very prominent part—to say the least of it—in the discussions of the Defence Committee. It may be perfectly true that the sole aim of the War Office was simply to provide the equivalent of two army corps for a foreign war—I am not responsible for so limited a desire—but if my right hon. friend is satisfied with the consequences entailed by raising these two, then he is very easily satisfied indeed. What has happened? Everybody knew that it was perfectly easy with the resources of this country to send 60,000 or 70,000 men into the field. Nobody doubted that, and if it could not have been done, there is no member of the War Office who should not have been impeached. To suppose that 80,000 or 90,000 men could not have been put into the field would be something so absurd that no Member of this House would like to pledge his reputation in support of such a proposition, It is about the equivalent of what the War Office of Bulgaria or Servia would have produced without turning a hair. But when it is done, what is the result—what is the residue? The residue is the state of things now existing in this country—a perfect military chaos which we have heard described time after time by hon. Members, and into which the country is now at last getting some clear insight. If it was really the War Office plan that the effort of despatching some 70,000 or 683 80,000 men should so exhaust the whole of their resources that we should be practically without any military organisation at home, all I say is, how little the War Office calculated what the necessities of the Empire are. We were for months face to face with a war which was not only possible but probable, and which was contemplated by nine people out of every ten. That war being upon us, we find ourselves in an emergency on account of which my hon. friend has been making his important speech to-night, and in respect to which we are asked to vote so many millions. I do not like the mixing up of the temporary and permanent proposals; still less do I like the absence from the speech of my hon. friend of anything like a guide to what we are to expect with regard to our future organisation. I will undertake to say that not a single Member of this House who has been present during the discussion has gathered from my hon. friend's speech the slightest idea as to what is to be the guiding principle of our military organisation in the future. I do not know what is the logical justification for the perpetuation of a system under which three forces—the Line, the Militia, and the Volunteers—are to be perpetually retained in active and disastrous competition with each other. I can understand a system, with a man at the head of it, organised with some idea as to why the three forces should be separate. There would be duties for the Line, duties for the Militia, and duties for the Volunteers. But going about the country as I do, I see a fierce competition between the Line, the Militia, and the Volunteers, and I see an equally fierce competition between the officers of these three forces. I see that whenever a boon is granted to one service, I will not say it is grudged, but it is scrutinised by the men and officers of the other two, who ask why it should not have been given to them, as if the very fact of its being given it to one took it away from the others. That is a disastrous competition. You see the effect of it every year for years past in the Militia. Thousands and tens of thousands of men are passed into the Militia and out of the Militia into the Line, weakening one and strengthening the other, but not strengthening the aggregate force of the country. Last year we had an effort made to extend this system by introducing it into the Volunteers, and by compelling sergeant-instructors of Volun- 684 teers to be touts for recruiting for the Militia and the Line. There is no help and no guidance at all given to the public on this question. There is not a scintilla of evidence that it has been really grasped. My hon. friend told us the other day that our present system was a cheap system. That I dispute. He told us he did not want us to touch this fruit-bearing tree. I do not hold with that view at all. I say that until you knock this tree down absolutely you will never get any real permanent improvement in our military system. We have been lopping off branches one by one. Some of the worst parts of the system have happily been destroyed, but you may go on lopping off branches as long as you please—you may destroy every branch—but until you go to the root of the system you will never mend matters. My hon. friend talks about the necessity of perpetually retaining the system of double battalions, and speaks as if there were something essential about this amazing plan of double battalions. How wasteful it is has been already pointed out by my right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean. He has told us that in order to continue this addition to our forces abroad we must ask for more battalions than that we are asked to-night to provide. I go further, and say that the House ought not to vote these twelve additional battalions until the system on which our battalions are recruited is altered. My hon. friend has promised to answer some of the queries asked to-night; I hope he will answer this query. I ask him what guarantee he is going to give to the public that these battalions will be raised, and if they are raised that they will not be subject to the eternal law which affects every one of our battalions at the present moment. My hon. friend said that ours was a cheap and economical system. I believe it is the most extravagant system in any army in the world, with the possible exception of that of the United States army in time of war. I believe it is even more expensive than what I may call the microscopic system of the Australian colonies with regard to their permanent forces. The Committee is asked to sanction the raising of twelve new battalions. I want to ask the Committee whether, as sensible men, they agree that that is a desirable thing to do. These twelve battalions are to be in addition to the three bogus battalions voted last year, but not yet raised, and which may perhaps be 685 raised during the feeling created by the present war, but which under normal circumstances could not be raised at all. Now I want the Committee to realise what is the future of the recruits enlisted in these battalions. We enlist men under the Cardwell system with the idea that they are to pass into the Reserve; 35,000 men are enlisted, and within a period of a soldier's time in the ranks how many of these men disappear? Fifty per cent.; something like 16,000 or 17,000 men absolutely disappear, and only the remainder pass into the Reserve. Take the period of a soldier's term as six years, or, in order to meet the present facts, seven years, and I say it is perfectly preposterous that during that period 50 per cent. of your enlisted forces should absolutely vanish into space. I should like to inform the Committee at what period these men disappear. Take 1897–8, the last normal year for which figures are available. I find that there were either discharged from the Army or deserted—and I include among the deserters only the net total—no less than 15,123 men, and if you take that figure back to the average of the three previous years or six years back, the period during which these men enlisted, you will find that the total number from which these men disappeared was 31,000 men. When it is realised that the number of men who have disappeared by discharge or desertion in one year alone is greater than the number going into the Reserve, the Committee will admit that I am justified in saying that the system is a wasteful system. But that is not the whole of it or the worst of it. Of these 15,000 men no less than 8,000 deserted or were discharged from the Army when under twenty-two years of age; that is to say, that out of 31,000 men, 8,000 men were absolutely lost to the Army. We have heard something about the expense of barrack accommodation and the initial cost of every soldier, but I submit that if we could stop that desertion and the discharge of immature and unfit men, we would be able to save sufficient expenditure to add another army corps to the Army. I have always objected, and will always object, to the double battalion system on many grounds, but I object above all things to our present system of recruiting, because it is the most terribly wasteful and most extravagantly expensive system ever devised for any army. The answer 686 which is invariably given—perhaps my hon. friend will not give it as he has introduced many new methods—but the answer which has been given is that in the past history of the War Office—in the days of Cressy and Agincourt and the Crimean War—it cost ten and twenty times as much to produce a soldier as it does now. There is no fault in the present administration of the War Office which cannot perhaps be paralleled and exceeded in its past administration, and to that extent I am prepared to agree; but surely it is not business-like, nor wise, nor expedient to go on recruiting on a system of this kind. There is one other consideration I should like to mention before we decide to vote these twelve new battalions. I ventured to say the other day that our double battalion system was not one fitted for the exigencies of this Empire. I have said many times that whatever other virtues the double battalion system may have, it is not one capable of meeting the sudden demands certain to be made on a military organisation such as ours. My hon. friend talks about the ripe fruit of thirty years experience, but I say that not once in the whole history of the double battalion system has it been tested without failure. Every time we have had to send a force abroad that system failed absolutely, and we have had to resort to drafts and to every illicit expenditure to bring the force required up to a condition to go abroad. Now, when for the first time we are compelled to utilise the Army as a whole, the system has left us absolutely without any organised force at home. That is not the whole or the worst of it. I am sure my hon. friend has an answer—I should like to know what it is—when I allege that at the commencement of this war it was impossible to send out from this country one single battalion or one single regiment of cavalry in an efficient condition without breaking up the whole regimental system by drafts, or without calling out the first class Army Reserve. We know that the battalions were withheld not when war was certain only, but after war was declared, and for ten days after the declaration of war, when 10,000 men might have been the salvation of the campaign, not one single organised unit was sent from these shores. My hon. friend has told us that this was owing to the forethought and discrimination of the 687 War Office, and that they did not desire nor intend to send any men from this country. They thought India was nearer, and they preferred to send men from that country and from the Mediterranean garrisons to reinforce Sir George White in Natal. I take leave with great respect to enter a caveat against the acceptance of that conclusion. I do not comment on the miscalculation which led the War Office to believe that 10,000 men were adequate for the purpose. Of course they were absurdly inadequate. I know that 5,000 men were taken from India which ought never to have been taken, that a large number were taken from our colonial garrisons which ought never to have been taken, and that at that time no complete battalion was sent out from the home establishment and no artillery, except one brigade division, which had been under orders for many months. I challenge my hon. friend to give the name of any single battalion of infantry which was in a fit condition at the beginning of September to be sent into the field in South Africa. If he will give me the name of any such battalion I will refer to the Return he gave me a few months ago to ascertain the condition of that battalion as there shown. I will take the judgment of that Return, and will ask him if the facts in it are correct, and whether he considers a battalion which requires 300, 400, or 500 men is efficient and in a fit state to take part in war. I think we are all agreed that we must have a system which will enable us to have complete battalions to bear the first brunt of war. Under the present system we have never had such battalions, and that we shall not have them now I am prepared to prove. I see no indication whatever in the speech of my hon. friend that it is intended to make things better in this respect. I listened with great satisfaction and great approval to many things which were said by my hon. friend in regard to the temporary proposals. I do not think we are entitled—at any rate I do not intend to make any comment on them at all. With regard to the Militia I should like to know a little more clearly what is the obligation imposed on them to go abroad under certain circumstances. I do not think we ought to be left in any doubt in this matter. Either the Militia are to go abroad or they are not, and I know there is considerable confusion in the 688 matter. We are told that the Army Reserve was not intended to be called out except in case of national emergency. The term "national, emergency" has received a very wide construction—a construction which I am certain was not in the minds either of those who originally framed the scheme, or of most of the soldiers who accepted the engagement to turn out with the Reserve. I think we ought to consider to what extent we should get that help, if it be made clear that the Reserve is in future to constitute the first line and not be a Reserve at all. With regard to the Militia the question is still more important. If we are to be told that every time this country is engaged in war the Militia is to be sent abroad, I do not say we shall not get the Militia, but I do say we shall be recruiting under totally different conditions from those which now exist. I hope my hon. friend will tell us exactly the terms on which the Militia is to be engaged, and the exact construction put upon that rather loose phrase "a national emergency." In conclusion, we shall welcome—if my hon. friend cares to favour us with such an expression of opinion—a little illumination upon some of the wider administrative questions with regard to the Army. He seems to assume that everything that has happened has redounded to the credit of the system, but I do not think that is the general opinion. My hon. friend has frequently qualified that statement, and perhaps I ought to attribute it to the First Lord of the Treasury. I think we do require something to restore public confidence in an administration which has landed us in the position we now stand. We talk about these details in the House of Commons. No doubt they are very important, but what the country is thinking of is not the question of details at all. It is shocked and horrified to find that the duties which in other countries are considered to be the very first duties of a war administration have not been performed, and that when a state of things arises which was not after all such an extraordinary state of things as the right hon. Gentleman seems to suppose—a state of things which has faced every European nation in turn—we are suddenly compelled, to begin doing those things which every other country does as a matter of course as a preparation for the contingencies of war. 689 It is absolutely idle at this hour of the day to ask us, as my hon. friend does, to believe that all these measures will be carried to a satisfactory conclusion—I will not say because my hon. friend says it, because that is the best guarantee they will be carried to a satisfactory conclusion—but merely because they are propounded by an organisation to which he belongs. To most people's mind that is almost a conclusive argument in favour of a contrary conclusion. During the eight years I have been in this House, and for many years before that, I have watched the proceedings of this Department, and I cannot recall a single year during the period of my observation and membership in which I have not seen the positive assurances of the War Office disproved by facts which no one could deny. I cannot recall a single session in which they have not been compelled by the exigencies of circumstances to withdraw some scheme to which they had previously pledged their whole authority. I say that at the present moment, unless we have something which appeals to the common sense of the nation, there will be no restoration of that feeling of confidence in the War Office which we all desire should exist, and which the presence of my hon. friend at the War Office is calculated to sustain.
§ *MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)
I need hardly assure the House that I am not a military man. It may, perhaps, be more necessary to state that I make no pretence to have any intimate knowledge of military matters. I therefore rise rather for the purpose of obtaining information than of criticising the Estimates. Yet there are, I think, one or two points which even a humble civilian Member like myself may to some extent presume to understand. The first point to which I should like to direct the attention of the Under Secretary has reference to the proposed augmentation of the home establishment. I understand that there is going to be a very considerable augmentation of the home establishment, and necessarily that will involve a considerable increase of expenditure. If merely from a pecuniary point of view, the matter, therefore, deserves very serious consideration. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the real reason for this proposed augmentation. It has been suggested by the hon. and 690 gallant Member for Yarmouth that the proposal springs from an apprehension of invasion. If that be the real reason, then I confess that I agree altogether with the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth; for it seems to me to be self-evident that the power of invasion must depend upon sea power. If it has taken this country five months to throw 107,000 Regular troops into South Africa, with all the shipping facilities which we as the supreme Naval Power possess, how much longer would it take a foreign Power without our maritime strength to throw anything like that number on our shores? Such an apprehension can scarcely be the reason that moves the Government. I rather gather from the speech of the Under Secretary that there was some sort of idea of symmetrical proportion underlying the proposal of the Government; the argument being that because there was a certain number of battalions employed abroad there was therefore a necessity for keeping a corresponding number of battalions at home. But a mere desire for equilibrium, while it may be artistic, is no adequate reason for increasing the expenditure of the country so largely, as it must be increased if the proposed augmentation takes place. If the equilibrium depends upon something else, I want to know from the hon. Gentleman what that something is, for it only adds to the seriousness of the whole matter. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that at this moment if he wants any number of men he has only to ask to get what he wants; but I think that the onus is upon him, when he is putting the country to so great expense, to show that there is an adequate reason for his action. For there is a danger to be avoided. We all know that in this. House there are a number of hon. and gallant Members who, with the best intentions in the world, are very desirous of seeing the Army increased, and constantly increased. I verily believe that if every adult in the United Kingdom were in arms to-morrow these Gentlemen even then would scarcely be persuaded that this country was sufficiently defended. We may sacrifice too much to professional military enthusiasm, especially in an hour of military excitement. I therefore desire the hon. Gentleman to give, at least to me, a civilian who does not understand military matters, some 691 substantial reason for establishing that equilibrium between the home and foreign battalions. The only other point to which I wish to draw the attention of the Under Secretary is the necessity of efficiency with the service rifle. This matter has been mooted to-night by the hon. Member for St. Helens, but I do not go to the same length as he does. I do not think it is possible to turn the whole country into a sort of shooting gallery because we have had a certain amount of difficulty with the Boers. One lesson we, however, have learned from the Boers, and that is the absolute necessity of having something like proficiency in shooting on the part of our soldiers. I find from an answer I received to-day from the Financial War Secretary, that so far from endeavouring to improve the shooting of our soldiers, the last regulations issued from the War Office have actually cut two hundred yards off the ranges necessary to qualify for efficiency. Until last year, before a man could be pronounced a marksman, he had to pass at an eight hundred yards range, but now I find that if he passes at six hundred yards he has qualified himself to become a marksman. Now, when you consider how very seldom our forces have been within six hundred yards of the Boers, it seems to be an extraordinary thing that the range qualification should be so reduced. The hon. Member may have an adequate reason for the change, but I ask for some explanation, and if there is no adequate explanation then I think the sooner we go back to the eight hundred yards range, the better it will be for our soldiers.
§ *COLONEL MILWARD (Stratford-on-Avon)
The hon. Member for Belfast levelled a large amount of extremely destructive criticism at the Army and the War Office. I venture to hope that, with his very great ability and knowledge, he will give us some idea of constructive legislation for the Army and the War Office. In the course of his remarks, he asked the Under Secretary for War whether we are to be subject to some "eternal law," though he did not give us any explanation of what "eternal law" was. I am not familiar with any "eternal law." There was one strong point the hon. Member raised, however, and that is, that this enormous Vote has been very inadequately discussed in the 692 House so far. If I may venture to say so, that accusation should be levelled more at hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. If these hon. Gentlemen should go to the country, and complain of the enormous sums which the Government are asking for the Army, I trust it would be remembered that, with the exception of the hon. and gallant Member for Forfarshire, and the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, scarcely any criticism has come from the Opposition. We are asked to-night to vote no less than sixty-one millions to be expended on the Army. It reminds me of a speech by Mr. Gladstone in 1873, in which he said that the House was extravagant as to expenditure, but mean as to taxation. I am glad to think that the last part of Mr. Gladstone's statement is not true in the present instance. One cannot but congratulate the Government on the extraordinary way in which the House and the country have agreed to vote this money. So far as I have heard, there has not been a single murmur as to the means by which the money is to be raised; the patriotism of the country is equal to the sacrifice. I have very strong sympathy with the hon. and gallant Member for Forfarshire—himself a member of the Regular Army, and desirous that everything should be done to carry on the war to a successful issue—when he expressed the hope that this enormous increase in Army expenditure should not be perpetual. I myself am against anything like militarism in this country. The Under Secretary of State for War pointed out that we had added lately 28,000 men to the Army, and on this occasion he comes forward with an estimate for an increase of 100,000 men. I do not know whether the original 28,000 is included in the 100,000. I think that the 28,000 was sufficient for the increased territory which we have annexed. It is true that, from our point of view we are only providing for the protection of that increased territory; but from a foreign point of view, the question is looked at in a very different way, and that has given rise to what is called foreign complications. I do not believe in foreign complications or that foreign complications will arise. We have an historical parallel to the present position in the circumstances of the American Civil War. There was a time during that war when the Emperor 693 Napoleon was pressing for the recognition of the Confederate States, and there was even a motion brought before this House by Mr. Roebuck demanding that recognition. But the moment General Grant won his victory at Vicksburg, and General Lee was defeated sit Gettysburg, all questions of foreign interference disappeared. I cannot help thinking that the gallant deeds of our soldiers under General Roberts and General Buller in South Africa will dissipate all idea of foreign complications. It is impossible to think that we shall require for very long the enormous number of troops we have in South Africa; and therefore I hope that in three or four months time we shall restore 50,000 troops seasoned in the war to this country, which will enable us to meet any possible difficulty which may arise in foreign countries. I was interested to learn that two regiments had been raised in India for the purpose of garrisoning Mauritius. I would be very glad to hear that the principle of raising Indian Regiments for Mauritius will be applied to other parts of our Eastern Empire, such as Hong Kong, and in this way liberate our troops for home service, and enable us to do with fewer in the future than we are now raising. There is another point in connection with this subject. I would like to remind the Under Secretary that India at present is dangerously depleted of European troops. The occupation of Chitral and the extension of our territories in the North West has locked up as many as four and a half brigades in the north of India. I am aware that the object of Lord Curzon is to withdraw these brigades, and use native Militia instead; but still the time will come, even when the troops from India now in South Africa have returned, when we must increase the number of British troops in India, and this ought to be taken into consideration by the Under Secretary. There are proposals before the House for increasing the Volunteers and Militia, and among the questions mooted by hon. Members was that of the ballot for the Militia. I am extremely glad that the Government has not accepted that view, and has not proposed to introduce the ballot for the Militia. The Under Secretary has very clearly pointed out that it would be impossible to ballot for the Regular Army, considering the fact that one half of it is permanently stationed 694 abroad. But what would be the effect of instituting a ballot for the Militia? All the best men would go into the Volunteers, and it would absolutely stop all volunteering for the Militia. Then every man who was drawn for the Militia and who did not care to serve, would have to find a substitute, and would offer a bonus of £30, £40, or £50 to such substitute. Now, the men who would otherwise join the Militia would wait to have the opportunity of getting that bonus. The result would be that you would get the very lowest class of men for the Militia. And the effect would be that the small, struggling shopkeepers and men belonging to the lower middle class of society, who were drawn in the ballot, but who could not raise the £30, £40, or £50 to purchase a substitute, would be compelled to live and serve together with the very lowest classes in the community. I hope the Government will increase the attractions of the Militia, as well as of the other military forces of the Empire, and that they will offer higher rates of pay. I will only detain the House with a word or two in regard to rifle ranges. I disagree with an hon. Member who ably argued that this is an Imperial matter, and was very anxious to see this question remitted to a Committee. I say that as the courts of quarter sessions had formerly the duty laid upon them of providing barracks for the Militia, so the county councils should have laid upon them the necessity of providing and maintaining suitable rifle ranges. Let the War Office point out where these ranges are to be, but their provision and maintenance all over the country should be laid on the county councils. That may be popular or unpopular, and it would cause a great deal of local expense; but it would not lead to so much expense as if the ranges and their maintenance were made an Imperial charge. I cordially support the measures indicated by Her Majesty's Government. I hope there will be no panic—the time for panic is passed—and no panic legislation. I hope we shall strengthen and perfect the military organisation of the country, and then I am perfectly clear that, without any fear, we can face the whole world in arms.
§ COLONEL PILKINGTON (Lancashire, Newton)
I have noticed there is a sort of feeling of optimism in the House to- 695 night—that we have done well in Africa, and that the new proposals are everything that can be desired. I wish to congratulate my hon. friend on the excellent manner in which he presented the Vote; and I feel sure that the vast amount of money he asked for, and that is going to be spent, ought to produce some good results. But I cannot forget that during the last four months the work which the Regular Army ought to have performed in South Africa has been done by something like 100,000 troops, a third of whom are Militia, and probably 15,000 colonial troops. This country is stripped of troops, and those that remain are youths or Volunteers without any equipment, transport, or organisation. It does not appear to me that the proposals of the Government will prevent anything like this happening again in the future. I do think that what has happened is neither creditable to the War Office nor this House. I believe that the war ought to be conducted by Regular troops, and that not a man from the Militia, Yeomanry, or; Volunteers ought to have gone to South Africa. Hon. Members have said that whatever number of men the Government asked for would be got. Perhaps you could get a million to volunteer, but you would not have arms for 500,000. Suppose that the great empire of Russia were to declare war against England, we should want 300,000 British troops in India, and should have to feed that army with 150,000 reinforcements every year. If our Army was not sufficient to supply these, the only result would be the loss of India. If we are to consider the question of the Volunteers and Yeomanry it should be in the light of that position. Now, every Volunteer in this country can resign to-morrow if he chooses. My contention is that it ought to be a condition that Volunteers should join for a certain period, say five years, and that then they should go into a reserve. What we have got to aim at is, a sufficient number of trained men who know a great deal about drill and everything about shooting.
§ It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.