HC Deb 15 March 1901 vol 91 cc129-52

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main Question [14th March], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Brodrick.)

Question again proposed.

*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

During the many years that I have been in the service of this House it has so happened that I have never, to use our ordinary slang, talked out a debate until that unfortunate event happened to me last night. And I can assure the House I should never have dreamed of intruding; on them again on this occasion if it had not been for the admitted importance of the subject—admitted by the Government in their declarations on the particular matter before us at the present time. The debate which has just occurred has filled the minds of Members of the House more no doubt with the licensing laws of Ireland and of this country than with the great questions of Army reform which are presented to the House by the Government on this occasion. But I will do my best, even after that disturbing topic has been introduced and the able speeches to which we have listened, to recall the House to the consideration of that topic which we were discussing last night, of the greatest importance to the country. Last night I was attempting, as the hands of the clock reached twelve, to discuss the composition of the somewhat mythical army corps it was the main function of the scheme of the Secretary of State for War to create. It was whispered just now in this House that in another place the Government have expressed the surprise with which they have always heard the distinguished soldiers of this country push the claims of the Regular service as against the Volunteers. There is, of course, a little tendency upon the other side —there is a little tendency on the part of the Government, finding that Volunteers cost per head so very much less than the Regulars of this country do, finding that the Volunteers raise none of the recruiting difficulties which are raised by the peculiar position of this country as regards foreign service armies—there is a little tendency on the part of the Government, perhaps, to prefer to count heads of army corps which are composed of those forces than army corps composed of Regular forces. And I was trying to point out last night how far that was the case. Of the six army corps which the Government present to us three are mainly composed of Regular forces, the third having a certain number of Militia battalions in it; but the other three are almost entirely composed of Militia battalions and Volunteers, and we have not yet heard of the method by which the Volunteers are to be trained and brought up to the mark and placed in these army corps to make them other than mythical and imaginary.

There is a new development in connection with this matter which we shall watch, all of us who have been reformers in this House in the past, with the deepest interest, and that is the new pro vision of field guns for these army corps, guns for the Militia and also for the Volunteer organisations. The House may remember that in the past many of us have frequently brought before the House the fact that the Swiss are able to create a very formidable artillery upon a Militia basis, and we, many of us, have often expressed our opinion, and asked whether it was not possible for us here to do what the Swiss have done on a Militia system—create, at all events, a decent field artillery; but the Government go beyond this, but they do not tell us, however, how they intend to secure the training of the officers of the Volunteers. The money spent on the Volunteers especially, I think Volunteer officers of this House will admit, was lost and wasted last year in the special camps, I want to know how the Government are going to provide that this Volunteer field artillery is going to be a reality in these army corps which so largely depend upon it. When this matter has been previously debated in this House, while it has always been assumed that it might be possible to create a Militia field artillery, with regard to the Volunteer field artillery the most skilled officers have always said you must adopt a mixed system, a partially paid system, and you could not rely on mere Volunteers for skilled drivers of artillery.

All this leads one to ask once more, Are the Government, with regard to these three army corps they form, face to face with the facts; have they really thought out their scheme sufficiently to give anything like reality to the scheme they have presented to the House? The First Lord of the Treasury, speaking last night, said the matter of the training of these men was one of the most important things which we should have to consider in connection with this scheme, and I am glad to see upon the Papers which have been circulated this morning that the training of the Army, and, I imagine, the training of the Militia and Volunteers, will be more closely under the Commander-in-Chief in the future than it has been in the recent past. The House will remember that great attention has been called very recently by debates in another place to this subject of the Command-in-Chief, and many Members who are interested in the subject will remember the discussion we had here with regard to it in 1895 and 1896. At that time all of us pointed out that, while there might be ground for relieving the Commander-in-Chief of excessive centralisation, ground for relieving him notably of supply duties outside the proper duties of a Commander-in-Chief, everything which had to do with the preparation and training of the Army for war ought to be under his control. There has recently been a difference of opinion on this question, but I am inclined to think, judging from the words of a Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War, which is the last Paper laid before the House this morning, that that difficulty is likely to be solved in the immediate future. I believe that the Order, the unfortunate Order of 1895, will be modified in accordance with the words of the Secretary of State. The words to which I attach very great importance, and which, if anything can, will tend to make these army corps a reality, and to prevent in the future the existence of that disgraceful lack of training which has admittedly existed in the past are these: "I am disposed to think the Adjutant General should come directly under his control." We all know that the Commander-in-Chief has had the general control of the Intelligence Department and of mobilisation, but he has not had the control in the same degree of the training or discipline of the Army which has been directly under the control of the Adjutant General, himself directly under the control of the Secretary of State. I read these words of the Secretary of State as being a change of front upon this question, and as meaning that Lord Roberts will have in the future control not only over the Intelligence Department and mobilisation, but also over that portion of Headquarters which carries out the preparation and training of our Army for war.

Of course, this army corps system raises the whole question of what it is that the British Army is needed for—what it has to do. The Secretary of State tells us that his two great objects are the provision of 115,000 men—I take his figure for foreign peace garrisons—for our normal peace garrisons abroad. I confess I think that the South African situation makes it highly probable that that figure of 115,000 will have to be increased in our future calculations. 115,000, taking his figure for the peace garrisons abroad, mainly in hot, unhealthy, and distant places, and the provision of a short-service Army to fill the Reserves for war. Now, on this subject of a short-service Army to fill the Reserves for war the Secretary of State appeal's to have tried to make out that the Army reformers are in some sense opposed to the short-service system. I should like to ask those Members of the House who have been misled by such suggestions thrown out from time to time to hear what was the unanimous agreement of the Service Members upon that subject last year. It was in these words, which were in the original Memorandum presented to them and which were unaltered by repeated discussion by the Board of some sixty or seventy experienced Members of the House— The terms of service for those wishing to serve at home may be shortened to the minimum that will make efficient soldiers, in order to increase the Reserves to the utmost. Those words have this further importance, that they are almost identical with the words which were used by the present Commander-in-Chief in 1884 and 1892. In 1884 and 1892 Lord Roberts used these words in regard to the present terms of service in the Army— Eight years is too long for a man who proposes to return to civil life. He also said— Those who do not desire to make the Army a profession should have a short term of service and return to civil life and the Reserve. Therefore, I think we might take it that the Service Members of the House and the present Commander-in-Chief are in agreement as to short terms of service for the troops that are to swell the ranks of the Reserves.

I want to ask the Secretary of State for War how he thought him- self justified the other night in attacking, in connection with that subject, those who desired the existence of what he called a separate Army for India, which he attributed to myself. Surely he knows from all the debates that what we have advocated is shorter service here at home for the purpose of swelling the Reserves, and a somewhat lengthened service or term of enlistment for India. Not a separate Army for India, but that double system of enlistment that gives a man a chance of two forms of Army service, upon which all military reformers are now agreed, and upon which the present Commander-in-Chief expressed himself more strongly than any other man. The right hon. Gentleman went on to discuss this subject. He used these words— We should have a less effective Army at home, and a more costly Army in India. What right has he to make that statement? "A less effective Army at home" he is within his right in saying, because that is a matter within his own knowledge. He is bound by such authorities as Lord Haliburton and Sir Richard Knox. At all events, the matter is arguable, and it is within the discretion of the Secretary of State to make that statement; but as to the other objection in the statement—as to our having a more costly Army in India—I confess that I believe the House will agree with me that that matter is more within the knowledge of the Government of India than within the knowledge of the Secretary of State for War. What is the official opinion of the Government of India upon this subject? It has never varied for a, day. The officially expressed opinion of the Government of India upon that subject is diametrically opposed to the opinion of the Secretary of State for War, and it is so recorded by the Royal Commission on Indian expenditure. That Commission reported that the witnesses of the Indian Government state that the short-service system imposes a heavy charge on the Indian revenue, "without compensating advantage"; that the "soldier sent out is too young, is more subject to illness, and not so efficient as an older man." That was recorded by the Commission as the opinion of the Government of India, and I confess that I attach more I importance to the official opinion of the Government of India than I do to that of the Secretary of State for War upon this matter. Lord Roberts was called as a witness upon the subject, and was somewhat, severely cross-examined by members representing the War Office view upon the point. He was asked how he made out that it would be cheaper for India to have a somewhat longer system, as it would be cheaper for us at home to have a shorter system, and Lord Roberts could not be got beyond this point—he said it appeared to him that the of ton or you sent people backwards and forwards the morn expensive it would be. Lord Roberts would not budge from that position. The Secretary of State puts his view above that of Lord Roberts and the Indian authorities. He said in this House on the 8th February, 1897, that the opinion of Lord Roberts on that point is important, but that there are statistics which are more important still. Those statistics are the exact statistics which were put before the Commission, and which the Commission has shown India does not admit. The Secretary of State says it is useless to raise the soldiers' pay—anyhow with this system. It is useless to try and get these 115,000 or more men for foreign service by increased pay, because he says although the country would be "willing to pay heavily" it would be useless to raise the rate of pay unless we doubled it. We should not bring in any more men.

The right hon. Gentleman goes on to suggest that, if recruiting fails, the difficulty may be overcome by adopting compulsory service, as I understand, for home defence—compulsion for the Militia. But would that overcome the difficulty? He objects to what he calls a separate arm}' for India, for foreign service, and he explained to the House why such an Army would be less effective than the present one. Rut upon this question of compulsion, how does he face the question that, ipso facto, the ballot for home service would create that separate army for foreign service which he so greatly deprecates? It appears to me that no man has ever contemplated as he has or breathed a word of applying the principle of compulsion to our foreign service, which is our heavier service, with its requirement of the 115,000 men that we have permanently to keep abroad. And so the difficulties of recruiting—instead of bringing elasticity into the conditions of service—remain. They are not affected in any way by this suggestion of compulsion for home service, which the Secretary for War has thrown out. Rut has he the authority of the Government in any way- even putting aside all other difficulties—has he the authority of the Cabinet, of which the right hon. Gentleman is a member, to make any suggestion with regard to compulsion at Inline? It is an unusual question, but it is a question which we are forced to ask when we have to consider it in connection with this subject. I listened to what the Leader of the House said last night. It was a sort of sigh. It appeared to me to indicate an opinion on his part altogether hostile to the argument of the Secretary for War.


was understood to ask the right hon. Gentleman for the passage in the speech of the Leader of the House.


The sentence is not reported, but I will drop it. I will leave it, and will fall back on what is reported. That is the opinion of the Prime Minister, expressed on behalf of the Government last year in the House of Lords, in a debate which was followed by a division in which every single member of the Government in the House of Lords, following the Prime Minister's speech, voted against any form of compulsion for the Militia even here at home.

I have talked with some of my hon. and gallant friends opposite who think that the deficiencies of this scheme may some day be remedied by the adoption of compulsion here. [An HON. MEMBER: No, no.] I said some of them. They think that the deficiencies of this scheme may some day be remedied by the adoption of compulsion here—which I do not admit, because it appears to me that compulsion for home service does not meet our needs or give us what we want, and that it does not in the least remove all the difficulties of which I have been speaking. And when I have told them that their Prime Minister and their Government are pledged against it they suggest—I dare hardly use the phrases they have used with regard to the antiquity of the Prime Minister's opinions on the subject—but they suggest that they are a survival of a very distant past. But the Prime Minister's words are very strong, and it is necessary that they should be brought before the House in this connection, as showing that this question of compulsion for home service, even if it would solve our home difficulties, which I do not think it would, must be treated as a real and grave difficulty. It was on February 20th last year that the Prime Minister spoke of the Militia Ballot Bill as a "Bill for effecting a purpose which no one has proved to be possible." He asked, "if anyone could be found to draw and to introduce" such a Bill, would it have "the slightest chance of passing without the most angry and acrimonious debate?" That is unimportant. But what is important is this. He argued that it "would add to the dangers of the country," and that it would be absolutely impossible "to remain at the Militia ballot." I believe that what was in his mind is what is in my mind, and what I have just been trying to impress on the House —that a Militia ballot would not meet our difficulties, and that it would be useless to have compulsory service unless you were prepared to apply it—and that was the conclusion of the Prime Minister's speech—to your Regular Army. And he said it must come to conscription for the Regular Army. That was the Prime Minister's opinion. I say if we are to have any suggestion of the question of compulsion as likely in the long run to overcome the emptiness of the present scheme, you are bound. I think, to put before the House a little more of what your meaning is, because mere compulsion for the Militia, the mere piling up of the Militia by the ballot, although it might do something for war, it does not seem to me that it would in the least diminish—I believe that in some senses it would increase—your difficulties as regards your foreign service and your normal drain of 120,000 or 150,000 men for unhealthy garrisons and India. You must remember that the way the matter would be put before the working classes of the country by their chosen leaders would be this. They would say this was a dangerous and unhealthy trade. This service in India in time of peace and this service in tropical garrisons is a thing which the country needs and for which it will have to pay. And the introduction of compulsion with the view of getting over that difficulty would be represented to them, and I think naturally, as the country being unwilling to pay the market price for the article it desires to obtain. And though that difficulty is great, and has, I believe, always been great, surely it has been enormously increased by what has recently occurred and the very high price you have had to pay in the recent war for recruits for service in distant places.

I do not know whether the Secretary of State has seen the speech which was made by the officer commanding the Imperial force which went out for the Australian Commonwealth celebrations. At every place where that force was landed this question of their pay as compared with that of the Colonials was very prominently brought forward. The character of the contrast was so greatly impressed on the minds of those on both sides—both on the Imperial force sent out and on the people among whom they were—that the commandant of that force thought it necessary to go out of his way to make his final speech on that question. He spoke of this great difference, indicating, not obscurely, his own opinion that the pay of the British Army would have to be raised. I am not attaching any importance to the opinion of the individual, but my point is that you have increased your difficulties by the high rate of pay which you have been forced recently to give and that it is impossible to suppose that you will be able to supply by compulsion, directly or indirectly, this heavier part of our responsibility—the most difficult of all of them—to satisfy permanently in time of peace this drain of 120,000 or 150,000 men for places like India or South Africa. Therefore it is that I regret that we should have a somewhat vacant scheme, not providing in I any way for the great drain which will come upon you at the conclusion of this war, but indicating the possibility of failure, without any increase of pay or any change in the conditions of recruiting, but suggesting that in two or three years time these difficulties might be met by compulsion, which, I believe, would never meet them in any way at all. The Reserves themselves have been counted by the right hon. Gentleman in his list of figures at 90,000 men. But the 90,000 men will not be there at the conclusion of this war. The number of the Reserves will have been greatly diminished by this war. Actuarial calculation will no doubt show what the number is expected to be, but it will not be 90,000, and you will also have the difficulties I alluded to just now in regard to the recruiting of the Indian Army and as to the Indian drafts. There is no suggestion in the scheme as to how the recruiting is to be met, how these difficulties are to be, met, and surely before a suggestion was thrown out into the air that compulsion would some day meet these difficulties, which, I believe, it cannot solve, an attempt ought to have been made—an attempt which was fully expected by the country would have been made—to increase the pay of the soldiers, and to make those changes in recruiting which many of us believe would greatly affect the matter. The Government, however, go, I think, on the opposite tack. The Regulars are costly and the Volunteers are cheap. The Leader of the House boasted last night that there was no attempt to increase the number of the Regular forces of the country. He claimed credit last night for the Estimate on this ground. He said that the only increase in the present numbers is the 10,000 garrison veterans and the increased number of Yeomanry. I am very doubtful whether the 10,000 garrison veterans will be obtained. If they are obtained, of course they are a long-service force, and it will alter the whole balance of your system in connection with long service and make no contribution, but, on the contrary, make a detraction from the strength and value of your Reserves. The Government point to the same intention by the manner in which they bring the Volunteers into their Army corps, and I confess that their proceedings have led me to think that they attach undue importance to mere numbers as contrasted with the value of the men and their training.

I shall not dwell on this matter. We have debated it in the past, but I must mention in this connection the reinforcements which have been sent out to South Africa. The 30,000 men supplied to Lord Kitchener are untrained men. They remind me of nothing so much—I see some Scotch Members present—as the 30,000 untrained men by whom Scotland lost Dunbar. I believe that was the number, and the quality of their training was somewhat similar. The supply of these untrained men and the counting of Volunteers as Army corps simply because they give you so many numbers at a cheap rate, goes to show to my mind that the Government do not attach sufficient importance to the quality of the training and the value of the men, but merely to the importance of counting heads. You are sending out as rough-riders men who have never seen a horse, and paying them a high rate of pay as mounted men. You are paying men who have never seen a horse at a rate of pay almost double the pay of the sergeant-majors who have had the training of the Regular cavalry at Aldershot, and this appears to me to have greatly added to the difficulties of the Government in regard to this question of pay in the future. I confess that, by an earlier preparation of the reinforcements needed, I believe the scandal which occurred with regard to the pay of the Rhodesian field force would have been avoided. It has enormously added to the difficulties in the future. The Leader of the Opposition asked last night what those of us who attack the War Office on these questions exactly mean. He asked us to say whether it is the military heads of the Army, or the civilian clerks, or the politicians that we mean. I confess that I have never been a great believer in the value of the opinion with regard to the Army of Lord Haliburton and Sir E. Knox, but of the value of their services as regards work and of their ability there is no man in this House who has a higher opinion than myself, but, after all, they have been and the soldiers in the War Office are, very largely the servants of the politicians. I think it is upon ourselves that we must take this blame. We must say that it is we here who have never given our minds sufficiently to the consideration of these questions, and that it is not the soldiers and not the civilian clerks, but we, all of us, who ought to bear the blame for this absence of preparation for war.

*MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)

My only reason for intervening in this debate is that I have had a certain amount of special experience which may possibly be of use in discussing some of the aspects of this great question. I may say, by way of preface, that I have served some thirteen years in the Army, during the last two and a half of which I was Military Attaché to the British Embassy in the United States. Consequently I have had a unique opportunity of studying the military problems and reorganisation proposals of the only army in the world which resembles ours in the slightest degree. In the United States they have the same national insistence on a, voluntary system, the same Anglo-Saxon man in the street to reckon with, and the same inestimable blessing of a halfpenny press to remind Ministers that they are mortal and to instruct them in their duties. The United States have, moreover, also just emerged from a great war which has left behind it a legacy of guerilla operations, which are still in progress and which have so shown up the defects of their old military system that army reform has become one of the pressing political questions of the day. I have had the opportunity of studying the American army both in the field and subsequently under the process of reform; whilst I do not contend that they have by any means solved this question satisfactorily, at the same time I think we can learn something from their mistakes. In certain directions even we have a great deal to learn from their experience.

Before going on to these special points I may perhaps be permitted to make a few general remarks on the scheme unfolded by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. I hope he will not think me guilty of presumption if I venture to express the opinion that his speech was the most momentous statement ever made in the history of the British Army. We may not approve of his scheme in every detail, but I think we must all agree that it shows a grasp of broad principles, and that, therefore, he has earned our goodwill. We shall do what is possible to assist him in the path on which he has set out. I listened last night with great attention to the strictures on his scheme passed by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I hoped that from his wide experience in connection with the War Office he would have thrown out some useful hints in connection with that scheme. I must say from my own experience of the regime of the Leader of the Opposition at the War Office that he has left behind him there nothing but tender memories on account of the courteous and suave manner in which he presided over that Department. But when I come to consider his present proposals it seems to me that his only contribution to practical statesmanship in this matter was, in the first place, to suggest a deer-ease in the Army; secondly, to recommend that we should abolish the idea of an expeditionary force, as it might provoke our neighbours; thirdly, that we should increase the civilian element at the War Office; and lastly, by way of arming the country against possible dangers, he advised us to adopt the policy of the conciliatory smile in dealing with our neighbours. I think we all remember the sad fate of the young lady of Riga, and I am afraid if we adopt this policy of the smile, the smile will again be on the face of the tiger. The Leader of the Opposition then said he feared that the Secretary of State for War had some great military purpose. I venture to hope that he has. I think it is time that in putting forward a scheme of Army reform in this House the Government should have some great military purpose behind it, and I venture to express the opinion that this great military purpose is to try to bring the military forces of this great Empire up to the level of its responsibilities. Perhaps I may be permitted without presumption to offer my congratulations to the Army reformers in this House, because while they have borne the burden and heat of the day, and for many years have been sowing the good seed, it is only lately that it has fallen on good ground—ground, too, which has often been condemned in the past as barren and unproductive. Still, it has now brought forward a harvest which, though perhaps not entirely satisfactory to everyone, is, I hope, only an earnest of more good things to come. I think the Army reformers in this House for a long time have naturally felt that their proposals were not always met in the spirit in which they were made, but I do not think they should on that account abuse the right hon. Gentleman because he has now come round to their opinions. I think they should rather congratulate themselves on having converted him in some respects, and that they should combine together to help him in every way, and to give his scheme a chance instead of merely assailing it with destructive criticism.

In considering this scheme one of the first things that suggests itself to my mind as striking is that two such high military authorities as the late Commander-in-Chief and the present Secretary of State for War have agreed in their characterisation of the old system. The late Commander-in-Chief called it a Chinese system, and the present Secretary of State for War has called it a Boxer system. These are practically synonymous terms, or at any rate both are equally applicable, and it occurs to one to ask at this point whether the more highly placed Boxer leaders are to be invited to commit suicide, according to the latest diplomatic precedent. Personally, I hope not, but I feel that until this point is settled the Prime Minister must be awaiting results with a certain amount of anxiety. I am glad that the policy of arming the "man in the street" with a rifle is no longer to be relied upon. I may perhaps be permitted to remind the House what the Duke of Wellington once said in connection with this view of national defence. When there was some talk of the possible invasion of this country by France it was suggested to the Duke that in such an event all the young men would flock to the coast and hurl the presumptuous invader back into the sea. The Duke of Wellington smiled grimly and said, "If the young men of England cannot enlist in the Army I should advise them to stay at home and not make fools of themselves." I hope we shall hear no more of entrusting the defence of this country to "young men with rifles."

There is one point which I think would strike everyone who heard the right hon. Gentleman's statement, and that is that some of the more important lessons of the war in South Africa have been well taken; and, in my opinion, if the war did nothing else but show up the defects of our military system, and teach us how to remedy them, it would be well worth while. He struck at the root of the whole matter when he said that the voluntary system is nothing to be proud of unless it produces efficient defenders. That statement has caused a good deal of comment on the other side of the House, and the suggestion has been made that the Government is going to introduce, a system of conscription. I do not think that this inference need necessarily be drawn. We require a large number of recruits each year—I do not know exactly how many—and the question is, shall we be able to get these recruits? If not, the whole scheme falls to the ground. Therefore, we must either force them into the service by compulsion, or make it worth their while to come in. I think the country will be willing to try the latter alternative first. In connection with my American experience I had special facilities for studying the problem of recruiting there, and I did so in great detail during the last two years.

I may say that I have examined thousands of American recruits, and I have talked to hundreds of them, and when J say that they are probably superior in physique and intelligence to any troops in the world, I think it is desirable that we should get the same material here if possible. The experience I learned there may possibly be useful to the House, and I may perhaps be allowed to quote a few figures. First of all, the term of military service is entirely different from our own. It is only three years, with the option of re-engagement. A very large proportion re-engage, because it is made worth while to do so. The pay of the private on joining is 1s. 9½d. per day, after two years service it is raised to 1s. 10½d., after three years to 2s. 0½d.; after four years to 2s. 2d.; and after five years to 2s. 6d. There are no "stoppages" out of this pay, and the figures I have quoted represent what the soldier has to spend as he likes. All these rates are increased by 20 per cent, in time of war, or if the soldier has to serve beyond the seas. Of course, it may be said that the cost of living in America is very much greater, but this counts for little in the case of the private soldier, as everything is found for him. At these rates they succeed in getting men of a high physical and intellectual standard. 'The average height of recruits is 5 feet 7 inches, the average age is twenty-two, and all the men must be at least able to read and write. Only from 15 to 20 per cent. of the applicants are enlisted. From these figures I deduce that if we could offer a rate of pay for really mature men—I don't mean for boys—of 1s. 9d. per day, it is quite possible that we might get as good a class of men as are to be got in America. I believe we could secure really mature men at these rates, which would mean an extra cost of something like £3,000,000 a year. From that amount, however, could be deducted what is now wasted on mere boys, who are quite unable to take their place in the field. I think that by adding to these terms some such scheme of old age pensions as was suggested in the case of the garrison regiments, it would be a sufficient inducement to tempt men to leave the labour market and come into the Army. I rejoice very much that the right hon. Gentleman suggests that cubicles should be tried in barracks. One of the greatest drawbacks to decent men enlisting are the conditions of barrack-room life, especially at night. Of course, these proposals all mean money, but the right hon. Gentleman stated that he never came down to this House without running the gauntlet of spendthrift Members who wanted him to spend more money. I think that fact alone should encourage him to risk the expense, and if he does I will do everything in my power to save him from that lamp-post in Palace-yard.

We now come to a very much debated point and that is the proposal to form these army corps. The army corps has been attacked in no measured terms in the course of the debate, and I must say my- self that I am not at all enamoured of that form of unit. At the same time, we must give the right, hon. Gentleman's scheme a chance. If he can produce six army corps ready in all respects to take the field, I do not think we have any right to condemn his proposals offhand. He does not put them forward merely on his own initiative, but on the advice of Lord Roberts. The Leaders of the Opposition contended last night that Lord Roberts really could not know much about the matter, because he had been only two months at the War Office. I am not sure that that fact in itself may not be of great advantage to him. But his study of the military requirements of this country has extended not over two months, but over more than fifty years, from a time before the present Secretary of State for War was even born. We must give Lord Roberts and the Secretary of State a chance to produce these army corps before we condemn their proposals as absurd or ridiculous.

In some respects, perhaps, the most important part of the right hon. Gentleman's statement was that in which expressed his determination to appoint none but competent generals and commanding officers to posts of high command. He has not underrated the difficulties of this task, and the debate which took place on last Monday and Tuesday nights has afforded conclusive proof of the obstacles he will have to face in this House as well as outside. But the House and the country must support the right hon. Gentleman against the paralysing influences of good nature and aristocratic connections, and I prefer to believe that they will. It is difficult to imagine a more vicious or demoralising influence than that of the appointment to the command and instruction of young troops at home of generals or commanding officers who, being proved inefficient in the field, have been sent home as failures. The enforcement of such a rule must, of course, bring a certain amount of hardship upon individuals, but the interests of the public service are infinitely above the interests of individuals, and all I would add on this point is that it would be a wise policy to give these officers who have committed no crime, beyond incom- petence, the opportunity of resigning, without public scandal. It might also be better to allow them, if possible, to retire without any loss of pension. If the Secretary of State really succeeds in appointing none but the best men to positions of high command, he will at one stroke have done one of the first things needful to reform both the War Office and the Army.

I should like to enter my rigorous protest against the vicious practice of emasculating the War Office at the commencement of a war, when the co-operation of the trained staff is most needed, by releasing a large portion of the staff officers for service in the field. In the case of the intelligence Department, which is only a small body, I believe that at the beginning of the present war no less than seventeen officers, who had been trained to the duties of the Department, were allowed to go to the front. Such a practice would destroy the efficiency of any office, and it is also hard upon officers who have to take up the appointments temporarily, Such officers merely keep the places warm, doing all the dirty work when the strain is greatest, and are unceremoniously bundled out when the warriors return from the front. Any officer appointed to a highly paid post in the War Office should be appointed only on the clear understanding that he serves in that office, subject to his efficiency, for a full fixed term, and that no volunteering for active service can be permitted. Another practice to be avoided is the sending of our trained non-commissioned staff' to the front, as under such circumstances the young recruits who pour in during the time of war have no proper instruction. Instead of the training staff being weakened at such a time, it should rather be increased. In regard to the raising of the Imperial Yeomanry, I must express deep regret that the question of the co-operative defence of the Empire has not been brought forward in some shape in this connection. It may be said that the time is not ripe. I think the time is peculiarly ripe. I have lived for some years in the Colonies and am still in touch with Colonial opinion, and my belief is, whatever the Governments of the Colonies may be saying, that the people are only too ready to take part in any scheme of co-operative defence of the Empire if you will give them the opportunity. The Governments are waiting to see which Way the cat will jump, and I believe that any well-considered proposal would meet with a most enthusiastic response. Failing such a proposal, I wish the right hon. Gentleman had been able to suggest a scheme by which each of the Colonies concerned would have accepted a fixed share, however small, in the Imperial offensive Army. We ought to know just how many men we can count upon and of what arms, and they ought to, have their fixed place in the mobilisation tables. If anything of that sort is done, I hope the men we get will be mounted infantry or artillery, and that we shall hear no more about "dismounted men preferred." With regard to the great question of the training of the Army, I hope that in any future arrangement the training will be extended continuously as far as possible all the year round. We are the only country in the world, except China, which expects to fight only in fair weather. As to the question of the proposed Volunteer artillery, I do not think it would be possible to train Volunteer batteries by giving them only thirty days in camp. Whatever may be given to the infantry Volunteers, I hope more training will be given to the artillery. Another most important point is the provision of a larger supply of small-arm ammunition for the use of our infantry. The shooting of the American infantry soldier is infinitely superior to that of our own; the reason being that he is allowed practically as much ammunition as he pleases; and is given a range to use as well. At the same time, of course, there is more room for ranges in America. One other point in connection with mounted troops is the weight of the equipment our horses have to carry. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take advantage of the American experience in lightening the load. The American saddle is much lighter than ours, and the equipment the horses have to carry on service when chasing bands of Indians—which work may be said to resemble somewhat our present operations—is also much lighter. I should be very pleased to give the right hon. Gentleman privately certain information which I have on this subject. The United States cavalry are very much better trained than are our cavalry in scouting, dismounted duties, and especially horse-mastership. I was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman is to ask for more money to be spent on manœuvre grounds.


More power.


As long as the right hon. Gentleman gets the manœuvring grounds I care very little whether it is by powers or by money, as the amount involved is so small. The Germans are spending only about £300,000 annually on their whole system of camps, while they have spent only £6,000,000 in all. With regard to the training of officers, I am very glad there is to be a Committee to examine into the courses of instruction, at the Royal Military Academy and Royal Military Colleges. Personally, I think the course of training at these schools is at present unreal and unpractical With the exception of, perhaps, a certain amount of drill, one learns nothing whatever that is of the slightest use in after service. I hope the Committee will investigate the courses of study and the experience gained at that excellent institution the Royal Military College at Kingston, Canada. Having had the honour of being instructor there for five years. I can testify that the course is infinitely more practical than at either of our military colleges, and this has been proved by results, The hon. Member who referred to the question of officers' expenses greatly over-estimated the figures. He quoted only his experience of certain crack regiments, and took the expenses of the whole Army to be in like proportion. There is no objection, I think, to having one or two crack regiments, but there are an enormous number of regiments, notably the Artillery, Engineers, and Infantry, in which young officers with only small allowances of £100 a year, or even less, are able to get on perfectly well. I must say I do not think the right hon. Gentleman's proposal to have officers' uniforms made by Government tailors will meet with any very enthusiastic response in the Army. From what I have seen of Government tailors and regimental fitters, I am sure the results would not be very satis factory. It would, however, be an excellent thing if uniforms were simplified and the cost reduced to the lowest possible figure.

As to the "engrossing topic" of the Order in Council, I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has stated that Lord Roberts, who has not served in the War Office previously, wishes to see the full horrors of the system before expressing any opinion upon it. If this is so, I think we are bound to respect that wish, and therefore I do not propose to enter now into the question which has recently been ventilated in another place with such unsatisfactory results. I must, however, warn the right hon, Gentleman that if this matter is not dealt with it will become even more engrossing in the future than it is at present. I will only add now that the usefulness of the Committee at present sitting on the War Office has been much impaired by the fact that they are not allowed to go behind that Order in Council, and therefore are unable to examine the real crux of the whole matter. I heartily endorse the tribute of the right hon. Gentleman to the labours of the War Office staff during the war. We hear so much of "war as made in Germany" that it is refreshing to learn that the German expedition to China was so badly organised and equipped that it was quite unable to take the field until we had fitted out and assisted it from our own stores. In this connection I may read to the House an extract from a letter which I received a few days ago from General Chaffee, who commands the American Army in China. He says— I really have had much pleasure in meeting with officers of the British Service who are here in China. A very splendid lot of men they are too, from the general commanding, down through all with whom I have had intercourse. I say to you very frankly that I admire the straightforward way the British have of doing things, and they have the test staff organisation in China. The equipment of the force is also good for service in China. I read the order for their mobilisation in India. It is a marvellous exhibition of foresight, and yet is nothing more than experience setting in motion the staff for a division, with everything necessary to the perfect working of the machine mentioned by name. That is, I think, very satisfactory testimony. I am glad, also, to hear that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to appoint retired military officers to some of the clerkships in the War Office. Little enough is at present done for such officers, and they would have, at any rate, some knowledge of the needs of the Service. Furthermore, a little additional encouragement might be given to young officers. It does not stimulate officers to study their profession or to give their best energies to it if they are continually snubbed and repressed. It may seem a small matter to the House, but I fail to see why when an officer is ordered to take a journey on the public service, and has to pay his expenses out of his own pocket beforehand, his accounts should always be scrutinised in a spirit as though he was suspected of embezzlement; or why in matters of a halfpenny he should have to enter into a lengthy and acrimonious correspondence with the Paymaster. This may be a small point, but it means a good deal to officers, and, after all, courtesy costs nothing. Moreover, it is a serious error of policy to postpone the rewards for distinguished services until the ambitious blood has become chilled, and hope deferred has made the heart sick.

I thank the House for having listened so patiently to my remarks. They are not in any way intended to traverse the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but J felt that I must touch upon certain points in regard to which I had special experience. I have no desire to examine the Secretary of State's scheme in a hypercritical spirit, and in any criticism I have made, or may in future make, I wish to assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am actuated solely by a desire to strengthen his hands, and to give him every possible assistance in his courageous and statesmanlike attempt to bring the military forces of this great Empire to a level with its responsibilities.


May I venture to appeal to the House to allow the Speaker now to leave the Chair. We have still two Votes to get, and on those two Votes exactly the same discussion can be continued; while if we are driven late there may be some difficulty in finishing the two Votes.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

suggested that the general discussion should be continued on the present motion, and the division taken on the Votes afterwards, as on a previous occasion the debate on the War Office had been checked when the House went into Committee.


said it was really a, matter of indifference which course was taken, but possibly there might be a hitch at the end, and some difficulty experienced in getting the Votes through. He thought the better course would be for the Speaker to leave the Chair at this stage.

MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

concurred in the view of the Leader of the House, and said he had no doubt a certain latitude of discussion would be allowed.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

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