HC Deb 14 May 1901 vol 94 cc66-125


Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment to resolution proposed [13th May], "That it is expedient that six army corps be organised in the United Kingdom, with the requi site staff, stores, and buildings; that a Reserve for the Militia be enrolled not exceeding 50,000 men; that the establishment of the Yeomanry be raised from 12,000 to 35,000; and that eight regiments be enrolled for garrison service."—(Mr. Secretary Brodrick.)

And which Amendment was— To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, 'this House, while desirous of supporting measures for improving the efficiency of the Army and securing Imperial defence, is of opinion that the proposals of His Majesty's Government are in many respects not adapted to the special wants of the Empire, and largely increase the burdens of the nation without adding substantially to its military strength."—(Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Debate resumed.

MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)

It is with a deep sense of responsibility that I rise to oppose the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I do not propose to discuss its precise terms; indeed, I should apologise for applying such a term as "precise" to anything so nebulous, but I must say I think it was a serious tactical error on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to bring it forward. Constituting as it does a direct vote of censure on the policy of the Government, it must necessarily drive army reformers on both sides of the House into their respective party lobbies; and what might have been a helpful and patriotic discussion has been perverted into a mere party fight. This is much to be regretted. Still I presume the Leader of the Opposition had good reasons for his action, which must at any rate have earned the gratitude of the Secretary of State for War. While I do not propose to discuss the terms of the Amendment, I think I am entitled to suggest that we should weigh the value of the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman on this matter. When it comes to estimating the importance of his approval or disapproval of the Government scheme I must confess I do not think his own military record in the past has been particularly inspiring. While those of us who had the privilege of serving under him during his tour at the War Office have most pleasant reminiscences of him personally, I must say I think his administrative record may be fairly summed up as a deft and tactful blending of the suaviter in modo with the debiliter in re. And if he, himself, had ever shown the slightest practical enthusiasm for the cause of military reform his criticism on this occasion might have carried more conviction to his hearers. But it is difficult for us to forget the reasons which led to the defeat of the last Liberal Government, and more particularly to his own disappearance from office in the year 1895.

I do not propose to inquire very closely into his criticisms of and strictures on the scheme now before the House, because I think that that task has been sufficiently performed by the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. But there are two points to which I think I ought to refer. The right hon. Gentleman asked, "In what possible circumstances could we ever have to send three army corps abroad again?" In reply to that I will only remind the House of a point with which, perhaps, every military student in this House is familiar, namely, that the Russian scheme for the invasion of India contemplates the British Empire reinforcing its present garrisons there by exactly three army corps. In fact, I believe that the Russian scheme of attack on India is drawn up mainly on that assumption. This alone goes to show that we should have the power to send 120,000 men, or three army corps, out of this country in case of need. The second point to which I must refer is one upon which I feel bound to express a protest against the unmerited slur which the Leader of the Opposition cast upon the officers of the Volunteer force. He stated that the weak point of the Militia and the Volunteer forces (and especially the Volunteers) is to be found in their officers. I cannot say what has been the experience of the right hon. Gentleman in Scotland; but, speaking for my own part of the country—the south of England—and the headquarters of a big Volunteer brigade are located in my constituency—I venture to say that the weak point does not rest with the Volunteer officers, and I feel sure that the remark of the right hon. Gentleman will be deeply resented by Volunteers throughout the country.

I now pass to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Oldham. I was deeply impressed with its sentiment and real eloquence, but at the same time I must confess that I was deeply disappointed with its substance. I cannot but believe that its principles are curiously unsound. But it had one unexpected result. I see that my hon. friend has already been hailed by the chief organ of the Radical party, in tones of deep emotion, as the future Prime Minister of the Liberal party, and whilst I am sure we should be exceedingly sorry on this side of the House to lose the benefit of his services, I at the same time think he would be doing a really patriotic service to both parties if he were to consider the advisability of lifting up again that "tattered flag" which now lies so low in the dust. I think that those who listened to his speech must have been struck in the first place by its marked hereditary flavour. I have myself such a respect for the genius of my hon. friend that I cannot help expressing the belief that the opinions he gave utterance to in that speech were more the outcome of filial sentiment than of his own deliberate judgment. And I venture to say to him that it is not well to confuse filial piety with public duty, and he must not think that he can succeed in a policy in the advocacy of which a "certain splendid memory" failed. I sincerely sympathise with his expression of sentiment on this occasion, but this is not the time to parade or pursue family traditions. It is rather the time to take occasion by the hand and strenuously to support any Minister who is honestly endeavouring to reform and improve the Army.

My hon. friend's text was economy and retrenchment. Of course, those are most praiseworthy virtues, but I think it is a great mistake to elevate them into a mere fetish, blindly to be worshipped. I cannot help thinking that, after all, insurance is the best and truest form of economy, and that this great expenditure upon our Army and Navy is the best form of national insurance. My hon. friend says we are paying too high a premium, and asks, why has it gone up so tremendously of late years? Simply because, as in business, the risk has increased, and with it the cost of insurance. My hon. friend pointed out, very truly, that since the year 1886 our naval and military expenditure has doubled, and he asserted that there has been nothing in the action of foreign Powers to justify that increase. I say, on the contrary, there has been very good reason. The relative strength of foreign Powers on the Continent has greatly increased in that period, and in proof of that I may be allowed to quote a few figures. Since 1886 the expenditure of Germany on her navy has quadrupled, that of Russia has more than doubled, and that of France has gone up over 60 per cent. Thus in the case of those three great nations combined the expenditure upon their navies in the period mentioned has more than doubled. It may be said, "What has that to do with our Army expenditure?" My reply is that it has a very great deal to do with it, because the armies of the Continent cannot be a danger to England until their naval strength has been sufficiently developed to enable them to land those armies upon our shores.

I suppose it is not in order to refer specifically to the Amendment of my hon. friend the Member for Oldham, because he did not move it. But I think he himself will admit that the speech which he delivered last night was originally designed to introduce that Amendment, and therefore I am at liberty to refer to certain points in it. He spoke of the extraordinary pressure existing at the War Office, and made a curious insinuation, which can have no other meaning but that on account of the pressure the present Secretary of State and Commander-in-Chief are not sufficiently compos mentis to undertake Army reform. A cursory inspection of the Secretary of State will, I think, sufficiently dispel that delusion, and I am not aware that either physically or intellectually the powers of Lord Roberts show any fatal diminution. The hon. Member for Oldham then advocates postponing the "final decision" on questions of military reform. What does he mean by that? There can be no such thing as a final decision in military reform. There can never be finality in military matters. You cannot even stand still. You must either go forward or backward, and I believe that in this case we are going forward. He talked about postponing military reforms until "calmer times," but is our military house to remain in disorder while we are waiting for these calmer times? How does he know that we have calmer times ahead of us? Suppose the times grow stormier! Are we still to wait? The Chief Secretary has likened my hon. friend to a blunderbuss, but I feel rather inclined to liken him to a cautious old lady who finds it so difficult to make up her mind to cross Piccadilly that when eventually she does start she has reached such a distracted and disorganised frame of mind that she must inevitably fall a prey to the first passing omnibus. Both my hon. friend and leader of the Opposition seem to fear that if we get a stronger Army under this or any other scheme it will turn our heads and incite us to assume the role of a provocative bully among the nations of the world. How many more times is this ancient and time-worn fallacy to be brought before the House? It has been paraded over and over again, and it has been shown equally often that it is based on a complete misconception. It is the foolish boy who has acquired a cheap new pistol for the first time that is a danger to the community, and not the experienced man who acquires the best weapon in the market, who is thoroughly well versed in the use of it, and who, if he is attacked or if he finds it necessary to meet any act of aggression, uses the weapon in the most effective way. I hope we shall not hear any more of this danger of having a strong Army. It is easy to scoff at military expenditure in times of peace, and to acquire a cheap popularity by advocating the cutting down of that expenditure. But a million pounds saved in times of peace will often turn into ten or fifty millions wasted in time of war, and it is little satisfaction to a wounded or ruined nation that it can hang to the nearest lamp-post the so-called "economists." who misled it in times of peace.

Now I pass on to some of the details of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. I cannot help feeling that, possibly with the very best intentions, hon. Members have gone the wrong way to work in criticising this scheme, seeing that, because they differ from it in certain details, they attack it root and branch. Hon. Members would do better if they devoted their energies to improving, if possible, the Government scheme, rather than by putting forward great projects of their own. One fact does not seem to be sufficiently recognised in this connection. The scheme before us is the only one advanced by a responsible authority; therefore we cannot very well displace it, but we may do a great deal to improve it. There is, in fact, no alternative scheme, because there is no alternative Government. For that we have the authority of the chief Opposition whip. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife does not agree with him; but, of course, that is not surprising. And I must confess that, looking across to the other side of the House, I do not see that ideal Secretary for War, who would eclipse the present holder of the office by the brilliancy of his reforms. I therefore propose to make the best I can of the present Secretary for War. In discussing this scheme, I must admit that one of my chief objections to it was removed last night by the statement of the Chief Secretary for Ireland that the army corps are not to be of the continental pattern, but more in the nature of great military commands for the purpose of decentralisation. That, I think, is an extremely important admission. And when it comes to the vitally important point of selecting the generals for these great commands I hope it will be remembered that it will be necessary to pay such a salary as will secure the best possible men for these positions. It occurs very often that the best men cannot take such posts because of the great expense attached to them, and I therefore trust that these commands will be paid in such a way that the best men in the service, however deficient in private means, will be able to take them. I must say I think that the idea of an army corps organisation for defence will bear inspection, because it will help to encourage the Auxiliary forces, which are too much neglected at the present moment. But for over-sea purposes the case is different. You cannot ship an army corps over sea. It never has been done, and never will be done. I know it is contended in very high places that the first duty of our Army is home defence, but that is an ancient and exploded heresy. The defence of the British Empire does not merely consist in the defence of these islands. While it is necessary, of course, in the last fatal resort that we should have an organised force to repel a foreign invasion, the real defence of the British Empire, in almost all conceivable contingencies, will be not in these islands, but on the frontiers of the enemy beyond the seas. On these grounds I would advocate the transfer of one of these first three army corps to South Africa, where it would be near the strategic centre of the Empire, and in a position to reinforce India at the shortest possible notice, instead of being cooped up in these islands with no suitable facilities for the war training of either officers or men. I really think that this point should commend itself to the Secretary of State for War. It does not materially alter his scheme, because it would merely substitute for the mixed force which he proposes to have in South Africa one of his first three army corps. I myself also believe that this plan would open up a new field for recruiting. It is said by some that the Dutch in South Africa would not enlist in the British Army after this war, but that is contrary to all our experience, which shows that when we have conquered even the most irreconcilable foes they have shown every desire to enter our forces.

MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)

Can the hon. Gentleman give an instance of a civilised and white nation having done that?


I presume the hon. Gentleman would call the Highlanders of Scotland a white and civilised nation. I believe that for some time to come we should have no difficulty in recruiting from the white races in South Africa, because after the war it is certain that there will be a large number both of British and Dutch who will be sadly in want of employment, and who would welcome the chance of serving in the Army.

Now I come to the really crucial point of the whole scheme, and that is the provision of the men. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant in his speech yesterday said that the most important thing was to get "a proper design for your house," and that "it did not matter much about the material." But I think he would need the bricks; and the bricks of this scheme are, after all, the men. The Secretary of State for War has hitherto observed a somewhat sphinx-like silence on this point, but doubtless he will break it on Thursday. I do not believe that the explanation of his silence is that he is trying to lead us on to conscription. He is well aware that conscription is entirely inapplicable to foreign service, and that our Army must be a foreign service army. Therefore the only alternative, in my opinion, is to improve the inducements held out to men to enlist. One way is to increase the pay. The official rejoinder to that is that it is "all a question of money." I do not believe it is all a question of money in the sense of providing more money. It is rather a question of the better distribution of the money already voted. The present Estimates show an enormous force on paper, a considerable portion of which must necessarily be ineffective. If we trim down that force to its effective strength we shall have a smaller force on paper, but a vastly more effective force in reality, and it would not be necessary to trim it down very far. I have already indicated in the public press how I believe that money would be actually saved to the public purse by this means, and I will not again inflict my views, in detail, upon the House. Briefly, my contention is that we should offer a rate of pay equivalent to 1s. 8d. per day (to grown men only, of course), and to supplement that by subsequent progressive increments. If that were done for men of good age and of good physique, intelligence, and character, you would not be committing yourself hopelessly to raising the pay of the entire Army until you got a clear indication of how that scheme would work. My contention is, in any case, that it is useless to have a vast army on paper, and I may again refer to the analogy of China. A favourite device of the Chinese is to make paper guns and paper forts, in order to intimidate the foe, but I most strongly deprecate this slavish adherence of the War Office to Chinese methods. Moreover, paper guns and forts in China cost nothing, whereas our paper soldiers cost £60 a year each. The official explanation of this is that boys will grow and become efficient soldiers. Of course many of them do; but meantime it is a ridiculous misrepresentation to include those boys in the effective strength of the Army. It would be far better to strike them off altogether, and to use the money now wasted on them in giving better pay to the rest of the Army. I think it is more important that we should have a slightly smaller Army on paper than to retain a large portion of the Army as a kindergarten or a cadet corps.

I know my noble friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office regards this portion of my scheme with very critical disapproval, and I know that his argument will be, "How do you know, if we did raise the pay, that we should get the men we require?" Well, of course, it must be to a certain extent an experiment, but I have brought forward the only evidence there is on the subject—namely, the evidence of the American army, and we would only be following the inexorable law of supply and demand. Why should the wages of the Army alone remain stationary when the wages of every other trade have increased steadily for a hundred years? Why should the apprentice in the Army be paid the same wages as the trained man? The principle of progressive pay is, in any case, very important, even if you do not increase the minimum wage. The Secretary of State for War said that it was of the "utmost importance that we should get in future men of better intelligence," and, I think, in this connection it would interest the House if I called its attention for a moment to perhaps the most efficient army we have ever had in this country—I mean Cromwell's army. Macaulay, referring to that army, says that "the pay of the private soldier was much above the wages earned by the great body of the people," and that its ranks were consequently composed of men of superior education. He then adds— In war this force was irresistible…. It never found, either in the British Islands or on the Continent, an enemy who could stand its onset. So, increased pay was the means adopted by Cromwell to secure high-class and intelligent soldiers, and if it was important to get that class of man in his time, it is infinitely more important in these days. And in reply to this demand for evidence I would ask the Financial Secretary to bring forward, if he can, any particle of evidence to show that a good class of men will enlist in the future at a rate of wages which is much below the current wages in the labour market. It is sometimes contended that the pay of the soldier was raised three years ago, and that that did not benefit recruiting. That is a delusive argument. The pay was raised nominally, I admit, but it was raised in such a way that unless the recruit had a fair smattering of mathematics he was not aware that he was any better off than under the old system. The soldier was only relieved of certain stoppages which he had always regarded as unjust; and even now he does not get a clear shilling a day. To have any effect, you must increase the pay by a good round sum—something which the recruit can understand. It will not be sufficient to promise him a pension, the contingency is too remote, and if you want to get a good class of recruit you must make the immediate prospect of a soldier's life more attractive than the life you are asking him to leave. Having done that, you must also, of course, abolish rules and restrictions which may be suitable for boys, but which are not suitable for grown men. I hope the Secretary of State will study the privileges given to soldiers of the United States army, such as separate dining rooms, oilcloth tablecloths, and glasses and knives. Men care a great deal about these things, and they cost very little. The privilege of being allowed to wear plain clothes on certain occasions, extended to men of good character, is especially appreciated in the American army, and to be deprived of it is considered to be a most serious punishment. I will not press the necessity of getting the same high standard physically that at present obtains in the American army. I do not think it is necessary. If we get men of twenty years of age, well developed and with intelligence, that is sufficient. I think that it is important that we should get men as nearly twenty years of age as possible, because then, as soon as they have received a smattering of training they can besent abroad to foreign stations, if necessary. Against this it is said, "But how magnificently our boys did in South Africa." Of course they did well, but the best work, I maintain, was done by the men of the Reserve. The Chief Secretary, in his speech, drew a moving picture of the casualties at Pieters Hill at which it was found that every man found dead close up to the Boer trenches was a Reservist, and this, I think, goes to prove my contention. The next thing, and it is of great importance, is to encourage the private soldier to bring his friends into the Army. Why should not every soldier be turned into a recruiting agent, and get, say, a 5s. bonus when he brings in a good recruit? Why should recruiting be restricted to a few men? It would be a great incentive to soldiers if they really knew they could increase their allowance by bringing their friends into the Army. I think it was somewhat of a mistake on the part of my right hon. friend to announce in the way he did the rates of pay to the specially selected Volunteers under the new scheme. It is generally believed in the country that these men are to receive 5s. a day, whereas, as a matter of fact, most of that money will not be given to the men, but will go towards the expense of keeping them in camp, and they will not get much more than 1s. 3d. to spend on themselves. If that were generally known, the right hon. Gentleman's statement would probably not have such a bad effect on recruiting for the Regular Army.

There are numerous other important points upon which I should like to touch, but I do not wish to take up the time of those who wish to follow me. Amongst other vital points, however, there is the question of the formation of the general staff. That is a point upon which the Secretary of State has not committed himself either way, and it is quite compatible with the present scheme. Then there is the position of the Commander-in-Chief, a most vital point in any scheme of military reform. The question of musketry training I brought before the House on another occasion. Since then I have received a copy of the new regulations of the United States army on the subject, and I find that a sum of 37s. 6d. is allowed to each soldier, every year, for ammunition, which gives him something like 400 rounds for practice, so that it is little wonder that their shooting is better than ours. Now I am anxious, in conclusion, to make my position with regard to this scheme quite clear. I do not pretend that the scheme is an ideal one, or that it is the best which could be evolved, and it certainly does not represent finality in military reform; but it does contain many valuable points, and it seems to me that it would be a fatal mistake on our part to decline to accept those points simply because the whole scheme is not the best that could be contrived. The situation, as I see it, is like a tug of war with men pulling on both sides. When we get a few inches of the rope on our side of the line we dig our heels into the ground and pull again. We do not, because we cannot get the other side over the line with one pull, throw down the rope and say we will not play any more. The present state of affairs presents a unique opportunity. We have the nation aroused and eager in the cause of military reform; we have a Parliament specifically charged with this very task; we have a popular Commander-in-Chief, and a Secretary of State who is strong and fearless, and deeply impressed with his opportunities. And yet the hon. Member for Oldham asks us to neglect these vast opportunities and to postpone this matter until "calmer times"!


No. I said postpone the grandiose portion.


I do not know what my hon. friend means by the grandiose portion, but I think instead of condemning this scheme in toto the more patriotic course would be to give the right hon. Gentleman our general support in the lobby, and at the same time to express the confident hope that he will welcome any serious criticism that is passed on the scheme and remedy its more serious defects. I do not for a moment believe that he intends to force through this scheme as it stands at the moment without modification. I believe when he comes to speak he will explain many things that we have not understood with regard to the details of his proposals, and if he does that, I for one, to use his own historic phrase, am prepared to put my money on the right hon. Gentleman and to support him in the lobby. Let him adopt as the motto of his scheme "Esse quam videri," and if he does that he will not only have smoothed his own path in the future, but he will have earned the lasting gratitude of both the Army and of the country.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

It is only fair that on this great question of army reform a few words should be heard on behalf of the Irish party, because the military policy of the Government has cast upon Ireland a burden which she can ill bear, staggering, as she has already been for many years, under the weight of over taxation. But before I address myself to the question now being discussed by the House I desire to offer the hon. Member for Oldham the testimony of my enthusiastic admiration for the speech he made last night, and I speak now not in the ordinary sense of one who has listened to a brilliant speech, but as an old Member of the House, who has sat here for twenty years, and I say it is not often that we listen to a speech of true sentiment and great eloquence, and when we do I think it is the duty of the older Members of the House to offer their congratulations. There are some of us here who remember performances of his father in the days of his greatness in this House, and perhaps the hon. Member for Oldham will pardon me if I say his father never did better than he did last night, and I have not seen a young Member of this House spring so suddenly and decisively to the front rank of debate. The hon. Member for Oldham has received but grudging praise from his own side of the House. I heard just now the hon. Member for North Fareham hint, in no gallant way, that the fate of the hon. Member for Oldham decorating a lamp post—


No, no.


That was the fate he held out to economists. And the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham treated the matter as an economist. If the power of eloquence would influence the people of this country, I know no one more qualified to exercise the power than the hon. Member for Oldham. And I, speaking on behalf of the Irish party, would invite the hon. Member for Oldham, for the sake of days long gone by, when we and his father, although politically opposed, always continued good friends, when he is threatened with that fate to take refuge in Ireland, where I guarantee he will receive protection. The hon. Member for Oldham was good enough to say in the course of his great speech that during the last five years the only protest against this ever-growing burden had come from these benches, and these benches alone. And he spoke the truth. We have been no parties to this burden, which in my opinion is fraught with great danger, and which is at the present moment drawing the life blood from Ireland. We have been told that the additional taxation to which this country has been subjected by reason of this expenditure is a mere fleabite to the wealth of England, and that it would show the world how vast are the resources of England; but if hon. Members sometimes visited, as I do, some of the working-class districts, they would find that the working men are beginning to count the cost. But this to Ireland is a vital question, a question of life and death. During the last five years, on this matter of increasing armaments alone, upwards of a million has been added to the taxation of Ireland, in spite of the constant protests of three-fourths of the representatives of that country in this House, and in spite of the fact that whatever may be the views of this country on Imperialism and mad enterprises in all parts of the world, Ireland does not share them. And so far as Ireland is concerned we shall continue to resist every stage of this fatal error, fatal as I believe to Great Britain, and ten thousand times more fatal to Ireland.

It is a remarkable fact in this great question of army reform that whereas in this country while the war fever was passing over the country recruiting increased enormously in Great Britain, in Ireland the contrary was the case. Ireland used to be one of your largest recruiting fields, and you always looked to that country as a successful recruiting ground for your Army. But the recruiting returns of Ireland have fallen largely because of our hatred of Imperialism. While the war fever in this country has been passing over the land and has made the war popular here, it has had the opposite effect in Ireland. An insurmountable difficulty in Ireland is that the supply is drying up, and I believe that process will go on, and you will have to build your future schemes of Army reform on the calculation that Ireland, as a recruiting field, will have to be less looked to by this House. It is my deep conviction that this increase of the military forces of this country will act and react upon the foreign policy of Great Britain. This is bound to be the result if you persist in increasing the number of general officers and others, and also the number of your soldiers. At present life in the Army is rather dull and idle, and the men are always eager for war. They are always a strong power in favour of warlike enterprises, and the more you increase the number of your great military officers and the rank and file of the Army the more will you increase the tendency towards warlike enterprises. Therefore, I say that every million which you add to the military expenses of this country is increasing the risk of great wars, and this fact is used as an argument in favour of the addition of fresh millions to our military expenditure. We are told of the "commitments" of this country in three or four continents, and we hear about the designs of Russia in regard to India and Manchuria. We know that there are large sections of the community clamouring for increased armaments and for a forward policy in China. Suppose we did go to war with Russia, what use would our six army corps be? They would be simply of no account, and our military expenditure would immediately be doubled and trebled within one year in such a warlike enterprise. It is the liability of these enterprises which is so calmly quoted by military gentlemen and Jingo newspapers as a reason why we should increase our Army without limit. There is another consideration to be borne in mind, and it is the growing spirit which every man who loves peace, and who believes that the State should be conducted with a view rather to peace than to war, must watch with alarm—I allude to the tendency of great officers in active command to apply themselves to politics. I do not think we have ever had before such exhibitions of this nature as we have had lately. They spring from this growing military spirit, and from the pass to which things have been brought. These great military officers have come to look upon the House of Commons with contempt, and as a body which ought to vote any amount of money which they may require. It is no use for me now to go through the catalogue of speeches of that kind which have been made recently in this country. There is hardly a military officer who has returned from South Africa who has not delivered political speeches and criticised the action of the Government. The very last speech of this kind was delivered by a very distinguished man, Sir Reginald Pole-Carew, who stated that, although he was not sanguine as to the result of the war, he was satisfied that there must not be any further negotiations. That statement was made in face of the fact that we have been told that—


This has nothing to do with the question before the House.


I will pass from that subject, which I think I might have been allowed to allude to, because the hon. Member for Oldham, in his speech, took a very wide scope in this direction. Perhaps some other opportunity will be afforded me of dealing with this subject.

I turn now to the question of the lessons which have been learned from the South African war. We have heard it stated that one of the reasons why these reforms are to be applied to the Army without waiting for the first necessary reform—namely, the reform of the War Office, which has now been thrust into a back seat—is that we shall avail ourselves of the lessons of the war. The chief ground on which this precipitate action is taken is that we have been taught great lessons from the South African war, and we are told that we should avail ourselves of those lessons while they are fresh in our memory. I was reading, the other day, a book written by a gentleman who has had great experience in military matters, and he approached the consideration of the war with a perfectly open mind. This book was written by Count Adalbert Sternberg, who, at the commencement of the war, offered his sword to the British Government, and they refused it, whereupon he went over and offered his sword to Dr. Leyds and afterwards fought with Cronje. He came home from Cronje's camp to England, and he was entertained by the First Lord of the Treasury and the Secretary for War. If any members of the Irish party had been seen talking to Dr. Leyds we should immediately have been denounced as the King's enemies. He must have been considered a man of distinction and ability, or else the First Lord of the Treasury would not have entertained him. His book is an exceedingly interesting one and well worthy of consideration. He says the great lesson of this war ought to be to teach Continental powers to seek quality in their armies rather than quantity. He goes on to say that there was a great blunder committed by the English during this war in the quality of the men they sent out. He says— What is the use of a battalion 1,000 strong, none of whom can hit anything, and who could not hit a house at 100 yards? Give me 50 Boers, and I will bet 1,000 such men will not dislodge them from their position. He goes on at great length to elaborate this as the main lesson of the war, and I believe he is right. The main lesson of the war is that quality is what we ought to seek for, and not quantity. I am now speaking from a purely military point of view. This is the great lesson of the war, and I say that from the beginning to the end of this grand scheme, which is to put £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 on the Estimates, and which will cost the country many millions more in the course of the next two or three years, there is not a shadow of evidence that the Government have considered this main lesson of the war, and there is no proof of a decision to improve the quality and cut down the quantity. The one remedy of the Government is to increase the number of the Auxiliary forces without any reference to the quality. The military men, who generally monopolise these debates, will no doubt look with contempt and scorn on an ignorant outsider taking part in these debates and putting forward his views. But what would the gallant officers opposite have said if a farmer like De Wet or Delarey had undertaken to lecture them on the art of war? And yet De Wet, Delarey, and Louis Botha have all given the British officers a great many lessons in the art of warfare. It has often happened in the past that an ignorant outsider, if he has a little common sense, can give even an expert some hints and make useful observations upon a matter of this kind. I said that the chief lesson of this war was the fact that what the Government should seek for is quality and not quantity. In no single important battle have the English soldiers succeeded except where they outnumbered the Boers by three to one, or ten to one. In the only case in which a signal victory on any considerable scale was won by the British army, that of Paardeberg, the British troops outnumbered the Boers by ten to one. Even with 40,000 men against 4,000 the British were afraid of Cronje, and they only succeeded in forcing him to surrender by bombarding him for seven days with 100 guns.


Will the hon. Member kindly give us his authority for stating that the strength of the British force at Paardeberg was 40,000?


I may be wrong, but I gathered that impression from the despatches; but, in any case, it will not be denied that at the one great British victory, which was won at Paardeberg, the Boers were greatly outnumbered, and they had suffered heavily from a rearguard action. Upon the first occasion, when you closed with the Boers before Paardeberg, they defeated the British army, who outnumbered them by eight or nine to one, and you were afraid to close with them until you had bombarded them at Paardeberg for seven days with 100 guns. This war has shown that the Boers are more than a match for the English soldiers man to man.

This appears to me to be the great lesson of this war, and it can only be accounted for by two or three considerations. In the first place, I do not question the bravery of your men, but they were not equal to the Boers in physique, and they were not the quality of men which you ought to have in the British Army. In the second place, your men were not trained. I admit that our information upon these matters is very imperfect, but the noble Lord himself is the man who is mostly responsible for this state of things. It is an extraordinary thing, which ought to be explained, that the British Army was unable to cope with these Boer farmers except when they had an enormous majority on their side. Your men were insufficiently trained, and they were not good marksmen, and your officers had not been sufficiently trained to have sufficient initiative under the conditions in which they were placed. My third reason is that the system is bad as regards the training and education of the British officer, and one thing you will have to look to in the future is a total revolution in the system of officering the Army, so that the ranks of the officers will be thrown open to everybody, and not kept as a kind of society preserve for wealthy men who can afford to draw large sums of money from their fathers' estates. Those appear to be the chief lessons which are to be derived from the war in South Africa. These proposals for the reform of the Army have been brought up by the Government without the slightest regard to anything that has occurred in South Africa. I should say that the first thing the Army requires is such a reform and change in the War Office as will remove all the abuses which have been admitted on all sides. No-body has a word to say in defence of the War Office, for the system there has resulted in one of the greatest scandals that has ever occurred in connection with the War Office, namely, the collision between Lord Lansdowne and the late Commander-in-Chief in the House of Lords. I cannot conceive how any Government can have the face to come to this House and ask the heavily-burdened and long-suffering taxpayers of this country to find more money for the War Office to spend without grappling with the problem of the reorganisation of the War Office, and without dealing with the dispute which arose between the late Secretary of State for War and Lord Wolseley. The difficulty which the Government have always felt is a social difficulty, and the social influences are so strong that even this strong Government shrinks from tackling the reform of the War Office.

You have also to deal with the question of recruiting. No one who examines the Return of the Inspector General of Recruiting can deny the importance of this question, and you cannot get the proper number of suitable men for your Army unless you make some change in your system of recruiting. If you want a really effective Army, you will have to substantially increase the pay of the soldiers, not by 1d. or 2d. per day, but by some substantial sum, and you must reduce the paper number of your Army. I am now speaking from the point of view of getting value for your money. If you cut off 50,000 men from your paper number, and devote the money to increasing the pay, then I believe your Army would be much more effective as a fighting weapon. If you desire to have an effective Army you must make the career of the soldier one which will induce any self-respecting and superior man to enter the Army. You can only do this in one way, and that is by democratising the Army and teaching the common soldier that it is possible for him to rise, step by step, through the various grades to the rank of officer, and convincing him that no obstruction will be thrown in his path. You might improve recruiting perhaps by offering 1s. 3d. or 1s. 9d. per day for a period of three years. At the end of three years, if the men were healthy, well-behaved, and free from disease, they might be given the option of serving for a longer period at an increased rate of pay, with the knowledge that if they were sufficiently intelligent a certain number of them would be drafted into the military colleges and educated as officers. If you intend to have a genuine spirit in the Army you must do something of this kind. We know that some officers are promoted from the ranks, but it is only done occasionally. I believe General Hector Macdonald was a case of this kind. But, generally, the men who are promoted in this way find themselves in a foreign atmosphere, and it is altogether a false system. This class distinction should be as far as possible abolished, and it can only be abolished in the way I have indicated, combined with a reasonable increase in the pay of officers and men. We want such regulations in the Army as will teach the young gentlemen who now join the Army with a thousand a year to spend that they are not wanted. If you must have these Line regiments, which are really useless, then why not set a few regiments aside for millionaires and other wealthy people, and let the rest of the Army be worked upon democratic principles. If the principles adopted by the British Army had been applied to the Boer Army in South Africa, I suppose that men like De Wet and Delarey, and some of the best of the Boer generals, would have been serving in the ranks, and some incompetent gentlemen from Johannesberg would have been the officers in command. If the principles upon which the British Army was organised had been enforced among the Boers many of the men who have come so much to the front would have found their upward progress blocked and barred by wealthy but incompetent men, and they would have struggled in vain against social influences. These appear to me to be the chief grounds for instituting a real reform of the Army.

I desire now to say a word or two with reference to recruiting. I have already stated that, in my opinion, the seriousness of this question is greatly increased by the fact that the Irish supply is drying up. God knows it is time that they did dry up. Irishmen fought your battles in the Peninsular War, and for nearly a whole century half the British Army was composed of Irish Catholics. And what have we got for all this? The homes of our people have been desolated, and the population of Ireland, where you looked with assurance for your best soldiers, whose physique is never questioned, has been reduced to one-half by persecution and outrage. And now, when there is not a battlefield in Europe upon which the bones of Irish soldiers are not lying, the Catholics of Ireland are set down as superstitious idolaters. But this policy is bearing its fruit, and you will not have so many superstitious idolaters recruited from Ireland in the future. It has been a miserable failure, and why? Because you have flouted our people, and at the same time you ask them to come into your ranks. You have now got to go to Scotland to get recruits for your Irish Guards. The Report goes on to say that the situation is most critical, and that unless something is done it will be impossible in years to come to get the number of men actually required. It is not only a fact that recruiting generally is falling off in Ireland, but the recruiting has fallen off on account of the war fever and directly proportionate to it. This is because the Irish people hate the war and consider it unjust. There are three districts in Ireland where recruiting takes place. In the Dublin recruiting district the total number passed for the Regular Army in 1897 was 1,709; in 1898, 1,693; in 1899, 1,504; and in 1900 the total fell off by about 200 men. In the Cork district the falling off was still heavier. The numbers were: 1,300 in 1897; 1,391 in 1898; 1,166 in 1899; and 965 in 1900. You have a steady falling off in the recruiting in every part of Ireland except in the city of Belfast. I desire to bring this fact under the notice of the Government as evidence of the true feeling of the Irish people in regard to this war. Without pretending to have any great enthusiasm for the British Army, I have stated honestly and frankly what I believe to be the only lines upon which you can get an effective Army in this country. Under other circumstances Irishmen might take an interest of a different character in this matter, but under present circumstances it is only in the spirit of aloofness that I can address myself to this question to-day. On the other aspect of this; question—which ought not to be left out—I allude to the consequences which arise from the spreading of Imperialism and a desire for foreign adventure and increased expenditure on armaments—I am proud and glad to say that the voice of Ireland is practically alone in this House, with the exception of a few labour Members and the hon. Member for Northampton. I hope that the tattered banner, which they have so eloquently held up during the past five years, will once more be raised, and that those who are anxious for the greatness and the prosperity of the people of this country, and who are the true friends of justice, will rally round that flag.


I rise with much diffidence and trepidation amid the shower of blunderbuss slugs, shells of high velocity, and paper pellets. I am asking the leave of the House to allow me to go over the ground which has now been traversed, and I will as far as lies in my power endeavour to meet some of the criticisms which have been made against this scheme. Any one who does not know the House may think that for the Government at the present moment there is a certain element of danger. An Amendment has been brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition as a vote of censure on our scheme; and tagged on to it are several other Amendments, mostly, I admit, by hon. Members on this side of the House, dealing with questions connected with the scheme. But any one like myself, who has had the experience of being a Whip in this House knows that there is little danger of those hungry Members on this side rejecting the loaf—of those who are hungry for Army reform rejecting this bread, although they may think it not quite up to their requirements, for the empty platter of the opposite side. There is one thing that is very apparent also, and it is that the number of Amendments on the Paper would make any Secretary of State realise that it is hopeless to expect that any scheme will meet with the approval of everybody. I am perfectly convinced that if we were living in the old days, and one of the gods from above had come down with a heaven-born scheme, I should have been perfectly prepared to have seen at least six hon. Members of this House who would have controverted every statement in it. But I will now pass on to the general line of opposition contained in the particular statements which have been made by hon. Members and right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side.

The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment a few days ago indulged in chaff as to the comfort he found in sitting on a fence, and when we saw this Amendment we realised that warily and very gingerly the right hon. Gentleman was preparing to come down from his comfortable seat on one side, and we watched to see on which side he would come down. But at present we are left in extraordinary doubt, for while the Amendment shows him to have come down on one side, his speech shows him to be equally ready to come down on the other. If the right hon. Gentleman should ever go back to his post at the War Office, where he was once, I think, the most popular gentleman, personally, who ever occupied it, he would find no difficulty in suiting his policy of inaction or action to either the Amendment or the speech, which ever suits the occasion. What is it that the right hon. Gentleman criticises in our scheme? The right hon. Gentleman makes two suggestions, and, if I may say so, two sneers. First, as to the suggestion that the garrison battalions should go to South Africa, it is not often that the War Office is allowed to claim credit for getting a little ahead of a suggestion, but that is the case in this respect. The wording is expressly drawn so as to include non-tropical stations, and if I may say so without any breach of confidence, at the time when it was intended to form these garrisons I myself very strongly urged that South Africa should be one of the stations to which they should go, and I have every reason to hope that in future some of them will be stationed there. I believe the climate is good for man, woman, and child, and I look to the establishment there of English families as a pledge for the future security and peace of the country. Another suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman is that more latitude should be given to men to be out of uniform, which he thought would be very much appreciated. I must say that I was very much in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman on that point, but at the same time I would not like such a course to be authorised if it would give any colour to the supposition that to wear the uniform of this country is in any way a disgrace. Sooner would I see a man proud of his uniform, and the people of this country if possible educated to regard that uniform not as a badge of slavery, but as a badge of all possible honour.

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to what my right hon. friend has said as to the appointment of officers to the generals' list, but when my right hon. friend made his statement he was thinking not only of the past but of the future. Only a few weeks before my right hon. friend in the exercise of his office, and on the direct advice of the Commander-in-Chief, had removed an officer from his command. I will draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that although that was done by the Secretary of State, with the advice of the Commander-in-Chief, an ex-Secretary of State for War has voted that the whole question should be reopened. As to the education of officers, the right hon. Gentleman gave expression to what was, I think, an ill-merited sneer at the public school training of this country. I cannot possibly agree with the right hon. Gentleman on this matter. I am one of those persons who was educated at what may be called a military public school—Wellington College—anc I am bound to say the result has not been satisfactory. But that is entirely due to myself, and not to the methods—occasionally extremely drastic methods—which were tried to instil knowledge into me. The system of the education of officers is one very difficult to alter. There is not the slightest doubt that the present officer is, in many respects, the highest ideal you can possibly have of a regimental officer. He is bold to a fault, and, above all, he is a leader of men; and it is impossible to deny the fact that he has gained these qualities, or to a great extent gained them, through his public school training. But a Committee is now considering the question of the education of officers, and I feel perfectly certain that if they should recommend a particular form of education better suited to the needs and interests of boys who are intended to become officers, the headmasters of the public schools of this country would be willing to adopt it; and, further, it is the duty of the Government not only to give that advice to the headmasters, but to introduce any reforms proved to be necessary at Sandhurst, Woolwich, and the Staff College, to ensure that officers receive that training which will best equip them for the efficient discharge of their duties in the Army. The right hon. Gentleman also criticised the name "army corps" and the name "Imperial Yeomanry." My right hon. friend the Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant dealt very exhaustively with that point, and I think he was able to remove some, at all events, of the misapprehensions of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the army corps. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the name "Imperial Yeomanry" because it did not possess, at present at all events, that Imperial character he would like to see. A large proportion of the Yeomanry force which went out to South Africa were yeomen, although they were not trained in the Yeomanry ranks, and they proceeded to the front, together with the trained Yeomanry, as the "Imperial Yeomanry." That force has won for itself a name in South Africa which is just as distinguished as the name borne by any of the regiments in His Majesty's service; and the Government propose to retain the name "Imperial Yeomanry," in the hope of inducing that class of men to serve in its ranks who hitherto, in time of peace, have not joined the ordinary Yeomanry. Complaint has also been made that the colonies have not been included in the Imperial Yeomanry. But the Government intend to bring forward a scheme to establish in the colonies a force composed of the same class of men, under the same rules and regulations, and fighting, if necessary, in the time to come under the same flag, under the same name, which a portion of them have certainly helped to make historic.

Through the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean there seemed to me in listening to it, and still more in reading it, to run the hint that there was some disagreement, or at all events that there was not agreement, between the Secretary for War and the Commander-in-Chief. It is said that one man cannot serve two masters, but it is also proverbial that it requires an exception to prove the rule. I am endeavouring at the present moment to be the exception. In the position which I occupy I am bound politically to my right hon. friend the Secretary for War, and I am bound in every way it is possible for a man to be attached to another to my late chief, the Commander-in-Chief; and I found it perfectly possible to serve these two masters, because they are proceeding absolutely hand-in-hand together towards what they believe is the goal of success in the administration of the Army. I can say emphatically that if I found myself in a position in which I would have to follow my right hon. friend personally and put myself in opposition to the Commander-in-Chief, I should not have the slightest hesitation in putting myself out of the position in which I could not do justice to either of them. I might be regarded as a political barometer to show the temperature and the state of the weather between the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State, and I can assure the right hon. Baronet that the barometer has "set fair," and is likely to remain so.

SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

I have no complaint to make of the words which the noble Lord has used—far from that—but to prevent any possible mistake I will repeat what I did say. I did not allege that there was a difference of opinion between the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State. What I said was that the public utterances of the Commander-in-Chief, not only some time ago, but last week, showed that this scheme could not be his scheme.


The Secretary of State first submitted a scheme to the Commander-in-Chief, but it was very different from the scheme which the united efforts of both have now put before the country. I know, because I saw both. The right hon. Baronet also alluded to a particular article which I had written advocating conscription. It is a terrible thing to have one's sins finding one out. That article was not a contribution to a recent review. The right hon. Baronet has said before that a frank candour sometimes disarms criticism. I have not the slightest objection to frank candour in the present case. It was, in fact, merely a paragraph written almost at a moment's notice to that distinguished but now defunct paper the Bloemfontein Friend. I would be equally frank in saying that although it represented my views at the moment, I would not go so far as to say it does not represent my views now. If I had known then that I was going to stand at this Table now I would not have been so candid. The right hon. Baronet, if I may say so without offence, reminds me irresistibly of a plaything of one's schoolboy days. He reminds me of the squirrel which used to be kept in a round cage, and which goes round and round with a great deal of satisfaction to himself and to those who are watching him, but no amount of hard work seems to get him any further forward. The right hon. Baronet is always perfectly consistent in that he is always ready to say, "This is a bad scheme," no matter whatever the scheme may be. Most people cannot help getting a sort of satanic delight in being able to say when anything goes wrong, "I told you so." The right hon. Baronet lives in a perpetual state of "I told you so." He is always ready to say it at times when the scheme has failed, but he is just as often ready to say it before the scheme has even been tried. In his yesterday's speech he was always harping on the one string—"This is a bad scheme; this is a scheme which has no good point in it;" and the reason he gave was that it did not embrace the whole of his scheme, and that what we want is elasticity. What he claims is that we should try to make a difference between the terms on which men should be called to enlist; and when he does that he absolutely refuses to see that we are trying, and have tried, to make different terms of enlistment, but that we are forced to go about that very slowly and very cautiously, because the slightest failure would bring us face to face with the fact that men whom we have enlisted for three years would refuse to go for ten, and we should be brought to a standstill in regard to our reliefs from India, with no possibility of our being able to get men for our annual requirements and for Ireland. I would be glad to see elasticity given to the terms of enlistment if combined with elasticity there was absolute safety that the primary purpose of our Army, the sending of reliefs to India, were secured; but that I doubt.

I now turn to my hon. friend the Member for Oldham. Listening to him last night, I am bound to say that I did not hear much that dealt with the reform of the Army. The impression that the hon. Member's speech conveyed to my mind was that that form of oratory which has brought pleasure to everybody who heard him and, I trust, profit to the hon. Member himself in another continent, has not been wholly forgotten. He preached economy, but he showed us no way of attaining it. He said he advocated reform during his election, but the only reform he now preaches is reduction, and I doubt whether that was the reform which his Lancashire constituents believed he had in view. He speaks of the possibilities of war and its attendant horrors, but at the same time he urges that we should make no preparations to meet that war. One cannot help thinking that his speech was a quixotic attempt, which we must all admire, to take up again the cry of his distinguished father, and to try and assist what is a fallen cause and bring it back to life—in fact, to bring back this country to the state it was before the late Lord Randolph Churchill resigned his position as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Member says that he is raising the banner of economy. It is nothing of the kind. It is the banner of false economy. It is the banner of diminishing our safeguards in order to procure a favourable Budget, and of endeavouring to minimise in every possible way the dangers that beset this Empire, simply with a view of not putting on the taxation which would otherwise be required. The hon. Member went on to ask what was the cause of this revolutionary feeling with regard to the Army, what had brought about this great increase, what had made the country demand it, and what has made successive Governments give it. I will tell the hon. Member in one sentence, and that is a sentence in the very letter he quoted last night. Lord Randolph Churchill, in that letter, used a phrase which has been the motive for all this increased expenditure. It was this:—"I remember the vulnerable and scattered character of the Empire and the universality of our commence." Lord Randolph's political extinction on that occasion drew attention to the fact, which had never been brought home to the country before, and never would have been brought home to the country except by some such method as Lord Randolph adopted, and from that day to this there has sprung up and has grown, not by the desire of Governments, but by the desire of the people who place those Governments in power, a determination that at all costs, and at whatever expenditure that may be required, "the vulnerable and scattered character of our Empire," in whatever part of the world it may be, should be defended. The hon. Member said that the result of this scheme would be that we would scamp the Navy, and fall between two stools. Does the hon. Member remember that at the time Lord Randolph Churchill objected to expenditure it was not only Army expenditure but also Navy expenditure? He then objected to eighteen millions for the Navy, which has now, I think, grown to something like thirty millions, and when the hon. Member tries to hold up this fallen banner, as he calls it, of economy he should remember that the Navy and the Army were equally dealt with when that banner fell, and that while we have doubled the expense of our Army it has not increased so much as our Naval expenditure, to which Lord Randolph Churchill equally objected.

With regard to the hon. Member for Fareham, I will deal with his speech later, but there is one point he raised which I think he must have missed. He mentioned that it would be a good thing to reward a private soldier for bringing in a recruit. If he will look at paragraph 89 of the Recruiting Regulations he will find that that is already in force. Before discussing this scheme it is necessary to make it clear what we require an army for. There are three things which it seems to me are required, and as to which generally we shall be agreed. The first is for the defence of our home shores; the next is for the defence of our Colonies; and the third is a mobile force of attack. With regard to the first and second, we shall probably be generally agreed that a large force will be required to strengthen our Army in India, and that other forces will be required to strengthen our various coaling stations and Colonial possessions. It is probably with regard to the third requirement—a mobile force for attack—that we shall have most difference of opinion. Do not let me for one moment be thought to differ from those who look upon our Navy as being our first and principal line of defence. It has been so, and it must be so, and if we did not implicitly believe that we should have to ask for a much larger force than we are now asking for. What we want to do is this. We want to have a force that will be able to act in co-operation with the Navy. What has brought about the vast increase required with regard to the Navy? It is the protection of our waterways and our various Colonies and markets, which are almost synonymous. We have seen that these Colonies would require protection, and we have taken, so to speak, time by the forelock. We have done our best to place ourselves in command of the sea, and to keep open the waterways to our Colonies, but during the past few years while we have been strengthening our Navy other Powers have been strengthening their navies too, and at the same time, with perhaps a single exception, they have been acquiring possessions for themselves in the shape of colonies. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, speaking some years back, said: "What do we want two army corps for? Surely not for foreign service. Who is going to send two army corps to the Continent?" We are separated from our neighbours on the mainland of Europe, but there is not another continent where we are not placed side by side with a foreign Power; and just as we have endeavoured to strengthen out position with regard to the safety of our waterways to the colonies, so the possession by other nations of colonies gives us undoubtedly weak spots in which to attack them, or, if attacked, to allow us to make some sort of counter attack; and it is to have a force available to assist the Navy in such an operation that it is proposed to have a force ready immediately on the outbreak of war to take the field. My knowledge of military history is small, and my memory is defective; but, at the same time, I cannot remember any great war of which it can be said that it was brought to a successful conclusion by acting entirely on the defensive, or a war in which a navy has been able to play not only a predominant, but the whole part. We have only got to look to quite recent years to know that. The superiority of the Japanese over the Chinese navy was soon apparent. The superiority of the American navy over the Spanish navy was equally, or even more, apparent, but in each case a force of men had to be landed to give effect to the advantages which had been gained by the navy. It is with such a view that we are putting forward the principle of having an army corps ready to embark for abroad. When I say an army corps, it may not be necessary that a whole army corps should go; but I mean that for purposes of administration it is a good proposition to lay down, although only a part of an army corps, which may be thought necessary to effect our purpose, may be sent abroad.

I have ventured to lay down the general principle, and I should like now to refer to the methods by which these requirements are to be met. There are three possibilities. The first is to proceed on the old lines of pay, while trying to give rather more elasticity to enlistment, and at the same time endeavour by granting more money to the Auxiliary forces to secure them as an efficient aid to our Regular forces. The second is an increase of pay; and the third is conscription. The third is not before us, but at the same time it would not be right when we are putting forward these proposals that we should not have in view any alternative that may have to come before the country. To a certain extent I am a supporter of such a system. I cannot help thinking that it is the duty of every man in this or any other country to be prepared to take up arms in defence of that country. I think that it is a duty imposed upon us by citizenship, and I frankly and fairly admit that I should like to see a man at some period of his life instructed in such a way that, if he were called upon, he would be of service to his country. I admit that that is not a popular opinion, and it is not before the House at this moment, but I am entitled to hold my opinion. There is, to my mind, the one great disadvantage that conscription is an effectual bar to the colonising power which has made us so great an Empire.

Now I come to the scheme for increase of pay, and I think the whole argument on that point must be taken on the scheme that the hon. Member for Fareham has proposed. It is a taking scheme, because it is based on the precedent of a country which had similar views to our own and regarded voluntary effort as being indispensable. But we must remember that when we come to give an increase of pay we are going into a reform from which there can be no drawing back, as there might be in any other reform. Therefore, we must weigh two things—what is the expense to the country? and will the hon. Member's object be attained by the increase? I will ask the House to listen to a few figures which deal with the question of expense. To arrive at the good conduct pay of the scheme proposed by the hon. Member it would require on the Imperial establishment an increase of £491,000 a year. To secure 9d. a day extra pay on the establishment which the hon. Member has put down, but which is not quite the same as that which appears in the Army Estimates, would require an increase of £2,422,700 a year. The additional charge for abolishing stoppages would be, on the Imperial establishment, £573,000 a year. That gives a total of £3,487,000 a year increase. Then we must not overlook the burden that we should put on the Indian Empire. I should like the hon. Gentleman to take that into consideration in proposing his scheme. Does the hon. Gentleman know that his scheme would put upon the Indian Government a charge which it might not be possible for them to meet, and that it might eventually fall upon this country? The increase in the Indian establishment would be £1,391,000 a year.


I can only say that the Government of India do not think so. That was the evidence before the Expenditure Commission. The whole of their evidence was that your army is more costly than theirs would be.


Then I will leave that point entirely out of consideration. This large increase of pay of £3,487,000 should not be made unless, to a certain extent, it could be justified by results; and I ask the hon. Member to compare the increased pay with the ordinary wages of the class whom he hopes to attract into the Army. At the end of his seventh year a private soldier would be getting 2s. 2d. a day, or about 15s. a week, all found. I do not wish to labour this point and put forward all the advantages. I will take it on this basis alone. After all the requirements for barracks and so forth are paid, how much would the man have to put into his own pocket? Fifteen shillings and twopence is roughly the amount the soldier would have to spend at the end of each week. Let us see how that compares with the wages of the classes whom it is desired to induce to come into the Army. I have obtained from the Board of Trade statistics relating to various trades which might furnish us with men for the Army. I have also asked an hon. Member of this House what he thought would be the amount that a labourer or an artisan—a single man—would spend for his keep, lodging, clothes, and food, and he told me that it might be 16s. in the case of the worst paid men and 18s. in the case of the better paid men.

MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)

What do you allow an agricultural labourer's wages to be?


I will deal with that later. If we take 18s. as the amount that would be spent, there is only one class of men—painters—who would not be left with more than the amount under the proposed scheme. There is no other class of men who would not be getting more to put in their pockets than the 15s. a week which this large expenditure would give to the private soldiers. As to the labourers, the Board of Trade Returns give 17s. 6d. a week as the wages of agricultural labourers and 25s. 6d. a week as the wages of other labourers. I venture to say that the present pay given to the soldier compares very favourably with the wages received in those two classes.


But you do not get the men.


We have been able to keep a large Army in South Africa and to keep up the drafts for that army, and, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out in the middle of last year, the battalions in South Africa were above establishment. And we are able to compare favourably in the pay to those classes to which I have referred, but the hon. Member, as I understand, says those are not the only classes—that he wants to compete for a higher class of men. That being so, I venture to say that this large expenditure will not enable him to compete satisfactorily for the class of men whom the hon. Member wishes to get into the Army. I know the hon. Member for Fareham claimed that there would be a large saving to offset this expenditure; but that is problematical. I know the hon. Member agrees with me that this saving is entirely dependent on our being able to attract the better, class men, which, I trust, I have shown to the House to be doubtful, even if the increase the hon. Member asked for was given. I am prepared to admit that we might have to give some increase of pay in the Army, but I do not think it would be a great success; and before that question arises I am justified in putting forward the strong objections which I personally have to a large burden being put on the country without its being likely to attain the desired results.

The third scheme is the scheme which has been put forward by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War, and it is based on what, after all, is the chief lesson of the war. The chief lesson of the war is this—that in this Kingdom there are hundreds and thousands of men who are not willing to bind themselves down to the Army or the Militia, but who are willing—very willing—to come forward to undertake their country's service in time of danger. The great object of my right hon. friend's scheme is that we should give every possible facility to the men who have so well supported the Empire to, at all events, fit themselves in those branches of the service which they are willing to join, before any further emergency arises for which their services may be required. To my mind, the Volunteers and the Yeomanry are worth every penny of the money that can be spent upon them. In my opinion nothing would give one greater satisfaction than to think that the result of this part, at all events, of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme had met with the response which I am sure the Volunteers of this country are prepared to give it. I know there are some who think that the number of Volunteers ought to be increased. I entirely disagree. I do not think the number should be increased, but I do think the efficiency should be brought to a higher standard. If we are dealing, as in this country, with voluntary enlistment, we must depend for our home defence in a great part on our Volunteers, our Yeomanry, and our Militia, and I would infinitely prefer to rely on a force of half the strength with double the efficiency. Some critics of my right hon. friend have said that his speeches on the Army Estimates and on a subsequent occasion showed that he looked upon the scheme as a cast-iron one. I am sure I have the authority of my right hon. friend for saying that it is nothing of the kind. It is a big principle, it is a big foundation on which to endeavour to build up our Army; but it is not put forward with a view to refusing any criticism which may be made, or any improvements which experience may show to be necessary. No criticism which may be brought forward will be rejected unheard, no reform that experience and practice shall show to be an improvement will be cast aside. While we ask hon. Members on Thursday to give a vote for the general principle of this scheme, we ask them to do more than that—we ask them, with the influence which so many of them have in the Auxiliary forces, to give this scheme a fair chance, and, coupled, as I hope, with local authority, to try to assist my right hon. friend in perfecting what he believes to be the best way in which the voluntary Army of this country can be brought to a state of efficiency in order to meet the requirements of the great Empire of which it is the safeguard.


I should not have ventured to take part in this debate if it were not for the fact that I was a Militia officer for a number of years, and naturally take an active interest in that branch of the service. I therefore beg the indulgence of the House for a few minutes—and my feelings are such that I am sure it will be for only a few minutes—while I express my views on this subject.

In the first place, believing this scheme to be one of the gravest national importance, I shall, so far as I am able, not consider the matter from the point of view of party politics, but look upon and deal with the scheme in an honest and straightforward manner from a large, Imperial point of view. I am bound to say honestly that I cannot think that this scheme, if carried into effect, will be satisfactory. Having lived for some years in Australia, and having had an opportunity of visiting His Majesty's colonies, I am convinced as strongly as anybody of the desirability of binding together and strengthening the ties between this country and the colonies. If I thought for one minute that for the purposes of the binding together and strengthening of the ties—in fact, if for the safety of the Empire it was necessary, or would be necessary, to put forward this scheme and spend this money, I should conceive it to be my duty to vote for it. But I do not believe it is necessary; and if the expenditure were necessary, I believe it would be spent on a scheme which is, in the main points, unsatisfactory. I think it is an unbusinesslike scheme, and, notwithstanding the extremely frank statement of the noble Lord the Financial Secretary of the War Office, I honestly believe it is a scheme that has been brought forward in too much of a hurry, and under the pressure of that tide of Army reform of which we have heard so much of late. I have said that this scheme is an unbusinesslike scheme, and it is so for this reason. On Tuesday last I asked in this House the Secretary of State for War if we could have any estimate with regard to the amount that would be required to be spent on the barrack accommodation for the purposes of the six army corps proposed under this scheme, believing—I think rightly—that this expenditure is outside the thirty millions sterling which are to be spent on this particular scheme, and, therefore, will come under a different Vote. I received from the Financial Secretary of the War Office an answer—couched in those terms of ambiguity which, in my short Parliamentary experience, I have discovered seem almost necessary in answering questions if the answers exceed the monosyllable "yes" or "no"—to the effect that he was unable to give me the estimated cost of this barrack accommodation, but that the War Office would make use of the barracks they already had. I supposed, of course, that the War Office would make use of the barracks they already had. But I do believe that before embarking on a scheme of this sort we should know absolutely the entire liabilities that are likely to be involved in the scheme, and before I voted, under any circumstances, for a scheme of this sort, I should want to know exactly how much we were going to spend—not to be asked to vote £30,000,000 now, and then be bound, under the circumstances, to vote another large sum later on.

The two principal points with regard to the proposal before the House are—firstly, is the formation of these six army corps likely to be satisfactory; and, secondly, are we likely to get the recruits we require for the purposes of those six army corps. With regard to the first three army corps, if we are to have them, I have very little to say. I have no complaint to make. It seems to me that to this extent they are satisfactory, that the generals in command will have a permanent body of men under them, and they will be able to exercise those admirable administrative qualities through the greater part of the year. But with regard to the other three army corps, which, as I understand, are to be composed almost entirely of Militia, Volunteers, and Yeomanry, the position to me seems extremely unsatisfactory. You will have to spend, I take it, very large sums of money in equipping these army corps; you will have to build barracks for their accommodation; you will have to buy guns, stores, and all the necessary accessories for them; and when you have got all these things, I suppose you will not be able to keep the men in training for more than six weeks at a time. It seems to me that these three generals, with their staffs, who will command these army corps will be extremely short of work after a very short time. There is one more point with regard to these particular army corps, which I think is worth the consideration of the House, and that is that I feel you will create invidious distinctions in particular districts between particular regiments. You will put one regiment in one of these army corps because you consider it to be a better regiment than another which you leave out of the army corps. I believe you will create, possibly—I do not say it will be so, but it may be—feeling between particular regiments, which I think would be a pity, and which under ordinary circumstances need never arise.

With regard to recruits, the matter has been several times referred to yesterday and to-day, and I have very little to say. I would merely make this remark. I am perfectly clear that if the right hon. Gentleman insists on going on with this scheme in its present form he will not be able to get the recruits he requires. We should then inevitably have to give up our voluntary system of recruiting and go to some form of conscription, which, to my mind, would be bad in itself, and I think would be contrary to the instincts and feelings of anyone who lives under British rule. What I should like to see, and what I feel we want, is a smaller army, adequately equipped, absolutely efficient, ready to be sent off at any given moment to any given point at which it may be required. I believe we want to pay more attention to the general efficiency and training of our Auxiliary forces, whether Militia, Volunteer, or Yeomanry. Might I be allowed here for a moment to dwell on one point particularly—it being, perhaps, rather a personal matter—with regard to the guns that are used at the present moment by the Volunteers and Militia. I speak with considerable feeling, for I have belonged for several years to a particular regiment, at whose headquarters the men are trained simply and solely with guns of which hon. Members may probably have never heard—65-pounder rifle muzzle-loading guns, which at the present moment are obsolete, almost prehistoric, a source of considerable danger to the men who fire them, and absolutely inefficient for any active service. This is not by any means an isolated instance. I would ask that the guns should be seriously considered, because I believe it would increase the esprit de corps of the regiments, and increase their efficiency in every way. There is another manner in which I think we might increase the efficiency of the Auxiliary forces. I think it would be well, if possible, that non-commissioned officers of Volunteers, Yeomanry, and Militia should be afforded more opportunities of undergoing a course of training at Aldershot, and the various other places where that is possible. I believe that would increase the efficiency very considerably. I entirely agree with the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean in the suggestion he throws out, and to which I was glad to hear the noble Lord give a most friendly assent, in regard to the Imperial Yeomanry in the colonies. I believe that in regard to these Yeomanry it would be a graceful action on our part, having regard to past events, if we followed the suggestion which has been made. I believe such action would be received with enthusiasm in the colonies, and I am bound to say they would make a body of men second to none for the defence of the empire. While I approve generally of Army reorganisation, I hope it will be carried out on thorough business principles, on the principle of getting, if possible, full value for the money that is being spent, and above and before all remembering that we are a great naval Power, and that we are not, and I hope never shall be, a great military nation. May I thank the House very much for the kind and courteous way in which they have listened to the few remarks I have made.

SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)

As I purpose making a frontal attack upon the policy of the Secretary of State for War I shall not detain the House by skirmishing over previous speeches. My noble friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office spoke at first with his genial and breezy cheerfulness, but when he came to the pay question he seemed to me to get a little lugubrious. I must point out to the House, merely in passing, that in giving what he called the balance-sheet of the results of adopting the suggestion of the hon. Member for the Fareham Division he only stated one side of the case, so that the House, I hope, will not be influenced by the remarks of my noble friend until they have heard the other side of the case. The other point, which brings me to my particular objective, has reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham. I understood my noble friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office to recall to the recollection of the House that it was a passage in Lord Randolph Churchill's own letter that has led to this increase of expenditure since.


I said I thought that the passage in Lord Randolph Churchill's letter made the country appreciate the vulnerability of our Empire.


My noble friend said that the calling attention to the scattered commerce and the scattered territories of the Empire by that letter awoke the country, because nobody had called attention to it before. That was what the noble Lord said. That gives me my first post in advance. The resolution before the House is the latest development of a policy—the new departure adopted in 1871—which my noble friend now advocates developing, a military policy which was inaugurated sixteen years before any one thought of our scattered territories and commerce. One remark I must make with regard to the speech of my hon. friend the Member for Oldham. I am sure we all listened with great sympathy and admiration to the brilliant son defending the memory of the brilliant father, but that speech disclosed the fact that the son did not agree with his father in the application of the principle of retrenchment. The son would reduce the expenditure on the Army in order to spend it on the Navy, but the father resigned the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer because reductions equally and indiscriminately were not made in both Services. I wish to guard myself against misconception with regard to my hon. friend the Member for Oldham, for, had his resolution come forward, I was to have seconded it. A few years more study and thought will give him a better conception of what the position of this country would be in a maritime war. A superior fleet by operating on the offensive bottles up the fleet of the inferior Power. That is all we can do. Naval power stops there. But in these days that act, however decisive as regards a war fleet, can only minimise, and not entirely prevent, predatory attacks upon our commerce; and even a few attacks here and there upon our commerce must have the moral effect of enormously increasing our freights, enormously increasing our rates of insurance, and enormously increasing the difficulties of our competition in the world's markets, and that means an enormous economic strain upon this country. That would be an intolerable strain, and unless you have an Army adapted to the nature of the attacking work it must do, you cannot bring that intolerable strain to an end. It is for that reason, if for no other, that you require a mobile army for active service in the field beyond the sea to bring a war to a conclusion—for the sake of your industry and commerce.

Now I approach my main objections. We have the resolution of the Secretary for War asking for more men to lock up at home. The first part of the Amendment expresses no real concrete alternative. The last part of the Amendment declares that the scheme is not adapted to the special wants of the Empire, and will add a burden, without adding to the military strength. With that declaration I absolutely and entirely agree, but I cannot trust the safety of the Empire to pious opinions, and therefore, having no real alternative or broad principle offered me, I shall be unable to vote for the Amendment. The remarkable fact of my right hon. friend's speech, in introducing this so-called Army reform, was that he reversed the order of two great features of recent military policy. He put in the forefront of his speech the absolute necessity for having 120,000 men ready at any moment for service over sea. That was a new and welcome departure, but he has whittled this policy all away since. The service Members are able to take care of themselves, but I must, on behalf of those who have paid some attention to the subject and been in the House some time, take the right hon. Gentleman to task for the way in which he introduced that point with regard to the 120,000 being ready for over-sea service by putting it in the forefront of his programme. He looked around and said to the House— Look at the scanty backing I have had in this House for the principle of being able to send abroad—two army corps! Then he said, as if he were an injured individual— For home defence everybody was willing to act. I do not think my right hon. friend was either just or fair to a very large body of service Members in this House, and I will just recall to him my own motion which I moved in 1895. I then called attention— To the necessity for the more adequate adaptation of existing military forces to the oversea requirements of the empire in war, and to the conditions and requirements relating to the embarkation, the sea transit, and the disembarkation of land forces, as a determining influence on all military arrangements necessary to provide for the 'safety of the United Kingdom, and the defence of the possessions of His Majesty's crown.' That was most ably seconded, in a splendid speech, bristling with facts, by Sir Henry Havelock-Allan. It had the full support of the service Members. What did my right hon. friend do? He pooh-poohed the whole idea, and declared the policy to which he adhered in these words— For some years past it had been felt that we must put the question of home defence in the front rank, and consider as subsidiary to it the question of the extent to which we might have to send forces abroad. Now, I say that he himself, having been eight years at the War Office, must have known that our contention was right, and I say that he and the War Office, and not Members of this House, are responsible for what happened on the outbreak of the war in South Africa. That was the policy I thought he was departing from in introducing his Army reform, but he is back in the old rut, as this resolution shows. He is clinging to the same old policy.

Let us see what happened in South Africa from putting over-sea service in the background of policy. We had the outbreak of the war in the early days of October. [Mr. BRODRICK laughed.] My right hon. friend smiles, but the matter is so serious that I trust the House will pardon me if I go into some detail. We had at home on the War Office books some 540,000 military units, and some 13,000 horses and mules. By the 31st of October, owing to this policy, we had only succeeded in despatching 31,400 of all ranks, and 3,935 horses and mules—that is to say, 4,859 men and 6,212 horses short of one single army corps. In November we managed to send off 27,257 more men, and 5,505 more horses. Thus, in two months from the outbreak of the war, we only succeeded in sending a force from home which was 13,821 men and 10,854 horses short of the complement of two army corps. Well, I am afraid an army corps is to the War Office what the word Mesopotamia was to the old woman. But it is useful for testing the War Office paper standard by facts. Thirty years ago we reformed our army, and to day we are asked for a reform of that reform. I have nothing myself to say against many of the changes made by Mr. Cardwell in the internal arrangements of the Army, and I would also say that I associate myself entirely with my hon. friend the Member for the Fareham Division in claiming for the Army increased pay. Whatever you do you must expect an increase for pay on the Army Estimates, and therefore it is important that you should not waste money or throw it away on objects which cannot be proved to be necessary.

Now it is my honest conviction that it is our general military policy that is the fruitful cause of the waste of money. I believe that the new departure in 1871, to which we have clung ever since, is the real reason why we have paid so much and got so little. I propose to confine myself to a sketch of the origin, history, and results of this policy. The reason for the army reform of 1871 was that the Germans had marched over the frontier of France and crushed her, and the reason we are again discussing army reform now is because our military machinery has proved defective in South Africa, and not adapted to our wants. When I talk of the new departure of 1871, let me briefly recall to the House what was the principle of our military policy before 1871. For generations the main object of our military expenditure was to provide an army for the contingencies of the Empire beyond the sea, and as a necessary complement of maritime power, and to leave the local military defence of these islands to the Militia, thus trusting to the protection of the Fleet. That was the policy which carried us through the great struggles of the earliest part of the nineteenth century. That was the policy that triumphed over dangers of armed neutralities and great combinations by sea and land against us. But it was from that policy we retreated in 1871. But before 1871 we had wobbled in 1860, and in a hurry a political panic was manufactured, an enormous Vote was rushed through this House for great land fortifications, and we then committed ourselves to a policy which our fathers had always repudiated. It is useful for anybody to turn up and read what occurred at that time. I am not going to read the extracts I have here, but I would say that it is a curious fact that Mr. Cobden was the only man who saw clearly what this new policy was going to produce in the end. I know it is very unpopular to quote Mr. Cobden on army reform. He ridiculed our programme, which contemplated, he said, our soldiers being safely ensconced in these forts beneath casemates and behind gigantic ditches in chalk. I think that has been shown to be quite true. What was his alternative policy? He said— I would rather spend £100,000,000 sterling on the Fleet than have any doubt as to its superiority to the other fleets of the world. Public faith in 1860 having been thus shaken in the old principles of British policy, I for one do not wonder that in 1870 we were overtaken by a terrible panic, and went really mad about invasion, for no other reason in the world than that the German army had marched over the frontier of France. What happened? Here is an interesting fact. In that very year—1870—Mr. Childers moved the Navy Estimates, and he boasted that they were the lowest Navy Estimates that had been produced for some years. In 1871, within a few days of the introduction of the new departure in policy, Mr. Goschen—Mr. Childers being sick—moved the Navy Estimates. He lamented to the House his misfortune at being obliged to ask the House to provide £385,000 more for the Navy than had been voted in the previous year. In our fright we had come to regard the Navy as a somewhat doubtful auxiliary in the economy of British defence. Therefore we embarked on this policy. Our eyes were fixed on Germany, and everybody was crying out, "Save us from the fate of France and give us German military policy." That we did try to do, but we found in doing it that the German model did not suit our Empire, and so we made a compromise between the internal changes of the Army and the old policy of this country. We tried to make the wants of the Empire fit the Army instead of making the Army fit the wants of the Empire. What has been the result? The result of thirty years experience has shown that on every single occasion of a military expedition being required over sea for a small war our system where applied has failed. The Foreign and Colonial Offices have now each a little army all their own. But somebody may say, "Look at Egypt." What happened in Egypt was this. We certainly gave some men, but Lord Kitchener and Lord Cromer would have nothing to do with our system, or with our War Office. They ignored our system and snubbed the War Office. They achieved a great and remarkable military success, coupled with the greatest possible economy.

That is a review of the results of thirty years of this policy. Now, twenty-eight years after a war in South Africa overtakes us, and so in the wilderness of military confusion we find that the policy adopted in 1871 does not suit our Empire, and we are asked now to bolster up a policy which has failed. By the resolution we are asked to vote more staff and more buildings, to prop up a military superstructure on rotten foundations. Because in South Africa, 6,000 miles away, the Army failed in mobility we are asked by this resolution for more men to lock up at home. Because we suffered, and suffered terribly, in South Africa, from insufficient cavalry and field artillery, we are coolly asked for more money to spend on staff and buildings for the defence of London. It is the false principle of the policy adopted in 1871, for which both parties in this House are responsible, that is the root cause of the mischief, and I say we might as well throw our millions into the sea as devote them to the pursuit of a false purpose and a false policy. The War Office, sticking to this German policy, still keeps invasion in the forefront and everything else in the background, but the country in the meantime has awakened from its delusion of 1871 as regards sea power, and thus we have arrived at this remarkable and extraordinary state of things, that you have the Admiralty on the one hand spending £31,000,000 this year to secure the safety of the sea, and a large portion of the £29,000,000 for the Army is to be spent by the War Office because that Department thinks the Admiralty cannot accomplish that purpose. You cannot run these two mutually destructive policies. You must make up your mind which leg you are going to stand upon. (Mr. Brodrick laughed.) My right hon. friend laughs, and does not take such a serious view of this matter.


dissented from the hon. Member's remark.


I think I will change the whole colour of the question before I sit down. Now the Defence Committee of the Cabinet—for I presume it is approved by them—make this demand for men, staff, and buildings. Are we going on with this expenditure on home defence without regard to what we are spending on the maintenance of our supremacy at sea? The Defence Committee of the Cabinet seems to be a pious, political imposture, without any control over the War Office. Surely there should be some special Minister charged with, and personally responsible to Parliament for, the principles of British defence. There is now no such authority responsible to this House for looking at the defence of the Empire as a whole. If you trace the action of the War Office from 1871 down to the present day you cannot fail to see that the War Office is under the delusion that the danger of invasion is becoming every year greater. I challenge denial to that statement. The proof of it is everywhere abundant.

But is it true in any sense that the danger of invasion is increasing? It is not true, because since 1871, when the scare of invasion first started this policy, the ship tonnage of France has been reduced by 100,000 tons, while our tonnage has increased by nearly 5,000,000! What does that show? Does it not affect British defensive policy? Of course it affects it, and in this way—it reduces the military transport of France, and it increases our own sea responsibility. That cannot be disputed. Why, the whole shift of our interests during these thirty years has been from the shore to the sea. I will prove that by three separate facts. Comparing 1869 with 1899—I take these two years in all my comparisions because the first was the year before the invasion panic, and the other was the year the war broke out—comparing these two years the acreage under corn has, per head of the population, declined by one-half, the tonnage employed by each inhabitant for a year's business has doubled, and the export value of trade over sea has increased per head of the population by 70 per cent. It is facts like these that should guide the principles of our policy; but these facts are always found to be extremely unpalatable at the War Office. The War Office ideas are far too military to be warlike. In 1871 we started on this military road to ruin. Here is a picture of the War Office idea of British defence painted by Mr. Cardwell in introducing Army reform in 1871; here is the aim that was to be accomplished— Out of all the curious whirl of scientific controversy one thing emerges clear, that scientific defence is gaining on scientific attack. I believe if we agree to arm our population, as we propose to arm them, and if we avail ourselves of our national means of defence by placing torpedoes in all our harbours and rivers, and rifles behind our ditches and ledges the time has arrived when we need no longer give way to panic or fear of invasion. That was the War Office idea of British defence which caused this policy to be adopted, and that is the policy to-day expressed in its latest form in the resolution of my right hon. friend. It is not a policy for an island people who are the greatest sea traders in the world. It is rather a policy suitable to the fly in amber or the bottled imp. I dismiss these economic aspects of defence by reminding the House of one fact, namely, that the stream of commerce entering and clearing our ports, by which our forty millions of people live, may be estimated by remembering that ceaselessly, night and day, the stream goes on at the rate of three tons of shipping per second of time.


I must say that many of the hon. and gallant Member's remarks seem to be remote from the subject under discussion.


Sir, I quite recognise that that may seem so. I have no desire to wander unnecessarily from the subject, and will confine myself to this broad statement, that from whatever point of view you look at the economic and industrial position of these overcrowded islands, when that stream of commerce comes to be interrupted, as it must be under conditions which render invasion possible, the position of the forty millions of people in these islands would be that of forty million rats in a trap.

Let me now turn to the Army and the question of military sea transport, and the evil results of the policy of 1871 on the Army itself viewed as a field force. If anyone would take the trouble to analyse the constitution of the Army in 1869 and in 1899 he would find that the proportion of field artillery and cavalry to the total Army has largely decreased, while the proportion of garrison artillery and fortress engineers has largely increased. The charges will show this more clearly. In 1899, before the war, the charge for the pay and additional pay of cavalry and field artillery was £4,000 a year less than in 1869, although the Army had been increased; while the charge for garrison artillery and fortress engineers increased by £170,000 a year. Now, apropos of this resolution, in 1899 the charge for the general staff was just double what it was in 1869, while the charge for the War Office had increased by 36 per cent. Now, this is all the result of this home defence policy. Putting the increase of the cost of the general staff and the increase of cost of the War Office together I find that it is the money equivalent of the annual pay and additional pay of thirty batteries of royal horse artillery, or of eight cavalry regiments of the Line. So you will see how much increase of cost has gone for the staff and the War Office. That policy, started in 1871 and pursued for twenty-eight years since, could not produce an army for field service in South Africa, but it has produced an endless series of staff cocked hats and a bottomless pit of works, and billets, and buildings, so that military engineers may learn at the cost of the taxpayers the businesses of architects, contractors, and builders. Now what does my right hon. friend ask for in this resolution? For more field artillery, for more cavalry for the Regular Army? Nothing of the sort. He asks for more staff, for more buildings.


Will my hon. and gallant friend say what buildings voted by Parliament last year for the troops were unnecessary.


In 1872, as part of the Army reform, Mr. Cardwell made a demand, and got it, for £2,500,000 to specially house the troops to resist invasion. Why should we have barracks to build now, while many of the barracks built under the Act of 1872 are half empty?




Well, then, why was a great area of land in the most expensive part of my constituency bought and barracks erected upon it in 1875, while 60 per cent. of the building is generally unoccupied. But to return to my argument. What the War Office says is that more money must be spent on the staff and on buildings and in acquiring land in the neighbourhood of London for the purpose of preserving it for a few days after if has ceased to be a free port. I protest against that. My right hon. friend thinks he is justified in introducing this Army Reform Bill by saying that invasion is an "off chance," and that we cannot run an Empire of this size on "off chances." What has the size of the Empire to do with the "off chance" of an invasion and capture of London? I, for one, protest against British policy being founded upon an "off chance." Moltke's doctrine was that in preparation for war only probabilities had to be reckoned with; and I submit there is no such probability of invasion as to justify this huge and ever growing military outlay to provide for home defence. The problem of military sea transport was on the outbreak of war presented to us in the very simplest form. In the South African war we were sending out troops and supplies from British ports and dumping them down in British ports. We have had matchless experience in embarking and disembarking troops. We have a multiplicity of magnificent ports, and our mercantile marine is greater than that of all other nations put together. What were we able to do? It took us six months to embark 168,000 men and 29,000 horses. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to my question, said that no avoidable delay took place, and therefore I take it that that is the utmost we can do in that time.


I said with regard to the original force intended to be sent out no delay had taken place. That was when it was not considered necessary to send horses to Africa.


Then you admit you did not originally think it necessary to send out horses to South Africa. However, I think, with my right hon. friend, that what we did do in floating military force was a wonderful achievement, and I say that everybody connected with that embarkation deserves the highest praise. But what is the result of an analysis of what we really did? In no single month did we ever succeed in embarking 35,000 men. That is less than an army corps, and then the horses were 5,000 short of the complement required. But the real point with reference to our invasion is how an invading army is to get across the sea. I must do Lord Derby's memory justice, and say that he was the only public man in 1871 who seems to have kept his head. Speaking at Preston, he ridiculed the panic, and said— The utmost strength we can be called upon to repel is only that which can he carried across the Channel in a hostile fleet—assuming such a fleet to have escaped our Navy, or that a temporary disaster occurred. Taking Lord Derby's standard then and now, it does not assist the War Office contention, for this reason—in those days a man-of-war could remain a fighting ship and yet carry a multitude of men. That is now impossible, and no battleship can be made use of for purposes of military transport. Therefore we are driven to the mercantile marine. It was not till sixteen years after this invasion theory was first developed that we were casually informed, in 1886, by the head of the Military Intelligence Department of the War Office, before a Select Committee of Inquiry, that a force of 100,000 or 150,000 men could be quite easily thrown on our shores. Let me look from the business point of view at this question of invasion with reference to French ports and mercantile marine. Between Dunkirk and Brest there are only fifteen ports—


If the hon. Member will look at the resolution on the Paper I think he will see that his present remarks do not apply to it or any branch of it.


I bow to your ruling, Sir; but this resolution is to provide more men for home defence, and speaking on the Amendment I wish to show that the question of invasion is ruled by the question of the military transport of an army which must cross the sea. If that is out of order, I cannot discuss the question as to what our defence ought to be, and I am accordingly placed in an extremely difficult position. I understand the resolution is to provide for the safety of this country.


In a certain method, and that method is what is under discussion. I did not interrupt the hon. Member for saying that we must provide against invasion; but he is going into details as to invasion and the forces which might bring it about, which are quite beyond the scope of the resolution.


Of course, Sir, I do not presume to take any exception to your ruling, but when discussing the question of home defence we must assume where an attack would come from, and must examine all the possibilities of that attack; and it is the ports across the Channel, and their capacity, and the transport that could be got together to embark an army that are at the root of the whole matter. What I was going to do very briefly, and in the broadest way, was to deal with these ports of France.


If the hon. Member did that, he could go into the organisation of the French army, which lies behind the ports, and so into that of every army in Europe.


I quoted the head of the Military Intelligence Department of the War Office, and I was going to show that the broad facts of the case would not substantiate his assumption; but by your ruling, Sir, which, of course, is quite right and proper, I am now prevented from proceeding. I suppose, however, I shall be in order in quoting official authorities on the question of military transport with reference to invasion. In May, 1888, Lord Wolseley having made an after-dinner speech that created a scare, the Daily Telegraph published a panic-stricken article upon it. The attention of Lord Wolseley was called to it in another place, and he repeated his statement as follows:— I consider the position of England at the present moment as regards its army as very unsatisfactory, and if a hostile force were to land upon our shores of say 100,000 men, there is no reason why those 100,000 men, if properly led, should not take possession of London. The First Lord of the Admiralty was questioned on this statement in this House, and he entered into elaborate figures and calculations made by the transport authorities and the Admiralty to show that there was no foundation for the belief that France, as suggested by Lord Wolseley, could throw 100,000 men on these shores, and he concluded with these words:— The Committee will see that in order to carry out an invasion France will have to bring together every single steamship she possesses leaving her Mediterranean coast and her various possessions abroad unprotected, and then concentrate them somewhere in the Channel; and when she got them there there is no port where she could locate them or fine sufficient wharfage for them. I am further informed that even with our enormous resources we could not bring together a similar amount of tonnage under three weeks. That being so, my noble and gallant friends will not be surprised to hear that the Government in one sense cannot give countenance to the sensational statements to which I have reverted. A few days later my noble friend who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, and is now Secretary of State for India, on being asked for a further explanation, said:— The calculation which I laid before the House the other day was based upon the assumption that that was the amount of tonnage necessary to bring over an army of 100,000 men composed partly of artillery and cavalry, with a certain quantity of stores packed as closely as possible for a short voyage. Later on the Secretary for War was questioned on the great divergence of opinion between the Admiralty and the War Office on this vital question, and he said:— I have read the statements made on this subject both by my noble friend and the Adjutant General. I, for one, deprecate the raising of any such controversy, but in my opinion the main divergence arises from the fact that the conditions of the problem are different in the two calculations, and especially as regards the force to be transported. The First Lord of the Admiralty was again interrogated, and he went again into calculations in the fullest detail, and concluded with these words— My figures are based on the practical data of daily experience and ascertained facts, and upon the knowledge that difference between gross and net tonnage is yearly increasing, owing to the greater space and power of the engines and boilers and coal bunkerage of modern passenger ships; and I adhere to them as correct. Officially in the person of Lord Wolseley the War Office in another place returned to the charge, and the late Commander-in-Chief declared that the Admiralty conclusions were fallacious. He said that the First Lord of the Admiralty was out of his reckoning by 320,000 tons—


Order, order! The hon. Member has now returned to those matters which I stated were irrelevant, All these details are out of order in a debate upon the reorganisation of the Army.


I hope, Sir, that I have made it clear to you that I was reading official extracts from the utterances of the First Lord of the Admiralty on this very question of home defence against invasion. I think you will see, Mr. Speaker, that this House is asked to vote upon a resolution which is to give active effect to a scheme to develop this tremendous costly policy of military home defence, and we are not to be allowed by the rules of the House—


The hon. Member must not argue to the House upon my ruling. I only want him to confine himself to the terms of the resolution before the House. I have given my ruling, and I must ask the hon. Member to follow it.


I hope the House will appreciate the difficulty in which this ruling of the Chair has placed me. This resolution is one with which I disagree for reasons which I am not allowed to give. I would point out that this Army reform, being a development of the new departure of policy in 1871, is to continue a policy that expends vast sums upon military home defence upon a theory of invasion, and neglects the real military wants of the Empire over sea. And it does all this upon a hypothesis which has never been proved, upon which His Majesty's Ministers themselves totally differ, and which, I say, and say fearlessly, will not stand the test of scientific examination. I decline, for one, to vote for the resolution as a part of that policy. I absolutely decline to vote any more money for military home defence until I am satisfied that there is some ground for it. The one redeeming feature of the policy we have pursued since 1871 is the magnificent force of Volunteers which have been produced and are actually in existence. That is the one real grand thing which we have got out of it. Speaking with some knowledge of the subject, and after a painstaking examination of the facts of the case, I say that, in my judgment, that force, if sufficiently well organised and treated in a common-sense way, is more than sufficient in numbers, if made reasonably efficient, to perform all the military defensive duties in the United Kingdom in time of war, under conditions of sea supremacy; and if you have not got sea supremacy it is no good trying to survive. If my principle be correct, that you can rely upon the Volunteers for local military defence, what is the effect of this upon military policy? It has the effect of releasing your Militia from territorial obligations at home, and leaves them free to discharge Imperial duties abroad when our Empire is anywhere in peril—thus freeing the regular army for general service. That is a policy which I can understand, and it is the only policy in which I have any faith. It is not that I object to pay money for a military force, but it is because I object to spending money upon a false policy that I am opposed to this scheme.

I decline to vote for this resolution because, in the words of the Amendment, it is not adapted to the special wants of the Empire, and will largely increase the burdens of the nation without adding substantially to its military strength. I refuse to give the War Office any more millions to waste on soft billets, defensive works, and upon a multitudinous general staff. I refuse to give them any more millions to "stall-feed" the bugbear of invasion on cocked hats, red-tape, and aerated army corps.

Surveying the Empire as one great whole, I am filled almost with awe at the magnitude and complexity of the problem to be faced for its defence. My apprehension for its fate in war in the coming century does not arise from any deficiency of its resources, or from any lack of patriotism of its multitude of peoples. The resources of our Empire are infinite, and the patriotism of its denizens unbounded. My misgivings spring from a totally different source. My fears are founded upon the observation of the modern tendency of the British mind—a love of tinkering with details and imagining that they are principles, and failure to grasp and apply the eternal principles of war to the Empire as one great concrete whole. The failure so to apply these great principles is the root cause of all our trouble. It was by the application of them that our fathers preserved our liberties and won our Empire, and my opinion is that, if we do not soon return to the broad path which our fathers trod, a great war overtaking us will find us meshed up in a tangle of naval and military confusion of our own making.


We have listened to a good many very able speeches upon this question from all parts of the House, but perhaps hon. Members will pardon me for saying that I think there are certain questions which go to the very root of this new system which have not yet been touched upon by the Treasury bench, and some which have not been touched upon in the debate at all. There was one question mentioned by my hon. friend the Member for Hastings, who, in an excellent maiden speech, asked the Government whether they would take some steps in regard to the accumulation of stores necessary for the carrying out of this great enterprise. I have myself to ask some questions of a similar character, which relate rather to the powers which it is intended to bestow upon the generals. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, in the speech which he will make on Thursday, will answer those questions because they go to the very root of this question.

In the first place, however, I desire to guard myself against any intention of saying one word in depreciation or one word of criticism of the policy of decentralisation. We regard that principle as the very keystone of any system of military reform, and those of us who spoke to considerable audiences at the General Election upon the question of military reforms have always made it the burden of our song that the power of the War Office has increased, is increasing, and must be diminished. The object of decentralisation is to carry that out. Besides my question as to the powers of the generals, I wish also to ask the Secretary of State for War certain questions with regard to the interior organisation of the War Office. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that it does not require the establishment of six army corps, and all this fine paraphernalia of a grandiose system, in order to establish the principle of decentralisation, because it is perfectly possible for the right hon. Gentleman to have entrusted larger powers to the existing generals of these districts. It does not at all matter whether you give larger powers to the sixteen generals of the divisions or to the six generals of the army corps. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me for a moment to say that the system and the name of army corps is not very popular in this country. I have had the good fortune of reading a very able and short memorandum by Mr. Stanhope which he laid upon the Table of the House when introducing the Estimates in the year 1887. He showed that the system of army corps was put forward in later days by the Secretary of State for War in the Government of Mr. Disraeli. I think the system of army corps was originated under Mr. Gathorne Hardy. He began by proposing that there should be eight army corps, but that system broke down altogether, because it was recognised that such an enormous mass of troops was altogether too large for our requirements. This question afterwards slept until the year 1881, when Mr. Childers again took up the subject. Mr. Childers introduced a system which should have only one army corps, and that was felt to be so entirely unequal to our wants that that, too, was not proceeded with. Then came the scheme of six years later, introduced by Mr. Stanhope. Mr. Stanhope, taking advantage of the experience gained by his predecessors, attempted to take the middle course, and proposed that two army corps should be ready and complete for emergencies. That system was to a certain extent carried out. There were some preparations made, but I think I have the support of gentlemen at present at the War Office in saying that that really has proved nothing more than a paper scheme, and that all that has been done under it has been to bring up to strength certain regiments because you called them parts of the first army corps, and to place others on a lower establishment because they belonged to the second army corps. That, the right hon. Gentleman will pardon me for saying, is very much of a paper system. If you mean to give reality and force to this scheme you must engage in very large expenditure; and you must give the generals of districts very much larger powers than they have now.

What I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman is this: has he contemplated the powers which are given to the army corps generals in other countries? If I may sum up the difference between the two, I will show it in a few sentences. The noble Duke the President of the Council, in replying to Lord Wolseley in another place, used a very pregnant sentence in which he describes the duties we entrust to generals now in divisions and districts. He said that generals of divisions in England had everything to do with the drill and the discipline of the men entrusted to their charge; they alone are responsible, and they alone exercise that power. But he went on to say that with regard to the arming and equipment, the clothing, the feeding, and the housing of their troops they had nothing directly to do. I should like to quote, if I may, the powers of the commander of an army corps in Germany and France. I have it on the authority of a paper which was laid by the Intelligence Department before Lord Harrington's Commission in 1887, and I ask the House to consider whether for a moment they would like to entrust these powers to our generals. I will take Germany first— The Army Corps commander is absolutely independent in his own command, and entirely responsible for efficiency and preparedness for war of all troops in his command. He communicates direct with the Emperor, from whom alone he receives direct orders. If he objects to an Army ordinance issued by the War Minister he has the right of direct appeal to the Emperor for decision. He has very extensive powers on giving decisions in administrative matters, and is entirely responsible for the finances of his corps. He is responsible for the tactical training and discipline of all troops in the corps, also that commanding and staff officers are capable of performing their duties, and reports any special qualification for promotion to higher rank or command. It being ten, minutes before Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Thursday.