§ "That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £5,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1902, for Additional Expenditure, due to the War in South Africa, in respect of the following Army Services, viz.:—
|Vote 6.||Purchase of Remounts||2,000,000|
|Vote 7.||Provisions, Forage, and other Supplies||3,000,000|
§ Resolution read a second time:—
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ (4.30.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
Before the Committee divided on this Vote on Friday last, I ventured to make an appeal that the tone in which the discussion had been conducted for a short period might be modified; that we should suspend our judgment on the very important considerations which had been brought before the Committee, and I undertook to make certain further investigations. I think it would be more convenient for the House, before proceeding to consider this Vote on Report, if I should state the present position at which we have arrived, and remind the House, if I may, what are the points that we have to resolve in regard to the question of remounts. Many speeches were made on Friday night, but they had this disadvantage, that replies were made to them at different times of the evening, and especially two replies at a time when the House was very empty. Many Members were entirely influenced in their view of the proceedings by what they heard casually in the course of the discussion.
Now, Sir, the circumstances which we were engaged in debating were practically as follows: At the beginning of the great pressure of the war, in the first three months, from December, 1899, a large number of fresh forces were raised, and the process of sending out remounts to South Africa was carried on at a perfectly unprecedented pace. Of these new forces the Yeomanry was one, and the whole equipment of the Yeomanry was left in the hands of a Committee of the colonels and officers of the Yeomanry. And, as a portion of equipment, there was left in their hands the question of the purchase of remounts. That may have been a wise or an unwise proceeding. I know that at the beginning, early in the day, there was an almost unqualified commendation of the course pursued, both in this House and outside that door. There are many people who have a great suspicion of the power of the War Office to cope with a great emergency, who are continually 209 urging upon us the desirability of placing in the hands of experienced persons and business men the conduct of affairs with which we may find ourselves at the moment incapable of dealing. That was the course which Lord Lansdowne took when he invited these six or seven gentlemen, all experienced in questions relating to horses, all experienced in Yeomanry matters, and some of them business men of very high repute, to undertake the provision of these 10,000 horses, and also the equipment of the Yeomanry. And be it remembered that at that moment the War Office was not standing idle; but itself had concluded contracts four or five times as large. Well, Sir, all the questions which have arisen, all the subjects, without exception, which were raised in debate on Friday night, referred not to the contracts with which the War Office was more immediately connected, but to the sum of money handed over to these expert gentlemen of the Yeomanry Committee, and expended by them on their own responsibility, and on that responsibility, as they believed, to the best advantage. I hope I shall be absolved by the House of trying in any respect, on any subject, or in regard to any period, even though it is antecedent to my own entrance into my present office, to give up any responsibility which I can possibly take; but I confess that when these subjects are discussed in the House I think it would be a great advantage that we should be perfectly open and frank, as to where responsibility really lies. I think it is very hard that my right hon. friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet, who knows perfectly well the capacity of these gentlemen who undertook to provide these 10,000 horses, should have insisted again and again in speaking of the Committee as throwing dust in the eyes of the people, and insisting on laying the responsibility on the Secretary of State for War alone.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
I did not say anything about the Yeomanry Committee throwing dust in the eyes of the people. I was referring to what I called the white-washing Committee.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I do not want to insist upon it; but my right hon. friend 210 stated that he hoped there would be no further attempt to appoint "these Committees." He was speaking of two Committees.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
I beg pardon. I was referring to the Committee appointed last year to discharge similar duties in respect to other contracts.
§ MR. BRODRICK
My right hon. friend did not make that by any means clear; and it was certainly understood when he was speaking of two Committees that he alluded to both. I challenge my right hon. friend, who has great knowledge of horses himself, to get up and deny that on that Committee there were men of first class ability as regards business, and of first class knowledge and judgment of horses. Well, they entered into a contract which has been condemned. I am not going to defend it; I think the work might have been far better done. There are many points in regard to which I believe that a want of foresight was shown and that unwise appointments were made. But at the same time, we must remember that this was done under great pressure; and we must also remember, what is of far more importance for the House to recollect, that this was a single contract entered into by a Committee which has ceased to enter into these contracts. And, although it may reflect some want of credit on their business power and discernment, that cannot be charged against those officials of the War Office whose business it is to conduct these proceedings, but who had no part or parcel whatever in this contract.
What occurred? The Yeomanry Committee found a gentleman of the name of Lewison to whom, without any precise knowledge of his power to carry it out, they gave a large contract for the supply of horses. Mr. Lewison took out with him a veterinary surgeon of undoubted capacity, Captain Hartigan, who was engaged by him on these terms: First of all, for getting the contract, he received a commission of 2½ per cent., not on each horse passed, but on the whole number of horses. That is an impor 211 tant qualification, because it was immaterial to Mr. Lewison whether or not so many horses were rejected. The whole number had to be made up in the long run, and on the whole number Captain Hartigan was to receive 2½ per cent. Subsequently Captain Hartigan arranged with Mr. Lewison that he should receive payment for his expedition to Austria-Hungary at the rate of two and a half guineas per day, with expenses. That is material. The important point is that he became Mr. Lewison's paid agent. The Yeomanry Committee, having nothing to do after the entering into the contract with Mr. Lewison, then proceeded to send out an officer to inspect these horses as they arrived at Szabadka. They made an excellent selection. Colonel Maclean was sent out, and undoubtedly, so far as the inspection of horses went, he was a man of admirable capacity, by all accounts, for this work. He discharged his duty undoubtedly well, and no question whatever has been raised as to his honour and the honesty of his proceedings. He sent back a considerable number of horses, and so far as the horse inspection went, Colonel Maclean, who had commanded the Royal Dragoons before he left the army, was unquestionably a competent man for his task. It was pointed out by the Committee, that the main difficulty which has emerged, arose from this: that when the contract was nearly at an end, or appeared to be nearly at an end, a veterinary surgeon, Captain Webb, who had gone out with Colonel Maclean to pass these horses, sailed on board the "City of Lucknow," with a consignment of horses for South Africa; and Colonel Maclean, who required a man to replace him, wrote about it to the Committee. The Committee suggested one or two men, but Colonel Maclean, without rejecting any of these names, pointed out that Captain Hartigan, who had then ceased to be employed by Mr. Lewison, was on the spot, and that he had the requisite knowledge. It appeared that it was Colonel Maclean's idea, that as there was only another hundred or two horses to be passed, Captain Hartigan should be engaged, and he suggested that that should be 212 done. Then ensued a complication of events, about which there is a conflict of evidence. Captain Hartigan states that he made a perfectly clean breast of it to Colonel Maclean, and a full disclosure of his particular connection with Mr. Lewison.
I am sure the House will pardon me if I go into detail a little, because I want to make the matter perfectly clear. Captain Hartigan was asked very specifically by the Committee, at question No. 1175—When Captain Webb sailed for South Africa in the 'Lucknow,' in the month of March, did Colonel Maclean appoint you as his veterinary officer?—He did, and I told him the arrangement I had with Lewison before I accepted.The next question was—You explained your position with regard to Lewison before you undertook it?—Yes.Another question was—During the time you were veterinary surgeon with Colonel Maclean you had no dealings with Lewison at all?—He was not there: he went away.Then there was a further question—Your business relation with Lewison was that you received 2½ per cent. on the gross amount writ issued?—Yes, I had a lawsuit, and he had to pay me." "And two guineas and a half a day and expenses while you were selecting for Lewison?—Yes." "That relationship continued after you had passed into the employ of the Imperial Yeomanry to the extent of 2½ per cent. on the gross amount?—Yes, and it continues still—if he gets a job from them again. I have got the paper stamped.Well, Sir, I do not suppose any Member of the House will consider that Colonel Maclean wise or well-advised, even to finish the end of a contract, in taking over the services of a man who had been the servant of the contractor. But it was very broadly stated, especially by the hon. and learned Member for Dundee, who spoke, as I think, with great haste, and who challenged me in the course of my observations with an air of absolute authority, and stated that the transaction was absolutely illegal and that it gave the employer the right to call on Captain Hartigan to pay that money over.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
No, Sir, I put it interjectionally. I did not know the facts. I asked whether it was not such a commission as would 213 give the employer the right to call upon the employee to pay over the money.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I do not complain of that statement, but I do complain that the hon. Member laid down the law with such an appearance of authority and in such a manner, that his method was most calculated to mislead the House. My answer to the hon. Member in all humility was, I am not a lawyer; but it struck me at the moment what I now assert, that the whole question with regard to Captain Hartigan depends as to whether he made a full disclosure or not of his position. I do not want to offer any apology for Captain Hartigan, but if he made a full disclosure of his position, he would stand in this way, that he was there on the spot, and there was a certain amount of work left to be done, and he said to the officer who asked him to undertake the work, "I am already in the employ of the other man; I am getting 2½ per cent. commission; but if you like I will do what I can." If Captain Hartigan did that, at all events he committed nothing that was illegal. I do not say that a man with a very nice sense of honour might not have said "I would rather not undertake the work at all." But if that is his position he does not deserve the strictures passed upon him by the hon. Member for Dundee.
§ MR. BRODRICK
If the hon. Member will wait, he will see. I was going to say that this statement by Captain Hartigan was so precise that not merely was it accepted by the Committee, but it was accepted by me as giving the view of what must have been absolutely public knowledge out there as to his relations with Lewison before he had undertaken the work. I did not say on Friday night what I now must say, that Colonel Maclean, however excellent an officer in other respects, was very ill-advised in accepting Captain Hartigan's services. I go further and say that I think whoever was responsible on the Yeomanry Committee for allowing him to take Captain Hartigan into his service was also extremely ill- 214 advised. I perhaps should say that both the officers whose names have been mentioned in this connection, and who were constantly mentioned in the House on Friday last—Colonel Maclean and Colonel St. Quintin—have long retired, and are not now within the reach of any censure from the Commander-in-Chief, but we have to consider Captain Hartigan's own position.
Great complaint was made on Friday night that Captain Hartigan had subsequently been employed as Civil Veterinary Surgeon at Aldershot. I have made careful inquiry into that. Captain Hartigan is undoubtedly at this moment filling the post of Civil Veterinary Surgeon. Strictures were passed on General Truman, Inspector General of Remounts, for permitting this. I could not meet that on the spur of the moment, as I had not the Papers with me, and I could not tell who was responsible for the appointment. On looking into it, I find that these appointments of Civil Veterinary Surgeons for the ordinary conduct of veterinary work in regiments, are not made by the Inspector General of Remounts, who has nothing whatever to do with them, but by the principal veterinary officer. I have called upon him for an explanation, and I understand that, in a moment of great pressure, Captain Hartigan applied to him for employment. He was undoubtedly an able veterinary officer; he had left the service some years before with very considerable experience, and he was employed without reference to General Truman at all. That entirely absolves that officer. I was strongly pressed on Friday night to remove Captain Hartigan from his employment at Aldershot, but I think the House will see that at this moment the matter stands in this way. He made full disclosure of his position, a fact which was not altogether borne out by the evidence of Colonel Maclean, and I would ask the House to leave the matter in my hands so that I may investigate it further. I have not lost time, but I do not wish to pass a slur on Captain Hartigan untill know precisely what are the facts of the case. He is in temporary employment at Aldershot, and I can terminate his appointment by a stroke of the pen, but I would ask the 215 House to allow the matter to rest for two or three days until we hear—it is only the fair thing—what Captain Hartigan's explanation is.
Then there is the case of General Truman. He was made the subject of a very serious attack on Friday night. The main allegation against General Truman proceeded, I think, from an uneasy feeling that somehow or another he was responsible for the loss of public money involved in the overpayment for the contracts in Hungary. It was pointed out—and I could not deny it—that it was his duty to have communicated with the Military Attachéin Austria as to the capabilities of the country in that respect. Let two things be remembered. The main attacks made on General Truman on Friday night had regard first of all to the failure of this contract, which having been made by the Yeomanry Committee he had no more to do with than any hon. Member of this House, and in regard to which he was never even consulted by the Yeomanry Committee. They were invited by Lord Lansdowne to put themselves into communication with the Remount Department, but, as a matter of fact, they did not. They carried out the business themselves on their own authority. General Truman was also severely attacked for having been accessory to the employment of Captain Hartigan. He had nothing to do either with the employment of Captain Hartigan in Hungary, nor with his subsequent employment as Civil Veterinary Surgeon at Aldershot. No attack whatever was made in the course of the discussion on General Truman's honour, or on the honesty with which he carried out his duties. It is necessary to say this, because I am bound to feel that the House was, to some extent, carried away, and a very injurious impression was produced in the public Press, as well as in the House, by the remarks made about General Truman. At the same time, I said then and I still feel, that other remarks were made as regards General Truman, not affecting his honour or his honesty, but his capacity, and I have received from General Trueman a letter in which he requests the Commander-in-Chief for a Court of Inquiry to be held into the 216 conduct of his Department during the whole of the war. The Commander-in-Chief has recommended that that request should be granted, and I think it is extremely desirable that that inquiry should be held, and promptly held, into these circumstances, and that an authoritative verdict should be pronounced as to the manner in which General Truman's Department has carried out its work. I can assure the House that no Member of the House is more desirous than I am that that inquiry should be prompt and effective, and that a Report should be produced, which I shall present to Parliament, as to the conduct of the Department, and as to General Truman's own personal capacity to conduct it.
§ MR. BRODRICK
A Military Court of Inquiry, a proper court, held under the Army Regulations; and I will undertake that the Court shall be promptly composed, and that it shall sit at once. My hon. friend the member for Westminster asked me with reference to Mr. Hauser whether further contracts would be made with that firm. Now, Sir, I have gone carefully into that, and I am not at all certain that my hon. friend quite knew what he was asking when he asked the House to pass a Resolution of that character.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)
I did not ask the right hon. Gentleman to give any undertaking. I only asked him for information as to whether any contract with Hauser was now running.
§ MR. BRODRICK
As I understood my hon. friend's remarks with regard to Mr. Hauser, they were rather taken by the House as indicating that it was desirable that there should not be further contracts in that quarter. I am open to argument on that subject, but the position is simply as follows: Mr Hauser was selected originally for the first contract given by the Army—not by the Yeomanry Committee because he had the largest capacity in Hun- 217 gary for supplying horses; he was a man of substance and capital, and had the best buyers quartered in all the best districts. The whole point with regard to Mr. Hauser is that he made a large profit on the first contract. I do not say that he made an excessive profit; the excessive profit was made by the other middlemen, who were allowed to come in before the profit reached Mr. Hauser. I believe he received £22 per horse. We know nothing; we can only judge by our own estimates; but I suppose that in every case Mr. Hauser would have to pay £10 or £12 for each horse. Before they were landed they would have cost another £5 each, and if a man is £16 or £17 out of pocket for a horse, certainly nobody will say that £22—that is a profit of £5 or £6 per horse—is an undue one. Consider the circumstances. Every horse that dies during transit over several hundred miles, or during a detention of possibly two or three weeks, has got to be paid for by Mr. Hauser; every horse that is rejected is thrown on his hands; and if the ship is detained in harbour a demurrage of, I think, £75 a day has to be paid by the contractor. I am not experienced in horse-dealing myself; my right hon. friend has got a knowledge of this subject which I have not; but I very much doubt whether, taking a contract with all these elements of risk, he would say that a profit of £5 or £6 on a horse would be considered excessive. At all events we know that the Austrian Government pay a larger price, and the whole question seems to be—Do we secure the animal we require? We must get the very best. On that question we have the universal opinion of the officers who have examined them—men against whose capacity no word has been said. We have also the evidence from South Africa. I say at once that there is no class of horse from any part of the world, including Great Britain and the Colonies, which has not received censure from one or other of the authorities in South Africa. It is absolutely impossible when we have a number of horses, purchased for service in South Africa, many of them hurried up the country owing to the exigencies of the service much too soon, 218 that there should not be a number of persons who have objection to Hungarian, Argentine, British, Australian, or American horses; but I can say that the very strong majority of opinion is that the Hungarian horses have done very well. Messrs. Hauser are not only men of large capital, but own 3,000 or 4,000 stalls in the town in which we must collect and in the centre of the horse breeding country, and they have provided us to the satisfaction of our inspector with a very large number of animals. I should not be prepared to cut the country away from such a source of supply. We must look at this matter from the point of view of our interests. Mr. Hauser may have made large profits at the first. But we have had lately a lot at £20 apiece, and also a lot of a very strong class of cob at £26 10s. each. I have ordered a most careful investigation in South Africa by a variety of authorities as to the capacity of these cobs recently shipped from Hungary as compared with those from other countries; and it is upon the result of that investigation that I shall decide whether or not the contracts with Messrs. Hauser and Schlesinger shall continue.
With regard to the officers and others whose names have been mentioned in connexion with this matter—the men who I am afraid are chiefly responsible for the feeling of distrust produced in the House with regard to the contracts—those are Captain Hartigan, the contractor's men who passed the horses delivered by the contractor, Colonel Maclean, and Colonel St. Quintin. I regret to have to name them. I very much regret the error of judgment they made. But I have no power to do more than express my regret, for they are not under the authority of the Commander-in-Chief. General Truman, who is under the authority of the Commander-in-Chief, must stand or fall by the inquiry which will be made. Captain Hartigan will be given the opportunity of substantiating the evidence which he has given; and unless he very distinctly clears himself of all imputations whatever in regard to the matter, I certainly shall not allow him to continue even in his temporary 219 employment at Aldershot. I can only repeat what I said on Friday night—that we are as anxious as any Member of the House can be, not only for the purity, but for the efficiency, of these contracts. I deeply regret that in the course of this discussion so much obloquy has been thrown on the Committee who are responsible for bringing these things to light. That Committee have performed their duty with absolute fearlessness. I think it extremely hard that gentlemen who took upon themselves an invidious and unpleasant task, and have performed it with impartiality, should have been made the objects of bitter attack. I say also, as I said on Friday night, that the failure of one contract, carried out by persons not associated with the War Office, should not be made the reason for attacking the whole series of contracts carried out by the War Office in connection with the war, and for the casting of imputations, which are entirely delusive, that the want of business capacity displayed by private individuals proves a loss of millions of money on contracts made by the War Office. So long as I represent the War Office in this House, whatever may be the temper of Parliament in regard to that Department, I will endeavour that justice shall be done, and that facts shall be put forward; and I believe the War Office will not suffer and that the country will gain if, where justice is required, justice is done.
§ (5.8.) SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has reason to complain of the tone in which the Committee dealt with this question on Friday night. The House was startled, surprised, and intensely interested, but I do not think that it can be at all a matter of wonder that strong things were said after the disclosures which the Report of the Remounts Committee contains. The right hon. Gentleman has now looked into the matter personally, and we acknowledge at once the spirit in which he has done so. He has promised that if, on further enquiry, it is found that Captain Hartigan is no longer fit to be retained in the position he holds, he will see that the decision is carried out. 220 The right hon. Gentleman also very properly accedes to the request of General Truman that there should be an inquiry into his conduct by a military court, there being—as the right hon. Gentleman rightly interprets the opinion of the Committee—no imputation on that officer, but only the suggestion that he conducted the operations with which he was connected in an unbusiness-like way. So far, that leaves the matter for the moment in a satisfactory position. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman proposes to postpone the Report stage of the Vote for some time in order to enable the House to pronounce an opinion upon the conclusion to which he ultimately comes. It seems to me that that would be the regular and proper course to pursue, but, at any rate, we shall be informed, no doubt, of that conclusion by the right hon. Gentleman when he arrives at it.
I would venture to go a little further. I do not think I am wrong in saying that there has been an uneasy feeling in the public mind about the manner in which horses have been purchased in other places besides Hungary. One hears vague accounts upon which, of course, one cannot rely, that the arrangements for the purchase of horses in this country, in Ireland, in Canada, in Argentina—indeed wherever horses have been bought—have been in some cases open to doubt, and that the results have not been satisfactory. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government should not promote an inquiry into the general question of the purchase of horses in this great emergency, which emergency, no doubt, would cover a multitude of sins. We have been already told that there is to be a full inquiry into the conduct of the war, at the end of the war, and it may be said that this investigation could be very well postponed until then; but we have had this inquiry into the purchase of horses in Hungary, and I do not see why the investigation should not be extended to the other markets. If it should be decided to hold this general inquiry, I trust it will be held by a Committee somewhat more competent to go fully, dispassionately, and com- 221 pletely into the question than the Committee which dealt with the purchase of horses in Hungary. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said as to the proof which the Report supplies of that Committee's desire to arrive at the facts of the case honestly and straightforwardly. At the same time, with all deference in the world to individual members of the Committee, perhaps it is not, out of place to say that it was not, for the purpose of a business inquiry, a very strong Committee. The hon. Gentleman opposite, who was the chairman of the Committee (Sir Charles Welby) has been private secretary to two successive Secretaries of State, and is now, by some strange arrangement, Assistant Under-Secretary unpaid at the War Office, or has been recently so. Of my hon. friend behind me (Mr. C. Hobhouse) I say nothing. In my hon. and gallant friend opposite (Colonel Kenyon-Slaney) I have great confidence also, but he is not a person particularly quick to mark iniquity in occupants of the Treasury Bench. The only other member of the Committee is the near relative of the Secretary of State for War himself. The secretary of the Committee is a near relative, a brother, of a member of the Government, and I believe private secretary to the noble Lord the Financial Secretary to the War Office. We are accustomed to family connections in the affairs of the Empire, but even these small matters—comparatively small matters—are entrusted to little family parties. I say this without the slightest imputation on any members of the Committee; but for the purpose for which they were appointed they were not, as it happened, a strong Committee; and if an inquiry is made, which I think ought to be made, into the purchase of horses generally, then I trust it will be seen to that the members of the Committee are more entirely independent of the Government, and perhaps more qualified by business experience to conduct such an inquiry.
§ (5.15.) COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
Unfortunately, I was away on Friday night, or I 222 would have had something to say in the course of the debate which then took place. But perhaps I am happy in the postponement of the little I should have said, in that I have had the opportunity of listening to the general speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. He says I was not a very strong member of the Horse Purchase Committee, because he does not think I look with sufficient vigour on the iniquities of this side of the House. He does not complain of my conduct in that respect when I sat on that side of the House, because he recollects that I had something to do with convicting of very great iniquities a right hon. Gentleman who was short of cordite. The right hon. Gentleman made a great and somewhat unhappy blunder in his remarks. He spoke as if a Committee of this sort was chiefly interested in dealing with the questions submitted to it from a Party or Government point of view. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman's charge against me was that I might be too partial to the Government side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman made a sad mistake. He should recollect that when such Committees are appointed, and hon. Members are invited to serve on them, they do not look on their duties from a Party point of view, but solely and simply with the view of arriving at a fair decision on the questions submitted to them. In questions of this sort, Party, or Government, or Opposition, does not enter into consideration at all. There were two matters at stake—the efficiency of the horses supplied to the army, and, more important still, the good faith and honour of the officers of the army. I freely confess that on the latter point I am a decided partisan. I should have been extremely sorry to have had convict an officer of the army of bad faith and unjust dealing, but, just in proportion as I should have been sorry to do so, I should have done it if the evidence warranted it, in order that the high reputation of the army should have been purged of such a man, if any such existed.
In the course of the debate on Friday, 223 there were said some things which, in justice to myself, I cannot pass over in silence. We were blamed by several right lion. Gentlemen for the references we made to the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich. But those who blamed us could not. I think, have read the reference under which we sat. The first part of the reference was:The Committee are requested to examine certain allegations as to bribes given to British officers in relation to the purchase of horses in Austria-Hungary, made by Sir Blundell Maple, M.P., and to hear such evidence as may be tendered in support of them.It was, therefore, absolutely necessary that we should deal with the question. We were delighted, in the course of our investigations, to hear from the hon. Baronet that his speech, from which those ideas were taken, did not convey what he intended it to convey, and that he challenged the correctness of the report in a certain newspaper of an interview which was thought outside to substantiate those accusations. The army at large feels very bitterly the imputations cast upon it, and it looks to the Secretary of State for War and the Commander-in-Chief to see that its honour is not impugned, and that it is fairly treated when such charges as these are made. I think, therefore, that any fair-minded man will allow that in making the statements we did, basing them on the evidence that came before us, we were simply carrying out the first of the duties entrusted to us. I allow most heartily that the action of the hon. Baronet has been productive of much good; and that the matter was brought forward with the best intentions and the single-minded idea of doing good to the country, both now and in the future. In that respect, I think the hon. Baronet can congratulate himself on having achieved a satisfactory result, although I regret the army should have had reason to think that an imputation was made which we now know was not intended.
After the speech of my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War, it is unnecessary for me to labour at any length the questions to which he has referred. But in reading the report of last Friday's debate, it was clear to me that there were one or two misconceptions in the minds of those 224 who spoke and expressed strong opinions. They did not seem quite to realise that the business of horse-buying for the Imperial Yeomanry was one entirely outside and beyond the Remount Department as constituted; also that the amount at which the contract was set had nothing whatever to do with Mr. Hartigan, but was a matter of business between the Imperial Yeomanry and the contractors; and, further, that there was not an unlimited number of horses on which anybody might get a percentage, but that the number of horses, as well as the amount of the contract, was laid down. There also seemed to be an idea that Mr. Hartigan was an officer in His Majesty's Service, and that therefore it was extremely dishonourable on his part to associate himself in any way with such a contract. Well, he was not at that time in any way whatever connected with the King's Service. Another misconception was that, after his time was over, Mr. Hartigan was re-established in the King's Service under the auspices of General Truman. That point has been dealt with and set at rest by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State; and I hope that all the ideas engendered by it will be put away for good and all.
Now, there are one or two points which, for my own satisfaction, I want made somewhat clearer. Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet, when he speaks of a "white-washing" Committee, to refer to that Committee of which I was a member and whose Report is now in my hand? I should like a specific answer on that point.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
Certainly I applied that term to a Committee which appeared to me to approach this subject with a view to discrediting the person who demanded the inquiry, and of white-washing the people concerned.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
Then I understand the right hon. Gentleman does apply that term to the Committee. Let me tell him plainly that I repudiate it absolutely. I am extremely sorry that the right hon. Gentleman should have used any such expression, which does no credit to his courtesy or 225 his perception of right and wrong. ["Oh."]
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
On a point of order, Sir, is it in order to refer to and answer speeches made in previous debate in this House?
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member asked the right hon. Gentleman a question. He based his statement on the reply he received to that question.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
The hon. Member has forgotten that it was only a short time ago the charge was repeated. I say it is most unfortunate that hon. Members cannot do their best on a Committee of this sort without calling down upon themselves language which is not at all befitting to the House or deserved by themselves. Then I wish to refer to another speech made in the debate on Friday night, because there was certain other language used which I think ought not to pass without challenge. The hon. Member for King's Lynn, who interrupted just now, used these words—that a special part of the Report was "altogether disingenuous and dishonest." Those are objectionable phrases. To my mind they not only show extreme want of taste, but they partake of extreme impertinence. ["Oh."]
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I must ask, Sir, that the hon. and gallant Member's statement be taken down—the word "impertinence."
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
That practice has now passed into desuetude. The practice is no longer in existence by which words spoken in this House can be taken down by the clerks and action taken upon them. The hon. Member is entitled to ask whether the words are in order, and if they are not in order they must be withdrawn.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
If the hon. and gallant Member used the word "impertinence" in the sense in which it is 226 generally used, it would be disorderly; if he used it in the sense of "irrelevance," then it would not be disorderly.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
Let me be quite frank. I did not use the expression in the sense of "irrelevance"; I used it as a very proper expression, in reply to a charge of disingenuousness and dishonesty.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
If the hon. and gallant Member says that, then I have to say that the word used in that sense is not in order, and I must ask him to withdraw it.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
As you so rule, Sir, of course, I withdraw it. May I ask, in turn, whether the words "disingenuous and dishonest," as applied to a Committee of this House, are to stand on the records of this House?
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
If the word was used in Committee in the sense in which the hon. and gallant Member thinks it was used, I am sure that the Chairman of the Committee would have had his attention called to it directly. But as that did not occur, I must presume that the word was not used in that sense, and must have been used in regard to the general Report of the Committee, and not as an imputation on any member of the Committee.
§ COLONEL. KENYON-SLANEY
Of course, I can only judge of English as it is written and spoken. I accept your ruling on that point, Sir, but I should like to re-read the words, so that the House may judge whether or not I read them aright:But he proposed to draw the moral from the story which the House had listened to. He wished to call attention to a special part of the Report which, he considered, was altogether disingenuous and dishonest.Now, Sir, if with regard to the Report of a Committee an hon. Member uses the language, "the report which I consider was altogether disingenuous and dishonest," it passes my limited knowledge to understand how that can be anything but a direct slur on the character and probity of the members of that Commit- 227 tee, and I desire, in every way the forms of the House permit, to put on record that I consider the use of such language extremely offensive, extremely uncalled for, and extremely wrong. The hon. Member sometimes seems to think that it is within his province to blame us all. We do not all of us suffer from sore heads; we do not all of us suffer from "swelled-head"; and I only hope that when the hon. Member again addresses himself to that sort of subject he will be a little more careful as to the epithets he uses, and the words which fall from his lips. He was good enough further on to ask about the "tame" and "bleating" Committee. It seems to me it is the duty of the House at large to consider whether to treat Committees in this way is useful, whether it tends to the good conduct of business, and to the promotion of that willingness to take part in the affairs of the House which is urged upon us by gentlemen of high position, who tell us that one of the things the House most needs is that the younger, or at least, the less known or more humble Members like myself, should be ready to take what little part they can in the business that goes on, and not be afraid of doing their best. I do not think this sort of treatment is likely to facilitate that end.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
The hon. Member for Dulwich I have already dealt with, and I have nothing more to urge against him, for I have said what I had to say in regard to his case. I am perfectly certain that the Report of this Committee will be useful for the conduct of affairs in the future, for it will have done much to clear the issue. I would like to say that it is very doubtful whether this House is doing very good service either to itself or to the country when it indulges in any strong denunciation of any public servant, civil or military, with very often incomplete knowledge of the facts. I heard an opinion expressed in several quarters that General Truman should be dismissed at once. We have heard some arguments used which ought to 228 make those hon. Gentlemen sorry that they spoke in such a hurry. The Department over which General Truman presides has done very great service, though everyone acknowledges that there is ample room for improvement and reorganisation in that Department; but it is not wise to blame the man who has carried out well a great deal of the duties lately because another part of the office was not conducted to the full approval of the House, and as we have every right to hope that it will be conducted in future. If, however, after this warning and experience there is reason to blame the Remount Department, I believe that not a word would be said against making an example of those who failed to profit by both. A rumour has reached me that General Truman has been called upon to resign. I hope it is not so, and if it is so the call for his resignation should be rescinded. General Truman has appealed to a military court of inquiry, and until that court has issued its finding General Truman should not be called upon to resign. The House, perhaps, will pardon me as a soldier if I am jealous of fair play towards soldiers, and if I am anxious that they should not be treated unfairly as well as discourteously. I apologise to the House if I have spoken more strongly than I ought to have done. I confess that I feel strongly in regard to the language which has been used, and I thought it my duty to say here, and put on record, what I should not hesitate to say in private.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
The hon. Member has naturally used somewhat stronger language than he would otherwise have done, because he was not in his place on Friday night. Although he knew that this matter was coming up for discussion, he has waited until to-day, in order to take an opportunity of answering a speech made last Friday; but I think it would have been more appropriate if he had taken his opportunity upon that occasion. The hon. Member only exaggerates the scope of the word "dishonest," which you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, have pointed out was used by me in a perfectly proper and Parliamentary sense. [Ministerial cries of 229 "Oh, oh!"] Yes, I say that the word was used in a perfectly proper and Parliamentary sense. The suggestion was not that this excellent Committee, the type of all the virtues and all the proprieties, was guilty of conscious dishonesty. I think the very words which the hon. Member quoted show that what I intended to convey was that the Committee had not followed to a logical conclusion the result of the evidence they had before them. I think the hon. and gallant Member is a little hard upon me, considering the way they treated the hon. Baronet the Member for Dulwich. At first the Committee expressed their very deep regret that the Member for Dulwich whom they now cannot praise too much for having brought forward the subject, should have committed himself to public statements which, whatever their intention, were universally understood to be direct attacks on the honour and integrity of British officers. But they cannot deny that there was not a fact set out in this Report which was not originated by the hon. Member for Dulwich. It was not the Committee whe found out about Hartigan; it was the hon. Member for Dulwich. It was not the Committee who discovered that the horses were as bad as they were. If the horses were good it would not matter so much about the price. It was the Member for Dulwich, corroborated by Lord Kitchener, who discovered that these horses were "flat-catchers." The complaint of everyone on Friday and the gravamen of the whole thing was that these Hungarian horses were flat-catchers. [An Hon. Member: What is a flat-catcher?] I should imagine that a flat-catcher means a horse which will only take in a flat, and those were the sort of horses we got. The Secretary of State for War does not agree with that, and he says that they were excellent horses and have done well, but that is not the opinion which I hear on all sides, which is to the effect that they were about the worst four-footed things of the horse kind that the Almighty had ever permitted to crawl on the earth.
§ MR. BRODRICK
So far as regards the reports from the front, the officers 230 apologised for sending them out so quickly but the horses looked so well that it was considered useless to keep them at the base.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I shall come to that point in a minute, but that is another matter. They were not believed to be good horses, and nothing will convince me that they were otherwise than very bad horses. As regards the particular gentlemen who have been adverted to in Friday's debate and to-day, it is no use for anybody to defend them. The Secretary of State for War admits that there is a primâ facie case against them. He has committed them for trial as it were; there is to be a military court—an inquiry in one case, and a military Court of Inquiry in another. I hope, therefore, for the present that we shall abstain from further criticism upon this point. When the right hon. Gentleman talks about the attachéat Vienna, I cannot help thinking that a great slight is cast upon him by General Truman, because he says in his evidence on page 66, at question 1636:You have already said that you never made use of a military attaché for that purpose?—No!1637.—Do not you think he would be the very obvious and natural person to refer to and from whom to obtain reports at regular or irregular intervals?—He might, but from what I have heard of the military attaché, he did not know the biggest dealer, or the name of the biggest dealer, in Hungary.That, I think, is an imputation of ignorance to the military Attaché. As I have said before, I do not think it would be right to pursue the inquiry now into the case of Captain Hartigan or General Truman. There is one other thing which I should like to advert to. The right hon. Gentlemen led the House to suppose that Captain Hartigan only passed a hundred or two horses.
§ MR. BRODRICK
When Colonel Maclean asked for Captain Hartigan's services he had only 100 or 200 more to pass, but Captain Hartigan went on and passed 1,500.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman did not intend to mislead the House. The right hon. Gentleman seemed again and again this afternoon to repudiate responsibility for the Yeomanry Committee, and therefore he repudiated all responsibility for what they did in regard to Captain Hartigan. He also said that the Inspector General of Remounts had no more to do with it than any Member of this House, and that this matter cannot be charged on the officials of the War Office. I entirely deny that. I say that the War Office was wholly and fully responsible for all the doings of the Yeomanry Committee. The War Office delegated its authority—and I am not complaining of it—for a special purpose to this special Committee of very competent experts. They delegated to this Committee the power of spending the money voted by this House to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and it is not open to the right hon. Gentleman, now that criticisms are being made to turn round and say: "We are not responsible, and it is the Yeomanry Committee who is responsible." The right hon. Gentleman on this point is wholly at variance with his colleague the noble Lord the Financial Secretary to the War Office who sits beside him.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I am glad to have the noble Lord's assent, and he admits that the War Office is absolutely responsible for everything the Yeomanry Committee did.
Now, Sir, I come to another aspect of the question. If the War Office, the Yeomanry Committee, Captain Hartigan and General Truman have been remiss, or any other War Office Officials, as to the remounts bought in Hungary, what about the other remounts? I was very much surprised at one statement made by General Truman. Speaking on the 15th of July, 1901, he said that he had not yet had any regular reports as to the state of these Hungarian horses when they reached South Africa. They were sent out eighteen months before—in July, 1901—and General 232 Truman said he had received no regular reports. He had only received casual denunciations in letters. I think that is a strange way of conducting the business of remounts. Here let me remind the right hon. Gentlemen of the responsibility of the War Office; these two gentlemen went to Hungary in consequence of their being prohibited by the War Office from going to America or Australia; they were forced to go there; they had no other place left; they had no choice in the matter, and I use that as an argument to show the responsibility of the War Office. What happened? The right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean asked a Question a short time after the House met, as to whether any general report had been received. He did not restrict it to Hungarian horses. We have heard quite enough about the Hungarian horses—perhaps too much. But what about the other horses? If no report was received up to July last, eighteen months after the war commenced, has any report been received now as to the other horses?
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I only remember the answer, but I think it was an extremely general one. He said he had received "several" reports. I believe when the general report on the condition of the remounts is before the House—and I hope he is going to give it to us—it will show many things. I think it will show that unqualified officers were sent to inspect the horses which were bought—I am not speaking of Hungarian horses only—and that the officers were selected for social considerations. That reminds me of the suggestion of my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Agriculture, who said that we must take care that if there is any system whereby promotion in the army is influenced by smart ladies in society, it must be stopped. I think if there is any system whereby smart gentlemen in society, who, though unqualified, are sent out as veterinary officers to pass horses, that too ought to be stopped. I am not suggesting what will be found in this Report.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. Balfour,) Manchester, E.
asked the hon. Member for the names.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I alluded to the President of the Board of Agriculture and the suggestion which he made.
§ MR. BRODRICK
My hon. friend makes a charge against the War Office of sending out officers for social reasons, and my right hon. friend asks him if he has any names to give to the House, because if the hon. Gentleman has any he ought to give them.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Then I think the charge should be withdrawn. If the hon. Member is unable to substantiate the charge that officers were sent out for social reasons, then I think he ought to withdraw it.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I will willingly withdraw the words as a charge. I may say that I can hardly be said to have made the statement as a charge. I stated what I believed would be found when inquiry came to be made. I am convinced that what happened with the Hungarian horses happened also with the others. Far too little time was given to passing the horses. We have it in the evidence given before the able and gallant gentlemen forming this Committee, that one gentleman, Colonel Williams, passed 500 cobs a day. I do not say that this happened to the same extent in the case of other horses, but far too little time was given to the officers who passed them. I am told that it is impossible for a man to properly examine and pass more than 50 or 60 horses a day. I want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman has got any confirmation of what I am now stating. Will he give us his Report? He has not made up his mind, perhaps. I believe it will be found that, after passing 50 or 60 horses, a man's judgment leaves him, and he becomes incapable of passing any more horses that day. I am told that the treatment of these horses—I am not now speaking of Hungarian horses only, but of all 234 of them—when landed was something disgraceful. Large numbers were sent up the country at once, and were without food and drink for three or four days together. While many of them were perfectly useless when landed, a large portion of the remainder became absolutely useless after this treatment. I am credibly informed—and I should like to know whether it is true—that but for the grievous state of the horses arising from some of them being bad horses, and many of them having been treated in the way I have described, President Kruger and President Steyn would have been caught at Poplar Grove. I want to know if there is any contradiction to what I have said. Above all, if the right hon. Gentleman has these things in his Report on the remounts, let us have that Report. We know that charges will be made. Some charges have been made which had to be withdrawn. There were such in connection with the Hungarian horses. If the right hon. Gentleman will undertake to give us his own Report on the remounts, I will withdraw anything in the nature of reflection upon him, or his Department, or the officers who passed the horses. In spite of a certain amount of heat developed in their course, these debates have not been unprofitable. It is our bounden duty in this House to inquire into the way in which the money voted by the House is spent. We do not grudge the money. Last Friday if it had not been that we well knew that we were voting Supplies for the war, His Majesty's Government would have been beaten in the House. We could not take the responsibility of voting against them in the circumstances. Surely the Government should take some heed, and let us know whether the rest of our money has been properly spent. Let us know whether his Department is absolutely perfect. I am glad that an inquiry is to be made in the case of one gentleman. But that will not suffice. We will require a much larger inquiry than that. To find that Captain Hartigan has done wrong and sacrifice him, to find that General Truman has been mistaken and excuse him, will not be sufficient. It is quite clear from the history of the Hungarian horses that 235 money has been wasted like water—wasted by tens of thousands of pounds. We would not have wasted half the money if we had got good horses. It is the badness of the horses we complain of. In the absence of further explanation from the gallant members or official members of the Committee, we cannot but feel that, prima facie, the responsibility rests upon the War Office. The War Office is bound to give a full, clear and perfect inquiry into this matter.
§ *(5.54.) SIR BLUNDELL MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)
I should not have risen at the present time were it not that I find the Secretary of State for War has not thoroughly read the Blue-book. A great deal, if not all the difficulty, we have had to deal with has arisenthrough the War Office not appointing a proper Committee with the requisite authority to go out and make all the inquiries that were needed on the spot. I told the Committee on Friday that I had found it necessary, inasmuch as what I had stated was not believed, to send out at some cost a secretary and Mr. Waugh to make inquiries. You will find Mr. Waugh's statement at page 21. The particular statement to which I wish to refer the Secretary of State for War is the reply to question 1173 in Captain Hartigan's evidence—Did you have any relations with Colonel Maclean at that time when you first went out?—No except that I used to oblige him, and keep the book every day, that is to say, write down a description as follows: 'Bay mare, 14.3, colour, so and so' and so on—You kept that book for Colonel Maclean? "I did and got nothing for it.It is a fact within my knowledge that Captain Hartigan and Colonel Maclean stayed together, and also that at their little luncheon parties and dinner parties, Mr. Hauser was often present. I have in my possession an affidavit by a man who declares that he paid for Hauser, not only Captain Hartigan's board, but also Colonel Maclean's. It was important, when such a subject was brought forward, the War Office ought to have sent out some gentlemen charged to inquire into the whole circumstances of the matter. It is difficult for a man like myself, situated in England, to get together all the different gentlemen at this long distance. The House will 236 remember that it was in February of last year that I first asked for inquiry, and I repeatedly asked the inquiry afterwards, but nothing was done by the War Office for some time in the way of making inquiry in any shape or form. The War Office ultimately did this: They appointed a Committee, and in the reference they said that I made allegations. I avoided making allegations. I said that insinuations had been made, and I asked that inquiry should be made on behalf of the army as well as the country.
I am convinced that if the War Office wish to get to the bottom of the whole subject they should get full information. I suggest most decidedly that some further inquiry should be made in this matter. There are gentlemen in Austria-Hungary who are interested in this matter. They feel that they are the breeders of the sort of horses that were required in South Africa, but other inferior horses were bought. You had old brutes sent out, not at all the animals which ought to have been sent out. I can assure the Secretary for War that I have had letters from South Africa which state that my correspondents were disgusted with the class of animals sent out there. I could tell you the names of the hotels at which these men stayed in Austria-Hungary, and how they lived together. I have heard how the accounts were paid, and therefore I know a lot. It was impossible for me to give the noble Lord the affidavit, as I did not get it until after attending the War Office Committee; but if the gentlemen of the War Office were to go out there they would get all the information of what went on. I am quite in accord with my hon. friend, and also with the Leader of the Opposition, when they I said that it was most important to go into the whole question of remounts. Since this matter was opened I have had many letters referring to certain people who have been charged with buying horses in different parts of the world. We know that many thousands of our poor fellows have died or were shot down, or compelled to surrender, because of the wretched horses on which they were mounted. I do hope that the Secretary for War will carry out the promise he 237 has made, and will appoint a very strong Committee. I am quite sure that the members of the old Committee tried to do what was right, but they had their hands tied, and could not send out anyone to make inquiries on the spot. There should be a proper re-organisation of the Remount Department. First-class horses no doubt can be got in Ireland, in Yorkshire, and in the Colonies. Then, there was gross mismanagement in the treatment of the horses that were sent out to South Africa. I know of cases where 13 horses had been squeezed into trucks only capable of carrying eight, and where the animals were kept for 36 hours without water or food. The natural result was that a great many died.
§ *(6.8.) MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)
I think that the House and the country must feel that we are greatly indebted to the hon. Baronet for bringing up this question. The hon. Member is not one of those candid friends of the Government who, for one cause or another, make themselves disagreeable and hypercritical. He had special opportunities for acquiring knowledge which gave rise to that belief in his own mind that scandalous proceedings were going on, which proved to be only too well founded. He did not make any public attack. He communicated privately with Ministers as long as a year ago, in February last; and I remember well that the hon. Baronet was obliged to make a statement to the House in June last on the subject; because he had found it impossible to get the Government, by private exhortations and communications, to take any action whatever. The result of his public statements in this House, however, at the end of June, forced the War Office into some sort of action, and thus came about the appointment of the Departmental Committee in July. It resulted, not freely from the private information of February, but reluctantly from the public proposal of June. The hon. Baronet justly complained of the invidious position in which he had been placed by the terms of the reference to that Committee, and of the limitations of that reference; and hon. Members, 238 grateful to him for his public service, have a right to join in that complaint. I say that the terms of that reference were not suitable. Then what next happened? The Committee, right or wrong, reported in August—so much we learn from the prints before us—and the responsible Minister—for so I must call him—actually took no steps to inform himself upon the matters affecting the personal conduct and position of officers in the army and officers of his own department implicated in this matter, previous to the debate. He was quite uninformed on these subjects as late as Friday night last, when he asked the House to pass this Vote. So far from considering that the Report placed in his hands in August obliged him to inquiry and action, so far from considering that he ought to call for explanations from Captain Hartigan, General Truman, and Colonel McLean, the Secretary does nothing, but comes down here to move his Vote absolutely ignorant on the matter which was the chief subject of the disagreeable debate of Friday. What has been his course towards this House? First of all he endeavoured, so far as he could, to prevent the House being informed effectively of the full facts of the case.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Well, he must know that I explained that a case was pending in the Law Courts involving two of the persons implicated, and that that case was only settled in the Courts in the middle of January; and at that moment I did not think I was justified in making all the facts public.
§ * MR. BLAKE
The right hon. Gentleman laid the Papers on the Table at the latest instant he could do so, and then he said to the House, with the gravest possible face, that we had all the information he could give. It is ridiculous to say that he could not have given the information sooner. But if in truth he could not have laid the papers earlier, then he was bound to 239 defer the Vote till later. It is an absurd position to say "The lawyers told me I ought not to inform you till now, and therefore you must in a few moments master this bulky book." But although hon. Members had only a few minutes in which to master this Report, I am bound to say that they did master it a great deal more thoroughly than the right hon. Gentleman, although he had had the document in his possession since August last. In truth, his information seemed to be derived from statements made in debate by members of his Committee, rather than from any study of his own of their Report. Next the right hon. Gentleman, having thus precipitated the Vote without being informed himself, or giving the House any proper chance to inform themselves, repudiated all responsibility. He said, in substance—This is not a War Office matter. If it had been a case of the permanent officials, of General Truman or other agents, of course I would have been responsible. That is the political rule; but I chose to employ a special agency for the purpose. I employed a Committee of gentlemen in whom I had confidence to do this business, and because of employing this special agency, instead of the normal regular agency I am not responsible; my permanent staff is, of course, not responsible; there is no one responsible.If that is the result of employing special agencies, the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that he had better not employ any more special agencies. What I say is, that the public business must be so done that someone is responsible to us for what is done. The truth is, that the right hon. Gentleman is just as responsible for what this special agency did as for the doings of his own officials in the War Office, and to endeavour to escape political responsibility on the ground of special agency is both humiliating and ridiculous. What happened next? Having come to the House, having thrust the Papers on us at the latest possible moment, uninformed himself, having made no inqury whatever, and unable to answer on the charges made against General Truman—because, as he now tells us, he did not know the facts, and was not able to deny that General Truman had anything to do with the present Hartigan appointment—having abstained from inquiry of the General, 240 of Hartigan, of Colonel McLean—he could say nothing. But was it not his business to have found out the truth about those circumstances which had been in vain brought before him in February, and before the House by the hon. Member for Dulwich in June last? Was it not his business at any rate to have inquired before asking the money? But the right hon. Gentleman has found out since. Once again, driven by the public exposure of Friday, he has spent the time between Friday and Monday in finding something out about General Truman, and has got some explanation from him. And he has also got some explanation from Captain Hartigan, and now he is going to make an inquiry—not by a strong Committee, but a personal inquiry—and form his own judgment on Captain Hartigan's conduct. There is also to be a military inquiry in regard to General Truman; and his fate will then be settled. But, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman ought to have informed himself of all these facts and to have acted, last summer, and anyway before he asked the Committee on Friday night to pass this Vote. For every fact which made it necessary that he should enquire and investigate is in these Papers on the Table; and these Papers have been in his hands since August last. He had done nothing on them whatever. He did nothing on his own Motion. He had not even informed himself before the Vote. He would have known nothing and done nothing but for the debate. But forced again, Sir, he now at last finds that there is a prima facie case against one, and that a Court of Inquiry should be held on another, and he invites us to suspend our judgment accordingly. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman's own statement shows a gross neglect of his official duty. He has done nothing voluntarily, or in time, or until the House of Commons has forced his hand down, that such a method of conducting public business does not inspire me with any confidence as to the result of the right hon. Gentleman's further inquiries, or his mode of conducting the business of this Nation.
§ (6.14.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not rise to make any lengthened statement on this subject, but the 241 hon. Gentleman has levelled a charge against the Secretary for War. The Secretary for War in the course of his official career has had many charges made against him, but this, take it, is absolutely the first time in his experience that he has been accused of want of energy and want of industry in carrying out his official duties. A more preposterous charge never was made in this House by any man, and that is saying a good deal, for we are rather reckless in some of the charges that are scattered about. But a more reckless charge than that, or one more absolutely without foundation, it would be difficult to produce in our parliamentary annals.
What are the facts? My right hon. friend has got to defend a Vote of five millions for carrying on the war in South Africa—a very large Vote, dealing with very great and pressing interests. My right hon. friend, I suppose, is the hardest worked man at this moment in the three kingdoms; and because he is not fully primed in all the details of transactions which happened twelve months before he was in office, with regard to which not one shilling of public money was asked for in this Vote, with regard to which not one penny of the five millions voted on Friday has anything to do, directly or indirectly, my right hon. friend is charged not only with gross incompetence apparently, but with idle neglect of his public duty. I leave the absurdity of that charge. It is not worth pursuing further.
There are only two other points on which it is necessary to say a word. One is this question of the responsibility of the War Office for the duties which were delegated to the Yeomanry Committee. It is said, and said, of course, with perfect truth, that in a very real or perhaps a technical sense no responsibility can be got rid of by delegation. Of course that is quite true. No human being denies it. But I unless delegation means some kind of substantial transfer of responsibility, what is the use of delegation? The whole point of decentralization, which so filled the mouths of Army critics two or three years ago—in fact ever since I have listened to debates in this 242 House—is that the War Office should not be obliged to enter into every minute detail itself, but should appoint competent persons to carry out part of its duties. If decentralization does not mean that it means nothing, and we must abandon the idea of decentralization altogether. Then, it will be noted that the charge cannot be against the War Office that it did not look into the details; the charge can only be that it appointed an incompetent body to carry out the delegated functions. Will anybody say that the Yeomanry Committee was an incompetent body? I cannot imagine it. But that is not all. I am personally an advocate of decentralization and delegation in these matters, but the circumstances under which the Yeomanry Committee were asked to undertake these duties were circumstances which rendered decentralization and delegation an absolute necessity. This Committee was asked to undertake the provision of horses immediately after the disaster of Colenso, when the War Office had thrown upon them the herculean task of doubling the Army, a task the difficulty of which I do not think is sufficiently appreciated—or, I venture to think, the skill with which, on the whole, it was carried out. That task was thrown on the War Office. These patriotic Yeomen came to the War Office saying: "We will provide horses, men, money, transports, and saddles." Were the War Office at a moment of our national fortunes like that to reject this offer? It was impossible that at that moment they should supply out of their own staff all the organisation which might at other times have been desirable to assist this Yeomanry Committee. In those circumstances not only do I say it is most ungenerous to attack the War Office—[Opposition cries of "Oh"]—most ungenerous to attack the War Office because these delegated duties were not carried out to the taste of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I will go further and say that delegation, in itself a good thing, was an absolute necessity at the moment at which in this case it was carried out.
There is only one other observation I have to make—it is in the nature of an answer to a question put by the right 243 hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. He said: "The result of the inquiry into remounts in Hungary has been to show that some things at all events passed there which are greatly to be regretted; have you any evidence that your remount operations in other parts of the world were better conducted? Do you not think, therefore, that you ought to have an inquiry into the remounts from North America and South America, from our Australasian Colonies, and from home?" Well, we are entirely of opinion that the matter cannot be allowed to rest where it is. We think with the right hon. Gentleman that a survey of the whole of this important question must be made without fear and without favour. While we hold that view quite clearly, we equally clearly hold that it would be perfect insanity to attempt it at this particular moment, because the men who would have to help us with that inquiry are all of them up to the eyes in work at this moment connected with your Army in South Africa. You would interrupt the most important military operations in that country by attempting that inquiry at the present time; and unless you are going to consider that the majority of the inquiries in this House into what happened months or years ago is of more importance than the immediate and pressing necessities of the country, you would be perfectly insane unless you deferred this inquiry to a time when all your important witnesses could give you the evidence you need without neglecting duties which are even more important than that of giving information to the two Houses. I hope this means no long delay. We may hold that hope I think with some confidence. But, however that may be, we do not mean to interrupt the military operations at the front by anything. When the time comes when the inquiry can with public advantage be undertaken, it will be open to question whether it should be merged into that large inquiry which the right hon. Gentleman seeks, or whether it should be a separate inquiry. Our sole object is to get at the truth with the least delay possible, and the precise machinery with which that great public end may be served is a matter of 244 relative unimportance. I will enter only one caveat at the present stage of our discussion. When the inquiry is made, I hope—indeed I feel confident—that the body which conducts it, whether a Committee of this House or a Departmental Committee or a Royal Commission, or whatever it may be, will remember that the task which had to be done was to transport thousands of miles from very different countries about a quarter of a million of horses. No such task has ever been undertaken in the history of the world, nor anything like it or approaching it. That there have been things done which might have been avoided is possible—perhaps, after what has already been revealed, I may be forced to say it is even probable—but that much of the natural irritation which the soldiers at the front felt at the defects of the remounts was absolutely impossible to be avoided, considering the task that had to be accomplished—that also I find very difficult to deny. But I hope, and fully believe, that the tribunal looking into this matter will judge these defects in a fair and equitable spirit, and that when their Report is presented to this House they will remember that not merely this or that mistake was made, but that it was made by people working under exceptional pressure under exceptional difficulties, in carrying out a task which is unparalleled in the military annals of the world.
§ (6.30.) MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
The right hon. Gentleman, whose speech I have listened to with attention, hardly yet appreciates the nature of the impression which this incident has created, not only upon this House, but upon people outside. The object of those who have taken part in this discussion—and I think I may fairly remind him in reference to one remark he made just now, that the stream of criticism has flowed in equal volume from both sides of the House—the object of those who have taken part in this discussion has been, not so much to select for censure a particular individual, as to examine the system and prevent the possible recurrence in the future of the gross scandal that has occurred.
245 What are the facts? From this point of view the taxpayers of this country have been saddled with a contract which has compelled them to pay a sum of £33 per horse for a number of horses as to which it is not suggested even that the ample profit of 33⅓per cent. is too much, and they have been mulcted to the extent of at least £10 or £12 per horse. I am putting it as moderately as I can; I am stating the minimum of the loss which the taxpayers can be said to have sustained. That is brought to the notice of the House of Commons, and are we going to be told that we are to hold nobody responsible for it? What does the right hon. Gentleman say? He says it is most ungenerous to hold the War Office responsible, for the War Office have been doing the very thing you reformers say they ought to be doing—they have delegated the performance of their duties to a subordinate authority. But when we come to speak of the subordinate authority—the Yeomanry Committee—we are told that it is most unfair and captious to make criticisms upon them. Were they not a body of patriotic, public-spirited persons, who, in a moment of great national emergency, at the sacrifice of their own time and convenience, have come forward and spontaneously and voluntarily undertaken this work? Where are we? What becomes of the control of the House of Commons? Who is to be made amenable for what everybody acknowledges to have been—to use the mildest possible epithet—a most unbusiness like transaction?
It is said this is only a case of delegation. Heaven save us from this kind of delegation! Let us see what the delegation was. Horses had to be obtained, I agree, in circumstances of great stress and danger, and sent out to South Africa. I say nothing for the moment of the extraordinary want of preparedness, the absence of information which appears to have prevailed, not only in the War Office, but among agents abroad, in regard to so vital a matter. An emergency arises, a want has to be supplied. The War Office delegates, the right hon. Gentleman has told us, to this Committee the duty of 246 looking after the horses. The Committee delegates to another gentleman—one of its members—Colonel St. Quintin, I think. Colonel St. Quintin delegates to another, Colonel Maclean, the duty of passing the horses, and Colonel Maclean delegates—the last link—to Captain Hartigan. At any rate, he calls in to his assistance—he passed the horses, but, of course, he could not do the veterinary work himself—for this triply-delegated task Captain Hartigan, who, we know, was receiving a handsome commission on the total amount of the transaction. That is not the kind of delegation which I think this House wants, or which was desired when it was said that the War Office ought to be decentralized.
I cannot help thinking that I shall be speaking the sentiment of the great bulk of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House when I say we owe a great debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Dulwich for drawing attention in the first instance, to these transactions. This debate, although it has now extended over the better part of two evenings, will not have wasted one moment of the time of the House and the country, if it makes it for ever impossible that the War Office should put forward pleas so flimsy and unsatisfactory as those which have been produced in this discussion. I was going to make a remark with reference to what the right hon. Gentleman said at the close of his speech as to the promised inquiry. I confess I should have thought that both the witnesses and the materials for that inquiry were already in existence and at hand; and, having regard to the extreme importance in matters of this kind of dealing with them while they are still fresh, and dealing with them so far as you can in an isolated fashion, and not jumbling them up as there is very great reason to fear we shall in one large general inquiry into all the various misadventures and mistakes that have taken place during the war, I press upon the Government and the right hon. Gentleman the importance of the utmost possible promptitude in instituting a special investigation into this particular matter, and putting the House and the country as soon as possible in possession of the facts. If that is done, I do not say that this is the last time we shall have anything of the sort, but a substantial step will have been taken to prevent its recurrence.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
The references that have been made to me by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War, and my hon. friend the Member for the Newport Division of Shropshire, urge me to say one or two words which, however, will not be words of withdrawal or explanation. What I said last Friday I stand by now, and that was that this Committee was what is popularly known in the lobby as a Whitewashing Committee. They commenced operations by largely discounting the public-spirited and patriotic action of my hon. friend the Member for Dulwich. The House on all sides concurred in what the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said. But there is one paragraph in the Report which I confess did astonish me. This Departmental Committee took upon itself to pass a censure upon an hon. Gentleman for words uttered in this House! That is a most unwarrantable liberty; even Committees of this House are actually debarred by resolution from passing any censure on any Members of the House, and, this Committee acted unjustifiably in indulging in the remarks it did, and my opinion remains the same as it was on Friday, that these references were ill-judged.
There was one mistake the Secretary of State for War made in his reference to my remarks. My right hon. friend thought my reference to the Whitewashing Committee included the Imperial Yeomanry Committee. I did not intend to convey any such impression. I was thinking of the South African Committee and the Horse Purchase Committee, and my right hon. friend the Member for Leeds will have to look to his laurels; he will not always have the monopoly of drawing up Reports of this character. The right hon. Gentleman took exception when I said that this House regarded him as the only person responsible. I repeat that statement. Parliament looks to the executive Government of the day; to the responsible Minister representing in Parliament the Department allocated to him. We are not unreasonable enough to hold him personally responsible for any of these proceedings, but he is the person to place the Vote before the House, and 248 he is responsible to us. Otherwise parliamentary control is gone. A Vote has only to be handed over to the Commander-in-Chief or to an Inspector of Remounts, and Parliamentary control disappears.
Now, Sir, with regard to the Report, complaint is made that it was suddenly sprung upon the House a few hours before the debate came on. My right hon. friend thought he had a perfect answer to that complaint when he spoke of private litigation, but that is not an answer, as it reveals that in the ordinary course, this Vote would have come to us and we should have passed it without having this information before us, but for the fact that a private lawsuit had come to an end. We should have been asked for £2,000,000 without knowing the facts. What business had any one to withhold anything from the House, especially if the information was calculated to show up the unbusiness like methods of one of our great Departments. The suggestion must have come from the Whitewashing Committee. and the case is carried no further by saying that there was private litigation of which this House has no cognizance. My right hon. friend talks of law-suits, but I believe he is a litigant personally, in his official capacity, I understand that action is now being taken in respect to a robbery of public funds, and is now before the Irish Courts.
§ MR. BRODRICK
My hon. friend is perhaps aware that the whole onus of this discussion is with regard to what passed in Hungary; the matter before the Irish Courts relates to quite a different subject—horses bought in Ireland.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
I do not admit that in the slightest. This Report deals only with a limited portion of the question, but as I understand it the War Office believes itself to have been robbed in other directions in the same manner as by the Austria-Hungary deal. I know nothing about the Irish case. As regards the Report I do not wish to go into details, but one thing has not been mentioned which is, that the only gentleman I mentioned, the only officer to 249 whom I made any reference is Captain Hartigan. I understand his action is to be the subject of inquiry by the Secretary of State. I think the right hon. Gentleman has dealt very fairly and properly with the matter, and nobody would wish to force his hand on a question with regard to which he is bound to act in a judicial spirit. But there is one phase of Captain Hartigan's connection with this matter which is worth noticing. It appears that Mr. Lewison was introduced to the Imperial Yeomanry authorities by Captain Hartigan, and that he, as the price, not of services rendered—he was paid extra for those—but merely as introducer, was entitled to receive 2½ per cent. commission. It appears later on in the evidence, though at what stage we are not told, that Captain Hartigan informed some of the officials at the Imperial Yeomanry office of this transaction, and he appears to have been modest enough to say that it might perhaps constitute some impediment to the impartial discharge of his duty in the fresh capacity of veterinary officer, in examining into the fitness of 1,500 animals, in regard to each of which he was to receive a commission. But why did the Department not rely on these hints? The presence of the middleman is what I object to in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman is the only spokesman we have for the Imperial Yeomanry Committee, and in this House he is responsible for their proceedings. Why did they not go direct to the contractor instead of encouraging, as they appear to have done at every stage, this system of middlemen? No wonder the money was frittered away. The system of middlemen ought to be discouraged.
In conclusion, I would suggest that the inquiry that we have been promised should be full and complete. Whatever is done it must not be mixed up with the enormous number of complaints with regard to the conduct of the war. In an inquiry of that magnitude it would be lost. I am not bold enough to assign a time for the convening of that Committee or Commission, but I hope that as soon as the materials are at hand, and the excuse of official occupation can no longer be urged with regard to the officers concerned, there will be a search- 250 ing inquiry into these grave abuses, for; the bringing of which to our notice we owe so deep a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Dulwich.
§ (6.50.) CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
The Secretary of State for War has alluded to the speech I made on Friday night as a diatribe. He dismissed it as such, without attempting to answer the accusations I brought forward. What was my broad statement? That in connection with the remounting of the Army in South Africa, there had been mismanagement from, top to bottom. By that statement I stand. I further stated that I could prove my statement up to the hilt from the Report of the Committee. I made no accusation against the right hon. Gentleman; I made no direct charge against any particular officer; but I showed that the entire system had broken down, that the special Department connected with the transactions had not performed its duty to the satisfaction of the country, and that the country had been defrauded, and had lost a large sum of money. Moreover, I urged that there had been bungling, first, as regards the information with reference to the proper fields for obtaining a supply of horseflesh; secondly, with reference to the arrangements for buying the horses; next, with reference to the transports of the animals; and, lastly, most important of all, with reference to the preparation of the horses for going to the front. The Secretary of State alludes to the Yeomanry as though he had no control over and nothing to do with them. That may be the right hon. Gentleman's view of his position, but our view is that we voted a certain sum of money for the purchase of horses, and that it is our duty, in the interests of our constituents, to see that the money was properly spent. Through the hon. Member for Dulwich information came to us that a certain dereliction of duty had taken place, and it was our duty to investigate it.
I said that arrangements were not made to ascertain the proper field from which to obtain a supply of horses. It is well-known that so far as the supply from the Argentine Republic 251 is concerned, the horses were of the worst possible class and, as a result, broke down, and it is well known that the one man who ought to have been consulted in Hungary—the Military Attaché was not consulted. What is more, I should like to know whether the Military Attaché was communicated with from the War Office, whether the War Office took the trouble of instructing the Military Attachè to give all possible information to the officers who went to buy horses in Hungary. Whether they did so or not, we know that the officers did not avail themselves of the valuable services of the Military Attachè, and consequently they dropped into the hands of horse dealers; they were "done," and the country has suffered. Then, an officer was appointed to go out and buy horses, and his only qualification was that at one time he had commanded a cavalry regiment, and that he was a first-class horseman. But he ought to have had with him some one who knew the language of the country, and was in a position to advise him as to the class of men from whom to buy. Sufficient has been said with reference to Captain Hartigan, but, for my part, I protest against one particular officer, and he the junior, being made the scape-goat for the breakdown of the entire department. A very injurious impression has been created, both in the Press and throughout the country, and with good reason, seeing the amount of loss that has been sustained. As to the transport, again and again at the commencement of the campaign I drew attention in this House to the fact that shiploads upon shiploads of horses were being sent from this country and other parts of the world without a veterinary surgeon on board, and that as a result innumerable horses were being lost, and further, that there was no proper staff of veterinary surgeons at the port of debarkation to see that the horses were properly prepared for the front. Not only did many of the horses die within three or four days, but hundreds, nay, thousands of our men were lost because their horses were not able to do their duty. Worse than that, as I pointed out in a previous debate, the failure of the campaign was due to the fact that we had not a sufficient quantity of horseflesh in proper condition to take the field. Had we had proper horses, and 252 a sufficient supply in proper condition, the war would not have continued to this day, because the enemy who escaped from Pretoria would have fallen into the hands of our troops. Again, it is said that the horses bought in Hungary were of the wrong class. Yes, they were, but as to the condemnation of Hungarian horses generally, it is known by all who have had experience that, for the purposes for which these horses were required, there is no better horse to be had than the Hungarian. Therefore, we not only paid far too much per horse, but we did not buy the right class of horse. I fail to see where there could have been a greater amount of bungling. With regard to the passing of the horses, we find that hundreds were passed in a few hours. On one occasion I find, by a short calculation, that these horses were actually passed in two minutes. That was the sort of examination to which the animals were subjected. Everybody knows that it would be a physical impossibility for the most experienced veterinary surgeon to examine satisfactorily even one horse in three minutes. I abide by the statement I made on Friday, and I should be glad if any member of the Front Bench opposite would answer my diatribe, as it has been called, viz., that there has been bungling from start to finish with reference to everything connected with the buying, preparation, and placing in the field of these horses, because I have not heard a single word from any part of the House which traverses one particle of my statement.
§ *(7.0.) MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)
I will not detain the House more than one minute, but I wish to refer to a remark made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife. He referred to the inefficiency of the War Office in this matter, but he went on further to speak of the ignorance of the accredited representatives of the War Office abroad with reference to this question of the supply of horses. We have seen in the Report of this Committee that at any rate the accredited representative of the War Office at Vienna was given no opportunity of showing the knowledge which he possessed of the resources of that country in the matter of horses, and perhaps I may be permitted to call attention to the fact that there was 253 another case of the same kind. I was military attaché at Washington at the beginning of the war, and I was not informed that it was the intention of the War Office to purchase horses in the United States. I found out after some time, through the American newspapers, that officers had been sent out, but I was not informed who they were nor what their instructions were, nor was I asked to give them any assistance. It might be said that I was not a competent person to give assistance in this matter. If that was the case, surely I ought not to have been retained in my position. I think this question calls for a wider inquiry into the purchasing of horses in other countries as well as in Austria. I will say further that, at that time, I had the opportunity of engaging the services for our Government of the chief horse expert of the United States Army as adviser. I cabled this offer to the War Office authorities, but I received no reply, and possibly my cable never got beyond the waste paper basket at the Foreign Office. It may be that the Remount Department did not know that we had a military attaché in Washington. I must confess that there were moments when I had doubts on the subject myself. Anyhow the fact remains that the military attachés in Austria and the United States were not called upon to exercise their functions or to utilise the special experience by which they were fitted for their offices, and I think this is a matter which should be inquired into. There is one point I do not quite understand. The Leader of the House spoke of a larger inquiry which would take place, as it could only take place, at a later period. The Secretary of State for War spoke of the Military Court of Inquiry which I understood would immediately inquire into certain aspects of this question. I wish to know whether it is the intention of the War Office to order that Military Court of Inquiry to assemble at once and go into the whole system of purchasing, because this matter of horse buying is not by any means finished. We have done a good deal in the past, and I hope that no more opportunities than are absolutely necessary will be given for us to be similarly done in the future. I hope that an interim inquiry will be 254 held not only into this Austrian matter but into the whole method of buying horses for remounts in South Africa.
§ (7.4.) MR. LABOUCHERE
I do not wonder that this war is costing us a good deal of money, and that so much is wasted in this extraordinary way, when I hear the Secretary for War express such extraordinary ideas as to what is a reasonable profit made by Mr. Hauser. He said Mr. Hauser was a most valuable man, whose services we ought not to lose because he made a very reasonable profit. Mr. Hauser says in his evidence that the profit to him was between £10 and £12 per horse. We will take the profit at £11. Now the Minister for War has pointed out that we have already bought about half a million horses. Therefore we have to make a very simple calculation to see, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, that these horse dealers have legitimately gained exactly £5,000,000 sterling from us. The right hon. Gentleman says that Mr. Hauser might have lost on these horses, but he is a great deal too clever to lose anything. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the War Office that they are not in it with Mr. Hauser, and he can turn them all round his fingers. Mr. Hauser gave the Committee his own account of these transactions. He bought these horses in hundreds, and the dealers only got their money at the end of the week when the horses had been passed. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman will see that he was wrong in his apology for Mr. Hauser in regard to his profits, in saying that he might have had a good many horses returned to him, and he did not lose one single farthing in this way. The right hon. Gentleman has some most extraordinary ideas in this matter. The Leader of the House said that we ought not to go into this matter now because the Secretary for War was a hard-worked man.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
We are all acquainted with the way in which right hon. Gentlemen on the front Bench opposite puff one another, but we are dealing with horses now and not with Ministers. The Secretary for War says "I am not responsible; I left everything in the hands of the Imperial Yeomanry Committee," and he asks "is there a man who will get up here and say that the Imperial Yeomanry Committee were incompetent?" Yes, there is such a man, and I am that man. I know absolutely nothing about this Imperial Yeomanry Committee except what I have learned from this evidence in the Report. We are asked to believe that a gentleman who has been a Colonel of a Yeomanry Regiment is an exceptionally able man. We have these men dealing with a specific subject, the buying of remounts in Hungary. We test them by results, and they show that a more absolutely incompetent set of men in regard to this particular business never could be found on the face of the earth. They did not pretend to know anything about this business. Colonel Maclean comes across Colonel St. Quintin, who knows a gentleman named Lewison, who keeps race horses. [An Hon. Member: No, he is a horse dealer.] No, he is not a horse dealer, but I will say that he is connected in one of those mysterious ways in which people are connected with horses. I do not make any charge of acting in a dishonourable way against these officers, for I do not think that they took a penny, but I do say that they were stupid and incompetent, judging by the results. There was an Inspector General of Remounts, but he exercised no control over them, and the right hon. Gentleman should exercise general control over them. Are we to say that this sort of thing is to go on without the House of Commons having one vestige of control over the whole thing? If so there will be no one responsible in this House. We are supposed to look into these matters. We are supposed to protest if we think the nation's money is ill-spent, and someone on the Treasury Bench is supposed to take the responsibility. Although the right hon. Gentleman 256 may have been overworked, with the best intentions, we shall make him responsible for every farthing that is asked for of the House of Commons for this purpose.
The righthon. Gentleman has told us that in the dim and distant future there is going to be a general investigation of the whole of this subject. The right hon. Gentleman promised my right hon. friend the Member for Forest of Dean that he would present to the House of Commons, as soon as they were ready, certain reports which were being made with regard to the purchase of horses in different parts of the world. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we are to understand that we are still to have these reports, or whether because he has now promised, in a vague way, a general investigation in the matter; we are no longer to have these reports. I hope before the debate is over we shall have an answer to that. I like to go to the bottom of things. We have heard a great deal about Mr. Hauser, Captain Hartigan, and Mr. Lewison, but I want to know something about the Messrs. Rothschild. Let hon. Gentlemen listen to this. It is at page 52, in the evidence of Captain Hartigan:That was a contract for 1,000 horses?—'Yes.'So that Lewison must have seen a clear profit of more than £7,000 on that 1,000 horses?—He is a shrewd chap. Where I made a mistake was that I did not take the contract myself, but I am a poor man, and I thought you required money. This is what Lewison did. He went to the City to Rothchild's; he borrowed £75,000 that he did not want at all. It never struck me how a poor man could come by that. He came by it in this way. He handed in the contracts, and he never had to draw a penny of that £75,000. Colonel Maclean's room and my room were next to each other, and we wrote notes like this: 'How many horses did you pass to-day?' 'So and so.' Colonel Maclean would write: 'Then I am right in verifying for so and so.' Then he would say, 'Pay into W. W. Lewison's account for '130 horses so much.' That went in every day, and it was paid into his account at Barclay's. He only paid a dealer every week.We have business men in the House, and I would ask any business man what is the nature of this finance? I cannot understand it, and I am surprised that the Committee did not go a little further and ask what this finance meant. What was the relation of Mr. Lewison to the 257 Messrs. Rothschild in this matter? I suppose he went to the Rothschilds when offered the contract himself, and asked for a general letter of credit to show that he was a sound man himself, and got the letter on the understanding that he would not draw upon it, but that he might flash it about and that he might show to everyone that he was connected in some way with that eminent firm. Messrs. Rothschild make no complaint. I have no doubt they conducted their business in a very businesslike fashion. I want to know what did the Messrs. Rothschild get for it. He did not pay interest on the money, for he never took the money. One of two things must have happened. Either the Messrs. Rothschild are handed down a certain sum for this extraordinary letter of credit, or they were partners with Messrs. Lewison in this contract. There is a way of talking about Lewison, Hartigan, and all that sort of people, but there is an evident disposition in this House to shirk these great people. I do not think it is fair to Hartigan and Lewison when they are attacked in this way. Let us understand what is the position of the Messrs. Rothschild. Whenever any contract or money is to be made, the money goes to the clique or coterie in the city, who are generally more or less connected with South African affairs. I hope when the investigations are being made into the conduct of Captain Hartigan, Mr. Hauser and General Truman, an investigation will also be made by the War Office into this most remarkable contract. As it is stated in the evidence, I defy any business man in the House, or anybody else, to explain what it means.
§ (7.20.) MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL
I shall not detain the House more than two minutes in making an observation to the Secretary of State on a point which has been alluded to by the hon. Member for South Hampshire. I consider that there is no real reason why the inquiry should be postponed to the conclusion of the war. The first Lord of the Treasury has said that it would possibly hamper the prosecution of the war. Well, you have had several inquiries already. There has been the 258 inquiry into the purchase of Hungarian horses. I do not suppose that the Secretary of State for War would say that it hindered the prosecution of the war. We have been told that the general officer commanding the Remount Department is to be brought before a Court of Inquiry almost immediately. Will that hamper the prosecution of the war? If so, now is the time for the Secretary of State to withdraw from his determination to institute that inquiry. We have had the Hospitals Committee, and I am not aware that it interfered with the prosecution of the war. It is a matter of common report that the wounded have been much better looked after since then than before. There appears to be little doubt that if an inquiry, not necessarily of an imposing or formal nature, were held into the question of remounts, so far from hampering or hindering the course of the war, it might infuse greater vigour into the prosecution of it.
(7.23.) MR. PHILIPPS (Pembroke)
I think the Government have now realised that a great many people in the country treat this matter very seriously. At the beginning of the war, when some of us spoke on this question we got very short answers indeed from the Government. I remember when the hon. Member for Dulwich made his speech I said the allegations were serious. We had a great display of temper and very little argument from the Treasury Bench. We have got past the time when that sort of answer satisfies the House of Commons, and for the first time to-night, the First Lord of the Treasury has been obliged to get up to defend the Secretary of State for War. He got up to say what an industrious man the Secretary of State for War is. Well, he may be an industrious man. We have got nothing to do with that. What we have to do with is the result, and if the right hon. Gentleman has been buying horses too dear all over the world, it is no answer of the First Lord of the Treasury to say that he has all the virtues, including industry. The First Lord made some curious statements. He said it was ungenerous to attack the War Office.
I do not want to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, but if he looks at the reports to-morrow he will find that he used the word "ungenerous." If it is ungenerous to talk about this question of remounts, it is a form of want of generosity which is common to everybody in this country and to every Tory newspaper. Whenever we have attacks made upon the Government in connection with this matter we are told that it is the system which is to blame. You must not attack anybody definitely. You must not attack the Secretary of State for War—it is the system. This Government, with its different re-constructions, and from time to time a little new blood added but coming usually from one family, has been in office for 13 years. It is true that the Secretary of State for War has not been in the same office all these years, but he was Under Secretary for War when I first became a Member of this House. I want to ask, are we to make nobody responsible? If anybody is responsible, is it not the man who has been at the War Office for ten out of these thirteen years? Is it not time that we had this plan ended of saying that it is not the man, but the system that has been inherited, that is bad? The right hon. Gentleman says, "Oh! the country wanted us to decentralize, they do not want everything done at the War Office, and therefore we appointed the Yeomanry Committee." Yes, but he is put there by a majority in this House. The Secretary of State is responsible for the appointment of competent men. The First Lord of the Treasury said we must not have an inquiry now, because it would interrupt the war. Sometimes we are told that the war is ended, and then when we want an inquiry we are told that it will interrupt the war. How can it interrupt the war if an inquiry is held in regard to the manner in which horses are bought for the war? Mr. Allison, who is a prominent man and an authority in connection with horse flesh, has exposed the system on which horses were being bought in England and in the Argentine, and I venture, to say that the scandal revealed is quite as great, 260 perhaps greater, than that in connection with the horses bought in Hungary. We have had certain very remarkable revelations as the result of the inquiries of this Committee. The right hon. Gentleman below the gangway has called it a "Whitewashing Committee," and if it be not that, I do not know what it is. The Committee consisted of four gentlemen and a secretary. Of these five individuals one was a gentleman holding a non-official appointment in the War Office, and two were relatives of members of the Government; but even such a Committee could not whitewash the action of the Government. I do think, from his own point of view, that the First Lord of the Treasury is wise in refusing a Committee, for if this whitewashing Committee painted the Government as black as they did, what would happen if an impartial Committee was appointed? It has been a matter of notoriety in South Africa that the horses were bad, and the Committee revealed an atrocious scandal; and I think it does not show great bravery on the part of the Government that they should definitely refuse to allow any further inquiry to be held.
§ (7.32.) LORD ALWYNE COMPTON Bedfordshire, Biggleswade)
I do not know under what system the remounts for South Africa were purchased, nor do I know where they were taken from. But there is another side to the question. I had the opportunity of making observations at the other end of the road, and of seeing the horses in South Africa. In the course of my duty I had to disembark a whole shipload, numbering a thousand, of these horses, and I also saw the Remount Department at work at Bloemfontein, at Kroonstadt, and later on in Natal. The impression left on my mind, after reading this Report, is that the system of the Remount Department was a bad one. I am also convinced that the system of dealing with horses up country was likewise bad. I do not say this in any spirit of carping criticism. I am not prepared to say that the war is over, although I hope it will be over soon. I think this is the time that we should take the lesson to heart; and I should like to 261 urge that some kind of investigation should immediately be made, and the production of an interim Report should not be delayed. I wish to make one other point, and it is this: It has always been the custom in this House when anything wrong has been revealed in connection with the War Office, that the blame has invariably been attached to the civil side of the War Office. It seems to me that in this particular instance it is the military side that is entirely to be blamed. I have no doubt that the selection of General Truman was a particularly good one, and, as to the Yeomanry Committee, the appointment of Colonel St. Quintin was also a particularly good one, because he had had much experience of the Remount Department in India. But all the members of the Committee were very much to blame, and I am for their bearing the blame. I think that a strong Committee of Investigation should be appointed, and report forthwith, before, it is too late, and before we sit down with folded hands and forget all about the matter.
§ (7.38.) MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal S.)
I have three observations to make, and will only occupy the time of the House for three minutes. The first thing I have to ask the House—not so much the country—is to watch and think well over the progress of this debate. The Secretary of State for War made on Friday night no fewer than four speeches, each one contradictory of the other; and he began the debate this evening on Report of Supply with a fifth speech—an unheard-of thing on the part of the Minister. That shows the difficulties under which that good and industrious man labours. Then we had a high-falutin speech from the noble Lord his assistant; and, finally, we have had a speech from the First Lord of the Treasury. The First Lord is a great supporter of his friends, but when he got up and praised the Secretary for War as an Admirable Crichton, and the personification of all the virtues, he forgot that that right hon. Gentleman was receiving £5,000 a year for his work; and he must have noticed that his triumphant periods were received with very lukewarm applause 262 from his own Benches. I would ask the First Lord not to give the right hon. Gentleman too much credit for his industry. The right hon. Gentleman may be very industrious, but he has not sufficient abilities for his position, and that is also the opinion of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen below the gangway. I would advise the First Lord to ask the right hon. Gentleman to relax some of his industry. He has now the War Office on his shoulders, and the burden of 250,000 men in South Africa. Let the good man relax his industry for the benefit of society and of this kingdom, to which his precious life is so valuable; and also give up two or three of the directorships he holds while still retaining a seat in the Cabinet.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
You do hold a directorship, Sir. You may have shed some of them, but you hold one, and it is one too many. [Cries of "Question."] Ah!—it is too much to the question for the dinnerparty opposite. I have another observation to make. There is a vast deficiency in this debate. We have had the First Lord with great eloquence praising the genius of the Secretary for War, five speeches from the Secretary for War, and one speech from the noble Lord, his assistant; but another occupant of the Treasury Bench, who knows all about these transactions, has been conspicuous by silence, although he has been listening to the debate with an interest equal to that of an "Irish removable." I am anxious that the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who was Under Secretary for War during these transactions, should give us his opinions of Lewison and the rest of the contractors. There is one thing more I have to say. This debate has mainly turned upon the question of horses and remounts, and the precautions which the War Office ought to have taken to have the troops properly and well mounted. The first Lord of the Treasury, whose memory is not extremely vivid in reference to details, forgot to mention that when the war began, in October 1899, offers came from the Colonies to the 263 War Office of assistance, and the War Office replied that no horses were required at all. These are the industrious people banded together by ties of family and blood! I do not want to throw a stone at an arbitrarily constituted tribunal, but I will say that I have as much faith in the findings of this Committee as in those of the South African Committee. There will be no doubt about my vote. I will vote against the Report of Supply; and I believe
§ that two-thirds of the Gentlemen who will vote for it, owing to Party discipline, will say in their hearts that the Ministers are grossly incompetent, and that they wish to God they could get rid of them.
§ (7.45.) Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 226; Noes, 64. (Division List, No. 12).265
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Davenport, William Bromley-||Keswick, William|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Kimber, Henry|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Dickson, Charles Scott||King, Sir Henry Seymour|
|Allen, C. P. (Glouc., Stroud)||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Kinloch, Sir John Geo. Smyth|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Dorington, Sir John Edward||Lambton, Hon. Frederick W.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lawson, John Grant|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham)|
|Asher, Alexander||Duke, Henry Edward||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Dunn, Sir William||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Austin, Sir John||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Leveson-Gower, Fredk, N. S.|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart||Llewellyn, Evan Henry|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Fardell, Sir T. George||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds)||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Mancr||Lowther, Rt. Hon. James (Kent)|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Finch, George H.||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)|
|Beach, Rt. Hon. Sir Michael H.||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Fisher, William Hayes||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Bignold, Arthur||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||M'Crae, George|
|Black, Alexander William||Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W.||M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh W.)|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Fuller, J. M. F.||M'Kenna, Reginald|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Furness, Sir Christopher||Manners, Lord Cecil|
|Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex)||Gardner, Ernest||Martin, Richard Biddulph|
|Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.|
|Brassey, Albert||Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn||Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriessh.|
|Brigg, John||Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Milvain, Thomas|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Gordon, Maj. Evans-(T'rH'mlts||Molesworth, Sir Lewis|
|Brown, Alex. H. (Shropshire||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-(Linc.)||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.)|
|Brown, Geo. M. (Edinburgh)||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow)|
|Butcher, John George||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Caine, William Sproston||Greene, Sir E. W. (B'ry S Edm'ds||Morrison, James Archibald|
|Caldwell, James||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Morton, Arth. H. A. (Deptford)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edwd. H.||Halsey, Thomas Frederick||Moulton, John Fletcher|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hambro, Charles Eric||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Hamilton, Rt Hn Ld. G. (Midd'x||Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Harris, Frederick Leverton||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm.||Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Chapman, Edward||Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.||Pemberton, John S. G.|
|Charrington, Spencer||Heaton, John Henniker||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Higginbottom, S. W.||Pilkington, Lt.-Col. Richard|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Hoare, Sir Samuel||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Hogg, Lindsay||Plummer, Walter R.|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Holland, William Henry||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Hope, J. F. (Sh'ffield, Brightside||Price, Robert John|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Hoult, Joseph||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Howard, J. (Midd. Tottenham)||Purvis, Robert|
|Craig, Robert Hunter||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Randles, John S.|
|Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Rankin, Sir James|
|Crossley, Sir Savile||Kenyon, Hon. Geo. T. (Denbigh)||Rea, Russell|
|Reid, James (Greenock)||Stanley, Edward J. (Somerset)||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Remnant, James Farquharson||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Rickett, J. Compton||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M 'Taggart||Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts.)|
|Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge||Stone, Sir Benjamin||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Strachey, Sir Edward||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Stroyan, John||Whiteley, Geo. (York, W. R.)|
|Ropner, Colonel Robert||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Round, James||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J.G. (Oxf'd Uni.||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Royds, Clement Molyneux||Tennant, Harold John||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Rutherford, John||Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-||Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)||Thorburn, Sir Walter||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)||Thornton, Percy M.||Wylie, Alexander|
|Seton-Karr, Henry||Tollemache, Henry James||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Sharpe, William Edward T.||Tomkinson, James||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Simeon, Sir Barrington||Tritton, Charles Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE AYES,—|
|Sinclair, Louis (Romford)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)||Ure, Alexander|
|Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.)||Labouchere, Henry||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Ambrose, Robert||Lloyd-George, David||Pickard, Benjamin|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Lundon, W.||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Bell, Richard||MacDonnell, Dr Mark A.||Reddy, M.|
|Blake, Edward||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Redmond, John E. (Waterford|
|Boland, John||M'Govern, T.||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Burns, John||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Roche, John|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Mooney, John J.||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Murphy, John||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Cream, Eugene||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Shipman, Dr John G.|
|Cullinan, J.||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Sullivan, Donal|
|Dillon, John||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Thomas, J. A. (Gl'm'rg'n, Gower|
|Doogan, P. C.||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||White, Patrick (Meath, North|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Ffrench, Peter||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Flyen, James Christopher||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)|
|Gilhooly, James||O'Dowd, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES,—|
|Hayden, John Partick||O'Kelly, Jas. (Roscommon N.)||Captain Norton and Captain Donelan.|
|Jordan, Jeremiah||O'Malley, William|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Mara, James|