§ *MR. BECKETT (Yorkshire, N. R., Whitby)
said that in moving the Amendment which stood in his name, he was giving expression to the opinion entertained not only by many members of that House, but by almost everybody outside. To every one who had followed the signs of the times it could not but be apparent that the policy of the War Office would be seriously challenged; and it was only right and fitting that this strong disapproval should find utterance in the House of Commons. It was not agreeable—indeed, it was intensely disagreeable—to find oneself in opposition to a Government which one desired to support, and he wished, therefore, to make it perfectly clear that he was attacking the policy, not of the Government, but of a Department; not the administration of affairs in general, but the administration of the Army in particular; and in doing this he ran counter to no Unionist principles whatever; he claimed to be as sound and loyal a Conservative as any hon. Member who might rise in the course of that debate to defend the system. His task was not rendered easier by the fact that the head of the Department attacked was a friend of over twenty years standing, for whom he had the warmest regard, and whose excellent and admirable qualities he held in the highest esteem. But when one saw a friend embarking on a course which must lead to disaster, it was the part of a friend to give warning of the danger, and to attempt to divert him into another course, at the end of which was to be found success. He appreciated the great difficulties with which his right hon. friend had had to deal, and the zeal and energy with which he had tried to cope with them. But the 516 measure of his difficulties had been the measure of his opportunities. No man had ever had greater opportunities, but he regretted to say that, from their point of view, those opportunities had been unhappily used or deplorably neglected; and, instead of putting the Army on a new and efficient basis, the right hon. Gentleman had produced a scheme unsound in priniciple and ruinous in practice.
He would endeavour to make good his words without going into more detail than was absolutely necessary It was high time that the nation took stock of its position. They had made great efforts and great sacrifices, and they seriously needed a period of rest and recuperation. He remembered, just before the war broke out, attending a bankers' dinner at which Lord Salisbury was present, and addressed a serious warning to the nation, telling them they were in danger of doing what men of business called "trading beyond their capital"—that they were in danger of undertaking obligations they would not beable to meet, and assuming responsibilities greater than they were able to bear. If that warning was needed then, how much more was it needed now, when we had spent over £200,000,000 sterling in South Africa. The war was over, but the consequences remained, as they were unpleasantly reminded every time the tax-gatherer knocked at their doors. The taxpayer urgently required relief; but taxation could only be reduced if expenditure were reduced, and reduction of expenditure was naturally looked for where it had most largely increased, viz., on the Army. Every one would agree that if for two-thirds of the present cost the country could have a thoroughly efficient Army which would meet all the needs of the Empire, it was the duty of the Minister for War to provide such an Army. His proposition was that for twenty millions of money we could have an Army better suited than the one which now existed to meet all the needs of the Empire. Before he asked for thirty millions of money, it was the business of the Secretary of State for War to show to show that the present force was needed; that every man was absolutely necessary, and could not be dispensed with, 517 and he had never attempted to do that. The nation wanted to know what were the needs of the Empire, and what sort of Army was required for their defence. The nation was conscious of extravagant expenditure with inadequate results, and wanted sufficient security at a reasonable cost. They wanted to know what purposes the Army was intended to serve, and how much was to be spent on it. This information had been given to the authorities at Pall Mall, or it had not. If it had, then the nation which had to pay was entitled to be informed what it had to pay for, and why it had to pay so much. If it had not, then the military authorities had been organising in a haphazard fashion for an uncertain object, and no wonder, then, that the result had been something like chaos.
There had been no authoritative statement as to the views of the authorities as to the requirements from the Army except that issued by Mr. Stanhope in a Memorandum issued in the year 1891. It was a rather interesting document, but he did not propose to read it to the House. He would content himself with reading a paragraph—It will be distinctly understood that the employment of Army Corps in the field in any European war is sufficiently improbable to make it the primary duty of the military authorities to organise efficiently our forces for defence.Therefore, according to that Memorandum, our primary duty was to organise our forces efficiently for the defence of the country. The outcome of that view was this scheme of six Army Corps. He thought it would be rather interesting if they could ever find out what was the genesis and conception of the Six Army Corps scheme. How was it that the Secretary for War managed to hit on this scheme? Was it adopted after long consultation with the officials at the War Office? Was it subjected to careful examination and minute criticism? Were those responsible for the efficiency of the Army called into consultation, and did they pronounce a blessing upon it? He understood nothing of the kind took place. He understood that the War Office repudiated the paternity of this scheme. They always thought it a very remark- 518 able performance on the part of Jupiter when, after pains in the head, he produced from his brain Minerva, fully armed and equipped; but that performance sank into insignificance compared to that of the Secretary for War, who, after a few days' pains in his head, produced six Army Corps, armed and equipped, ready for everything except war.
He had several objections to this Army Corps scheme. His first objection was that it was based on a wrong principle; his second was that it was not fitted for the real needs of the country; his third was that it was enormously costly; his fourth was that it did not remove the defects which the war in South Africa so clearly revealed; his fifth was that it was not adapted to the conditions of service in this country; and the sixth was that it had no real existence. He ventured to say that the defence of this country was the primary duty, first of the Navy and next of its citizens. Our history and our position alike indicated this policy to us. It was not for nothing that we were hemmed round by the inviolate sea, on which floated the most powerful Navy in the world. If our position compelled us to maintain our Navy at an overwhelming strength, it relieved us from the necessity of maintaining a large Army to guard our frontiers, for our frontiers were the sea, and these could only be properly guarded by the Navy. If the War Office contended, as he understood they did. that our Navy did not defend us efficiently, that was an argument for strengthening our Navy. not for strengthening our Army; and therefore he absolutely endorsed the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife, when he said that an Army organised for home defence was a costly, wasteful and foolish luxury. His right hon. friend the Secretary for War asked, if we lost temporary command of the sea, whether we should allow the country to be despoiled by our foes. This meant that we were asked to spend £30,000,000 annually because moments might occur, wnich, if they did not occur, would be absolutely thrown away. No wise nation will strain its resources, cripple its finances, and saddle itself with a huge burden of taxation merely to provide against a contingency that had 519 not occurred for a thousand years, and which was never likely to occur again. What did the temporary loss of the command of the sea mean? It meant that either the Navy was temporarily disabled or was lured away to other parts of the globe. Did any one imagine that under these circumstances any foreign foe would dare to land a force on these shores, which might be shut up and caught like rats in a trap? It was Moltke who said that, in such a contingency, he knew of twenty ways of getting into England, but not one of getting out. We need not, he thought, be afraid of a temporary raid.
We ought to rely far more than the War Office had done hitherto on the citizens of this country. We had never appealed to the people of England in the right way; and if we did not appeal to them in the right way we could not expect them to do what we wanted them to do. He believed that if appealed to in the right way we should get such a response as would astonish the gentlemen at the War Office, and would show that the people of England were not so dead to their duty and interest as these gentlemen believed. We had the raw material for the finest and cheapest citizen Army that the world had ever seen, and, properly trained and organised, they could repel with ease any temporary raid, which, indeed, would never be attempted. It was common knowledge that the Volunteer force had been discouraged by the War Office; and that men had been driven out of that force because the War Office had laid down regulations with which it was impossible for Volunteer Officers to comply. The Volunteers might not be fully trained—as he would show that the Regular Army was not properly trained; but he maintained that an imperfectly trained Volunteer was a better man for defence of the country than a citizen not trained at all. It was not only on the Volunteers that the course pursued by the War Office had had a most pernicious effect, but also on the defence forces in the Colonies. He had a letter from a General in Australia who was in a position to know, and who said that—The main obstacle to the organisation of the forces of the Colonies of Australia was the odium in which the War Office was held.520 And here he would like to make a quotation from Lord Roberts who, in an article, said—What are really required for England, are two Armies—a home Army, and a foreign service Army. The former should consist, I conceive, of some sort of Militia, and this should be our reserve. The latter should always be in the most perfect state of efficiency, ready to take the field in our distant possessions upon the shortest possible notice.A large Regular Army for home defence was not mentioned in that definition; and when the Commander-in-Chief talked of operations abroad he referred to our distant possessions. He never contemplated that our Regular Army should ever be employed on the Continent. He was not going to discuss the question of Canada. Of what use would two Army Corps be in America? If we had to contend with America, we would have to put the whole nation into the field. It might be said that a large Regular Army would be required on the Indian frontier. He knew something about our Indian frontier, and he thought that this idea of an invasion of India by Russia was a good deal of a bugbear. A Russian officer had said to him—In the first place, no one contemplates invading India. It is true we bring pressure upon your Indian frontier when we want to get something out of you in other parts of the world. We do not seriously contemplate the invasion of India, because, in the first place, we do not want India, and in the second place, because it would be impossible.We knew that, armed as we were with modern weapons and smokeless powder, it would be impossible for an invading Army to get through the passes. Then we also knew that until Quetta, on whose fortification so much had been spent, was taken, it would be perfectly impossible for Russia to march on India. All that would be needed would be to strengthen the Indian garrison from home, and it would not require a great Army to do that. And here he would quote from what President Roosevelt, of the United States, had said only the other day, which exactly expresses our ideal of what the English Army ought to be—The [American] Army is small, and it is not desirable that it should be other than small relatively to the population, but we have a right to expect that it shall represent for its size the very highest point of efficiency in the civilised world.521 Whatever else could be said about it, the great increase in the expenditure on our Army was a fact, open, gross and palpable to the eyes and pockets of all men. He maintained that the Army was not only unsuited to our needs, but enormously costly. The increase of expenditure was very great. He would take the year 1880, in which he had a particular interest because the father of the present Financial Secretary to the War Office was then Secretary for War. At that time the total expenditure on the Army was £14,980,000, and that was just after the Zulu War and the Afghan War, and shortly before and after we were ready to go to war with Russia. In the year 1899 the expenditure was £20,617,000. That was the year before the Boer War. And now the expenditure had risen to £29,310,000—an expenditure which was out of all proportion to the increase of our population and to the increase of our trade. The Government said that that increase of expenditure was inevitable. Well, let them prove it to be inevitable. We had no evidence of the fact. There was a point beyond which expenditure could not go, for the simple reason that the taxpayers of the country would rebel against it. Moreover—and he strongly urged this consideration—it might be that in indulging in this inflated expenditure we were running the risk of provoking a reaction which might lead to a dangerous parsimony. He held that the distribution of expenditure upon the Army and Navy required reconsideration, though he need not dwell on that, because it was admitted by everybody that the predominant position of the Navy must be accepted, and that the Army should be supplemental to the Navy.
His contention was that for such increased expenditure no adequate result had been obtained, although glaring defects had been revealed. Would those defects be removed under the scheme of the Secretary of State for War? When he called attention to defects in the Army he must be understood as making no reflection whatever on the officers and men, who did their duty so gallantly in the field. The defects to which he referred were mainly due to three causes—the lack of foresight, the lack of organisation, and the lack of training. Nothing had been thought out before the early disasters of the war in South Africa, 522 and no proper preparations had been made to meet what was called and "inevitable war." Recently the Prime Minister stated—and his announcement created a great deal of interest in the country—that the Council of Defence had been reconstituted. Of course the reconstitution was proof, if proof were needed, that the previous Council of Defence was a farce and a failure. Yet, they should remember that before the previous Council of Defence there was the prospect of an inevitable war which it would have been thought would have been a sufficient inducement and stimulus to bring the members of the Council together in order to deliberate and consult and prepare for the war. What assurance had the House of Commons that without any such stimulus or inducement the Council of Defence would rice to any higher conception of its duties. He sincerely hoped and believed that it would; but their good faith in the matter was of the substance of things hoped for, and based on the evidence of things unseen. He observed one deficiency in the composition of the Council. He thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be a member of it. The members who composed it had one eye on the sea and one on shore, but they had to have their eyes constantly on the Exchequer. Therefore the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be a member of the Council in order to measure its schemes by the sound standard of pounds, shillings, and pence. He himself wanted to know what the Council of Defence thought of the present Army scheme, and he asked the Prime Minister if he would regard the scheme with an open mind. The Prime Minister replied that he regarded all questions with an open mind, in which he himself fully concurred. At the same time he wished to know whether his right hon. friend would regard the Army scheme in particular with an open mind, as it involved a large expenditure of money if the Army Corps were to be put on a more stable, or less unstable, foundation. Ministers would tell the House of Commons next year that the country was committed to the scheme, but they now wanted the Council of Defence to examine the scheme before the country was committed to it, and they desired an assurance from the Prime Minister that, if needs be, the six Army 523 Corps would be thrown into the melting pot. Were the politicians on the Council to dictate to the soldiers or sailors, or were the soldiers or sailors to dictate to the politicians? If the Cabinet wanted the plans of the soldiers or the sailors they could always have them; and the fact that the plans were submitted to the Council of Defence did not add any new feature to its composition, or give any new assurance of its effective working.
After all, the Council of Defence could only examine and dispose of schemes of attack and defence on the intelligence supplied to it by the Intelligence Department, and the Intelligence Department could only supply intelligence if it were properly and efficiently manned. At the present moment the Intelligence Department of the War Office was very much undermanned, and it was practically impossible for it to discharge the work committed to it. When they read an official definition of the duties to be performed by one man over countries extending almost from China to Peru, and including preparations for attack in each country, plans for the defence of the colonies, the co-ordination and distribution of the military forces of the Crown, to imagine that they could be efficiently performed by one man was to imagine an absurdity. In America, the first thing they did was to create a well - paid staff. But then America believed in brains; they in England did not believe in brains. They believed in collecting specials, flat-foots, weedy boys and a whole host of undesirables, and paying them large sums of money, while they starved the brains department. Information was the last thing the War Office wanted, and all the information that came to them was suspect, unless it was tied up with red tape, and stamped with the official seal. In fact, it might have been written over the door of the War Office, "Information not wanted here." Then, lack of organisation would exist under the new scheme no less than under the old. They had it on the highest authority that at the outbreak of the war the Army was not organised for war. That was perfectly evident, because, when the Army was called upon, not one single battalion or battery was ready to take the field. What would have happened if the Boers had pushed on in South Africa, and if no Volunteers 524 were forthcoming, he shrank from contemplating. It would, however, have been a disaster of the first magnitude to the British Empire. The truth was that the Army was not organised, and would not be organised, for war, because the Army scheme was based on fallacy. It was entirely dependent on the exact maintenance of an equality between units at home and abroad, which was impossible. With reference to that, Lord Wolseley said:—The moment that basis broke down the whole system is thrown out of gear, and it becomes impossible to maintain the system or organisation which was created and based on that principle.That was to say that when war broke out the system broke down. He would make a frank admission to the Secretary of State for War—that his Army Corps were as perfect as he doubtless would make them out to be, provided they were not asked to go anywhere or do anything. It was true that in spite of their lack of organisation they muddled through. A Minister of the Crown the other day said that it did not matter whether they muddled through as long as the British Empire came out uppermost. That was an unfortunate doctrine, and when a Minister of the Crown talked like that he was extremely ill-advised. For his part he said that the country was getting tired of a policy of mess, muddle, and make-believe. It wanted to see its work well, thoroughly and efficiently done. But it was hopeless to expect organisation in the Army until the War Office, which was the head and front of the offending, had been organised itself. Commissions sat again and again to examine into the defects of the War Office. They laid their fingers on the same defects and made pretty well the same recommendation, but the War Office went its way unheeding. If he might parody a well-known verse, he would say—They hear Commissions thunder pastIn silent, deep disdain;They bow their heads before the blast,Then plunge in tape again.They had heard a good deal about decentralisation, which was a very good thing if they could get it; but inquiries in the Army Corps districts showed that there was no more decentralisation under the new scheme 525 than there was under the old. The War Office lay like a nightmare on the chest of the Army.
A Commission had been appointed to inquire into the training of officers. He did not know whether its recommendations had been adopted; but if they had not, it was quite time they were. He did not blame the officers; it was perfectly obvious they could not train men unless they had men to train. Even from the battalions which had been referred to as "squeezed lemons" there were deductions for foreign drafts, special duties, employment in regimental workshops, etc. It was not surprising in such circumstances that there was a universal complaint that commanding officers never saw their battalions, or company officers their companies, because there were neither battalions nor companies to see. The depots were too few, and required instructors. They would have to be increased in number, and efficient instructors would have to be appointed. The men were taken away from the depots before they were properly trained; and, to quote a military officer of great experience, "to expect efficiency under such a system was to expect a miracle." Yet the nation was asked to expend £30,000,000 on expenditure from which to expect efficiency was to expect a miracle. The result of the system was that they could not carry on even a small war without calling out the Reserves to form part of the fighting line. One of the most urgent needs, as was undoubtedly and universally admitted, was that we should have a small expeditionary force that could be sent anywhere at a moment's notice, without mobilisation, and without calling Parliament together. The Army Corps system did not give this force, and could not give it so long as the system of linked battalions remained. With regard to the linked battalion system he would like to quote objections to which that was open. Lord Roberts said:—As a rule, the battalion in which a man first makes his home is the one he will like best to the end of his service, and constant and compulsory change, or even a liability to such change, does more to make a soldier dislike the Army and kill the esprit de corps that used to exist than anything else.526 The Army Corps were founded on this very system. Coming to the Army Corps themselves, what and where were these Army Corps? They were on a large piece of paper it was true, but were they anywhere else? He remembered when the Secretary of State for War, two years ago, came down, like the poet, "with his eye in fine frenzy rolling," to give to these six "airy nothings a local habitation and a name." He did not intend to quote figures—he could quote figures to any extent—but those figures would, no doubt, be objected to by the War Office, while any figures quoted by the War Office would be objected to by their critics. All that he would say was that if anybody wanted to satisfy himself as to whether these Army Corps existed, and in what state, that person had better go to the headquarters of the Army Corps and see for himself. One industrious journalist had gone about looking for a mission Army Corps. He reminded one of those patient, persevering savants who perambulated the globe in search of the missing ling. They might find a skull and a bone or two, but they never discovered the entireman, and he predicted that a similar failure would await any one who tried to discover an entire Army Corps. Even if an entire Army Corps were found, his arguments was not affected in the least; in fact it was, if anything, strengthened, because the more complete it was, the more money it would cost. And not only must the number of men in these Army Corps be considered, but also what proportion of them were efficient soldiers. The figures of the War Office were largely open to suspicion on this point; because, though the House was told at the commencement of the war in South Africa that we had 109, 000 men, it turned out subsequently, according to the statement of the Secretary of State for War, that 92,000 of them were not fit to take the field.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
That was contradicted by Lord Lansdowne, and entirely disproved.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I can also quote. Lord Lansdowne denied it, and said an interpretation was put upon his wouds that they did not bear.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
Lord Lansdowne showed that at that very moment more than half of them were available.
§ *MR. BECKETT
That is quite enough for me, Sir. Continuing, the hon. Member said he did not object to the country being divided up into six districts, nor did he object to the Army for home defence being divided into Army Corps, but he strongly objected to Army Corps, whether complete or incomplete, for the reason that they were extremely costly; the work of the staff was extremely costly, the work which was now being dome by a general at £4,000 a year being that which in the past was done by a general at £800 a year. This Army Corps system also blocked the way to Army reform; they would never get Army reform until these Army Corps were swept away, root and branch. It increased the numbers of numbers of nominal soldiers without increasing the efficiency of the fighting units, and considering the fact that our military service was totally different from any continental system, he thought there was great danger in adopting continental systems. Continental nations had to defend a compact territory, whilst we had to defend widely-scattered dominions. They trusted for their defence to an Army; we trusted for our defence to a Navy. An Army Corps in England stretches from Dover to plymouth, from the Isle of Wight to Pembrokeshire, and, spread over so wide a country, it cannot be organised, manœuvered or trained as a fighting unit. The Army Corps system on the Continent was intended to facilitate the handling of large masses of men. We were not called upon to handle such numbers, and if the House considered the nature of our requirements and the probabilities of the future, they would see that not once in 100 times would an entire Army Corps be required. A great part of these Army Corps were composed of auxiliaries, which would be withdrawn from them at once if required to serve 528 outside this country; and even if the Army Corps were complete they could not be moved en masse to the frontiers; they would be broken up when they were put on board ship, and as each ship reached the other side the men would be marched to the front as they arrived, and an Army Corps would therefore never take the field, except in a fragmentary condition. There was only one place in which an Army Corps could be manœuvred, and that was South Africa, and if one were sent out there it might be a useful thing. If the Government sent out 20,000 men, as they proposed to do, to south Africa, they still had to keep the linked battalions at home; but if an Army Corps were sent out, and it were put on the home estabishment, they had not to provide linked battalions for it. As a matter of fact the whole thing hung upon the recruiting, and upon this he would quote what General Russell said:—The recruiting difficulty is at the bottom of all our Army troubles and embarrassments; it is the principal cause of our great expenditure in proportion to results as compared with foreign armies. It hampers our Army training; it impairs our efficiency; it imposes endless trammels on the hands of our officials connected with Army administration, be they military or civilian, in that it is the great difficulty we have to solve, and until solved all so-called schemes of Army reform must be in the future, as they have been in the past, snares and delusions.The difficulty of the recruiting arose from the fact that they wanted more man than the country was willing to supply, and the War Office proposed to solve this difficulty by asking for more still. The normal amount of men available was 25,000, and when more then this number was required then the pay had to be increased, which was a good thing, and the standard had to be lowered, which was bad. He also thought that during the war the War Office lost a great opportunity. The one thing this war had shown was the value of intelligence and character and men of intelligence and character could only be attracted by improving the conditions of service and raising the pay, but we were still recruiting from the same class as before. Upon this point he would just quote the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting:—Besides this, the annual net desertions—it is no use blinking the fact—amount to about 2,500; and the total wastage of men per annum 529 amounts to something like 50 per cent. of the annual contingent. Thus it is no exaggeration to say that of the 35,000 recruits who should annually arrive in fit physical condition to keep our Army up to its normal and sufficient strength, we only get about half the number of good men; the rest are mere expensive trash.The Government were packing their Army Corps with "expensive trash," and then come down to this House and boast of their success in raising recruits. He wished to point out the dilemma in which the War Office had landed themselves. The men enlisted for three years, with power to extend their service, in which case they would receive an extra sixpence. The idea was, he supposed, to pass as many men as possible into the Reserve many men as possible into the Reserve. But they could not pass men into the Reserve and provide men for the foreign drafts at the same time. If a sufficient number of men were not induced by this extra sixpence to extend their term of service the War Office would be absolutely unable to furnish their foreign drafts and the whole system came to the ground. It was a gamble on a sixpence; the whole fate of the British Empire turned upon a sixpence. Here he would mention a quotation from an article by Lord Roberts:—We are sacrificing our Army to obtain a Reserve.… Any attempt to make the Foreign Service Army subservient to the Reserve must end in failure, and I confidently predict, in disgrace and disaster.
§ *MR. BECKETT
said that in any case it was repeated on Lord Roberts' authority in 1900. But he might be asked—"What is your scheme? You propose to pull down; how do you propose to build up?" He submitted that in his diagnosis of the disease he had sufficiently indicated the nature of the remedy that he would suggest. In any case, it was not his present business to propound the remedy. Once the principle was accepted, the details Would fall into their proper places. If his right hon. friend did him the honour to consult him, he would give him a broad outline of the details of his scheme, but the present was not the time or place to produce them. That scheme had been 530 adopted after careful consideration of the circumstances, and the most severe criticism by skilled experts; its supporters did not trust to their own wisdom. He wished the question could be decided on its merits, unexposed to the undertow of Party currents. It was a national issue of the highest importance, and these were issues in which the crack of the Party whip ought not to be heard or, if heard, disregarded. No doubt the Prime Minister, in eloquent and moving terms, would make an appeal to his followers, and such was the charm the right hon. Gentleman invariably exercised, that he had no doubt that appeal would not be make in vain. He (the speaker), however, appealed not to Party, but to a principle—the principle that there were times when it was the duty of every Member of the House to let national interests over-ride Party obligations. There was not one of their trusted leaders, either past or present, who had not, at one or another period of his career, acted on that principle, and what had been right for them in the past could not be wrong for us in the present.
He therefore asked the House to vote against the scheme of his right hon. friend on the following grounds: that it involved a huge expenditure without adequate result; that its cost, compared with that of the Navy, was altogether out of proportion to the national requirements from the two services; that it annually demanded a huge sum of money which ought either to be saved to the taxpayers or spent on the Navy; that its organisation was not adapted to the work it had to do, and would infallibly break down under the crucial test of war; that it did not provide an expeditionary force or a real reserve; that it was unsuited to hte protection of the Empire and was no safeguard against the invasion of this country; that it was too small to contend with the conscript armies of the Continent, and too large for expeditionary purposes in distant parts fo hte world; that it failed to remove the defects rendered apparent by the late war, and left untouched the great organisation in which those defects had their source and origin; that its numbers did not exist except on paper, 531 and could not be obtained except at an inordinate cost; in a word, that it was unsound in principle, ruinous in practice, and ought to be swept away, abandoned, and replaced by another scheme under which the country would have a force which would meet and fulfil the requirements of the Empire, without laying too great a burden on the resources of the nation.
§ *MAJOR SEELY (Isle of Wight)
, in seconding the Amendment, said that Members on his side of the House fully realised the gravity of speaking and voting for this Amendment to the Address, but they were taking their present course because they believed the matter to be above and beyond all Party considerations. Their objections to the proposals of the Secretary of State were not as to details, but were fundamental, and ought not to be in any way affected by Party. He entirely dissociated himself from any personal attack upon any man, except in so far as that man was identified with the system embodying such faulty principles. The strong step of moving this Amendment, and carrying it to a division, was being taken because its supporters believed that the faulty principles to which he referred would end by landing the country in national disaster. They had not forgotten that only two and a half years ago that national disaster seemed very near, and they believed that the policy now being pursued, so far from leading towards a solution of the difficulties, was making it more likely that if troubles arose in future we should be even less prepared to meet them than in the past. As a humble student of military affairs, he supported the Amendment on four main grounds. The first was that the country was now committed to spending as much on the Army as on the Navy. In this year's Estimates the amount for the Army was slightly less than that for the Navy, but by the present scheme more would have to be spent on the Army than on the Navy.
§ MAJOR SEELY
thought the right hon. Gentleman would find that when he had all his forces complete, the cost would amount to more than was being spent on the Navy. In declaring this to be an unsound policy, he did not quite agree with the mover of the Amendment in saying that if the Navy were supreme we required no Army at all at home. He thought that that was not a sound thesis.
§ *MAJOR SEELY
believed it would be a disastrous day for this country if such a view obtained. He understood his hon. friend's view to be that the defence of the country must be entrusted, not to a Regular Army, paid all the year round, but to a body of citizens who received only the few shillings that they were paid during the time they were training. Of that he would speak later. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had always held that the rank and file of an army could be improvised at a moment's notice. We had had good reason to know that, given the initial skill with the weapon and the necessary patriotism, an army could be improvised in two small States to overcome which required a force of 250,000 men from England. But a fleet could not possibly be improvised; it took years to build; consequently he thought the general proposition might be laid down that as long as we lived on an island, with a widely scattered Empire, whatever was spent on the Navy, far less must be spent on the Army, Therefore, as a navy could not be improvised, while an army to a large extent could be, any scheme which proposed to spend as much on the Army as on the Navy was based on a wrong principle and would have to be abandoned.
His second thesis was that the Government were endeavouring to create too large a Regular Army. It was too large because it was beyond the power of our purse. Taxation has reached the limit to which it was safe to go; therefore, disagreeable though it might be, the fact had to be faced.
533 Apart from that, the Army was beyond our needs. What were the three Army Corps for foreign service for? For three Army Corps to attack any white nation was impossible. One evident lesson of the late war was that to attack any white people in the world would require, not three, but probably thirty, Army Corps. Three Army Corps were utterly inadequate to wage war on any foreign country, and to commence a struggle on that basis would infallibly end in failure. What else could they be for? Surely not for fighting against black races? It was not suggested that to meet the Mad Mullah, or any of the black races with whom this country was occasionally brought into conflict, would require so great a force as 100,000 men. It might be said that they were to keep this country from invasion. He would lay down a cardinal principle, and once this was adopted he believed all their difficulties would vanish, and that was that the force established for the defence of this country from invasion, whether that contingency was likely or unlikely, or whether they wanted, 1,000 men or 5,000,000, was not the affair of the Regular Army, but of the citizen Army of this country. Therefore he could not see himself what these three Army Corps for foreign service were for, still less could one see what the other three Army Corps were for. There could be no doubt of the great expense they would entail.
There was another reason, for holding that they were asking for too large an Army, namely, that they were asking for numbers which went beyond the limits of voluntary recruiting. It must be apparent to every one conversant with recruiting that they were not getting the class of men they desired to enlist. Of the recruits obtained those who had the necessary physique to go through the arduous training to which they were subjected, and those who had the character to resist the many temptations of the soldier, had done them yeoman service in South Africa, and this he knew well, for he had served there, side by side with them. They were now obtaining a very large number of men who would never be able to take the field. He had not been able to 534 ascertain the precise number of men who proceeded to the late war from our home battalions, but he knew that little more than half of the full strength of the home battalions proceeded to the war in South Africa. That showed that they were keeping up a system of sham. It was no good pretending that they had a battalion when they had not got it; and they would find when war came and they had only got half of a battalion to go to the war, they would have to make some other arrangements, or else confess that they had only got the half, and not try to make out that they had got the Whole. He knew what was in the minds of many persons at the War Office and people elsewhere. They thought—and they were most patriotic persons—that if they set down this high standard of the number of troops required, and if at the same time they could, by imposing a rather rigid standard upon voluntary troops, get rid of them, that in a moment of trouble the nation would say: "We cannot get the men we require by voluntary means; let us resort to conscription." He would respectfully submit that that was the counsel of folly. To attempt to fill their foreign service Army, to garrison Madras or to fight the Mad Mullah; to allow the men to be severed altogether from their homes; and to say they were to attempt to obtain such an Army by conscription, was an attempt which was bound to fail, and it was a system which would not be accepted by any free country in the world, nor was it now accepted by any free country. He believed that the true path of safety of this country lay in every man being trained to arms, in whatever way was possible.
Everyone who viewed what took place in South Africa, especially at the later stages of the war, must recognise the great danger of disregarding that first rule of national safety, the necessity of every man learning the use of his weapon, as every Englishman used to do in times gone by. Now our sense of responsibility and the need for self-sacrifice should be more than ever appreciated, but to suggest that you should fill up your foreign service Army by conscription did seem to him a counsel which was bound to end in complete failure. If they were to attempt to make an Army larger than voluntary enlistment would supply, then let them dispel altogether the idea that 535 there was this other way to get the men. Look the facts frankly in the face, and if they had only got 10,000 men fit for service call them a Division and not an Army Corps. He believed an hon. Member of that House once described bi-metallism as a principle by which they took a shilling and called it 1s. 6d. The present principle in regard to the Army Corps seemed to be to take a Division and call it an Army Corps, and it was claimed that by this principle they were immediately multiplying their force by three. He should have thought that probably that was not the case.
The third ground on which they opposed this system was that not only were they spending too much money on their Army, but they were spending it in the wrong direction, because they had not got at the root of the trouble which cost them so much during the last war. They were spending more and more money on infantry battalions, upon men they obtained with difficulty, and which they obtained only by reducing the standard. They had not increased the Army in those essential things which bitter experience in South Africa had taught them was necessary. He accepted certain items of expenditure, for no doubt there were many things in which a great advance had been made. He should imagine that in the force to which he had the honour to belong an advance had been made, although the expenditure had been great. He accepted this case because it was only a small matter, and because the provision of mounted men in a country where people had practically ceased to ride, would always be a matter of the greatest difficulty and expense. He referred to that, because it seemed to him that a greater proportion of the Regular Army should be composed of mounted men, and the greater proportion should be composed of every sort and kind of men who had had special training which could not be given on the spur of the moment. But that was not all. They all knew that the War Office had been abused unfairly. They all knew very well that everything which had been laid at its door was not true. They knew perfectly well that the individuals at the War Office were endeavouring to do their best, but they also knew that a faulty system 536 existed there which wanted rooting out from the bottom to the top, and it was this system which prevented any man, however public spirited and determined he might be, from administering the affairs of the Army in a proper manner. A system prevailed there by which everyone meddled in everyone else's affairs, any by which officers who were specially directed to have control of certain affairs were constantly interfered with by others who had other duties to perform.
§ *MAJOR SEELY
said he regretted that the right hon. Gentleman has asked for an instance, for he must give him a case which he was about to pass over. He was about to refer to the loss of Volunteers which had occurred in Great Britain, although they found that they did not get too many trained men for the late war. It struck them as curious that the same Minister who had been obliged to send men to South Africa who could not shoot to fight their battles should be the man who drove the few trained men they had from their ranks. He had been informed—and he awaited an explanation—of a certain Army Order which caused the bitterest offence amongst the Volunters of the country, and which was probably responsible for many resignations. The precise terms of this Order first became known to the officer principally concerned through the columns of the Press.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
That is not so. That Army Order went through every channel, and had the opinion of every authority taken upon it before it got my signature.
§ *MAJOR SEELY
said if the right hon. Gentleman would make inquiries he thought he would find that he was in error in stating that the officers principally concerned were fully conversant with that Order.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I do not think these allegations should be made without giving us the facts. What officer principally 537 concerned was not aware of that Order before he saw it in the columns of the newspapers?
§ *MAJOR SEELY
said he thought he had explained that. He was alluding to the Inspector General of the Auxiliary Forces at the War Office. This was what he referred to when he said that there was a principle at the War Office by which everybody meddled in everybody else's business. They knew full well there were misunderstanding, and though the Order was understood. He was perfectly certain of his facts. It was obvious that this might have been a matter in which it was the precise phraseology employed which was unknown to the responsible officer, but it so happened that this phraseology had caused the whole trouble, and might cause further trouble in the future. He would not delay the House further on the matter of the lack of responsibility which rested upon individual officers. It existed in the field in South Africa, but by degrees that vicious system was eliminated whilst the men were on active service. At the beginning of the war their system of red tape hampered their movements, but by degrees a wiser system prevailed, and people were allowed, to use a vulgar phrase, to "run their own show" and the principle of "one man, one job" was adopted. He supposed that no one in the War Office would deny that that principle did not obtain there. Various Commissions had recommended that that principle should obtain at the War Office, and this country was determined that it should prevail.
He had only one more word to say, and it was, to his mind, the chief objection to the present system that was before this House. They were confusing the functions of the foreign service Army with the functions of the home service Army. What were these six Army Corps composed of? Hon. members knew that they were composed, as to three of them, partly of Regular troops and partly of Volunteers. of Volunteers. That had most far-reaching results, and he believed it would cause more trouble to us than anything else. The foreign service Army, composed of Regular troops, had produced men who did us good service in time of war; our auxiliary Army had also produced men—who had done good service in time of war. It 538 had produced men not only from this country, but from every colony of the Empire, who had done good service, and their Regular brethren who had served with them side by side would admit that they were very similar to them in fighting capacity. The reason for this was not far to seek. It had been well pointed out that the qualities which the modern soldier required were courage, character, common-sense, and trust in his leader. They might obtain these essential qualities by different methods; one method was by taking a man when he was young, as was done in the Navy, and by training him in high ideals to withstand the awful ordeal of war. That it was an awful ordeal nobody would ever deny, because it could not be forgotten that nobody surrendered because he liked it. The auxiliary, by a totally different method, arrived at the same result, but it obviously was not an affair of whether there were to be five, or three, or two or four day's training. It was an affair of the sort of man he was, and whether he believed that his services were wanted, and whether he had the courage to offer them when the time came. But the Government were confusing two totally different things in these Army Corps. They seemed to say: "Our Regular troops need not be so rigidly disciplined as before; they can be a little bit more like the Volunteers, or the Volunteers must be made a little more like the Regulars." They were trying to convert the Volunteers into sham Regulars, and by a persistent policy of so doing they were alienating the sympathies of the Regular Army, who had reason to be annoyed that they should be placed in an Army Corps, having the same uniform and organisation with men who, though as good in time of war, yet only went to war in time of great national emergency, while the Regular soldier had to live in unhealthy countries and go to war fifty times for the auxiliary's once.
See what effect it had on the auxiliary. The Volunteer was told, in the Order already referred to, that he had hitherto claimed to be taken seriously, and that, by implication, if he wanted to be taken seriously he must be something quite different from what he was before. Fresh regulations were laid down for him to make him appreciate in a greater or less degree what was required. What had been the result? They were losing 539 the very men they wished to retain. They were losing them by laying down a hard and fast standard of a certain number of days consecutive training. They were losing the very men of the character who had succeeded in civil life, and who were, therefore, most likely to succeed in war. If they were losing these men, what had they got in their place? It might be said that, after all, we did not want all these Volunteers. In fact he had heard it stated that we did not want as many Volunteers as we had got. It was a fact that the Volunteers were slowly dwindling form lack of sympathetic treatment. There could be no denying the fact that, if men who could not shoot had been sent to fight our battles in South Africa, it was madness to lose the trained men we had. When he returned with these facts burned deep into his mind, he went to every place in the constituency which he had the honour to represent and told the people that the unprepared state of the nation might land us in disaster. He suggested that skill in the use of the weapon was what every man should endeavour to attain. In a few months from that time there were formed eight rifle clubs, with 650 men.
One argument which seemed to him very strong was that, if they approached the people sympathetically, there was nothing they would not do for the country. The hon. Member instanced the life-boat service, which he described as a singularly close parallel. There were always men ready to undertake that arduous and terrible work without any inducement except a few shillings. If that service were put under the Government at Pall Mall, he did not think the men would undertake the work for £60 a year. They would, he thought, want £100 every time they went out. If this was true of the men who were engaged in that service saving life, was it not possibly true also of those who would be willing to engage in saving the country from invasion or disaster? It seemed to him that they had been for a long series of years, which had only now culminated, pursuing a policy which was bound to lead us into disaster, simply because we would not trust in the people and make it easy for them to take up the burden they were anxious 540 to take up, and to fit themselves for whatever might be in store for them. Therefore he begged to second this Amendment. He urged hon. Members to regard this as a non-Party matter. If it were made a Party matter, it would be to him a cause of distress to vote against the Party to which he had given his support in its education policy, its South African policy, and in other ways; but still he asked the House to affirm that the Government had strayed from the straight path of national safety, that they must spend more upon the Navy, that they must reduce the Regular Army, and that in order to make the country safe they must appeal frankly to their countrymen to do their utmost to take up the burden which others had taken up. If the Government did so, he was convinced that they would not appeal to the people in vain, and that one day we should be the strongest nation in the world
Amendment proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words—
But we humbly regret that the organisation of the land forces is unsuited to the needs of the Empire, and that no proportionate gain in strength and efficiency has resulted from the recent increases in military expenditure."—(Mr. Beckett.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said the Secretary of State for War at the present moment was perhaps a little badly treated by the House of Commons and the Press. He was going to admit that on the whole the right hon. Gentleman was an improving Secretary of State, but the improvement was sadly slow. Those who two or three years ago voted against the military scheme had no potion except to oppose it now. The real misfortune of the Secretary of State for War was that which had been told to the country by his former colleague the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was a little hard on the Secretary of State that one who had collective responsibility for this scheme, which he supported two years ago by his vote, should nevertheless have entirely confirmed what was said by the opponents 541 of the scheme two years ago. The Chancellor of the Exchequer took the line that had been taken by the mover of the Amendment, and specifically stated that the Secretary of State had undertaken an impossible task. And in the verbatim report which appeared in the Western Daily Press—revised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—he explained how this task was impossible. The right hon. Gentleman said:—He (the Secretary for War) had to try to reform the administration of the Army and primarily of the War Office, and at the same time to conduct a great war. That could not be done.The experience of the last two years had entirely confirmed that view. He had made the admission that the Secretary for War was improving, as, for example, in adopting last year a greater elasticity in the conditions of service. Had the right hon. Gentleman not done so, where would have been his recruiting? If he was able to lay before the House an improvement in recruiting, it was due to his death-bed repentance of last year. The Secretary for War had not treated the House with fairness in regard to their knowledge of the present military position. They had not had the Preliminary Annual Return or the General Annual Return of the British Army since the year 1898, and these were the Returns on which all the official calculations were based, and, when pressed to give the House the facts before this debate, the right hon. Gentleman told them that he would give them in his speech.
§ MR. BRODRICK (Dover)
I had no knowledge that this debate was coming on until last Tuesday night, and I was only asked for the White Paper dealing with the position of the Army before the Army Estimates came on on Thursday. I have made every effort to comply with the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that he and others had taken great trouble to arrive at the facts relating to the Army, but they did not know them officially. Some of the military papers had published 542 what foreign nations called the order of battle, and others had published statements in regard to the First and Second Army Corps, and the number of men in the battalions.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
Well, they had made an estimate of the number of men at Aldershot and Salisbury Plain, but they should have had the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting, and the Annual Return of the British Army, which had not been published since 1898. They should have had a Report of what number of men were trained, and what the proportion of them who were just-joined recruits. The Secretary of State said that these six Army Corps which he put before the House were real—as real as he said two years ago, when they were spoken of as phantom or paper corps. A late Secretary of State for War, who was still living, Mr. Gathorne Hardy, put before the House a scheme of eight Army Corps in 1876, and these figured in the Army List till 1881 as the official representation of what he called a Field Army, a part from garrisons. Almost the same phrase was used by the present Secretary for War. But these eight Army Corps were removed form the Army List in 1881, and declared to be phantoms. He would like to ask the Secretary for War how could he declare that the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Army Corps were any more real than the eight Army Corps or the later six Army Corps of Mr. Hardy's scheme, which were admittedly unreal? He believed the right hon. Gentleman would probably tell the House that some of the troops intended for these Army Corps were at present in South Africa, and that they would return in May. But even after these troops returned in May these Army Corps would still be what he had said in advance, two years ago, they would be. They would be no more real now than two years ago.
The new Army reformers who had taken up the running, and, representing so many men sitting on the Benches opposite, had addressed the House with so much power, had adopted the 543 position that they desired to save money on the Army in order to spend more money on the fleet. In that position they came to the view of the old Army and Navy reformers represented by his hon. and gallant friend the Member for Great Yarmouth, who had never ceased to point out to the House that, considering the nature of our Empire, the House had spent too much money on passive defence. But when it was suggested that it was possible to save ten millions out of the Army Estimates, he had two observations to make. The one was that there was great risk that they might direct or tempt the Government to save in a wrong direction—such as in guns, armaments and stores. The other observation was that they would not be able to save that sum, or anything like it, except by revolutionary Army reform. His hon. friends opposite, perhaps, did themselves some injustice before the country in an under-statement of the cost to the British Empire of military and passive defence, on the cost of troops, and on the expenditure on the land forces as compared with the expenditure on the fleet. They had to remember the expenditure not only on the army in India, the Crown Colonies and the self-governed colonies, but the amount of the Civil Estimates under the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office for land forces. The War Office did everything they could to give colour to their view. They omitted from the figures submitted to the Colonial Conference the cost of the Indian Army and Navy—an omission so stupendous that he could not understand what defence could be offered for it.
Another fact was that the War Office did not consult India on the changes they made last year, although the objections of the War Office to revolutionary Army reform had always been insisted upon, as it was, they declared, contrary to the interests of India, albeit India thought otherwise. Now, the normal peace cost from votes of Imperial defence—without any expenditure on expeditions or little wars of any kind, though such wars were always going on—was, without Supplementary Estimates, £60,845,000. There was a question whether they should or should not add the money spent from loans on military and naval works, so far as it was 544 additional to the annuities charged. That would amount to £2,500,000 for the Army, and £1,500,000 for the Navy, or a total of £4,000,000. Add the cost of the land military forces under the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office Votes in the Civil Estimates, now increased by the creation of the 3rd battalion of the West African Frontier Force, the expenditure on land forces in Crown colonies, in self-governed Colonies, and of the Navy in India and the Colonies, apart from the small Australasian and Cape grants for the Navy, which amounted to another £3,500,000, making in all £64,500,000 or £68,500,000, according to whether they did or did not include the loan money. The normal peace expenditure in India on land forces, according to the Report of the Indian Financial Commission, at the official rate of the rupee, was £17,000,000 more, but if they took the rupee as having, as the Treasury alleged, retained its spending value in India, then the charge on India would be £25,000,000 instead of £17,000,000. They thus attained to either £81,500,000, £85,500,000, £89,500,000 or £93,500,000, according to which way they settled the doubtful points. Out of this either about £31,000,000 or about £32,000,000 would be expenditure on the Navy, and the rest on land forces. Taking the smallest figures and the lowest possible computation, we spent £31,000,000 on the naval factor, primary in Imperial defence, and £50,500,000 on land forces. Some people seemed to think that the increase of the expenditure on the Army had ceased, that the increase on the Navy Estimates was more rapid than that on the Army Estimates, because the Navy Estimates had passed the figure of the Army. But if the increase of the last three years was looked at, it would be found that it had been vastly greater on the land forces than on the fleet. In all other countries, although called military empires, and although their Navy was not the first line of defence, the increase was taking place on the fleet. The expenditure on the Army in all these great military countries was a stationary expenditure; it was on the fleets that the increase was taking place. It was only in our case, although we called ourselves an Empire of the seas, where the greatest expenditure was re- 545 quired on the Navy, that our chief increase had been on the Army.
Some people thought it was possible to obtain money from the colonies for the fleet, and that we must look forward to an expenditure we could not bear if we were not prepared to take strong measures to have contributions made up by the colonies. There was a chance of that when they expressed their readiness to do so a few years ago. But the opportunity which might then have been taken was lost and thrown away; and if there was still a chance of such a contribution being obtained on an adequate and effective scale, the way in which the Army and Navy told different stories at the Colonial Conference made it impossible of realisation. Without something like a revolutionary reform of the Army being undertaken, the present gigantic figures must be further swollen. The Army Corps scheme, as at present developed, had not had a full development. The expense would automatically increase year by year. At the present moment expense was being incurred in the conversion of the rifle, probably an unnecessary conversion; but, apart from such doubtful points of expenditure, there were points on which all men would agree that there must be a vast increase of expenditure under any scheme or in any circumstances. One had been already alluded to, namely the Intelligence Department. They had in the Military Intelligence Department twenty-three officers. The Germans had 250 officers in their Military Intelligence Departments. In the Army and Navy Intelligence Departments together—and the Navy required world-wide information—there were forty-one officers. That was a point on which expenditure would have to be increased.
In the able series of articles which recently appeared in The Times—which he did not endorse in every particular, but with a great portion of which every Army reformer would agree—there was a proof of the weakness of our Intelligence Department which was the most striking he had ever read. The writer pointed out that England had an alliance with Japan. He was not concerned now to discuss the wisdom of that alliance, but they relied on Japan to supply naval and military forces in the event of operations in the extreme East. Would not any other Power which had such an alliance feel it incumbent 546 to have a number of officers in the Japanese Army and to receive Japanese officers in its own Army, which was the only way in which friction could be avoided? Yet there were only two or three British officers employed in Japan, and the Intelligence Department was so undermanned that it was impossible that it could be adequately represented in a matter of such vital interest. Besides such matters in which an increased expenditure much be incurred, whatever scheme was adopted, there would, he thought, be some further increase in pay, as, for instance, the pay of non-commissioned officers.
Then there was the question of food. The Committee which considered the food of the Navy, which was better than the food of the Army, laid down the principle that it was not good enough, and that it should be improved. If the War Office wished to attract a desirable class of recruits to the Army it would have to provide better food; and it was even more desirable to make a man comfortable in that respect than to give higher pay. It was certain that there would have to be an increased expenditure on food. Then as to horses. Everyone would admit that the Army would have to keep up a larger number of horses. Although they had been so grotesquely extravagant, they were always striving to save money in the wrong direction. For example, they went into war without quick-firing guns. His hon. friend the Member for Islington was a great economist, and took an active part on the Committee which was moved for by the hon. Member for Oldham. Sir Ralph Knox, who had so great a part in the creation of the War Office as it was, it might be remembered, told the country that he prayed for the day when mobilisation would be ordered, as then the War Office would confound its enemies and accusers. Sir Ralph Knox, replying to his hon. friend, showed that the refusal of the War Office to accept the pressure of the House of Commons in connection with quick-firing guns had been due to opposition in the War Office itself. Colonel von Lindenau said, before the Military Society at Berlin, as an explanation of the early misfortunes of England in South Africa, that—Great Britain discovered that the oldest weapons are the most expensive.547 The whole matter had been brought home to the conscience of the nation and the House of Commons because of the increased, and rapidly increasing, cost of the present system, and also because the country and the House of Commons saw that whatever was done by individuals in gallant service in South Africa the Army did not fulfil the expectations entertained of it, and that the military system had practically broken down.
The responsibility for change must rest on the Cabinet as a whole. A revolutionary reform of the Army could not be looked for to the War Office alone. If the House of Commons simply cut off the money, the War Office would not cut off expenditure in the manner desired. It was the Cabinet, as a whole, that could force the War Office into a better system. An hon. Member asked the Prime Minister the other day whether the observations of the Council of Defence—which the Prime Minister went out of his way to tell the country had been re-constituted two and a-half months ago—would be available in connection with the present year's Estimates, and whether there might be some result of the co-ordination of the two services, to which the House of Commons attached so much importance. The hon. Member and the House generally was disappointed when the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Estimates for the present year had been prepared before the re-organisation of the Council of Defence; and it would, therefore, be thirteen months before they saw on the Estimates any good results from the co-ordination of expenditure between the two services, which the House of Commons and the country so thoroughly desired. He himself was not disappointed in that part of the Prime Minister's reply in which he said that, of course, the Cabinet could not be responsible for the details of the Estimates. Of course it could not. They could not take the responsibility for the details away from the Financial Secretary to the War Office, or from the Secretary to the Admiralty; but what the Cabinet could do, and what the House of Commons expected it to do, was to lay down, as general principles, what he believed the majority of hon. Members were agreed upon; that the expenditure 548 on the Army was only a sign of the unfitness of the system of which they complained, and that the primacy of the Navy should be secured. Departments were rather apt to shuffle off responsibility from one to the other. Some of them thought that their responsibility was actually to the House of Commons itself. Before the Hartington Commission, in 1888, Sir George Tryon said—The responsibility of the strength of the Navy rests with Parliament, and not with naval men.He himself thought that the responsibility rested with the Cabinet, for it was the Cabinet alone which had full knowledge before it, and which could accept the general guidance and direction of Parliament, which Parliament would try to give it. Before the Committee on National Expenditure there were allusions to "the limit" of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was the oldfashioned system of telling the Army and the Navy that they must not exceed a certain figure. When Mr. Smith was Secretary of State for War he said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer informed him that he would have to take off half-a-million. That was not the way in which they wanted the Cabinet to proceed in the future. The general guidance of the House of Commons had now been pretty freely expressed, and the Cabinet should show that it had some notion where it was going, and of the principles which guided it. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, he was afraid, was in the old rut on this question, declared that the Army should not be allowed to go beyond £30,000,000, and that he did not see why there should be an increase in the shipbuilding Vote. He did not think that that would suit the House of Commons at all.
The old revolutionary reformers and the new reformers always recognised the primacy of the Navy in Imperial defence, and held that it was what the country could afford to spend on defence, over and above that which was necessary for the Navy, that must be allotted to the Army. It was held, too, that in the Army the preference in expenditure should be given to the active, striking forces, as compared with other arms who could not go abroad. He was 549 sure the country would never grudge expenditure on the Navy or on a small effective Army suited to the needs of India and our Empire. On these points there was, he believed, general concurrence, however Members might vote in the division, in the principles which had been put forward by the reformers in their recent speeches in the country. The War Office clung too strongly to a policy of which they had a large example in the course of the Colonial Conference, and a small example in the correspondence between the Secretary for War and the States of Jersey which was published in Jersey last Tuesday, the day on which the States met. The right hon. Gentleman told the States that unless they adopted the conscript Militia, of 1,800 men, they having offered 1,000, he should take away the garrison. The States having come over to his terms, the right hon. Gentleman wrote, under date February 13th, that the defence of Jersey would be recognised, and the present garrison would remain, conditionally on the new Militia Bill being accepted. The Secretary for War then, as in the document laid before the Colonial Conference, begged the whole question of the command of the sea. The question of invasion lay at the bottom of all the talk of conscription, and this question affected the number of Regulars at home, as it did also the linked battalion system. The linked battalion system, though beautiful in theory, had never worked in practice, and probably never would. The endeavour to have one battalion at home for every battalion abroad led to the Mediterranean being counted as being at home, and then Egypt, and now it was proposed to count South Africa. Perhaps some day India would be counted as being at home. The Secretary for War told them last year that in hit scheme he allowed for the permanens retention of twelve battalions, or 15,000 men, in South Africa; but now, in answer to a question, he said that 30,000 would remain there.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said he did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman expected to reduce the 550 30,000 men to twelve battalions by March; if not his scheme would be further broken into. The working of the linked battalion system reminded him of The Times average of harvests in this country; every year The Times published as statement as to how much the harvest was above or below average, and if they looked back for fifty years they would find that the harvest had always been below average. The normal year of the system never came. He had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would be able to tell them that recruiting had improved owing to the adoption of the the three years service. But he believed a year's service for our Regulars could be worked so as further to swell our Reserves in time of war. Some were afraid that such troops would be Militia; but it must be remembered that Frederick the Great fought battles with an infantry—always recongnised as among the finest that had ever fought—the overwhelming mass of whom were Prussian Militia with one year's service. Of course, the men must be sandwiched with men of greater experience, and there must be a professional type of officer such as we could and must create Mounted troops, of course, could not be too well trained, but, as regards infantry, a great deal could be done with short service with professional officers.
A book had recently been published describing the training of officers at the military college of West Point. Comparing the Sandhurst system and Sandhurst results with the West Point, the results of the Sandhurst training contrasted unfavourably with those of the West Point Academy in regard to the professional nature of the officer. Our officers were gallant, and had often redeemed what might have been great disasters in South Africa, but no man could shut his eyes to the fact that our officers were not professional in the sense that they might easily be made out of the material we had in this country. The moral of this Motion was the country wanted to get what it paid for. It was willing to pay, as it did, and enormous amount of money provided that was assured. He did not see how the words of the Amendment could be denied; they were true. He 551 was convinced that for a remedy they must look, not to the energy or administrative ability of this or that general or statesman, but to the House of Commons, which could influence great politicians to take a vital interest in the question. He hoped the Prime Minister would rise to the height of the responsibility which the present attitude of the House of Commons threw upon him.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down began his speech by referring to what appeared to him my misfortune in being made the subject of attack in many quarters on the question of the condition of the Army. If I had been free from such attacks, I should be different from every one of my predecessors, from Lord Cardwell downwards, who have ever attempted to do anything for the Army. The only possible way for a Minister standing in my place to stand absolved from severe criticism and attack is to leave things absolutely as they are, to allow the Army to drift, and to be content to leave it to those who come after him to fill up gaps which have arisen during his term of office. From the moment I took up the position in which I now am, I felt that, at whatever personal cost, that line was one which neither the duty I owed to this House nor the expectations of the country could allow a Minister to adopt at the present time. But I am fortunate in this that, at all events tonight, we are challenged by a direct vote on a direct issue of broad policy, and not one of small personal objections or of details on which so many debates in this House have proceeded — but on an issue going to the root of the matter. I say I am fortunate in that. And why? Because no two of my critics ever agree on any single proposition which is put forward in criticism before the House. My hon. friend the mover of the Amendment laid down as one of the foremost points of his argument, that with the existence of a powerful Navy we did not meed to provide specially for home defence. [Cries of "No."]
§ *MR. BRODRICK
He went further than that, because my hon. friend the seconder took occasion to dissent from him.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
All I can say is, I stand on the recollection of the House as to what my hon. friend said.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
His proposition in the first place was against the necessity of sending a Regular Army abroad; and secondly, he discussed the various positions that a regular army might occupy abroad; and then he came to another defence at home, and I imagine that he has only now joined the Member for the Isle of Wight if he says he is prepared to rely on citizen soldiers for that army. If that is his proposition, how does it square with the proposition of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, who, supporting the Amendment from an entirely different standpoint, said that for the defence at home he was afraid of cutting down?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
He was afraid the Government would cut down exactly the force it was most necessary to maintain.
§ *SIR CAHRLES DILKE
No, I said there might be a danger of cutting down that which ought not to be cut down—stores, guns, and horses. I did not mean the defence at home.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
But stores, guns, and horses are exactly the items which make the increase in the Vote. What the right hon. Gentleman has always pressed on the House are the artillery of the Regular Army for defence in Great Britain. which my hon. friends the Member for Whitby and the Member for the Isle of Wight declare to be unnecessary. There is an absolute divergence between the two. The right hon. Baronet laughs at that.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
Yes, because I have urged an increase of field artillery, but never for the purpose of home defence.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I beg the right hon. Baronet's pardon. He, among many others, was urgent in pressing on the Government when our large force had gone to South Africa that we were left without home defence in artillery.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
I have pressed two things. I have pressed for an increase of field artillery, but not for home defence, and with regard to home defence I have suggested a mixed system of Volunteer field artillery—with some partially paid men.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
In that case the right hon. Gentleman differs from those who have spoken to-day in that he does not think the field artillery of the three Army Corps that we have, and which we sent to South Africa, is sufficient, because he thinks a larger field artillery is necessary for striking purposes abroad. But that is exactly the proposition disputed by the hon. Member for Whitby, and also by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight. ["No."] You cannot under any circumstances bring the opinions of any two critics into line with each other. Take those who have chiefly criticised the War Office scheme in the course of the last few months. We have heard to-night those who think that the Regular forces are too many. I remember many eloquent speeches of the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth who considers that our force for striking abroad is not too large, but, if anything, too small. That school of thought may not be popular at this moment, but there was a moment two years ago, as I will point out directly, when it was not only popular, but it was the only voice heard in this House. Then again, the hon. Member who addressed us so movingly about the Volunteers, told us we should depend on a citizen army. I was struck by those speeches, because I do not believe that any man of military training will get up and tell us that if this country is to be defended at all—of course if there is no question of defence, if the Navy can entirely preserve us, then it is immaterial to consider whether the 200,000 Volun- 554 teers are trained or not. But if we do contemplate any active resistance by Volunteers, then I say there is no man of military training who will stand up in this House and tell us that we can depend on a mass of Volunteers, not sufficiently equipped with artillery, not supported by regular cavalry, and not trained up to the point which the Commander-in-Chief, or any other military authority of weight, considers would entitle them to be put into the field to meet a foreign force, without that further training which my hon. friend the Member for the Isle of Wight denounced the Government for having tried to impose. You cannot have both propositions at once. I would remind the House that among our critics there is a very considerable school of thought who consider that we are asking too much of the Volunteers, and that we ought to replace that demand on the Volunteers by using the ballot for the Militia, and not merely place on the men who will serve an additional liability in order to compensate for those who will not. Those are propositions which it is not possible for a Minister of War to bring into line.
Once more, we have heard a good deal about the recruiting difficulty. On that I should like to say a word, and give the fullest statistics to the House. Nearly every proposition which has been put forward entirely loses sight of the recruiting difficulty. An able writer in The Times has distributed the Army according to his taste and fancy. He has put a large number of men in South Africa, more in Australia, more in Canada, and more in India; but it does not seem to have occurred to him that out of 180,000 men he has planted 140,000 out of this country, so that every man the moment his recruit-drills are over would be spending the whole of his service outside the United Kingdom. I can only say I have to look at these matters, not from the point of view of some ideal scheme, but from the point of view of what you can do with a voluntary Army. If I were to rely on all the diverse exhortations and inconsistent advice I have received to-night, and on other occasions, I should have to declare that in a multitude of counsellors there is not wisdom, but chaos. What I cannot but feel is that I have a right to ask House to go 555 back, first of all, to the circumstances under which the Army was re-organised, and to consider what has happened since then to cause so radical a change in the opinion which has been expressed this afternoon. I should never have thought that the experience of the Boer War, bitter as it was, could have been so speedily forgotten. I cannot say that I feel that in any one of the expressions which fell from my two hon. friends there appeared to be any recollection whatever of the straits to which we were put for Regular forces in 1899 and 1900. What was the impeachment of the Government? I was not then Secretary for War, but I believe I heard every word of every debate in this House, and certainly no one read more of what was published in the country. What was the impeachment of the Government—not from one side only, but from all sides? It was that we had no larger force of Regulars to send to South Africa, that we had not sufficient supplies for an army of 200,000 when we had never professed to send abroad more than 70,000; and, still more and constantly, that what forces were left at home were without artillery and without organisation, which the War Office ought to have provided even after the 200,000 men had gone abroad. No man voiced that general feeling of the country more eloquently, or more continuously than did Lord Rosebery. I hope the House will allow me by a few very brief quotations to support the views which have been so much forgotten this afternoon. Lord Rosebery, speaking on 15th February, 1900, used these words:—I do not think the Government have the faintest notion of how in the country, in the streets, in any place where men congregate, the feeling of crisis, of over-burdening crisis, of constant danger, is present to the minds of men. I call for timely measures; this"—and he repeated it three times—"is a matter of life and death to the country.Contrast that with the language used tonight by my hon. friends the Member for Whitby, who read to us a quotation, I believe twenty years old, from Lord Roberts, saying that Lord Roberts never contemplated that the Regular Army would be sent in large numbers abroad; and my hon. friend thought, after our experience of two years ago and after that crisis, that an opinion expressed 556 twenty years ago, before many of these Transvaal questions had ever arisen or attained the position they finally did, governed the matter. Again, my hon. friend spoke of the Indian frontier as a bug-bear, and he cited, amidst the approving cheers of the Opposition, the statement of a Russian general who had spoken to him and who had treated it from that standpoint. I hardly think that those citations were worthy of the dignity of the rest of his speech. In any case I do not think that they can be conclusive to the House of Commons. It was not only Lord Rosebery who called us to account in this matter, and said that our forces were not sufficiently great. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, speaking on 12th, February 1900, said:—We hear no complaint of the manner in which that Army of 180,000 men has been sent to the other end of the world without hitch or difficulty, an army well found, well fed, well armed, well hospitalled—if I may coin a word—with all that is required for them. All that can be said of the present Army is that it is not large enough for the task it is called upon to perform.At that moment we had either sent to South Africa, or there were leaving the country, 120,000 Regular soldiers, and before we concluded the war we had to send 130,000 more. Now I am impeached, and even by the right hon. Gentleman himself last year, for providing 120,000 men to go abroad in certain contingencies, and for being prepared to keep up the necessary drafts for them. Let those who doubt whether that represents the present feeling of the country recollect what occurred later in the war. When we had got on to the month of August, just before Parliament adjourned, a very serious speech was delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife, who fell in with both the Leaders in the Upper House and in this House, and said that—Although the Government had sent an enormous force, we wished to be assured that there would remain in the circle of military action, for the purpose of concluding the war, such a force of mobile and efficient troops as were adapted to the end in view.At that moment nearly 200,000 troops had left this country; and yet tonight 120,000 men are looked upon as a grandiose provision, got up by a Minister who is making a splash by providing 557 Army Corps which can never possibly be used. I go on four months further—to November, 1901. I was then responsible. I can remember that there was hardly a newspaper, certainly not a public speaker, who did not allude at that moment—when matters had not proceeded well for some months in the Transvaal—to the fact that we were come apparently to the end of our resources, and vehemently attack and impeach the Government for their supineness in not having provided a larger number of Regular troops. I was pressed at that time to go and make a speech in the City of London; and I remember perfectly well the effect created that next day when I was able to assure the country that we could still send, if necessary, 50,000 Regulars. And we did send between 30,000 and 40,000 more Regulars before the close of the war. I put this crucial question. My hon. friend the Member for Chester is going to invite the House to declare that the amount spent on the Army is excessive. I should like to know whether my hon. friend would have gone to his constituency in the election of 1900 and put that proposition before them. If he would, I will undertake to say I would have stood against him in his constituency and have turned him out by a large majority.
§ *MR. YERBURGH (Chester)
said it was quite true that the proposition as put by his right hon. friend would not be accepted by the people of Chester; but the point they were making was, not that they were not to provide a large army in the course of conducting a great war, but that they were not entitled in times of peace to overload the country with taxation.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
We are to have the men in time of war; we are not to provide them in time of peace. We are to declare in this House what we will do if we are attacked, but we are not to ask for supplies to make good our position. I am afraid my hon. friend would not convince his constituents if anybody who takes the view I do had an opportunity of expounding the other side of the question. What is the other side of the question? The reason why we are 558 impeached tonight is not because we have provided a large army abroad only, but because we have organised our forces at home. Now, there was nothing on which so strong a feeling was expressed two years ago as on our want of organisation at home. Every speaker who attacked the Government spoke in that sense from both sides of the House. Lord Rosebery complained: "How was the body of 409,000 men in this country composed and organised?" The right hon. Gentleman complained that all the staffs were "scratch" which had been sent out, and those who followed him complained that no staffs, "scratch" or otherwise, were left at home. My hon. friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, one of the severest critics of the Government in military matters for many years, said that the whole Army had gone out of the country, and the problem was to make an army to take its place. My hon. friend the Secretary to the Treasury said—what I am bound to repeat because I believe it represented the views of nearly everybody at that time—"What we want in the country now is an army, and not a mob." The proposal of my hon. friend the Member for the Isle of Wight, who has attacked us for having attempted to organise the Volunteers is that we should rely, not on an army, but on a mob. (Cries of "No.")
§ *MAJOR SEELY
So gross a perversion of my words I must ask the House to be permitted to gainsay. I said that if you frankly approach the people of this country they will organise themselves, not into a mob, but into a most formidable force. I never suggested a mob.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
They must be organised. If you are to organise you must allow the military authorities to have something to say to the organisation. Nobody denies that the Volunteers are a most valuable, a most self-denying, and a most important force in an organisation for home defence; but if the military authorities say you require something more than they can give, then we are told they are being discouraged. The attack my hon. friend made was on the system by which the Volunteers are asked to give some additional services, in order to form the first line of defence 559 side by side with the Regulars; and I join issue with him because he used an expression which I do not think is justified, either by the attitude of the Volunteers or of the Regulars. He said twice that the Regulars were annoyed at being joined by the Volunteers. I am quite certain of this — that those reflections are unjustified. We have had no difficulty whatever in getting the Volunteers who have joined the Field Army Corps to give the service which it is necessary for them to do in order to take their part in the organisation. We have had a difficulty to bring a body of Volunteers upon whom large demands have been made. We must discuss that question more at length than I can do it now. I can only say that in every respect sympathetic treatment will be given to the Volunteers. We cannot expect to keep their numbers up to the full numbers at which they arrived during the excitement of the war; but to suppose that anything will be done to prejudice or permanently to reduce the normal numbers of that great force is, I am quite sure, to misunderstand the desires of those who are now advising me.
Now the position we are come to is this. We are attacked to-night for the large numbers we have sent abroad; we are also attacked for the organisation at home. The right hon. Gentleman told the House the other night that the Army Corps Scheme was a panic scheme. Well, Sir, I am quite certain the view which I represent to the House, the view that we were short of Regulars, the view that we were not organised at home, did not simply represent the panic of any Minister, but they were repeated over the whole year with so great a continuity and force that I am entitled to believe they represented, at all events at that time, the determined judgment of the nation; and I think the Government who have undertaken this task of Army reform are entitled to take the experience of 1899 and 1900, to some degree, with regard to the measures which they have now put before the House. Now, I want to clear away one fallacy. It is supposed that the great increase of expense, the great increase in numbers, is due to this Army Corps Scheme. That is not the case in the least. These Army Corps are only the organisation of the forces already existing. We filled 560 up the deficiencies of mounted troops; we filled up the supplies, the deficiency of which had been made apparent in 1900.
But if there is anybody responsible for the considerable increases which have been made in the numbers of our military forces, it is those who in this House pressed upon the Government year after year, with great force, that the weakness of our home battalions prevented their efficiency; that their numbers had not grown with the work which they were called upon to perform abroad; that there was deficiency in field artillery, to which the right hon. Gentleman called attention time after time; that our cavalry regiments were not sufficiently strong in men or in horses; that the departmental corps had been starved. These propositions were brought forward by military Members of this House over and over again, and I acknowledged the force with which they pressed these considerations on the Government. Now, the action taken with regard to them was not dictated either by the Boer War, or by fear of the Boer War. Of the 54,000 men who have been added to the Regular troops since 1896, 6,000 were added in 1897; 17,000 in 1898, before there was any question of the Boer War; 25,000 were added in 1900—at that time there was, undoubtedly, a call by the country for a largely increased force, and a complaint was universally made that the number was not greater—and in 1901, when I introduced the Army Corps Scheme, there was an addition of 5,000 men. It is absolutely impossible to charge to the Army Corps Scheme more than 5,000 out of the 54,000 men added to the regular Army in the last six years.
Now, Sir, I am afraid I must trespass for some little time on the House, but there are considerable questions of policy with which I have to deal. What was the object of the Army Corps Scheme? I cannot describe it any more clearly than I attempted to do when I first introduced it to the notice of the House. As regards the troops, it was not a scheme for adding enormously to the Army, but it was a scheme to establish a standard up to which we could work, and by which we could know what re- 561 mained to be done. When hon. Members see the white Paper which was circulated today, they can see that it will show in normal times—these are scarcely yet normal times—exactly what units are included in each Army Corps; and Parliament can at any moment say, "We are not prepared to vote so many corps. We do not need this amount." Nothing had been done, nothing has been prepared, which prevents the authority of Parliament from being exercised in that manner. The main portion of our business was to organise districts and to obtain a large measure of decentralisation. That, at all events, has been accomplished. If the troops have to be employed in war they will no longer be hastily gathered together under a number of different commands, and under officers whom they have never seen before. The men will come from the same command. The stores and clothing they require are with them, and they have not got to be sent for in a hurry from Woolwich and embarked, perhaps, on different ships. The proper proportion of various arms are being brought together in the various commands wherever we have to fight, except on very small expeditions; and this is the chief thing, if ever again we have to send a great force abroad, the organisation is now being established which will at least give us the nucleus of an organisation at home.
Now I am asked to say how this business is proceeding, and I would ask the House in all fairness to recollect that this scheme only obtained the assent of Parliament twenty-one months ago. It is only in the last eight months that the war has been over. During the whole of that time, whatever view you may take of the War Office, you can hardly deny that it has been subjected to a strain such as no Department of this country has ever before undergone. Therefore, though I claim that the scheme is far advanced, I am the last man to say that that, or anything else connected with the Army, has yet become perfect. First let me say one word as to the term "Army Corps," on which so much language has been expended. I believe that term to be a convenient term, because, if you call a body of 30,000 troops a Division, When 562 it is four or five times the size of a Division you come to a nomenclature which is inappropriate. I believe the term is consonant with the collection of troops which we bring together under the name, but the actual term is itself unimportant as compared with the organisation which it represents—the gathering together of the proper number of each command under the same commander, and the giving to one man the power to overlook and oversee all the generals under him in his own district. Of course a great deal has been made of the term as a slavish imitation of foreign countries. I might say with regard to that, that in the introduction, and even in the debates, of this system, the whole question was tried by our own experience and our own requirements, and I am a little inclined to accept what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition the other day, when he stated that he did not think there was much to be gained in exchanging sneer for sneer with some of our foreign neighbours. I think, therefore, that one or two recent speeches, in which these Army Corps were jibed at on the ground that they were of German origin, might well have been omitted, the more especially as the smallest exploration of history would have satisfied anybody that, Army Corps were not of German origin, that all the commanders at the beginning of last century—including Wellington, who had two commanders of Army Corps at Waterloo—took their inspiration from the Emperor Napoleon, who, whatever else has been said of him, has never been alleged to have been a German. I can only say that I stand by all that we undertook in this matter, and I will give the House briefly the result so far as we have gone. These districts have been organised in three instances. We propose to put Lord Grenfell in charge of the fourth on the 1st of April. [Laughter]. That merriment is partially caused by the fact that an uninstructed speaker said the other day that Lord Grenfell would have nothing to command but himself, though, no doubt, he was a host in himself. Apart from other units, there are at this moment in the district to be commanded by Lord Grenfell no less than 90 battalions. Of course a large number 563 of them are Volunteers, but there is nothing in the world that we desire so much as to bring our highest military officers directly into contact and make them directly responsible for these large numbers of battalions of Volunteers. There is nothing we care so much for as the advice we have received from the commanders of the Army Corps as to the relative value of the auxiliary forces in their districts, and I am quite certain that the charge we are giving to Lord Grenfell would be considered worthy of the acceptance of a general of his position in any country.
What is the result as it stands? We have organised these districts. The barracks are not yet complete in some of them. These barracks, however, I would remind the House, are not the wasteful expenditure which my hon. friend the hon. Member for Whit by represented. It is simply an expenditure to house troops already voted by Parliament. If Parliament reduces the number of troops, then the barracks will not be required. But as long as we have the troops we have a right to come to the House for barracks for them, and those barracks, as long as I have anything to do with the matter, will be placed where the different proportions of the different arms can be advantageously grouped together for common training. It is said that although we may organise these corps, we cannot keep up their strength by voluntary recruiting. I confess that the question of recruiting has given me, like every preceding Minister of War, the greatest anxiety at different times. Our normal recruiting used to be 35,000 a year. In 1900, under the stress of war, it went up to 45,000, and in 1901, it was about 46,000, in each case with a lowered standard. The larger numbers in those two years were probably prompted by the excitement at the moment, and the keenness of young men to offer their services during an emergency. I told the House last year that we required 50,000 men, not to carry out my scheme, but to secure the number of recruits necessary to keep up the number voted by Parliament in 1897, 1898, 1899 and 1900. I have seen it stated all over the country, that the Army is greatly below its number, and that it is almost at the vanishing point, that the Reserve has sunk from 564 80,000 to 30,000 men. The whole thing is a delusion. I do not know to what it is due that our recruiting has been so great. The net pay in 1896 was 7d. a day. By giving them mess allowance of 3d. we raised it to 10d. a day. The 2d. voted immediately last year brought it up to 1s., and on the 1st April next year, every soldier of two years service who re-engages to complete eight years will get 1s. 6d. a day. Surely those changes must make a considerable amount of difference. I think, too, something is due to the additional comforts given to the soldier, and something to his improved tone and status, to which no one has more contributed by his efforts than the present Commander in-Chief. A certain amount of extra recruiting may be due to the falling off of employment. But, be that as it may, not only are the results satisfactory, but all the calculations which we have formed as to the number of men who at the end of the war would be weary of the profession and buy themselves off, perhaps with the gratuity at their disposal, have been falsified. The result has been this, where as in previous years of peace we got about 35,000 recruits, and thought ourselves lucky if we went over that number, and took one-third as specials, last year was the biggest recruiting year we have ever had in this country. We took nearly 51,000 recruits, of whom about 16 per cent. were specials. The result of that is that, so far then from the Army being enormously under strength, excepting the infantry of the line, we are over strength in every single department of it. The household cavalry are a couple of hundred over strength; the cavalry of the line are 7,400 over strength; the field artillery, 3,000 over strength. but the infantry of the line are about 2,600 under strength. When you divide that, however, between sixty or seventy battalions at home, it is only an average of thirty or forty men per battalion. The Army Service Corps is 800, and the Royal Army Medical Corps 1,600 men above strength. For the first time in living memory, the Army, which had been raised by 54,000 men on the establishment since 1897, and which should stand with India at 259,600 men, now stands 271,800, or 12,000 men above the strength. That 12,000 will probably be reduced by 565 6,000 in the course of the next few weeks, owing to the return of time-expired men from India and their inclusion in the Reserve.
That enables me to deal with the question of weakly recruits. I admit that during the war our lower standard brought in a certain number of men of this kind; but we have been enabled to raise the standard for the artillery by one inch, for the engineers by one inch, for the Army Service Corps by one inch, and to stop the recruiting altogether for the cavalry and all specials taken from the infantry. The Militia recruiting has been very brisk, and has enabled me to raise the Militia standard by one inch.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol, E.)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what is the standard in the Army for the infantry at the present moment?
§ MR. BRODRICK
The standard is 5 feet 3 inches, and there will be no specials taken. The standard for the Militia will be raised to 5 feet 3 inches. It has for a long time been 5 feet 2 inches. We are also endeavouring to make character an element in recruiting. Inquiries as to character have been instituted with considerable advantage in many districts. Quite apart from justifying the scheme which is the subject of debate, it would be very difficult with these figures before the House for my hon. friend to declare that there is no proportionate gain in strength or efficiency for the money we have been spending. My hon. friend spoke as if the Army was armed and equipped for anything except war and spoke of the Army Crops as if they existed only on paper. I can only say that the figures and facts I have given are a refutation of these assertions.
And now, I want to ask the House to consider briefly what has been done in the way of decentralisation. We are told that the Army system is where it was two years ago; but it believe no army system has ever undergone so great a change as ours has during the last two years. Not only have we decentralised the responsibility of generals, but we have even decentralised the audit of accounts, which is now carried on in three of the districts 566 in close proximity to the general commanding the corps. No longer is it necessary for the general commanding an Army Corps to refer to the War Office about all trivial matters. He arranges for the training of recruits and only guides us as to their value. I cannot go into details, but I may say that delegation has not only begun, but it will in a few years be the keynote of our Army system. If I can claim to have changed a centralised system into a delegated system, I think I shall have made a change which has been pressed on this House, in season and out of season, for the last twenty years. With regard to the proportionate sum we are spending, the House gave us authority to raise eight garrison battalions. Six of these are already raised, comprising 6,000 men. I believe that no finer nor more useful battalions for their purpose ever left this country. We undertook to raise five Indian battalions. This force also is in working order. We undertook to raise the Yeomanry from 10,000 to 35,000, and to equip them as mounted troops for home defence. My hon. friend the Member for the Isle of Wight left this out of his contention just now. We had 10,000 and we expect to have 29,000 in the present year. We also undertook to deal with the question of military intelligence and mobilisation. Now, different speakers have assumed that this point has been neglected. My hon. friend said we were starving the brain of out Army. There is no foundation whatever for that statement. I quite admit I cannot go the pace—I do not believe the House would wish me to go the pace—of those who are urging that we should establish a general staff such as there is in Germany, which might cost as I see from some estimates £500,000 a year. We should need justification far beyond any which has ever been put before us for so reckless a change. One speaker said there was but one officer, and another hon. Member gave us credit for two. As a matter of fact, in 1896 there were eighteen officers in that department, drawing altogether £10,500 a year. This year the number has been increased to more than double, at more than double expense. A considerable number of extra clerks are employed, and a further development of the department is in contemplation.
567 What is far more important is that the head of that department, instead of being one of the subordinates of the other departments of the War Office, as he was, is now on a par with the highest officers in the War Office, except the Commander-in-Chief. He draws pay, which is one of the things that show his position, equal to that of the Adjutant-General and the Quartermaster-General. Instead of living in Victoria Street he has been provided with accommodation at Winchester House, for immediate consultation with the War Office, which is constantly needed. I do not see why hon. Members should laugh. The best place for that is in close proximity to the War Office. Early last year when it was said that the head of the Intelligence Department was in a flat in Victoria Street there were roars of laughter. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are all flats."] At all events, pending the establishment of the new War Office, this important functionary has been brought into the closest possible touch with the War Office. What is more, he is a member of the Council of Defence, and as such now occupies perhaps the most important military position of any man except the Commander-in-Chief. Having said so much I hope it will not be contended that we have neglected the Intelligence Department.
I will say one word as to the question of stores. One of the great complaints in 1900 was that we could not mobilise an army of 200,000 men for lack of the necessary stores, which had to be ordered in a hurry. We have taken account of all our requirements. A committee made large recommendations, which have been carried through, and the sum—2½ millions —which stands in the Estimates of the coming year, and which will be claimed from the House this year, will complete these stores, with the exception of a very small sum. We shall not have to incur that charge in future Estimates. That brings me to the question of cost. I will put it very briefly to the House. We have been told that £10,000,000 is an addition, and that we have for this extra expenditure got no sufficient addition of efficiency or strength. How has that £10,000,000 gone? You have had an increase of 54,000 men and 11,000 Colonial troops. Those 65,000 Regular troops have among them absorbed in pay, in the extra prices paid for food 568 and fuel for the whole Army, and in the improved scale of clothing for the whole Army, £5,000,000. Five millions out of ten have, therefore, gone in charges you can strike out by a stroke of the pen, if you decide to reduce your army in numbers. I want to make it perfectly clear that it is not a question of the War Office squandering money. You can put your hand on the charge and, if you can induce the Government to do it, you can reduce it. There is no difficulty about that. We have been told in past years that our horses were not sufficiently numerous. We have added 11,000 horses in all, including these required for seventy batteries of artillery. That is a charge of £450,000. The Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers have absorbed among them £1,250,000, and stores and clothing account for nearly £2,500,000. That is a charge which will mainly cease after the present year. The medical service absorbed £200,000, and manœuvres £170,000. There have been three charges over which we have no control—the interest on works loans, the subsidies to India with regard to Aden, which were adopted in this House and were finally placed on the War Office, and the non-effective charges due to the war—pensions to men and to officers—which have absorbed another £1,000,000. Those charges together represent the whole £10,000,000 of increase. I desire to put this statement before the House, because if it is determined to cut down the Army Estimates it will see where the operation is to begin. I wish also to state that we have not said our last word as to the cost of the Army by giving these figures. I have referred before to the consciousness I had, perhaps more than any man in this House, that the time would come when the House and the country would grudge this great expenditure and call for a reduction. The policy which I have asked the House to pursue—the policy of the three years system—was specially designed, among other things, to meet that difficulty. I was blamed the other day because I did not introduce the three years system in 1901. My conduct was treated as a death-bed repentance. The circumstance of adding to the soldiers' pay, from which you can never recede, and the reduction of the years of service, giving, as they do, so large a responsibility as to drafts for India, are things which I do not think 569 any man could be expected to undertake without the most careful consideration of the matter by all the authorities. I took fifteen months to think it over, and I trust the House will, therefore, wait a little longer to see the result. The main result is an economical result—the shortening of the service.
What I think should be the aim of this country is to keep the minimum of soldiers with the colours, and a maximum of Reserves. The Reserve is our first line as much as are the soldiers with the colours. Of the Reserves all sorts of doubts have been expressed, but they have been resolved by the late war. Ninety-six per cent. of the men came up, showing that we can count upon their service. Regiments, we were told, when filled with 50 per cent. of Reservists would not be homogeneous, and would not be equal to other regiments. These regiments were sent to Natal, and I ask any man whether any regiments could have fought better? I say the principle of a Reserve having been once firmly established, this three years system will, if you choose to permit it, make your Reserve half as large again, or possibly even double as large, and will enable you to dispense with a considerable number of men on the active list. If you are willing to bear the burden of the additional men on the active list, and the full number of recruits for three years longer, you Reserves will mount up to 100,000 men, and then the Minister who may be in power can decide how many he will take at £60, and how many he will substitute for them at £9. I look forward to an improvement in the personnel of the Army, not so much to a reduction of the total number of the establishment, and by the realisation of the three years' system to the maintenance of a large Reserve with the minimum of numbers with the colours. Therefore, I hope the House, when it comes to review the Estimates for the year, will enable us to show not only what is the present charge, but what is the charge we may hope for in the future, the requirements and possible economies, and also the estimated cost to the country.
Now a few words as to the position in regard to the Amendment. I do not challenge in the least the right of those 570 who are dissatisfied both with the number of troops we propose to send abroad and who consider our Army is dangerously strong, to vote against us. I do not challenge the same right of the right hon. Gentleman opposite who said last year that three Army Corps specially allotted and prepared for active service abroad were unnecessary, and he added politically undesirable; though I shall be prepared to show that the weaker your Army the greater your danger from foreign complications, and above all that the Army which is simply in numbers and not organised for fighting is the greatest embarrassment to your Foreign Minister, who may trade upon the numbers and not be aware that the organisation which is to make them good is incomplete. But I am asked, Where is this Army to be employed? A few years ago we should never have thought that we should send twice that number to South Africa. I decline to accept my hon. friend's statement that the North-West Frontier of India is nothing but a bugbear. I say that our preparations for the defence of our greatest dependency must be judged upon expert advice, and we should not forget that for a much smaller dependency we had to send double the number of troops. I hope that in the discussion the question of policy will prevail, and that prejudice against the War Office may be allowed for the moment to stand aside. I know how difficult it is to ask this; I know how great has been the unpopularity, the inevitable unpopularity, which those connected with the administration of an Army hastily improvised like ours for the Boer War—how great is the unpopularity they must incur. Let me take one point. There is not a day passes that I do not receive letters from officers who have gone out suddenly and obtained commissions and have done invaluable service with the Irregular Forces, and who have come home asking at least for employment in the Regular Army, if they can have no other recognition, that they may not go back and stand by the side of their fellows bearing no mark of what they have done in the war. We are now 600 or 700 officers above strength, and we have no Parliamentary power to commission a large number of men who have 571 come out after a few months' service, good though that has been. I can assure the House I have never had a sadder task than that of telling so many of these men that it is impossible for us to help them. About 9,000 or 10,000 officers have been mentioned in despatches, and we have given recognitions to 2,800 by honours or promotion, and it is impossible to submit further names to the King. Every man who comes in that way, and those around him, go away with germs of bitterness against the War Office for accepting their services and not being able sufficiently to recompense them. What is true of the officers is true also of the men. As the House knows, 80,000 men had to be discharged, and had a right to be discharged. We did everything we could for them; we pressed for employment for them, we offered them the right to go back, on such terms as had never before been offered to the Army, for a year, and with right to leave when they obtained employment. We get some 3,500 letters a day, and an enormous proportion of those are form men who have complaints that are out of the power of the War Office to meet, and that leave the writers with bitter feelings. Only within the last few days it has been put to me almost as a right that some 2,000 workmen employed at Woolwich during pressure of work should be retained in employment though the reason for it had ceased. Of course, it is out of our power. May I say, on the other hand, that no tact on the part of a Minister, no diplomacy, no administrative ability can possibly avoid the feelings that are excited by our impotence to help either officers or men who have suffered in consequence of the war? I ask the House to consider what is the effect of Army reform generally.
Much has been said to-night about reforms which have not been made, and nothing about those that have been made. We have carried out to the full the proposal that officers should be selected for commands, and that commands should not go by seniority. Every officer you select for a command leaves nine or ten men disappointed. It is impossible to carry out the principle of selection and yet be popular. Only the other day, in the cavalry, Lord Roberts put forward three 572 or four men who had done remarkable service in the war, but they were all comparatively junior officers. I believe they were rightly placed, and I supported their appointment. We desired to case no slur on older officers who may have been passed over for these particular commands; none the less, one cannot help feeling that the Army Corps system has acted to the detriment of a good many of them. Remember, commands have been given, perhaps rightly given, in the past to men as reward for past services, and not in expectation of future service. Men who have passed long periods of their lives in the Army legitimately aspire to commands, and are from that standpoint disappointed when a command is given to a younger man likely to serve again in the field. In the same way with decentralisation. Men come to me with complaints in reference to re-enlistment, furlough, lodgings for married soldiers, and when referred to the general officers commanding, they say I am shirking my duties and laying them on somebody else. There is no more unpopular thing than decentralisation when it comes to details. In principle it is cheered, in detail it is odious. I was surprised the other night when an hon. Member who came to me on a case of this kind accepted my statement and applauded it. It was the first time it had happened. However we may deal with the Auxiliary Forces, which in a voluntary army are so important an element, any pressure, any change, any attempt to get more efficiency which presses hardly upon individuals causes an immediate outcry against the War Office which is voiced in this House. I ask the House to remember that these are not legitimate grounds on which the system or strength of the Army should be discussed. Nobody knew better than I did—and I spoke to the House about it two years ago—that reform of the Army, by whoever it was taken up, would probably prove to be so unpopular a task as to imperil the Minister who undertook it. I had no delusion on the subject. However famous, however distinguished a Commander-in-Chief under whose auspices such action is taken, the bulk of the responsibility and of the unpopularity must fall on the Minister who undertakes it. I do not 573 suppose many men are conscious how much they are influenced with regard to the strength of the Army and the system of the Army by the treatment which they receive from the War Office in matters which concern them. I urge that we should deal with this subject on the highest plane. I approach this Army question solely from the point of view of Lord Rosebery when he stated that national defence was a question of life or death. I ask the House to reflect that it is not only an important, it is a complex and difficult Question. I earnestly believe that we have in our present Army system a sound and necessary policy. I know that the personnel is daily growing more efficient. I can show that the material of war of all the forces that have been organised is now provided, and we are setting up a standard which will never, I trust, be cast down. If we succeed in our object it may cost the existence of one Minister; but that Minister will not have suffered in vain. But I would urge that the House of Commons should look at what has been proved, and consider the shortness of time, and approach this subject from the point of view that it is easier to change the number to be provided, if you change the basis on which they are to be provided; but that if you proceed to upset the ground work of the system, you will not only temporarily weaken the forces of the Empire, but set back the clock of Army reform for ten or fifteen years. It is from that point of view, and because I believe no Minister who ever brought a scheme before the House, could show within two years so large an amount of success, and no scheme ever bore the fruit of expectation so soon as this, that I unhesitatingly submit my policy to the verdict of the House of Commons.
§ *MR. YERBURGH,
whose opening sentences did not reach the Gallery, was understood to say that the House would agree that his right hon. friend was heartily to be congratulated on the defence he had made. With one point, however, he could not agree. His right hon. friend had said the weaker our Army was, the more danger there was of foreign complications. He had always understood that the great factor in preserving European peace was the strength of the British Navy; he had never heard that the strength of the Army was to be 574 considered as the determining factor for defending this country. Everyone agreed with his right hon. friend in the view that what they wished to secure was the improvement in the material of which the Army was composed, but they did not agree that it was necessary to have so large a number of men with the colours as his right hon. friend had stated. Upon the broad policy which he wished the House to discuss, the right right hon. Gentleman found strong variations of opinion among those supporting the Amendment. With that statement he could not agree, because all who had spoken in favour of the Motion had stated that the great objection to be taken against the Army Corps system was that the defence of this country was in the first place to depend on the Navy; they also agreed that the Navy had first call upon the country; therefore, he did not think the Secretary of State for War was justified in saying there was no common ground in support of the Amendment. But his right hon. friend went further; he had endeavoured to make good that not only had they no common ground as to the Imperial aspect, but that they did not agree as to the details of the Amendment they presented. That was not the case, because both the mover and seconder committed themselves to the proposition that what was required was an effective and mobile army, not too large, to strike on the other side of the water to complete the work of the Navy, and beyond that a small army was required for the defence of this country in the temporary absence of the Fleet.
His right hon. friend had apparently taken a different stand from that taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland when he represented the War Office in this House, that the Government did not aspire to emulate the vast armies of Continental Powers, and "that it had intentions of increasing the Army in order to protect these islands from invasion by soldiers instead of by ships." So far as he could understand, the Minister for War considered in 1901 that the home Army should be strong enough to meet organised invasion from abroad, which was a very different thing; that the foreign service Army should be employed with the army of any country we might be allied to, and take part in military operations with them, and exercise 575 such functions as were exercised by military forces on the Continent. There was a distinct difference of principle between the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, speaking for the Government in 1899, and his right hon. friend, speaking in 1901. On the one hand, we were to have a foreign army, not to compete with foreign nations, and a home army to defend this country form a raid. On the other hand, his right hon. friend considered our foreign army was to compete with continental armies, and our home army was to be such as to be able to resist an organised invasion of this country.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I never said a word suggesting that our Army should compete with continental armies, or contend with them. What I said was that it might be necessary to send a large force to protect our great dependencies, and that for home defence we were bound to depend on an efficient home force.
§ *MR. YERBURGH
pointed out that in March, 1901, in the debate on the Army Estimates, the right hon. Gentleman had stated that we had commitments with two continents besides Africa, that there were dangers of European entanglements, and had said that it stood to reason that if we had allies none of them would be prepared to turn out every man they could muster and allow ours to rest at home. Did his right hon. friend still contemplate having to defend this country against organised invasion?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I said we were bound to have an efficient defence for these islands in case of the temporary absence of the Fleet, and to that I stand.
§ *MR. YERBURGH
said that if he understood his right hon. friend to say he did not desire to employ this large army at home for the purpose of resisting an organised invasion from abroad—if that was the case, his proposition was altogether too excessive. Why build up so great an army if it was not intended to resist organised invasion? This was a most important point to be considered. If his right hon. friend reflected, he would see that so long as we had to contend for the supremacy of the sea, and so long as that was in 576 doubt, for so long must the Army remain at home. It could not be sent abroad until freedom of transport for the Army was secured.
§ *MR. YERBURGH
thanked his right hon. friend for the interruption. He would say why. Because we had the Navy to fall back upon. That showed that our strength was the Navy and the Navy alone, and that therefore we did not require this large force at home to repel an invasion that was not possible. His right hon. friend said that if he had gone down to his constituency and suggested that they had too many men that he would have found his own constituency against him. That, however, was not the point at issue. If they were engaged in a great European war they would have ample time, before the affairs of the Fleet were settled, to manufacture a defensive army. [MINISTERIAL laughter, and cries of "No, no!"] His hon. friends laughed at that statement, but did anyone suppose that they were going to decide a large naval quarrel, and dispose of a naval power like France within a short space of time? There would be ample time to manufacture an army before the Naval issue was decided. They had heard from various speakers that they could reply upon Volunteer effort, but he submitted that the true defence of this country was the Navy, and what they could spare after the Navy had been provided for should be spent upon the Army. They ought not to spend more upon the Army than was consistent with the efficiency of the Navy. The scheme proposed by his right hon. friend was too large in its character. They all agreed that they needed a mobile, effective Army, but their contention was that the Army provided by this scheme was far too large. The Army for home defence ought not to be too large; it should act completely by itself, and be composed of Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers, and such an Army, properly officered and released from the control of the War Office to as large an extent as possible, should be placed under the authorities of the various counties, and that was the kind of force they require for home defence. Holding 577 those views, and holding them very strongly, it was impossible for him to vote against this Amendment.
His right hon. friend's scheme, he believed, was radically unsound, and would saddle the country with a number of men far beyond their requirements. He believed this scheme would give them an army for foreign service largely composed of immature boys, and the right hon. Gentleman's proposals in regard to home defence did not go to the root of the matter. The right hon. Gentleman was, so to speak, tinkering with this question. His arrangements with regard to the Volunteers were admirable in design, but they would not work. The right hon. Gentleman's intention was to make them a better force, but he did not recognise that the root of the whole difficulty was not the want of patriotism, but the hard fact that Volunteers were unable to afford the money in order to obtain the necessary training. For those reasons he believed his right hon. friend's scheme was radically unsound, and although he was not prepared to vote for the Amendment under these circumstances, he certainly should not vote against it.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said he was pleased to hear the satisfactory returns which had been placed before them in regard to enlistments. All who spoke upon Army matters in the House foretold that the improvements of pay and the option given for the short term of enlistment would do much for recruiting, and he was pleased to see that it had turned out so well. He failed, however, to see where this great system had made any great alterations. They had a great deal more to pay, but it was perfectly useless to talk of Army reform unless the increased expenditure was met by more economical treatment of things which existed already. They had seen recently numerous cases in which the War Office and the Army were extravagant. They were penny wise and pound foolish, and kept a most strict account of such small matters as officers' cab fares, upon which they wasted a great deal of energy collecting.
The new scheme meant an increase in the number of general officers and staff, and this staff would be purely ornamental. The Secretary of State told them that 578 there was nothing in the term "Army Corps" and that it was not borrowed from Germany. It certainly was not a German expression, but the Germans had made an Army Corps a fixed number of troops, and that was what was being done by this scheme. The extra officers would make a considerable difference when they came to pay them. How could they call anything a proper Army Corps which had as many as eighty battalions of Volunteers in it. They were told that each Army Corps was to have a fixed number of cavalry and infantry in proper proportions ready to move, and be mobile, with medical stores, but now they found that General Grenfell had just been appointed to an Army Corps which included 100 battalions of Volunteers. Could anything be more absurd than to call that an Army Corps? During the ordinary manœuvres they had an Army Corps for about a month, but what was the use of spending all this money upon a body which existed only in a concrete form for one or two months during manœuvres. He agreed that there would be a number of infantry battalions to make up the Army Corps, although even the First Army Corps did not seem complete yet. As for the Return which had been given them today he thought it was absolutely the vaguest ever issued anywhere. Take, for instance, the infantry of the First Army Corps. It said, "Required, twenty five battalions; available twenty-four." Some of the troops were now on their way home from South Africa, but where were the rest? What was the strength of them? It did not say one word about them, and the Press seemed to have much better information upon this question than the War Office. In the Sunday Times he found an accurate account of the state of the battalions in the First Army Corps, and apparently they could only muster about sixteen battalions out of twenty-five. He wished to know how many of those sixteen battalions were fit to take the field. A battalion might be perfectly useless unless the men were fit to take the field. If half of a battalion were recruits, and another 20 per cent. of them were unfit for various other reasons that made the battalion 50 per cent. below ware strength, and instead of having 800 or 1,000 men they might have only about 250 men in a battalion fit to 579 take the field. He was afraid that several of these battalions were in that condition. They had got absolutely nothing for their money, except an increased number of recruits and horses. That was not in his opinion a reorganisation of the Army, nor was it in any form a reform of the Army. It was mere change of names. He wished to say one word in regard to this decentralisation. He did not think the Secretary of State for War had gone very far in this direction. Take a place like Dover. If £5 or £10 were required for Army purposes the general was first asked about it, and then he had to get the sanction of the War Office. Now Dover had been decentralised, and before this money could be spent the general commanding at Dover had to be asked. He could give hundreds of these cases throughout the country.
§ *THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Lord STANLEY,) Lancashire, Westhoughton
, asked whether the hon. Member would substantiate the case.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
said it was best not to substantiate cases, because, if he did so, those who had given the War Office away would get into trouble. He had not come across a single case in which a matter had been hastened by the nominal decentralisation of the Secretary of State. He would like to see the right hon. Gentleman go on with his scheme and effect any story of Army reform, provided that increased economy accompanied increased expenditure, an essential of all reform, but one which had not been shown to have been achieved in any single department. The time had come when the nation would on longer spend the money it had been spending on the Army; retrenchment must come, and if it could not be managed where it ought to be, he was afraid essential parts of the Army would be taken away. When the House of Commons voted, as it probably would in a year or two, for a reduction of the Army Vote by so many millions, the Secretary of state would be unable to take away certain number of men, because to do so would upset the whole scheme or leave him absolutely with skeleton battalions. Therefore, if the House determined to 580 reduce the Army Estimates, some fresh scheme would have to be devised, unless the Secretary of State added to his present scheme something which would effect some economy and make it a real reform.
§ *COLONEL LEGGE (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said he was unable to support the Amendment. He had listened very carefully to the speeches of the mover and seconder in the hope that they would give some indication of what the "needs of the Empire" really were Probably few Members other than Ministers or ex-Ministers had any idea of what those requirements might be, and it was not the business of Members to declare the organisation to be unsuitable when they did not know the nature of the requirements. The Council of Defence was being reorganised, and on those requirements being explained, it would be for them to issue advice upon which the necessary forces would be organised. They had been told that the scheme was extravagant, that Army Corps were unsuitable to the conditions of the country, and that "Army Corps" was an undesirable foreign term. But no alternative scheme had been put forward. Hitherto the Army had been divided into district commands—ten in England, one in Scotland, and four in Ireland—which varied in area and importance. Some were commanded by lieutenant-generals, some by major-generals; some had no cavalry, and some no artillery. There was no organisation whatever about those commands. One thing, if nothing else, could be said about an Army Corps, and that was that it was a complete unit in itself, every branch of the service being properly represented in the proportion declared by experts to be required for active service. An Army Corps comprised, roughly, 40,000 men, so that this scheme of six Army Corps provided for 24,000, of whom 120,000 were Regular troops and the remainder auxiliary forces. That, in his opinion, was not an excessive army to maintain. It was sometimes said that they might not require to send so much as an Army Corps abroad. But it was just as easy to divide an Army Corps as a regiment of cavalry, so that if 20,000 men were wanted half an Army Corps 581 could be sent, or if only 10,000 were necessary, a quarter of an Army Corps would be despatched.
The second part of the Amendment declared that no proportionate gain in strength and efficiency had resulted from the recent increases in military expenditure. A comparison of the Estimates of the year before the war and those of last year showed that there had been a considerable increase, the figures for 1899–1900 being £20,617,000 against £29,310,000 last year. But there had also been a considerable increase in the different establishments. With regard to the Regular forces at home and in the colonies, the establishment had been raised from 176,000 to 209,000; the Reserve had been reduced by the late war and would take a certain time to regain its proper strength; the Militia had increased from 129,000 to 131,000; the Yeomanry from 11,000 to 35,000; and the Volunteers from 264,000 to 346,000. Since 1899 there had been an increase of about £4 per head in the cost, but in view of the improved conditions of the soldier and the increased pay that was likely to accrue, he did not think there was much to complain of on that point. Therefore, as in his opinion neither of the propositions of the Amendment could be upheld, he should consider it his duty, both as a supporter of the Government, and as a soldier of forty years standing, to vote against the Amendment.
§ *MR. CLAUDE LOWTHER (Cumberland, Eskdale)
said that while not in agreement with every detail put forward by the hon. Member for Whitby, he certainly agreed with the principle of the Amendment. It had always been his belief that the safety of the Empire demanded a small but efficient Army, and a large world-embracing Navy, so that he was bound to express his disapproval of the policy of the Secretary of State for War. But, if the Amendment were pressed to a division, he and many other Members on that side would find it difficult to decide which way to vote. If the division were taken merely on the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, he was convinced there would be a large majority against it. But the division would involve the fate of the Government, so that two impossible alternatives were placed before him. If he voted against 582 the Amendment of his hon. friend he would be voting against his conviction. If, on the contrary, he voted for the Amendment he would be condemning to the best of his ability the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, it was true, but at what risk? At the risk of robbing the Empire of a Government which, although it did include the Secretary of State for War, the author of the scheme, included also the Prime Minister, in whom all on this side of the House had the greatest confidence, and the Colonial Secretary, on whose genius whole continents relied for their welfare and developments. Therefore he was unable to vote. If the Amendment was pressed to a division he would take no part in it.
§ *MR. WYLIE (Dumbartonshire)
said he desired to say a few words on the Volunteer aspect of the question. They constituted an important portion of the defensive forces of the Empire. He had given notice of an Amendment to the Address setting forth—that longer and more arduous training of the Volunteer forces is now being demanded without corresponding augmentation of allowances and facilities, and without due regard to the conditions under which they have to carry on their civil occupations, which, as was anticipated, has seriously reduced these forces, whilst the growing necessities of the Empire require a large increase both of their numbers and efficiency, which should be secured by a substantial increase of capitation and other grants, and of facilities and convenient arrangements for drill and shooting.The Amendment now before the House was practically the same as that of which he gave notice last year, and which was unanimously adopted by eighty Volunteer colonels who came to London at that time to deal with the question of the crisis caused in the Volunteer force by the new regulations. At the desire of these colonels a strong requisition was made to the Prime Minister for the purpose of obtaining time to discuss this subject during the debate on the Address, and he very courteously arranged for this being done, but the exigencies of the Government in connection with the South African was prevented the debate from taking place. The most gloomy prognostications then made regarding the Volunteer force had been entirely fulfilled. In answer to the hon. Member for Sheffield the Secretary of State for War had stated that the decrease had been 38,000, and 583 the deficiency in officers 1,895. He found from other sources that the resignations during the Volunteer year at 1st November were 65,000, and these resignations had occurred in every part of the country and in every branch of the service. The following are examples out of an enormous list. In the Artillery branch in Forfar the resignations were 353, in Durham 326, and in Dorset 271; in the Engineers, they were in Devon and Somerset, 355, in Gloucester 259, and in Middlesex 240, in the Queen's Rifles, composed of several Midlothian Battalions, 752; in Leicester 536, in Stafford 519, Welsh 511, and the 1st Lanark 486. These figures showed a very serious reduction in the Volunteer force, and it was the more alarming when they came to recognise the fact that during the last quarter of 1902 the total resignations amounted to no less than 29,000—at that rate the resignations for the year would be 116,000.
Under the new scheme it had been proposed to increase the Army to a very considerable extent, by increasing the pay of the ordinary soldier by about 40 per cent. It had been arranged to increase the Militia to the extent of 50 per cent., also by increased pay and allowances; and it was proposed to increase the Yeomanry by 250 per cent. by increased pay and allowances. He congratulated the Secretary of State for War on the very able speech he had made in defence of that policy, and its remarkably successful results. But very different indeed had been the action of the War Office towards the Volunteer force. Instead of having been encouraged and increased in numbers, they had been subjected to the most severe reflections by the War Office authorities—reflections which implied that they had never hitherto been considered as a serious part of the defensive forces of the country. Had the conduct of the Volunteer force in the field merited such severe strictures and such ungenerous treatment? He ventured to say it had been the very contrary. The Volunteer force in active service had received the warmest eulogium from every officer under whom they served. A very competent and of course disinterested continental critic had stated that the whole history of the war proved that they were possessed of the finest qualities of the Regulars, namely discipline 584 and courage, while they had much more intelligence, initiative, and endurance. Besides that they had fostered a manly and patriotic spirit in the country. They had elevated the common soldier in the public estimation, and this had greatly facilitated the recruiting for which the Secretary of State for War had taken so much credit. They had besides contributed a very large quota of troops direct to the front. They had contributed largly to the Regular Army, to the Militia and the Yeomanry. The Volunteer regiments of the county which he had the honour to represent, not only sent to the front a full quota of men direct, but they had contributed fifty-four Yeomanry, forty-one Militia, and 261 Regulars. If the whole of the Volunteer battalions throughout the country had contributed in the same proportion, and he thought it was probable that they did, then the whole contribution of the Volunteer force was no less than 70,000 men. Under these circumstances, the action of the War Office in connection with the Volunteers had been most inexplicable and most discouraging, and he held that in connection with the recruiting for the Regular Army it had been most short-sighted. They had discouraged the force which had added, and would add, enormously to the recruiting power of the Army. The policy of the War Office in connection with the Volunteers during the last three years had been of the most vacillating and inconsistent description. In the beginning of 1900, when it was considered, that mounted men were not required in South Africa, the War Office encouraged a large increase of the Volunteer force. They encouraged the Volunteers to go into camp in large numbers by giving them a grant of a little under £900,000. In 1901 there came an entire revolution in the feeling of the War Office, which caused the issue of the celebrated Order in Council on the Volunteer force. The Volunteers were, of course, mortified by this change of policy on the part of the Government, and this feeling very soon found expression throughout the country and in this House. Recognising that they had made a mistake, the War Office convened a meeting of a few representative Volunteer colonels and immediately made some modification of the regulations. These modifications were approved by some Volunteer colonels in this House, but 585 when they came under his observation he, on the first opportunity on the Estimates stated that they were utterly inadequate and had left things in statu quo. He was confident that when the War Office issued these regulations, they regarded a large reduction of the Volunteer force with equanimity.
And, it being half-past Seven of the Clock, the debate stood adjourned till this evening's sitting.