§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [23rd February] to Main Question [17th February], "That an humble address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both. Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Gretton.)593
Which Amendment was—
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 again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ *MR. WYLIE
, continuing his remarks, said that with regard to the Volunteers the War Office fully realised that there would be a serious diminution in this valuable auxiliary force, because in an Order of Council they hadset out the fact that the new rules must affect a great many persons who would be prevented from joining, but he scarcely thought that they quite realised the fact that the enormous number of resignations would involve in many cases the extinction of the regiments.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman appears to be discussing not so much the question in the Amendment as the effect on the Volunteer forces of a particular regulation.
§ *MR. WYLIE
pointed out that inasmuch as these regulations seriously affected the defensive forces of the Empire, he thought perhaps he would be allowed to show how these forces had been reduced, and what measures should be taken to prevent such reduction.
§ *MR. WYLIE
said he bowed to the ruling of the Chair. The Secretary of State for War had, he thought, done exceedingly well for the Army; he had given a greater increase of pay to the private soldiers than any of his predecessors had given, and he had done well with the Militia, and had been liberal with the Yeomanry. He strongly urged the right hon. Gentleman now to turn his attention to the Volunteers and to regard them with the same consideration that he had given to the other branches of the Army. The changes the right hon. Gentleman had made in 594 the Army, Yeomanry and Militia were extremely satisfactory, and had greatly disarmed the criticisms brought to bear against him in that House, but if he might make one remark. he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to restore to the Volunteers of this country those grants which had been taken away, and to increase the allowances and facilities for drill and shooting. If the right hon. Gentleman did that he would not only stop this diminution of the Volunteer forces, but bring them up to a state of efficiency which they had never before attained. He hoped this would only be the first step towards an enormous extension of these forces. The active force of the Volunteers should be brought up to 600,000 with a Reserve of 500,000, and a second Reserve of 1,500,000, and this could be done at an expense of probably six or seven millions, but certainly not more than £10,000,000. He was surprised at the criticisms of some of his hon. friends who sat on that side of the House as to the necessity of reducing the numbers of our Army. The size of our Army had been a matter of profound contempt among the officers of armies on the Continent. With an increased Volunteer force behind it, which could be effected with little expense because, as was well known, the Volunteer was the cheapest soldier in the world, the feeling of contempt would pass away. The Volunteers cost £6 a head. There was three times that expenditure in the case of the Militiaman and the Yeoman, and fourteen times as much in the case of the Regular. The expenditure on the whole Volunteer force was 30 per cent. less than the cost of two battleships, and about the same as that of 20,000 Regulars, and the value obtained from that expenditure was infinitely greater than would be obtained from adding two battleships to the Navy or 20,000 men to the Regular Army. Looking at the enormous expansion of the British Empire; to the great increase of Continental armies and navies; to the much greater contact we had with those countries in many parts of our dominions; and looking to the great lesson taught by the Boer War, namely, that those countries entertained the greatest jealousy and the bitterest hostility towards us, many military 595 experts of this country considered the proposed increase in the Regular Army, Militia and Yeomanry was not at all sufficient for the purpose of the defence of this colossal Empire. He strongly urged the Secretary of State to take into his friendly consideration not simply the reinstatement of the Volunteers to their old position, but to increase the numbers in the way he had indicated. War among civilised nations was generally the result of foregone investigations, which had caused a nation to believe that the army it was going to oppose was much less effective and efficient than its own. If this country had such a Volunteer forces as he had suggested, with the Navy we possessed, the Regular Army, and Yeomanry and Militia according to the forecast that had been made, we should regard any combination of the Continental Powers with comparative indifference. He hoped the Volunteer forces would receive from the right hon. Gentleman the consideration to which they were entitled.
§ *MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said this subject had been raised by that side of the House on which he sat on more than one occasion, but had never received adequate support from the opposite Benches. There was no desire whatever in the present discussion to make this a Party question, or any desire to criticise unduly the efforts made by the Secretary of State for War or the Commander-in-Chief. Every one was convinced that both the right hon. Gentleman and the Commander-in-Chief had done all they could to remedy a great evil. A contradictory issue was raised by the Amendment. He agreed with the contention that they had not an efficient scheme for the Army in the scheme proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the difficulty of dealing with the claims of officers and others who had served their country well in South Africa. There must evidently be a good deal of discontent under these conditions. The Army at no time was an easy subject for civilians to deal with. It was not only a question of those who were unable to find employment, but he did not think the Army as a whole was at all content with the Six Army Corps Scheme; and he was satisfied that the country as a whole was 596 not content with it. And why? Because the public had realised how absolutely essential it was that we should have an invincible fleet, and it was convinced that more money would have to be spent on the fleet. The people also felt that taxation would have to be reduced, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given no encouragement that there would be such a reduction. Last September the late Chancellor of the Exchequer told them that, in his opinion, there should be a reduction on the Military Estimates of the the present year, and that there would be such a reduction if the War Office properly expended their money. The right hon. Gentleman had compared the cost of the operations of South Africa under the control of the War Office with that of the cost of the Soudan War under Lord Kitchener and Lord Cromer; and he added that there was something wrong with the military element in the War Office. If they were to deal with soldiers they needed a great organising soldier.
The Secretary for War had spoken of the success he had met with in regard to recruiting. That was a very satisfactory part of his statement, but it would be dangerous to expect recruiting to be always so good as it was at the close of the war, in spite of the advantages which the right hon. Gentleman had offered to recruits. When the Six Army Corps Scheme was introduced, he thought that some form of conscription would have to be introduced as part of the scheme; but he did not believe that the public would ever agree to conscription until every effort had been made to meet the requirements of the Empire without conscription. Another difficulty in connection with the Six Army Corps Scheme was that of finding an adequate manœuvring ground. Many of them who had been at Aldershot knew that there was not sufficient ground there, and he believed that before long it would be found that the same remark might apply to Salisbury Plain. The right hon. Gentleman had gone to the South of Scotland for a manœuvring ground which he thought was better than anything they could obtain in the South of England. He, however, believed it was not possible to manœuvre these Army Corps in this island. He had read the scheme lately placed before them in The Times, and he did not think any one 597 of them could fail to be attracted by the proposal that the First Army Corps should be moved from Aldershot to South Africa. None of them who were soldiers but would prefer if they were to begin their professional career again to go to India, or some other country where they would have some real opportunity for manœuvring; and that was what they would gain by having an Army Corps in South Africa.
Another point to which sufficient attention had not been given was the constitution of a great general staff. That he believed to be absolutely essential, and it would be cheap at half-a-million as compared with the expenditure of thirty millions without a general staff. He thought that a certain amount of the want of confidence which had arisen in the public minds was due to the fact that some of the recommendations in the Clinton-Dawkins Report which had attracted most attention had not been carried into effect. They had not one board but three boards, and anything more different from what came from the Clinton-Dawkins Report could not be imagined than the arrangement of the control of the Army by three boards instead of by one board, on the Admiralty model. So far as he knew the powers of delegation to be given to generals commanding districts, which had been recommended by the report, had not been distributed with a very lavish hand, although he understood that something had been done in that direction. President Roosevelt, in the speech which appeared in The Times of that day, had suggested a model of what the American army should be. He believed that that should be our model also that we should have a smaller army than that involved by the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, that we should pay it more highly in order to obtain recruits, and that we should have a home army in different healthy portions of the Empire where it would be near the seat of danger. The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman as it stood was too costly for the country to bear, and would have to be modified.
§ *LT.-COLONEL GEORGE KEMP (Lancashire, Heywood)
said that in speaking in favour of the Amendment, he knew he took up a position he had never before occupied. He had supported the Govern- 598 ment hitherto, because he not only concurred with them in their Party politics, but because he believed that their general policy had been a benefit to the country and the Empire. But on this occasion he was obliged to part company with them. Feeling that this was a matter of great urgency, he conceived it his duty to vote, not with his Party, but for what he believed to be the best interests of the whole Empire. He would endeavour to point out to the House, in as few words as possible, how the first obligation of His Majesty's Government, the maintenance of the security of the Empire, had been imperilled and not advanced by the Army Scheme of the Secretary of State for War. It could not be said that the House had dealt in any niggardly spirit with the expenditure on the two forces, the Navy and the Army. Sixty millions, or £80,000,000 if the Indian Army was included, had been spent on the defence of the Empire; but the general principle raised by the Amendment was: Had this large sum been properly divided between the Army and the Navy? Seven years ago a Defence Committee was appointed to consider the relative needs of the two forces. They knew that that Committee allayed, for the moment, the apprehensions that were felt in every part of the country. Up to that time there had been no organised, no coordinated authority by which the relative forces of the Navy and Army should be considered. Had that Committee fulfilled the purpose for which it was appointed? The present Government was aware of the inadequacy of that Committee, because they had very rightly seen fit to reconstitute it, and strengthen it by the addition of naval and military experts. If that were the case, did it not follow that during the last few years, our position as an Empire had been imperilled by the inadequacy of that Committee? It was recommended by the Hartington Commission that that Committee should meet every year before the Estimates were prepared, so that the relative establishments of the two services might be considered.
It was quite obvious that as the armaments of other nations increased, so the needs of our two forces would also vary from year to year. Had they not the spec- 599 tacle before them of a new factor in international affairs, a new naval power which had sprung up, and would continue to increase in strength? However genuine and sincere the friendship of the German Emperor might be for England, it was well known that the predominant feeling of the German people, combined with the increase in the naval power of that Empire, must be fraught with danger to this country, unless they were assured that steps were taken to meet any potential danger that might arise. What measures, then, had been taken? They had the famous declaration of 1896, when the Duke of Devonshire said thatThe maintenance of sea supremacy had been assured as a means of Imperial defence against attacks from over-sea.But was this Army Corps Scheme drawn up in accordance with the policy propounded by that declaration? He maintained that so far as they could judge from the statement of the Secretary for War, not only had it not been drawn up in accordance with that declaration, but in direct violation of it, and that the Secretary for War seemed even unaware of the views of the President of the Defence Committee, or else he acted in direct defiance of them. The right hon. Gentleman had said in his Memorandum to the Colonial Premiers that the number of men he asked for was 640,000 in time of peace, and that these numbers were "not deemed too large by our military advisers in view of the possibility of our at any time losing the command of the sea." The Duke of Devonshire's statement was in agreement with that of the Admiralty, which scouted a land defence, and presumed that we would act on the offensive at sea.
He had three questions to ask, and he wished an answer to them from the Secretary for War. First of all, had the right hon. Gentleman, before he brought his Estimates before the House each year, any directions or indications, based on the recommendations of the Committee of Defence, as to the scope of the duties of the Army; and secondly, if he had asked for these numbers and arranged for their general distribution in accordance with such directions. And thirdly, if he had not these directions, or any indication of their policy, on what basis had he formed the totality of his 600 scheme? They had been asked in the present year to spend £29,000,000 on the English Army, and only £31,000,000 on the Navy, which was the first line of defence. They knew from the statement of the Prime Minister that the Estimates for the current year had not, on account of the matter of time, been put before the re-constituted Defence Committee. They were to presume that these Estimates were in accordance with the deliberate decision of the Cabinet. Were they not, therefore, justified in asking for a statement from the Prime Minister as to what the general policy of the Cabinet had been which justified this particular allocation between the two forces of the Navy and Army? And if no statement of that kind was made, he thought they were not going beyond what was right in saying that the present Army policy of the Secretary for War was in direct contradiction to the policy of co-ordination between the two forces. The next point was this: What was the origin of the peculiar form of organisation by which the Army was divided into six Army Corps? It was well within the memory of the House that the Secretary of State for War had quoted Lord Roberts on what he would call comparatively minor details. That was a practice which personally he objected to, because it might give the impression to people outside the House that the Secretary of State for War, who was responsible for policy, had sheltered himself behind his subordinates. He did not say that in any invidious way, but he disapproved of the practice. He should like to know whether Lord Roberts had given his direct approval to this particular Army Corps scheme? That was not a question of details, but of national policy.
§ *LT.-COLONEL GEORGE KEMP
Very well, but was it not a very remarkable thing that the Commander-in-Chief never made use of this organisation in South Africa?
§ *LT.-COLONEL GEORGE KEMP
said he should like very much to know whether Lord Roberts had ever been in an Army Corps himself, and whether, in any speech or writing, his Lordship had ever pronounced himself in favour of this particular unit either for war in other countries, or for peace training at home? Had he ever done that? Let them have a reply from a representative of the Government. If the Secretary for War said that he had the approval of Lord Roberts for his scheme, when did Lord Roberts' conversion take place? Was it since his return from South Africa or was it at Madeira on his way home? He wanted to know the real origin of the Army Corps scheme, and whether it had the direct sanction and approval of the most eminent officers at the War Office. He had no acquaintance with these officers, but he should like to know whether any use had been made of the opinions of such men as Sir John Ardagh, Sir Evelyn Wood, or Sir Henry Brackenbury?
§ *LT.-COLONEL GEORGE KEMP
said that they might then be satisfied, after the assurance which had been given, that this scheme had the direct sanction of military experts, and was not the product of a civilian. He was glad to hear from the speech of the Secretary of State for War that afternoon, that the introduction of this scheme was not the introduction of an article made in Germany, for if it had been, he must say that all articles made in Germany were not useful in Great Britain. He said that in no frivolous spirit; but he imagined that the success of the Army Corps system in the Germanic Empire must have been the reason for its introduction in England. He would point out, however, that the military necessities of Germany were quite different from those of England; the conditions of service were entirely different, and the analogy would tend to mislead the general public. But if it was said that this particular organisation was approved of by the military experts, where, he asked, was it possible in this country to manœuvre properly an Army Corps, as an army? Had it ever been done?
§ *LT.-COLONEL GEORGE KEMP
said he believed it was tried in 1898, when Sir Redvers Buller commanded one corps, and the Duke of Connaught commanded another corps; but then it was more in name than in actual fact. Since the introduction of this scheme by the Secretary for War, could it be said that an Army Corps had been manœuvred against another Army Corps, so that the officers might be trained in the duties they would have to undertake in war? Could the Secretary of State tell them whether it was possible to manœuvre Army Corps in this country? If that were possible, as the Secretary of State said it was, he should like to know where?
§ *LT.-COLONEL GEORGE KEMP
said he would like to know where it was possible to manœuvre Army Corps in this country? One of the great arguments in favour of this system was that the general officers in particular would receive a training in their duties in case of war. He looked at the Army List for January, and he found that to the First Army Corps—which was the most advanced—only one brigadier had been appointed; yet he understood that the proper complement was to be six. If the contention was that their officers who commanded in peace should also command in their several capacities in war, how were they to reconcile it with the fact that divisional commanders were at the present time doing the work of the brigadiers? And if it were urged that the general officers were going to get extra training, he would like to know what kind of training they were now getting other than that given before the introduction of the scheme in 1891. He thought they also ought to know what was the difference in the work now being done at Aldershot and that prior to 1901. He was told—but perhaps he had been incorrectly informed—that the work going on there was exactly the same now as it was before the introduction of the scheme. If so, then he again asked, what was the advantage of the scheme so far as training of general officers was concerned? Next he came to the question of the men. They had been told that afternoon by the 603 Secretary for War that he had got more men than he actually wanted. How was it, then, that up till only a short time ago there were no men at all in the 3rd Division of the First Army Corps at Aldershot? The right hon. Gentleman's figures seemed to be very impressive, but where were the men?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
My hon. friend must be aware that during the last few months large numbers of troops have been coming back from South Africa, and, of course, the men cannot be at Aldershot and at sea at one and the same time. All the men I have named will be at their stations within a reasonable period.
§ *LIEUTENANT - COLONEL GEORGE KEMP
said he would like to know if it would be contended that the First Army Corps could go out in a few months as an Army Corps as at present constituted.
§ *LIEUTENANT - COLONEL GEORGE KEMP
said he must not be misunderstood to say that it could not go out as at present constituted because it had not got the Reservists, but what he wanted to know was whether, apart from the question of Reservists, it could go out, say, on the 31st March and engage in a war in any other country. His reply to that was that it could not, because it had not got the necessary brigadiers and other officers, while the men also were not there. Under this Army Corps system were we any more forward than under the old system in securing an expeditionary force that at a moment's notice could leave this country? He held that we were not, as not a single unit in any Army Corps could be sent from these shores without calling up the Reserves. The system would not enable us any more quickly than under the old plan to send out an expeditionary force. They had been told that afternoon that one of the great advantages of this system was that by it they got decentralisation. He quite understood that it might be easier to secure delegation of the business from the War Office by having larger districts than they had before the Army Corps districts were introduced, and that to that extent decentralisation might be accelerated. 604 The right hon. Gentleman had also informed them that the financial audits were not now held at the War Office but at Army Corps headquarters. But were not the references to the War Office as frequent now as they were before the financial clerks were sent down? It might be urged that the stores in these various Army Corps districts had been amassed. That, no doubt, was an advantage if the Army Corps was going out as an Army Corps; but if it were not, then there was no distinct advantage in having the stores amassed in their particular districts. Would it not have been possible to secure decentralisation to the extent they had done by districts instead of by Army Corps areas?
Something had been said about training. He would like to ask whether the present distribution of troops was an inseparable factor of the Army Corps system. Take the case of Colchester. Were the troops stationed there so that they might conform to Army Corps organisation? He happened to be there the other day, and he found there were three battalions of infantry, three batteries of artillery, a cavalry regiment, and other details at that station. He asked an officer. "Where is your training ground?" It was pointed out to him, and it had very much the appearance of a good cricket ground. He inquired further of the officer how he was able to train his men in the various arts of war in such a place; how for instance, he could teach them to take cover, and the reply was that he told them to go behind some small ornamental trees on the fringe of the ground, and to pretend that the trees were bigger. That was the way in which they were taking advantage of the lessons learned in the South African War. Yet when they heard of men exposing themselves to the Boers as targets on the sky-line, with the result that regrettable incidents followed, they were at once asked what were the officers doing that they had not trained their men better. They might just as well go to Drury Lane Theatre and borrow a number of stage properties for use in training their troops as adopt the plan in vogue at Colchester. He was told that the only available ground for the 605 cavalry to learn scouting was on the public roads, and that the local authorities were making up a Bill against the Government for damage done to the thoroughfares. Now, he wanted to know, were all those things inseparable from the Army Corps system? They might be told that large sums of money had been spent on barracks, but, if they had not a good training ground what was the use of the latest thing in barracks? He would like to take another illustration with regard to training grounds. He happened to be at Aldershot last year, at the training of a regiment of Yeomanry for South Africa, and he found that in the widely extended formations necessary, even with a very small body of troops, it was almost impossible to carry out satisfactorily movements which approximated to those on active service without finding the ground occupied by other troops. If that were the case when only a few troops were in training, what would be the effect when they attempted to manœuvre an Army Corps?
There was another question, which was still more important, and that was the cost. If the system were good, what was the cost of it? They were told it would amount to twenty-nine millions sterling. Whatever might be said about their having a sufficient number of men, he believed that at present they had only the skeleton formation without some of the vertebrae. But what would be the cost when the bones were fully clothed? It would undoubtedly be more than it was at the present time. When they were considering the vast question of expenditure they could not confine themselves to the needs of the Army and the Navy alone. The country was murmuring at the present time at the high taxation it had to bear. There were social reforms in urgent need of solution. There was the question of the housing of the working classes and of old age pensions, while on education they would have to spend increasingly large sums of money, and rightly so. Now, the proposition he wished to put was this: While these questions were calling for solution, while the country was demanding that they should be attended to, they could not possibly ask for enormous sums of money for the Army unless they could show that that money was urgently needed for 606 the requirements of the country, and that it was rightly and adequately expended. More than that, he was afraid that if this expenditure continued to increase as it was now increasing the people would get disgusted with it, and in future years it would be difficult for any Government to bring forward a scheme which would adequately meet the requirements of Imperial defence, because the public felt that the money already voted had not been properly spent, and they could not be certain how it would be expended.
They were told by the right hon. Gentleman that he had got his men. He was prepared to accept that statement, although they did not know how the figures were arrived at, what they included, or what were the qualities of the men. But supposing the right hon. Gentleman had made that point good, supposing he had got his men, what were they for? Was it to engage in a Continental war? If so, he was perfectly certain that the people of this country would not tolerate that for one moment. Was it for home defence? If so, then it was in direct opposition to the policy enunciated by the President of the Defence Committee. If they were told it was to be prepared for wars like that in South Africa, if they were told that they wanted six Army Corps for that purpose, then he thought they ought to have a clear statement from a member of the Government of the policy which the Government was pursuing. It had been said that the policy of the Government was to maintain on the one hand an overwhelming Navy to meet the necessities inherent to the defence of these shores, and at the same time to maintain a large Army which would enable them to deal with a war such as that they had recently had in South Africa. If that were the policy of the Government, let Ministers say so clearly and frankly. They had heard a good deal that afternoon about recruiting; they had heard with great satisfaction that the results were very good. But he would like to ask whether, in the 50,000 recruits spoken of that afternoon, there were included the 5,000 yeomen who last year were enlisted under special conditions.
§ *LIEUTENANT - COLONEL GEORGE KEMP
said he was glad to hear 607 that. They had got the quantity of recruits, but what about the quality? In the last recruiting returns there was a statement which would lead one to believe that the quality of the recruits educationally had improved. If that was going to be argued by the right hon. Gentleman, he ventured to say it was in direct contradiction of what he had himself heard. He had the pleasure of talking to a recruiting officer a little while ago, an officer who had passed a large number of recruits, and who had taken the trouble to examine them as to their educational qualities. His experience was that at least 50 per cent. of them were illiterate. No doubt they had been to school, but in the years intervening between leaving school and enlisting in the Army they had not taken part in any intelligent employment, and had apparently forgotten all they were supposed to have learnt. He thought that, in regard to that matter, they ought to have an authoritative statement from the right hon. Gentleman, because, unless it could be shown that the quality of the recruits had not merely not deteriorated but had tremendously improved, they would have failed to take advantage of one of the chief lessons of the South African War, a lesson which taught them that what they wanted was a higher class of men and more individuality of character. Unless the right hon. Gentleman could tell them that they had a much superior class of men, he ventured to assert that this present scheme was extravagant, because under it they did not get a due return from each man for the trouble and expense incurred on his behalf.
He had spoken rather longer than he intended, but there was one other point to which he could not omit drawing the attention of the House. The last and strangest feature of this scheme was that in the particular departments in which the Government ought to have been the least weak and the least niggardly, they had been the most niggardly. Where they ought to have spent money with a lavish hand they had absolutely stinted it. He referred particularly to the Intelligence Department. They had been told that afternoon that, two or three years before the Boer War broke out it would never have been anticipated that such a large number of men would be required. Why was it 608 never anticipated? It was because they had not a proper Intelligence Department. The war was known to be inevitable. It ought to have been known to be inevitable ever since 1884, and that being so, if they had had an Intelligence Department worthy of the name they would have been better prepared for it. He wondered if the right hon. Gentleman had ever calculated how many millions he might have saved this country if he had borne this in mind. What was done? Only a short time before the war took place, and when the situation was most acute, what did they do? They sent out a handful of officers to gather information which ought to have been collected ten years before. Those officers did admirable work, they did everything in their power, and they ran risks to which they ought not to have been exposed. They did magnificent work, and was it not a terrible condemnation of the Intelligence Department and of the War Office that they should have been obliged to send out, at the last moment, these few devoted men to find information which ought to have been in their possession long before. Now, he asked what had been done to remedy that defect. They had been informed that much had been done, and that the Director of Military Intelligence had been put into a very high and responsible post. They were glad to hear it. But what else had been done? He would like to ask what had become of the body of men so admirably trained by Colonel Henderson in South Africa. Colonel Henderson gathered together some 200 officers for the work of the Department, but no sooner had the war ended than their services were dispensed with. Was that the way in which the Department was trying to meet the necessities of the case? He spoke somewhat feelingly on this subject. He knew that the maps which they had in South Africa were, at any rate so far as the Orange River and Cape Colonies were concerned absolutely useless and inadequate. That was not merely his opinion, it was also the opinion of those responsible for drawing up the maps. In one instance there was an inscription, "This map is not to be taken as absolutely ac- 609 curate." There was no doubt a sombre humour in that, but that which might appear comic to the compiler was passing near tragic to the users. Some hon. Members had drawn a comparison between the Intelligence Departments of this country and Germany. Germany was practically surrounded by a ringed fence of armed nations, but the British Empire had to deal with problems of a unique character all the world over. If Germany met her needs by a large Intelligence Department, would this country not also adequately meet our needs by a correspondingly large Intelligence Department. It might be said that England had a small and Germany a big army, but was that going to be the measure by which they were going to determine what their Intelligence Department should be? It was because they had only a small army that they wanted an absolutely good Intelligence Department, so that an English force when it went abroad might be able to strike quickly and effectively.
As to the Volunteers, when the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight spoke of the unsympathetic treatment they had received, he could not help bringing before the House the fact that in Natal they only had one-third of the Volunteers from the Orange River Colony. And why? Because of the unsympathetic treatment they received. This was the same kind of official red tape which lost us, long ago, America. That was the attitude in 1754, and they had the same attitude from the War Office in 1900. That was the attitude which was responsible for giving us so few Volunteers in Natal, where the men were so anxious and willing to serve us. Anyone who had been in South Africa knew that they could not go to any considerable town there without hearing complaints of the treatment of the Volunteers from the Imperial Government. To all those arguments that he had adduced there was only one answer. What alternative had they to offer? The Secretary for War said that all the critics disagreed, and could not make any constructive policy. But he had no right to ask them to form an alternative scheme until they had a definite and authoritative statement from a responsible Minister of the 610 relative needs of the Navy and the Army. Until this was done no one could propound an alternative scheme. They might indicate the general lines upon which they thought their policy should be carried out, but it was for the military experts to adumbrate the details of the scheme. They ought not to be asked for an alternative scheme until they knew what the respective requirements of the Army and Navy were. It was sufficient for him to know that they were face to face with a scheme which he felt that he had no alternative but to oppose with all the power he possessed. Holding those convictions he should be obliged to support them with his vote. He knew there were many people, both inside and outside of the House of Commons, who, upon this subject, would not openly oppose the Government, but he sincerely hoped that the time would not be long in coming when His Majesty's Government, whose high intentions and patriotism he admired as much as anybody, would realise that by the withdrawal of this wasteful and cumbrous policy they would best fulfil their obligations to the Empire and to the Crown.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
I do not rise for the purpose of occupying any great amount of time in this important debate, in which a great number of Members will be anxious to speak; but I think it is desirable that as many Members as possible should make it clear from what point of view they approach this question. The Secretary for War tried, I think not unnaturally, to rally his own supporters by presenting his view, which he undoubtedly sincerely holds, that those who are opposed to his Army scheme, and who are in favour of this Amendment, are not themselves agreed. Well, I do not believe that that is the case. The hon. Members who introduced this Amendment to the House stated emphatically that they did so for no Party reason, and that they desired that it should not be made a Party question. It is impossible, of course, for anyone on this side of the House to speak in support of it without giving any hon. Gentleman opposite occasion to say that we support it for a Party purpose. That is necessarily the case. But what I want to do, as 611 far as possible, is to make it clear that we are sincere in saying that we do not support it for a Party purpose. The reason why we support it is not any difference of opinion whatever, or any special point of view of our own, or any Party purpose which we have to serve; but we support it on exactly the same grounds as have been presented to the House from the other side. It is not as if we differed, either on Imperial or strategical questions, from the point of view which the mover and seconder have presented to the House, but it is because we agree with them that we support their Amendment. On the contrary, I have never heard an Amendment which I thought was better launched in debate than this Amendment. The ground is covered with exactly the arguments which I should wish to use. The right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for War, welcomed the debate because he said it raised a challenge of principle which went to the very root of the matter. The right hon. Gentleman really did not argue the question on that ground. What was challenged by the mover and seconder of the Amendment was the right hon. Gentleman's scheme—challenged, not in detail, but in principle. What was his reply? His reply, in effect, was that this scheme was doing very well. I understand the argument of the supporters of the Amendment to be that the right hon. Gentleman's scheme is wasteful, because it is aiming at something which is not suited to the requirements of the country or the Empire, and that because it is wasteful it is dangerous. The right hon. Gentleman's reply is that the country should give him more time, and then he will establish his scheme, and the country may be sure of having to pay for it. That is why I do not want to go over the ground which the right hon. Gentleman took—that the recruits were coming in well. I do not dispute that for a moment, but that does not meet our point. Our point is that his scheme is one which, if well filled up, is not suited to the country, and which is dangerous because of the expense it would involve. The right hon. Gentleman says that recruits are coming in well for his large Army scheme. From where are they coming? From our population. But 612 the right hon. Gentleman is drawing from our population in the same way as the Navy. Has it ever occurred to the right hon. Gentleman what are likely to be the requirements of the Navy in future years? If he raises the terms for the Army, and makes it more attractive, and succeeds in getting more recruits for the Army, he is dipping into precisely the same bucket as the Navy. Really, the question which the House has to consider is how many men this country can spare to devote themselves to the profession of arms. That is the real point you have to consider—not how many men you want for the Army, but for the Army and Navy combined.
When I hear that recruits are coming in well for the Army, I wonder why. Presently we shall have Estimates presented for the Navy based on this, that the Navy has been obliged to raise its terms. That brings us to the real point which, I think, underlies the apprehension and the anxiety which the House feels, and it is this: has the Government really considered any settled policy of national requirements? Is there a real controlling opinion which has settled the policy of national defence and decided what part the Navy must play and what part the Army must play? That has not been done by the Committee of Defence as established previously. If it is going to be done by the new Committee of Defence, it is a fact that this Army scheme has been produced without that body having had an opportunity of considering such points. The mover and seconder raised a real difference of principle—not so broad as this one I have laid down—with regard to the Army at home, and that was that even if you had to consider the military question without considering the great naval question which lies behind it, there ought to be a clear separation between the Imperial Army to be used for purposes abroad and the military forces which you have for defence at home. That was the idea that ran through the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Amendment, and it is one which has been developed with, I think, a most admirable attempt to apply a thinking mind to this question in a series of articles in The Times newspaper. These speeches 613 and those articles are really the first attempt we have had before this country to think the question out. They are the work, no doubt, of individual minds. We may all of us differ in certain details from the proposals which have been put forward. But they are a real attempt to think the question out; and we have not yet had from the Government any sign on their part that they have devoted their mind to thinking out this military problem in the light of the present needs of the Empire. What the right hon. Gentleman's scheme is going to give us, it seems to me, is the largest possible Regular force in Great Britain, where it will not be wanted for military operations and where it cannot be satisfactorily trained.
Most of us in this House must speak as laymen; but nobody can have listened to the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down on the subject of training alone without feeling what an unsatisfactory training-ground this country is for the sort of purposes for which the British Army is likely to be wanted in the Empire. The hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down laid great stress upon the necessity of having a better Intelligence Department. That is one of the points to which attention has been drawn—that we have not a proper staff organisation or an adequate Intelligence Department, and that the brains of the Army are being starved. What is the answer of the Secretary of State for War? He said: "Would you have a general staff like that of the German Army, costing some half-a-million a year?" Perhaps not; but what does he propose? He says he has increased our Intelligence Department at home, and it is now to cost something like £25,000 instead of £10,500. It has been more than doubled at rather more than double the expense. Is that really what is to be put against the general staff of the German Army costing half-a-million? Without going so far as half-a-million, there is a great difference between half-a-million and £25,000. I admit that the German Army is on a scale entirely different from our own, and that what the German Army may require is not necessarily any gauge of what we require for our Army; but I am not sure that in proportion to the size of our Army we do not require a larger 614 thinking department even than the German army. The problem of the Germans is a simpler one, though they have to deal with a much larger army. We have to consider a far larger part of the globe, and conditions differing far more widely than those which the German army is called upon to consider. The essence of our case is that we may be called upon to undertake military operations in widely different parts of the world, in widely different conditions, which ought not to require more than a comparatively small force, but, in order that they should be successfully carried out they require great knowledge and great preparation. Though our Army must always be infinitesimal in comparison with the great Continental armies, it does require in proportion, I think, even a larger thinking department, because of the variety and uncertainty of the conditions which we have to deal with.
The mover of the Amendment made a very interesting suggestion that Army expenses might be very greatly reduced by considering the troops in South Africa as being on the home establishment. The right hon. Gentleman replies to that by saying if that were done we should never get recruits. Well, it is the experience of many of us that a great number of people are anxious to get to other parts of the Empire, at any rate, to see what openings there are there. I must say the advantages of South Africa as a training ground are obvious. Even if it proved to be the case that we could not get recruits for a large part of the Army if such a place as South Africa were regarded as upon the home establishment, at any rate the attempt should be made; for I am not at all sure that the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that recruits would not be forthcoming if they knew they were to be sent to a part of the Empire where the climate is good, the country large, with great possibilities, opportunities for experience, and possible openings such as men would not come into contact with at home. At any rate, the suggestion of the mover of the Amendment is one well worthy of consideration, and one which it should be one of our objects to carry out, or at least to put to the test.
Now take the Army for defence at home. What sort of defence are we likely to want? What sort of attack are we likely to have to meet? The 615 hon. Member for Chester pressed this home in his speech. We should like to know how much the command of the sea really guarantees to us in regard to home defence. If it is a mere question of meeting a temporary raid by a comparatively small number of men landed suddenly by surprise, then I am convinced that a citizen Army, such as the hon. Member opposite has advocated, would be amply sufficient to meet them. Anyone who has read the Army Memorandum and the Navy Memorandum will see that the question has not been thought out by the two Departments together. The two Departments take different views. But it is the duty of the Government to form and to carry out a policy, not to present the conflicting views of the Army and the Navy. Their policy should make one or the other view prevail. If it be the case that the command of the sea guarantees us from anything but a raid, then I think the case of the hon. Member has been amply made out, and we can rely upon a citizen Army for home defence. If the citizen Army is given to understand that that duty is laid upon them, they will be stimulated with a spirit of patriotism which would do more than anything else to make the Militia and Volunteer forces efficient.
Our Militia and Volunteer forces in this country have never yet had a chance, they have never been given to understand that a definite duty was laid upon them: they have always been taught to regard themselves as auxiliaries to be used they did not quite know how, to be used as supernumeraries, and as possibly not to be required at all. But, if it is once understood that they were clearly separated from the Regular Army abroad, that they constituted a citizen Army for defence at home, then I am confident that our Volunteer and Militia forces will develop into a force upon which the country could rely for any purposes of home defence. The right hon. Gentleman claims that his scheme serves a good purpose by bringing the officers commanding Army Corps closely into touch with the auxiliary forces; but that could be done without maintaining a large Regular Army. You might have a staff from your Regular Army for the purpose of being in contact with and 616 for the training of the auxiliary force. You might have a staff to whom this duty should be specially allotted. And I believe if that were done, and if we had a clear separation between our Regular Army as such, and that were kept small, compact, but efficient, with a comparatively large staff available for the training of the auxiliary force at home—if that had been done we should have come through the last war crisis in South Africa much better than we did. The right hon. Gentleman has dwelt on the feelings that were aroused during the crisis of the war; he appealed to us to go back to what we felt and said at that time, always using that in support of his present Army scheme. Well, Sir, the crisis was severe enough, and none of us as long as we live will be likely to forget what we felt. The crisis was acute, but how did that crisis arise? The crisis arose, not because our Regular Army was not large enough, but because there were not enough troops on the spot at the time. I venture to say that if our Regular Army had been twice the size it was we should still have gone through the same crisis. The troops were not there, and no more would have been there. What was the crisis? In the first place we suddenly became alive to the fact that there was nothing to prevent the Boer Army from going straight to Cape Town. The next stage of the crisis was the investment of Ladysmith. What was the cause of that? We had troops enough to put our Colony into a state of defence. It was not the want of troops, but the fact that our troops were not on the spot. It was not the want of Army Corps. If we had had these six Army Corps all complete we should still have had no more men there at the time. We ought to have had more men on the spot, more preparation, more knowledge of the risk and danger we ran; then we should have been in a position to defend ourselves, and we could have taken aggressive action at leisure afterwards. We wanted men to volunteer who could shoot and ride; and so long as we had plenty of men of that kind we could have taken the war at our own time and have carried it through just as successfully as we have now done.
But the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman is going to reduce the 617 number of men at home. The Volunteers have already been discouraged, and the number of men trained to shoot and ride is being actually reduced. What we want is a clear view of the possibilities abroad, for which a Regular Army may be needed. We know what was the position in South Africa; and I maintain that with a small Regular Army, but a larger and better trained citizen Army at home. We should have been in a better position to meet the difficulties there. In other parts of the world what questions are likely to arise requiring a large army for aggressive action? I put the American question aside; we have heard enough of the Monroe Doctrine lately to know what is the settled policy of the United States. The possibility of a great land war on that continent is for us unthinkable. Whatever our Army and Navy policy may be, we may leave the United States out of consideration. It would be out of our power to enter into rivalry with the United States on the American Continent, and it is outside our desire. Then comes the question of Asia. I agree entirely with the hon. Member opposite as to the Indian frontier. I believe it would be an infinitely more difficult task for Russia to place 200,000 men on the Indian frontier than it was for us to place 200,000 men in South Africa; and even if they were placed there, they would have to get through the frontier. If that be so, then I do not see where, in Asia, we could have need of a large Regular Army for aggressive action on land. As for Europe, if ever this country should, unfortunately. become embroiled in European complications, it is surely upon the Navy we should rely. If any Government were to be so foolish as to allow us to be drawn into a land conflict of any extent, they would be pursuing a policy the most dangerous possible. If that be so, and I think there is little question about it, it is to the Navy that we must look in any great conquest with the great Powers of the World.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite, in the course of his speech, almost pleaded that it was rather surprising—that it was rather hard lines—that his scheme, which was assented to by the House of Commons less than two years ago, 618 should now be subjected to so much criticism. But why is it so? I quite admit that, when he produced his scheme originally, he had far less difficulty with it than he has now. Why is it? I think it is partly because Parliament feels that it was rushed into this scheme. It is true that from this side of the House, and from this Bench, a Motion very similar to that which has now been moved from the other side, was proposed to the House at that time. Perhaps the Opposition was too hasty in opposing the scheme. The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to say that if the House had not time to think out his scheme, neither had it time to think out the opposition to the scheme. But suppose the Opposition, instead of moving a direct negative, had declined to commit itself to such a scheme without more consideration, would that have been more acceptable to the House? It would have been regarded merely as a dilatory Amendment, brought forward for Party purposes. We should have been told that the Government policy held the field, that we had none of our own, and so forth. I fully admit that since that time the Opposition which originated on this side of the House has been given more definiteness and boldness by the criticisms from the other side. The articles in The Times, to Which I have alluded, and the speeches of hon. Members to-night, have gone in definiteness and scope beyond anything the Opposition had to say two years ago. The country has had time to consider this scheme at leisure. The House to-day is expressing, not a mere hasty prejudice, or some vague apprehension, but the result of its reflection, and it is precisely because two years ago the House had not had time to consider the scheme that to-day the right hon. Gentleman meets with an opposition more settled and determined than anything which arose originally. There is really no prejudice at the root of this opposition. In individual minds there may be prejudice against the War Office, but I am convinced that no one could have listened to the speeches with which generally their Amendment has been supported, and believed that mere petty prejudice against the War Office, or mere personal offence, was at the bottom of it. The cause of the feeling behind this Amendment, and the reason it is receiving an attention to-day which it 619 would not have received two years ago, or even a year ago, is that the country and the House of Commons are becoming seriously alarmed with regard to the national expenditure. A great anxiety about national expenditure, a great anxiety for the future, is the force behind the present Amendment. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean gave some striking figures to the House. He stated that the land defence of the Empire, putting it at its lowest figure, now amounted to £81,500,000, against a Navy expenditure of £31,000,000.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
That is £81,500,000 for both, £50,500,000 against £31,000,000. That is a perfectly fair comparison, because the Navy expenditure is the total of our Imperial expenditure, and if in this matter appeals are being made to the whole Empire to share in bearing its burden, against that it is fair to put the whole of the Army expenditure. The Navy expenditure we know, has not yet reached its sum. Everybody who has studied the Navy Estimates recently, and what is going on in the world, must be prepared for the possibility, at any rate, if not the probability, of a further increase in Navy expenditure. If we are to expend so much upon our Army that we are unable to deal freely with our Naval expenditure, then the Army is becoming a public danger. We have other expenses at home that we must meet. Many of us have fresh demands in regard to education, some, I believe, with regard to old age pensions, and many other matters. We may not all have set our hands to promises in these matters, but, at any rate, they are matters that we deem to be desirable, and some of them are pressing matters which no Government can resist Permanently. Therefore there is the certainty that our home expenditure, not on military matters at all, but on matters connected with education and so forth, must be further increased. If that be so, unless there is some control exercised, unless there is some settled policy controlling 620 our expenditure, you are getting near the day when the people of this country will say that the obligations of Empire are too great. If we are to deal with these matters as statesmen, it is necessary that we should consider what is really essential to the preservation of the Empire, and I think the right hon. Gentleman is launching us on a scheme which is not essential, and which is not suited to its purpose. It may be that in these comparatively good times, and for the present, the Government will succeed very well in meeting the expenditure they have in prospect. But it is the growing expenditure of the future that we have to look to. If in the future the day does come when this or any Government has to retrench its expenditure on the Navy, or on home matters, then certainly it will have brought the Empire within measurable distance of danger. If to-day the Imperial spirit of the country is such that it is prepared to meet all the obligations of Empire, we have to remember that the obligations now being laid on the country are getting exceedingly large, that they are bound to grow in the future, and that the duty does rest upon every one of us—When we see brought before the House a large scheme of this kind, entailing, as we consider, wasteful expenditur—to do everything in our power to prevent the country being saddled with something which we believe is not required, and which, because wasteful, will be dangerous.
§ SIR CHARLES WELBY (Nottingham shire, Newark)
said that in considering the Amendment it was necessary to bear in mind that it contained two separate and distinct propositions. When a person was about to buy an article there were two questions which, consciously or unconsciously, he asked himself—first, whether the article was suited to its purpose, and, secondly, whether it was a good article in itself and worth the money demanded for it. In the Present instance, the article was the Army, and the Amendment declared it to be not only not suited to our purposes, but also not worth the price that was being paid. With the first of those propositions he had considerable sympathy, but to the second he unhesitatingly gave a negative 621 answer. He objected to the Amendment, not only because it conveyed a practical censure on all the Government had done in regard to Army matters during recent years, but also because its declaration could not be sustained by the facts of the case. The increased expenditure, Whether wise or unwise, was the result, not of a sudden new departure, but of the deliberate policy of strengthening and expanding the Army which the present Government had been steadily pursuing for the last seven years, and, for his part, granted that policy was a sound one, he believed the money had been well spent, and had resulted in a large increase of strength. A considerable proportion of the expenditure would have had to be incurred under any conceivable organisation, but it might be well to remind the House of some of the chief items of increased expenditure.
In the first place, a large increase had taken place in the batteries of artillery, over seventy batteries having been added during the last few years. That, at any rate, was an item of expenditure which the House must realise had been much called for both by the nation and by Parliament, and for which the Government could hardly be blamed. Then there had been a very large increase in the infantry, a large portion of which had been in connection with the battalions on the home establishment, the weakness of which had, more than anything else connected with the Army, been the subject of criticism and condemnation in the House. Then there was the increased pay, the full effect of which it was as yet too soon to gauge, but no one could have listened to the statement of the Secretary of State without feeling that there was good reason to believe that it would produce the effects which were hoped from it, and result in not only a larger quantity but also a better quality of recruits being attracted to the Colours. Moreover, the weakness of the cavalry and artillery in the matter of horses had been the subject of much criticism in the past, and one of the items of increased expenditure was the addition of 11,000 horses to the strength. Then a very expensive force of Yeomanry had been created, and various minor services, such as the Army Service Corps, the Army Medical Corps, and all those minor branches without which an Army could not take the field—which in the past had been 622 more or less starved—had been brought up to the standard shown by war experience to be necessary. The protection of coaling stations and the replacing of obsolete arms had been steadily going on, and last, but not least, for some years past there had been a steady accumulation of war stores and munitions of all kinds.
That was a feature of expenditure of which very little result appeared on the surface, but it was a most vital part of Army organisation. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had strongly deprecated any cutting down with regard to horses, guns, or stores. That, if his views were accepted, certainly removed from the field a very large class in which economies could possibly be made. The increase of Army expenditure within the last few years by 50 per cent. was unquestionably a very serious increase. He was bound to say, with such knowledge of the state of things now as compared with the state of things some years ago, that he was entirely convinced that our Regular Army was quite as strong as it was. On the question whether our Army, in the words of the Amendment, "is unsuited to the needs of the Empire," the hon. Member said that unquestionably raised a very serious, difficult, and complicated problem. The problem was further complicated by the fact that the expression used in the Amendment was extremely vague and capable of many different interpretations. It appeared, from what had been said in the course of the debate, some people seemed to think that the organisation of the land forces was the beginning and the end of what was called the Army Corps Scheme. He would remind the House that, whether that scheme was good or bad, whether suited to our needs or not, at all events it was responsible for a very small part of the expenditure they had now under consideration. After all, the main organisation was for administrative purposes to divide the country into six large military districts, instead of, as formerly was the case, sixteen small districts. He was a member of the Committee which sat a year or two ago on War Office Organisation, and that Committee were unanimous in holding that it was absolutely essential as a preliminary to any satisfactory scheme of decentralisation 623 that the country should be mapped out in large districts instead of the small ones into which it was divided at that time.
They had heard many jokes or sneers with regard to those Army Corps, or some of them, not being visible to the naked eye. It was not to be expected at this season that they should be visible to the naked eye, and he could only say that if the last three were visible he would join the crusade headed by some of his hon. friends below the Gangway against the excessive expenditure on the Army. The Army Corps Scheme must be put on one side of the argument as being, for good or evil, not a very large factor in the question of our military expenditure. There remained the question—What was it that was chiefly exercising the public mind at the present moment with regard to Army organisation? He thought the problem which was exercising their minds was whether it was necessary to maintain a large number of Regular troops in this country, and whether it was possible to organise the Imperial forces which must be maintained in such a way as to make it possible to reduce that number. He was one of those who had always felt very great doubts as to the necessity of maintaining a large Regular force in this country. He believed that everything that had taken place in the late war had gone rather to strengthen than to weaken that view in his mind, but unquestionably there were certain difficulties in the way of changing that policy which could not be ignored. It was impossible to forget that in 1890, when practically the whole of our Regular force had been sent out of the country, there was a considerable feeling of uneasiness in the public mind. It may or may not have been well founded. Under similar circumstances that feeling might exist again. and, whether right or wrong, it was a feeling which no Government having the responsibility for the forces of the country could neglect or ignore. Another consideration which could not be forgotten was that during all the time he was connected with the War Office—he did not know what the case might be at the present moment—the military authorities always stated clearly and categorically that they would not 624 be responsible for the safety of this country in time of war with a great Power unless we had Regulars here to defend us. That never commended itself to him, but at the same time he had profound respect for those who held that view. Among other reasons why he hailed the reconstitution of the Committee of Defence on more regular lines was the fact that the military authorities would in future have to convince, not only the Secretary of State, but their naval colleagues, and, above all, the Prime Minister, of the necessity of keeping so many regular troops in this country. But, even supposing it was agreed that it was unnecessary to do so, there was the question whether it was possible to maintain the Army we were obliged to maintain for Imperial purposes without keeping a large number of troops in this country to support them. We were obliged in normal times to keep 120,000 men in India and other foreign stations, and so long as these men were orgainsed on the short-service system it was absolutely necessary that there should be a force of something like, at all events, 60,000 at home, on a footing to support that force. As long as we kept our Army on the present footing we must have a Reserve at home. If we had a long foreign service Army we could do with a very small number of recruits, and in that way we might dispense very largely with our force at home. That would mean that we would sacrifice the Reserve and have no means of expanding the Army in time of war. That would be going back to the system which had broken down in the time of the Crimean War. In other words, it would be a course not of reform but of reaction, and it would be an alternative which he for one would refuse to have anything whatever to do with. An alternative which had been referred to was to keep a considerable part of the Army in South Africa on a home footing. While the suggestion had considerable attractions for him, he pitied the Government who, in a case of fresh disturbance in that country, might have to come to the House and say that the force in South Africa was on such a footing that it could not take the field without the addition of its Reserves, for the Reserves 625 would be 6,000 miles away form South Africa. That seemed to him one of the many difficulties in placing the Army on a home footing in that part of the world. He had not mentioned these difficulties for the sake of condemning any of the suggestions which had been put forward. Some of them, at all events, seemed to him to be well worthy of consideration. He earnestly hoped that they would receive the fullest possible consideration at the hands of the experts, and by experts he did not mean military experts alone. He meant that combination of military, naval, and political experts who were to from the newly-constituted Committee of Defence. Provided that the functions of the Committee were confined to those of a strictly advisory body, that their proceedings were confidential and were not allowed to conflict with the responsibility of the Cabinet, he looked forward with great hope to the results of their deliberations, particularly if they approached those problems with open minds. He would be very pleased if as the result of their deliberations they should see their way to reduce the heavy expenditure now incurred in regard to the Army without sacrificing or evading any of those Imperial responsibilities of which we could not divest ourselves even if we would.
§ *MR. GUEST (Plymouth)
said the Secretary of State for War made an admirable speech, but he thought the House must have felt that he had a some what uphill task to perform. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had thought it necessary to draw attention to 626 the fact that an Amendment of this kind, if passed, might lead to his downfall. He was sure that no one on that side of the House who felt obliged to support the Amendment wished for such a result. They all recognised the honesty, the industry, and the versatility of the Secretary of State; and that it would be a great loss to the Party, not to say to the country, if he felt himself involved in the fate of his Army Scheme. He hoped that in any condemnation of that policy the Secretary of State would not think that any reflection was cast on the great services he had rendered to the State in the past. The right hon. Gentleman opened his speech by a rather unsuccessful attempt to detect divergencies of opinion in the three speakers who preceded him. There might be slight differences of opinion in matters of detail, but he thought an impartial listener would have detected a remarkable consensus of opinion in the three speakers. In the words of the Amendment, the scheme itself "is unsuited to the needs of the Empire." The right hon. Gentleman had quoted a great number of figures as to the success of recruiting during the past year. He had informed the House that the recruits raised in 1902 were no less than 51,000. He thought it was unfortunate that the House was not at the present moment in possession of the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting for 1902, for without it it was difficult to deal with figures like these which were thrown at the House at a moment's notice. He would call the 627 attention of the House to the remarkable fact that in the report on recruiting for 1901 it was stated that the percentage of rejections of the recruits who presented themselves, which in 1897 was thirty-eight, had fallen last year to twenty-nine. He should very much like to know whether that tendency for a less exacting standard of efficiency had been continued in 1902. If it had been continued the standard of efficiency was far less than in 1897, which they might regard as a normal year.
There was another remarkable thing in the statement. The number of soldiers with the service of under one year or two years, who were never any value at all, increased from 997 in 1897 to no less than 3,825 in 1901. Then again, the percentage of waste from desertion was very much on the increase. In 1897 it was 5.97 per cent., whereas last year it was 10.6 per cent. The House would be glad to know whether those very bad tendencies, which affected very materially the calculations of his right hon. friend, were to be found in the Report which would be issued in the course of a few days. There was another consideration which he thought the Secretary of State for War had overlooked in his calculations. His right hon. friend required 50,000 troops per annum to complete his Six Army Corps Scheme. Had he taken into consideration the general waste on account of the causes which he had mentioned? For instance, the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment said that the Inspector General of Recruiting had declared that nearly 50 per cent. of the recruits were pure waste, "trash " 628 he thought was the word used. His right hon. friend himself admitted that it was 47 per cent., and what the House wanted to know was what was the net gain in recruits per annum, and on what number could they really count as effective. They did not want a gross or paper calculation, which was easy to make and which was of so little value. Then the Secretary of State for War in his speech said the Army Corps scheme had not been responsible for the increase in the cost, and he further stated that of the 54,000 men who had been raised since 1897, only 5,000 were attributable to his own scheme. He would refer his right hon. friend to the speech he delivered on the 8th of March, 1901, in introducing the Army Corps Scheme. In that speech he distinctly stated that no less than 11,500 Regulars would be added to the Army Estimates by his scheme. That appeared to him to show a rather serious discrepancy as compared with his right hon. friend's statement that afternoon.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said that three Line battalions were not required to be raised. He was correct in saying that only 5,000 men were added to the Army by the scheme.
§ *MR. GUEST
said that he then understood that the 11,500 men did not in fact represent what had occurred, and that the prediction of his right hon. friend had not been accomplished, because he intended to add 11,500 men to the Estimates, and had in fact only added 5,000 men. When his right hon. friend claimed that no additional expense had 629 been cast upon the country in pursuit of his Army Corps Scheme, he would again refer him to his speech of the 8th March, 1901, in which he said, with an expenditure of a little under £2,000,000 he would accomplish all that he now claimed to have accomplished. His right hon. friend could not have it both ways. Either the recruiting scheme did not come up to his expectations, or else the recruits cost more money. It was quite clear if the recruits were there they would cost more money; and if they were not there his right hon. friend's scheme had failed. He was not concerned so much with the speech of his right hon. friend, because it was delivered under a considerable amount of adverse criticism; but his right hon. friend exhibited a very different tone to what he did two years ago. He was more concerned with trying to discover what was the real feeling of the Secretary of State for War as to the military necessities of the country, and as to how, and at what cost, those necessities should be met. What was the idea of the Secretary of State for War? He asked the question, because if there was anything in the Amendment at all, it was a contention that the conception of the Secretary of State for War revealed a complete misapprehension of the military needs of the Empire, and the resources with which they might be met.
The primary notion of the Secretary of State for War was that it was absolutely necessary for this country to have a large Army. In a speech he made to the Colonial Premiers he boasted that he had at his disposal no less than 250,000 men, and he boldly emphasised the fact that the necessities of the Empire entailed the service of at 630 least a quarter of million of men. But his right hon. friend was not content with that. Last session he was accused of trying to introduce a Bill which would destroy the Yeomanry forces of the country in order that he might add to his Regular forces in cases of emergency. In that speech also he emphasised the fact that it was necessary for this country in times of emergency to have a call on further troops, they being, of course, colonial troops, and he boldly asserted that he did not mean to accommodate his organisation to the existing resources of the country. At what cost was that large Army to be created and carried on? In the first place, it was to be carried on at the expense of that immunity from compulsory military service which the country enjoyed from time immemorial. The Secretary of State for War more than once declared that nothing would deter him from proposing compulsory military service except the consideration that he had not exhausted all possible means of supply. In spite of the very confident and sanguine statements of his right hon. friend that afternoon, he could not help thinking that the House would feel that the Secretary of State for War was exhausting if he had not already exhausted, all the available means of obtaining the necessary recruits; and that he would have to consider himself very pusillanimous if he did not make other proposals.
So important was a large Army in the view of his right hon. friend that financial considerations did not weigh with him at all. He boasted that financial considerations were the business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that in 1900–1 no less than£9,000,000 were added to the Army Estimates. But there was another 631 consideration which was much more remarkable, and that was the subordinate position to which his right hon. friend relegated the Navy. His right hon. friend thought the Army was a much more important asset than the Navy. It was true that he paid lip service to the Navy, and said that it was obvious that it was the country's first line of defence; but in the next sentence he made a proposal which was the most remarkable and startling made in the House of Commons within the memory of any hon. Member. He calmly proposed to take no less than 5,000 sea-going men from the personnel of the Fleet, which was none too large, and lock them up in coaling stations all over the world, in order to release for the purposes of his Army Corps Scheme five battalions of infantry. That fact alone showed that his right hon. friend regarded the Navy as a secondary, because a very doubtful, asset, as it might easily be defeated. He was constantly referring to the fact that the Navy might lose command of the sea, and then he said it would be necessary for his Army Corps to defend England from invasion. His right hon. friend's idea was that the Navy was by no means invincible. That was not his view.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said he did not wish to interrupt the hon. Member, but he should not be taken as assenting to any of the hon. Member's propositions.
§ *MR. GUEST
said that with regard to the interruption, perhaps it would interest the House if he were to quote again from the speech delivered by the Secretary of State for War at the Colonial Conference. He said that large as the figures might sound, they were certainly not deemed too large by military officers in view of the possibility of the country at 632 any time losing command of the sea, and he reminded the Conference that what Great Britain did off her own bat was not limited to her power to send 120,000 men to any threatened position in case of emergency. But how would the Secretary of State for War be able to send 120,000 men to any threatened position if the Navy had lost command of the sea? That view of the right hon. Gentleman was a fundamental misconception of their strategic position. How was it possible for his right hon. friend to reconcile the defeat of the Navy with the safety of England. He admitted that against the world in arms three Army Corps were certainly not too many; the only question was whether they were not too few. He also admitted, of course, that 100,000 men were better than 50,000 men, other things being equal; but then other things were not equal. The expense of a large Army was not only double the expense of a small Army, but was more than double. The fact was that, under Providence, and with good diplomacy, there was no reason why they should contemplate having the whole of the civilised world banded against them. They had only to take into consideration the normal probable emergencies with which they might be brought face to face, and the normal risks which they might consider possible with a settled and consecutive policy. Now that the South African problem was solved, that country no longer presented the military danger it did three years ago.
Then his right hon. friend referred to India, but the balance of opinion was that the invasion of India was a matter of such great difficulty that it was impossible to conceive its being accomplished under at least two years. He was, perhaps, the only Member of the House who 633 had had the advantage of travelling in Russian Central Asia, and who saw the Russian side of the problem. The only railway which connected Russian Central Asia with the main body of the Russian Empire was a railway running parallel to the frontier, and of hardly any value at all. When he travelled over it there was scarcely any rolling stock on it, it was laid down on foundations so uncertain that the train could only travel five or six miles an hour. The difficulty of collecting great masses of men and material could not be overcome in a short time, quite apart altogether from the difficulties of invasion. When he was in India twelve years ago he made the acquaintance of a very distinguished General, and his view was that there were in India as many white troops as could be put on the frontier, and that all that would be required would be volunteers to garrison the country behind and to maintain British prestige in India itself. If that was the case he could not see the justification for three Army Corps. With reference to Colonial Defence, there was only one colony, namely, Canada, which could be attacked from the land. The other Colonies could only be attacked by over-sea expeditions, and as long as they retained command of the sea that would be impossible. What was constantly in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman was the idea of the British Army being pitted against European troops. It could not be his right hon. friend's idea that British troops were to be set in battle array against a continental Army; and he was, therefore, driven to the conclusion that when his right hon. friend talked of European entanglements he contemplated England playing such a part in 634 European politics as she did at the beginning of the last century. Really, it was rather strange that his right hon. friend should not have appreciated how the proportion of things had changed since then. It was idle to imagine that with three Army Corps, the country could play any such part in the European game as she did 100 years ago.
Where he and his hon. friends joined issue with the Secretary of State for War was, not that his scheme was a comparative failure, but because it was bad in itself and not suited to the needs of the country. Further his right hon. friend had involved the country in an enormous expenditure, which no one who cared at all for thrift or economy, or had any conception of the importance of keeping within their resources, could view without the gravest apprehension. It was quite unnecessary for him to draw attention to the enormous increase in national expenditure during the last ten or fifteen years; but he desired to draw the attention of the House to the fatal equality of the expenditure on the Army and the Navy. In 1900 the proportion spent on the Army was only 43 per cent.; in 1901 it was 45 per cent., and in 1902 it was 48 per cent.; and that excluded money spent on military works. Their position was that the scheme of the Secretary of State for War was quite unsuited to the need of the country, that it had entailed the expenditure of vast sums of money, and that they had not seen the end of the expenditure. The Amendment was not by any means a hostile attack on his right hon. friend, or on the Government, but was a protest and a remonstrance against the policy inaugurated by his right hon. friend two years ago, and which he sincerely hoped he would abandon.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Churchill.)
§ Put and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.