§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 235,761, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1904."
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK, Surrey, Guildford)
This year has been a great exception to the rule, that the statement with regard to the Army Estimates should occupy the first place in discussions on the Army. During the three weeks of the present session, 1, and the Department I represent, have been on trial under many different counts—some of them capital counts—and there were two nights of discussion in this House of which I make no complaint, because, at all events, it differed from the previous discussions, as it went to the root of the matters with which we are engaged, and did not diverge on matters of comparative unimportance. There has also been a discussion in another place; but nothing has occurred in those discussions which need particularly shake the Department over which I preside. We have also had two very interesting sittings, and a considerable portion of a third, taken up with a discussion of the training of the soldier and the officer, and the condition of the auxiliary forces. At least one piece of good fortune results, because, after all this artillery fire, and after we have made such a reply as lies in our power, it will not be necessary for me to carry the Committee over all the ground again. A great many of the subjects which a Minister of War is usually expected to deal with on such an occasion, such as the number of the Army, recruiting, training, and the condition of the auxiliary forces, may all be re- 295 garded as, for the present, disposed of, and I could almost wish that we were able to find ourselves for a short time on neutral ground; but after the speeches we have heard this afternoon that would be difficult to assume.
I fully recognise the anxiety professed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and by some on this side of the House, for economy—though the latter do not enter upon the business with quite so clean a record as the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, because they are unquestionably unwilling now to make good the pledges for which they vehemently asked the Government two years ago, or to vote the supplies and forces which, with practical unanimity, they demanded at the General Election. But I fully recognise that there is a flank attack upon me as well as a frontal attack; and all that I can congratulate myself on is that, almost for the first time in my Parliamentary recollection, the Hank attack takes the form of a suggestion for economy by reducing the numbers of the Army. The speeches which we have heard this afternoon have all spoken of economy in the abstract, but they hesitated when it came to the point of suggesting the way in which economy should be effected. As I have often done before, I challenge those who ask for economy to show what they wish to see lopped off. In all the most excellent speeches on the Army which were delivered last night there was not one which did not indicate a large increase of expenditure. The hon. Member for Dumbartonshire drew a halcyon picture in which all the needs of the Volunteers were to be satisfied for a quarter of a million. I made two calculations while the hon. Member was speaking and found that the expenditure would have been, not a quarter of a million but three-quarters before we knew where we were. Now we are going to fight out this question on the point of having what the Government believe to be a sufficient force for foreign expeditions, and also for such home defence as is needed; and I submit that, in framing these Estimates, there is nothing more costly than a partially-trained force of enormous magnitude which still needs a Regular force on which you can place reliance. Of course, if you can achieve the best solution of all—which is to have a force, not necessarily a Regular force, 296 so sufficiently trained that you can place complete reliance on it—then you have only to find the numbers you require, and your best economy is to give your best attention to that force. But in these days every extra man means not only an extra rifle but an enormously increased amount of ammunition, and enormously increased facilities for training and shooting. Therefore, we must not assume that, from the economical standpoint, the one thing we have to do is to get rid of the small and well-trained body of Regulars, and put in their place a great and indefinite number of partially-trained troops. If you do that your last state will be, economically, worse than your first.
I have been challenged more especially on the numbers of the Regular forces for the present year, and I ought to explain exactly how we propose to employ, in case of war, the forces for which we ask money to-day. It has been pointed out that the force on the home establishment has greatly increased since 1897. That is perfectly true. The demands of the Empire have greatly increased in the last fifteen years. The Indian Army, which has to be maintained from home, has been increased by 10,000 men. The forces in the colonies, without South Africa, have been very largely increased; and those forces are not in the self-governing colonies alone. There is the increased liability which has been placed on the War Office to provide for the defence of the coaling stations, without which defence the whole expenditure on the Navy may be regarded as inadequate and futile. These services alone have absorbed a number of additional men. What is the present position? I will exclude from consideration the extra troops now kept in South Africa. I put the garrison of South Africa, tentatively, at 15,000 men. I am not now going to enter into the discussion, which possesses so much attraction for some hon. Members on that side of the House and on this, as to whether we ought not to keep a whole Army Corps in South Africa. But, speaking from the point of view of economy, I would remind the Committee that every man you keep in South Africa necessarily costs you more. I am not saying that you treat a regiment in South Africa as being like a regiment in India, which requires a linked battalion at home. That may be so; but I am 297 not, for the purposes of the argument, saying it is so. But every regiment you keep in South Africa requires more in the allowances made to officers; the cost of the food is nearly double, the transport of the troops going to and fro is an enormous cost, and the ultimate result cannot be taken at much less than £20 or £25 per man at the least. That is a most serious burden, and we cannot consider that as against any advantage we may get in training the men.
CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Forfar)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that is the extra annual cost of each man?
§ MR. BRODRICK
I am speaking of the extra annual cost. I am taking the garrison in South Africa at 15,000. Our total normal colonial garrisons are now 51,000. We have a whole establishment of 207,000 men, excluding coloured or native troops. The Army Reserve is about 60,000, or will be in a few weeks. But I am not going to deal with an Army Reserve of 60,000. I do not want to put before the Committee simply a picture of the present moment. I want to draw the picture as it will be, according to a reasonable expectation under these Estimates, within two to four years. By that time the Army Reserve ought to have grown to 100,000. Therefore, I put as against myself that the troops which I have to dispose of are about 307,000 men.
Of this number, what force will be left at home in case of one of these expeditions of which the First Lord of the Treasury spoke the other night—of a call which may at any moment be made upon us for the defence of our own frontiers and requiring 120,000 men to go abroad? In addition to the expeditionary force of 120,000 men, we have got 51,000 men in colonial garrisons. You have thus taken 171,000 men out of the 307,000. You have to deduct, also, the number of those who, belonging to the Army Reserve—a small percentage, I am glad to say—do not, for one reason or another, come up, and the number of men who, from being sick or on being medically examined for active service are found not efficient for the work. That, on an average, taken 298 carefully in regard to our own Army and in regard to others, may be taken as about 7 per cent. That 7 per cent. absorbs 20,000 or 22,000 more. Then we have garrisons in Great Britain almost entirely manned by Auxiliary forces, but requiring garrison gunners from the Royal Artillery and Submarine Mining Engineers. These amount to 13,000. Then we have also to deduct the permanent staff of the' Auxiliary forces and the Regular depot staffs, which between them make 20,000 men. If you add all these numbers together you find they bring up the total to 226,000 men. You have also to add to that 226,000 the recruits under six months service. Everybody knows that the recruits under six months service cannot be put in the fighting line immediately on the outbreak of war. If our recruiting continues as it did last year, when it was 50,000, that would make 25,000 more. Your position then, is this: you have 307,000 men to dispose of. Two hundred and fifty-one thousand of those are absorbed in sending your expeditionary force abroad, in maintaining your garrisons at home, and in keeping at your depots recruits under six months service. That leaves 56,000 men. Those 56,000 men enable you to provide the first drafts for the relief of the expeditionary force. In all armies, I believe, the first drafts are taken at 10 per cent. If we are fighting on the Indian frontier, we shall require first drafts of our own force and from the Indian Army, fighting under a climate which is not particularly favourable to warfare and in which we must allow for proper casualties. As a matter of fact, our first drafts, even in South Africa, came fully up to that percentage. You have left then 36,000 men. These 36,000 men make the stiffening of the last three Army Corps, the force for home defence, which, I submit, if you are to have a stiffening of Regular troops at all, is not an excessive number to keep in this country. I know these figures seem large, but they were not sufficiently large in South Africa in an expedition, be it remembered, which was being carried on, not against the boundless resources of some great European Power, but against 70,000 to 80,000 men, without military organisation.
I should like to say one word about this question of stiffening. I do not wish to enter again at length into the 299 controversy which has been carried on for the last day or two in regard to the possibility of organising the Volunteers. Nor will I enter here into what I think must be felt too little has been said of in these discussions—the Militia force. The Militia has done as much for the Regular Army—nay, I would say it has done far more for the Regular Army—during the late campaign than anybody could have Expected of them; and we are determined that the old constitutional force shall not be pressed out between the Regulars and the Volunteers. We recognise in it the nucleus of home defence, and the possibility of a more extended training than can be asked of such a force as the Volunteers. It has been said by several speakers in this debate, and said with an air of conviction which carries with it a considerable weight, that if you will only give the Auxiliary forces the opportunity of organising themselves they will actually do better than if they have got Regular forces to rely upon. That is a phrase which produces a cheer, but I think it is a doctrine which is most unsound and most untenable. Look what it amounts to in real English. What are the difficulties of the auxiliary forces? Not that their spirit is not good, not that their courage is not good. But it is that they cannot obtain the technical training necessary to fulfil all the requirements of modern warfare, and that with them you find it difficult, with the great demands we make on our officers, to get a number of officers sufficient properly to control the force.
The officer question is the most serious one with which the Government has to deal at present. Modern warfare has this characteristic, that the dispersal of troops being much greater, the length of line being much longer, and the control of the commanding officer, in consequence, being far less complete, an immense amount more is thrown on the junior officers than ever was thrown on them in times gone by. Then consider what is the condition of our auxiliary forces, when, between them, on an establishment of, I think, 14,000, they are nearly 3,000 short of officers. That is a consideration which the military authorities must reckon with when they are deciding what function 300 they are to assign to them. But then there is another consideration. We believe that the Volunteers will be able to serve heavy artillery with great advantage; but we believe also that it is impossible to ask of them the time for being trained to serve mobile artillery. Several hon. Members said last night, "Tell them, in as many words, that there will be no other artillery, that there will be no Regulars, and they will manage to do it." But it is impossible to ask an employer to release for three or four weeks for many years a young man on whose services he is counting, in order that he may become a Volunteer artilleryman, when, perhaps, the emergency may never take place. It is impossible to ask a clerk in a business to make it part of his bargain with his employer that he should give up this time. What we submit is this, that it is imperative on the War Office to see that the auxiliary forces, when they are paraded for actual service in the field, shall have, especially in regard to the more highly-trained technical arm of artillery, a considerable modicum of Regular artillery to support them on these occasions. And I really think that those who scan the Army Corps tables for the Fourth, fifth, and Sixth Army Corps, to which my right hon. friend drew attention in the debate the other night, will see that, so far from discouraging the auxiliary forces, we have given them quite as large a proportionate number of units compared with the Regulars in those Army Corps as with any safety we can be expected to hand over to them, besides leaving to them the whole of the defensive positions and an enormous amount of responsibility—in fact, almost the whole responsibility—in garrisoning those fortresses which protect our dockyards, and without which not only our military forces, but our naval forces could not continue to exist. It is for the reasons I have mentioned that I ask the Committee to vote the number of Regular troops now contained in the Estimates. I will not labour the question of military authority, on which a good deal was adversely said by the hon. Member for Dundee, but I will proceed to deal with the question of whether these Estimates are in any way capable of reduction.
301 The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries spoke of the Estimates as £34,500,000. T do not think that fairly represents the situation. We have just ended a war. So far from complaining that there are still items in the Estimates which are due to the war, I think he ought to congratulate us on the rapidity of the demobilisation, and on the very small amount of cost, compared to the cost of the war, which has gone over into next year. Two millions are for compensation in South Africa, and £2,000,000 are for the extra garrison and transport which we have not yet been able to bring to an end. I sometimes think, when my hon. friends below the Gangway twit me with the fact that everything is not yet shipshape at Aldershot, and so forth, they do not realise that we still have twelve or fifteen ships carrying troops in connection with the adjustment of" ', our colonial garrisons, which have been depleted; taking back units to India which have been lent; transferring drafts home from India which have long been delayed owing to the war; and carrying out, in fact, the general demobilisation which, after nearly 400,000 men have bean employed, it is not excessive to ask should be completed within the second year. Where I look for economy is this. We have some £2,000,000 of stores which have been especially put upon the Estimates in pursuance of Sir Francis Mowatt's Committee. These £2,000,000, as well as the £4,000,000 for South Africa and the £500,000 for China and Somaliland, may well be expected to disappear, and should not be treated as normal services. There will be an addition, no doubt, when the new pay of the Army becomes effective next year. [A MINISTERIAL MEMBER: How great?] I think the amount is £580,000. There is some addition to the loan annuity—that is, the loan for barracks granted by the House. There will also be some addition when the Militia Reserve and the Yeomanry come to completion. But those additions will not equal the amount which comes off, owing to the fact that we no longer have this exceptional amount to spend on stores. What I would urge the Committee to consider, when talking of deductions, is that there is more to be 302 done by way of deduction by policy—I am speaking at this moment not of policy in a political sense, but of policy in a military sense—than by those piecemeal withdrawals of expenditure which we have seen in other days, but which almost invariably end in hurried increase at enormous cost and with inefficient results. This House allowed me to increase the pay of the soldier last year. At the same time we made a great change in the matter of the three years system, which will ultimately produce a Reserve not of 100,000 men, but, as is calculated, of 125,000, 130,000, or even 140,000 men, according to the numbers who may accept the conditions. When the Reserve reaches 100,000, then, in my opinion, whether I am Secretary of State or not, is the time when, without impairing these figures which I have placed before the House, you may safely begin to reduce the number with the Colours, because you will have added to the number with the Reserve. The policy I recommend to the Committee is to have the minimum necessary to maintain the cadres in efficiency with the Colours, men costing £50 or £60 apiece, and a maximum with the Reserve, costing only £9 apiece. That policy may be pursued not only with great advantage, but, I believe, with great effect in the reduction of our expenditure
Complaints have been made that in connection with our general expenditure we spend too little on some of the most important items. A great deal has been said in these discussions about the starving of the Intelligence Department I am afraid that an expression I used in speaking a fortnight ago has been misinterpreted in this respect. I said, in answer to some interruption, that I hardly thought the House would expect me to propose an increase to the extent of £500,000 a year, as had been proposed, or to the extent of the German staff. The two were put together. In mentioning £500,000 a year I was not speaking of the cost of the German General Staff, which, I believe, is £112,000 a year, or something of that kind. I was speaking of £500,000 a year which has been suggested in some very able letters, in which it was pointed out, that by that expenditure we really 303 increase our strength more effectively than by increasing the number of battalions. As to the German General Staff, which we are urged to imitate, I cannot go into the whole of the figures now—it would be too lengthy—but the number of officers employed on that staff cannot be compared properly with the number in our Intelligence Department. Their functions are very different from those of our Intelligence Department, and the German Staff combines a number of functions which are discharged in our Army by Intelligence officers attached to the staffs of the generals of districts. Therefore our Headquarters Intelligence Staff must be taken in connection with those who are employed in districts, and it must not be forgotten that this Empire keeps three staffs—the British Intelligence Staff, the Indian Intelligence Staff—military—and the Naval Intelligence Staff. The expenditure on these three staffs taken together must be regarded as the amount which the Empire gives to military intelligence. I can only say this: It is perfectly true that the additional amount put down in the Estimates for Intelligence this year is only a sum of £3,000, but that is by no means the measure of what has been done. I confess to the House that I had not been able to frame the total in connection with the Intelligence Staff before the Estimates, but it was not for want of moving in that direction. As early as August last year I appointed a Committee to report precisely in what direction a permanent increase of that staff should take place. The operations of that Committee have been affected by the great change made, with the hearty assent and desire of no one more than the First Lord of the Admiralty and myself, in the work of the Defence Committee, as to which, until we began the work, it was impossib'e to judge whether we should require a separate staff and a separate office under the Lord President of the Council's office, or under the Prime Minister's office, or whether we could work with the existing Military and Naval Intelligence Staffs. We have come to the conclusion that the latter is the best and by far the most efficient form in which we can get our work arranged. Whatever increases are necessary to enable this very important 304 work, which now falls upon the Intelligence branch, to be carried out, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is willing to grant; and those additional officers will be appointed within a very short, period. I can only say that since I first went to the War Office, in 1886, when I remember in a very humble way assisting to provide the then Director-General of Intelligence with a very considerably increased staff, I have always held that our Intelligence Department requires strengthening, perhaps more than any other department. In saying that I wish, in justice to the members of that department, to add that too much, as I think—though I do not wish to anticipate the Report of the Royal Commission—has been made of our absence of intelligence before the war. I should be very much surprised if, in the Report of the Royal Commission, more is not said of the use made of that intelligence than of the absence of intelligence. That is a military question into which I do not wish to go. The Royal Commission must pronounce upon it. I think it would be very hard on Sir John Ardagh, whose calculations were proved to have been in most respects wonderfully accurate, should he be charged with the whole of the failure of the early part of the campaign.
I have only another remark to make on this subject. I hope the House, which is so ready to urge upon us, and I believe to vote, the increase of the Intelligence Department, will be equally anxious to vote those supplies of men and material which the Intelligence Department will urge the Government to undertake. It is useless for us to have a Defence Committee to make necessary schemes of defence if we are told, when we come to this House and ask for what we require simply in order to make the provision which the brain of the Army, which the best military and naval experts, demand of us for defence, and which this House insists on our undertaking, and would hold us accountable if we did not undertake—if we are then told that we may have the brains and intelligence, but must not expect supplies or men.
Next to military intelligence one of the subjects which has most oc- 305 copied us has been the State of the War Office itself. Deep as appears to be the prejuduce against the War Office in the minds of some Members, our critics, with a degree of consistency which is as interesting as it is novel, have united to praise the idea that we should have in future not merely one organisation for the Army abroad, but a second organisation in a second War Office for the Army at home. I confess [have quailed, I believe my right hon. friend who has filled the same position has quailed, at the idea that in future we should have not one War Office, but two War Offices. That proposal, which was made last night, and which has been made by an able writer in The Times, will, I think, hardly carry the same weight as other suggestions from the same quarter.
We appointed a Committee two years ago, and this Committee took a great amount of trouble and made many recommendations. It is sometimes said the recommendations of a committee bear no fruit; but I think there has been more result from this report than from any other report of a committee I can remember. I have heard it said that none of the recommendations have been carried out, except to put military clerks in the place of civilian clerks in certain departments, and that that resulted in chaos or confusion. We carried out the recommendation in two of the military departments, and in doing so we have carried into effect what has been urged upon us from time to time, that we should not give purely military questions to be dealt with by a civilian staff when we could find military men, especially retired officers, capable of dealing with them; and I believe that the experiment has now got into satisfactory working. We have not, as has been assumed in some quarters, given the congé to a large number of civilian clerks, sending them away with large pensions. Simply some have retired, as they would in every other Department, and a few have been moved; but I believe the system is working well. I believe it is a much sounder system that an officer having to go to the War Office with a grievance, and failing to see the head of the Department or the Adjutant General, had better see a reliable and respon- 306 sible officer than be forced to put his grievance, often of a private nature, before a civilian clerk, however able and however well trained. I do not wish to say a word in disparagement of the work which has been done by the civilians who have manned the Military Department in the past. I believe it has been faithful, conscientious, and successful work, but I do think we ought to have regard in some degree to men who have served the country, who have retired on very moderate half-pay, and who are thoroughly competent to fulfil the same work. As Sir Clinton Dawkins urged, we should abolish minute regulations and elaborate reports. That I may say, as far as I am concerned, I am prepared to do, and I have abolished every minute regulation which I can find soldiers have advised can be abolished.
But Sir Clinton Dawkins says we should increase the financial power of the Secretary of State and of officers commanding. The Secretary of State is now allowed £5,000 for correspondence, and each general officer commanding has been allowed £250 for similar correspondence. We have given the commanding officers larger power at Dublin, Salisbury, and Aldershot, and the work is proceeding smoothly. The Committee urge that we should enlarge the responsibility of general officers commanding, and so relieve the War Office. We have given larger financial powers, and we have given many appointments to the general officers commanding the Army Corps, and we have left to them the alteration of many buildings, and allowed them to settle the re-engagements of soldiers; and we have put into their hands the dealing with the appointments and the promotion of officers in the Auxiliary forces. Scarcely a week passes that we do not transfer some work which has been made the subject of correspondence with the War Office to the general officers commanding the first three Army Corps. Whatever may be said with regard to that organisation as a measure of decentralisation, I believe its fruits have been wonderful considering it has only been established for a year and a-half.
Then we were urged to establish a War Office Board. I have put the War Office Council not exactly on the footing 307 demanded, but on a footing which I believe will be of immense use to our successors. The meetings will be regular, minutes are kept, decisions are recorded—the reasons of those decisions and discussions are also to be on record. Any member of the Council can initiate any subject he thinks necessary, and there will remain what there has never been before in the War Office, on record for our successors without turning ever countless piles of papers, a concise, brief, and direct record of all the subjects of importance which had been discussed and which had led to the Estimates of the year. Then, Sir, we were urged to substitute inspection for report. The general officers commanding the Army Corps, and the inspectors of Garrison Artillery, Cavalry, and Yeomanry now carry on the main inspection. I can only say. leaving aside a number of much smaller questions, that I believe the progress of the Dawkins Committee recommendations have been consistent and have been sufficient to enable me to say this—that if it were right to ask a man who has already given so much time to the public service as Sir Clinton Dawkins has done in this matter to look into the matter himself and report whether his own recommendations have been properly carried out, I should not be afraid of laying the document upon the Table of the House of Commons without previously seeing it.
This year has been a most notable one in the organisation of the Army Medical Department. Naturally this House, having discussed the failure of this Department during the war, has now left the subject, but I hope I may be allowed to draw attention to it for a few moments. I believe that this House owes a large measure of gratitude to those eminent civilian surgeons and medical men who have joined, on public grounds, our Advisory Board, and have given us the benefit of their services and advice during the past year. Sir Frederick Treves, Dr. Fripp, Dr. Parry, Mr. Galloway, and Dr. Ball, all of them have given immense time to the public service. We have had to place upon the Advisory Board, who now assist the Director General, the responsibility of selecting candidates, of examining the condition 308 of our home and foreign hospitals, and of carrying out the great changes which we propose in this Department. Well the first advantage we have got has been that, while previously we could not obtain a sufficient number of candidates to fill the vacancies, at the first examination under the new system I think we had three times as many candidates as we had vacancies, and I am assured that the class of candidate has been of a very high order. Sir, I hope this may continue. We have established a Medical Staff College in London, which will enable our officers returning from foreign service to utilise to the best advantage their leave for study which they have never had hitherto, and without which it is impossible for them to keep up their scientific attainments. Imagine what the position is, or has been, when, after spending many years abroad, a man has only got a few hard-earned months of leave without a centre to which he can go and refresh his knowledge with the numerous developments which take place in modern times in medical science
Then, Sir, we have done our best to encourage specialisation in the Army Medical Service. Sanitary officers will be employed on sanitation alone. The General Medical Council has made an important change in accepting diplomas of sanitary science and recognising the instruction of the Army Medical Department. A course of lectures on sanitation has been started at Woolwich, Sandhurst, and at the staff colleges in the various districts. We have established in the Army Medical Corps the principle of selection by merit. Names are submitted to the Advisory Board, and for scientific merit promotion is given; and we are endeavouring to bring our medical and surgical equipment up to date. This work will take a long period. You cannot deal with a number of isolated hospitals in a hurry, but I proposes instead of the elaborate machinery by which different branches of the War Office have hitherto dealt with hospitals—one with the building and the other with the equipment—to make a small Committee, either with a civilian member of the Advisory Board or an Army medical member, in order to hand over to them this work in conjunction with 309 the Financial Secretary, and to hand over the whole administration of these services in order to secure continuity and bring the whole question, as far as we can, up to date. I might say also, before I leave the subject, that the Army nursing service, under the immediate presidency of Her Majesty the Queen—who has herself a great practical knowledge of nursing—has been placed on a new footing. The number of nurses has been largely increased, a considerable extra sum is asked for in the Estimate for this service, and, for the first time, a proportion of the most highly paid and highly trained male members of the Army Medical Corps will be trained as male nurses, and will not be put to other Departments. I hope those measures in the case of a further campaign will secure us from what have been spoken of as scandals in the late campaign, and in peace time will conduce to the health and welfare of the soldiers.
There are many other subjects on which no less progress has been made during the year. I should like to say one word on the question of the Remount Department. I have always been one of those who protested from this Table against the undue blame which has been attached to the remount authorities of the War Office, because, when war broke out, they could not adapt suddenly an establishment formed to supply 2,500 horses a year into an establishment capable of sending 250,000 horses in the same year 6,000 miles. I believe that an enormous amount of undue rhetoric has been spent upon the abuse of the authorities on this ground. Of course there have been failures, and I quite admit them. All I can say is that we have done our best under the circumstances. A large amount of this work was done before I came to the War Office, and perhaps the most difficult part of it was done, namely, the immediate and rapid organisation of this Department. At all events the whole question has now been re-considered, and my noble friend the Financial Secretary has drawn out a scheme in conjunction with the military authorities. His proposal is, and we intend to give it a trial, that the office of Inspector-General of Remounts at headquarters, with a small staff of officers, shall be retained as before, but that the 310 Inspector-General of Remounts and the central staff will not, as formerly, undertake to carry on actual purchases. Their whole time is to be devoted to organisation, inspection, and acquiring information. There will be six purchasing agents—in all probability retired officers of experience will be appointed—one in each district and two of them will be in Ireland. Those agents will act under instructions from the Inspector-General, who will be directly responsible to the General Officer Commanding. They will not be liable to removal in case of war. Our difficulty in the case of the late war was that the officers on remount duty were in many cases withdrawn and asked to serve with their regiments. These officers will all remain at their post in case of war. They will purchase in their districts the number of horses annually required, and they will make the arrangements for reorganisation and the rapid development of the work of mobilisation. They will, of course, render themselves thoroughly competent in addition. We propose to put four retired officers at the disposal of the Inspector General for the collection of information and, if necessary, for the purchase of remounts in foreign countries. Other persons will be appointed to discharge similar duties in the colonies. We propose to continue the system of registration, not going beyond 20,000 horses, because we found it worked admirably during the war. I am not sanguine enough to suppose that if a similar great demand came upon us such as we had to meet three years ago some flaws will not be found. All I can say is that we have taken to heart the lessons of the past. We believe that we have put the Department on a sound footing, and certainly we shall not again be caught napping as to intelligence and information as to the sources of supply.
I have had a great deal of pressure brought to bear upon me in course of these debates as to the class of officers who are now introduced into the Army. The hon. Member for Dundee made his annual appeal that the expenses of the officers should be so reduced that young men entering the Army should be able to live on their pay. I quite admit that that is an ideal; I should like to get as near to it as we can; but I believe I am right in saying that even in Continental 311 armies, where there is compulsory service for officers, and where you have got to call men who may have money or not, and the men are bound to enter the profession for a certain period, during which they cannot expect to gain anything except experience of military art—even in Continental armies you cannot expect a man to live on his pay from the moment he enters a regiment. We have taken a very long step forward to reduce the expenditure of cavalry regiments. I believe that the system of not allowing private horses on parade and forbidding any but troop horses on parade, will have the effect of saving in the outfit, which naturally frightens any parent sending his son into a cavalry regiment, of a most serious item of expense amounting to a sum which may be between £200 and £500. Similarly, we relieve the officer of the necessity of buying his field-kit, and of the necessity of buying his furniture when first coming in, paying to him, as in the Navy, a very small annual charge to meet the cost of that accommodation, and incidentally we make our force in time of peace much more mobile, so that they will not carry about that enormous amount of luggage which they have done hitherto. In addition to that, the Commander-in-Chief has put himself in communication with officers of cavalry regiments now in England, and urged on them in the strongest manner the necessity of fixing a limit of expense in their regiments. I will not go further into that than to say that I do not believe that by making any sumptuary law whatever you can reduce the expense in the cavalry regiments; I do not believe you could carry out any such suggestion as the hon. Member for Dundee made, that you: should give out an order that no parent should even give his son an allowance on entering the Army. You must carry the spirit of the regiment and the colonels with you. You must get it to be understood in the Army that it will not be tolerated in a particular regiment, that unless a young man can provide a very large sum towards polo or other amusements which are in themselves highly desirable, and which add very considerably to the cavalry officers' efficiency—that unless he can provide a large sum, he should choose some other regiment. I believe that we should obtain assistance from the colonels, and 312 I hope that whether it is I, or whoever he may be, the Minister who has to make a statement here in two years time will be able to report considerable progress.
There is also the Question brought before us by the hon. Member opposite, who said that nothing had been said with regard to the improved rifle, and I think one Member also said with regard to the improved field-gun. An improved rifle has been adopted and arrangements made for supplies I believe the experts, and every expert committee who have recommended the shortening of the rifle, satisfied themselves that there is a gain in weight, and that there is a gain in the handling of the rifle, especially by mounted troops, without any loss of efficiency whatever. If that be so, I can see that an immense advantage has been gained, and I do not think that the House will grudge the money for the conversion. I will not labour the general question of stores and supplies: I can only say that there never was a time when our stores and stocks were so nearly complete as they are at the present moment. We ask the House this year for £2,100,000 under this head. That will, with the exception of about a quarter of a million, discharge and complete the whole sum of nine or ten millions asked for by the Committee that considered this Question. We shall then have at hand and in various districts supplies which make up the deficiencies to which attention was called three years ago, and all I can say is this—that I hope that, having built up these supplies, I shall never live to sit on that side of the House and hear a Minister from this box congratulate himself that he is able to largely reduce the normal vote for the supplies of the Army when it will be perfectly obvious that he is only able to do so—I mean the annual expenditure—by eating up some of those reserves we have conscientiously built up.
I am not going to trouble the Committee with further observations on that point. I fear that the opportunities which will be afforded to me of further explaining the policy of the Government may be more numerous than I myself desire. Although these attacks are the subject of regret to me, they are not in 313 the slightest degree the subject either of surprise or embarrassment—certainly not of surprise, because long before the war was terminated it must have been obvious to many of us that so strong a tide had set in the direction of efficiency, we should soon have that serious set-back which has followed every war in which we have been engaged, and in which a demand has been made for a reduction of expenditure at all costs. I will only remind the Committee before I sit down of what is in the memory of a large number of Members sitting here, that after the Egyptian War in 1885, with the employment of a much smaller force—not one man in ten of those we had to employ in South Africa—our deficiencies were found to be far greater, and the outcry for large supplies was naturally far louder even after the war. So loud was the demand, and so vigorous was the attack, for economy and reduction of the Estimates that the two particular points on which a reduction was made were the Medical Department and the Field and Horse Artillery, about which I have only to remark that when this war broke out these, above all others, were the departments which ever) 'Member on both sides of the House fixed as being the most deficient and the most necessary to be strengthened. I mention these points because I remember well that in the debates in this House, and in the discussions upstairs, a vehement appeal was made by the light hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, and I remember also the strong language used by the noble Lord, Lord Randolph Churchill. I remember that the universal idea was that you could get any number of doctors when you wanted them that the whole city teemed with doctors. I remember also that some fifty to a hundred of the Medical Department were got rid of. My right hon. friend had to stand personally in the breach and assure the Committee of the intention of, the Government three years ago to have these deficiencies put right. I hope that history on this occasion will not repeat itself. I do not urge extravagance in our expenditure, but what I do urge is this: Let us be allowed to show you our policy, as we endeavour to do, and let the House of Commons decide whether the policy and the principles which all 314 experts press upon us and declare to be necessary, and which the Government puts its own seal upon—let the House decide whether it will decline those principles and refuse supplies. Whatever course we adopt I hope it will be a course adopted on the principle of what we propose to do, and what we have to meet. Don't let us have a repetition of this futile, this extravagant, policy of sudden cutting down, and then, when emergency arises, having these proposals for increased expenditure. By that system you not only do not get security, but you do not get economy, and I think it would be lamentable, after the experience of the last throe years, that this House of Commons, representing after all the richest nation in the world, should be willing to settle down deliberately and of set purpose to an inefficient system of national defence.
SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNEEMAN (Stirling Burghs)
There is necessarily a certain amount of confusion in this prolonged debate, not only because, as the right hon. Gentleman said, we have had a discussion during the last two or three days on many most important topics which will naturally have to be dealt with under ordinary circumstances at this stage of the proceedings, but also because we have the consciousness of a Motion, of which notice has been given, which will raise a great number of the points with which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt. I have been somewhat at a loss to know whether we ought not to get at once to that Motion by way of clearing the air. The two things so run into each other that, if I mistake not, the right hon. Gentleman has delivered in his peroration a part of his statement which more properly belongs to the particular Motion to which I have referred. I shall not dwell at any great length on that prospective Motion, but one must say something on the subject with which it deals. The right hon. Gentleman took a very ordinary course in saying—You who clamour for economy should come here and put your finger upon the item which can be dispensed with. It is for you who talk in this vague way of bloated Estimates, and of the necessity for reduction, to say in what way that reduction should take place.I take issue with the right hon. Gentleman altogether. The only way that I 315 know in which the House of Commons can promote a reduction, and can insist upon economy, is by saying that a large sum shall be reduced, leaving it to the Minister, with his professional advisers, to say how that reduction shall take place. We have seen it on previous occasions. Lord Randolph Churchill, who is represented in this House nowadays in a way so agreeable to us all, ended his official career by a demand of that kind. Speaking as Chancellor of the Exchequer he said to the head of the spending department, "You must make a reduction of a certain sum." I believe he was met by the same demand, "Pray tell me where you find the item which can be dispensed with." But he stood to his guns and said, "No; that is for you to say. All I can say is that, being responsible for the finances of the country, I cannot afford to give you a larger sum than this reduced amount." That is precisely the stand the House of Commons is justified in taking on such an occasion as this.
The right hon. Gentleman has a knowledge which we do not possess; at all events he can use certain apparent knowledge, without our having the power to probe or examine it too closely, for the purpose of puzzling us the moment we attempt to fix upon any item. But it is exactly the same in civil and domestic life. If any hon. Member finds that his butcher's bill at the end of the week is reaching a sum that he thinks exorbitant he will never make anything of it if he goes and complains of the particular price of mutton, or overcharge in the weight of particular items. There will always be a smooth and pleasant, and more or less convincing, answer. But if he says, "With the same family requirements going on my weekly bill has been so much, and if you do not reduce it to that figure again I will remove my custom to some one else," that is the true way of getting at the heart of the tradesman. That is the true way of getting at economy.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I assumed the same requirements.
316 Therefore the right hon. Gentleman must accept the fact that the House of Commons is, I think, entitled to say, "These Estimates are higher than we think the financial position of the country justifies, and, therefore, they must be reduced." But the right hon. Gentleman hit the mark when he used the word "policy." The whole of this question depends upon policy. When the right hon. Gentleman went over the number of men that we maintain in this country he showed how many would be unfit in case of mobilisation, how many would be required for garrisons, how many for the permanent staff of the Auxiliary forces and so forth, and then he led up to what he evidently considered an unsafe margin—the number of men who would remain available when 120,000 men had left the country. But that begs the whole question, because are we sure that 120,000 men are required? I take the question of India and of the Indian Frontier, which the Prime Minister the other night, and the right hon. gentleman to-night, brought forward as, after all, the main reason for the recent additions to our forces. What reason have we uninstructed members of Parliament—merely exercising our discretion from the information that comes to us,—what reason have we to believe that 120,000 men will be required on the frontier of India? But the point is more direct than that. What reason is there now for that which did not exist five years ago? Why has the Regular Army been increased to such a large extent within the last three or four years? What is therein the Indian circumstances which justifies that increase? That is the point which must be made clear before we settle the argument of the right hon. Gentleman.
I have said more than once since this session began, that the first thing we ought to know is the actual requirement of the country, and the requirement of the Empire for defence. But those requirements will depend upon the policy you pursue; and I am one of those who think that the real and only patriotic policy for this country is one which would probably put an end to the necessity for this large accession of force for any purpose that can come within our expectation, and the circumstances we see around us. There has certainly been 317 nothing in the South African War which has altered the state of things since four or five years ago; and therefore I cannot but think that the right hon. Gentleman has started on false premises altogether, when ho assumes as the basis of his argument that we must he ready at any time to send 120,000 men out of the country as an expeditionary force. The right hon. Gentleman said a good deal of the Intelligence Department, and I think what he said was perfectly reasonable. The Intelligence Department ought to be fully staffed and fully equipped. But, as he said, we have the Indian Intelligence Department and the Naval Intelligence Department, which are to be considered alongside of ours when we come to any comparison with other nations. Let it be gradually and carefully increased as the circumstances show to be necessary; hut we have no recent reason, at any rate, to believe that there has been any lack of intelligence supplied to the War Office. The right hon. Gentleman to-night has made a frank admission, which we have never had before, and which is really of the first importance; because he said that at the outbreak of this war it was not lack of information that they suffered from, but that the information they possessed was not made proper use of. That is precisely what we have not only suspected, but have had reason to believe, and have, therefore, stated publicly during all these years. I think he did no more than what was' right in removing from Sir John Ardagh and his colleagues any imputation that might exist in the public mind that they had not fully discharged the duty that they were appointed to perform.
The right hon. Gentleman was also very frank with regard to some recent occurrences. Even the word "failure," and even the word "scandal," slipped out from his mouth. Of course he would not call it "scandal" himself. He spoke in some respects of the failures which have been disclosed, which he admitted, and which he is doing his best to remedy. All I can say is that during the time the occurrences were proceeding we did not hear any admission of failure at all; and I do not altogether blame the right hon. Gentleman, because he was bound at the time to make 318 the best case he could. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the changes which he has been carrying out in the War Office in substituting m litary officers for civilians. Well, if that is confined to the military departments, I see no reason why it should not be successfully applied; but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do nothing which will depart from the old constitutional principle, which comes down to us from Lord Palmerston and the Duke of Wellington and other unimpeachable authorities, that while discipline should be entirely in the hands of the soldiers, the financial control and the general control should be mainly and principally civilian. The right hon. Gentleman also says he has done much to decentralise, and that the Army Corps have been very useful in that respect. I am not going to discuss the Army Corps, because the Government themselves do not appear to be very anxious to pin themselves more than is absolutely necessary to that particular organisation. But what I am rather led to believe has occurred is that there has been great decentralisation as between the War Office and the Army Corps, but that between the Army Corps and the district there is as much circumlocution and as much unnecessary interchange of orders and papers and letters as there was before. Supposing some small work has to be carried out at Dover. The matter goes before the officer commanding the South-Eastern District, but he has to send it to Salisbury to the officer commanding the second Army Corps, and he again communicates with the War Office.
SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNEEMAN
I believe it goes to Salisbury, and there it is dealt with by officers who have not the full experience and authority which those in the War Office possess; so that there is absolutely more of what is commonly called circumlocution under the new scheme than under the old, only it is not between the War Office and the Army Corps, but between the Army Corps and the units and divisions under them.
319 One other subject I shall refer to, and that is the question of the expenses of officers. The right hon. Gentleman found fault with the hon. Member for Dundee and those who placed this matter on a somewhat extreme basis; but I think that this can be said—while the right hon. Gentleman has done something in respect of the provision of furniture and other methods of that kind tending to diminish expenses, the great evil is in the expensive mode in which the regiments are themselves conducted, in their social expenditure, and in those extravagances or indulgences which to the officer of slender means are a cause of so great expense that he finds that he cannot always stand it. It is there that the evil arises. It is exceedingly difficult to check. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said that orders from headquarters do very little; but that is because the officers themselves who carry out those orders very often do not acquiesce in them; or, at any rate, do not take proper means to enforce them. I have heard of a distinguished general going to inspect a regiment, and of reading the officers, and especially the colonel, a lesson against extravagance. He afterwards went to luncheon, and said that that was what he liked to see in the regimental system, and that the regiment did things in a way that did credit to them. He himself was encouraging the very evil he had previously condemned. I know the difficulty in the matter, but still let public opinion be brought to bear on it, and let the commanding officer of the regiment know what the country requires of him, and that it is just as much a part of his duty to cut down unnecessary expenditure as it is to see after any other part of the efficiency of the regiment. When the shot has been fired, the prospect of which the right hon. Gentleman says he contemplates without embarrassment or fear, and I can well believe it, we shall have more to say on the question of the number of men, and the cost of the Army; but for the present there is nothing more which occurs to me now.
§ MR. GUEST (Plymouth)
said he claimed the indulgence of the Committee in firing the shot to which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his 320 right hon. friend had referred. He could assure the Committee that nothing but a very deep conviction as to the ruinous military policy of the Government would have induced him, a supporter of the Government, to take the step he was now about to take. The speech of his right hon. friend was very interesting and very comprehensive. His right hon. friend was able to show that during his time at the War Office he had been able to introduce many minor improvements into the Department over which he presided. But he thought his right hon. friend would forgive him if he did not follow him into the details of the extenuating circumstances of which he made so much, and if he addressed himself more particularly to the main issue which underlay the whole administration of the War Office, and the military establishment of this country. There was one thing to which he must take exception in the speech of his right hon. friend. His right hon. friend taunted those who now differed from his policy as having pledged themselves to support that policy. But he would point out to his right hon. friend that he could acquit himself of any inconsistency in the matter, as he had abstained from voting for his right hon. friend's scheme when he introduced it. With regard to other friends of his, and to his own action two years ago, the war in South Africa was then proceeding, and it was on that ground, and that ground only, that they did not feel themselves justified in withholding the supplies of men his right hon. friend asked for in the interests of peace; he would point out that that was one of the principal reasons by which his right hon. friend had been able to justify his policy to the House.
He listened with great attention to his right hon. friend's speech, and picked up with avidity the crumbs of comfort that fell from his lips. He was delighted to find that his right hon. friend, like Saul, was also among the prophets, and that, forsooth, his right hon. friend was also one who desired the reduction of the Regular forces of the Crown. That was comforting, but the consolation was to be somewhat deferred, because his right hon. friend told the Committee that the 321 reduction could not take place until the Reserve had been brought up again, not only to what it had been, but even to a greater number. They were all aware that the Reserve was capable of very rapid growth. They knew that not more than a fortnight ago it stood at 32,000 men, that in the Estimates issued only three days ago it had reached 54,000, and that that afternoon it had risen to 60,000. That was very remarkable, but he thought his right hon. friend would not accuse them of undue pessimism if they thought that such mushroom growth was not likely to be maintained, and that it might be years before they saw the reduction to which his right hon. friend looked forward with so much satisfaction and pleasure. What was the meaning of the reduction which he now intended to move? He had put down the figure at 27,000 men, but he would not have the Committee suppose that that 27,000 represented the whole of the economy which he and his friends desired to see effected; nor did it represent any part of the details which they proposed to offer to the Committee as an alternative policy to that of the Secretary of State for War. There was this, at any rate, about the figure. In the first place, it was a substantial figure, and it indicated quite plainly that they desired to see a substantial reduction. In the second place, the figure of 27,000 men, or to be exactly accurate, 27,907 men, represented the increase in the infantry of the Line which had been effected since 1897. He thought there was considerable advantage in dealing with infantry of the Line only, because they escaped the complications which would arise if they included the artillery and cavalry. The proposition he put forward was perfectly simple. He suggested that they should reduce the infantry of the Line to the figure at which it stood in 1897. What were the facts as to the increase in the infantry? Since Lord Lans-downe was at the War Office, and subsequently his right hon. friend, no less than fifteen infantry battalions had been added to the military establishment. There had been a gross increase of 54,000 men, of whom 27,000 were infantry. That was a very large increase.
322 When his right hon. friend said that they were an Imperial people possessing a great Empire, he failed to see that his right hon. friend demonstrated that the British Empire did not exist previous to 1897, or that at that time it was not adequately protected and guarded, although it did not have the advantage of his right hon. friend's fostering care. What were the reasons on which they asked for this reduction of men? The first reason was that of economy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would probably share that desire, and he had no doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer found himself in a somewhat difficult and uncongenial position with regard to his colleagues when he put forward the very unpleasant and unpopular question of economy; it was probably to private Members that the Chancellor of the Exchequer looked with any degree of hope, for support in effecting that retrenchment and economy which, doubtless, he had at heart. Whatever might be the qualifications of the House to discuss Army matters, he submitted, with great respect, that it was not only the right, but the duty of the Committee, as the guardians of the public purse, to examine minutely into the Army Estimates. When hon. Members who were economists talked on the Budget on economy, they were always taunted with the reply that if they desired economy they should indicate on the Estimates how it was to be effected. He submitted that, at any rate, his Motion was a clear and definite proposal as to how economy might be effected.
He should not be in order if he drew attention to the condition of the national finances. Hon. Members were doubtless well aware of the position in which the country stood as compared with the position in which it stood a few years ago. It was a matter of common knowledge that the normal expenditure of the country had risen by 40 per cent.; that, in fact, they had been progressing at the rate of £7,000,000 additional normal expenditure every year, and he did not think that there was any prospect that that additional normal expenditure would be reduced during the present year. There 323 was another very remarkable fact, and that was that of the £32,000,000 which was imposed under the guise of war taxation, and which was passed by this House because it was war taxation—he referred to the coal tax, the sugar tax, the corn tax, and the income tax—no less than £17,000,000 or £18,000,000 had been absorbed in the ordinary normal expenditure of the country. That great growth, he would not call it extravagance, in the normal expenditure of the country, had been very greatly facilitated owing to the existence of the South African War; but what was the item which figured most largely in that alarming growth? The most noticeable and striking increase of all the items was that for the Army. The Army represented a growth of no less than £10,000,000 during the last four years. The Army Estimates had risen from £20,000,000 to £30,000,000. He was aware that his right hon. friend challenged the latter figure, and thought that the normal military expenditure should be put at £27,000,000, and he stated that that sum was to be accounted for by the retention of a force in South Africa, and the additional cost it involved. But when did he hope to reduce to any great extent the military establishment in South Africa? He himself hardly thought that the reduction was likely to appear in next year's Estimates. Then, as his right hon. friend said, abnormal charges had been incurred, as, for instance, the pay of the Army, which his right hon. friend estimated at £080,000 a year. He would not say that would be the whole of the increase of the Estimates. There would be the increase under that head, and there would also be an increase under the head of Reserves, and in the non-effective services; and there would also be the question of the new rifle, which would come into the Estimates either next year or the year after. Therefore he maintained that the original Estimate for this Army scheme of six Army Corps largely underestimated the cost.
Under these circumstances, and in view of the great increase of our military expenditure, it was the duty of the Secretary' of State for War to explain the absolute necessity of every penny of the expenditure which he proposed. The 324 Committee had not been favoured with that accurate, careful, and painstaking statement of detail which he had hoped to have, and he confessed he was much disappointed with the general way in which the right hon. Gentleman had dealt with this subject. They had heard of European entanglements and commitments in three continents before, but he urged the right hon. Gentleman to explain in a much more satisfactory manner why it was that it was now necessary to spend so much more money on the Army than it was before. He did not rely on economy alone to justify the reduction he proposed to move, because the patriotism of this country was so great that any amount would be voted that was asked for if it was thought the expenditure was necessary and was needed. What he complained of was that this scheme sacrificed quality for quantity. The scheme proposed to give a large number of men, but on that account it was not calculated to give a very high standard. One would have thought that all the extra inducements which had been offered during the right hon. Gentleman's tenure of office would have enabled the country to obtain a better class of recruits, and it no doubt would have done so if the demand had not outstripped the supply. These inducements had been offered much more with the view of enabling the right hon. Gentleman to obtain his numerical ideals than any desire to obtain a better class of recruits.
Then, with regard to the Reserve. Under the old system we had a very good Reserve, which had been built up without any sacrifice, but now, unless 50 per cent. of our soldiers volunteered for extension of service, it would be absolutely impossible to furnish our Indian and colonial drafts. In the right hon. Gentleman's scheme great reliance was placed on the popularity of the Service, but desertions had now increased, and only 13 per cent. of the infantry of the Line had volunteered for further service this year, so that the whole of the Indian, and colonial garrisons were jeopardised. Yet the right hon. Gentleman came down and produced figures, to the amazement of this House, and for the amusement of other countries. Two years ago the right hon. Gentleman told the House of his scheme of Army reform, and the House granted him unexampled facilities for' 325 carrying it out; but after two years the inevitable conclusion was driven home to the minds of hon. Members that the right hon. Gentleman had only perpetuated the old bad state of affairs in a larger scheme. If the amount of men was modified there was very little doubt but that we should be able to obtain a better class of recruits than we were at present able to secure. He did not suggest that by a mere reduction in numbers it would be possible to get rid of all the inefficients in the ranks at the present time, but we might got rid of the undesirable element which figured so largely in the ranks at this moment. Last year we enlisted 2,000 boys under 17 years of age whose presence was certainly undesirable; we enlisted 8,000 under the standard, and our standard was not too strict nor in any way inelastic; we also enlisted 1,000 recruits who were unable to write, and of whom 550 were also unable to read, and it seemed to him, at a time when the individual intelligence of the private soldier was being so much praised, it was eminently undesirable to admit this illiterate class into the ranks. We had discharged 2,254 invalids with under two years service, and increased desertion amounted to 1,500 men. All these men ought not to have been recruited at all, and would not have been if it had not been for the extravagant demand made by the right hon. Gentleman
But over and above these there were a certain number of men who appeared on the establishment who had not been recruited at all, who were non-existent. For years the infantry of the line had been under strength. When they added the number of non-existent, 17,000 out of 20,000 were accounted for in this way alone, so that the reduction he was moving was not so large as it would at first appear, and the reduction of the fighting strength of the Army necessitated by his motion was not so serious as one would have imagined. "But let it not be supposed these 17,000 were all that we lost under the present system. At a rough calculation a soldier cost £60 a year, so the sum of money lost would be something between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000 per annum. Under these circumstances the Committee was justified in saying, that so far from having got the form of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman they had only got the inflation. The very regrettable conclusion was forced 326 upon the Committee that not only would the right hon. Gentleman be unable to raise the standard of the Army, but that the standard was lower than it was when he came into office. Supposing that a small Army was, for the sake of argument, admitted to be necessary on the ground of efficiency, it would be said that there were two objections to it; that in the first place it could only be attained by diminishing the battalions of the Line, and if we diminished the linked battalion system what would become of our colonial and Indian drafts? The linked battalion system was not the only method of supplying drafts. Previous to the time of Mr. Cardwell these drafts were supplied from depots. It was Mr. Cardwell who threw upon those battalions which happened to be at home the duty of supplying drafts to the battalions abroad, and thus did away with the depots; but that had proved to be an extravagant method, and he (the hon. Member) believed that the old depot system was a much better and cheaper method. If, in conformity with settled policy, the Government determined to reduce the number of battalions on the home establishment, it was quite obvious that a resort to the depot system would be much cheaper, and perhaps better. What was to prevent the Government going in for a mixed system of depots and battalions? As a matter of fact, for many years past the linked battalion system had been in a parlous state; and in recent years he believed there had been no instance of the equality between the home and the foreign battalions having been maintained. Not only that, but the depot system, which was supposed to have been got rid of, had reappeared; so that the advantage of the economy which resulted from the linked battalion system had disappeared.
Another practical objection that might be urged against a smaller Army was that, as there must always be a certain number of young soldiers in the Army the mere existence of those young soldiers would necessitate a large force being kept in England. The argument was that we were supposed to enlist men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, but that, as a matter-of-fact, we had to get them young, with the result that the average age was eighteen. Suppose 50,000 recruits were raised in the year—though he believed 327 that number was larger than necessary—they had to he kept in this country for two years before they could be sent abroad. But that did not account for the 155,000 at present in the Army. Then in the time of Mr. Card well foreign service was almost entirely in the tropics, and the objection of sending young soldiers to the tropics played a very large part in the justification of a linked battalion scheme. Circumstances had since changed, and we were now obliged to keep a large number of men in foreign stations of which the climatic conditions were most excellent. For many years to come it would be necessary to maintain from 20,000 to 30,000 men in South Africa. Had the Secretary of State, in his calculations, considered the climatic conditions of South Africa? If not, seeing that he must keep an army there, had he not better make a virtue of necessity and embody that factor in his calculations? His contention was that the balance between the home and the foreign battalions depended on conditions which had long since ceased to prevail. In former days the Army abroad was no larger than the Army it was desired to keep at home; there were no foreign stations of any magnitude with a temperate climate; the Volunteers might be said to have been undiscovered—at any rate, they could not have been looked to discharge any of the functions of homo defence; and the War Office had not encountered the recruiting difficulties with which they were now confronted. Under these circumstances, could the Secretary of State demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Committee that no conceivable proportion other than that of an absolute equality would satisfy the needs of the Empire, or be consistent with the duties it was necessary for us to discharge?
He was aware that it was one thing to demonstrate the economy of a smaller army and to prove that the Army would be better if it were smaller, but that it was another thing to demonstrate its feasibility, and quite a different matter to prove that a smaller army was desirable on strategic considerations. He would at once put aside the question of home defence, because there was a general consensus of opinion, which could 328 hardly be overlooked, that the defence of this country might be largely, if not entirely, entrusted to the citizen army, and the Secretary of State himself, whatever he might say, really concurred in that view, because the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Army Corps, to which the defence of the country was to be entrusted, would be mainly, if not wholly, composed of auxiliary troops. That being so, the question was—Would a smaller army be large enough as the striking force of the Empire? The Prime Minister thought it would not, and, with the Secretary of State for War, had stated that 120,000 men was the irreducible minimum below which it would not be safe to go. If the Prime Minister had arrived at the figure of 120,000 entirely a priori, and without any bias of any kind, it was a curious coincidence that the number of men which the Prime Minister thought absolutely necessary for the defence of India should be exactly the number required for the linked battalion system. One was almost inevitably driven to believe that a great deal of administrative confusion existed in the strategic ideas governing the number of men kept in this country. The "linked battalion" bias played a much larger part in determining that number than strategists were probably aware. If India was the justification for the large army kept in this country, it was a remarkable fact that India was not mentioned on the introduction of the scheme. It would seem as though the defence of India had come as an after-thought to justify a policy to which the House were already committed. But if there was anything in the argument of the defence of India, it would surely be an argument for keeping a large army, not in this country, but in India, or, at any rate, at some point near India. The defence of India obviously meant not the possession of a large force in this country about whose getting to India there was the slightest doubt, but the keeping of such a force as could with absolute certainty be transported to the theatre of war in case of emergency.
He would not pursue that argument further, but would say a word as to what would happen if the reduction were carried, as he hoped it would be. There 329 was no suggestion that the Secretary of State should at once cashier and dismiss 7,000 men, and cause them to join the ranks of the unemployed who paraded Bond Street and other London thoroughfares. Nothing would happen but a gradual and automatic reduction of the Army. By the selection and rejection of recruits, and the raising of a smaller number every year, the Army would gradually be brought to the figure suggested.
He had tried to show that a smaller army would be to the interest of the taxpayers and of the Army itself, because a better class of recruits would be obtained; he had tried to show that there was nothing sacrosanct in the linked battalion system, and that other methods might be devised by which the necessary drafts and other Imperial responsibilities could be met; and he had tried to show that the vicious linked battalion idea had played too large a part in determining what force should be kept in this country, when that determination ought to have been guided by purely strategic considerations. The Vote under discussion authorised the material out of which the whole Army was to be formed. That army was produced to allay popular apprehension during the late war, and was not the result of a well-balanced and well considered appreciations of the normal needs and responsibilities of the country. There, was nothing in it to indicate that a well-defined objective had dictated either its size or its quality. No doubt it produced an imposing array, but one which on closer inspection was seen to lack most of the essentials of a formidable weapon. Lastly, its disposition was such that in time of war this military colossus, instead of protecting the Empire from all mankind, would be found reposing in ignominious impotence upon our southern coasts, unfitted for home defence, unsuited for a foreign country, and probably unable to risk the perils of the passage. That being so, this great home army, instead of being a guarantee of our wealth and possessions, would prove only a heavy burden on the national resources. For these reasons he begged to move the Amendment standing in his name 330 Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 208,751, be maintained for the said Service."—(Mr. Guest.)
§ Debate arising.
*MAJOR EVANS-GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
regretted to find himself in agreement with the mover of this reduction. He regretted it because he was not one of those who took pleasure in attacking their Party; he would far sooner do what he came to the House to do, and support them on all occasions. In one of the first speeches he heard from the First Lord, the right hon. Gentleman said that there was no part so easy for a Member of this House to play as to attack his friends amidst the applause of his opponents. He might have added that to some Members, at all events, there was no part so painful or disagreeable. There were times, however, when that unpleasant position had to be faced, and he believed this to be one of them. From the right hon. Gentleman's speech the other night, he gathered that the Prime Minister believed the attitude of those with whom he was acting on this Army question to be incompatible with their loyalty to the Party. With regard to that, he desired to say that during the five or six years he had been connected with the Party, he had worked as hard for the Unionist cause as any Member on that side of the House. Why had he done this? Because he had believed, and still believed, that in so doing he was, in however humble a. way, working for the best interests of the country. But if it should happen—as in his belief it had now happened—that the proposals of the Government were opposed to those interests, he felt bound to do what he could to prevent their adoption. Members had duties to their constituents as well as to their Party. The Prime Minister seemed to think that they were actuated by a desire to trim their sails to suit the changing gales of popular favour. He represented one of the poorest constituencies in London. To them the smallest increase of taxation meant a real and heavy burden. They never 331 wavered or murmured during the war, and he felt sure, if it could be shown that they were getting their money's worth, they would not waver now. But could any hon. Member of that House go to his constituents and conscientiously say that he believed the country to be really getting in the Army an adequate return for the gigantic sums demanded for it? If so, he was more fortunate than himself, for he confessed that he could not.
That question of the strength of the Regular Army to be maintained in England might be divided under two main headings:—Firstly, What were their Imperial requirements? and secondly, Were those requirements being met in the most economical way, and to the best strategical advantage? With regard to the former there was little that a private Member could say. The Prime Minister, speaking with all the great authority of his position, was unassailable. He was in possession of information which they could not possess, and which even if they possessed it would be highly undesirable to discuss. By the light of that knowledge he told them that such and such a force was necessary; and they could not complain if he withheld the reasons which had led him to this conclusion. When, however, he came to the nature of this force, the best and most economical way of providing it, and the most advantageous positions in which to place it when provided, they were on different ground. These matters might be discussed and argued without fear of injury to their most delicate diplomatic relations.
Into the economic side of the question he would not enter further than to say it was rather to the development of the latent voluntary resources of this Empire that their efforts should be directed, the resources which, after all, alone enabled them to wage and to win the South African War, and upon which, Army Corps or no Army Corps, they would in any great emergency ultimately have to depend. The Estimates now before the House were merely the commencement of a vast expenditure, which, in his opinion, would represent but an insignificant increase in their real military strength. He suspected the scheme, and he suspected the Department which 332 had the administration of it. Reform in the War Office itself should have been the first step. The light would not shine if the generating station was out of gear. No scheme, however well devised, could ever hope to be successful so long as the administration of it was in the hands of a Department in such a condition as was disclosed by the Clinton Dawkins Committee.
Was there any ground for supposing that the War Office had been reformed, or that the Committee's recommendations had been adopted? He asked last year and got no reply of any kind. The things they did know did not inspire confidence. He did not know whether the House had observed one most remarkable feature, namely, that in the War Office action invariably preceded inquiry. They had the Army Scheme introduced before the War Commission had reported. Reforms were introduced, and the Cabinet Committee was remodelled to endorse those reforms. The Volunteer Scheme was launched, and the inquiry held afterwards; and now a Royal Commission was to be appointed to inquire into the Volunteer question. Was it not lamentable that the War Department of this country was self confessedly incapable of producing a really matured scheme? Could they be blamed for their want of confidence in its conclusions when they had to be revised and reconsidered in that way as soon as they were formed?
But apart from that, of two things one would happen—either the efficiency of the Army would be sacrificed to the fear of the expense, or the expense would be such as the country would not stand, and could not bear. Closely allied to the question of expenditure was the strategical position of the troops for whom the expense was incurred. Where were the men required? In which portion of the Empire was the struggle to come? The Prime Minister had supplied them with the answer—it was India. A few days ago a startled nation heard for the first time that the military preparations were regulated by the necessities of our Indian Empire, and that the Army Corps in England were the answer to the Russian menace in Afghan Turkestan. Here ga in one recognised that the Prime Minister was on delicate ground. He might 333 be in possession of information which was unknown to them. There might be new facts which had seriously altered the situation. Nevertheless, it was somewhat remarkable that no hint of them bad reached hon. Members until then. The evidence had all been in the contrary direction. Hitherto far from sending reinforcements from this country, India had over and over again come to our aid. At one and the same time she contributed 1,300 British officers and 20,000 native soldiers for China, and 13,000 British officers and men with 9,000 native followers and bearers for South Africa. Thus the country whose military weakness was now stated to be the atusa causam of the present policy was actually able at a most critical time in her own history to send away 35,000 officers and men for service in other parts of the world. They heard nothing of India's weakness then.
The Prime Minister now told them that the strategical position of Russia was improving from year to year, and from month to month. Quite so—but that was nothing new, and if Russia had been advancing they had not been standing still. Ho spoke on that subject with much diffidence, because the Prime Minister seemed inclined to cast ridicule on two of his hon. friends who had made some effort to study the Central Asian and Indian problem for themselves. He dared say that he in his turn might be laughed at for his temerity in approaching the subject; but he might inform the House that without pretending to be an expert, he had spent twenty year's of his life in India, and three years in the Indian Foreign Office, during which time he had charge of the Frontier branch of that Department. While it was wise and necessary to keep a watchful eye upon Russian preparations, they need not lose sight of what they had done and were doing themselves. Many millions had been spent in improving and strengthening their position. When he thought of what the frontier was twenty years ago, and what it was now, the change was almost miraculous. They were firmly established in Chitral, and had opened the direct route thither from Peshawar instead of having to rely on the enormous detours vid Cashmere and Gilgit. Frontier roads and railways had been everywhere con- 334 structed. The Khaiber Kohat, Kurram, Tochi, and Gomal passes had been opened up and were as safeto-dayas Piccadilly, and the frontier cantonments had been, and were being, connected with the military resources of India by light railway systems. Sorrthward let them think of the incalculable changes which since the days of Sir Robert Sandaman had taken place. Beluchistan Quetta then an inaccessible outpost, had become a railway centre, and an impregnable military position. The rails ran on to the Afghan border, the Arnram range had been tunnelled, and everything was in readiness to carry on the line at a moment's notice to Kandahar.
From Quetta the branch to Nushki was under construction and would make a very material improvement in their position in Seistan. But the preparation had not stopped there. The Indian Army had been reorganised and rearmed. It was never more loyal, efficient, or animated by a finer spirit than it was that day. The less efficient regiments in Madras and Bombay had been replaced by the finest fighting material in the world, and finally, powerful contingents from the native state armies had been disciplined, armed and drilled, and now formed a further valuable asset in their Indian military balance sheet. Besides those great developments of their military position, other influences little known or noticed in that country had been at work, which had greatly improved their position. Under Lord Curzon the whole frontier policy had been changed. Better, closer and more direct relations bad been established between the border chiefs and independent tribes across the frontier. Regular garrisons locked up in costly fortified positions, which were lost to India's offensive strength, had been replaced by tribal levies and militia, who had thus been given an interest in the defence of their own homes, and were year by year becoming more efficient and loyal. If war were to break out to-morrow the Regular Army would be free for concentration on the new lines of advance. All this had been done, and yet large sums of money had been saved.
In estimating the Indian position, they might fairly look at both sides of the account, and, in his judgment, their own 335 preparation to a very considerable extent balanced the preparations of Russia. He hoped he might not be misunderstood, and that it would not be thought that he sought to minimise the gravity of the Indian situation. He wished to measure its intensity, and to discover whether the best means were being taken to meet a possible, if improbable, danger. To be prepared was to make that probability more remote. The question was, Does this Army scheme prepare? He respectfully submitted that it did not. He went further, and said that the placing of three Army Corps in England, with the avowed object of reinforcing India, when considered by the light of the chance of their being unable to leave these shores, if not an actual danger was an added temptation for an attempt upon India. It might be taken as practically certain that war with Russia would mean war with France. He thought, therefore, that the Committee were entitled to know how the Government proposed, in this eventuality, to dispatch their Army Corps from these Islands. That was surely the crucial point in the whole; scheme. It was not sufficient to say that 100,000 troops were required for India, and to suggest no means of getting them there. A hundred thousand men with guns, horses, and supplies would require 150 ships. How was this procession to be protected? It pre-supposed a command of the sea such as had never been contemplated by the most sanguine optimist. It meant, before a single brigade could leave these shores, an absolute sealing up of two powerful hostile fleets.
In the recent war, the mere unopposed transportation of the Army to South Africa was considered to be a great military feat. How would the longer journey to India, with two naval powers against us, be accomplished? If the safety of India de pended upon this uncertain and most precarious aid, her position was anxious indeed. Surely the proper course, the only safe course, was either to strengthen the force in India itself to such a point as would render her independent of help from home, which might never reach her, or to place troops in such positions as would enable them to be sent on 336 without having to run the gauntlet of two hostile fleets. One or both of those alternatives should be adopted. If the former, then the addition of 20,000 Gurkhas, Sikhs, and Pathans on the spot would, in his humble judgment, be worth many Army Corps, and would provide as good a force at a quarter the cost. In any case, it seemed clear that the menaces from the North-West must be met by a corresponding increase of strength on the soil of India itself, a further development, that was to say, of the wise and watchful policy which had been steadily pursued for years. India must take out her own life insurance policy, even if she did not pay the whole premium upon it. If there was danger in the steady approximation of the Indian and Russian frontiers to one another, then do not let them delude themselves, or allow themselves to be deluded, into the belief that they were meeting that danger by creating that costly Army in England. To him it seemed madness to gamble the safety of India upon the chance of their being able to send her timely aid from home. If India was depending on that, she was depending on a slender thread. At best, not a man could start from here for six months; at worst, few would reach their objective at all. The battle of the ironclads must in any case be fought out first. Was it not the Secretary of State for War who said that we could not run an Empire upon an oft' chance? Yet that seemed to be precisely what they were doing. The troops were wanted for India, but they must run the chance of ever getting them there.
*MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
said he was only interested in the domestic difficulty on the other side of the House in one respect, and that was, that one of the leaders of the revolt was his hon. friend and; colleague in the representation of Oldham, and he found it a little difficult to see how, in regard to that matter, the battle was to be set between them at the next General Election. The hon. Members who moved and seconded the reduction of the vote of men had dealt with a great many matters of detail. He would address himself entirely to the wider aspects of the question. He felt that he almost ought to apologise for speaking at all, for he looked at this question from the civilian standpoint. He would confine himself to discussing the broad principle 337 brought before the Committee in the Amendment. They had now no longer to deal with the question whether there were Army Corps or not. There was no need to discuss any more the technicalities of organisation. The question before the Committee was whether the whole scheme was a right scheme. What was the minimum peace establishment of Regulars they ought to have at home; what was the cost of it; could they bear that cost; and if they could bear it. how was the cost to be apportioned as between the Army and Navy? Those were matters on which a civilian might naturally have an opinion. The reduction of the Vote was advocated firstly because the number of Regulars they were to have at home was considered too large, and in the second place because of the economy which would arise from it. The advantages of this reduction were obvious. They were getting to a dangerous point on the Estimates of their national expenditure. Those had gone up £40,000,000 in a few years, and local expenditure had increased £10,000,000. They had therefore an increased expenditure of £50,000,000 to face, which meant that out of every £30, or thereabout, £1 more went in taxation than was the case seven or eight years ago. They had to face at the same time intense commercial competition. England could not live without her commerce, and even' increase of taxation added to the difficulty of that competition. He thought that at that time, so long as they had efficiency, their greatest interest was economy in non-productive expenditure. That reduction would have other advantages, particularly in regard to the question of recruiting, which had been so well dealt with by the hon. Members opposite. The advantages were obvious enough, and still he felt it was a serious matter to vote for a reduction like that and say that the establishment recommended by the responsible Government was 27,000 too large.
Military authority rested with the Government. There were some young Service members and some old Service members who in that matter were against the Government. That was not to him a Party matter at all. He was anxious to see some general agreement on 338 both sides of the House. That was a serious matter affecting their national existence, and it was not suitable for discussion at General Elections at all. He would state why he must vote for the Amendment. In the first place, in dealing with that question they were largely in the dark. The Committee knew that soldiers differed on many questions of great importance. His light hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition, who was driven out of office on account of the Cordite Vote, always said that he had the authorities with him on that particular matter. He had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right. The ordinary Member of the House of Commons had not access to official documents. What did they know about the three Army Corps? They knew that they were not wanted for home defence or any ordinary expedition. They knew that they were not enough to engage in a great European war. The one contingency for which those three Army Corps were wanted was for the defence of India. He confessed that he looked at the question of India from the standpoint that their greatest danger might arise from Persia in the future. In his speech on the Amendment to the Address moved by the hon. Member for the Whitby Division, and seconded by the hon. Member for Plymouth, the Prime Minister said—I am bound to say that I am not aware o a single military authority who has been responsible for giving an opinion upon this question … who takes the sanguine and optimistic view of my two hon. friends.He warned them that events movedrapidly in Central Asia, and added—The strategic position of Russia has improved year by year—I had almost said month by month—in the character of its communications between those great passes, and the (joints at which if unhappily—though, I believe, most improbably—hostilities were to break out this force would be required.That was rather a cryptic saying. The problem was the defence of India, and all depended upon where the force was required—the ground chosen for fighting out that struggle should it unfortunately occur. The right hon. Gentleman said the problem must be strenuously worked at by the Defence Committee. He took that to mean that the problem had not yet been worked at by the Defence Committee.
339 At any rate no final judgment had been come to, but the right hon. Gentleman said that—In ease of a war with Russia we should require not merely the force which we have in India at this moment, but a force much beyond what we propose to put at the disposal of: the Sovereign.In a recent war, which was not with Russia, they required a great many more soldiers than were being provided by the scheme of the Government, and no man could deny that they would want a much larger force in the event of a war with Russia. But what they were providing now was an Army, not on a war footing, but on a peace footing; and the question was, were 120,000 men required on a peace, footing in case they were plunged suddenly into a war with Russia? The question they had to consider was the point of time, for time was the all-important element in regard to a military or a naval war. Russia could not invade India—that was general knowledge—with less than 200,000 troops, and how long would it take Russia to get 200,000 men to the Indian frontier, and how long would it take this country? Whether the war took place in Afghanistan or on the Indian frontier were very different problems. Russia must have railways and stores; she would probably have very severe weather, and, in some seains, a lack of water; and there would be a great wastage on the way. Above all there would be enormous difficulties with transport when she left her railways. Even then we would have the superiority in defence, which had been remarkably shown as one of the chief lessons of the last war. Our problem, then, narrowed itself down to this: were the 27,000 more Regulars which the right hon. Gentleman recommended should be ready to go to a decisive point, necessary for the safety of this country in a possible war with Russia? All were agreed that if war broke out, more than 27,000 men would be required. Was the extra time required for despatching the 27,000 men, if they had to be sent, of such enormous importance that the Government could positively say that they must have these 27,000 for that purpose, and that purpose alone? That was the question 340 to which an answer was demanded. A comparison between Russia and Germany was not to the point. Of course Germany had considered her condition in regard to a contest with Russia. He was afraid that we had not; at any rate in view of what the right hon. Gentleman had told the Committee, the case had not been fully considered. In the meantime he could not vote blindly for a case on which the Prime Minister himself told the country that a final judgment had by no means been arrived at.
Some of the greatest military authorities of the present day had been recognised as alarmists on this question. In 1898, Lord Roberts initiated a debate in the House of Lords on the Indian frontier question, in which he recommended subduing the Tirah, but remarked that "the expense of that is not my business." The reply of the Government was that the expense was their business, and that they could not listen to any such proposal. In regard to this matter of Russia, they had been told either too much or too little, and he thought that in the state of the information before the Committee they should pause before voting for this enormous number of men. He had only a few words more to say. It seemed to him that this scheme was being rushed. The present high standard of military expenditure was injuring their trade. If there was a real necessity for it, that should be made known; but he, and many others, had no confidence that it was necessary. The Secretary of State for War had been somewhat hardly used, perhaps, by that side of the House, as well as by his own—and he did not want to attack him—but what had been done by the Secretary of State for War in that matter in the past gave the Committee and the country no confidence for the future. In 1901, in the middle of ths war, they had had a grand new Army scheme, evidently not thoroughly thought out. Part of that scheme was that the Militia and the Volunteers were to form a part of the three Army Corps. In 1903, a Royal Commission was appointed to discover the nature and the uses of the Militia and the Volunteers, but that did not give any confidence in the position of the Government.
In 1899, war broke out in South Africa, which was said to have been inevitable.
341 There was a Committee of Defence existing at that time, but it was quite evident that the problems of that war were misunderstood by the Committee of Defence, or whoever was responsible. In 1900, the Committee of Defence was reorganised with the view of dealing with the whole problem of Imperial Defence: but in the meantime it had been proved that two different schemes of defence had been put forward at the Colonial Conference by the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty, and that there had been serious differences in the manner in which the Army and Navy authorities looked at the question of Imperial Defence. Yet after this new Defence Committee was formed, and before it had had time to go into all those questions, the permanent necessity of having these "27.000 additional Regulars for the defence of the Indian frontier was pressed in Parliament by the Prime Minister, who himself had said that he had not had time to consider the matter fully.
One word in conclusion in regard to the Intelligence Department. The right hon. Gentleman warned the Committee, and he quite appreciated the value of his warning, that if the Intelligence Department were to be reorganised and expanded it was quite possible that the Committee of Defence might be faced by new claims for expenditure, and, if so, they would have to ask the House of Commons to meet those claims. So far as he was concerned he would much rather that these matters were looked after by a qualified Intelligence Department, and he was sure the Committee would have more confidence in the Government if they knew that that was the case. The result might be to increase or diminish the expenditure, but he would rather have it, even if it increased expenditure, because it was one of the great essentials of the present time. They needed an Intelligence Department far more than any other country, and he believed, whether it resulted in an actual saving or not, it would be a relative saving, and would lead to a great increase of efficiency. Whatever was done he hoped that the Intelligence Department would be encouraged and increased rather than diminished. He had spoken a good deal 342 longer than he had intended, but he had tried to make clear his position, so far as his information went, and his vote would go for the Amendment and not against it.
§ SIR JOHN GORST (Cambridge University)
said he felt great diffidence in addressing the Committee on what some might regard as a purely military matter; but he excused himself on the ground that that Vote had become not an Army but a taxpayers' question. The Leader of the Opposition seemed to think that when large Estimates were proposed by the Government it was quite enough for the House of Commons to protest, and that it was no part of their business to show in what way retrenchment was to be made. He could not agree with that proposition. He was only expressing the general feeling of the British public w hen he said it was confidently hoped that, when the South African War was over, the military and naval expenditure, which had been very cheerfully borne during the was would be materially reduced. Therefore, it was with considerable shock and surprise that all the people of the country found that the normal military expenditure, which the Government proposed to undertake was considerably in excess of that found sufficient in 1897. His hon. friends the mover und seconder of the Resolution had put their ringer upon a definite proposal for economy, and said that by voting 27,000 fewer men for the professional Army they would be able to economise and reduce this military expenditure Well, now, that was what the Committee wanted to examine. Would it be safe for the country to reduce the professional Army down to the number of which it consisted in 1897? They could ask the Government to show why a greater professional Army was more necessary now than it was in 1897. During the whole of these military debates he had listened to all the speeches made on both sides, because he was anxious to, ather, if he could, what it was that the military authorities said they wanted a professional Army for. They wanted it, first of all, to be a nucleus for the defence of the United Kingdom. It was to be supplemented by a citizen Army, into the composition of which he did not 343 intend to enter. Well, for that purpose, what was wanted was not a very numerous Army but a very highly-trained and efficient Army. A great deal of doubt had been expressed, in the course of those debates, as to the efficiency of the professional Army; and every proposal made by way of increasing the efficiency of the officers and men would be accepted by the House of Commons, and all the money necessary for that purpose would be cheerfully voted.
That nucleus of the professional Army must consist of a number of highly trained officers, and non-commissioned officers and men of sufficient experience to organise the force when it was made up of the less highly trained citizen soldiers on whom they might have to depend. The next reason for which a professional Army was necessary was for the defence of India. He was much surprised that the taxpayers of the United Kingdom should be asked to pay anything for the defence of India, because it had always been the policy and practice of the British Government, and he thought that practice was justified, to make India pay entirely for its own defence. So far as the Indian Army was concerned the whole cost was paid by India, who also paid every single penny of the cost of the British troops with which the Indian Army was reinforced. India not only paid the cost of that Army in India, but its transport and other expenses incurred in this country for the purposes of that Army. It also paid its full share for the Navy, which, in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, contributed to the protection of the Indian Empire. It was the first time they had ever heard of the taxpayer of the United Kingdom being called upon to contribute anything towards the military defence of the Indian Empire. So far from India having hitherto been a burden to the taxpayers of this country they had always benefited the other way. It was a most fortunate thing that they were able to keep a large portion of their troops in India on service entirely at the cost of the taxpayers of India. They had profited on many occasions through having that great military force to draw upon, either for general Imperial purposes or for the purposes of the United Kingdom itself. Their Indian troops contributed very greatly to the strength of their position in the Russo-Turkish War, when they were com- 344 pelled for diplomatic purposes to intervene; they also had Indian troops in the Abyssinian War, and it was generally considered by military men that Natal was almost saved by Indian troops in the late South African War. In China, in the middle of the South African War, they were able to intervene, so far as their intervention was necessary, with Indian troops, and they had now Indian troops in Somaliland. Under those circumstances it did not seem to him that the British taxpayer ought to be called on to maintain a single man in that country.
With regard to their coaling stations he did not know whether a military force was the most economical force for the garrisoning of their coaling stations and naval bases. He did not know whether it might not be more economical to garrison with marines or some other force less costly than the professional soldier, but that was a small expense, and nobody could object to it. The last reason for which the Committee was asked to keep a large professional Army at home was that they might have a striking force with which they could intervene in any part of the world. If they had to have a striking force at all it was not in the interests of the taxpayers of that country, but in the interests of the Empire as a whole; and at the Colonial Conference they had very clear evidence of what their colonial fellow-subjects thought of the existence of such a force, because they would not contribute a single penny to its maintenance. As a taxpayer he confessed that the policy of maintaining a striking force for the Empire, provided all the Empire contributed towards it, might be justified, but he was not sure that such a striking force was judicious, because if they had a force that could strike they might be tempted to strike when it would have been better if they had not. One hundred and twenty thousand men who could be used anywhere as a striking force might be a great temptation to the Government of even such a peace-loving nation as this, and such a temptation ought not to be put in its way. As a taxpayer he should certainly resist paying any contribution to any such force unless the other members of the Empire, equally interested in maintaining it, paid their share.
Although he had listened to the debate for some days, he utterly 345 failed to see that any adequate reason had been given by the Government, or suggested by any of the supporters of the Government, why the taxpayer of the United Kingdom should now contribute to keep up a larger military force than was necessary for the needs of the Empire in 1897. Their true policy was to have a first-rate Navy, able to protect their shores and commerce, and then to have a small professional Army and a large citizen Army by which this country could be defended; and unless some better reason could be given for the maintenance of that large professional Army, to which the taxpayer of the United Kingdom was called upon to contribute, he should be constrained to give his vote in support of the Motion.
*SIR J. STIRLING-MAXWELL (Glasgow, College),
following Sir John Gorst, said he had never intervened in a debate on a military question before, and he hoped he would never have to do so again; but he did not think it would be right for those who thought this Motion extremely foolish and dangerous to remain silent. He represented a large commercial and industrial constituency in a part of the country where the value of money was very well understood; but although he had heard people complain of the taxes he had never heard of anyone complaining of that part of their taxes which went towards the defence of the country. Indeed he had often heard complaints in the opposite direction—that the Army was not strong enough, and that the Navy was not strong enough. The people of Glasgow, at all events, looked upon the Army and Navy as an insurance, and they regarded every penny spent on those forces as wasted unless it were shown that they were able to meet every contingency put upon them. The argument for efficiency was always suspect when accompanied by the argument in favour of economy. When they were told that one of the advantages of reducing the size of the Army was that their constituents would have to pay smaller taxation, that was a very obvious inducement to support what might be a most dangerous proposal. It ought to be the custom of the House to look farther, and not less far, in 346 these matters than those who sent them there. But he would say no more about economy except that if the expenditure was too big they ought to look at every item of their expenditure for a possible chance of reduction before they looked to the Navy and the Army.
If they were to have a proper Army in that country he believed that the only way would be by having first-class men to look after it and to organise it. And first of all they must have a good Secretary of State for War and a good Commander-in-Chief. He would not enter into any criticism of the distinguished gentlemen who occupied those offices; but he thought hon. Members in that House would do better to sit quiet and allow those who occupied those high places to do their best, and if it were found they were not competent men then the House should ask for their dismissal, and have other men put in their places. He did not think they would do more than their best because of the constant invigorating advice given in that House. There had been a very interesting debate on the question of the size of the Army, and he was ready to admit that the arguments might be perfectly valid which had been advanced to prove that they might never have to send an army to the defence of India. If the battle of this Empire had to be fought on the Indian frontier surely it was not reasonable to suppose that India would have to bear the whole expense in connection with it. All he could say was, that a Government which acted on the supposition that because an army was not likely to be needed on the frontier of India therefore they should keep no army here which they could send to India, would be more foolish than he hoped any Government ever would be. He dismissed as comparatively unimportant all these estimates of the needs of this country in India, and indeed elsewhere. He was a very plain person—[Cries of "No, no !" and laughter]—and he could not forget that only four or five years ago they had no idea that they should want a large army in South Africa, although they quite expected that a war might take place there. It seemed to him that the best argument for a large 347 Army in this country was that they never did know how large an Army they would want. That House had been the scene of many changes, but he was surprised that the walls which still echoed with the cry of "more men," should now resound to the cry of "too many." He hoped the Government would not accept the Motion.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE said he would ask the Government to consent to the adjournment of the debate, as he could not conclude his remarks before half-past seven.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR said he did not anticipate the appeal of the right hon. Baronet. It was, however, desirable that they should finish Vote A and Vote I on Thursday, and that Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday should be devoted to the Navy Estimates. If the Committee did not adopt that course it would be necessary to curtail the debates on the Navy Estimates, which he did not think would be desirable. The time up to the end of the financial year was limited, and he did not propose to ask the House to undertake anything else except financial business; and, therefore, any additional time given to one class of business would be necessarily taken away from another class of business. That was merely a preface to saying that if hon. Gentlemen cut off fragments of the sittings it would be all the more difficult for him to meet the case of hon. Gentlemen who desired to address the House. He appealed to the Committee to help the Government, and to arrange the fixed period at the disposal of the House to best suit the convenience of hon. Members. If, however, the right hon. Baronet pressed his request he would not refuse it.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE said he would give way to his hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said he thought he would use the fragment of time which remained to some purpose. He had only very few words to say, but he thought it would be admitted that they were pregnant. His right hon. friend the First Lord of the Treasury did 348 undoubtedly put among the reasons he gave for the present system, including the six Army Corps, the danger of the invasion of India by Russia. He himself did not think that that was a very judicious argument for his right hon. friend to use; but undoubtedly it was an argument that was at the bottom of a great deal of the agitation in the country with reference to military and strategic questions. So far as it went, that argument received a certain amount of additional importance during the last few days. If it were true that Russia had any serious intention of invading India, and of succeeding in that invasion, anything that tended to add to the military and naval strength of Russia would add to the probability of her success. What had occurred? Firstly, the Dardanelles had been opened; and, secondly, His Majesty's Government had refused to purchase two great war vessels which were at present unarmed. It had been rumoured, and he believed with truth, that Russia was about to buy them, that they were to be run unarmed, through the Dardanelles, and armed in the Black Sea, thereby putting Russia in possession of two additional naval units there. That would seriously affect the question of the invasion of India. The Committee knew that, as far as Russia was concerned, the material States in an invasion of India would be Persia and Afghanistan; and if his right hon. friend were right in suggesting, as he doubtless did suggest, that there was a serious danger of Russian action on the Indian frontier—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I never suggested that Russia was contemplating an immediate invasion of India. That is the very last thing I would wish to suggest. What I did suggest to the House was, that as it is notorious that France has to consider how to meet a possible invasion of her territory by Germany, though I believe it is the last thing Germany desires, just as Germany has to consider the invasion of her territory by Russia, though I believe also that the last thing Russia contemplates is to invade Germany, so we, like every other nation, must consider the strategic dangers and possibilities that may arise on the frontier of India.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES said he did not wish to put it any higher than that; and he had not the least desire to exaggerate; but that was a contingency that was put forward as one which should influence the House. Since his right hon. friend said that, Russia had secured the opening of the Dardanelles, and had probably purchased two warships which were a great accession of strength in case Russia desired to invade India: and the contingency had accordingly increased in importance and the possibility become greater. But another thing had happened. In reply to the Question put by him to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs the previous day, the noble Lord informed the House that negotiations were at that moment going on between Russia and this country with a view to an amicable understanding with regard to their interests in Persia and Afghanistan. If this country could come to an amicable arrangement with Russia with reference to Persia and Afghanistan, the whole question of the invasion of India would fall to the ground at once, completely and for ever. The point he wished to put was, would it not greatly aid the Government in the negotiations which were in progress—and in which he for one sincerely rejoiced, because he believed if there was a possibility of coming to an amicable arrangement with Russia it would put an end to the suspicions which were entertained—if the Government were to agree to the diminution of the forces now proposed? It seemed to him that that would be an announcement that the Government were prepared to rely more on the negotiations now in progress and less on the forces which would possibly be necessary in certain emergencies. The reply given yesterday was the first statement the House or the world had of the existence of those most important negotiations. In his opinion, the situation had been entirely changed. He would not discuss the strategic possibilities of the invasion of India. His belief was that it would be almost impossible for Russia to invade India successfully, because Russia could only reach India by railway, whereas England could reach that country by ships. An invasion by Russia was indeed so difficult as to be practically impossible; and even if it 350 were attempted, it could be easily met by the troops at present in India.
§ It would, however, be very much better, to come to the amicable arrangement with Russia which was foreshadowed in the answer of the noble Lord, which he trusted would be realised, than to go on preparing for an armed invasion that might never occur. If that were so, it would undoubtedly be a very strengthening act in the negotiations to somewhat diminish the large forces that had been enrolled mainly with a view to the possibility of the invasion of the frontier of India. He thought that the new fact disclosed yesterday should largely influence the Government in creating a disposition to agree to the diminution of the forces now proposed. That was the only use he desired to make of the fragment of time which remained; but he thought he had introduced considerations that should be present to the Committee.
§ It being half-past Seven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.