§ MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
said he moved the Resolution standing in his name. It was his intention to confine his remarks to the question of principle, and his motive in bringing this Motion before the House was a twofold one. In the first place he wished to render impossible in the future this House being made the arena for the discussion of military cases, as it had been with so much frequency in the past—a practice which had increased in late years. In the second place he wished to reinstate the system of allowing officers to demand trials by Courts-martial. He thought there was no place less suited for the discussion of military cases than the House of Commons, and there was also no more detrimental method of maintaining military discipline than the discussions which had taken place in the past. Colonel Kinloch's case had been painful to every soldier, and it must be the unanimous wish of the whole Army that such cases should be dealt with by a military tribunal instead of being brought up for discussion in the House and the Press.
With regard to his second motive in bringing forward this Motion it was to reintroduce a measure which existed in the days of the Duke of Wellington, namely, trial by Courts-martial. The state of things existing at the present time constituted a grave military danger, 476 and he might cite many cases which had been before the House of Commons In the six years he had belonged to the House there had been no less than eight or ten military cases brought forward, of which three or four had happened during the last few years. On every occasion he had protested against this practice, because he believed that this House was not a proper place for their discussion, and because he believed that all those cases would have been better decider! by a military court of appeal. The principle at stake was the right of every person not to suffer in his property or character without a trial by his peers.
The first case he remembered was brought forward in the year 1896 by his hon. friend the Member for Ilkeston. It was a most painful ease, which was defended by the present Secretary of State for War, in which some officers of the Auxiliary forces had been found guilty of an unspeakable offence. It was a most painful case, but there was one officer declared that he was guiltless in this matter and the War Office thought it best to hush the matter up. The result was that it was given more publicity to, by being brought before the House. He wished to put to the House the question which he put in 1896. Supposing instead of the discovery of this offence against five or six officers, the offence had been discovered against five or six private soldiers, what would have been the action of the military authorities? There was not one soldier who would deny that there would have been a Court-martial. He had yet to learn that there ought to be one law for the officer, and another for the private soldier. He wished to allude now to the cases of General Colville and General Buller. Those were both cases which would specifically have come under the terms of his Resolution, had it been adopted by the House. They were both cases under which charges would have been framed under the Army Act, and it would have been for the dignity of the country and the welfare of the Army that those cases should have been settled by a military tribunal.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Lord STANLEY,) Lancashire, Westhoughton
What would have been the charges?
§ LORD STANLEY
The hon. Member must have a specific charge that could have been brought against either of these officers.
§ MR. PIRIE
said he had not gone into the details, but he felt certain that in the King's regulations there would have been no difficulty whatever in framing charges against both those officers. In any case, anything would have been better than that the cases of those two officers should have come before this House, especially when the officers concerned felt themselves aggrieved because they thought they had been condemned unheard. The case of Colonel Kinloch had already been the subject of Questions in the House, and also the subject of very unpleasant arguments both in the House and in the Press. Supposing these incidents had taken place in some obscure regiment, he ventured to say that probably nothing would have been heard of them, and that, to his mind, would have constituted almost as grave a dereliction of duty as the instances he had just given, namely, that there was one law for the officers and another for the private soldiers. He thought this House would only be doing its duty by attempting to find out the cause of the increase in the number of these cases. The increase of the number of military grievances brought forward in the House he attributed to the absence of reference to the proper military tribunal, and to a feeling of irritation and discontent at some of the chief appointments made to the Headquarters Staff. When they had a state of affairs in which the War Office was charged by a Member of this House with having a taint of leprosy hanging over all its decisions, and when they had also the outspoken criticism of two responsible Ministers of the Crown, like the President of the Board of Agriculture and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he failed altogether to understand how such charges could remain unanswered. He was inclined to think 478 that the cases of General Puller and General Colville had something to do with the criticism which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made in regard to the War Office.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer at Bristol declared that they wanted drastic reform at the War Office, and that they would never reform the War Office or the Army until they removed all those outside influences which interfered with the management of the Army, and with selection, appointments, and promotions, for it was a system which would never be tolerated in any well-organised department of the Civil Service. The Minister for Agriculture went further than that. He wished to allude for a moment to the state of things which existed in South Africa, where these two officers were engaged, and which was originally the scene of the charges brought against them. Nothing that he could say would be so strong as what had been said by the two responsible Ministers of the Crown, to which he had already alluded, but the interests of justice were of vital importance. He contended that jealousies and divisions interfered enormously with the success of the operations in South Africa. There were various schools of officers in South Africa. There was the British school, composed of the adherents of Lord Wolseley; there was the Indian school, who were the adherents of Lord Roberts; and then there was the Egyptian school, who were the adherents of Lord Kitchener. These schools were all jealous of each other, and the failure of many of our operations in South Africa, and the responsibility for those failures, were attributable to these facts. Reality was given to these suspicions and rumours by the action of the Commander-in-Chief in regard to General Colville. That action was a direct reversal of the action of his predecessor, Lord Wolseley. He had never acquitted either General Buller or General Colville, but with these facts before them it was the bounden duty of this House to do its utmost to give those officers a fair trial, and not let them imagine that they had not had a fair opportunity of defending themselves; but they had been left to believe that they had been judged by a man who was guilty to a 479 certain extent of having pandered to feelings which ought not to have actuated him. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"]
§ MR. BRODRICK
The hon. Member has accused Lord Roberts of pandering to feelings which ought not to have actuated him. Perhaps he will kindly make good that observation, and state what he means.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I must ask the hon. Member to be a little more definite. He has made grave charges against the Commander in-Chief, and, having made them, perhaps he will now substantiate them, and state exactly what he means. It is not sufficient to say that the present Commander-in-Chief represents one school of thought and his predecessor another. The hon. Member said that the Commander-in-Chief had pandered to feelings which ought not to have actuated him. That is a very serious charge, and I sincerely trust the hon. Member will withdraw it.
§ MR. PIRIE
said that if the Secretary of State for War took exception to that particular expression he would withdraw it. He had not intended to do so, but he would now substantiate as far as possible, what he had said. He wished to allude to the suspicions aroused by the unprecedented action of the present Commander-in-Chief in the House of Lords when, in the debate in which his predecessor, Lord Wolseley—
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member cannot enter into a discussion upon a debate which took place in the House of Lords.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I must remind the hon. Member that he is not in order in pursuing that subject.
§ MR. PIRIE,
continuing, said that in his opinion it was distinctly the function of this House to step in and declare emphatically that this state of affairs, which had been condemned by two Ministers of the Crown, should not be allowed to continue at the War Office. He regretted that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer was not in this country, in order to make good the charges he had levelled at the War Office. He wished to allude to the argument which would probably be put forward as the reason why Courts-martial were not approved of. He understood that it was considered sufficient that cases such as he had referred to should be inquired into by Courts of Inquiry. He held very strongly that Courts of Inquiry were no substitute for Courts-martial. A Court of Inquiry should be a preliminary to report confidentially as to whether a public trial should take place or not, and such inquiries were simply for examination and advice, but not for trials of a judicial character. Both the Duke of Wellington and Lord Hill protested against the secret and pernicious system of Courts of Inquiry as substitutes for Courts-martial. There was a Court of Inquiry in the case of Colonel Kinloch, and another Court of Inquiry in the Remount case. In the one case the Commander-in-Chief chose to agree with the finding, and in the other he did not. Had the Commander-in-Chief the power to order a Court of Inquiry instead of a Court-martial just as he pleased? He contended that these Courts of Inquiry were the worst enemies to military discipline. Some hon. Members, he understood, would support the Resolution if he omitted the reference to officers on half-pay. He could not do that, because he considered that the half-pay list should not be used as a form of punishment. It was not established for that purpose. When Mr. Macaulay was Secretary of State for War, and speaking with the sanction of the Duke of Wellington, ho declared that no man without the sentence of a Court-martial ought to lose his commission, and that as a punish- 481 ment no officer ever ought to be placed on half-pay. The number of officers in the South African war who had been; placed on half-pay enormously increased the non-effective vote. If officers were found guilty of serious offences they ought to he punished, and not put on half-pay. There was one general officer connected with the operations in South Africa who had been placed on half-pay. In his view, and in fact it was common knowledge in South Africa, that general officer ought to have been tried by Court-martial. His action in the engagements round Zeerust had led to more disaster and disgrace than happened in any other part of South Africa, and still this case had been hushed up by the Government.
With regard to what was done in foreign countries, in preference to Germany he would turn to the United States, where, in 1873, the Secretary of State for War stated that placing on half-pay, as the proceeding was understood in the British Army, was wholly unknown, and that no punishment could be enforced against an officer on the recommendation of a Court of Inquiry. In France the rank of an officer was laid down as one in which he could not be deprived of his pay. Before he concluded he wished to remove a few misconceptions with regard to his Motion. He did not wish, after the new regulations which had been issued, to preclude the Commander-in-Chief from having the right of dismissal for inefficiency. The regulations now being introduced laid down hard and fast lines as to what constituted inefficiency, and there could no; longer be any possibility of an officer remaining in the Army as inefficient. He contended that if the present situation was not checked it would inevitably be come worse, and something would have to be done to stop this constant occurrence of cases continually being brought before Parliament if they wished to strengthen discipline in the Army Their intention was to strengthen and not to lessen discipline. A sense of responsibility would be inculcated by the fact that the officers might be called upon to sit in judgment on their peers. A healthy spirit would be inculcated in the Army which would increase the officers' sense of dignity and improve their bearing. It would be a change which would be welcomed by the whole Army. The tendency 482 of late had been towards a descending scale of punishment, and an ascending scale of rewards. The right hon. Gentleman might say "No, look at the punishments we have inflicted on General Buller and Colonel Kinloch." He was not complaining of these punishments if the officers were guilty. But these were neither punishments nor acquittals in the proper sense, and that was what he complained of. He appealed to the House in the name of the great cause of justice to pass the Resolution he now moved—
"That an humble address be presented to His Majesty praying that whore any officer is removed or retired from the Army, or placed on half-pay, for some specific act or omission concerning which a charge can be framed under the Army Act, His Majesty may be graciously pleased to direct that an option may be given to such officers of having their cases heard and adjudicated upon by court-martial."
§ *COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
, in seconding the Resolution, assured the House that he took this course with the gravest sense of responsibility. He had not undertaken the task without the most careful consideration. It had been his good fortune to command a cavalry regiment, the name of which was known not only in Scotland, but wherever Scots men were to be found. Ho ventured, moreover, to say that the history of that regiment was known wherever the English language was spoken. Before that he was for some years in the infantry, and there lay behind him twenty-eight years of uninterrupted regimental life. He thought the House would believe him when he said that if he thought this Resolution would do anything contrary to the discipline of the Army, or would alter the powers by which the commanding officer was enabled to make his regiment efficient, nothing on this earth would have induced him to second it. But, after the gravest consideration, he ventured to say that the change which was proposed in the Resolution, which might have been advisable in past years, had become, under the altered conditions of our Army, an absolute necessity. He would try to prove this, and to state by what processes of reasoning he had arrived at this conclusion. The exact 483 purpose of the Resolution was to put the safeguard of a court-martial between an officer who had committed an offence, as to which a charge could be framed under the Mutiny Act, and the prerogative of judgment. What they asked for officers was simply what was already in force for non-commissioned officers and men. If a man's pay was affected by the decision of a commanding officer, or if he was awarded one day's imprisonment, he had the right to appeal to a court-martial against the sentence passed by the commanding officer. This prerogative of judgment was one which was not prized by the Crown. The Secretary of State for War on 1st June, 1874, Mr. Gathorne Hardy, said—The prerogative in question was one the Crown by no means sought to exercise. Whenever exercised it was one which was, so to say, forced upon the Crown, and not made willingly available.The prerogative dear to the heart of the Sovereign was the prerogative of mercy, and that was untouched by this Resolution. It was not intended to interfere with the right of placing officers on half-pay when establishments were reduced, as that was done by order of Parliament; nor with the power of putting an officer on half pay, or retiring him from the service in the case of professional inefficiency. That, he ventured to say, was not the exercise of prerogative. It was a power which was exercised in every great industry in the country. If there was not vested in a board of management the power to remove those employees who were inefficient or incapable of doing their work that business would go down and would probably fail, and what was true in the ordinary business of the country was still more true with regard to the Army, because inefficiency on the part of an officer did not merely mean loss of money to a business, but it might be risk and endangerment of the lives of hundreds of others under his command. It was their intention by the Resolution to strengthen this power to remove the professionally incompetent officer. He knew that it was often argued that if they were notable to get rid of an officer on some side issue, they might not get rid of him at all, He had heard of many such cases, but wherever he 484 had been able to investigate them he found that if only the authorities had been stricter in the early days of the officer, they would have been able to put him in the right way, or to frame a charge against him, but it was unfortunately a part of our system that the higher authorities did not know the professional capacities of those under them. What the right, hon. Gentleman proposed two nights ago would go a long way towards remedying this defect if only it was carried out in the spirit, and not simply in the letter of the law, which was too much the custom with Army regulations. What the right hon. Gentleman, announced would remove one of the great difficulties with regard to this Resolution, because, in future, the authorities would know what were the real professional capacities of the officers, and therefore they would be able to say firmly and directly that an officer was retired for professional incapacity. That was what they wanted to see. He believed that if they could investigate numbers of those cases, it would be found that the officer who had been retired was really professionally incapable, that the authorities stored up that fact against him, and that, owing to the weakness of our system, it was only when they got the chance of some side issue that they removed or retired him. Although Courts-martial might not have all the nicety of procedure to be found in a civil court, he ventured to say that their sentences were characterised by justice and equity, and had the absolute confidence of the officers of the Army. It should be remembered that when a court-martial had sentenced a prisoner, there still remained the prerogative of mercy with the Crown. The Crown had to confirm and could quash or mitigate the sentence, or there might be an entire pardon of the offender. The hon. and gallant Member traced the history of the prerogative of judgment. He said our standing Army had had three phases in its existence. In the first phase, it was merely a royal guard paid and equipped by the Sovereign, but too often provisioned at the expense of the people by the soldiers being billeted on them. This was under the later Stuart 485 kings. At the Revolution of 1688, and under the settlement that followed, the Army became a Constitutional one. Parliament took over the pay, provision, and equipment of the Army, but at the same time it left in the hands of the Sovereign this prerogative. The reason was not clear why the Army was not treated in the same way as the Navy at that time. Parliament took over the Navy in its entirety. He believed that was one of the reasons why they never heard of naval cases in this House. The probability was that the difference with regard to the Army came from the fact that King William III. was not only the nominal Commander-in-Chief, but the actual head of the Army, and therefore it was natural that the whole of the power should be left in his hands. That power was greatly abused under his successors, and military commands became political rewards. Anybody who had read the history of the eighteenth century knew how absolutely true that was. He thought himself that if they were living in that time, the vote which he ventured to give this evening against the Government might have lost him the pension which he had earned by twenty-eight years service in the Army. Happily the Reform Act had changed all that. They were simply responsible to their constituencies. After the great struggle with Napoleon there were many removals and retirements partly arising from some having become officers, who in peace time proved unsuitable, partly from the great humanity shown by officers at Waterloo in accompanying wounded officers from the field and not returning; later in the century some were removed for political reasons, but most really for inefficiency. In every case where these officers were removed or retired there was a centre of discontent formed, either in the regiment in which they were, or in the homes to which they returned. During the whole of this time it wa3 almost entirely the professional officers who were removed by this process, and the feeling of the Army and public opinion was that if an officer took a commission and adopted the Army as a profession, he thereby submitted himself, not only to the regulations when he joined, but undertook to obey the 486 regulations which would afterwards be issued, and must abide by the consequences. But a change came over the Army in 1859, when the Volunteer movement was initiated. He knew it was often said that the Militia was a voluntary force, but when they were placed under the Ballot Act in the middle of the eighteenth century they became in theory a compulsory force. That national force was happily a strong and vigorous child, for it had the life-blood of public opinion coursing in its veins. The War Office was not an altogether kindly and. lenient nursing mother. It was too often a somewhat harsh and unsympathetic stepmother. The child grew, but did not come to maturity till the South African War, when we found ourselves face to face with a new condition of warfare. We required far more men than the Regular troops could furnish, with the result that there was a call to arms, nobly responded to not only in the United Kingdom, but throughout our colonies and dependencies. It seemed to him that we look forward to the defence of the Empire more and more by our citizen soldiers. The difference between a professional and a citizen, officer is that the former by habit and surroundings becomes a soldier first, a citizen afterwards; the latter remains a citizen first, and it is necessary to think whether those officers would sooner entrust themselves to, and be at the mercy of a court-martial than of the Commander-in-Chief, or the Secretary of State for War, for this is what this prerogative of judgment amounts to. The Commander-in-Chief of the future might be as great, as distinguished, as the noble Earl who is in command at the present time, but he might be utterly wanting in that sympathy with the Auxiliary forces which Lord Roberts constantly showed. The Secretary of State for War under our system was bound to be a Party man. He was, in all human probability, seldom likely to be a soldier. He would be a civilian, a man who had never learned, the real feeling of the Army, or breathed the atmosphere in which officers lived. He looked upon the Army from the Olympian heights of the War Office, or perhaps through the spectacles of the General staff, who too often knew little 487 of regimental life. The citizen officer who went forth to fight for his country would infinitely prefer, instead of being at the mercy of these two great officials, however well-intentioned they may be, to be at the mercy of his fellow-officers and be subject to a Court-martial. One of the great foundation stones of our individual liberty embodied in the Magna Charta, and rehearsed in the first Mutiny Act of 1689, was, that no man should suffer injury in life or limb save by the judgment of his peers, and in accordance with the known laws of the realm. He asked the House to remember that an officer who went on active service placed his life and limb at the service of his country, but there was something far more dear to him than either life or limb, and that was his character and reputation. Therefore he most earnestly urged the House, under the changing conditions of our Army, and the fact that we were going to look mainly to our citizen soldiers to defend us in the future—not because it coincided with his own belief or conclusion, but in the very best interests of the country—to expand that foundation principle of our liberties, and say that no officer should suffer injury in character or reputation save by the judgment of his peers, and in accordance with the known laws of the realm. He begged to second the Resolution.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, praying that where any officer is removed or retired from the Army, or placed on half-pay, for some specific act or omission concerning which a charge can be framed under the Army Act, His Majesty may be graciously pleased to direct that an option may be given to such officers of having their cases heard and adjudicated upon by Court-martial."—(Mr. Pirie.)
§ *MR. BROMLEY DAVENPORT (Cheshire, Macclesfield)
I intend to vote in support of the Resolution, and my reason for doing so must be somewhat identical with that which, I am sure, actuated the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for War, when he interrupted the hon. Member who moved the Resolution by stating that that hon. 488 Member was wrong in bringing a charge against Lord Roberts without being able to prove it conclusively at the moment. My own feeling most strongly is that every officer, every man, against whom a charge of any sort or kind is brought, should have that charge proved conclusively against him. That is a principle of bare justice, and it is the principle of justice which I urge to-night. I do not question the right of the Commander-in-Chief, or the Secretary of State for War, to remove an officer from his command, but I do insist on the right of this House to criticise the manner in which it is done. I do not wish to infringe on the authority of the Secretary of State, or that of the Commander-in-Chief, but I do demand that that authority shall be exercised in accordance with the canons of justice. There is a passage on the title page of Clode's well-known work on Military and Martial Law, quoted from "The Art of War," by Louis de Gaza—Justice ought to bear rule everywhere, and especially in armies; it is the only means to settle order there, and there it ought to be executed with as much exactness as in the best governed cities in the kingdom, if it be intended that the soldiers should be kept in their duty and obedience.Cases have been cited this evening, and I could cite more, of many officers who, at the present moment, are smarting under a sense of injustice by reason of the methods and the manners in which adverse decisions have been formed to their prejudice and to their material loss. There is a widespread feeling of sympathy with these officers, largely begotten, perhaps, of apprehension lest such methods should be employed towards others, and similar injury inflicted. Hence, I believe there is throughout the service a very general demand that an officer against whom any charge is made involving his discredit, his disgrace, or his material loss, should have an opportunity of receiving that complete justice which he knows he will receive by trial by court-martial, but which is not, and cannot be secured to him by the exercise of arbitrary authority.
I will quote one case as illustrating the unsatisfactory methods by which officers may be, and have been, deprived of their good name, their good fame, and their means of livelihood. 489 That is the case of Colonel Burroughs, who served for twenty seven years in the South Lancashire Regiment with credit and distinction. He was an officer of the highest character and military reputation, as is proved by the fact that he was selected to command the West African Regiment in the late Ashantee Campaign; and he justified his selection by his good services under General Wilcocks, during the march to Kumassi, and was repeatedly mentioned in despatches and rewarded for his services by promotion. It appears that the West African troops under his command believed that they had been promised that on their arrival at Kumassi they would be able to return to their homes and their wives. Accordingly there was very great indignation among the troops when they were kept at Kumassi for eight or ten months after the cessation of hostilities. Finally, they started to march back again to Cape Coast Castle. That is a very serious and gross act of mutiny, and if Colonel Burroughs had contributed to it in any way he deserved punishment. Surely if ever there was a case which should have been tried by Court-martial it was that of Colonel Burroughs. Why was that not done? Because the authorities at the War Office preferred a secret inquiry to an open and public inquiry, a trial by Court-martial. Colonel Burroughs was not present during that secret inquiry, he was not called to give evidence, but he was informed that there was nothing in the evidence to show that he was in any way responsible for the mutiny. Nevertheless Lord Roberts, from the War Office, ordered that Colonel Burroughs should be deprived of his command, and sent home on half-pay. He has thus had cast upon him a stigma, and has suffered material loss in the shape of pay and pension which may be reckoned at many hundreds of pounds. For my own part, I do not express any opinion whatever as to whether or not Colonel Burroughs was to blame in the matter, or contributed in any way to the mutiny. The noble Lord asked under what rule an officer under these circumstances could be charged: but surely there was no difficulty in framing an indictment against any officer in the Army. I refer the noble 490 Lord to Section 40 of the Army Act, where it is laid down that "where any officer is guilty of any act, conduct, disorder, or neglect of duty, to the prejudice of good order and military discipline, he shall, on conviction by Court-martial, be liable to be cashiered, or suffer less penalty as herein enacted." Why was this officer not tried by Court-martial? When Colonel Burroughs came home, he asked to see the evidence taken at the Court of Inquiry and the report of that Court, but he was not allowed to do so. In reply to every request he was told that the case had been heard, and was closed. In my humble judgment this method of condemning a man unheard, and without letting him know what is the charge against him, and of imposing a sentence involving disgrace as well as very heavy material loss, is contrary to the idea of elementary justice. It is un-English because it is unfair, and savours too much of the methods of the Star Chamber.
I hope that this House will to-night say that conduct or misconduct, action or inaction, commission or non-commission, ought to be made, and could be made, the subject of a definite charge, and to be fit for trial by Court-martial, otherwise these penalties are wholly disproportionate.
There is one other case to which I must briefly refer—viz., that of Colonel Kinloch, which is illustrative of the methods which I bring to the notice of the House. As to the merits of the case I say nothing. I beg hon. Members to keep their minds free from the manner in which the irregularities of which complaints have been made were committed. I will say, however, that for my own part I will never condone one of them. We have been told by the Secretary of State for War that Colonel Kinloch has served for twenty-six years with credit at home and distinction abroad. He is an officer who has loved his profession every day of his service, and we have not so many officers who love their profession that we can afford to throw them away. Colonel Kinloch lived and laboured for his battalion, and I am sure that when that battalion was handed over by him to his successor it was perhaps the finest battalion in His Majesty's Service. What are the circumstances which led to his loss to the 491 Service? We are told that a complaint was made on 12th December last to Lord Roberts by the relations of some young officers in the Brigade of Guards, and it so happened that these were titled relations. It accidentally transpired that they carried their complaint to the private residence of the Commander-in-Chief, and there, unfortunately, the Commander-in-Chief received them. I think I am justified in saying "unfortunately," because what has been the consequence? There has been an unseemly wrangle and indecent conflict of statement as to what occurred. There would have been no conflict of statement if the Commander-in-Chief had declined absolutely to receive these noblemen, or to listen to them, except officially and in official surroundings, where a proper official record could be kept of who came, when they came, what was said, and everything that occurred. However, under these circumstances a complaint was made, and that it must have affected Colonel Kinloch is perfectly clear, because following a Court of Inquiry he was placed on half-pay. Colonel Kinloch was not present during the Court of Inquiry. He was the first witness called, and he gave his evidence, but he had no opportunity of hearing the statements made by anybody else. It is absurd to say that these statements were evidence, because they were unsworn and not sifted by cross-examination. Colonel Kinloch had, moreover, no opportunity of calling any evidence in his own defence. I think I may say that the report of the Court of Inquiry was not unfavourable to Colonel Kinloch, but nevertheless he was informed by the Commander in-Chief that he was to be deprived of his command. It is true, as the Secretary of War stated, that Colonel Kinloch saw the Commander-in-Chief afterwards. I beg the House to note particularly the dates, as they are very important. On 27th December sentence was passed on Colonel Kinloch. On 29th December, Colonel Kinloch asked to be allowed to see the evidence, and make a statement. On 3rd January he was told that he might see the evidence, but could not make a statement, because the decision already arrived at was final. On 12th January, he was brought before the Commander-in-Chief and asked if he 492 had anything to say. Is not that rather like hanging a man and, after he is a corpse, asking him to make a statement to show cause why he should not be executed? I do not ask the House to pass any opinion whatever upon the merits of the question, but I ask hon. Members not to lend any countenance to this manner of constituting the travesty of a trial of justice. I say that the Commander-in-Chief has acted not in consequence of, but in spite of, the report of the Court of Inquiry. In fact, these Courts of Inquiry have become mere traps for the unwary.
One other point I should like to mention. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, and so apparently does his Under-Secretary, attaches great importance to the assertion that Colonel Kinloch was condemned in respect of the evidence which he himself gave before the Court of Inquiry. I absolutely deny that there is anything in Colonel Kinloch's statement to justify the decision arrived at, but that is merely an expression of my own opinion. What I do attach importance to is that I question whether, in taking that action at all, the Commander-in-Chief has not acted illegally under the rules of procedure which govern Courts of Inquiry, which rules have the force of law. These rules were amended by the Secretary of State for War himself. Rule 124 was the subject of discussion in this House in 1901 on the Annual Army Bill. My hon. and gallant friend who seconded the Resolution will remember it because it was largely owing to his appeal and the somewhat pungent criticism of the hon. and learned Member for Louth that the Secretary of State for War undertook to amend this rule. I acknowledge that the amended rule removes the injustice complained of, and brings the proceedings of Courts of Inquiry into line with the idea of justice. But I believe the right hon. Gentleman's efforts in this direction have been nullified by the fact that the Commander-in-Chief was either ignorant of the change in the rule, or ignored it. I draw attention to Sub-section (2) which states that:The proceedings of a Court of Inquiry, or any confession, statement, or answer to a question made or given at a Court of Inquiry, 493 shall not be admissible in evidence against an officer or soldier.That is the right hon. Gentleman's own rule, and in defiance of that rule we are told that Colonel Kinloch was condemned upon his own statement. Then Subsection (K) reads as follows:The whole of the proceedings of a Court of Inquiry will be forwarded by the President to the officer who assembled the Court.But until that rule was amended by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, it contained these words:And that commanding officer will, on his own responsibility, form such opinion as he thinks just.These are the words which the right hon. Gentleman struck out. What object had he in so doing? I suggest that his object and intention was to prevent the Commander-in-Chief from doing that which precisely the Commander-in-Chief has done, viz., from convicting an officer on evidence given before a Court of Inquiry without affording him an opportunity of stating his case. I see it said in regard to the general question that there are two general objections to the Motion before the House. First of all matters of military discipline must be left entirely with the Commander-in-Chief, and secondly the Commander-in-Chief must excercise his discretion, from which there can be no appeal. I will say a few words on these two points.
I have myself—although I only claim to be a civilian Member of this House, served in the field under military discipline, and I have been responsible for the maintenance of military discipline among large bodies of troops—cavalry, infantry and artillery. I am therefore not likely to make light of discipline. But I say here to-day, and I declare it solemnly, that there is no discipline which is not founded on justice. There can be no sanction for the exercise of authority unless that authority is exercised in accordance with the fund a mental elementary principles of fair dealing and just treatment as well as impartial judgment. I ask the House whether in this case these considerations have had fair play? With respect to this question it is said that the Commander-in-Chief must exercise discretion, from 494 which there can be no appeal. What do we mean by discretion? I deny that there is such a thing as unlimited discretion, and I deny that the highest in the land has a discretion which is unfettered and which can be exercised capriciously or arbitrarily. Such a discretion has never been granted under our Constitution to any individual in any walk of life, or in any Department of Government, or to any Administration. This House controls the very existence of the Army, and it will not hesitate to use that power even to the extent of calling in question the sacred authority of the Commander-in-Chief if it can be shown that that authority has been exercised otherwise than in accordance with the elementary principles of truth, justice and honour. What is discretion? It is not an arbitrary or capricious exercise of the power by an individual. Is it suggested that the Commander-in-Chief has power to remove an officer on the very day of his appointment without giving reasons for the action, that he may remove one officer and appoint another to gratify personal spite or satisfy personal feeling? I am sure that is not so. The discretion of the Commander-in-Chief in determining the fate of officers under his command must be exercised judicially and impartially and in accordance with the circumstances of every case, and those circumstances must be determined after full, fair and impartial investigation in accordance with the rules, not only of the service, but of those which guide the action of all just, judicial impartial men. Can it be suggested that the Commander-in-Chief has discreetly and judicially exercised his discretion when judgment has been pronounced condemnatory of an individual without his being charged, without his being tried before the sentence is executed and when the reasons for the sentence are withdrawn, although the sentence is obstinately maintained. I will read one extract from a speech made just 100 years ago by the then Bishop of St Asaph:What is the security for the proper conduct of any public men in the exercise of any discretional powers with which they may be invested? What is the security for a judge's just exercise of his discretional powers? The security is this and nothing else, that the judge is a public man in a great and 495 conspicuous situation, and that nothing that he does is done in a coiner. My Lords, that is the security you have for the discretion of a judge.In deciding the fate of officers the Commander-in-Chief is not a general in the field. He is the judge exercising enormous judicial authority, and nothing that he does ought to be done in a corner. I apologise to the House for having occupied so much time. I have endeavoured to confine myself to general objects, and to restrict myself to the use of temperate language, although I am dealing with a matter about which I do not pretend that I do not feel keenly. I hope I shall not be told that so popular a Commander-in-Chief ought not to have his actions criticised, or that so distinguished an officer can do no wrong. The officers who complain of having been condemned unheard have enjoyed popularity with their comrades, they have served with distinction, and their honour and military reputations are not less dear to them than the honour and military reputation of the Commander-in-Chief. This assembly, in which I have had the honour of sitting nearly twenty years, is always generous and always desirous to be just. I do not believe the House will ever draw a distinction between persons. These Courts of Inquiry, employed as they have been, must go. In former times commissions were lost by reason of the political opinions of their holders. Those times are happily gone, and we must be careful that officers, especially those who have been rewarded by their Sovereign for their services, are not penalised by reason of social and secret influences. Wrong has been done because a wrong method has been employed, and it is the duty of the responsible Minister of the Crown to secure that, in the case of every officer wearing the King's uniform, justice full and complete shall be done.
§ MR. BRODRICK
The hon. Member who has introduced this Motion, and placed the notice on the Paper, has raised a most important question relating to the discipline of the Army; and I certainly hoped to hear that his treatment of the matter, and the Members 496 who might follow him, would be of the nature of an impersonal statement of general propositions affecting very important points, with some of which I have myself great sympathy, on which the opinion of the House might have been registered. I hope that our judgment will not be obscured by the introduction of personal issues, against the raising of which I feel bound to make a most serious protest to the House. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, when the House was not so full as it is now, made an unmerited, an unjustified, and an unsupported attack upon the Commander-in-Chief.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I am glad the hon. Member did apologise for the language he used, on my protest, with regard to the Commander-in-Chief; but he did not apologise for the language which he dared to use with regard to the Headquarters Staff—officers against whom no one will rise and dare, to insinuate one wrong action, though the hon. Member spoke of the leprosy which tainted all their proceedings.
§ MR. BRODRICK
What the late Chancellor of the Exchequer said, was that there was an attempt to influence the War Office with regard to appointments. That is not the point. What the hon. Member said, was that there was a taint of leprosy on the Headquarters Staff of the Army, and I appeal to the House of Commons. Here are men. every one of whom has served in the field in a campaign, I may say of the first magnitude, so far as our campaigns are of the first magnitude, every one of whom has earned the highest distinction; and I think I may say of them—I know I may say—that not one of them has had any advantage, socially or otherwise, such as has been alluded to by my hon. friend. These men are to be; 497 accused of having the taint of leprosy on their proceedings when they sit in judgment on other officers of the Army!
§ MR. BRODRICK
Then I hope the hon. Member will do more than apologise. I hope he will withdraw and express regret for that statement, which he ought to have known better than to make with regard to these officers.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
I think I was the person who originally used the term "leprosy." I think last year I said, with regard to the War Office, that ineptitude clung to the walls of that office like leprosy to its ward.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I referred just now to the impersonal allusions which we have had, but the hon. Member did not use the word in that way. He applied this offensive expression to men who are not here to speak in their own defence, and whose honourable records the hon. Member might envy. [Cries of "Order" and "Withdraw."] I am not going to allow these insinuations against the honour of the Headquarters Staff to go unchallenged. And I speak with more freedom because, unfortunately, the example of the hon. Gentleman has been imitated by my hon. friend the Member for Macclesfield. I am taking it point by point. I am very sorry that the hon. Member for Macclesfield, acting under very strong personal feeling, has again brought before Parliament the case of his relative, Colonel Kinloch, about whom I had a word to say to the House the other day; but the insinuations which he has made against the Commander-in-Chief oblige me most reluctantly, having myself endeavoured not to bring this case before the House, having carefully abstained from introducing any subject with regard to it that I could avoid—compel mo, most reluctantly, to make good the action of the Commander-in-Chief in that case. I still cannot help thinking, even with all his personal feeling in the matter, he might have avoided the insinuations which he has made against the character of Lord Roberts.
§ MR. BRODRICK
The hon. Gentleman is not aware of the expressions which he used. In the first place, ho spoke of this question having been brought before Lord Roberts by two titled gentlemen,
§ MR. BRODRICK
The emphasis which he gave to that expression conveyed, and was intended to convey, the impression that Lord Roberts gave the representations of Lord Belhaven and Lord de Saumarez a degree of regard which he would not have given to others who were similarly circumstanced, but not equally influential. I do not want to discuss the social standing of Lord Belhaven or of Lord de Saumarez. They came to Lord Roberts as private individuals, relatives of officers who had been grievously wronged. They are, no doubt, Members of the Upper House of Parliament, but I believe I am right in saying that neither of them until yesterday, or the day before yesterday, ever took part in the deliberations of that Chamber. I do not suppose that any two Members of Parliament could have called upon Lord Roberts who had less public pressure of any sort or kind to bear upon him or with which to attempt to bear upon him. Lord Roberts received their representations as he would have received those of any individuals who, having relatives who had been wronged in a regiment, called upon him. My hon. friend made a great point of the fact that they called upon him at his private residence. What are the facts? He knows them, because they were in the papers yesterday. They called on him at the War Office, and because he was not there at the moment they followed him to his private residence. And that is looked upon as a private visit to influence the judgment of the Commander-in-Chief; and my hon. friend went on to say—he used the expression in the last words of his peroration that he objected to, or protested against, these social and secret influences. The words were used—
§ MR. BRODRICK
Then I do not know what reference they were in; he was continuing on the same case. Now I am going to give my hon. friend one piece of information which may be new to him. It is quite true that Lord Belhaven and Lord de Saumarez called on Lord Roberts. Either of them, or both of them, had the most ample justification for doing so. And I will tell him this. Much has been said about social and secret influences in this matter. I know the facts. I know that, with the exception of these two relatives, one of whom conceived, and I will show the House in a few moments that he had a right to conceive, that his relative was deeply injured by what had occurred—with the exception of these representations, Lord Roberts and the War Office received no representation on behalf of the subalterns who were injured by these proceedings. I wish I could say the same on the other side. I would not have alluded to it unless it were necessary; but I say that, while my hon. friend is one of those who would have been the first, from a genuine feeling of indignation, to attack, protest, threaten the War Office with exposure unless they rescinded the decision which had been given against his relative, there was no amount of public or private pressure which could be brought to bear on Lord Roberts, on myself, on every other member of the War Office who could be got at which was not brought to bear by those who were concerned.
§ MR. BROMLEY DAVENPORT
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that is addressed to me, because I do not understand it otherwise?
§ MR. BRODRICK
I have had interviews of hours' duration with the hon. Member. There has been no occasion that we have met that he has not spoken to me from a private and public standpoint on this question. I protest against this system of terrorism. I speak with feeling, because the hon. Member has forced it upon me. I say the social attempts. the attempts of titled persons, have not been on the side he suggests. I say they have all been on the other side, and they have been used for the purpose of endeavouring to hush up scandals which could not be hushed up. I will 500 take my hon. friend on his own ground. He has said that Colonel Kinloch ought to have been tried by Court-martial. I think that the House, when they have heard the evidence, will think that there was no cause for a Court-martial in this case. A Court-martial may be called where an officer has committed an action, or has been guilty of a neglect which was prejudicial to good order or military discipline. Well, in this case Colonel Kinloch's career was brought before the Commander-in-Chief, not for the first time, by the visit of Lord de Saumarez. Lord Roberts took the only and proper course. He placed the matter in the hands of the General Officer Commanding the Home District on the following day. General Trotter ordered Colonel Ricardo, who commanded the Grenadier Guards, to make inquiries, and Colonel Ricardo assembled an inquiry. The Commander-in-Chief had ordered a further inquiry at Aldershot, where the 1st Battalion was, under Colonel Kinloch's command. In the interval before the inquiry at Aldershot took place, Colonel Ricardo's inquiry reported to the Adjutant-General. When that inquiry came to the Commander-in-Chief it disclosed evidence of Colonel Kinloch himself. Now the imputation made by Lord de Saumarez was this—that in the Grenadier Guards there existed in that battalion a system of bullying, a system which was not merely bullying of subalterns by subalterns, but which consisted of trying junior subalterns for military offences as well as for offences against the etiquette of the regiment, in each case the penalties being decreed by the senior subalterns. Well, the inquiry left no doubt whatever, nor was there any doubt in the minds of anybody connected with the 1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, that such practices existed. There was no conflict of evidence on that point. The whole conflict was, as between my hon. friend and myself to-night, to what extent Colonel Kinloch was mixed up in it.
Well, now I will just mention two cases to the House, cases on Colonel Kinloch's own evidence, without a word of anybody else's evidence. Colonel Kinloch admitted that a particularyoungofficer—Lieutenant A—, no, I may as well give his name— 501 Lieutenant Leveson-Gower, had been recalled by him from leave in September last for having gone on leave without obtaining his permission. Lieutenant Leveson-Gower's case was that he had obtained leave from the senior staff officer under whom he believed at that moment he was serving. I do not say a word as to that proceeding except that he was recalled from Scotland in the middle of September; but he was severely censured by Colonel Kinloch. Colonel Kinloch then used an expression which he himself admits using—that he would call the senior subaltern's attention to his conduct for his condemnation. It seems he also specially warned the senior subaltern against there being any bullying in the matter.
§ MR. BROMLEY DAVENPORT
I am very sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I cannot possibly accept his description of this evidence, nor shall I have any opportunity of replying to it. I suggest that the right course is to lay this evidence on the Table and let the House read it for themselves.
§ MR. BRODRICK
There is no precedent for laying the evidence of a regimental inquiry before the House.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL
I rise, Sir, to a point of order. I wish to ask you whether a Minister is entitled to quote from a document which ho does not propose to lay on the Table; and secondly, whether the merits of this dispute, in which I agree with my right hon. friend, are relevant to the subject under discussion?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I certainly could not prevent the right hon. Gentleman or any other Member from going into the merits of the question of Colonel Kinloch's suspension. As regards the other question, the rule is that a Minister, if he quotes from a document, may be called upon to lay the Paper before the House; but that is subject to his statement that it would be contrary to the public interest so to do. He must take the responsibility for such a statement, and may act upon it.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I was not quoting from a document. I was most anxious to avoid laying Papers which would further enter into the matter, and mention names which I would most gladly avoid mentioning. But let it be fully understood that these Papers, if laid, are laid purely at the instance of my hon. friend and of the noble Lord. The noble Lord, who knows nothing about the subject, intervenes, in order to put before the public a description of affairs which have already been dealt with by the Commander-in-Chief, and for the production of which there is no precedent in the annals of the House. (Lord Hugh Cecil attempted to intervene.) The noble Lord will excuse me. This is a subject which is within my province, and which is in no respect within his. Greatly against my own wish, and absolutely against the advantage of discipline, I will consent, if the Papers are demanded to-morrow, to lay them on the Table. But I will now state what I wished to state with regard to Colonel Kinloch, and it is by no choice of mine that I embark on this subject. My hon. friend has chosen to impeach the justice, capacity, and impartiality of the Commander-in-Chief, and I should ill fulfil my duties in this House if I let that pass. Colonel Kinloch, in respect of Lieutenant Leveson-Gower, told the senior subaltern: "You will speak to this young officer firmly and quietly, and try to impress on him the way he should conduct himself as an officer. But remember, I will have no bullying." Mr. Leveson-Gower knew perfectly well what this meant—to those to whom it was addressed. He therefore appealed at once to the general officer commanding the district; but despite that appeal, for asking for leave from the wrong person, and after having been censured by his colonel, and having lost his leave and his position as signalling officer, to which he attached great importance—which was taken from him by the general officer commanding the district—he was, contrary to Colonel Kinloch's orders, brought before the subalterns and caned for having taken leave from the wrong person. My hon. friend will say that Colonel Kinloch was an aggrieved person in this matter. But 503 it came to his ears. Here was an act of gross disobedience to his orders, and a clear example of a most improper system. Because, quite apart from the question whether the junior officers of his Majesty's Guards should flog one another, this was done in disobedience to Colonel Kinloch's orders. How did Colonel Kinloch deal with it? "I asked so-and-so why he had disobeyed my orders in having Mr. Leveson Gower smacked. He said that he had ordered each of the lieutenants present politely to smack Mr. Leveson-Gower on the behind, and had taken particular care that he was not hurt in any way. I severely censured Lieutenant Cholmondeley for his gross disobedience to orders." Will any one tell me that this censure adequately expressed the feelings of the colonel and the feelings of the regiment at this instance of a practice of which he says he was wholly ignorant? In the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief that alone was sufficient to show that Colonel Kinloch had no such grave feeling in regard to these matters as might have been supposed. But that is not all. There was the case of Second-Lieutenant Hamilton. He was brought before Colonel Kinloch and admonished by him in the orderly-room before the adjutant. When Colonel Kinloch heard of these callings he called the subalterns before him, and asked if they had been bullied. Lieutenant R. Hamilton said—A reign of terror exists. I have been tried by the subalterns' court-martial three times, and I have been licked on each occasion, once very severely.Colonel Kinloch told him he would at once make inquiries. Colonel Kinloch asked him why he had not reported this to him, and he repliedI thought you approved of these courts-martial, for when I got into a scrape over a year ago, you told me (before the adjutant) I deserved a good licking, and hoped I should get it.Colonel Kinloch admitted that he used these words as a figure of speech before the adjutant, but he considered the behaviour so discreditable that he was compelled to use very strong language. Within a few hours Lieutenant Hamilton received a very severe and cruel caning from the subalterns.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I am not going to have that plausible red herring thrown across the path. Here was a case where a colonel in the orderly-room permitted himself to use language which could only be interpreted by all who heard it—
§ MR. BRODRICK
The same man was in the orderly-room who was the president of a Court-martial on another occasion; and is it likely that Lieutenant Hamilton or any subaltern who heard of this episode would believe that the colonel would very seriously object to the use of this form of discipline? The case which Lord Roberts had before him was that in both these instances the officer commanding the first battalion, Colonel Kinloch, had been guilty of grave errors of judgment in his command. I do not want to press it any further, and would rather not even go into the further history after these incidents were discovered. There was what was called a mutiny of the subalterns—that is to say, a question of regimental etiquette had been interpreted into an order to drive in the drag under pain of caning if they did not do so, and the subalterns met to know if there was any release from this method of oppression. They met in the house of Lord Belhaven, himself an old officer. Apparently he advised them to go to their colonel with a written representation; but apparently it had also been discussed at the meeting whether they should go direct to the Commander-in-Chief. This was interpreted by the regimental authorities as a species of mutiny. I confess that my judgment,: and that of every Member of the House who is not personally interested, would coincide with that of the Commander-in-Chief, that to treat such an action as mutiny is a very severe straining of military law. The Commander-in-Chief had before him, upon these facts taken together, that practices of a very undesirable character existed in Colonel 505 Kinloch's regiment. He accepted Colonel Kinloch's statement that he was not aware of them; but, on the other hand, he had the fact that Colonel Kinloch had shown a want of judgment and supervision which, at all events had induced the belief among the subalterns that he was not altogether averse to subaltern discipline upon subalterns. Lord Roberts had also before him the fact that this was the second time in six months Colonel Kinloch's name had been brought before him for trouble in his regiment. About six or seven months ago it was reported to Lord Roberts that one or two drummer boys had, contrary to the King's Regulations, been flogged in Colonel Kinloch's regiment, and presumably under the orders of the commanding officer. Sir, the King's Regulations do not permit of the flogging of drummer' boys. Colonel Kinloch's plea on that occasion was the same as on the occasion of the caning of the subalterns, that he did not know about it. Well, Sir, the officer commanding had the adjutant as his eyes and ears. He is in close touch with his adjutant, and it is his business to know about these things. If he does not make it his business, and if the regiment is to get into a state which is described, rightly or wrongly, by the junior subalterns as a reign of terror, and if drummer boys are to be flogged, and if the relations of the senior subalterns are wholly wrong with regard to the junior subalterns, and if the adjutant does not do his duty—Sir, it is impossible to continue your confidence in the commanding officer. Lord Roberts was of opinion that the circumstances so disclosed, if they do not convey an imputation on Colonel Kinloch's honour, were, at all events, a serious imputation on his capacity and judgment; and no sentence of any court-martial would ever have availed to clear him in Lord Roberts's eyes and those of his adjutant-general, or of any other authority, from the conclusion that he was a man whose continuance in his command could not be tolerated.
This is not a case for trial by court-martial. The charge against Colonel Kinloch is that he was not efficient in the discharge of his duties; and if the Army is to exist we cannot retain the services of officers who are unable to perform their particular functions. But let 506 me urge upon the House not to regard these objectionable practices, discovered in the case of one battalion, in the light of a reflection upon the mass of His Majesty's Guards. I cannot tell the House how deeply I regret that, owing to the attack upon the Commander-in-Chief, and the attempt to represent Colonel Kinloch as an aggrieved individual, I am forced to make public the facts upon which Lord Roberts based his judgment. But to make that the subject of a general attack on the discipline and etiquette of the Brigade of Guards would, indeed, be a serious national calamity. There is no body of His Majesty's troops which in any field in which they have been called upon to act has better proved its high qualities than the Foot Guards; and to cast a slur upon them because in one battalion, under exceptional circumstances, with all the senior officers at the front and a large number of subalterns practically without proper control, these regrettable practices occurred, would be nothing short of a grave injustice. I hope this subject will be allowed to end here.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Then, if that be so, I must say one thing more. A great deal has been said that is unpleasant about the conduct of Mr. Leveson-Gower. I will read the confidential Report on his conduct as a soldier written a few months before these transactions, and the House will see he was not one of the worst officers in the regiment.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I think I ought to be allowed to proceed without interruption. This is the confidential Report. It is dated 11th July of last year:— "A very painstaking young officer; keen about everything he takes up, and anxious to get on. He distinguished himself in the signalling school at Aldershot. He is now instructor of signalling to the battalion. He takes the greatest possible interest in his work, and deserves great credit for the way he devotes himself to his duties. Quiet manners, good temper; tactful and gentlemanlike. He has been at Oxford; is popular with his brother officers. I can recommend him for promotion."
507 That is signed by Colonel Kinloch. And that is the officer whom the War Office was urged to remove.
§ MR. BRODRICK
That is the officer who, at Colonel Kinloch's instance was brought before the Commander-in-Chief in November to be relieved of his commission because he had ceased to be a credit to the regiment. Lord de Saumarez would never have gone to the Commander-in-Chief had it not been that a relative of his had received notice from the regimental authorities that on the following Monday Mr. Leveson-Gower would be called upon to resign his commission because he had ceased to be a credit to the regiment. That occurred in December about an officer whose confidential report in July was such as I have read. That in itself proves that the condition of the regiment under Colonel Kinloch was not satisfactory. If a young officer of whom everything promising can be said in. July becomes a worthless and incorrigible officer in November, I think there is occasion to look at the system in the particular battalion in which the events have occurred.
I deeply regret that these personal questions have been brought into a question which should be wholly impersonal. So far as my feeling in this matter is concerned, I strongly desire that as many investigations as possible should be by court-martial, but in the Army—it has been so from all time—it is impossible to place the lives of men in the hands of an officer who is incapable of looking after those men. We are urged by a specious use of language to frame a charge wherever it can be framed. Who is to be the judge of that? An officer impugned will always ask, if he so desires, that he should be charged under this Article—Any man who is charged with any act of disorder or neglect to the prejudice of good order or military discipline may demand a Court martial.Let me take a case which came before me not very long ago—that of a man who had given orders in the field which had lost him the confidence of those immediately under him. The colonel reported that he could not give him 508 command over a corporal's guard in the field again, that the men would not follow him, and that the position in which he had placed himself was perfectly well known in the regiment and the brigade. Lord Kitchener sent him home, and every species of appeal was made to the Commander-in-Chief and myself to give him a Court-martial. But how could we try a man by Court-martial for loss of nerve? Nobody assumed that he was a coward; no one assumed that he had viciously left undone things that he should have done. Nothing would have been more difficult than to frame a charge on which he could be convicted. What is the alternative? That we should send the man back and entrust to him the lives of 200 or 300 men, when every officer over him said he was unfit for the trust. You must have the power to remove men without Court-martial.
My hon. friend, I thought rather hardly on me, brought forward the case of Colonel Burroughes, who, in one of the expeditions on the West Coast of Africa, was deprived of his command and sent home. I saw the papers and read them very carefully. At this distance of time I should not like to attempt to give an accurate account of what occurred, but I know that the impression left on my mind was that Colonel Burroughes gave orders to those men which in our opinion he was not justified in giving, and which produced a mutiny. Supposing we had assembled a Court and recalled the men who had been damaged, most of whom wore from Sierra Leone, to give evidence; what would have been the result? I do not know what the verdict would have been, but under no circumstances, after the facts had been disclosed to the Commander-in-Chief, could Colonel Burroughes have been entrusted with the same power over black men. His judgment and the way in which he had exercised his command made it absolutely impossible to employ him in such command again, and the Commander-in-Chief was obliged to tell him that he had failed so seriously in judgment that he must go on half-pay. You must have that power. It is all very well when civil questions are involved, but when it is a question of placing men's lives in the hands of a man with autocratic or absolute power you must have the right to tell him that he 509 has failed in judgment and initiative and must be removed. Subject to that, I can assure hon. Members that in substance I entirely concur in the idea of Court-martials wherever possible. There is no one who would be a greater gainer than myself if a Court-martial could be resorted to in every case, and by having a verdict which would never come to the Secretary of State at all. But what would be the gain of the War Office would be absolutely fatal to efficiency in the Army. I cannot believe that those who have military experience on this side of the House will vote for a Resolution which, if it were passed, could never be carried into effect, and which no one entrusted with the administration of military justice would feel that it was possible to put into operation.
§ *MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL (Oldham)
desired to recall the attention of the House to the subject they were supposed to be discussing. The Resolution, as placed on the Paper, had hardly been spoken to at all. The House had listened to a long speech from the Secretary of State for War—a speech consisting of an involved, not very clear, not very conclusive, and entirely ex parte statement of the case of the War Office against Colonel Kinloch, and the right hon. Gentleman had made against that officer charges which, whether justly or unjustly preferred, the House and the Secretary of State himself were utterly incompetent to decide, and which could be tried and decided only by a legal and judicial process in a court of justice. The whole debate was an object-lesson, enforcing the very principles which the hon. Member opposite desired to establish. If only the principle of trying officers 510 where specific offences were alleged had been followed, they would not have had all the unsavoury details of this case dragged out in the House of Commons. The Army Act, which was put forward on the authority of Parliament for the government and discipline of the Army, contained a great number of specific charges on which officers might be tried, a most elaborate procedure was laid down for deciding whether or not the charges were true, but in nine cases out of ten the whole of that procedure and the protection the Act afforded to officers were brushed away, and the matters decided in a corner by some arbitrary process against which the officers impugned had no right of appeal whatever. Everybody recognised that there must co-exist in the Army two systems—the system by which penalties were inflicted on people who did wrong, and the system by which promotion was arranged and inefficient men dismissed from their commands. What the House ought to establish by this Resolution, was that wherever it was possible, humanly speaking, to prefer a definite charge against an officer it should be almost an honourable understanding and an obligation on the Secretary of State that that officer should be accorded full rights of trial.
He knew nothing of Colonel Kinloch, and cared nothing about the merits of his case. He had hoped for a discussion on very different lines, but certain statements had been made by the Secretary of State which would have afforded complete justification for one of the many charges mentioned being made the subject of a judicial investigation under the Army Act. The hon. Mem- 511 ber for North Aberdeen deserved the gratitude not only of the House, of Commons, but of the officers of the Army, for having brought forward the Motion. It was a great mistake to suppose that British officers liked to have their rights disposed of without the slightest opportunity of having their action investigated by a court of justice. Surely, as it was not a question of confidence or a question between Conservatives and Liberals, the House might decide this matter on its merits. The Resolution would not bind the military authorities; they would be free to interpret the law as they chose, though he had no doubt due weight would be given to the opinion of the House of Commons, and that, if carried, the Resolution would have the effect of causing an alteration in the present practice which, during the administration of the right hon. Gentleman, had so largely leaned to the side of arbitrary decision.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said that in the time remaining for discussion, it was impossible to go into the case as he would have desired to do, but he might say at once that he was a close personal friend of Colonel Kinloch, and an ardent, devoted, and loyal Grenadier, and the House was at liberty to discount the value of his opinion to whatever extent they liked on that account. The Secretary of State had been misled on many points, but he did not suggest that the Commander-in-Chief or anybody else connected with the War Office had been
§ actuated by unworthy or sinister motives, His case, briefly put, was that if the impugned officer had had an opportunity to make clear his side of the matter, it was possible that, even if the sentence had not been altered, at all events general public opinion on the merits of the case would have been strangely different. The question as placed before the House separated itself into two parts—the case as between officers who thought they had been hardly treated and the War Office, and the case as between certain individuals and certain particular colonels. Great fault had been found with Colonel Kinloch because, after censuring an officer for gross disobedience, he "handed him over" to the senior subaltern. He himself had passed through the regiment from the rank of junior ensign to that of full colonel, and had had to do with these questions from the point of view both of junior ensign and of senior subaltern. He had been, to use Colonel Kinloch's words, "handed over," and what did it mean? It simply meant that a junior ensign, who did not know all that was expected of him, received the kindliest advice from his seniors, advice which in his own case had helped him over and over again. He felt so strongly about the manner in which this case had been treated that as a protest he should vote for the Resolution before the House.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 57; Noes, 185. (Division List No. 23.)515
|Allen, Chas. P. (Glos., Stroud)||Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Causton, Bichard Knight|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Brigg, John||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)|
|Bell, Richard||Caldwell, James||Channing, Francis Allgton|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)|
|Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)||Long, Sir John||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R. (Northants|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Levy. Maurice||Tennant, Harold John|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Lough, Thomas||Thomas, J. A. (Glam, Gower)|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Lowther, C. (Cumb, Eskdale)||Tomkinson, James|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.||Lucas, Reg'ld J. (Portsmouth)||Toulmin, George|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||M'Crae, George||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Nolan. Col. John P. (Galway, N.||Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Wason. J. Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Weir, James Galloway|
|Hayter, Rt Hon Sir Arthur D.||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert||Wilson, F. W. (Norfolk, Mid)|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.||Rea, Russell||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Humphreys-Owen. Arthur C.||Rigg, Richard|
|Joicey, Sir James||Roe, Sir Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Kearley, Hudson E.||Rose, Charles Day||Mr. Pirie and Colonel|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop||Seely, Mj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight||Welby.|
|Lambert, George||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry|
|Layland-Barratt, Francis||Shackleton. David James|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Fisher, William Hayes||Milvain, Thomas|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Fison, Frederick William||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)|
|Allhusen, Aug. Henry Eden||FitzGerald, Sir Robt. Penrose||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Fitzroy, Hon. Edw. Algernon||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Morw, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Flower, Ernest||Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow)|
|Arrol, Sir William||Forster, Henry William||Myers, William Henry|
|Atkinson, Right Hon. John||Galloway, William Johnson||Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute|
|Aubrey-Fletcher Rt. Hn, Sir H.||Gardner Ernest||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||O'Mara, James|
|Balcarres, Lord||Gosehen, Hon. Geo. Joachim||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Man'r||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Parker, Sir Gilbert|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds)||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Pease, H. Pike (Darlington)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Greene, W. Raymond- (Cambs||Pcmberton, John S. G.|
|Barn, E. (Cork, S.)||Gretton, John||Percy, Earl|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Groves, James Grimble||Pilkington, Lt.-Col. Richard|
|Bignold, Arthur||Guthrie, Walter Murray||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Bigwood, James||Bain, Edward||Powell, Sir Franc's Sharp|
|Boseawen, Arthur Griffith-||Hall, Edward Marshall||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Brassey, Albert||Hamilton, Marq. of (Londondy||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Hanbury, Rt, Hn. Robt. Wm.||Purvis, Robert|
|Butcher, John George||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Randles, John S.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw, H.||Harris, Frederick Lerverton||Rankin, Sir James|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lanes.)||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Cavendish, V C W (Derbysh.)||Hayden, John Patrick||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Heath, Arthur H. (Hanley)||Reid, James (Greenook)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Wore||Henderson. Sir Alexander||Renwick, George|
|Chapman, Edward||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge|
|Charrington, Spencer||Hoare, Sir Samuel||Ritchie, Rt, Hn. C. Thomson|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Holland, Sir William Henry||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Hope. J. F. (Sheff., B'tside)||Robertson, H. (Hackney)|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Howard, Jno (Kent, Faverton||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Collings, Right Hon. Jesse||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasg.)||Johnstone. Heywood||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Corbett. T. L. (Down, North)||Keswick, William||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Cox. Irwin Edwd. Bainbridge||Lambton, Hon. Fredk. Wm.||Sadler, Col. Saml. Alexander|
|Craig, CharlesCurtis (Antrim, S||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow||Samuel, Herbt. L. (Cleveland)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lawson, John Grant||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Cross, H. Shepherd (Bolton)||Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. E. J.|
|Crossley, Sir Savile||Loekwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Dairymple, Sir Charles||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S||Seely, Chas. Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Dimsdale, Rt, Hon. Sir Jos. C.||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft||Shan-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)|
|Dorington. Rt, Hon. Sir J. E.||Lyttelton. Hon. Alfred||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Macdona, John Cumming||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, E.)|
|Doxford, Sir Wm. Theodore||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Smith, H. C. (Northmb, Tyneside|
|Duke, Henry Edward||M'Killop, Jas. (Stirlingshire)||Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)|
|Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Majendie, James A. H.||Smith. Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Ed.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk)|
|Fielden. Edward Brocklehurst||Maxwell Rt Hn Sir H-E (Wigt'n||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Finch. Rt. Hon. George H.||Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriessh.)||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir Jn. M.|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Middlemore, Jn. Throgmorton||Stock, James Henry|
|Stone, Sir Benjamin||Ure, Alexander||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier||Valentia, Viscount||Wilson, J. W. (Worcester., N.)|
|Sullivan, Donal||Vincent. Sir Edgar (Exeter)||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R, (Both)|
|Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Walker, Col. William Hall||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Taleot, Rt Hn J. H (Oxford Univ)||Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.||Wylie, Alexander|
|Taylor, Austin (East, Toxteth)||Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Thomas, Sir A. (Glam., E.)||Wharton, Rt. Hon. J. Lloyd|
|Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Thornton, Percy M.||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)||Sir Alexander Acland-|
|Tomlinson, Sir Wm. E. M.||Wilson, A. S. (York, E. R.)||Hoodand Mr. Anstruther.|