§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £4,820,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Supply and Repair of Warlike and other Stores, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March. 1904."640
§ COLONEL LEGGE (St. George's, Hanover Square)
called attention to the recent Army Order limiting the use of the lance in future to ceremonial occasions, and replacing it on active service by the carbine or rifle, and the sword. He said the lance was introduced by the Duke of Wellington into the Army of this country. He had been so impressed by the value of the lance as it had been employed by the French in the wars in which he had been engaged against them, that in 1816, the year after the Battle of Waterloo, four regiments of Dragoons, the 9th, 12th, 16th and 23rd were converted into Lancers, and in the following year the 19th took the place of the 23rd, the 19th were disbanded in 1823, and the 17th became the 4th Lancer regiment. It was thirty years after their first institution they first had an opportunity of showing what they could do, the 16th got their chance in the Sikh War, the 17th got their chance in the Crimea, and also used their lances with effect in South Africa in 1881, the 9th got their chance in the Indian Mutiny, when the officers were so pleased with it that they discarded their swords and armed themselves with the lance as well as their men. In 1858 the Royal Irish Dragoons, which had been disbanded in 1798, were resuscitated and formed into the 5th Lancer regiment, and at a later period it was considered desirable to increase the Lancers, and the 21st Hussars were converted into a Lancer regiment and distinguished themselves at Omdurman in the attack on Khartoum. That was the history of 641 the Lancer regiments, commencing with the last century. It might be said it was ancient history, but he would remind the House that during the late war these Lancer regiments had served with great distinction, the 5th at Elandslaagte and the 9th and 16th at the relief of Kimberley, and also at Diamond Hill. Later on the lances were practically laid aside in South Africa, and the men depended entirely on the carbine with which they were armed, but that, in itself, was not a sufficient reason for discarding the lance, as the inability to use it arose principally from the fact that the Boers retreated with greater rapidity than the British could advance, and from the fact that the horses of the regiments were not in the best condition to carry out the duties which Cavalry ought to be prepared to carry out. He did not wish to protest in any way against any Army Order of this description being issued, because these Army Orders were issued by the right hon. Gentleman on the advice of those who had a full sense of the responsibility of the advice which they were giving. All he said was that if the lance was to be regarded as an obsolete weapon, then logically it ought to be deposited in the Tower, or the British Museum, and should not be carried on ceremonial parade simply as a show to the public. Personally he had very great dislike to anything in the nature of a sham.
§ SIR ARTHUR HAYTER (Walsall)
agreed with what had been said by his hon. and gallant friend, who had commanded with distinction the 9th Lancers, and shared with him his regret at the abolition of the lance as a weapon for active service. He had a recollection of being present at a military tournament where there were two contests between two sergeants-major of the Dragoons and two sergeants-major of the Lancers, sword against lance, and in both cases the Lancers were successful. He did not dispute the wisdom of the Army Order, but could only regret that this weapon, which had such a great history behind it, should be now abandoned. It was impossible that this question should remain where it was, and to say that the lance should be kept only for field days. He expressed doubt as to whether the War Office 642 could, with propriety, take a Vote for a weapon which was to be practically discarded. It was not fair to make a man responsible for a part of his equipment which he was not to use. He also asked whether the carbine for Cavalry was to be done away with, and whether in the future the Cavalry were to be armed with the same rifle as the rest of the forces. He was glad to see that the sword had been disconnected from the saddle, and that men armed with the rifle would not in future be dependent on that weapon only for their defence.
§ GENERAL LAURIE (Pembrokeshire, Haverfordwest)
went out to South Africa during the Transvaal war of 1881, and was assured on all sides that among many causes none encouraged the outbreak more than the withdrawal of the 17th Lancers, for the Boers most dreaded what they termed the men on horses carrying spears. They dreaded the lance more than any other weapon in the field, and it counted for something if one could instil a fear of a weapon into the hearts of the enemy. When that was done they were half-way towards beating them. He thought it a most unfortunate thing that the weapon was to be withdrawn. Either they should give the soldier what he was to use on active service or not give it him at all. With regard to the barrack furniture Vote, he was curious to know what was being done with regard to fitting up the rooms of officers with furniture. Was it a promise, or was it to be a performance; and if it was to be a performance, when was it to be carried out?
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Lord STANLEY,) Lancashire, Westhoughton
said that the question of the abolition or the retention of the lance was one which they could not discuss with great advantage in this Committee. It was one entirely for the military experts of the War Office. But he agreed from sentimental reasons that if the lance were no longer to be used as a weapon it ought not to be retained for parade purposes. This was a matter for experts, and that being so the Committee would pardon him if he read a 643 private letter written to Lord Roberts by Sir Ian Hamilton, who commanded a large mounted force during the South African War, and who had strongly recommended the abolition of the lance. In the letter Sir Ian Hamilton said:Please may I beg of you very earnestly to show a stiff front to the reactionaries who will, I know, try to get at you over this business. The lance, though the queen of weapons in hand-to-hand combat, and though still, therefore, necessary for regiments in India, who may have to deal with swordsmen, is quite incompatible with that dismounted work which, whether in this country or on the Continent will, nine times out of ten, afford the best chances to cavalry. Woe betide the cavalry, whether in Europe, Africa, or America, who tries to use the sword or lance when the occasion lends itself to effective rifle fire. I cannot now discuss this big question point by point, but as regards the lance and its adaptability to dismounted work, just note the following. With the lance you cannot possibly, in practice, dismount more than one-half of your men, whereas with swords yon can dismount two-thirds. In peace time, all sorts of ingenious devices have been made to enable. Lancer regiments to dismount a larger proportion of men at a time, but far the shortest and best argument for disposing of this contention will be found in the fact that, after trying their level best, officers commanding Lancer regiments in this country have bad to give up all such devices in despair. Even when you have succeeded in dismounting your miserable half regiment, the mounted portion with the led horses is so hampered and helpless with the two lances per man, that in war you have actually to remount a portion of the dismounted half to serve as escort. Thus, in Lancer regiments you get considerably less than half your total numbers for use with rifles in the firing line. Then the lance makes men much slower at mounting and dismounting, for they have to change the lance over. In scouting, the Boers have a saying 'When you see a bush with a pole sticking out of it there you know are the British Paardereiters.' Theoretically, of course, the lance is carried at the trail, but practically when a Lancer regiment is scouting, the curious sight is seen of what appears to be long thin sticks moving up and down on the sky-line.Every one recognised the great gallantry shown by the Lancer regiments; but things had changed, and the rifle had become the principal weapon in every army, whether offensive or defensive, Lord Roberts, the one man who knew best the requirements of the Indian service, was strongly in favour of the abolition of the lance; and while the disappearance of the weapon might be regretted on sentimental grounds, it was necessary in the interest of the efficiency of the Army. The new rifle would also be used in place of the carbine 644 with which Cavalry regiments were now supplied, and then there would be a uniform arm throughout the Army.
§ GENERAL LAURIE
again pressed his inquiry what was being done with regard to the furnishing of officers' quarters in barracks by the War Office.
§ LORD STANLEY
said the War Office in this matter were endeavouring to avoid doing anything hurtful to officers who owned their own furniture. They were, therefore, trying to meet the cases, not only of messes, but of individual officers, by purchasing their furniture and treating it as Government property, allowing both, however, to dispose of their effects otherwise as they pleased. In the case of officers joining, furniture was at once supplied by the War Office. But it might take years before all the barracks were furnished under the new regulations.
§ Mr. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol, E.)
said two important reforms in the organisation of the Army had been introduced without anybody being aware of the changes; the first was the abandonment of the lance and the abolition of mountain batteries in all places outside India. Such important changes ought not to be made without something more being said than that which appeared in the most meagre Memorandum which had been presented. In his hand he held both the Memorandum of the Secretary of State and that of the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the latter though it did not disclose all the Admiralty secrets gave all the important changes likely to take place in equipment, organisation or policy during the year. He asked for fuller information of the reasons for the abolition of mountain batteries in all places outside of India. Were any mountain batteries being used at the present moment in Somaliland; because in the previous expedition they were used and found of great assistance. As he understood, it would now be impossible in the future to utilise mountain batteries unless the assent of India was first obtained for their transfer, which would entail great delay and inconvenience. He hoped the Secretary of State for War would give some definite information with regard to this. He also 645 noticed that there was a decrease of half-a-million in the Vote for armaments for field artillery. Some explanation should be given of the decrease in the normal service of field artillery. He also called attention to the small differences in the calibre of field guns and howitzers. For these differences there was no sufficient reason, and they must sometimes cause confusion and mishap. They also vastly increased the transport and the bulk of the stores to be carried. They could only be a source of danger therefore in times of war. Gun carriages might be made with one type of wheel, and with alteration of axle might take mountain, field, and even siege gnus. Similar uniformity in wagon wheels would conduce to economy and convenience. The Admiralty were doing something in the way of standardising the guns; why should not the War Office adopt a similar policy in regard to wheels? In one of Lord Roberts' earlier despatches from South Africa he mentioned that from seven miles distance three men were killed and sixteen wounded from shrapnel. General Buller, in his operations for the relief of Ladysmith, recommended a larger proportion of common shell in lieu of shrapnel. Was that recommendation to be carried out? He appealed in conclusion to the War Office to make its Memorandum more useful by clothing what was now a mere skeleton of figures with real flesh of facts, so that hon. Members might be able to get some idea of the general Military policy of the Government as apart from organisation.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, Chelmsford)
, as an old Dragoon, thought the War Office was right in the course taken in reference to the lance. In relation to accoutrements, he mentioned the claim of the Essex Regiment to wear the badge of the eagle. This badge was conferred on the regiment when the 44th, after the capture of a French eagle at the battle of Salamanca. They were allowed to wear it for some time, but the eagle eye of the general commanding at Colchester saw it, and he ordered it off They were allowed to have an eagle on their colours and red tunics, but their colours were never seen on service, and the red tunics were worn chiefly for the delectation of nursemaids on Sunday. 646 The regiment undoubtedly deserved consideration at the hands of the War Office. It was raised in the middle of the eighteenth century; it fought in 1745; it was in North America; it was at Waterloo; it took part in the first Afghan War; it fought in the Crimea; it formed part of the expedition for the rescue of Gordon; and last, but not least, it was engaged in the South African War, having the honour of forming part of the escort of Lord Roberts when he marched into Pretoria. He asked that a regiment with such a record should be allowed to wear on its service kit the distinguished badge for which, if necessary, the men were willing to pay. Seeing that the regiment garrisoned one of the towns in the constituency he had the honour to represent, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not consider him a busybody for having thus intervened in the debate.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
endorsed all that had been said as to the importance of the Essex eagle, holding it was desirable that a regiment which had done such good service in the past should not have its privileges withheld from it. But he desired more information as to the abolition of mountain guns. Were they used in Somaliland or in the recent operations in Sokoto? He understood that they were not to be done away with in India, and he thought it would therefore be well to have one or two of these batteries kept in England for the training of the men who were to be sent abroad. What, however, was more important was the inconvenience arising from the variety in the sizes of field guns. Judging from an answer given by the Secretary of State for War that day, one would have thought there were only four sorts of guns in use, whereas, as a matter of fact, there was an enormous variety of guns in each class. He would like to know what progress had been made with fitting batteries with quick-firing guns. Apparently we had only fifteen batteries of quick-firing guns, which were bought in Germany. Something ought to be done to increase the number, for undoubtedly this class of gun had proved infinitely superior to other guns in active warfare. 647 It was of no use increasing the efficiency of the Army unless at the same time efforts were made to provide it with efficient guns. There was only one other point he wished to touch upon, and that was the question of commissariat carts. There were some hideously heavy things manufactured in large quantities at Woolwich; they lasted no doubt a very long time, but they were out a lot of horseflesh, and in the course of the South African campaign they were found to be useless. Did the authorities intend to adopt any modification of these wagons; could they not replace them with something more modern and adaptable.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
wished to emphasise what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member for the Chelmsford Division. He agreed with him that anything in the way of the abolition of regimental emblems or anything which interfered with the sentiment of a regiment was to be avoided. With regard to the interchangeability of parts of artillery, he thought the War Office was now fully alive to the necessity for a nearer approach to similarity of calibre. He had been rather astonished at one remark of the hon. Member for Bristol. He had suggested that much was to be done by a simple alteration of the axle of the gun carriage.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
said he wished to point out the extreme importance of interchangeability of guns on sea ports and naval guns, but that this was a question partly for the War Office and partly for the Admiralty, probably more for the War Office. It was monstrously absurd that the War Office should have one gun and one kind of ammunition for firing at the enemy's ships from the sea faces though our ships for the same purpose were supplied with a different kind of gun and different ammunition. The greater the progress they made in standardisation in this matter the more economical they would become. There was a heavy charge under this Vote for vessels. Did that mean for 648 buoys and lighters, etc., or were these the vessels used for submarine mining purposes? He would like some explanation of that.
§ LORD STANLEY
said it was necessary nowadays, in times of peace as well as of war, to have fast towing boats in order to take cargoes for purely military purposes to Gibraltar and Malta and some of our sea-port towns. By a recent invention the speed had been made to approximate to that of our cruisers, and, in addition, special winding-up apparatus was being placed on the boats. This accounted for the heavy expenditure. It was not a new departure, but a matter of old practice.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
said he was talking about the £49,000 in sub-Section (e), which had been almost a standing charge, whereas he presumed his noble friend was referring to sub-Section (i.)
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
said that in that case he congratulated the War Office on having made a great improvement without increasing the cost. Under sub-Section (i), the Vote for submarine mining, etc., amounted to £92,000, or an increase in two years of nearly £20,000. The more the Admiralty spent on the fleet to keep the sea free, and therefore to keep the ports open, the more the War Office spent on arranging to close the ports, because that was what submarine mining did. He desired again to request the War Office to represent to the Council of Defence that these charges should not properly fall on the Army Estimates.
§ MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)
referred to the increase in the Vote for engineers' stores, and pointed out that whereas the Vote this year was £172,000 last year it was only £160,000, in which sum was included £41,000 in respect of the South African War, so that there was an increase in the normal services of nearly 50 per cent. There were increases in regard to submarine mining, ballooning, and railways, and a new item of special engineers' stores amounting to £42,000. He hoped the right hon. 649 Gentleman would give some explanation of these increases, and why special engineers' stores were included in the Vote.
§ MR. LLEWELLYN (Somersetshire, N.)
asked whether there was any truth in the rumour that the Light Infantry Regiments were to be deprived of the badge of the bugle. As to the order affecting only the service dress, it should be borne in mind that the Militia battalions had nothing but the service dress, and therefore if the bugle disappeared from that it disappeared altogether so far as they were concerned.
§ MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)
said there were several instances in the Estimates of the scale of salaries laid down for various Departments not being adhered to. He instanced the case of a chief clerk, in whose case the salary was given as commencing at £300, rising by £10 a year to £400. The salary paid last year was £400; the amount taken this year was £360. That meant that a fresh person had been appointed; therefore the salary should have been £300. It was not an isolated case, and he thought some explanation should be given why the scale had been departed from. Then there was an item of £11,000 for ballooning. In connection with that, the Committee ought to have a statement from the War Office as to the success or otherwise of military ballooning in the recent war. A balloon was sent out to catch the Mad Mullah in Somaliland, but unfortunately it burst and was not likely to be of any further use. He would like to know the real opinion of the War Office as to the use of balloons in military operations.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
said the explanation with regard to the salary of the clerk referred to by the hon. Member for Halifax was a very simple one. Whatever powers the Secretary of State might have for squandering money in other directions, he had no power over the salary of any official whatever. The scale of salaries was fixed by Parliament and the Treasury, and if, according to the 650 Estimates, a clerk whom the hon. Member thought should receive £300 was receiving £360, it simply meant that the clerk in question was previously receiving that rate of salary in some other capacity. The reason engineers' stores now figured under this Vote was that they had been removed from one Department to another, and, instead of appearing under sub-head (f) they appeared under sub-head (i). The general disturbance was due to the adoption of the recommendations of Sir F. Mowatt's Committee, in pursuance of which large reserves were being provided, and until those reserves were fully provided it was impossible to institute comparisons with the normal figures. The hon. Member for East Bristol had made a comparison between the War Office and the Admiralty, unfavourable to the former. That did not surprise him in the least, because such comparisons were now always made to the disadvantage of the War Office. He remembered the time, however, when the Admiralty used to be compared unfavourably with the War Office, and he should live, he hoped, to the time when that event occurred again. The hon. Member for East Bristol seemed to doubt that.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said that if he or the hon. Member only lived the allotted span of three score years and ten he would undertake to say that that event would have occurred at least twice over. The hon. Member for East Bristol had asked why the War Office did not publish a Memorandum as comprehensive as that of the First Lord of the Admiralty. The hon. Member forgot the circumstances. When he wrote his Memorandum he had already been called to the bar of the House and tried for a capital crime for about six days during the present session, whereas the First Lord of the Admiralty sat aloft, and never had anything to bring before this House. If he had written such a Memorandum he would only have been repeating items of policy which, to the confusion of his opponents, he had 651 already several times stated when attacked; therefore, out of sheer indulgence to the House, he had restricted his Memorandum to the narrowest limits, leaving himself some new items of information to bring out in debate. With regard to mountain guns, he thought that, considering the very few occasions on which they were needed in any expedition equipped by this country, and remembering that, after all, India was a part of the Empire, on principles of economy we must depend on India when such a case arose as to need the provision of mountain guns. As to the question of special badges for special regiments, he assured his hon. and gallant friend the Member for Mid Essex that the one thing they were anxious to do was to avoid too many changes in the service kit, which they wished to keep in hundreds and thou sands to be served out to each regiment in case of mobilisation. It was a real practical difficulty in mobilising in any part of the world to keep a sufficient number of suits, not only of full dress, but also of service kits.
§ MR. LLEWELLYN
reminded the right hon. Gentleman that Militia regiments had no full dress on which these badges could be worn. They had nothing but the service kit.
§ MR. BRODRICK
admitted that Militia regiments were in a little different position, and he recognised that his hon. friend had a case. But he could not go further than that. His hon. and gallant friend the Member for Great Yarmouth had made a further plea that they should show more clearly what was spent on behalf of the Army and what was spent on the Navy. When the Return which he proposed to give his hon. and gallant friend was laid before the House, he thought it would be a revelation as to the relative sums spent on the two services. He would say again, however, that he did not invite these comparisons between the two services. Both were parts of one whole, and it mattered little to the country on which Estimates various items were charged if they were really necessary for the purposes of Imperial defence. But if there was the feeling that the Navy was being starved to find 652 money for the Army, then the proposal to state clearly the amount spent by the Army on behalf of the Navy was perhaps a convenient one to adopt.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
thought the answer given by the Secretary of State for War on the points raised by the hon. Member for East Bristol was of a most perfunctory character. The right hon. Gentleman had announced in the most casual way that the mountain batteries were to be retained in India only. Were only the native mountain batteries, or were both British and Indian batteries to be retained? If the latter was the case, were no troops to be trained in the necessary duties in this country? Were there to be no reliefs going to the white battalions in India who had been trained in this country in mountain battery duties? How was it possible to abolish all the mountain batteries in the British artillery and yet retain them in India? Hitherto there had been in India two descriptions of mountain batteries—the white mountain batteries of the British artillery and the native batteries.
It was essential that they should have some mountain batteries. Surely mountain artillery was a service which ought not to be abolished without the knowledge of the House of Commons, and merely in answer to a Question in the House without any previous information being given to the House. Every other army in the world had mountain artillery, which was found to be useful not only as mule batteries, but for camel batteries. It seemed to him amazing that so complete a change should be made in this great branch of artillery in such a casual way, and that this change should be defended in the extraordinary and perfunctory way in which it had been defended; as a matter of fact there had hardly been any defence at all. The War Office was also showing a curious freedom in dispensing altogether with all previous military experience. The abolition of the lance in our Army was exactly opposite to the policy being pursued in Germany, which had decided that the lance was to be the weapon of true cavalry in the future. Those people who were opposed to cavalry altogether had abolished the lance, and the House 653 of Commons was expected to accept that change without any argument at all in favour of it. The War Office were abolishing mountain artillery, while every other Power thought it was essential that it should be retained. Although his hon. friend the Member for Bristol had received a perfunctory answer upon some of his points, he had received no answer at all to his main point in regard to the difference in the calibre of the guns in the Army. The variety in the calibres of the guns had not been explained. When the different calibres were introduced it was looked upon as most unfortunate at the time, and no steps had been taken to do away with this difference of calibre. His hon. friend had addressed questions, which had also received no answer at all, as to the extent to which quick-firing guns had been introduced into the horse and field artillery. In 1899 his hon. and gallant friend the Member for Essex, and others, repeatedly brought before the Committee of Supply the necessity for following the example of other Powers in regard to the introduction of quick-firing guns. The Government replied that they had quick-firing guns, but it was found that they had not; and then they stated that they were making inquires into the question. Then came the war in South Africa, after which they had to buy batteries of quick-firing guns in Germany. They had been informed that even now they had not got the proper number of quick-firing guns; and the questions which had been addressed to the Government upon this subject were as important as any others in regard to military affairs, and yet no answer had been given to them.
§ MR. BRODRICK
A very short time ago it was argued in this House that we were spending large sums of money upon the Army in this country and not calculating the large sums we were spending in India. Now the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean tells us that we ought to have some mountain batteries of artillery, and he thinks we ought to be equipped in this respect in this country in the same way as Germany or France. It has not been considered necessary to 654 have mountain batteries in this country. The right hon. Baronet probably knows as well as any Member of this House that a well-trained artillery is admirably fitted, with a minimum amount of training, to serve mountain artillery. We find no difficulty whatever with the artillery which we send out to India in organising the few mountain batteries which are needed for the white troops there. It would be an absurd reduplication if, when an emergency calls for it, we should not only have field and heavy artillery, but that we should keep a number of batteries ready equipped for a European war, which the right hon. Baronet is never tired of telling the House we shall never be called upon to engage in. I object to this method of blowing hot and cold, always with the aim of throwing discredit on the War Office. As to the different calibres of guns, the right hon. Baronet knows that it is impossible as modern science makes progress to secure that we shall have all over the Empire the same calibre of guns at the same moment. If the whole of the Empire was going to fight the same battle with the same ammunition and the same guns, the whole being set up on the same basis, no doubt it would be of the greatest importance to have uniformity; but there may be occasions on which a 5-in. gun might be served on the northwest of India, and when in the event of the emergency requiring it a 4.7-in. gun would be served on the Surrey hills. The War Office professes to secure uniformity in all the main calibres, and above all to take care that fresh guns are not made by the Indian Government or by ourselves which are not of the same calibre.
The right hon. Gentleman has made an unfortunate attack upon the War Office for not having sufficient quick-firing guns. It is true that the field guns we had five or six years ago could be improved upon. It is also true that the batteries of quick-firing guns the War Office obtained from Germany have been admirable for their purpose. If we felt that they were the final instalment of what we can expect to secure, we should have rearmed the whole of our artillery with those guns. But Lord Roberts believes that it is possible to improve on those guns. A variety of 655 experiments have been made, and we believe we have now come very near a gun of excellent calibre, most suitable for the field artillery. We must be guided by experts in this matter. We hold that we are sufficiently near a better gun not to ask the House to spend a large sum on the manufacture of a less efficient gun which would be out of date very shortly. I believe that in a very short time we shall be able to propose and to commence the manufacture of a quick-firing gun of adequate calibre which will be far superior to those which we now have.
§ COLONEL LEGGE
said in the regiment with which he was connected there was no difficulty in dismounting three-fourths of the men. For the purpose of holding a position all the men could be dismounted, and they could hold their position as long as the ammunition lasted.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said that he did not think the Committee could complain of the attack made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean upon the Secretary of State for War, because they had never been able to get any information until they had made two or three attacks upon some particular items in the Vote, and they had had to literally drag information out of the Secretary of State for War by reductions, or threats of reductions, in the War Office Votes. What had been the answer of the right hon. Gentleman? Did the Secretary of State for War not see that he was using a two-edged argument? If they were providing Army Corps to contend with Continental troops, surely they must be armed in the same way and to the same extent as the Continental troops. If it were true that every Continental army contained batteries of quick-firing guns, surely similar armaments ought to be supplied to the British troops. There was no fact which had been more emphasised during the war in South Africa than the extraordinary gallantry and devotion to duty displayed by the gunners, and everyone acknowledged the courage with which the gunners clung to their officers under the most trying circumstances. If they were going to send their Army Corps on to the Continent armed with inferior armaments to their foes, they would be handicapping that gallantry to an extraordinary extent. Therefore the argument 656 with which the Secretary of State for War had assailed the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, was a bad argument and would not hold water He wished to have some information about the new gun which had been alluded to. The right hon. Gentleman said that they had come very near a suitable gun. He wished to know how long it was since the War Office had begun to get near this very suitable gun. He understood that experiments with this gun had been spread over four or five years, and they had not yet arrived at a proper and suitable gun. There must be some finite period to which the right hon. Gentleman could point when either a suitable gun would be found, or at all events, when some gun must be introduced into the artillery of this country. If they could not get a perfect article, then they must produce the nearest they could get to perfection. They had been told that they were going to have a very suitable gun. He wished to know what was its calibre. Why could not the right hon. Gentleman tell them what he was doing in the direction of reducing the calibre of the guns to one common denominator? If he told them that they would not stand in the way of passing the Estimates, but he warned the right hon. Gentleman that there were a great many hon. Members who felt that unless they got the information they desired upon these points they would oppose the Estimates until these matters were properly explained to the House.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I take exception to the hon. Member's tone. I do not believe that any Minister has given to the House more information during the last four weeks than I have done. I am now asked to repeat information I have already given, or to give information which it is not in the interests of the public service to give. My noble friend has already told the House that we have ordered 220 4.7 guns. Of these 160 have been issued, or are ready to be issued. This shows the type of gun on which we are putting our money.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I cannot undertake to abolish them if they are serviceable. I appeal to the Committee whether we should abolish every good gun we have because they are not of the same calibre as another gun. Who can be so anxious to arrive at the best type of field gun as the Secretary of State for War? The War Office will incur a great responsibility if they ask the House to spend, not several hundred thousand, but some millions of pounds on new field guns unless and until we are satisfied that we are getting the best article. We are pressing forward the matter to the best of our ability.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
reminded the Committee that in the year 1899 the Financial Secretary to the War Office said they were getting near this quick-firing gun. Almost the same words were used in that year as had been used that evening. The Secretary of State for War had found fault with the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean for desiring to reduce the expenditure on the Army, and at the same time wishing to spend money in order to make the artillery efficient. He denied altogether that by using such an argument the right hon. Baronet was blowing hot and cold at the same time. What his right hon. friend advocated was that they should not have a large inefficient Army but a small efficient one. The Committee had been assured in connection with Item B of this Vote that only a small portion of the guns had been quick-firing guns. He thought every Power in Europe had its field artillery equipped with quick-firing guns. At a time when we were spending enormously in increasing the numbers of the Army we ought surely to expend a small amount in equipping the troops with the most approved weapons. He regarded the answer given on that point as unsatisfactory, and he hoped the Committee would hear something more about it. He believed there were four different kinds of guns in use in the British Army, and four different kinds of ammunition. He was sorry that information on these matters had to be dragged out of the War Office representatives. He asked whether the First Army Corps was to be equipped 658 with one class of field gun. He moved the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That a sum, not exceeding £4,819,900, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Courtenay Warner.)
§ MR. WHITLEY
called attention to the item in the Vote for ballooning, and stated that this was a matter in which a great many Members of the Committee were interested. They had never yet had a statement from the War Office on the subject, although year by year increasingly large sums were asked for the purpose.
§ LORD STANLEY
said the balloons used in South Africa had not been miserable failures as had been alleged. There were great possibilities in connection with ballooning, but he thought the hon. Member would understand that there were reasons why it was not advisable to give details of the experiments which were being made.
§ LORD ALWYNE COMPTON (Bedfordshire, Biggleswade)
asked whether the hon. Member for Lichfield could explain the precise difference between the existing quick-firing guns of the British Army and those of German and French armies.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
said he had seen the quick-firing guns which were brought from Germany. That was the only quick-firing gun we had at present. What he asked was that some further move should be made towards getting a quick-firing gun for the Army. For four years the question had been investigated, and there had been no result except the buying of this German gun. What they objected to on this side of the House was that there were still very many guns which were not quick-firing guns in the British Army.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Isle of Wight)
said this subject had been treated with undue levity. He quite understood that the Secretary of State for War could not give a pledge that within the next month or two he 659 would be able to say that a new quick-firing gun would be issued to the British Army. He would, however, respectfully ask that the right hon. Gentleman should, for the benefit of certain hon. Members who took an interest in this question, give the Committee to understand that at a not very distant date a quick-firing gun would be introduced into the British Army. Otherwise he could hardly give a vote against the Motion.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that attention was drawn to this subject twice in the year 1899, and a promise was twice given as to the immediate adoption of a quick-firing gun in the British Army. Those promises had not been redeemed. Since then we had had the war, and everybody had become aware of the facts to which the attention of the House was called in 1899. Germany changed her gun, and so did France, and Germany afterwards changed her gun again. But the British Government had done nothing except to acquire the fifteen batteries of quick-firing guns from Germany.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said he challenged the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's assertions in every particular. His remarks about foreign nations were even more inaccurate than his remarks about this country. He protested against the statement that nothing had been done by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman was simply endeavouring to create prejudice on a subject with regard to which Members on the Treasury Bench were quite powerless. They could not adopt a gun against the advice of their military advisers. They could do nothing but urge on these advisers to discover, or use every means to assist in the discovery of, a weapon which might be recommended. It was impossible that he should give the pledge asked for by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight. Nobody desired more than he did to obtain the best gun that could be obtained for money; but how could he force on the military authorities the manufacture of a gun which they would not recommend as an improvement? He was neglecting nothing that could be done. Lord Roberts was an artilleryman, and took his present post 660 immediately on his return from the war, and he was impressed with the necessity of a change in our artillery as soon as a really suitable gun could be found. He had called to his assistance the very best knowledge and experience he could get. The Government had, however, not yet been able—they hoped very shortly they might be able—to recommend a change which would be to the advantage of the country. But he thought the Committee would make itself ridiculous if it were to insist, at a moment when everybody was crying out for economy, on the adoption of an expensive change which the military advisers of the Government were not prepared to say was to the advantage of the country. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman's statement that since 1899 Germany had changed her gun. The British Government had neglected nothing. They had even gone to the extreme length to which British Governments could go in ordering a considerable number of batteries from abroad, because our manufacturers could not produce anything that seemed equal to them. [An HON. MEMBER: "Much better guns."] These batteries were an improvement on our present guns, but he thought we could do better still. When that point was reached we should begin to manufacture. In the meantime he urged the Committee not to insist on the adoption of an unsatisfactory course in order to satisfy those who were in a hurry to obtain something which could not at present be obtained.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
said he did not quite follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument. If he had said that the country was not rich enough to re-arm the Artillery, and that the re-armament should therefore be postponed a year, that would have been an argument of great weight. The right hon. Gentleman combined in a way he did not understand an argument for economy and an argument that the experts had not yet made up their minds. Of course, if the experts could not invent a better gun, then in the view of the experts the present gun was perfection. [MINISTERIAL Cries of "No; the German gun."] Well, why did we not have the German gun? On the other 661 hand, he quite understood that the right hon. Gentleman might say that though that was a better gun we could not afford to pay for it; but he did not understand how it could reasonably be argued that there was somewhere in the clouds a hypothetically better gun for which we were to wait for ever. [Cries of "No."] Well, for an indefinite time. If it was so certain that a better gun than the present was capable of invention, surely it was possible for his right hon. friend to say that it would be invented within a definite, limited time. Could he mention any day? [Cries of "No."] Well, then, what became of the whole case of the Government for the Army schemes they were putting forward? The right hon. Gentleman was prepared to run any risk, for a year, or two or three years, in the matter of artillery, not on the ground of economy, but on the ground that the ideal perfection was not yet attained, and that nothing short of that would he engage upon. His right hon. friend was under suspicion from many of them of indulging in economy in the right place in order that he' might spend in the wrong place. Their objection to this was not a fatuous one, as other persons who were less intelligent than his right hon. friend and who sat behind him seemed to think. [Cries of "Oh" and "Order," and OPPOSITION laughter.] Was it insulting to say that they were less intelligent than his right hon. friend? They believed that the right hon. Gentleman was trying to save money on artillery in order that he might spend it on battalions, and that they believed to be a very unwise form of saving expenditure. He could understand the right hon. Gentleman if he would say that he would be prepared to recommend anew gun within a reasonable interval, but at present he was endeavouring to combine two incoherent arguments, and that was impossible.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said he would venture to suggest to his noble friend that he should not treat serious matters from a jocose standpoint. He shone greatly in ecclesiastical controversy, but he would most distinctly say that in the atmosphere of military controversy, and 662 especially on serious matters of this kind, which ought to be dealt with from a serious standpoint, the sort of criticisms the noble Lord indulged in were beside the point. His noble friend invited him to name a definite time in which to settle that a gun was fit for adoption, in order to give him and his friends an opportunity in a brief period of falling upon the War Office for their behaviour in providing something which was not up to standard. He did protest against his noble friend getting up to speak on this subject, in which he took no interest, in order to get off a few sarcasms on matters which were important. He was there to maintain not merely the policy of the country in this matter, but, when it was a matter which meant three or four millions of public money, to act with some regard not only to expert opinion, but to the public purse. He declined to fix a date according to the demand of the noble Lord, and he trusted the Committee would show that they agreed with him in that course.
§ SIR PHILIP MUNTZ (Warwickshire, Tamworth)
said that he had listened to the speech of the noble Lord with amazement. Here were a number of gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House crying out for economy; and then the noble Lord complained that the Secretary of State for War was not manufacturing new artillery before his expert advisers had told him which was the best gun. The noble Lord would involve the country in great expenditure, and next year his worthy friends on this side of the House—whether they ought to be there was another matter—would be criticising and cavilling at unnecessary expenditure on useless artillery. He thought the War Office had received very unfair treatment. He hoped the Secretary of State for War would stand to his guns until his experts advised him which were the best guns to manufacture, so that next year he could not be criticised for having wasted the country's money.
§ MR. BECKETT (Yorkshire, N.R., Whitby)
said that the hon. Member's thoughts seemed to be straying far away from the House of Commons. His hon. friends above the Gangway seemed to think that they had a monopoly of 663 sincerity, and that nobody could criticise the Army projects of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, either in general outline or in detail, without interested or unworthy motives. That was the attitude that had been taken up towards hon. Members below the Gangway who had ventured to hint, and more than hint, that the right hon. Gentleman's Army scheme was not perfect.
§ MR. BECKETT
said that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think no criticism directed against his Army scheme could be intelligent; but he contended that he and his hon. friends beside him had been endeavouring to apply intelligent criticism to the right hon. Gentleman's Department for several weeks; they had brought forward argument after argument, and these had never been answered. It was not really the way to arrive at a satisfactory understanding on War
§ Office matters to attribute motives and apply epithets to those who directed criticisms against the War Office. He ventured to urge that, considering all that had been said, it would be well to recognise that they were not to be diverted from their object—believing, as they did in their hearts, that they were acting not only in the interest of the nation, but in that of the Government—by the badinage and abuse of those whose intellects were rather atrophied by dieting upon the crumbs that fell from Ministerial tables. (Laughter, and cries of "Oh, oh!") Let those who had done so apply his observation. A large sum was asked for on the Votes for guns. (An Hon. MEMBER: Do you mean guns in the air?) He meant the guns that were on the Estimates; and he asked his right hon. friend whether it was wise to spend so much money on those guns if there was a probability of their becoming obsolete and their being superseded by better guns.
§ Question put.
§ Committee divided:—Ayes, 51; Noes, 129. (Division List No. 47.)
|Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Goschen, Hon. Geo. Joachim||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready||Greene, Sir E. W. (Bury St. Ed.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Gretton, John||Pease, H. Pike (Darlington)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasg.)||Hamilton, Rt Hn Ld. G. (Midx||Percy, Earl|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robt. Wm.||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Cox, Irwin Edwd. Bainbridge||Heath, Arthur H. (Hanley)||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Craig, Chas. Curtis (Antrim, S.||Henderson, Sir Alexander||Purvis, Robert|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Cross, H. Shepherd (Bolton)||Hoare, Sir Samuel||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. C. Thomson|
|Crossley, Sir Savile||Hogg, Lindsay||Robertson, H. (Hackney)|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Hope, J. F. (Sheff., B'tside)||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Howard, Jno (Kent, Faver'hm||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton||Sadler, Col. Saml. Alexander|
|Davenport, William Bromley-||Johnstone, Heywood||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Denny, Colonel||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lambton, Hon. Fredk. Wm.||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Dimsdale, Rt. Hon. Sir Jos. C.||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Lawson, John Grant||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart||Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Ed.||Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. E. M.|
|Fergusson, Rt Hn. Sir J. (Man'r||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft||Valentia, Viscount|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Lucas, Reg'ld J. (Portsmouth)||Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Macdona, John Cumming||Wharton, Rt. Hon. J. Lloyd|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Maconochie, A. W.||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edw. Algernon||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Flower, Ernest||Majendie, James A. H.||Wilson, A. S. (York, E. R.)|
|Forster, Henry William||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W.||Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriessh.||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|Fyler, John Arthur||Morrell, George Herbert||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Gardner, Ernest||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer|
|Gibbs, Hn A. G. H. (City of Lond||Muntz, Sir Philip A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Murray, Rt Hn. A. Graham (Bute||Sir Alexander Acland-|
|Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nrn||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath||Hood and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Gore, Hn. G. R. C. Ormsby (Salop)||Myers, William Henry|
|Gore, Hn. S. F. Ormsby- (Linc||Nicholson, William Graham|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said that the Secretary of State for War had stated he was there not only to defend the policy of the Government but the pockets of the taxpayers; but the Vote they were now considering showed that the right hon. Gentleman was not only not defending the pockets of the taxpayers, but depleting them. The normal expenditure for transport, as distinct from war expenditure, was £119,000, but the right hon. Gentleman, in pursuance of his policy of protecting the taxpayers' pockets, now asked for £207,000 for transport. Some explanation of this item ought to be given.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said that this was for a portion of the transport used in the South African War which did not come into course of payment till this year.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said that he was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his courtesy, but it would curtail debate if further explanations were made. After spending nearly £2,750,000 for the purchase of transport wagons during the South African War, why was there still a charge of nearly £100,000 more than in normal times for these vehicles? In 1899, when Lord Roberts went out to South Africa, he discovered that the transport of the Army was governed by the regulations of 1898, and was in a state of chaos, and he changed 667 the system from regimental to departmental transport. Since that time no new regulations had been issued governing the organisation of the transport of the Army. What he wanted to know was whether the old system of regimental transport had been abandoned, and a new departmental system organised in its place.
§ MAJOR RASCH
said he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War would give him a more or less satisfactory answer in regard to the claim of the Essex Regiment to wear the badge of the Eagle, if the regiment paid for the badge themselves.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said that as the right hon. Gentleman had not given him an answer he begged to move the reduction of the Vote by £200.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £4,819,800, be granted for the said service."—(Mr. Charles Hobhouse.)
§ LORD STANLEY
said it was almost impossible to give the hon. Gentleman a definite answer. The question of transport had been very much debated, and there was great diversity of opinion with regard to it. The war in South Africa undoubtedly showed that, although in some instances regimental transport was the best, still, for the general purposes of transport, it was better to have brigade transport. Without actually abolishing the whole of the regimental system of transport, they would endeavour, as far as possible, to have the transport arranged for brigade service, allowing it to be supplemented 668 by a certain amount of regimental transport.
§ MR. BECKETT
said he thought it was a matter for urgent investigation as to whether the inspectors appointed by the War Office should be given the power of inspecting work carried out by contractors during the course of manufactures. There appeared to be a difference of opinion on the subject, and he should like to know what conclusion the right hon. Gentleman had arrived at. It had been shown that owing to the absence of inspection during the process of manufacture of particular articles, no responsibility rested on anyone until the articles were handed over to the Departments concerned, when complaints were very often made as to their quality and character; and it was thought that, in order to avoid that, inspection should be allowed during the process of manufacture. The reason given against it was that there would be danger of collusion between the contractors and the inspectors. But that was overrated. Certainly inspection would prevent loss and delay; and would prevent such a mishap as the supply of 200,000 tent mallets, the handles of which would not fit the heads. Inspectors were also not allowed to exercise reasonable discretion in the passing of goods not according to specification. The articles might slightly deviate from the specification, but an inspector who knew his business would see at once whether that deviation was important or not. It was also complained that the War Office inspectors were not ready to take responsibility in passing articles which deviated from the specification, and consequently there was frequently con- 669 siderable delay. Curiously enough, the inspectors appointed by the War Office were far more unwilling to exercise responsibility than the inspectors appointed by the Admiralty. Evidently the atmosphere of the Admiralty was more favourable to the exercise of responsibility than the atmosphere of the War Office. It was peculiar that inspectors were discouraged from doing the very thing at the War Office which they were enjoined to do at the Admiralty.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said he wished to press for a reply to the question raised by his hon. friend with reference to the transport vehicles, on which no less than £2,750,000 was spent during the war. He wished to know what had become of them. Were they in store; or had they been disposed of; and, if disposed of, for what amount?
§ MR. BRODRICK
said that a very large sum had been obtained from the Colonial Government for the wagons used in the war; and the country obtained a much better bargain by disposing of them than by keeping them in store after service in South Africa. The arrangement between the War Office and the Colonial Government was a very fair bargain. With reference to the questions of his hon. friend, he fully realised the importance of the suggestion made by the Committee of which his hon. friend was a member, both as to constant inspection during construction, and as to reasonable discretion being given to inspectors. That had gone much further since his hon. friend inquired into the question, and would be further increased.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ 2. £1,745,000, Pensions and other Non-Effective Charges for Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Men, and others.
§ 3. £195,000, Civil Superannuation, Compensation, Compassionate Allowances and Gratuities.
§ Resolutions to be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £530,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Pay, etc., of the Medical Establishment, and for Medicines, etc., which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1904."
§ LORD HUGH CECIL
said he wished to ask a question with reference to a matter which was creating a great deal of anxiety in the country, and the as to pensions and gratuities given to those wounded in the War; and also as to what was being done for the relatives of those killed in the War. The matter had often been brought before him by his constituents; and he should be very much indebted if the Government would make a clear statement on the subject.
§ LORD STANLEY
said that with regard to pensions for wounds, each case was 671 dealt with on its merits by the Chelsea Hospital Commissioners, which were distinct from the War Office. It was better that these cases should be decided by a practically independent body on which, of course, the War Office was represented. It was impossible to give any regular scale. As a general rule a man was given a temporary pension for a year with a view to seeing how far he recovered at the end of that time and became fit to earn a livelihood. If the disability was shown to be permanent the pension was then fixed. There was a regular scale for widows and children. The widow of a sergeant received 7s. 6d. a week and 2s. for each child, the widow of a corporal 6s. a week and 1s. 6d. for each child, and the widow of a private 5s. a week and 1s. 6d. for each child. In cases in which children were left motherless double the rate per child was given to those who were looking after them. The same rate was given when it was found necessary to remove children from their mothers.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
asked if the pensioner were informed that his pension was only temporary. He was aware of a case where a man only knew that his pension was temporary when it ceased.
§ LORD STANLEY
said all pensioners were informed that their pensions were 672 temporary, and that they would be required to come up again for medical examination.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.) moved to report Progress. The Vote was of some importance, and many hon. Members who were interested in it were not present.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed; "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Dr. Farquharson.)
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ The Clerk at the Table informed the House that Mr. Speaker was unable, owing to indisposition, to resume the Chair
§ Whereupon Mr. JEFFREYS, the Deputy-Chairman, took the Chair as Deputy Speaker in pursuance of Standing Order No. 1.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee also report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.