§ Motion made, and Question proposed,. "That a sum, not exceeding £10,101,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Pay, etc., of His Majesty's Army (including Army Reserve) at Home and Abroad (exclusive of India), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1906."
§ MR. CHURCHILL (Oldham)
said he desired, in moving to reduce the Vote by £1,000,000, to direct attention to the fact that the Estimates for this year were the greatest Army Estimates ever laid before the House of Commons in a time of peace. These Estimates had now reached an aggregate of £30,000,000 in round figures. They embodied an increase of £1,000,000, roughly, on the Estimates of last year, and, although they were nearly as much as the whole of the Estimates for the Navy, they were now witnessing the spectacle of a considerable diminution in naval expenditure and a large increase in Army Votes. The increase in the Estimates was greater than might be supposed by those who only gave them casual study. It was not at all correct to attribute that increase, as he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War was led into attributing it, to the increased provision for the new guns. That tardy provision, no doubt, was the item in the Estimates most easy to justify, but it was not the reason for 153 increase. The completion of the purchases under the Mowatt programme of stores and military supplies which fell in this year released a sum of £400,000 from the Special Charges. Further windfalls of £217,000 in respect of surplus ammunition, and of £334,000 under the heading of clothing, made a total of £961,000 which might ba considered as a windfall for the right hon. Gentleman, which would almost entirely have met the charge for the new artillery. The increase in the Estimates was in respect of constant and continuing charges which would affect the Estimates in future years. That was a very grave situation, and fully justified the reduction which he had put on the Paper. The Estimates were all the more surprising in view of the explicit pledges which the Secretary of State for War gave only six months ago, on July 14th last. Those promises were explicit, liberal, and full. Then, when the Army Estimates were £29,000,000, the right hon. Gentleman said—It is the universal belief that not only should this increase be arrested, but that the total should be diminished; that is my own personal view. I have always felt we are devoting a larger sum than we need devote to the service of the Army. I have had that lesson enforced on me for many years, and I would remind the Committee that if you are going to reduce expenditure you must reduce something that costs money.The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of the Army as—One of the most costly military machines ever devised.Yes, £29,000,000 was then considered by the right hon. Gentleman to be excessive. Now, £30,000,000 was not so considered! The right hon. Gentleman would do well to spend an afternoon in reading the excellent speech he delivered on July 14th last. The right hon. Gentleman then said, also, that a certain number of the Line battalions were superfluous, and that, in his opinion, the Regular Army, as well as every branch, must be called upon to make some contribution towards a reduction. The right hon. Gentleman, if he had not been able to fulfil his pledges in favour of economy, should be careful not to suggest, as he had done the other day, that those persons who to-day held the opinions he expressed so strongly last July were unpatriotic and improper persons.
154 The Secretary of State for War's reason for the great increase in the Army Estimates was a most remarkable one. They were told that the United Kingdom could not be invaded; that this fortunate island had become permanently secure from invasion, and was no longer liable to the dangers which confronted other nations which had to guard against an invasion of territory. This fortunate little island was, they were told, absolutely secure from any attack of that kind. And yet they were asked to vote larger Army Estimates than those of France, Germany, Austria, or Italy, to whose existence their armies were absolutely vital. The Army reformers of two years ago, whose activity in the House the Committee might not have forgotten, had behind their manœuvres and tactics one object. They sought to reduce military expenditure and the military forces. With a view to obtaining that result they propounded two important propositions, one that we did not want a large Regular Army for home defence, and the second that the defence of this island could be entrusted to the Militia, Volunteers, and Yeomanry, if rendered thoroughly efficient. The Prime Minister did not agree with them in those days, but agreed with the present Secretary of State for India, and supported that right hon. Gentleman in a project which provided three Army Corps for home defence. The right hon. Gentleman, now the Secretary of State for India, used the "fat cow" argument against them. "Why," he asked, "should we lie down like a fat cow behind our ironclad Fleet?" He also used the "stiffener" argument; he spoke of the necessity for 30,000 stiffeners to strengthen the Auxilliary Forces when the Regular Army had been convoyed out of the country. Those opinions had been very largely abandoned by the Prime Minister; they had converted him; and, like all converts, as he himself was sometimes reminded, the Prime Minister displayed a tendency to carry his newly acquired opinions to great extremes. He now said that we required no Army at all for home defence, as invasion was impossible. It seemed a very simple thing if they looked at it in that way, but it would have saved a lot of trouble if the right hon. Gentleman had only found it out before. Still it showed the 155 enormous advantage of applying a first-rate dialectical mind to these strategic questions.
There was nothing more remarkable than this doctrine of faith healing. The principle was very simple; you said a thing was so, and it was so; or you said it was not so, and it was not so. He had heard of people who, on awaking in the morning, said with great earnestness, "Youth, health, vigour," and believed that they derived some accession of those qualities in consequence. The Government were the most ardent disciples of that belief. The Prime Minister was convinced that, if he said a question was not before the country, it was not before the country; if he said a Resolution was of no importance, it was of no importance. The Secretary of State for India firmly believed that if he said he had six Army Corps, there were in fact six Army Corps; and the present Secretary of State for War believed that if he said with sufficient emphasis and frequency, and on sufficiently high authority, that these islands could not be invaded, we should thereby become absolutely secure. The right hon. Gentleman ought really to instruct the Chaplain-General to preach a discourse on the inspiring theme of the application of the principles of Christian science to the problem of Imperial defence. The country had been officially declared secure against invasion—not a dinghy, which held five men, let alone 5,000 men, could land on these shores without our permission. The Committee of Defence had decided that, and who, be the Briton or foreigner, would dare dispute the decision of the Committee of National Defence? The Prime Minister, whose unique qualifications were rightly acknowledged, had confirmed their decision, the Army Council had acquiesced in it, and actual proof had been supplied by experiments in disembarkation conducted at Clacton-on-Sea.
§ *THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER,) Belfast, W.
Do you maintain the contrary proposition?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
said he was simply stating the right hon. Gentleman's argu- 156 ments. Upon this comfortable hypothesis the right hon. Gentleman approached the question of the Volunteers, the Militia, the Yeomanry and the other forces of the Crown. He told them that the Volunteers were tied to the soil, that they could not be sent abroad, and as nobody could possibly get at them, as not even the five men in a dinghy, or 5,000, could set foot on this island without our permission, he argued that we might safely reduce the force by 45,000 men, and he submitted that as absolute logic. But absolute logic should carry the right hon. Gentleman a great deal further. Why should the right hon. Gentleman maintain at great cost 200,000 men tied to the soil, when they could not possibly encounter enemies who arrived in larger numbers than five at a time? There used to be a scheme of mobilisation for home defence in existence. Had it been abandoned? Had it been absolutely destroyed or torn up?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
asked what was the use of getting the clerks of the War Office to make out a plan for meeting a contingency which the Army Council, the Committee of National Defence, and the Prime Minister collectively declared could never arise? The right hon. Gentleman's hint that there was a scheme for home defence in existence filled him with anxiety. With regard to this faith cure, the faith must be absolute, or the cure did not work. The slightest shadow of doubt across the mind of the patient or the disciple, and the efficacy of the treatment was entirely destroyed. The truth was that the right hon. Gentleman dare not face the logical conclusion to which his argument led. Perhaps in the right hon. Gentleman's heart of hearts the spectacle of this vast unfortified capital, the greatest, the wealthiest city in the world, the depository of half the title-deeds of civilisation, within sixty miles of a score of lauding places for the enemy, filled him with some feeling of disquietude and stirred doubts and questionings which marred the smooth reasoning of his assertions and reassertions. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman had not forgotten the late Lord Salisbury's declaration at the 157 Mansion House four or five years ago, that great empires had fallen not by injury in their outlying provinces, but by blows dealt at their hearts. It did appear to him that the great problem of Imperial defence was not to be settled by chopping logic or by applying the rule of thumb. They had before them a practical, business-like proposition. They had on the one hand a statement of the various perils to which the nation might be exposed, though there were differences as to their nature and the direction whence they might be apprehended, and also differences in the degree of possibility and probability. There were also certain necessary duties which the Army had to discharge; there were foreign garrisons to be provided and proper reliefs to be circulated. It was necessary further to arrange for those minor expeditions which were so often necessary when hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power. They had to make provision at home for the maintenance of the Royal dignity, and for ensuring order and public security. They had, on the other hand, certain resources, and though those resources might be sufficient they were limited and definite. They had only a certain amount of money which could properly be spared, having regard to other urgent needs. There was a supply of recruits more or less limited, which notoriously varied with the labour market, and even an increase of pay did not secure the larger supply anticipated. They had a certain number of Militia—and the right hon. Gentleman had tried but failed to increase them—and a certain number of Volunteers whom the right hon. Gentleman had tried to reduce and had succeeded. [Mr. ARNOLD-FORSTER dissented.] He noticed that the right hon. Gentleman objected, but in the Estimates for this year he had embodied the policy of reduction. These various forces had grown up year by year in this country and some of them were very antiquated indeed. They fitted in with existing customs and arrangements and were part of our national life, and it was the business of the War Minister to adjust and train them so as to make them more flexible instruments to guard our coasts against danger and to get from them the greatest development of war power.
158 There were three kinds of reform of the Army. The first was that which partook of the nature of spending money. That that kind of reform had been steadily pursued for years was seen in the enormous increase of expenditure on every single branch of Army organisation. Then there were the reforms which could be made simply by the use of the pen. The Secretary of State for War sat in his office and called some old thing by a new name. For instance, the Commander-in-Chief was called the "Chief Inspector-General" or "First Military Member" or "Chief of the Staff;" the Quartermaster-General was renamed the "Third Military Member"; the duties of the War Office and the Staff were rearranged, and the troops were called "divisions," "districts," or "Army Corps," but whatever they were called, it was done simply by writing on paper. The third kind of reform was rather rare; it was of a nature of which the country had had very little experience of late. It was reform which was based upon the perception of some new principle, and which produced greater war power in proportion to the money and the resources at our disposal. The great reform of Mr. Cardwell was of that nature. The abolition of purchase—taking the Army out of pawn as it was called—the introduction of short service, and the institution of the territorial system, were three reforms of the Army which undoubtedly had resulted in a great increase of war power without any extra expenditure of money. He would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that all change in the position and character of the various land forces was in itself injurious and involved a diminution of war power. Change in itself was vexatious and restrictive of power. It produced friction and dissatisfaction in the Army. While it was taking place the officers were occupied with it and could not devote their attention to the training of the men. The whole economy and discipline of the units were affected. Yet in the last five years we had had an era of tireless tinkerings. The hon. and gallant Member for Essex had on many occasions drawn attention to the extraordinary caprice with which uniforms were changed. But much more serious changes had been 159 made. The service of the Army had been changed four times in four years, and was about to be changed again. The regulations affecting the discipline of the troops had been altered and readjusted, the system of pay had been changed, deferred pay had been abolished, and the whole method of the administration of the War Office had been altered twice over from top to bottom, both with regard to system and personnel. Some regular battalions had been created and then abandoned, five garrison batteries were formed at great expense, and special barrack accommodation provided, and they, too, were now to be abandoned. The immense diminution of war power resulting from these wild experiments had been attended by discontent among the officers and men and the general relaxation of the discipline and the efficiency of the Army.
Parliament was asked this year to assent to Estimates of £30,000,000 and a series of brand-new reforms affecting all three branches of His Majesty's land forces—a great reduction in the Volunteers, a gigantic experiment with the Militia, and a revolution in the Regular Army. The Secretary of State for War did not come to them exactly on the full tide of successful experiment. The right hon. Gentleman came with a record of miscalculation, mismanagement, and fertile incapacity for which no parallel could be found in the history of any other Department of the State. That was true, notwithstanding that hon. Gentlemen opposite laughed, and he defied any one to point to another policy pursued by any Department in the last fifty years marked by such vacillation and such an enormous accretion of burden. The plan of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the Militia involved a liability for service oversea; a queer proposal surely, coming after a war in which nearly the whole of the Militia did serve voluntarily and with distinction over the sea. It was strange he should wish to expose the Militia to this arduous service when he lost no opportunity of telling them what a rabble they were, and how imperfectly trained, and while he talked, too, of the great scarcity of officers and the singularly poor physique of its men. When the Militia Bill came before the House it would, of course, be fully considered; but he was bound to say that it was a very surprising thing to 160 make such a great departure, not as an integral part of a scheme of Army reform, but as a purely detached proposition. The right hon. Gentleman practically admitted that his proposal with regard to the Militia was a leap in the dark. There had been experiments in regard to the Militia before. The late Secretary of State for War wished to increase the force; the present War Secretary desired to diminish it, and that was how continuity of policy was secured. The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for War offered a bounty of £3 a man, which he believed would have the effect of raising the Militia from 98,000 to 150,000.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. BRODRICK, Surrey,Guildford)
As a matter of fact, I proposed to raise the Militia to 150,000, including the establishment of a Militia Reserve.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
said the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman to give a bounty of £3 a man cost £300,000 a year, and it would continue to cost that amount so long as that bounty was paid. But the Militia to-day were fewer in number than when the bounty was offered. So far as the taxpayer was concerned all that money was absolutely pitched away, and, after all, £300,000 was a very great sum which could have been spent on the new rifle, or on the new artillery. That was not an encouraging fact, and it seemed to him that it showed how very dangerous it was to undertake experiments with the old constitutional or Volunteer forces, because they could not be sure that the money spent would produce the effect which was expected, nor could they be sure that new regulations would not divert from those forces the classes accustomed to go into them.
Now he came to the Regular Army. The right hon. Gentleman had put forward a brand new scheme for the Regular Army. The right hon. Gentleman was a great admirer of what he would call dualism. The right hon. Gentleman was in favour of a dual Regular Army. He was in favour of two classes of Volunteers—the first class 161 and the second class, but that inspiring idea had been abandoned.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
said the right hon. Gentleman had at any rate instituted two kinds of generals in the Army— fighting generals and other generals. It was a most novel idea. It was one which was much more likely to have come from China than from Japan, and the plan on which the Army was now to be administered was the same system as that on which a gentleman obtained a horse from a jobber—he obtained and rode the animal, all responsibility being taken by the owner of the horse. One gentleman was to see after the whole administration of the troops, and the other man was to fight with them in the field. In fact, it was the regular subdivision of the trainer and the jockey. That was a truly wonderful plan, and it showed that the right hon. Gentleman was a great admirer of dualism. Now he proposed to introduce two kinds of Regulars—the first-class Regular who was to have all the fun and all the fighting, and the second-class Regular who was to do all the drudgery and supply the numbers. He agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Ealing, who, it might be remembered, made a remarkable speech to the House last session in which he showed that the setting up of two kinds of battalions would draw all the best officers into the favoured corps and give them an unnecessary amount of esprit de corps which would be obtained at the expense of the ordinary run of the Army. He believed that the principle of drawing a distinction between men serving in the same branch of His Majesty's forces was wholly vicious, and he earnestly hoped the Committee would not sanction that principle.
When they examined the larger aspect of this Army scheme he would like to ask what was to be the cost of the full execution of the plan proposed. Had 162 anybody seen the figures? Had there ever been a financial estimate made?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
said he was very much surprised. He was not at all aware that there had been an estimate made. The right hon. Gentleman's dual Army scheme was not a new idea; for thirty years it had been agitated, but Cabinet after Cabinet, War Minister after War Minister, drawn from both of the great Parties of the State, had examined it, studied it carefully, and all, without exception, had rejected it. Of course, it was quite true that we should like to have two separate Armies for our very widely different duties in home and foreign service. For the United Kingdom we wanted an Army of great expansive power, and that could only be obtained by short service. For garrisoning India we required a Regular Army of seasoned soldiers with service for a period that would not necessitate our bringing them backward and forward too often. But the economy of combining the two Armies into one, of dovetailing them into each other, and making them separately assist each other in all the numerous functions they had in common, in making the home battalions train the drafts for the foreign battalions, and the foreign battalions train the Reservists, who on mobilisation were added to the home battalions in order to strengthen and stiffen the young soldiers of which they were composed—the advantages and economy of that system were enormous, and the gain in proportion to the money spent had been frequently demonstrated. Although there were admitted inconveniences, the single army argument had always hitherto held the field. The single army argument embodied a compromise and had all the virtues and vices of a compromise. It could be expressed in the formula, 7 A, 5 R—seven years Army service and five years' Reserve service. That was the period of service found in practice to be the best to reconcile the conflicting and often divergent needs of India and the United Kingdom. Before passing from that subject he should like to say that they had always been told that a 163 balance of battalions was essential to this scheme. He did not think that was true. It was generally admitted last year that it was not true. That had been a fertile source of waste, and a convenient lever for further expenditure. But it would be quite possible to group battalions into groups of eight, of which five might be kept abroad and three at home. That suggestion would enable a reduction of thirty battalions to be made without altering the working of the system, although he thoroughly admitted the economy of the system was greatest, highest, and most perfect when an exact equilibrium between the battalions was maintained.
There were many hon. Gentlemen in the House who were more competent to speak with regard to the Volunteers than he professed to be. He would only ask the Committee to remember how cheap they were, how petty was the saving, and how fearful was the diminution in men which attended the reduction now proposed. He would ask the Committee to remember that while to European States which had land frontiers time was vital to their mobilisation and every day was precious to them, in this country, with the advantages of the sea, we should always have a longer period at our disposal, and our arrangements need not be made to enable us to realise our full strength as Continental Powers must do. After all the talk of the Volunteers not being properly trained, he would say that if they were six weeks or six months under canvas with conditions of war prevailing in some part of the world they would become a very different force from what they were now. He asked the Committee to remember what these men did for us in the South African War, not only those who went abroad, but those who stayed at home in camp and enabled us to send the last division of Regular troops out of the country. The Regular Army in time of war would depend on the number of Volunteer soldiers we had in this country, for he was quite certain that in time of war this country would never stake its independence and integrity upon any decision of any Council of National Defence, however costly it might be. He asked the Committee finally to remember that the Volunteers, a monu- 164 ment of civic patriotism which was the unique possession of our country, were our principal and surest bulwark against the foul tyranny of conscription, from which we had been free.
Whatever objections might be urged against the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman as a whole must be urged more strongly against proceeding with them piecemeal. The short-service Army, which was the foundation of the system, had been postponed indefinitely. In answer to a Question the other day, the right hon. Gentleman said it had been postponed for eight or nine months. That was a long time and many things might happen. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman on public grounds—at present he had got power and could do practically what he wished—to at least delay the measures affecting the Volunteers and the Militia until the scheme relating to the Army as a whole was finally determined. Surely it was not unreasonable to ask him not to injure them until he was prepared with the short-service Army, which was so largely to take their place. The steps he proposed to take would be irrevocable, the injury might easily be irreparable. The Volunteers and Militia could not be discouraged and disbanded in all directions without inflicting an injury on the whole force, which it would take many years of patient effort to repair. There was one vital feature of this subject which ought not to be omitted. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman was inclined to make too sweeping assertions for a person who occupied so responsible a post. During the recess the right hon. Gentleman permitted himself to say—The condition of the British Army was a danger to the very existence of the Empire; that we wanted the best and had the very worst.But he told his would-be constituents at Croydon that—Enemies of England all over the world would rejoice at the advent of a Liberal Government to power.In that general chorus of jubilation there would, at any rate, be one regret. Foreign nations would have to rely for their information upon their own intelligence departments, and they 165 would not be able to avail themselves of the very excellent and candid reports which they had furnished from time to time by the British Minister for War.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The words the hon. Member quotes come from one of the most distinguished members of the Army Intelligence Department.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
remarked that the right hon. Gentleman, at any rate, put them forward on his own authority. Then the right hon. Gentleman told them that if the command of the sea were lost there would be nothing for it but to surrender within six days. It was, perhaps, not worth while to speculate upon such hideous nightmares as that, but he was not at all sure they could predicate with absolute certainty that they would be ready to surrender within such a very short time as that. The right hon. Gentleman was very scornful about the service clubs and service Members.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
said the right hon. Gentleman spoke of service clubs, and service Members were all members of those clubs. They deserved something better from the right hon. Gentleman than suggestions that their patriotism and intelligence were not what they ought to be. The right hon. Gentleman said one man in circumstances where they might depend upon him might be more valuable than ten upon whom they might or might not depend. Had the right hon. Gentleman already forgotten South Africa? Would anyone contend that one Regular soldier on whom the War Office could depend was worth more for effective service than any ten Australians, or Canadians, or Imperial Light Horseman, whom nobody dreamt before the war would give their services at all? No one could say what this mighty Empire could develop in the face of sufficient need and cause. It was pedantry to suppose their resources were limited by the records kept at the War Office of the number of men available.
The right hon. Gentleman said they did not want an Army for home 166 defence, but for India. If that were true, and £30,000,000 a year were imposed on the people of this country for the sole defence of India, it would arouse most serious discussion It had always hitherto been understood that India should provide for her own defence. Of course she might count on the backing of Great Britain in time of peril; and that we would strain every nerve and make every sacrifice to aid her defence of her North-West Frontier. But nothing could remove the primary and permanent responsibility and obligation which was upon every people for the defence, security, and safeguarding of their own soil. And in the case of India, it was not merely a moral but a practical responsibility. Many months, he was told by people who understood these things, possibly a year, and even more than a year, would elapse after the declaration of war before the destruction of the enemy's navy was so complete as to enable that tremendous operation of transporting 300,000 or 400,000 men to the other side of the earth through seas possibly swept by hostile cruisers. And, in the meanwhile, India would be depending on her own resources, however vast, however complete our preparations in this country might be. He hoped this aspect of the situation had not escaped the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and the various Committees of which he was a member He did not join himself with the alarmists, who were always imagining that we were on the eve of Armageddon. He did not think that strategic railways carried the problem of the defence of India into a new plane, nor a plane which was bound to have been unforseen for many years. After all, the central facts of the situation had been unaltered, and a long period must elapse after the declaration of war before either Russia or England could bring their main power to bear in the struggle. It was unnecessary to alarm ourselves by any features which were contained in the general international situation or by the two new facts created by the Anglo-French agreement and the astounding drama of the war in the Far East. These could not 167 make in the mind of any reasonable man our military situation less secure than it was. For nearly a quarter of a century we had had alarms raised and a great quantity of nonsense had been poured out in regard to Russian designs on India. When we reflected on the perils through which that dynasty was passing, on the sufferings of her people, on the financial embarrassments which must, for many years, harass her Government, it did not seem un-reasonable to calculate that our dangers in respect to the defence of India were more remote in point of time and probabilities than ever they were before.
He commended this reduction to the Committee. He did not say that £1,000,000 was the whole economy which might be effected, or that it would satisfy hon. Gentlemen who sat on those benches. He did not say that £1,000,000 would satisfy the country, which had heard pledges of reduction from the right hon. Gentleman; but it was a substantial sum and nobody who voted for it would be committed to that sum as the whole policy of reduction of expenditure on the Army. If he were to prevail with the Committee in regard to this reduction— and he would be optimistic to assume that he would—he would point out that there would be no difficulty in carrying it into practical effect. After all, a reduction in the number of units was admitted last year by the right hon. Gentleman as indispensable so far as the United Kingdom was concerned. No discharges of soldiers now serving would be necessary. All that would have to be done was to raise the standard of re-cruiting, the enlisting would then automatically fall. Moreover, with a reduced demand for recruits the increased pay lately offered would begin to operate beneficially by giving a greater power of selection, and, consequently, an improvement in quality which would be a compensating gain and result in further and larger economies in the direction of a diminution of those perfectly useless men now enlisted at so great annual cost. He moved this reduction in the interests of economy and as a sincere, solemn, and deliberate protest against the errors and miscalculations of the military policy 168 during the last five years, and as a warning, perhaps a vain attempt, to stop all those ill-advised changes which ill-affected every branch of our land forces, and particularly the Volunteers and Militia.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £9,101,000, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Churchill).
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
said he did not, as a rule, agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite in the strictures upon the Government which he addressed to the House. There was a time when he did not very often agree with his remarks, but he confessed that although he was still, unlike the hon. Member, a supporter of the present Government, he did agree with a great deal that had just fallen from him in his exceedingly, able, eloquent, and weighty speech. He did not propose to vote for the reduction, because he did not himself see any necessity had been proved for reducing the number of the Regular Forces; but he held that the present administration of the War Office had been and was in many respects most unfortunate. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, although he credited him with the very highest motives in his desire to do everything that was best for the Army, had succeeded in discouraging every branch of the service—Regulars, Yeomanry, Militia, and Volunteers. The position was now very serious. He was not going to follow the hon. Gentleman opposite in speaking generally on the whole Army question, because he did not profess to have a detailed knowledge of Army affairs, and he was very careful not to speak on matters of this sort which he did not himself understand. But he could speak with knowledge on the Militia, and he thought that the treatment of that force by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War of the Militia had been more unfortunate than his treatment of any other branch of the service. The right hon. Gentleman was understood to have a theory that many connected with the Auxiliary Forces were sufficiently unpatriotic to fight for their own unit to the detriment of the reform of the Army 169 generally. He hoped his right hon. friend would not accuse him of taking that line. He spoke for the Militia because he knew something of the Militia. If the right hon. Gentleman proved to him that the Militia was useless, that it was redundant, that it stood in the way of other and greater reforms which should be affected, he should be the first to say, "Let the Militia go." But in taking the view which the right hon. Gentleman had taken, in saying that the Militia was useless, that it ought to be abolished or altered out of all recognition, the right hon. Gentleman, in his opinion, had entirely misread the whole history of recent years. The Militia sent out 51,000 men to South Africa during the late war. In addition to that, they garrisoned a large part of the Mediterranean stations and thereby set free the Regular troops which enabled Lord Roberts to strike hard at the Boers. Further, the Militia practically garrisoned the whole of this country during the war. The right hon. Gentleman was certain that this country was never going to be invaded, and that the Militia garrison was absolutely not wanted. But he asked the Committee what would have been the feeling of the country if the whole of the Regular Army except striplings of recruits had been sent to South Africa. and no force like the Militia had been there to take their place, even if invasion was not possible? He ventured to think that the Militia had done a great service in the late crisis.
He asked what the right hon. Gentleman was going to do with the Militia, the Yeomanry, the Volunteers, and, most emphatically, with the Regular Army? This uncertainty was doing great harm to the whole service. The hon. Gentleman opposite had pointed out the innumerable changes which had been made in the service in recent years. Moreover, changes were always being threatened, but not carried out. Nobody knew what the right hon. Gentleman really proposed to do. Last year the right hon. Gentleman had a plan for abolishing the Militia, but the opposition of the House was too strong and the right hon. Gentleman was not able to proceed with it. That encouraged him to raise his voice once more, and to hope that that scheme was finally dropped. But the right hon. Gentleman apparently 170 still believed that the best plan would be to level up the Militia battalions to the standard of the Line, and make them the nucleus of the home-service Army. Was the right hon. Gentleman, if he got the chance, still inclined to try and carry out that scheme? The Committee and the country ought to know. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the unsatisfactory condition of the Militia; but nothing could make it more unsatisfactory than the uncertainty that prevailed as to the future, both among officers and men. The right hon. Gentleman, in the Memorandum which he issued with the Estimates said that—The condition of the Militia remained unsatisfactory.Whose fault was that? The Militia or the War Office? For many years the War Office had never given the Militia a chance of being satisfactory. Then the right hon. Gentleman said that—A considerable portion of the Militia Artillery is redundant for defence purposes.Now, why were they redundant? No explanation was given of that criticism. The right hon. Gentleman did not say what part was redundant; and he left every unit of the Militia Artillery to wonder whether they were included in that sweeping statement. And then the right hon. Gentleman went on—It is obvious that if the Militia is to be used for service abroad, it must undergo a longer period of training than at present, and must be provided with a larger number of trained officers than it at present possesses.From what had been said with regard to the Militia one would have imagined that they had never been sent abroad before; but 60,000 of them had served abroad and had conducted themselves creditably in field and garrison duty. What steps had the right hon. Gentleman or his predecessor taken to provide more training for officers and men? The right hon. Gentleman said more trained officers were required, and yet from the Militia on duty at Malta six officers were taken for the Line. Longer training was necessary, but nothing was said of the time to be given; it was left vague, as everything else. Year after year suggestions were made about battalions to be abolished, but nobody knew whether his battalion was on the black list. In another place the Government had a Bill for making 171 service abroad compulsory for the Militia. The Militia had hardly ever failed to volunteer for such service in the past, and they would willingly accept such a proposal, but there was no great reform in that. Without it the War Office could accomplish what they required. The Militia had no desire to stand in the way of Army reform, but if they were to be of any use they should receive some encouragement.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
I sympathise with the hon. Member in the resentment he has expressed, or, if that is too strong a word, in the regret he has expressed, and his deep sense of the injury that is being done by the state of uncertainty which the Government have created in respect to the Militia. He must, however, not be surprised, for uncertainty marks the whole policy of the Government at present. It is bad for everything, bad for trade, bad for the Army, bad for the Militia; but the one policy in which the Government are successful is in prolonging uncertainty. I say the Government, for I do not blame the Secretary of State for War for deliberately prolonging the uncertainty, and, indeed, he has expressed his views far more clearly than the views of the Government have been expressed; but in order that he may escape from the charge we must ask him for whom does he speak? Is it for the Government, or does he give his own opinion merely? Last year we assumed—too much assumed, perhaps—that he was speaking on behalf of the Government, and we expected that greater changes would follow: but it is always the case, we have to hear a policy from each Minister separately, unsupported by his colleagues. I know that the Prime Minister has urgent and, no doubt, prolonged duties elsewhere; and my object is not to complain so much of his absence as to ask, when he is absent, do we get the opinion of the Government? For it seems to me the Government have come to be in the unfortunate position of the Tsar, whose habit it is to see his Ministers separately, and each Minister speaks without reference to the views of his colleagues. But that cannot be satisfactory to this House in the settlement of a policy. We are left altogether in doubt as to the pro- 172 posals of last year as compared with those of this year, and in still more doubt as to how far they have the sanction of the Government. We know that the Government approved of the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, for the Prime Minister took an active part in defending them. We resisted the proposals because we thought them unsuitable, we, gave them strong opposition, and our objections the Government now hold—or if they do not hold with our opinion they act as if they do. I should like to know in relation to the Estimates this year how much money has been spent in initiating the proposals of the Secretary of State for India which has now been rendered an absolutely useless expenditure by this change of policy.
From the present Secretary of State for War we were led by his earlier speeches to expect great changes, and great changes rapidly. But now he tells us, not in the tone of one who advises us that we may expect great changes soon, to be thankful that a beginning has been made. No doubt we have had some changes; the War Office has been reorganised by the right hon. Gentleman. The War Office needed to be reorganised, because nobody spoke more scathingly of its conditions previous to its reform than the right hon. Gentleman, and it was generally understood that the War Office was more or less in confusion. The right hon. Gentleman has, no doubt, stirred it up a great deal; but when you stir confusion it is possible, instead of producing order, to produce chaos. However perfect the reorganisation of the War Office may be on paper, what I feel a little doubt about is whether it is working with the smoothness and freedom from confusion and with the perfect order that the Secretary of State no doubt believes it is working with. It is not enough to reorganise; the reorganisation must work smoothly.
When we come to the higher matters of policy on which the size of our Army and the expenditure on our Army depend, we have no result at all. We have no economy at all in the sense of a reduction of expenditure. The Secretary of State for War tells us we cannot have economy unless we reduce something which costs money, 173 and that something must be numbers of men. Then he says it is unpatriotic to reduce the Regular Army; so that cannot be done. It might be patriotic, but it is not possible, owing either to the sense of the House or of the country to reduce the Militia; therefore that cannot be done. The one thing he assures the House he can succeed in doing is to reduce the Volunteers. There I take issue with him on a matter of policy. This Government has been liberal in promises for the last few years that they would reduce expenditure on the Army. If they went out to-day they would be known as the Government which promised to reduce expenditure on the Army but succeeded in reducing expenditure on the Navy. Not only has there been an entire failure to reduce expenditure on the Army, but the Army Estimates are the biggest that we have ever had in time of peace. The Secretary of State for War will no doubt say it is not enough for us merely to declare our differences; that we ought to give some indication of the direction in which our minds would work if we were in a position to apply a policy of our own. I have always hoped that we should get some results from the new Committee of Defence. It is a thing to be judged by its results, and until we have the results we cannot feel sure that the Committee of Defence has been justified.
Two results, I think, we have got from them. One is a declaration from the Prime Minister that we may put the question of a serious invasion on one side, and the other, which we learn from the Prime Minister's speeches, is that the measure of what we require in the way of an Army is the defence of the Indian frontier. I do not say that is the only purpose for which an Army will be required, but I understand the contention of the Government to be that if we have an Army suitable and large enough to defend the Indian frontier we may consider that we have an Army adequate for all the purposes for which we are likely to need an Army. Then, I ask, if that be so, how is it that the number of the Regular Army has been so much increased since 1898? What has happened since then to make a larger Army necessary for us? Three 174 things have happened since 1898. One is that the Boer military power has been broken, and thereby, of course, a military danger has been removed. The second thing is that the Russian power has been greatly exhausted and weakened, which, of course, is the power that military men are thinking of when they discuss the defence of the Indian frontier. I am aware that, if the result of the war that is now going on is to place that part of the globe for ever outside any objective of Russia, we may assume that the Russian objective in future years will be more concentrated at some other point. I take that into account in saying that Russia has been weakened and is being weakened in the present war. But I think that my hon. friend the Member for Oldham is entirely justified in saying that although the Russian railways may have come closer to the Indian frontier than they were some years ago, yet with regard to the time it would take to reach the Indian frontier Russia is further off to-day than at any time. But the point is that the Government have come to the conclusion that we do not need to keep up a Regular Army for home defence. All these things point to a reduction of our Regular Army; and if our Regular Army is not to be greatly reduced, then it must be either because in 1898 we were keeping up an Army which was too small, or because the danger to the Indian frontier at that time was very much underestimated. I do not think the danger to the Indian frontier ever has bean underestimated in this House.
I am assuming, of course, that when we talk about the defence of the Indian frontier we do not mean to embark on any forward policy. If we embark on the policy of extending our Indian frontier in order to meet Russia at a more distant point than our own base in Asia, then I think we shall be increasing our liabilities and decreasing our strength, and no doubt then we should have demands for a larger Army. I am assuming that it still remains the policy of the Government that we should not have a forward policy on the Indian frontier; that our policy should be one of defence, of making ourselves strong where we are, and of awaiting the attack, 175 if attack ever be made. What I suppose the Committee of Defence is engaged in considering is what is the force of the attack that may possibly be made on the Indian frontier? Then you have to take into account not only the force you may possibly have to resist on the Indian frontier, but the time which it must, in any circumstances, take the Russian Government to place that force there. Until you have got this point satisfactorily settled, no doubt it is impossible to say what is the actual size at which our Regular Army should be maintained. I admit, if your policy on the Indian frontier is sound, if you make due allowance for the time it must take for any hostile force to be placed on that frontier, if you have thought out the problem with these limitations, then you must have a Regular Army and Reserves large enough to defend the Indian frontier from attack in the first instance.
The Secretary of State for War will tell us that we must not only have men to put the Indian frontier in a state of defence in the first instance, but we must have a large number of men to keep up our supply. I suppose he would wish to have a larger number of men who are liable in any circumstances for fall service. Now here is my first departure from him in policy, and why I sympathise with the hon. Member for Tunbridge. I think in the question of Army reform the position of the Militia should have been reviewed, but it should have been reviewed in the opposite sense to which it has been reviewed by the Secretary of Stats for War. I should like to see the home-service Army placed on a Militia basis. As the hon. Member for Oldham says, you should assimilate the home-service Army to the Militia instead of assimilating the Militia to the Regular Army. You should make the Militia the foundation instead of making it the supplement—and much grudged supplement—of the home-service Army which you are thinking of establishing. You should give the Militia decent encouragement; but its position now is that of a force which is grudged by the Secretary of State for War, and of a force which, in no circumstances, is to be allowed to become too attractive, for fear that it should interfere with enlistment in the Regular Army. 176 Until you assign a better place to the Militia in the Army scheme it is impossible for the Militia to become a really great and important foundation of our military strength.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I might say by treating it in the opposite way to which the Secretary of State for War proposes to treat it.
There is another matter to which I attach still more importance. If you prepare for a great war such as the defence of the Indian frontier would be, you will require, not a moderate number of men, but a large and indefinite number. You will no doubt require a moderate number of well trained men to give security at the outset. But after that in a really great war you will need a large and indefinite number of men to give the country staying power. You cannot provide these men by increasing the number of the Regular troops or Reserves or even Militia in time of peace. You can never in that way produce the number of men you will need in a great war. What we shall have to do if we are ever engaged in a great war is to rely on our Navy and our Regular Army as prepared in time of peace to give us security at the outset, and then, to give ourselves staying power, to manufacture soldiers as the war goes on. I believe that is what Japan has been doing in the present war, and doing with conspicuous success. How are we to get these large numbers in time of war and as quickly as possible? We can only get them out of the Volunteers. That is why I think that a fatal mistake in the present proposals of the Secretary of State for War is the limitation he proposes to put on the number of the Volunteers. Of all forces, the Volunteers are the one that should be left unlimited —they should be encouraged without limit. We have plenty of raw material in this country, only a comparatively small proportion of which we can make into trained soldiers in time of peace. 177 But when they are put to it in war much depends upon how far we have encouraged them to prepare themselves in time of peace by military training. Nothing should be neglected, not even the most elementary training. Above all, you should put no limit on the numbers who will engage in the process of elementary training.
Why does the Secretary of State for War embark on this fatal policy of limiting the Volunteers? Because, he says, they are rooted to the soil, and, therefore, he assumes that they will be of no use for service abroad. I agree that the Volunteers, having undertaken no liability to serve abroad, are rooted to the soil in the sense that they will never encourage this country to embark on military policy; they will not be anxious to engage in a great war for a small cause, nor will they desire that such conditions should arise as would cause them to be asked to volunteer for service abroad. But, in a national emergency, they would come forward, and, I believe, freely, for service anywhere. The Secretary of State for War relies on the experience of the South African War as an indication that you cannot rely on the Volunteers in large numbers coming to the help of the country by serving abroad. The analogy is entirely misleading. I do not think they had a fair chance. They were asked to volunteer when the war was said to be over. But, above and apart from that, you cannot compare the South African War with such a war as that on the Indian frontier. The country assumed, no doubt, throughout the South African War that in the long run we must have success; and I trust that when we are engaged in another war the conditions under which that war is waged—the conditions of unreadiness and want of preparation—will never be so discouraging on the part of our Government as they were then. But the South African War will be no test of the spirit of the country if we were engaged in a really national emergency in defending the Indian frontier, and what the Volunteers have done in the past is no measure of what they may do in the future. They have never been encouraged in the past, in the sense of being made to feel 178 that the country would really depend upon them in time of stress. I think the Volunteers were regarded, certainly until recent years, as if they were a luxury, kept up and supported and encouraged by the Government to a certain limited extent, not for the sake of the country, but for their own sakes, because it was a healthy recreation for them to have a certain amount of military training. We have got a little beyond that now, because I think the Secretary of State for War does allot to them a really responsible position in his Army scheme, that of home defence. But if that home defence is to be a matter of five men in a dinghy, as described by my hon. friend, and we are to maintain 200,000 Volunteers, you cannot say that that is a very stimulating responsibility to lay upon them. They must feel more than that. The Volunteers, I think, must be made to feel that their system is a real system of national training, by means of which, if this country is ever attacked in a great war, either at home or abroad, the nation will be able to use all its resources and united energies for the defence of any part of the Empire.
What I think the Government ought to do is, without any limit of numbers, to concentrate their attention on physical development and the elementary training of as large numbers of the population as possible as Volunteers. A reasonable number of fully-trained men, as good as possible, we must have, no doubt; but to multiply those numbers of the Regular Army beyond a limited point is to do so at the expense of our staying power, at the expense of the Volunteers, and at the expense of our power of standing a strain in a really serious war. It is, I think, only by an encouragement of the Volunteers and by encouraging them in unlimited numbers, that we can prepare the nation for the strain of a really great war without laying upon it an intolerable annual burden of expenditure in time of peace. If you are going to limit your Volunteers, you will, sooner or later, drift into conscription. The real alternative to conscription is unlimited encouragement of the Volunteers. We are reproached from abroad, sometimes, that our hatred of conscription, which I believe to be a thoroughly healthy spirit, shows a lack of public spirit. We are against conscription 179 because, owing to our insular position and the strength of our Navy, we believe we can rely upon public spirit to undergo voluntarily some preparation however elementary, in time of peace. I differ entirely from the Secretary of State as to the value of the Volunteers. I believe if we make the country feel that we rely upon them as an organisation on which we shall depend for our staying power in time of war, then, not only can we do without conscription, but, in a national emergency, if we appeal to the Volunteers in that spirit, the response will be adequate to any strain that may be put upon the country.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I always listen to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman with interest and pleasure, and I thought that on this occasion I was going to have that pleasure added to, for I thought he was going to go a little further and adduce more constructive suggestions than he did, though I readily admit that it was not his duty to make those constructive suggestions to me.
I have heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and that of the hon. Member for Oldham with interest, but, I am bound to say, not with that degree of instruction which I had hoped to obtain from them. I confess I am impenitent after hearing all that the hon. Member and the light hon. Gentleman opposite had to say. I venture to trust that the hon. Member for Old-ham will not repeat his suggestion that I had promised large economies in the present year. I think I did quote, with perfect accuracy, on a previous occasion the actual words which I used. I said then, and I say again now, knowing what I knew last year and knowing what I know now, it would have been folly to have promised economies which I knew could not possibly be realised. I go back once more to the statement of fact that, as long as the House of Commons desires to have the whole of this great military paraphernalia kept up, they will have to pay for it. [An HON. MEMBER: Not all of it.] Let us realise what that negative means. We have been told over and over again by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that we are not to have any reduction of the Volunteer force.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Let us rule that, out of the argument for the moment. We have been told, I think, with equal emphasis by the hon. Member for Tunbridge that we, are to have no reduction of the Militia. Then it is perfectly obvious that if you are to have any reduction at all you are to have it on the Regular Army.
The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that I had proposed no reduction of the Regular Army. That, I think, was inexact. It is, in fact, very far from what I have proposed. I have proposed a reduction, in the Regular Army; but I have proposed a reduction which is consistent with the conditions which the right hon. Gentleman himself laid down as being those which ought to guide any prudent Minister contemplating what this country may have to face. I quite recognise that there has been, owing to circumstances with which we have had nothing to do, a détente in the pressure in the Far East. I also recognise with the right hon. Gentleman, who is well acquainted with foreign difficulties of this kind, that we must not count too much upon the permanent character of that détente, because the withdrawal of responsibility and effort from one quarter may mean the concentration of responsibility and effort on another.
But I am prepared to take the view that that change ought to lead, and may reasonably lead, to a relaxation of the effort which we have hitherto been making. That is the view I have always taken. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to contemplate this problem as it presents itself to me—not, as some hon. Members appeared to think, after some hasty reconsideration of the pamphlets of a past age, but after a real endeavour to ascertain what are all the available facts that are open to me as a Minister.
I think I understood the hon. Member for Oldham to ask why have the War Office, or the Government, not found 181 out before that the centre of gravity, so to speak, of our military structure now lies outside these islands? I think the answer is pretty plain. The whole science of defensive and offensive warfare at sea has been revolutionised. The Navy has been more than doubled in strength. I really find it difficult to argue these points with hon. Members who do not take into account the revolution in modern naval warfare; and when the hon. Member for Oldham speaks, not very definitely, but rather by way of suggestion or innuendo, in condemnation of the action of the Government in altering their policy with regard to the defence of London, I wonder if he really has taken into account what has happened with regard to the defence of this country at sea. I invite the hon. Member to go round that chain of fortifications outside London and to contemplate the arrangements that were made under different conditions for the defence of London. And then I invite him to transfer his activities to Portsmouth, to Chatham, or Sheerness, and see what has been put in the place of what has been abandoned. There has been a transformation of which only those who have followed it closely can have any conception. That is the reason why we have, without laying ourselves open to a charge of inconsistency, shifted the centre of gravity of our military edifice from this country to abroad.
The right hon. Gentleman says we are exaggerating the danger and the demands on the Indian frontier. That is not a question which I desire to discuss in any very great detail on this occasion, nor one that I think can with very great advantage be discussed in the House of Commons at all. But I would most emphatically say this, that the Government and the War Office are, in this matter, acting entirely in accordance with the advice and the recommendations and the demands of the Government of India. We are endeavouring to provide troops sufficient to meet the demands of the Government of India.
Two authorities have been impugned this afternoon. The Government are constantly made the object of criticism. But when we have criticism of equal 182 certainty directed against, not only the Government of India and the military administration of India, but against the Committee of Defence, which, after all, is manned, in spite of some derogatory remarks which have been made, by very competent and experienced soldiers and sailors, I think we are entitled to pause and ask whether they are not at least as likely to be right as any individual critic in the House of Commons. We are endeavouring to provide for the demands of the Indian Government in time of war. We know what was the number of Regular troops sent abroad in the South African War. It is perfectly certain that we shall not want a smaller number to provide for a war in India if ever we should be so unfortunate as to be engaged in one. If it is not less, if we assume it is even the same, what shall we have to do? We shall have to provide a force infinitely in excess of that which we have ever provided on any single occasion in our history except that of the South African War. We shall have to provide a large force in the field who will be pitted against a regular well-trained European army. We shall not only have to put it in the field, but we shall have to reinforce it and keep it adequately supplied; and if there is one lesson which, to my mind, was more clearly taught than another by the mobilisation at the commencement of the last war it was this, that, in order to mobilise satisfactorily and with advantage, you must have an ample number of units and an ample Reserve.
I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to contradict me when I say that if you follow the policy adumbrated by the hon. Member for Oldham, and put the Army back on a seven and five years basis of enlistment—even keeping the whole of the units of the Army at their present numbers—you will have a Reserve entirely inadequate to the demands of war in India. If you carry out the only line of retrenchment which the House apparently, as represented in this Committee, would allow, if you begin to cut down the units of the Regular Army, not only will you have a Reserve enormously diminished and utterly inadequate to the needs of the Army, but you will have a number of units which will be still more inadequate, 183 because the units are more important than the men. I would challenge any hon. or right hon. Gentleman who will go through these figures as I have gone through them to contradict that statement by any calculation he may choose to make. I have made the calculation over and over again, and I say the difficulty will be, not the enormous redundancy of units, but more probably that we shall be face to face with a deficiency of units when we are called upon to mobilise.
But the right hon. Gentleman said that you must reduce the Regular Army. That is exactly what I propose to do. I propose not to reduce units—I do not believe that is permissible—but to reduce upon the establishments and the cost of the existing units. That brings me to a remark made by the hon. Member for Oldham, and echoed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which is very significant. He said you are following a wrong line in endeavouring to make the Regular Army the basis of your territorial Army; that you ought to make the Militia the basis of the territorial Army. As a general principle I do not quarrel with that statement. I think less divides us than some hon. Members would perhaps suppose. But I will give my reason as clearly as I can for not accepting that conclusion. If you accept it you arc face to face with one of two alternatives. The question of cost will at once compel you to strike out of existence a large number of Line battalions. [OPPOSITION cries of "Hear, hear!"] I am with the hon. Member with regard to a limited number of those battalions on this condition—that you replace them by something as competent as that which you destroy. But if you are to keep the whole of the Regular battalions, not striking any out at all, you must put some of them on a lower establishment. Otherwise there is no diminution, and you at once have the Army Estimates up to £32,000,000 and; £33,000,000. I desire to keep those battalions. I desire to maintain intact, for instance, the 93rd Highlanders; I desire to keep the whole of these historical battalions in existence. [An HON. MEMBER: What about the fourteen Line battalions.] That does not refer 184 to the fourteen Line battalions. I think it would be possible to reduce those battalions provided we were satisfied that fourteen other battalions as good could take their places.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The object of the operation is to give an opportunity to battalions with a longer history and greater traditions of taking their places in a territorial organisation which would enable a wider distribution of territorial battalions to be made than is compatible with a continuance of the support of the four battalion regiments. But if you keep up the whole of the Line battalions you must pay the extra cost or reduce some of them in number. It is an entire fallacy to suggest that by doing so you are inflicting any disability on officers or men in these battalions. This is what I want the Committee to understand—that in creating short-service battalions you are in no way interfering with the prestige or amenities of the existing battalions. That can only be alleged by those who are not acquainted with the condition of the Army. There are battalions which have been abroad ten, fifteen, and in some cases twenty years; there are battalions linked at home for the same period. There are battalions now in this country composed of 400 or 500 men, of whom five sixths are short-service men, who do not go, and are not capable of going, outside this country at all. What difference is there, in the case of either officer or man, if he is in a battalion serving at home when he is unfit to go abroad and if he serves in a battalion abroad when he is fit to go abroad? It has been suggested that officers will select the long-service battalions in preference to the short. That is a misapprehension of any proposal made to the House. The proposal has been made that officers should do precisely what they do now—that they should be transferred from a battalion at home to a battalion abroad. But I seriously warn all my military friends that this is the only alternative to the destruction of the battalions themselves.
185 The hon. Member for Oldham—and his views are shared by others—thinks we might take the Militia as the entire material for our home Army.
I did not say that, I am sure you will always need to have a very considerable body of Regular troops in this country.
I quite understand that. When I said home Army I meant short-service Army. It is obvious that we must get a Reserve in some shape or another. I understand it was rather the view of the hon. Member that we ought to have a short-service Army, composed of the Militia, to reinforce the Regular Army in time of war.
Now let us see what that really means in practice. We have 124 battalions of Militia. The Militia are now serving for three months on enlistment and receiving one month's annual training. It would take the ordinary Militiamen some fifteen years to get the amount of training which the soldier enlisted for two years gets during his period of service, to say nothing of training afterwards, when he is called out in the Reserve. Are we to take the Militia as they are to form the active Reserve of the Regular Army abroad? There is absolutely no conflict of military opinion on this question—the general view both in Europe and America is that you cannot put troops into the field against a Regular Army with training such as the Militia gets. The case of the Boers is cited. I do not believe there can be a more certain way of confusing counsel than to introduce misleading analogies of the kind which we have heard. I speak of the Militiaman as I know him. Let me give a single fact about the Militia. It is about 90,000 strong. 35,000 recruits go into the Militia in the year, and, of course, necessarily that number, and indeed more, go out.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
That only strengthens my contention. So transient 186 is the condition of the Militia that 35,000 men go in in a single year and 35,000 men go out. The hon. Member for Lichfield reminds me that 15,000 of these mea go into the Army. My right hon. friend spoke about improving the Militia and making them something different. I would give a great deal to know how that process is to be accomplished in any other way than I have suggested.
I have suggested that the Militia should be put on a basis which would be self-contained; that it should be regarded as a substantive force; that it should be capable of being used for service abroad; that a man entering the Militia should do his service in the Militia. Whether you call it home Army or Militia I care not. I do not think that proposition is vitiated by the fact that a man in the Lancashire Militia or the third battalion of a Lancashire regiment happens to have a comrade who is serving in a battalion which now exists in the Regular Army. Apart from that course, what course can be taken? When hon. Gentlemen speak about these things as if they had to do with counters and figures, I cannot help thinking it would be a good thing if they could see what happens in the depots. I will tell them what happens. I know depots all over the country where 50, 60, or 70 per cent. of the men go into the Militia simply for the purpose of passing into the Line and do pass into the Line. I know battalions where seven out of eight of the subaltern officers are serving in the Militia with the sole purpose of going into the Line. Hon. Members may say that is a mistake and very wrong, and ask for some encouragement and some system I which will enable us to stop that flow from the Militia. Are you going to prevent Militiamen going into the Line? Put up that notice outside the regimental depot. You will not get recruits for the Militia. Give some additional inducement to the Militiaman that will keep him in the Militia. You will lose instantantly 15,000 recruits per annum for the Line, and probably more — 20,000 recruits for the Line. Will any one get up and contest that? It is the inevitable result which must follow any treatment such as I have suggested.
187 Then we are told that we can by lengthening the training produce troops fit to take the field against a foreign army. Now is that a fact? What is the composition of the Militia? The boys are taken at seventeen. The other day I was analysing what would happen if you could take sixteen Militia battalions of the average strength of 800 apiece. I could not find them in any one district, but supposing I could, and supposing I had to send two divisions to India and had to deal with sixteen battalions of Militia. You would have to take out 5,400 men who are disqualified before the battalions start. That is out of sixteen battalions alone. That is not all. You cannot fill up the Militia battalions under the present system as you can the Line battalions. Every Line battalion leaves behind it, when it mobilises, a large number of men who are unfit for the field; but every month there are men coming on to qualify for service in the field in that battalion. That is not so in the Militia. When you eliminate the unfit men from the Militia battalion you have to wait one, two, three years before the men grow up to the modest age standard which we exact for the boys who are sent to India. No, I will submit this problem to as much cross-examination as the Committee chooses to apply to it, and I will abide by the result. I say you cannot, under the existing system, safely trust the fortunes of this country to the Militia, under their present organisation. I will ask the Committee, and the Militia Members of the Committee to meet me squarely and fairly on that point and tell me whether I am wrong I will ask them to produce to me some charm by which under the present system they can create a fighting force out of the Militia without injuring or almost destroying recruiting for the Line.
It is said that we may do a great deal by increasing the period of training. I think in this matter at any rate, we shall have to be guided a little by military experience; and I will ask any hon. Member to produce to me a military authority who will agree with the proposition that we can put into the field against a foreign enemy men with five or six months training. Do not let us be deceived by the proposition that the mere efflux of time will enable us to 188 transform this material into really fighting material. All the great armies of the world are made up of men representing the manhood of the nations to which they belong; and if we analysed or examined the condition of our Militia battalions as they exist we should find that what was left in them, after they had furnished their quota of 60 or 70 per cent, of their strength to the Line, could not, even by the wildest stretch of imagination, be described as representing the manhood or the flower of this nation. I do not hesitate to say that there are Militia battalions which six months training, or a year or two years training, cannot so transmogrify or transform that they will become what they must become if they are to contend successfully with the flower of other nations.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northumberland took a very strong view about the Volunteers, and I think that in that instance, though in that alone, he did me some little injustice. I am an advocate and a strong advocate, of the reduction of the establishment of Volunteers; but I do not think he need attribute to me all those sinister motives or want of comprehension of our military dangers which he did attribute to me. I have evidence before me, ample, complete, convincing, not from those misguided, uninformed persons the officers of the Regular Army, not from stubborn uninformed civilians like myself, but from Volunteer officers and officers attached to Volunteer battalions, evidence which is irrefutable, as to the condition of the Volunteer battalions. I quoted to the House only a night or two ago a statement made by a Volunteer officer that out of the 20,000 Volunteers who selected, themselves and came forward in time of emergency for service in the field in South Africa—and I say all honour to them for so doing—33 per cent. were set aside as inefficient and incapable of serving. Now remember that that 33 per cent, has to be deducted not from the whole Volunteer force, but from the 20,000 men who had chosen themselves, presumably men free from all disability, to come forward and serve the country.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
Is the right hon. Gentleman quite sure about his figures? The figures of the Inspector-General of Recruiting for 1901 do not bear them out.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
No. I gather from the statements that I have before me that the figures are not strong enough. I think they are understated. Thirty-three per cent. of these selected men were unfit to take the field. Now, when you take the remainder, and calculate those who by age are disqualified, those whose occupations naturally prevent them from going out, those who have no inclination to go, and those who, not having presented themselves, are also physically unfit, I think you may see what an enormous reduction we must make from this force if we are to make it a real, vital contribution to the defence of the country. My hon. friend doubted my figures, but I have before me evidence a great deal stronger than that. Here is the evidence given by Major-General McKinnon himself. Hs was asked—Do you mean that of the men from the various battalions who came before you as being material to compose the C.I.V., 40 per cent, were not physically fit?and he replied—I mean that out of the number of Volunteers who were serving in the Home District in 1899 I do not think more than 60 per cent, were fit for service abroad; and I think that is, if anything, rather a high estimate.Then there was Captain Jenner, of the King's Royal Rifles and adjutant 3rd London Volunteer Rifle Corps. He was asked—What percentage of your corps do you think should be weeded out—half?—No, I should not think quite half.A third?—Certainly a third I should think.Then there was Colonel Mathias, commanding the 75th Regimental District at Aberdeen—but I ought not to quote him, because he is not a Volunteer officer. [Cries of "Quote."] Well, I will do so—We have had it put before us that in a good many cases, due to youth, and also to want of physical fitness, a large number of Volunteers would have to be weeded out if you wanted 190 them to take the field?—Undoubtedly, in town corps.Brigadier-Surgeon Lieutenant-Colonel A. Clark, senior medical officer of the 3rd London Volunteer Infantry Brigade, representing the Volunteer Medical Association, was asked—What sort of proportion do you suppose would crack up under these conditions (conditions of war)?—I daresay quite 40 per cent. would if you took all the Volunteers.I quoted the other day a well-known Volunteer officer who said that if a proper medical inspection had been applied whole battalions would have been wiped out.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Well, I am very sorry I cannot always please my hon. and gallant friend. I have quoted these figures in justification of my view that it cannot be any disadvantage to the Volunteer force or to the country to make a great consolidation of the force. The right hon. Gentleman said that that is the same proportion as in the Regular Army.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I said that if you reduced the numbers the same proportion of those who remained would probably be unfit—too young or too old.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
On the contrary; when you want to eliminate that class of recruits, in the first place you raise the standard, which we have done; and secondly, you eliminate those who, under a medical inspection, are found to be unfit. It is the fact that medical inspection is the rarest possible event after entry into the Volunteers.
§ *MR. McCRAE
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us some proof of that? In every Volunteer regiment I know each man must undergo a medical examination before he is enlisted.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol, E.)
As officer commanding a Volunteer regiment I have every recruit inspected by the medical officer. He has to fulfil the standard requirements before I take him into the corps.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
That is precisely my point. You get a very perfunctory examination in many cases, I am sorry to say. I am only stating what a multitude of witnesses have said; and they have said, if there is any meaning in their expressions at all, that so little value is this preliminary examination that when the forces are tested for the purposes of war you have to eliminate 30, 40, 50 per cent. of the men not of the whole force, but of the men who actually come forward and offer themselves.
Now is it a fair thing to say that I am moved by any destructive spirit or regardless of the welfare either of the Volunteers or the country when I say that we may with advantage make some consolidation, some concentration of the Volunteer force? No, Sir, I think that is nonsense. I am not at all influenced by the hostile feeling which I know my hon. friend the Member for Sheffield thinks I entertain; but I do find that many Volunteer officers do not merely not altogether see eye to eye with him, but tell me that I must not regard him in this matter as wholly representative of the entire Volunteer force.
I end where I began. [Cheers.] Yes, Sir, that is my point. I have not the slightest reason for altering the conclusion which I had already announced to the House; and my conclusion is this—that if you are to have an Army fit for the purposes of the only kind of war we are going to undertake you must provide that Army under the rules which govern all armies with regard to efficiency. You must make the men efficient. You must get the proper quality of men and give them a proper amount of training. It is not reasonable, when all is said and done, to keep up large bodies of troops in this country which are not by law available for war. It is no more profitable to keep up large bodies of troops in this country which, though nominally available for war, yet by reason of their physical incapacity or want of training cannot be produced in time of war. Lastly, I would say that if you are to have the economy which we all desire you will find it, I believe, only on the lines which I have indicated.
I have been told that I suggested no economies. I think that is rather an ungrateful remark, because if hon. 192 Members would read the statement by which I prefaced the Estimates they would see that I have fulfilled to the letter the promise I gave that I would render it easier in future for economy to be effected. We are eliminating a large number of men from the Army, but you cannot get rid of them at once. We are replacing a large number of inefficient men by a smaller number of efficients. Broadly, you can only reduce the cost of the Army by reducing a portion of the Army to a lower establishment; and that is the final issue between hon. Members and myself. They are in favour of destroying a portion of the Regular Army and of relying instead on the Auxiliary Forces, without being willing to prepare those Auxiliary Forces in such a way as will enable them for all purposes to take the place of the troops of the Line. That is an opinion which I do not agree with, and which I have endeavoured to avoid in these proposals; and I wait for any serious? Proposal which will achieve the two results we all desire—maintenance of efficiency and economy—on other lines, than those I have suggested.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester shire, Forest of Dean)
said the right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his speech touched on subjects of such importance to the future of the country that he would make no apology for hardly naming those with which he dealt in his concluding remarks. The Volunteers played in connection with this whole question of the Army a somewhat disproportionate part in the House. The cost of the Volunteers was small compared with the cost of the Regular Army, and whatever solution might be come to on the particular problem of the Volunteers would not greatly affect the difficulties of the Army question. The only observation which he would make with regard to the Volunteers was in reference to the word "consolidation." which the Secretary of State for War had twice repeated. That was a word which had a history. When Mr. Disraeli was reproached with having abandoned the Turkish Empire, and allowed it to be reduced in strength and territory, he employed the term "consolidation." Turkey lost Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia, the boundaries of Servia were extended, and Greece 193 and Montenegro were enlarged, but Mr. Disraeli would never admit that the Turkish Empire had suffered anything but consolidation. The term "consolidation" when applied to the Volunteers, was used to represent a certain reduction in numbers. But he was not going to deal now with the question of the Volunteers.
When the Secretary of State for War, basing himself on the views of the blue-water school, which had now been adopted by the Cabinet, expressed doubt as to the wisdom of the comparatively small expenditure incurred on account of the Volunteers an inconsistency could be noted which they remarked also last year, namely, that more Government support was now to be given to rifle clubs which consisted of persons who were not under military discipline at all. That was inconsistent with the doctrine of the blue-water school. In regard to that doctrine he entirely agreed with the greater portion of the speech of his hon. friend the Member for Oldham. The Government, with the zeal of converts, had carried the doctrine of the blue-water school further than ever before; and when the Secretary for War said on Wednesday last that this was a mere reversion to the doctrine of the past, he must remember that in the days of Pitt, and of our naval supremacy, the Government encouraged the Volunteers and raised between 300,000 and 400,000 of them. But the reason why he wished to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War concerned the most grave matter treated in the earlier portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. This was a matter which they ought to discuss with a feeling that they were dealing with that which lay at the root of the whole military problem.
What struck him was a certain contradiction between the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman addressed to the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman said that as regarded India, he was prepared to allow, with the right hon. Member for the Berwick Division of Northumberland. that recent circumstances had justified some relaxation in the efforts which hitherto we had been making; and the Secretary for War went on to tell the Committee two things. 194 One, which he twice repeated, was that we were to comply with the demands of the Government of India, and that was loudly cheered by the Secretary for India, who was not always so free in applauding the Secretary for War. And then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that we would not want in the case of any future war on the Indian frontier a less force than was sent out to South Africa, and that that force should consist wholly, or nearly wholly, of troops trained to meet a foreign enemy. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that the Government were prepared to face the country with a demand for sending to India 300,000 or 350,000 trained soldiers? Where were they to put them? Whew were these trained soldiers to go to? Was the intention put before the Committee and the country a fear that some day a state of things would arise in India when a force of 300,000 to 350,000 men would be needed in that country itself to repulse an actual invasion? The Prime Minister last year rejected that idea; he said the problem was not the defence of India, but the defence of the frontier of Afghanistan. But no human creature imagined that any Power in the world could provide transport by which the deserts of Afghanistan could be crossed in such strength. That was agreed. And when the right hon. Gentleman talked of sending to India a force as large as was required in South Africa there must be something in the future—an imaginary state of things which had not come into our sight.
The Secretary for War justified all the demands that might be made on our Regular forces by the Indian Government. The Indian Government, like all Governments dealing with only one portion of the Empire, having exclusive regard to the needs of that particular portion of the Empire, made demands on the Home Government which the Home Government, taking into view the conditions of the Empire as a whole, was unable to accept. For generations the Indian Government had been pointing out to us that Afghanistan might be attacked; and that it was difficult to fulfil our obligations to Afghanistan if we had to contemplate counterstroke against Russia on the spot by a Regular force sent 195 to Afghanistan. Were the Government contemplating a programme which no responsible soldier had said could be carried through successfully? It was not possible for this country to place upon the Russian frontier or in the neighbourhood of Herat a force superior to what Russia could bring. And he did not think that Russia would ever venture into such a hornet's nest, or if she did, this country would have a long time in which to prepare for action. When Indian soldiers had been seriously tackled on this subject; when the matter had been seriously discussed by competent persons, they had always admitted the impossibility of Russia crossing these deserts in the face of a hostile population unless she were accompanied by her railway, step by step. The suggestion of the Secretary for War that we should be prepared with a force larger than was sent to South Africa—a force of 300,000 or 350,000—for the defence of the Indian frontier was one which would not bear investigation for a single moment.
He agreed very closely to everything said on this subject by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northumberland, except one single phrase. As he understood him, that right hon. Gentleman said that in India we must await attack. Now, he considered that that was to concede too much to those who argued against us on the other side, and admitted that we could not safely stand by and do nothing and see Afghanistan eaten up by Russia.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
said that the right hon. Baronet was now dealing with the outbreak of a war. He thought he was speaking of the difference between the forward policy and the maintenance of the stutus quo as a policy before the outbreak of the war.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said he did not now think there was any difference between the right hon. Baronet and himself. He thought it would be a fatal thing to divide Afghanistan with Russia. Our safety lay in the transport difficulties. And in "unofficial war" or by alliances undoubtedly we should be compelled to resist Russia before she reached that point. No sane soldier would say that 196 we could cross these Afghan deserts in the strength which had been mentioned. This matter was of enormous importance, because the Government vouched the Indian difficulty as the sole reason for measuring the strength of the Regular Army. His right hon. friend the Member for Northumberland said that although it was not the sole demand, it was the measure of the demand; and if we were to comply with the demand of the Indian Government in this respect we thus met all other demands. The Government presented different and inconsistent arguments to the Committee. When any suggestion was raised that it was possible to make any reduction in the force of the Regular Army at home the Indian difficulty was presented; but when any scheme wag presented to increase the availability of the Militia force then the Indian argument receded into the background. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War said that the Militia was a force not capable of being used against a European army in its present form; and the right hon. Gentleman disparaged the Swiss Militia army.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that what he had argued was that the Swiss army was not trained for foreign enterprises, but purely for home defence.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said he did not wish to say anything in the way of disparagement of the Militia. It was of vast importance to this country that we should come as near as possible to an agreement with a view to the adoption of a well thought-out scheme. The Secretary for War—though he might not have intended to do it—seemed to disparage the Militia. The view on that side of the House was not uniform. He believed that the Militia in an improved form might be of great service abroad; but that an improved Militia should be barred from service in India was an admission he could not make. It had always been recognised that in the garrisons of the Indian stations a very large force could be liberated by troops not of the first order, and there were many on that side of the House who were prepared to support a scheme for improving the Militia not as a second 197 string to the War Secretary's bow for service abroad, but as the main portion of his territorial Army. In these debates in relation to India, he thought that nothing should be said to weaken our diplomacy by showing alarm. He could not but think that some of the things said last year in the House and in the Press had led to a pessimistic treatment of the problem which was not required by the circumstances of the case. The Indian danger had not increased, for it was admitted by the Secretary of State for War that there was ground for some relaxation from the efforts we had been making on the subject.
He was very sorry to hear what had been said by an hon. Gentleman opposite in the military debate last week as to the defence of India being confided to the Asiatic troops of an ally. That was a suggestion which had been taken up by responsible and weighty organs in the Press. It was one which, having been made, should be repudiated. He had the greatest possible admiration for the magnificent courage displayed by the troops of the Japanese Army; and although he was opposed to permanent alliances, yet it must be admitted that the majority had either agreed in or acquiesced in the policy of an alliance with Japan. But in the peculiar problem we had to face in defence of India, for Heaven's sake, it should not go forth to the world that we were dependent upon an alliance with Japan. We should be dependent upon our own right arm, and India must be defended by ourselves. Pressure upon India was relaxing and was likely to be relaxed still more by the attack upon Russia by an allied country, and it was certain that no sane Government in Russia would run the enormous risk of plunging into a hornet's nest in Afghanistan for the chance of embarrassing us at so great a distance from her frontier. She would have to be prepared for any alliances that we might make, for a loss of credit entailed by such an operation, for the financial disaster which might be produced, and she would have to count in the future on the certain hostility of Afghanistan. Russia would have to count also upon our support of Afghanistan with money and officers, and it would be 198 sheer lunacy on the part of the directors of Russian policy if Russia were led to attempt an attack upon India through Afghanistan. In any case it must be a slow action, needing years to accomplish.
No one could pretend that there was absolute agreement on both sides of the House among those who had given attention to this problem. He agreed with nine-tenths of what the hon. Member for Oldham had said, although he did not agree with him, that it was now possible to revert to the particular terms of military service which he had suggested in his speech. The clinging of many critics to what they called the Cardwell system was to be explained by the fact that it was a scientific and well thought-out policy. But it was now a humpty-dumpty, it had been knocked down and could not be set up again. The conditions had been changed by the South African War, by the rates of pay which had affected recruiting, and they had been essentially changed by the general recognition by the Government and the country of what might be called the doctrines of the blue-water school. On the other hand, it should be remembered that it was an essential position of the Cardwell plan to take the Militia completely into account. Lord Cardwell did so, and in the degree that this force had not been taken into account by the present military authorities they had departed from the Cardwell plan. The Secretary for War had developed in his speech the doctrines of the blue-water school to the ultimate degree, and it was a little hard upon those who were not very nimble in these matters that two years ago the Government should be scolding them because they held and enforced the same doctrines which the Government were now pushing almost to an extreme. Personally he had been a constant supporter of the blue-water view for many years, though he had never alleged that it followed they should reject such service as was obtained from the Volunteers at home. They ought to try to adopt in a higher or less degree the doctrine of the blue-water school, and he did not concur with those who desired to put in a saving clause against it. It was certainly curious that the Government had adopted the 199 extreme view of that school within the last year or fifteen months, after having wasted enormous sums of public money on the opposite view during the last fifteen or twenty years. Indeed, the Government had adopted the blue-water view at the moment when a little doubt was being thrown upon it by the doctrines of scientific men. There was no doubt that ten years ago, when many of them were pressing the Government on this matter, the possibility of patrol of the Channel in time of war was much more complete than it would be in the future. There could be no doubt that for men who took great risks, the changes of the last few years had gone rather against the blue-water school view. He was, however, glad that the Government had adopted this view, although they had adopted it a little late in the day.
He said that he attached importance to the Militia, and to the Volunteers a more indirect importance, inasmuch as the Volunteer force encouraged the patriotic spirit in providing individual men who might be expected to volunteer in time of war. Although he would not undertake a vast expenditure upon the Volunteers, he thought that in that way they did make a return for the expenditure made upon them. With regard to the Militia, he believed they might be improved and made the basis of our home force. He confessed that he was unable to follow what was the state of mind of the Government on the Militia question. On February 21st, in the House of Lords, the Under-Secretary stated that no decision had been come to as to the future organisation of the Militia and that the question was still open. Two days afterwards the Secretary for War said his policy continued to be to ally a portion of the Regular Army with the Militia as the territorial Army of this country. The view that was generally taken on that side was not so much that the Militia should be so allied, but that they should make that force the basis of the home territorial Army. It was natural, at all event, that they should try to do so, since the Militia had those territorial associations which it was desired to create in the artificial scheme for the Home Army which had been evolved. The Secretary for War, in maintaining 200 the view that only Regular troops should be considered as cadres for war, told them that no great Power would put into the field men trained for less than five or six months; yet undoubtedly that had been done by the Japanese in the present war in the Far East, and it was done by the Prussians in 1870. He fully admitted the importance of esprit de corps and territorial feeling in such cases, and he maintained that they would get a higher degree of that feeling in the Militia than in any newly created territorial battalions
It was unfortunate that year after year Army Estimates were made which were provisional, Estimates which admittedly would involve us in large waste. For years past these provisional Estimates had been presented, and the expenditure had increased and the promises of reductions had not been kept. The Secretary of State now put his pledge of reductions a little less high than the Committee would be likely to put it. Last year he understood the Secretary of State for War to take up and reaffirm that promise of reduction; on the other hand, these provisional Estimates had involved large waste, which could not be and was not denied. The House was in this position—that it had no very definite scheme before it now, and that even if a change of Government took place, provisional Estimates would be introduced again next year, it being impossible for a fresh scheme to be prepared so soon. And yet there were being decided matters of policy which involved great changes in the Estimates, whether provisional or not, and marked the waste which had occurred. Some of those were matters which had been mentioned already; he would refer only to the change which the full adoption of the view of the blue-water school had made in regard to expenditure upon fortifications—bricks and mortar. Up to this year the country had been spending enormous sums of money upon garrison artillery and the protection, of places by fortifications which were now to be forthwith abandoned. One reduction which the Government had decided upon, and the House of Commons as a whole accepted, was a large diminution of the garrison artillery. It was said that there were far too many garrison artillery. But the garrison artillery had been 201 increased constantly within the last few years.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said he understood the Secretary of State to say that he intended to reduce the Militia regiments of garrison artillery. Those Militia regiments had to be considered as equivalent to regiments of Regular garrison artillery, as they were used for the defence of fortresses.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
pointed out that the bulk of Regular garrison artillery were maintained for service abroad, while the Militia garrison artillery were solely for the purposes of defence at home. That was a very marked difference.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said a large amount of the reduction must apply to fortresses abroad, because the whole of the fortresses in the West Indies were being abandoned.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
was understood to say that that represented a very small reduction in numbers.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that at any rate it was very large in expenditure. The Government had admitted that in military expenditure alone, under the Military Works Acts now running—and there had been enormous naval expenditure, as well as expenditure out of Votes—£400,000 had been spent upon four only of those stations within the last few years. At St. Lucia alone over £133,000 had been spent in the last three years out of Military Works Acts alone and the Naval Expenditure at St. Lucia in the last few years had been over half a million sterling. The garrison was now withdrawn. This sudden change of policy was not one accompanied by a change of Government; it had been made under the auspices of the same Cabinet Committee of Defence, and the questions had been considered by the same joint body of the Army and the Navy, under the presidency of the same Prime Minister. 202 The sudden change was a complete reversal of a system whish had involved the country in enormous expenditure during the last three or four years.
Let the House consider how unsatisfactory was its position, and how provisional these Estimates were. At the time of the general election, during the war, it was universally admitted that the Army was in a most unsatisfactory condition; that view was confirmed by the Report of the War Commission, and by the admissions of two Secretaries of State for War and two Commanders-in-Chief. Revolutions were promised. A change was made, involving considerable cost. A second change followed. All the time the Estimates were wholly provisional. Since the last general election there had not been presented to the House Military Estimates containing anything that was not provisional, or anything in the nature of a complete and well thought-out system. Those who, like himself, agreed in many points with the Secretary of State for War, and who were prepared to give him the highest praise for the energy and ability of the attempt he had made to improve the system, were bound to admit that—whether the right hon. Gentleman had been thwarted by the Cabinet or the Army Council they did not know; whatever the difficulty had been, it was not the House of Commons—they were again faced with Estimates as provisional as were those of last year, and the Secretary of State now declared that in eight or nine months he would begin to take the steps necessary for getting a different system, which meant that the Estimates next year would also be provisional.
What had been the defence of the Government when their attention had been directed to these constant changes and the consequent waste. In another place a few days ago, when it was pointed out that enormous sums had been spent under the system now to be abandoned, the Under-Secretary of State for War said he—Fancied it was part of a scheme of military and naval policy.So that this large expenditure had been incurred right up to the present year upon a supposed military 203 and naval policy, upon the very opposite of which the House was now asked to embark by the same Prime Minister and the same Committee of Defence. He had made these observations mainly because he felt certain that the arguments of the Secretary of State for War upon the Indian problem were the most important the Government were likely to adduce, that on them were based the requirements as to the number of men in the Regular Army, and that they would not bear investigation by the House. He hoped the Prime Minister would be pressed in the course of the debate to show how he reconciled the proposals now made with the arguments he adduced last year on the Indian problem. Personally he believed the Indian danger was enormously exaggerated on that occasion for the purposes of the debate, though he fully admitted that if they were to be guided only by the opinion of Indian experts and of the Commander-in-Chief in India they would always be asked for far more troops than it was possible or necessary for this country to provide. The question could not be decided by expert Indian opinion; it must be determined here on its merits. The Prime Minister must be asked to discuss the conditions of the problem and to show where was the suddenness of the need. He certainly preferred the admission of the Secretary of State to-day that there was a decrease in the urgency of that problem to the alarmist view put before the House last year by the Prime Minister.
§ MAJOR EVANS GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
said that with regard to the Volunteers he agreed with the Secretary of State for War that it was absurd to obtain enormous numbers of men, a considerable proportion of whom were known to be efficient only on paper, and at the same time to starve the Volunteers in regard to matters which were admitted on all hands to be necessary to render them efficient as a fighting force. As to the statement that in the days of Pitt the Volunteer force was enormously strengthened, and that that was the time of our greatest naval supremacy, he pointed out that our naval supremacy was not reached until after the Battle of Trafalgar, when Pitt 204 was almost on his deathbed. Invasion had been threatened all through Pitt's career, and it was owing to that threat that the Volunteers were so enormously increased.
With regard to the Indian danger, he thought the right hon. Baronet's view was far too optimistic. What Russia was doing in Manchuria was enormously more difficult than anything she would have to do if she attempted to invade India. In recent years Russia had made an enormous advance into Central Asia, and established herself there in immense strength. The "soft side" of Afghanistan could be invaded by Russia at any moment without any really serious opposition being possible on the part of the Afghans themselves. If an attack were made on India by Russia it was clear that an enormous number of troops would be required, both on the frontier and in India itself. 350,000 men might not be wanted all at once, but to keep up what would undoubtedly be a long and costly war great numbers of men would be required, and he agreed with the Secretary of State that that possible demand must be contemplated. The right hon. Gentleman's scheme was to provide an Army for service abroad, and by a short-service Army at home to turn into the Reserves numbers of really trained men, who would be available if any such demand arose. It would be impossible for us to await the attack on the Indian side of the passes into Afghanistan; a forward policy would have to be adopted, and the only way in which such an attack could be successfully met would be on the Candahar line. It should be remembered that India might be invaded also by the Persian route, and that in Persia Russia had obtained a predominant position. When all these things were taken into account he could not understand the attitude of the right hon. Baronet in looking upon the invasion of India by Russia as a dream and a delusion. He only hoped that no responsible Minister would ever take so optimistic a view; to do so would be to court the gravest disaster.
With regard to the Militia, he was one of those who believed that the 205 original scheme put forward by the Secretary of State for War was the best. General Turner was often quoted as a great authority upon matters connected with the Volunteers and the Militia, and he had given it as his deliberate opinion, after studying the scheme put forward originally by the Secretary of State for War, that the sixty battalions to be constructed out of the Militia would be worth the whole of the existing force put together. He deplored the change and regretted that the original scheme had not been adopted. With regard to the improvements, if the Secretary of State's scheme was to be rejected then it was clear that, judging from the views that had been expressed by everyone who gave evidence on this question, the Militia must be improved. They were all agreed upon that point. He had never heard how the Militia was to be improved. The six months training, if that were adopted, would be sure to have a marked effect upon recruiting for the Militia. Were they going to get them to enlist for six months? He did not know where they would get the men, but if they did they would be setting up a competitive enlistment with the Line. He thought the first thing they should do was to make the Regular Army as efficient as possible, and not set up any competitive enlistment. If the Militia kept improving upon these lines, and could be got to come up for six months training, by all means let it be done, but he doubted whether it would be found possible to adopt that scheme.
He joined with the right hon. Gentleman opposite in congratulating the Secretary for War upon the many improvements he had made, and upon the many good ideas he had put forward in his various schemes. The Secretary of State for War seemed to be placed in the position of talking very much for himself, and they knew from his writings what his views were. He confessed, however, that he should be glad to know what were the views of the Prime Minister and the Government upon this important question.
§ *CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
said the entire course of this debate went to prove that the Government had trifled 206 in the most barefaced manner with this House and the country in the matter of Army reform. At the time of the South African War they were asked to have a little patience until the Government had got over some of the difficulties with which they were surrounded at that time. Some time elapsed, and then a scheme of Army reform was brought forward which provided for three Array Corps for service abroad and three Army Corps for the defence of this country. That scheme was thrown aside, and then the Government gladly adopted what had been called the blue-water theory. He belonged to the blue-water school, but not to the blue-water school run mad, which was what was being placed before the House at the present moment. They were told that there was no object in keeping any force in this country for the purposes of defence. He would like to ask the Prime Minister whether he meant that, in the event of there being any complications such as had been referred to in India or elsewhere, there was any guarantee that in the event of a portion of our Navy being employed convoying troops to India or elsewhere they could rely absolutely upon all the navies of Europe taking no advantage of the position in which this country would then be placed. The idea was ridiculous.
He wished to draw attention to what they were promised. He would like to ask would the present Government have been the Government of the country to-day if a few years ago they had told the people that at this period the Secretary of State for War would have brought forward Estimates not only as large but larger than ever they had been before in time of peace; and coupled with that they would have a reduction of the Army. The present Secretary of State for War a year ago published a Memorandum and what were the main points of it. Upon the very first page he said that his duty was to provide a remedy for the evils that existed; not a remedy for one, but for all the evils complained of, and for excessive expenditure as well. Had he carried out those proposals? The next thing he put before them in the same circular was the great desirability of providing employment for the men after they were discharged. The 207 right hon. Gentleman said that one of the great difficulties of enlisting men for a long period of service was that of finding employment for them upon their discharge. He had told them that it was most desirable that every man enlisting for a long term of service should be practically certain of employment at the end of that term provided there was nothing against his character. The right hon. Gentleman also called their attention to the value of professional officers in time of war, and to the scarcity of junior officers.
What had he done to meet those requirements? In regard to junior officers he had met the difficulty by what he would venture to call the snobbery and jobbery methods of offering commissions in the Foot Guards and cavalry of the Line to any young men who happened to come forward, without any educational test whatever, providing they had a certain yearly income. That was what he had laid down as being vital to achieve this reform in the Army. His proposals this year included a proposal to reduce the Army immediately by some 7,000 men, and at the close of the year to reduce it by no fewer than twenty battalions, or 17,000 men, which meant an economy of about £180,000 out of £29,000,000; and they had to submit to this paltry economy in order to be deprived of twenty battalions of the Regular Army. He told them that the Militia was practically useless unless it had longer training and a larger number of trained officers, but notwithstanding that he took the full amount of money in the Estimates; the right hon. Gentleman had made no provision for that longer training or for remedying the scarcity of officers. While showing by these Estimates that there was only a reduction of £180,000, he showed at the same time that we were short of quick-firing guns to such an extent that an adequate supply would not be forthcoming until the year 1908. He also showed in the same paragraph that the reserve of artillery was almost infinitesimal and was far below what it should be, namely, at least 20 per cent. The conclusion of the second Report would be utterly delightful and ridiculous if it wore not so serious, for it wound up with an apology, showing 208 that what he had led the House to expect last year they were not to have this year and that it was all in abeyance. They were to save a sum of £180,000 and spend £29,000,000 and this after the right hon. Gentleman had pledged himself to a substantial reform. He had told them that the following were to be held in abeyance:—The addition of Reserve officers, short-service battalions, the creation of nineteen additional territorial units, the territorialising of the short-service battalions, and even the creation of this much talked of striking force. In other words he told them that all he advocated last year and upon which the country to some extent must have relied was to be left in abeyance. He ventured to assert that if the right hon. Gentleman last year had told the House and the country that the Estimates for this year would be just as large as last year; that they would have 17,000 men less; and that coupled with this state of things they would be destitute of quick-firing guns and without a sufficient supply of the most modern rifles, and in fact be in a worse position than they had been in for the past ten years as a fighting force, he did not think the Government would have been occupying the Treasury Bench to-day.
The right hon. Gentleman began his speech some days ago by stating that complaint might be made that he was not going fast enough. Their complaint was that he was not going at all, and that he had not carried out any of the propositions which he laid down last year. He had done this in the face of the words he had just read, in which the right hon. Gentleman pledged himself to economy and stated that he would not stand at that box if he thought in any future year he would be obliged to bring forward such formidable Estimates. He used words to thate ffect, and he said the other day that he was not pledged to large expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman thought of a change in our military system, but what was that change? He had seen no change in the military system and he saw nothing he had done, with the exception, of some very simple practical Departmental improvements. There had been some slight improvement in the Army Medical Department and in the Army Veterinary Department. He had handed over the 209 aquatic defences of our ports to the Navy, and some fortresses to the Canadian Government, but outside these very small measures he saw no very broad change in our military policy. True, the right hon. Gentleman put changes before the country and led the people to believe that they were going to be carried out, but as for making any change in the military system, or any reduction of the Estimates worthy of the name, nothing of the kind had taken place.
The right hon. Gentleman said he had six Armies to deal with, and how had he dealt with them. The first was the British Army in India, and he would tell the House how the Army in India had been dealt with. He made no attack upon the Secretary of State for War in this matter, for he only regarded him as the mouthpiece of the present Government. The Government had succeeded in placing the British Army in India in the very worst position which it had ever occupied. Last year some 4,000 or 5,000 men went out as reliefs who were altogether unfitted for the task, for they were men who were physically unfit, and who in years were immature. At the present moment the class of men serving in the Army in India were constantly to the extent of 25 per cent, in hospital. He ventured to assert that in the event of that Army being required to be placed upon the Afghan frontier another 25 per cent. would certainly vanish before they could be placed in that position. That was what the Government had done for the British Army in India. As for the Home Army, the right hon. Gentleman had reduced it by 17,000. With reference to the Militia the result of his action was to injure that force most materially. [An HON. MEMBER: How?] He would give the hon. Member the words used by the Director-General of Recruiting, who knew something about this? He asserted that a large number of recruits joined the Militia solely with the intention of going into the Line; that this had done much to popularise the service, and that the process no doubt would continue.
§ *CAPTAIN NORTON
said he would tell the right hon. Gentleman if he would exercise a little patience. The right hon. Gentleman had held a sword over the Militia. He had told them that they were absolutely worthless. How could any commanding officer take an interest in his regiment if he was told that the Militia were absolutely useless and that they ought to be abolished? The Militia was really the very best recruiting ground we had for the Army. It was known that out of a strength of 90,000 they took some 35,000 recruits annually, and of these 15,000 passed into the Army. These men could never have been obtained for the Army if the Militia had not trained and fed them and given them time to mature.
§ *CAPTAIN NORTON
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to tell me that the Militia does not give to the Regular service 15,000 recruits annually?
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Yes, sir. The hon. Gentleman said that the Militia fed and trained them. A very large proportion never go into the Militia at all. They never see a Militia regiment or officer. They go straight into the Army from the depôt in thousands.
§ *CAPTAIN NORTON
said he was well aware that a large proportion of men did not go into the Militia, but he maintained that a large number did go into that force. They served two or three years in the Militia, and, having attained a certain standard of physique, a very large number of men came from the various Militia regiments to the Line who otherwise could never be taken into the Line. Did the right hon. Gentleman deny that?
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I know that in some cases 60 or 70 per cent. of the men enlisted for the Militia at the depot go straight into the Line.
§ *CAPTAIN NORTON
said he did not deny that a large proportion went direct, but having some knowledge of 211 this matter he maintained that a large number of the men year by year passed out of the Militia into the Line after one, two, or three years service. He had not the slightest doubt on that matter.
As to the Volunteers he thought the Committee, as a whole, were undoubtedly not in favour of the right hon. Gentleman's proposals to reduce the Volunteer force, because it was the only school of arms we possessed. The Report of the Director of Auxiliary Forces clearly proved that the Volunteers, even though they might contain a large number of men who were not up to the requisite standard, did tend to foster the military spirit of the country and enabled us to get a greater proportion of recruits than we should otherwise obtain.
The right hon. Gentleman had asked if anyone would sweep away any portion of his work. This Government had never attempted to attack the real question. After all, the real question which lay at the basis of Army reform was the question of recruiting and providing the men. That was the difficulty that had confronted us in the South African War and in the Crimean War. That was the difficulty with which we, not having conscription, had always had to deal. How had it been dealt with? One good thing had been done in this direction, namely, that the men had been obliged to furnish certificates of character before being taken into the service. The Inspector-General of Recruiting stated that there was unanimity of opinion that this had resulted in raising the tone of the Army and popularising it with the better class of the population. What had taken place? False characters were produced by the thousand and the recruiting authorities had brought this to the knowledge of the Government. A Bill had been prepared in order that the danger and difficulty in regard to characters might be dealt with. But the Government last session were too much engaged in desiring to jump on Russian Jews, who took refuge in this country, to pass that measure through the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the recruiting of the Foot Guards was satisfactory. The Report of the Inspector-General said it was unsatisfactory. Moreover, the 212 more they departed from the proposal to take nine-years men, and the more they reverted to the original proposal of taking three-years men, the greater difficulty there would be in the recruiting of the Guards. The present infantry had been kept up to strength mainly because other branches of the service, owing to the South African War, were above their strength, and because the labour market being in a bad state, the unfortunate man, who from, starvation was obliged to enlist, had no option but to enlist in the infantry of the Line.
The question of civilian employment was a thing which the right hon. Gentleman pledged himself in his circular to attend to. The right hon. Gentleman said it was a matter of supreme importance. The report of the Inspector-General said—In connection with this subject it will be observed that only nine appointments have been filled during the year in Government offices outside the War Office.That showed a material diminution in the number of ex-soldiers employed in Departments under the Government. He was well aware that a certain number of men were employed in the Post Office. He exonerated the authorities for not taking a large number of ex-soldiers in the Post Office for the reason that the duties had become highly technical and that it was not possible to employ them very much except in the position of auxiliary postmen.
Referring to what had recently been done with regard to the Highland Light Infantry the hon. Member said he had often heard the Secretary of State for War lay stress on prestige, bands, banners, and uniforms, and yet the Government went out of its way to flout the traditions of that part of the country which had furnished some of the finest soldiers who ever shouldered a rifle, and to insult the sentiment of the people by dissociating the Highland Light Infantry from the rest of the Highland Brigade.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said there had been no change whatever propose in the Highland Light Infantry.
§ *CAPTAIN NORTON
said his point was that the Highland Light Infantry had 213 been permanently grouped with other regiments to which they were not allied.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that the hon. Member was under an entire misapprehension, The Highland Light Infantry were associated for administrative purposes with other infantry regiments in the Lowlands, but they were not now brigaded with Lowland regiments.
§ *CAPTAIN NORTON
said that as far as his information went, this peculiarly Highland regiment was being grouped with Lowlanders; that it was contrary to their sentiment, and would do damage in the future to recruiting. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was leaving a soft place for his successor; but he agreed with the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean that, so far from its being a soft place, it would be one of exceeding difficulty. What the Committee had a right to demand was that something should be done, and that the promises the right hon. Gentleman made a year ago to this House and the country should be carried out. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that when he came into office he found that the Army was a danger to the State and that the Estimates were excessive. What had he done to make the Army a less danger to the State, or to introduce economies in Army expenditure?
§ *COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
said that when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War brought in his scheme last year he wished it every success; although he could not see the application of it to the military possibilities of this country. Since then, however, there had been a very great change in the policy of the Government. In reply to Questions, and in speeches in the House, the Government had shown that they had adopted the blue-water school theory in its entirety. He did not himself see how the blue-water theory was compatible with what he regarded as the principal part of the scheme of last year—that was, the separation of the Regular Army into two parts: one for foreign service and the other for home service. If they adopted the blue-water theory they no longer wanted troops for the defence of this country. He disagreed 214 with the blue-water theory in its extreme form, because, carried out to its logical conclusion, they did not even want Volunteers. He believed that that would be a great misfortune, for the Volunteers had been an exceedingly useful recruiting ground, as was shown in the late war, and it was probable that in future, in the event of war, there would be a still greater response from the Volunteers. In addition to that, it appeared to him that the Volunteers encouraged the military spirit in this country; the brought, out the fighting spirit of 'the race, and had co-ordinated and organised it. It was that military spirit which had carried us through recent campaigns. The country was fond of going to sleep over military matters and then waking with a start; Volunteers were a valuable protection against recurrent panics. If there was not a strong and sufficient force for home defence when we were engaged in a war with a foreign nation, our Fleet would be constantly on guard round our shores; and everyone who had studied naval strategy knew that it was sometimes necessary to concentrate the Fleet at a particular point to strike some important blow. The theory of a raid by 5,000 men was a mere theory and might be upset, as nothing happened so often in warfare as the unexpected.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War gave two reasons for adopting the theory of the blue-water school. The first was that the Navy was nearly double the strength of a few years ago, which was a weighty reason, and the second was that the whole of sea warfare had been revolutionised during the present campaign in the Far East. But what had occurred in the campaign in the Far East tended to show the uncertainty of naval defence. He had recently spoken to a naval officer of high rank and had asked whether that gentleman thought our Navy could have done better than the Japanese Navy in the present war, and his reply was—I believe they would have done as well, but they would have lost more ships because they are bolder and have more ships than the Japanese, and can therefore more easily risk losses of ships than the Japanese can.All these things pointed to the fact that sea warfare had become more 215 difficult than it had been in the past. There was more danger in the future that some disaster would overtake the ships guarding our shores, and such a thing might throw open the waterway, if not for more than two or three days, sufficiently long for a strong force to be passed over from some Continental country, in which case there would be an invasion of this country, perhaps by many more than 5,000 men.
This uncertainty as to military affairs was not only unsatisfactory to the House of Commons, but it must be a great difficulty to the Army Council. A change of Minister there or of the Ministry might result in the policy which was now adumbrated being entirely changed. How, then, could the Army Council threw their heart into their work at the present time when they did not know what policy would be required of them in the future. Everything pointed to the fact that this question ought to be lifted out of the range of Party politics, and that a scheme ought to be arrived at between the two great Parties in the State which should be lasting in its character.
Much had been said about the shrinkage of the Volunteers. Now no one who had the welfare of the Volunteers at heart would for a moment regret that reasonable conditions as to physique and training should be imposed in order to make the force efficient for modern warfare. Every soldier felt that the more efficient a force was, even though it shrank in numbers, the more valuable it became. But it was a mistake to announce that the Volunteer force was going to be reduced by so many thousands of men. The great difficulty with regard to the Volunteers defending this country lay in the stiffening of that force, in the backbone of it. The right hon. Gentleman said that its backbone was the Home Army, but nobody knew whether the Home Army would be here or whether it would be ordered abroad. What was required was to go thoroughly into the system of our Army, to take the numbers as we could get them and set to work to organise them, and when that was done and they were fitted for the requirements of modern warfare any deficiencies of the scheme should be 216 boldly put before the House and country in order that they might see whether anything could be done to improve it. He thought it would then be found that the Home Army would require stiffening. In early days our Army had not to repel invasion, but to serve in the wars against France. There were then two ways of raising an Army, one was by means of contractors, which we should never adopt now though we had contractor for almost everything, and the other system was by an apportionment of men to the different counties and towns of this country. He could not see why a force of 100,000 men should not be raised by an apportionment of men from every county and town. If a town or a county could not find the men required of them then a fine of, say £100 per man might be inflicted on them, so that the Government could find a man elsewhere. But whatever the force might be it should be thoroughly trained. A man should be trained for two or three years, when he should pass into the Reserve. He should be resident in his own county or the military district to which he belonged. He could then be called out like an ordinary Reservist, but he should be paid an amount sufficient to enable him to live in the district, or he might be employed by the county or the town to which he belonged. By such a system as that there would be no difficulty in retaining the voluntary character of the Army, and a force would be obtained for home defence sufficiently strong to enable the Navy to feel that they could be spared from these shores for days, if necessary.
With regard to the shortage of officers, which was stated to be one of our pressing needs, the right hon. and gallant Member for Shropshire said one of the difficulties in procuring officers was the size of the College at Sandhurst. and that in time could be overcome. He understood that the two years course had now been reduced to one, but he hoped in that one they would not attempt to cram in all the book knowledge that should be acquired in two. He had known many cases of young officers who had joined his regiment who were book stale, and the consequence was they would never look at a book until they had 217 to prepare for another examination. As regarded the cavalry, the right hon. Gentleman had done a great deal to reduce the expenses in certain directions, but he was afraid that in many cases the expenses had gone up. The fact was that the standard of life all round had risen. But there was one direction in which he thought a considerable diminution in cavalry expenses might be effected. It was an unpopular thing to suggest, but he thought military polo tournaments were a source of very great expense. It was only necessary to think of the price of polo ponies to realise what an item polo must represent to cavalry officers. In regard to the Foot Guards, it was often forgotten that the officers used to have long periods of leave really as part of their pay. It was impossible for a subaltern in London to live on his regimentalpay. Many men with private means used to go into the Foot Guards, and used their terms of leave to manage their own private estates. It might be argued that such men were not wanted in the Army, but no regiments ever fought better than the Foot Guards officered by these men, and he thought it might seriously be considered whether men having private responsibilities at home could not be granted longer leave. Another matter was as to the stations at which regiments were stationed. The fact of having four battalions of Foot Guards permanently at Aldershot might affect the class of officers who joined the regiments. Why should not the old system have been kept up, under which the Guards were stationed at London, Windsor, and Dublin? It would probably benefit recruiting if a battalion of the Foot Guards were quartered in Edinburgh. At any rate the system of quartering a number of battalions away from the Metropolis and the cities specially identified with the Sovereign was worthy of consideration. As regards the Militia it seemed to him a question of pay or position; if they could not restore the force to the place it held 100 years ago in public estimation, when young men sought it for position, they must increase the pay. As regards Volunteers, he hoped they would arrange so that all cost of equipment and training should be borne by the State and not by the officers, so that whatever pay an officer received it 218 should be a real emolument, and that he should not receive 5s. and perhaps pay out £1.
§ *MR. CHARLES. HOBHOUSE
said that if, as the right hon. Gentleman had stated, the Militia were of such poor physique that it was impossible to send them abroad, he would like to know for what purpose the Militia Bill, making service abroad compulsory, was to be introduced. As to the Indian question, there had been a failure to point out that in every case the pretensions of Russia as to her strength at this or that particular point had been a long way in advance of the facts of the case. In Manchuria the Russian battalions were exaggerated by the Russian Press to double their actual size and much of the success of the Japanese had been due to the fact that they had not allowed themselves to be bluffed by the assertions of the Russian Press. In the same way he thought that if we allowed ourselves to be frightened by the bug-bear of Russian strength on the Indian frontier, we might have to make preparations for which there was no real necessity.
The right hon. Gentleman had declared that what had been said in this debate was moderate and fair in tone, and he trusted that he would not say anything which would depart in any way from that standard of moderation and fairness. He wished, however, to point out that the question of expense, so far as it had been brought to their notice in the Estimates, and in the Memorandum which accompanied the Estimates, had not been debated as closely as it might have been. The proposal before the House was to reduce the Estimates by £1,000,000. The Secretary of State for War had declared that the present Estimates were abnormal. He said there were special items and peculiar circumstances which made this year an impossible one to have a normal Estimate. What were those special items and those peculiar circumstances? As had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Oldham, the Secretary of State for War had had the advantage of an enormous accretion of appropriations-in-aid which he could never hope to get in subsequent years. Those appropriations took off his shoulders the greater part of 219 the burden laid upon him by the cost of the new guns. The special items to which he referred were not special in anything but name. He remembered that on the first page of the Memorandum he used the word "special" eight times. It was almost as frequent as the use of the first person singular. He confessed that he had been unable to detect any items which were really special. The right hon. Gentleman said that the cost of guns and harness was special, and that no part of this expenditure ought, in his opinion, to be brought into the charge for this year. He seemed to forget that harness and guns were liable to a good deal of injury by wear, and therefore he ought to have added something to meet this depreciation. Then he ruled out of account as a special item all the expenditure in connection with loans. Why? The loans had increased in past years, they had increased this year, and they must increase in the future.
§ *MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said the right hon. Gentleman shook his head, but this year he was going to spend a large sum of money upon Salisbury Plain and £3,370,000 upon loans. He was aware that he had got £6,500,000 unexpended out of the barracks and permanent works loan which was going to be expended in the future. The sinking fund for the loans would not diminish, but increase, and there was a possibility of the sum which should be devoted to the sinking fund being still further reduced. What would happen if all these sums were included? They ought to include a sinking fund charge for the artillery and a larger sum for the repayment of loans; and they also ought to include a large sum in consequence of these extraordinary appropriations-in-aid. If they did this the consequence would be that the nominal decrease would not be a decrease at all, but an increase of the normal expenditure, unless the whole system was changed, and this increase would be nearly £500,000.
The right hon. Gentleman had said that the only way to reduce expenditure was to reduce the numbers, but he could not agree with that argument. They might have saved £10,000 upon 220 clothing, and £10,000 upon ranges which had been first built and afterwards abandoned as useless. They might also have saved this year a very considerable sum in moving half a battalion of troops from Malta to Egpyt, because, first of all, they reduced the establishment of troops in that country below the establishment which ought to have been maintained. In this particular case the establishment fell below the proper numbers, and to make it up they had to send out units to make good the requirements of the Egyptian Government. Those were instances which with better administration would have diminished expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted that a large number of the men were useless for the purpose for which they had been enlisted, and the whole of the remedies he had promised last year, with one exception, remained unfulfilled. The right hon. Gentleman on the 11th of December last said—If my scheme is in abeyance I will not remain an hour in my present position, but my hopes are as bright as ever.What did he now say in this Memorandum. He said that those parts of last year's proposals which were dependent upon the creation of short-service battalions must necessarily be in abeyance. It seemed to him that there was a most extraordinary coincidence in this. The Secretary of State for War in speech and in writing had twice used the word "abeyance." He said he would resign if these reforms remained in abeyance, and then he went on to point out that the whole of his scheme was practically in abeyance. What were the essential parts of his scheme? He would take them from the Memorandum itself. He said the short service battalions were essential to his scheme and they were in abeyance. He said they must have an addition of Reserve officers; that was also in abeyance. He also said that they must create nineteen additional battalions and that proposal was left in abeyance. And lastly, he declared that there must be a territorialising of the short-service battalions and the creation of a striking force, and both those proposals were in abeyance. What part of this scheme was it which was not in abeyance? He confessed that he found it impossible to give an answer to that, and he believed 221 the right hon. Gentleman could not answer it across the floor of the House. They might be told that the long-service enlistment was not in abeyance, but that, and that only, was the one part of his scheme which had been realised, and this had only come about in order to make good a deficiency with which the right hon. Gentleman had nothing to do, and for which he was in no way responsible. He did not want to press the right hon. Gentleman too hardly to make good his undertaking and fulfil his promises to the House, but they were told the other night by the Colonial Secretary that men of honour redeemed their bond. The Secretary of State for War gave them his pledge a year ago, and six months ago, to do certain things if certain hopes which he held were not fulfilled. Those hopes were not fulfilled, and the Army, from his point of view, was so much the worse in consequence; and therefore, they had a right to ask him to redeem his promises, and if he did not do so the only person to whom they could go for a fit and proper definition of his conduct was the Colonial Secretary, and they must in future treat the right hon. Gentleman as a person who had been dismissed from serious calculations with regard to statements of this kind. But there were other things quite apart from the personal conduct of the right hon. Gentleman which were more important, because when the right hon. Gentleman had gone they would abide.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.