§ "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."
§ Resolution read a second time.
§ *MR. McCRAE (Edinburgh, E.) moved a reduction of the Vote by £ 100 in order, he said, to get from the Secretary for War a more explicit statement of whit his proposals were in regard to the home service Army, the Militia, and the Volunteers. They ha d that morning a leading article in the Standard calling upon the Prime Minister to give an explicit and stirring address to his followers in the House, and he proposed now to call upon the Secretary for War to give an explicit statement of his policy. In the Memorandum issued by the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the Army Estimates he told them there would be a saving on this item of £700,000, but he was bound to confess he could not see how it was to be brought about if the right hon. Gentleman was not going to put his scheme into operation. After the statement which they had had from the Prime Minister on the preceding night, they must draw the conclusion that the Government were departing from their proposals to reduce the expenditure upon the Volunteers by £300,000, and he now wished to press for information as to whether the proposed reduction of £700,000 in regard to the Regular Army was also to be abandoned. The House really did not know where it stood in regard to the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman put before it on July 14th last. They were told in that scheme that they were to have a home-service Army and a long- service Army. Was the right hon. Gentleman enlisting at the present time for that long service Army at an earlier age than nineteen and a-half years, which was the age suggested recruits were to be enlisted at? Surely the right hon. Gentleman could tell them 665 what his scheme really was. Could he not do so in a few words? He was afraid, however, that they might as soon expect the Secretary for War to be explicit as they did the Prime Minister. Ambiguity was the design of the one and the misfortune of the other, but he did think the right hon. Gentleman should try and lay before the House his proposals in regard to the Volunteers, and to state what reductions, if any, he intended to carry out. Both sides of the House were utterly befogged as to where the scheme stood, especially after the interposition of the Prime Minister in the preceding night's debate. He wished to know whether the Secretary for War was now prepared to corroborate what fell from the Prime Minister? Whether he was departing from the scheme laid before the House on July 14th last, and in what respect he was making such a departure? Did he intend to reduce the establishment of the Volunteers this year by 114,000 men? If so, how did he propose to do it? Was it to be done by abolishing battalions, or did he propose to reduce the number of companies in the battalions? Those were questions which they were fully entitled to put to the right hon. Gentleman. He would again ask him to give them an intelligible exposition of the policy—not his policy, but the policy which the Cabinet had now approved.
§ Amendment proposed—
§ "To leave out '£10,101,000,' and insert '£10,100,900.'"—(Mr. McCrae.)
§ Question proposed, "That '£10,101,000' stand part of the said Resolution."
*MR, GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
desired to apologise for again intruding on the House on this question. The hon. Gentleman opposite had put to the Government certain definite Questions, particularly in reference to the Volunteers, and he did think it was most important that the present uncertainty and doubt which existed in regard to the proposals of the Government should be removed.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member is under a misapprehension if he thinks he can discuss the Volunteers or the Militia on the Report of this Vote. The Vote is for the pay of the Regular Army, and the debate must be confined to the question of the payment of wages for the Regular Army.
§ *MR. McCRAE
pointed out that in the Vote there were certain sums set aside for schools of instruction for Mounted Infantry, for Militia and for Volunteers. Would not that fact entitle them to discuss questions affecting the Militia and Volunteers?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Anything regarding the pay of the instructors may be discussed, but there is a Vote for the Militia and another for the Volunteers, and any general discussion in regard to those forces must take place on those particular Votes.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
said he wished to say something about the proposal for the home-service Army which the right hon. Gentleman had brought forward, and that indirectly involved the position of the Militia. Was he not entitled under the circumstances to raise that question?
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
May I ask if it was not an understanding that we should have four days general discussion on the Army question. It may seem a departure from the usual practice to have a general discussion on the Report of this Vote, but I believe that on this occasion there was a general understanding that the Government should give us four days—Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday —to discuss Array matters.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I do not know whether there was any understanding between the right hon. Gentlemen, but certainly I was not a party to it, and it is my duty to carry out the rubs of the House.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL- BANNERMAN
I hope I shall be in order in appealing to the Government whether it is not the case that we were promised four days for a full discussion on general Army questions. If that is so, will the Government fulfil their promise?
*THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. ARNOLD- FORSTEE, Belfast, W.)
I do not desire to avoid any discussion, but I imagine that the ordinary procedure has been followed. On Vote 1 general Army questions can be discussed, and it has always been the practice to do that on the Committee stage, but the discussion on the Report stage has always been confined to the discussion of matters contained in the Vote itself. Vote I was set down for this week in order that there might be a general discussion. I would point out that the general discussion on Army matters has now lasted eight days.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
replied that the ordinary practice had been adopted in this case, and added that already three days had been given to the debate on this Vote.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL- BANNERMAN
I notice that the Leader of the House has just entered, and perhaps I may be allowed to explain the point I have attempted to make. You, Mr. Speaker, have laid down from the Chair what I admit is in accordance with the rules and with what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, that the regular practice is on the Report stage of Vote 1 to confine the discussion to matters contained in the Vote; but I submit that this is not a usual occasion. There was an undertaking given, when the general arrangements for this discussion were being made, that the whole of the Government time in this week should be devoted to a general debate on Army questions. If the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to bring the debate on Vote 1 in the Committee stage to a conclusion, instead of continuing it over till to-day, I submit that the House ought not to suffer, and, inasmuch as it was promised 668 that there should be four full days, that the general discussion should be allowed to continue on this stage.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said he would like to point out to the Prime Minister that the Vote was agreed to on the preceding night on the understanding that the general discussion could be resumed the next day.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol, E.)
said that when the Chairman of Committees put the Vote it was actually past the hour for the interruption of debate, and had there been the slightest opposition it could not have been put. He was in his place at the time, and he offered no opposition because he understood that the Government were anxious to get the Report stage, but at the same time he also understood that they would not be prevented from continuing the discussion.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
said there was some misconception, but he was anxious to carry the House with him. He would indeed be grieved if he did not, for so much depended on the carrying out of arrangements between the two sides of the House. No doubt a strong appeal was made to him to afford full opportunity of discussing Vote 1, and he promised that should be done. But there were financial considerations, which were brought to the notice of Parliament, which made it necessary that they should get both the Committee and the Report stages of Vote 1 in the course of the present week. He certainly gave no pledge that the Report stage should be taken under any rules but those which governed the procedure of the House, nor would it have been possible for him to do so. But if it were consistent with the rules of order he should welcome such liberty being given to the House as would enable the discussion on the Report stage to travel over the same ample region as it had travelled over for the last few days in Committee.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
said that he, of course, had no object except to see that the rules of the House were carried out. The established rule was that the general debate on the Question, that he do 669 leave the chair, might be continued on Vote A in Committee, but that then the discussion on Vote 1 in Committee must be confined strictly to Vote 1, and the discussion on the Report of Votes A and 1, Army Votes, must be confined to what was in Votes A and 1. But as in the present instance there was evidently an arrangement come to between both sides under a misunderstanding, either as to the rule or as to what was said by one side or the other, he should not deem it necessary to interfere with the general discussion proceeding on the same lines as in Committee.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
said that he wished to take that opportunity of stating that, whatever criticisms he might indulge in, they were not directed against the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War personally, but had reference to his policy. They were indebted to the Prime Minister for having allowed the understanding to be carried out in regard to a general debate, and he wished to make it perfectly clear to hon. Members around him, at any rate, that he was not attacking the Government as a whole, he was only attacking a particular departure and a particular policy which he thought was to the detriment of the country and of the Army. The hon. Member for East Edinburgh had asked his right hon. friend certain definite Questions, and had requested him to state once and for all what was his policy in regard to the Volunteer force. He entirely endorsed that request, because he felt that a great deal of harm was being done to the Volunteer force and therefore to the country by the state of uncertainty in which the right hon. Gentleman was leaving that force. He had served in the Volunteer force, and at the present time he was in the Militia force, and he thought he was entitled to join with the hon. Member opposite in begging the right hon. Gentleman to put an end to a state of uncertainty which was doing much harm to both forces. He said emphatically that the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman in not definitely stating what he proposed to do was an attitude which was not justified, and they had a right to demand that he should tell the House and the country what his proposals were.
670 What was the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman? Last year he came to the House with certain very definite proposals which partook of the character of abolishing the Militia. The right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, said he did not propose to abolish the Militia, but he did propose to abolish half the battalions and to so alter the remaining half that they would no longer be Militia. They might retain some continuity of service, but they would be a sort of bastard part of the Line. Since then he had told them that he had dropped these proposals, that they were not before the House, and that they were not before the country. Yet, when they asked him what was before the House and before the country, he never spoke about his real policy, but he invariably talked about his scheme of last year. Only the other day his hon. friend the Member for Portsmouth put a certain Question to the right hon. Gentleman, and he answered it by vindicating at great length what would be the condition of the Militia unit to which his hon. friend belonged, not under his present proposals, but under his abandoned proposals. On every single occasion he still spoke as if those proposals were before the House and the country, and he (the speaker) wanted now to ask him, once and for all, to give them in black and white a statement as to whether he was going to abolish the Militia or not. It was time they knew that. If he were not going to do it directly—and they were told that there was an Imperial sentiment in the country which would not permit of its being done—there was a danger that he would do it indirectly. There were other ways of doing it besides the direct way, and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he was accomplishing that end pretty well as it was. He could not get officers, and he could not get men to join the force, and he would not be able to do so so long as the Sword of Damocles was hanging over its head. When he told them that the force was under-officered, and that they could not get the right men to join, the proper reply to that was that the right hon. Gentleman himself was largely the cause of that state of affairs. He was going indirectly the right way to work to abolish the Militia force.
671 The right hon. Gentleman told them that in five or six months, or perhaps, in eight or nine months, he was going to start the home territorial battalions for a short-service Army. Now, was he going to start those home battalions in regimental districts in direct competition with existing Militia units? If so, he ventured to say that indirectly again the right hon. Gentleman was using a very strong weapon against the Militia force, a weapon which must eventually destroy it. Those who were in that force believed that they did some useful service to the country by taking some part in the defence of these shores, and he did think that they had Borne claim to obtain from the right hon. Gentleman something more than mere equivocation as to what his real intentions were. The Militia officers would like to know whether he was going to treat them as he and his predecessors successfully treated the Imperial Yeomanry, namely, improving them so as to make them a really valuable force.
He was sure his right hon. friend would believe him when he said he was making no personal attack upon him, but he objected to his whole scheme of Army reform so far as it related to the Auxiliary Forces, and he objected also to the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman constantly adopted towards those forces. The right hon. Gentleman was entirely on the wrong tack with regard to the Auxiliary Forces He seemed to think that these forces should be made as like the Line as possible. As the country had not got conscription, and he was disposed to think would never get it [OPPOSITION cheers], the course which ought to be adopted was to avail to the fullest extent of the national spirit and desire to serve in the Auxiliary Forces. Every man physically fit who presented himself for the Volunteers, the Yeomanry, or the Militia should be taken and the best made of him, and those forces should be used as schools for training the potential soldier for service abroad. The whole lesson taught them by the South African War was that the Auxiliary only partly trained, but who had learned the elements of soldiering, had acquired 672 some discipline, and knew how to use the rifle, very soon developed into a trained soldier. When, therefore, in times of peace the men came forward in order to acquire training, they ought to avail themselves of their services, and it would be all the better for the country when it was in a condition of warfare, and when it was necessary to send large forces abroad. He thought that the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman took up towards the Auxiliary Forces was a most unfortunate one. He was constantly telling the House that the Militia was not as good as the Line. Of course, they all knew that. He told them, too, that they could not put troops into the field against a Regular Army with such training only as Militiamen obtained.
§ *MR.GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
said if the right hon. Gentleman did not father it he had adopted it, and adoption had generally been considered as very much the same thing as fathering. However, they might take it that the right hon. Gentleman agreed with the statement, and he did not suppose that any of his military advisers or anybody else thought they should send Militia into the firing line, directly war broke out. Surely, what they would do would be to call them out, give them several months training, and then they would be in a proper condition to do credit to themselves and to their country. He was told that it took the Japanese two or three months to make a soldier. Might it not be thought that a thoroughly trained Volunteer, Militiaman, or Yeoman, in two or three months would make a soldier? Of course he would. He would make a soldier much more quickly, because he had had a partial training in the 673 Auxiliary Forces, than if he were a raw lad from the plough who had never done any sort of military work. The right hon. Gentleman had instituted what was a most extraordinary comparison between the Militia and the Line. He said that in the case of the Line, if they left behind the immature lads, those lads would grow up to be old enough and strong enough to be sent abroad. Did not Militiamen grow up? Were they the only people who never got any older?
§ *MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
said he fancied the War Office were breaking their own rules, but, after all, granting that they were taken a year younger, young men of sixteen or seventeen grew up by degrees, and as they were not to be in the front line, and not even in the first Reserve, if the war was to be a long one, and if they were going to fill up the wastage year after year, the growing Militiaman would become in time as useful a soldier as the Linesman. The Secretary of State had stated that they had to leave behind the 30 or 40 per cent, of Volunteers who were medically unfit or, from other reasons, inefficient. It was strange that if the percentage was so high 51,000 Militiamen served in South Africa. He believed they served with considerable credit. At any rate, they did not discredit themselves more than any other branch of the service. Did they prove themselves any more unfit than the other forces in the field, or was any complaint made that they were unfit to go through the toils of the campaign? The hon. Member for King's Lynn said they surrendered.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
I beg pardon, I said nothing of the sort. I suggested that in addition to the Questions the hon. Gentleman was putting, he should ask whether they surrendered.
§ *MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
said they would not go into that. He did not think the percentage of the Militia who 674 surrendered was higher than that of other branches. The right hon. Gentleman had said that they were not old enough to go to India. He did not know that it was proposed under the right hon. Gentleman's scheme that they should be sent to India. What he said was that for the purpose of the war in South Africa and other wars in which we might be engaged, the Militiamen would prove themselves to be as fit for the hardships of a campaign as the men of any other branch of the service. He did not wish to say anything disparaging of any branch of the service, but he did not believe that the Auxiliary Forces were worse in those respects to which reference had been made than the Line regiments. The remarks of the right hon. Gentleman applied as much to the Regular Army as to the Militia and the Volunteers.
The House wanted to know what the right hon. Gentleman was going to do. Was he still going to try to destroy the Militia force, and, if not, what were his proposals? The right hon. Gentleman had a truly wonderful scheme considering the views he held in regard to the Militia. It was proposed that they should be enlisted for compulsory foreign service. If they were so unfit as the right hon. Gentleman would have the House to believe, why were they now asked to serve compulsorily abroad? The right hon. Gentleman's plan was first to prove that they were unfit to serve abroad and then to say that they must. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman what were the views of most Militia officers of the proposal. They had proved their willingness to serve abroad. As to making foreign service compulsory, they should not object if at the same time reasonable proposals were made for improving the force and making it really efficient. But so long as they were to be treated as mere impediments in the way of rational Army reform, he did not see why they should undertake the additional obligation while nothing was to be done to pat them in a state of efficiency.
There was a great deal that could be done. The Secretary of State had complained that the critics of his 675 proposals made no suggestions of a constructive character which, he might use for the purpose of improving the force. He would, therefore, make one or two proposals. In the first place he would say reduce the establishment where the establishment was too large—reduce the number of battalions and make the number more or less commensurate with the number of recruits they got. Instead of having 120 battalions as now, he would be content with sixty strong and efficient battalions divided over various parts of the Kingdom. In the second place, he would lengthen the training, though he did not think that could be done very much, considering the voluntary character of the service. He thought the recruit service could be largely lengthened. It would be an immense improvement to lengthen the ordinary training to six weeks and the men's training to six months. One training out of every three should be devoted entirely to musketry. Under the present arrangements there was not time to attend properly to musketry and also to field training. In the third place they wanted more permanent staff. They were supposed to have two staff sergeants to a company. There might be companies which had them but they did not as a rule have them in his battalion. That was not the fault of the Militia but of the War Office, who did not give the staff they were supposed to give. He thought something ought to be done in regard to non-commissioned officers, who were a weak spot in the force. Inducements should be given to enable them to go to schools of instruction to learn their work. The great complaint the right hon. Gentleman made was that they were merely getting recruits for the Line, and that very few recruits remained with the Militia. That was a strange complaint, even from the right hon. Gentleman's own point of view. What was to become of the recruiting of the Line but for the Militia? He could tell the right hon. Gentleman the reason why the recruits went on to the Line. It was because they were trained at the Line depots The adjutant of the Militia was also the adjutant of the Line, and it was his object to induce those whom he trained to go into the Line. The adjutants 676 were one month with the Militia and eleven months with the Line, and while, as he knew, some were absolutely loyal to the Militia, the fact remained that the greater part of their duty was to look after the Line.
Lastly, he said, without wishing to hurt the right hon. Gentleman, that he should adopt a slightly more courteous attitude. He did not believe the right hon. Gentleman intended to be discourteous, but it would be well if he did not invariably give the opinion that he wished the Militia were at the bottom of the deep blue sea. He felt deeply in regard to the way the Militia had been treated. If they destroyed that force—and they ran the risk of doing it—they would destroy an instrument which had been of great value in the past and might be of even greater service in the future.
§ COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
said that people who criticised the proposals of the Secretary of State did not always keep in view the difference between the Regular Army and the Auxiliary Forces in relation to their liability for foreign service. He had read the Report of the Commission on the South African War and the evidence on which the Report was founded, and he felt, as an old soldier, that the Army had, to a certain extent, been made the scapegoat of faults that belonged to the Civil Service system of government in this country, and the relationship of the Army to that system. He found from the Report that the preparations for the war were delayed for political reasons. The effect of that was that the Boers invaded Natal six days before the Reservists for the infantry battalions had to meet at home—6,000 miles away. The Army had to be sent out to South Africa in fragments, the ships for the infantry were ready first, and no complete body was formed abroad as should have been done had time permitted. The late Lord Salisbury accurately described the situation when he said that our system of government was not adapted for the making of war. That might be said of any system of government which was well adapted for domestic legislation. They could 677 not entirely alter that system, but they could modify it.
He thought very great credit was due to the Government for forming the Defence Committee. In that way he believed our civil system could be modified with regard to questions relating to war. After war was declared in South Africa the mobilisation worked admirably. The rapidity with which the divisions were sent one after another to the Cape prevented insurrection and saved the situation until, eventually, Lord Roberts was enabled to roll back the tide of war, and, by the aid of the patriotism of this country and the Colonies, it was possible to bring the campaign to a successful conclusion. The Army was organised to send out 70,000 or 80,000 men at that time, there was no reason for thinking that it could not have sent out this force properly staffed and equal in efficiency to a similar force of one of the great Powers. But there were sent out more than three times that number. There was a breaking point to iron, and he thought it did not at all follow that our Army was so bad as the country as a whole seemed to think.
What were the lessons of the war? The first was the necessity of having a force which could be sent out at once, as a force was sent to Canada in 1860. That force we had not in the South African War. The next was the necessity for strong Reserves. Those we had during the South African War, and owing to the rapidity with which division followed division to the Cape we succeeded in preventing insurrection there. Those strong Reserves were due to the Cardwell system as amended, the last amendment having been made when Mr. Smith was at the War Office. That system had been thoroughly tried, and, with improvements which could be made he thought it suited exactly the needs of this country. If a force of infantry was maintained at home equal to the force abroad, the battalions at home formed a "setting" for training the Auxiliary Forces, and the quality of the Army would be maintained. A considerable force must be maintained in this country if non-commissioned officers were to be found for the Auxiliary Forces. 678 The idea in many minds seemed to be to dispense with a large proportion of that equal force of Regular infantry abroad and at home, and to rely upon the blue-water theory. It had always been considered that a force could not be landed if opposed, but it was difficult to be sure that the naval opposing force would be there. Even in regard to such a matter as the defence of the Thames Lord Nelson gave the following order—Stationary floating batteries are not from any apparent advantage to be moved, for the tide may prevent their resuming the very important stations assigned to them.Captain Mahan's comment on that order was that—Nelson was evidently alive to that advantage in permanent works which puts it out of the power of panic to stampede them.In the present day, with torpedo boats and destroyers, submarines and so on, there was greater opportunity for defending the coast, but marine defence might be sent or decoyed away. The danger was not so much the landing of a great force with the idea of taking London, as an attack upon one of our great naval ports from the land side. Wellington stated the case very clearly when he wrote to Sir Robert Peel—I put the hypothetical case of the enemy landing 25,000 men near one of our great naval arsenals, attacking, succeeding in taking, and destroying the arsenal. This hypothesis is not the representation of an impossibility, or even extravagant, considering what I have seen done myself, having at the time superior armies in the field opposed to me. In this case you would not have a man.… If a body of troops were landed in the neighbourhood of one of our places of a sufficient force to invest the place, say 25,000, then I defy all the Fleets of England to save it without the assistance of an Army in the field. I entreat you to weigh all this well.He would like to know what were the views on that danger of Admiral Richards, who was the First Naval Lord at a critical time, and of whom Lord Goschen had the highest opinion.
Then, what improvements were necessary in the Army? The first was that by improved pay which had been given the Secretary of State should be enabled to get recruits of eighteen years of age, or its equivalent, of fair standard. Five feet three inches was too low to 679 get the men in time of peace. The second improvement was that every drilled soldier whom his commanding officer wished to take, and his medical officer permitted to proceed, should go on service, and the third was that Reservists away from their regiments for more than two years should be called up for a very short time. With regard to the statement of the Secretary of State he gave the right hon. Gentleman credit for having turned a deaf ear to the idea of separating the Auxiliary Forces from the Army. In time of stress the Militiamen, the Volunteers, and the infantry soldiers were simply soldiers of their King and country. The Army must be one and indivisible. But he differed very strongly from the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the infantry. The Secretary of State evidently saw the necessity of a striking force and of strong Reserves, but the proposed method would, in his opinion, sap the quality of the British infantry. The home service of the foreign Army would not be enough. If the Army was left abroad too much officers and men would deteriorate. The proposed home battalions would, he thought, be very feebly organised. Unless the recruits were taken at eighteen they would probably be lost altogether. He was glad, therefore, that the necessity of finding the Indian drafts had obliged the right hon. Gentleman to postpone these proposals. It had always struck him that if a certain number of Volunteer officers and men engaged to join a provisional Volunteer battalion of a brigade or district for war service it would give the Volunteers a much better chance of working to advantage and of being useful to the country, and he strongly recommended Volunteers to consider that suggestion.
With regard to the Militia, a small force of territorial Militia must be kept, as a large number of men enlisted in the Militia and then went into the Line who would not enlist in the Line straight away. He was inclined to think that the recent rules laid down with regard to localising records was a mistake, and that it would lead to considerably more correspondence than the present system. With regard to economy, he thought a large portion of the cost of the Army 680 ought to be shared by the Navy, and as the Secretary of State had served at the Admiralty he might very well consider whether the Army was really so expensive as was generally supposed. He was strongly of opinion that the improved Cardwell system should be maintained, and that there should be grafted on to it the proposal for two years service at home and Reserve service which would, he thought, succeed.
§ MR. TOMKINSON (Cheshire, Crewe)
said the greater part of the discussion on Votes A and 1 had been devoted to the Militia arid Volunteers, but he desired to speak on the question of the Yeomanry, in which he had served for about forty years. The Secretary of State claimed to have effected a considerable improvement in that force by a reduction of its numbers——
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
By a reduction in its establishment, not in its numbers. The numbers of the Yeomanry have been increased.
§ MR. TOMKINSON (continuing)
said the right hon. Gentleman had failed to point out that the reduction followed very closely upon the considerable increase of establishment made in the first flush of the enthusiasm for mounted forces in connection with the Boer War, which, with the judicious increase of pay, chiefly in the form of a £5 grant to every man who brought a good horse, led to such a sudden and gratifying increase in the numbers of the force. What were the chief lessons of the Boer War? The first was the extreme usefulness—in fact, the necessity—of having a large proportion of mounted men. He believed there had never been a war before in which one army had to meet another consisting entirely of mounted men, and the experience of that campaign showed how extremely difficult it was to defeat such a force. The second lesson was that intelligence, coupled with bravery, knowledge of local conditions, celerity of movement, and ability to seize upon important positions, were worth more than all the Red-books and red-tape of the War Office put together. There ought to be a large increase in mounted troops in order to supply a proportion for the Regular 681 Forces of cavalry on foreign service. That was the great desideratum to be aimed at.
His own experience was that the increase of the establishment up to 501 rank and file was an absolute success. In his county they recruited easily and speedily up to the full quota. If it was urged that there was only comparatively a small proportion of Yeomanry to the Volunteers in South Africa he would reply that that was only natural, because the Yeomanry up to that time was a territorial, if not a feudal, force, composed largely of farmers, and in many cases of middle-aged men who were the last men to volunteer for foreign service. But now that was all changed, and they got a much better, younger, and active class of man, and they were the very class who came forward in such gratifying numbers and formed a splendid force, which was one of the best that ever left the shores of this country. He thought it was a great pity that they had been cut down from 501 to 401. The last Return showed a very slight increase upon the whole number, namely, 27,000, but in his own regiment they were still ninety-nine over strength. The question was, were they a cheap and valuable force and worth keeping up? Their total cost was about £16 per head, and a mere increase in the rank and tile would not increase the total in proportion, because the same staff and head office expenses would prevail. He felt sure that the country would never turn itself into a blue-water school, and the people would never consent to see this country denuded of its troops and would never trust itself entirely to the Navy. He could not accept the view that in the event of any disaster to the Navy, and our hores being left undefended, England's liberty and fortunes would be gone. That assumption was unworthy of the great heritage to which they had succeeded, and a most unworthy sentiment to come from the lips of any Englishman.
§ *MAJOR EVANS GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
said he wished to make a few remarks in reply to the speech made by the hon. Member for Tunbridge. In his somewhat unnecessarily acrimonious attack upon the 682 Secretary of State for War, he made one statement in which he said that the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for the present unsatisfactory state of the Militia.
§ *MAJOR EVANS GORDON
said that whatever view hon. Gentlemen opposite might hold about the proposals before the Committee he did not think a statement of that kind could possibly be justified. The present Secretary of State for War came into office not very long ago, and he found the Militia in the condition described by the Royal Commission. Absolute unanimity of evidence upon that Commission showed the Militia to be in a disgraceful state, and it was reported that they had been steadily dwindling away. It was also stated that this was due to the want of officers and to the constant drain upon the Militia by its best men passing into the Line. All those things had existed long before the present Secretary of State for War had anything to do with the Militia. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out the true facts, and to hold him responsible for the condition of things which, according to the Report of the Royal Commission, had existed for over twenty years, seemed to be most unfair and most unjust.
§ MR. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN
said what he had stated was that the Secretary of State had not made things any better.
§ *MAJOR EVANS GORDON
repeated that what the hon. Member for Tunbridge stated was that the evils of the Militia were largely due to the action of the right hon. Gentleman. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] That statement was utterly unjustifiable. Lord Wolseley had said that for the last twenty years the Militia had been used as a sort of nursery for the Line and had taken away its best men. How could the right hon. Gentleman be responsible for that? It was really most unfair to fasten these things upon 683 the right hon. Gentleman. After the hon. Member for Tunbridge had completed his attacks, much to his joy and certainly to his astonishment, he suggested certain definite reforms. One of them was that the Militia should be turned into a substantive self-contained force, and should not be a mere nursery for the Line. But that was one of the proposals which the Secretary of State for War had constantly been making. Then his hon. friend went on to say that there were too many battalions of Militia and that they were badly distributed. Again this was the very thing that his right hon. friend had pointed out over and over again, for he had stated that in order to improve the Militia they must reduce the redundant battalions, concentrate them, and with the money so saved improve the force and make it a really efficient fighting unit of the British Army. The Secretary of State had used the same arguments and the same scheme with regard to the Volunteers.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House had said that they were unable to understand what the Secretary of State proposed to do with regard to the Volunteers. He was rather surprised that they should make such an admission with regard to the weakness of their own powers of comprehension. In his opinion it was not so much incapacity but unwillingness to understand anything that the right hon. Gentleman said which had led them to make that statement. Nothing could be more absolutely clear than the statement which the Secretary of State for War made yesterday with regard to the Volunteers. He could not conceive why hon. Members were so unwilling to face the facts borne witness to by almost every witness who came before the different Commissions, namely, that there were in the Volunteers and in the Militia numbers of men whom no amount of training would turn into efficient soldiers. What in the name of fortune was the use of maintaining and paying for such men as that? [Cries of "Agreed."] He rejoiced to think that they were agreed. Let them reduce those redundant numbers and pay only for the men who were likely to become fit to bear arms in time of war. If that was done they would 684 have a really efficient Militia force on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Tunbridge and an efficient Volunteer force as well, and they would be able to supply both those forces with all those requirements which were absolutely essential, and which would enable them to become efficient fighting units of the Army. He had been amazed to hear the bias introduced into the criticisms which had been levelled against the proposals made by the right hon. Gentleman, whose scheme seemed to him common sense, and was perfectly clear to anyone who really wished to understand it. For his part he was glad to have the opportunity of standing up and giving the right hon. Gentleman in his most difficult task all the support he could possibly give.
§ *SIR A. HAYTER (Walsall)
said he wished to say a few words upon the financial aspect of this question. In the course of this long, interesting, and instructive debate they had hardly had a word said about the great increase in the Estimates. The increase in Vote 1 alone amounted to £500,000, and there was upon the whole Estimates an increase of £983,000. But even that did not exhaust the subject, because this year they had for the last time large windfalls to the War Office at the conclusion of the war. The result of the right hon. Gentlemen's arrangements were that this increase of £983,000 brought the Army expenditure up to £29,813,000. If they added to that total the £33,389,000 for the Navy the sum total expenditure for the fighting forces of this country came to £63,202,000. If there was one thing more than another upon which the country had made up its mind it was in relation to this great growth in the expenditure upon the Army. Both in the House of Commons and in the constituencies they had enlarged upon that theme, and they would be doing a great injustice to their opinions if they did not now enter their protest against increasing Army expenditure by voting for this reduction. They had some very important allies in this matter, for Lord Lansdowne had stated in the other House that our naval and military expenditure had become a serious menace to the financial stability of this country, and that the Government had to consider how to 685 arrest the progress of that colossal expenditure. His Lordship further stated that the Government should if possible avoid any increase in the Army Estimates. Now the Secretary of State for War was proposing an increase in the Army Estimates of £983,000. Not very long ago the Secretary for War himself stated that they must have a reduction of expenditure on the Army and they must have greater efficiency, and that there was no way of arriving at this except by cutting down the number of men. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—My ambition is to lay the foundation of a scheme which will enable my successors to effect progressive economies in Army expenditure.No doubt that was the right hon. Gentleman's ambition, but that ambition could not be gratified, because next year a large sum would have to be expended on the rearmament of the Horse and Field Artillery. This year only fifty-four batteries had to be provided, but next year seventy-six would have to be provided for. Then there was a large expenditure to be provided for the cadets at Sandhurst, and the Committee must remember there would not then be these windfalls that might have been utilised to meet the expenditure this year. The Committee would remember that the charge on the Estimates for the rearmament of the horse and field batteries was £1,133,000, and he thought he could show without adding these windfalls other sums that would very nearly provide for that armament. In the first place there was the excess of the Clothing Vote left over from the war, £344,000, then the completion of the Mowatt programme for reserves of guns, £400,000, and the surplus from small arms, the armaments unexpended in South Africa, £217,000. Those amounts totalled to £961,000. The usual plan of manœuvres appeared to have been abandoned, and the saving attributable to that was represented by £21,000 for hired transport and £36,000 in respect of "Railway and and damage to property." There had also been a decrease of £60,000 on sea transport and £65,000 on remounts. If these amounts were added to the £961,000 the total came to £1,143,000. Therefore the rearmament of the horse 686 and field batteries could have been provided for without additional expense, and there would still be £10,000 to the good. These exceptional windfalls, he maintained, should be set against exceptional expenditure, but they had all been used up to meet the steady growth of normal Votes which would recur next year when, there being no windfalls, the Estimates must go up.
Another thing which he much regretted was that after all the promises of economy they had from the Esher Committee and the adoption of the proposals of that Committee by the right hon. Gentleman, there was to be an increase of £47,000 in the expenditure of the War Office itself. That ought to be taken a note of, because in Part III the Esher Committee said—We are convinced that efficiency and economy are unattainable until the War Office has been completely reconstituted in accordance with the principles we have laid down.There were doubts as to whether the War Office had been made efficient, but there could be no doubt as to the economy. We were paying £50,000 more in salaries at the War Office than before. The Report continued—We are convinced that, in spite of a necessary and most desirable increase in the cost of the branch under the Chief of the General Staff, our proposals will lead to a reduction of expenditure in the administration of the Army.The right hon. Gentleman had said we ought to get rid of everything redundant. Would he consider the reduction of the Guards, the numbers of which were a few years ago raised from 5,800 to 8,200 in order that they might take part in the duty at the Mediterranean garrisons. That was not found, however, to be popular with the Guards and the duty was abandoned. When the duty was abandoned, the numbers should have been reduced, because they had no duties to perform other than those they had before, and they were precisely the kind of force upon which, without lessening in any respect the efficiency of the army, the Secretary of State could exercise a wise economy; they had a three years service and a very powerful Reserve and could go out to war 1,000 strong without difficulty. Indeed they did so when called upon at the time of the 687 Crimea, whilst from their perfect drill they required less stiffening. They found no drafts for India and no colonial garrisons. Recruiting had gone on better for the simple reason that they were the only short-service men in the Army, but the Inspector-General's Report said—The recruiting for the Foot Guards, while showing a slight increase, has been unsatisfactory, as the recruits obtained have not been sufficient to bring the several regiments up to their proper establishments.By such a reduction the expenditure would be reduced by £150,000.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
At the expense of the most efficient branch of the service.
§ *SIR A. HAYTER
said that would not be so. He proposed to reduce the men in the ranks and increase the Reserve. It appeared to him that it was a gross injustice that India should be called upon to pay every shilling of the expense of the enormous garrison in that country when Egypt was not called upon to do the same. The garrison in Egypt cost £500,000, of which Egypt paid £87,000. According to the Estimates that amount had now been increased to £100,000, which left on the Estimates an expenditure of £300,000 after the late reduction of garrison. Why should Egypt pay only one-third. It was a flourishing country with a surplus of revenue last year of £750,000 which had increased this year to £1,000,000, and it was a great injustice to the native subjects of India to make them pay the whole cost whilst Egypt was let off with £100,000. If she paid for her garrison we should save £200,000. Then there was a saving of £30,000 on the Yeomanry, and the contribution from Local Governments for the garrisons at Halifax and Esquimalt by which the Estimates benefited to the amount of £170,000. Those amounts were together £500,000 which, added to the £1,143,000, made £1,643,000 of exceptional windfalls.
One word about organisation. The Secretary of State boasted that the long- service system had produced 11,000 recruits in the last few months, but very exceptional causes contributed to that result. The whole result was attributable to the fact that the 688 recruits had no option but to join the infantry, other arms, owing to their surplus, being closed, and to the fact that industrial difficulty was military opportunity. No one who had seen the crowds of men who were out of work with nothing between them and starvation would be surprised that many of those men should have enlisted. But it was difficult to believe that men would continue to give their services to the country from the age of nineteen to the age of twenty-eight, and then come back with only three years in the Reserve. He regretted that with the cavalry the right hon. Gentleman should have reverted to the old depot system instead of sending recruits at once to their regiments.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
was understood to say it was not the old system, but one of a totally different character.
§ *SIR A. HAYTER
said, of course, he could not know what the future arrangements as to the depots were to be-but he could not see the use of setting up these depots if the men were to be sent away at the end of three months. The home Army was to be provided by men of two years service. Out of the 500 men who were to form the battalion they would have to deduct barrack guard picket, sick and failure men, servants and cooks, and he thought any one who had commanded a battalion would think himself very fortunate if he got 400 men on parade. He said that two years service was too short a time to make a man perfect in his drill, and he did not think the Government ought to allow such a short term. In conclusion, he wished to urge that the House should not settle the strength of the Army of this country upon the basis of any apprehension they might have in regard to Russia and Afghanistan. Russia had been put back twenty years by this war, and any country which had lost £250,000,000 and lives which were counted by the thousand and thousand would be crippled for many years to come. They should, therefore, settle the strength of the Army on the basis of the needs of the country and not embark upon an enormous expenditure through any apprehensions of a Russian chimera.
§ *GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haversfordwest)
said he had been one of the keenest supporters of the Secretary for War in his advocacy of the reorganisation of the Army. He had worn the King's uniform for fifty-five years and had always had a great interest in the Army, which he still retained and, like many others, he hoped the Secretary of State for War had been misunderstood when he was said to have denounced the old officers of the Army as being the men who were his greatest enemies in regard to Army organisation. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman could have meant it. because officers looked upon him as their truest and warmest friend and had given him every a Distance in the past in their desire to improve the Army, and they could not believe that he would now denounce them. [Laughter and cries of "He did."] Well, he hoped and tried to believe that he was misunderstood. There had been very little said in this debate about the Regular Army. He had always understood that there were three classes which could be drawn upon to furnish our military forces—those who could become professional soldiers; those who could give a portion of their time consecutively—the Militia; and those who could give an afternoon each week—the Volunteers. What they were trying to do now, however, was to make the Volunteer into a poor Militiaman and the Militiaman into a poor Regular soldier.
What was the position of the Regular Army at this moment? Were they dealing with linked battalions or not, and how were drafts to be furnished? The Secretary for War had told them that battalions from which drafts were taken year after year were nothing but "squeezed lemons." Now 200 men were to be taken off their strength and they would be more squeezed than ever. The same number of drafts would have to be furnished, but there would be very few men left to form the nucleus of the battalion itself. It had been contended that we should be able to get back to the short-service system in a very few months. He failed to see it. From an Answer to a Question put the other day it appeared that the wastage of the Army from sickness, 690 discharges, etc., was 10,000 a year,, and the Indian drafts were 15,000—a total of 25,000 long-service men wanted every year. That did not leave much margin for the short-service men going into the Reserve. His impression, therefore, was that it would be not three or four months but as many years before they were likely to pass back to the short-service system. He thought it was exceedingly undesirable to have such a number of terms of service prevailing in the same battalion. His experience of such a system at the time of the Crimean War with four different terms of enlistment was that an officer never knew when the terms of service of his men were coming to an end. If there was to be a change could we not return to the condemned system of seven and five years. The two-years men joining the service at seventeen and leaving at nineteen would be hardly broken in to discipline, and if they had nine years in the Reserve he would be very sorry to take a battalion made up largely of such men into the field towards the end of that period after spending eight or nine years in civil life. Such men would not recognise the authority of the non-commissioned officers. As to the recruits, he had ascertained that out of 1,000 boys enlisted for the Navy, 800 became effective "A. B's "and the total sum spent on making them efficient was £240 per man. He was very curious to know what the corresponding figures for the Army were. He believed not nearly so many recruits for the Army became effectives, and the cost he thought would be as great. He suggested that it would be better to take boys for the Army as we now took them for the Navy, and in the end we should save by it.
Coming to the question of the shortage of officers, there was one difficulty that Army officers had to which the officers in the Navy were not subject. The naval officer when he went on board ship had an effective sailor given over to him who had passed through the training ship, but the Army officer got raw recruits and had to make effective soldiers out of them himself. That being so the Army officer ought to have 691 a greater opportunity of being with his men than he possessed. There was a rumour that a great number of resignations of officers were in the hands of the War Office. There were many reasons to account for it, for officers did not pet a fair chance. Formerly there was an appeal from the commanding officer to the Military Secretary, but now the officer was not allowed to go near the War Office at all, and consequently the commanding officer commanded the future of every man serving under him. There was no appeal whatever, and officers, therefore, complained that there was no encouragement to remain in the service. Again, officers were called on to pass examination up to middle life, and if they failed were removed from the service too old to commence a new career and too young to drop active life and that discouraged men who might otherwise choose the Army as a profession.
§ MR. GUEST (Plymouth)
said that the other day the Secretary for War complained that there was no reality in the debate, but he was not concerned to pay too much attention to that phrase coming from a member of a Government which depreciated and deprecated public discussion. If there had been any unreality it was due to the solitary position which the Secretary for War had occupied rather than to any lack of point in the criticism directed against his scheme. What hon. Members had been trying to discover was not so much the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman himself as the policy of the Government in regard to Army matters. So long as the whole thing was in a sort of mist or shadow-land—so long as they did not know how much had been sanctioned and how much had been rejected by the Government—it had been impossible to make this debate as useful as it would otherwise have been. The value of Parliamentary debates was not always sufficiently apparent at the time; it took some time for what was said to nitrate into the country, to be digested there, and to be returned in the form of public opinion. Strong attacks were made two years ago on the scheme of the present Secretary for India when he was at the War Office, and he daresay that it might have been felt then that 692 the debates were very inconclusive and that there was a certain amount of unreality about them. The Prime Minister, with his matchless dialectics, stood up and from his point of view destroyed all the observations which had been put before the Committee, but if they looked to-day at the position we now occupied in military matters as compared with the position we occupied then he did not think that they would find that we were in any better position. They had eliminated for all practical purposes the system of linked battalions; short service had been abandoned for the purposes of the foreign Army and they had reached also some points of agreement in matters of general policy. All were agreed that we now enjoyed practical immunity from foreign invasion. Inasmuch as that was admitted it was also generally admitted that we could do with a smaller foreign-service Army; that was to say, a smaller force on which the general every day duty fell. They also agreed that over and above the Regular Army for ordinary purposes we required something in the nature of an emergency Army upon which we could rely when face to face with some great emergency, such as being called upon to defend our Indian frontier, though it was admitted that the danger of an invasion of our Indian Empire had much diminished by events in the Far East. It was of great importance that agreement should be reached upon these points, because it was only by agreement on the principle underlying this policy that they would be able to make progress. Nothing would be accomplished so long as one Secretary of State proceeded to undermine the policy of his predecessor, because there would be a want of that aspiration and loyalty in the Department itself without which the fine phrases used in this House would never be converted into real reforms.
It was admitted that economies could and should be made, but the House was presented with Estimates larger by nearly a million than had ever been presented before. In spite of exceptional windfalls and advantages the Estimates had advanced year after year, and it was because of the contradiction of the promises by the performance, of the theory by the practice, that 693 there had been a general condemnation from all sides of the House of the scheme put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. It took two years to destroy the scheme of the Secretary of State for India, but the scheme of his successor had been in existence for less than six months and it had been hissed off the stage, laughed out of Court. Its condemnation was not surprising. The Secretary of State proposed to continue two schemes which were mutually destructive each of the other, one of which he admitted was good, the other bad. He proposed to continue the Militia in its present state, but told the House that his proposal of a short-service Army was inconsistent with the retention of the Militia in its present shape. How could the right hon. Gentleman hope to carry out his scheme when there were such fundamental differences. As to the Auxiliary Forces upon which we had to rely on occasions of great emergency, the House knew perfectly well the right hon. Gentleman considered the Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers were incapable of performing their functions in defence of this country. The right hon. Gentleman preferred a professional force to the Auxiliary Forces, but they thought it was possible to improve the Auxiliary Forces and give to them the strength they desired them to have. The right hon. Gentleman desired to sweep them away and replace them by short-service men. The right hon. Gentleman did not think they were even good enough to maintain lines of communication. But so far as India was concerned it was not so much maintaining lines of communication as keeping order and freeing the Regular Army for service in the field. The right hon. Gentleman did not think they were very desirable, and appeared to hold the opinion that one pressed man was worth ten volunteers; he desired to extend the Militia and turn it into a sort of second-class Regular Army, if he might so describe it. The right hon. Gentleman wished to create a short-service territorial Army, which would not occupy, in its own opinion or that of anyone else, the position of the long-service foreign Army. And that was the service he preferred to that which the Auxiliary Forces could furnish. That was the view of the War Minister in this House, and he did not think it was disrespectful of him to say 694 that that was a view the House ought to accept with reserve. The War Minister was the advocate of the military view, and the very qualities which qualified him for the post he filled debarred him from taking a patriotic view of this question. He not only desired to have the best Army he could out of the materials at his disposal but also the biggest Army. But the House had to decide as to the main policy of the Minister, and he submitted that the Auxiliary Forces were the proper material for the emergency Army and that they would be able to perform the duties required of them.
When the right hon. Gentleman introduced his scheme in the previous year he quoted from the Report of the Royal Commission certain portions destined to show how worthless the Auxiliary Forces were. He observed that the first quotation the right hon. Gentleman used was that the average Militia battalion was not fit to take part in a field expedition force until some months after they had joined their battalion. It could be seen that the Secretary of State was not a warm friend of the Auxiliary Forces, out of which we could get a larger Army in times of emergency and which were composed of better material than the short-service men he desired to put in their place. He submitted that the Auxiliary Forces formed just the sort of Army which it was desirable to have for that purpose, and which should be encouraged in this country. The right hon. Gentleman was doubtful as to the extent to which they could be relied upon in an emergency. The patriotism of the people of this country was proportionate to the popularity of the war, and the emergency to which it gave rise. If it was understood that no considerable military expedition would be undertaken without the warm support and patriotic enthusiasm of the people two very desirable results would accrue. Aggressive policies, such as those involving expeditions to Somaliland and Tibet, would be discouraged, greatly to the advantage of the public service; and a sense of responsibility would be engendered in those people who were prone to go about giving vent to that music-hall Jingoism which had pushed 695 the country into many dangerous positions, and which in itself was one of the greatest menaces to the peace of the Empire. One of the reasons most Continental countries were more peaceable than they used to be was that every man knew that in case of war he might have to shoulder the musket and take his place in the fighting line, and if the Auxiliary Forces were given to feel a similar responsibility it would act as a deterrent on military enterprise. He believed it was on these lines the House would ultimately find themselves in agreement. These debates had shown a considerable amount of agreement as to military policy to exist, and if the Secretary of State would attempt to extend that agreement instead of pushing the mysterious and more unsympathetic part of his military policy, there would be reason for hoping that the result of the South African War which had broken up our old military system, would in the end create a new and a better policy for the future.
§ MR. J. F. HOPE (Sheffield, Brightside)
, speaking as a civilian, thought the Secretary of State had been somewhat hardly used with regard to the size of the Estimates, seeing that last year the right hon. Gentleman stated that the economies he hoped would ensue could not take effect to any great extent this year. Moreover, the Estimates of a year ago showed a considerable reduction on those of the year before. He could not understand why the cost of the new guns should be borne on the Estimates. They represented a large capital expenditure which, in his opinion, should be spread over a period approximating to the life of a gun, whatever that might be, or, say, a term of ten years. He hoped that next week, although the charges were in the Estimates, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would announce his intention of defraying the cost of the rearmament from some other source than revenue—such, for instance, as the unclaimed dividends. One of the greatest statisticians of the age, Sir Robert Giffen, a few years ago calculated that the cost of the Army, even if it amounted to £40,000,000, would not be out of proportion to our commitments, or greater in proportion to the wealth of the nation 696 than were the Army Estimates of 1860. He did not say that the Estimates should amount to anything like that sum, but it was worth bearing in mind what very different views prevailed a few years ago as to the cost of the Army. Any promiscuous cutting down of expenditure was a sure way to extravagance, as it invariably led to reaction. The reference of the hon. Member for Oldham to 1857, when Lord John Russell, Mr. Disraeli, and others put pressure on Lord Palmerston to reduce the Army Estimates, was hardly a happy analogy, as it was in May of that year that the Mutiny broke out. That was an example showing how precipitate attempts at economy produced reaction and diminished the military security of the country.
The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman was complete and logical—perhaps too logical. There was no answer to it if the underlying assumption of the security of the country against invasion were accepted, but he wished the Secretary of State could disclose a little more the reasons which, had led the Committee of Defence to accept the conclusions of the blue-water school. Such a disclosure, if it could be made without injury to the public service, would give a great deal of confidence to many people who could not now share the views of that school. He thought the Memorandum, of the Secretary of State put the matter rather too absolutely. It did not at all follow that if we lost the command of the sea we should be instantly starved into submission. He remembered the hon. Member for King's Lynn, who certainly was an authority on these matters, saying that an absolute blockade of these islands was an impossibility. But what of the case of a temporary loss of the command of the seas? It was not impossible to suppose that our Channel Squadron might meet with a disaster while the other squadrons remained intact and, given the necessary time, could restore to us the command of the seas. In the event of such a temporary disaster he submitted that, it was quite possible that a foreign army might get in to strike that "blow at the heart" of which the late Lord Salisbury spoke some years ago, and reduce this country to terms. Time was of the vital essence 697 of the question. It was not a matter of the Army at home being able to meet and overcome a large foreign army, but of being able to keep a foreign army at bay until the command of the seas was restored. That was a way out of the dilemma represented by the alternatives of the blue-water school or conscription, and he thought they should ask whether the Navy was so absolutely paramount that this country could stake the whole of its future upon it.
§ MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
submitted that the uncompromising unreality of these Army debates, of which the right hon. Gentleman had complained, was due to the Government and the Government alone. The War Office had accepted the theory of the blue-water school, but they believed that we had become more vulnerable on the Indian; frontier, and that we must maintain a comparatively large Army, prepared to go out at any moment to resist an attempt at the gradual absorption of Afghanistan. Assuming for the sake, of argument that no impediment existed in the way of getting the troops out, he desired to ask, and the House could not form a rational opinion on the matter until the Question was answered, what were the troops to do when they got to India? The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, who was an authority in these matters, had told them it was the general military opinion that they could not move through the deserts of Afghanistan an Army of 50,000 men with all their furniture and the materials they required to carry with them. He was told that in a much smaller war, in moving 10,000 men, we practically killed all the camels that could be found in Asia except a small number used for breeding. So that the only means of absorbing Afghanistan was by the gradual penetration of the railways. This question was represented to them as being the measure of our needs in regard to our Reserve Army. It was the pivot of the military problem, as he understood it, which they had to consider to-day, and until the House was told how many troops were wanted for this purpose, how they were to get there, what they were to do when they got there, by what means they were to replace them when 698 they left this country, and how they were to provide further troops if the war developed into a life and death struggle; until these matters were explained to them in their wider aspect, he maintained that the Members of the House could not really and rationally decide the questions put before them.
Yesterday afternoon the Prime Minister got up. He gave the closest attention to the right hon. Gentleman's explanation. He hoped that at last, they were going to hear something of this matter, which the right hon. Gentleman said was the crux of the whole military problem of the country. They were told by the highest military authority that the Prime Minister was the first Prime Minister since Wellington who could fittingly preside over the deliberations of the Imperial Defence Committee. They were told that the right hon. Gentleman had made a special study of the question of the frontier of India, that he knew the place and that he was thoroughly versed in the problem. Yesterday afternoon the right hon. Gentleman did not show himself a Wellington. He showed himself to be a student of a contemporary of Wellington who said that speech was granted to us in order that we might hide our thoughts. He confessed he listened to that speech with very blank dismay. It was true that the Prime Minister was speaking only on the question of the Volunteers, but it was also true that the Prime Minister told them; that they must consider the question of the Volunteers not in isolation from the military problem, which was the crux of the whole question, and this problem affected every branch of the Army.
He took as an instance the question of the Volunteers. The Volunteers were, in the old days, considered to be principally for home defence. Now, as he understood it, the Volunteers were much more likely to be wanted in the future as a force that would be willing to volunteer in time of emergency for service abroad. They were also wanted as a nursery of patriotism. The last purpose they were likely to be wanted for was to repel a force which had crossed the seas and landed on our shores. In regard to the Volunteers they had never been told anything satisfactorily. Last August a Memorandum was 699 placed before them showing how the proposed scheme would affect the Estimates of future years, and that when the scheme was working there would be a saving of £300,000, or 25 per cent., on the Volunteers. They had never had it explained whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to go on in the changes he proposed in the Volunteers. That was one of the fundamental things they wished to know. He had taken the Volunteers as an example, but he might have taken any other part of the Army and pointed out that this question of the Indian frontier affected the whole question of Army organisation.
On the recruiting question—speaking with a knowledge of the labour market—he asserted that the labour market was an essential part of the question of recruiting. In eight or nine months we were to have short- service recruiting opened to men concurrently with long-service recruiting. What would be the result? Long-service recruiting would almost immediately stop, or only a small proportion of men would go in for the long service. They must very soon, then, confine recruiting to long service only. Did the right hon. Gentleman intend to go on altering the system of recruiting from long service to short service and then back again to long service? That seemed to be the course which lay before them under the present conditions. It might succeed as a solution of the question, but it was much more likely to fail.
The right hon. Gentleman had asked them to make suggestions. He had tried to put before the House reasons why it was impossible for them to make suggestions at all. They had never had explained to them what the fundamental military problem was they had to consider. How, then, could they give an answer to these questions? Experts differed on the frontier question. It was for the Government to explain it, and on it depended every problem they were now considering. The House ought never to have been asked to sanction this Vote until the fundamental question lying at the bottom of the problem had been more fully explained to the House.
§ *MR. ABEL SMITH (Hertfordshire, Hertford)
said he desired for a few minutes to draw attention to a question which vitally affected the constituency he represented, namely, the discharge of a large number of workmen at the Small Arms Factory at Enfield. He thought the attitude of the men in this very critical state of affairs had been altogether a correct one, and he did not think any exaggerated statements had been made on the part of those who were so vitally interested in this matter. They had been told that this hurried action on the part of the War Office had been taken in the interests of economy. Of course they were all in favour of economy in the abstract, until it affected them in some particular matter in which they were interested. There were one or two matters which he desired to press upon the attention of the War Office. In view of the large expenditure which had been incurred at Enfield, and the large establishment which it was necessary to keep up there, and the large sums of money which had been spent and were being spent on buildings in connection with the Small Arms Factory, he thought they had some claim, to ask the War Office to consider whether it would not be better to keep the staff employed there at any rate at the normal standard. He thought he was correct in saying that the discharges which had already taken place would reduce the staff below the normal standard which had been maintained for a considerable number of years in the past. Then there was the difficult question of the proportion of orders which ought to be given to Government and private factories. Having regard to the cost of the establishments which the Government kept up he thought this question was worthy of the most careful consideration.
He regretted that the discharges had not been carried out in a more gradual manner. No doubt hon. Members had noticed the letter written by the First Lord of the Admiralty in regard to some discharges which took place at the Admiralty dockyards. He said that there was no intention on the part of the Admiralty of discharging any large body of men at one time, and so many were receiving notice week by week in. 701 order to cause the men as little inconvenience as possible. He ventured to think that the War Office might have adopted some such system as that rather than discharging 500 or 600 men in the sudden and unexpected way that they did the other day. There were special circumstances connected with the employment of these men at Enfield, which differed very considerably from the circumstances under which the men were employed in the Birmingham factories. At Birmingham if a man was discharged, he probably would be able to get a job on the following day, but the men discharged from the Government factory at Enfield could not find work of the same class anywhere in the neighbourhood. Therefore, in establishing this factory the Government had incurred very grave responsibility. They brought those men into that district, and by suddenly discharging them they not only caused very grave inconvenience and distress, but they also caused great loss to others who were indirectly dependent upon those employed in the factory. Although he was aware that the number employed during the war was in excess of the normal number, still he thought he had a right to ask that the normal number should be maintained. He could assure his right hon. friend and the House that these discharges were causing something like consternation and producing great distress amongst the men concerned, and the wholesale discharge of these men would cause a very serious loss of the capital invested by traders and others who had gone into business in that district. He therefore wished to press this matter very earnestly upon the attention of the Financial Secretary to the War Office.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said he very seldom intervened in Army debates, but he would confine himself to one or two points. The Secretary of State for War the other day said there was a great unreality about this debate. That was quite true, and it arose from the fact that they did not know whether the views which the right hon. Gentleman had expressed were his own views or a compromise between his own views and the views of the Government. Therefore they did not know whether what he was 702 telling them was going to be the last word of the Government or not. Another reason was that they were now discussing questions which, although of great importance, were, after all, dependent for their solution upon other questions which the House had not yet been allowed to discus. They were told by the Prime Minister that these considerations would fall to be discussed when the Vote was taken for the Council of Defence, but was it not putting the cart before the horse that they should discuss these questions now instead of first discussing the general principles about what Imperial defence meant and how it should be provided for? The House ought to have been allowed an opportunity for discussing that question before being asked to deal with the questions they were now considering.
He would illustrate this consideration by stating two points. The first was with regard to the North-West frontier of India. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War had stated that, after all, this was the main danger and difficulty for which we needed to maintain a large striking force. Both of the right hon. Gentlemen had talked as if we should need a force of 200,000 or 300,000 British soldiers who could be despatched to the North- West frontier of India. That seemed to be an extraordinarily large demand. Such a force could only be required in the case of some enormous force from the North-West approaching—an army of 300,000 or 400,000 men at least. Was there the slightest chance of an army of that kind coming to the North-West frontier of India? Those who had been there knew something about it. It was a land of mountain and desert and drought, with nothing like the railway facilities which the Russian Army had in Manchuria. He could not imagine a more difficult country for a foreign army to traverse. Unless some extraordinary want of judgment in policy on our part alienated the Afghans and drove them into the hands of another Power, we might depend upon the people there, who were jealous of their independence. That would be almost sufficient to put the greatest possible difficulty in the way of an approaching force. Surely, 703 if the House were to be asked to prepare for sending a force of 200,000 or 300,000 to defend the North-West frontier of India, they ought to be told what were the circumstances under which such a force might be required. They ought to have a reasoned statement of the views of the Council of Defence which had led them to believe that an enormous force of that kind was required, and they ought also to have the opinion of the Government of India, in whose archives there had been accumulated a great mass of knowledge on the subject. He should like to know whether the Secretary of State for War was prepared to say that the Government of India and their military advisers thought that any contingency could arise in which a force of 200,000 or 300,000 need be sent to India to aid in the defence of that country. The House knew what an enormous sum had been spent on railways and fortifications in that region and what a burden had been laid on the Indian taxpayer in consequence, and really to say that, in addition, this large force was to be prepared was to ask something which they could not take on the ipse dixit of the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State. The House must have evidence and an opportunity for discussing it before they could assent to such an extraordinary demand. There never was a moment when the danger of the invasion of India was less imminent than now. They had seen what had happened to the Russian Army in Manchuria and the difficulties which had been imposed on them. Was it likely that another enterprise, even more difficult, would be undertaken by Russia? If it was a distant contingency surely it was the part of wisdom not to prepare now at enormous cost. He did not profess to deliver a positive opinion on this question.
The other illustration he desired to give arose out of the case of the Volunteers. The case for the diminution of the Volunteers was found in the last resort to depend on the proposition which the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister had both advanced, that there was practically no probability whatever of any invasion of this country. All admitted that was a highly improbable contingency. Was 704 it an absolutely impossible contingency in these days when new methods of warfare were being discovered? He would go so far as to say that it was highly improbable—so improbable that he thought it was well to abandon the idea of the necessity for fortifying London. But was it so absolutely impossible that we should not have the additional security and comfort given by knowing that we had another force at home, which was a basis for recruiting and out of which an efficient Army could be rapidly created if the necessity arose to call upon them? Surely if we could provide an additional force of that kind at a small cost it was the part of prudence to do it. The House wanted, therefore, from the Council of Defence a much more complete statement of their case for declaring invasion to be practically impossible. He was far from being an advocate of militarism in any sense, but he believed there was considerable benefit in having a large force of Volunteers. He was one of the original Volunteers in 1859-60, and he remembered very well the spirit of the country at that time. It was a spirit which said that the citizens of this country ought to be prepared to bear their share of the duties and burdens of citizenship, and that was the spirit which the Volunteers had cherished ever since. He believed every man should be ready to fight for his country if the need arose.
§ *COLONEL BOWLES (Middlesex, Enfield)
said he wished to refer to a subject which was of great interest to his constituents, namely, the reduction of expenditure on the manufacture of rifles. Government factories had been built, and rightly so, for the manufacture of rifles, and of course, it had been done at the expense of private firms. At the end of the Crimean War it was found that it was not quite satisfactory to have rifles manufactured by private firms, and the works now at Enfield had been gradually built. There was another small arms factory at Sparkbrook, and it had been common for many years to divide the orders between the two factories and the private trade. Last year India started a rifle factory of her own. He doubted whether in normal times there would now be a sufficient amount of 705 work to keep the Government factories going at Enfield and Sparkbrook and the private factories as well. The House would realise the seriousness of the case at Enfield when he stated that during this financial year something like 75 per cent. of the machinery was lying idle. The district was one which had been entirely built up on account of the requirements of the Royal Small Arms Factory. During the last few years about 3,000 workmen had been employed in the factory. A few months ago there were 2,300 employed, but now the number had been reduced to 1,700. There had not only been this large reduction in the number employed, but those engaged at Enfield and at the sister factory at Spark-brook had been placed on short time. That meant a loss of something like £50,000 to £70,000 a year in money which otherwise would have been distributed in wages in the neighbourhood of Enfield Lock. The House could easily imagine how hard these places had been hit. If the Government at present desired that only the mounted forces of the country should be armed with the new rifle it was not for these districts to say that rifles which were not needed should be manufactured. The case he wanted to submit to the House was that before new contracts were made with private firms for the manufacture of rifles the War Office should consider the advisability of having the work done in their own factories. The two private firms which manufactured rifles were the Birmingham Small Arms Factory and the London Rifle Company. With the new factory, the large factory at Enfield, and the large accommodation at Sparkbrook we had sufficient scope even in time of war to provide for any emergency which might arise, and when they considered the very large price the Government paid to firms for the manufacture of rifles in private factories, he thought there was a very good reason in a House in which they were all pressing for economy, and when there were only small orders to be given for rifles, that those orders should be divided amongst the Government's own workmen, who ought to have the first benefit in this respect.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. BROMLEY DAVENPORT, Cheshire, Macclesfield)
said the point raised was rather a small one as compared with the larger issue with which the House had been concerned in the last few days, but he was not surprised that the matter had been referred to. It was not a small matter to hon. Members or those whom they represented, with whom he heartily sympathised. There was no more distasteful duty which could be thrown upon any man than that of dismissing a large number of willing workers from their employment, and no such action would be taken if it were possible to avoid it. The hon. Member had dealt with the Enfield factory alone, but he wanted to deal with the two factories, Enfield and Sparkbrook, because, although there was a difference between the case of Enfield and that of Sparkbrook, a man discharged was discharged wherever he happened to reside, and it was hard upon him in any case. Before the war there were some 2,600 men employed in the Government factory, though he did not admit that was the normal strength; then during the war the numbers went up to 3,000 and he believed higher. After the war they dropped to 2,800 at the beginning of the year; and since then it had been necessary to discharge some 500 more men. This had been very serious, not only to these men and their families, but also to the tradesmen whose business it was to supply them. He was afraid sympathy was not very substantial comfort in this case, but he hoped he might be allowed to express sympathy nevertheless, for he felt this sympathy all the more because these men had behaved so well. He had received deputations from them and from the tradesmen in the district. He had read what had been said at public meetings. No hard words had been used, no improper expressions made use of. They had exercised great self-restraint under great provocation, and had displayed a courage which was altogether commendable. Anything which he could do consistently with his duties, he would do to assist them, but he was not at present in a position to say very definitely what he could do, 707 because the programme of manufacture was not yet complete. They knew how much money was provided for in the Estimates, but there were other sources from which orders might come, and, until he knew what those orders were, it was impossible to lay down what amount of work they would be able to find for these men. For the present they could only remain as they were, and continue to do what they were doing. At present they had all the men engaged on short time, and they proposed to continue that short time, closing the factories on Saturday and Monday, at any rate until the end of May. He hoped the future would then be clear, and that they would know what the programme of manufacture would be. He hoped by that time they would be able to take a definite number on full time. He hoped it would be a large proportion. He could not say that there would be no further reductions, but he could promise that there should be no further large numbers of men discharged at the same time. If it were necessary to make further reductions those reductions should be spread over the largest possible time, so that there should be the least possible hardship.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said he was in very great sympathy with what had been said about the conduct of the War Office in this matter. He should like to use this discussion as an illustration of what was going on at the War Office and how completely the House was in the dark as to what they were going to do. He believed every military expert was in favour of rifles being made at the Government factories, but after a decision was taken on the subject by the Secretary of State and the military authorities it was reversed by some outside pressure not unconnected with the Prime Minister. The House was in exactly the same position in regard to the Reserve Forces. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had a scheme last year to destroy the Militia, and to damage the Volunteers to a large extent. That scheme remained with him. He still talked about it as his scheme and said as far as he was concerned such and such a thing would be done. In answer to a Question that day the right hon. Gentleman 708 said that the territorial battalions which were going to be made according to his scheme were not going to be taken in hand till October, because the number of long-service men would not be obtained till that time. That implied that in October he was going to set to work to carry out that scheme. That had never been told them in debate, and it had never been acknowledged when the Government intended to carry out that scheme. He also told them a little more, and said that, so far as the Militia regiments were concerned, no Militia battalion which joined under his new scheme would become a territorial battalion without their consent. It was very easy to get their consent if the Government pressed them. The Secretary for War said he was going to do away with thirty battalions of Militia, and if they did not consent they would be done away with altogether. That was no guarantee that the Militia would be kept in its present state, and they wanted a definite assurance that it would not be tampered with, and without that assurance by the Secretary of State, speaking as a representative of the Government, he was quite sure that Members on both sides of the House would remain unsatisfied.
On his side they had always believed that the Government would give way on the question of the Volunteers, but the last statement was worse than the first, because at first they had some hope that the Prime Minister would overrule the Secretary of State for War as he did in the case of the Small Arms Factory. They expected that that part of the scheme which was likely to destroy the Reserve Forces would be set aside. The scheme, if only partially carried out, meant that they would destroy the Militia, although not perhaps in a day. The pres nt uncertainty was increasing the pressure and weakening the Militia day by day, although the scarcity of men and officers was not so great now as it was immediately after the war. When the Secretary of State said that the Militia was decreasing, and that was a reason for its being done away with, he said it was due to the right hon. Gentleman and the previous Secretaries of State that it had been decreasing. If they were going to do 709 away with the Reserve Forces he should not be afraid if they had something equally good to put in their place, for, after all, whether they were half trained or not, both the Militia and the Volunteers constituted a large force which had always helped us in time of war. If the Volunteers or Militia were taken away the military effectiveness of this Empire would be greatly weakened.
What were the Government going to put in their place? There was a nebulous scheme which looked very pretty on paper. This territorial scheme had passed through the brain of the Secretary for War, and had passed on to the Papers presented to the House. Beyond that it had no real existence at all. Even an Army on paper might in time of a scare be of some use in allaying the panic of the country, but it was a poor thing to rely upon if ever we got into a tight corner. He remembered seeing a picture which represented the ghost of Napoleon reviewing the ghost of the grand army on the Champs de Mars, and he thought this territorial army was as much a ghost as a protector in this case and in fact was a phantom, and it was suggested that we should throw away the whole of our Reserve Forces for a phantom. He wanted a real assurance one way or the other, with no prevarication and no half measures. Was the Prime Minister in favour of this scheme? Was the Army Council in favour of it? Had the Secretary of State's scheme the sanction and support of either one or the other or of the Government? He believed it had not. But it was a thing the House ought to know so that it could form an opinion on the matter and record its vote either for or against the scheme.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said the hon. Member who had just sat down had based his speech upon an entire misconception of the statements of the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman had never desired to annihilate the Auxiliary Forces but to put them on a proper basis. The speech of the hon. Gentleman had accentuated a fact which had been before the House for many days, which was that while the House of Commons was splendidly equipped for dealing with almost every question which 710 they might be called upon to consider, it was particularly ill-manned for dealing with questions of either Army or Navy reforms. There were many Members of the House who would be accepted both in and out of the House as authorities upon almost every subject, but there was hardly one who would be accepted outside as an authority on military and naval affairs. That had not always been the case, but at the present time it was very doubtful whether there were four Members of this House whose speeches were ever read outside and regarded as valuable contributions to Army and Navy debates. The Secretary of State for War was one who had a very wide knowledge of Army matters and who was regarded as a great authority upon them, whilst the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, who it was well known was a student of military matters, was another Gentleman whose opinion was listened to with great respect. So far as the other Members of the House were concerned, he did not believe their speeches were ever read by the public outside, whilst within the House those who said the most and spoke oftenest were as a rule those who were least regarded.
The Navy in this regard had a great advantage over the Army. It had no Reserve, no Militia, no Volunteers, and no Yeomanry. It would not be unfair, or stretching the point too far, to say that fifty out of every sixty minutes of this debate had been more or less concerned with matters affecting the Auxiliary Forces. He ventured to say that the ordinary taxpayer looked at this matter from quite a different point of view from that which many approached it in the House. One of the things upon which the man in the street laid great stress was that he had learned by experience that to have to improvise an Army greater than the one on the establishment caused a greater expenditure than to carry a larger Army on the establishment, and further, he doubted whether an Army improvised in that way, would be a trustworthy Army to meet the attacks of the forces of any civilised Power. The directions in which reductions could be made and in which expenditure must be maintained was not the problem which the ordinary Englishman outside the House was trying to 711 fathom. The man in the street had always been brought up in the belief that the Army must be maintained in sufficient strength to repel any invasion, and that as the Empire increased so the Army must be increased and kept upon a level with the increase of the Empire in order to be in a position to repel any attack which might be made upon us.
Hon. Members opposite were entitled no doubt to ask for information, but when they demanded that the Government should disclose its whole plan, and make known, for instance, at what points on the Indian frontier it proposed to station troops, he thought that to make such information public would be to inflict a great injury on the nation. If a great authority in India suggested to the authorities at home that to ensure the safety of the Indian frontier they must be able to put 120,000 into India within six months in addition to the troops already there, that would practically mean the maintenance of 200,000 British troops in that country, entailing, with the wastage of war and climate, the provision of 50,000 men a year. History showed that great nations, when defeated at one point, were sometimes only too anxious to fight a war of revanche in order to regain prestige and reputation. He greatly feared, therefore, that those who held that because Russia had met, and was meeting, with disaster in Manchuria she was likely to abate the anxiety with which she watched our frontier in India, were living in a fool's paradise. If there existed in Russia such a school of thought as he had suggested, there was nothing to which they could have listened with greater delight than those speeches of hon. Members who declared that this country might loll in security, that the warning would come in ample time, and that the difficulties of Russia were such that no attempt need be made to prepare against attack. He could hardly imagine a line of argument so fata to the interests of this country. The taxpayers who demanded a reduct on in expenditure, accepting the view that the country could not be equally invulnerable against both attacks, had to consider which contingency was the more likely to occur—an invasion of this country or an attack 712 upon India—and make preparation accordingly.
With regard to the possibility of invasion, it was too often forgotten that even if there were no Auxiliary Forces, there would still be in this country an enormous number of men who, at some time, had served in the Army, and who, if the Government had sufficient arms and ammunition, could be rapidly improvised into a very formidable force, and one was forced to the conclusion that if reduction had to be made, it should be in the force usable to repel invasion rather than in the force usable to guard against attack in India. He had heard nothing from the Secretary of State to lead him to believe that the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to go very far in the direction of the reduction of the Auxiliary Forces. The right hon. Gentleman's desire was to lop off that which was inefficient and, to some extent, redundant, and to make the remainder more efficient. That object could be carried out simultaneously with the policy of providing efficient safeguard for the frontier of India. There was nobody in the House but had a high regard and intense sympathy for the Auxiliary Forces, and would like to retain and improve them all, both for the direct purpose of fighting and for the indirect advantages which accrued to the population in general. But if the problem had to be faced, it being impossible to effect the reduction demanded and at the same time maintain both branches of the service, was it any wonder that the nation should choose the contraction—not the extinction—of the Auxiliary Forces and the expansion of the Regulars, rather than the contraction of the Regular Army and the expansion of the Auxiliary Forces. If that line of reasoning was at all sound, the House was forced in the direction of military policy outlined by the Secretary of State for War.
Another matter in which he was deeply interested was the question of the shortage of officers both in the Army and in the Auxiliary Forces. That shortage ought not to exist. There was a shortage, so to speak, of the manufactured article, but almost a superabundance of the raw material which could be turned into the manufacturered 713 article at very short notice. How was that condition of affairs to be remedied? He fully agreed that the high standard of education, professional and otherwise, should be maintained for those officers who intended to make the Army their life career, but it did not at all follow that the War Office should refuse that other type of young fellow, of which there were so many ready to serve—men who were prepared to give eight or ten of the best years of their life to the Army. The services of such men were not to be secured by making the Army unattractive, and it undoubtedly was made unattractive if for the first years of the young officer's life he was hunted from one course of instruction to another and not given time for any legitimate amusement or recreation. Unless they could give extra inducements in the way of pay and make the early stages of the soldier's life more attractive they would find that this shortage would continue. They had in the present Secretary of State for War a man who thoroughly sympathised with the instincts of British officers, and he desired the officers to be really good trustworthy leaders of men. His suggestion was that while the right hon. Gentleman should take care to attract the higher type of men into the Army he should not close the door upon that other very valuable man who would give eight or ten years of the best part of his life to the service, and who could serve his country admirably. The right hon. Gentleman would get out of his difficulty in that way.
§ *MR. LYELL (Dorsetshire, E.)
said that after the warning given by the hon. Member for Newport he felt considerable diffidence in rising at all. He would remind the hon. Member that he omitted to mention the Secretary of State for India, who was a distinguished military authority. A short time ago the hon. Member appealed to them to treat this matter more or less in the same way as they treated naval questions with an absence of Party spirit. If he applied that remark to the speeches of hon. Members opposite they might certainly have taken his advice to heart, for they had treated the matter without any ties of Party discipline, and he hoped the Secretary of State for War was pleased with the result. If the hon. Member 714 alluded to voting, that appeal came very badly from the opposite side, for it was hon. Members on the Opposition side who ought to appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who had criticised the scheme of the Government but who would not support their opinions in the lobby with their votes. Whilst it might be true that an invasion was absolutely impossible supported from a base, he was not at all satisfied that something in the nature of a formidable raid was impossible. A formidable force might raid this country, and when they considered the extraordinarily complicated organisation of life in this country and how they depended upon railways and telegraphs, I was very difficult to foretell what damage a determined raid might not do before they were able to deal with it. He was certain that this sudden conversion to the blue-water school might be attended with a certain amount of danger. The hon. Member for Newport had alluded to the possible necessity of sending out 120,000 troops to reinforce the garrison of India in the event of trouble on the North-West Frontier. Upon this same point the Secretary of State for War spoke about the necessity that might arise of sending out the same number of men to India as we were obliged to send to South Africa during the last war.
§ *MR. LYELL
said that was what the right hon. Gentleman said. If they looked at the map they would see what an immense frontier they had to defend on the North-West of India. Most of them knew that the geographical situation there presented an almost insurmountable barrier to any invasion except at one or two small points. The hon. Member might remember what happened in the Tirah campaign. The military authorities made preparations for a much bigger affair, and prepared for contingencies which were not realised by providing 40,000 men. They got this army into the Tirah Valley, and then they found that they had twice or three times the force which they could employ. That was what would take place under the policy enunciated by the Secretary of State for War of 715 sending out to India a force equal to that which was sent out to South Africa.
The Secretary for War had told them that the cardinal point of his reform was a question of reduction, and a very considerable reduction, in money. What had happened? This reduction now remained in abeyance. The whole of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme was in abeyance, and what was more, the alternative scheme was also in abeyance, and that was the right hon. Gentleman's resignation. If they were to have any considerable reduction it must be in the number of men. If they were not going to sweep away cadres they must reduce the strength of their battalions very considerably indeed. Having reduced the battalions they should see how much they were capable of expansion in time of urgent necessity. They had the Reserves to fall back upon; and 500 men with 400 Reserves would strengthen a battalion and they might add about 300 picked Volunteers. They would then raise it to a very high war strength, and in a very short time they would have an extremely efficient fighting battalion. He did not maintain that it was possible to send Volunteer cadres to face foreign troops, but he thought it was possible to largely fill up Regular troops in moments of emergency from the Volunteers. The right hon. Gentleman was discouraging the Volunteers, but he said that he was reducing them because they were inefficient. It was impossible to carry out the reduction he had suggested without sweeping away not only the inefficient but some of the efficient men. If he wanted to improve their efficiency why did he not raise the physical standard. He assured the right hon. Gentleman that if he kept this decrease hanging over the heads of the Volunteers he would discourage that spirit of self-sacrifice which had been shown by thousands of men in the past, who showed their patriotism by joining the Volunteers. It was impossible to make a reduction in the number of the Volunteers without reducing their efficiency. The more men we were able to maintain the more efficient men there would be when the pinch came. He protested most strongly against the proposal to reduce the Volunteers.
§ *MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said the hon. and gallant Member for Shropshire had declared there were not four Members of the House who knew anything adequate of military matters. There were, therefore, three. Two he had named—the Secretary of State for War, and the Member for the Forest of Dean. The third, with his usual modesty, he had refrained from naming, but he had plainly indicated him as a level-headed man—from Shropshire. The difficulty felt in the debate was to extract from the Secretary of State for War what he meant to do and what he was allowed to do. At present there were four conceptions of the Army—those of the Army Council, the Committee of Defence, the Cabinet, and the Secretary of State for War. No two of these conceptions agreed, and the House wanted to know, as practical men, which was the conception which would prevail, or whether there was to be a kind of salad made of all of them, and a compromise as the result. The House wanted to know from somebody what the British Army was going to be. There were two kinds of invasions which had been talked about. The hon. and gallant Member for Shropshire had dwelt lovingly on the Russian invasion of India. That had been the bogey of a hundred years; but India had never yet been invaded. From the days of Peter the Great every man who presumed to be a British statesman, a strategist, or a military critic, had always taught his countrymen to beware of the invasion of India. His own belief was that the danger had been over-rated, and the difficulties under-rated, and that the danger was less and the difficulties greater now than ever. It was true that there were Russian railways to the frontier of India. But there had also been Russian railways to the frontier of Manchuria, on the frontier, and across Manchuria itself. But railways were nothing compared to ships. As we held the sea for India, so the Japanese held the sea for Manchuria, and by that they had rolled back the invasion. The cause of Russian failure and of Japanese success in Manchuria was the sea power of Japan; and it seemed to him that, instead of the invasion of India becoming more easy for Russia, it had become infinitely more difficult. Surely the moment after a 717 most exhausting war was not the one Russia would choose for such another desperate enterprise as the invasion of India. His belief was that, in spite of the railways made towards the frontier of India, the natural difficulties of Afghanistan, if we used them as we should do, by alliance with the Afghans, and not by invasions of their country, added to our own natural advantages of access to India by sea, would be sufficient to protect India from serious invasion by Russia for many long years to come.
It had also been suggested that there might be an invasion of these islands. Such an invasion had long been suggested and even seriously attempted, and in every instance the attempt had been defeated, not by soldiers, but always by sailors. During the whole continuance of the Napoleonic Wars we were constantly in danger of invasion, but it never occurred to any man that we should protect the country from invasion by the Regular Army. It was by our ships alone that it was done. He wished to say a word as to the places where the ships should be. There had been a conflict of opinion in early days between Lord St. Vincent and Lord Howe as to the best means of defending these shores. Lord Howe desired to have the Fleet always near our shores, while Lord St. Vincent contended that our warships should be off the enemy's ports, in order to keep in constant touch with the enemy's ships. When a ship left a port it was lost sight of, so that the only way to watch an enemy's vessels was to have our Fleet watching off the enemy's ports. They must watch the rat at the hole and deal with it when it came out. It was not the Channel Fleet, therefore, but the vessels off Brest and Toulon, during the Napoleonic Wars, that preserved this country from invasion, and the principle was still true, though in these modern days the point of observation might have been shifted to the Elbe or the entrance to the Baltic. During the Napoleonic Wars our Fleet had another sphere of action, to capture the enemy's trade under whatever flag it was found, and our abandonment of that power was regarded by the late Lord Salisbury as most unwise. But if our 718 Fleets were eluded and an invading army marching on London, would that finish everything? Would the country remain quiet? Would there be no Highlanders coming down from the North, no men of Birmingham marching to succour the capital? And even if the Government capitulated, surrendered, and handed over the whole country to the enemy, he could conceive the subsequent arrival of an admiral from the Pacific or Atlantic who would repudiate the Government and the capitulation together, and save the country by simply cutting the enemy's communications.
In regard to the question of the country being starved out, the right hon. Gentleman, in his opinion, was wrong. We might have no Fleet at all and still this country could not be starved. So large and so numerous were the avenues of sea access to this country that it was impossible to bring that about and they must remain open. To starve us they would have to close the seas from the Naze of Norway, round by the West of Ireland to Ushant, and all the fleets in the world could not do it. Since, therefore, the avenues of arrival could not be closed, if the supplies of this country were to be stopped it would have to be at the ports from which they issued. These ports were infinite in number, and at present it would be impossible to do that unless we had in force some such arrangement as the Sugar Convention which might prohibit us from getting corn from certain countries. That would facilitate the task of the enemy, would prevent us from getting corn from certain ports, would diminish to a few, perhaps to very few, the ports of issue, and would, perhaps, render possible the closure of those few. So long, however, as this country stood to the principle of free trade and relied for supplies upon the entire world, so long as there were an infinity of ports from which corn could be sent, so long would it be impossible to starve this country. In his opinion the Fleet was the implement to protect us from invasion, and the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in placing his chief reliance upon it. But that there should be also something else was true, and what that something should be was indicated by our position. If he were a 719 German or a Frenchman he should never have a good word for a Volunteer or a Militiaman, but it was because we were surrounded by the sea and because we only wanted a little breathing time for the aid which must come from the provinces and from Fleets, that of all countries in the world this country might be defended by Volunteers and Militiamen. The Militia was the old traditional and constitutional force of the country, and the Volunteers had had their origin in a public spirit which had not been shown in any other country in the world. In his belief those forces were sufficient, with a very small stiffening force of Regulars, to meet anything in the shape of an invasion which might be attempted upon this country. He thought any War Minister ought to be thankful that patriotism, courage, and spirit should induce men to make soldiering a hobby and to give their money and their time to such an end, their labour and their efforts being sweetened and made delightful because they were put forth in the public service. That was, he thought, the sort of element upon which we could safely rely in time of danger, and that was an element which he was sorry to see a disposition on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to discourage. It was an element, however, which he should do his best to foster because it was one which was invaluable to the country.
§ CAPTAIN BAGOT (Westmoreland, Kendal)
said that hon. Members had spoken as if it were the intention of his right hon. friend the Secretary for War to strike a severe blow at our Volunteer force, if not to do away with it altogether. He did not understand, however, that the right hon. Gentleman was in any way dealing a destructive blow at our Volunteer and Reserve Forces. They had heard a great deal about the possibility of invasion on a large scale and on a small scale, but these were matters which could not be proved and of which no adequate proof could be given to the House. It was quite clear, however, that Auxiliary Forces to the number of 200,000 would be sufficient to satisfy our requirements in any possible circumstances under 720 which England could be invaded by a large force, and would also satisfy those who thought that it could be invaded by a small force. What his right hon. friend contemplated was not to do away with the Volunteers in any way or even to deal a severe blow at them. If he took such a course nothing could be more damaging to the patriotic spirit of the people of this country. He hoped it would go forth to the country as the result of this debate that no serious alteration in our Volunteer system was intended by the right hon. Gentleman or the Government, or anybody else. So far as he understood it the right hon. Gentleman's proposal appeared to be a reasonable and sensible one. The Volunteer force consisted of some 250,000 men, and it was perfectly well known that some economies should be brought about. The proposal was that the number of Volunteers should be reduced to some 200,000, and that the saving thus effected should be devoted to making the remainder more efficient. It was quite clear that upon the whole now the Volunteers were not properly equipped with transport and various other equipments which would enable them to move if this invasion either on a big or a small scale took place. Moreover 200,000 men were sufficient, he thought, to satisfy both those who thought that a large invasion was possible and those who thought that only a small one was feasible. If there was any intention of abolishing the Volunteers or reducing their numbers he should be the first to oppose it, and if there was any idea of striking a serious blow at them he thought the country would resent it. If the numbers were reduced, however, it would do no harm if the result was to make those who were left more efficient. The Volunteer force had for years past said, "Give us more reality, make us more like real soldiers," and he thought they would prefer to be dealt with as Regular troops and would not mind the reduction.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.