§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £545,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge for the War Office and Army Accounts Department, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1906."646
§ *MR. ARNOLD - FORSTER
I am very glad that the discussion on the Volunteer question which we have already had has terminated in time to allow me to say a word upon a subject which has even a greater importance than the subject of the Volunteers; and that subject is the administration of the Army as a whole, of which the Volunteer force, important as it is, is only a part. I have been long anxious for the opportunity of laying before the House Commons after a year and a half of very onerous work some account of what the Army Council has been able to accomplish during that time. I may say we have had a long and difficult task; and I should like to make it clear that every task that the Army Council or Secretary of State undertakes is made, I think, more difficult than it need essentially be by the fact that in relation to the great service over which we are called upon to preside the task is not to the same extent assisted, as is the administration of the sister service, by the stimulating influence of that popular interest which goes so far 647 to make the work of a Minister and a Department effective. I have been associated with both Departments, and I should be loth to say that the one is more or less important than the other; but I am quite certain, having had the almost unique experience of having served in both, that the greatest boon that can be bestowed in the service of a great Department is a sane and reasonable public interest in its administration. I cannot pretend that in all cases the interest that the public or the House of Commons have displayed in the work of the War Office has been altogether sane or reasonable. I think it is not true to say that individual Ministers, whoever they may be, cease to be reasonable beings, cease to be patriotic statesmen when, they come to undertake the task set before them at the War Office—my belief is to the contrary; but their difficulties are, I sometimes think, increased by the unreasonably critical attitude of the public and the House of Commons. I think sometimes that a little sympathy, a little consideration of the vast difficulties of those who are charged with administering a voluntary army required for the service of this great Empire, and dealing with problems which have no parallel among the many interesting military problems with which various States have to deal, ought to excite a little more intelligent sympathy than the work of the War Office appears to excite in the minds of those who are its ready, invariable, and inexorable critics. I have been anxious for this opportunity for a long time, because I have made many promises to the House of Commons, and I am anxious to convince the House of Commons and the country that I have not forgotten those promises, and that I have done the best I can, With the assistance of my colleagues on the Army Council, to redeem those promises.
I suppose no Army authority has ever undertaken this arduous task without having to deal with many difficult problems; and I suppose that there have been few Army authorities that have come to that task with greater problems to deal with than those placed before the present Army Council. Not only had they to deal with what I may call the recon- 648 struction of the Army after a long and arduous war had produced the effects it was calculated to produce in the Army, out they had, in obedience to what I think was the general wish of the country, to undertake the difficult task of the remodelling of the constitution of the War Office and also to a large extent of the Army. Here was no easy task, and one beset with many difficulties; and, heavy is those difficulties have been to every member of the Army Council, on none lave they fallen more heavily than on the Secretary of State for War.
There was a very scanty attendance in the House, and at this point an hon. Member called the Chairman's attention to the fact that there were not forty Members present.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I think the situation has been made in some respects more difficult by a pronouncement made in another place by a member of the Legislature, a great and distinguished soldier, and I think it is due to the House of Commons and the country that the Secretary of State should be called upon to give an explanation when this Vote is asked for and to say something upon the condition of the Army.
When I first had the honour of addressing the House as Secretary or War I was compelled to tell the House that the condition of recruiting was of a very serious character; and I lad also to point cut many other deficiencies in the constitution of the Army, some of which I believed, and still believe, are inherent in the Army system and entail the inevitable consequences of the disorganisation arising from a great war. It is our business to try to repair those ravages and deficiencies, and I want to tell the Committee how far we have advanced in the duty assigned to us. A great difficulty which met us was the condition to which the Army had been reduced by the introduction of the short-service form of recruiting. Now the short-service recruitment when adopted vas one well adapted to the needs of the situation. We were suddenly called 649 upon to meet the exceptional demands of a great war and had to adopt the machinery best calculated to produce the men who would enable us to pass through that war. But I think it will be obvious to every man who has studied the problem that the machinery was not adapted to the permanent needs of the Empire and cannot be accepted as a solution of the problem. I want to point out what would have been the position had short service continued. I am myself familiar with the figures; they have been my daily study for years past. The result would have been this. I used a strong expression in regard to the infantry in a speech I made at Edinburgh, and it was no exaggeration. Short service was adopted on the supposition that 75 per cent, of the infantry would extend their term of service; but that has not been justified by what has actually taken place, and in the result we found ourselves face to face with extensions at the rate in some battalions of an average of 4 to 5 per cent., and, taking the whole of the infantry, of 20 per cent. That, of course was a very serious state of things. I do not know whether the Committee realise how serious was the position, we having to send drafts to the tropics and the Colonies and being unable to find the men unless we resorted to men with only a year or less in the service. Even less efficient, than the infantry was the garrison artillery. They have more than half their strength abroad, and it was obvious that unless some 100 per cent, of the men extended their service the drafts could not be furnished. Here was one of the first difficulties the Army Council had to meet. We had to take prompt steps to put an end to a state of things that if continued would have involved the Army in disaster. The temporary measure had ceased to be suitable. Many opinions were expressed to the effect that the measures we ultimately adopted could not possibly succeed; but I ventured to press my view, and we did adopt the system of long-service recruiting for nine years, which, if it succeeded, we calculated would extricate us from this great difficulty. There were many sinister and alarming prophecies in regard to the effect of a project; but I maintained my opinion that it would be a success, and 650 it has been, and the result I will now give to the Committee.
In October last we began recruiting for the infantry for nine years service, and we have already taken some 17,000 infantry recruits, of whom 15,000 have been for long service, and by doing so we have apparently removed the danger which threatened the Army. We have added 15,000 long-service men to the Army, and we have at the same time taken the necessary and corresponding measures, we have been discharging short-service men from the Army. We have discharged no less than 12,000 from the Army and we have taken in their place some 15,000 long-service men.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Yes, since October. They have all passed into the Reserve. I believe that to have been an entirely profitable operation. The men we have discharged into the Reserve were useless for the purpose of furnishing Indian drafts. They could only be sent to India for a few months, and they involved expense both for their passages and for their maintenance while in India. Very alarming statements have bean made, for which there is not a particle of foundation, to the effect that the recruiting for the Army has resulted in a very serious deficiency. But we have still more than three months of the recruiting year to expire, and I have no reason to doubt that, before the end of the recruiting year, we shall have taken at least 18,000 long-service recruits for the infantry alone. I should like the Committee lo remember what the real value of this contingent of long-service recruits is. The years 1903–4 were absolutely abnormal years with regard to recruiting for the infantry. For those two years 28,000 in each year were taken for infantry recruiting, but the average recruiting for the four years 1899–1902 was only 23,446. In 1895 it was 19,000; in 1896 17,000; and in 1897, 21,000; and I have the sanguine expectation that before the end of the present recruiting year we shall have taken 18,000 men, or something equivalent to twenty battalions of long service infantry under long-service 651 engagements. I have spoken of the infantry only. Let me now speak of the garrison artillery, which is a force with peculiar recruiting conditions. The larger portion of the garrison artillery being abroad, we must rely upon having an extension at any rate of 100 per cent. What has happened? We have already taken from January 1st, the date on which we began the long-service recruiting for the garrison artillery, 554 long-service men, and we have lost a considerable number of short - service men. The upshot of it is this, that the garrison artillery, one of the arms which gave us the most anxiety, has now been placed on a sound footing, and we have no further anxiety with regard to recruits.
I think I ought to add one fact which I think will be of interest to the Committee. We were speaking this afternoon of the question of the medical qualifications of men for the Volunteers, I should like the Committee to understand that, pari passu with this introduction of long-service men, there has been a steady improvement in the class of men taken. The rejections for medical unfitness have greatly decreased, and within the last few months alone the percentage of rejection as between June, 1904, and the present date has gone up from 35 per cent, to 41 per cent. That is to me a very gratifying fact. I have for years pleaded for the elimination of the unfit men. It is the most uneconomical method of taking recruits that could possibly be imagined. These men come in. They are accepted, paid for, fed, drilled, and clothed—and they go out, they leave us. The enormous waste for the first two years of a soldier's life has been one of the most unsatisfactory features, to my mind, of the whole of our Army recruiting. The result has been exactly what I anticipated. We have had far fewer rejections, and. what is even mere satisfactory, we have had an enormous reduction in the number of desertions. For the first time for many years the desertions have fallen below 1,000 a year, and the rate of desertion has gone down to an extent which it was absolutely impossible to anticipate a few years ago. It may seem that these are very ordinary figures; but for those who have studied as long as I have the recruiting figures of our Army they 652 will be extraordinarily satisfactory, I believe that, until we are able to get over this problem of the waste in the first few years, we shall not have mastered the recruiting problem at all; but I believe that never have we had a more satisfactory state of things than we have at present with regard to rejection for physical unfitness or the amount of desertion from the Army.
§ MR. FULLER (Wiltshire, Westbury)
asked whether these desertions were from the long-service recruits.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
No, Sir, for the whole of the Army. The interruption of the hon. Member enables me to give an actual figure with regard to desertions which, I think, the House will approve and which, I hope, the public will appreciate. Desertions have fallen between 1901–3 from 12.51 to 3.7 in the last twelve months. We have not got over the difficulty, but we are making great progress to getting over it. There will be great difficulty in finding the drafts for India for the next two years. Any recruiting that we can undertake now will not remove the draft difficulty within the next two years. It will ameliorate it, and I am confident that we are now on the road towards the satisfactory solution of this difficulty, which is the great and unique problem of the British Army.
Lord Roberts has declared in round terms that the Army is no better now than it was in 1900. It would be absurd for me to bandy opinions with so distinguished an officer as Lord Roberts as to what, after all, must be a matter of opinion. It may be that in Lord Roberts' estimation the condition of the Army in the year of which he speaks was equal or superior to the condition of the Army at the present time. That is not my opinion, I do not attach any value to my own opinion upon this matter; but I think I can give facts which will satisfy the Committee, and which, I think, will go far to satisfy the public, that the very strong dictum of Lord Roberts requires some modification, some examination. I was not responsible, Lord Roberts was responsible, for the Army in 1903. I 653 have been responsible for the Army since that time. I do not pretend to know whether the Army improved or whether it deteriorated between the date to which he referred and 1903; but of this I am quite certain—that since 1903 there has been a rapid, a great, improvement in the personnel and in the organisation of the Army. I ventured to say earlier this evening that I have never been a prophet of smooth things. I know perfectly well that we are very far from the condition which we ultimately ought to reach and which I hope we shall reach; but I think I can say enough to prove that there has been a steady progression in the direction which we all wish to travel. I am going to prove to the Committee that in every branch of the Army we have made and are making progress. The proof does not rest on any assertions of my own which cannot be identified and checked by any member of the Committee who cares to examine for himself or consult the authorities.
There is that important branch of the Army, the cavalry. For years I have been a strong advocate of an entire change in the organisation of the cavalry. The cavalry has been linked together three regiments at a time, then two regiments at a time, and all these schemes have involved drafting men from one regiment to another—a measure as obnoxious to the officers and men themselves as it was, in my opinion, deleterious and dangerous to the efficiency of the regiments. We have now, with the full approbation and consent of the cavalry officers who have been consulted on this matter, devised a scheme for the organisation of the cavalry which, I venture to believe, is calculated to prove an enormous improvement to the cavalry. I have the most positive assurances from those officers beat qualified to judge, and from the Inspector-General of Cavalry himself, that never was the cavalry in a more promising state than it is at the present time, never were they better horsed, that the efficiency of men and horses and their individual training is satisfactory, and that they are now more ready than they have bean for many years past to take part immediately in any campaign in which they may be called upon to act. I have long expressed the opinion 654 that we ought to have a striking force. Circumstances over which I have had no control, or very little control, have interfered with the realisation of that ideal; but already it is reported to me that a cavalry striking force has been formed, that the First Brigade, and the Second Brigade, and the Third Cavalry Brigade are almost all quite ready for service, that provisional skeleton regiments have been abolished, and that all regiments are now on a working establishment. The cavalry has been practically entirely remounted, and, owing to the efforts of the Remount Department, which have been very considerable and most creditable, the remounting of the cavalry leaves very little to be desired. There is a difficulty, no doubt, with regard to finding an adequate number of cavalry officers. It is a very serious difficulty, and a very complex question, but we have taken measures, and are taking measures, to ascertain the views of cavalry officers in regard to it. Difficult as the problem is, involving as it does important considerations which have nothing practically to do with the military efficiency of the regiments, we are not altogether without hope that we see and sue from this difficult situation.
I suppose, if I were to choose the branch of the Army which was most important, I should say the infantry. Next to that is undoubtedly the artillery. Well, Sir, we have made very great progress with the artillery. As I think I have already explained to the Committee, the draft difficulty with a most important branch of the artillery, the garrison artillery, has been practically overcome. That difficulty has not arisen with regard to the Royal Horse Artillery and the Royal Field Artillery, but the difficulty which has forced itself on many Members of this House has been the difficulty inseparable from the inferior armament of the artillery. That difficulty has been got over. As I told the House on a former occasion, on the very day that I got the Report of the Committee authorising me to proceed with the manufacture of the new gun, I gave orders that the gun should be manufactured. I was told in this House and out of it that we were not providing enough money for the 655 manufacture of the guns. I said then, and I have said at every subsequent stage, that I would pledge myself that we would find the money faster than the manufacturers would find the guns, and my prophecy has proved correct. At every stage of the manufacture of these guns I have watched them and checked them, and I have done my best to accelerate their manufacture. If, in every particular as to the day and the hour our anticipations have not been fulfilled, we have still made progress which, I believe, is exceedingly creditable to the manufacturing resources of this country, and we ought to be grateful to the members of this Committee. We have delivered or have under inspection no less than thirty-two of the 13-pounder guns and 169 of the 18-pounder guns. We hope by the end of this year to have no fewer than 182 of the 13-pounder guns and 206 of the 18-pounder guns—that is to say, some 388 guns complete, with limbers, wagons, ammunition, and all their appliances. I wish that progress could have been made at an earlier date; but all I can say is that there has been no failure due to the War Office to supply funds, and for the rapidity of this manufacture I think we may fairly give credit to the ordnance factories and to the firms who have taken part in the manufacture of the guns.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The guns, that are being delivered at present have been entirely for India. The guns up to the end of the year include guns both for India and for the United Kingdom. But I make no distinction. We have deliberately elected to send the guns to India because we consider there are contingencies which might make them more important for India than they are here. But I can assure the hon. Member that the manufacture of these guns is going on in a satisfactory way, and I believe that every promise I have given—I have given no promise which has not been the result of minute personal inspection and careful inquiry on the spot of those who are responsible for the 656 manufacture of the guns—will be fulfilled.
Sir, there is another important subject. The House, shocked and alarmed, if I may say so, by the deficiency in certain stores in years gone by, has insisted upon the accumulation of a vast amount of military stores for various branches of the service. The Committee known as the Mowatt Committee stated what those reserves ought to be; and I laid down as a very natural and obvious business corollary that I should receive from time to time from the heads of the departments responsible positive signed statements that these stores were in existence on the authority of those who were responsible for their maintenance. Well, Sir, these stores are in existence; they are maintained, and they are available to an extent which, I believe, has never before been the case in the history of the British Army.
The Royal Engineers are a branch of the Army which, I think, is not largely represented in this House; but it is a very important branch. I am not sure that the Royal Engineer, as at present constituted, are entirely appropriate to the important task they have to perform. The Royal Engineer officers are probably the most distinguished in many respects in the Army; they are an important element which the Army cannot afford to lose. But I am sometimes inclined to think that the intelligence and zeal of the Royal Engineers are devoted to subjects which perhaps might be more appropriately dealt with by persons less eminently qualified. We have now an important Committee sitting under the presidency of one of our shrewdest and ablest officers, Sir Evelyn Wood, which is going into the whole question of the organisation of the Royal Engineers. I am most anxious not to lose a single officer of the calibre of the Royal Engineers out of the Army. We want that type of officer. But I have studied this question so long that I think the Committee will pardon me when I say I have come to the conclusion that we are not applying the great talent the Royal Engineers place at our disposal in the most satisfactory manner.
657 The Army Reserve is in one sense the keystone of our Army organisation. We have heard to-day that a great Reserve is the one thing the country requires in time of war and I agree with that "dictum." During my term of office the Army Reserve has risen from 66,000 to 91,485—the largest figure at which the Reserve has ever stood—and I believe before the end of the year it will probably reach the figure of 100,000 men. I think that is satisfactory. It is not altogether satisfactory, because I believe the Army Reserve ought to be liable to training at certain specified intervals. That is an ambition that may some day be realised.
I believe that there is no force in His Majesty's service from which we obtain better value for money expended than the Imperial Yeomanry. The reports which I have received from the inspecting officers are uniformly favourable. The class of officers in the Yeomanry is probably unique in Europe. We are getting, as we are certain to get in these circumstances, the willing services of capable men. I only hope the Yeomanry may continue to be in the future what they are at the present moment. I should like to say this in justification of my own administration. Both inside and outside this House I was taken to task for reducing the establishment of the Yeomanry regiments; but officer after officer who condemned me at the time I made that reduction has now had the kindness and generosity to acknowledge that that step was the wisest step that could be taken in the interests of the Yeomanry, and to it the Yeomanry owe some measure of their present excellent efficiency.
I have been trying to combat, not in an aggressive way, but quietly and by facts which no one can dispute, the assertion that the Army is retrograding. No one attaches more value than I do to the opinion of such a distinguished officer as Lord Roberts. But when we are asked to accept a sweeping condemnation of the Army as it is, we are entitled to take the opinion also of officers who are actually serving in the Army and are Seeing the troops from day to day. I think I may be permitted to quote from the remarks of a very distinguished officer 658 who devotes every hour of his day and all his great ability to the service of his important command. Sir John. French, speaking early in this year, said—There were many drags on the military coach. Making full allowance for that, he believed that the Army Council and the Headquarters Staff had made extraordinary progress along the road which led to efficiency. A few days ago he met Sir Evelyn Wood, a soldier of great experience and distinction, who told him how happy he was in the thought that during his fifty years in the service he never knew the Army so efficient from a training and inspection point of view as on the day he left it. He could fully corroborate what Sir Evelyn Wood had said. He did not believe there ever was a time when the officers and men alike made greater sacrifices or tried to make themselves more efficient as they had done between the time of the late war and the present moment. He did not wish to say they were by any means perfect. But he believed, in spite of great drawbacks, that they were making steady progress, and when next called on to take the field he felt absolutely certain that the British Army would uphold the splendid traditions which it had earned in the past.I think I am entitled to quote that statement, and I quote it more readily because I so entirely associate myself with the phrase which Sir John French used about the Army being by no means perfect. But I think the views of all these officers and civilians who are working at the War Office testify to the work that is being done, and show that there has been progress, that there is progress, and that we are going forward. That speech was made on March 1st of this year at the Associated Chambers of Commerce. I think that is an earnest of progress. I want the Committee to consider that we are dealing with an Army which went through an ordeal which no Army that I can remember has ever gone through before. We are dealing with a voluntary Army which went through the ordeal of a great and prolonged war. Every other army which has gone through a great war has been able at the end of that war to recuperate itself by the aid of conscription. Our Army has not only had to repair the waste and ravages of war, but also to replace the enthusiasm and the voluntary efforts of those officers and men who, having borne the burden and heat of the day for two or three long years, have given up the service and gone to other fields. That has been no slight task, and I believe we have made a great deal of progress.
659 The Committee cannot fail to be interested in the fulfilment of the promise I gave as to the financial side of the Army. We have made an entirely new accounts branch of the Army; that has been a most onerous task, and it has been made more onerous because those who were responsible for the financial control of the Army in the War Office have almost without exception been taken away from the office either by ill-health, by the effluxion of their period of service, or by promotion to other offices. The work was left almost entirely to the present Director of Army Finance serving under my hon. friend the Financial Secretary; they have had to recreate the whole financial branch of the Army. It is too early days to prophesy what will be the result of that new departure; but my belief is that we have acted on sound principles, that in carrying out, with some modifications, The recommendations of the Esher Committee we have made it impossible that the difficulties, and to a certain extent the confusion, which beset the financial branch of the Army during the South African War can recur. I speak in the presence of many business men, and I think they will agree with me that we have taken the right course. We are now training in their daily work of life the very men who in time of war will have to carry out 1he financial work of the Army. What would happen if, by some unhappy chance, we had a war to-morrow? When our new organisation is complete, the officers and the civilians who are carrying on the contract work and the finance work at Aldershot, on the Curragh, and on Salisbury Plain will transfer their activities to the field, and they will have precisely the same work to do in the field which they have been doing at home. The contracts will be made by the same officers who make them at home; the accounts will be rendered by the same officers to the same persons, and over and above all that, the Financial Adviser to the War Office will be at the side of the Commander-in-Chief to aid him in those extraordinary, special, and technical problems which always must beset the Commander-in-Chief, and which certainly did beset the Commander-in-Chief in the South African campaign. It is early days, I say, to speak; but I ask 660 any business man to examine—and I speak in the presence of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who, as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and an old member of the War Office administration, knows a great deal better than I do what are the chances of success of this reorganised branch—still I make bold to say that we are acting on the right principles, and in accordance with ordinary business methods, in the change which we have made. Everything must depend, of course, on the personnel: but we are doing our part, I think, to provide the machinery.
I hope I have said enough to show that the sweeping generalisation that was made in another place was not altogether justified. I believe that we are progressing, that our progress has been uniform, and that it has been directed towards an absolutely certain end. I could not help feeling that that generalisation so condemnatory, so discouraging, was a little animated by the conviction which I know the distinguished soldier to whom I have been referring holds with regard to what is the true remedy for all our Army disorder. I know that he holds, in common with many soldiers who are working with and advising me, that conscription is the only remedy for our military ills. Well, neither Lord Roberts nor I have any commission to impose conscription upon the people of this country; and I think it is not wise, if I may say so, to plan your remedies upon the supposition that this particular method of filling up your Army will be adopted by the people of this country. Whether that be so or not, I am sometimes taken aback by the want or consideration which is given to this question by those who make general statements with regard to it. We have had cases quoted of other countries which have adopted conscription. I have been a student of the military history of other countries, and I say that with one solitary exception there is not a single country in the world which has adopted conscription for the kind of work which our Army is called upon to do. There is an exception—perhaps I may say two exceptions. The French tried conscription for a war in a tropical country, they sent the conscripts in one of their southern army corps to Madagascar, and the horrible mortality which 661 ensued terrified the French nation. That experiment has never been repeated. I have myself stood on the quay at Bremerhaven and seen the German troops returning from an over-sea expedition, and not one of them was a German conscript, they were all voluntary soldiers from the German army. I believe there is no such case in the world, with the single exception of the Japanese army, which, in a climate similar to their own, and on territory a continuation, or their own, has a large conscript army abroad.
But I would remind the Committee that our problem is entirely different from that of other nations, and we must consider it on its merits alone. It has sometimes been suggested that conscription is economy. That is a grave error. We have to keep up in India and in the Colonies a regular long-service Army, year in and year out, of some hundred and odd thousand men. We have to provide at home reliefs for that Army, we have to provide the turnover for that Army; that is a constant in our military organisation, and everything you add to that must be in addition. And that constant will remain—whatever you do you will have to provide that Army. And I am confident that the moment you come to put into figures this question of a conscript Army for this country, in addition to this great regular permanent Army which we are obliged to keep on a war footing in time of peace, you will have an addition to the Army Estimates that will startle people who advocate it. But I do not desire to dogmatise about this matter; my own feeling is that conscription on the Continent of Europe is becoming less and not more popular. I believe that the bow is being very tightly drawn. I do not know, and I do not wish to speak about, the view of foreign countries. But I see nothing which makes me believe that conscription is to be the accepted principle in the future. As far as my own office is concerned, I have to deal with another state of things. I have no commission at all to deal with the Army as a conscript Army, still less have I got to deal with the Army as a conscript Army for service in the tropics, and until I receive that commission I am compelled to follow out 662 this problem on lines which depend on voluntary enlistment, and on that only. It is on those lines that I have attempted to deal with the problem.
One word with regard to recruiting. I have never varied by one jot the expression of my opinion as to what is the way out of our difficulties with regard to the recruiting and maintenance of our Army. They say that in the multitude of counsellors there is wisdom; well, I have had a multitude of counsellors, but I am not altogether certain that I have derived an immense amount of wisdom from their counsels, because all these counsels have been contrary as well a3 contradictory. And I still go back to those principles which I ventured to put before the House a year and a half ago; I find them true now as then, and every successive Administration that has to deal with this problem will find them true too. You will have to find, on a long-service basis, your oversea Army, and the drafts for it, and the reliefs for it. You will have to find for the reinforcement of that Army in war, a very large Reserve, and that Reserve can only be formed by short-service enlistment.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Between my hon. friend and myself there is a difference of form, but not of substance; he and I disagree, I believe, and I regret it, as to the exact terms of service in that short-service Army. I think we shall eventually be agree. But these facts are absolutely certain. The only way you can reinforce your Army in time of war is by the Reservists of a large short-service Army. I have been told that I was wrong in suggesting that we should recruit this Army on a two years basis, or on a one year basis. I have received many recommendations from many men, but I have never seen alternatives to that proposition. I still look forward to a future when the great territorial Army of this country, the Militia, will be the nucleus of this home-service Army. I do not agree with the view that with any increase of service for the Militia recruit less than one year you can possibly achieve those results; and I am certain 663 that the moment you come to put it to the test, and ask Militia officers whether they are willing to undertake service for five or six months in the year and then return to civil life, you will find exactly the same answer as I have got. You will find it is impossible. I do not wish to dwell upon that complex and difficult question; but I do wish to say this, that I have had no reason whatever to abandon any of the opinions I have stated to the House, and I see no other way out of this difficulty than by the recruiting on long service of the men you require for service over-sea in time of peace and recruiting on a short service basis those you require to furnish the Reserve in the time of war. I have already indicated to the Committee that we have got a large contingent of long-service men. We have not got enough, but I hope very soon we shall have enough. I hope in this year we shall have got at any rate enough to warrant us in opening the short-service recruiting. When that time comes we shall make the attempt. We shall try the principle of depots. We shall open a depot which will give the same kind of training as the Guards depot and the 60th Rifles depot. We shall make some small contribution to the formation of a Reserve, and when we have got sufficient short-service men for our purpose we shall revert to the long-service recruiting until we have got enough long-service men to relieve us of the difficulties in regard to the drafts for the troops.
I have spoken, I am afraid, far too long, but if I have made it clear that we have progressed, and are progressing, I have done something. I believe, in spite of the criticisms which are heaped upon the War Office and its representative, that what the Army is suffering from, as was pointed out recently by my hon. and gallant friend the Member for Mid. Essex in one of his pregnant and epigrammatic sentences, is a lack of intelligent public interest and enlightened criticism. I am not sure that all the criticism which is indulged in is really intended to help the Army or those who are responsible for its administration. I see far too little disposition to praise or to help; I see far too great a disposition to find fault. I have now worked for nearly 664 two years in my great office, and I know the character of the men there, and I say that nothing has discouraged me more than, I will not say the criticism, but the indiscriminating criticism to which they are subjected. They are men who have devoted their lives to the service of their country, and a little encouragement and a little trust would help them enormously. But they never receive either help or encouragement, and I cannot help feeling that if for once a trial was made for extending to the administrators of the Army some measure of the goodwill and confidence which are extended to the administrators of the Navy [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh"]—I mean exactly what I say.[MINISTERIAL cheers.] I have heard all sorts of generalisations made in regard to both officers and men, and I say that if some kind consideration was extended to them we should have made far greater progress than we have made under this adverse and, as I think, sometimes unjust criticism. I fool it is only just that I should say.so much for my colleagues in the War office. Still I believe their work during the past year and-a-half has not been unprofitable. I believe there has been progress, and that we are still progressing.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
said that at the risk of being considered an ignorant critic he wished to express his disagreement with some of the theories which had just been placed before the Committee. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the most bitter and constant criticism of the War Office and its methods came not from the politicians or from the man in the street, but from the officers of the Army in private conversation. It was curious that all the critics who disagreed with the right hon. Gentleman, and whom he described as ignorant, should be men who had a special training and special opportunities for understanding the subject. The right hon. Gentleman said that since he had been in office the Army had greatly improved, and he mentioned the case of recruiting, of which he was so very proud. The right hon. Gentleman talked of how immensely desertions had diminished, but he did not point out that in 1903 665 men could buy their discharge, whereas in 1901 they could not, and the only way they could get out of the Army was by deserting; and besides, the conditions of service being improved, of course desertions were less in consequence. The important question, however, was what was the right hon. Gentleman going to do with the Army? The right hon. Gentleman talked about long service and short service, and then they were given to understand that the whole of his scheme was not to be carried out. What they wanted to know was how much of that scheme was to be carried out. How much destruction of the present system was going to take place before we had a territorial Army? He pressed most strongly that they should not begin by destroying the Militia and then the Volunteers before the territorial Army was ready. Most hon. Members on that side thought the Militia would be destroyed find the Volunteers injured by the threat which was hanging over their heads like the sword of Damocles. More than that, there was an enormous injury done to the military spirit of the nation. This territorial Army was a shadow which would be like the Army Corps of the late Secretary of State for War, appearing on paper only, an imitation of a foreign army without conscription. These changes had produced nothing but cost, and even the new guns we could not pay for. India had to do that this year.
§ *MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I do not know why the hon. Member says that. It is entirely incorrect. There is £1,200,000 on the Estimates.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
said that only a very small proportion of those guns would be supplied to batteries at home, towards the end of the year. Only a small portion of the sum named would be needed for those guns.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
said he was very glad to hear it, but he could not understand that in view of the right hon. Gentleman's state- 666 ment that the greater number of those guns were going to India. He was dissatisfied with the changes made, which only destroyed one system without giving them another, whilst increasing the cost. He moved a reduction of the right hon. Gentleman's salary by £100.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries and Allowances of the War Office) be reduced by £100"—(Mr. Courtenay Warner.)
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said he wished to support the Amendment of his hon. friend. He thought it was most unfortunate that there was such a small number of Members present when the right hon. Gentleman made his statement. It was certainly a great mistake that they were not told that the right hon. Gentleman was going to make a statement, practically in reply to what Lord Roberts had said, at the commencement of the evening sitting. The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by quoting Lord Roberts, and he added that Lord Roberts' speech had compelled a reply from him. The Secretary of State for War then proceeded at some considerable length with what he considered was a full and complete reply to the very serious statement made by Lord Roberts in another place. Lord Roberts contrasted the condition of the Army in 1899 with its condition at the present time, and he said that it was no better now than it was in 1899. What was the right hon. Gentleman's reply to that statement. It was twofold, one part was that Lord Roberts at the end of his speech had shown a desire to urge the adoption of conscription for this country. But his Lordship did not stand alone amongst Army reformers in urging the adoption of conscription. The chief of the staff, General Lyttelton, was an open advocate of conscription. They all welcomed the right hon. Gentleman's words when he said that few people really recognised the enormous increase of expenditure that would be entailed by the adoption of conscription, and how wholly unsuitable it would be for the exigencies of our Army in India and other parts of the world.
667 The right hon. Gentleman had complained a little unfairly of the criticisms which had been made outside this House, but it hardly lay in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman to complain of criticisms in regard to the Army, because the right hon. Gentleman himself had made his position by vigorous writings and criticisms upon the Army and Navy, and the position he had achieved he owed very largely to those writings and criticisms, which were not always couched in the most gentle terms. Therefore, he did not think the right hon. Gentleman ought to complain of others adopting a somewhat similar line of conduct to that which he himself had adopted with considerable effect in days gone by. The other general line of argument which he took was the old line which children took when they were found fault with: "Please, sir, it wasn't me," and he said that Lord Roberts was responsible.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
The right hon. Gentleman certainly took the line that Lord Roberts was responsible from 1899 to 1903, and that he was only responsible from 1903 onwards.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said he could not accept the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of what he had said, because he undoubtedly stated that Lord Roberts was the man responsible from 1899 to 1903, and he drew a great distinction between the responsibility from 1903 onwards. The right hon. Gentleman particularly asserted that it was in 1903 only that he assumed the direction of the War Office and became responsible. He did not think that was the right line for the responsible Minister for War to take in reply to a very serious charge made by Lord Roberts. It would be within the recollection of hon. Members how constantly they had had the right hon. Gentleman telling them that such and such a proposal or scheme was made in the time of the Secretary for India 668 who was responsible and vice versa; and for what the Secretary for India was responsible the present Secretary for War always disclaimed any responsibility. He did not think that attitude was quite fair to the House of Commons or to the country. After all, the occupants of the War Office ought to present a solid front so far as their responsibility was concerned to the House of Commons and the country, and one man who succeeded another in such an important office ought to take full responsibility for all the actions and policy of his predecessors. They could not admit that the right hon. Gentleman was entitled in any way to minimise his responsibility as a member of the Government for the conduct of affairs in the War Office during the time the Government had been in power.
The right hon. Gentleman tried to show how very much things had improved since he came into office in 1903. Perhaps he might be permitted to summarise what the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was. First of all in regard to the infantry. The right hon. Gentleman told them that they were short of men in the cavalry and that they were short of officers, but that he was not without hope that this deficiency might be remedied. He further stated that as regarded artillery they were short of guns, but he hoped by the end of the year that this deficiency would be remedied. As for stores he said they had been short, but they had now insisted upon having regular reports as to the condition of the stores. He hoped the War Office would insist upon having those reports regularly delivered, because in another department those reports had not been regularly furnished or demanded by the War Office. Than the right hon. Gentleman went on and spoke of the Royal Engineers, and he said that he was not quite sure that their present condition was entirely appropriate or suitable for the service expected from them. The Imperial Yeomanry was the only branch upon which he would give a clean bill of health and of which he spoke in unqualified terms of praise. He hardly thought that the War Office could take the major share of the credit 669 for the efficient condition of the Imperial Yeomanry, because he remembered that they made merry over that force some time ago, and its efficiency was largely due to the activity of those who directed the force rather than those in authority at the central Department.
To hear a speech such as they had heard from the right hon. Gentleman that night brought upon the ordinary Member of the House of Commons who had no connection with the Army a feeling of despair. He had listened for many years to the debates, and he had taken a certain interest in Army and Navy matters, and the way in which they were connected with the financial interests of the country; and over and over again he had heard with regard to the Army one Secretary of State after another proceed to discuss the fundamental principles upon which the Army rested, but which never appeared to be settled for more than a couple of years. What possible confidence could the country have in the administration of a great and important public Department like the War Office when they were treated to exhibitions such as they had heard in the House that evening? He admired the right hon. Gentleman's ability and persistence in the pursuit of the objects and ideas and schemes which he had at heart, but, after all, what had been the result of his occupancy of the office of War Minister? Two years ago they had the upsetting of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. Then came the Esher Committee, and part only of their recommendation was adopted. Then the right hon. Gentleman himself propounded a scheme, but he was obliged to say that he had the authority of the Government only to carry, out part of it, and consequently the scheme had never been carried out. Again, the right hon. Gentleman had been obliged to tell them that he was not empowered to do what he admitted was essential for the good condition of the Army. The Secretary for War had told them what he would like to do to improve the Volunteers, but he did not tell them that he was going to do it. He informed them that there was not sufficient money in the Exchequer to carry out those pro- 670 posals and, therefore, he was in the position of pointing out a more excellent way and saying that the exigencies of the Government prevented him carrying these essential measures into effect. They could not receive such a statement with anything like satisfaction, and disagreements between such authorities as Lord Roberts and the Secretary of State for War were very much to be deplored. The statement the right hon. Gentleman had made was by no means reassuring, and the least the Committee could do that evening was to show its want of confidence in the policy of the War Office and the need for a continuous and settled policy. For these reasons he thought it was incumbent upon the Committee to support the Motion for a reduction.
§ *COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
apologised to the Committee for venturing to say any-thing about the Army, but he had been very much struck with the description given by a recent historian, who said that the defeat at Spion Kop was not to be traced to Buller, or Warren, or Thorneycroft, but to Aldershot, and Pall Mall, to the House of Commons and the nation. He was afraid that the House of Commons had to bear a very large share of responsibility in all the difficulties which concerned the administration of the Army. They had heard that evening the case of the Militia put forward. The sad thing that struck him in connection with the discussions in that House was that, while they talked, sometimes rather bitterly and acrimoniously, about the Volunteers or the Militia, or the Regular Forces, they forgot that which was of paramount importance—namely, the constitution of an efficient Imperial service. He thought that every Regular, Yeoman, or Volunteer, should concentrate his mind upon the creation of an Imperial service. To achieve that it was necessary that they should all resign something. They did not find that spirit reflected in the debate I they had just listened to. He was very much struck with the canon of military administration which had been laid down by the hon. Member who preceded him, 671 namely, that the Minister of War ought to adopt as his own the policy of his predecessors. What would a Liberal Minister for War say if he were asked to defend the policy of the present Secretary for War. An enormous step would be taken for the safety of the Empire if the War Office could be taken out of the hands of Party administration, and made an Imperial branch of State.
Allowing for all the circumstances, he thought that on the whole the Secretary for War was to be congratulated on a satisfactory statement. As to the Volunteers, it had occurred to him that perhaps the best encouragement would be to give them a more definite and certain part in the scheme of the defence of the country, in connection, he would suggest, with the meeting of raids or anything short of a general invasion. With regard to deserters he would suggest that commanding officers should be empowered to deal with those who had deserted and wished to return to the force. In this way they would get rid of a good deal of the cost of keeping these men in prison and the trouble and expense of holding so many Courts-martial.
He wondered whether hon. Members realised what advances had been made in the conditions of the soldier's life during the last few years. To take only the question of feeding and general comfort: at 7.30 the recruit received besides his ordinary ration for breakfast something allowed by the administration of the depot; at 11 o'clock every man, if he chose to ask for it, could get a bowl of soup for nothing; from 12.30 to 1.30 dinner was served; the men need not go in together, but could take it when they liked between those hours, just as Members might go into their clubs, and they had a choice of four sorts of meat, two puddings, and often something extra which, they could take away and eat in their own room; and then at 4.30 came tea, frequently with some little luxury thrown in. All this had been rendered possible by the good management of the large depots, and the curious thing about the system was that it was accompanied by very little drinking; in fact, the canteen was used much less than it used to be. If only hon. Members would spend less time in criticising things 672 they did not like and a little more in understanding things as they were, they would do far more to help recruiting than by the present practice of indiscriminate criticism. It might be said that these were small matters, but they went to make up the popularity of the service, and the fact that the service was more popular and recruits were coming in better was largely due to the commonsense administration of the large depots. The experiment of giving furlough more freely had been tried by some commanding officers with the most excellent results. A common-sense system of administration was gradually being brought into the Army, and the old cast-iron rules were being gradually supplanted. But was not some credit due to those who administered the War Office for the gradual introduction of these reforms? Never within his time as a soldier had so much been done in the direction of progressive reform as had been done within the last few years, and he hoped that Army debates in the future, instead of being made mere Party discussions, would tend more and more to increase the general interest in Army matters, and to the consideration of military questions from a broad national point of view.
§ *COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
suggested that the hon. Member for Shropshire would make a good recruiting sergeant in view of the glowing pictures he was able to paint of the life of a soldier. There was no doubt a good deal of truth in what the hon. Member had said. Personally, he was not one of those who said that everything connected with the Army was bad. The officers were good; the non-commissioned officers, as compared with those in Continental armies, were distinctly good; and nearly all the men would be good if there was a better system of recruiting. He could not honestly say that the present Secretary of State was worse than other late Secretaries for War, but it must be confessed that the right hon. Gentleman was a little disappointing. Kemembering the brochures on various subjects written by the right hon. Gentleman, Members thought when he was appointed that at last reforms would be forthcoming, but 673 he appeared to have allowed himself to be overwhelmed by his circumstances and by the War Office. Doubtless, finance was a most important subject. The late war cost from £100,000,000 to £150,000,000 more than it ought to have done. But there were many difficulties connected with the new system the right hon. Gentleman had outlined. After all, the men would only be practising in these matters, and he doubted whether there would be any really good results. Secret contracts were a great mistake; they left open the door for great waste, and provided a strong temptation to more objectionable practices. The existence of a similar system for a couple of years would debauch practically any public body. He did not for a moment suggest that the lowest tender should always be accepted, but he did think that the practice adopted by the London County Council and almost every other similar body of publishing the amounts of the tenders was a good one. The present practice of the War Office in this respect provided an opportunity of swindling which in time of war was almost certain to be taken advantage of.
As to recruiting, conscription was impossible for the kind of Army we requited, the American system provided good men, but our system was unique. We took a boy at seventeen, made him swear he was eighteen, gave him as much as he was worth at that age, and then kept him on that small pay until he was twenty-four, when he was worth more. If the Secretary of State was a private manufacturer he would probably got a couple of years imprisonment for keeping men against their will, seeing that they made their contracts at the age of seventeen. Possibly that criticism hardly applied under existing circumstances, but it had applied in the past, and it would apply again as soon as the nine years enlistment had been a few years at work. The Government had done a great deal for the private soldier, but he did not think they had done enough to make his pay and allowances equal to the wages he would get in private employment. As to guns, in a few years there would be a demand for guns of a higher velocity, and then in another four or five years 674 the field artillery would have to be rearmed with guns of 2,000 feet velocity.
§ *COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
said that in January of this year there was issued a scheme for the reorganisation of the home commands from which great things were expected. It was believed to be the outcome of long and careful consideration on the part of the military advisers of the Secretary of State, and was taken as the deliberate pronouncement of the Army Council. It was, therefore, supposed that everything in the way of military needs and possibilities had been considered. Taunton was given as the headquarters of the grouped regimental districts of the Western Command, but in less than three months Exeter was substituted. He immediately communicated with the Army Council and the Secretary of State, and was informed that the main reason for the alteration was that Exeter as a railway centre afforded better facilities than Taunton. It was quite possible to imagine a mistake being made with regard to the accommodation possible in a local town, but to put forward the railway facilities as the reason for the change was a most extraordinary proceeding on the part of the Army Council, as the question of railway communication was one of the first matters that should be considered in connection with preparations for war. If Exeter had been selected in the first place, probably no question whatever would have been raised. It was a small incident, but it excited some doubt as to the foresight and knowledge of military advisers of the Secretary of State. If they made such a mistake with regard to the railway facilities of our own country, how could they be trusted to consider the railways in any other country in widen our Army might be called upon to operate? If more foresight, common sense, and knowledge had been shown the misunderstanding with regard to the two towns might have been avoided.
§ *MR. CHURCHILL
said the hon. Member opposite had referred to a dispute between the two towns of Taunton and Exeter, and the Secretary of State for War on the other hand had plunged into a wide field of military policy, military 675 history, and strategical considerations. The Committee must be recalled to the practical issue involved in the Amendment. The hon. and gallant Member for Shropshire had deprecated Party feeling in the discussion, but ii discussion on Army matters during the past three years had proceeded Without Party bias and the interposition of the Government Whips there would to-day be a very different disposition of power, not only in the Army, but in all other Departments of State. The reduction had been moved, not because his hon. friend wished to make any personal imputation against the right hon. Gentleman, or because he thought the Secretary of State had been lacking in zeal, industry, or ability in the execution of his great responsibilities, but as a censure, definite, deliberate, and complete, upon the Army administration of the last ten years. These matters had a cumulative effect. The right hon. Gentleman might not be personally responsible for what his predecessors had done, but the Committee of the House of Commons was bound to look at the history of military policy during the whole of the period that it had been in the hands of one particular Party in the State.
Much had happened in the last ten years. During that period the Government had done what they listed, and whatever they had demanded from the public had been conceded. During that period there had been numerous changes in the Army system. Those changes had been so numerous and kaleidoscopic that he would almost challenge any hon. Member of this House to detail them in their regular order without omitting two or three important changes. The Committee would remember the important changes made before the war, under the Lansdowne administration. Other important changes were effected under the stress of the war, and then there was the immense revolution which was to be effected in Army policy by the great scheme of the present Secretary for India in 1901. The Committee would also remember the second scheme under which a revolution was made in the conditions of service in 1902, and this was followed by the publication of the Esher Report. Then followed the declaration by the present Secretary of State for War of his entirely 676 new policy in the autumn of 1903. All these successive changes had taken place during the last ten years, and they had all taken place on the authority and on behalf of those members of the Government who ruled the country from the Front Bench opposite.
But all this had not been done without some cost to the general taxpayer. What could be more impressive than the fact that the Army now cost between £10,000,000 and £11,000,000 more in ordinary peace time than it cost in the year 1898. What ordinary arrangement of language could do justice to such a fact as that? The sum of £10,000,000 or £11,600,000 extra was now being charged to the public, involving as it did increased taxation accompanied with its necessary impediments to commerce and the perpetual diversion of funds urgently needed by the State for other purposes. What greater disaster could the Committee have than that simple arithmetical statement that the Army by which the Empire was defended in time of peace was costing the country between £10,000,000 and £11,000,000 a year more than it cost six or seven years ago. Having regard to the power which had been exercised from the Treasury Bench opposite, and having regard to the schemes which they had put forward and the cost which they had involved; remembering the fact that in order to carry out those schemes it had been necessary three or four times to revolutionise the entire personnel of the War Office; having regard to all these facts, which must be considered one at a time as well as in their cumulative bearing, he asked the Committee what had they got for it all. They were, of course, divided by partisan opinions and they could not pretend to speak on these matters with export authority. Let them, however, go to the heads of the Army and to the great leaders of Military opinion upon whose names the Government had so often been able in the past to place the responsibility. Let them go to the Secretary of State for War, who had himself said that this machine was ill-equipped, not organised for war, and one of the most costly military instruments ever devised. General Sir 677 Ian Hamilton wrote home to this country that the present condition of the British Army constituted a danger to the very existence of the British Empire. Lord Roberts stated in the House of Lords that the condition of the Army was not more suited to actual war than it was in the year 1899. That was the justification of the Motion which his lion, friend had made. That was the most tangible and effective of all the indictments which had been made against the Government.
What was the condition of the Army at the present time? If they might judge by the evidence of experts, it was in a very bad condition and wholly unsatisfactory. They had abandoned the old system which had existed before the war by which their levies for India were maintained and by which a great Reserve was created which was available when an emergency arose. They had gone back to a system which was previously rejected, namely, a system of long service which, although it might be necessary to meet the exigencies of the moment, nevertheless had failed to provide that very Reserve which the right hon. Gentleman had told them over and over again was vitally necessary for the military purposes of this country either in regard to home defence or in time of war. There was a general feeling of disquiet that extended to every rank in the Army—from the greatest officers down almost to the humblest subaltern in the Line regiments. The artillery of the British Army was, without any single exception, unless it might be the artillery of Servia, the worst in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman had told them what he had done with regard to the provision of guns, and he had pointed out that he had taken money in the Estimates for guns amounting to £1,200,000. It would cost something like £5,000,000 to rearm the artillery, and consequently the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was less than one-third of the sum required. But while he was contributing less than one-third of the sum required for guns the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly ready to take the whole of the credit.
said that did not affect his argument that only one third of the cost was now defrayed. Even in regard to this niggardly contribution for guns he wished to point out that in the early stages the expense of the principal part of the experiment was to be borne by India. Then there was the story of the short rifle. There was a marvellous scheme by which the rifles of the British Army were to be cut down in order that a rifle of equal length might be used suitable for both cavalry and infantry. He should have thought that a rifle of equal bore was a matter of infinite importance, but nobody in his senses would have troubled about having a rifle of equal length both for cavalry and infantry. The old long rifle might have been inconvenient, but at any rate the cavalry had found a way of carrying this. But this could not be said of the new rifle, which could not bi carried by the old method, and no satisfactory method of carrying it had yet been adopted, even by the very troops for whose sake it was invented.
There was the case of the Militia. The tales that reached them of the Militia, principally from the right hon. Gentleman himself, but supported, he was bound to admit, by evidence from every other quarter, were of the most gloomy character. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the Militia was being murdered. Four years ago the Militia was given a bounty of £3 a man, which was to have raised it to 150,000. It had not done so. There were fewer Militiamen to-day than there were before the bounty was given at an extra burden to the taxpayers of something like £300,000 a year. It was the most expensive form of homicide ever known. Then there were the Volunteers. He would not say anything further with regard to the Volunteers than this—that if the right hon. Gentleman ran his eye over the division list to-morrow he would see how very small was the balance of opinion, even in that House of Commons—if, indeed, there was any balance—in favour of the policy of a wholesale reduction of the Volunteers. They had heard a great deal about improving the knowledge and instruction of the officers of the Army, and the first step taken towards 679 this end was to admit a quantity of officers without troubling them to go through the formality of an examination. If there was one principle which had kept our Civil Service and public service free from corruption it was the test of a competitive examination, but that test they had abandoned. There were many real schemes of organic reform whereby economies and efficiency might be effected which had been neglected altogether. Very little progress had been made towards establishing a corps of officers so that they should be easily changeable between their different regiments. A general staff existed in name, but not in fact. The development of a system of double companies in the infantry, and of schemes for the improvement of the Militia and Volunteers, had made no progress.
The Secretary for War had, however, made a momentous announcement—he had declared that he was going forward with the scheme he laid before them a year ago, but which he had not advocated very much during the Parliamentary session. His plan for a double Army was to be carried out, and when they were separated for the winter months they would not know what steps were taken to carry out that great and surprising revolution in our Army system. This scheme was unsupported by any expert military authority. Knowing what he did of Army officers, he could assure the Committee that the right hon. Gentleman in his scheme as detailed to them had not got the support of the Army Council. It might be said, if that were so, Why did not the Council resign? But people did not always resign when they were expected to, and he put no faith in the statement that the scheme had the support of the Army Council because they had not resigned. He earnestly submitted that the progress of the scheme would not only injure the Army, but would block the way to further treatment of the Army problem which might be entered upon at a future date.
It had never been considered incumbent upon a private Member to state any alternative propositions, and he had always observed a praiseworthy prudence in that respect. He asked the 680 indulgence of the Committee to say in four or five sentences what he thought ought to be the policy which the Secretary of State for War should adopt. The policy of the Secretary of State ought to be to stiffen the standards of recruiting, by raising the physical and character tests in every way. That would cause recruiting to fall off, and their those battalions which could not be filled with effective soldiers, probably from fifteen to twenty-five in number, should be disbanded. The right hon. Gentleman should return to the old system of seven years with the colours and five years in the Reserve, which, on the whole, was the best system to meet the varying and often conflicting military requirements of the British Empire. But, whatever was to be done in the future, time was the essence of the solution. There was no magic word that could be spoken which would restore order in the War Office or economy in military administration. Five or six years of thrifty administration were required in order to retrieve the waste of wild experiments, and to repair the ruin of a profligate and fertile incapacity.
§ *MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)
said that the hon. Member for Oldham had not only made an attack upon the Government, but he had also told them that if the Party of which he was a Member had been in power they would have done very much better. He would remind the hon. Member that the last time the Party opposite was in office they could not even, in a time of peace, keep a supply of powder, and during their Boer War they got out of the expense by running away. He wished to point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War that there were a great many complaints being made amongst Army officers that they were continually being worried for no good purpose. In consequence officers would not stay in the Army, nor was it possible to get officers to go into it. The Army was already very short of officers, and if the conditions were not altered, we should soon be even worse of for officers than at present. In the regiment to which he had the honour to belong, out of about 1,100 rifles there were at least 120 rifles which were practically useless. They 681 might possibly be sent out to war in a month's time, and how were they going to supply the rifles? As far as he had been able to make out, a great number of the other rifles were sighted so as to shoot crookedly. [OPPOSITION laughter.] This might be considered a small detail, but he thought it was most important, and he would suggest that the Secretary for War should appoint somebody to see that these details were put right. No doubt the House would recollect that the same thing occurred during the Boer War. A great number of their rifles had got no foresight protectors, and these were absolutely necessary if
§ the accurate sighting of the rifles was to be preserved. In regard to the mounted infantry, the Secretary for War had adopted altogether a wrong sort of saddle, which was about twice as heavy as it ought to be, and in war time it would continually want stuffing. They had a class of saddle in South Africa which was only about half the weight and half the cost and which never wanted stuffing.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 132; Noes, 169. (Division List No. "281.)683
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Price, Robert John|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Higham, John Sharp||Rea, Russell|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk.||Reddy, M.|
|Baker, Joseph Allen||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Redmond, John E. (Waterford|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion|
|Beaumont, Wentworth. C. B.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs)|
|Black, Alexander William||Joyce, Michael||Rose, Charles Day|
|Boland, John||Kearley, Hudson, E.||Runciman, Walter|
|Brigg, John||Kennedy, Vincent P.(Cavan, W||Russell, T. W.|
|Bright, Allan Heywood||Lambert, George||Samuel, Herbert L.(Cleveland)|
|Brown, George M. (Edinburgh||Lamont, Norman||Seely, Maj. J.E.B.(Isle of Wight|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Langley, Batty||Shackleton, David James|
|Burns, John||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Buxton, NE.(York, NR Whitby||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Caldwell, James||Levy, Maurice||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Lewis, John Herbert||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire|
|Canston, Richard Knight||Lough, Thomas||Slack, John Bamford|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Lundon, W.||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Lyell, Charles Henry||Spencer, Rt Hn. C.R.(Northants|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Stanhope, Hon. Philip James|
|Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark||M'Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Cremer, William Randal||M'Crae, George||Sullivan, Donal|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||M'Kean, John||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe|
|Cullinan, J.||M'Kenna, Reginald||Tonnant, Harold John.|
|Delany William||M'Laren, Sir Charles Benjamin||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John p.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Dobbie, Joseph||Mooney, John J.||Thomas, JA(Glamorgan, Gower)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen||Tomkinson, James|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Moss, Samuel||Toulmin, George|
|Duncan, J. (Hastings)||Murphy, John||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Elibank, Master of||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Ure, Alexander|
|Ellice, CaptEC.(SAndrw'sB'ghs||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Villiers, Ernest Amherst|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary,Mid||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Eve, Harry Trelawney||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan|
|Findlay, Alexander(Lanark, NE||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W)||Wason, John Cathcart(Orkney|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.|
|Freeman-Thomas, Captain F.||O'Dowd, John||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. HerbertJohn||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||O'Kelly, James(Roseommon, N||Wilson, Henry J.(York, W. R.|
|Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||O'Malley, William||Woodhouse, Sir JT. (Huddersf'd|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||O'Mara, James|
|Harcourt, Lewis||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Hardie, J. Keir(MerthyrTydvil||Panlton, James Mellor||Mr. Warner and Mr. Bucahanan.|
|Harwood, George||Pearson, Sir Weetman D.|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Gardner, Ernest||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden||Gordon, Maj. Evans(TrHimlets||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Pryee-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs.||Purvis, Robert|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt Hn. Hugh O.||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Pym, C. Guy|
|Arrol, Sir William||Hambro, Charles Eric||Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne|
|Atkinson, Rt, Hon. John||Hamilton, Marq. of(L'nd'nderry||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Hardy, Laurence(Kent Ashford||Reed, Sir Edw. James (Cardiff|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Reid, James (Greenock|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A.J.(Manch'r||Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley||Ridley, S. Forde|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Heath, Sir James (Staffords. NW||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas, Thomson|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. GeraldW(Leeds||Henderson, Sir A.(Stafford, W||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffied)|
|Balfour, Kenneth R, (Christch.||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hill, Henry Staveley||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Hogg, Lindsay||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Hope, J.F. (Sheffield, Brightside)||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Hoult, Joseph||Rutherford, John (Lancashire|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Howard, John(Kent, Faversham||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Hunt, Rowland||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|Bill, Charles||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Bingham, Lord||Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hon. Col. W.||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry|
|Brassey, Albert||Keswick, William||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Brymer, William Ernest||Lawson, Hn. H.L.W. (Mile End||Smith, Abel H.(Hertfosd, East|
|Bull, William James||Lee, ArthurH.(Hants. Fareham||Smith, Rt. Hn. J. Parker (Lanarks|
|Butcher, John George||Lees, Sir Elliot (Birkenhead)||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Campbell, J.H.M.(DublinUniv.||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Spear, John Ward|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N.S.||Stewart, Sir Mark J.M'Taggart|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Stirling Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Cavendish, V.C.W.(Derbyshire||Long, Col. Charles W.(Evesham||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.J.A (Wore||Lowe, Francis William||Talbot, RtHn. J. G.(Oxf'd Univ.|
|Chapman, Edward||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Macdona, John Cumming||Thornton, Percy M..|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||M'lver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh, W||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Marks, Harry Hananel||Tuff, Charles|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Turnour, Viscount|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Maxwell, W.J.H(Dumfriesshire||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Milvain, Thomas||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Welby, Lt.-Col. A.C.E.(Taunton|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Montagu, Hn. J. Scott(Hants.)||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Whiteley, H.(Ashton und. Lyne|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Morgan, DavidJ.(Walthamstow||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Faber, Edmund B. (Hants W.)||Morrell, George Herbert||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Faber, George Denison (York)||Mount, William Arthur||Wiloughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Fellowes, Rt HnAilwyn Edward||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Nicholson, William Graham||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)|
|Finlay,Rt. Hn, SirR. B.(Inv'rn'ss||Parkes, Ebenezer||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Pease, Herbert Pike(Darlington||Sir Alexander Acland-Hood|
|Flannery, Sir Fortsecue||Peel, Hn. Wm. RobertWellesley||and Viscount Valentia.|
|Forster, Henry William||Percy, Earl|
|Foster, Philip S.(Warwick, S.W|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ And, it being after Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair make his Report to the House.684
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.
§ Adjourned at a quarter after Twelve o'clock.