HC Deb 30 March 1905 vol 143 cc1807-10

1."That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 221,300, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st March, 1906."

2. "That a sum, not exceeding £4,630,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge for Supplies and Clothing, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1906."

Resolutions read a second time.

First Resolution:—

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

said a reduction had been moved with respect to this Vote in Committee, but there was so strong a feeling that the Army was greater than the country could afford that he thought the House ought to have an opportunity of voting for a reduction in the number of land forces of the country. Nobody could say we were justified in expending this enormous sum on the Army, and hon. Members on both sides agreed that there ought to be a substantial reduction both in the number of men and in the expenditure. Without further delaying the House, he begged to move a reduction of 10,000 men.

Amendment proposed— To leave out '221,300,' and insert '211,300.'"—(Mr. Courtenay Warner.) Question proposed, "That '221,300' stand part of the said Resolution."


said there had been a great many experiments made upon the Army during the last few years, and there would probably be a good many more in the course of the next few years, but he thought the Empire could not be in a better state a regarded military security, for such experiments to be made, inasmuch as it had within its borders a force of some 400,00 men of military age who had been trained to modern warfare under modern conditions, and upon most of whom the Empire could rely in case of a national crisis. He hoped that before those men ceased to be of military age and available for service there would have been hammered out some scheme for providing the Empire with an efficient Army. He entirely agreed as to the necessity for the speedy re-armament of the Artillery. Our guns were undoubtedly outclassed by more modern inventions, but he seriously deprecated the alarmist talk which one heard in and out of the House as to the present field guns. He had had experience of those guns at both ends of the range. He had seen the excellent practice made by our gunners, and he had also, with his men, been the target at which those guns were aimed. During the South African War General De la Rey turned on the British troops some of the field guns he had captured, and, so far from those guns being absolutely obsolete and ineffective, he could assure hon. Members that, had the Boers burst their charges as well as they aimed and worked the guns, the then target would not have had the present opportunity of addressing the House. But he was not going, on the strength of a year's campaign in South Africa, to pose as an expert on War Office reorganisation. There were two or three points, however, upon which he had gained some little experience, and with regard to which he could speak with a certain authority. One of those points was the improvisation of troops in a time of national crisis. He believed that in such emergencies there would always be forthcoming a very large number of recruits of a much superior class to those who offered themselves in time of peace. He had under him in South Africa public school men, University graduates, men of position and influence at home, and men accustomed to field sports, and that, he believed would be the class of men who would come forward in all times of national crisis. For such men a much shorter period of drill was sufficient than was necessary with ordinary recruits who had never been accustomed to obey or to command. One great disadvantage he found was that while many of these men were accustomed to the use of a shot gun, hardly any of them were accustomed to the use of the rifle. He could see no reason why every boy in the country should not be trained in the use of the rifle, and he regretted there was no provision in that direction contained in the right hon. Gentleman's scheme.

And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.

Further Consideration of Second Resolution deferred till this Evening's Sitting.