§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £10,220,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Pay, &c, 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, 1907."
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. HALDANE,) Haddington
said that when Vote A was about to be given on Thursday there was an understanding between himself and the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Croydon, that, as there were many members of the Committee who wished to speak, they should be at liberty to discuss Army matters generally upon Vote 1, but they could only do that with the Chairman's permission. They should have obtained that permission, however, before the Vote was put. The Chairman would remember that the right hon. Gentleman and himself wished to raise the point, but it was too late. He (Mr. Haldane) therefore asked him now, on behalf of those Members who wished to speak, whether they might be at liberty to discuss matters generally on Vote 1, and not be debarred by a misunderstanding for which he was really to blame owing to a want of knowledge of technical practice. It would be a great convenience to the Committee generally, and would be carrying out the distinct understanding between himself and the right hon. Gentlemen, if the Chairman permitted that discussion of Army matters generally.
The ordinary rule is that when a continuation of the general discussion i desired on some other Vote, an arrangement for such continuation must be made during the discussion of Vote A, the consent of the Chairman not being withheld. On this occasion that has not been done. The right hon. Gentleman now informs me 103 that the fact of its not having been done was due to a misunderstanding. Under those circumstances, I do not think I can take the responsibility of refusing a general discussion on Vote 1, but I do wish to point out that this is an important rule and must be observed as far as possible in the future. It is only because of this serious misunderstanding affecting both sides of the House that on this occasion I allow the general discussion to go on.
§ MR. HALDANE
said he took it that there would be no desire to discuss the whole matter over again on the report stage of Vote A.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)
hoped he might claim the indulgence of the Committee if he made a few observations of a general nature on this Vote, in view of the fact that it was now three years since he last troubled the House with any remarks on Army questions. Although he was by no means an old Member, he had had the fortune to hear three successive Secretaries of State for War make their déebuts, and on each occasion he seemed to remember that their introductory statements were received with a measure of generous acclamation from most parts of the House, praise which was not always repeated in subsequent stages of discussion. Therefore, if he might add his insignificant tribute to the many which the right hon. Gentleman had received on his statement, he should like to do so with a certain amount of caution, and to congratulate him for perhaps somewhat different reasons to those hitherto advanced. The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of the lengthy statement— it was not too lengthy—which he had made to the House, had said many wise things, but had told them very little. In this respect he had shown a remarkable restraint, even self-denial, if he might say so, for it must have been a severe strain upon any Secretary of State for War not to submit to an expectant House a complete panacea for all the ills that military flesh was heir to. The gist of the right hon. Gentleman's statement was "Leave me free." Personally, 104 he did not raise any objection to that course. Hitherto, he understood that Secretaries of State for War had been considered fair game, but this was the first instance that he knew of on record in which the game had been able to name the close time which it should enjoy during the approaching season. The right hon. Gentleman had by his wisdom secured for himself a reasonably close time during the present session. In approaching the question of Army reform, he had wisely determined to apply this touchstone to all questions of military organisation, and indeed to all existing arrangements —whether they were directly conducive to the fighting efficiency of the Army. He did not, however, add the natural complement to that which was used in the case of the Naval service, viz., not only fighting efficiency, but instant readiness for war. That was the touchstone which had been applied in the case of the Naval service during the last few years with remarkable success, and there was no doubt it had been highly conducive to economy, which they all knew was now the question of the hour. The right hon. Gentleman had shown them that he had already made a beginning in the matter of economy, but he must draw attention to the very remarkable statement or claim put forward by the Prime Minister in the course of the debate the other night, when he claimed that the right hon. Gentleman had succeeded in reducing the Estimates of his predecessors by some £1,750,000. That was a very surprising statement and he believed his right hon. friend the late Secretary of State for War absolutely repudiated it. It had, however, been used in the Liberal Press during the last few days, and it was used by a member of the Government speaking in the country on Saturday night. He would therefore like to put to the right hon. Gentleman this direct question: Did he claim that he had actually reduced the Estimates of the late Government by £1,750,000?
§ MR. HALDANE
NO, Sir. Those Estimates were merely draft Estimates, as the right hon. Gentleman says. They were what may be called the military requirements put forward in the office, and I take it the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon and the late 105 Chancellor of the Exchequer would have reviewed them. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman himself would have reduced them.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said he thought the right hon. Gentleman's statement showed that the Prime Minister was under a complete misapprehension when he made that claim to the House on Thursday night.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said the Prime Minister went further than that, but the right hon. Gentleman had given a categorical denial, and he thought that was all that was necessary. The aspect of economy which animated the whole Committee expresssed itself the other night in an arbitrary attempt to reduce the Army by 10,000 men, an attempt very properly resisted by the right hon. Gentleman, because it seemed to him (the speaker) that before they could decide whether or not they could dispense with a certain number of men a little clear thinking, of which the right hon. Gentleman was such a distinguished exponent, had to be applied. They had first of all to arrive at the basic element of the problem, which was: What was the purpose for which the British Army was maintained? That was an inquiry which had often been put by the House in recent years, and had never been satisfactorily answered. An attempt was made some years ago by Mr. Edward Stanhope in a celebrated Memorandum to define the objects of the British Army, and he could not help thinking that the time had now arrived when the right hon. Gentleman or the Committee of Defence, should bring out a revised or up-to-date edition of the Stanhope Memorandum. He was fortified in that expression of opinion by certain weighty remarks made by the Prime Minister himself when Leader of the Opposition last session. He spoke in the strongest possible terms on the point. He said —The right hon. Gentleman has however, after all, not contributed out of the wealth of his knowledge and argument to the point we all wish to be informed about—what are the military necessities of the country? How 106 many men do we require?… What is the good of the Secretary of State for War telling us his views, which he has done with great force and fulness, with regard to the regular Army, the Militia, and the Volunteers? We have never heard what the view of the Cabinet was, and we are invited to form our opinions and to vote money and do all the other part of our duty without having the fundamental notion of what the wisest and highest authority in the country declares should be the number of men required for the defence of the country and its oversea obligations.He was anxious to emphasise the nonparty character of these discussions, and would therefore press upon the right hon. Gentleman not his own demand, but the demand put so forcibly by his own Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman's basic theory was an absolute acceptance of the extreme blue-water school. He was a member of the blue-water school himself, but he was not sure that he was able to accept its extreme conclusions quite as readily, he almost said as joyously, as the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have done. He preferred that there should be some kind of prudent insurance against the extreme risk or the hundred to one chance of a fatal accident. The right hon. Gentleman had told them, and he thought all of the blue-water school would agree, that invasion on a large scale, as long as the Navy was adequately maintained, was impossible. He went further, however, and said a raid was impossible. There was, he should say, a good deal of divergence of expert opinion on this point, and he could not help thinking that the question of a raid required a little more examination before it was finally dismissed, because in a matter of this description they had to consider not only probabilities but possibilities. The vital point of the right hon. Gentleman's whole argument, as indeed it was of the whole position of the blue-water school, was that the whole theory was fatal unless the Navy was invincible. It was not merely a question of the arithmetical proportion between the Navies of this country and any two countries as expressed in the two-Power standard, because the Empire could not stake its existence on the efficacy of arithmetic. If we should be engaged in a European war, it was more than probable that we should have to face two or more Powers at one time, because probably no less a combination would think of attempting such a venture. Therefore the only justification 107 of the extreme blue-water theory was that our Navy must be maintained invincible, and the question was could we count on that maintenance? The air at present was full of talk of retrenchment, reduction of armaments, even disarmament. Of course, if disarmament could be carried out in mathematical proportion between the various Powers concerned, well and good, but what tribunal could there be which could in the first place determine the proportion, and, in the second place, enforce it? Let them take a practical example. Let them take the case of a possible continental enemy, a large military Power. They might agree to a reduction in the interests of peace of 100,000 men in their Army. In the first place that would be a purely illusory reduction, because it could be almost instantly replaced in a conscript country, and in any case the residual strength would be ample to overwhelm our relatively insignificant forces. In any case we could not reply to that advance by reducing our Army by 100,000 men; we should have to reply in kind, and what would probably be considered the naval equivalent? Possibly a squadron of battleships, according to whatever index number was adopted by the Hague or other Peace Conference. Such a reduction on our part would take years to replace, and it would probably just tip the balance of invincibility against us and lay us open to that fatal blow at the heart from which recovery would be impossible. Therefore he trusted we should not take a sentimental lead in the pious aspiration towards a reduction of armaments, leading up to universal peace, although he thought we should take every opportunity of responding to any actual and reasonable advances which were made by other Powers whose position in the matter was not quite so vital. We had not only a "blue-water" school to consider, but also a "milk-and-water" school, which had received a good deal of re-inforcement. during the last few months. They had all read a remarkable speech by Mr. Courtney a few days ago. It would not have been so important if it had not been taken up by the Liberal Press and received an immense amount of support from hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. There was no doubt that that feeling existed, and he was all the 108 more thankful that the right hon. Gentleman himself belonged to the "blue-water" school, and that so long as he was in office he was not likely to consent to any disarmament or reduction of armaments which would in the least imperil our invincibility upon the sea. The right hon. Gentleman had naturally dwelt, on the various occasions on which he had spoken, upon the financial aspect of the question. He had shown his practical desire to make reductions wherever possible, and he had shown with unanswerable logic that the only way to make substantial reductions was by reducing the number of men. He (the Speaker) confessed he was not able to follow all the right hon. Gentleman's conclusions upon that point. It seemed to him that the case of India was especially puzzling. The right hon. Gentleman gave them to understand that one of the substantial reductions that might be made was in the British Army in India. Where did the economy come in? The British Army in India was paid for by the Indian Government. It was true, of course, that a certain expense came upon us, but it did not come upon us from maintaining that force in India, but because we had chosen to find drafts for the force in India by a most expensive, extravagant, and inefficient method. They must not apply the question of efficiency only to the drafts; they had to consider the state of the Army at home as well, and that had been seriously injured by the system of supplying drafts through the linked battalion system, which the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had most effectually demolished in debate, though unfortunately not in practice. The Indian Government, so far as the strength of the Indian force was concerned, paid the piper, and he therefore presumed that it was entitled to call the tune. It was not only the Russian problem they had to consider, but also the question of British prestige in connection with a handful of white men among 300,000,000 of natives of India, and they could not altogether ignore the lessons of 1857. It had also to be remembered that whilst the Army at home had been recently increased, the Army of India had remained practically at the same figure for the last fifteen years. There did not, therefore, seem the same necessity for making any attempt to reduce the force there. The economic question, however, was the one which 109 primarily concerned the Committee. The Indian Army was expensive to us only in so far as we insisted on maintaining the system of linked battalions. The right hon. Gentleman the other day quoted in support of his defence of the linked battalion system certain authoritative opinions put forward by Lord Roberts and Sir Evelyn Wood, who had expressed the opinion that the recruits produced under the linked battalion system were superior to those produced under the depot system. That was a matter in which he believed even the experts were by no means agreed. If, however, there was doubt as to whether the recruits produced by the linked battalion system were the better of the two, there was no doubt whatever as to which of the two systems was the more economical. He himself extracted information from the War Office some three or four years ago, which went to show that the cost of the recruit under the linked battalion system was five times that of the recruit under the marine depots system. He did not think they could afford to be extravagant in these matters, and he was quite certain that, even if the recruit under the linked battalion system was slightly better at first, in three months after he arrived in India his superiority would be absolutely indistinguishable. He could not believe that the right hon. Gentleman could not, with the expert advice at his back, produce some alternative to this vicious and costly system of supplying recruits for foreign service. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a number of minor economies which he either proposed to introduce, or had introduced, during the course of his short term of office. On the majority of them he (Mr. Lee) had no criticisms to make, although there were two small points he felt bound to refer to in justice to the late Board of Admiralty. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman had suggested that the late Board of Admiralty wished to maintain a garrison and forts at St. Helena for the purpose of defending 5,000 tons of coal. He presumed that was meant as a jest. It was not the object at all; the object was the very reasonable one of having defences there for the purpose of denying the use of the anchorage of St. Helena to any enemy's cruisers which might use the place as a coaling rendezvous. That was a very different and a very substantial reason. 110 The other point was with reference to Wei-hai-Wei. Various jokes had been made with regard to Wei-hai-Wei as a watering place. It was really not a joke. If the hon. Gentlemen who laughed had had the experience of spending three summer seasons at China as he had done they would know that the health of the men, not only of the Army but of the Navy, was of the utmost importance, and that there was no other place except Wei-hai-Wei which was suitable for the establishment of a sanatorium for the Fleet, and for the hospital which had now been erected for the benefit of the men of the Fleet.
§ MR. HALDANE
I did not object to Wei-hai-Wei being retained as a British possession; but we did object to, and what we have got rid of, was the maintenance of a Chinese Regiment at Wei-hai-Wei, which cost £20,000 a year.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said that the right hon. Gentleman must remember that that regiment was exceedingly useful at the time of the relief of the Pekin Legations, and it might be again wanted in the case of an outbreak in China. There was one economy which the right hon. Gentleman had taken a considerable pride in, but to which he took most serious objection. The right hon. Gentleman had said he had either stopped or reduced to a large extent the military reconnaissance of possible theatres of war in these islands. How much money would be saved in this way? It must be an exceedingly small sum. He himself had been engaged in carrying out military reconnaisances on a large scale and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that they could be carried out at a very much cheaper cost than the right hon. Gentleman seemed to imagine. That was only one of the small and obvious precautions which should be taken against the 100 to one chance of invasion. It was quite certain that these reconnaissances had been made by foreign experts. The right hon. Gentleman referred with some humour to the futility of surveying the defences of Birmingham. Birmingham, it might be said, was very well able to take care of itself. It was possible to improvise earthworks, rifle-men, and scouts, but we could not improvise knowledge of the ground. 111 It was only that superior knowledge of the ground which would enable amateur riflemen to make a stand against trained and organised troops. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not forget what had happened in Natal and the loss we had suffered there for want of a knowledge of the country. All that was needed was a small number of staff officers to study the strategic and tactical features of the ground. He knew that was a thing which could be easily done in time of peace, but the lack of it might easily lead to disaster in time of war. The last point he wished to make, and, perhaps, it was the most serious of all, was in regard to the shortage of recruits. During the last few years the pay of the British soldier had been greatly improved, as well as his conditions of service. Why, then, this falling off in the number of recruits? Many reasons had been advanced, but there was one which had not been advanced, nor even suggested. It was that the Army had been made unpopular. There had been a conspiracy in the Press, in Parliament, and in society to discredit and ridicule the Army. There was a popular idea abroad that we had no Army to speak of and that what we had was inefficient. The truth was that our Army was considerably stronger than it was before the opening of the Boer War, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had admitted to the House that the Army was never so efficient as it was to-day. He was exceedingly glad that the right hon. Gentleman had publicly repudiated the most unfortunate, and altogether inexplicable, statement; made by Lord Roberts which had gained such wide currency. The evil, however, had been done. The Army had been sneered at and laughed at; and both officers and men were tired of being "humbugged about." A few years ago the Army was a popular idol; to-day it was a popular butt—at any rate with certain classes. The cloud under which it had been resting naturally affected those high-spirited young men who looked upon the Army as a glorious profession in which they could engage and enjoy a life of adventure while at the same time doing service to their country. This was the class of men who had been deterred from entering the Army. We had been getting, he admitted another class who had been driven by hunger, or 112 want of work, to enlist; but these were poor substitutes for the other classes who had been discouraged. Let the right hon. Gentleman, the Government, and the Press encourage the Army. Let them let it alone. That was what the Army really wanted for a time and then it would soon be restored, not only to popular favour, but to that confidence in itself which was of far more importance than anything else at the present time. The recruiting problem would then solve itself, because the conditions of service were excellent, though of course, not incapable of improvement, and the pay sufficient. In conclusion, he would earnestly beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider the points he had raised, and to recognise that they came from one who had the best reason for being interested in the welfare of the Army, and who had the greatest possible admiration for the fresh, broad - minded, and non - Party attitude in which the right hon. Gentleman had approached this great national problem.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol, E.)
hoped he would not be charged in any way with indulging in a controversial spirit if he took some slight notice of one or two of the observations of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just addressed the Committee The hon. and gallant Gentleman had said that one reason why the Army was unpopular at the present moment, and why recruits were not coming in, was that the Army had been "humbugged about." That was only a re-echo of what he himself had been saying during almost all the time the late Government remained in office. It was during that period that the Army was "humbugged about," and successive Secretaries of State for War would not let it alone. He did not wish to rake up slumbering or dead ashes; but it should be recognised how those difficulties arose When this subject came up for discussion earlier in the session, he ventured to point out to the Committee some of the difficulties connected with enlistment. Take the cavalry alone. Last year the cavalry was subjected to no less than three different systems. At the beginning of 1905 the period was three years with the Colours, and nine with the Reserve. A little later it was eight years with the Colours and four with the Reserve. At the 113 present moment, it was seven years with the Colours and five with the Reserve. That was one of the reasons why young men would not enlist; they did not know from day to day, from week to week, or from month to month, for what term either they or their comrades were being enlisted. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would introduce a consistent policy, in regard to the distribution and numbers of the Army, and that the actual terms of enlistment would be laid down on a permanent footing. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean and he had been at loggerheads in this House on the subject of linked battalions He ventured to think that the case for linked battalions had never been fully stated in Parliament since the days of Mr. Cardwell. "Linked battalions" was quite an erroneous term; it should be in reality the "double battalion system." That system was the outcome of the Cardwell territorial system and the short service system. Without these it never would have existed at all. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted the fact that the Esher Commission recommended its abolition. That was so; but many other recommendations of the same Commission had also not been adopted, while some that had been adopted had not been justified by events. The case for the double-battalion system rested partly on administrative convenience and economy, and it was also more convenient for the despatch of drafts to the battalions abroad. There was another reason which was entirely overlooked by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down when he argued against it. At all events the hon. Gentleman had not informed the Committee of the fact that the infantry soldier was not enlisted for general service, but for a particular regiment; the consequence was that he could not be transferred, when he came up for reserve service in rejoining the Colours, to serve in any other regiment than that for which he was enlisted. The result was that if war broke out, and if the linked battalion, either in the Colonies or in India, was at its full strength there was no need for recruits or reserves. If the linked battalion system were done away with, there would be hundreds of thousands of men at home whom it would not even be possible to bring together in any military 114 organisation, but who would be felt stranded at the depots where they could be of no service to the country at all. If, on the other hand, they had, as they had at present, this linked battalion system, what did they do with their recruit? He was at once sent, instead of to a depot, to the linked battalion at home and helped to bring up that battalion to its full strength. Then the linked battalion at home, unlike the depot, could be despatched to the scene of action as a military unit. That was the case for the linked battalion as it presented itself to Mr. Cardwell's mind, and as he thought it presented itself to the mind of the present Secretary of State for War. Although it was unquestionable whether depots by themselves when created would be slightly less costly than the linked battalion, there was not, as far as he knew, a single military officer of experience who could he found in public to adopt the course proposed by his right hon. friend the Member for the Forest of Dean and those who thought with him. On the other side there was overwhelming evidence—Commission after Commission, Committee after Committee, Report after Report—to substantiate and uphold the present system. He would not give more than one or two points in illustration of what he had said. There was, for instance, a Report by Lord Wolseley, and he noticed that nowadays Lord Wolseley's name was never quoted in this House as a military authority, and yet he was known in his day—which perhaps had rather passed—as the foremost military reformer, and to no man in this country was a greater debt of gratitude due for breaking up the obsolete system which had prevailed at the War Office. Lord Wolseley said—Our internal military history for the past twenty-five years has in every way demonstrated the wisdom of those, who, in 1870, maintained that this principle is the keystone of the arch supporting the military organisation then introduced.The keystone then referred to was the linked battalion system. Then there was the opinion of Sir Evelyn Wood, than whom there had been no more distinguished soldier in this country. His opinion was dead against that expressed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. Sir 115 Evelyn Wood was, he thought, the first man who produced at Aldershot any military system worthy of the name, and who made Aldershot a real training ground for the Army. His system was that training was not to be received between intervals of pleasure but as the essence of military life. Sir Evelyn Wood's opinion was as explicit and as clear as it could be that to the linked battalion system we owed the military organisation and stability of the Empire. Many other authorities could be quoted, but in the face of the two great ones he had cited those opposed to the linked battalion system could not produce a single one. No one who had looked at the Recruiting Report could be altogether satisfied with it. A great many advantages were introduced into the Army during the time of Mr. Brodrick, and one great advantage was the introduction of characters. Too much stress could of course be laid on that point, but it had reduced the troubles of the district and general courts-martial to an extraordinary extent. It had reduced the "ins and outs" in the different regiments to a great extent: that was the men who enlisted, then deserted and enlisted elsewhere. But nobody could look at the figures of the men going in and the men coming out without alarm. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon put the difference of the figures at 18,000. There had been an exodus from the Army not only on account of the three years men, but on account of the eight years men, who, having served with the Colours, had gone off through the system of bounties or the prolongation of their service in India in consequence of the late war.
§ MR. ASHLEY (Lancashire, Blackpool)
said that in common with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House he listened to the speech of the Secretary of State for War with the greatest possible pleasure, especially to that part dealing with the Militia. The right hon. Gentleman was the first Minister of modern times who had recognised the great part which the Militia ought to occupy with regard to our defence, and also the part it had played long ago in the defence of our 116 coaling stations in times of war. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he hoped the Militia would not be used as a Militia Reserve; that they should be trained under their own officers and kept to their own functions and not be "bled white" by being made the subject of drafts for other service. That was, to his mind, the most admirable exposition of the duty of the Militia that he had ever heard. He could tell from his own personal experience an incident showing how absolutely destructive of the Militia was the policy of "bleeding white." A few months after the outbreak of the South African War a Militia battalion to which he belonged was embodied and reported at Alder-shot. They came up about 700 strong in the rank and file, but within three months of their embodiment 250 of their best men, in fact their only good men, were drafted off to the line battalions in South Africa. They were then left with 450 men, of which fully two-thirds were middle aged men, who had lost the use of their legs, and the others were young men of seventeen or eighteen years of age who had not learned how to use theirs. They had an excellent band, an efficient body of officers, and a very good staff, but, for all practical purposes, they were useless to protect this country in case of a raid, and it would have been better if the Government had disbanded them, saved the cost, and spent the money in another direction. If the right hon. Gentleman would carry out his policy in regard to the Militia, he would receive the grateful thanks of everyone interested in that old historic force. As to recruiting, there was no difficulty with the Cavalry, or the Artillery, or the Guards, but the difficulty arose in regard to the regiments of the line. Although the position of recruits had been improved in respect of pay, allowances, and barrack accommodation, there was one thing in connection with the soldier which he never heard mentioned, which had some effect upon recruiting, and that was the question of uniform. Napoleon I. was supposed to know a good deal about soldiers and about human nature, and in his reign the uniforms in the French Army were rich to an extreme degree. 117 He was not advocating that the working dress of the British soldier should be made more attractive, but he thought the dress which he wore at church parade or upon ceremonial occasions and when he went home should be increased in attractiveness, and he would almost say in richness. Hon. Members must remember that a boy enlisted when he was seventeen, and promises of pension or of increased pay were not so attractive as a rich uniform and the love of adventure which all felt at that age. He suggested the appointment of a small Committee to go into this question, and, as the matter affected not only the recruit but his female relations, he thought it would be an advantage if the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to appoint some ladies on that Committee. The right hon. Gentleman might even enlist the sympathies or services of some of the ladies who beseiged the bedroom door of the Prime Minister some days ago. He wished to refer to the question of the number of units that should be kept in India for the defence of the country against foreign invasion. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to have rather an open mind upon the subject of whether 80,000 men was not too large a garrison to keep in India, and he noticed other hon. Members were taking the same line, for the reason that, owing to the recent war between Russia and Japan, we need not fear for a long time any aggression on the North-West Frontier on the part of Russia. It seemed to him that the result of the war would make us far more open to an attempt on the part of Russia to take India, for the reason that a great Empire like Russia was bound to expand unless she contracted. If she was prevented from expanding to the east she would only attempt to expand in the south-west, and we should be unwise to think of reducing the garrisons of India.
§ MR. HAROLD COX (Preston)
said he desired to associate himself with the congratulations which had been showered on the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War from all sides of the House. He accepted the French proverb that there was no such thing as a little economy. In dealing with public money every economy was a great economy, and therefore he welcomed the course the 118 right hon. Gentleman was taking in looking into these matters and would, if he had the opportunity, give the right hon. Gentleman information which had come to him (Mr. Cox) which showed how thousands of pounds were being wasted. What they were concerned with now, however, was not thousands but millions. The country wanted to get back to the military standard which Lord Salisbury I found sufficient for so long. As the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had pointed out in regard to Army Estimates, we had to look not at what was paid by this country alone, but also at what was paid by India and the Colonies. The real problem of the Army was the problem of the defence of India. Mow did that work out financially? India and this country together maintained an Army costing £50,000,000 a year for the defence of the North-West frontier against Russia, whilst the cost of the Russian Army, which had to guard half a dozen frontiers, cost only £40,000,000. That would seem to be one serious reason for considering whether there should not be a reduction in the Army expenditure not only here but in India, and he was glad to hear the hint thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman that there was a possibility of reducing the Indian garrisons. In this regard he read with great pleasure last autumn a letter written by the late Secretary of State for War to an hon. Gentleman on the opposite side of the House, in which that right hon. Gentleman said that India would not run any immediate risk if her garrison was reduced to the point to which it was reduced during the time of the South African War. During the South African war at a time of great anxiety the Indian garrison was reduced, and if it could be reduced then it could be reduced now. It was then cut down to 63,000 men, but the late Secretary of State at the same time sanctioned the payment of bonus of £15 per annum in order to retain men in the service whose term had expired. The number of men in the Indian garrison was now 78,000, and that number of men had only been maintained by the payment of this bonus. If we were bound to the linked battalion system we were doubly bound to consider whether we were not maintaining more than a 119 sufficient garrison to guard against the danger to which India was exposed. The reason put forward for that garrison was always the same. It was always the Russian bogey. But they had the statement of the late Prime Minister that the question of the invasion of India by Russia was not so much a question of men as of transport; that she could not invade India until she had built a railway through Afghanistan. At present the Russian railway terminated 400 miles from the North-West frontier of India, and the intervening region contained some of the most difficult mountainous country in the world, and such a railway could not be built for at least ten years. In order to send 100,000 men into India Russia would require 1,000,000 men to guard her lines of communication. By all means let us prepare for danger, but let us not prepare now for a danger which could overtake us for ten years. With the command of the sea we could put our forces into the field on the North-West frontier of India quite as quickly as, if not more quickly than, Russia could get her troops there and at much less cost. We were justified in ignoring this danger also, because we had made a treaty with Japan which, while it reduced our difficulties by half, doubled those of Russia. Japan would attack her on the Manchurian Frontier and we should attack her in Afghanistan and also wherever we could get at her in Europe, and therefore the danger from Russia was so remote that we were wasting our resourses in preparing for it. There was a real danger at the present time that we might find the Indian Government pressing for a larger number of men for the reason that Lord Kitchener, in order to prepare for this danger of ten years hence, was withdrawing garrisons from India to place then on the frontier. He himself would guard against that danger by refusing such a request on the ground that troops were not at present wanted to guard against any external danger and so far as any internal danger was concerned there was no necessity for a garrison of the present size. From his own personal experience he knew that the vast majority of the inhabitants of India were the gentlest and most easily governed people in the world, 120 and if the Government of India, with its enormous resources of native troops and native police, wanted a garrison of 78,000 men to keep down such a population as that, in his opinion it amounted to a confession that they were governing them badly. The reduction of the Indian garrison would give immediate relief to both the Indian and the British taxpayer, because such a reduction in India must mean a corresponding reduction of the forces at home. The majority of this House were pledged to economy and they knew that that pledge could not be carried out unless there was a large reduction on the accounts for the Army. There were many other ways in which the Army might be reduced, but here was one which the experience of the South African War showed could at once be applied. He did not think the House sufficiently realised the financial strain put upon us. Few realised that the expenditure the House had already agreed to in principle was as great this year as it was last, and that there was no new source of revenue in sight. This meant that the same taxes which they had protested against last year as abnormal would be continued not only this Year but next year. There would still be an income-tax of 1s. in the £, and there would still be heavy duties on tea and sugar and the export duty on coal. But there was a still more important point. If they agreed that there was no immediate danger of war in any part of the world but realised that there were always potentialities of war in the future, then it was for the future that they should make provision, and the best provision that this House could make for meeting future dangers was the building up of a great financial reserve. It was because he realised the necessity of building up such a reserve that he hoped the Government would cut down the Army expenditure.
§ SIR SAMUEL SCOTT (Marylebone, W.)
said he did not understand the Secretary of State for War to indicate in any of his speeches that he intended to reduce the garrison of India, and he certainly hoped the hon. Gentleman had no intention of doing so. The hon. Member for Prestun had advanced as an argument for 121 reducing the garrison in India that, in the event of a war with Russia, the latter would be attacked by Japan on one side and by ourselves in Afghanistan. He would like to ask the hon. Gentleman, who seemed to acknowledge that one of the chief principles of defence was offence, in what manner we should be able to attack Russia in Afghanistan if we relieved our garrison of the necessary troops? He listened with interest last Thursday to the speech of his hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Abercromby Division of Liverpool on the subject of Army reduction, which had become a hardy annual with the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The House must have realised by this time that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had some cut and dried Army scheme in his pocket which he would produce eventually. They could all understand that during the late Government's term of office the hon. and gallant Member did not like to produce his scheme, but he might do so now, because he was certain the Secretary of State for War would be only too pleased to have it. One thing which struck him in the speeches of those who supported the hon. and gallant Gentleman's Motion was the fact that nearly every one began by stating that he had a mandate from his constituents for economy and retrenchment. It was proposed arbitrarily to reduce the Army by 10,000 men, but each Member who supported the reduction apparently had not the interests of the taxpayer in view, but some pet scheme of his own. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the reduction had an idea that by that means they would be able to increase the pensions of the men, and secure other laudable objects, which would cost money. The Secretary of State for War had struck out a totally new line. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that his idea was to inaugurate a policy which should be a continuous one, and to make the War Office less of an Aunt Sally which anybody could regard as a legitimate object at which to throw a stick. The right hon. Gentleman had done his best in his speeches to raise the War Office above Party politics and to place it on the same footing as the Admiralty. Those who had the interest of the Army at heart and had studied it at all knew that 122 it was very much in need of a period of test. Of late years the Army had been a ground for experiments by successive Governments, and altogether there had been a little too much of Army reform, and a considerable amount of unrest had been created. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would now be able to see his way to give that period of rest to the Army which was so absolutely essential in its best interests. He wanted to ask the right hon. Gentleman one question. He noticed in his Memorandum that he had utilised some of the vacant rooms at Woolwich for the purpose of creating a new class, and augmenting the cadets at Sandhurst. The right hon. Gentleman was well aware that at Sandhurst the cadets with the cavalry and the cadets with the infantry were trained side by side. The cavalry officer required a somewhat different, and perhaps a more technical and higher, training, especially in reconnaissance duty, than the ordinary infantry officer, and he would therefore suggest to the right hon. Gentleman whether he might not utilise the class referred to at Woolwich purely for cavalry officers so that they could undergo a thorough and complete training in cavalry duties and all matters appertaining to reconnaissance.
§ MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)
said he did not profess to understand the mysteries of the linked-battalion system or the various advantages of battalion training and depot training, but he should like to say a few words on the Vote from the point of view of the ordinary layman. There was, without doubt, a deep feeling of dissatisfaction in the country at the present time with regard to the enormous amount of military expenditure, and he himself believed it was shared by the Secretary of State for War as well as by the Prime Minister and those who sat on the Ministerial side. The only excuse that could be given for enormous estimates this year was that they were the estimates of the preceding Administration. What was the actual position at the present time? In 1895–6 the military expenditure of the country was £18,941,000; in 1904–5 it was £29,595,000; and for this year the estimates were £17,000 less than last year. He understood from the Secretary of State for War 123 that the Army Estimates would have amounted to £800,000 more if he had not effected certain economies. How did he effect them? The right hon. Gentleman told his military experts, he presumed, that they must reduce expenditure, and in nine weeks they knocked off this £800,000. They struck out items, he supposed, which they felt themselves able to strike out without injuring the efficiency of the Army. What he would like to ask was this: if these estimates could be reduced by £800,000 in nine weeks, could they have been reduced by £1,600,000 in eighteen weeks? If so, they would have been very glad to have seen them so reduced. But were these military experts the same gentlemen who advised the previous Administration? If the £800,000 were unnecessarily paid away in previous years it did not give the House overweening confidence in the military experts. He thought the desire of the right hon. Gentleman for continuity of policy and to take the Army out of the arena of Party politics was a very good thing. He should also like to see the Navy taken out of Party politics, as it was to a great extent, and also questions of foreign policy, but he was afraid that that was rather a desire which, owing to the infirmities of human nature, they could hardly hope to see fulfilled in this world, although it might be in the next, where the Liberal Party would always be in a strong majority. Nearly every speaker on the Opposition side had congratulated the Secretary of State for War, and he had been supported in the Lobby by the votes of hon. Members on both sides of the House. He had also been praised by all the Unionist newspapers in the country, many of them hostile to Liberal ideas of military policy. While the right hon. Gentleman was receiving all this chorus of praise he would remind him of the phrase Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. He felt quite sure that when Members of the Opposition saw a chance to attack his right hon. friend they would be quite ready to turn and rend him with the greatest possible pleasure in the world. Therefore the Secretary of State for War must look entirely for support of his economic policy to hon. Members sitting on the Ministerial side. The Prime Minister had said the other night that the honour and good faith of the Government 124 was bound up in a reduction of military expenditure. With that he agreed, and he was quite satisfied with that statement. At the recent election the Ministerialists received a mandate for economy, and they meant to carry out the promises made to their constituents. They had received a mandate for Free Trade, and to deal with the Education question, and they intended to carry it out. They had also received a mandate to abolish slavery and they were carrying that out. Then there was that everlasting mandate for peace, retrenchment, and reform. It was impossible for them to carry out these reforms unless they first had retrenchment. In his humble opinion they could get the money in only two ways—one washy imposing extra taxation on the rich, and the other by making large reductions in military expenditure. He believed that the Secretary of State for War held the fate of the Liberal Party in his hands at the present moment, and it was because he believed that the right hon. Gentleman realised his responsibility and had promised that so far as a man could do he would reduce the cost of the Army that he gave him his support the other night, and intended to support him again on this occasion.
§ SIR W. EVANS GORDON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
said the hon. Member for Barnstaple had warned them that the time might come when the Members of the Opposition would turn and rend the Secretary of State for War. He wished to point out that that was what had taken place already, but the attack came from below the gangway on the Ministerial side of the House; and therefore the right hon. Gentleman could not complain of too harsh criticisms from the Opposition. He wished to join in the congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman for his recent speech. He had laid down certain principles which every sensible man and every earnest Army reformer must agree with. The right hon. Gentleman had rejected all things that did not make for fighting efficiency, and had told the House that he had been occupied in endeavouring to discover how much could be eliminated which did not make for fighting efficiency. He agreed with those sentiments, but he hoped and trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would have the 125 courage to carry those principles to their logical conclusion. In a recent debate the right hon. Gentleman had been called upon to reduce the Army by 10,000 men in the course of the year. Those reductions might be quite possible when the Secretary of State had completed his inquiries, but he could never see why if those reductions were to be made they should be confined to one branch of the Service alone. The Regular Army had been spoken of as if it was the only part of the forces of the Crown that could be reduced; but, if the right hon. Gentleman carried out the principles he had enunciated he would also turn his attention to the Volunteers. The Secretary of State for War was a strong disciple of the "blue-water" school, and if the principles of that school were also carried to their logical conclusion, if what he said with regard to the possibility of invasion, or even of a serious raid was admitted, then the Volunteers, really and honestly regarded, became as obsolete and out of date as those forts and defences which the right hon. Gentleman had referred to in his opening speech. But he did not go so far as that. The Volunteers fulfilled a great and important part in the forces of the nation; but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not be content with merely putting down large figures, such as 270,000 men, without going closely into the military efficiency of the individuals who went to make up that number. Let him have a large force by all means; but, if his principles with regard to fighting efficiency were to be carried out, the right hon. Gentleman would find upon inquiry that there were large numbers of men in the Volunteers who were known to be of no fighting efficiency whatsoever, and who never would, under any amount of training, become really efficient soldiers, [Cries of "No, No," and "Oh, Oh," and "Why?"] If hon. Members would refer to the numerous reports such as those issued by the Norfolk Commission, and the Royal Commission on the War, they would find statements of witness after witness, of Volunteer and Militia officers, and statements made upon the highest military authority to the effect that there were large bodies of men in all branches of the Service, notably in the Volunteers and the Militia, who not 126 only were not now efficient units, but who could show no prospect whatever of ever becoming efficient. He could quote passage after passage from the Blue-books to that effect. If that was the case he asked the Secretary of State for War in the process of this close inquiry which he was going to make to look carefully into that matter. He would ask him to confer with such experts as Sir George Clark, who more strongly than any other man had laid down the principle that we were simply living in a fool's paradise if we kept up large bodies of men who showed no prospect whatever of ever becoming really efficient fighting men. He wished to refer briefly to the orders which had been issued with regard to the brigading of the Volunteers. The Royal Commission on the War laid down that the Volunteer force should be organised on its war formation of brigades and divisions, that commanders and staff should be appointed, that they should hold no other appointments, and that they should be responsible for the training, instruction, and inspection of those bodies, and also for their mobilisation, and for leading them in time of war. The recent orders with regard to the brigading of Volunteers seemed to set aside that important recommendation. He noticed that nineteen brigades had been organised for coast defence and twenty-five brigades presumably for service in the field. Those brigades were composed of various numbers of battalions, some containing seven and others six, five, four, and three battalions. He did not think the Secretary of State for War could possibly argue that that was a war organisation in any shape or form, because such brigades could take no place in a war. It would be impossible for brigades of these different sizes to exist, and he submitted that if it was pretended that this was a war organisation it should be stated now because they ought not to delude themselves that the Volunteers were organised for war when that was not the case. With regard to the Militia, the right hon. Gentleman had told them that for a great many years past the Militia had been bled white in order to feed the Line. The Secretary of State for War, like many of his predecessors, objected to that, and thought it was a great 127 evil and very bad for the Militia; but if the blood was to be maintained in the veins of the Militia, how was the right hon. Gentleman going to supply blood to the Regular Army? He knew that from year to year some 15,000 men passed from the Militia into the ranks of the Regular Army. A difficulty which had always occurred to him was that they would deprive themselves of recruits for the Regular Army if the Militia was to be turned into a popular force, and if men were to be attracted to it. The position at present was that there were not enough men to go round. The Volunteers were competing for men with the Militia in many districts, so that there were really three competing forces. No suggestion had been thrown out to overcome the difficulty of increasing the popularity and efficiency of the Militia without at the same time exercising a destructive influence on the Line. When the Militia Vote came to be discussed they would be able to find out more on that most important subject. In regard to the general staff, the Secretary of State in his speech referred to the great step in advance which had been taken by his predecessors. That was a very old fad of his own, and he had brought it forward ever since he had been in this House. He had even been snubbed for his pains. Once the late Prime Minister turned to him and said that he was suggesting the introduction into the British Army of German ideas which were not applicable to our military organisation. The time had now come when we no longer hesitated to imitate not only Germany in this respect, but every other great military Power on the Continent. He rejoiced that the Secretary of State saw from the outset the great importance and necessity of having a thinking department properly constituted. He understood that so far not very much progress had been made in establishing a general staff, and he would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell the Committee on what basis it was to be founded, and how far his military advisers, the Army Council and so forth, had gone in laying down the line as to how that body was to be recruited. The right hon. Gentleman was well aware that in 128 Germany privileges were given to the permanent officers belonging to the general staff. The time taken for their promotion was shortened, and they got advantages of all kinds. They were thus encouraged to fit themselves for great and responsible positions as staff officers. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech said something about the scientific side of military affairs, and asked why degrees should not be given for arts and science for the Army as well as for other branches of science and art. He hoped that some scheme similar to that which at present existed in Germany in regard to passing through the general staff might be adopted in this country, and that thereby the very cream of our officers might be induced to qualify themselves in that way. As to India, he rejoiced to find that the anxiety which was displayed, after the right hon. Gentleman first spoke, as to the reduction of the garrison, was an anxiety which need not have occurred, and that in his second speech the right hon. Gentleman repudiated any desire of immediately—he himself hoped at any time—materially reducing the garrison in India. Although the possibility of the invasion of India might be remote, it would, he thought, be admitted that, in view of the present position of Russia, and of the fact that we had entered into a treaty with Japan, we should devote ourselves to the consolidation and the completion of our preparations for the defence of India. He hoped the question of the defence of India would be carefully thought out by the right hon. Gentleman and the Defence Committee before any decision was arrived at.
§ MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
said the hon. Member for Barnstaple had appealed to the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Liberal Party, and said that the right hon. Gentleman in this matter held the fortunes of the Liberal Party in his hands. He hoped and believed it was not in that spirit that the right hon. Gentleman would deal with the Army. It was for that reason, and because of the proper and necessary deliberation with which he had dealt with reform and reductions, that they all rushed to his support on Thursday last, when the right hon. Gentleman had to repel the attack of a Parliamentary 129 Mad Mullah with a following of Irregulars in the House. He used the term Mad Mullah, of course, in a Parliamentary sense, and he thought no description could be more suitable to the occasion. In moving the reduction of 10,000 men the hon. and gallant Member for Abercromby Division said he did not care when or how the reduction was made in these bloated armaments, provided that it was made. All he could say was that the expression he had used was an exceedingly moderate one, if reform in haste regardless of consequences was pressed upon a responsible Minister.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said he was sure the hon. Member did not wish to misrepresent what he did say. He must have got hold of a wrong report of the speech. He stated that the object of his Amendment was to suggest the propriety of the reduction in the following year. He asked the hon. Member not to misrepresent him.
§ MR. REES
said he would be extremely sorry to misrepresent the hon. Member, but he quoted from The Times, and having heard the speech he submitted it was a fair report of its substance. He formed his own impression of the speech, and of the effect which must be made in India and throughout the Empire and without it by the proposal to reduce the Army by 10,000 men, regardless of ways and means, or of any consideration with respect to the frontier of India.
§ MR. REES
said they could not reduce the strength of the Army at home without necessarily affecting the Army in India. Russia had been crippled, it was true, for the present, but it was equally true that internal dissension never prevented a military autocracy from carrying out external aggression. Indeed internal dissension was sometimes a factor making for external aggression. He did not believe there was any danger of attack over the Indian frontier. Only the Emperor Paul, who was mad, and General Skobeleff, who was not a serious politician, had seriously contemplated such an insane expedition. There had been 130 many invasions of India, but they had all been made by Afghans and others of a more or less local character who were able to get over the hills by arrangement with the tribes. He protested none the less that there was nothing in the present condition of Russia at all to justify us in relaxing our present establishment. He maintained that it was absolutely necessary that there should be no reduction in the battalions at home until the Secretary for War had had ample time to look into the whole question, and that it was altogether unreasonable to be dissatisfied with the large reductions made in a few weeks and to press for further specific promises. They should not press the right hon. Gentleman to make any hasty or ill - considered reduction. No one in the House was more committed to the policy of economy than he was; but reductions hastily made might lead eventually to larger charges, to expensive expeditions, and might disorganise the whole economic structure and trade of the Empire. There were, however, one or two directions in which some reforms might perhaps be effected at once without danger. There was the question of the capitation grant paid by India. When the subject of Indian expenditure was considered by this House, an hon. Member now on the front bench was of opinion that India should not be charged with that capitation grant. He did not profess to be a competent judge of these matters; but he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would tell the Committee whether something could not be done to relieve the Indian Exchequer in that respect. Then, there was the question of the payment of troops on the Indian establishment when they were employed out of India. He trusted that that matter would be settled in a manner satisfactory to the Indian Government. Such troops had been of the greatest possible service to the Empire during the late war in South Africa. He would also like, in a friendly and Parliamentary manner, to dissociate himself from the estimate of the British officer which had been given by the hon. Member for East St. Pancras. He realised the good intention of the hon. Member; but he could not accept his statement. There was a time, some thirty years ago, 131 when it used to be said in India that the Civil Service represented brains and industry, and the Army represented the good looks and idleness. He admitted that so far as his experience went these estimates were altogether wrong. He had lived for years with officers of the British and Indian branches of the service, and was bound to say that they were exceedingly industrious, competent, and accomplished men of whom the country might be proud; and he had felt it his duty to say what he had done in their behalf in consequence of the remarks made by the hon. Member to whom he had just referred. It by no means followed that because men were brave in war they were idle and incompetent in time of peace.
§ LORD CASTLEREAGH (Maidstone)
hoped his intervention in the debate would not be thought presumptuous, seeing he had had various opportunities of studying this question from an expert point of view. Hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial benches had expressed sentiments in favour of economy on the Army, but there was no question of economy when they advocated a system of free meals for poor children, old-age pensions, and payment of Members. No practical suggestions had been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the particular lines along which economies in the expenditure on the Army should be made. He admitted that there were various small matters in which economy could be carried out; but no large economy could he brought about without seriously endangering the efficiency of the Army. In the branch of the Army with which he was connected, he granted that some saving might be effected in the purchase of horses. Large profits were often made by a few men in making these purchases. As to the reduction of the Indian Army, he urged that that would be a menace to the safety of the Indian Empire. Something had been said as to the possible invasion of India by Russia. He would not, for one moment, minimise that danger; but he contended that the internal condition of affairs in India required as big a garrison as was there at the present moment. And the reason 132 was that the Indian Government had to show its strength, that our rule was strong, and that that strong rule was accompanied by great benefits to the people of India. It should be borne in mind that the Indian Mutiny followed the withdrawal of various battalions of English troops to be sent to the seat of war with Russia in the Crimea. The reduction of the garrison in India might therefore he attended with the most disastrous consequences. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had said that he intended to reduce the expenditure on military reconnaisances. He (the speaker) held that one of the most important phases of the education of officers was the ability for the performance of these reconnaisances. The raising of the pay of the soldier by the late Government had perhaps induced a certain amount of additional recruiting; but he felt that the class of men whom it was; desired to attract to the Army had not been so attracted. An hon. Member had alleged that the feeling of the people of the country did not encourage soldiering; but he maintained that it was the duty of the nation to encourage the military spirit, because we had no conscription, and he sincerely trusted we never should have. The consequence was that the Government had to compete in the labour market for recruits to fill up the ranks of the Army. What had been said by his hon. friend as to the uniforms of the soldiers was very important, because a recruit of eighteen years of age or so was attracted by a handsome uniform which he could wear when he walked out on Sunday with his girl. He hoped the Secretary for War would hold out some inducement to the soldiers to put by a certain amount of their pay. The old system of deferred pay and of military savings' banks was most excellent in. enabling the soldiers to make some provision for old age. All hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House desired to congratulate the right hon. the Secretary for War on the reforms he had already accomplished, although he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had received much encouragement from his friends on his own side of the House. He would remind these hon. Gentlemen that false 133 economy would be of no benefit to efficiency, but might result in disaster to the Empire.
I think I may suggest to the Committee that the object of a general discussion is not for the purpose of raising any small points which may be brought forward on a particular Vote. It is that hon. Members may raise points of importance which cannot be brought forward upon any one of those Votes when considered separately, and I would therefore suggest that matters of detail arising on subsequent Votes had better be deferred to a subsequent time.
§ MR. MOLTENO (Dumfriesshire)
said he also wished to congratulate the Secretary of State for War upon the able and masterly speech in which he showed the basis upon which we must work if we would have real reform of our Army system. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to India and our colonial garrisons, and the latter seemed to afford considerable hope of reduction. After the Crimean war in 1858 attention was drawn to the enormous cost in men and money of these garrisons. We then had 47,000 men, costing just under £4,000,000 sterling. The Estimates of this year showed that we now had 58,000 men at a cost of £5,000,000 sterling, so that the expenditure in 1858 was greater in proportion to our resources than it was to-day. In 1859 a Departmental Committee was appointed, consisting of Mr. Hamilton of the Treasury, Mr. Godley of the War Office, and Sir T. Elliott of the Colonial Office, to go into this question, and they reported in 1860 and laid down the true policy on this subject. They said that it was bad strategy to scatter small garrisons, all over the world; that the defence of colonies really depended upon the will and determination of the people who inhabited them; that reliance on Imperial troops must perpetuate in the colonies a feeling of dependence on the mother country, and conduce to recklessness of policy, neglect of local efforts, and the absence of that spirit of self-reliance which was the very essence of 134 their prosperity. Further, the report of the Committee showed that—Colonial garrisons when not very large and in first-class fortresses had always found themselves in traps at the mercy of naval expeditions.The Committee laid down the principle of withdrawal of troops from all colonies with the exception of great fortresses, and that if any troops were to remain they should be paid for at their full cost by the colony which asked for them. That Report was in 1861 discussed in Committee of the House, of which Mr. Arthur Mills was chairman. That Committee condemned the plans of colonial fortification and laid down the main principle that—the tendency of modern warfare is to strike blows at the heart of a hostile Power and requires a concentration of troops at home, trusting to naval supremacy for securing against foreign aggression the distant dependencies of the Empire.In 1862 there was also a discussion upon that Report in this House, and this House fully accepted and affirmed the recommendation of the Committee. Thereupon the policy of reduction of colonial garrisons was carried out by successive Secretaries of State on both sides of the House, as it was held that colonists must, like the rest of His Majesty's subjects, bear the cost of civil and military establishments. Mr. Cardwell first commenced the withdrawal of troops from New Zealand, and they now knew that it was long since all troops in that colony had been withdrawn. In the case of South Africa Lord Carnarvon and Earl Granville commenced the reduction of the troops, and the Duke of Buckingham commenced a similar policy in Canada. What was the result? By the year 1877 the troops in the colonial garrisons had been reduced to 24,700 costing £1,769,000, just about half the numbers and cost of 1858. In pursuance of that policy, 16,721 men were withdrawn from North America, Australia, the Ionian Islands, Windward and Leeward Islands, Falkland Islands and the Bahamas, and if they left out the Mediterranean and Egypt and counted only those stations at which we still had troops, viz., North America, Africa, China, and Ceylon, the troops had been reduced from 19,471 in 1858 to 11,134 in 1878. He referred to the year 1878 135 because it was in that Year that we again had an increase of colonial garrisons. Sir Bartle Frere went out to South Africa and thought it desirable to have fresh troops there. He suggested that fresh regiments should be sent out to Cape Colony and to Natal. Objection was taken by those colonies to having those troops and paying for them, but still his advice was followed and then there came a very large increase of garrisons. The result was that the troops were doubled in 1878–79, and the cost was doubled. In the following year, 1879–80, the troops were trebled and the cost was trebled. We were in consequence finally led into the war which from 1878 to 1881 caused an expenditure of £5,500,000, and a very large increase of garrisons from £208,000 to £1,000,000 in 1881. We got tired of this and recalled Sir Bartle Frere and the troops. We reduced the garrison to 3,473 in 1896 just where it stood in 1878. How did the figures stand in regard to these stations and the Estimates now before the House? The numbers were 36,909, or an increase beyond 1878 of 25,750. He was not referring to those Colonies which had no garrison, because we had in 1858 no less than 16,700 men in Colonies which had no garrison to-day. The enormous increase had taken place in those places where we had garrisons to-day. He should like to point out where the principal increases were: South Africa, from 3,357 to 19,983; Mauritius, from 583 to 3,352; Hong Kong and North China, from 1,122 to 7,233. He was unable to say anything about Mauritius or Hong Kong and North China except that he wished to express the hope that the garrisons might be reduced, as he thought that with a peaceful policy they might proceed to a considerable reduction. But in regard to South Africa the cause of the increase was clear, and was directly due to the policy pursued from this country. The Departmental Committee to which he had referred drew attention to the condition of South Africa at that time, and he should like to draw attention to what they said on that occasion, as the conditions resembled those which prevailed to-day. They said—Above all, there is the gigantic anomaly of expenditure on the Cape. We cannot avoid 136 calling the especial attention of His Majesty's Government to the drain on British resources which has resulted from our undertaking the reference of this Colony, and to that inadequacy of benefits resulting to British products. As affording a field for British emigration, a. supply of our wants, or a market for our produce, our connection with the Colony has not been, comparatively speaking, of any considerable advantage to us. In fact, the only direct object of Imperial concern is the use of the roadsteads at Table and Simon's Bays. Yet in 1857–8, a period of exceptional tranquility, we had at the Cape, including the German Legion, a garrison, or rather Army, of 10,759 Regular troops, and the military expenditure alone was £830,687, equal to more than one-fifth of the expenditure on the whole of the Colonies, including the Mediterranean Garrisons.Sir Thomas Eliott in his report says—The above expenditure is enormous, and is not likely ever to be materially reduced except by a Radical change of policy.He was glad to say that that Radical change of policy took place, and the troops were, as he had already stated, reduced by Lord Carnarvon and Earl Granville, and the Colonies were told to rely upon their own forces, which they had since done and shown that they were perfectly well able to protect and defend themselves. He had shown that that change of policy took place, because the 10,759 of 1858 were reduced to 3,357 in 1878. In the latter year the increase insisted upon by Sir Bartle Frere took place, to which he had already referred, and this led to the Zulu War and the war of 1881, upon which we spent £5,500,000 and increased the cost of garrison from £208,000 to £1,000,000 in 1881. Then another change of policy was made and on January 7th, 1896, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham telegraphed to Sir Hercules Robinson that—He was considering in concert with his colleagues, the propriety of immediately sending a large force, including cavalry and artillery, to the Cape to provide for all eventualities.On the 8th Sir Hercules Robinson replied—I should deprecate the proposed despatch of a large force.The policy pursued by Sir Hercules Robinson received universal approval in South Africa, and up to the eve of the War the Cape and Natal protested against the use of force. He had simply given this record to show that there had been no local demand for troops, and 137 also to illustrate the fact that the departures from the policy laid down in 1862 by the House had led to disastrous increase of expenditure and of garrisons in South Africa. They all knew what this policy of interference in South Africa meant. The lesson was plain. Why not leave South Africa alone, as we had frequently been requested to do by all responsible authorities there, to manage their own affairs, just as in Canada and Australia we left them alone? They were perfectly able in South Africa to manage their own affairs if we would only leave them alone, and we might then withdraw all the troops in excess of those who were there in 1895. The enormous cost entailed upon us by their presence was given yesterday in a Reply by the Secretary of State for War. It appeared from that answer that the average expenditure on troops and fortifications since the war was £5,343,000 per annum. The expenditure under military works loans was £3,040,000 for the three years 1903–4 to 1905–6, and the cost borne on the Army Estimates for that period was £12,990,000, making up the total of £16,030,000, which gave the average he had stated. But there was another very serious danger involved in leaving this body of troops in South Africa, because there was, as the Departmental Committee had pointed out, the risk of our becoming involved in native wars. The Colonists might pursue an aggressive and high-handed policy, relying on the presence of the troops. If we allowed the use of Imperial troops we must interfere to control policy. This was a fatal system, as had been shown in the past history of the Cape. If our troops were involved it became a question of one power fighting for another power quarrelling, which was a recipe for endless war. There was a very serious danger in pursuing this course, and the only safe policy was to leave Colonists to rely upon their own resources and to feel responsible for any defect of policy. He had observed that the Conservative Party at the end of last year were recommended to follow the advice of Mr. Disraeli in order to get back to their former proud position. Mr. Disraeli said on the 15th of July, 1865—I am myself in favour of a conservative foreign policy—a policy which believes that, the 138 tranquillity of the world is the interest of England; that peace is the normal aim, and that in the tranquillity of the world the state or best objects of English ambition may be legitimately obtained.… Since I have been in Parliament—now twenty-seven years— there has only occurred one occasion on which war was justifiable on our part, and even then it was a war which we could not enter upon without hesitation, but still it was a war necessary for the interests of the world.He drew special attention to those words "justifiable" and "necessary."That was the Crimean War, and on that ground I supported it. I have seen no cause since for the warlike interference of England in the affairs of Europe or America.It was a remarkable fact that that one war, the only justifiable war in the opinion of Mr. Disraeli, was the one war which all now agreed was unnecessary. So it was with all wars. Were we never to advance? Were nations always to distrust each other? Were we always to give way to those who held the view that force was the only means of settling disputes between nations?
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said he was not sanguine—he did not put it higher than that—that it would be possible materially to reduce our garrisons abroad. An hon. Member had referred to Mr. Disraeli. He thought it was Mr. Disraeli who said—Tell me your policy, and I will tell you what your armaments must be.The application of that maxim was not more obvious in any part of the world than in South Africa. If, as he trusted, the policy of the Government in South Africa might be calculated to maintain and to foster the loyalty and devotion to the Mother country of all our white fellow-subjects in South Africa, then, and then only, it might be reasonable to hope that at some future date we might be able to reduce the garrison in South Africa. But if the policy of the Government should not be a policy of non-interference, but should be a policy of interference in matters which excited more feeling in South Africa than any other question, why, then, so far from looking forward to a reduction of the garrison, we might look with foreboding to the possibility that the garrison might have to be increased. It was not only true that the number of our armaments depended on foreign and Colonial policy, 139 but it was also true that the cost of our armaments depended on domestic policy. We could not raise the standard of living or labour in this country—a most desirable object—without increasing the discrepancy between the conditions of life of the Regular soldier and the conditions of life of the artisan, and therefore, every Secretary of State for War, and the right hon. Gentleman in common with his predecessors, had, before he could consider the possibility of effecting a reduction, to counteract automatic increases. The pressure put upon him that the soldier should be better housed, better clothed, and better fed, and that he should have more opportunities of legitimate relaxation, led necessarily to the automatic increase of the cost of the Army. He could not quite accept the view that the right hon. Gentleman had effected immense reductions in the Estimates because he was imbued by views not shared by his right hon. friend his predecessor. His right hon. friend had to his knowledge, year in. and year out, striven, and not without success, to cut down the cost of the Army. If he could he wished he might disabuse some hon. Members opposite of a suspicion which they apparently entertained. They seemed to think that his right hon. friend and hon. Members on his side of the House took a delight in spending money on the Army for the mere sake of spending money. They were in complete error. Every man who cared, as he cared, for the efficiency of the Army, knew that the greatest peril to that efficiency was the fact that it cost £29,000,000 or more every year. There was not a man who desired to see our forces on the most efficient and economic basis who would not, if he could, hail the right hon. Gentleman with acclamation supposing he could effect a reduction of one or two millions on the Estimates, without decreasing the efficiency of the Army. But many of them knew that the difficulties with which he had to contend were very great, and they applauded him for pledging himself to no plan during his first session in office. Far a blow at their adversary in the course from cavilling at anything in his speeches with their own ideas, their only plea was that he would not allow his theories 140 to crystallise into a plan until he had weighed very carefully and fully our forces in all their aspects, for they were very multifarious. Part of the difficulty with which any Secretary of State had to contend was that the legacy, not from his immediate predecessor, but from past history, was the legacy of different theories of the Army, different schemes of defences which had come into being under conditions which prevailed then but did not prevail now, but which could not be suddenly abolished. They could not, in view of a new theory, suddenly dispense with all that had been bequeathed to them in consequence of theories now obsolete, but which at the time they were entertained might have been thought as reasonable as the theory of the "blue-water" school which the right hon. Gentleman was now putting forward, and therefore they ought to be very patient in this attempt to secure economy. If they abolished anything which existed they must find a substitute. The abolition cost them abolition terms, and, having made the substitute, they found themselves driven, year by year, into making it more palatable by spending more money upon it than they originally intended to spend. So that there was something to be said for conservatism, not as a Party principle, but as a principle which must actuate all Governments to a certain extent, whether they were Liberal or Conservative. The difficulty of Secretaries of State for War was that they had the relics of all these different theories to deal with. They could not abolish them; they had to adapt them to the theory of the day. The right hon. Gentleman had pushed what was called the theory of the "blue-water" school very far, and the question they ought to consider was, Had he pushed it too far? He did not think the right hon. Gentleman intended to push it too far. It was urged with truth, on the other side, that no Navy, however overwhelming, could finish a war. In any fight they must be able to hit as well as parry. Unless they could strike a blow at their adversary in the course of a war the war would never come to an end. Again, it was true that we might have to fight not one, but two first-class Powers. To put that fear 141 in a more ominous guise, we might be fighting one first-class Power for several months or a year and then be attacked by another first-class Power. The fear of that led many thoughtful men to hold that the "blue-water" theory was being pushed too far, and that in view of the danger which, though remote, was possible, we must have a home defence army in spite of all that the theorists said. Even if the fear of invasion in this case was an illusory fear, the fact that it existed was a matter that had to be taken into account. One form of insurance was not only that against invasion, but against panic, and if this country were at war it would be of immense assistance to the Government that their countrymen should not be the prey of grave fears which might have been allayed, perhaps at no great expenditure of money. In spite of all that he was prepared to say that the right hon. Gentleman, if he understood him aright, was not pushing this theory too far. The right hon. Gentleman had laid it down that we required a striking force. The right hon. Gentleman did not pledge himself to its size, but he did not reject the view that it ought to be the size of three Army Corps. The right hon. Gentleman did not object to the view that we ought to have ready in this country for conflict with trained European troops, he supposed, at least nine divisions of infantry and the proper amount of cavalry and artillery which should go with nine divisions of infantry. If we had this force ready to embark there would be no panic, but we could not embark them until we had established our supremacy on the sea, and we could not embark them if our Navy had been defeated. If it were true that we could not embark a striking force until we were in that position, then danger of invasion on a great scale was as visionary as the theorists declared it to be. If we came into conflict with a great Power, from the outbreak of hostilities we should have to begin to form and train as large an Army as we possibly could. But if we were to have economy in peace our organisation for the striking force of nine or ten divisions could not be totally distinct from the organisation for feeding our peace garrison abroad. That created a slight 142 presumption in favour—he would not say of the linked battalion—but certainly of a battalion system as against a depot system at home, or otherwise we should have to pay far more than we did at present. We had now about eighty-five regiments abroad. After about five years abroad a soldier ceased to be as good a man as he was the first five years, so that new drafts had to be sent out every year to take the place of individual soldiers, and it was bad for any regiment to remain abroad for more than fifteen years. Thus in time of profound peace we had to send between 20,000 and 30,000 men abroad every year, and it should not be impossible to make the organisation for supplying these men coincide with the organisation for our striking force. It did create a presumption in favour, at any rate, of battalions, though not necessarily of linked battalions, and it did create a presumption against depot training, although he believed there must be both in any system. He thought we should aim at getting large and good depots. A very high authority once told him that if we wanted to work our drafts and reliefs by battalions it was no use having four battalions to a regiment; but a good deal of battalion training could be given if regiments were divided into eight battalions, with five abroad and three at home. Could not the right hon. Gentleman arrive at some scheme which would give the training advantages of the battalions and some of the advantages also of the large depots by grouping the Army into larger groups? The Secretary of State had himself laid it down that even in the "blue-water" theory we needed a great power of expansion behind our striking force in order to finish a war within a reasonable time. What had we to look to? The Reserves, the Volunteers, and the manhood of the nation. Yes, but all those forces must be susceptible of training at the time of the outbreak of war. He could imagine no more calamitous day for this country than for legions of men to come clamouring for guidance and finding there were not enough regimental officers and that there was not a staff. There would be the metal but not the mould into which that metal was 143 to be poured. It might sound a simple thing, but one of the hardest problems in the art of war was to show people where to go, how to get there, and what to do when they got there. Problems of time, distance, and direction lay at the very core of the whole art of war. If that were so, it was clear that some plan was wanted which would give plenty of regimental officers, and a highly trained staff, and that again raised a presumption against dispensing with battalions absolutely at home. It was difficult to train men except in battalions, but he defied them to train officers unless there were battalions. The whole success of an attack often depended on hitting the right place in an enemy's position. He defied them to train a staff properly unless they had battalions. They must get each division absolutely and accurately on the very place on the map from which it could strike, and if it deviated by the smallest angle the whole attack might perish. Bad staff work made success impossible. No staff could be trained unless it had battalions, brigades, and divisions with which it could be trained. It did not follow that they must all be Regular battalions, but there must be Regular battalions in sufficient number to supply the nucleus of each brigade during the minor manœuvres which must take place when regimental officers and staff officers were to be trained to meet the day of war. If those conditions were observed he thought we needed some simplification. The Secretary of State already had at his disposal a large number of kinds of troops—the Regular battalion abroad, the Regular battalion at home, the small depot, the large depot, the Militia, the Militia Reserve, the Volunteers, the Volunteer Reserve, and rifle clubs; and now there was a project for giving some slight training to anybody who would undergo it. Some simplification was absolutely necessary if any economy was to be effected. How were we to get it? He did not believe the right hon. Gentleman could materially alter the present condition of the Volunteers. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had better leave the Volunteers to expand at the 144 proper time, and if he had the necessary staff officers to guide them perhaps we should make the best of the Volunteers under those conditions. But what was he going to do with the Militia? The Militia he would be driven either to let down towards the status of the Volunteers or to lift up towards the status of the Regular Army. Existing in the air as it did now between the Regular Army and the Volunteers the Militia would die out. He thought the solution of the problem would be not to absorb the Militia in the Line, but to establish some strong and close relation between the home battalions, the large depots, and the Militia. That was an integral portion of Lord Cardwell's original theory; and it was foreshadowed in a marvellous paper written by Pitt to William Wyndham, which showed that they must use the territorial system to bring the Militia and depots and. home battalions into some close relationship. He apologised to the Committee for having made these few observations, and he thanked the Government for having given the Committee an opportunity of taking a bird's-eye view of the whole field of military defence. The Secretary for War had his best wishes for his success.
§ MR. HALDANE
said the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had made a speech of the highest interest, because he had reviewed from a very broad standpoint questions of the most far-reaching kind in connection with military organisation. He believed with the right hon. Gentleman that these questions must be treated as a whole; that the organisation of the Army, heterogeneous though that Army was, was one and indivisible; and yet, as had been said, one was confronted at every turn by difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman had begun his speech with a rather gloomy forecast about economy. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in that respect. He had always thought economy was not a thing, that would be accomplished at a stroke, that it was easier to talk about than to effect; but because it was difficult it was not impossible. The noble Lord the Member for Maidstone had said that 145 the Secretary for War had received more encouragement from the Opposition side of the House than from his own, but he did not think the noble Lord was right. On his banner was inscribed, no doubt, the word "efficiency," but the word "economy" was also inscribed upon it, and on the question of economy he was bound to say that he had received most ample encouragement from the Ministerial side of the House— as much as he could possibly desire. For efficiency he had received much encouragement too. He could not help thinking that hon. Members ought not to grudge him the transient momentary popularity which he enjoyed. By that time next year it was possible—if he were disposed to indulge in gloomy forebodings—that he might see himself the most unpopular War Minister there had been for a long time. [An HON. MEMBER: That will want a lot of doing.] Economies were not easy to effect, and the right hon. Gentleman had been well advised in referring to the difficulty of automatic increases. Automatic increases were always taking place, and the worst of it was that not only had one to deal with necessary automatic increases, but also with automatic increases which might have been avoided which were the result of changes of policy, perhaps dating a very long way back, and which were not easy to alter when once they had become operative. Yet, notwithstanding all the difficulties, it seemed to him that there was room in the present condition of things for— he would not put it higher—a hope of economy, substantial economy, in Army organisation. He did not say that he individually could do it, but he did say that he thought it could be done. He could not forget that the Estimates had gone up £11,500,000 in the very short time of about ten years, and he could not forget that even taking the ideal of a striking force of three Army corps, or nine divisions, on the Indian basis, there was a vast surplus which arose from want of organisation of the Army as a whole. He gave the figures the other day, simply quoting them roughly and from memory. We required for the nine divisions 130,000 men. We had, on the footing of mobilising, as we wanted to mobilise for this 146 purpose, our reserves, and taking into account the Militia and Yeomanry, 330,000 men in the country—a surplus of 200,000 men. We wanted a large amount of support for etceteras, but 200,000 was an enormous surplus, and it seemed to him hard if it were not possible to get out of that something very substantial indeed in the way of reduction. It also seemed to him that such a reduction ought to be compatible with more efficiency, and to be possible with a very substantial body of men who were not really required for any Imperial organisation on the basis of nine divisions or three Army corps. That, at any rate, was the problem which the War Secretary to-day had to face. The Member for Croydon had faced it, and he appreciated thoroughly the way in which he had desired to get at the solution of the problem. But he had never been able to agree with the right hon. Gentleman. He felt himself much nearer to the Member for Dover in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of what had been called—and he agreed with him that it was an unsatisfactory name—the linked-battalion system. It was better to speak of feeding and training battalions. The system was one in which, instead of depots being used to train or feed, battalions were used for this purpose. He agreed that the system was not one to be lightly or rashly abandoned. He did not pledge himself to it, but he felt that it was a system which had a great deal of promise and potency in it, and he was astonished at the acerbity which had been introduced into this matter. As to the controversy to which the system had given rise, he could only say that he had taken part in many controversies, theological and political, controversies of every sort, but in none had he noticed a sharper division of opinion than on this question of battalions versus depots as instruments of training for the British Army. It was hopeless to expect to get men to agree about it. We might as well expect them to agree about predestination. This controversy would go on in the House session after session, with the result that the only way the unfortunate Secretary for War who desired to learn could pursue was to listen to all sides and, 147 after hearing all that was to be said, to take his own way. He could only say at this moment that whatever might be said against our system of feeding battalions, it had a great many advantages —advantages to which the Member for Dover had already referred. For our money we got more cadres under this than under any other system. The home cadre was very important from the point of view of fighting efficiency. It was only in time of peace that the home battalion which fed the battalion abroad was passing drafts through it. In time of war the reserve was called out and these skeleton battalions—skeleton battalions so far as efficient fighting men were concerned — were clothed. In the Cardwell system they preserved the spirit of territorialism. All he wished to observe about the Cardwell system was that it was a system from which he was not going to depart lightly. He might have to depart from it; but he would have to know a reason very definitely before making a change which seemed to him to go to the root of the organisation of the British Army. Depots must not only be great depots, but they must do very different work from anything they knew any depot was doing now. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to Caterham. He was himself at Caterham very recently, and he found that the Guards recruit received sixteen week's training there. His battalion, of course, was always at home, and he was trained in his battalion at home. He had only sixteen weeks in that big depot. The depot itself never could produce the training of the battalion, though it could give education and a certain amount of preparation to the soldier which would enable him to work better at battalion work; but the work of the battalion it could not give; Moreover, there was another great difficulty in these large depots. India would not take troops who were not seasoned—troops less than twenty years of age. The reason of that was to be found in the conditions of health in India. How were men of twenty years of age to be got from a depot at home? A depot was not a place where a man could be kept a couple of years; and if it was required to recruit men in this country over eighteen years of age, it would be found 148 that the conditions of the country made it impossible to get all that were required. It would be found that at that age men got into employment, or perhaps got married. A man could not be kept at the depot for more than a few months; and the class required to be trained for India, to be employed there and put to work when they had reached the age of twenty and not before, could not be got in this country in any great quantities. Therefore they were thrown back on the battalion system for training the soldier to pass through the Indian battalion that was linked to it and then to be brought home to the Reserve. Taking it from whatever point of view, it seemed to him, as at present advised, that the linked battalion system was the most workable. The figures with which they were all familiar showed that about 65,000 men at home fed about 85,000 abroad. He included in the term "abroad" the battalions on short tour in the Mediterranean at this time. They therefore wanted about 27,500 a year to feel the 85,000 abroad. Taking that number out, there were left 37,500 available for home service. It seemed to him that the feeding battalion system was a system which required to be considered very carefully; and they should pause before they abolished it as going to the root not only of the present organisation of the Army, but, as he was rather inclined to think, though he said it with all reserve, of further developments which ought to take place, such as a more complete territorial organisation. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had spoken of South Africa and the policy which turned on South Africa. He said that the Government would be doing a very rash thing if they interfered to any large extent with the establishment kept up in South Africa, unless they were perfectly certain, as he understood him, of satisfying the British element, which was our nearest concern over there. He agreed that they must satisfy that element; but there was another element they must satisfy also. If there was to be peace and tranquillity in South Africa so that our policy might enable us to reduce armaments, they must satisfy both Boer and Briton. That was what they had to work out; and he agreed that 149 until they had satisfied, not merely the one element, but the other also, it would be very difficult to bring things on to a harmonious footing and to reduce our garrison out there. But, at the same time, he was not sure that the maintenance of large garrison in South Africa was just the thing to conduce most to that harmony of which he spoke. Let the matter be worked out by all means; but he was not sure that its working out was assisted by keeping up in a prominent and ostentatious fashion anything like a large military display. There had been striking confirmation in the history of the country of the valuable results that had sometimes come from the withdrawal of a garrison at an opportune moment. The right hon. Gentleman opposite also spoke of the "blue-water" principle and the danger of pushing it too far. He agreed that it could be treated as an abstract principle, and could be pushed too far. They could not justify, of course, the keeping up of the Volunteers if they were out and out for the "blue-water" school; but this nation was governed, as Mr. Disraeli once said, not by logic but by Parliament. This Parliament was just as much Parliament after the general election as the Parliament of a year or twenty years ago, and as long as Parliament remained Parliament, this country would never be logical. Therefore there was no danger of their running to extreme courses over "blue-water" principles. He agreed with some of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman opposite about both the Volunteers and the Militia; they had to consider them also as well as the Regular Army in considering our fighting efficiency. The country had no right to keep them up to the present point unless it got value for its money. He thought he went a little slower than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon in his way of approaching these things. He thought the country could get value for its money out of both the Militia and the Volunteers without taking any sudden or strong step with regard to them. They could not, however, be left as they were now. Volunteers hovered between being Regular soldiers and not being soldiers at all. They could not be justified as men to be put against Regulars without a great deal 150 more training than they got at the present time, and they could not get that trailing in time of peace. On the other hand, the Militia, he agreed, must have something done. They must be brought nearer to the Regular Army, and the Regular Army also must be brought nearer to them. He did feel that the Militiaman was a soldier, but he was a civilian for nine-tenths of his time, and they had to see that during the remaining one-tenth of his time, when he was a soldier, he acted as a soldier. During that time he wanted to be levelled up very much more, and he wanted to serve under his own officers. Again, the Militia ought not to be bled of its best men. The best men ought not to be taken out of every company. But the Militia should be none the less a support to, and in another sense a reserve for, the Regular Army The Militiaman was nearer than the Volunteer to the Regular Army. He was a Regular soldier for part of his time, and a definite function must be assigned to him. When that function was assigned to him he believed the Militiaman would cheerfully accept it, and the Militia would once more become a popular service. No one could tell what mischief was done both to the Militia and the Volunteers by not assigning to them definite functions. It was not that they needed to be stirred into action. They had shown what they could do. But to-day we had no definite notions of what we wanted to do with the Volunteers and Militia. He believed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon had definite ideas, but he thought they were too definite. He thought that if a proper and definite place was assigned to the Volunteers and the Militia in the organisation, it would be possible, without suddenly revolutionising anything, to bring them into line in such a way as to get value for our money and to get them in a concentrated form such as they were not in at the present moment. On the whole, though it was a policy which some might regard as open to a certain amount of suspicion, he believed that his own view of trusting to soldiers, and trusting to them even in matters of economy, was not only easiest, but cheapest. After all, they were dealing with matters 151 of a highly technical kind, and soldiers were just as good economists as anybody else. If they got the chance, and if a Minister set to work to get their sympathy on his side, there was not a man in the War Office who did not desire to bring down the cost of the Army if it could possibly be done consistently with efficiency, and there were many men there who thought that the efficiency which all desired could be obtained for a less expenditure of money than it cost at the present time. He thought that was the spirit which existed among the military experts, and when that spirit existed among the military experts it was well to have them on one's side. It was desirable in the interests of economy to work with the experts, and, above all, to have a settled policy accepted as far as possible by both Parties, and by that great middle element which set the tone to both Parties, which would enable one to carry on continuously without sudden reversals and upheavals always resulting in vast expenditure. The policy of grouping regiments, which had been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, required to be pursued with extreme caution. It might mitigate some of the pressure which occasionally arose under the Cardwell system, although that pressure had been exaggerated. He was a Scotsman, and, although only a Lowlander, would shrink from the notion of grouping kilts in the Highland regiments. There would be peril of exciting jealousies if these regiments, with their distinctive traditions and tartans, were grouped. The noble Lord the Member for Maidstone had not sufficiently distinguished between reconnaissances and staff rides, The surveys of the terra ought not to be surveys of the terra of the United Kingdom, but of places where there was real use for such services. What an advantage it would have been if the money spent on surveys some years ago in preparing for the defence of the United Kingdom, which was already adequately defended by the Fleet, had been spent in surveying South Africa! In the last war we had no maps, no information about positions. The right figure which he should have given as the cost of staff surveys in this country was 152 £7,000, not £14,000. He would consider the proposal of the hon. Member for West Marylebone with regard to cadets, but thought there might be difficulties in the way. He reminded the hon. Member for Blackpool that there were more urgent matters to be attended to before much money could be spent on clothes. He did not think there was a great deal to be complained of in the present dress. The Army was, and must be, on short commons for some time. There was no room for luxuries. The reduction of £800,000 had been referred to by the hon. Member for Barnstaple. That reduction was made by severe pruning down expenses without any sacrifice of efficiency; to cut down to the same extent again would not be done with ease or in a short time. He did not say it could not be done; it was the very business on which he should be embarked during the next twelve months. But the only undertaking he could give was that he would do his best to effect further savings. But let him do it in his own way, and with the co-operation of the soldier. He did wish to get it into the heads of all about him that this was really the way that gave most hope of success.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Croydon)
did not like to say, "vixere fortes ante Agamemnona multi"; but he wanted to say in his own justification that there had been people at the War Office before the right hon. Gentleman who had not been stone blind and stone deaf. The right hon. Gentleman had enumerated to the House a number of larger and smaller changes as the result of applying thought to matters on which there was need for clear thinking. He mentioned five or six operations which were supposed to show how easily a process which he compared to the transmutation of metals in the imagination of the alchemist could be performed if they had the mind to do it. One was the application of the blue-water principle to the abolition of the forts on the Surrey hills. In April last year, however, he had explained to the House the arrangments at Portsmouth, Chatham, and Sheerness in substitution for the defences abandoned in Surrey. Only a small remnant of tools remained in the 153 fort which the right hon. Gentleman saw, because they were more conveniently stored there than anywhere else; and the whole cost of the fort was the cost of a caretaker. As a perfectly natural consequence of this new policy, the whole of the scheme of the defence of London was abandoned more than a year ago, and abandoned with the assent of the House.
§ MR. HALDANE
said the fort was full of valuable stores, which were being supplied from week to week. He found new axes had been sent down only the week before his visit. He saw 3,300 Lyddite shells and things of that kind. He did not say it as a reproach, but the forts were full of stores, and were being kept up.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said the only reason these forts were kept up was simply that they might be store-houses. If the right hon. Gentleman doubted that he offered to read the statement he had made to the last Parliament as to the orders given.
§ MR. HALDANE
did not doubt that the statement was made; he might doubt whether it was carried out. He certainly saw one of the forts himself in the condition he described, and inquiry of the Army Council confirmed him.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said that he really did not know to what the right hon. Gentleman referred. The renewal of armaments in the fortresses around the coast had been going on for three years. The date of the War Office action as to the removal of the garrison of St. Helena was November, 1904, and only 200 artillerymen were left there temporarily against the protest of the War Office at the special request of the Admiralty. The reconnaissance service, with which the late Chancellor of the Exchequer was twitted in a reference to Birmingham as the centre of England, was overhauled in May, 1904, and the work severely limited to certain work on the south-east and south-west coasts at the expense only of the out-of-pocket expenses of the officers. It was on entirely military grounds that a limited number were 154 retained, and now he understood the right hon. Gentleman was going to stop their operations. He was unable to ascertain what was the extra expense, but in his opinion it was limited to £100, and he would like to know whether the engineer officers would continue to be employed in carrying out this service. Another example brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman was the Tidworth barracks, and he said they should not be there. Quite true; but in fairness it might be mentioned that last year he told the House that at the second meeting he attended at the War Office he gave orders to stop barrack construction, and in this way an expenditure of £1,500,000 was stopped. This style of barracks was most distasteful to recruits, and he decided that no more of them should be built. That was decided three years ago. Of the barracks which the right hon. Gentleman saw the foundations had been laid, and these were left. He did not wish to make too much of small matters, but it would not have been fair to the Committee not to have mentioned that action had already been taken, guided by those considerations that had influenced the right hon. Gentleman in his study of the problem. If the right hon. Gentleman would look at the record of the Defence Committee and of the Army Council he would find that the questions to which he had referred and he (Mr. Arnold-Forster) had endeavoured to explain, had, with scores of others, been considered, and were not the result of a sudden outburst of the clear thinking which had been alluded to. With regard to the Militia, he did not want the right hon. Gentleman to pledge himself, but he had told the Committee something that was calculated to cause considerable alarm. Two schemes, he said, were under consideration, and when he indicated a change by which the training of the Militia was to be made a means of relieving the poor rates he suggested what would certainly be the greatest possible mistake; it might be a good thing for the unemployed, but it would be one of the worst things possible for the Militia and the Army. If the men were being trained as members of the Army he could understand it, but if 155 this system of winter training-was only to be used as an adjunct to the poor law administration it would be a great mistake. Another suggestion was to call out certain battalions for six months' training and for six weeks' subsequent training. The right hon. Gentleman had said that a man in the Militia was a civilian for eleven months and a soldier for one, and how was he going to make him a soldier for seven and a half months and a civilian for four and a half months? 35,000 recruits went into the Militia in 1904. Six months training on enlistment and six weeks subsequently, what proportion did that bear to the whole? It would be a third of the whole recruiting, and officers must be provided for the training of these men.
§ MR. HALDANE
said it was not proposed to apply this generally. It was limited to twenty battalions and was for the purpose of finding out where, under local conditions, better recruits could be obtained.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said he was glad to hear that it would not be extended to the rest of the Militia. But did the right hon. Gentleman think the men could be trained by their own officers? Of these the senior officers could give a month to the duty; then there were a certain number of retired captains from the Army, some useful, some not; a certain number of officers who had failed to get into the Army and went from battalion to battalion in order to make an income; and the remainder would certainly not train for seven months. He believed the attempt would destroy the Militia. Did the Committee realise that in 1904 35,000 men went into the Militia and that 38,000 went out of it, that of the 35,000 who went into it 22,000 either deserted or went into the Line, and that 12,000 of those that were left were under the age of twenty and therefore unable to go into the Line? He believed that great harm would be done to the Militia and to the Line by attaching to the experiment the condition that a man should not enter the Line until after receiving military training. In many cases it would mean putting off passing into the Line for 156 from ten to eighteen months. Of the men who entered the Line eighty per cent. never went into Militia training, and the expectation that these men would go into the Line after eighteen months in the Militia would not be realised. Such a system would destroy both the Line and the Militia. They would perpetuate a bad system, and make the one absolutely dependent on the other. Until they gave the Militia what it ought to have, namely, an independent territorial existence, they would always have these difficulties, which would only he aggravated by the proposals made. There was a misconception as to recruiting: it had not been a bad recruiting season.
The number of recruits in the past year had been 4,500 below that of the previous year, but that year had been the heaviest known in peace time and the medical regulations were not then in force. But they were in force last summer, and thousands of men were refused as medically unfit, while each recruit was ten times the value of a recruit under the previous system. When the figures were tested by the proportion of waste, it would be seen that a wise step had been taken. Recruiting had not been bad; there had been an ample supply of recruits if proper use were made of them. He was not in favour of keeping the system of linked battalions. It was idle to say that if the depot training was substituted for linked battalion training the recruit should not get battalion training. A man having been in the depot for six months was drafted into a battalion for fighting service. The Royal Navy and the Guards and the Royal Marines were recruited from depots. The right hon. Gentleman was again mistaken in supposing that the Marines were not taken until the age of twenty. They were taken at the age of eighteen, and the right hon. Gentleman was also mistaken in supposing that a recruit could not be trained in a depot in four or six months. The right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in supposing that they could not get a sufficient number of recruits at a suitable age for India. At present they were getting a larger number of recruits over the age of nineteen than were necessary to supply the waste of the Army in India. 157 He should like to tell the Committee what was the real essential difference between the linked battalion system and the depot system. In order to keep up the battalions abroad we had to supply the waste. The real waste of a battalion 900 strong serving abroad, taking the ever company organisation period of enlistment as nine years, was one-ninth every year. That proportion was diminished by extensions and increased by sickness, invaliding, death, and discharge. In order to supply that waste, about 130 men were required each year, and for the purpose of supplying those men we kept up at home a great barracks, a battalion 700 or 800 strong, with a colonel, two majors, eight captains, subalterns, and a band, as well as a depot with a permanent establishment of forty or fifty men. That was a wasteful plan. The waste of a battalion 900 strong could be supplied by sending out seventy men trained at a depot twice a year. If the right hon. Gentleman cut down the battalions and retained the linked battalion system he would find himself hopelessly at a loss for trained reserves for the Army. He believed that force of circumstances would be too much for the right hon. Gentleman. The training depots at Winchester, Caterham, and Newcastle were standing and interesting examples of the possibility of training men in depots. He believed the right hon. Gentleman had not pledged himself in this matter, and he was confident that when he came to study the facts, as he had seen and studied them, the inexorable logic of the situation would bring him to the same conclusion, and that they would have the abandonment of the linked battalion system and the substitution of the depot system for it. The right hon. Gentleman had another great constructive plan, but he did not trouble about it because he did not believe it would come to anything. He did not believe that an army of village Hampdens would be any good; they would be a perfect nuisance to everybody. He was not speaking of rifle clubs. The right hon. Gentleman had not let them into the secret; but he had seen enough of the proposal to understand what it meant. In addition to the Navy, the Army, the Militia, the Yeomanry, and the Volunteers, there was to be a force to be 158 called out when they pleased, possibly on Saturday afternoons. They were not to have uniforms; they were to go to the national schools and be instructed by Volunteer sergeants. There was to be no battalion organisation; not even company organisation.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said a great many people had, and he thought he had seen many schemes that the right hon. Gentleman had had before him. At all events, this was to be a new army [MINISTERIAL cries of "What army?"] —an army of village Hampdens. His belief was that the Volunteers would not look kindly on this army, which, so far as he could see, could only be constructed at their expense. He felt strongly that they were in danger of sacrificing quality to quantity, and that was the last thing they ought to do. His right hon. friend had not told them where he would get his officers from. He did not believe in the kind of officers of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke the other day, men who made war a bye-product of their daily business. As in the Navy so in the Army; the officer must be a specialised, highly trained individual. He saw no suggestion at all as to how they were going to get the officers. He trusted that in this matter the right hon. Gentleman would be firm, He hoped the Committee would not think him impertinent if he ventured to say that he believed that the more the right hon. Gentleman studied these problems, the more he realised their true nature, the more would he be convinced that there was only one clear, logical solution. Already they were coming within measurable distance of some of those things which he was not able to do but which he hoped were in sight. He was aware that there was a strong and growing opinion in some quarters in favour of the depot system, but there was an equally strong and growing opinion in favour of territorialising the Militia and taking them away from service to the Line. He believed they would eventually come nearer and nearer to the ideal which he had formed, and which he had tried to persuade the House to accept. He had confidence in the right hon. Gentleman, and he regarded him as standing between 159 them and some of those fanciful schemes the whole tendency of which was to sacrifice quality to quantity.
§ MR. BELLAIRS (Lynn Regis)
said the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down took credit for having initiated many of the changes which the present Secretary for War was about to carry out. But what were the facts? If they took, for example, a case of St. Helena it would be found that the troops there were sent out by the last Government. They had heard a good deal about the "blue-water" school, but he was not so sure that that theory was fully understood. He thought it was a cardinal principle of that theory that we must rule out of consideration all ideas of our being defeated at sea. The view put forward by the "blue-water" school was that given by the Secretary of State for War, that only about 5,000 or 10,000 men could raid this country after evading the Navy. A certain number of steamers might evade the blockade. When they took a larger number, when they contemplated twenty funnels emitting smoke, it became practically impossible to evade the naval defence which we could put forth. To put it briefly, the blue-water school endeavoured to think in battleships, and regarded all expenditure from that point of view. When they talked about cutting down the defences he would remind them of a Return which was published in 1903–4, relating to the money spent by the War Office on passive defence and active defence. That Return showed that half the net Army Estimates were spent on coast defences, defence of naval bases and stationary forces, and that took no account of the enormous expenditure upon military works. That expenditure could easily be cut down, because it was governed by our policy of naval supremacy. If they estimated half the Army Estimates in battleships of the "Dreadnought" type, putting her life at twenty years, and including the cost of crew, repairs, coal and stores and everything else, they would find that the passive defence of the Army worked out at about fifty "Dreadnoughts," which they could keep in full commission and replace for the money now being spent on the passive defence of the country. To those who were asking for these coast defences he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give the same answer as was given to 160 Bristol in 1797, when the cabinet said that if they wanted fortifications they must pay for them themselves. That was the only safe way. Another point to which attention had not been drawn was the enormous expansion of the British Empire, which threatened to outrun our military capacity. During the last twenty-one years thirty United Kingdoms in area had been added to the British Empire. He ventured to assert that if they spent too liberally on the Army it would inevitably lead them to economise on the Navy. The Stanhope Memorandum of 1891, elicited by the Hartington Commission, laid down everything in exactly the wrong order, opposite to the blue-water principles. The first thing it laid down as the purpose of the Army was the maintenance of civil order; the second, that it existed to prevent the invasion of these islands; the third, that it existed for the defence of the coasts and commerce; the fourth, that it was to provide drafts for India and the colonies; and the fifth, that it existed, subject to the foregoing purposes and to financial considerations, to provide a striking force. This showed the immense reversal of policy which was now going on, and which, he thought, would succeed in bringing about the economy they so much desired on the Liberal benches.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
said the increase in the naval and military Estimates in recent years had been simply appalling. He doubted whether there had been a corresponding increase in efficiency. The report of the Financial Relations Commission showed that Ireland contributed more than its proper share of taxation, and therefore the growing expenditure on armaments was a matter to which the representatives of that country could not be indifferent. Even at the risk of making enemies, they had declared their abhorrence to some of the wars of aggression of which this expenditure was the consequence. Ireland was naturally proud of the horses it produced, and he wished to know what steps the War Office had taken, or intended to take, regarding the disease which was introduced after the South African war. This was a matter of national importance, for anything that interefered with the production and sale of horses in Ireland naturally 161 affected the whole industry. At present the trade was absolutely dislocated. The disease was introduced by the negligence of the War Office, who sent diseased horses, which spread the disease all over the constituency he represented. He was anxious to know what steps were to be taken to stamp out the disease. They had indulged in a short-sighted policy in trying to cure these animals. If the animals had been slaughtered the people in the south of Ireland would not have been complaining now. He held that, instead of tinkering away as at present, the War Office should not stand on small technicalities in regard to the proportion of the cost of the slaughtered animals to be paid. He thought the War Office should pay the entire cost of the animals which it had been found necessary to slaughter in order to prevent the disease from spreading. He had no statistics at present as to what had been paid by the local authorities in his part of Ireland, but he knew that the ratepayers were already taxed to the tune of 8s. 6d. in the £1. This taxation was a grievance of which they had reason to complain. In equity and justice the cost should be paid by the War Office, and he commended the matter to the favourable consideration of the right hon. Gentleman. The disease was introduced by three Artillery horses in Waterford, and it had gone over the entire south of Ireland.
§ MR. MORTON (Sutherland)
said they knew that the Army and Navy were going to cost something like £66,000,000, the portion appertaining to the Army being about £30,000,000. He wished to know from the Secretary of State for War, whether that was all the Army was going to cost.
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
Committee report progress; to sit again this evening.