HC Deb 19 March 1906 vol 154 cc162-73

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, etc., of His Majestys' 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."

Debate arising,


(continuing his speech) said that in ten years the cost of the Army had been doubled, although they were told by Lord Roberts that the condition of the Army now was no better than in 1899. Unless they could reduce expenditure generally, and that of the Army in particular, they could get none of those reforms which had been promised by the Liberal Party and which were desired by the country. He now intervened in the hope that the Government would before long take some steps to reduce this expenditure. What he wished to know was what was to be the total expenditure on the Army for the forthcoming year, because the Estimates, as they were told by Mr. Gibson Bowles in his pamphlet, never agreed with the total spent. In the year 1904–5, as Mr. Bowles pointed out, although the Estimate was £29,163,837, the total cost of the Army was £37,833,000. This year the Estimate was about £30,000,000, but in addition to that there were appropriations in aid over £3,000,000, and in the Civil Service Estimates a further £500,000 was provided for Army purposes, whilst there was a very large amount to be added under the Military Works Acts, which meant loans. Unless they knew what was going to be spent for the Army out of loans, it was impossible to get at the total cost. He congratulated the Secretary to the Admiralty upon the account which he had put before the House. That account did in fact show the total cost of the Navy, and he urged the Secretary of State for War to treat the Army Estimates in the same manner. He did not think it was necessary to move a reduction, but he contended that they were only doing their duty in calling attention to these matters before the money was voted and spent. The cost of the Army must be reduced, otherwise the Government could not carry out the reforms promised to the country. He would like the Committee to say, "There is £20,000,000, and you must carry on your Army with that; you will have no more." He was told that there were £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 wasted in the Army, and that by a little economy a good deal of money would be saved. He noticed in the Estimates a charge of £71,700 for chaplains and ministers, and a separate charge of £1,000 for a chaplain general, and £50 for his clerk. Why was not that amount of £1,050 put in with the £71,700? He supposed the reason was that that was waste and nothing was done for the money. It was for that reason he called attention to those items, and he had no doubt many similar items might be found in the Estimates. Taxation had now reached its limit, and the people could not find more money to carry out the reforms that were necessary for the well-being of the country. The money could only be found by saving. The Liberal Party had promised these reforms and they had promised large reductions in the cost of the Army in order to provide the money. What we wanted in this country was the settlement of disputes by arbitration, and that instead of spending money on Armies the Government should place themselves at the head of a league of peace and do away with these great armaments Although everything connected with War was bad, it was necessary, he supposed, for us to keep an efficient Army, but he did not see why we should not have a good one at a much loss cost. This country had been warned against this kind of expenditure. Lord Lytton had said— Let England draw the moral and beware not only of wars which exhaust, but of Governments which impoverish. A waste of the public wealth is the most lasting of afflictions. If the present expenditure of the Army was continued the exact state of things which Lord Lytton warned the country against would occur. Tacitus, who flourished about the year 90, also pointed a moral when he said— The treasury which is drained by extravagance must be refilled by crime. There appeared to have been a wicked Tory Party even in those early days. He contended that to spend money on the Army for mere fighting purposes when the money was wanted for the purposes of necessary reforms in this country was a crime against the community. What was wanted was a Liberal Party which would insist upon the Government's doing what was right, and upon their keeping their pledges, which they could not do if they went on in this extravagant manner. They would never be able to reduce Army expenditure until they got a House of Commons which would refuse to vote blindly whatever was put before them, but which, instead, would warn Ministers of the consequences of recklessly spending money in the way they were now doing. They did not go to the country for the mere purpose of changing one sot of Ministers for another. The Liberals were placed in power in order to reduce expenditure and in order that the people of this country should be better served than before.

MR. O'SHEE (Waterford, W.)

urged that inasmuch as the introduction of the disease epizootic lymphangitis into Ireland was entirely owing to the incompetence and negligence of the members of the Army Veterinary Department, the large area of that country affected was entitled to some compensation. This was a serious matter for Ireland, for the horse trade was of very great importance to a large area; and the introduction of the disease had caused a considerable money loss. The Waterford County Council had paid no less than £800 compensation under the Diseases of Animals Act, and the Waterford Agricultural Society had lost £350 in connection with the show, which was prohibited on account of the existence of the disease. He was told by the right hon. Member for South Dublin last session that there was no statutory power to enable a sum to be paid out of Imperial funds to compensate for the loss caused, but he found from an answer given by the Secretary of State last session that the War Office had paid small sums to officers who had lost their horses in consequence of the disease.

MR. VERNEY (Buckinghamshire, N.)

said there was one point to which he desired to call attention—a point which seemed not to have been sufficiently mentioned during the debate. While a good deal had been said about economy, only one class of economy had occupied the attention of the Committee, the economy of saving money. There was another kind of economy oven more important, and that was that the country should get value for the money spent. The smaller the Army the more important it was that the officers should be very highly trained. He spoke as a civilian although he had served as a volunteer at a public school and at the Unversity and in the Yeomanry. He agreed with much that had been said as to the importance of economy as regarded saving, but he desired to add a few words as to the economy of efficiency. The total increase in the expenditure for their armies and navies during the past ten years by the four great military Powers of Europe— Russia, Germany, Prance and Italy—amounted to £27,000,000; whereas the increase in the cost of naval and military forces of the United Kingdom for the same period was £50,000,000. These figures were sufficient to show what an extremely serious problem had to be faced. In Clode's "Military Forces of the Crown" it was pointed out that the pay of officers in Line regiments had not been materially increased for more than a century. It had been said that officers received allowances for various requirements, such as furniture for their rooms and mess furniture, but, in fact, these allowances were allowances to the Government rather than to the officers. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes, which might be interpreted by officers that they regard with a certain reasonable suspicion offers from the War Office to supply them with furniture on the hire system. In nineteen years an officer would have paid for the hire of his furniture double the sum originally paid for it by the Government, and it remained the property of the Government after an officer had paid for it twice over. Moreover any repairs needed were paid for by the officers themselves. That he called an Imperial hire system, and the Government made an uncommonly good thing out of it. He had no objection to the Government supplying furniture to officers, but they should not make a profit out of it. On the other hand, the private soldier and the non-commissioned officer had had very considerable increases in their pay during the past 100 years. The question directly connected with pay was education. In diplomacy proficiency in certain professional subjects was rewarded by an increase of pay. The same principle should be observed in the Army. He believed that there was no profession in this country where so little direct encouragement was given to the technical study of the higher branches as in the Army, and he thought that officers who showed a proficiency in these higher branches should receive a proportionate increase in their pay.

MR. BRACE (Glamorganshire, S.)

said that he was not acquainted with linked battalions or other military matters, but he and his fellow Labour Members had been sent to Parliament on a distinct issue, viz., to protest against the enormous expenditure on the Army. It would not be consistent for his own dignity, or in accordance with the wishes of his constituents, if he did not make clear to the Committee his position on this matter. He thought the right hon. the Secretary for War might well reconsider the attitude he had taken up after the more than flattering comments which had been passed upon his splendid speeches by the Gentlemen on the Opposition benches. If there was anything in the world that would lead him to doubt that the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman was a good one, it would be the flattering manner in which it had been received by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches. A start had been made on a wrong basis. The present year seemed to have been the basis taken, whereas it should have been, both as regarded the number of men and the expenditure of money, the year 1897. What was there in the situation to-day which would warrant this Committee in passing expenditure for an Army larger by 45,000 men than the Army of 1897? If ever there was a time in the history of Britain when the number of men in the Army could safely be reduced it was the present. The horizon was absolutely clear, thanks in a great measure to the good offices of the King, and of hon. Gentlemen who had made sacrifices in attempting to bring about a better understanding between nation and nation; and if the House of Commons was to carry out the demand of the country to reduce the expenditure on our military forces now was the opportunity to begin. He quite understood the difficulty of the present Secretary for War, who had to take over a bad legacy from the late Government; but they who had come to Parliament pledged to a policy of economy ought to have a declaration from the right hon. Gentleman that his policy was not to be based on the expenditure of the late Government, but on that of 1897. In 1897 the expenditure in the Army amounted to £19,500,000; in 1906 it had leapt up to £29,750,000. There was nothing to justify an increase of £10,250,070 in ten years. Now was the time to practice economy, when there were no complications with other countries. In a time of peace we seemed to be living on a war footing, and that ought not to he the case with a Government returned to power to pursue a policy of peace. The people of the country did not understand more than he did the technicalities of linked battalions and the blue-water school, but they did appreciate the fact that they were groaning under a burden of taxation, and they hoped that this Government would reduce military and naval expenditure to the fair and proper level. He wanted not to be only logical but consistent. War was to him an abomination, and his experience as a Labour leader had shown him the appalling effect of strikes. He was glad to say that at the last international workmen's congress which met in Belgium, a resolution, proposed and supported by the Labour leaders from Belgium, France, Germany, Austria and the United States, was unanimously passed, setting forth that all international disputes should be settled by arbitration rather than by war. It was in conformity with that policy that he maintained that no opportunity should be lost for reducing expenditure on the naval and military forces of the country.

MR. FELL (Great Yarmouth)

said he knew that when a new Minister entered into office he found numerous engagements made by his predecessors which tied his hands to a large extent If the large sum of £30,000,000 was to be spent on the Army, a larger number of men and more guns should be obtained than now. France had an Army of 525,000, Germany an Army of 600,000, Austria an Army of 350,000, yet the Army budget of all these countries was considerably less than ours. He did not suggest that with a volunteer Army we could compete with countries where conscription strictly prevailed. The greater pay which the English soldier received as compared with the continental soldier in no way accounted for the difference in the cost of the different armies. The English private soldier cost £96 per year, but the French soldier only cost £36, and he was just as well cared for, as well nurtured and as well clothed as the English private. Besides, for that money France had all her great fortresses and 3,000 cannons, while this country had only 600 or 700. A cannon must cost the same in France as in England, and the same also with a horse. It had always puzzled him how France with an Army expenditure of £26,000,000 could afford to have five times the number of cannons, three times the number of horses, and far more waggons and commissariat stores than we had in England. The Army both in Germany and Austria cost per man less than half the amount expended on the English Army, while their arms and equipments were infinitely greater. He hoped the Minister of War would give him some inkling of the sources of information on this matter, and especially on the extraordinary difference between the cost of our Army and that of the continental Armies. He had never been able to find it either in books or in speeches of previous War Ministers.


said he wished to appeal to the Committee to come to a decision on the Question. The general policy of the Army had now been discussed for two days, and ample opportunities would he afforded later on for debate both on economy and efficiency. A few points were raised in the course of the discussion which he would endeavour to answer briefly. His hon. friend the Member for Sutherlandshire put a question as to Appropriations-in-Aid. These Appropriations-in-Aid were credited for services rendered; they therefore added nothing to what the Navy paid, or what the Navy got.


said that that only covered a part of his point; there was an Appropriation-in-Aid of £1,000,000 received from the Colonies. That was money spent.


Yes; but it was not money spent by us.


said it was money spent by us but received from the Colonics.


said that the hon. Member for Waterford had assumed that the only question at issue between the County Council of Waterford and the War Office was the amount of the claim upon the latter by the former for having, through its horses, imported into the country a South African disease. But it was a question whether the War Office had not a claim against the Waterford County Council for having infected through its lay horses the horses of the War Office.


said he did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was cognisant of the fact that the military authorities admitted that the disease was introduced into Waterford by the Army horses.


said that the War Office made no admissions, and reserved all their rights. With regard to the pay of Army officers he agreed that it was too small, and he should like to do something for them; but standing mid-way between these claims and the demands for economy, he felt a little paralyzed.


said that the right hon. Gentleman had not explained why the Vote for the Chaplain General of the Forces was put into Vote 13.


said the details were all in the accounts.

LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Charley)

thought the Secretary of State had risen unusually early, and he should like to ask a few questions.

MR. J. WARD (Stoke-on-Trent)

asked whether he would be in order in moving that the Question be now put.


condemned the scheme for the winter training of the Militia. The announcement on this subject had first been made to the House by the President of the Local Government Board, and it was made more as the contribution of the Government, and the sole contribution of the Government, towards the unemployed problem than as a contribution towards increasing the efficiency of the Militia. They were told that twenty selected battalions were to be drilled and trained during the winter. We were now getting towards the end of March and it would be of immense advantage to those concerned to know the names of the battalions. He thought it unwise to use barracks for this training were other arrangements possible, as the best possible training could only be under canvas. In camp it was said that increased attention would be given to musketry, but the conditions for training were surely better for that in summer than in winter.

MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)

rose to a point of order. Should not this come on under the Militia Vote?


As a matter of convenience I should think it would be better that the matter should come on on the particular Vote of the Militia, but as this is a general discussion I cannot say the noble Lord is out of order.


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 222; Noes, 36. (Division List No. 18).

Acland, Francis Dyke Benn, John Wiliams (Devonp't) Buckmaster, Stanley O.
Agnew, George William Berridge, T. H. D. Burns, Rt. Hon. John
Alden, Percy Bertram, Julius Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles
Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch) Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon) Cairns, Thomas
Allen, Charles P. (Gloucester) Billson, Alfred Caldwell, James
Astbury, John Meir Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Cameron, Robert
Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth) Boulton, A. C. F. (Ramsey) Carr-Gomm, H. W.
Baring, Godfrey(Isle of Wight) Brace, William Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight
Barker, John Bramsdon, T. A. Chance, Frederick William
Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Branch, James Cheetham, John Frederick
Beale, W. P. Brigg, John Cleland, J. W.
Beaumont, W. C. B. (Hexham) Bright, J. A. Clough, W.
Bell, Richard Brooks, Stopford Cobbold, Felix Thornley
Bellairs, Carlyon Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Collins, Sir Wm. J.(S. Pancras, W
Cooper, G. J. Laidlaw, Robert Richards, T. F.(Wolverh'mpt'n
Corbett, C. H (Sussex, E. Grinst'd Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominst'r Richardson, A.
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Lambert, George Rickett, J. Compton
Cory, Clifford John Lamont, Norman Ridsdale, E. A.
Cowan, W. H. Lawson, Sir Wilfrid Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Cox, Harold Layland-Barratt, Francis Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Cremer, William Randal Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancr's, E.) Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Crooks, William Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Crossley, William J. Lehmann, R. C. Robertson, Rt. Hn. E. (Dundee)
Davies, David (Montgomery Co. Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)
Davies, Timothy (Fulham) Lewis, John Herbert Robinson, S.
Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David Rogers, F. E. Newman
Delany, William Lough, Thomas Rose, Charles Day
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N Lyell, Charles Henry Rowlands, J.
Duckworth, James Lynch, H. B. Runciman, Walter
Duffy, William J. Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)
Duncan, C.(Barrow-in-Furness Mac Neill, John Gordon Swift Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)
Edwards, Enoch (Hanley) Macpherson, J. T. Scott, A. H. (Ashton under Lyne)
Edwards, Frank (Radnor) M'Callum, John M. Sears, J. E.
Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward M'Crae, George Seely, Major J. B.
Essex, R. W. M'Kenna, Reginald Shakleton, David James
Everett, R. Lacey M'Micking, Major G. Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)
Faber, G. H. (Boston) Maddison, Frederick Shipman, Dr. John G.
Fenwick, Charles Mallet, Charles E. Silcock, Thomas Ball
Ferens, T. R. Mansfield, H. Rendall(Lincoln) Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie
Fuller, J. M. F. Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston Soares, Ernest J.
Gill, A. H. Marnham, F. J. Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.
Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry) Stewart, Halley (Greenock)
Glendinning, R. G. Meagher, Michael Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)
Goddard, Daniel Ford Menzies, Walter Summerbell, T.
Greenwood, Hamar (York) Micklem, Nathaniel Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)
Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Mond, A. Thomas, David Alfred) Merthyr
Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton Money, L. G. Chiozza Thompson, J. W. H. (Somerset, E
Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B. Montagu, E. S. Thorne, William
Hall, Frederick Montgomery, H. H. Tomkinson, James
Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Toulmin, George
Hart-Davies, T. Moss, Samuel Verney, F. W.
Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Murphy, John Vivian, Henry
Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Napier, T. B. Wadsworth, J.
Haworth, Arthur A. Newnes. F. (Notts, Bassetlaw) Ward, W Dudley(Southampton
Hazel, Dr. A. E. Nicholls, George Waterlow, D. S.
Hedges, A. Paget Nicholson, Charles N (Doncast'r Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Norman, Henry White, George (Norfolk)
Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.) Norton, Capt. Cecil William White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)
Herbert, Colonel Ivor (Mon., S.) Nuttall, Harry White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Higham, John Sharp O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Hobart, Sir Robert O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Whitehead, Rowland
Hobhouse, Charles E. H. O' Grady, J. Whiteley, George (York, W.R.)
Hodge, John O'Shee, James John Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Holland, Sir William Henry Parker, James (Halifax) Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset, N. Paul, Herbert Wiles, Thomas
Horniman, Emslie John Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek) Williams, J. (Glamorgan)
Hudson, Walter Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden) Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)
Idris, T. H. W. Philipps, Col. Ivor (S' thampton) Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)
Jackson, R. S. Pollard, Dr. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Jardine, Sir J. Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central) Young, Samuel
Jenkins, J. Priestley, W. E. B.(Bradford, E.)
Johnson, W. (Nuneaton) Radford, G. H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Jowett, F. W. Raphael, Herbert H Mr. John Ward, and Mr.
Kearley, Hudson E. Rees, J. D. Byles.
Kincaid-Smith, Captain Renton, Major Leslie
King, Alfred John (Knutsford) Richards, Thomas (W. Monm'th
Balcarres, Lord Burdett-Coutts, W. Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan
Bignold, Sir Arthur Cave, George Fell, Arthur
Bolton, T. D. (Derbyshire, N. E.) Cavendish, Rt. Hn. Victor C. W. Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)
Bowles, G. Stewart Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.) Hervey, F. W. F. (Bury S Edm'ds
Boyle, Sir Edward Courthope, G. Loyd Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury)
Bridgeman, W. Clive Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S. Hunt, Rowland
Bull, Sir William James Du Cros, Harvey Keswick, William
Lee, Arthur H. (Hants. Fareham Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East) Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)
Lupton, Arnold Sullivan, Donal TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend) Thomson, W. Mitchell (Lanark) Marquess of Hamilton and
Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter Thornton, Percy M. Mr. Pike Pease.
Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool) Turnout, Viscount
Salter, Arthur Clavell Walker, Col W. H. (Lancashire)

Motion made and Question, "That this House do now adjourn"—(Mr. George Whiteley)—put and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported to-morrow.

Committee to sit again to-morrow.