§ *COLONEL LEGGE (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether it is in contemplation to reduce the Royal Artillery by forty-five batteries, or by any other number of batteries, and to create Militia field batteries instead; and, if so, whether it is the opinion of the Army Council that from the point of view of efficiency in war, the processes of reduction for the purpose of effecting economies are most advantageously commenced by the destruction of the Royal Artillery.
COLONEL HERBERT (Monmouthshire, S.)
put a Question of which he had given private notice, namely, whether the attention of the Secretary for War had been directed to the results obtained by the training of Militia field batteries in Canada, Australia, and Switzerland, and whether it would be possible to furnish the House with information as to the comparative cost of such batteries, and as to the standard of efficiency attained.
§ *MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
My attention has been called to the mode of training in use in Canada, which, I believe, was much more successful than 399 was expected by experts in this country. The whole matter is under consideration, and no decision of any sort has been arrived at, but I will consider whether I can give my hon. and gallant friend the information asked for in the latter part of his Question. It would not appear expedient to discuss in the form of an Answer to a Question any possible measures for reduction which might be in contemplation at the War Office. I am afraid therefore that I am not at present in a position to give the hon. and gallant Member any reply to his Question, but he should not assume from my silence that such a decision as he suggests has been made.
MR. ARNOLDFORSTER (Croydon)
As the right hon. Gentleman is unable to state that he is not going to destroy forty-five batteries will he undertake to inform the House before taking any steps which might have such a result?
§ *MR. HALDANE
said he was not going to destroy forty-five batteries, nor did he propose to do anything without the matter coming fully and properly before the House.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)
asked whether this was one of the subjects under the consideration of the Territorial Army Committee; and, if so, whether there were any officers commanding field batteries or brigades serving on the Committee.
§ *MR. HALDANE
said this was an hypothesis he could not answer, because it was obvious that the question of the Regular Artillery could not have been submitted. How could the Territorial Committee decide what the proportion of artillery was which was necessary to the Regular Army? That was obviously a question for the General Staff and the Army Council.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE
said he was sorry he had been misunderstood. The question had reference to the conversion of batteries into Militia, and he presumed the Militia would form part of the Territorial Army.
§ *MR HALDANE
said there might be some surplus batteries. That question was under the consideration—not of the 400 Territorial Committee; the matter was one for the General Staff, and ultimately for the Army Council, to whom the General Staff reported.
§ *MR. HALDANE
said it was difficult to answer these Questions. It was-obvious that however large a striking force one took, even a much larger striking force than we had at present, one could tell how many batteries were necessary for it. That was a calculation which could only be made by the General Staff, and if, when they had arrived at it, there was a surplus, that surplus might be dealt with on a less expensive footing.