§ Considered in Committee.
§ Mr. EMMOTT in the Chair.
§ (IN THE COMMITTEE.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 184,200, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1911."
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
On a point of Order. Am I not right in saying that on this Vote it is in the power of hon. Members to raise any question affecting the Army?
§ The CHAIRMAN
On Vote A a general discussion can be carried on, but not exactly on any question, because questions that ought to be examined under particular Votes ought not to be discussed upon this Vote. But any general question of policy connected with the Army can be discussed.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
In the very interesting speech which the Secretary of State for War delivered yesterday he described himself as an optimist, but it struck those of us who listened with attention to that speech that his remarks were far from being of an optimistic character. Indeed, we might almost say that we looked upon his speech as a swan's song. He took it for granted that these would be the last Estimates which he would be privileged to bring before the House of Commons, and he impressed upon us the responsibility of administering the affairs of the Army in the future and seeing that his policy stood. Now, whilst on ordinary political grounds the disappearance of the 1351 present Government might occasion no regret to gentlemen who sit on this side of the House, I feel sure the departure of the right hon. Gentleman himself from the War Office, if it unhappily should take place in the near future, would be viewed with regret not only by his friends, but also by his opponents, and by all ranks of His Majesty's Army. I think the right hon. Gentleman is one of the most popular Secretaries of State the Army has ever had, and the fact is he is so beloved by all ranks that they carry their feelings to the point of being blind to his faults. I am perhaps less susceptible of his charms than some of his own supporters. At the same time, I have no desire to criticise either his policy or the description which he has given of it in any hostile or captious spirit. We all agree that the right hon. Gentleman has never made the Army a party question, and, although I have had the privilege of sitting through every single speech he has delivered on the Army in this House during the last four years, I do not remember him ever introducing a party note in the discussions. Having said that, I think he will also be prepared to admit that most of us on the Opposition side of the House have abstained from pressing party points against him; and I think he will be the first to admit the great debt he owes in this matter to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. If any party difficulties have arisen, they have come mostly from the right hon. Gentleman's own Friends below the Gangway, who, with the best of motives and the worst results so far as reduction of the Regular Army is concerned, have pressed their views upon him. The only complaint we make is that he has perhaps shown himself a little too deferential to the views expressed in that quarter and the pressure exercised by his hon. Friends in this matter of the reduction of the Regular Army.
I have no desire whatever to approach these reforms in any hostile spirit. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman made a valedictory survey of his four years' work, and, therefore. I think we are also entitled to review it, and to consider what are the main results which he has achieved. I will come straight to the point as it appears to me. It seems to me that the main and dominant fact of the whole situation is contained in the table on page two of these Estimates. If hon. Gentlemen will turn to that page they will see a statement 1352 on Army expenditure establishments and so forth extending over a period of nine years, and they will find that the numbers of the Regular Army under Vote A have decreased since the year the right hon. Gentleman took office from 221,000 to 184,000 men. The Militia in the year the right hon. Gentleman took office had a strength of 98,000, and 91,000 actually attended the training; but to-day the right hon. Gentleman is only able to show as a substitute for the Militia a strength of Special Reserves of only 67,000. The strength of the old Volunteers and the Territorial Army is about the same, but the net reduction in the Regular Forces and the Reserves, and the reduction in the Militia, are very substantial, and I am afraid will be a source of no satisfaction to those who take an interest in national defence.
There is a certain limited satisfaction we are able to indulge in owing to the fact that there has been no further reduction in the Regular Forces in these Estimates; indeed, there has been a slight check in the steady reduction which the right hon. Gentleman has had to admit during his four years of office. I have heard ominous rumours with regard to pending reductions in the South African garrison. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I notice that sentiment is cheered from below the Gangway, but I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman, by his gesture, suggests that there is no foundation for it, and I would ask the Committee to remember that whatever opinion may be held in regard to the necessity of maintaining a force of a certain size in South Africa, we must have regard, not only to the conditions of South Africa, but also to the fact that South Africa is half-way to India by the only route which could easily be interrupted, and therefore it is of the first importance in the defence of our Eastern possessions that a sufficient force should be maintained at this half-way house, which is one of the finest natural training grounds in the world. If I dwell chiefly on this question of the Regular Army it is because the right hon. Gentleman's past attitude towards the Regular Army naturally causes some anxiety. In one of the first speeches he made after assuming the office of Secretary of State for War more than four years ago at Newcastle, he said:—The first step towards doing something effective in developing the natural basis of the Army is to cut something off the superfluous Regular Forces.I very strongly object to the word "superfluous" or the word which the right 1353 hon. Gentleman is fonder of using, "redundant." Personally, I do not think we have enough Regulars at the present time; certainly we have none to spare, and it cannot be denied that whatever may be the merits of the other operations of the right hon. Gentleman's policy, I admit freely that the improvements that he has effected with regard to the mobilisation of our First Line for service abroad has been a very great improvement, and he deserves the thanks of both parties in the country for what he has done in that particular. The fact, however, remains that he has effected a very substantial reduction not only in the troops of the First Line but also in the Reserves which they produce, and there will be a net deduction of over 20,000 men in the First Line and 20,000 in the Reserves, or a net reduction of over 40,000 men for the purposes of war. When the Militia has gone, the right hon. Gentleman has got a very uncertain number of Special Reserves in their place. He claims that he has strengthened the fighting forces of the Empire as a result of his reforms. It all amounts to this, Is the Territorial Army, as the result of his reorganisation of the old Volunteers, able to make up in fighting efficiency for the reductions in our fighting strength, for which the right hon. Gentleman has been responsible? With regard to the Territorial Army, the right hon. Gentleman has introduced a new danger into the situation as far as war is concerned, because it is now impossible for any Government to call out the Reserves in the case of a national emergency without also the Territorial Army being automatically embodied at the same time.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
Yes, unless there is a decision to the contrary, and that practically makes it automatic. The result will be that the Government of the day will delay as long as possible, and wait until the last extremity, before calling out the Reserves, because of the great dislocation of business and so on which would result from the embodiment of the Territorial Army. I think in the past one of the greatest sources of our strength has been that whenever an emergency has arisen we have been able to call out the Reserves, and that has been an indication to all the world that the British people meant business. With regard to the 1354 readiness of the Territorial Army, we always look for guidance to the criticisms advanced in a spirit most friendly to the right hon. Gentleman and his administration by the military correspondent of "The Times," and we find that that correspondent, contrary to the pessimistic views which the right hon. Gentleman has put forward, says that recruits are not coming as well as might be wished, and that the county associations will have to reconsider their position with regard to the strength of the various units for which they are responsible. Whilst the right hon. Gentleman drew attention yesterday to what he calls the great boom in recruiting in the early part of last year—a boom which was due to certain exceptional circumstances and influences—he did not tell us whether that boom had been continued since last July, and he did not tell us that there had been any substantial increase in the strength of the Territorial Force since last summer.
§ Mr. HALDANE
There is never any increase from camp to the month of December. From 1st January last to 25th February the new figures for recruiting show 9,000 in eight weeks.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
Of course, we can only judge by results. There is no doubt there was a boom in the early part of last year; that was undoubtedly due to exceptional circumstances, and there is great reason to fear that the boom may not be repeated in the spring. Besides that, there is no certainty that the number of men who have engaged for one year will re-engage. "The Times" correspondent states:—
"If we cannot have a high standard of training then we must have none; we require 600,000 Territorials as a minimum, and we have less than half the minimum number required for our security."
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman believes in the theory of war put forward by "The Times" correspondent and other great authorities, that if we cannot have more specially trained troops we must be in a position to club the enemy to death by numbers. After listening very attentively to the arguments of experts on both sides I am not convinced, either from the history of war or from any study of its theories, that it is possible in case we have to meet a highly trained and organised foe we shall be able to club him to death by numbers under conditions of modern warfare. The only conceivable occasion on which the Territorial Army would be called upon to fight 1355 at all would be in the event of an invasion of this country, and if such an invasion takes place it will be by the picked troops of a Continental force, and any invading general who knows his business will spare nothing, keeping within the rules of war, to make his attack as terrible as possible in order to strike terror into the population and cow and demoralise the untrained troops with which he will have to deal Whilst my own experience of war is extremely limited, there was one thing which was burnt info my imagination, and that was seeing, under conditions of actual warfare, the utter demoralisation which, in a certain instance that I do not wish to specify, further overtook the finest and most picked volunteer soldiers when they suddenly found themselves for the first time, without sufficient training and with inferior weapons, confronted with the full rigours and horrors of war. I am afraid that, however great the numbers which the right hon. Gentleman may get in his Territorial Army, and he has not got them yet, the hopes he entertains of being able to pit practically untrained troops against the highest-trained Continental soldiers is an experiment which holds out very little hopes of success, and which, in my view, would certainly lead to overwhelming disaster. The British public unfortunately very soon forget historical lessons. They have not had the greatest of all lessons, which many powers in Europe have had, of having their country invaded within the memory of living men. If they had, I think they would take a different view of this question. The present state of public opinion, this, to borrow the title of a book which I dare say the right hon. Gentleman has read with interest, "Valour of Ignorance" is a state of mind which, when translated, as now, into actual policy or absence of policy, must, I am afraid, lead, in the event of war, to a terrible awakening to our people.
The right hon. Gentleman yesterday, in a very entertaining passage of his speech, compared himself to Nehemiah, and he advised us to make a study of that portion of the Scriptures. I always take his advice if I can, and I have refreshed my memory, which, I must admit, needed it, by perusing that portion of the Scriptures. At first glance, I fear the researches in which he is engaged in this portion of the Scriptures, have been adopted for some ulterior purpose, at least for some purpose not directly connected with military pro- 1356 blems because I came at once upon a verse which I felt he perhaps had studied in order to provide ammunition for his colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles and the rulers and said unto them, ye exact usury everyone of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.Reading further, I began to see why the right hon. Gentleman had gone to this particular portion of the Scriptures in pursuit of his military studies. He told us he likened himself to Nehemiah, who was charged with the building up of a derelict city, a work which the right hon. Gentleman has discharged with great assiduity for the last four years. He said the only difficulty was that people could not be persuaded to dwell in it. I find even later on, when the policy of Nehemiah had succeeded up to a point and the population of the city had reached the number of 42,360, it is further recorded that the number of horses is only 736 and asses only 20. I pass away from the Scriptures for a moment and come back to the Army Estimates, a work with which we have to be more familiar at this particular period of the year. The right hon. Gentleman yesterday told us, or at least he suggested, that he was highly satisfied with the present state of recruiting in the Territorial Army, but after all he is still 40,000 men short of his establishment. When we come to analyse the men he has got, we find certain facts which, I think, are very disquieting.
Last July a Return was granted to a Noble Lord in another place, Lord Newton, with regard to the actual qualifications of the men then serving with the Territorial Force, and particularly with regard to the first duty of a fighting soldier, that is musketry, a knowledge and use of the rifle. The War Office produced figures which are very astonishing, seeing that last July, out of the whole Territorial Force, 674 officers and 67,000 men had not even fired the recruits' course of musketry. They had not fired at all; they had not fired a single round of ammunition. A fourth of the strength of the force had no knowledge of the use of the rifle at all. The Return went on to say that 1,805 more officers and 53,367 men had only fired the recruits' course of twenty rounds, which probably occupied them an hour. Therefore, you had a total out of the strength of the Territorial Force of 2,479 officers and 120,454 men who to all intents and purposes had no knowledge of the use of the rifle at all, and were absolutely valueless for the purposes of war. In addition to 1357 that, there were 100,000 men of the force under twenty years of age. I do not want to press the point of age at all, but I want to lay this before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman having reduced his Regular Force, for reasons which are patent to most of us, and having set up a substitute in their place, we find a large proportion of that substitute are in no sense, even in the first essential of a soldier, fitted for the purposes of war.
Of course, we know all about the six months' training period. After the declaration of war this Territorial Army is to have six months' additional training. We have discussed that in years past. I do not know that the danger to which we then alluded has in any sense diminished, but, even if this training were feasible, even if the time were available, we have the authority of experts, who advise the right hon. Gentleman, that even then the Territorial Army would be unfitted to fight against Continental troops. In his evidence before the Norfolk Commission the present Inspector-General of Forces, Sir John French, said it would be very risky to attempt to meet Continental troops with our Auxiliary Forces, even after they had received a full year's training. Then there is the Adjutant-General, Sir Ian Hamilton, who gave evidence before that Commission. I am aware he has expressed a more optimistic opinion since, but his considered opinion before that Commission was that six months' recruiting training and two months' annual training would produce troops which he would prefer to use to relieve the Regular garrisons rather than trust them in the field. We all know, of course, that there is no chance whatever, in the event of a European war, of the Territorial Army getting that six months' respite, and I am afraid on this point the right hon. Gentleman's scheme for the purpose of war breaks down altogether. Yesterday, in the course of his speech, referring to the question of insufficient musketry training and so forth, he said:—Cannot you be patient; you cannot expect everything at once.That is quite true. We cannot expect everything at once, but the right hon. Gentleman did not wait before he commenced his reduction of the Regular Force. There was no delay with regard to that. He started straight away, even before he had started his Territorial Army, to reduce the only force upon which we can depend in the event of war. It is difficult to analyse his figures, but the net fact remains that 1358 he has made a great reduction during the time he has been in office. If his policy was sound, he might at least have waited and produced a substitute before he did away with the well-tried original. I do not know how many times in the past we have fallen foul of him with regard to the Territorial Artillery. If I may judge from the tone of his remarks yesterday on the subject, I think he is beginning to see the light, because in a speech which he described as optimistic, but which was in a very piano tone, he showed even less enthusiasm than was usual about the Territorial Artillery. It has been amply demonstrated by experience now that it is not either possible to get the time or the facilities to give proper training to the officers and men of this force. They are armed with inferior weapons; they are lucky if they get any horses at all; and, at any rate, they are equipped with untrained horses, and they are totally unfitted for the ordeal of war.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to them in the least optimistic terms, I think, it is possible to use. He said this branch had not borne any fruit, but he hoped it would blossom. He said there was a chance it might blossom. That is not a very certain and optimistic note, and he went on to cross the t's and dot the i's by pointing out that the battery commanders and the gunnery and driving of these units had not yet reached a satisfactory state. He spoke of the extraordinary zeal and keenness of the officers. Everybody recognises that they are doing everything that mortal men could do to cope with an impossible situation, and I think the right hon. Gentleman gave away the whole case when answering to a question which I interjected. He said there were to be great manœuvres during this coming autumn in which other branches of the Territorial Force were to take part in company with the Regulars. The Yeomanry and the Territorial Infantry were to have an opportunity of taking part in these manœuvres, but the Artillery were to be excluded. I asked him why, and his reply was that he was not willing to risk the success of the manœuvres by allowing the Territorial Artillery to take part in them. They were to have manœuvres of their own. I think this is a very wise decision; but, whilst I do not wish to say anything which can be construed as unfair criticism on the men who comprise that portion of the Territorial Force, I do say that to ask them to do things which is not humanly possible for 1359 them is not only placing them in a totally impossible position, but is creating a farce which would be turned into a tragedy if ever this force came to be engaged in actual warfare.
I want to say a word with regard to the question of the officers. A great deal has been remarked on that subject, and I do not desire to deal with facts which are quite familiar to the Committee—the shortage of officers, the almost cessation of competition at Sandhurst—a thing that has not happened in the lifetime of any of us—and the fact that the springs from which we have derived our best officers in the past are now drying up. That must be a cause of even greater anxiety to the right hon. Gentleman in his position than to anybody else. The question is, What are the causes? They were, I think, sufficiently outlined yesterday. The fact is that you are asking more and more of the British officer, while you are making no increase whatever in his emoluments and prospects, and no extra inducements are being held out to him. I shall, indeed, show in a moment that a great many additional and unmerited discouragements are placed upon him by the action of the War Office. When it was pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman that there had been no increase in the pay of the British officer for 100 years, he said, "Oh, yes, but you forget the allowances." I was in the position of a young officer once, and I did not forget the allowances, because I never heard of them. I do not know to what the right hon. Gentleman is alluding. I know of no allowances which are given to young subalterns on joining, unless they happen to go to a foreign station, where they get certain definite allowances for extra expenses. The pay, however, remains the same—5s. 3d. to 5s. 7d. per day. What are the allowances?
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
I do not wish to dwell upon this point, but certainly the British father, who is the controlling factor in these matters, is not yet persuaded that his sons are going to be given a bare living wage or an opportunity, by even the severest economy, to maintain themselves in the Service. It is for that reason that the entries and competition in our military colleges have fallen off in such an astonishing way. There is one other point to which I must refer in re- 1360 gard to this question of the officers, and it is one with which the right hon. Gentleman is familiar. I spoke just now of the active discouragements under which officers have had to labour during the last few years. With regard to the Royal Garrison Artillery, to which I once had the honour to belong, the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the officers of that distinguished and scientific corps have been placed, through no fault of their own, in a position of the greatest difficulty and the greatest hardship, in spite of the fact that he has had this matter under his sympathetic consideration for a very long time, and has repeatedly promised that he will do something to alleviate their condition. As a matter of fact, nothing has been done—or, at least, the only thing the War Office has done, as the result of the Committee which was appointed, has been to make their position a great deal worse. The mere fact that in this branch of the Service in which the normal rate of promotion from lieutenant to captain has been twenty a year almost from time immemorial—the mere fact that since 1908 only one officer has been promoted, is a sufficient proof that there is something rotten in the state of Denmark, so far as the Garrison Artillery is concerned. It is really essential the right hon. Gentleman should do something to improve the condition of these officers unless he wishes them to resign wholesale, in order to get a chance of finding in other walks of life the future which is denied to them in the Army. The right hon. Gentleman knows all the facts, and I cannot understand why it is, although year after year he has stated he will see that something is done to improve the condition of these officers, as a matter of fact nothing has been done. The higher ranks, those of major and lieutenant-colonel, have been placed in an almost hopeless position owing to the long block in promotion, which the War Office is doing nothing to remedy. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will redeem the promises he has made in the past, and will to-night state what steps the War Office are going to take to deal with this difficulty. It is no good continually appointing committees if nothing is to result from their reports, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that matters have now almost reached the breaking-point with regard to a very large number of these officers, who are priceless from the point of view of high scientific training, and whose 1361 retention in the Service is of the utmost importance. I particularly ask the right hon. Gentleman to make a statement on that point at a later stage of the discussion.
I now come to my last point. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech yesterday, referred to the well-known work of General von der Goltz as one which he kept under his pillow, and in which he found the inspiration which had guided his footsteps through the paths he has taken at the War Office. It is a book which must be familiar to every military student, and I am glad to think the right hon. Gentleman should have made it his close and constant companion. But one wonders why the right hon. Gentleman should have expressed such devotion to the principles laid down in that work in view of the widely different nature of the conclusions he has arrived at, if one may judge by his policy as compared with that of the great German author. The right hon. Gentleman's scheme is the antithesis of everything preached by General von der Goltz. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had this in common with the German ideal, that he wished to bring the Army and the nation as close together as possible, but can he pretend that the policy which has succeeded so well in the case of that great military power of Germany bears any resemblance whatever to the system which he has produced within the last four years? Wonder has often been expressed why the right hon. Gentleman's military advisers have supported him throughout these four years in his new scheme for the Territorial Army. I do not think—although it has been suggested—that there has been any sinister motive, but they have recognised that the framework and machinery which he was setting up would, if supplied with steam, do great things, and to go back for a moment to the right hon. Gentleman's mentor, Nehemiah, the New Jerusalem he has constructed would be admirable if only men could be forced to live and work in it. I am afraid that the result of what the right hon. Gentleman has done has been that it is becoming more and more plain to the nation, whether they like it or not, that the only way in which the scheme will work and in which the steam can be supplied to the machinery will be by some method of compulsory service. I am speaking only for myself, but I wonder the right hon. Gentleman does not also see it, that, consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly, he has led the 1362 people of this country up to the brink of compulsory service. He has no intention of taking the plunge himself. In his speech yesterday, with almost genial cynicism, he washed his hands of responsibility for the whole business of bringing things up to this point and intimated that he was going to bequeath the responsibility to his successor. The right hon. Gentleman has, and no doubt will have, many claims to fame. He will have many claims to the gratitude of his fellow-countrymen for what he has done' at the War Office, but he will be remembered above all things by posterity as the War Minister who paved the way for compulsory service and made it inevitable by the reforms which he introduced.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I do not wish to speak on the general subject of the Debate, but I want to answer the specific questions addressed to me by the hon. and gallant Member, reserving my reply to the general discussion to a later stage. I would only remark, in passing, with regard to compulsory service, I should think that the way in which recruits are coming into the line at the present moment shows we are a great deal further off compulsory service than we seemed to be some time ago. First of all I propose to deal with the question of promotion in the Royal Garrison Artillery. I promised at the request of the hon. and gallant Gentleman to look into this matter. I have done so. No doubt this corps has suffered a great deal of hardship, through stagnation in promotion, in the past, but when one comes to look into the facts we find that the causes are temporary. In the first place, there is the large proportion of captains extra-regimentally employed as compared with the higher ranks. That is ceasing to be so, because a good many of the appointments to which the captains went are now given to Marine officers. Again, the reduction of the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1907–8 accounts for a further difficulty. That, of course, was of a temporary nature, and all the supernumeraries have now been absorbed, so that the ordinary flow of promotion may be expected to recommence. 1910 will, as far as one can see, be a bad year for the captains, but the prospects of the subalterns will not be adversely affected owing to the large number of vacancies continually being made for captains. With regard to the re-organisation of the Militia and Volunteer Garrison Artillery, that, too caused a certain amount of stagnation of promotion in the Royal Garrison Artillery, but that also 1363 has come to an end, and the supernumeraries created thereby have been absorbed. The last point has reference to the higher appointments in the Garrison Artillery. We have approached the India Office and have put the case strongly, and we are not without hope that they will find promotion in the Indian Native Artillery which will greatly relieve the stagnation. To sum up the facts, the evidence is that the block of promotion has been due to temporary causes. It must be remembered that rapid promotion was due entirely to appointments to the Horse and Field Artillery during an earlier period, and that that led to a considerable acceleration of temporary appointments. But, on the other hand, the block that we have got now is almost the inverse case. In both branches of the Service, however, I am informed by my advisers that there is every sign that the period has almost arrived when the rate of promotion will be equally quick.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
Before the right hon. Gentleman passes away from that point, may I say that we all know the cause of the trouble? But do I understand that he is going to do nothing and let the thing take its course? Is he going to do nothing to carry out the pledge given by the War Office to the officers of the Royal Garrison Artillery at the time of the separation from the other branch of the Artillery, that their interests should not suffer in any way by their serving in the Garrison branch of the Artillery? That was the pledge which was given, because I was in the Garrison branch at the time. It is due to those officers that the War Office should do something more for them than that they should be told that they are suffering and that they have suffered for a long time, and that in the nature of things, in the course of time, they will be restored to a normal flow of promotion. These officers have fallen back four years, and they are cut out from every opportunity of being able to get high command, and such a case was never contemplated. I think the least the right hon. Gentleman can do is to extend to this branch of the Army the same privileges which have been extended to the Indian Army and the Royal Engineers, and that is to grant brevet promotions without extra pay to lieutenants, captains, and majors who reach a certain number of years' service. That is done in other branches of the 1364 Service, and I do not see why it should not be extended to the Royal Garrison Artillery.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
The right hon. Gentleman must allow me to say that the officers do not care only for their financial prospects; they consider that the grievance is in not having the opportunity of promotion to a higher command. This is very hard upon them.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I understand that, but if you are going to compare them, you must compare them with other corps, not merely with the Horse Artillery, and the grievance is not a serious and substantial one in the case of the Garrison Artillery. What has happened is that, in trying to forecast the future, a new state of things has been introduced into other arms, and the result is that the Garrison Artillery has not been so well off. If India will give a larger proportion of high commands to them, that will relieve the situation to some extent; otherwise, I am afraid the best course is to wait events. The hon. Member said that he was very much surprised that subaltern officers, as I understood him, had no allowances.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The hon. Gentleman was less fortunate than those who are now serving. If he will look at the Estimates he will see that a second lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery gets regimental pay of £101 17s. 11d., and he also gets a lodging allowance amounting to £36 10s.
§ Mr. HALDANE
But he gets a full lodging allowance in addition to his pay. The total allowance which he receives for pay and allowances amounts to £151 9s. 9½d. I am comparing the case of the officer with the case of a civilian who goes into the Civil Service. The civilian who enters the Civil Service requires quarters, light, firing and fuel, and he does not get £151 a year. He gets much less. A second lieutenant gets £145, and in the Artillery he gets £151.
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
The civilian has not an expensive uniform to buy, nor has he to contribute to an expensive mess.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I am not disputing that officers have to pay out a good deal 1365 in the British Army, but there is a great deal of exaggeration about it, and when people say that the pay of the British officers has not increased for I do not know how many years—since 1815, it is said—they always omit to look in dealing with the question at the allowances, which are very substantial. That really is what I wish to say, but I am quite prepared to agree that there is a case for consideration about the remuneration of the British officer. All I wish, however, is that we should not exaggerate.
§ Colonel GREIG
It is with unfeigned diffidence that I ask the House to listen for a few moments, and my claim for indulgence I put on the ground that perhaps on this occasion my experience of the last twenty-five years may be of some service in respect to a portion at least of the subjects which have come up for discussion to-night, more especially in regard to the Territorial Force, with which I have had the honour of being connected for a considerable time. I am delighted at the tone that this discussion has already taken, because I am one of those who think, and I believe my view is held by a very large proportion of the electors of this country, that these questions of the Navy and the Army, as well as foreign policy, should be taken out of the area of party politics and should become no longer matters in which partisanship should enter. The tone which this discussion has followed last night and to-night, I think, bears out that view, and in anything I shall say to-night I shall endeavour to keep strictly to the line of quite non-partisan discussion, and if I should be led into replying to one or two observations that have fallen from hon. Members, I hope they will be taken in no sense in any party or partisan spirit, because I happen to sit on these benches. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Fareham (Mr. Arthur Lee) has made various observations about the Territorial Force. I will deal with one or two directly, but let me, without any feeling of hostility, suggest to him that a good many of his remarks might have been very appropriate on the Second Beading of the Territorial Force Bill two years ago, at the time that that scheme was going through. That was the time to advance arguments against the policy, sagacity, and wisdom of this scheme; and it seems to me that the proper course now to adopt is to do our best with the scheme as it is before the country under an Act of Parliament. I, for one—and I think my opinion is largely shared 1366 throughout the country—believe that the Territorial scheme is progressing favourably, and has a very good chance of being a success.
I should like to state to the House one or two of the reasons why I think this change has come about. I speak with some hesitation, because being an executive officer outside the House, one has to be very careful in saying anything in blame or praise of one's superiors, but I think I may in my capacity of a representative of a constituency offer one or two observations. I will say this, an entire change in the attitude of the War Office towards the Territorial Force has been effected. In former days we were rather looked upon I will not say as nuisances, but we were not favoured children. I have now to say that the War Office in all its Departments, especially in the Department allocated to the Territorial Force, is doing its very best to assist that force. That is going on in regard to the other authorities which have been created, and we now feel that in our Divisional Staffs and our Brigade Staffs we have officers to whom we can look with confidence who take an interest in us, and who do everything they can to help us in our efforts to keep a high standard before us. In every way the feeling throughout the force is much better than it was, and here I would say just one word of the Army officers who were Volunteer adjutants in the old days. We realise how much we owe to them, and that if we have any military training it was due to the adjutants who came from the Regular Army and the Staff sergeants who came from the Regular Army, and we can never be too grateful for the training which they gave us, and which in time of stress not long ago did show some results.
There are many things which show that this scheme is becoming a great success. The material of the force, I say without hesitation, is very much better than the old, and that is mainly due to the limit of age which has been put in, and also to this fact that the financial conditions are different now. The commanding officer has not now to think with affection of any particular recruit who is coming in as a fruit-bearing tree, but he has only to think whether the man who is coming in will make a good soldier and rise to a good standard, and not to think whether he will earn the efficiency grant. Let us see how the system is bearing fruit at present. I was in the camp in 1908, 1367 which was the first under the new system, and many Regular officers in the House may have been there too. The different camps were like small villages, but last year the thing was entirely different. There you had brigades in full force, you had divisions, and the whole thing was different. The feeling also was different, and the movement has taken a stride forward and has turned the corner, and it has been shown that we are on the right way. There is another fact which has tended in the same direction, and that is the attitude of the employers of the Territorial Force. I am perfectly certain that I gauge the feeling of the officers of the Territorial Force when I say that we are very much indebted to the employers of this great city and other cities of Great Britain for the assistance which they have given to the force. The attitude of the employer is entirely different from what it was. He assists the man now who tries to go away to camp. He tries to adjust the holidays in order that he may go there, and that is already beginning to tell in the case with which commanding officers can get their men in camp. A good deal has been said about the training of officers. We are still in an embryo stage, but the training of officers is already showing an immense advance upon what it was in the Volunteer Force. Courses are open to them now, and pay and allowances are given, and instead of a man having to pay out of his own pocket for these, as he had to in the past, every possible encouragement is given to him to go through these courses, and the Volunteer officers are availing themselves of that.
I want to say a word about my official superior on the Front Bench. I say it with some hesitation because it may be said to be dictated by party loyalty. I assure the House it is not so, because what I want to say about him has been said on the benches opposite. I think the way he has approached this problem and solved it deserves the thanks of the country. It was a bold thing to take the old Volunteers and put an end to the old system under which they came into being under Order in Council, to pass an Act of Parliament, and to recreate the whole system. That was a wise thing to do. It is true it was a little difficult to wed the old system to the new, but I think the Secretary of State must have been actuated by the adage that "Happy is the wooing which is not long in doing," and I think the bring- 1368 ing of that Act into operation at once has had an enormous effect in making the thing a success, because it did draw public attention to the change which was being made, and it was wise in the way in which it took up the old elements which existed in the Volunteer Force and made them of use for the new system. It did another thing. In the truest and best sense of the term conservative, it went back at least 200 years for an old institution which enabled the greatest military genius, except very modern ones, in this country, Cromwell, to keep war away from the eastern counties, and revived the old system of associations and institutions which existed in the seventeenth century.
Let me compare the position of the force now with its position two or three years ago. It was then said that the associations would be a failure. The associations are in full work, and I think the whole situation as regards them can be summed up in one word—success. All ranks, all classes, all shades of opinion, men strictly civilians, men, like myself, who pass our lives in civil occupations, and give our leisure in a small and humble way to the defence of the State, we all work together in order to make the associations a success, and they are becoming a success. Then it was said men would not come into the force. Men have come into the force, and they are coming into it. It was said that the men in the old Volunteer Force would not come over into the new. They came over in large numbers. They stood by the new force, and it is practically safe now. I am well aware it is said there are a large number of one-year men in at present. I do not think there is such a proportion of them that, if they were to resign to-morrow there would be any fear that the force would collapse. What has happened is that these men have extended their service from year to year. They have brought in some, of the best traditions of the old force; they have formed models upon which the younger and newer recruits can begin to shape themselves. We have in the Territorial Force to-day all the best traditions of work and energy which were in the old Volunteer Force owing to that. An observation fell yesterday from the hon. Member (Marquess of Tullibardine) about recruits engaging for one year. There is no such thing now-a-days. Every recruit who comes in under the present system has to engage for four years. What happens is that there are a 1369 few men who are extending their time—"transfers" we call them from the old Volunteer Force—from year to year, and a very wise provision that was. They are gradually going out, but their places are being rapidly taken by the new recruits. Neither the old Volunteer Force nor the present Territorial Force fears or objects to criticism. Criticism is valuable as long as it is fair, generous, and directed to correcting faults. An old dramatist said, "It is easier to give counsel than to endure suffering manfully." We find a good deal of criticism given to us. Volunteers found it so, and the Territorials are finding it so too, and they are trying to endure manfully. The old Volunteers lived through criticism and contumely and survived it. The force that has been called by a well-known leader of the old Volunteer movement the "Terriers" will live through the criticism now, and I think the criticism will do them good.
One thing that the Territorial Force feels keenly, and which gives it a good deal of its energy, is that at last the military authorities have recognised that there is a place for the Territorial Force in the scheme of defence. I do not for a moment wish to say that we are ready to take our position against Continental troops. We realise that the Navy is the first line, the Army the second, and the Volunteers for home defence the third. I would not vote one penny to the Territorial Force if I thought for an instant that it would imperil the adequate provision for both of these lines of defence. I do not go into the question of what we are actually intended to do. The experts have decided what our establishment will be, and what our efficiency standard shall be, and we are trying to work up to it. I am not going to inquire into these questions as to what is the idea at the back of the head of the Territorial Force. I think it was the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) who raised some question as to whether we should be ever useful against a raiding force, and he suggested that there were other reasons for the existence of the force, namely, that we might form a reservoir for the first line of defence, and that we might form a sedative to the public mind on occasions of great public commotion, when invasion or anything of that sort was threatened, or when our forces had gone abroad on a foreign expedition, or we might be useful for a sudden raid. In all these cases I think we should be useful, and I think even if there 1370 were an occasion for a more effective and a more trying test, although we might not come up to the most sanguine expectations of the enthusiasts who believe in us, I believe we should exceed the estimate which is formed of the force by some of its severest critics.
The Territorials cannot hope to be as good as the Regulars. We recognise that our brethren in the Regular Army show us a standard of training to which it is practically impossible for us, with our civilian pursuits pressing on our time, actually to compass, but we feel that with the training, with their example, and with their help, we can be of some use to them, and we can be of some use to the country. It was suggested last night that we are now in troublous times, and that we had not an adequate force. If you will only cast your mind back seven or eight years, the time when the country was in terrible peril was at the time of the South African War. What had you then in the country? Nothing except the Volunteers. But I honestly think that at that time the mere fact that there was a number of semi-trained men, if you like to call them so, in the country was an enormous sedative to the community at large. I know at least that those in the force did not feel like a number of panic-stricken sheep. They at least felt, "Well, if the occasion does come, we know how to handle a rifle." I admit there are difficulties in the system—there are many things which want to be altered; there may be a want of training to a certain extent. Give us time. The Artillery may not be up to standard. I am not an Artillery officer, but I listened with very great interest to what fell from an hon. Member on the other side who had himself been an adjutant of a well-known corps. He said the Artillery might be made a very valuable fighting unit. That sort of commendation shows that even the Artillery, given time, will be a useful asset in the country. There is an enormous want of drill halls throughout the country. There is also a certain lack of the pecuniary means to carry on the enormous amount of work now imposed both on commanding officers and on the associations, but that will be largely met, I think, by the increased Vote that is being asked for to-night. The mode in which adjutants are appointed to Territorial corps wants revision, because the effect of the present system is that you have a Regular officer who comes from a Regular battalion, and it is no disparagement to a Regular officer to say 1371 that it takes him quite a year to understand the material of the corps of which we are part. What happens? When this officer comes to the Territorial unit he goes off immediately for about three months to do, probably, a signalling course. He then has to do his other examinations, which, if he stayed with his Regular unit, would not be forced upon him for years afterwards, until he was on the point of getting a commission as major of his unit. The result is that during his first year he is practically useless to the commanding officer, and the corps, and, owing to the fact that the appointment is for three years, he usually only becomes effective for the last two years. I think something ought to be done in that matter.
There is a certificate now exacted from young Territorial officers attending school. The certificate is to the effect that they will be injured in their civil occupation by attending the course. Unless they sign this they cannot get pay and allowances. I think the operation of that certificate is bad. It has a deterrent effect on young officers coming forward. The commanding officer of the unit has to tell him exactly what he can do, what pay and allowances he can earn, and unless he knows he is sure of getting this it very often deters a youngster from taking up a commission. A good deal has been said about recruiting. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said there was a big boom last year. So there was. And he said we shall not have booms again. We do not want them. Once you get your numbers up to anything like the establishment all you want to look forward to in future is an influx of recruits sufficient to make up for the wastage of every year, and as soon as we get, as we are practically getting, up to the full establishment, I think it will not be very difficult to secure from the civil population enough to make up for the efflux which goes on every year. I think the material would stand fire. The old Volunteer force did it. I admit that Volunteer officers, like myself, who have had for years the training of these men in their hands had the same misgivings which have affected the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
We were not sure that those men would stand fire. The memorials in the different Volunteer halls for the dead sufficiently indicate that those men could stand fire. They were in no sense the pick of that force. I think the new force would stand fire too. 1372 Opinions on that point may differ. I hope the testing time may not come, though I do not fear it if it did.
A good deal has been said in this Debate about compulsory service. The right hon Gentleman who advocated it must recollect that it does not apply merely to the Territorial Force. If once you introduce, or consider the introduction of, compulsory service into this country, you will be faced with the fact that you will have to introduce it for everyone of the forces now recruiting by the voluntary system, the Navy, the Army and the Territorials. You will have to produce a force to go abroad to any climate in the world, and you will have to face the question, if you have satisfied the military instincts of the ordinary civilian by compulsory service, where will you get the man to go into the Army and to go into the worst climates in the world? The man will say, "My duty is here; I will serve no longer." You will imperil the defence of the Empire. The voluntary system in the past, if it has done nothing else, has allowed a number of her civilians to make some sacrifice for the public It has allowed them, without falling under compulsion, to say, "I will give some of my time in trying to defend the Empire and to form a defence." If you get rid of that sense of voluntary sacrifice you have got to put in its place a system under which compulsion will exist. I think that it would have a bad moral and mental, and almost a bad physical, effect on the country at large. I know that in this question of recruiting we have to look to hon. Members below the Gangway. I do not say that any of them have taken an attitude of hostility to this force, but there are members of the community outside connected more or less with—I do not like the term, because I am a working man myself—the working classes who say, "Do not touch the Territorial Force." They do it on the ground that it makes a man military and aggressive. I say there is nothing in that. What it does is to enable the civilian to realise what the horrors of war are, and once he realises this he is the less likely to take offence in regard to matters which might be settled without the arbitrament of war. I ask my hon. Friends on these benches to do their best for us with this Territorial Force. I hope they will be able to say, "Go and do your duty along with your fellows."
The Volunteer Force, under the old system, and the Territorial Force, under the new system, has done an immense amount of good in another direction. It has 1373 brought the community into sympathy with the Army. We understand the Army much better now; we understand what they undertake, and I am perfectly certain that the improvement in the conditions to which our soldiers are subjected is due to the fact of the greater sympathy of the civil community with those who go into the military profession, because we have had an insight into their conditions. I have endeavoured to speak of these questions in no party spirit, or without any feeling against my superiors in the military world.
I want to offer one or two criticisms on the Memorandum issued by the Secretary of State for War—criticisms in relation entirely to one particular branch of the Territorial Force of which in the course of the Debate we have heard very little. In the paragraphs on pages 3 and 4 there are references to the strength of the force, arming and equipping, rearming of the Infantry, technical equipment of the Field Companies and Telegraph Companies of the Royal Engineers, mobilisation, and other matters, but in the whole of these long and interesting paragraphs there is no reference to what I venture to say is an important branch of the force, which, it is acknowledged, did excellent service in South Africa, namely, the Yeomanry. After the war in South Africa, and before the Territorial Force was actually formed, great changes took place in the organisation and training of the Yeomanry. The training of the Yeomanry is now conducted on far more practical lines than in the old days before the South African War, and, as the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged, it now forms a very important and efficient part of the Territorial Force. I venture in the most friendly way to offer one criticism with respect to what I regard as rather a serious defect in the organisation and training of the Yeomanry. In spite of the fact that those changes were inaugurated ten years ago, and in spite of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman in introducing these Estimates stated that he attached very great importance to uniformity of method, even now there is, so far as I have been able to ascertain, no manual of instructions for training the Yeomanry. So far as I have been able to ascertain the only official instructions upon which Yeomanry commanding officers and officers can go are those in Appendix 4 of the Cavalry 1374 Training, extending to three and a half pages, a considerable portion of which is taken up with general discussions as to the use of Yeomanry, and do not go into details at all. In fact, the only practical part in that appendix in regard to training of the Yeomanry is that which contains references as to modifications in cavalry training which are necessary for its application to the Yeomanry. I do contend, as one who has served in the Cavalry as well as the Yeomanry, that is a roundabout way of putting the matter. If from the training of any body of mounted men you eliminate all reference to swordsmanship and the use of the lance, I maintain that such troops cannot be considered as cavalry at all. I do urge upon all those responsible for these matters that the Yeomanry, as at present constituted, are not cavalry at all, but in reality mounted infantry.
I think we are making a serious mistake in attempting to have a sort of hybrid cavalry drill. Everyone interested in military matters knows that there is nothing easier than to confuse the functions of cavalry and mounted infantry. A considerable number of mounted officers have served in the Regular Cavalry. Therefore, I do urge, for that very reason, mistakes are more likely to occur because, as we know, cavalry officers are unconsciously prejudiced in favour of cavalry drill. I maintain that it is absolutely necessary, in order to get the best practical use out of the Yeomanry, some manual of drill should be brought out as soon as possible, so that commanding officers themselves may know where they are. I understand that at the War Office the necessity for such a manual is recognised. I do urge that the delay is very serious, and that it is highly necessary that the manual should be produced, at the earliest possible opportunity. If you refer to the official manual issued for the training of mounted infantry you will find that in Part II., which deals with field training of mounted infantry and their employment in time of war, it is made quite clear that the mounted infantry will practically in all cases act in the closest possible conjunction with cavalry and infantry. Therefore I urge that if the best practical use is to made of the Yeomanry such conditions should be reproduced as far as possible in connection with the training of the Yeomanry.
1375 I think it would be highly desirable and of very great importance in the training of the Yeomanry if every Yeomanry regiment could, occasionally at any rate, be given an opportunity of training in conjunction either with cavalry or infantry. I have had experience as a Yeomanry officer, and I can say that never on any single occasion or field day had the regiment to which I belonged an opportunity of acting either with cavalry or infantry. I am aware that there are considerable difficulties in the way, but I contend that these difficulties are not insurmountable. I think occasional training of the Yeomanry might be arranged in conjunction with the training of the Territorial infantry, so as to give an opportunity for these two arms to be exercised together, as undoubtedly they would have to work together in time of actual war. It also may be urged that the training of the Yeomanry is very short, and therefore it is all the more necessary that every hour of that training should be utilised to the best possible extent and in the most practical possible manner. I do maintain that this cannot be done in the most practical way without the co-operation of those other arms with which the Yeomanry would undoubtedly have to act in time of war.
Of course any officer who has served in the Regular Cavalry will undoubtedly see that the length of training in the Yeomanry at the present time is totally inadequate. For instance yesterday the orders were issued for the training of the regiment to which I belong. We march in on Tuesday, 24th May, and the regiment is dismissed on Tuesday, 7th June. That is to say, there is a total of fifteen days, but it is only nominally fifteen days, for exercise. You have to deduct one day for marching in and one day for dismissal. There are also two Sundays. There is one day at any rate for inspection, and Yeomanry regiments, I think, are very lucky to escape with only one day of inspection. You must also deduct half a day, when the drill is curtailed for the purpose of regimental sports, and another half day may be deducted in practice, when the drill is shortened on account of bad weather. I have placed these at the very lowest figure. Yet on this estimate you have to deduct from the fifteen days six days, leaving for actual training only nine working days. Anyone who has had experience of cavalry work in the 1376 Regular Army must realise that nine days is a totally inadequate time in which to train in any way a regiment of mounted men. I am quite well aware that there are great difficulties in extending the period of training, but surely this is an argument that every hour of that training should be utilised in the most practical way possible.
There is one other criticism of the Yeomanry in reference to the localities selected for training. They are usually chosen because of their proximity to some large open tract of country upon which the regiment can be conveniently drilled and exercised. No doubt this is useful, at any rate for the first few days of drill, but I submit that training over open countries should not be the first consideration. As we all know, a considerable number of officers of the Yeomanry served during the war in South Africa. Therefore there is, undoubtedly, especially in the absence of an official manual of training such as I strongly hold should be issued by the War Office, a great tendency to select ground for the training of Yeomanry regiments over which movements can be practised similar to those carried out by mounted troops during the South African war. I do urge that this is a very serious mistake. There is, we all trust and hope, no probability whatever of another war in South Africa. That campaign must be acknowledged to have been an exceptional campaign, carried out under exceptional conditions in an exceptional country, and under circumstances which are not liable to arise again. Therefore, I would urge that as Yeomanry are primarily, if not entirely, intended for home defence, it cannot be too forcibly emphasised that active service conditions in this country would be totally different from what they were in South Africa; and as has been frequently pointed out in the course of the Debate and on many other occasions, there can be no question that in case of an invasion of this country that invasion would be carried out by the most highly trained troops at the disposal of the invading Power, and I would urge this argument, that it is in an open country that the highly trained troops would have the greatest advantage over the partially trained troops, such as all we can hope our Yeomanry and Territorial Army would be, and I maintain that the Yeomanry should be trained in making the best possible use of our natural defences.
Surely those natural defences principally lie in the exceedingly intricate and 1377 enclosed nature of ordinary English country. I am quite well aware that manœuvring troops over enclosed land is far more difficult than manœuvring the same body of troops over open country. But for that very reason the argument in favour of its being continually practised is all the stronger; and I think that in actual warfare even partially trained troops, if they had a thorough knowledge of the country and if their training had been directed principally towards practising movements over an enclosed country, would certainly, under those conditions, have very great advantages over any force, however well trained it might be, which had not been accustomed to operate under similar conditions. I know that in this case also considerable difficulties lie in the way, and that if these movements were to be carried out by the Yeomanry in the course of their training they cannot be carried out without considerable damage being done; but I do urge that this is a matter of very great importance, and that in this question money must not be allowed for once to stand in the way. I think that in order to give the Yeomanry a far more practical system of training than they are able to get under present conditions arrangements might be made by the Government with owners and tenants so as to give Yeomanry regiments the opportunity during their training of moving freely over even, at any rate, a small tract of ordinary enclosed country, so that they might have, during the very short training which is all they get, a practical training on the grounds on which I believe in case of actual war it would be most advantageous for them to meet the enemy.
During the last few days there has been a very interesting and valuable suggestion made by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with reference to his proposal to mount troops upon bicycles instead of upon horses. The advantages which he points out his system would have over the present system are these: first, rapidity of striking, which undoubtedly a force of cyclists would have; secondly, their efficiency at the end of the journey; thirdly, the permanence of a bicycle as opposed to a horse—that is to say, the horse gets tired or wounded and killed, whereas if a bicycle gets into trouble an hour or two in the repairing shop will, or ought, to put it right. It was also pointed out by him, on the question of radius, that the radius of action of a force mounted on bicycles was far greater than 1378 the radius of action of a force mounted on horses. He also dealt with the question of expense—pointing out that a £7 bicycle would outlast several £40 horses. He also pointed out as another very important argument in favour of his case that if a battalion of cyclists were actually in touch with the enemy, all the men could be engaged in the firing line, whereas in the case of mounted troops one-fourth of them have to be deducted in order to look after the horses.
In answer to this, Major-General Sir Alfred Turner, who was the Inspector-General of Auxiliary Forces from 1900 to 1904, made two principal objections. The first was the inability of cyclists to do cross-country work, and the second was the fact that engagements do not invariably or indeed as a rule take place on the open road. These were very strong points, undoubtedly, as showing the principal advantages which horse-mounted troops have over bodies of troops mounted on bicycles. They are, or ought to be, able to get across country, and their movements are not confined to the open country. But I do urge this, that unless we give the Yeomanry the opportunity of making use of these advantages and of practising the very difficult movements that are involved in getting across English country, and unless we take the fullest advantage of the fact that the Yeomanry are mounted upon horses and not upon bicycles, we lose these advantages; and that those regiments might with increased efficiency and very much reduced expenditure be mounted on bicycles as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle suggests. Therefore, I venture to make these few criticisms with regard to the Yeomany. The first is that we should have a manual of instruction in which definite lines for our training should be definitely laid down. The second is that in the training of Yeomanry they should have the opportunity of acting in conjunction with those arms with which undoubtedly they would have to act in time of war. In the third place it might be possible for the Government to arrange for the Yeomanry to have the opportunity during their training of operating over that enclosed country which undoubtedly it would be to their advantage to act over in time of war.
§ Mr. HOLT
moved to reduce the Vote by 15,000 men.
I feel that I ought almost apologise to the Committee for meeting a Vote in Supply with a Motion for the reduction of the 1379 Vote for during the three years that I have had the honour of being a Member of this House the great majority of Members who have addressed the Committee of Supplies have done so with the object of increasing the expenditure. I wish to put forward some reasons why we should endeavour to obtain a diminished expenditure, arriving at that reduction through a reduction of the number of men employed in the Regular Army. I am rather encouraged in taking this view by the fact that during the same time nearly every Member at some time or another has displayed the greatest possible dislike to taxation. When we get the Finance Bill we have speeches against taxes from almost every quarter of the House, yet there is absolutely no way of getting rid of the burden of taxation except by first of all entering upon the path of cutting down the expenditure authorised by Supply. May I say at once that I am not taking any exception whatever to the amount of money spent per head on the men employed in that way. I do not grudge in any way the money that is spent on improving the condition of officers and men. I think it very likely that the officers are grossly underpaid, and if it is a question of voting more money to put each individual man in a proper position, I should have no hesitation in doing so; but I am going to take serious exception, as I said before, to the number of men employed in the Regular Army.
I understand, as has been clearly pointed out to us, that the number of men in the Regular Army is fixed, having regard to the Cardwell system, by the number of men found necessary to employ in India and in our stations abroad. I understand that the Regular Army does not exist for the purpose of defending the shores of this country from invasion. That is left, in the first place, to the Navy, and in the second place to the Territorial Forces. I am very glad, as I am sure you are all very glad, to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War on the great success of his scheme with regard to the organisation of the Territorial Forces. I would only like to say that the more the scheme is deemed to be a success the greater is the claim of the taxpayers of the country to ask to be relieved of some of the cost of maintaining the Regular Forces. A military writer in "The Times" on Monday last described the present state of the Army. I have no 1380 doubt that the writer is not specially favourable to the Government, and probably he is an expert whose opinion may be taken as having some value. He wrote that the Field Army Special Reserve and the Territorial Forces are so much superior not in numbers, but in organisation and efficiency to the chaotic system of four years ago that they represent for the purpose of war forces beyond measure superior to those in the past. If that is a clear and true account of the condition of the Army we have to-day, then I think we have a fair case to ask that the superior efficiency of the men should be marked to the public by a reduction of numbers and a consequent reduction of expenditure. Speaking for myself, I entirely repudiate the notion that we ought to keep what is called a striking force or an expeditionary force. The military forces of England ought to exist for the protection of our Empire from attack, from whichever direction that attack may come. I repudiate altogether the idea that this country should keep a striking force, and that we should keep men for the purpose of an aggressive attack upon foreign Powers. We were in the hope, some of us, that some agreement for a limitation of armaments might be arrived at, and I think it would be well if we ourselves took steps where we safely can in making it plain to the peoples of the world that we do not keep our military forces for the purpose of hostile attack on other countries. In looking at the distribution of our forces and in trying to arrive at a point where we might ask for a reduction, I think that everyone who looks at the figures showing where our Army is stationed must be struck by the enormous force which we are now maintaining in South Africa, where we have 11,493 men. We understood that the Colonies of South Africa were united by the Act of last year and that it is as loyal a dependency of the British Crown as Canada or Australia. It is not found necessary to keep Imperial troops either in Canada or in Australia, and it seems to me almost a slur on the loyalty of the people of the Cape to continue to maintain a military force there.
May I remind the Committee that in the years 1895 and 1896, which were the last years of the Liberal Government responsible for the Army Estimates previous to my right hon. Friend coming into office, the total number of men on the Estimates were 155,000, as opposed to 185,000 men, and the force at Cape Colony and Natal, instead of being 11,493 men, was only 3,680. 1381 At that time the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were independent countries which might, as they subsequently did, make war upon us—a danger from which we have now every reason to believe that the Cape is wholly and entirely free. I think these figures ought to give the Committee some reason for seriously considering whether it is right under present circumstances that this enormous number should continue to be stationed at Cape Colony. I believe, and I think a great many hon. Members are inclined to believe, that the force might be materially reduced, and I think that it should be reduced to at least the figure at which it stood before the war. I think we are entitled to a reduction of the troops abroad by 7,500 men, and that multiplied by two, in accordance with the Cardwell system, will give us an additional reduction of 15,000 men, which is the figure I now move to be removed from the Army Estimates. I hope my right hon. Friend will give us some serious justification for continuing this very large number of men at the Cape. I would also like to point out that, as far as the Cape troops are kept at all, they should be used for the purpose of controlling those dependencies which have not been included in the Union of South Africa. When we have once given self-government to one of our colonies, and particularly when they have of their own free will excluded the black men from the franchise, I do not think we ought to supply them with the forces necessary for any of their own domestic requirements. So long as British troops were available there was friction and disturbance with the natives, but when the Colonies were themselves responsible they found it very much more satisfactory to get along on friendly terms with them. I wish to refer to the large garrisons maintained at Malta and other stations. Seeing that we are on friendly terms with all the Powers on the Mediterranean, it is difficult to understand what purely peaceful purpose can be served by keeping so many soldiers in that part of the world. May I remind the Committee, in making this comparison as I do between the number of men now on the Estimates and those proposed in 1895 and 1896, that though we are asking for 35,000 men more than we had in those years—and the number in those years was proved by the result to be amply sufficient for the safety of this country—our foreign relations at that time were far worse than they are to-day. At that time we had only re- 1382 Cently—the year, I think—been on the point of war with France over questions connected with Siam. We had outstanding with France a large number of extremely difficult questions which, thanks to our Foreign Ministers, have been got rid of; but certainly at that time there was infinitely greater danger of a war with this country than any human being can pretend there is to-day. Therefore if a force of 155,000 was adequate in 1895 and 1896, I think we should make a substantial reduction on the 184,000 asked by the Vote to-day. Let me also remind the Committee it is not only men, and stores, and ships that come on our financial resources, but if you are going to carry the Army and Navy Estimates almost to war level, you will leave yourselves with less ability to expand when it comes to time of war. We have heard hon. Members, over and over again, protest against the maintenance of the Income Tax at war level, and I, too, object to that, but the only way is to cut down the expenditure to peace level. My right hon. Friend has done very great wonders in respect of the War Office—let me suggest that he should take his faith in his hands and make another record, the record of having been the Minister who has made the greatest possible reduction in a gross and inflated expenditure.
§ Mr. HALDANE
My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) has in substance asked: If a similar number of troops were sufficient in 1895 and 1896, when things looked peaceful, why should we have a larger number of troops to-day, when things look at least as peaceful? I must remind my hon. Friend that there have been a good many events between 1895 and to-day. I am not discussing the policy of war, but wars come out of the blue; they come when you least expect them, and they come sometimes when you are least ready for them. Peace may be broken, and it may be broken in a very short time. But the preparation for war is a long business, and if I cannot listen to the counsel of my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham it is because I know what labour and what time it takes to get an Army into a satisfactory condition. We are to-day spending a good deal less on the Army than we did, if you take into account that we do not now spend out of loans. We are spending—I have given the figures—between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 less than we did a few years ago, but that does not make it the less 1383 necessary for us that we should get adequate results. The organisation of the Army as it stands to-day is a carefully balanced organisation; I do not know any part of it that is now in excess of our requirements. If a great war were to come we should certainly not find it to be any too large, and to diminish it would be to break up a piece of machinery which has been put together with great labour. It would result, I am afraid, in this, that the Government which came afterwards, holding quite different opinions, would speedily increase that Army to a much larger degree than that from which it had been reduced. So far as I am concerned, I believe we have got a very fair mean just now. I do not say it has been arrived at on any scientific or satisfactory footing, but we have got a very fair machine, and I should be very loth to listen to the counsel to cut it down further at this moment. Let us see on what ground my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham puts his case. He says that in South Africa, at any rate, we might reduce the number. He says we maintained 16,000 troops in South Africa for a short time, and that there has been a considerable transfer overseas from this country. Why is it that it is undesirable to reduce the garrison in South Africa? Let me remind my hon. Friend what has been the traditional policy in these matters. We have always assisted our Colonies, even when they had become great, self-governing dominions, while they were still making their own military preparations. It is only a few years ago since we took the last battalion away from Canada, and I have no doubt that in the course of time these battalions will come away from South Africa, but not yet, because South Africa has yet to make her own Territorial Force, and we are under a solemn promise to remain there while they are going on with their preparations.
Therefore I could not possibly assent to a request of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, even if I were disposed, to move troops further than I have done. But that is only one reason. There is another and a military reason for keeping this garrison in South Africa. It is strategically a very suitable place, and in other respects a very convenient place to keep part of our Reserve, because this garrison is part of the Reserve of the British force. If we had trouble in India—and, Heaven forbid, it might come—the first place we should turn 1384 to assistance for India would be South Africa, which lies near at hand. Just as India came to our rescue at the time of the South African war, so we should send troops from South Africa. Africa contains part of our Reserve, and it is not merely for local and sentimental considerations, and it is not merely because it is our traditional policy that we are keeping the garrison there. South Africa is the place of all others which holds a Reserve for India more conveniently than anywhere else. But that is not all. Supposing we had trouble in Egypt, there, again, our garrison would be reinforced from South Africa, because part of the organisation of the Army, as it exists, is that we have organised a skeleton division, so that it can come together for mobilisation, and consisting of three portions, part in Malta, part in Egypt, and part in South Africa. That Seventh Division depends for its structure upon the part in South Africa. There is yet another reason. Every now and then events emerge which constantly require another battalion. I am not going into detail, but I have seriously considered whether in distant parts of the world the British garrison does not, for temporary causes, need strengthening, and if you are to be on the safe side you want two or three battalions in reserve to send to any place where they might be required. If I were asked where to turn for another battalion, I should not know if I had not this garrison in South Africa on which I could draw. It is a convenient point from which it is possible, in the event of emergencies, requiring the placing of a battalion elsewhere, to turn to get it. Therefore, for that reason also, South Africa is a storehouse which is essential for the efficient maintenance of the forces of the Empire.
On all those grounds, desirable as it is to keep down expenditure on British naval and military armaments, it seems to me it would be very bad economy indeed to cut down without looking where you are going the garrison in South Africa at this moment. We keep a great Navy, but our Navy cannot do all your work. It may defend your shores possibly, but the balance of opinion points to this conclusion that you ought to have besides your Navy a force for the defence of these shores. The Navy is of no use in defending large portions of your oversea possessions. The Navy would be of no use supposing there were a great native rising in South Africa, except for the purpose of conveying troops that might 1385 arrive too late. The Navy would be of no use for purposes connected with the defence of India except so far as it might suffice for the conveyance of troops. It is not really true, as the hon. Member has said, to say that our Army exists only for the purpose of defence, if by defence he means passively sitting still. We must be able, if necessary, to take the initiative. In effect, I presume there must be a sufficiently organised Army. I am a civilian in these matters, and I am an economist. I have done my share of cutting down. I have saved a great deal of money. On the one side I have been condemned for spending too much, and on the other side I have heard it said it is not nearly enough. In medio tutissimus ibis. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am certain that those cheers indicate that I am in the right position to-day, and that we have just got the force we ought to have. That force is certainly not too much, and to move the troops from South Africa would be the undoing of this organisation that we have built up with so much labour. We heard this afternoon of the reduction of numbers of troops, but I do not think that my hon. Friend would find that the course which he advocates, if it were adopted by this House, would lead to economy in the future. I am sure it is the safe, simple, and economical course, when you have a fairly well organised body, to stick to it, lest you come under the risk that those who come after you may build up something so that your hopes of economy are shattered for ever.
§ Sir SAMUEL SCOTT
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman has spoken rightly when he said that we on this side of the House were far more likely to endeavour to induce him to increase the Army than to diminish it. I certainly think the hon. Member who has moved this reduction has introduced an entirely new argument in favour of the reduction, and an argument which can hardly appeal to the Secretary of State. In his opening remarks the hon. Member stated that, because the right hon. Gentleman during the last four years by dint of his energy and skill had made the Army far more efficient, and because we had a more efficient Army, therefore we should have a smaller Army. I think that by that doctrine the hon. Member means that a few efficient men are ample to meet every possible contingency which might arise in this country, because, as an hon. Member has pointed out, by 1386 sheer force of numbers you cannot necessarily beat down a highly trained force. The hon. Member says that you may have as many men as you like, but directly you get them efficient do away with them and have fewer soldiers, and when they get more efficient have fewer still, and I suppose eventually by that means he proposes to diminish the Army altogether and do away with it. Hon. Members below the Gangway will, no doubt, support that policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] On the question as to whether there has been a serious diminution in the number of officers, am I correct in believing that at the present time the qualifying examination is very much more severe than was the case, and that from 50 to 60 per cent. of the candidates who go up for that examination are now rejected?
§ Mr. HALDANE
The number of candidates who go up for the qualifying examination is on an average now twenty-one per annum less than it used to be in the quinquennial period between 1895 and 1899. In other words, there is a slight falling off in the number who come up, but the examination is a severer test and more fair.
§ Sir S. SCOTT
Am I right in understanding that the number of officers is not less, but that there is a serious falling off in the number who go in for the examination at Sandhurst; and that the reason why a larger number do not appear in the competitive examination is because of the elimination of the preliminary examination? Last year the right hon. Gentleman, in answer, I think, to inquiries from myself and the hon. Member for Blackburn, laid down a clear and definite proposition as to what the duties of the home defence are. He told us that we must have a home defence army capable of meeting an invasion of 70,000 men, and that no foreign Power would consider it to be a military operation to land less than 70,000 in this country. I propose now to ask the right hon. Gentleman in what way, and how far, is he satisfied with the numbers which he has at his disposal to meet a possible invasion of 70,000 men. In the first place, it would be quite out of the question, as everybody knows, for us to depend upon our Expeditionary Force, nor I think would any soldier, or the right hon. Gentleman least of all, consider it possible to depend upon the six divisions and the Cavalry, which is, if necessary, to go abroad or to go all over the world. Eliminating the Expeditionary Force, which probably 1387 would be sent away from these shores, what have we got left? We have on this year's Estimates about 270,000 Territorials, about 70,000 Special Reservists, and I suppose the right hon. Gentleman, when the Expeditionary Force had left, would have from thirty to forty, or perhaps fifty, thousand of the Regular Army, making in all about 380,000 men.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The Special Reserve, although its numbers are only 70,000, would swell out through the men who are not going abroad, but many of whom are very good fighting men.
§ Sir S. SCOTT
How is the right hon. Gentleman going to swell out his Special Reserve with those boys? If he swells it out with the boys who are not going out with their units, how does he get the 40,000 men of the Regular Army whom I was including? The right hon. Gentleman has made an entirely new proposal. I have always considered that in the case of these boys of nineteen, untrained recruits, possibly some not able to shoot, that they would remain at the depot of the Regular Army, and that as they became fit they would be sent to join the units; and, otherwise, how does he propose to fill up the vacancies and the ordinary wastage?
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The small establishment swells up to a very great size. The third battalions so swollen move into the vacated barracks and port defences. They are there sedentary units for the purposes of port defence, and they serve the double purpose of training the troops for drafts and also defending the port.
§ Sir S. SCOTT
Then what is the use of the Special Reserve? However, I will not labour that point. How many men does the right hon. Gentleman anticipate to get by this process of robbing the Regular Army?
§ Mr. HALDANE
If the whole expeditionary force were abroad I do not think there would be 40,000 left; but there would be these 101 Special Reserve battalions, which would swell up on an average to something over 1,000 each. I should say there would be over 100,000 troops of that kind.
§ Sir S. SCOTT
Then my figures are not far out, seeing that I said 70,000 Special Reservists and 40,000 of the Regular Army. The right hon. Gentleman, even with his 1388 great optimism, will agree that out of that 383,000 men there will be a considerable number, sick or otherwise, unable to join the colours. Ordinarily about 20 per cent. would be deducted, but taking the smaller percentage of 10, there would be available for home defence an Army of about 345,000.
§ Sir S. SCOTT
That is true, but the right hon. Gentleman entirely forgets the duties which that Army would be called upon to fulfil. In the first place, the different ports and arsenals would have to be garrisoned. That would take at least 180,000. Then certain local areas would have to be defended. Sixty thousand would be a low estimate for that. So that the right hon. Gentleman would be left with 100,000 available as a central force to meet an invasion of 70,000. But even put it at 120,000. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with a central force of 120,000 to meet an invasion of 70,000?
§ Mr. HALDANE
Is it supposed that all the troops in the garrisons would sit still? I should think they would flock to reinforce the central force.
§ Sir S. SCOTT
That is a new proposition. I should have thought that arsenals which would be open to raids could not be left undefended; but the right hon. Gentleman apparently proposes to utilise the troops of all the ports throughout the country, and to leave our arsenals and naval bases entirely undefended. I am extremely sorry to hear that.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The supposition we start from is that not more than 70,000 could be brought over. The hon. Baronet assumes that 70,000 had actually landed, and I ask, is it conceivable that the troops should remain sitting in the garrisons, and not lend a hand to the central force?
§ Sir S. SCOTT
No man would dream of leaving all the arsenals and ports absolutely undefended and dependent on the good will or kindness of the enemy. Then I should like to ask for information with regard to the deficit of officers in the Special Reserve and in the Regular Army on mobilisation. Two years ago the right hon. Gentleman gave some very interesting figures in respect to the matter of officers required for mobilisation in this country and in India. He stated that we were 5,000 officers short in England and 2,000 short in India. Last year he pointed 1389 out that this was not only for mobilisation, but also for the wastage of war, and that he intended to get the 7,000 officers required out of the new Officers Training Corps. According to the right hon. Gentleman's Memorandum, out of the total of 20,000 in the Officers Training Corps, at least 16,000 are cadets still at public schools. Of what earthly use can 16,000 boys at public schools be to officer our Regular Army in India, or to fill up gaps caused by the wastage of war? An officer in time of war has great and heavy responsibilities placed upon him. Not only has he to think of himself and his men, but a mistake on his part might cause the deaths of a large number of men under his command. To suggest that these boys from public schools should be sent out to fill the vacancies in the Regular Army seems to me almost outrageous. Last year when I referred to this matter the right hon. Gentleman expressed a hope that he would be able to meet this deficit by means of the Officers Training Corps.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The Officers Training Corps has been in existence only a little more than a year, and we have not yet seen its fruit. Those who take commissions in the Special Reserve of Officers will remain there on an average about ten years. If you bring in 1,000 a year, you would thus get 10,000, and when you have once got a considerable establishment the wastage in that establishment will not be so serious. The Officers Training Corps must be judged by what it will produce, and not by what it is in the present year.
§ Sir S. SCOTT
I quite understand that it is a growing tree; but in the meantime has the right hon. Gentleman done anything to meet the deficit? I hope he will explain what steps have been taken, because so large a deficit is a very serious matter. With regard to the Special Reserve, the Secretary of State told us last year that there was a shortage of no less than 1,573 lieutenants and 647 second lieutenants. What has been done to fill up these enormous gaps? All the deficiencies were to be met by the Officers Training Corps, but the right hon. Gentleman has told us that only fifty have taken commissions. I shall be glad if he will tell us how this matter stands. My last point is with regard to Sandhurst. I understand that the accommodation is to be enlarged. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to consider the claim of the Cavalry there, and to see whether he cannot organise a class for cadets who 1390 are going into the Cavalry, in order that they may be given some practical experience of horses, be put through a preliminary veterinary course, and be taught how to groom a horse—in short, that they may learn something about stable matters.
§ Mr. J. D. REES
The Secretary of State for War when he disposed of the arguments of the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) claimed that he bad pursued a mean course. He said, In medio tutissimus ibis. I think he has indeed pursued a very satisfactory mean course, and if I might be allowed to cap his Latin with another quotation I would say that he as a Minister has fulfilled the Horatian conditions, and may be described as Totus teres atque rotundus. I was greatly astonished that an hon. Member, speaking in the sacred name of economy, should propose to wreck a fair scheme by a hasty and unconsidered reduction of 15,000 men. It might just as well be 115,000. It is merely put down in the name of a false and a specious economy which it would by no means serve. As to the Army in South Africa being too large, I do not think it is. We cannot assume, in consequence of the Union, that our few fellow countrymen out there are safe amongst millions of Africans. But if some really Imperial scheme could be devised, as I hope it will be in the future, and as it might have been after the Boer war, when one-eighth of the troops in the field were Colonials—by which the Colonial forces were really part of a truly Imperial Army, so that they could be called upon to redress the balance for the home Army when required, I think that something like what the hon. Gentleman foreshadowed might be brought about, and the Colonies might not only be able to defend themselves, but also to relieve the strain on the British taxpayers—because, no doubt, it is a strain, though I maintain it would be the worst possible policy to relieve it in the manner suggested. In such a scheme as that we might have had the beginning of a truly Imperial Army. The hon. Gentleman said that he would cut down our troops in the Mediterranean. I wish, on the contrary, that these Estimates contained some provision for teaching patriotism in our schools. It has become, I think, more than necessary that this should be taught in these days of a high civilisation, for we are in danger of forgetting that civilisation itself may disappear off the face of the earth if certain influences get the upper hand. We seem 1391 to be approaching that state in which it is really necessary in the interests of patriotism that something should be done to counteract that unfortunate spirit which hon. Members of this House have, to their sorrow, encountered in going up and down the country at election times. I wish myself specially to refer to some remarks made by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles Dilke), whom I always listen to with the utmost respect and attention, like all the other Members of this House. While my right hon. Friend was speaking, in my effort to learn and to put down exactly what he said, I endeavoured to make a précis of his remarks about invasion. If I were indexing a book such as the right hon. Gentleman, who writes very good books, writes, I should say: "Preparations for invasion; policy necessary to pursue in respect thereto; policy naturally, but unjustly, attributed to that much-maligned bird, the ostrich." The right hon Baronet said: "We cannot prepare for invasion if we are always talking about it." I do not know how we can prepare for invasion if we do not talk about it, and if we ignore it. It is true that it has been held in former times that the insular position of the British Islands was sufficient protection. But that arose solely from the fact that there was no fleet which came within measurable distance of our own. So far as I can understand, as soon as there is another fleet that is capable of coping with our own, our insular position becomes a danger instead of a source of safety, because instead of being a country which might be attacked over one, two, or three land routes, we become a country open to attack on all sides, by paths leading everywhere across the sea, unless our Fleet is so immeasurably superior that no other fleet dare attack us. The right hon. Gentleman pooh-poohed the idea of invasion. I do not propose to trouble the House with any lengthy remarks upon a subject of which they would not acknowledge me to be that which I de not pretend for one moment to be, and that is an authority, but I cannot help remembering—I looked it up, when the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, in the Library—a book with which I am familiar, and which shows that in 1798 three French brigades landed on the coast of Mayo, and with a small body of Regulars maintained themselves in the field for seventeen days. They had hardly any artillery, and no cavalry. The possibilities of the situation 1392 were realised by General Humbert, who offered to land again the next year with 40,000 troops if the French would give him 12,000 men. I have never heard any proof given why, if the navy of a neighbouring country was as strong as our own—that is certainly its endeavour—the invasion of these shores should be impossible, or why a military authority like the right hon. Baronet should hold up any such idea to ridicule as he did in this House yesterday. He said, "No country can have a great army and a great navy, and we will not have it." The fact is no country can set down what it will have in this respect. What it must have arises solely from what is forced upon it by what its neighbours do. Germany has the greatest army on the Continent, and is setting to work to have the greatest navy. We can never have the greatest army; that is quite clear. But I do think it is an extraordinary thing that the Secretary of State for War, who has brought matters to the present comparatively satisfactory state, should be faced with a Motion like this for the reduction of 15,000 men.
Then I wish for a moment to refer to one or two entries in the Estimates—with a special object in view, as the Committee will see. The establishment of British regiments serving in India this year is given as 75,884, as against 76,009 last year. I do not know why there is a reduction of even a few men in the British troops in India. I notice by comparing these figures with a Return for which I moved in the last Parliament that after the Mutiny it was laid down that 80,000 men was the smallest number of British troops required for India in order to protect our fellow-countrymen in that country. There is a difference here of at least 4,000 men. Our greatest battles in India have been fought with less than 4,000 British troops. I regret to see British troops in India falling below the standard fixed by the Royal Commission after the Mutiny. And I should like to have some explanation, at any rate, why they have fallen by the small numbers below the figure of last year. The right hon. Baronet, if he were here, would probably point to the fact as one result of the Anglo-Russian Convention. He and his friends hold, contrary to all the teachings of history, that because a great nation has been worsted in one war it is not likely to readily take the field again. I believe the exact opposite is likely to be the case. I rejoice in our good relations with Russia, but I notice that Russia has not reduced by a single man her forces on the 1393 Central-Asian frontier. She has perfected her military railways, and she can maintain a vast Army there, and at every point in Asia at which she may desire to make a demonstration. I am no alarmist in this matter, and I have the profoundest confidence in the management of Indian affairs at the hands of the Noble Viscount who presides at the India Office. But I should like to have an explanation, if the Under-Secretary for War—whom I congratulate on being there, and shall be glad to hear—will convey to his Chief my query, and let me know why these troops in India have been reduced. On a former occasion in the last Parliament the right hon. Gentleman said that under no circumstances would he allow a reduction of a man, a horse, or a gun in the Artillery in India, and I believe, so far as I can see, that that promise has been faithfully fulfilled.
I wish to say a word only—because I do not in the least pretend to be an expert—on a question that arises out of the requirements in my own county. And that is upon the horse question. Montgomeryshire is famous for horse-breeding. It might be described in these days, when we are all familiar with "Elektra," as a "country famous for good horses and good scenery"—a kind of Welsh Colonos. We do breed extremely good horses. I should like very much to see some system by which for one payment down, once and for all, the State could obtain a call upon horses suitable for military purposes, and that there should be a voluntary system of registration or ear-marking. It is possible also that it may be desirable in some parts of the country—I do not think it is necessary in Montgomeryshire—to put some kind of tax upon sires in order to prevent breeding from indifferent sires which is so apt to spoil good stock in many parts of the country. We want a larger grant, I think, for horse breeding. In Germany there is nearly £400,000 annually set aside for this purpose, and in Austria £250,000. I happen to have seen these establishments in Austria, and they are extraordinarily efficient, and more should be done in this country to meet an admittedly difficult situation than is being done at the present moment. With regard to another point, speaking as a civilian, I should like to see something done to improve the position of the British officer. During my life and in connection with my work I have been brought into very frequent relationship with the British officer. I have lived in his mess and alongside him, and I know 1394 what an exceedingly hardworked man he is; what a good fellow he is and how well he deserves of his country, how little prone to complain he is, and how anxious everyone who comes in contact with him is to see more justice done to him in this respect. I do not know any harder worked man than the Cavalry soldier. He is at work morn and noon and night, and anything more unlike the life of a Cavalry soldier than that which is portrayed in shilling volumes on our bookstalls I cannot imagine.
With reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Hexham, I should say that the existence of a nation is more important than the necessity of slightly improving the conditions of existence in the nation. Insurance must be first provided, and although I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman and with others who spoke in regretting that we have to spend so much, surely we must remember that the amount of money spent upon armaments is only 3 per cent. of the annual income of the country. If that amount is heavy so is the property to be insured. Other countries have to pay a far greater percentage of insurance. It is all very well to say that if you had not to spend so much on insurance you would have more money for social reform, but if you do not spend the money on insurance you may find that you have nothing for reform. Nobody would suffer so much from letting down the insurance and nobody is so much dependent on that insurance as the workers. I can hardly understand why it is that these Votes are not supported by hon. Members who, as soon as any hands are dismissed in a dockyard or in an arsenal in their constituency, come down here at once and complain. They complain individually of that which they collectively approve. I think they are very inconsistent in that attitude, and hon. Members who take that view when these individual reductions are made, are practically, though not professedly, in agreement with myself upon these matters. In the French Republic, which is not now dominated by militarism as it was in the early days of Napoleon, the Foreign Minister, when a reduction was moved in the cost of armaments, lately said:—The spectacle we are witnessing, the care with which the greatest nations of Europe are attending to their armaments would alone suffice to put our patriotism on its guardI cannot see how civilisation is to be really promoted unless those nations which are in the van of civilisation shall carefully ensure their own position, so that 1395 they shall continue to provide for the spread of that civilisation of which we are all so proud, but, which, I think, carried beyond a certain point seems to sap the strength of the over-civilised nation. Upon the point which the hon. Member for Hexham has touched I find that the ideal to be aimed at or to be worked up to is that in which the Colonies should provide effectively for their own defence and aid in that of the Mother Country, and I notice that in Australia, whither the hon. Member said we send no troops—I have not followed exactly the course of legislation in Australia—in a Bill which was introduced last year they have altogether 974,000 men available for the defence of the country, as against the small numbers which we have here and about which we are hearing to-night. They have that number of men for the defence of a country where you have a mere bagatelle of people per square mile, and scarcely anything to defend per square mile. In Canada, I am told, they can put 1,000,000 trained men into the field. I understand that that is so; if I am wrong I can be corrected by other speakers who are better informed. I am a strong admirer of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, and I think he has accomplished great things. I confess when I heard the hon. Baronet the Member for Monmouthshire (Colonel Sir Ivor Herbert) yesterday saying there was nothing extraordinary about the scheme of the Secretary of State for War, I thought there was something very extraordinary about what he has achieved. The hon. Baronet the Member for Monmouth said he thought more ought to be got for the money, and he knew how it could be done. If the hon. Baronet had a scheme like that up his sleeve it was wrong of him not to produce it. Any Member of this House who knows how more could be done than the Secretary of State for War is doing, is absolutely bound to produce his scheme to the House and the country, which awaits it with ill-restrained impatience.
I wish to say a word with reference to the Capitation Grant which is paid by India into the Exchequer for the soldiers sent to India. The amount is no doubt a large one—I think the figure is £861,000, which amounts to £7 10s. per head. I have always thought that that was a rather high charge, though I am the last man to accuse the home Government of making money out of the Indian Government's 1396 necessities. I am not at all sure that the Indian Government could supply the men themselves. I am very far from saying that, but since four Members of the Indian Expenditure Commission, including Sir Henry Brackenbury, a very distinguished soldier, and Mr. Buchanan, a former Member of this House, thought that that is a high charge, it is a matter which requires attention, and which requires mention in this House. I do not think I should be justified in detaining the House at any greater length, especially on an occasion like this, when we are so fortunate as to be able to hear so many able speeches from new Members, whom the House naturally listens to with far greater pleasure than to one like myself, who has had the privilege to bore it on previous occasions, but I must ask the Under-Secretary one other question. He will find on page 23, Vote A, reference to the India regiments, but it is not stated where these regiments are stationed, and I can find no information on the page in that regard. I would like to know what are these miscellaneous troops in North China which are said to consist of one officer, five sergeants, and twelve men. There may be something of an unusual character which perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to explain when he rises. I find that the figure for the Capitation Grant is £861,000, and I should like to know if the rate is the same as it was before, namely, £7 10s. I do not, of course, assert that there has been anything but scrupulously fair dealing between the India Office and the War Office at home in respect of this matter. I think of all the achievements of the present Government, when it comes to an end, those of the Secretary of War are likely to be amongst the achievements which will be longest remembered and appreciated, because the right hon. Gentleman has introduced a certain co-ordination into previously unconnected units, and, as far as I can understand as a mere civilian, he has done a great deal to produce the nucleus of a force which some day or other may be equal to the task before it. What that task will be I do not care to inquire or to prophesy, but I cannot help thinking that it may conceivably be greater, at any rate, than some hon. Members of this House seem to contemplate.
§ Major DALRYMPLE WHITE
I wish to touch on one subject which has not up to the present been dealt with, and which the Chairman informs me it will be in 1397 order to raise at this stage. My object is to secure a better chance of employment for the men on leaving the colours. I agree that during the last fifteen years a lot has been done to improve the state of affairs which existed before, but a great deal still remains to be done, and I urge the right hon. Gentleman to try as far as he possibly can to induce other Departments to take on the men who leave the colours, not only in all our public Departments but also in museums and similar institutions. If that were done it would be a great boon to men when they leave the colours. Another point which is germane to this Question is that the service of men who leave the Army and who are taken on by public Departments should be counted for pensions in any branch of the Civil Service. Then there is the more technical point of extending to the men the right of commutation of their pension if they wish to settle in any of our Colonies. We all appreciate very much what the Secretary of State for War did in this connection last year, when he extended this privilege a good deal. We wish, as far as possible, that what he has extended should nut only remain but should also be extended still further.
I think that warrant officers should as now be allowed to commute their pensions down to 2s., that non-commissioned officers above the rank of corporal should be allowed to commute down to 1s. 6d., and that corporals and other non-commissioned officers with 2s. 6d. per day should be allowed to commute down to 1s. per day. What I am asking for is that the right hon. Gentleman should allow private soldiers and others who have 1s. 6d., 1s., or 1s. 1d. to commute down to 6d., so as to enable them to make a start in our Colonies if they like. I wish to emphasise that I ask this privilege only for the men who desire to settle down within the Empire, and not for those who wish to emigrate elsewhere. It should only be granted to men of good character and physique who have been examined rigorously by the Chelsea Commissioners, and only those who are acceptable to the Colonies concerned. That would be a great boon in a threefold sense, because by getting this commutation they would get capital to lay the foundation of a permanent income; it would also be a boon to the families of the men in case the breadwinner should die; and it would also be a great advantage to the Empire, because the Colonies would get exactly the 1398 stamp of man they most require for Imperial defence and other purposes.
There is also another point which I desire to raise, and it is that non-commissioned officers are at a disadvantage as regards the amount they get for commutation as compared with officers of commission rank. I believe the extent of the disadvantage is 10 per cent., and I do not think that is just. The practice originated at the time when there was thought to be a better expectation of life on the part of those in commissioned ranks as compared with non-commissioned ranks, but that idea has long since passed away, because the health of the Army has improved, and the non-commissioned officers have now got just as good a life as officers. I think this disadvantage might be altered. Another point I would like to emphasise is this: Why should these men not be allowed to commute their pensions through insurance companies? There are many well established insurance companies, like the North British and Mercantile and the Norwich Union, who are quite willing to undertake this class of business if they had the assurance of the payment of the pension. Insurance companies give better terms than the Government. I will quote from a table on the basis of 1s. a day to prove my statement. A non-commissioned officer reach ing thirty-six, if he commutes his pension through the Government, would get £226. An officer on the same basis of 1s. a day would get £254, while an insurance company would pay £262. It not only secures better terms for the men, but it would be a good thing for the Government because it would remove a great deal of clerical work and consequent expense. Therefore, I think it would be for the benefit of the Government as well as the men to allow commutations through insurance companies.
It may be argued that there are war risks which these insurance companies might have to guard against, but I believe they would be quite willing to do that by taking out life policies. This is a question on which I will not detain the House any longer, but I do think it is a question which the right hon. Gentleman, with the attention and solicitude he has always given to increasing the welfare of the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers of the Army, might well consider, and I beg of him that he will do this. I do not think, so far as I can make out, that there are any insuperable difficulties in the way, and I am perfectly sure, if he 1399 did do this, he would be removing a grievance from a class of men who find it very hard at present to obtain employment, and he would be giving them a fresh chance of making a start in life, which would, I think, be permanent, because we only ask for this on the condition that the Colonial Governments ensure that these men have good employment when they arrive, or, at any rate, that they have the chance of suitable land. I thank the House very much for the kind indulgence they have given to me.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I desire to address one or two observations to the Committee on the questions now before us, but, before doing so, I would like to make reference to one observation made by an hon. Baronet on the other side of the House. He suggested that we on these benches would summarily abandon the Army for the sake of economy. I venture to point out that no such proposition ever emanated from these benches. We agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles Dilke) that the first line of defence for this country is the Navy. We agree that that Navy must be maintained in sufficient strength and efficiency. We are of the opinion that the present condition comes up to the standard. We are, however, of the opinion that it is utterly impossible for this nation to maintain a swollen Army at the same time that we maintain an efficient Navy. I am further of the opinion that there is no country in the world that can afford to maintain a large Army and a Navy in the way that is evidently desired by some Members of this House, but I wish to remove the misunderstanding which evidently exists in the minds of some hon. Members that we on these benches think or speak lightly of the defences of our country. I must confess to some apprehension at the ever-increasing amount of the Army and Navy expenditure, and I must also confess that on this occasion I had looked forward with some hope to some reduction taking place under this heading. Like the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt), who has submitted a Motion to this House, I had hoped that the changed conditions in South Africa would have afforded a means whereby considerable economy could have been effected. I had hoped that when those Colonies were granted self-government we should have been able to immediately withdraw our 1400 troops, and thereby save the enormous expenditure of over one million pounds per annum. I venture to hope that we are not to interpret the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War as meaning that we are to maintain in permanent occupation 11,000 men in South Africa, but rather that we are to take as the real state of affairs a previous utterance of his, that we are simply maintaining these men in South Africa pending the time when the Colony will be able to make provision for its own defence, and when we will be able to withdraw these men and effect the desired economy.
I know the right hon. Gentleman's statement was imbued with the customary optimistic spirit, and personally I would never seek to withhold a considerable measure of credit to him for the work he has done in the office he now holds. I believe it is perfectly true to say that for the first time in the history of our country our military affairs are organised on a definite basis, and that we can claim that our Army is in a far more efficient and competent state than at any previous time in our history. Certainly, the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to credit from all parts of the House for the great ability and skill that he has brought to bear upon the work that engages him so closely. He is able to congratulate himself this year upon very good recruiting in the Territorial Forces. I think he has gone so far as to state that his great difficulty now in both sections of our military resources is to limit recruiting, but I would venture to point out that he has been favoured very particularly during the past year owing to the fact that we have been passing through a very severe state of depression, and it is perfectly true to observe that what is bad for the working classes of the country very often brings something extra to the recruiting sergeant, and, incidentally, to the Secretary of State for War. He cannot, I think, rely upon this as a permanent factor in his resources. He must recognise that, owing to the state of trade during the past year, some men have been forced into the Army who otherwise might not have been induced to join by the ordinary attractions thereof. We are hoping that this and subsequent Parliaments will deal very largely with this great question of unemployment, and, as we ameliorate the conditions of unemployment in our country, necessarily the recruiting sergeant will not be able to exercise his powers upon the unemployment wave as he has done during the past 1401 year or so. Therefore, what we shall have to do will be to make the Army more attractive, even as attractive as ordinary employment. This seems to me to inevitably open up an avenue of increased expenditure for our Army. I therefore hope that the Secretary of State for War and the Financial Secretary are not losing sight of these elements, and that they will not admit of enormous increases being entered into when the possibility is that in order to maintain a small efficient Army on this particular heading, at any rate some increase will have to be contemplated.
I observe from the right hon. Gentleman's speech yesterday that he is making further grants to the county associations in respect of the increased work which falls upon them. Might I venture to make one suggestion, which perhaps would call for even a further concession to the county associations. I am not a military expert, and I do not think I could emulate the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of Exchequer even in joining the Volunteer Force, but I represent a city in which we have a considerable military element, and many cases affecting the Army are constantly brought under my notice. I am assured that one of the needs of the Territorial Force at the present time is an increased grant which would admit of boots being dealt out to members of the force. The present allowance is not sufficient to allow of the county associations equipping the men with boots. It therefore often happens that men refrain from joining the Territorials because of their inability to turn out with proper boots, and on the other hand because of the inability of the county associations to supply them. Their excuse is that the grant they receive is not adequate.
There are one or two points that I have desired on two or three occasions to submit to the House. I notice an expenditure of £5,191 on prisons in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Am I to understand that this expenditure is for the maintenance of soldiers in civil prisons, and that it is really a payment by the War Office to certain local authorities in respect of those prisons? Then I turn to page 26 of the Estimates, and there I come across an item of £27,491 under a similar heading, £19,800 being in respect of the establishment of Military Prisons, and I am glad to note it is a slight decrease upon that of last year. I should like to know first of all whether the item of £5,191 is for the maintenance of men in 1402 civil prisons, and, secondly, I would in-inquire whether it is absolutely necessary that the War Office should maintain special prisons or houses of detention, as they call them. I think we should regard it as highly anomalous to have special prisons for policemen, postmen, or other particular classes. It may be that there are reasons which can be assigned for this expenditure which have not occurred to my mind. I have ventured, however, to put forward the possibility of economy being effected in this direction, because I am not convinced of the necessity for the maintenance of these special prisons. Again I find that £36,000 a year is spent upon the recruiting staff and incidental outlays. If a trader wants a man, he simply advertises in the newspapers, and I feel that if the Army were made sufficiently attractive it would be unnecessary to maintain a large number of recruiting sergeants, as an advertisement in the papers, when the War Office required more men, should suffice for that purpose.
I want to direct the special attention of the Financial Secretary to another matter. In 1908 a special Committee was set up to consider the character of the treatment after discharge from the Army of soldiers invalided for tuberculosis disease. A late Member of our party (Mr. Summerbell), who then represented Sunderland in this House, took a great interest in this question. He sat upon the Committee. I should like to know whether any progress has been made with this matter by the War Office, and, if so, is it possible to give us any indication as to the steps that have been taken to carry out the recommendations of this Committee? The Committee were of opinion that the present method of treating these men could not be upheld. I believe that as soon as a man is diagnosed as suffering from tuberculosis he is immediately discharged from the Army, and as soon as he is sufficiently recovered is sent to his home. This Committee pointed out that such treatment was not only harsh and unjust to the individual, but that it was also inimical to the public health, especially when we have to bear in mind the homes and the surroundings to which many of these soldiers have to return. I feel it is extremely ungrateful on the part of a wealthy nation to treat its soldiers in this manner, and I am hoping that, as a result of the consideration given to the matter by the War Department, we shall have some satisfactory information upon this point. 1403 There are certain proposals emanating from the Committee which de-serve consideration. The Committee had to decide between two alternatives: one was that the War Office should establish central sanatoria to which men could be sent. The obvious disadvantage of that was that it would be costly. The men would have to be carried long distances from the posts at which they were stationed, and there would be the further disability that parents and relatives would be unable to visit them because of the distance they would have to travel. The more practical suggestion made by the Committee was that the War Office should enter into arrangements with certain civil sanatoria for a number of beds to be set apart year by year to which soldiers could be sent when they were diagnosed as suffering from this complaint. It was admitted that this could be carried out at a very slight cost, and if we could effect economies in other directions the money could be spent in a way which the House will agree would be the more desirable way, and would really represent a just and honourable expenditure on the part of the State. It was estimated that the total cost of this policy would not exceed £20,000 a year, and, that being the case, I think we may with considerable confidence ask the attention of the Secretary for War to the subject, in the hope that he may see his way to adopt this recommendation.
My last point is one on which I addressed a question to the Secretary for War in the late Parliament. I drew the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a circular issued by the Legion of Frontiersmen. In this circular it was stated that the scheme of the Legion was laid before the Secretary for War, who, in February, 1906, wrote expressing his sympathy with the object of the organisation, which, he said, was purely private, but which, if suitable occasion should arise, he might be able to utilise. I should like to know whether it is competent for any individual or number of individuals to form themselves into a military force on the lines of this Legion of Frontiersmen. We have here a private organisation not under the War Office at all, but really entering into competition with the Territorial Force, and I would respectfully submit that it is unwise on the part of the Secretary for War to encourage a private organisation over which he has no control, and which may 1404 militate against the effective recruiting of his own force. I am not in a position to dogmatise on this point, but it struck me as somewhat anomalous that it should be in the power of private individuals to organise what is practically a military force in our own country.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will show his sympathy with the general desire for economy in the administration of our Army. I realise the difficulty of his position. On the one hand, it is sought to induce him to build up a big Army—an object which, I fear, is not altogether inspired by a desire merely to preserve the internal defences of our own nation. I apprehend that behind some of this agitation at least there is a desire that we may have such a considerable force at our disposal as would enable us to invade some other country. [Viscount HELMSLEY: "What country?"] I am simply expressing my opinion, and I am stating it as clearly and fairly as I can. I am simply expressing an apprehension which is in my own mind and which I know is shared by others, and I say that I fear that behind this agitation is not alone a desire to insure the defence of our own country, but rather a wish that there may be such a force in the hands of some people as will warrant them in undertaking the invasion of other shores. I shall associate myself with the policy put forward by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles Dilke) that the first real defence of this nation lies in its Navy. That we are prepared to uphold, and on the other hand we think that a small and efficient Army is quite sufficient for our own needs. We therefore hope the Secretary of State for War will pursue his object of improving and maintaining the efficiency of a small Army and that he will not be misled to extending its numbers on lines advised by some hon. Gentlemen in this House.
§ Captain GILMOUR
As one of the new Members of this House, I should like to take an opportunity, in the first place, of saying how thankful most of us are to do anything in the way of the defence of this country, and how grateful we are to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War for what he has done during the period he has directed the affairs of State. At the same time I think that he has admitted, and I am quite sure that many of us feel, that the work and a great part of the work which he has undertaken is really only in its infancy, and we hope to see a development take place in the course 1405 of time. But the question to which I wish to direct the few remarks which I shall make to the House deals more particularly with one of the points which the right hon. Gentleman spoke of last night. He dealt with the question of the horse supply in this country—with the supply of horses for the Army, both as a peace force and as mobilised for war. There was one sentence which the right hon. Gentleman gave utterance to in his speech which I confess rather surprised me, as I know it surprised other hon. Members in this House. He said that this question of the horse supply was a very difficult one and he had to labour under the difficulty of never having received any advice upon this point. I cannot conceive on what grounds the right hon. Gentleman makes that statement.
I am very well aware that there have been many schemes advanced by various bodies in dealing with this question of horse supply in this country, but I would humbly submit that there has at least been one reliable source—one official source to which the right hon. Gentleman might have turned, i.e., the successive Reports of the Royal Commission on Horse Breeding which has been appointed to deal with this question. We are all aware, I think, in this House that successive Governments have spent comparatively little upon horse breeding or upon the encouraging of it in this country. We have been told the figures of various sorts of what has been spent, but it is immaterial to quote them, or to give the amount. It is quite patent, however, that the amounts which are spent here in the encouragement of horse breeding are nothing compared with what is spent in other countries. I submit that in recent years the exportation of horses from this country has been going on to an alarming extent, and that a large proportion of those horses which are bred and reared in this country and in Ireland are being bought up by foreign countries in order to assist them in their method of horse breeding.
The cost of horses in this country in time of war has been enormous. I believe that during the South African War there was a sum of between fifteen and seventeen millions of money spent in horse development, and I contend that if the Government of the day were to take even adequate steps to deal with this question a large part of that expenditure might be avoided. I think too that in regard to the question of advice that has been submitted to the Government, it will be in the memory of right hon. Gentlemen on the 1406 Front Opposition Bench that in the Reports which have been made to the Government officially by this Commission, one of the main points and features of them was that young horses should be purchased by the Government at three or three years and a half of age. I submit that that has been the policy, and the consistently advocated policy not only of the Royal Commission on Horse Breeding, of which I have the honour to be a member, but also of most of those who have studied this question. It is quite patent that there is no adequate return to a man, either a farmer or another who enters into horse breeding, if he has to keep his horses—his young horses for a period of four years, and then turn to the Government for the somewhat inadequate price which they are prepared to pay. I have had some little experience in a small way of having to purchase horses both in Ireland and in this country, and the first thing which one meets with is that the foreign buyer is ready and prepared to give a much more adequate price—particularly for mares and for brood mares—than our people are prepared to give, and it is well known amongst any of those who are conversant with horses bred in this country to-day that foreign buyers are taking away, not only the best of our mares, but a large number of the best of our stallions.
I think it would be welcomed by all breeders in this country if we could receive some more definite assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that this policy of purchasing at three years of age will really be put into effect. We have heard these discussions so long that many breeders of horses look upon that proposal as something which may never really be brought into existence, and, as regards the other portion of the scheme which was outlined by the Secretary of State for War with regard to the new system of subsidising the produce of so many stallions in this country, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if there is any idea of extending the work of the present Royal Commission or substituting some other body for dealing with the selection of these horses? It is very essential that in the selection of these horses the greatest care should be taken. I have myself to-day spent the greater part of the morning superintending the inspection of over eighty thoroughbred horses brought for King's premium, but out of those eighty thoroughbred horses only eight of them passed. There are records in the Commission which show 1407 that that was not the case a few years ago, and that a very much larger proportion had then to pass before it was clear that an inspection was any good. I should like to say one word about the horses as connected with the Territorial county associations. I understand that the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman has submitted to the county associations will throw upon those associations the work of inspecting the horses and allocating them to the districts, and I wish to submit that while I am in entire concurrence with the census of horses which has been taken, that census is of little value. The police have carried this out with great ability, and I am aware that in the counties which I know best they have taken a great deal of trouble with regard to the census. But it is only a record of so many horses, and we have no knowledge as to the age or quality or capabilities of any section of them.
Unless I am mistaken, the monetary provision which the Government intend to place at the disposal of the county associations will be altogether inadequate to deal with this question of the selection and the inspection of the necessary horses, and in my opinion the work of inspection will be very difficult and costly, and will take not only time, but will require the services of men with a knowledge of horses, with a proper veterinary surgeon in attendance. I have had some experience in collecting horses for the Yeomanry, and I find that I have spent, as Squadron Leader, a considerable time going about the country looking for the horses which we require. They are not, in my opinion, of the necessary stamp to mount the Yeomanry and Cavalry. I know from my personal experience that at least 30 per cent., putting it at the very lowest, of the horses in my own regiment are doing regularly two and three trainings, and we know that there are parts—for instance, in Scotland, which I know best—where, in the case of the mobilisation of even three regiments for their annual training last year, a very large proportion of the horses which were necessary to mount these regiments had to be drawn from the East of Scotland, and they were really using the same horses which were being used on the other side of the country at different times, and a large portion of the horses of my own squadron went from my camp immediately to horse the Artillery at a subsequent camp. That 1408 is not a satisfactory position. I only hope that the right hon. Gentlemen who represent the War Office realise the very serious position in which this question of the horse supply is based. It is perfectly certain that, unless some further encouragement is given to horse breeding in this country, we cannot expect that ordinary individuals will breed horses of the required stamp, because, after all, that is the whole crux of the question. You have plenty of heavy horses in the country, but those are not so much what we want. You want saddle horses, horses which will carry cavalrymen and mounted infantry. That is the weak point in the whole of this horse-breeding system, and this is a more serious problem than most hon. Gentlemen on the other side have realised. We welcome the statement which has been made by the Secretary of State for War. I hope his scheme will be put into operation soon, and I hope that more money will be spent in the encouragement of horse breeding, as it is by that means only that we shall solve the problem, which is, after all, as important in many ways as even securing the necessary men in our troops.
§ Captain WARING
I propose to confine myself to what is, in my opinion, the most interesting subject touched on in these Estimates, namely, the question of horses. The hon. and gallant Gentleman dealt to a large extent with the question of horse breeding, and I am sure he will realise that there are many on this side of the House who are just as pleased as he is at the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman, in conjunction with the Board of Agriculture, intends to introduce. The subject which I take, for the moment, the most interest in is the Circular Memorandum, No. 231, which deals with the question of the horse supply in the event of mobilisation. May I express my satisfaction at the novel experiment which this scheme initiates. For the first time in the history of this country we are to have a complete census of all the horses in the kingdom suitable for military purposes, enabling us for the first time to realise in what actual position we stand and what further schemes—the right hon. Gentleman has said this is purely tentative—may be necessary in future to ensure complete efficiency in this respect. While attaching very great importance to the census which has already been made, and which is, I understand, to be repeated annually, I attach far greater importance to the plan 1409 which the right hon. Gentleman unfolded for obtaining and securing the number of horses which would be required by the Territorial Army and the Regular Forces in the event of mobilisation. I think the scheme is one which will work smoothly and simply and rapidly. It is obvious that, in a novel departure such as this, it is far simpler and far cheaper to make use of existing machinery than to create new. Under the Act of 1907 the Territorial associations are held responsible for the horses required by the Territorial units withn their county, and to my mind, by the aid of this police census and the appointment of these district collectors which this scheme provides for, their work in this respect will be very greatly facilitated.
Of course, it is true that the Territorial associations are to be asked to provide horses for the Regular Army, with which they may very legitimately argue they have nothing whatever to do. But, at the same time, the number of horses required for the Regular Army forms such a very small proportion of the whole that I think the extra work entailed thereby is really infinitesimal. In fact, I think the amount of work thrown upon the Territorial associations in this respect has to a very large extent been exaggerated. I am referring, of course, to the interesting article by the war correspondent of "The Times." Of course the question does not depend on the total number of horses suitable for military purposes in any particular district; the question is the quota which will be required in that district by the War Office. I understand these quotas have not yet been decided on, but the right hon. Gentleman has told us the figures with which we have to deal, and we know that the total number of horses required is only a quarter of the whole number imagined to be in the country; and only a fifth of that number is required for the Regular Army. That is to say there might be 2,000 horses suitable for military purposes in one district, and of these only 400, putting it at the highest, would be required by the military authorities, involving a work which I think would be very easily undertaken by the able and willing workers who no doubt would be forthcoming. In fact, in the extremely interesting article, which I have read with great care, by Lord Fortescue, we find that the work of examination and classification in Devonshire was carried to a successful issue. If able and willing assistants were found to do this work in this large and scattered district of 1410 Devonshire I cannot think it would be impossible in any other county to do exactly the same thing.
It has been suggested, I think, by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wyndham), that the Territorial associations are not the proper authority to deal with this scheme or to be entrusted with the work. It has further been suggested in the same article that any work they might do in this respect will be amateurish and slipshod. I do not think it is fair to apply the epithet amateurish to our Territorial associations, having in view the very striking success, which I do not think anyone will deny, of the Territorial Army both in respect of numbers and organisation. I do not wish to make a point of that. The members of the Territorial associations are amateurs in the sense that they are not professionals.
This scheme of the right hon. Gentleman does compare favourably with one or two of the systems obtaining on the Continent at the present time. In Germany the work is entrusted to the Landtag, and I suppose the nearest approach to that in this country is the county council. I do not suppose that anybody would suggest that the county council would be less amateurish than the Territorial associations. In France the work is entrusted to the mayor of the commune, a gentleman corresponding to the chairman of the county council. There, again, the gentlemen entrusted with the work are engaged largely throughout the year in civil administration. The right hon. Gentleman selects the county associations for this work, a body created solely for military purposes, and which can give its undivided attention to military organisation. I feel that in the associations the right hon. Gentleman has powerful machinery at his hands which would be able to carry out this exceedingly important work successfully and well. For my own part, I must express my entire satisfaction with the machinery set up to deal with the question. The gentlemen who are to be appointed to assist the associations will have expert knowledge of horses and an intimate knowledge of the districts over which they will work. These gentlemen, when appointed, will be a considerable asset to the Territorial associations. Of course, the establishment of collecting stations is a comparatively simple and easy matter. Convenient stations will doubtless be found. In command of each collecting station there will be a military officer on the active list—a gentleman who is to be 1411 ready to take over the horses for the Regular Army, and to despatch them to the districts where they may be needed. To my mind this scheme tends to rapid and prompt action in the event of hostilities and mobilisation. The fact that so small a proportion of the total horses will be required for military purposes gives us a considerable margin of security.
In regard to the question of expense the hon. Gentleman opposite said that the money suggested was quite inadequate. So far as I understand, the question of expense is the most elastic part of an exceedingly elastic scheme. The cost of collection and examination in Devonshire came out at a penny per horse. Well, an allowance of 3d. per horse has been calculated to be sufficient for the purpose. At all events, as the right hon. Gentleman has already said, the Territorial Associations do deserve more money to work with, not only for this but for other matters. It is really, to my mind, the principle of this scheme that calls for congratulation. For the first time we are to have a complete census taken of the horses in the United Kingdom, and for the first time machinery is to be set up to deal with the full material at our disposal. That a scheme of this kind should be initiated and set up to deal with the one question which has exercised our minds most in recent years must be a matter of satisfaction, relief, and congratulation to hon. Members not only on this side of the House, but on the other side who take an interest in the matter.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I wish to endorse as enthusiastically as I can what the hon. Member for the Wells Division (Captain Sandys) said about the necessity of a manual of instructions for the Yeomanry. I would press that point upon the right hon. Gentleman. I think that two years ago it was the opinion of his military advisers that such a manual is not necessary. I was glad to have the additional testimony of a new Member that in the opinion of Yeomanry officers such a manual is most necessary. I do hope that the time will not be long before we have some such manual of instruction as has been suggested. Another point in connection with the Yeomanry to which I desire to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman is the question of schools of instruction for officers. That is a question we have raised on previous occasions, and we have endeavoured to point out to 1412 the right hon. Gentleman that further facilities are required. The right hon. Gentleman has decided to abolish the school at Netheravon in so far as it concerns Yeomanry officers. I am aware that Yeomanry officers are allowed to go there for a refreshing course, but at the same time the ordinary Yeomanry officer who is to qualify either for a lieutenancy or captaincy has not the opportunity of going to qualify at a cavalry school, but has to go to a regiment.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I stated before, and I ought to have stated yesterday that the new Cavalry depots will be centres of instruction for Yeomanry officers. We propose to establish schools there.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
The right hon. Gentleman did not mention that in his speech yesterday, though he mentioned the establishment of these Cavalry depots. I have very little faith in these depots for schools. Officers, instead of having schools devoted to their instruction in order to learn the greatest possible amount will find that they are made subsidiary to the real work. They are unavoidably made subsidiary to the regiment at the present time. Nobody would wish to say a word against the zealous and hard working officers, who do their best at the present time, but you often have a class of twenty or thirty sent down to a cavalry regiment. They cause great overcrowding, and they are taught under the greatest possible difficulties, because, as we all know, the regiment at that time are engaged in training their own squadrons. Their own officers have naturally the first claim on the instruction, and the Yeomanry officers have to take up what they can in the best way they can, causing not only great inconvenience to regiments, but also the feeling that there is great waste of time to themselves. The right hon. Gentleman now tells us that depots are going to be substituted. I only hope that the depots in that case will be in the nature of schools of instruction, such as there used to be at Netheravon, because I am certain that it is only by that means that officers can get adequate instruction.
I want chiefly to draw attention to the question of our horse supply. I think we may congratulate the right hon. Gentleman of the effects of his instruction on the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Indeed, the expedition—to Aldershot I think it was—is one of which I am sure he may be proud, 1413 and the valuable results of giving such a course of visual instruction to the Chancellor of the Exchequer would almost suggest the thought that the right hon. Gentleman might take the Chancellor of the Exchequer round the banks of the City of London, where perhaps the same visual experience of the sovereigns which are there waiting to fall into the lap of the Chancellor of the Exchequer might induce him to reconsider his present attitude on the Income Tax Bill. At any rate, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the fact that he has at last persuaded the Treasury to do some thing more for the cavalry establishment. Although indeed it is not a matter of very great importance as regards size, yet it goes in the right direction, as he has seen his way to add to the establishment of cavalry regiments eighteen men and thirty-six horses. It is not very much, but we welcome it as a proof that in the minds of the War Office there is at all events a consciousness of the necessity of strengthening the actual numbers of cavalrymen and of trained horses serving with the colours.
The right hon. Gentleman divided his observations on the horse supply in his speech yesterday into two parts—mobilisation and breeding. I propose to deal with it rather on those lines, but I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman ought to have sub-divided his heading of mobilisation still further, because it appears to me that there was a certain obscurity in the minds of the War Office as to the kind of circumstances which they would have to meet. I do not think we are justified in this country in presuming that never again shall we have to fight a similar kind of war to that which we had to face in 1899. The whole of the Debate has proceeded on the assumption that we shall not again have to face such a contingency. I hope not myself, and all Members hope not; but as a nation with worldwide responsibilities I do not think it advisable for those responsible for the conduct of the Empire to lay down as an axiom that we shall not have the same kind of war. [An HON. MEMBER: "And so unnecessary."] That is a matter of opinion. I am of opinion that the condition in South Africa upon which hon. Members flatter themselves would not have—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I think there is quite enough to talk about in the Debate without introducing irrelevant matter.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I do not think we ought to ignore the possibilities of a war of that kind, which is based on the sending out of expeditionary forces. What I want to know is whether the right hon. Gentleman has contemplated arrangements for the mobilisation of horses under circumstances of that kind, or whether his whole scheme of mobilisation has not been directed on the supposition that we should be putting our whole force, both Regulars and Territorials, in the field in the case of a great emergency such as a possible invasion of this country, and I think he ought to have told us in the first place how he proposes to fill up his Regular expeditionary force with horses, supposing there was a war such as the South African War, and how he proposes to fill up not only the Regular Forces, but also the Territorial Forces, in case of its being necessary to mobilise all our available resources, because it is obvious that the same plan will not be equally suitable for both organisations. For instance, supposing we only have to send a force of Regular troops abroad, does he mean to suggest that he is then going to adopt the principle of commandeering rather than purchasing horses in the ordinary way? Because if he is going to do that, if he is going to put into force those extreme powers given him by the Army Acts when an expeditionary force has to be sent abroad, and there is no real fear of invasion in this country whatever, then he is going to inflict very great and very unnecessary injury upon the trade of the country, and going to inflict very great and unnecessary hardships on a great many private individuals in this country.
I do not object to the commandeering of horses or to anything that may be necessary in a time of great national emergency, but I certainly think if that is done a proper price should be given for the animals taken. I venture to say that a great many people would object if their property were commandeered by the Government in order to cover up their previous negligence in not supplying the animals, as was perfectly possible, by purchase before the outbreak of war. So I think we ought to have some explanation by the right hon. Gentleman of how he proposes to fill up the deficiency of horses which would arise if we had to send any force, no matter how small, to a war, say, on the frontiers of India, or any other distant part of our dominions beyond the sea. Take the supposition that we are mobilising the whole of our forces, I 1415 should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what steps he proposes to take to avoid confusion when this moment of commandeering arrives? In the first place, what about exemption? Is anybody going to be exempted, or is it going to be left to the individual officers who are carrying out the work to make such exemption as they consider just and right? I believe that in France they have a very complete system of exemption laid down, and I believe there everybody knows whether he comes within that exemption or not; but I venture to point out that it is very necessary that there should be some scale of exemption laid down, unless you are going to inflict very unnecessary hardship upon certain people. Then I should like to know what prices are going to be paid for the horses which are commandeered in this way. Is the market value of the horses going to be paid, or is it going to be that fictitious market value of horses set up by the War Office, with an extreme limit, usually about £60, because if that is the case they would also find on an occasion of that sort that there would usually be great dissatisfaction.
Another important question arises as to the possibility of overlapping of the different county associations. We all know that the horse population of this country is very unevenly divided. Some counties are well off in horses, while other counties have comparatively few. Should each county associations be obliged to find within its own boundaries the quota of horses necessary, or is it allowed to wander into the realms of other county associations to get what it requires there? That requires very careful organisation and thinking out, because otherwise, on the outbreak of war, you will have several county associations bidding against each other to acquire the horses that are wanted, and we will find a great deal of overlapping and a great deal of extravagant expenditure which might have been avoided. I think a few words might possibly be said about this census of the right hon. Gentleman. We all thoroughly agree with the principle of the horse census, but some of us might wish it had been carried out in an entirely different way from what it has been carried out, so far as we can gather. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman will think it at all peculiar, but it strikes me as rather odd that, for instance, a person like myself, who owns a certain number 1416 of horses, as do a great many of my friends, has never heard a word about the census anywhere else except on the floor of the House. We have never been approached with any application to know what horses we had, nor have we ever been asked to describe their qualifications or their ages, and I would suggest that no one is more competent to describe the horses than the owner himself. For myself I certainly should not be inclined to put very much faith in a census made by a policeman, either urban or rural, going round people's estates and finding out what he can about horses contained in the stables. I daresay in some kennel establishment the policeman in wandering around might be led to include a great many horses which are designed for a very different purpose than that of filling the ranks of the Army in time of war. I rather regret that the right hon. Gentleman when he was carrying out this very beneficent work did not take steps to see that the owners were properly approached themselves, and asked, not only how many horses they had, but what kind they were, and for what purposes they were most suitable. I cannot help thinking that the census will have lost much of its value from having been carried out in the way it has been. On the breeding aspect question the right hon. Gentleman said—and probably said very truly—tot homines tot sententiœ. At the same time, I do not think he was really justified in complaining of lack of advice. I am sure if he had desired advice he would have found that there is a considerable quantity at his disposal, certainly from the breeding societies of this country, whose position is such that they ought to be consulted on a question of this kind. I would point out that at the present moment there is a committee which is sitting, or will sit very shortly, which was appointed by the council of a leading breeding society, and of which I have had the honour to be made chairman. That committee is considering a scheme to be presented to the Government for the encouragement of horse breeding. The principal of the Board of Agriculture, we learn, has got a scheme ready, and before it is published I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to allow the committee to which I refer to consider the details of that scheme, on which perhaps they might make some suggestions to the President of the Board of Agriculture. I cannot help thinking that if that were done our committee, which is a very strong one 1417 containing many experts on horse breeding, might be able to make a valuable suggestion to the Board of Agriculture. At any rate, such criticism would be more valuable before the Government scheme is finally published, and before it receives the Government's ultimate imprimatur, than that we should make the criticism afterwards, when, as usual, it would be valueless.
Then as regards the bonus in respect of stallions. That seems to me, as far as I can judge, rather going the wrong way about. From the brief description of it which the right hon. Gentleman gave, it would appear to me that it would be rather better to give a bonus to the owner of the mare than to the owner of the stallion. There is one thing I am sure we are glad to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon, namely, that there is a chance of horses being bought at the age of three years. A suggestion I should like to make to the right hon. Gentleman is that a larger proportion of mares should be bought for the Army than at present, and a mare bought at three years of age should, if possible, be left in the hands of the breeder for a year, during which foaling might take place. If that were done, you would automatically be putting the mare to the best use in the year during which she could not be passed into the ranks, while at the same time you would be doing something to encourage breeding. Another advantage would be that when the mare goes from the Army service she would, very likely, be turned into a successful brood mare, and the number of brood mares that we want would in that way be increased if we used for breeding purposes the three year olds. I think it will be agreed that it would be a most economical plan to put the mare to a valuable use during the year before it passes into the Army service. I only hope that this scheme of horse supply will really be made effective an getting an adequate grant, that being the main crux of the question. Unless an adequate grant is given for the purpose we shall have little hope that anything will be done except talking. I was surprised at the answer which was given to-day that only £53,000 was spent on these purposes, while £185,000 is spent an Get many, and in Austria the amount is considerably more. The miserable sum spent in this country can only excite derision, and I hope that in future the grant will be such that real steps will be taken to increase our horse supply.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
The Secretary of State met the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham for a reduction of the garrison in South Africa in two quite different, and I confess, I think, contradictory ways. On the one hand he stated that the Government or the Colonial Office had given a solemn pledge to the South African Government to retain in that part of the Empire our troops, while they were organising there a Territorial Force of their own. On the other hand, he gave various strategical reasons indicating that he was in favour of the permanent maintenance of that garrison in that part of the Empire. If that was not the object I confess I do not understand why he should not have been satisfied with his first statement to the effect that the Government had come under this solemn pledge which he has mentioned. I confess to a little surprise that we should be told for the first time this evening that such a solemn pledge had been given, for I find it a little difficult to reconcile the two lines adopted in reply to my hon. Friend, and I find it still more difficult to reconcile either of those lines with the lines which the right hon. Gentleman took last year when the question was before this Committee. He said on 4th March, when he introduced the Army Estimates, that the garrison was being maintained in South Africa at the wish of the Colonial Office. He did not tell us why that wish was granted, and he certainly did not say that it was granted for any strategical reason. But we not only had information from the Secretary of State for War as to the object then stated by the Government for retaining the forces in South Africa. Five days later, in this House, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies gave what I confess appeared to me then, and still appears to me, as a most extraordinary justification for retaining the South African garrison. He said:—Out reason is that the troops are so exceedingly popular with the population, and it is with the greatest difficulty my right hon. Friend can withdraw any troops owing to the protests of the leaders of South African opinion.10.0 P.M.
Not a word as to any solemn pledge, not a word as to the strategical reasons justifying the retaining of the force; it was the popularity of the troops. I think it is easy to understand why the maintenance of the garrison in South Africa should be popular. I, for example, have a garrison in one of the towns I represent, and I am perfectly certain that if the 1419 right hon. Gentleman proposed to remove that garrison to some other town, there would be abundant protests, and I have no doubt that I myself would be a champion for the protests. The Government, doubtless, would hear a great deal about the popularity of the troops in the town, and I think probably that the popularity of the troops in South Africa is due very much to the same causes as that to which their popularity is due in the garrison town to which I refer. But whether that would be a justification for the taxpayers of this country for continuing the garrison in South Africa is a very different question indeed. If the Under-Secretary for the Colonies were here, as we all hope he will be to-morrow, I should challenge him to go on any platform in this country and address a meeting—I do not care what way it was composed—and give the same reason to a body of taxpayers for the maintenance of the garrison in South Africa that he gave to this House last year. But that is not all. Two years ago, in the Memorandum which the Secretary of State circulated with the Estimates for the year, he was at great pains to describe what was the military policy, particularly in regard to this question, and the question of forces in various parts of the Empire. The document was extremely interesting, even to a person so ignorant of all military details as I myself am. In that document he states what was the view of the policy which he himself adopted, supported, and recommended to this House, as follows:—The presence of regular troops in self-governing Colonies has a distinctly deleterious effect in the tendency to prevent the Colonial Governments concerned from exerting themselves to develop their own military resources.10.0 P.M.
He went on to support that view, which he advanced as his own, by quoting from the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons appointed in 1861. I do not need to read that extract, because it merely expresses in very slightly different language the same principle of policy as the right hon. Gentleman had stated as being his. If it is deleterious to the Colonies, to any Colony, to retain Regular troops in the Colony because it takes away the stimulus to provide for their own defence, if it is bad to retain the troops in any other Colonies, because, to use the words which were used by Mr. Gladstone in giving evidence before that Committee, the privileges of freedom and 1420 the burdens of freedom are absolutely associated together, and to bear the burden is as necessary as to enjoy the privilege—if that was true two years ago, and I quite understand the right hon. Gentleman did not intend that it should apply to South Africa in the condition that South Africa then was, yet he was stating what was the general principle of policy which guided him, and which he hoped would continue to guide the War Office in the distribution of the military forces. Then I want to know whether or not he is looking forward to the continued maintenance of the garrison in South Africa, and, if he is not, how long is the Colony to be given in order to organise its own forces before the Regular Forces shall be withdrawn? That is a question on which I think this Committee and the country both have the right to a clear and a definite answer.
§ Mr. HALDANE
South Africa will not have an organised Government until 31st May, and so we must give it time after that.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
I quite accept that statement, but now will the right hon. Gentleman give the Committee some hope that he will consider, before the Estimates are presented next year, if he is then responsible for them, the question of making further withdrawal of troops from South Africa?
§ Mr. HALDANE
I cannot, because in nine months there is not time to organise. I never said we would leave the troops indefinitely there. South Africa is entitled to the same experience as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, from all of which we have withdrawn our troops, but only after they were able to provide on their own account.
Mr. MURRAY MACDONALD
I do not make any objection to that statement of the responsibility of the home Government with regard to the Colonies. Still, I come back to the question, and I do not quite understand why the right hon. Gentleman should have taken the particular line of defence which he took in reply to my hon. Friend. Apart from that, I am so far grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having given an assurance to the Committee that this question will be considered, and considered at no distant date, and I hope that we may ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us this further assurance that the Government in South 1421 Africa would be told that it must prepare its own Territorial Force for its own internal defence with as little delay as possible. That would, at any rate, to some extent meet the objection of not a few of his supporters on this side with regard to the continued maintenance of the garrison in South Africa. No doubt we should still feel that there is a far larger expenditure on the Army as a whole than is actually justified by the situation in which we find ourselves among the nations of the world. On that larger question I do not propose to enter, at any rate at the present moment. I confine myself to the very much smaller point to which I have referred, and I repeat my hope that at no distant date the garrison in South Africa will be withdrawn.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
I intervene in this Debate with great diffidence, as it is the first time I have had the honour of addressing the House. I shall confine my remarks to two very important parts of the right hon. Gentleman's statement of yesterday. The first has reference to the question of officering the Army. That depends on many different factors. A matter for the very serious consideration of the country is the fact that the examinations for Sandhurst and Woolwich have practically had to be abandoned, and officers are now entered almost free of any examination at all. The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday that the standard was higher than it used to be. I fail to see how, with practically no examination at all except the leaving certificate, the standard is any higher than it was fifteen years ago. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the age had been lowered. Seeing that at the examinations fifteen years ago only something like 20 per cent. were successful, I fail to see how the present conditions produce any higher standard of officers. The fact that these examinations have recently had to be, if not abandoned, at any rate very much loosened in their conditions, is a very serious matter for the country. The reason of the lack of candidates for the Army is in my opinion the dissatisfaction not only of parents but of the officers themselves with some of the existing conditions. The dissatisfaction relates not only to the pay but to many other questions as well. As regards the pay, which, of course, is an important factor, I was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman, whose immense knowledge and great services to the country I am the first to ac- 1422 knowledge apparently stand up to-day for the maintenance of the existing standard of pay for subaltern officers. The pay, which has been shown in recent publications to be the same as it was in 1815 in the case of lieutenants and second lieutenants, is a little over £100 a year, or very much the same as is given nowadays to the driver of a motor car. The right hon. Gentleman said that in addition to the pay there were allowances which brought up the pay to a great deal more than its nominal amount. On this point I agree with the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes) that if you are to regard privileges as part of pay they cease to be privileges. Lodging allowance is only paid when an officer has to get quarters out of barracks, and as a rule barracks nowadays means a tin house, while fuel and light allowance is only payable when the officer is not served a legal allowance of coal in barracks. In many cases, especially of officers who have committed the crime of getting married, and have to live out of barracks, they are not allowed to draw the lodging allowance, although they are not provided with quarters. These apparently minor details make a great difference in the life of officers who are not fortunate in the matter of this world's goods, and it is these very difficulties which are causing people to be rather shy of sending their sons into the Army.
I should like to refer also to the question of the horse supply of the Army. The Secretary of State, when asked if he would be willing to place an export tax on horses, replied that the effect of such a tax would be to discourage breeding in this country. There is a great deal to be said for that point of view; but with due respect I would submit that the right hon. Gentleman might consider other points in connection with the matter. Not agreeing altogether with the economic doctrines held on the other side, I do not believe that an export tax is always paid by the exporter. On the contrary, in regard to those classes of horses in which we have practically a monopoly, the foreign buyer would be obliged to pay the export tax, provided it was a small one. We export about 60,000 horses a year, and these may be classified in three main divisions: first, the thoroughbred; secondly, the hunter remount; and thirdly, the poor old horse that goes abroad and is returned to this Free Trade country in the shape of either sausages or tinned meat. In the thorough- 1423 bred class, if we have not an absolute monopoly, at any rate we breed the best class of thoroughbred horses; therefore the foreign buyer will always want to buy them, and if a nominal tax of £2 a horse were imposed the foreigner would pay it. As to the hunter remounts, there again we have practically a monopoly of the sort of horse the foreigners want. At any rate, they seem to want them, because they come in large numbers to buy that class of horse. A tax of £2 per horse would certainly not deter them, and consequently would not discourage the breeders of horses in this country. As to the poor old horses which have done good work, I am sure there is no one in this country of horse-loving people who would not be glad to see that trade done away with, and if a tax of £2 per horse put a stop to it, it would be an excellent result, and one which would meet with sympathy on both sides of the House. The question arises, how much should we get if such an export tax were imposed? We have exported on an average 60,000 horses a year for the last three years, and I submit that an export tax of £2 per horse would probably bring in something approaching £100,000 a year. I suggest that that money might be used for the purpose of promoting the breeding of horses in this country by giving prizes and premiums, or else by increasing the registration fee, which at present is very small, but which, small as it is, has succeeded so far as to provide a reserve of 20,000 horses. If we are able by means of funds raised by a small export duty on horses not to discourage breeding, but to increase the registration fees and thereby increase the reserve of horses, I think that would be a very good measure indeed. I would also suggest that we should pay a higher price for remounts. I think I am right in saying that any Remount officer, or any authority in the Army who has had to do with remounts, has no doubt suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that we should pay a higher price for our remounts. I may be mistaken, but in any case I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman would have replied that it was not altogether in his power, but there the question of the Treasury came in. There again we have I think, great hopes from the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman adumbrated yesterday, in which he said that a scheme was on foot to buy three-year-old horses. If we pay the same for three-year- 1424 old horses as we pay at present for horses of a greater age we shall, no doubt, get a horse of much better value. I hope that if we buy three-year-old horses—and if the scheme is to be successful—we shall be able to sell a large number of horses, which are too good for military purposes, in order to make up for the failures. Because if you buy three-year-old horses you are bound to have a lot of failures, whereas if you sell horses which are too good for military purposes you may be able to make up for the wastage of public money over the failures. It may be objected that it would be wrong for a Government Department to enter into a commercial transaction of this sort, but if we are going to sell horses which are too bad for military purposes, surely it is not wrong for us to sell those horses which are too good?
There is one other suggestion which has been made, and which I think might be considered. That is that there should be a sort of horse license duty. There are a great many objections to it, but I believe that, on the whole, the recommendations of it are stronger than the objections. I do hope that even if only small, the proposed registration duty may be brought in in order to get out a roll of the number of horses, for though a great step forward has been taken, matters cannot possibly be satisfactory when it is being carried out in a way that will not really give us the true number of horses, and the true qualifications of the different horses, enumerated. The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday, tot homines, quot sententiœ. I hope that from this Debate the War Minister will get a few points that may help him in increasing the already great services which he has performed in the reorganisation of the Imperial forces, the provision of horses, and also in taking steps for the first time to get a census of horses of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. CECIL A. GRENFELL
I do not rise for the purpose of discussing questions of tactics which have been touched upon in this Debate; for my part I am quite prepared to leave that to our military experts. I should like, if I may, to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War on the marvellous change in the status and training both of the Army and of the Territorial soldiers. I only rise because I may perhaps be able to give a few practical suggestions as regards horses. They will not be given in any contentious spirit, but in order, perhaps, that the right hon. Gentleman may turn them over in his mind, and 1425 that these suggestions may be of some practical value in what is the great crux of the whole of this Question: that is the horses supplied to the Army, whether it be for Cavalry, Territorials, Artillery Service, or Army Corps Service. The strength of the chain, as we know, is only that of its weakest link, and I venture to say that the Secretary of State since he has been in office has strengthened that chain in the weakest places, which were those of the organisation of the Imperial Forces.
I rejoice to think that at last we have before us a definite scheme for linking up the forces of the whole Empire under one head—the Imperial Staff in this country. I have a great friend in Canada, Sir Henry Pellett, who is bringing over his own regiment which he commands, I believe at his own expense, to serve alongside of our own troops at the military manœuvres which are to be held this year. The Secretary of State for War, when speaking upon the horse question, said he had always had considerable difficulties himself as regards horses. I am one of the few people who have been out on a long ride with him in Scotland—and a long ride it was. The right hon. Gentleman certainly was candid enough to confess at the end of that ride that he had derived some assistance from the cloak which was rolled up so neatly in front of him. As regards the horse, we cannot lay too much emphasis upon the fact that for cavalry purposes and for Army purposes the untrained and the unconditioned horse is really of little service; it cracks up almost at once. I am glad to see that a certain number of men are being added to the Cavalry regiments, and also a certain number of horses. As we all know, the Cavalry in war time cannot replace their losses either of horses or men; that is to say, they cannot replace them in a short time. The men have to be trained to perform special duties which cannot be taken by other untrained men, and the horses cannot be replaced by others from any other branch of the Service. Therefore, at the risk of boring the House, if I lay stress on the horse question, it is because I feel that I cannot attach too much importance to that question. I can only speak from experience in two counties of this Kingdom, Buckinghamshire and Leicestershire, and the hunting counties which adjoin. I feel that there are plenty of horses in this country suitable for military purposes, and it is only a ques- 1426 tion of organisation in order to obtain a sufficient number. We have just got out the figures for Buckinghamshire, where I find we have over 2,000 saddle horses, over 2,000 ponies between the height of 13.3 and 14.3, 8,600 heavy draught horses, and over 5,000 light draught horses. Our Yeomanry require, roughly, just over 400 horses, and we certainly should be able in Buckinghamshire to obtain the quota which the Government require us to provide. Personally, I am glad that the Government have decided to purchase at three years old, and I suggest that they should make their purchases in the spring of the three-year-old career of a horse. After that age the horses seem to disappear, for they change hands not only in the county, but they go north into other parts of England, and they also get into the hands of foreigners. When you remember what are the conditions that prevail in Buckinghamshire I think you will agree with me that it is absurd to say that there are not sufficient horses in this country for military purposes. Mr. Leopold de Rothschild keeps two stallions to cover the mares in his district, which are owned by the farmers in the country over which the staghounds hunt. I know there are other patriotic gentlemen who do the same thing in the northern part of the county. They produce mostly foals which would be valuable for military purposes. If you inquire into the horse supply of other counties you will find that much the same conditions prevail as in Buckinghamshire.
I have really one suggestion which I would like the Secretary of State for War to consider seriously, and that has to do with the £5 grant made to Yeomen who produce their own horses at the annual training. The original intention of that grant was to encourage men to keep horses themselves in the county. It is now looked upon rather as part of the men's pay for producing a horse. I think the Secretary of State might make more out of that £5 grant, and that it is quite possible that a condition of giving it might also be that we had the call of the horses on mobilisation, and for preliminary drills which are undertaken at other times than during the annual training. We have, of course, the use of it during the annual training. The hon. and gallant Colonel who sits opposite me will remember that on one occasion, when we had a good many recruits, and we had to obtain horses so as to improve their riding, that he and 1427 I hired horses for the service of those recruits. I think the £5 which the Secretary of State for War gives to the Yeoman who produces a horse for training might also cover the use of it at other times than the training. We want them for the use and the training of the recruits at other staff rides, or for other useful purposes during other times than the training. I hear from my friends that the same thing exists in other Yeomanry regiments. The officers themselves are put to it to obtain horses for the training of the recruits. We constantly find we can get many recruits, excellent in every manner, intelligent men, but they just want a little more practice as regards the riding part of their training. I am bound to say I have seen many changes in the status and in the training of the Territorials during the twenty-two years that I have been an officer in the Yeomanry, and I think that each change has been for the better. The present scheme has been a great success. The Secretary of State for War has told us that he is grappling with the horse question, and, when he has done this, I am perfectly sure that we will obtain great success.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I can testify, even more strongly than my hon. Friend, whom I congratulate upon the excellent speech he has just delivered, to the endurance of the Secretary of State for War. He saw him take part in a long ride—I once saw him on a hot July day, when the temperature was 90 in the shade, with a frock coat and top hat, walking about on Salisbury Plain. I really rose for the purpose of supporting the speech made by the hon. Member for the Thirsk Division of Yorkshire, who dealt in an, extremely complete manner with the whole question of the horse supply of the country, and mobilisation for military purposes. I, of course, agree with him that the two questions must be considered apart. I do not now propose to make any reference to the question of the breeding of horses for military purposes, though it is a very important question. I am inclined to think that the proposal made by the right hon. Gentleman that in future the Government should buy three-year-olds instead of four-year-olds, and that a sovereign should be paid for every foal got by a stallion registered under the new scheme, is a good one, although I do not think it goes far enough in dealing with this serious problem. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman no 1428 longer harbours the idea that the export of valuable mares from this country is a thing to be encouraged. The right hon. Gentleman the other day said it was by no means a bad thing. I venture to assert that the export of valuable Irish hunters is a serious thing for the future horse supply of this country, and anyone who suggests it is a good thing is doing a great disservice for the whole industry of horse breeding and the military requirements of the country.
I want, however, to refer to the really remarkable circular sent to the Territorial associations by the Permanent Under-Secretary to the War Office by order of the right hon. Gentleman on the question of obtaining horses on the mobilisation of the Regular and Territorial Army. I believe I am voicing the views of the vast majority of the Territorial associations in this country when I say that they are only too ready to do everything the Secretary of State asks them to do, and to carry out their duties. I believe some have expressed a doubt as to whether the question of the supply of horses for the Regular Army comes within the definition of their duties by Statute, but, at any rate, they are prepared to carry out the duty on one most important condition, which is that they obtain an adequate sum of money in order to fulfil the conditions laid down. I have not the least hesitation in saying that the proposal made in this Paper—No. 231, of 14th January, 1910–dealing with the payment of the collectors who are going to get the horses together on mobilisation, is ludicrous. There is one sentence in the circular which I really ought to quote:—In subsequent years the work entailed on the association should be practically nil; the duty devolving on the collectors of keeping up the list should be slight, and cannot well be assessed in terms of money.That is a kind of thing Scotsmen will appreciate; it is a delightful way of getting people to do very hard work for practically nothing. I do not agree that it is going to be a small duty. The task of keeping up the list in subsequent years after it has been originally made up will be a very heavy one. Here, again, we come down to the root question of money. In order to make this Territorial Force generally efficient, and in order to carry out the difficult duties devolving on the Territorial associations, we must have more money; without that the whole thing will—as the hon. Member for the Fareham Division said earlier to-night—be a sham. There is 1429 one other point in this Memorandum which I wish particularly to refer to. On page 2 it says, in regard to the question of mobilisation:—On the other hand, the rapidity with which the mobilisation requirements will have to be provided will be a severe tax upon the machinery which will have to be set up for the purpose. At the same time that machinery, when once in motion, will be able to cope with such drifts as may finally be called for.I consider that the work of coping with the necessity for finding such drafts is not going to be the easy task that the right hon. Gentleman imagines. Everyone knows, from the experience of the South African War, that the difficulty was that of finding horses after the war had broken out, and the Permanent Secretary who signs the Memorandum has no right to assume that the available supply of horses will not be used up at a very early date.
This Memorandum, therefore, does not deal with the root difficulty which exists of finding suitable horses when war breaks out. My hon. Friend referred to the two cases of Buckinghamshire and Leicestershire, and said there was a large number of horses available in Leicestershire, but that is hardly a fair case to take, as it is the best hunting county. There is no doubt that according to this census or return which has been sent out that there are a large number of horses, but the point which we have never had cleared up in the Debate is how many of these horses are going to be fit and trained for military purposes when war breaks out; and if they are not to be trained, what is to be the use of spending thousands of pounds, as this and other countries do, on the training of horses if you are going to bring in horses from the London streets for the purpose of horsing your Army? You may as well not train any horses at all. The real truth is that 70 per cent. of these horses will be absolutely unfit and untrained for the purpose for which they are required. Anyone who has seen foreign cavalry, and seen the splendid way in which the horses are trained in the cavalry schools of France and Germany, is not going to tell me that the horse supply which you are going to get at the outbreak of war by going out into Whitehall and commandeering every horse there will be of any use to face the foreign cavalry and artillery horses, having regard to the way they are trained. I think I am right in saying that the available supply of trained horses is smaller in this country than in any other country in Europe. Another point which has 1430 never been referred to is the basis on which you are going to pay for these horses when you get them, because do not let us ignore the fact that if ever we are to have a serious war of this kind—and I hope we shall not—we do not want to entirely dislocate the trade of the country. The Home Secretary laughs, but I do not think that anyone wants to see the trade of this country entirely dislocated. I would like to point out a fact which may seem a rather ridiculous one, but which is a very important one in country districts, and that is a very large number of horses enumerated in this police return for the county of Sussex are horses used for trade purposes by country traders. If we are going to take those horses on the outbreak of war you will have something like famine in the country districts. There will be no means of getting round to distribute goods, and you will have the evil of prices being put up to an extraordinarily high level, which always occurs on the outbreak of war, enormously intensified. I am not suggesting that it may not be necessary on the outbreak of war to commandeer every available horse. All I say is that any Government that does not supply an adequate number of trained reserve horses for the outbreak of war is being something like criminally neglectful of its responsibilities. The Government talk glibly of commandeering these horses. They are always willing to commandeer anything in the nature of property. If there was a proposal on this side of the House that on the outbreak of war every man in this country had to be responsible to bear arms we know how it would be treated by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not want to make a party point of it, but it is a very serious matter in a country such as this, where the vast majority of horses are used for trade purposes, more than people imagine, suddenly to come down on the outbreak of war and seize practically the whole of their horses.
Another thing which I press on the right hon. Gentleman is the question of price. I think it ought to be laid down under this new scheme what mode will be adopted when these horses are commandeered? Will there be an arbitration committee? What will be the basis adopted? These are things which ought really to be known, and it is not too early to ask for a definition now, as the police are at this moment employed upon this census. A matter on which we have not had a satisfactory answer is the question 1431 of the Yeomanry School, formerly at Netheravon, and the provision to be made for it. I believe I am voicing the views of everyone interested in the Territorial Force, especially the Yeomanry branch, when I say we feel most strongly that at the earliest possible opportunity there should be formed a school of instruction for Yeomanry officers. I wish to support my Noble Friend in asking that this school should not be a school primarily for Cavalry officers, to which Yeomanry officers should only be admitted as a kind of favour, but a school to which Yeomanry officers could go at all times, because very often they are very busy men in civil employment. We regret that at a time when the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers are certainly making a great many efforts to reform the organisation of the Territorial Force, for something like two years there has been practically no Yeomanry school existing.
The last point which I wish to raise is the question of the pay which is to be given to the Territorial officers attending the school of instruction. A friend of mine sent me an amazing memorandum, which has been received by his regiment, saying that in future Yeomanry and Territorial officers attending a school of instruction will only receive pay and allowance if they by attending that school of instruction incur some loss in their civil employment. In other words, a man who has some civil employment going to the school will receive pay. If by reason of going to the school he loses that employment or is not paid during that period an allowance towards that civil employment he will receive no pay or allowances at all. As far as my recollection goes, this is the first time in the history either of the old Volunteers or the present Territorial Force that the War Office has attempted to take into consideration the civil employment of members of that force. They have always understood that for purposes of pay the civil employment of the officers in question had nothing to do with the matter, and anyone who attended the school of instruction was entitled to receive pay and allowances. I cannot think that the right hon. Gentleman, with his great generosity can really support this scheme, and I hope we shall hear from him to-night or to-morrow that that Order does not mean what on the face of it it appears to mean, 1432 that a large number of officers will not be paid because they cannot show that by attending the school there has been a loss in their civil employment.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)
I beg to move "That the Chairman do now report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
Motion agreed to; Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.