§ 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."
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)
I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has good reason to be satisfied with the course which these Army Debates have taken, and with the general reception of his Estimates by the new House of Commons. When I look back to the course which Army Debates usually took, not, indeed, in the last Parliament, but in Parliaments before that, I think I discern a very marked and very satisfactory contrast between the two situations. In those days Army matters were the centre of fiercest contention in the House of Commons. Very sharp divisions of opinion, and even divisions of personal rivalry, existed between the great officers of the Army, and upon occasion there were, or there were reputed to be, sharp divisions of opinion between the chiefs of the Army and their political superiors. Now we find that although there is a great deal of interest taken by the House in Army matters, as indeed there should be, although our Debates are full of interesting 1493 and valuable discussions on points of important detail, nevertheless there is a very general measure of agreement upon all sides, in all quarters of the House, upon the broad essentials of Army administration. A deep peace has brooded, not wholly undisturbed by some subterranean rumblings, over the course of our discussions. I listened with great pleasure to a statement in the speech of the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. A. Lee), in which, with great frankness and generosity he paid a high tribute to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Haldane), and declared that he was one of the most popular Ministers of War who had ever occupied that responsible and difficult position. My right hon. Friend has been fortunate in having had an uninterrupted tenure at the War Office, which now reaches very nearly four and a half years, and during the whole of that period, except with the few changes that time has made, he has worked with the same set of military men. There has been a consistency and persistency of aim and view, and a continuity of policy throughout the whole of that period. And now, at the beginning of the new Parliament, and on a Vote which, like this, raises the whole policy of the Army. I think I am entitled to the indulgence of the Committee to address them for a very few moments of their time, and to take one general survey of the position as it is to-day and of the position as it was five or six years ago. Let us look first at the sphere of organisation. Mr. Brodrick, the present Lord Midleton, made, in the year 1903, the first real attempt to establish a peace organisation based on war requirements. He aimed for the first time at producing in time of peace divisions and brigades, with their staffs, and ancillary services which would actually be employed in the field in time of war. That was unquestionably a valuable and important departure. I was at that time among the critics of the Noble Lord and his schemes. Certainly I have nothing to withdraw or modify from the arguments which I then advanced. But I do desire to make it quite clear that I am not attempting to indulge in any party score, but recognise clearly and frankly that his scheme, faulty though it was in grave respects, was nevertheless the first real attempt to establish in time of peace arrangements for units and cadres suited to the operations of war.
We have gone a long way since that. Mr. Brodrick's scheme consisted in the establishment and creation of six Army 1494 corps. In those days the Noble Lord, who sometimes sat in the corner seat opposite, used to dwell lovingly on the details of our Army administration, and many Members of both parties joined together to advance the cause of efficiency and economy. If there were one point in which almost all the higher critics of the then Government were agreed it was that the Army corps organisation was not the organisation best suited to the peculiar and special needs of this country either for peace or war. If we have to contemplate the course of operations overseas—and we cannot possibly exclude that from any scheme of military organisation to which we may adhere—it is quite certain that the divisional organisation which has now been established is far more flexible, far more convenient, and far more practical than the Army corps organisation which it has superseded. When troops have to be shipped, when they have to be embarked and disembarked, they are not embarked and disembarked by Army corps. It is quite true that the embarking and disembarking is not in divisions, but the arrival of troops at any theatre of war by sea would much more nearly correspond to their despatch by divisions than despatch by Army corps. We have seen in the American war in Cuba that the divisional organisation imposed itself as the method by which the troops were despatched. In the last war in South Africa, although nominally we proceeded by Army corps, we, by mere pressure of events, were forced very rapidly in practice to adopt the dispatch of the troops division by division, and in the Japanese War, again, it was a divisional dispatch, and not an Army corps dispatch, which necessarily prevailed. That is one of the great changes which has been established by general consent. We now have the six divisions of the Regular Army, fourteen divisions of the Territorial Army, and we have in addition to that the organisation of the Indian Army upon exactly the same principle of six large divisions, containing each three brigades of infantry, which prevail in the organisation of the British Army. So that you may say that throughout the British Array there is a uniform, symmetrical system of large divisions prevailing, whether for peace or for war. That I think a decided advance towards simplicity and towards good organisation. Mr. Brodrick in his Army system attempted to combine the Regulars, the Militia, the Yeomanry, and Volunteers. 1495 into one organisation, without, it seemed to me at the time, and it seems to me now, any very clear idea of what he intended to use that organisation for. It is quite obvious to anyone who studies the scheme which he put forward that he was primarily thinking of Home defence. But he also attached great importance to the expeditionary force which was to be comprised within this organisation which he was establishing for Home defence. The fact that he included in that force of troops all these different branches of the service—Militia, Yeomanry and Volunteers—showed clearly that if it were necessary to employ that force in a foreign expedition a complete alteration would have to take place in all units, and there would have had to be a tremendous period of change before any large and homogeneous units could have been formed for service over seas. In other words, with regard to the process of forming a foreign expedition, an operation which, if any operation ought to be carried through rapidly, is one in which speed is essential and vital—in regard to that process a change from the whole system of Home defence would have to be necessary with all the corresponding disadvantages of delay.
Now our forces are different in character, different in origin, different in value, but still all necessary. Our different forces are separated into two simple categories—first, they are separated into troops who would be liable to serve overseas; secondly, into troops who would not be so liable. These are very simple distinctions, but the Committee will readily see that they go to the roots of any good organisation. The Regular Army and Reserves are organised for overseas service, and the Territorial Army and the Reserves which are being developed, are organisations for Home defence. A similar organisation prevails through both branches of the land forces, and both act together with perfect similarity for the defence of the United Kingdom. Then we have had the development of the General Staff, a development which is of the greatest possible value so far as the officers to command the Army are concerned. But it has another use, a very special and particular one in the military problem. We have to recognise the co-existence of many different forces, different classes of soldiers, under different conditions of service. The General Staff forms a perfectly convenient link of union between these different forces. We have 1496 also to contemplate the organisation of our forces scattered all over the globe, under very varying conditions in the dominions and in the dependencies of the Crown. The General Staff forms again a convenient link with the division, assuring homogeneity and cohesion throughout the whole of that large and heterogeneous assembly of military forces. Under the scheme of Mr. Brodrick, unfolded to the House in 1903, and which his successor, the late Mr. Arnold Forster, developed and elaborated and, to some extent, altered in the year 1905, there was practically no provision for feeding the Army at the front once war had broken out and for making up the terrible wastage, which, even apart from the calculation of the wastage of great battles, is known to be a necessary feature of all warlike operations. Mr. Brodrick, so far from making any provision for replacing the wastage of war, actually abolished the Militia Reserve, which Mr. Cardwell had always intended, to some extent, to discharge the duty of feeding the troops which were actually at the front. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Haldane) has addressed himself, and is addressing himself, to this problem. The machinery for the maintenance of the Army in the field is being most carefully elaborated, and it would at once come into being on mobilisation being ordered. For the Cavalry a system is being organised of six depots and fourteen reserve regiments, which would provide for the training and supply of troops to maintain the regiments at the front. The feeding of the Artillery is being organised through a system of six depots and twelve reserve brigades, embracing thirty-six batteries, and the Infantry under a system of sixty-four depots and through seventy-four third reserve battalions, of which my right hon. Friend spoke in his statement a few days ago. The great fact is that we have now in our military system the means and the machinery whereby a steady flow of trained men can be ordered to the units serving at the front, to maintain them at their fighting strength during all the wastage of the first year or two years of war.
We have also made great advances in the direction of simplicity. There were formerly three distinct forces which had to be legislated for. The Regulars and their Reserve, the Militia, and the Volunteers. Each of those forces served under its own Act of Parliament, each having its own regulations and special position and conditions. Now we have only two. 1497 We have the Regular Army and its Reserve, all liable to serve beyond the seas. We have the Territorial Force and its Reserve, which will soon be called into being, and which will be a capable and very considerable development. Those are the only two forces for which we are called upon to legislate or make special regulations. I think I am justified in repeating to the House that those various points to which I have drawn attention constitute a very considerable advance in the organisation of our land forces.
Let me say a word on administration. Is was the essence of Mr. Brodrick's plan to adopt as the method of service three years' service with the colours and nine years' service in the Reserve. That is a system which proved in practice fatal to the supply of our foreign garrison. It is quite true it produced, and would have produced, a very large Reserve, but that Reserve in its later term would have been of very untrained men who had only been three years with the colours and who had been six, seven, eight, or nine years away, and those could not be very satisfactory soldiers on whom to rely at a moment of need. We have abandoned that system of three years' Army service and nine in the Reserve, and we have reverted to the old system of seven years' Army service and five years' Reserve service. I do not know the battleground on which this controversy has been carried on. There is my right hon. Friend below the Gangway who has always converted me to the view that we should do much better in principle both for the Indian service and for Home defence if we had two separate armies. But when I have been converted to that view I have always been driven out of it by the fact that it is obviously and demonstrably plain that you can get much greater development of military power for your money by combining the two systems, by dovetailing the home and foreign armies one into the other, by making the home Army train the recruits who are to serve in the Indian battalions and by allowing the Indian battalions to secrete the reserves which on mobilisation are to joint the home battalions. By dovetailing those two systems you can get a far better development of your war power for the money Parliament devotes than you could if you were to take the admittedly more satisfactory plan, from other points of view, of having two perfectly separate armies. We have reverted to the principle that is compendiously expressed in the 1498 regulation "7 A, 5 R," The late Mr. Arnold Forster, who was a very great advocate of the two-army plan, went as near towards the adoption of that plan as any Minister of War had ever dared to do before, and perhaps will ever dare do in future.
We have another advantage in administration. All the different forces of the Crown are now paid at the same Army rates of pay when they are training in the field or serving at war. There used to be a great difference. I remember myself to have seen in South Africa Natal Carabineers serving at 7s. 6d. per day, South African Light Horseman serving at 5s. per day, a Regular Cavalry soldier serving at, I think, 1s. 6d. or 1s. 4d. per day, and the Infantry soldier at 1s. per day, and all taking cover behind the same rook against the same fusillade. That raises certain feelings in the breasts of the soldiers who are encountering equal peril and facing equal hardships, and, although they are not the most important feelings, they ought, at any rate, to be considered.
All the forces which we have now train in the same service uniform. There, again, there is tremendous economy. The Territorial Army, the Regular Army, the different arms of the Service—Infantry, Cavalary, Artillery—all wear a service dress which is in every sense of the word uniform. My right hon. Friend has made exertions, exertions not wholly successful, and which perhaps will not be wholly successful, but which are still very valuable and useful exertions, to try and meet the deficiency in the supply of officers available on mobilisation. A sum of £64,000 is now contributed by these Votes to the Officers' Training Corps, and I am informed that the Unattached List for the Special Reserve affords a means of associating a class which would be likely to form good officers for the military forces, and which was never provided by the old Militia system. There is another administrative reform which I should like to refer to. A purely military administration would never have been suited to the great developments of the Territorial Army, which have marked the course of the last few years. A purely military administration from the War Office was not suited to the conditions. By the establishment of county associations we have undoubtedly got an organisation which has reconciled professional soldiers to the interests of the Territorial Forces, and which has been found capable of fostering the growth of those forces in a very remarkable manner. 1499 Lastly, under the heading of administration, let me say a word about the cost. The cost of Mr. Brodriek's Army scheme must have far exceeded that of the present Army organisation. We used to calculate in those days that if that scheme had ever been fully carried out it would have amounted to, if it did not exceed, £32,000,000 or £33,000,000 per year, instead of the £27,000,000 or £28,000,000 per year, which are the Estimates which my right hon. Friend presents to-day. My right hon. Friend, after making many reforms, after improving the pay of Commanding Officers, after increasing the number and enlarging the scope of the Staff College work, and after setting aside funds for manœuvres and training on a far larger scale than were ever before available, has, during his administration of the War Office, effectively reduced the cost of the land forces of the Crown. Those are the administrative reforms, not by any means complete, and the reforms in organisation, which, I venture to say, justify the Committee in receiving the Estimates of the present year with that goodwill which they have shown. Let me come to the third point. I mean the social position of the soldier. It is quite true that the soldier now gets better paid. It was not very easy to see at the beginning what direct advantages would flow from the increase of the pay of the private soldier, but I think it quite certain that there has been an advantage gained by the State in the better class of man, in the better standard of conduct and behaviour, which certainly we have seen year by year since the more generous treatment meted cut by Parliament to the private soldier. Punishment and crime have, hand in hand, undergone a salutary diminution. In 1905 there were 5,714 courts-martial at home and 4,256 abroad, making a total of 9,970. In 1909 there were 4,026 courts-martial at home and 3,310 abroad, a total of 7,336, showing in a single quinquennial period a reduction of about 25 per cent. in the number of courts-martial held. That is a very satisfactory fact in which all who take an interest in the Army may fairly rejoice.
Not only has there been a reduction in the number of courts-martial, which means a reduction in the number of military offences, but there has been an enormous reform, to which I personally attach the greatest importance, in the establishment of detention barracks in the place of the old prison system. It was entirely contrary 1500 to the interests of the Army to subject brave, good-hearted soldiers to the insult and degradation of a period of imprisonment, with all its disagreeable features, for offences which, although reprehensible from the point of view of military discipline, nevertheless could not be said to involve moral turpitude, and for which a man could not have been punished had he not happened also to be a soldier. The introduction of the detention barrack system has been of the greatest advantage to the Army, a great mitigation of all the punishments inflicted, and a great benefit to all soldiers who have got into trouble, not only while they were in the Army, but on their return to civil life. It is indeed satisfactory that that system should have been introduced at a time when the number of courts-martial had progressively diminished. I was looking yesterday through some of the general criminal statistics of the country, and possibly the Committee will be surprised to learn that 1908 was the worst year in criminal statistics that our records can show. Since the year 1857, which is the first year for which these statistics have been preserved, there has never been such a high rate of persons convicted of indictable offences as in 1908. Is it not a satisfactory thing for all who care about the Army to reflect that at a time when the percentage of indictable offences was unquestionably increasing in the general population, the number of courts-martial in the Army has fallen steadily year by year? Then, further, temperance is greatly on the increase in the Army. If any Member of this Committee will question military officers with whom he is acquainted, he will hear that the change which has come over the habits of our soldiers in this respect is so palpable and obvious that it cannot escape even the most casual eye. The increase in the Royal Army Temperance membership is valuable evidence from this point of view. In the year 1907 there were 26,739 members on the Indian establishment; in 1908, 28,600; and in 1909, 30,261. On the Home establishment, in 1907 there were 18,442; in 1908, 19,411; and in 1909, 23,642; or a total rise in the three years from 45,000 to 53,900.
Let me now refer to the question of disease. No doubt most members of the Committee are acquainted with these different facts by themselves. I am only bringing them together in their proper combination in order to establish the general proposition that there has been a great improvement in the social 1501 and moral welfare of the soldier. In connection with the question of disease, within a decade the effective strength of the Army has been raised, through the diminution in the sick rates, by 5,700, and the waste through death and invalidity has decreased by 2,900 men per annum, or at the rate of a division of troops for the decennial period. Within four years these changes have allowed of the reduction of hospital beds at home stations by over 2,200, with a similar or perhaps a greater reduction in the hospital accommodation required in India. During the ten years 1889–98 the average number of deaths per 1,000 in the Army in the United Kingdom was 4.32; in 1908, the last year for which we have figures, the average number of deaths per 1,000 was only 2.50, a reduction of nearly one-half on the average of the ten years. The constantly sick and men continually in hospital—and this is a form of expenditure for which the country gets no return in military strength—averaged for the ten years 1889–98 41.14, while in 1908 the rate was 23.94. The decrease has been even more remarkable, because the figures are more serious, in regard to India. In India, during the ten years 1889–98, the rate of deaths per 1,000 was 16.43; in 1908 it was 9.27, while the constantly sick during the ten years' period were 89.61 per 1,000, and, in 1908, 45.81. These are very remarkable figures indeed. There has also been a large diminution in the number of desertions. During the year ending 30th September, 1909, the proportion of men struck off as deserters was lower than in any year during the period, and the net loss by desertions was smaller than in any year since 1905. There has been a rapid fall during the last few years in the proportion of men who have deserted in their first service.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out in his statement two days ago that last year—a very bad year from the point of view of employment—over 20,000 ex-soldiers were found situations in civil life after their military period was completed. The development of these employment agencies for ex-soldiers is constantly tending to give the men who enter the Army a greater assurance of a permanent career contingent on good conduct and continual effort. I bring these facts to the notice of the Committee because I think that everyone who has watched the course of Army administration must have been struck with the very great responsibility which every Government and every House of Commons has 1502 towards the nation if its military system is conducted in a manner which leads to undue waste and loss of human material. Let us remember that the Service asks a great deal of every man who enters the Army. The enormous burden of keeping this great mass of soldiery constantly in garrison in Asiatic and African climates is a strain on the manhood and the strength of the nation which must exercise the constant apprehension and anxiety of all concerned in any way with our military methods. We have always been shocked at the high proportion of soldiers who are discovered in the casual wards, men who have perhaps been injured in the course of service abroad, who have lost those precious years of life when they might have learnt a trade and made a footing for themselves, but who have come home after having borne their share of the weight and burden of the Empire, only to find themselves without any means of maintaining themselves with decency and comfort in civil life, and who in consequence are driven to the workhouse and to the relief works or forced into the ranks of inefficient labour with all the depressing effects which that creates upon the standard rates of wages. I think, therefore, we ought all to rejoice in the progress of the Army in the various directions to which I have referred. The improvement has been constant, general, and unceasing, and it is now a diminution which no one can doubt or deny, and remarkable in every respect. All this has brought about a great change, not by any means during the last five years, but during the last fifteen years, in the view taken of the soldier by the civil population at home. The soldier is coming to be looked upon, not as a bad character who has thrown away his chances in life, but as a valued and honoured citizen. We have seen in South Africa how our friends the Boers raise the most vehement protestations whenever there is a proposal to withdraw a regiment of our troops from any garrison in the lately conquered territory. We know perfectly well that the character and conduct of the general run of men who form the private soldiers of our Army is such that soldiers are increasingly becoming valued and honoured citizens, and are not looked upon with any of that old scorn which marked the bad old days now long since gone by.
Before I leave this part of the subject, may I say one word in justice to the officers? Ten years ago, when I was a subaltern in the Army, while it would not 1503 have been true to say that the discussion of professional matters in the regiment was not considered good form, still there was enough truth in the charge to justify a great deal of the hostile comment which has often been made. But now—and this is a matter which any Member of the Committee can test for himself—I have no hesitation in saying that an officer is despised by his comrades if he is thought to be improperly acquainted with the details of his profession, and that no personal qualities, proficiency in games, or other engaging qualities would be considered in any good regiment as a substitute for an earnest desire to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the professional details of military service. I hope I am not trespassing too long, but I have one point more to make. I have ventured to bring these three sets of arguments before the Committee: Improvements in organisation, improvements in administration, and improvements in the social position of the soldier, with a view to showing that we are making a much better use of our resources.
I come to a larger and graver question on which I wish to say a word. Are these resources, however they may be utilised, adequate to our needs? We believe they are adequate for our immediate and primary needs. Of course, in a great struggle like the Napoleonic wars no doubt the pressure of events would arise which would produce military establishments of a different order to those which we now support. But I think it is true to say that any doubt or question that the resources which we have, properly used, are adequate and sufficient to enable us to meet our primary needs. By this I mean they are sufficient to enable us to gain time, if necessary, to develop and bring into the field the whole unmeasured strength of the British nation and the British Empire. Let us look at them for a moment. First of all there is the Expeditionary Force of six field divisions. That is a force which, with great respect to my right hon. Friend and if I may be permitted to criticise it at all, can be criticised on the ground, not of being too small, but rather of being too ambitious. Its defence, which the House has heard before, is that the units that compose it are needed for other purposes, and as we have to pay for them for other purposes it would be wasteful and foolish not to give them that extra organisation which will give them 1504 the greater range and scope. The second need is the defence of India. I do not attempt to speak to the House as a military expert, but we are assured that, with the arangements which have now been made for the feeding supply of drafts to make good the wastage of war, it will be possible—in the opinion of the high military authorities on whom we rely—to maintain a war on our Indian frontier—having regard to the existing conditions of that wild region—the existing conditions of transport, food supply, etc.—to maintain such a war with superior forces, at any rate, for the first two years. And in these two years Parliament, the country, and the Empire would have to make up their mind—and would have ample time to do so—as to what the course of events in the third year should be. In the third place I come to the question of Home defence. I put it last, but it really stands first, because, if that fails, everything else fails. There is not much use in our maintaining ourselves efficiently in some foreign theatre of war if at the same time we were struck down by what the late Lord Salisbury called "a blow at the heart." May I submit to the Committee in very simple words two or three main propositions upon which we rely to justify the assertion that our existing resources are adequate for the purpose of home defence. The first proposition is this: It is not possible to invade this country with a large army by surprise or in secret, and it is becoming less possible to do it every day. Every country in Europe is in touch with every other country by every conceivable method of telegraphic and telephonic communication, wireless and otherwise, and almost all of these countries are in communication at all times with London. It might conceivably be possible to make a descent with a small force, although, as the House well knows, there is a very powerful school, including a great proportion of the naval authorities, who dispute even that. But a small force, even if they could come, would not be enough to achieve any effective objective. They might cause a great deal of irritation and excitement, and do a great deal of damage, but they would not alter the course or the result of a war. As long as the military force which we maintain in Great Britain is strong enough to make it not worth while for an invader to come unless he comes with an army of a certain size, there is no danger of a sudden, or secret, or surprise 1505 attack. After a certain point the chance of detection and consequent interception is seriously increased for very thousand men added to the invading army, until long before—I have purposely avoided taking figures, because I am only anxious to state broad principles—until long before 100,000 men were reached the chances of their being accumulated and transported across the sea in secret would have faded out altogether, and would have been replaced by the certainty that they would be detected and attacked on the voyage. I have no intention of going into the details of embarkation, disembarkation, mobilisation, detrainment, and convoys. All these matters have been the subject of prolonged, profound, and elaborate study by the Committee of Imperial Defence. But I think I am justified in saying that there is a consensus of opinion both amongst the great officers of the Army and Navy—a consensus of opinion in which I think the responsible leaders of both of the great parties are included—that no army large enough to effect decisive, or even to achieve important, results could be embarked or put to sea without being discovered, intercepted, and destroyed before it reached our shores.
I am speaking at this moment upon the assumption that the Regular Army is kept at home, and that we have, in addition to the Territorial Force, 140,000 or 150,000 of first-rate Regular troops, organised in a manner which certainly makes them equal, unit for unit, to the troops of any country, and equipped with what I may say is the best gun in Europe. I am assuming that that force would be in this country as well as the Territorial Army. Such a position of military strength would render the descent of a small force useless, and would compel the invader to attempt to come in numbers sufficient to make his secret transportation, utterly impossible. On this two questions may be asked. The first question is what is to happen when the Regular Army is out of the country; when the Expeditionary Force has been despatched, or perhaps the Regular troops are engaged in a distant part of the world in some prolonged Colonial or Indian war. The second question—and I believe both were put by the Noble Marquis who addressed us the other day, and who dealt with the subject with knowledge and with sobriety. He said:—You take six months to train your Territorial Force; how do you know that you will possibly secure that breathing space of six months?1506 I do not think that anyone has said on behalf of the Government that the Territorial Force can never, under any circumstances, be expected to be called upon to fight with less than six months' training. What we have said, and do say, is this: that they never will have to be called on to fight alone, unsupported by any Regular troops, without a period of training much more extended than any which they have up to the present enjoyed. Before the whole of our Regular Army could be sent out of the country two things would have to be established. First of all, it would have to be clear that the command of the sea, the alert, vigilant, effective, command of the sea, was beyond dispute, and that it had been established either by the shock of a great naval decision in a battle or by the maintenance of an effective blockade. And, secondly, when that decision had been established, there is a second point. The mere process of despatching the Expeditionary Force would in itself be an operation involving a measure of delay which would be of the utmost value to the Territorial Army in realising its full possibilities of strength. Those who feel uncomfortable at the measure of security which it at present accorded to "An Englishman's Home" base their fear, I think, on two unreasonable assumptions. First of all, they assume that we can at one and the same moment be so overwhelmingly strong at sea as to be able to afford to send the whole of our Regular Army out of the country, and not merely to send it out of the country, but what is much harder to guarantee, convey it to its distant destination, and at the same moment that we shall be so hopelessly weak that we cannot maintain our own shores against foreign invasion by a sea Power. It is a contradiction in terms. The second assumption is even more unreasonable. It is this: that the Government of this country, the people of this country, would become so absorbed in the foreign expedition, that while they were engaged in despatching month by month, division after division, the whole of our Regular forces to the uttermost ends of the earth, they would forget to embody the Territorials, or to mobilise the Fleet. These two assumptions, I venture to say, have only to be stated clearly to be dismissed from the calculations of reasonable men and from the apprehensions of nervous people. I venture to say, in conclusion, that all parties are, I believe, agreed on the main point in the arguments that I have submitted to the Committee. Lord 1507 Lansdowne, in another place, has certainly used arguments which I can most fully subscribe to this subject, and the Leader of the Opposition, who is, unfortunately for us, but fortunately for himself, enjoying a serener atmosphere and a more genial sun, has also on many occasions aided all parties in the House to come to these broad realisations and affirmations of principle upon which the justification of our existing military establishments depend.
Let me repeat the three main propositions upon which we rely to prove that our military forces are not inadequate for the primary and immediate needs of the country and the Empire. First that no sudden descent could be made in any force with which our Regular and Territorial troops would not easily be able to deal; secondly, that no descent that was not sudden, and consequently, that no descent that was not in small numbers could be made at all, provided we maintained the unquestioned supremacy of the seas, and, thirdly, that the whole Regular Army would not, and even could not, be sent out of the country unless that supremacy had been effectively established, and need not in any case be sent out of the country until the strength and training of the Territorial Army had reached the point that they could take the place of and discharge the function of the Regular troops whom we have now to keep in the United Kingdom. I say that with this reservation it would be open to any Government in a moment of great crisis to run a greater risk if they thought the circumstances justified it, but on the general principles I believe that all parties in the House are agreed, and it is upon these general principles that I would venture, thanking the House for the patience with which they have listened to me, to ask them to afford a full measure of confidence and support to the Estimates laid before them by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War.
§ Mr. GEORGE WYNDHAM
It is the custom of this House that when a right hon. Gentleman intervenes in Debate from the Government Bench his speech should be met by an immediate reply from the Front Opposition Bench. I do not know why that has become the custom unless it is supposed that the statement which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman from the Government Bench must be so damaging to his political opponents that they cannot allow it to rest for a moment. 1508 Some of us may have wondered what manner of intervention the Home Secretary was about to make when he rose. If he will allow me to say so, he certainly has failed to deliver a damaging attack upon his political opponents, and if I rise to reply to him it is only out of courtesy to him and in order not to depart from one of our old traditions. I was speculating why it was that the right hon. Gentleman intervened in this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman is nothing if not audacious. He anticipated remarks which might have occurred to anyone following in an Army Debate by saying at the beginning of his speech that in looking back at the Debates in days gone by he remembered the turbulent scenes for which now no parallel could be found. I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for reminding me of what occurred to everyone now in the House the moment he stood up. His comment was that now peace was only disturbed by some subterranean rumblings, but, looking back upon the past, he thought that those that played the part of cavemen now differed from those who took such part in the past.
The right hon. Gentleman in his salad clays formed a cave upon the Army Estimates. Now he intervenes in Debate we expect him to tune up or tone down the impression which he thinks some of his colleagues have made upon public opinion. I do not, of course, suggest for a moment any disloyalty or discrepancy, but a desire sometimes to tone down the high lights or to put a little more fervour into the passages which are meant to appeal to hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Labour Benches below the Gangway. Until the end of the right hon. Gentleman's speech I thought I was mistaken, and that he had no such intention in mind. During all the first part of his speech he appeared in a character which is quite new even to his versatility. The Minister for War on Monday delivered something like a valedictory address, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite, for the first time in his life, got up to pronounce a panegyric upon one of his colleagues. He passed from that to another character. He could not, I suppose, if it were only for old associations sake, keep Lord Midleton out of his speech, and so, when he came to sound the triumph for the Minister for War, he appeared as devil's advocate—advocatus diaboli—to see that by no manner of means could Mr. Brodrick be beatified now that both sides are agreed upon the Army policy, and that 1509 the Minister for War has been so imprudent as to say, upon some occasions, that he found the Army in so good a state that he could not have made the progress he did except upon the sound work effected by his predecessors. I do not think I am going to be drawn, and certainly I will not say more than a few sentences, into this old battle. The right hon. Gentleman opposite must fight his old battles all over again, if only to make it quite clear upon which side he was fighting, but we who have had a little chequered and less glorious career may be allowed to pass a word of comment upon some of his recollections. He paid a perfunctory tribute to Lord Midleton as having been the first Minister who established units and cadres in peace suitable for war. What was his comment when that was done? That it was only to provide jobs for officers out of employment now that the war in South Africa was at an end.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The reply the right hon. Gentleman made was an answer to a speech of mine made at the time, just as has speech was made to-day. I had nothing to do with the War Office at the time. I was Chief Secretary for Ireland. I got up as he did and explained exactly the merits which he has attributed to this scheme. I explained the point was not in calling these things army corps, but in having units and general officers and a general staff which would lead them in war, and the right hon. Gentleman got up—I am sure my memory is not at fault—and said in reply, "Now we see the real reason is that you have a lot of officers upon your hands, and you must have six Army corps in order to find them billets." The right hon. Gentleman, going into these same ancient matters, gave the stock arguments, which was very generally accepted—that organisation by divisions is probably more suited to our needs than organisation by army corps, but you never would have had these divisions, or the possibility of organising them, unless you had first army corps, because it is a matter of history, not to be forgotten, that it was not Mr. Brodrick, but earlier predecessors of his who first spoke of army corps upon the advice of the military advisers in order to teach the people that in any unit of the Army you must have a proper complement of all arms and of auxiliary troops. That is the very reason. Apart from that, as far as numbers are 1510 concerned, it was only two ways of naming the same thing. The six big divisions are made up of almost precisely the same troops, and the development in the amount of Artillery to be added would be the same amount of troops as these army corps.
I do not go into that except for this purpose, that I should like the House and the people of this country to know that there is a real accord, as I think, upon the main principles of our Army policy between both the Government and the Opposition, and the Minister for War has recognised in so full a manner the work of his predecessors that really we are not called upon after seven years to defend them against the militant reminiscences of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. Perhaps I may say this because it is germane to the present situation. I am not overstating the case when I say that the Minister for War has admitted that he is not satisfied with the Artillery of the Territorial Forces. If that is the case, I think it is inopportune on the part of the Secretary of State for the Home Department to deride the system of army corps on the ground that they contain Regulars as well as Auxiliaries. Will any man who watches the progress of things be bold enough to declare that in future the stiffening of the Regular Artillery may be important, but nothing of a stiffening element in the constitution of our Territorial Forces is needed? We have an argument against that that you will not get the Territorial Army to consider itself seriously as an army unless it embraces what are called the three arms—Artillery, Cavalry, and Infantry—against that which is a sentimental argument I would advance another sentimental argument, and it is this: that if the Army knows one of its arms is quite illusory, it will fail in its faith. Both these are sentimental arguments, by which I mean we are dealing with men of emotional feelings. I believe a stiffening by Regular Artillery would go a great way to improve the morale and raise the hearts of the Territorial Force and give them confidence in the important mission they have to carry out. The Minister for War, speaking of the Territorial Artillery on Monday, spoke of it as stock that he hoped would blossom some day. Those who watched that Artillery and acted with it last year, as I did, would have to admit that it was often rooted in the soil, because the horse teams were unable to move the guns from the positions which they at first took up. I only touch upon this because it is relevant to the present situation. The Home 1511 Secretary, in criticising the past, said that there was no provision for making good the wastage in war. I will not go into that argument. It might have been true for a few months; it was not true while the Militia had connection with the Army, which it had for many years. It was the work of the Militia to make good the wastage in war: it was done so in the Napoleonic wars, in the Crimean War, and in the South African War, but in a period of transition there might have been a time when there was no provision for making good the wastage in war. Why I dwell upon that is this, that, turning from the Home Secretary to the Minister for War, anyone who heard that right hon. Gentleman's speech could not doubt but that he knows the Special Reserve have not fulfilled that function, and that it is not adequate. He is going to have a Departmental Committee to enquire whether or not it can be made better. The conclusion I wish to arrive at is this, that if we take the account of the present Army scheme with the tone that the Minister of War gives to it, then I do not think we have clearly a scheme in every part of which is to be reality. In respect to that important part of the scheme which is the device for making good the wastage for war let us know clearly how it stands. The Minister for War must acknowledge that a great deal more is to be done before the seventy-four battalions of the Special Reserve are in a position to make good the wastage of war directly war breaks out. I do not think I will touch upon the claim, at any rate I will not dilate upon the claim put forward by the Home Secretary that all this has been effected at the same time that a reduction has been effected in the Army. I do not think that is so. I could have said that on Monday, but I did not do so because I did not want to intrude any polemical matter into a Debate which had been conducted without anything controversial at all. I say it now because we must all disabuse our minds from the idea that when the prices of everything are rising you can make reductions and get the same value for a lower sum which you did for the higher sum. It cannot be done. It is not financially true that the Army at the present moment is costing £2,000,000 less than it cost when the right 1512 hon. Gentleman took office. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that he was only able to present the present total to the Committee because in the course of this year he will not have to continue paying the annuity on a loan amounting to some £300,000 a year.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
That is one thing that gives you an apparent reduction when you are not effecting a real reduction, and you cannot do it if you are to have the same number of good men as before. There are other financial elements to be considered. When the right hon. Gentleman took over the Army Estimates we were paying nearly £1,500,000 for the rearmament of the Artillery. Now that has been completed, the money can be utilised for another purpose. If that operation had not been completed, you would have required the £1,500,000, and here again it is not a real reduction. Another financial element is that India is now paying a larger subvention to the cost of our Army. I am not criticising the right hon. Gentleman because he has been able to do more for less money, but we must realise that nobody will ever be able to do more for less money, and when the time comes not to enlarge the framework of our land forces, but to make every part of them a reality, I have no doubt that if we are to get better value we shall have to pay more. If it ever happens to be the duty of the Secretary of War to come here and say that the Special Reserve is not fit for its functions, and that to make it fit you must pay more money, I trust we shall not have the kind of experience we had when the Home Secretary achieved his fame by directing his attacks against the Minister for War in the party to which the right hon. Gentleman was supposed to belong.
I think I have now said quite enough on that part of the Home Secretary's speech, which I have already described as being a panegyric on the War Minister, or a caveat against the beatification of Mr. Brodrick. At the end of his speech the right hon. Gentleman reverted to his familiar rôle of trying to alter the impression made by the speech of one of his colleagues. The Home Secretary evidently thought that the speech made by the Minister for War placed our military needs too high, and suggested that the preparation we have made to meet those needs need not be so great as it is, and certainly ought not to be greater. He prefaced those remarks by 1513 asking, "Are these resources adequate to our needs?" which is a familiar rhetorical device. I am afraid that some hon. Members behind him trembled, because they thought he was going to say it would be necessary to ask for more men and more money; but having roused the expectations of his hon. Friends and secured their attention, he went on to say that the Expeditionary Force, if criticised at all, must be criticised on the ground that it is too ambitious. He was not content to leave matters where they were, that is to say, that we should agree upon having an expeditionary force of six divisions, and that we should only differ, if at all, as to whether we have really got the article which we all agree we ought to have. Then he touched upon the defence of India, and I trust the Committee will mark this: He seemed to me to narrow that phase of the question down to the garrison of India, leaving the garrison in South Africa and our garrisons in other parts out of account. I think that was a curious omission, considering that the subterranean rumblings which he referred to related not to the garrison of India, but to the garrison in South Africa. The Home Secretary rather confirmed the suggestion that it might, under certain circumstances, be wise to diminish the number of troops maintained oversea.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My point was whether our resources were adequate for our immediate and primary needs.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
Then the right hon. Gentleman left this point open. The point I wish to raise is whether it is wise that we should agree on some standard, if we can, as to what our oversea Army should be. Last night South Africa was selected; but why not India? India was selected two or three years ago, and we were then told it might be possible to reduce the number of troops there, but we are not told that now, because no man in his senses would suggest it. We are now referred to South Africa, and we are told that you can safely diminish the garrison there. I hope what has happened in the case of India will be a warning to us in this respect. No one will anticipate that trouble in South Africa will necessitate the ordering of more troops there, but everyone who realises the vast character of our Empire must feel that a force in which there are only seventy-four battalions of Infantry is not a large force, and that its distribution over such an enormous area must depend upon tem- 1514 porary circumstances, and nothing which happens in one place at one time ought to suggest the idea that you can reduce our strength below seventy-four battalions. Our army has only been cut down to that number by the great efforts made by the right hon. Gentleman, by Mr. Arnold-Forster, and by Mr. Brodrick. Garrisons have been withdrawn which may have to be restored. Even the Minister for War may now be considering whether he will not have to send a battalion to some foreign station. If he does this then you must have more and not less than seventy-four battalions abroad.
The reason why hon. Members are so fond of urging that under certain circumstances you can reduce a garrison is because they know that if this is done you can make a proportionate reduction in your home Army. I wish we could agree once and for all to have a standard in these matters, and have an expeditionary force of six divisions of all arms and an oversea Army comprising seventy-four battalions of infantry at least. I believe it would make for the peace of the world that all countries should know that Great Britain has a standard in these matters. Such a policy would prevent any sudden increases of a costly and uneconomical character, and it would give confidence to those who wish us well. If you allow the great Powers of Europe to believe that the relative proportions in what, after all, is a small Army are subject to drastic change owing to political changes in this country, you are not helping to keep the peace of the world, but you are introducing into the minds of statesmen in other countries an element of disturbance which may ultimately break up the peace of the world. I have spoken to-night at greater length than I intended, and as a matter of fact I did not intend to speak at all until the Home Secretary rose. The conclusion to which I invite the Committee to arrive is that we should agree upon a standard for our Expeditionary Force—and I take the right hon. Gentleman's standard. Let us agree upon the standard for our oversea Army, and I take his standard; upon a standard for our Territorial Force, and again I take his standard. Let us for the future see that every one of these three component parts, well balanced as they are, is made a reality and not a sham, and let us see that there are enough men to give you really fourteen divisions of the Territorial Army, and the other six divisions which have been referred to. 1515 Let us also see that there are enough men to make good the wastage of war, enough men passing into the Reserve to fall back upon if war be prolonged. Let that be the work of the future, and if the right hon. Gentleman pursues that work he will do so enjoying our confidence, and in the belief that he is doing his best to make our Army adequate to our needs.
§ Mr. CRAWSHAY-WILLIAMS
I belong to the same school of thought as the hon. Member for Hexham, who moved the reduction. But it seems to me that, however much we may desire economy, there are certain cardinal truths which must be recognised. One is that however much we desire a reduction of armaments it is a mistake to believe that we are nearer to it than we really are. Then, since organisation is necessary for war, all loyal support and assistance should be universally and impartially given to those who are lending their minds and their labours to making that organisation as economical and efficient as possible. That this latter truth has been realised is shown by the almost unbroken chorus of praise which has been bestowed upon the Secretary for War during this Debate, and to which I am very glad indeed to add my small tribute. I should not have intervened in this Debate but for a remark made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, and some remarks made afterwards by other hon. Members with reference to the Territorial Artillery. I do not pretend to have the knowledge of the art and science of war possessed by the right hon. Baronet, but perhaps the House will pardon a few words from one who has had some little experience of the Artillery, first in the Regulars, then in the Lancashire Field Artillery, and finally in the Territorial Horse Artillery. These remarks are offered only as by one who has had some little practical experience in this way. Some of the remarks made on this subject of the Territorial Horse Artillery, including the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke), seem to express doubt that there is any prospect of creating a competent Territorial Field Artillery. That is in effect what the right hon. Gentleman the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. G. Wyndham) has also said. I must say that the tone adopted on the subject of the Territorial Artillery is one which is frankly to be deplored. In the first place, I do 1516 not believe that the charges will prove ultimately to be true, and, in the second place, if anything would make them true, it is the tone adopted. It is very hard to have to strive against accusations of in-competency and against prophecies of failure. If the Territorial Horse Artillery and Field Artillery were given more encouragement, a great deal more might be expected of them in the future. Remember the success of this experiment hangs in the balance. We have not had much time to find out what we are worth. Some of us have only had one training, and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War has said, this training of Artillery is undoubtedly a slow process. Many may think it is an impossible process for the Territorial arm; but, at any rate, it is a slow process, and surely ample time ought to be given before condemning the experiment.
What is the alternative to this Territorial Artillery. Of course we might have no home artillery, no artillery except the batteries which would leave the country in case of war, but that, I think, is an untenable proposition from the start. Another proposition is that we might have Regular Artillery for home defence, but I think that, too, must be dismissed, because almost every authority has plainly said that to provide home artillery on a regular basis would be too expensive and impracticable in other ways. I remember reading in "The Times" an article by the Military Correspondent, in which he said:—It is not practical politics to expect that this Government, or any Government, will give us 196 batteries on a regular footing for the Territorial Force. The cost would he prohibitive, even if we could find the necessary recruits, which is exceedingly doubtful.That is absolutely true, and I think the alternative of Regular Artillery is bound to be dismissed. The third alternative is the one proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, that we should have throughout the kingdom a number of batteries formed on the same basis as the Lancashire Field Artillery—that is to say, formed with a nucleus of about 25 per cent. of Regular soldiers. I think the Secretary of State for War will agree that that is a very costly alternative. I know that the three batteries of the Lancashire Brigade, to which I had the honour to belong, cost something like £21,000 per year, and the infusion of 25 per cent. of Regulars into the Home Artillery would make a very considerable difference in the cost of our Home Artillery defence. That is not to say that some infusion of Regulars 1517 might not be desirable. Personally, I think we might have more Regular non-commissioned officers. I am perfectly sure that if the Secretary of State for War had been in the position I was in during the last training, when we had practically only three non-commissioned officers who had ever been in the Regular Army, and when it was absolutely necessary to put some Regular soldier at the head of each team—because these raw teams need a Regular non-commissioned officer to look after them at first—then I am sure he would sympathise with me in my desire to have more Regular non-commissioned officers per battery. That might be a more feasible proposition than that of reconstituting the batteries on the Lancashire basis. This does not mean that a new system should be produced, or that the present system is a failure; it merely means a slight modification of the present system. Even without such modification, however, I do not think the charge is justified that the Territorial Artillery is bound to be a failure.
I think various points are forgotten. They are generally compared to Regular batteries. In the first place, I do not think that comparison is fair, because our material in men is really a far better material than in the Regular batteries. Our gunners and drivers are men of exceptional intelligence. I should say that, on the whole, the gunners and drivers in my battery are absolutely up to the average of non-commissioned officers in the Regular Army; they are embryonic non-commissioned officers, and I think in a short time you may expect a great deal more of these men than you will get from the gunners and drivers in a Regular battery. That is one thing which ought to be considered. Another thing, as the Home Secretary has said, is that in the case of a raid you would undoubtedly have ample time to get your batteries in a better state of training than you could under ordinary circumstances. We have heard a great deal about raids, as if a raid is a thing you could send like a telegram. That is not the case. We should have ample time after war was declared before the Regular batteries were out of the country to train our Artillery batteries. That, too, has to be taken into account in considering this problem of the Territorial Artillery. If I wanted to adduce another instance in support of the contention that this Artillery will be effective, I have only to go to Canada. When I was there I saw something of the Canadian system. It is in every respect almost identical with the 1518 Territorial Artillery, and they pronounced that to be an undoubted success. If I had to draw upon personal experience, the training of last year would provide another instance of how promising things look. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover said these batteries will remain rooted to the soil. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to come down to our training. He would then see that our battery is not rooted to the soil; it is perfectly mobile. We are not up to the standard of Horse Artillery—and it is not to be expected—but we get our guns about; we can move at a trot, and even at a gallop, though perhaps it is not always a premeditated gallop, and we do manage to go through what at all events is Field Artillery work. If we can do Field Artillery work in fifteen days, I do not see why we should not do Horse Artillery work in six months.
§ Mr. CRAWSHAY-WILLIAMS
Our battery is sufficiently mobile to accompany Infantry. We could not accompany Cavalry, because we are not sufficiently mobile; but I think we should be able eventually, providing we have the Ehrhardt guns which the Secretary of State for War says we are to have, to accompany Cavalry on their manœuvres and on service. In any case, I do think it is a pity to condemn or cast reflections upon this experiment before it has been thoroughly and practically tried. There are some difficulties, no doubt, and some points needing attention. I see the Secretary of State for War says it is still difficult to get the driving up to the standard. That is undoubtedly so. It is the most difficult part of all the work in a battery. It is very much more difficult than gunnery. There ought, I think, to be more attempt made to get old drivers—men who would know their work and whom you could put in responsible positions. Another most important thing is that we should have the same horses year after year. We have undoubtedly more or less untrained men, and it is not fair to put them on untrained horses. If we train our horses one year and then get other horses another year a great deal of work is thrown away. It has been complained in some quarters that the officers are not sufficiently trained. That is met by the fact that to a certain extent they are drawn from the ranks of retired Regular officers, and also by the fact that the 1519 officers are undoubtedly inspired with the very greatest keenness. I have noticed that myself, and I think they are getting on very much more rapidly than might be expected of them or than would be the case in the ordinary course in the Regular Army.
We find the question of the horses the most important point, and perhaps the Committee will excuse me if I make a few remarks, mainly, I am afraid, of a negative character and not very helpful. A very excellent scheme has been put forward and adopted by the Wiltshire batteries, by which a certain number of horses are purchased and are handed over and boarded out with tradesmen and farmers, who keep them free on condition of their being allowed to use them. They come back to the batteries on occasions of training, and, of course, they would come back to the batteries on occasions of war. The difficulty in the way of that is the provision of the capital sum necessary at the outset. It has been met in the Wiltshire case by the generosity, I believe, of certain officers, but that undoubtedly is not possible in every ease, and I should like to ask the Secretary of State for War whether he could give us any hope of the Government or the county associations coming to our assistance in this matter. It would, I think, make a great difference to the success of the scheme if the same horses were obtainable year after year. Secondly, I think it is of the greatest importance that there should be no overlapping in the horse scheme of the Territorial Army. There is in some cases a suspicion of overlapping in the case of officers—there was at all events in the Militia—and in the event of mobilisation an officer would find himself under the necessity of trying to be in two places at once. It is not, however, so serious in the case of officers as in the case of horses. A regiment can get on with a shortage of officers, but it is very difficult to get on with a shortage of horses. A soldier without his horse is rather inadequate for the work he has to perform. We do not want a stage army of horses, and we do not want when we get to war to have to put two men on one horse or do without them altogether. I do think it is necessary, in the first place, to have the same horses year after year, to have the horses which are trained and continue to be trained always available, and, in the second place, to have enough horses to prevent overlapping.
1520 6.0 P.M.
There were two things which the Secretary of State for War said the other day which I very much welcomed. First, we are to have the Ehrhardt gun. The gun we have at present is not fit for the work. It is very difficult to meet the criticisms of bystanders who say that elephants would be far more adequate to move the present guns than horses. I am very glad to hear that we are to have a lighter gun, and I think it will do much to promote our success. The second point is with regard to new ranges. That is a necessary matter. Perhaps I may have one final grumble. We have lately been provided with dial sights. Some hon. Members may not know what a dial sight is, but I think the Secretary of State for War does, because an officer of a battery was so pleased with them that I believe he sent one as a Christmas present to the right hon. Gentleman. These sights should be made of steel, and should be accurately graded, but they are made of wood, and are not accurately graded. I do earnestly ask that we should be given adequate equipment with which we can practice properly, and I do think it would do much to contribute to our success. While I fear I have detained the House too long, I hope I may have done something to set forth the views of those who not only thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he has done in the last few years, but who absolutely refuse to believe that there is not a really promising future before the Territorial Artillery.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
As a new Member of this House, I rise with great diffidence, but as an old soldier of some experience I hope I may receive the indulgence of hon. Members in making my first speech. Any little criticisms I may utter on the Army Estimates are, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will believe, made in no party sense, but are offered with an idea to the best interests of the country in general and of the Army in particular. In the first place, I noticed in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, to which I listened with great interest, that he told us he was providing for the six divisions of the Expeditionary Force, when mobilised—for each one of them—a company of signallers and telegraphists. I was under the impression, from the words of the right hon. Gentleman, that to each division there was to be given a complete company of signallers, but on reference to the Estimates I find that the total number of men 1521 allowed for is only six sergeants and seventy-two men—that is, only one company for the whole six divisions. I speak under correction, but it has been my personal experience, whenever troops are actually engaged in war and divisions have been formed by battalions and brigades, and there being no provision made beforehand for brigade and divisional signallers, that the custom has obtained among generals of brigades and of divisions of requisitioning the battalion commanders and taking not only their signallers, but their signalling officers. I am quite sure that any officer who has been in command of a battalion in war time, or in command of a brigade, will bear me out when I say that this custom has proved greatly detrimental to the efficiency of the unit itself. If I may be allowed to offer a suggestion, it is that there ought to be a regular corps of signallers for the whole Army, so that when your divisions are mobilised you will be able to have sufficient signallers for each brigade and each division, without diminishing the signallers trained in peace for work in war with each regiment. It appears to me that, in order to get this, a very simple plan would be to pass the signallers as they come from the regiment into a reserve and to use them in the telegraph service, where they would, from the similarity of the work of telegraphists to the Morse signalling, to which they are accustomed, keep themselves ready for resuming their duties when called out as Reservists to join the regiments on mobilisation. If all signallers passed to the Reserve were treated in this way, you would find in a few years you would be able to have, at the time of mobilisation, sufficient signallers for all the necessary divisions and brigades.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the suggestion that the driving of the Territorial Artillery left something to be desired. I would venture to suggest that the only way to make the Field Artillery efficient in driving is to give them horses. It is not sufficient, however, to give them horses when they are actually called out for training, but it is absolutely necessary for the efficiency of any battery of Territorial Artillery that it should be provided at all times with at least one team, so that the different units of the battery may in their turn, throughout the year, practice driving and thus become efficient when the time arrives for them to drive as a battery altogether. They would then be one and all efficient in that line.
1522 The Secretary for War was very optimistic in his statement as to the supply of recruits for the Army; indeed, he said that the units were chock-full. But it is rather hard to understand this, seeing that he afterwards added that by slightly lowering the standard he was able to keep the units full. Those two statements appear to be not quite consistent one with the other. If you are driven to lowering any particular standard it rather looks as if the supply was not quite equal to the demand. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the system at present in vogue of having Regular officers in the higher commands of the Territorial Army has been such a great success that he was contemplating extending it to the lower grades. I venture to ask him, will he give us any further information on that point, because it is one in which the whole Territorial Army is extremely interested. Is it his intention to put Regular officers in command of Territorial battalions? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us an answer to that question. He told us that when he had mobilised the six divisions five of them were nearly complete, in all the essentials and ready for war, but that there was one thing lacking, and that was the Army Service Corps was not quite complete in transport. I submit, as an old soldier of some experience in war, that no unit can possibly be efficient where the transport supply is deficient.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I said five divisions were complete even to the Army Service Corps, but to make up the sixth division, more Army Service Corps was required.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
I stand corrected. May I ask how long the right hon. Gentleman expects it will be before the Army Service Corps question is settled and the sixth division made as complete as the others?
§ Mr. HALDANE
As soon as the Reserve grows. We have taken the Army Service Corps under a two years' engagement. The Reserve is growing and will grow very quickly, and there will be no difficulty in dealing with this matter.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
The right hon. Gentleman also told us he was starting six new Cavalry depots in order to do away with the Reserve Squadrons under the present system, so that the mobilisation equipment can be stored ready for mobilisation instead of being carried about on 1523 the backs of the units themselves. I should like to know whether, at these depots, there are going to be stables and horses as well as mobilisation stores. Next I come to the census of horses, and I wish to say that, within my experience in the country, this census is by no means complete. I cannot understand how it is carried on. It is supposed to be done by the police, but as an owner of horses myself, and as a member of the hunt committee of my county, and knowing a number of people who keep a great many horses for business and other purposes, I must say I am not aware of anybody who has ever been approached by any policeman to ask him anything about his horses. Therefore I can only imagine that any census the right hon. Gentleman may have received as to the number of horses in England must be extremely incomplete. It would be no very great hardship if all owners of horses in this country were asked to fill in a form similar to that which the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries sends round every year as to the number of sheep, cattle, poultry, etc., which owners have, and the increase in the number of these particular animals and birds. I do not think it would be any very great hardship to ask owners of horses to fill in a form, giving the age of the horse, its height, and the probable use to which it might hereafter be put. I think that would help things a great deal. It is rather hard to ask the county associations not only to classify the horses required for the mobilisation of the Territorial Force, but to do it also for the Regular Forces. It would be much more practicable and much more commendable to the Regular Forces, and also to the Territorial associations, if the Remount Establishment were asked to do its own work. If the right hon. Gentleman would ask that Department how much it would cost to make a classification of all the horses in the country which would be required on mobilisation he would, I think, find that the sum would not much exceed £5,000.
Then we come to the supply of officers. The right hon. Gentleman has taken great trouble to have a committee of distinguished officers to find out how the supply of officers is going on, and he told us he is satisfied that we are getting plenty of officers. I find that statement, however, rather inconsistent with his other statement that he was establishing a system 1524 of nomination, which appears to me to nullify the idea that we are getting the same class of officer that we used to get, that we are able to obtain by competitive examination the same number that we had available ten or fifteen years ago, if it is necessary to go to schoolmasters and ask them to nominate those whom they think fit to be officers in the Army. It follows logically that the supply of officers is not sufficient to meet the demand. There has been a great deal talked in this Debate as to the reasons why there is a scarcity of officers coming up, and there has been a good deal said about the pay of officers. The right hon. Gentleman himself has told us that the junior grades of the Army are quite as well paid as similar gentlemen in civil life or in the Civil offices of the Government, but I should wish most emphatically on behalf of the officers of the Army to say that the civilian gentlemen to whom the Secretary of State alludes are by no means in the same position, and are not expected to do the same things as the officers in His Majesty's Army, and, therefore, whatever money they may get in pay is not an analagous case at all. As for the allowances that the right hon. Gentleman alluded to, I think you will find, if you ask any regimental officer, that there are very few subaltern officers indeed who receive any allowance at all, and they have always been living in barracks on their £95 a year.
I think the question of shortage of officers in the Army has something to do with the change of system at the head of the Army. I am not alluding to the right hon. Gentleman or to any Secretary of State for War, but I am drawing comparisons between the old system of Commander-in-Chief and Military Secretary and the present Army Council and a Selection Board. When any officer before, in the time of a Commander-in-Chief, thought himself aggrieved in any way he could always go and see the Military Secretary, and he could always get an answer to any question he wished to put. Moreover, if he requested he might be brought up before the Commander-in-Chief to obtain the redress of any grievance he wished to bring forward; but I am informed by officers that at the present time they cannot get to see anybody, because nobody is responsible, and where you have a body of men like the Army Council one shifts the matter off on to other shoulders, and no one will give an answer fair and square on any question. The right hon. 1525 Gentleman quoted to us a most touching and interesting quotation from the celebrated German writer, Von der Goltz, and if you will allow me I will read it again to refresh our memory:—The enigma to be solved in the present state of affairs is how to produce a complete relation of the military to the social and industrial life of the people so that the former may impede the latter as little as possible, and that on the other hand the full wealth of the resources of the latter may be widened by the healthy state of the former.The right hon. Gentleman deduces from those words of this celebrated German writer his conclusion that voluntary service produces and conduces to the conditions desired by Von der Goltz. That was the inference that we naturally got, but I leave it to the student of military history to consider whether the real intention of Von der Goltz was not to show that compulsory service in Germany, where every young man is forced to think something of the welfare of his country, and to do something for the honour and glory of his country and its defence, where there is a bringing up of the young men of the country in patriotism and the improvement of their physique and the training of their minds under discipline, did something to draw the civilian and the soldier together and improve the civilian, when he had left the Army, in whatever grade of life it may please God to call him.
I think the few words that one wishes to address to the House on this subject would be better chosen upon a branch of the service to which one belongs, and it will be upon that branch that I will draw the attention of the Committee to an item in the new organisation which I very much welcome. It is the abolition of the depot squadrons in Cavalry regiments. I know that commanding officers have tried in vain to bring about a state of affairs which might in the end result in their having squadrons with strength somewhere up to the number of ninety-six or even 100 men in the ranks to lead into the field, but the depot squadron, hanging as an appendage and an encumbrance to the regiment has always stood in the way of this advantage. I think the abolition of the depot will result in giving a regiment not only greater strength in officers and men, but will relieve the commanding officer himself of a great deal of trouble and worry in looking after his regiment. If the abolition of this depot squadron will bring about the result of having a greater number of troopers on parade, then 1526 I think a great step will have been taken to improve the effectiveness and the mobility of the Cavalry regiments. There is one branch connected with the Cavalry service in which I regret the action taken, i.e., the abolition of the Yeomanry school, which, I think, played a very important part in the training of officers and which is now non-existent, the new system being that officers should be attached to a Cavalry regiment for five or six weeks. It may, of course, be a very pleasant sojourn for them and for the regiment, but I doubt very much whether the real practical details of a soldier's career are learnt by that attachment for five or six weeks to a Cavalry regiment. I do not believe that military knowledge is to be obtained in the ante-room, and I do not believe that such operations of a field engineer as are necessary for the Cavalry officer to know can necessarily be learnt in that way.
In fact I feel that the practical consideration of detail and technique are overcoming the qualities of dash and enter-price which used to be the qualifications of a Cavalry leader. I feel that these cannot be obtained except in the school and in a class instructed by skilled officers and skilled tutors. That is the only form and the only way in which these can be obtained, and for that reason I regret that the Yeomanry school has been abolished, and I fear that the Yeomanry, as a branch, and the Army and the Service may suffer very considerably in consequence of that step having been taken. There is one point in connection with the Army in the field I should like to dwell upon for a moment, and it was brought to my notice by a topic referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for South Wolverhampton (Colonel Hickman). He dwelt upon the necessity for brigades and divisions having special signalling corps attached to them for work in the field. I would like to dilate upon this question of signalling, if I may, for a minute, and to say that it must be apparent that no matter how good your troops or officers are, unless you have a complete system of intercommunication between units in the field you cannot possibly expect to get the best results out of the force under your command.
A few months ago I had the privilege of watching the German manœuvres, and I noticed that they had spent a very great deal of time in studying this question of intercommunication of units even to the limits of the firing line. The operations 1527 of the field telephones, the field telegraphs, cycles, motor cycles, and even the air balloon signals were carried on with a degree of activity which was most remarkable. I appreciate that in this country we are doing very much the same thing, but if I might make a humble suggestion, it would be that under the present system the organisation of our units appears to have for its object men adapted and suitable for this purpose. I would suggest that these men, instead of being attached to any particular regiment, should belong to a company specially formed and trained for that purpose, and that they might be disseminated over the field on the day of battle, whether it is a case of manœuvres or a case of war, and the advantage is that they would understand each other's signals and each other's tricks, which are only picked up where men have worked side by side in the same school and under the same tuition.
There is one more point to which I should like to draw the attention of the Committee, and one in which I hope both sides of the House will join me in approving of. It is that we are getting to that democratic and healthy condition of affairs where promotion is for merit, and merit alone. The existence of a Selection Committee is, I think, responsible for this great improvement. I think it must be much more encouragement to a recruit to feel that, should he do his duty well and show ability and keenness, there is more than a reasonable probability that he may in due course obtain a commission in some other branch of the Service, and I think, as regards officers, it is frequently an inducement to them to stay on where they would otherwise be tempted to leave. I know from my experience there are a good number of most experienced and capable officers who feel that there is a deadlock, so that, except for accident or the chance of distinction in the field, they may never be able to obtain the command of a regiment, or any other high command. I think if such a man realises that if he stops on there is a Selection Committee who watches over his efforts, and who are capable of offering him promotion in other branches of the Service, it will be an inducement to stay, and I think that many of these men would remain much longer with their regiments, to the benefit of the taxpayers. It is certainly much fairer that it should be so.
1528 In the course of the speeches of the last two days I have noticed that the attitude adopted by most speakers has been one of criticism of details, and I humbly submit that that is a most excellent sign. The fact that details have come under such close consideration from so many speakers in so many parts of this House shows clearly, as the Home Secretary explained with such ability, that there is absolute agreement upon the fundamental principles of our present Army scheme. But I think there is perhaps another inference to be drawn from these critical discussions, and that is we have been discussing machinery, especially that which is necessary for the maintenance of the Army in the field, which it would have been impossible to discuss five or six years ago, for the best of all reasons, that the machinery did not exist at all. I feel that no one can take any part, however small, in this Debate without congratulating the Secretary of State for War on his great achievements, his great performances and the great debt that this country owes to him for his services in the last five years. He has, in the face of great opposition—perhaps, however, I had better not use the word opposition, as it might be misunderstood—but he has, in the face of great obstacles, achieved what he set out to do, and that was to bring the Army a little more into touch with the nation at large. He has levelled up all branches of the Regular and Territorial forces by the new system of a General Staff, and the effect has been to give them a language in which they can all understand each other and think alike. But I am glad that his efforts have not been confined to the United Kingdom. By increasing the strength of the Home divisions he has enabled the Indian Army and ourselves to be on exactly the same footing, which everyone will agree is a great advantage for troops or officers coming from one country to another. If it stopped there one might feel that he had not quite succeeded; but now that the Colonies have accepted our Imperial Staff idea, and have said that they are prepared to organise in the future upon the model of which we have set them the pattern, it seems to me that thereby he has been instrumental in laying a foundation upon which we shall be able to build in the near future an Imperial Army for the defence of this great Empire, and there is reason to suppose that it will improve as the years go by. He has almost overcome a greater difficulty still—he has persuaded this nation to adopt voluntarily a system of 1529 defence suitable and adequate for its purposes, such as other countries have only been able to obtain on a conscriptive basis.
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
This afternoon's proceedings were opened by two very interesting speeches, one from the Home Secretary and the other from my right hon. Friend Mr. Wyndham. It is very gratifying to us to notice that in both those speeches, and also in the eulogies which have been showered upon the head of the right hon. Gentleman, there is apparently a foundation for continuity in our military policy. It is a thing in which we have been very deficient, and I believe we have been the losers by it; but we are now agreed on the standard of our requirements. It is impossible that we can have an efficient Army or an Army which can, under any circumstances, satisfy our requirements unless we agree on both sides as regards that standard of requirements. The Home Secretary naturally eulogised the right hon. Gentleman and supported the scheme which he had put forward, but that eulogy was tainted to a certain extent, because we know that he was one of the strongest critics of the previous scheme of Lord Midleton. I think he should bear in mind that, whatever the merits of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, it is based on the scheme of Lord Midleton.
It is perfectly true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that there has been a reduction of crime in the Army; but, from his experience of the Army, he knows perfectly well that the number of courts-martial held is no criterion whatever as regards crime, and that a small number of courts-martial in a regiment is usually the result of what is known as screening crime. I do not believe for a moment that the crime which exists in the Army is gauged by the number of courts-martial scheduled at the end of the year. The right hon. Gentleman to a very large extent dispelled the idea which we have of invasion of this country. I am prepared to go with him to a certain extent, and I believe that the sudden invasion—the waking up in the morning and finding ourselves invaded by a foreign foe—is out of the question. I do not believe that state of affairs will ever come about. The right hon. Gentleman also says that for the purpose of our Expeditionary Force being in a different part of the world it is necessary that our Navy must be established in an overwhelmingly powerful position. 1530 His premises may be right. We may have established an overwhelmingly powerful naval position, and our Expeditionary Force may be abroad. At present events move quickly, and it is quite possible that at one moment, although we may hold this overwhelmingly strong naval position, yet at another, and in a very short time, we might not hold that position. It is during this temporary diminution in the strength of our naval position that it is absolutely necessary that the forces which we look to to repel invasion must be able to defend this country without the assistance of the Regular Forces.
As to the question of the officers in the Army, I do not think their position is adequately considered by hon. Members or by the right hon. Gentleman himself. There is now a tendency for those young men who used to enter the Army, who were put into it by their families or their advisers, to go into other walks of life. These young men should be attracted from those professions to join in the service of their country and do what they can to protect it in case of need. But there is the question of pay, and it is perfectly idle to say that the question of pay does not come into the matter at all. It is a matter of great importance, and when we think that the pay of the junior officer is equal to the pay of officers at the time of the Waterloo campaign, when we consider that the cost of everything has gone up and that wages in other walks of life have increased, the remuneration paid to officers in the Army is indeed a scandal. The right hon. Gentleman passes it off with regard to allowances, and to the superficial critic that may be an answer. But it is not an actual answer. These allowances mean something. They certainly amount to a small sum, but they do not correspond to the increased expenditure which falls upon officers. I would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman to consider that question of the pay of the junior officers in the Army, because it is a question for their parents and guardians, and they have to see what they can do to supplement the income which they will receive in the Army so as to decide whether they shall put them in the Army or adopt some other profession. I should have liked a little more information with regard to the purpose which the right hon. Gentleman has in view in selecting candidates from schools. I do not know under what circumstances he proposes to select them, or whether he is going to allow those who are unfortunate in the examinations to be 1531 able by some back-door or other to enter the Army. It is a matter which ought to be cleared up.
With regard to the practical education of the officer on joining the Army, I am not certain that we are in a position to be quite satisfied about it. The education at Sandhurst is certainly very efficient, and is a very good education to a certain extent. The cadet is taught fortification, topography, and various other subjects in a practical way, but the Cavalry cadet is not taught his profession in the practical way in which he might be. He ought to join his regiment with a practical knowledge of stable management, which he does not understand, and with a practical knowledge of veterinary science, which he does not do at present. These are points well worthy of the notice of the right hon. Gentleman. The junior officer is supposed to have passed through all the practical education which he can receive in the lower grades in the Army, and when he arrives at the rank of captain and major he enters the staff college. I would urge the necessity of still further extending that staff college education. It is invaluable for an Army, and all those officers who have passed the staff college are far in advance of all the other officers that have not passed it. It is contemplated to enlarge it, but I should like to recommend for future years that he might lay the foundation of a further extension of that education.
It is a question of paramount importance that the supply of horses should be most carefully husbanded by the Secretary of State. There is at present, I understand, a census going on with regard to horses. I have heard nothing whatever about it, and beyond hearing that it has gone on from the right hon. Gentleman himself I have had no occasion of coming into contact with it. But I believe it is progressing, and I believe some numbers of some sort have been made out. The right hon. Gentleman said nothing whatsoever with regard to the wastage of war in the matter of horses, and the number which he has spoken of will under no circumstances meet the requirements which it will be necessary for him to lay his hands upon before a great war has been in progress for very long. Then there is the question of the training of the horses. A horse which is suddenly taken from the plough and put into the ranks is no more use for a cavalry soldier than a donkey. 1532 I would urge the necessity of considering the training of these horses. With regard to the supply itself it is notorious that foreign buyers come over to this country in vast numbers prepared to put down a very large price for the purpose of exporting our valuable half-bred mares. That is exporting capital. I believe it would be worth the while of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to take some steps for the purpose of keeping the mares in this country. It would certainly be worth their while to subsidise the tenant farmers to keep these mares and to have some call upon them.
With regard to the Territorial Army, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the offspring which he has taken a certain amount of trouble to bring forth. He has displayed a great deal of optimism with regard to recruiting, or rather he told us he was an optimist, but that the results of the recruiting far exceeded his expectations. How long does he believe those good results will be maintained? He has to realise that the Territorial Army is somewhat of a novelty, and that there is a certain amount of attraction in it. Until he can assure me that that will be maintained I do not believe we can look upon the Territorial Army with quite the optimistic view that he does at present.
With regard to the efficiency of the Territorial Army, I should like to ask a question. I am very credibly informed that there are certain battalions of the Territorial Force who have not been upon an open range this year, yet all of them are returned as efficient. I am open to correction, and I sincerely hope that that is not a correct statement. I am also credibly informed that the actual shooting alone qualifies for efficiency, whether they hit the target or not. I ask whether it is a fact that in the Territorial Force, having regard to the fact that it is an auxiliary force, actual firing of the rounds qualifies for efficiency. I had hoped that the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) would have been in his place, because he addressed the House as an aggrieved Artillery officer, and he appeared to think it a grievance that certain harsh things had been said about the Artillery. We are a practical and a business nation, and we know perfectly well that if this Artillery is to be called into action it will be called upon to face the picked Artillery men of the invader. Anyone with the smallest knowledge of 1533 Service knows perfectly well that the amateur Artillery man cannot for a moment stand in the face of the professional Artillery man. The hon. Member spoke with a certain amount of pride, I thought, that his battery could keep Artillery for a day. He may be right as regards one day, but we know perfectly well that one of the arts of the Artillery man is driving, and that, with an unskilled driver, the horses are used to such an extent that it would be absolutely impossible to keep them until they were absolutely safe for a very long period of time. Although I have the greatest pleasure in joining the eulogies that have been heaped upon the Secretary of State for War, I should like if he would answer the questions which I have ventured to put to him.
§ Mr. W. P. BYLES
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has listened to criticisms from military men and amateurs on both sides of the House for some time. It is greatly to his credit that everybody accords to him so much praise for the efficiency in organisation which he has brought about in the Army. I am unable to follow the arguments of the Noble Lord (Viscount Castlereagh) who has just addressed us in a very interesting and valuable speech, because I am ignorant of the details of Army management, with which he is obviously familiar; but I want to utter a few heresies about the Army—or what will no doubt be regarded as heresies by most Members of the Committee. I do it with the greatest reluctance, because it is natural that one should be reluctant to put before the Committee views which he knows will not meet with general acceptance. But, on the other hand, I remember that there are in the country thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people who share the views very much that I hold on this question—views which I think before the Debate closes should find some expression. I am very glad to believe that the Army is reduced to a state of efficiency. Heaven knows it was inefficient enough before. So bad indeed were the revelations after the Boer War that the country became so angry that it hurled from power the Tory party. Anyone who has succeeded in making the Army a real Army service is entitled to the gratitude of the House and the nation. It is not the efficiency I complain of. It is the size. I want to know why the Army need be so big. Almost every Minister who has a right to sit 1534 on the Treasury Bench was pledged to the lips, when he had a position of greater freedom and less responsibility, to a policy of retrenchment. How often were we told on platforms between 1900 and 1906 of the extravagance of the then Government and of the swollen expenditure, especially in connection with the great spending services of the State, and how hopeful were those who hold the views that I do, when we came to have a really Liberal Government, such as was created in 1900, that we should see these opinions translated into action! I am still free and not yet responsible, and I therefore lift my voice, however feeble, in favour of a policy of retrenchment.
We are at peace with all the world, and yet we require £28,000,000 for the Army! This year there is only a matter of £350,000 increase in the Estimates, and that in these spacious days of spending is no doubt a bagatelle. But we have, I suppose, a bigger Army and bigger Estimates than ever. There appears to be no attempt whatever at reduction. I want to ask for what purpose is the Territorial Army which has been created with so much trouble and over which we have spent so much time? Why this glorification and militarising of the old Volunteer corps? The estimate that seems to be most generally accepted is that the maximum possible number of an invading force would be 10,000 men. [HON. MEMBERS: "Seventy thousand."] I do not suppose that anybody believes that 70,000 would raid this country. Let us take it at 10,000. They have to be smuggled over here in the dark, or, as one of the Members for Islington suggested yesterday, that might come over in a cloud of aeroplanes and be dropped from the sky. Whichever way they came the Territorial Army have to be strong enough to meet and deal with them. If so, a possible invasion of this country is arranged for, and the Fleet, I presume, could do the rest—the policing of the seas and the protection of our food supplies. A friend of mine who saw the late Napoleon III. immediately after Sedan, in the fortress of Wilhelmshohe, received this remark, "You English are a happy people. You have no frontier," by which, I suppose, he meant no land or river frontier. He meant, therefore, that we need no Army. If the raids are arranged for, and the Fleet is equal to its duties, why do we need this great Regular Army in addition? We are told that it is an "Expeditionary Force," and that it is 1535 a "striking force." I do not want any more expeditions for my part, and I do not want to strike anybody; but what I do think of is the cost of maintaining this enormous and, to a great extent, useless Army. Think of the wage-earners of the country and of the labour they have to give to produce this mountain of money—£28,000;000! Do hon. Members ever think of these things? Do they remember, when talking of these expenditures, the poverty of millions, their toil, their wretched homes, and their struggle for a livelihood? I feel inclined to compare the Government to the Scribes and Pharisees:For they bind heavy burdens, and grevious to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders.A month or two ago we heard some very vigorous outcries against the oppression of the taxes proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I daresay we all feel a little aggravation at having to pay taxes. If you do not like taxes this is the time to cry out, and not when the Budget is before you. If we spend, we must pay. £28,000,000 for the Army! Such Estimates as these would have made the late Mr. Gladstone or Sir William Harcourt shudder. I remember well both of these illustrious financiers standing at that very Table, and in tones of the utmost solemnity warning the House against the growth of expenditure in Navy and Army services at a time when it was far less than now. I maintain that there is less, and not more, reason now for a great striking Army. Why? First of all, the conditions of modern warfare are so fearful that there is increasing reluctance among all nations to put them to use. Weapons have become so deadly, and their range is so enormous. Smokeless powder is adding horror because it is uninforming. Now we are threatened, I observe, with automatic rifles, dirigibles, and aeroplanes, so that soon, I suppose, we shall be able to kill and be killed without leaving our own doorsteps.
I say again the memory of the Boer war and all its horrors will act for a long time in this country, and perhaps in other countries, as a deterrent to war. But the greatest of all preservatives of the peace in my judgment is the maintenance of friendly relations with our potential enemy. For this we have to thank the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir E. Grey) and the Diplomatic Staff connected with our 1536 Foreign Office. They have maintained peace all through this time. Look round the world to-day, and where are we likely to quarrel? Our friendly relations with everyone are closer, perhaps, than they have ever been, and the closer our friendly relations and the more international our trade—and it is becoming more international every day, and will become so until the Tariff Reformers spoil it—and the more interwoven our finance, the less risk there is of quarrelling. Does anybody doubt that? Take one nation, the United States of America. Suppose these were the only people to consider, there is no one who would think it necessary on either side to maintain large armies one against the other. Equally with France. We are now on such terms with France that nobody thinks of building ships or raising armies against France. Why should we not have exactly the same relations, or at any rate, cultivate relations of a similar kind, moving in the same direction in regard to Germany, and in regard to all other countries?
Moral defences are in my judgment far stronger, far surer, and give a far greater prospect of security as between the nations of the world than any of these munitions of war. If these sentiments were only generally held instead of being derided as the foolish utterances of a small minority, if they were courageously held and acted upon by this or any other Government, then the Budget demands, which were so resented, and which are still so resented in many quarters, might have been greatly reduced. Enough, perhaps, has been said about the troops in South Africa by some of my colleagues. I still feel it is a monstrous thing that this nation should be expected out of its poverty, out of the poverty I mean of very many of its taxpayers, to maintain that costly garrison in South Africa for no purpose in the world except, so to speak, to amuse the servant girls. Leaving South Africa, what are we doing with 19,000 men in the Mediterranean countries, all maintained at great cost, and all imposing heavy burdens upon the taxpayer. If the nation does intend to keep all these men cooling their heels in barracks there, and spending their time often in idleness and sometimes in worse things, then I hope that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see to it that they are maintained out of the accumulated wealth of British idlers.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not a question that should be raised in Committee of Supply. That is a question for Ways and Means.
§ Major MORRISON-BELL
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Haldane) has been receiving so many congratulations both to-day and yesterday that really I should almost like to be able to abuse him about something, and I believe he would rather enjoy it himself. The hon. Baronet, who, I believe, sits for a Welsh constituency, referred to a point in connection with the emolument of officers which he tried to impress on this House was sufficient for the officers at the present moment, and I caught a word which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Haldane) passed across to the Noble Lord (Marquess of Tullibardine), who was speaking at the time, that anyhow they had allowances. I do not think that anybody who has had any experience, or knows about the question, will consider that the allowances to officers are really very helpful in the sense suggested. I believe that in one case there used to be an allowance of about 3½d. per week in lieu of gas, where it was found that it cost 1s. 6d. a week to pay for lamp oil. That is one of the very small ways in which it was found that they were very inadequate, and I doubt whether anybody who knows would agree with the hon. Baronet when he said that the emoluments of officers were sufficient. The hon. Member, I think for Barrow, referred to the fact that he had, not less than the hon. Member, to start life in London on something like, as far as I remember, 40s. a week, and he told of the difficulty he had in starting life in London on that sum. I can assure him that every officer who has to start and keep up a state has to do this on about 37s. 6d. per week, and, therefore, if the hon. Gentleman's case was, as he informed us, such a pitiful one, I think that the officer's case should also get some sympathy from the right hon. Gentleman, if the question can ever be brought forward about raising the officers' emoluments.
The right hon. Gentleman has had so many points brought before him that I do not wish to lay great stress upon this particular one. I wish to refer to another point, and perhaps I may provide him with a small loophole, though he is not in want 1538 of it. On page 4 of the Memorandum I notice that there is a little word, "etc.," which I hope will include the point that I wish to bring under his notice, namely, that some consideration will be given, when the right hon. Gentleman has time, to the question of civilian rifle clubs. I believe it is a question which has come greatly to the front of late, and which was very much prejudiced, I think, when it first started by the very extravagant claims made on behalf of these clubs. It was said that rifle clubs were going to save England, when everybody knows that if there is any saving to be done it can only be done by a great sacrifice on the part of the country, by organisation, and by discipline. There is no other way of saving England or any other country, and there never has been any other way, and I do not believe there ever will be any other way. But if the right hon. Gentleman will give some attention to clubs when he has dealt with other questions I am perfectly certain that he would be harnessing, so to speak, an enormous amount of enthusiasm which is already in the country, and which, I believe, will form some kind of nursery to recruit the Territorial Forces, and possibly the Regular Forces, too. I do not press him at all, because I realise that in comparison with the great questions which have been brought before the Committee at the present moment this is a very small point, and it can be left to take care of itself for another year, as it has been caring for itself for two or three years. But when he has dealt with the other important points, such as mobilisation, and horses, I trust that he will give some attention to this question of the clubs, because when you get hold of young men early and imbue them with the idea that they have to do something, little as it may be thought in the minds of some Gentlemen, towards the defence of the country, they will probably get the soldier habit, and join other forces later on. I only mention this point because I have had a great deal of experience during the last three years with these rifle clubs, and I know how very easy it is, if they have any encouragement at all, to bring them on. I do not delay the Committee any longer, because there are other important points to be dealt with, tout in that little word, "etc." I hope this point may be included.
§ Mr. SEDDON
I have listened with very great pleasure to the speeches that are being delivered in this Debate, and I 1539 listened with extra pleasure to the friendly duel between the right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the respective two Front Benches; and after the crescendo of praise from the right hon. Gentlemen, I feel somewhat of a criminal in striking a jarring note. However, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Haldane) will take whatever comment I make in the friendliest possible spirit. I am as anxious as anyone for the defence of this country to be put on the best and fairest and most honourable conditions we can possibly have. You will remember that when we were discussing the Territorial scheme in the last Parliament I on more than one occasion called attention to what, in my opinion, were real dangers to the ultimate success of the scheme. I referred then to the question of promotion by merit. You recognised that the old system in vogue in the Regular Army would be difficult to change all at once, and I may say, in passing, that I have never listened to a Debate in this House that so strongly separates the sheep from the goats and hon. Members on that side from hon. Members who sit on these benches. What I mean is this, I have listened to a good many speeches by officers who have given service to the country, and almost unanimously their cry has been for more pay for those of their rank. Well and good. But then we who represent labour are entitled to make the same claim for men of our class, and if that claim were dealt with for all ranks alike I think we should hear less about class legislation, and see more of a disposition to stand up for one's comrades, to whatever class they belong. When this Territorial scheme was brought into existence I think there was a favourable opportunity to deal with the question of promotion. After all, the private as well as the officer has to give of his leisure time to the service of the country, and when a man is called upon to give up his leisure time he ought to have some inducement or belief that he will rise from the ranks to a higher position and become an officer. I have heard numerous complaints on this matter. We have heard the remark, which is perfectly true, that war is a science to-day, and therefore you want the best and the most skilled men you can get. Engineers are wanted in the Army, and there are numbers of young engineers who are willing to give their services to the country, but are not prepared to be the victims of the snobbery of others who happen to have a little more money than 1540 they, and who possibly, not from ability, have been thrown into the position of officers, while they themselves have no chance of attaining that rank. The present system of selecting officers because of their wealth and territorial interest, is inimical to the prosperity of the Territorial Force. Among the democracy the men who have trained their minds, skilled engineers, and men in other walks of life, are not going to give their services under a system which will never afford them the opportunity of rising to higher ranks in the Territorial Force. Another evil that has arisen during the last year or two is the question of military law. I hold that military law should not be in operation in the democratic part of our military forces, namely, the Territorial Army, unless that part is being embodied for actual service. I am not going to say that the evil is apparent at the present time, and I know the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War has made the application of the military law to the Territorial Force more elastic than in the case of the Regular Army. It has been stated more than once that the right hon. Gentleman has given his valedictory address. I do not know whether it is intended to transfer him elsewhere, nor do I know whether we are to assume that the ravages of time and other things, which in the ordinary course one cannot prevent, affect him, but I hope he will occupy his position for a long time to come, because we might have some other right hon. Gentleman not so sympathetic put into his place.
Although even if the right hon. Gentleman remains in his office for many years, yet so far as administration is concerned it comes under different men, and this military law is a dangerous weapon to put at the disposal of those who are responsible for our Territorial Forces. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to remove this unlimited power, which is a real danger. We want to recognise the Territorial Force as a free service, and one which is desirable and necessary for the defence of the country. The danger of the military law being put into operation ought to be removed to the utmost distance, and it ought not to be possible until the Territorials are actually embodied for service and engaged in war. Another question which arises has reference to the Regulations. I find, according to the King's Regulations, there is an embargo placed upon soldiers attending meetings, especially political meeting. 1541 know that there is no embargo on officers, and why should there be an embargo upon the privates?
§ Mr. SEDDON
It is so. I have the Regulation, which says that an officer or soldier is not to take part in any meetings or demonstrations, for party or political purposes in barracks, quarters, camp, or their vicinity, and under no circumstances whatever is he to attend such meetings, wherever held, in uniform. But below the sergeant, the private soldier is not permitted to attend a meeting, except he is on furlough and in civilian dress, so that when in a city like London, a private could be prevented from going to any meeting, I think that we have arrived at the period when it would be desirable to allow soldiers to attend such meetings in ordinary civilian dress. I do not think it would be well to see them at meetings in their uniform, but I think it is a reflection on the Army to say that soldiers cannot go to political meetings, and I am sure it is a limitation that is keenly felt in the rank and file. I would point out that if this limitation were removed it might do something to modify the politics of the soldiers, because the Army, it is notorious, are mostly on the Conservative side. There is some reason for that no doubt, and among them is this limitation of the power of the soldier to get information on political subjects. Apart from that, however, I think the Secretary for War would only be doing an act of justice in removing this embargo, and in giving the private soldier, who is anxious for the right, an opportunity to go to political and other meetings so long as he attends them in civilian dress. There is another question which is causing some little annoyance and heartburning, so far as the rank and file are concerned. I am told, though I am open to correction, that there has been a change in the last two years from service pay to proficiency pay. It means that many men under the old system, who by their service, obtained higher rate of pay, are, owing to accidental circumstances, deprived of that benefit. That I understand has caused some resentment, and when the Army Council recognised that there was something wrong they prevented the operation of the change for at least a year. I am told that the new test is the musketry course. I am no great authority on firing, but I know very well that wind and weather have something to do with firing 1542 at the range; yet here you have men, who by good conduct and by service were able to get a slight increase in their daily pay, deprived of it owing to such accidental circumstances, which rendered them unable to qualify by musketry practice for higher pay, and therefore they are relegated to the lower scale of pay. I think something ought to be done for the rank and file to meet this complaint, and that we ought to revert to the old system. I am told that in some cases the difference in pay amounts to one or two shillings per week. I have a letter here, which was sent to me by a soldier. I have been making inquiries, and have been trying to take an intelligent interest in Army matters. I have followed the Debates in this House, and I have sought information outside. I wrote to a friend of mine, who is a ranker, asking him what was his idea of the present control at the War Office, and what he thought about all the advantages that had been secured by the right hon. Gentleman. The letter is rather in soldiers' language, but I may take certain passages of it. The writer says:—I do not want anybody to talk about Haldane's reform to me. Some of our chaps he has knocked 2s. a week off proficiency pay, chaps that used to have 12s. a week now only get 10s. per week.That reduction is not going to create contentment among the men. There is another complaint which to my mind is even more serious. I am told that in certain branches of the Service there has been a serious inroad made upon the limited amount of pay that the rank and file get at the present time. I find in certain regiments—I will give the name of one, the Royal Horse Artillery—an inspection took place, and the commanding officer, or the person responsible for the inspection of the particular company concerned, said that they would have to renew their kit because they were getting a little bit seedy, and that they would have to begin to purchase some of their own clothing, which is a new departure altogether, I am informed. In one case the man had to buy a khaki hat, 3s.; a canvas suit, 3s.; and khaki trousers, 8s.—14s. in all. The man remarked that this was to come out of his pay, "and it was making him very careful now." The same man added: "But I have been let off lightly in comparison with some of our chaps. It runs to £3 odd in one case, and I think that this is certainly"—he uses a word for which I must substitute another—and "this is certainly bad." The rank and file cannot pay for these things out of their slender 1543 pay, and they point out that when they originally enlisted they were under the belief that all their clothing would be found when they became soldiers of the King. Another point to which I wish to make reference, though probably it may be my own density, is this: I have waded through the Army Estimates; I have struggled with them by night and by day, and I have come to the conclusion that they are more like a Chinese puzzle than anything I have come across in my life. I make no charge against the Army Council, which I believe is composed of four, military officers of very high standing, and I think four lawyers. But I think there ought to be some business men on the Committee when it comes to dealing with business matters. So far as I can make out, the Estimates are only a partial statement, though they are contained in some 200 pages, and they are thrown at us before the Debate comes off, and are so manipulated—I use that word in its best sense—the various items are so put that we cannot possibly master them before the discussion takes place in this Committee. I find that it is only a partial statement. There have been complaints on this side about the great cost of the Army. If there are many items like the one I discovered I am afraid it comes to more than we thought it did. Under the heading of Chelsea Hospital I find that there is a Governor who gets a salary of £500. I do not say that the salary is too high. He is also on half-pay, for which he gets £1,300 per annum. The two together make a fairly decent salary, especially after the complaints which we have heard from the other side about the low salaries that are paid to officers. But I find a footnote which says that this excludes premises, fire, and light, which are charged to the Board of Works. So here we have a great Department of State spending a huge amount of money, and when you come to the Estimates you cannot get a correct statement of expenditure. To do so you have got to go to the Estimates, which, I suppose, will eventually be placed upon the Table by the Gentleman in charge of the Board of Works. I think that for the benefit and credit of the Army Council the right hon. Gentleman, with all his ability, would add still more lustre to his name if he gave us Estimates in compartments, and so arranged that they could be read and understood by the humblest Member, and so that we could see what 1544 each part of the Army costs, instead having to go to the Board of Works.
I want also to call attention to South Africa. I do not mean the number [...] troops there; I am more interested it the number of medical men and chaplain who are there. I do not know whethe there is more original sin in South Africa or not, but I find that there are thirteen chaplains there, and there are thirteen in Malta and at Gibraltar. I do not know whether that is because the climate is more salubrious there or because there is greater sin, but I think, as far as South Africa is concerned, that they ought to be able to provide spiritual guides for the soldiers as well as for the civilians I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has ever asked them, and I think he would find that that would be one of the item which could be reduced. With reference to the medical staff in South Africa, there is a surgeon-general who gets £1,095 per annum, there is a colonel who gets £82 per annum, and there are forty lieutenant colonels, majors, captains, lieutenants and five quartermasters. Surely those charges should be in some degree born by the various Colonies and the various dependencies. I am told—I do not know—that India is the only part of the British Empire that contributes its fair share, and above its fair share, among our Colonies Notoriously South Africa practically contributes nothing. I think it will be in the interest of everybody concerned, and for that unity of Imperial feeling, if the Colonies were gently reminded that the had obligations towards paying for the upkeep of the Army as well as the defence of the whole of the Empire.
I want to deal with a question that will probably arouse both sides of the House although I cannot help it if it does. It is often said outside, and I am only giving this to the right hon. Gentleman to give him an opportunity of refuting the charge that are frequently stated and not infrequently published in certain journals—it is often said that there is undue influence at the War Office. Everybody knows that the cost of the War Office is going up year by year, and the cost is becoming alarming to all those who take an interest in the Estimates. What do I find in a Service journal last Saturday? I find the following:—Once again complaints are rife about feminine influence at the War Office.I do not know whether this is any lady who has got designs on the right hon. 1545 Gentleman. It is from a Service journal, it is not my own creation, nor my own suggestion, as far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned. It goes on:—I am able to state as a positive fact that these complaints are, in the main, well founded. There is he society lady who openly boasts of her power to assist such of her friends as are in the Service, and certainly she is as good as her word. Not only does she manage to obtain by some means or other a considerable any in most of the important appointments that are going, but she is able to oblige her military friends in the matter of extensive leave, release from unpleasant [...]ties, and so forth. One of these days, however, a [...] will arise at the War Office who will declare such things shall not continue.I thought the right hon. Gentleman had arisen in the present Minister of War. As said, I only read this out to give him an opportunity of refuting it, or of making inquiries so that this lady will not have so many military men crowding her drawing room as she has had in the past. There is another question with reference to the cost. This, too, is from a Service journal, and when we read such statements in Service journals the right hon. Gentleman cannot be surprised that civilians like myself stand aghast.It is quite an open secret that the Army Estimates will show a considerable increase over last year's figures, and this despite the fact that such drastic restrictions have been made in the numbers of our standing army. This increase in cost is not to be attributed entirely either to the Territorial Force, though undoubtedly that is proving much more expensive than [...]cas originally included or imagined. The fact is that he cost of administration is increasing by leaps and bounds, and each year sees the War Office swallowing up more and more money. Never at any previous period as the Headquarter Staff cost the country so much money as is the case to-day, and onlookers must be partioned if they doubt whether the country is getting anything approaching value for its money. Sinecure is piled upon sinecure at the present time in Whitehall, and I now men who do not put in half-a-dozen hours at the War Office in a week who are drawing very handsome comes.I want to know, Is that a correct statement? If so, it is clearly a proof that the War Office is becoming an asylum for favourites, that it is becoming a convalescent home for longevity, and a quiet retreat for those gentlemen who are getting large salaries and have very little to do. I have put this to the right hon. Gentleman in no cantankerous spirit. When we who belong to the Labour party read such things on a Service paper, we begin to think there is something wrong in the Army, although we have been told hat there has been a clearing out in the past four years. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will, in the exercise of his un doubted ability and capacity for hard work, undertake, if he cannot give a definite promise, to have a searching inquiry into these aspersions on the War Office, 1546 and will see that it becomes a more business establishment than apparently it is to-day.
I want to make a protest against undue expenditure. I know it is not a very thankful task to stand up and defend economy in this House. There are always two schools—the Blue Water School and the Navy School, and both want as much as they can get. There is always a tendency when this party is out of office to criticise the other side for their great expenditure, but when they get in I notice that they have the same besetting sin, and that they go on spending as much, if not more. So far I am able to understand the situation, and I have followed very closely the speeches delivered by right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Members who spoke as military experts. I understand it to be this—that we are all agreed that the Navy is the first line of defence. I think the right hon. Gentleman admits that we are not going to have 1,000 men landed in this country or in any other country without our knowing something about it. I think he tacitly admitted the untruth of the scare prior to the General Election, which was started by a friend of mine who evidently has become a greater friend of hon. Gentlemen on the other side. I remember when Robert Blatchford was anathema to the Tory party, and now he has become the saviour of his country, because he has raised, or attempted to raise, antagonism in the minds of the workers of this country against the Germans, thinking they have got designs on this country. I am one of those who believe that democracy in every civilised country is going to take a greater part in the government, and in the expenditure of the money, than it has done in the past. We have the satisfaction, those of us who sit on these benches, of knowing that year by year we are creating a bond of sympathy with the Frenchman, the German, the American, and with every country throughout the world, and we look forward to the time, and we believe it is not far distant, when all those differences that used to separate us and make us liable to fly at one another's throats will gradually pass away. We do know, after careful inquiry among our German fellow workers and after inquiry through international conferences, that the German workman is not anxious for war, that the French workman is not anxious for war, and that they are desirous of living together in amity and developing the resources of each 1547 country, the only rivalry being so far as industrial production is concerned. We want to warn the right hon. Gentleman that the British democracy, that was silent in the days gone by when great wars were waged, are beginning to recognise that the great power of industrial democracy is not the clash of arms, but their ability to stop production. I believe the sentiment is growing in every country if irresponsible people think, for glory or profit, to engage in wicked wars that the industrial army are prepared to stand together, and by cessation of production let those people know that they are masters of their own destiny. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give consideration to the suggestions I have made.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Haldane)
I think it will be convenient at this stage to make some sort of answer to the various points, as they are accumulating in such large numbers that I am afraid I should forget some of them. First of all, let me say I have been very much struck with one thing in this Parliament, and that is it seems to me there is more keen and real interest in military matters than in any Parliament I have known. We have got a great many military Members on both sides of the House. We have got a keen outside interest like that of my hon. Friend who has just spoken, and, in fact, every shade of opinion is represented; and the discussions on the Army Estimates, if this Parliament continues, promise to be more interesting and more valuable than any that I have known in the past. It is delightful to see the desire for continuity, and for eliminating, as far as possible, the party aspect in the field of discussion: and it does give one hope that there may be progress in the years to come in making things better, and less disposition to pull to pieces for the sake of pulling to pieces.
I take up as far as I am able some of the points which have been mentioned. My hon. Friend (Mr. Seddon) asked me to deal with one or two matters, and among them the somewhat general topic of feminine influence at the War Office. My hon. Friend quoted curiously enough a passage which I recognised, because it was brought to me by an indignant general in the War Office who was specifically connected, in the passage quoted, with some undue influence. My hon. Friend may have been quoting from some Service magazine, but I recognise the words from their original source, which was not a Service magazine 1548 at all, but a penny paper devoted to chronicling the proceedings of the fashionable world. I recognise the sentiments at any rate, and in the original the particular case is given in detail. I can assure the hon. Member, however, that the whole matter is rubbish and moonshine. There is nothing whatever in the particular case reported, and as far as I know feminine influence does not prevail in the War Office. In connection with another point raised by the hon. Member, his correspondent omitted to tell him that within the last fifteen months a new form of pay, called kit pay, has been given to the soldier. What we thought was that if we gave a soldier kit pay, calculated on a scale of sufficiency to supply everything that he wanted, and giving him a little margin out of which with care he could save something, it would have a good effect. That system is extremely popular. As regards efficiency pay, that is the old service pay in different form; it is now given for efficiency. One of the strongest committees that have ever sat at the War Office, after considering the whole subject two or three years ago, substituted efficiency pay for service pay, and there are now people getting efficiency pay who used not to get service pay, while there are others do not get efficiency pay who used to get service pay. The reason for the difference is that the basis on which the extra pay is now given is proficiency in all sorts of things.
§ Mr. HALDANE
Oh, in a score of things—all sorts of things in which proficiency can be shown. Another matter which has been referred to is the employment of the ex-soldier, and it is brought to my mind by the remarks of the hon. Member (Mr. Seddon) with regard to chaplains. The services of the chaplain may be made of enormous value in helping men to get employment. In Scotland we have started an experiment which has been in operation for about a year and is succeeding very remarkably. We have there a chaplain-inspector, a man of great experience in these matters, who when a recruit arrives asks him where he comes from, writes to the minister of the parish asking him about the family, and telling him that the recruit is being looked after in the Army. That produces a much better feeling towards the Army than if the recruit practically disappears. The recruit is not interfered with, but he is looked after. When he goes to India notice is 1549 sent to the chaplain of the denomination there asking him to look after the soldier. Then when he is brought home, the chaplain-inspector and the chaplain of the home battalion to which the man goes communicate with the minister of the parish asking him to help the soldier to get employment. That system is working extremely well. It is only in its experimental stage, but it has had such a good effect, even in affecting the percentage of desertions, that we hope before long to extend it to England. That is a kind of use of which the chaplain is made. He is not merely a person who sings Psalms, but one who takes an interest in the mental and moral welfare of the troops with whom he comes in contact. He is a most valuable person. I am not particularly addicted to dogmatic or platform theology, but I have become convinced that the chaplain is one of the most useful institutions of the British Army, and I have done what I can to improve his position.
§ Mr. HALDANE
There are 11,000 troops in South Africa, and I think thirteen chaplains. These chaplains are part of the Army; they are not local ministers; their whole time is given to looking after the troops, and I should like to see more of them. I now come to some of the more military questions. With regard to horses, it was said that the new mode of taking the census and the instructions given to county associations are vague and novel. I agree. The matter is purely experimental. I believe in it myself, and I think it will work out. But we shall doubtless gain a good deal of experience and be able to improve the system in many particulars. I have here the results of the census for Scotland and England, minus five counties. Out of about 1,500,000 horses, which exist in these, I think, eighty-eight counties, there are 140,372 riding horses, 703,120 heavy draught-horses, and 428,570 light draught. That gives some indication of the kind of proportion in which the different classes of horses will be found. There will be a more careful classification later on. The work of the associations will not be as heavy as many Members appear to think, because out of an enormous total of about 2,000,000 horses, we do not want more than at the outside about 130,000 or 140,000. That is to say, you have twelve or fifteen times as 1550 many horses as you want to draw on. For each county there will be a quota, which should be only a small fraction of the horses in that county, and the thing will be to distribute that quota justly. The working out of the whole matter is tentative, but I see no reason why the foundation should not be laid of a system which will enable us to get our horses at once on mobilisation. As regards drafts, the same machinery which gives you the quota will prepare for the drafts. A further list will be made of the horses available for drafts, and it will be very easy after getting the horses for mobilisation to get the drafts. I was glad to see the interests which this question of horses has awakened. It was a pleasure to hear the speeches on both sides, showing, as they did, that the House is determined to have this question dealt with.
The Noble Lord the Member for Thirsk (Viscount Helmsley) and others put a question with regard to the scheme of the President of the Board of Agriculture, asking me to communicate with my Noble Friend with a view to his conferring with their associations on certain points in regard to which they think the scheme could be improved. I have seen my Noble Friend, and he will be very glad to enter into conference with them on those points. Another question asked was, why is there not a training manual for the Yeomanry? I think it is very reasonable that there should be a special training manual for the Yeomanry, but the difficulty is that it has never been finally and definitely settled what the function of the Yeomanry is. Nobody knows better than the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Wyndham) the extraordinary difficulty of labelling the Yeomanry. They are not Cavalry; you do not train them for full shock tactics. Nor are they mounted infantry. They do something near shock tactics, but they are betwixt and between. I have tried my best to get a precise definition, not only from hon. and gallant Members who have experience in these matters, but from distinguished officers on the General Staff, but I cannot get near precision. The fact is that the function of the Yeomanry becomes more and more precisely defined as time gets on, but the day has not yet arrived when you can say precisely what it is. Therefore the Yeomanry have to depend on Cavalry training with certain modifications, and to draw up a special manual for them is 1551 a thing which the General Staff up to this point have found very difficult. There is, however, a desire that this matter should be attended to, and I will see what can be done. The Noble Marquess who represents Perthshire (Marquess of Tullibardine) referred to the rifle. I think, however, he did not quite do justice to the changes which have been made and to what we are projecting in regard to the new bullet.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I am much obliged to the Noble Marquess. It is not a question of making shift. We cannot get an automatic rifle for some time to come.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
Would it be undesirable to enter into the question of what other Powers have got?
§ Mr. HALDANE
As far as I know, every nation wants other nations to try first. It is a very costly experiment to arm your force with a new rifle, particularly if it turns out to be a failure. I think we might with advantage have taken a little more time over certain matters connected with our own rifle.
The problem has been how to use a smaller charge than now, and to find the bullet which will give a result such as we are aiming at That is the problem which the Small Arms Committee think they have solved, and we are going to experiment with a bullet to put into the present rifle, which already gives a result which approaches remarkably close to those given by the German rifles. It is quite true that in some foreign rifles with a superior breech pressure that a higher velocity ammunition could be used than with our rifle. I do not doubt that when Germany and France have got a new automatic rifle that they will get still better results, but we shall endeavour to get a still better automatic rifle. Meanwhile, what we have done promises to fill up the gap for the time very satisfactorily. Another hon. Member raised the question of service waggons. He was under the impression that there had been some reduction in mobilisation in the number of service waggons. There has not been. Manœuvres are no guide to the use to which service waggons are put. The things put into service waggons are very different on mobilisation. The number six which appears on mobilisation 1552 is the result of a calculation of the General Staff, and I am told is the right number. There was a question raised about the Territorial Artillery eye sights. I am glad to say that these will be supplied. I cannot be certain when they will be ready, but for the next training so far as possible. There was a question raised about the decrease in the amount of ammunition. It appears that the charge for ammunition is, I think, £72,000 less in this year's Estimates than in last. There is no reduction in the amount of ammunition, but the price has gone down very much, and less money produces the same amount of ammunition.
There are various questions which were raised by hon. Members, ranging over a very wide field. There was, for example, the question of civilian rifle clubs raised by my hon. Friend opposite. He asked whether it would not be possible for the War Office, proceeding cautiously, to give some encouragement to these civilian rifle clubs. I am glad he went on to say that there has been a good deal of misapprehension as to what rifle clubs could do in making an efficient army, and I am glad to think that the public ideas on that subject are much more educated than they were three years ago. Rifle clubs are nothing without some organisation. I have always thought that the main and legitimate use of a rifle club is to improve the musketry of some definite unit, such as a Territorial battalion. If so, the proper body to deal with those rifle clubs is the county association. The War Office has gone into the question of how far something may be possible in the way of encouraging those rifle clubs who still devote themselves to affording people in a Territorial battalion an opportunity of improving their musketry. There is a class of rifle club, however, that is an annexe to the public-house. Obviously, that is very undesirable. There is also a class of rifle club which you will find in connection with political clubs. It does not seem to me that this is conducive to improving the musketry of the Territorials. Therefore I agree with with my hon. Friend that it is extremely desirable that we should go very cautiously in giving encouragement in this matter. All I will say is that every possible encouragement to the shooting of definite units is not a matter which is being lost sight of. Recruit musketry training was another subject referred to by, I think, the Noble Lord the Member for Maidstone (Viscount Castlereagh). It is quite true 1553 that at the present time we are short of ranges, and I am afraid that it is true there has been this year a very considerable deficiency in musketry training. Certainly it has been difficult for a good many recruits to get their shooting done. All I can say is that we are dealing with that matter as energetically as possible.
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
May I say that the question I put was: Is it not true that there were units that were returned as effective when it was not possible for them to shoot their course?
§ Mr. HALDANE
I would like to answer that question right off, but perhaps the Noble Lord will put down the question on paper, and I will investigate the matter. If it is so it certainly ought not to be, and there is something wrong. I do not think it is at all the way in which these matters have been dealt with at the present time.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the matter has already been dealt with this afternoon in another place, and that the War Office representative there stated that there were seven units of the Territorial Forces (battalions of infantry) who had not been able to fire a single shot at open ranges, and had been returned as effective; that there were ten other units of whom not more than 50 per cent. have been tested, and the reason is that they have not been able to get a range at all, or only to get there with such difficulty that only a certain number were able co fire. He also stated the words, "returned as efficient," were unfortunate, and that the authorities may have to change them.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I suppose they were treated as efficient for the purposes of the grant. It is a very unfortunate state of things, due entirely to what I hope is only a temporary shortage of ranges The Noble Marquess knows how increasingly difficult it is to get a range. I think I have about covered the ground of the various criticisms. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea said the cost of the Army was increasing very largely, and no doubt it has increased, but not proportionately to the cost of the Civil Services or to the wealth of the country. Our national interests are so vast and so far-reaching that it is not safe to exercise economy in directions which might expose those interests, if not to peril, at least to unrest. There is no unrest so great in 1554 my experience as the unrest which comes to a people who think that their provision of defence is dubious, and I am inclined to think that the greatest economy you can achieve is to have your house in order.
I should not venture to intrude my remarks so early in the life of this Parliament were it not for the kind and courteous consideration that new Members have received at the hands of the House in their maiden effort, and, secondly, as I happen to hold a commission in a Cavalry regiment, I naturally take an extreme interest in this Debate which concerns the Army, and specially that branch of the service to which I belong. Let me refer briefly to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman yesterday with regard to these slight changes and proposed slight reorganisation of some of the details in the Cavalry. First of all there was a question of six new depots in Cavalry regiments. I think it was the Noble Lord the Member for Maidstone who referred to the question of new depots. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman this question, so as to be quite clear upon it: With regard to these new depots, is it proposed to do away entirely with the old fourth or reserve squadron which exists in the Cavalry regiments, and transfer the whole of the duties which appertains to that fourth or the reserve squadron to the depot? In other words, is the right hon. Gentleman leaving the Cavalry regiments complete with three fighting squadrons unemcumbered with young horses or recruits?
§ Mr. HALDANE
The hon. and gallant Member is quite right. There are three fighting squadrons, and horses and men are trained up to such a state as will enable them to mobilise unencumbered by recruits. The recruits will go to the depot and receive their preliminary training there.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his reply. It is a matter which will interest the Cavalry regiments very greatly, and I am inclined to think the great majority of them will be very pleased and satisfied with the fact. The particular branch of the Cavalry in which I myself am interested is the Household Cavalry. I suppose that the answer does not apply to them. If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will put a question some time to him, but I take it from that which I know of the conditions of the Household Cavalry it would be hardly 1555 possible for the changes to be applied. Another question that interested me very greatly was that of the increase of men and horses in our Cavalry. Small though that be, I think it is one that we are very satisfied and pleased to hear about. There is another question which I would like to ask, and that is whether the slight increase in horses was in proportion to the increase in the number of men? This question of slight increase of our Cavalry is one that is very closely allied to the supplies of horses, and I should like briefly to deal with that matter. But may I, first of all, draw attention to the interesting state of things which I think was instrumental in bringing about this slight increase in the Cavalry. I refer to the right hon. Gentleman's recent visit to the manœuvres on Salisbury Plain. I do not know how many Secretaries of State for Wax previously visited manœuvres, but I was particularly glad that the right hon. Gentleman paid such a compliment to the Army as to honour us with his presence this year. Unfortunately for my part, I was not lucky enough to set eyes upon him, but the Noble Lord the Member for Sussex told us, in a very amusing way, how he encountered the right hon. Gentleman in his black coat and silk hat. But, may I say that, although I was not fortunate enough to meet the right hon. Gentleman, I was more fortunate in beholding the mounted figure of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who descended from his very exalted position and came down amongst us clad in rich, plum-coloured pantaloons. I assure him that these formed a very bright setting among the dark khaki breeches and conventional blue serge still worn by some of our Cavalry. I do not know whether I might be allowed to suggest that on future occasions, when the Secretary of State for War visits the manœuvres he could not make himself Colonel-in-Chief of the Territorials and wear some suitable uniform, possibly modelled upon the same tint and hue as the plum-coloured pantaloons to which I have already referred.
With regard to the horse question, we were all very much pleased and carried away with the great optimism shown by the right hon. Gentleman in introducing these Estimates, but at the same time, when he came to the question of the horses, he must have been very much struck by the large deficit in the number of horses required on mobilisation, both for the Territorials and the Regular Army. That deficiency amounted to a 1556 very large figure. We have been told it amounts to 120,000 horses. I have not heard that figure very much emphasised, but I think hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House must realise it is a very heavy deficit, and one that it is not so easy to remedy as the right hon. Gentleman seems to hope. What is the proposal to remedy this? First of all, we are to have that census of the horses, which I think, as far as it goes, will be welcomed. But remember what other Members of the House have stated. A Noble Lord who spoke from this side and also other Members drew attention to some very important matters. These hon. Members have been connected with hunting, and one is a Master of Hounds, and he informed the House that no census had been taken of his horses, or, if it had been done, he was ignorant of the fact. I draw the attention of the Secretary of State to this fact, and I would ask him for the satisfaction of everybody interested in our horse supplies to see that the census is thoroughly and efficiently carried out as we are led to believe it has been. We may improve upon this census by seeing that it is more efficient and that more attention should be given to the character and class of the horses, their ages, and various other considerations, so that the census may be far more useful to the military authorities than it is.
Then comes the question of what is to happen after that. It is proposed that the Territorial associations are to make a classification in their own area or in the neighbourhood of their own areas. I would respectfully suggest that a professional element would be a much more useful and effective one. As an hon. Member suggested—and it has my cordial sympathy—the existing Remount Department of the Regular Army should be allowed to take up this question and to deal with it in a manner in which they are capable of dealing with it. I suggest that five men, consisting of two remount officers from the Remount Department, a veterinary officer, though he should not be a local man, and two men from each particular district who know the horses in their locality, and by his natural inclination or profession knows something about the horses in that particular part of the country. I think it should be the aim and object of the Government, and I hope and believe it is with regard to the Yeomanry, that the system should be one man one horse so far as Mounted Yeomanry are concerned. 1557 I may be allowed to again remind Members of the Government that one horse, belonging possibly to one local dealer, will go round and round each man on two, three, and sometimes four different Yeomanry trainings. I think the aim and object of the Government ought to be that every man should either have his own horse—and perhaps it is asking too much that every man should have his own horse—or every man should know where his horse is and where he can obtain it. I suppose a system of registration would be necessary for that, but it is very important, and with some sort of system of that kind it would be possible for the Yeomanry to mobilise and turn out in a shorter space of time than it is possible now. Then there is the question of horse breeding. I am very pleased to know that the Government have entered into a scheme with the President of the Board of Agriculture to do something in this direction. I will not enlarge upon this point, except to say that I hope the Government will bear this matter in mind and not let this scheme lapse as so many schemes have lapsed before. On behalf of those who sit on this side of the House I urge upon the Government to do their utmost to promote a scheme to carry out the two-fold object of encouraging farmers to breed suitable horses and satisfy at the same time the needs of the Army and national safety. I thank the House for the consideration it has shown me, and I hope I have not thus early in my Parliamentary life earned the name of a gas bag or a bore.
§ Major ADAM
During the last few days I have listened with great interest to the variety of points which have been discussed connected with the Army. I followed with a special interest the statement made by the Secretary of State for War on Monday last, and if I may at this late stage of the Debate make one general criticism which will apply to the majority of speeches as well as to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, it is that they arouse an interest which is little more than academic, that is to say, they will not arouse a great interest in the minds of the serving officer and the serving soldier at the present time. They may be interesting from an individual point of view, or from the point of view of the War Office, but they will have little or no interest for the men and the officers who are serving in our regiments at the present time. We have been promised some changes in organisation, some additions here and some subtractions there, but few speakers have referred to what is of 1558 vital importance to the officers and soldiers in the ranks. I thoroughly appreciate what the Secretary of State for War has done in the interest of the Service. I fully appreciate what he is doing more especially to revive the appointment of the Inspector-General of Cavalry. That is an appointment which should never have lapsed, and which all Cavalry officers will be very glad to see revived. I sincerely trust that the officer appointed will be a competent man and that we shall not have a repetition of what we have experienced during the last three years.
The changes that have been promised in administration are, to my mind, trifling. There are changes which are necessary and absolutely needful to the efficiency of the Army which have not been touched upon, and which I do not believe are realised by the right hon. Gentleman. The Secretary for War touched upon the question of recruiting, and he told us that he had no difficulty in filling up the ranks of the Army at the present time. He told us that his only difficulty was to restrain himself from recruiting too many men to the ranks. I have no doubt that the Service has amply availed itself of the large amount of unemployment which exists in the country at the present time. As one hon. Member stated, when the labour market is bad, it is good for recruiting in the Army. So much for the men. But when the right hon. Gentleman came to speak of the officers who are to command those men, he was in a much more serious difficulty, and he gave us some figures which would lead us to believe that the difficulties of procuring officers for His Majesty's Army at the present time were not so great as popular opinion believed them to be. Although he gave us the figures, he immediately supplemented them by putting forward two methods which he was put ting into practice in order to procure more officers for the Army. One of those methods was that he had reduced the age for boys entering Sandhurst, which is a very considerable change; the other was that he was accepting nominations from the headmasters of public schools, who were asked to nominate boys from the schools direct for commissions in the Army. I think it is only right that the country should know that young men are coming forward and receiving commissions in the Army without any competitive examination whatsoever. If they succeed in passing a merely qualifying examination 1559 then they become entitled to a commission. That is a very different state of things from what has existed during the last ten years.
Not only are officers being given commissions in the Army merely after a qualifying examination, but there is a system at present in vogue both in the Cavalry and in the Guards, where officers are actually appointed on probation to regiments, and do the work of officers, without passing any examination whatsoever. There is no doubt in my mind that under these circumstances the supply of officers is not equal to the demand. One hon. Member said it was a case of pounds, shillings, and pence, and he stated that if you paid the British officer better you get a better supply. I do not think so, because I do not attribute to the ordinary officer any such sordid motives. What I do say is that if the parents of the boys who are now going into the Army as officers, were thoroughly aware of the conditions under which their sons would be asked to serve, then the supply would decrease still more. There would be a deficiency even greater than the present one. There is no Government Department which is so prolific in, I will not call them public scandals, but regrettable incidents, some of which find their way into the newspapers, as the War Office. One or two instances occasionally do find their way into the newspapers, but for every one or two that do there are, I am absolutely sure, and I know from experience, twenty or thirty instances which never find any publicity at all. I believe 80 or 90 per cent. of the officers who leave His Majesty's Service of their own free will leave it as disappointed men. I do not mean the butterfly officer who takes a commission for three or four years just to have a good time, and then passes on to something else, but the man who enters the Service with a view of making it his profession, and giving his whole time to the Army. That man, in the great majority of cases, finds himself, when reaching middle age or just past it, thrown out of the Army after twenty or twenty-five years' good service therein, a disappointed man, a man disgusted with the treatment he has received at the hands of the War Department. That, I take it, is a state of affairs which every man, no matter to what party he belongs, does not wish to see continued.
1560 The reasons of this state of affairs, are mainly two. First of all, there exists at the present time absolutely no guarantee of the continuity of the contract which the officer makes with the Government on accepting his commission, and secondly, no matter what decision is given about him, he is unlike the rest of the community, and is absolutely debarred from the right of appeal in the courts of law. I would like to say a few words in regard to the first condition. Every young man, when he accepts a commission in His Majesty's Service, enters into a contract with the Government of the day, which is down in print, and which no one will dispute as regards his pay, his service, and his pension—a contract which should hold good as long as that officer holds his commission. I daresay it will surprise some people to learn this is not so. There is nothing to prevent this contract being altered by a stroke of the pen the very day after the officer joins or the very day he intends to resign his commission. He may work and give good and faithful service for, say, nineteen years under a certain warrant, intending to retire after twenty years' service on a certain pension, and then perhaps in his twentieth year, by some whim of the Government, that contract is entirely altered, and he finds he is compelled, in order to receive the same pension, to continue his service not for twenty years, but for twenty-five years. That is a hypothetical case, but I will give one instance which actually occurred last year, and I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that this breaking of contracts between officers, non-commissioned officers, and men in the ranks with the Government is an everyday occurrence. Last year an alteration was made in the Royal Warrant, which before then provided that an officer of a certain rank, on reaching the age of forty-eight years, should be entitled to retire on a certain pension. It was suddenly altered last year, and officers who had intended to retire at the age of forty-eight found themselves compelled to continue their service till the age of fifty. To my mind that was a breach of the contract between the Government and every officer under the age of forty-eight who was serving in the Army at the time, no matter whether he was a second lieutenant, lieutenant, captain, or a major. These changes in the warrant are made retrospective, and there is a great hardship in the fact that there 1561 is no guarantee that the contract which the officer makes on taking his commission will be continued faithfully to the end of his service. That is one way in which the contracts made between the officer and the Government are broken to large masses of men.
There is, however, another way in which the Government equally breaks its contract. It breaks it not to a class of men, not to a rank, but to the individual. The most open method of exercising this power is by means of the confidential report, to which I wish to draw the attention of the Financial Secretary. The confidential report is to my mind a relic and a method of barbarism. It is found to be quite unnecessary in every service except the Army and the Navy. It is an annual report rendered to a superior authority by the commanding officer on every officer under his command. At first sight it looks harmless enough. It is edged round with various regulations, and if anything goes into this confidential report which is to prejudice the officer's future career in any way, then that report is to be read over to the officer, and he is to be given every opportunity of appealing against it. That looks very well in print, but it is a very different thing in practice. A little time ago a general officer rendered reports on officers under his command of a most prejudicial character, and those reports contained not only statements of opinion but statements also of fact. For some reason or other, either wittingly or unwittingly, the general officer had included in his report facts which had not really occurred, and he had also stated that things had not occurred which had actually occurred. These reports were rendered to the superior authority without being even shown to the officers, who were not warned in any way that the reports were being rendered, and when, after a time, they received word from the higher authority that these prejudicial reports had come in, they naturally asked to see them. This was a request that could not be refused, and, as soon as the reports were seen, some of the officers appealed. But that appeal was suppressed by the very officer who had rendered the reports. This and other questions have been frequently brought to the notice of the Army Council, but the advice of the first military member of the Army Council has always been that it is better an injustice should be done to a few officers than that the Army Council should stultify itself by reconsidering its 1562 decision. If the system of confidential reporting has come to this the sooner it is revised or abolished altogether the better it will be for the Army and for the Army Council. There are at the present time prejudicial reports filed at the War Office against officers who are absolutely ignorant of their very existence, and have never known such reports have been made upon them during their long years of service. The weapon of confidential reporting is one that may or may not be used. Two officers may be candidates for a lucrative post or enviable position in the Army. They both have confidential reports. The reports on the one may be ransacked—those of the other need not be read. I would not say so very much against this system if, while inflicting here and there inevitable injustice on the individual, it still contributed mainly to the efficiency of the whole, because that is what we must look to after all. But I do not believe, either by observation or by experience, that that is the effect of this system. We have seen officers unqualified appointed to posts for which they were entirely unfit. It not only produces that result, but it generates a feeling of distrust among the officers themselves, and it tends to raise a barrier of feeling whatever that feeling may be, between the regimental officer and the soldier and those higher officials at the War Office who are responsible for the administration of the Army. I am alluding, of course, only to the military members, because there is nobody who appreciates more than I do the efforts of the present Secretary for War on behalf of the Army. There are four military members of the Council, and I submit that they are entirely out of touch with the needs of the rank and file. Out of those four officers only one has ever commanded troops, either in the field or at home, and that is the adjutant-general. I ask how can men who have gone on from promotion to promotion, from one office stool to another, how can they really appreciate the needs of the Army which they are called upon to administer? The case of appeal is another story, but I think that if the system under which reporting is done in the Army were revised there would be fewer instances in which the absence of appeal, as it exists at present, would be felt to be a hardship.
I wish to say a few words on behalf of a man for whom I have always had the greatest regard, and that is the private soldier in the Army. Up to the present I have been talking on the subject of the 1563 officers, but I am equally acquainted with the needs of the private soldier, and I do not think it is difficult to elicit the symparty of this House, or of any body of right-minded men in this country on behalf of the rank and file. Much has been done to improve the lot of the private soldier, but much remains to be done. It is not only his present condition that we should look to. We should have in mind also his future, and it should be the object of everybody who administers the Army to so concentrate their endeavours that in the end we should reach such a position that every man who enlists in the Army should know that his future is assured, either as an officer promoted from the ranks—and I am altogether in favour of the greater democracisation of the Army—or as an Army pensioner, or as a man who, when leaving the service should have some definite claim upon the Government for such lucrative employment as would enable him to live. If this were assured in every case, the class of recruits secured would be greatly superior to that now attracted to the Army. There is one great hardship under which men suffer at present. Only 10 per cent. of the men who enlist in the Army at the present time are granted permission to re-engage in order to secure their pension. That percentage is, I submit, totally inadequate, and, although its increase might necessitate some addition to the financial burdens of the country, I think we should be well repaid if at least 30 or 40 per cent. of the men were given the privilege, as they would then have the knowledge that if they served well and faithfully for say eight or twelve years, they would be entitled to reengage so as to complete twenty-one years with the colours and so qualify for pension. I believe that this is a grievance also from which the sister Service suffers, that is, the small percentage of men who are allowed to qualify for a pension. A man after twelve years' service in the ranks is not very fit to start in competition with the young men and take up some trade with which he is entirely unacquainted. If he wishes to make the Army a profession, the pension should be given as it is given in most cases to the officers. It should be given also to the men in the ranks. I am fully appreciative of the very strenuous and very successful endeavours that the Secretary of State for War has made on behalf of the Army, and I believe that all the officers and men are exceedingly grateful to him. Although he has just lately 1564 answered a few points which have been raised in the Debate, I cannot help submitting these two or three additional matters to him or his representative for future consideration, and I trust that these and other questions—things which are really vital to the existence of the Army and strike at the very basis of the whole foundation on which our Army is built up—these things will be looked into, and if justice is done to the individual, then I believe the efficiency of the Army will be increased as a whole.
§ Mr. JOSEPH MARTIN
The hon. Member for Montgomery Boroughs (Mr. Rees) made allusion in his speech last evening to military matters in Canada, but the statement that he made was wide of the mark, and I cannot help correcting him. He stated that Canada would be able to put 1,000,000 men in the field. The number of men in Canada, according to the last census, was, in round figures, 2,750,000, the number of males between twenty and sixty years of age, which I suppose would cover the military age at that time, was 1,250,000, so that if the hon. Gentleman's statement is correct Canada would be able to put in the field all the men in the country between twenty and sixty years of age except 250,000, and these the hon. Gentleman stated were trained soldiers. As a matter of fact, the number of men who are trained annually in Canada amounts to about 90,000 instead of 1,000,000, so that the hon. Gentleman was considerably out in his statement. Of these about 90,000 men who are trained about half of them are trained for twelve days or less in the year, so that they can scarcely be called trained soldiers.
The hon. Gentleman also stated that Australia was able to put in the field 974,000 men. Australia has a population—I am not sure exactly as to the figures, but it is a population very considerably less than Canada. I think not a great deal more than half, and if Canada is only able to train 90,000 men in the year we may assume that Australia will probably not train more than half the amount, so that while the hon. Gentleman's statement was very wide of the mark with regard to Canada in the proportion of 1,000,000 to 90,000 it must be remembered that he was nearly twice as bad with regard to Australia, because he claimed 1,000,000 soldiers there, or nearly so, but in all probability they would amount to about 40,000. With regard to the question that 1565 has been debated by the Committee in reference to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt), I am sorry the remarks of the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. H. Roberts) met with some amount of opposition. The hon. Member for Norwich stated that there were a great many people who did not believe that the amount spent for Army purposes in this country was spent entirely with a view to defence. His remarks were met with a very considerable amount of hostility by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member for Norwich had previously stated that he and other Labour Members of the House were prepared to vote whatever was required for the purposes of defence, but they stopped at that. I could give an instance to show that the hon. Member for Norwich was quite correct in regard to one part of the Empire at any rate as to there being an idea that the money spent was considerably in excess of what was required for the purposes of defence.
In Canada, for the first time in her history, they are debating the question of taking part in the defence of the Empire. The Government have proposed to establish a Canadian Navy, and that matter is now before the Parliament of Canada. The Government, of course, there is Liberal, and the Conservatives are opposing that policy and advocating one of assisting in the defence of the Empire by a direct grant to the Admiralty for the purposes of the Navy. There is in Canada a very considerable party outside the Liberal party and the Conservative party, who are opposing very strongly indeed any assistance whatever from Canada with regard to the defence of the Empire. The principal leader of that party is Mr. Monk, a Conservative member in the Dominion House of Commons for a constituency in the province of Quebec. Mr. Monk is a very prominent man in Canadian politics, and has been for many years Conservative leader in the Dominion House of Commons from the province of Quebec, and, if I am not mistaken, he continues at the present time to act in that capacity. Mr. Monk takes the ground, and he is followed by a very considerable number of supporters in Canada in both parties, that Canada should give no assistance whatever for the defence of the Empire, on the ground that Canada would be making a very great mistake indeed in mixing herself up with the militarism of Europe. So it seems to me that the 1566 hon. Gentleman was quite justified in making the statement which he did.
I am in favour of the Amendment, and it seems to me that a strong case has been made out for the advisability of withdrawing the troops from South Africa. The Secretary for War stated that the reason why the troops were not withdrawn was the very strenuous opposition made by the South Africans themselves to that course being taken, and he went on further to state that the Government propose, with regard to South Africa, to proceed, in the same way as they have with regard to Canada, Australia, and other Colonies, to take away the troops when South Africa was in a position to furnish troops of its own. If the Government propose to take the same course in South Africa as they have done in Canada, it will be a very long time indeed before the troops are withdrawn, because Imperial troops were left in Canada for certainly twenty-five years, and probably considerably longer, after Canada was well able to defend herself from the financial standpoint. In fact, in all those years, when the Imperial troops were stationed at Halifax and other places, Canada, financially speaking, was really better able to pay the expenses of those troops than the people of this country were, and yet they remained there for all those years. That is one reason why I am in favour of reducing the number of troops. But there is another reason which seems to me to justify in every respect the proposed reduction, and that is the fact, which has been admitted by the Secretary for War, that at the present time the War Department is paying as low as 23s. per week for labour. I consider that it is a disgrace that in any Department of the public service, at any rate in the City of London, wages as low as that should be paid. It is quite impossible for any man to live upon that amount. It is barely sufficient to keep him from starvation. I was rather surprised at what occurred here yesterday. The hon. Member (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) had moved an Amendment with regard to this question, and to my mind the Government dealt with it most unsatisfactorily. Several Members of the Government stated their position with regard to this question of inadequate pay, and it seemed to me that as each Member of the Government got up, the position got worse and more unsatisfactory from the standpoint of the working men of the 1567 country. The remedy which the Secretary of State proposes for this state of affairs, which he does not deny exists at Pimlico and other places, is that if any complaint is made, and a very strong complaint has already been made, he proposes to submit that question, as to whether it is a fair wage, to a Committee of the Board of Trade which has been brought into existence for that purpose.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I must remind the hon. Member that that matter was debated at some length yesterday, and settled for the time being, at any rate, by a Vote of the House. There may be a subsequent occasion, on particular Army Votes, on which it may be raised again, but I think in this general discussion on Vote A it ought not to be raised.
§ Mr. MARTIN
Either the Secretary of State or the President of the Board of Trade made an appeal to the House yesterday to vote the Speaker out of the Chair, and said the Debate would proceed just the same as if it were continued in the House, and on the strength of that appeal, I voted for the Speaker leaving the Chair. I doubt very much under any other circumstances if I should have been able to do so, although I am, I consider, a most loyal supporter of the Government. Now I am told that I am out of order.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not rule the hon. Member out of order, but I think, in the interests of debate, it is as well not to raise a question apparently settled by the House on a subsequent day when there is another Vote on the Army Estimates on which it would be more conveniently raised. I hope the hon. Member will be brief if he continues the discussion.
§ Mr. MARTIN
As I understand, the question which the Committee of the Board of Trade is intended to decide is whether the Government are following out the rule that they shall not pay any less than good employers of labour do with regard to Government work. It seems to me that, while that is a very proper rule, that cannot be the limit of the Government's responsibility to the working men of this country. If it happened to be true that all other employers are like the Government, sweaters, paying too little for their work, surely that is no justification for the Government, and I entirely agree with the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) that 23s. per 1568 week is entirely inadequate for any person working for the Government, and that it ought not to refer the matter to any Committee of the Board of Trade, or any body whatsoever, but that the right hon. Gentleman himself ought to be able to see, without considering what other people say, that it is entirely improper for the Government to ask men to work for 23s. per week. Under these circumstances it seems to me that that is another strong reason for voting for a reduction in the number of soldiers in the Army. If it is only by failing to pay their working men proper wages that the Government can afford to keep up this large force of soldiers, then I, as a representative of working men in this House, think that until they are in a position to pay their workers proper wages they ought to be willing to cut down their establishment. The right hon. Gentleman who represents St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Lyttelton) said he had been asked by the workers at Pimlico, which is in his division, to vote for a minimum wage of 30s. for workmen in the employ of the Government. I wish to put on record my opinion—and I believe it is the real opinion of every Member in this House on both sides—that 30s. is quite small enough for the minimum wage of labourers of any kind in the service of the Government.
§ Mr. G. L. COURTHOPE
I do not think the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken can have helped the Amendment very materially by the three reasons which he gave. Firstly, he said that the number of men Canada can produce for our assistance is less than was stated in the House. The other two reasons were entirely subsidiary reasons. One is that the Government do not pay enough to their workmen—I am not contradicting him at all—and the other was that there was some undesirable arrangement between the Government and the Labour party in relation to the Division which took place yesterday, I do not think these are material reasons for reducing the strength of the Army. My reason for rising now is to refer to two minor subjects which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with in his speech. They are subjects I shall refer to upon Vote 9 when it is reached, but they are questions of policy which are of too great importance to leave to an indefinite date when Vote 9 comes up for discussion. The questions are the automatic rifle and ammunition. The right hon. Gentleman stated some time ago that 1569 the Government were considering the automatic rifle, that their investigation had led them to suppose that the proper type of automatic rifle had not yet been reached, and that it would be some time before the automatic rifle became practicable. He almost used the words which I used last year, and to which he objected then. I am not quibbling about that, for I am rather glad that we have now come to an agreement on the point. I wish to ask two questions. What has become of the War Office automatic rifle about which there was so great promise and so much secrecy?
§ Mr. COURTHOPE
I understand that the War Office automatic rifle has failed to reach the standard of military efficiency necessary for adoption. My second question relates to a point which I have raised before on this question of automatic and other rifles. Why is the consideration of these weapons—the automatic rifle built for the War Office and those made by private inventors—not submitted to the War Office Small Arms Committee I What is the use of having a Small Arms Committee containing, among others, some of the greatest experts in the world, if these subjects are not submitted to them? The two greatest experts in this country on automatic rifles are both on the Small Arms Committee. They have both applied for permission to see the War Office automatic rifle, and that has been refused in both cases. I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman is aware of that at all. I do hope he will consider whether it is not advisable to take these gentlemen, who really are experts, into his confidence. The public suppose that they are consulted on all these questions, and I really think it would be to his interest and the nation's interest if they really were consulted on points of this kind.
I come to another point which is even more important. I never thought that an automatic rifle could be made under present circumstances. I am not one of those who think that an automatic rifle can suffice for the general armament of our troops throughout the Army. I do not think it is possible from motives of military expediency. I shall not go into that question now. The question of the bullet and small arms ammunition generally is one of vital importance, whatever 1570 rifle we have—whether we stick to the Enfield, or whether we have an automatic rifle or what not. I had not the advantage personally of seeing the bullets which the right hon. Gentleman handed across the House during his speech, but I am very glad that he has adopted, or tentatively adopted, some species of ogival bullet. He will bear witness that I have been for four years agitating this very point in this House. I should like to warn the Committee that a comparison between any bullet adopted by our War Office and the Spitzer bullet is not enough. So far as the ogival bullet is concerned the Spitzer is the most primitive of all. The Spitzer is used in the German Army now, and it is as far behind the latest ammunition as our own service weapon is behind the Spitzer. I hope, therefore, the War Office will make a satisfactory comparison not only with the Spitzer, but with some of the latest, such as the Ross-Eley. I have got some Ross-Eley ammunition here, and it is a fair sample of up-to-date ammunition. Two or three points of policy arise on this question of pointed bullets. It has always been recognised since the ogival bullet cartridge was started that it was an advantage to have that bullet if you could have sufficient propelling power to utilise all its powers. But in order to get full advantage of it you must shorten the period it passes through the barrel and get greater initial velocity. That involves higher ballistical co-efficiency, and consequently greater pressure and greater length of chamber. Why we have not hitherto been able to adopt it was that our breech action was not strong enough, and also because the chambers of our rifles would have to be drilled deeper to take the increased size of cartridge. There are three or four questions which the right hon. Gentleman has been asked, and which I think he will admit really arise on this point. The first is whether this new ammunition which he has tentatively adopted will load in and out of our present magazine rifle with a clip without alteration of any kind—[Mr. Haldane indicated assent]—and whether it will do the same in the machine gun without alteration of the present breech action [Mr. Haldane indicated assent.] I was going to suggest that if any cost was to be incurred in the alteration of the magazine or breech of the rifle or the magazine of the machine gun it would be much better to spend a little more on more powerful ammunition if the rifle breech action would stand the test.
§ Mr. COURTHOPE
In the scale, the graduation. I am very glad to hear that. I would like to compliment the right hon. Gentleman on having achieved that result, and I do hope that in practice the ammunition will come up to his expectation, and that we shall not be behind the civilised nations of the world in this matter, which is of vital importance. From the small knowledge I have of ballistical matters I cannot conceive that so short a load in and out of our magazine with a clip can attain a sufficient charge to propel a bullet with the velocity desired, but the results will show. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this ammunition will be loaded with cordite or axite?
§ Mr. COURTHOPE
Perhaps we shall have some more information upon which to base further questions before the matter comes up again. There are only one or two minor matters that I wish to refer to. One is about the treatment of subalterns of the Territorial Forces who go into the Army or to enter Sandhurst on their way to the Army. There have been several cases lately within my own knowledge, in fact, in the company of Territorials which I have the honour to command. There a young gentleman takes a commission in the Territorial Forces at the age of seventeen, works very hard, does excellent work and gains his certificate A. During two years he is in camp for the full period of fifteen days, and he does everything that is asked of him. He becomes so bitten with soldiering that he wants to go into the Army before it is too late. He goes into Sandhurst. Meantime, having got certificate A, he has got £20 uniform allowance; but because he wishes to continue his service to the country in a more complete form and go into the Army before he has been three full years in the Territorial Forces, he has to refund the greater part of that £20 uniform allowance. I am firmly convinced that that is wrong, not only from the individual point of view, but that it is also bad policy from the national point of view; and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman—I am not asking him to say anything in this particular case—will consider the question and reconsider the decision which he or the Army Council have 1572 come to about it, because it is a great deterrent on young men who have not absolutely decided what their profession will be against coming into the Territorials. If they are living in the country on the spot, they may be of the greatest possible use in the local Territorials, and I think it is a little bit hard that they should be treated in this manner. Those who come into the rank and file of the Territorials are placed under an obligation to serve in that Force and keep themselves efficient for four years. An officer does not enter into any such obligations, but he only receives the uniform grant on the understanding that he shall serve as an officer for three years. In the case of the men there is four years' definite obligation, and he receives his entire discharge from the Territorial Forces, and if he goes into the Regular Army or the Special Reserve after even a month in the Territorial Forces, the county has had the whole cost of finding his uniform and equipments, yet that is all wiped off the slate, and he is given his discharge and allowed to pass into the Army. In the case of the young officer, who compared with his rank in life is, perhaps, less well off than the private, he does not get the whole cost of his uniform equipment; far from it. He gets only £20, which does not anything like cover the cost he has to bear, and he has to refund a great portion of that if he decides to go into the Regular Army to continue his services to his country.
Another point arises in reference to the pay of subalterns. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman has considered this question. The Army is no longer an amusement. It is a real business, and the young officer who goes into the Army has to work. I think in those circumstances he should get a living wage. He should be able to keep himself on his pay. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that there are comparatively few sections of the service in which a newly-joined subaltern can begin to live on his pay. He cannot do it. I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give further consideration in addition to that which I know he has given already to this question to see whether he cannot make it possible for a subaltern in the Regular Forces to subsist on his pay with ordinary care. There is another point in reference to the musketry regulations which, are imposed on Territorials, I would like the right hon. Gentleman to say whether or not some 1573 change is going to be made. Quite half the ranges which the Territorial forces have at their disposal are unsuitable. Everyone knows how difficult it is to obtain safe rifle ranges in a thickly populated country. As a rule you can only get a range more or less across a field. I do not mean a real field, but a narrow valley. In those circumstances, if you have got a 200 yards firing point it is improbable you can have 100 yards, and so the whole essence of your practice falls to pieces. It cannot be done on half the ranges on which Territorials fire.
I may also allude to the absurdity, if I may so describe it, of one or two of the conditions which are imposed on these practices. The best shot in the world may make an occasional error. Some of the best shots make them very seldom. They make them far more seldom than the rifle or magazine makes an error. All of us who have done any shooting are familiar with the rifle changing occasionally owing to temperature or other causes, and we are familiar with the occurrence of an occasional bad round of ammunition. All these things may in present circumstances knock a man out of the practice under the present musketry regulations imposed on the Territorials. It really is absurd, I am perfectly certain, that the excellent principle—because it is in a way an excellent principle of grouping, could be kept without these regulations, which are really practically the laughing stock of the Territorial Force, and thereby have made it unpopular and defeated its object. These regulations have knocked out many men who have made admirable scores. I have an instance in my mind. I was with two sergeants of my battalion, both of whom more than once at Bisley were in what is known as the first hundred. I have never myself achieved that distinction, but I have done a great deal of shooting. We were knocked out through no fault of our own. One man had a bad round, another jammed his magazine, and I made the mistake of cleaning and oiling my rifle between ranges, and I put in a high shot, omitting to dry the barrel before the last range. These faults did not materially detract from our shooting, though I admit in my case I made a mistake, which I put right, however, in the next shot. But I do think it shows that there is a flaw in these regulations of musketry practice for the Territorial Force, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to announce something 1574 in regard to these points which I have mentioned.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I do not rise to reply to my hon. and gallant Friend who has so temperately, and with so much knowledge, put forward his points, but I suggest that the Committee should dispose of the Vote, and let us get on to Vote 1, on which a discussion can be opened on the very topics which have been debated on Vote A. Let us get on a stage.
Question agreed to.