§ Resolution reported, "That a sum, not exceeding £8,733,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the Pay, etc., of His Majesty's Army (including Army Reserve) at Home and Abroad 1802 (exclusive of India), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1911."
I do not rise to address the House in any spirit of captious criticism, because, although I am sure the right hon. Gentleman has been overwhelmed with eulogy in the last few days, I should like to say that I, in common with many of my hon. Friends, recognise the great service that he has rendered to the country and the Army, and I think the country and the Army recognise that as well. Nor do I want to speak in any dogmatic spirit, because I am much too junior either in this House or the Army to lay down the law, but in spite of my tender years I have had the great privilege of serving in the Volunteers, the Army, and the Special Reserve, and, therefore, there are one or two points on which I should like to obtain some information from the right hon. Gentleman. The first is as to the Special Reserve. In his statement, in introducing these Estimates, the right hon. Gentleman confined himself to the Special Reserve of the Infantry. There are other branches of the Special Reserve, and it is a little discouraging when one hears that the right hon. Gentleman has either forgotten about the branch of the Special Reserve to which one belongs, or else that he thinks it not worthy of mention. If he has forgotten us, however, somebody at the War Office has not done so, because they have informed us that instead of the Royal Field Artillery we are on the supplementary list of the Royal Field Artillery. Whether that makes any difference or not I do not know. The Royal Field Artillery is in this position, that we do not know where we are, and we do not know what we are supposed to do either in war or in peace. At the last training, which I hope will not be a model of the others, we were placed in the position of being responsible for the discipline of our men, but not responsible for their training, and it is very unsatisfactory and disheartening for an officer only to see his men to punish them. I want the right hon. Gentleman to say that we shall not be responsible for either discipline or training, or that we shall be responsible for both. You can manage men much better when you train them, and it is no use when you only see them once a year, and then are continually finding fault. This state of things is most discouraging to the officer, and the men naturally say, "Oh, nothing pleases him," 1803 and the officer becomes unpopular, simply because he does not let things slide. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us a little about the Special Reserve and what tasks the officers are to be called upon to perform in war.
A great deal has been said about horses in this Debate, but we have only had one speech on the subject, and that a very brief speech, from an hon. Member for Ireland, the hon. Member for Mid-Antrim. This is rather surprising, because in Ireland we not only fancy that we can, ride but also breed horses, and the right hon. Gentleman recognises that fact because he buys twice as many horses in Ireland as he does in England. This horse-breeding question therefore affects Ireland vitally. A suggestion has been made outside, and referred to in this House, that the export of all horses from the United Kingdom should be forbidden altogether. That seems to me to be rather a wild suggestion unless it is intended to apply to worn-out horses, and the horses we export from Ireland are not worn out but lively, and I hope any Act which is passed will not apply to Ireland. We want to get as many horses abroad from Ireland and the United Kingdom as we can, and Ireland sells twice as many horses to foreign Governments as it does to the, British Government. The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to give me the figures, and the number of horses exported from Ireland was over 4,000, presumably for military purposes, and 2,200 were purchased for our own Army. Of course you have got to watch the trade very carefully, and on the outbreak of war or when on the verge of war, see that the enemy shall not prejudice our horse supply. That must be continually watched by the War Office, but I presume now we do not expect war instantly, and any step taken now would simply discourage Irish breeders, and therefore I hope the Chief Secretary for Ireland will not take the course suggested. Another hon. Member said an export tax of £2 a head should be put on horses and he said the buyer would pay the tax. I should like to be certain of that, and I should be very sorry if the impression got about from this side of the House that we were prepared to tax the only Irish industry that has escaped the Budget. Of course, the whole question is one of the greatest importance. It has been largely entrusted to the county associations and the police, and we have no county associations in Ireland. As to 1804 the police. I have great confidence in the Royal Irish Constabulary, and I suppose they have taken a census of my horses, but I have not been asked about it. If I had been asked I could have given them some information, and there is one horse which I would not advise them to take. This horse is an excellent one in some respects, but he has a great objection to a loud noise, and if a gun went off his rider would go off, too.
I want now to pass from the general to the particular, and to ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two questions about the establishment of horses for batteries of Regular Royal Field Artillery. The Royal Field Artillery has now sixty batteries and has an establishment of sixty horses. I should like to ask the House to consider what they want to do their work. You have six guns, each of which wants six horses and six sergeants, that is forty-two horses with the guns. Going with them everywhere, following twenty yards behind, there are supposed to be six waggons. That makes seventy-eight horses wanted. To replenish ammunition there are more waggons and forty-two horses—that is 118–and then, besides that, you have five officers, two trumpeters, two staff sergeants, a farrier and shoeing smith, three range finders, three signallers—altogether you want pretty nearly 140 horses, and the right hon. Gentleman gives us sixty. A battery as at present constituted cannot rehearse the common operation of going into action because it has not enough horses. It wants seventy-eight for guns and waggons, which must go into action together. It cannot do it with sixty horses. It is not as if you always had sixty horses. Batteries are not always kept absolutely up to strength. You may be two or three horses short. I wish it was the case that horses never fall ill. A battery may have four, five or six sick horses, and very often all the horses are wanted for the guns and there are none left for the officers. I speak as a very junior officer, but the junior officer comes most in contact with these difficulties. The sergeant says, "Please, Sir, forty-three is lame. How are we to get the guns out?" It generally comes to the subaltern saying, "Let your horse go into the team, you have mine, and I will ride one of my private horses." That is not really fair. If any major wants to give his battery accurate and real training he has either to go through an enormous amount of make believe and sham, which 1805 is discouraging to officers and men, or he has to borrow the horses of one or both of the other batteries. That is all right for the battery that goes out, but what about the two batteries which are left at home? The riders and horses go out doing their work, but what about the men? They may be doing useful work like musketry, or semaphore signalling, or they may be doing useful work like carrying coals, and officers may be doing useful work in drawing up précis of hypothetical situations, or they may be doing equally useful work in improving their horsemanship in the hunting field, but they are not doing what they are really paid for, which is to prepare themselves for war as a battery. The present state of horse establishment of field batteries is dangerous. It is bad in peace, it means unreal work, and it will be worse in war, because every battery, on the outbreak of war, will have practically 100 unknown horses thrown at its head. It will have to find out all about them, whether they go better in front, at the centre, or at the wheel, whether they are chronic kickers—all this will have to be done after the outbreak of war, when everything is in a great hurry and bustle. It may lead to great delay, and in war delays are dangerous.
A lot has been heard on the subject of the Territorial Field Artillery. I deal with it with diffidence because they are a little sensitive to criticism. I should like to bear my testimony to the extraordinary zeal and energy that these men have shown to obtain such results as they have. Any-one who knows anything about artillery work was almost dumbfounded by the account of what the batteries did at Salisbury Plain last year, not so much at the results which were produced as the amount they had to do. But the whole question is, really, are they fit for war? I do not think anyone can say they are fit for war at present. The right hon. Gentleman admits that they are not fit to go to manœuvres, and, therefore, they are not fit to go to war. But can they be made fit for war? There is the six months' training that the right hon. Gentleman anticipates after the outbreak of war. It is a very moot point whether you can make gunners and drivers in six months. I once had a hand in making some drivers in six months, but when they went to manœuvres they all lost their heads and they had to be taken out of the team and older men put in. But still it may be possible with the superior 1806 material, and with the zeal and energy shown by the Territorial Field Artillery, to make gunners and drivers in six months, but you cannot do it without a very large number of Regular officers and non-commissioned officers, and unless they thoroughly know their work. I should be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman could give us an assurance that when these Territorial batteries are training in time of war they will not be robbed of those Regular officers and non-commissioned officers that they at present have, otherwise disaster is certain. I very much hope he can see his way to persuade a few retired major-generals of the Royal Field Artillery to join the Territorial Artillery because a major can teach his subalterns an enormous amount; and if he was able to give some inducement in the way of pay and allowances it would be a step of the greatest value. It is a very serious thing to send partially trained artillery in the field to face what may be the best Continental artillery. A very heavy responsibility lies on anyone who does it, and the responsibility, if we do it, will rest not alone on the right hon. Gentleman, but on everyone in this House who has been consenting to it.
EARL of RONALDSHAY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has spoken with obvious practical and personal knowledge of the matters which he has discussed. He mentioned the fact that the suggestion had been made of the imposition of a small export duty upon horses sent out of the country, and he very naturally, as a Tariff Reformer, suggested that he would like to be certain before he gave his sanction to that tax that it would be paid by the buyer. That, of course, is a logical attitude for a Tariff Reformer to assume, but I was rather surprised to hear hon. Members opposite agreeing with him, because I thought it was an ineradicable belief of Free Traders that it was the consumer who paid the tax. Who is the consumer in the case of exported horses? Of course, I use the word consumer in the economic sense rather than the literal sense. Surely the purchaser is the consumer and consequently, if there is any truth in the dogma which hon. Members profess to believe in, obviously the purchaser would pay the whole of the tax. I should like to address to the House a few remarks on certain considerations arising out of speeches made by the hon. Members (Mr. Holt, Mr. 1807 Murray Macdonald, and Mr. Byles) on this Vote in Committee. The hon. Member (Mr. Byles) is a man of an eminently peaceful disposition. He belongs to a little band of Members which has undergone a salutary reduction in numbers since the last Parliament. They are always anxious to reduce the numbers of His Majesty's already very modest military forces. The hon. Member (Mr. Holt) was very much concerned to find that a considerable number of troops was still retained in South Africa. The hon. Member (Mr. Murray Macdonald) was not only concerned to find that number of troops remaining in South Africa, he was also very much concerned at the very different reasons which have been given by different Members of the Ministry at different times to explain the necessity for the retention of that number of troops.
I am not concerned to reconcile the explanations given at different times by different Ministers. I would remind the hon. Member that ambiguity is by no means an unusual attribute of Ministerial utterances at the present time. I would point out that South Africa is a most important strategical place for this country. For a country like our own, situated on the extreme western confines of Europe with vast interests and responsibilities in the East, South Africa must be a base of paramount importance to this country. It is quite conceivable that in the event of an outbreak of war it might be considered advisable to seal up the Mediterranean at both ends, and navigation might be stopped either at Aden or Suez, whatever point might be regarded as most suitable for the purpose. In that case, with the Mediterranean sealed up, South Africa would become the military pivot of the Empire. Under these circumstances the hon. Member and his friends will see what immense interests we have in Eastern countries. We also have large responsibilities. Let me remind hon. Members that we have a very important alliance with Japan in the Far East, which, in the event of an outbreak of war would entail on us considerable duties and responsibilities. It has always seemed to me that the policy of those hon. Members who are seeking to make reductions in His Majesty's forces is dictated by a wholly mistaken idea as to what does or what does not constitute the true interests of the country. It is a policy which brings forth also a good deal of rather sickly 1808 sentiment. Sentiment, however suitable in its proper place, is not suitable in the discussion of problems of Imperial Defence. I would like to make a suggestion to those hon. Members, and that is, that they might with advantage to themselves read an essay of Bacon on the true greatness of Kingdoms and States. If they do so, they will find that the chief points in the greatness of states are that they should possess a race of military men, and above all that the people should make arms their chief study and occupation. I am bound to admit, of course, that the policy advocated by those hon. Members has a certain amount of public opinion behind it. Indeed I think it is very largely the fault of the public that a policy of that kind is advocated in this House at all. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Yes, but that fault of the public really consists in the apathy of men and not in a real desire to shirk their responsibilities as citizens of a great Empire. The public in this country are very difficult to rouse. At a time of great crisis, such as the time of the South African War, you can stir up public feeling in this country, but public feeling very soon subsides, and at all other times the people really show an amount of cynical indifference to those great problems of national defence. If I may venture to recall the words of Carlyle, I would say they go about their business with potbellied equanimity, and so long as the public show indifference towards those great questions we shall have meaningless Motions for reduction both of men and money intruded into our Debates on the Army and Navy Estimates.
The right hon. Gentleman, I am glad to say, resisted all those suggestions to reduce the Army, and I heartily concur with the views which he expressed in taking that course. I do not know that I always find myself in complete accord with the right hon. Gentleman. I think he is apt to be somewhat optimistic. I think he is sometimes inclined to regard hard and proved realities with a detachment which, however admirable it may be in a philosopher, is apt to be tragic in a Minister of War. The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman referred to by the hon. Member for South Dublin (Captain Cooper). He pointed out that the right hon. Gentleman, as soon as war has broken out, would set about training his forces for the defence of this country. That might have been a very satisfactory policy in centuries gone 1809 by, when the sporting instinct was more noticeable in rival nations than it is at the present day. Perhaps I may recall, for instance, that in the ancient days of the Florentines they used to give good warning to any nation they proposed to attack or towards whom they harboured hostile intentions. They used to peal the red bell known as the martinella, and until the warning had been given they refused to make their attack on the enemy. But the time of the Florentines is passed and gone, and everyone knows that the most striking and the most disconcerting feature of modern warfare is the suddenness and the rapidity with which the first blow is invariably struck. If any hon. Member doubts that he has only to look at what happened in the great war that devastated the Far East not long ago. To find the tragic result of un-preparedness either in military or naval matters on the part of any country, I would recommend the hon. Member to read the most admirable account of the tragedy of the Russian fleet written by a Russian officer, and to take to heart the lessons which he will find there. As to the various proposals put forward from time to time with a view of increasing the preparedness of His Majesty's forces to meet an emergency, I would say this. It has been suggested, and I agree with the suggestion, that the right hon. Gentleman may do a great deal for the preparation of our forces by making a certain amount of military training compulsory in the schools in this country. I ventured on a former occasion to advocate that policy in this House, and what was the answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave to me? It was that no policy would be worse for the Army than that, because if you compel men during their school age to take a certain amount of drill and military training that would give them an actual dislike for military exercise in after life. [Cheers.] Some hon. Members seem to agree with the right hon. Gentleman. Personally, if I may say so with great respect, I think that argument is the apotheosis of absurdity. Would the right hon. Gentleman really and sincerely get up on a public platform and condemn the teaching of reading and writing in schools on the ground that if you did make the teaching of reading and writing compulsory you would implant in the bosoms of the boys who were taught a dislike in after life for, say, a clerical profession? Surely if the argument applies in the one case it applies in the other. [An HON. MEMBER: "Certainly not."] 1810 Why not? It is easy to say, "Certainly not." The hon. Member will have an opportunity later on of giving his explanation of the difference. I think unless the right hon. Gentleman can produce better and more valid reasons against giving our boys military drill and training in the schools the task lies before him of advocating a policy which is going to be easier than the one we propose.
The right hon. Gentleman in a rectorial address to the students at Edinburgh two or three years ago eulogised the Japanese because of their great military qualities. I speak subject to correction, as I quote from memory, but he said that one of the great reasons why the Japanese proved to be such a fine military race was that they caught their soldiers and officers young. That is the very policy which those of us who advocate military drill and instruction in this country want to advance. I hope that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ward) below the Gangway will give us his reasons for supposing that if you make one form of instruction compulsory in school you will implant in the bosom of the boys a dislike of the particular profession in after life to which that instruction applies, while a similar prejudice will not be fostered against other occupations by making compulsory the instruction to which they apply them.
In referring to this matter for a few moments, I think I may congratulate myself that it is an uncontroversial matter generally throughout the House. During the Committee the hon. Member for Aberdeen called attention to the fact that in rural districts in Scotland facilities were not forthcoming for that of training of men in those districts. Scotland is not peculiar in that respect. In my own Constituency, for instance, there are numerous districts where there are lads who, at any rate at the outset of the Territorial movement, were anxious to join the Territorial Army, and we find that it is necessary for these lads to go ten, twelve, or even fourteen miles before they can get to a drill-station. I cannot help thinking that you are at this time losing a great deal of very good material which you need not necessarily lose. I think we shall be all told that there are not sufficient instructors to go all round. What I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to do is to see if he cannot borrow from the Regular Army during the next three or four months up to the time of training of the Territorial Infantry 1811 sufficient non-commissioned officers to do this work, which it is impossible for one instructor to do in connection with a particular company. I would suggest that further use should be made of the recruiting sergeants in these districts. We may be told that the recruiting sergeants have quite enough to do. I cannot help thinking from my personal observation that some of the recruiting sergeants do not have enough to do, and if the recruiting sergeants could be used in this direction surely they would tap a source of supply for recruits for the Territorial Infantry which to-day is not tapped at all. You cannot expect a young workman, after working as they do in the milking districts from half-past four in the morning to half-past five or six in the evening, to trudge or bicycle fourteen or fifteen miles to do the drill which is necessary before he goes into training. With regard to Yeomanry, this is not of so much importance, because, as a rule, in the Yeomanry a man possesses a horse or a bicycle, and, in addition, he does not find it necessary to do the same amount of hard work. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, if he could see his way to tap this source of supply which, to my mind, is going to be even more valuable than it is to-day.
In many of these rural districts we have instituted boy scouts. These lads, after having passed from the boy scouts, would make excellent material for the Territorial Army. One other point that I wish to refer to is with regard to the old Yeomanry School which was done away with. As an officer who served originally in the Regular Army and passed from it to the Territorial Army, I cannot give too high praise to the training given to young officers at the Yeomanry School. We have felt the want of it considerably since it was done away with. It is all very well to send lads to Cavalry regiments to get them attached to them for training When they come back we notice the difference between the training received there and the training originally received in the Yeomanry School. You cannot expect every squadron officer in a Cavalry regiment to give that attention to Yeomanry officers which was given to them in the Yeomanry School. Every Cavalry officer cannot be expected to be a qualified teacher of Yeomanry officers. When I was in the Service I remember one took all the trouble one could, but it was impossible for one to give the time which was necessary 1812 for the proper training. When the school was established on Salisbury Plain it certainly had a very good effect and the training was excellent. Now we are told that the training will be done in the new Cavalry depots when they are started, and I am sure we can congratulate ourselves on that point, but I doubt if even there they will have the same excellent training as they had before. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to give that training as efficiently at the new Cavalry depots as it was given in the old Yeomanry School. We were told during Committee that a great deal of attention had been given to the subject of horses. If the right hon. Gentleman could give us the assurance that he has the same knowledge of horseflesh that he has of other matters connected with the Army I should feel disposed to ask him his opinion upon two classical events which are to take place next week. Many of us congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the fact that he has determined to buy remounts for the Regular Army at the age of three years old instead of, as hitherto, two years old. I only wish he could have seen his way in co-operation with the Board of Agriculture, which is the Board concerned in the breeding of horses, to establish remount depots for the breeding of light horses in this country. When we see foreign buyers buying a year younger than our remounts are bought, we must realise the fact that they get a pick which we do not get. There is another point with reference to young horses. It is the practice, in dealing with the age of horses, to compute from 1st May. I understand that it is the object of the right hon. Gentleman to bring the Regular Army into closer touch with the country generally.
When they date the age of a horse they date it from 1st January. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he could not see his way to have this foolish and out-of-date system abolished. Those who purchase horses at the age of three years buy at three months earlier than that age; and the average layman cannot understand why the remount buyer, when purchasing what he and his neighbours regard as a three-year-old, should examine the animal's teeth, and say, because it is perhaps three months short of that age, "it is only a two-year-old." One other fact. To-day, in the matter of horses in the Territorial Army, we are not getting anything like full value for our money. We pay £5 for the use of a horse 1813 for a fortnight's training. If you knew the history of some of those horses, for the hire of which for a fortnight you allow the State to pay £5, I think you would be very soon disposed to reorganise your system. When I began to train in the Yeomanry the first horse my eyes rested upon was one fifteen years old, which, when I was a schoolboy, had carried me out hunting. It is all very well to say that such a horse need not be included for Yeomanry training, but there were no other horses to be obtained to go out training. We have horses brought before us at the outset of the training to be examined as to whether they are suitable for training, and we discard a certain number of them. I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should encourage and give every assistance to Territorial associations to purchase horses for the use of the Yeomanry, with funds derived from capitalising part of the grants. I believe in that way you would effect a great saving. By timely and carefully buying, horses could be obtained at something between thirty and thirty-five pounds as the maximum price. These horses could be lent out to farmers, tradesmen and others living in the country districts, who would be responsible for the life of any horse so lent by paying in respect of it a small insurance sum while it was in their charge. We should have a call upon those horses for trial. At the present moment the association with which I am connected are paying the absurd amount of 5s. for the use of a horse for two hours. That would be saved if the suggestion were adopted—in the first place, of having a small percentage of horses available for use not only in training, but also in the preliminary trials so necessary in connection with the training of the Yeomanry. There is one other point to which I would like to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, namely, the overlapping between the Regular Army and the Territorial Army in time of war, in connection with this question of horses. Are these horses to be available for the Regular Army or available for the Territorial Army? To my mind there is great danger of overlapping in this direction, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to keep the horses required for the Regular Army distinct from the horses required for the Territorial Army.
§ Colonel RAWSON
In asking the indulgence of the House in addressing it for the first time, I wish to make an appeal, first 1814 of all, on behalf of the private soldier. We heard the other clay from the Home Secretary how very much the condition of the private soldier has improved. I am sure I agree with that, and I rejoice that it is so; but there is one point in which the private soldier has a very distinct grievance—it is that on leaving his regiment and going to the Reserve, he is not sure of other employment. Surely, when a man passes into the Reserve, it ought to be the business of the nation to see that he is kept efficient, and without work he cannot be kept efficient. Surely, now that the Labour Exchanges are being started, something might be done through them to secure work for the soldier when he leaves the colours for the Reserve. There is one point in connection with the Territorial Army on which I would ask the Secretary for War whether he can help me. We are all of us very glad indeed that the combined manœuvres are going to take place this year, but they come at a time when some regiments find it very inconvenient indeed to go out. For instance, the regiment which I have the honour to command is always trained in May, but now they have to go out in July. I received an order the other day that unless 75 per cent. of my regiment turned out in July the regiment would not be reported as efficient. I do not know whether that meant the regiment would lose its grant, but I think it would be very hard luck and very unfair if that proved to be the fact. Last year the regiment turned out only four men under strength, and the regiment is very keen and anxious indeed to take part in the manœuvres. A great many of the men, however, are employed in the towns on the South Coast, and necessarily, when these seaside places are at their busiest, it makes it very hard indeed for the men to attend. We are making every effort to get the men out, and I believe they will turn out well, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, if it should happen that 75 per cent. of them are unable to turn up, we should, or should not, lose our grant and be returned as non-efficient? I make an appeal to the Secretary for War on behalf of the county associations, who have now received orders to provide horses for the transport of the Regular Army. The allowance to be given to the collectors is only 3d. per horse for the first year. In the Sussex Association, to which I belong, we shall have to provide about eighteen collectors, and the report says that those collectors should 1815 be retired officers not liable to be called out for mobilisation. Even supposing we were to find eighteen retired officers able to do the work of collecting horses, surely they ought to be recouped their out-of-pocket expenses. These officers will be asked to do a great deal of work, and I think it would be unfair to ask that they should put themselves to a great expense as well. I associate myself with the appeal made by my hon. Friend who preceded me as to having horses for trial in the Yeomanry, outside the regular training. I know that the allowance is £150 per regiment, and that works out at something less than 6s. per man, which really only provides a horse for one trial. My regiment during the last eight years has spent, over and above that, between £200 and £300 per year, which has been provided by the officers. I do not know how long they will be able to go on doing that; and I do not know whether it is quite right that they should be expected to do so. I do hope that the Secretary of State will be able to see his way to make some alteration in the system of the £5 allowance or to grant the regiment much more, so as to enable them to have their men given the advantage of those squadron drills which are so necessary for the efficiency of the regiment. The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman has been so successful and has met with such approval from all sides that I feel there is really only one thing it does require, and that is more funds. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to help us by providing the funds.
§ Mr. J. H. WHITEHOUSE
May I ask the indulgence of the House in rising to address it for the first time. I am specially tempted to do so owing to the remarks which fell from the Noble Lord the hon. and gallant Member for Hornsey (Earl of Ronaldshay). He referred to the criticisms that have been made from this side of the House with regard to the military ideals of the party with which he is associated. He dismissed those arguments as sickly sentiment. I confess that those are not words that I think should be used in describing the arguments which are used on this side of the House with regard to this great question. The Noble Lord took us back to the essays of Bacon, and quoted an extract from that writer in which we were told that the mark of a great nation was that it had a great number of great soldiers. The hon. and 1816 gallant Member went on rapidly to urge that we should become a nation of soldiers. That surely is the reason why we on this side of the House are opposed to the policy put forward by the hon. Members opposite. It is because we do not believe it is necessarily the sign of a great nation that it should have a great number of soldiers. The Noble Lord also spoke of military training for the children of our elementary schools. I am constrained to remind him that we were listening yesterday to speeches on the other side of the House, appealing for definite religious instruction, and I do suggest that the Noble Lord is desiring us to put before the children of those schools two methods of teaching which are certainly very much opposed to each other.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I will pursue my arguments in my own way. The Noble Lord wanted us to trace the pages of history. I say that when we study the histories of the great nations of the world what is borne in upon us is this, that the title which those great nations of old have to be remembered, and their title to fame, is the character of their people; the nobility of their people, the great deeds they have done, not necessarily of feats in arms. I have always considered what remains to us now from them is the impetus which lies in the great thought of the great men of the great nations of all time. I submit that our greatness does not depend upon the extent of our military forces.
For my own part I desire to make my position perfectly clear. I am not urging now that it is possible for this nation as an isolated nation to withdraw from the present competition in armaments. Obviously it is impossible, and I desire to make that perfectly clear, but surely we may urge on this side of the House that whilst we admit the necessity for this competition at present, we do not believe that it should be a permanent feature of our national life, and that it should not be the method of national progress to which we should look forward for all time. We desire on this side of the House, many of us, all of us, I believe, desire to emphasise the fact. We believe that by following up the constructive side of international relationships, by building up adequate machinery for the settlement of all international disputes by arbitration, we may look forward to the day when 1817 we shall be delivered from this ever-increasing burden of which, I believe, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on each side of the House have spoken in terms of the deepest sorrow. I desire to refer as well to the objections that were taken on this side of the House to military training for the boys of the elementary schools. I venture to think such a method would be unwise—first, because it is not the best way of physical training for the boys of those schools. I think that a better way is to give them more adequate playing spaces and to see that they are reared under healthier conditions than is possible in the present congested conditions of life in our great cities, and that it should be our first duty to make them great men. I believe that we shall best achieve that object not by instituting military training in the schools, but by providing healthier conditions of life for them and for their parents. I think also we should not impose the military idea upon children of that age. We should rather preserve them from that military idea, because I think we shall make most progress from the international standpoint when we have got in the great nations of the world an educated democracy with definite views upon the relations which it is possible to build up between the various countries.
May I say a word with regard to a very important organisation, the organisation of the Boy Scouts. In speaking of that organisation, I desire to say I am very fully in sympathy with its aims, but the aims of that organisation, as I understand them, are not to make the boy a link in the chain of our defences. The Boy Scouts should be a boys' order of chivalry. The movement has for its object the cultivation of all a boy's powers, physical, mental, and moral, to draw the very best out of him, and to turn him into a true man. The moment there is any attempt to capture the movement and make it a distinctly military organisation its value will be entirely gone. I would therefore appeal to Members to guard that movement from military influences, and to let it remain what it was intended to be—namely, a boys' order of chivalry.
Lieut.-Col. VENABLES LLEWELYN
I have already been long enough in Parliament to learn that the indulgence of the House is invariably given to a Member when he ventures for the first time to address it. It must have struck many new members that these Debates have drawn upon the Secretary of State what might be almost called 1818 an avalanche of maiden speeches. But the right hon. Gentleman will be the last to complain of that, because, after all, it is in the nature of a compliment to himself. He will recognise that it is his own action which has so far popularised the Territorial Force in the country and brought so many speeches on this subject from new Members. I should like to refer first to what is, from the point of view of the Territorial Force, the most important question which has been raised in these Debates—namely, that of musketry. The Noble Lord the Member for Maidstone (Viscount Castlereagh) elicited the fact that last year a large number of Territorial battalions did not go through the musketry course laid down for them. I have put down a question for next week, asking how many men have so failed to pass the musketry test, and I am afraid it will be found that the facilities for carrying out the test are so far lacking in many part of the country that it has been quite impossible, with the best intentions in the world on the part of the county associations, that all the men should go through it. Everyone must see that it is no use at all spending money on the Territorial Force unless you are prepared to make certain that the men should be well trained and capable in the use of the rifle. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give us an assurance before the Debate closes that in the course of the current year this question of rifle ranges should be satisfactorily settled, so that no man in the Territorial Force shall fail to pass his musketry test simply owing to the lack of range accommodation.
Perhaps the next most important question is that of the horse supply. The right hon. Gentleman very rightly divided the matter into two parts—the supply of horses on mobilisation immediately, and the breeding of horses for the future. But he seemed to spoil his case by proving that there are in the country at the present moment five or six times as many horses as are wanted, which, if true, must mean that it is entirely unnecessary to spend money yet on breeding for the future. It has come out in the course of the Debate, however, that the figures on which he relied were insufficient, because the horse census has not gone at all into the question of the soundness of the horses or of their suitability for military purposes. Therefore, when you say that the police census shows so many horses in a particular district, you cannot be at all satisfied that that number would be suitable for the 1819 purpose for which they are required. Consequently, I am entirely with the right hon. Gentleman when he proposes as soon as possible to establish a system of horse-breeding to provide for the needs of the future. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman not to be niggardly in connection with the scheme. It is a most urgent matter, and the scheme cannot meet with success unless sufficient funds are provided to make it profitable to breed the necessary kind of animal. As president for the year of the Welsh Cob and Pony Society, perhaps I may be allowed to put in a plea on behalf of that animal. I know perfectly well that the Welsh cob is not suitable for Regular Cavalry purposes, but I know equally well that there can be no more suitable animal for Mounted Infantry and Yeomanry purposes. The breeding of Welsh cobs has suffered very severely during the last few years; it might almost be called a decadent industry. The reason is that when breeding light horses or cobs, you cannot expect to get any return for your money or to make any real use of the animal until it is three years old, whereas, if you put your money into breeding heavy draught horses, the produce begins to be profitable at two years old. So that to equalise the profitability of breeding light horses or cobs, on the one hand, and heavy draught horses on the other, that one year has to be made up. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to give a bonus in respect to the produce of registered mares, and I understand that the bonus is likely to be £1. I do not for a moment think that a bonus of £1–especially when it is given to the owner of the sire and not to the owner of the dam—will be sufficient to make up the difference between the two-year-old and the three-year-old. I think that the difference, the bonus, will have to be greater than £1. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether it will not be far wiser to give this bonus entirely to the owners of the mares rather than to the owners of the sires. As myself the owner of stallions that travel the country, I am convinced that it would be far better to give these bonuses—if they are to be given—to the owners of mares, and let them make what terms they can with the owners of sires; and suitable sires will certainly be forthcoming if the owners of mares are prepared to pay for their services.
I should like to refer to one other point. It has been discussed fully and freely, not 1820 only in this Debate, but on previous occasions. That is the question of the Territorial Artillery. In years gone by I myself had considerable experience with the old Militia Artillery, and I cannot help thinking that if you make comparisons between the present Territorial Artillery and the old Artillery of the Militia, two things will stand out. It is, of course, not quite easy to make such a comparison, because the old Militia Artillery had nothing to do with horses, and the difficult task of training drivers; and the other difficulty of comparison is that the class of men you have to deal with in the Territorial Artillery are infinitely superior to the old class of men who used to be attracted to the Militia Artillery. But after discounting these two points, I think it will be plain that the very much shorter course of training that the Territorial Artillery have at the present day in comparison with the old Militia Artillery makes it certain that, however great the difference in the quality of the men, you cannot hope to get better results than in the days of the old Artillery of the Militia. I would therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot even at this hour, after the experience of the last two years—which has, I think, only made those of us who doubted this part of his scheme at the beginning more certain that we were right—make some modification in the training of the Artillery of the Territorial Force, either by stiffening them with a proportion of Regular troops, or, perhaps a better plan, by increasing the annual training which they are to undergo. In addition, the right hon. Gentleman will find that it will be a great advantage to the Artillerymen of the Territorial Army if he could by some means or other give them trained horses, which might be available for them once a week all through the year. Otherwise, I am convinced that it will be quite impossible to get a real mobile Artillery in the Territorial Forces.
I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman, in the first place, to give us some assurance that the musketry course which the Territorial Forces are required to go through will be during the present year rendered practical by affording better facilities to the men to carry out, without any difficulties, their courses and the necessary preliminary practices. I also ask him to turn his thoughts to the possibilities of giving some special encouragement to the breeding of Welsh cobs for the Territorial Forces. Finally, I ask him once more to 1821 reconsider the question of the Territorial Artillery, and see if he cannot devise some scheme that will bring it to perfection more speedily.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down has made a first speech so full of real knowledge that I can assure him that it will always be a pleasure on this side of the House to listen to him. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has asked me about several points. As regards rifle ranges, we have provided many ranges, and we are providing them no faster than we are, not because we have not taken the money for them, but because it is extraordinarily difficult to get modern ranges. We are getting them as fast as we can, and I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that no effort will be spared to make up the deficiency existing at the present time. The matter affects the Regular troops as well as the Territorials. As to the matter of horses, like a right hon. Gentleman opposite of great distinction, who is absent to-day, I am "as a child" in this matter. But I have seen the Welsh cob. I have a great opinion of it, and think it a most valuable Army animal. It is very much to be desired that the breeding of the Welsh cob should not fall off. The scheme which I spoke of earlier will, I hope, at an early stage, be brought before the new Development Commission by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture, who, as I have already said, is not only willing, but anxious, to confer with hon. Members of experience like the Noble Lord the Member for Thirsk—who drew special attention to this matter—and with hon. and gallant Gentlemen like the hon. Member who has just sat down.
The Territorial Artillery has been referred to. I wish to say at once that I do not agree with the view that the Territorial Artillery has as yet accomplished nothing. On the contrary, there are some sections of it which have made very remarkable progress, and what is specially remarkable in that progress is that some of the units that have done best have done best in a harder task. I am going, of course, on what I have been informed by my military advisers—the Inspector-General and others—that portions of the Territorial Horse Artillery in this country have made in the last eighteen months really remarkable progress. It is far from being in an inefficient condition. On the other hand, there is Territorial Field Artillery that is quite fit to be placed in manœuvres. 1822 The point is that the great mass of the Territorial Artillery has not reached that point. Time and patience are required. I entirely agree with the suggestion as to the assistance of the Regular Army. We do not wish to discourage any Territorial Field Artillery officers, particularly in the younger ranks, because it is really on them we rest as regards the future. They have the will and the intelligence for their work, and they are improving day by day, and we realise that it is by steady training that their military training will be made what it should be. It is our desire, therefore, to afford all the facilities we can for the performance of their difficult task.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Reigate (Colonel Rawson) mentioned that the period for which the Territorials were called out for their annual training was in some cases inconvenient. That is so. We have made arrangements for exceptional circumstances wherever we could for the units which cannot come out in July; but it is enormously to be desired that the whole country should come to the opinion and recognise this training as a national institution, and that the end of July or the beginning of August is a convenient time for it. It is the best time in many respects. If the Territorial training is recognised as a national institution, there will be less desire to avoid the offering of facilities than at present, and friction will in a great measure be got rid of. It is well that the matter should have attention called to it. For it is really when a big division, a big unit of all arms, goes out to train that the very best spirit of their training is evolved. I should be very reluctant to afford much countenance to the plan of bringing out isolated units. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree with me there, and the only question is to get over the social difficulties.
§ Colonel RAWSON
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if we are to understand that the Territorial Army ought always to go out for its training in July, and not as hitherto in May?
§ Mr. HALDANE
There are some units of the Territorial Army that have their training in the month of May, and we have done everything we possibly can to make that possible, and I should think that a considerable number will still come up in May. My point was simply this, that it would be better, if you could, to get them all up in July and August when all arms 1823 might be out for training. I did not suggest for a moment that we should change the existing practice. I was only trying to define a standard which I thought would be desirable. There were a number of other points raised, which I will not try to cover, because many of them require consideration, but I may say that what has been said by hon. Gentlemen has been noted. I do not feel myself in a position just now to deal with them on the spot, but all these things will come under consideration. There was a point made by one hon. Gentleman opposite about the difficulty of training and instruction for outlying detachments of the Territorials. I agree with him. The fact is, unless we are able to get a considerable number into the assembly it is very difficult to get satisfactory training for the Territorial units. The suggestion was made of employing the services of recruiting sergeants and other people qualified for the task. That has not escaped our attention, and we are considering whether in certain places such a system could not be applied. The difficulty, of course, is bringing parties from outlying districts in for training. Some progress has been made in that direction since last year. I not only recognise the difficulty, but I am afraid to some extent it is inherent in the sources from which we draw our Territorial Forces. However, the hon. Member may rest assured that the matter has not escaped our attention, and is being considered at the present moment.
Then the same hon. Member spoke about depots for the training of Yeomanry. We have given great consideration to that matter. I hope we shall be able to get a satisfactory system for the training of Yeomanry. I agree that training with the Cavalry regiments is not a success. We hope to improve upon that in connection with the new Cavalry depots. Then there was a point raised by the hon. Member for South County Dublin (Captain Bryan Cooper) in an excellent speech, full of knowledge, in which he asked some questions. He would like to know definitely, for instance, what is the position of the Field Artillery officer with regard to the training of units. The change we made dispenses with the services of many officers, and now we can mobilise the Field Artillery to the last man. That was a great change from the old Garrison Artillery. The establishment will not be so large in the future as in the past owing 1824 to the large number of reductions. The numbers of the Field Artillery is 6,000 instead of 12,000, which was the original establishment. Now, with regard to the officers, in the first place, there are the Reserve officers who on mobilisation would take the place of the Regular officers. In the second place, the responsibility for the training of the men rests with the Regular officers, and the Special Reserve officers come up for a period in each year, and will be able to assist with the Regular officers in the training of the men. Our purpose is to bring the Reserve officer into as close touch with the Regular officer as possible.
§ Captain BRYAN COOPER
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman one question? I quite appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's desire to bring the Special Reserve officer up to the standard of the Regular officer, but I would like to ask him, Will he have any responsibility for the training of the Special Reserve men?
§ Mr. HALDANE
He goes through this training period and works with his brother Regular officer. But the responsibility rests with the Regular unit and with the training battalion. The Special Reserve officer will look to the development of the Reserves. With regard to the horses, it is quite true it would be convenient to have a great many more horses upon the peace establishment, but no nation in the world does that. The peace establishment is to have as much as we can manage in the time of peace, and under the system which we have now adopted we are gradually making reserves of horses in time of peace. With that object we have added 1,500 to the cost of the peace establishment of horses in the Regular Army. They are boarded out, and they are available for training. I do not say that that covers the whole difficulty. The real difficulty is you can never in your peace establishment have anything like what is necessary for a war establishment. I think I have now covered all the points.
§ Mr. J. L. BAIRD
Anyone who rises to criticise in any way the administration of the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presides is in a very great difficulty, not necessarily because one agrees with everything the right hon. Gentleman says, but because although he displays a pardonable pride of the heavy parent, he admits, I think, that his offspring has not emerged as yet from a state of hopeful adolescence, and we know he is not ab- 1825 Solutely satisfied with the present state of affairs, and that he is determined to effect as great improvement in the future as in the past. That is not the point of view of the hon. Member for Salford. He said, as I think, with quite unnecessary humility, that he was giving utterance to the foolish thoughts of a small minority. I do not think that puts the matter in a proper light at all. If he referred to his desire for the maintenance of peaceful conditions between this country and other countries, then he does not represent a small minority at all, but, on the contrary, he represents the whole country, but where he comes into conflict with us is this, his methods for obtaining peaceful relations differ from the methods which we advocate.
The hon. Gentleman said that he considered the greatest of all preservatives of peace was the maintenance of friendly relations with our potential enemies. Nobody denies that. He also said that we have to thank the Secretary for War and those connected with the Foreign Office for the satisfactory state of our relations with foreign countries. May I point out that the Foreign Office and its staff are no earthly use unless they have a strong Army and a strong Navy behind them. I should have thought that the experience afforded by successive Hague Conferences would have shown hon. Members that an era of universal peace is still too remote to enter into the calculations of practical statesmen. We may regret this as much as we like, but you are bound to admit that the discussions at the Hague Conferences have turned, not on peace, but on war. The proposals of the British Government were intended to induce foreign nations to come to an understanding in the direction of a mutual limitation of armaments, but those proposals were rejected. When foreign nations expressed doubts as to our good faith in this matter we did our best to dispel any justification for those doubts by curtailing our naval construction. That action on our part was followed by a feverish outburst of naval construction on the part of a certain naval Power. It took the Government some time to learn a lesson from that, but there is good reason to believe that they have learned that lesson now. I think the Hague Conferences have conclusively proved the Truth of the old adage, "If you want peace, be prepared for war."
Another thing which emerged from the Conference was that the days of splendid isolation are past. No nation, however 1826 rich or strong, can afford the drain on its resources in men or money to provide singlehanded for its own safety. The peace of the world can only be secured by grouping the Powers of the world in such a manner as to ensure that the armed forces of one group shall as nearly as possible balance the armed forces of another group. Any disturbance in the equilibrium is apt to bring about the danger of war, or else to force the weaker group to go to war. You have only got to recollect an instance which occurred in the Balkan Peninsula not long ago, to realise that when a strong nation says to a weaker nation that it insists upon a certain line of policy, that weaker nation, even when backed up by other nations, has got to give way. Those who desire to maintain peace should see that the armed forces of their own country and those allied with them are maintained at a strength sufficient to maintain the equilibrium. It is from that point of view that I endorse the criticism which has been offered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, and the statement advanced by the Home Secretary. I think the Home Secretary certainly fell into the error of suggesting that the preparations which the Government have made to meet our primary and immediate needs are, if anything, too great, and certainly ought not to be exceeded.
The right hon. Gentleman said that our preparations were quite adequate for the primary and immediate needs of our national defence. In this matter we must go on, and I do not see how we can with safety hold back. I have had the luck to serve upon an expedition with a nation whose military development had not reached more than the primary stage, and there was only one word of command, "Have at 'em and God be with you." If our preparations were adequate it would not be necessary for me to criticise the Territorial Force, but I do not think anyone pretends that the state of that force is satisfactory, and we ought to carefully consider whether it is really adequate or not. In supporting his argument as to the adequacy of our force, the Home Secretary seemed to me to minimise enormously the difficulties which would be entailed by an attempt to invade this country. In the first place, he omitted altogether from his calculations the predominating quality of audacity amongst foreign nations, and that seems to me to be a very extraordinary omission for the right hon. Gentleman to 1827 make. In the second place, he discounted altogether the idea that a surprise could be successfully effected. There, again, competent people and all members of friendly nations, and nations who are less friendly, do not by any means share the view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman that a surprise could not be effected and a landing made in this country. Thirdly, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to calculate upon all the luck being upon our side and upon everything turning out as we hope for. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] At any rate, that is the impression the right hon. Gentleman conveyed to me; everything was couleur de rose, and we were told that we might "sleep comfortably" in our beds. I do not, however, think that hon. Gentlemen opposite have given us any good reason for thinking that we may sleep comfortably in our beds. I think the right hon. Gentleman has relied more than he is entitled to on the possibility of the Regular Army being available for Home defence. I think we are bound to consider the probability that if we are called upon to fight for our existence we shall not he fighting single-handed but with other Powers, and it is certainly possible that the general scheme may necessitate the withdrawal of a large portion of our Fleet and our Army as well. Every consideration ought to be weighed, and you cannot rule out of court such possibilities. You have ample precedents in history to show that this would probably be the very first thing a foreign nation would do in attacking us, that is, endeavour to draw out our forces in order to facilitate the landing of their troops. My point is that we ought to inquire carefully into the condition of our Territorial Army from a serious and businesslike point of view, and satisfy ourselves that it is adequate to the needs of our national defence. We have against that view the statement of Lord Roberts. Those of us who have served in the Territorial Forces, and have had any experience with foreign armies, or of warfare abroad, cannot honestly say confidently that, under the present conditions, the members of that force are competent to meet a foreign foe. There is, it is said, to be a period of six months for training them, but does anybody seriously suppose that war will be conducted on such lines, or that we shall have anything approaching six months for that purpose? Take the case of the Garde Republique of France. That was a force of partially trained civilians, and they certainly were 1828 not found adequate to meet a trained foreign foe. We are on the same footing, and, with that example before us, it behoves us to go into this matter more thoroughly than we have done in the past. I maintain that neither in numbers nor in training is the Territorial Force adequate to the discharge of the duties it may be called upon to perform, and until you admit that, in the present circumstances of life, it is impossible for individuals to give up more time than they do at present on a voluntary basis, you will not get the amount of training or the number of men necessary to make the force a reality. If we are to be satisfied with the Territorial Force as it is nothing could be more disturbing than the disclosures which resulted from a reply to a question addressed to the Under-Secretary for War in another place last Wednesday. The reply to that question showed that a large body of men were returned as efficient who were not at all efficient, and the Under-Secretary admitted that there would have to be an alteration made in that respect. These were Infantrymen. They belonged to the branch of the Territorial Army most easily trained, and in regard to which there ought to be the least difficulty in making them efficient. If we find the Infantry are inefficient, what confidence can we have in the efficiency of the branches which are more difficult to train? I think that was a most damaging disclosure. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War will realise that he has behind him the confidence of all sections of the nation in the sincere efforts which he is making to build up on the policy which he inherited from his predecessor a better Army for the defence of our shores. I hope, too, he will realise that he will forfeit that confidence if he allows men to be returned as efficient who are not efficient, and if he tries to humbug the country into the belief that it has a real force capable of defending our shores.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I do not think, during the five years I have been a Member of this House, I have heard conscription advocated to the extent to which it has been during the last two or three days' Debate. It is a surprising thing. I do not know whether there is any connection between the two, but, apparently, Protection and Conscription are largely one and the same thing. I should like to make a comment on the speeches delivered to-day. I understand the main question is as to 1829 What the policy of the country shall be. Upon what is it going to rely for the defence of these shores? The hon. Member for Rugby, who has just spoken, called attention to the fact that most nations are realising the almost impossibility of finding ways and means, as it were, for their home protection. Powerful as they may be, they generally find it necessary to form alliances and all kinds of combinations with outside States for the purpose of protecting their own frontiers. Does it not seem a most futile kind of argument that we, being an island Kingdom which must rely at least for the defence of these shores—leaving the Empire out of account for the moment—absolutely upon our power at sea, should embark on a great system of military organisation and enterprise which may take away the very forces we shall want later on for maintaining our supremacy on the seas? That seems to be an argument which absolutely destroys itself. It is true that we, being a maritime power, must rely for our defence almost exclusively on the Navy, and therefore the Army is necessarily a secondary consideration. I take it that any outsider who has listened to the discussions during the last fortnight will realise that if we are to protect our shores we must maintain a Navy at the two-Power standard and something over. It may be necessary to even spend £60,000,000 on construction alone in a few years, and possibly we shall have to face increased expenditure in later years. But to suggest that at the same time we should embark on a huge system of conscription, involving, possibly, a demand for many more millions of money for an Army for which we have no mortal need, unless for the purposes of aggression, makes it clear to me that some revision of the argument is necessary. I do not agree with the policy of a huge Army for this country. I do not believe that our best statesmen agree with it either. We do not require an Army for aggressive purposes. We have enough of the world's goods and of the best territory on this planet to look after. For the purposes of defence, I quite agree that an Army may be necessary, but it is more for the purpose of keeping order within our own territory rather than producing an organisation which may become a menace to our interests. It could not be used on the small scale for agressive purposes, and that is the reason why we Labour men are prepared to vote for everything necessary to maintain the Fleet, because we know it can be used for no other 1830 purpose than defending our shores and commerce. Although the argument is that the Army is required for the protection of this country and of the Empire, we are well aware it is for the purpose of enabling this country to interfere in outside politics, and for purposes of aggression against what we now consider to be a friendly nation. The argument for conscription would no doubt apply if we were a Continental Power, and I am not so sure if I lived in a country where it was only just one step across the border into a country like Germany or France that I might not be an advocate of conscription. But there is no military reason or justification for advocating anything so suicidal for an island Kingdom like this. We have heard too much of this Conscription during the last day or two to allow it to pass unheeded by those who take an interest in the welfare of the poorer portions of the community, and who will have to find both blood and treasure for the purposes suggested by hon. Members opposite.
What does Conscription mean? At the present time any attempt on the part of the working classes to secure the best paying jobs in the Army is hotly resented by hon. Gentlemen opposite. An hon. and gallant Member the other evening, while deploring the dearth of officers in the Army that at present exists, gave no heed to the suggestion which I made that better opportunities should be afforded to rankers. In fact, hon. Gentlemen opposite repudiate the idea that the common soldiers would act under an officer who came from the ranks. Attention was drawn to the fact that the ranker officer was generally unpopular with the men. Have hon. Gentlemen and Noble Lords opposite ever considered the reason for that unpopularity? It is very little of the ranker that the aristocratic officer ever sees. The ranker is a man who has been through the barrack room. He has done the goose step on parade. He understands the whole bag of tricks from one end to the other, and the consequence is that the discipline in a regiment which has a ranker officer is two or three times as strict as it is with an aristocratic officer who is always looking to the time in the evening when he may discard his uniform and appear as a private gentleman. I do not know whether that is because he is ashamed of his uniform. It is, however, a noteworthy-fact that those who are advocating conscription to-day never suggest that the ranker should be given a better chance of 1831 rising to the best positions in the Army. The Government are supposed to be liberal in their ideas, but even they are looking to Cambridge and Eton and Harrow for their supply of officers. As a matter of fact, neither on one side of the House nor on the other is there the slightest suggestion that the deficiency of officers should be made up by giving the rankers a chance. Our Army is in fact a close ring for aristocrats. The poor soldier gets no chance at all. Arguments have been advanced during this Session in favour of an increase in the salaries of the officers. Very little has been said about the men, and whenever their case has been mentioned we have been told that the private's salary since the Peninsular War has risen by fifty per cent. But, after all, what does the salary of the private soldier amount to? What inducement is there for a man to join the ranks? Is it not a matter of fact that the Army is looked upon by the working classes to a great extent as a channel for giving employment to men who are practically unfit for any other occupation? There is not the slightest doubt about it that it is only when there is difficulty in getting employment that the best men go into the Army. They will not do so at any other time. After all, what is the salary compared with what a man can earn as an ordinary artisan? You get the worst type of working classes in the Army—I do not mean as a whole, I only mean that the tendency is in that direction—whereas if you were to increase the pay of the private soldier, if you give him the chance to rise, provided he showed ability, to commissioned rank, and to attain the standard which his ability justified him in aspiring to, you would attract much better qualified men into the Army, and you would do much to improve it. As one who knows a little about the business, I tell those who are advocating conscription that you must take it for granted that this country will not allow conscription to be imposed upon the working classes if the idea is that those classes are merely to be private soldiers and that the aristocrats are to be the officers—whether they have the ability for the position or not. I can give the House an illustration of what conscription means in one little State. Recently I was engaged in making some investigations in Switzerland, and I went into a big engineering works at Zurich. I asked the manager what position he occupied 1832 in the Swiss army, and he replied that he was a private. I said, "What! a man of your ability and education a private in the army?" He answered, "Yes." I then inquired "How is that?" and his reply was: "I cannot shoot. I have always failed at shooting, and, as that is considered an important item in the advancement of a Swiss officer, I am only a private." Then I inquired, "Who is the officer in command of your battalion?" and he told me he was a fitter in his shop. There you have a country where an opportunity is given to the working man to be an officer over the manager of his works when they happen to be out for training. Of course, such a thing as that is opposed to all our ideas of exclusiveness. Hon. Members opposite will not give the working classes a chance in the Army, as it is at present constituted, and that is why we refuse to have conscription fastened upon us. We know you are advocating it to make us the drudges and yourselves the masters of the new organisation. We know, too, that the few appointments which used to be open to the ranker are being gradually closed to him. I saw in the Library the other day a Return of the number of promotions given to rankers. Part of it referred to the Boer War, a period during which, when commissioned officers were naturally the targets for the bullets of the enemy, and when it was necessary to make an unusual number of promotions from the ranks. But, striking that period out altogether, it is clear that during the last twenty-five years the number of promotions from the ranks has grown gradually less, and such cases are not nearly so numerous as they were twenty-five years ago. The cause of that is that aristocratic ideas are gradually encroaching upon the military organisation of the country, as is the case in other branches of our national life. Gradually the private soldier has come to know that, however competent he may be, whatever qualifications he may have, whatever he may do—he knows perfectly well that the position of sergeant major is about the highest point that he can ever get to in the Army, and that is the reason that you do not get the quality of men that you might otherwise obtain if you would only give the men a chance.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I had not intended to speak to-day in this Debate because I have already had an opportunity of saying something with regard to the Army, but since my name has 1833 been rather freely mentioned on more than one occasion by hon. Gentlemen opposite, I think it only right that I should have an opportunity of answering some of the points that have been made against me. When I came into the House an hon. Member was just finishing his speech, but in the same way that you can judge of a political party by its tail, you can judge of the context of a speech by the end, and in his closing sentence I gather that his general idea was that it was perfectly wrong to have teaching of drill, or what he called militarism in schools, because it would make the boys into—I forget the exact words, but the words he used were analagous to young savages. I entirely disagree with him on that particular point, although I think we both start from the same idea. Hon. Members opposite, because I happen to belong to the Army and because I have seen war, seem to think that I am what they call a militarist. When hon. Members opposite have seen as much of war as I have in my short time, they will hate it as much as I do, and they will do everything they can to prevent war in this country. I do not pretend to know much about soldiering, but if they knew as much about it as I know they would be aware that the only way to preserve peace in this country is to be so strong that no country will dare to attack us.
The object of training boys is not to teach them to be young savages, but quite the reverse. We want to teach them to be God-fearing, decent inhabitants of this country first, and if you are to have a healthy mind in a healthy body there is nothing like drill to secure that state of things. We want to make these boys clean and upright, working together for the good of the country, trying to sink their own individuality, and trying to put themselves as a unit in the common machine, working together for the common good. They will learn that by drill, and they will also learn discipline, tidiness, and obedience. We were told that it would make them hate drill later on, and that this would prevent our getting recruits for the Army. But I think that the drill would encourage them to think something of the Army and something of the defence of their country, and the result would be that instead of not getting men for the Army we should get more. It is quite true that we do not always get the best class of men in the Army, and that we do not get a number of good men that we otherwise might, but if you were to teach 1834 these lads in the better class schools to know really what it is you are driving at and to respect the Army, you would get a great many more of them into it, and it would raise the whole tone of the Army, and you would get mare men who could work up from the private to the ranks of officers. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) took up some much bigger subjects, including that of national defence, into which I do not propose to follow him altogether. His first argument was that he did not want a strong Army, and he used the editorial "we," which has been very freely used by hon. Gentlemen opposite on the Labour and other Benches during the last few days.
He stated that the Labour Members were in favour of a strong Navy because they felt it was necessary to safeguard their trade, and it does them honour. But later on he said it was not necessary to have a strong Army, and he then gave as a reason that he did not see why the people of this country should be drudges of aristocrats. With regard to the question of a strong Navy, I am perfectly certain that he will agree with me that if we are ever so unfortunate as to have war we want to make it as short as we possibly can. We want to get it over as soon as possible. We know what a crime war is, but if we have to make war or defend ourselves against an attack we have to get to the end of it as quickly as possible. I think I am right in saying that no war has ever been carried to any conclusion at all that was not assisted by an Army. You may stop supplies and blockade the ports, but you have always at the finish to fall back upon the Army to end a war, and therefore it is necessary to have that military force which has been spoken about, which is not only required for the defence of the country, but to secure peace as quickly as we possibly can. I am not going into further arguments in regard to the Territorial Force, about which we have heard a great deal. I have had the honour of commanding two regiments, and have seen others, and I know they are doing their best to fit themselves for the defence of the country. We ought, therefore, to do our best to encourage them. It is a big Army, and we get it very cheaply, considering the size of it, and I trust we shall do everything that is necessary to enable them to train properly. In regard to that much-maligned class the officer, the hon. Member said his great object was to try and get as many ranker officers as he could, and that until we did 1835 that we should never get a certain class of good men to go into the Army, because they had no chance of promotion. The highest rank they were able to attain at present, he said, was that of regimental sergeant-major, and therefore they would not go in. Without entering into hair-splitting, perhaps I may say that I do not think there is a finer type of man in the Army than the average regimental sergeant-major of this country. The hon. Member spoke, he said, with great experience—
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
He spoke with becoming modesty of a certain amount of experience which was, I think, in Egypt, but I do not wish to speak of experience—I do not pretend to have any, and I very soon forget what I have. I suppose I am one of the idle rich whom the hon. Gentleman spoke about, but, although I am a member of that class, my war experience is in a sense identical with his, as we were in the same country, though I was in the Army and he was not.
The officer's work is sometimes a great deal harder than the hon. Member thinks. When he was in Egypt he got his dinner every day. He got his pay regularly, he got to bed every night, he had regular hours, and no doubt he was bothered with sand flies, just as much as I was, but I thought I was extremely lucky if ever I got my dinner, and when I got it. I have been sitting here to-day as an officer, anticipating, perhaps, an attack from the hon. Member, and I have had to do without my dinner to-day, but I saw the hon. Member going down to get his. When he was in Egypt it was perhaps about the year 1881, and a great deal has been done since that date. We have a higher class of men, generally speaking, in the Army. The education has increased considerably, and the whole feeling with regard to the Army, especially in the officers, has improved. The officer of to-day is as different as chalk from cheese. I say nothing disrespectful to the class of men whom my hon. Friend knew as officers on that occasion. It is entirely owing, of course, to the training, and the result is that they have been taking a very much greater interest in 1836 their men than ever they did in those days. They took a sort of interest, no doubt, but the extraordinary affection there is between officers and men is perfectly unknown to the hon. Gentleman, but I know it from experience, and no one can possibly be a good officer who does not know every man in his company and everything about him, and does not do what he can for him.
Another and a rather difficult point is the question of rankers. The hon. Member himself said they are unpopular because they know too much. I really think that perhaps is one of the reasons why a ranker officer is not, unless he has got special qualifications, as popular as an officer who has come in the other way. Except on the last two examinations at Sandhurst and Woolwich, the officer has to pass stiffer examinations than almost any other person in this country.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
I am talking of those who are now officers and have passed this entrance examination. Not only for the whole time he is in the Army has he to be perpetually passing examinations, but the moment he thinks he has got off drill and is going to have a holiday, there is looming in front of him another examination to qualify himself to be a worthy officer of a worthy Army. Until you can get a very much more educated class of men in the ranks, it will be very difficult to get sufficient men whom the men themselves will follow. I have recruited something like four thousand men in South Africa, and several thousand in this country since. The first thing they ask is, "Who are the officers?" and there is no doubt at all that the regiments that did worse than others in South Africa were those where the men themselves chose the officers. I do not mean to say anything particular against the officers, but I do not think the men, in trying to choose their officers, realised what were the points that make a good officer. One day I had a mob of some 300 Australians handed to me without clothing, and without equipment, or anything of that sort, and they were very anxious to begin making their own officers straight away. They had not the slightest idea of military duty of any kind, and at first when I refused they were annoyed; but my selections, though I did not know the men, proved better 1837 than those the men originally proposed, and the men acknowledged the fact. I think I had more ranker officers under me in South Africa than in probably any other command, and some of them were perfectly excellent. I do not think the majority of them would have been acceptable officers to the men in time of peace, but in time of war things are different. We naturally put up the men we thought were best, but these were only fit to be officers after they had done something like two years in the field, and it was because they were steady men and had had experience and had the art of commanding possibly without knowing it. I am not in the least likely to say I do not want the ranker officer, but I know how very difficult it is to get one who is really acceptable to the men at home.
There is another point. The hon. Member opposite said in an interruption, "Give the rankers a chance." He accused me of speaking too much about the officers and too little about the rankers. I wished to urge this question about the officers and to show the Secretary for War one of the reasons why it is difficult to get officers at the present moment. Perhaps we lay too much stress upon it, but there is no one to speak up for them, and I look on myself more or less as on the shelf now, and I thought I might put in a good word for them, without its being misunderstood, not so much because I wanted to do something for the officer himself, but because I wanted to see efficient officers in the Army. I look at it from a purely business point of view. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to have ranker officers, he must give them pay which will keep them. If the hon. Member were a younger man and went into the ranks, wishing to become an officer, and was fully qualified but had no money, he would not become an officer unless he was certain the salary was not only going to be sufficient to keep himself in modest and decent comfort, but possibly a wife and family as well. I would call the attention of hon. Members below the Gangway to this question of pay, especially in the lower ranks of the officers. I have learnt a lesson in tactics, possibly from hon. Members below the Gangway. An Amendment was moved the other day by the hon. Member (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) with regard to the pay of rankers in Government work-shops. After we had heard a flow of eloquence from the hon. Member, naturally simple, new Members, officers like 1838 myself, felt that there really was a grievance and that hon. Members below the Gangway really were honest, and that they were not merely speaking from party motives, and in order to put things right in their constituencies. They really believed that there was a grievance, and that whether they wrecked this or any other Government they were going forward to see it through. I felt that the grievance was a real one, believing that the men working in the Government Departments should be paid fair wages, and that the Government should deal with their men in the same manner as employers deal with their men in the best private concerns. I went into that Lobby, but I found that the hon. Member who moved the Amendment was absolutely aghast that those wicked persons called officers were going to back up the rankers. I found that nearly the whole of the hon. Members opposite remained in their places and took no part in the vote.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
The great thing is that we have no intention of being "mugs" in the future. I would only say to the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent that if he and his Friends really want to see officers coming from the ranks they must do something to help us to get the right class of men in the ranks, partly by means of pay and partly by telling young men that it is their duty, and leading them to think that the military profession is a noble one. In order to do that it is necessary to teach them that they should spend two years of their life in the Army. You will get the right class of men in the regimental ranks if you pay them sufficiently to give them a decent livelihood, instead of being considerably poorer than probably the average skilled mechanic.
§ Colonel WARNER
I should like to congratulate the Secretary of State for War not only upon the success of his scheme, but also upon the way in which it has been received by all parties in the House. This House has developed a knowledge of military matters which I have never seen in any previous Parliament, and I believe that is owing a great deal to the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman. I wish to refer to the futility of the arguments for compulsory training. It is quite true that hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of 1839 the House have very often advocated compulsory training here. The remarkable thing is that they do not advocate it on the platforms in the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, we do."] Well, occasionally it is mentioned, but I do not think it is put forward in any prominent place. In fact, the only responsible effort ever made in that direction was by a Member of the House on this side who resigned and stood independently. He got very few votes indeed, and he did not receive the support of the party opposite. He lost his position in this House entirely for taking up the matter in the country.
§ Colonel WARNER
I have no doubt there are hon. Members on the opposite side of the House who have really put it forward, but that has rarely been done. When an hon. Member who advocated that policy here and on the platform gave hon. Members a real and substantial opportunity of pushing it forward by supporting him when he retired to test the matter, they preferred to run a candidate of their own. [An HON. MEMBER: "He was a Radical Free Trader."] If he was a Radical, he went over to the other side definitely. A great deal has been said as to the necessity of manœuvres. I am very sorry there is to be any increase in manœuvres. I know it is a good thing for teaching generals, but a very bad thing for the private. He is over-manoeuvred. Practically his manœuvres begin with company training. They go to battalion training, then to brigade training, then to divisional training, and then, after all that, he has grand manœuvres. He has practically to work at manœuvres for six months. [An HON MEMBER: "No."] Yes, that is so in many cases. I could give cases where men have been six months on manœuvres under canvas. That is not a good thing for the Army. I agree with the right hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) that when on these manœuvres men should not be allowed to sleep on the ground, and that accommodation should be provided for them in barns and other covered places, so as to prevent the necessity for sleeping in the open air. The amount of waste caused by putting young men to sleep in the open air and to get wet through is enormous in this country, and I am afraid it is a very serious thing for the Army. 1840 While I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the success of his scheme, I would take this opportunity of repeating the words which I used when he first introduced it. I said that there were two great obstacles in the way of complete success, and that has turned out to be correct. There are two things which I said would not work smoothly. I said, in the first place, that he would not get sufficient officers if he required a Special Reserve, or filling-up officers, to do twelve months' service. That period has been reduced to eight months and four months, after they have passed through their training course, but even a period of four months is more than a civilian can give at one time in his life, and unless means can be found to enable officers to spread the four months over three or four years, the right hon. Gentleman will never get the Special Reserve officers which he requires at the present moment. The other point has been dealt with at considerable length, namely, the Artillery of the Territorial Army. It has been realised in most parts of the House that the Artillery of the Territorial Army is not quite a success. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that there were one or two successful battalions. An hon. Member on the other side of the House suggested that what was wanted was more Regular drivers. It is exactly in drivers that the Territorial Artillery cannot be trained in the time. Of course, there are not Regular drivers enough to supply all the Territorial Artillery, and unless more drivers can be trained in the Regular Army for the Territorials, no Territorial Artillery will be fit to take its line in a fight. That is one of the great difficulties.
I have only a word to say as to the efficiency of the Army to-day under the new system, as compared with its condition in 1906, which was the date taken by the right hon. Member for Dover for comparison. As to horses, there are 1,600 more now than in 1906. That is not enough, perhaps, for the whole Army, but there is improvement in that matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover stated that we were not in such a good position now, because we had 15,000 trained men less than in those days.
Yes, but when our Regular battalions have gone abroad every trained man belongs to a unit. During the South African War, when we had our greatest strain and 200,000 men were out serving in the Army in South Africa, there were over 100,000 1841 Regular troops in the United Kingdom. They were not in use because they were scattered about without belonging to any unit, and could not be used as a concrete unit in any particular case. The system now brought in makes every one of those men belong to a unit when his old unit goes abroad. There is a misunderstanding as to how the new system works, and as one who knows something about it, having been in command of a Special Reserve battalion, I may say a few words about it. It is said by hon. Gentlemen on the other side that in the first place the Regular battalions will not be efficient because they will fill up with Reservists. It is quite true that they will fill up with Reservists, so are all the best armies in the world. I believe that in the French Army, which is considered one of the best at the present moment, if not the best, over 50 per cent. of the fighting battalions consist of Reservists. The same thing applies to our Army. That is to say, out of 1,000 men a good 500 will be Reservists. The men who are not fit to go, about 250, will be left behind, and 550 Reservists will be taken to fill up their places and to make up the war strength. So you will only have 450 of the existing battalions going out and fit, and you will have 550 of the Reservists. But there are over 700 Reservists for every battalion that has got to be filled. In many cases there are over 1,000 Reservists. The result is, that besides leaving behind the 250 men you have taken from the Regular battalion who are not fit to go abroad, you have certainly at least 250 Reservists who are put into the Special Reserve battalion that at once takes its place. So that at the very lowest computation, when your Special Reserve battalion comes out you have 200 ordinary Reservists who are not wanted to fill up the line battalion, and would form the first draft to the line battalion, because the first draft would, of course, be taken from the Regular Reserve of the line. Therefore, the first draft to be taken from the Special Reserve, the first draft going out for reinforcement after the battalion has gone abroad, is not taken from the Special Reservists, but from the Regular Reserve at home, and it is only after the first draft has gone that the Special Reservists begin to be used as drafts for the fighting line. Therefore, when people say that these men will be used in the Regular Reserve, they overlook the fact that it is not until after the first draft of reinforcements has gone into the fighting battalions, which must be at 1842 least a month after the embodiment of the Special Reserve battalion. Thus they will have had some considerable training before going out, besides the six months they have had in the three weeks every year. So there is some considerable training before they are used for drafts for the battalion which is fed.
But if hon. Gentlemen will read up the figures they will see that at least 200 men of the Regular Reserve, 600 of the Special Reserve, and the men who are temporarily unfit to go abroad, gradually become fit. Then there are in some battalions something between 1,200 and 1,500 men, besides the recruits coming in, always training men to feed the battalion in front. Not only will there be enough men to make the battalion, but in many cases there will be sufficient men to form a third Regular battalion to go to the front, besides finding drafts. That is the reason, I think, that there need not be the same anxiety about the necessity of the Territorial Forces being wanted at once. In the first place, 100,000 men who were practically useless will all be in organised units instead of being spread about as they were during the South African War. They will be in the Special Reserves in actual units, ready for use, and there will be no question of this country ever being deprived of Regular troops, because, though they are not Regular but Special Reserves, they can be embodied and become Regular Reserves. At any particular period—it does not matter when you take it—there will be this number of Regular troops in the country. When the 1st Army Corps goes abroad there will still be a large proportion of Regular troops. There will be the Special Reserve with three or two months' training. When the 2nd Army Corps has gone abroad, not only will the Special Reserve be there, pretty well Regulars by that time, but the Territorial Army will then have had some considerable training.
§ Colonel WARNER
I thought the argument was that we should be in danger of invasion when the Regular troops were sent away. I did not think that anyone thought that there was much danger of an invasion as long as the Regular Army was at home. I think, if the Regular Army were at home, it would be quite enough to deal with any invasion. I do not think that anybody, even on the "Daily Mail" staff, could think of an invasion while the Regular Army was at 1843 home. I do not think that anybody ever thought that there was any danger before the Regular Army was sent away. The difficulty generally looked forward to is the difficulty that might arise when an Expeditionary Force had been sent abroad, and we should not have our whole Regular Army to repel invasion. I think I have shown that there is no period at which any large proportion of the Regular troops are sent abroad, and as soon as they should be all sent abroad there is a considerable portion of what I call the Reserve which will be converted into Regular troops, having had considerable training, as a rule, before the Regular troops have gone abroad. The same applies to the Territorial Force. Their services will not be required to repel invasion as long as the Regular troops remain in this country, or unless such a large proportion of them are sent away as would endanger this country from invasion. As to the Special Reserve, I hope that what has been foreshadowed by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech, that the preliminary training, the recruit training of the Territorial Force may be slightly reduced from six months to five months. It is very necessary indeed that the members of the Territorial Force should be in closer touch with their officers, and I think it would be better to have four weeks' training instead of three weeks, and to have five months instead of six months. There is no question about it, I think, that with five months you can get Infantry soldiers with a requisite knowledge and discipline. To have only ten days' training for musketry is not quite sufficient annual training to enable them to be in touch with the battalion organisation, which only exists at that time, because during the recruiting period they have to work at the depot. I think an alteration in that direction would be a very great improvement. The idea of six months has taken hold of the Army Gentlemen opposite as a minimum period for making a soldier. I hope that may be reduced to five months, so that an extra week of training may be given, in order to make the battalion a better unit than it is at the present moment.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
I wish to call the attention of the Secretary for War to the question of the employment of reserved or discharged soldiers. During the last three years we have had a committee dealing with this subject, and much has been accomplished in the way of finding employment 1844 for these men. There is no doubt, however, that a very large number of them are at present unemployed in London and other great cities, and I think it is a question which might be further considered with a view to steps being taken to bring pressure to bear on public bodies, on large companies, and in other directions, to take on more of these men than they have done in the past. In the general Report on the Army last year it is stated that something like 20,000 men have been found places by various organisations. That was a very good result, as there were only 23,000 men leaving the colours in that year. But the 20,000 men included many who had left the colours-years before, so that there is still left a very large margin of men, and everyone who knows London is well aware that a very large number of members of the Service who did good work in the late war in South Africa are in need of employment. In reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. John Ward), he began his observations with the statement that we on this side of the House are always advocating conscription. I think he made that statement rather for the purpose of exaggerating the ideas of hon. Members on this side. A very large number of hon. Members on this side of the House are against conscription, but there is a very great deal of difference between conscription for the national service and national training. There are varying degrees of training. In the last few weeks a Bill has been passed by the Australian Commonwealth Parliament, which enacts that for naval and military defence there shall be national training. That Bill passed through the Australian Parliament unanimously, the Labour party supporting it as well as others. What is the national training they advocate? It simply means that boys are trained in the schools. They are junior cadets from thirteen to fourteen, senior cadets from fourteen to eighteen, and from eighteen to twenty they have sixteen full days' drill in each year. That is a very small amount of training. I think a good deal might be done by drawing the attention of the country to the Act Australia has recently passed and to the fact that New Zealand also has national training. Hon. Members opposite may say, "What is the object of national training? Why do you want these large numbers of men?" The reason is this: The Home Secretary said in his speech on Wednesday that the Expeditionary Force would never leave this country at all if 1845 we were at war with a Continental nation. Does anybody in this House believe that in the case of a war with a Continental nation the people of this country would allow the only trained troops they have to leave the country? The result would be there would be no Expeditionary Force leaving these shores. If that is so, that has tremendous effect upon our relations with foreign countries in this way, that it might mean a difference between having an ally and not having an ally. If we cannot have a thoroughly trained second line as they have on the Continent, at any rate we can have a large number of men who are trained, and the only way to get that is by adopting some system of national training, in the same way as Australia and New Zealand have recently done. That is a very different thing from conscription, and I do not believe it would be rejected by the people of the country when the whole matter has been laid before them in its proper perspective. What the country does not desire is absolute militarism, as it is called, but they have no objection to defending their country. They see no object in having a large Conscript Army, and in that I quite agree with the hon. Member opposite. He said that the feeling of the country was against Conscription. I agree with him there; but I do not believe they are against national training. The hon. Member said one of the reasons against Conscription was that they believed that it would be used for aggressive purposes, and that the Fleet was not used for aggressive purposes If unfortunately you were thrown into a serious war, the first thing the Fleet would do would be to adopt aggressive operations. We shall not adopt a passive defence, but an aggressive defence. In our naval history was Drake an aggressor or not, or Nelson at Copenhagen? I do not think the argument of the hon. Member is a very strong one against national training. The hon. Member went on to say that he thought the question of rankers being given commissions was one which had not been advocated on this side. I quite agree that there ought to be more commissions given to rankers, but I would like to emphasise what the Noble Lord said as to that: If you have promotion from the ranks you must give better conditions for the junior ranks of the Army, captains and so on. I have had many friends in the ranks, and I have known many of them to be offered commissions and to refuse 1846 them, because they could not afford to live as officers on the miserable pay of 5s. 2d. per day. If hon. Members opposite and on these benches wish to democratise the Army, the first thing they have got to do is to see that the lower ranks of officers should be at least a little better paid than they are at present. I think the hon. Member said that at present the Army was more or less a channel for the unfit. I think that was a very much exaggerated statement. Hon. Members have said, and I have heard it said, that the Army is not as good as it might be in the class of men it gets. All I can say, from the experience I have had, is that if it is not as good as it is possible to obtain it, it is as good as we want in this country, and always has been equal in the past to every task it has undertaken. I believe the men in the Army are second to none in the world. I do not think we really want any much better class, or even a very much more educated class. I do not think the actual private soldier in the field is very much what you might call a brainy force as a rule. He requires a good deal of pluck, and I believe our men have got that in a very high degree.
I was surprised at the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent objecting to this question of national training, because, if I remember rightly, about three years ago he made a speech, I think outside the House, to the effect that if a paragraph appeared in an evening paper that an invasion was meditated that a million bayonets would flash in the morning sun. He went on to say that if the million bayonets were not forthcoming the responsible Minister would be found suspended from the nearest lamp post the next morning. I do not deny that a million men would at once spring forward if there was any chance of a raid being attempted on these shores, but of what use would they be without training, without organisation, without discipline, without arms. It is only by adopting some system of national training, by which, at any rate, you could give the manhood of this country some practice in shooting, and rudiments of drill, that we shall be able to take our part in the great war, if it should be forced upon us.
§ Mr. ROWLAND HUNT
I think the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent (Mr. John Ward) said that we on this side of the House advocated Conscription. I do not think the hon. Member knows what Conscription means. Conscription means 1847 taking a certain number of men out of the nation, either by lot or force, and compelling them to serve for years in the Army; to go all over the world; to fight all over the world, wherever they are wanted. It is perfectly absurd for hon. Gentlemen opposite to go to the country and call us Conscriptionists. We are not. We believe, a great many of us, in universal compulsory military training. It is as near as possible the reverse of Conscription. Under it every sound man is to learn enough to enable him to defend the United Kingdom in time of national peril, not to go out of it, and it is the same for rich and poor. As far as the officers go the scheme before the country is that every man shall serve for four months in the ranks, so that it will be just the same for the duke as anybody else. It is not the least like conscription, and it is the most democratic and just army system that has ever been attempted or could be. I cannot understand why hon. Gentlemen who are supposed to be in this House especially to advocate Labour interests are going against it, because, after all, under a plan of the sort the working classes would really have the advantage. They have got to work for their living in any case, and it would be no harder on them during military training than during ordinary work. Probably it would be easier, and it would probably be more interesting, whilst the rich would have to do their share in the ranks, which is not now the case. I do not think there is any objection to it at all. I put it into my election address, and, as far as I know, no capital was made out of it at all. Hon. Gentlemen know perfectly well that if it bad been of use the Liberals would have run the conscription cry.
I would like to refer to what the hon. Member for a Division of Lancashire (Mr. Seddon) said the other day. He said that Mr. Blatchford had been doing his best to set the working classes of this country against the working classes in Germany. That is not true; distinctly it is not true. I personally have distributed a great many of Mr. Blatchford's pamphlets during the election. My experience was that they were eagerly sought for by the working people. What Mr. Blatchford said was that the German working classes were not against the working classes of this country, but that we were in danger of sudden 1848 war, and that we were not sufficiently prepared. I am afraid that that is the case under the present Territorial scheme. The same hon. Gentleman said towards the end of his speech, that the democracy of this country were going to take things into their own hands, that they were prepared to stand together, and that they would prevent war by stopping production. I really think that is an absurd contention, because leading Socialists in Germany have distinctly said that the Socialists of that country are quite incapable of preventing war. That sort of argument is really quite out of the question. It is absurd for Labour Members to say that they are going to prevent statesmen and emperors from engaging in wars, when only the other day in this House, on a question concerning the interests of the class whom they represent, they ran away from their own Amendment. I do not think people who run away from their own Amendment in this House can afford to pretend that they are going to dictate to the statesmen abroad. It is too much to swallow altogether.
The hon. Member for Lichfield (Colonel Warner) told us that there were always 100,000 Regular troops in this country during the Boer War. That is certainly the first I have ever heard of it. Both Sir George Goldie and Lord Lansdowne stated publicly that the absence of trained troops in this country during the Boer War was a cause of great danger to the country, and created a situation of great peril to the Empire. Another great soldier stated that he had been round to see what troops there were in the country at that time, and that he felt it was his duty to tell both the civil and the military authorities that 50,000 picked troops of any foreign Power could at that time have walked from one end of the country to the other. I am sure hon. Members opposite do not want that sort of thing ever to happen again. It seems to me, however, that we are running a great risk, because we have very considerably reduced the Regular Army and also the auxiliary forces. If, during a comparatively small war like the Boer War, we were denuded of troops, how would this country stand in the event of a great war? Hon. Members ought to face these facts, and not take it for granted that we are always going to be very lucky. The Secretary of State has had many compliments paid him during these Debates, but I am afraid I cannot compliment him on having so organised 1849 the land defences of the country that they could be any real defence if we were suddenly attacked by a great Power. We are to be defended by the Territorial force. We were told, however, the other day that thousands and thousands of that force had never, not only not hit the target, but not even let off a rifle. They are classed as efficient, and yet the one thing which is more necessary than another, that of shooting, they know nothing whatever about. That means that they would be of no use. In that way the country is being totally deceived. If one reads in the newspapers that so many thousands of men in the Territorial Force are efficient, he naturally concludes that they are moderately well trained, but these men are not. No officer or man should be classed as efficient in musketry unless he can shoot fairly straight and quickly. Military authorities all agree that under modern conditions quick, as well as straight, shooting is absolutely necessary, and that without the ability to do that a man is merely a target for the enemy. There are admittedly thousands of men in the Territorial Army who are nothing but targets, and are absolutely useless as a means of defence. Surely that condition of things wants altering if you are even to pretend that the Territorial Force would be of any use as a defence against sudden invasion.
The Home Secretary stated the other day that our defence was adequately provided for, and that the whole Regular Army would certainly not be sent out of the country unless our sea supremacy had been effectually established, either by a great sea fight or by blockading the enemy's ports. But supposing we had to send a great army to India, and we were suddenly attacked by a great maritime Power. What would happen? You have lost your two-Power standard in the Navy, and have got practically no defence at home against what the Secretary of State for War himself admitted, at Bristol in 1908, might happen, namely, an invasion by as many as 100,000 men. He said that any nation at war with us would be quite sure to do their best to strike a blow at London, and so end the war at once. The garrisoning alone of the United Kingdom would take 200,000 men, and you would have absolutely nothing left. It is evident to anybody who looks things in the face that we are not in a safe position, and that if we were suddenly attacked while our Regular Army was away we should be in great danger of having our Capital captured by 1850 the enemy. A blow at the heart like that, if successful, would be the end of the British Empire. But I do not want to detain the House by talking about the unfortunate things that might happen. The way to make our country safe is that every man should do his fair share to fit himself to defend the country supposing one of these unfortunate wars should ever come about. That is how the matter stands, and until we have every sound man sufficiently trained to be able to face the enemy, we shall never be really safe. Consider what Continental nations do. It is surely not very much to ask that every man should give four months once in his life to enable him to defend his country, his women, and his children. If he is not willing to do that, may I ask who is going to do it for him? Who are you going to hire to defend your country, your women, and your children, if your own men will not do it? I do think that this great question of universal compulsory training has not been put plainly before the country. My own opinion is that the working classes would only not object to it, but be very glad to have it so long as they were quite certain that the rich would do their share as well as the poor. The night hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War has undoubtedly set up a magnificent organisation, but I believe that in his heart he knows, as well as a good many of us on this side, that what I say is the only real solution of the military difficulties of this country at this time. Till you get some Government which has the pluck to face the question, and tell the working people the necessity of it, this country will never be really safe. We will always be in danger of a collapse of our great Empire; and it would not be because of the people, but because the politicians on both sides of the House were afraid to trust the people.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I recognise that in rising for the first time in this House I am addressing a very critical audience, but I also recognise the indulgence usually given to Members speaking for the first time, and which certainly has been very freely extended to hon. Members sitting on these benches. My primary object on this occasion is to reply to the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman opposite. He rather indicated that it was the first duty of the State to provide work for old pensioners, as he termed them, and Reserve men; and he suggested that it would 1851 be, or should be, the duty of the Secretary of State for War to make overtures to the railway companies to give special preferences in this particular direction. I take very strong exception to any such suggestions. In the first place, does the hon. Gentlemen agree that railway men should be discharged to give preference to certain individuals who for the moment happen to be Reservists? Does the hon Gentleman recognise that this is one of the points of complaint that we have that pensioners are going into the railway service with a State pension of 6s. or 7s. per week and reducing to the level of that difference the wages of the railwaymen? For that reason alone, I take very strong exception to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman. It may be true that another hon. Gentleman has included in his election address something about Conscription. I suppose that he ought to be congratulated for being so bold as to put it in his address.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
Conscription under another name. [HON. MEMBERS: "No! No! "] At least we think so. But I am inclined to think that however it was defined he certainly included in that address military training, plus Tariff Reform, with more Tariff Reform than military training, and that is probably how it got excluded so far as the election was concerned.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I agree. But the point I was rather suggesting was that the hon. Member indicated that that was responsible for his return. I desire, however, to say that so far as the Labour men are concerned, they are not against physical training. The fight that was made in this House by Members of the Labour party for the medical inspection of children proves conclusively that so far as we are concerned we are anxious for the physique of the race. The difference between physical training and military training is this: that we are not desirous of instilling into the minds of the children this warlike feeling which is invariably an appeal to the worst elements of human nature. For that reason, I, at least, as a Labour Member, am prepared to take my stand upon the policy of the past. The 1852 hon. Gentleman opposite made considerable capital out of the action of this party one day this week. In my innocence, I, like the hon. Gentleman opposite, was somewhat shocked by the position; but I must confess that my shock was not for the action of the party, but for that of hon. Gentlemen opposite who were prepared to make the miserable conditions we were complaining of the object of a party move without any sincerity whatever, and the best proof of that is this, that the same conditions that we were complaining about were not only existing when these hon. Gentlemen were in power, but were even worse than to-day. I desire, therefore, to say that I hope the Secretary for War will not take seriously the suggestion of hon. Gentlemen opposite with regard to the railway companies being induced to take action on the lines indicated.
§ Colonel CHALONER
I should like to make a short answer to the hon. Member for Lichfield, who said that the soldiers of the British Army were badly treated. I do not know what experience the hon. Gentleman has had. Personally I have served some twenty-nine years in the Militia, the Regular Army, and latterly with the Volunteers. I can only say that his experience, if that be it, is very different from mine. The private soldier, from my experience in the Army, is the first care, whether it be in time of war or in time of peace during manœuvres. He is the one who is thought of first from the very beginning. It is whether he should have his dinner, whether he has got his food in his haversack, whether he is supplied with water. That is the first duty of every officer. Thank God it is so! I hope it will never come, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, when it will cease to be the first duty of the officer to see that his men are properly looked after, and that they have every comfort possible under the circumstances.
The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) made one or two statements, one of which explains to a large extent the reason why we have not been able to get all the reforms we want for the Army. Everything is granted for the Navy, but we always have difficulty in getting reforms for the Army, and if the information acted upon is such as the hon. Member for Stoke gives his constituents I do not wonder that we have that difficulty. The hon. Member started by saying that he was prepared to support the Navy because 1853 it was needed for the defence of our shores, but he went on to say that he did not support the Army because it was unnecessary. What on earth would be the use of the Navy if they are tied to our shores, if we had no troops on land to defend our shores I Why the very object of the Army is that it will free the Navy, and enable it to go and attack the enemy instead of watching here upon our shores if we had no troops to defend ourselves. Therefore I take it that it is essential that our home defence force should be ample for the purposes, and should be actually useful for the defence of our shores. The hon. Member for Stoke referred to this country as a little island. No one representative of this country ought to talk about this island, which is the heart of the Empire, as a little island. To talk in this way of a country like ours, which is the heart that throbs and drives the blood throughout the whole of the Empire, is to show an absolute want of grasp of the position of affairs. We are not only an island, we are the centre of one of the greatest Empires the world has ever known, and even Germany cannot look upon us as a little island, but rather as the centre of enormous continents spread all over the world.
I venture to think it is because the hon. Member takes the small view of the Empire and its needs, and does not realise the importance of this question, that they are going to deny us the reforms which we need. The hon. Gentleman attacked me personally as one of the colonels whose constituency he did not remember. Perhaps if the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for the Colonies was in his place he could inform him. The hon. Member referred to me and entirely misrepresented me on the question of conscription. I must also point out that I never said there was any objection to rankers being appointed to commissions. No one welcomes a man appointed from the ranks to the commissioned ranks more than does the British officer. The hon. Gentleman misrepresented me and others as to what I said, that when a man was appointed from the ranks he was treated differently from any others. Whenever a man is commissioned to the Army from the ranks he is not only welcomed, but he is looked upon just the same as one who has come in the ordinary way by examination or any other way, and I repudiate the suggestion that an officer is looked down upon because he is raised from the ranks. I think the hon. Member gave the real 1854 reason why the rankers are not, as I told him the other day, popular with the Army. It is because they come from the ranks in which the soldier has served. They know too much, and the trooper or the private soldier knows they know too much. They know that the officer who has come from the ranks knows all about the old soldier, and that is the reason why he is unpopular with the men in the ranks. But there is still another reason, and you cannot get away from it. If you ask nine-tenths either of the officers or men in the British Army, they will tell you that the officer who obtains his commission from the ranks is not as popular with the ordinary soldier as the commissioned officer, but for other reasons which, for reasons which hon. Gentlemen opposite will understand, I shall not go into just now. I should like, therefore, to protest against the suggestion which has been made. The hon. Member talked about conscription; that is an entirely erroneous name for what we have been recommending, and the hon. Member shows he does not understand it. Conscription, as I understand, in England would mean that men would be taken not voluntarily but by force from their home occupation, put into the ranks of the Army not for a week or a month but for two or three or four years, or even longer, and sent not only to stations in the United Kingdom but to other parts of the world. That is conscription. No proposal of that kind has been made by any Member on this side of the House.
§ Colonel CHALONER
If the hon. Gentleman says that we say one thing and mean another he is imputing to us motives which he has no right to impute. The hon. Member asked also what inducements were there to the private soldier to join the ranks and try and get his commission. I am glad we should have the hon. Member's support in trying to get higher pay for the soldier. I think he ought to have higher pay. But I should like to remind the hon. Gentleman that the soldier is now in a position in which no other working man or tradesman in the country is at the present time. Be trade good or bad his wages are always paid, he is always certain of a roof over his head and of his clothes and his food, and a little surplus money in his pocket. Whether the times are bad times or good times they do not affect him. Whether the times are good or bad the soldier is perfectly content, because 1855 he knows that his employment goes on all the time. It rests with himself rather than with the authorities. His condition is surer than that of the ordinary worker, especially under the present fiscal system which hon. Gentlemen opposite decline to alter. As long as our present fiscal system is permitted the private soldier has an enormous advantage over the ordinary workman. The hon. Gentleman told us another thing which astonished me considerably. He was apparently recommending the Swiss system over the English system of service.
§ Colonel CHALONER
Well, to this extent at any rate. He told us he talked to one who was an officer in the Swiss Army, and he found that that officer was a fitter in the shop of a man who was a private in the ranks. He gave us the reason, and what was it? The reason was: the fitter was able to get into the ranks of the officers, and that his employer was not allowed, was because that gentleman, who was put into the ranks, could not shoot. Therefore, according to the hon. Member opposite, he admires the Swiss system by which a man who could shoot is made an officer, and a man who could not shoot, but who ought to be able to shoot, is put into the ranks. To suggest that a system under which a man cannot do as a ranker what he as wanted to do, whilst as an officer he can do what he is not wanted to do, is better than our system is rather strange. The British system, which teaches the officers and the privates to shoot, is, after all, the proper system. As to compulsory training, the hon. Member for Lichfield has suggested that this is merely a party cry, and that it has never been introduced on any other platforms in the country. That I absolutely deny. I know of one public meeting summoned by public poster, at which two leading trade unionists in the Cleveland mining district of Yorkshire were present, one of whom is a member of the Independent Labour Party, and is looked upon as a possible candidate for the Cleveland Division. Those two trade unionists made the strongest speeches on behalf of compulsory service that I have ever heard made either by rich or poor in this country. Nothing could have been stronger than the speech made by one of them—Mr. Stubbs—who was a member of the Commission sent abroad: to study the various military systems. Mr. Stubbs 1856 gave his personal experience of what he had seen in Germany, France, and Switzerland, and he said he had seen millions—or at any rate, tens of thousands—of armed men; and he further stated that any man who had seen what he had seen across the little strip of water which separated them from the Continent of Europe—any man who had seen the great mass of armed troops abroad who was not prepared to bring up the defensive forces of this country, both military and naval, to the most efficient state possible is committing national suicide. Those were the words of a trade unionist leader, and this proves that hon. Members below the Gangway are not the only persons entitled to speak on behalf of their class, and the opinions they have expressed in this Debate are not those which are held by all the working men in this country. As I have already pointed out, what we have suggested is not conscription, but forcing men to serve by making them join the defensive forces, provided they do not voluntarily join the Regular Forces. Such a proposal has very great advantages. In the first place, it means at once that you have no further difficulty in getting the number of men you require for Home defence, and you would at once be able to fill up your ranks and get over the difficulties which have been raised on the other side of the House.
It was said by an hon. Member opposite that I had over-stated the case, and that there was no shortage of men. The Secretary for War admitted that only 88 per cent. of the required number were forthcoming, and that in spite of the fact that he had received wonderful assistance from the "Daily Mail," the Press generally, and theatrical advertisements given on behalf of the defensive forces of the country. With the aid of all that advertisement the right hon. Gentleman has only been able to get 88 per cent. of the number he requires. In order to get the defensive force we require, are we to be dependent upon the advertisement of a halfpenny daily paper or plays produced on the stage? If that is what we are to depend upon in the future, I think we ought to give up calling ourselves the greatest nation in the world. You must get the men you require by some system, and, what is more, you must make them efficient. You must have the preliminary training in the case of the boys. Anyone who has watched the Boy Scout movement must have noticed the beneficial effect, 1857 both physically and morally, on the boys of the discipline to which they are subjected. Therefore the preliminary training which the lads would go through before passing into the ranks of the Territorials would be an advantage, physically and morally, not only to the boys themselves, but to the country as a whole.
At the meeting to which I have already alluded one of the first questions asked was, "Will you take the rich man's son as well as the poor man's son?" The answer given at that meeting was, "Yes, the rich man's son will have to go into the ranks along with the poor man's son, and their chances will be equal as far as promotion to the commission ranks is concerned." We all read of the evil influences to which the young men of this country are subjected—I allude to the young men belonging to the working classes as well as to the well-to-do. In the case of the working classes, they spend a good deal of time on the football field watching the game and gambling upon the result of the matches, instead of following some useful employment. Tens of thousands of young men are doing this kind of thing every day of their lives, whilst again the sons of the wealthy classes go to race meetings and frequent card-playing rooms in the clubs, and many of them never do a single day's work to justify their existence. I think you ought to take these young men, place them in the ranks, and make them do something useful in the way of training them to take part in the defence of their country. I will not labour that point beyond protesting against the name of conscription being given to what we propose, because that is absolutely unfair, as we do not contemplate anything of the kind.
The Yeomanry School has been referred to. May I point out that I have spent five years as an adjutant of Yeomanry, and I found that the Yeomanry School was by far the best system for training officers. I think the right hon. Gentleman, if he inquires, will find that that is the opinion of the majority of the Cavalry officers in the Service. I think it was a bad thing when the Yeomanry School was done away with, and I should like to emphasise the importance and the value it would be to the training of Yeomanry officers if that school could be reinstated. As for the employment of old soldiers, that is a question in which I have always taken great interest, and I should like to support the suggestions that have been made in that direction.
1858 There was a suggestion made that the Labour Exchanges should be made use of with this object. In the name of Fortune, what is the good of asking a Labour Exchange to find work for old soldiers any more than anybody else when there is no work in the country to find? The first thing is to find the work. You must produce the demand in the country before you can provide labour for old soldiers or anybody else. It is putting the cart before the horse. The institution of those Labour Exchanges before you have found the work and labour that those Exchanges are going to give was an act of folly. It is quite possible a few cases may be cooked up and work passed from one man to another; but to suggest, when we know that there are enormous numbers of men out of work and no places for them to fill, that you are going to find work by Exchanges, either for an ordinary individual or a soldier who has left the Service, is to suggest the impossible. The only way to find work is to alter the fiscal system. That would settle the difficulty at once. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about work for all?"] I do not think anybody has ever suggested that work would be found for all, but we have suggested that work would be provided for the vast majority, and probably for all the able-bodied who wanted it.
I hope that the question of the horses will be taken up in earnest, and that something will be done to prevent the exportation of all the best horses, the best brood mares and other horses from this country which might result, in time of war, in our finding ourselves absolutely devoid of horses. We do not want, if we can help it, to interfere with any justifiable form of selling their horses on the part of Irish and other horse breeders, but we ought to put our hands in some way or other upon the horse supply and make sure that when the time comes the horses will be there if we require them. Horses cannot be made in a few months; it takes years to breed them, and, as every Cavalry officer knows, it takes years to train them; and, unless this matter is taken in time, we shall find ourselves in a difficulty.
A great deal has been done by the present Secretary of State for War to improve the Army and to bring it up to the state in which we should like to see it, but, as we heard from the hon. Member for Shropshire (Mr. Rowland Hunt), although much has been done, still much remains to be done. We are far short of what our needs demand. We are told a large army 1859 is unnecessary, but as long as we have an Empire we require not only a Navy to command the seas, but men to defend our land from whatever direction attack may come. We want an Expeditionary Force ample in numbers, and a Home Defence Force to take its place when that Expeditionary Force has left our shores. That we have not got. We have taken a step in the right direction, but we have not gone far enough, and my last word to the right hon. Gentleman would be to leave no stone unturned and to make every possible effort in every direction to put our defensive forces on such a footing that we shall not be afraid of invasion, but shall be able to look forward to the time when, at no distant date, the English nation will again be looked upon as the most powerful nation in the world.
§ Mr. SEDDON
In reference to the pay of the Territorial Army, I have received several complaints from my own district, that the men when they return from training have to wait a considerable time for the money due to them. Many of these young fellows, while they are quite willing to serve their country and give their lime as Territorials, are not capable, owing to their poverty, of standing out for any length of time for what is due to them. It may be a case of a son keeping a widowed mother. During the period he is away on training there are no wages coming in, and when he gets back he is pretty hard up. Would not an intimation to commanding officers accelerate payment? Then there is the question of hiring horses for the Territorials. I have every sympathy with the sentiments expressed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen—I agree with them that the horse question is a very serious one in regard to the military services of this country. I think more ought to be done to bring in touch with the force men who own horses and are willing to hire them out. I had an opportunity of witnessing a review in Knowsley Park last year and I felt very sorry for the Artillery, who had to handle horses fresh from the plough and from the cart, for these animals have a knack of doing the right thing at the wrong time. Again, I am told that veterinary surgeons entrusted with the duty of passing the horses exercise favouritism instead of studying the best interests of the force. I regret that the old Lancashire idea has been killed under the new system. That idea was to put drivers from 1860 the Regular Army among the men to look after the guns. But, at any rate, I think the veterinary surgeons for a whole district should be asked to co-operate in securing a proper supply, of horses. I believe they would from patriotic motives be willing to devote a day or two every year to the selection of horses, and that would put an end to the favouritism which, I fear, exists in some parts of the country.
The hon. Member for Shropshire took exception to some statements I made the other evening on the matter of compulsory service. May I say if I were convinced that what he aims at would be realised we might further consider this question of conscription. But we have a strong suspicion—it may be an unworthy one—that the idea of compelling the rich to go through the ranks like the poorer classes would not, in fact, be realised. I know that in Switzerland they do commence in the ranks without any respect to occupation, and if the hon. Member for Shropshire can remove the suspicion that this is not another scheme for securing the rank of officer for only well to do people he may, and his friends, get more adherents for their proposal than they have secured up to the present. The hon. Gentleman took exception, and I think he had good ground for taking exception to some of my remarks with reference to the growing international spirit of brotherhood on the Continent of Europe and in America among the workers. I admit if you take isolated cases that there are differences of opinion between those who assume to be leaders of the working classes, just as you find differences among hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are leaders of the Tariff Reform movement, but I think to take an exception and then to raise a charge upon it is not quite playing the game. We admit that there are individuals among our own ranks, and many leaders of trade unionism who have taken a side—honestly and honourably, and I am not making any charge against them—who have taken a side and have made statements which are not supported by the organised body of labour in this country or in a great part of Europe. If the hon. Gentleman wants to know the place where he can get the best expression of opinion of the working classes, I would advise him to read the report of the International Congress between the workers of this and other parts of the world. I would recommend him to read the reports of the Congress of Miners from the whole civilised world, except Japan, at the International 1861 Miners' Federation. They discussed, I do not say that they entered into a policy, but they discussed the possibility of bringing about a universal stoppage of production in case war took place between their respective countries. It is not only the miner, but those engaged in the transit industry and in the textile industry, who are taking this action, and these great movements are all banding people together in their respective countries in discussing whether it would not be possible to prevent the great sacrifice of human life and treasure caused by war by bringing about a cessation of production in the event of any Eluropean war breaking out. Only last week, at Newport, nearly two millions of workers were represented, and there they expressed the sentiment that industrial workers the world over have no quarrel one with another. We want to dwell together in peace, and the only rivalry which we want is in the work of production. I am quite prepared to think that the workers of this country can hold their own with any workers in the world, but as an organised party, standing here and voicing the claims of labour—it may be only a part of the great army of labour, but the best section of them, the trade unionists—I say we are expressing the opinion of the best section of organised labour, that international war is abhorrent to the great number of them, and anything which will tend to encourage the military spirit will find an uncompromising opposition from the Members on these benches.
§ Mr. CULLINAN
I do not rise to say anything on the merits or demerits of the Army, but to bring before the House a subject which I have been calling the attention of the War Office to for a great number of years with regard to the purchase of horses. What I ask is, now that a change is to be made and we are going to have this new system of provision worked by the Board of Agriculture, that you will take steps to see that the horses intended for Army purposes should be bought direct from the breeder. We know very well that in old times, and indeed in rather recent times, there has been a great deal of argument with regard to the policy of the Army with reference to the purchase of horses, and so far as I can ascertain a great many of the officers were involved. As I mentioned some years ago, the great difficulty is in getting centres.
In Ireland we have a great number of agricultural shows throughout the 1862 country, and the committees of management give prizes in order to encourage the breeding of horses, and I think representatives of the War Office should attend these shows and buy horses direct from the breeders. I mentioned the matter last year, and the Secretary of State told me that when the new scheme was prepared he hoped they would be able to put this into operation. Now that you have prepared a new scheme under the Board of Agriculture I hope that, so far as Ireland is concerned, in purchasing horses for Army purposes you will Bend your representatives to these different shows and buy direct from the breeders, in order to encourage the horse industry in Ireland.
§ Mr. JOHN GRETTON
I am not convinced that the Government is really yet alive to the real urgency and necessity of dealing with the horse question at once. I know it is being strongly urged upon them that mechanical traction, at any rate in this country, is going to take the place of horses to a great extent in Army transport, and that bicycles can be relied upon to do the scouting work which in former times was done by mounted men. I think that view is entirely erroneous, and that mechanical traction will result in destroying the roads, rapidly Mocking the whole country and breaking down the whole transport system. If we rely upon mechanical traction to a large extent, we shall have to remodel the main roads and have a stronger surface and a stronger foundation, or they will give way under the pressure. Of course, any idea of mechanical traction being largely used in country lanes is quite out of the question. As one who has studied the question of bicycles replacing horses for scouting purposes, I am convinced that the bicycle is a machine of very limited use. It is only useful for tracks and highways, and has a tendency to anchor a man to tracks and highways, and diminishes his enterprise and his usefulness. A scouting party, a company, or even a battalion dependent on bicycles will always be hanging back where the bicycles have been left, and it must be on a main track or a good passable road. For these reasons, I think every military man who has had real experience of war, and has studied the subject theoretically or practically, would be agreed that bicycles and mechanical traction can never replace horses except at the expense of the efficiency of the force they are intended to serve.
1863 The question of horses depends to a great extent on the supply of mares. You want mares of good pedigree, going back sufficiently far to ensure that the stock which they produce will be regular in its character. When you lose the character of your mares, the breeder will undoubtedly have a large proportion of failures. Some of the stock may be very good, but some portion of it will throw back to the weaker ancestors in the chain, so that the loss to the breeder will be considerable. I believe the Department should concentrate the whole of its attention on getting in this country a race of mares suitable for breeding horses, not only for mounting, but also for transport purposes. Anyone who has used hackneys knows that they are not suitable to breed horses for Army purposes. One of the greatest faults we ever committed was the production of the fashionable hackney strain. I think most breeders have come to that conclusion, and take care that no taint of that kind is imparted to any stock which they produce, except those who are showing at hackney shows. I was horrified the other day to learn that, I believe with a view to producing horses for Army purposes, the Government are proposing to introduce Normandy sires into the south of Ireland. The great excellence of the horses hitherto produced in Ireland is due to the fact that they have had clean stock for many generations behind them. There has been no taint of the cart horse or of hackney blood, which, unfortunately, has latterly found its way over there. Those who wish to preserve a good horse supply will do the utmost in their power to preserve the stock in Ireland from the taint of a strange strain. As a practical horse breeder, I would say that the key of the whole position is the production of a sufficient number of brood mares of good pedigree, and that care should be taken that they are not exported from the country.
The hon. Member for the Newton Division (Mr. Seddon) has addressed the House in a way with which we are all familiar, as to the solidarity of labour throughout the world, and of the desire of labour men everywhere to prevent all war in future. I do not know that anyone on this side of the House will disagree with the hon. Member as to the desirability of preventing all war in future, but I would point out that the hon. Member and his friends have not yet been able to produce a scheme by which that can be accomplished. 1864 They have not got beyond the talking stage, and until they have the power, the only prudent and wise course for the Government, this House, and the people of the country, is to take those precautions which have been found necessary throughout all time and in all previous experience. Hon. Members who sit below the Gangway on the other side of the House, I think, struck one of the greatest blows possible at the future efficiency and success of the Territorial Army when they induced the present Secretary of State for War to abandon the scheme for military training in the schools of this country. That was part of his scheme, and a most excellent part it was. The right hon. Gentleman explained at the time that it was an essential part, but he has abandoned it reluctantly on account of the pressure brought to bear by hon. Members below the Gangway. How right he was to have this as part of his scheme is already beginning to be shown. The Territorial Army is not complete as to its numbers, and anyone who has had to do with recruiting or the management of Territorial units knows how very great has been the pressure, and how exceptional have been the efforts made during the past two years to get the right stamp of men to join the force. Those efforts cannot be expected to endure indefinitely, and unless there is more willingness shown by all sections of the population to bring up the numbers that force must inevitably dwindle. We are still some 40,000 below the authorised establishment, and when it is considered how large is the amount of work involved in the preparation of the Territorial Force, and how very largely the force consists of boys and lads, who are not mature, and not of sufficient age to stand the rigours and the strain of a campaign, even in their own country if the force had to be mobilised, hon. Members will realise how far short we are of the 300,000 men promised when the Territorial scheme was brought forward. I am not speaking as one opposed to the Territorial scheme. I have always supported it. Like many on this side of the House and outside, I am convinced that the Territorial Force might have been formed under a better scheme. There might have been a better scheme, or, at least, it might have been sounder to base a Territorial Army upon the old Militia scheme than to destroy the Militia and build the Territorial Army on the much less substantial basis of Volunteer forces. But that was the 1865 scheme adopted. It is the only scheme before the country. It is an excellent scheme in many points, and in organisation it is far ahead of any we have had before it. Therefore I have done my best to advance the Territorial scheme. Hon. Members on this side take the same view. We want to make the utmost possible success of what the country has now adopted as the national scheme of defence, and that is why we make our criticisms and suggestions of improvement.
There seems to be some confusion of idea as to whether the Territorial Force is to be called out immediately on the outbreak of war. We were told by the Secretary of State for War when he brought in his Act that he did not expect the Territorial soldiers would be ready to meet European troops until they had been mobilised six months. I believe that the majority of Territorial units are rightly described in that phrase. They would not be ready. Of course, the Territorial units are not all of equal excellence. Many units, I believe, have been improving, but some old Volunteer units of which they are the successors have not been improved, and I think that the Secretary of State if he asks for confidential reports will find some cases of units not so good as they were. However, if you wish to have them as reliable forces there must be a long period. I do not think six months too long if you are to have disciplined forces ready to meet the Continental troops who will certainly invade this country if any invasion is undertaken. Latterly there has been great urgency on the part of the War Office to get out a mobilisation scheme—a scheme, as I understand it, for mobilising the Territorial Forces in forty-eight hours, or in a short period of that kind. I must not discuss all that has come to my knowledge in this matter, but there seems to me to be a very great confusion of views as to whether this rapid mobilisation is necessary, and whether the Territorial Force should be capable of rapid mobilisation on the outbreak of war. I think it should, as it is the only thing available; but the views which the War Office have taken as to details of the mobilisation appear to be very curious. Certain of the stores, material, and equipment are to be provided by the War Office at points a great distance, in many cases, from the concentration centres of the particular units. They rely entirely upon the telegraph and railway communication. Other things, such as clothing and other necessaries, and part of the camp equipment, 1866 are to be provided by the county associations. They will have to make themselves responsible to provide every essential part of camp equipment—and boots—immediately on the order for mobilisation being given. Not one sixpence is provided in order to secure that these stores shall be available when they are wanted. I do not know what the idea is, but it appears to be that the county associations are to make contracts for the supply of articles for Army purposes, but there would be nothing to bind the contractor unless there is some consideration given. Of course, what is necessary for mobilisation is that the stores should be available, and that a check should be kept by a county association officer whenever it might be considered desirable to inspect them. But in order to get these stores there is only one way of doing it, that the War Office—I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider this—should pay a small percentage on the stores required for mobilisation, in order to secure that they would be in readiness against the order to mobilise in the event of war or an emergency. The Territorial Force is not now capable of rapid mobilisation, nor has any feasible scheme been drawn up for that purpose. In all the Orders and suggestions and memoranda brought forward on this matter there is too great reliance placed on the safety of telegraph wires, railways, and bridges from attack. I do not think that we should calculate on the telegraph lines in all cases being left intact, and the railway bridges might be broken. A very little work of that kind done by the subjects of foreign Powers in this country would throw the whole of the mobilisation out of gear. If we are to have regard to our treaty obligations abroad we must see that we are in a position to fulfil them. We are bound by treaty to defend Belgium in certain contingencies, for anyone acquainted with the problem knows that to Belgian Army is not large enough to keep a sufficient force in the field. If Belgium should be threatened by a great Continental Power she would have to fall back on the guarantee given by this country. Were a great Continental Power established in Antwerp this country would be in a much greater peril than at any previous time, and bring about the necessity for maintaining a Conscription Army on these shores such as happily has not hitherto proved necessary. Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite who are against conscription defeat their own object when they do not support 1867 the maintenance of a second line in this country immediately available, leaving our first line free to fulfil our international obligations, and to perform their duties in different parts of the Empire.
§ Mr. REES
I have been sitting here with the object and purpose of pointing out that as the greater part of the British Army is in India, and it is in India where the best officers are made, the House would best serve the interests of the British Army by getting on to the next Order, the East India Loans (Railways and Irrigation) Bill, because it would be immediately relevant, since you cannot convey the troops without trains, and the soldiers want their rice, which can only be grown with extensive irrigation. Since this Bill has been for the day abandoned, may I say with what great pleasure I heard the vindication upon those benches opposite of the character of the British officer. It may not be altogether irrelevant or improper for one who is not a British officer himself, but as an old Civil servant, who lived amongst them all his life, to express his concurrence, as one who saw things from the outside, with the estimate of the British officer and his character, which has been given by the Noble Marquess and other hon. and gallant Members. I wish to say, from my own personal observation, and having means of knowing by living in the messes of regiments, that as far as officers who rise from the ranks are concerned, it is not with the officers of the regiment they are unpopular; it is with the men. Even if such an one was beloved before, he becomes unpopular when he becomes a commissioned officer. Nothing could exceed the delicacy of treatment, the courtesy and consideration with which, under circumstances of some little difficulty, every officer in the regiment, from the colonel to the youngest subaltern, treats the officer who has been promoted from the ranks. I say that as one who is not in the leas personally concerned, but from my own knowledge and observation. I could point the moral with various particular cases if the opportunity offered. I would also say that the officers of the British Army see above all things to the comfort of their men. I do protest that they think more of the personal comfort and convenience of their men than they do of their own, and I say that after having spent the best part of a quarter of a century amongst them.
1868 There were three points which I was a little surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite did not take. One was, as any hon. Member who was present last night in the House must have noticed, that hon. Members who feel that our Army is too large, and who think that we can do with a smaller one or with none at all, protested that this country, which is one of a dozen Signatories to a particular treaty, should take isolated and belligerent action against a foreign and a friendly nation. It was suggested we ourselves should send an expedition into the country of the Congo, which is only 950,000 square miles and occupied by a population of twenty to thirty to the square mile. While we were to take aggressive and belligerent action, and the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir Gilbert Parker) suggested isolated action, though I do not suggest he is one of the hon. Members who is in favour of a reduction; those hon. Members who suggested that were clearly men who would, upon any Division, have voted for a reduction of the forces with which they intended to overawe the rest of the civilised world. There was another point I was a little astonished was not taken. It is argued, and it is a very specious argument, and to a certain extent a very good one, and to a great extent I concur in it myself, and it is an argument the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Charles Dilke) always puts forward, and that is that you cannot have a strong Army and Navy. I only submit upon this point to the House that there is no positive standard of what Army or Navy is required for any particular nation. The standard is purely relative, and may be forced upon any nation by the action of their neighbours, and every neighbour is a potential competitor. Any standards or any conjunction of standards with the two Services may be forced upon them irrespective of their own wishes and desires. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) has, I believe, himself served, and I am certain is not altogether a man of peace at any price—in his own personal capacity, at any rate. The hon. Member asked, "What do we want with any forces sufficient for aggression? Have we not already got enough of the world?" Does it not strike my hon. Friend that if you have got the best of everything, but are not so strong that nobody dare attack you, you cannot keep it? When he leaves his house, does he leave the door open? If he lost his goods through so doing, would anybody sympathise with him? It is because 1869 this country has the best of everything that we must be strong. Neither in public nor in private life, neither amongst individuals nor amongst nations, can anyone keep anything by merely acting upon a pusillanimous and purely defensive policy. What would happen if a boy, on going to school, announced that he would not take any action unless he was kicked? I submit that that is an exactly parallel case. My hon. Friend himself would be the last to practise what he preaches in this respect. It was he who said that there was no need to have organised forces in this country, because on the mere suggestion of an invasion a million bayonets would flash in the sun. He takes it for granted, first of all, that the sun would be shining—a large assumption in these islands—next, that the bayonets would be bright, an impossible thing where you have amateur troops; and he forgets that wherever you have the men, the bayonets, the sun, and the brightness, if the men are not trained, each individual would be sticking his bayonet into the rank in front of him. I confess it amazes me to hear such a desperately serious and vital subject as our defensive forces treated with what seems to me irresponsible frivolity.
The hon. Member for the Newton Division (Mr. Seddon) dealt with what I think is one of the most serious subjects that could possibly be brought before any legislative assembly. He spoke about internationalism, and boldly held that it would be possible for the people, whom I might describe as forming the rank and file of the nation, to combine with those of other countries against their own country in the time of war. I think that is the most sinister, the most fatal, and the most odious creed that could possibly be preached in any country. It is the complete abnegation of all patriotism, which should be next to religion, and, in point of fact, is no bad substitute for it. It implies the abnegation of every quality which makes nations great, and would at once level the greatness of our Empire to the dust. I deeply regret that it should be possible for a Member of any assembly openly to preach such a creed. In the French Republic, where, I presume, what have been described as aristocratic tendencies are not rampant, the professors of this creed, the journalists who have preached it, and the writers who have expounded it, have been prosecuted and sentenced to long periods of imprisonment, on the ground that the 1870 creed is a debauching of the forces required for the maintenance of the greatness and glory of the French nation. I hope we shall hear no more of this sinister creed, and I deeply regret that it should ever have been put forward in this country.
§ Mr. PETO
I should not have ventured to intervene even for a moment in this Debate had I not noticed that civilian Members in different parts of the House had intervened already, and that something on which any Member may be competent to express an opinion has been introduced. I should like to refer to what the hon. Gentleman for the Newton Division of Lancashire (Mr. Seddon) said, and to which the hon. Gentleman for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Rees) referred. I understand that, instead of preparation for war, there was, or is, to be an arrangement between the wage-earning classes of the various countries to stop production, and so war will be made impossible. That seems to me to be an extraordinary creed to put forward, an extraordinary programme, because, to me, at any rate, who has been connected with productive business all my life it seems obvious that the first result of carrying this policy into effect would not be to stop the war, but to starve the wage-earning classes in every country where it was put into operation. Another hon. Gentleman said he objected very strongly to the principle of national service for the military defence of this country. He thought it was instilling into the children military principles. He objected very strongly to the aggressive spirit being fostered. I would remind hon. Members that what is proposed is national defence. One hon. Gentleman reminded the House that we live in an island, and only a small island, and so long as we confine ourselves to the organisation of a national force for national defence we cannot possibly carry out any aggression, even if it was intended, because these military forces which we propose under the principles of the National Service League to arrange, would be naturally confined to these islands, and would only defend them in case of aggression and invasion.
When the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War expressed his gratitude to a great many different people in this country he likened himself to Nehemiah—very much to the disadvantage of Nehemiah. He expressed his gratitude to the Lords Lieutenant, the 1871 county associations, the "Daily Mail," and even the theatres. I am sure he would not wish to omit any agency which has been of any assistance to him in carrying his scheme to the great state of perfection at which it has arrived, or, at any rate, has given him the vast number of recruits that he has certainly had, and which he feels to be a circumstance of congratulation. But I venture to think that in omitting to mention the National Service League he has forgotten one of the principal reasons why the Territorial Force, up to the present time, has even approximated to its proper standard—the standard at which he aimed. At any rate, in the county of Wiltshire, one Division of which I have the honour to represent in this House, I am perfectly certain that the leaders of public opinion in this country, who have been of the greatest help to the right hon. Gentlemen in this scheme, have been the strongest advocates of the National Service League.
Personally, I must plead guilty to being one of the Members who put in his election address that he was strongly in favour of the principles of the National Service League. I do not know whether that won me any votes or not, and I am not very much concerned to know. But what I do know is that I never hesitated to go upon any of the platforms of the National Service League or advocate their principles at any of the political meetings which I addressed. I will also admit that I included Tariff Reform, but I do not believe that it was even the virtue of Tariff Reform that in any sense gilded the National Service Pill. I believe that service is popular, and I think much more highly of the patriotism of the working classes of this country than any one might be led to suppose from some of the speeches which have been made in this Debate. It would be a great satisfaction and some assistance to this Territorial movement if the standard to which the different counties raised their corps were published. I believe in Wiltshire we would be found to be very little behind Birmingham and the Midlands, if behind at all. Of all the parts of these Estimates that which gives me the greatest pleasure and satisfaction is that showing the increase £353,000 for the Services and the Territorial Forces. I do not believe he had done enough in this direction. I am thankful to find that in 1872 this last year the numbers have so increased that we have had to provide this additional sum for the Territorial Force. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles Dilke) seemed rather to dread that the attention of the country might be so directed to the Territorial Force as to distract it from the more important branch of the Service, the Navy. Personally, I very humbly express the opinion that the position is exactly the opposite of that. I believe every pound spent upon an adequate land force is a pound well spent, and even better spent, than a pound spent upon the Navy. And for this reason, that it is only by making ourselves safe in some way from possible invasion can we give our Navy that mobility which it requires to carry out the many duties it has to perform. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) said the country wanted to know on which arm of the Service we are to rely. I say we have to rely upon both, and if we cannot rely upon both, I am perfectly certain we cannot rely upon either.
§ Question, "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.