§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Haldane)
The statement which it is customary to make upon this occasion is usually full of detail. On no other occasion is it possible to lay before the House details which Members are anxious to have in connection with the Army, and to-day is no exception to the rule. After five years of work, we have passed out of the region of questions of principle, and have got to the field of secondary problems—some of them of considerable difficulty and nearly all of them of detail. About general principles I shall, therefore, have very little to say. But there are one or two things to which I wish very shortly to allude. To begin with, the very basis and foundation of the policy of this Government—and I believe it will be of the next Government when they come to look into the situation—is this: that the first concern in military matters in this country is the preservation in their full strength and efficiency of the overseas garrisons in India and else where with the forces that are organised to reinforce them. That is the first regular line, and for an Empire like ours, scattered and separated as it is, that first regular line must be our foremost consideration. The second consideration in connection with that is what I think most people will admit, that is, that the overseas forces for foreign service enlisted for twelve years, must be of a professional nature, and can only be got on a voluntary basis. The third consideration, if that be so, having regard to the enormous army we keep up for overseas work—and must keep up in comparison with any other nation on the face of the earth—is that it is, at any rate, very dubious whether, if you introduce any departure from the voluntary system into the organisation of this country, you will be able to keep up your recruiting for the overseas forces. Constant study of a problem which is not merely military, but is largely social, and 2072 endless examination of the curves which indicate the progress of recruiting, and which show the cause which affect the totals in varying degree—causes of the most varying nature—have made me feel that if you make the change of introducing a compulsory training, even on a moderate-scale, into this country, it is impossible to guarantee that recruiting for the overseas the professional and voluntary Army would not be affected. Even if it were affected to the extent of 20 per cent. the result would be disastrous. Therefore, I stand before the House as one who has a moderate portion in Consols, on the income of which, with economy, I can with difficulty live, and who turns a deaf ear to all the proposals of those who bring forward prospectuses of gold mines which would double one's income—however specious the statements those prospectuses contain.
It is said you can get what you require for over-seas work on no other basis. That, at any rate, is our policy, and I believe it will be the policy of right hon. Gentlemen who come after us. While that is so, I am quite aware of the difficulties which the voluntary system imposes on those who have to deal with it. Of course, it is not so easy to get your establishment as it would be if you could put your hand out and take the population by force. Our first consideration, if I am right, is a consideration for the defence of the Empire-over the seas, and, that being so, we have to deal with the situation as it is. One great asset for home defence which we possess is our sea power, and that is why I have always said that our first line of home defence must be sea power. There has been much confusion created in this controversy by people insisting that the Territorial force was intended as a first line of defence to repel the first shock of invasion. If that were so then the Territorial force would have to be trained for two years—not merely for six months—in order to put them man for man on an equality with those whom they might—as the first line of resistance—have to encounter. While that shuts out any proposal of a more modest description based upon compulsion, it equally, to my mind, is fatal to our power to keep up our forces over sea, and therefore the position of the Government is that our first line for home defence or guardianship of these shores is on the sea. And not only is our future first line on the sea, but so also-is our present first line of defence, and 2073 it is our business to make sure that these sea forces are kept in their full strength and integrity. If they are not, then enormous additions to our Army Estimates will be the result.
It is impossible to have a citizen force such as the Territorial Force put in the first line, I have always said that the Territorial Force must be in its nature a half-baked force. I said it in 1906 at the first adumbration of these proposals, and again in the Estimates speech of 1907. I indicated that in time of peace, which is the worst enemy to Territorial recruiting, we could hardly hope to have more than a force of 250,000 men. Well, we are a good deal better than that, and I hope we may be better still. In war time, I am sure, the force will go up to its full establishment. The point I wish to make is that the criticism of the Territorial Forces ought not to be based, as it too often is, on the assumption that this force can ever be made a first line army, equivalent to continentally trained regulars, or anything approaching them man for man. It has quite other functions.
I did not propose to enter upon the character of these functions to-day, but the reason I now do so is that allusion was made last night to a certain book. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs pledged me to make some explanation. I am utterly unrepentant in this matter. There is no question of the King's Regulations at stake; it is obviously in the discretion of the Minister concerned to do what I did. The genesis of that book was this: I was so impressed with the way in which the case against compulsory service was going by default, and I was so impressed with the enormous number of speeches by officers on the active list, from field marshals downwards, making statements of fact and policy with which I found myself wholly at issue that I felt it necessary to put out something which people might consider and read. After Sir Ian Hamilton gave up the position of Adjutant-General and before he took up that of Inspector-General of the Oversea Forces, I said to him, knowing his views, that I should be glad if he would write, for my private edification, a Memoandum indicating the views which I knew he had always held. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not always."] Always; I will come to that in a moment. Sir Ian Hamilton did so, and I was so struck with his Memorandum that I determined, in virtue of the discretion vested in me, to publish it and 2074 amplify it with other details. I would point out that here we were dealing with the set and settled policy not only of this Government and that of Sir Henry Camp-bell-Bannerman but also the policy as regards invasion of the Government of the right hon. Gentleman himself, determined by the Committee of Defence, which he founded, and over which he presided. That policy had been misrepresented and misunderstood, and I thought it well that the facts should be given by somebody to whom the public would listen. That an officer on the active list to make known his views on a matter of this kind is certainly no new thing either in this country or abroad. They all do it. I should not condemn or restrain a field marshal from doing it, although I have the power; I should consider it an absolute piece of folly to do so. Consequently officers on the active list, within certain limits, often do give their opinions on most matters of military policy, sometimes in agreement, and sometimes in disagreement with those of the Government they serve, and so long as they do so in moderate language nobody interferes. In regard to this class of question of broad policy, not only here but abroad, it has been the custom to encourage officers expressing themselves reasonably to contribute views and information which are of great benefit to the Army and the public. If the rule in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition, that an officer on the active list or in an official position should never individually express his views on questions of Army organisation is valid, where should we be to-day? We should have been deprived of the most brilliant literature both in Germany and in France, and in this country we should have been deprived of some of the best memoranda that we have had.
I think the right hon. Gentleman does not quite apprehend the basis of the criticism I ventured to make last night. I agree that to lay it down as a hard and fast rule that no officer on the active list was ever to give his views on a naval or military question would be wholly absurd. What I did not like, and still do not like, in the action of the Government is that a Minister induced somebody who is not merely on the active list but at the head of the Admiralty or on the Army Council to give to the public private memoranda which he has supplied to the Admiralty and to take part under Government direction in these controversies. 2075 That is a wholly different question, as I think the right hon. Gentleman will see, to the question of the unattached officer on the active list. My criticism is that the Government are using officers under them who agree with them to propagate their views, while naturally they do not encourage those who differ from them to publish the contrary case.
§ Mr. HALDANE
Keeping myself to the War Office point, I wish to state that this was simply an exposition of an existing controversy, and it was absolutely necessary that it should come from somebody cognisant, as very few general officers are with the details of the Recruiting Department, and Sir Ian Hamilton's Memorandum was an exposition of these matters from the point of view of an expert. The communication was quite an unofficial communication to myself, which I unofficially published, along with some memoranda of my own. It was a memorandum written to me in my private capacity, which I thought so good and valuable to the public that I thought that the public should not be deprived of it. I see no reason why they should be. To tell the truth, I thought it was going to be of great benefit to the right hon. Gentleman. I have noticed that there are Members of the Unionist party who are straying from the sheep-fold, of which the right hon. Gentleman is the shepherd in this matter. There is Lord Curzon, an enthusiastic member of the National Service League, and even Lord Midleton is flirting, however slightly, with these things, and I am not perfectly certain about the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Arthur Lee). I will not pretend to judge, but there are a great many other gentlemen of the Unionist party who are dealing with this subject. It did seem to me that if I could come to the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman and help him in shepherding his sheep back I should have done something which I thought would be of value.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HALDANE
In so good a cause he was an exceedingly valuable dog, and I only wish he had been more effective. But I do feel that I have a personal concern in this—I and my colleagues—because, if the right hon. Gentleman is to have upon his back not only Tariff Reform, but Compulsory 2076 Service it may be that the unfortunate people who sit on these benches-will be relieved from our sufferings only by death. I hope I have shown my kindly motives in this connection, whatever may be thought of it. I also have a word of reproach for the right hon. Gentleman. He has plucked a little mote out of my eye, but I think there is rather a big beam in his own. If it is not expedient that general officers on the active list should express opinions all over the place—I do not mean in the circle of the Government—but opinions which can be turned to all sorts of account, was it wise to publish two volumes of the evidence of the War Commission? The right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister at the time, and was responsible for the publication of the volumes of evidence of the Royal Commission. I only saw two volumes, and they were full of information not only on matters relating to the war, but of general information. Among the things that appear there is a Memorandum by Sir Ian Hamilton, put in in the course of his evidence in which he expressed exactly the same view in general form which he expressed afterwards in the Memorandum to myself. It is quite untrue that Sir Ian Hamilton has accommodated himself to the situation. Sir Ian Hamilton always has been a strong adherent of the voluntary principle, and anyone who wishes to see whether that is so or not has only to turn up the second volume of Lord Elgin's Commission, and to see the Memorandum which Sir Ian Hamilton put in on the subject. But the point I am making is that really it is impossible to lay down any line of demarcation. The right hon. Gentleman allowed all that evidence on general Army policy by all sorts of serving officers to be published, and I do not quarrel with him because I think it is a good thing. But because I have, for the purpose of making clear the settled policy of three Governments, made use of the Memorandum written by Sir Ian Hamilton for my own guidance and given it to the public, to whom I hoped it might be of the same use as it was to myself, to say that my action is in any degree different from publishing volumes of the opinions of all sorts of officers on that kind of controverted topic is inaccurate. One word about the Admiralty Memorandum. That stands in quite a different position, because it was not a private document, but a semi-official document. When a Debate was about to 2077 take place last November in the House of Lords we knew at the War Office, from experience, that such astounding things are said by eminent soldiers about the Navy, and such extraordinary propositions are put forward as would shock even the Noble and gallant Lord the Member for Portsmouth.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The Noble Lord is more hardened than I am. But arguments are put forward ignoring the existence and the functions of the Fleet, and we asked the Admiralty to furnish us with something that we could use in Debate—some statement which might represent the views of the Admiralty as to the functions of the Fleet for preventing invasion. We were furnished, through the courtesy of my right hon. Friend, with notes which have since been published in a semiofficial document. I, of course, took them to represent the views of the Board of Admiralty, as no doubt they did in unofficial form. The Debate did not come off, but the document was published in another form. It appeared to be so useful that I asked permission to publish it, and I was told I might print it as it stood. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend remembers the initials "A. K. W." at the bottom. To me it was so familiar a matter that the chief of the General Staff should issue a document of the Army Council initialled by himself—the matter belonging to his Department—that it never occurred to me that any question would arise about it and, the initials being on the document, I simply sent it to the printers as it stood. That is, as I have said, a common practice with the Army Council, and if it has been a departure from the usual practice of the Admiralty that comes from an Admiralty document having got into the War Office.
I have said all I want to say about General Hamilton, and I come now to details which, I am afraid, must be rather dry, but which I will condense as far as possible. The first thing that I have to say something about is the state of the Army. Last year was a bad year for recruiting. There was prosperous trade, and there was a great deal of emigration, especially to Canada. Still the establishments were nearly full, and the shortage was not seriously felt. On 1st January this year we were 2,059 all ranks short, but if we exclude the pool the regimental 2078 establishments are now up to strength, except the Royal Engineers, who were,. on 1st February 422 short of their establishment. It is getting more and more-difficult to get Royal Engineers. They are especially skilled men, they are trained in various trades, but I am not sure that they are always trained in the trades in which we-want them. A long time has passed since the Engineers have had their mode of organisation reviewed, and there are new questions arising, relating to railway organisation and so on, which show that the-time has come for a review of the modes of specialisation of the Engineer Corps with a view to making them a force which the Army, in its new organisation, requires. I am glad to say on the highest authority that a member of the Defence Committee, Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, is likely to undertake the investigation with a very expert Committee. I have no doubt that his past experience in the Colonies will enable the Committee to come to the best conclusions on the subject.
I will now pass to the Army Reserve. I have said that the establishments with the colours have their Peace Establishments practically full. The Army Reserve on 1st October last was 135,712, including; Section 1. It is said quite truly that they will fall very largely in 1913–14, to somewhere about 106,000 or a little more excluding Section 1. But why is that? I read letters in the newspapers from eminent persons, and I see speeches made about the disastrous drop in the Reserve. Why does the Reserve drop I We are passing from a system in which the men served with the colours for three years only and nine years in the Reserve, which makes a large Reserve, but starves the numbers with the colours, to a state of things in which the men are nine years with the colours and three years with the Reserve—the system which Mr. Arnold Forster introduced. Of course the Reserve drops. We have to go through that transition period, and the more men there are with-the colours, and, of course, there will be-more men in the nine years, the fewer there will be in the Reserve, and therefore the Reserve must and will drop in 1913–14. But, on the other hand, the battalions will be fuller, because the men who are in the battalions remain a longer time with the colours. It is as broad as it is long, the one compensates the other, and if the Reserve is smaller you want a smaller Reserve. There is no trouble about the general problem of the-Reserve. We have a sufficient Reserve, 2079 and are likely, according to all our calculations, to have a sufficient Reserve to mobilise the battalions as a whole. But there are battalions which do not stand on that footing. There are battalions which, for various causes, into which I need not enter, would be short of Reserves on mobilisation, or are likely to become so. We are dealing with those specially by an enlarged pool, as it is called—that is to say, we take an additional number of men outside the establishments, we add them to the strength of the Army, and we can use them as they pass into the Reserve for stiffening up the Reserve of the battalions which are deficient, and we can add them to those battalions which for any reason seem to be falling short of their establishment with the colours. We have provided in this way for that shortage. That pool is 3,700 this year. It is an addition of 1,850, and I am advised that is sufficient to meet the difficulty.
I come to other questions connected with the Army—employment. Out of 27,116 men who went last year to the Reserve, 18,797 are known to have found employment through organisations connected with the Army and otherwise; and, of course, a considerable number of others must have found employment that we know nothing of. But, still, I desire to impress upon the House what the nation owes to these men who have borne the heat and burden of the day with the colours, and who come back and are deserving of all our consideration. I hope that from every quarter interest will be maintained in this problem of how to provide our soldiers who leave the colours, where they have given us the best years of their lives, with employment. Then there are other things which are satisfactory. Among the soldiers the education standard has risen steadily. This year 2,554 more men took education certificates than in the previous year, and that is a very good sign. Then there has been admirable work done in Scotland in looking after recruits and taking care of the men who enlist. They have to be watched during their early months, because it is their most difficult time. They are looked after when they go to India or abroad and when they come back to this country and are discharged into the Reserve; employment is looked for for them, not only for those with the best certificates of character, who find employment comparatively easily, but for men with imperfect certificates of character—often very decent men 2080 who have lapsed once or twice. They are the men who require looking after. The acting-chaplain in charge of recruits—a man who has a great gift for these things—has organised for the last three years, under the directions of the Scottish command, a system which has resulted, I think, in very great good; and we have now reached a stage at which we propose to make a beginning in extending that system into England. The great advantage up to now is that, not only is a man watched in his early days, but if he gets a black mark on his certificate, and consequently is not in a good position to get employment when he leaves the colours to go to the Reserve, he is taken care of and is looked after as he could not other wise be.
I next come to the general question of mobilisation. The six Divisions of the expeditionary force are what I wish to speak of, and again I say, what was true last year, that the whole of the fighting personnel is there—the non-commissioned officers and men, the equipment and the stores are there. The Army Service Corps is, to a certain extent, in a transitional state, but we are going on the principle of taking Cavalry men a little time away from the Cavalry and we are using them, as they are used in Germany and France, for the work of the Army Service Corps. Where we are still deficient is on the Medical side, but we are now in a position to make that up, so far as it is deficient, out of partially trained men; they are not as good as trained men; but we shall replace them. But even as regards the Medical Service we could mobilise the six Divisions. Now I come to officers. We have added a good deal to the establishment of regular officers in the Army. The reason of that is larger staffs and the more complete organisation which the Divisions have necessitated and other matters connected with staff duties. To-day the position is that we have got, counting the Special Reserve, about 2,700 more officers at home who will be available for service abroad than we had five years ago, of whom some are in the Special Reserve. Now, supposing you mobilise six divisions, and one Cavalry divisions, you will requre 2,000 or 3,000, and in meeting the requirements of the Expeditionary Force so far as officers are concerned, of course, you would deplete to a very considerable extent the depots and the home establishment. We have made provisional arrangements which will last for the period 2081 we have to provide for to meet that difficulty. When I come to speak of the officers' education I will give figures about the way in which the new Special Reserve officers are to be dealt with in future. I may say here that we are going to make a change. We are going to allow the Infantry candidates to join what is called the supplementary list. That is to say, instead of joining the list of the Special Reserve Battalion which has to come out for training in May—it may be that there is a barrister, a doctor, or a schoolmaster who cannot come out in that month—we are going to allow that officer to join the supplementary list of his regiment and so enable him to do his training when he can take it. It may be in any month except October and November with a Regular regiment. That is the scheme so far drawn up by the Adjutant-General and a Committee. The Special Reserve officers from the Universities are now coming in better than before. I think 115 are already taken on, and a good many more have intimated their willingness to join within the next month. The deficit we have in the Special Reserve battalions is in the subaltern ranks, and that is most difficult to make up.
We have got to deal with the supply of horses in a very serious fashion, because it is by far the weakest part of the Army Organisation. We know that in the country there is an abundance of excellent horses, and that the animals will remain abundant for many years to come. It would be far more than sufficient for mobilisation. We have already made a rough census of the horses, but that is absolutely useless to tell you approximately what the numbers are. I shall have presently to ask the attention of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to the mode in which we propose to introduce entirely new machinery in the coming year for dealing with this question. I pass from it just now because I want to get to other questions. I should say, however, that even if we could classify the whole of the horses in the country we should not then have solved the problem. Under present conditions we have barely sufficient to mobilise the Cavalry. You have a reserve of horses in the country, quite enough to mobilise the Cavalry, provided that they were in training. Some of them will be in training, but there is one point we should not forget in this country, and that is the question how to ensure that the horses which are required for war purposes shall be of sufficient age and muscular strength 2082 to do their work. We have gone into this question, and a Committee of distinguished Cavalry officers is sitting now, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend (Mr. Acland), who takes an active interest in this question. These experts are working out the problem with respect to horses. My hon. Friend has always taken a deeper interest in the horse question than the House is aware of.
There is another matter which I must mention. We have something to do in order to perfect our organisation. We have hitherto been more in doubt about railways than about horses. We had a sort of notion that the Crewe Railway Battalion might be of some use in case of war, but it would only have been available for home defence, and the General Staff have come to a conclusion that so far as the movement of troops at home is concerned it will be better to arrange with the railway companies themselves, and they are occupied in working out a scheme. In regard to the Expeditionary Force to go abroad, we propose to organise a Construction Corps, which will consist of railway engineers and which is to reach an establishment of 650 when it goes to war, and also a Traffic Corps of 1,000 for the handling of the railway which the Expeditionary Force will require. The first will be Regulars, and we hope that it will consist of railway men, because the work they will be required to do will be appropriate to their ordinary avocation. The other will be Special Reserve men we should draw from the railway companies themselves. I am in negotiation with some of the great railway companies about that at the present time, and I cannot say more on the subject now. That is the plan we are endeavouring to work out to meet what is a real difficulty in the Expeditionary Force. Of course, there are already two-corps who, according to their lights, are available for this work. I refer to the Royal Monmouth and Anglesey Royal Engineers and the Monmouth and Anglesey Railway Corps, which are organised on a militia basis, and were designated long ago for this purpose. But neither of these corps come up to the ideas of the General Staff, and I am afraid that as science advances and the demands of the General Staff become higher and the new force comes into existence, these two corps will have to conform to the advancing demands of railway organisation that they should give way to more modern corps.
2083 Now I come to the subject of the supply of officers and their education. The Army Council have carefully compared the figures of two quinquennial periods, namely, the period preceding the late war and the period of 1906–10, with the view of determining the requirements of those who desire to enter the Army. We find that the annual supply of candidates who presented themselves for commissions during the two quinquennial periods is precisely similar, or practically the same, having regard to the fluctuations which occur. But it must be remembered that we have got a difficulty which did not exist in the old days. During the last five years we have had to increase the number of established officers in the British and Indian Army by about 2,600. I think part of them come into the intermediate period after the war. It is safe, therefore, to conclude that the Army is not less popular now than it was at the end of last century. But what really happens is that the demand for officers is greater now than it was formerly.
The examinations which are held are the result of the Akers-Douglas Commission Report, and I am far from complaining of that report. We are carrying out the recommendations of that report so far, and various things were done in carrying out the report which were not in the report itself. Among other things, the age went up. It was put up in order to provide for university candidates and their needs. Well, university candidates must be provided for, but at was not necessary to make their existence a reason for raising the standard from the minimum age of sixteen, which it used to be, up to eighteen. We think sixteen top low and eighteen too high, and I will tell the House why. There is no doubt that the last year of a boy at a public school is in some respects the most valuable one. But that is not true of the boys who have the highest qualities. But if a boy is going to the university, it is most important that he should stay at the public school until he is eighteen and a half or nineteen. There are some boys who can develop more rapidly than others, and allowance must be made for that. The boys we get as a rule are not of that type, and the result is that the question is not whether we should lower the standard, but whether we should not take upon ourselves the duty of giving an extended course to complete their course, giving 2084 them the equivalent of a secondary school at Sandhurst itself. We are now able, or we shall be able at the end of next year, to give three terms of education instead of two. That is to say, if a boy comes to us at the age of seventeen, we should be able to give him the best part of another year, and he will not take his commission in the Army quicker, or materially quicker, than under the present system, but he will have a longer period of Sandhurst. It has been found that some of the boys who come to us are imperfectly equipped in the matter of ordinary subjects, including the writing of simple English. Even in spelling they are not good. I think that is partly due to the system under which the public-schools give a splendid training to a boy in some branches of education—that has been recognised by foreign education authorities—but do not take care to instruct the average boy in just those ordinary things. What we propose to do is to develop the teaching of French, German, and English. It is most important that officers should be able to write clear, nervous English.
We have at the present time an examination for boys at eighteen, or rather I should say we have two examinations. We have what is called the qualifying examination, and a separate one called the competitive examination. They are held by different authorities on much the same subjects. That seemed very absurd, and caused expense to the parents. We are now having one examination organised under the Civil Service Commissioners. We have worked out the details, and I wish to express my indebtedness to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities (Sir Henry Craik) who has rendered us admirable service in the consideration of the scheme. Without his help we should not have been as far on as we are to-day, but we have worked out the scheme, and worked out a great many details, and the result is this, that we are going to have an examination by the Civil Service Commissioners in accordance with our requirements, and such advice as we shall get from my hon. Friend opposite and others, and we hope in that way, by making the examination a competitive examination to make it less difficult for boys to come forward. We are carefully considering a syllabus suited to boys of seventeen instead of eighteen, without lowering the standard. We think that many parents feel the difficulty of keeping the 2085 boys for the further year. We are told on all hands that if we let them come up for a single examination at seventeen they will come up in larger numbers than at the present time. Of course, I recognise the disadvantages of leaving a public school a year earlier, but, on the other hand, they are coming to what is virtually going to be in some respects a public school. All the elements and the organisation will be there. They will serve in their own section and unit, and they will command, that is, when they have got the capacity. What we are trying to do is to make leaders of men as closely as we can. We do not stop there. We recognise that in that way we should be debarring public schools from sending up some of their best boys, and we are going to adopt for them a nomination system. That is to say, we take the headmaster of selected schools, and say, "If you have got any boys who have got in them the real capacity for leadership we shall not bother them about the examinations. If you will certify that they are sufficiently educated; if you will say on this record that the boy who has got capacity for leading men, who has led them on the football field, or in the cricket eleven, or on the river, or wherever it may be, and is sufficiently educated to grip the work then we shall take him." We shall do what the Admiralty do in analogous cases, we shall consider the cases recommended to us, because we must be responsible, but we propose to act on the recommendation of the headmaster, who will be asked to address himself to certain points. We hope for a great deal from this nomination system. We hope that the very superior class of boy may come forward, who would not care to interrupt his school career to come up for examination at seventeen, but who will come a little later with the full fruits of his public school training. We then, provided a boy goes on for the university, make further provision.
§ Mr. HALDANE
There would be no preliminary examination for the nominated boy. I have been sitting for the last two years as chairman of a Royal Commission on University education, and the one thing that has struck me more than any other 2086 is the way in which the examination test is inferior to the record test. We devised this record system for the very purpose, if possible, of bringing that to the front. The boys may be nominated when the head-master thinks fit, but there is a minimum age of seventeen years. We anticipate that they will be rather older boys. We hope they will send us some of the bigger boys who want to go into the Army. In the case of boys going to the university until now the practice has been that it is only if they take first-class honours they get an ante-date. But we feel if a boy goes through the university, even without honours, and has got his Certificate B that he is quite fit for an ante-date, so that he may come into the Army without the disadvantage which he would suffer by not going in for Sandhurst. Lastly, there is no doubt that many parents would like to send their sons in for the Army, but they fear the burden of the expense. We have instituted, and have got the assent of the Treasury to a system of scholarships which will reduce the expense to about half in the case of the boy who wins the scholarship at the examination. I have got the details here which I can give to hon. Members afterwards, and these scholarships will be competed for at this competitive examination, and the boys who get them will enjoy not only the remission of a very substantial part of the contribution which they have to make in the ordinary course at Sandhurst, but also a substantial sum for outgoings when they join the Army. We are not going to impose any terms on parents as to means, but if a boy gets one of these scholarships, and the parents feel that he does not need it, if he chooses to give it up it will benefit some boy not quite so brilliant but not so well off.
Now, as regards the pay of officers. I quite agree with the view that the pay of the officers is not what it ought to be, but it is enormously difficult to see how to remedy the matter. I have worked it out as carefully as I could, and I find that to bring up matters to the level of the engineer officer's pay, which would be the least to be done, would mean adding £1,000,000 to the Army Estimate, and you would not then give an equivalent of what represents their years in civil life. On the other hand, if you take the junior officers, the subalterns, and so on, it costs them a minimum of £100 a year to live, and I am afraid a great deal more in Cavalry, and compare them with people of the same age 2087 in other professions and walks of life, they are not nearly so badly off. It is only, I think, when they get a little further up that the pinch begins to tell. As regards that an enormous number of new appointments with increased pay have been created during the last few years, and these have gone a good way to solve the difficulty. There are all sorts of appointments connected with Territorial Forces, staff, and so forth, and the chance of an officer as he begins to get up in the Army earning a decent living is greater than it used to be. I shall be very glad to give this information if it is wanted. At the same time I feel that sooner or later we shall have to face this question of the officers and see what should be done. It is not an easy problem. On the contrary, I think it is a very serious problem. On the other hand, I hope that what has been done about education will at least begin to solve the difficulties which have undoubtedly stood in the way of a great many parents sending forward their sons.
I now come to the Special Reserve. I have spoken of the supplementary list of officers. The Officers Training Corps is very successful in the public schools and universities. Oxford alone has, I think, got 1,000, and Cambridge has a very large number, nearly the same, and the other universities are doing very well. The result is now that people are beginning to take commissions and organisation has been begun for that purpose. Up to the 3rd of March there were 115 taking Commissions in the Special Reserve, which as a record rise in a few months, and there were 288 taking Commissions in the Territorial Forces. But the Special Reserve itself requires treatment. Three years ago when we "were discussing the organisation of the Special Reserve across the floor of the House I made a bargain with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, about that reserve. I proposed then to make seventy-four battalions of 500 and twenty-seven of 800. He said, "Make them all the same establishment." I closed with that, and we did it, and so it has continued. We have seventy-four "Reserve" Battalions corresponding to the seventy-four pairs of battalions of Line Infantry and closely associated with their depots; and we have twenty-seven "extra Reserve "Battalions. We propose to alter the establishment of this "extra Reserve" to bring it up to 750. These battalions will be available for lines of communication and for 2088 relief in the event of an outbreak of war. That means that we must have a bigger establishment. The twenty-seven would be sent at once to release battalions oversea wanting to proceed to the theatre of war, or perhaps themselves would go there. Therefore I propose to add to the establishment and to bring that establishment up to the general strength needed for that purpose. We propose to do that in connection with another movement. We are endeavouring to organise a Veteran Reserve, and in this connection are trying to get in each county a list of men who have served their country and passed through the colours and Reserve, and are willing without engaging themselves to be of use in whatever way they can. There are many of these men, more than you would think, very little over thirty. We propose to raise the age of recruiting for those who have gone through the Reserve to enable them to come in from thirty-six to forty and to join the Special Reserve. We propose to add 200 if they come forward to each of the twenty-seven Special Reserve Battalions, and we propose to allow ten per cent. of the other battalions to be made up of the same class. We have reason to think that a considerable number will come forward. It is, of course, an experiment, and we cannot be sure. If they come forward they will be Special Reservists on the ordinary footing.
§ Mr. HALDANE
At this moment we are thinking of privates. I will ascertain exactly what is proposed, but I had privates in my mind at the moment. In that way we hope to give an opportunity for so-called veterans to continue to serve in this fashion. With these twenty-seven battalions started in this fashion, the General Staff say that it will be better to raise the annual training and to have a short initial training. Three months would be enough, they say, provided we add on seven days to the annual training. It hon. Members have the statement by them they will see the details of what we propose with the seventy-four battalions. Hon. Members will see the details we propose in the statement. For these seventy-four Reserve battalions we propose to lengthen the annual training, which is at present twenty-one days for training and musketry combined, to twenty-seven days, shortening the corresponding period of recruit drill 2089 from six to five months. We have consulted the General Commanding-in-Chief and a great number of experts, and they Are unanimous in this recommendation. We also propose to provide considerably greater elasticity in regard to the mode of training, and so on, and in that way to include the troops of the Special Reserve. In regard to the question, which was put to me a minute or two ago by an hon. Member opposite, we have not yet decided the point as to whether these men will be non-commissioned officers or privates. Now we come to the question of the Special Reserve. On 1st March it consisted of 1,977 officers and 60,957 of other ranks, which is a deficiency on establishment of 831 officers and 15,222 of other ranks. There has been a slight increase (eighteen officers and 138 other ranks), since 1st January. Category B of the Special Reserve consists of ten officers and 1,970 other ranks. These, with the still remaining militiamen (who did not join the Special Reserve) who number 2,442, and the Reserve Division of the old Militia 464, reduces the nett deficiency to 821 officers and 11,346 of other ranks. If we can successfully carry out the new plan for the enlistment of young Reservists, young veterans, into this force, we propose to try to take 9,840 ex-soldiers between the ages of thirty-six and forty. We therefore hope before long to effect a substantial reduction of the existing deficiency. We also hope that the opening of the Supplementary Reserve for officers will reduce the deficiency in officers and of men if the plan succeeds. Now I want to get to the practical subject of aeronautics. The total provision for this branch is £133,300. For the Air Battalion, under Vote I., we vote £20,000; factory construction and purchases, £85,000; for buildings and sheds for airships, £28,000; and, in addition to that, there is, of course, the money spent upon the Advisory Committee, which falls upon the Civil Service Estimates. We have added about £50,000 this year.
A provisional Army Order has been published governing the formation of the new Air Battalion, which will include the School. The officers will be appointed to the battalion for a period of four years, if found suitable after a probationary period of three to six months, when they will draw engineer pay in addition to their regimental pay. They will be volunteers from any combatant branch of the Army. Of the officers already appointed to or attached on probation to the Air Battalion, 2090 four have obtained pilot's certificates, and six other officers on the active list are also certified pilots. The noncommissioned officers and men will be enlisted into or selected from the Royal Engineers. The equipment at present available consists of the captive balloons and kites which have up to the present formed the equipment of the balloon companies and the following dirigibles and æteroplanes. Dirigibles: The "Beta," a small dirigible, has been much improved, and the speed increased by alterations of gear ratio and propellers. It forms a useful vessel for instruction and experiment. It will carry three persons. The "Gamma," which was last year fitted with a gasbag purchased in France of about 70,000 cubic feet capacity, and one engine only. The gasbag has now been lengthened and the stabilising gear altered. Two new engines have been fitted, giving increased power, and the propellers have been made to swivel. The "Gama" will carry four persons. The "Delta" is a new dirigible which has been under construction during the present financial year and which will be completed by the end of April. The design was prepared in the balloon factory, after considerable experiment and research, to fulfil the tests laid down for the Lebaudy dirigible ordered by the "Morning. Post." The materials are all of British manufacture. The capacity of the gasbag is 140,000 cubic feet (one-third that of the Lebaudy), sufficient to carry five persons, in addition to wireless equipment. The length is in the ratio of six to one to the diameter. The gasbag is stiffened by an external arrangement, which is covered by an outer envelope to minimise skin friction, and supports a small fish-shaped car containing the engines, crew, etc. All important parts of the car are of steel. Two engines, each of 120 horse-power, are provided for driving the propellers, either or both of which can be used at will, so that if one breaks down the other will still be available.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I have not the details here, but I think it is about forty-two miles an hour. An independent engine is provided for actuating the wireless equipment. The "Delta" can be taken to pieces and packed on wagons. It is a very modern airship. The "Lebaudy" dirigible, which was ordered by the "Morning Post," has been repaired, and is now ready for inflation and trials. Then there is the 2091 French machine, the "Clement Bayard." This dirigible will require a new gas bag, which will be put in hand as soon as shed accommodation is available.
I come next to aeroplanes, quite a different thing. I think we have got as many dirigibles as we can work at the present time. We shall increase their number in time, but we have as many as we can work at this stage of construction. Five aeroplanes have been purchased and are available for practice and instruction. Three are of latest patterns, namely, a Farman, a Paulhan and a Havilland. The Farman was damaged recently, but has been completely repaired. In addition, four biplanes have been ordered from the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, Bristol, and Sir George White, who is well known, has twelve certificated pilots, and may train pilots and observers. We hope to work with these and other biplanes on Salisbury Plain.
§ Mr. HALDANE
There are two engines for aeroplanes, one the "Gnome," and I think the whole of our engines are "Gnome" engines. The old shed in the balloon factory will next financial year be enlarged to allow of its taking a full-sized dirigible. The shed built in 1909 adjoining the factory has had the roof and doors raised, and is now completed except a few minor details. A new full-sized shed will be constructed at Farnboro' during next financial year. A design for a portable shed for a dirigible has been prepared, and the construction of a shed for trial will be commenced as soon as possible. Sheds for three areoplanes have been constructed on Salisbury Plain. Two portable sheds have also been constructed and found to be satisfactory. Further portable sheds will be put in hand as required. As soon as the new "Delta" dirigible has been tested, a new dirigible will be put in hand embodying any improvements it is found desirable to make Meanwhile preparation of material, engines, etc., will proceed. Another will be put in hand later, and it is estimated these two new dirigibles will be completed next financial year. In addition to the four aeroplanes already ordered from the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, further aeroplanes will be ordered as soon as some experience has been obtained with the machines already available or on order. They can now be very 2092 rapidly obtained, and it is anticipated that improvements in the engines may be made in the near future.
The balloon factory has been completely reorganised to enable it to deal with the new work necessitated by the introduction of dirigibles and aeroplanes, and a thoroughly efficient civilian staff, under Mr. O'Gorman, is now engaged. Considerable additions to the buildings have been completed, and they are now being equipped with the necessary machinery. The old installation for the production of hydrogen has been brought up to date, and a new installation added, which will enable the cost of production to be very much reduced, while the output will be increased to three times what is was formerly. Every endeavour is also being made to utilise the oxygen available from the process, and so further reduce the cost. An increase in the stock of cylinders for storage of hydrogen is necessary, and is provided for.
Very valuable assistance in solving the various problems connected with dirigibles and aeroplanes has been obtained from the Advisory Committee under Lord Rayleigh. Problems have still to be solved, and the new apparatus installed, or being installed, at Bushy House will, it is anticipated, enable the Committee to deal with them. Lord Rayleigh's Committee does not set itself to solve problems, but it is a highly equipped Committee, and I have the comfortable feeling that this Committee is really ahead of the rest of the world in scientific knowledge. At any rate, it has produced material for us most valuable in the stage we are now going through. In connection with this subject we are forming a Technical Reserve, and we also propose to form a Territorial Section. There are numbers of men in the Territorial Force with extraordinary technical skill. We have a place for them, and we shall be able to put dirigibles at their disposal. There is on the Committee which is organising the Reserve the well-known expert, Mr. Grahame-White. So much for that part of the subject, and I do hope that the pains taken to organise matters will have some very substantial technical fruit.
I now come to the scheme of mechanical transport for supply of the Expeditionary Force. It has been found necessary to make a complete alteration in the system of the food supply of the Expeditionary Force. The existing system was given a practical trial at last year's Army Manœuvres and 2093 proved unsuited for operations in this country; it is no doubt obsolete. It appears to have been originally based on the issue of preserved supplies and to have been conceived when war establishments were intended to embrace operations in all parts of the world, and at the time of its inauguration mechanical transport was a negligible quantity, and the capacity of railways as lines of supply, little understood. The reorganisation called for in the supply system to meet present requirements demanded a corresponding reorganisation of the transport system, in the consideration of which advantage has been taken of the great progress latterly made in mechanical transport and of the railway systems. What we have done is to revolutionise the third and fourth lines. The use of fast mechanical transport immediately behind the present second line horse transport will enable fresh supplies to be rapidly conveyed from distant points in rear, and its employment will, to a very great extent, relieve the present congested state of the roads immediately behind the fighting troops, a source of much danger. To further ensure this end, all driving and slaughtering of cattle has been removed from the vicinity of the troops, but it is important that units should themselves still be prepared for emergencies to kill and dress sheep or cattle. The proposals are as follows:—
The principal advantages claimed for the reorganisation are as follows:—
- 1. All fighting units to carry a reserve ration (iron-ration) on the man or horse. (In addition to the present emergency food).
- 2. Regimental transport to consist of the present first line transport, plus water-tank carts and travelling kitchens.
- 3. All other regimental transport to be grouped by Divisions, etc., and to form units of the Army Service Corps. These Army Service Corps Units to be capable of division for Brigades, etc. The supply wagons, will, as now, carry one complete day's supplies and forage, plus an extra grocery ration.
- 4. The supply wagons of the above Army Service Corps Units to be replenished daily from the railway by mechanical transport convoys of fast motor lorries. The carrying capacity of motor lorries for the Cavalry and Army Troops to be 30 cwt., and for all other formations 3 tons.
- 5. The motor lorries and light tractors required to complete numbers necessary for mobilisation to be obtained by means of a subsidising scheme.
- 6. Special motor lorries and horse drawn vehicles to be built for the convey ance of fresh meat, which will be carried in quarters suspended from the roof of the vehicles.
- 7. The driving and slaughtering of cattle and sheep to be removed from the vicinity of the troops.
- 8. Field bakeries and field butcheries to be established on the railway line, each capable of turning out daily 22,500 rations of fresh bread or fresh meat.
- 9. All other supplies to be sent by rail from a main supply depot to the regulating railway station, whence they will be forwarded daily to the railway refilling point, to which point the fresh bread and fresh meat will also be sent.
- 10. Separate supply columns and ammunition parks to be made for the Cavalry Division and for Army Troops.
- 11. Exploiting detachments have been added to the "Train" of Brigades and other formations. These consist of one officer and six to eight other ranks, mounted on bicycles, whose duty it will be to proceed, whenever practicable, with the advanced guard and obtain such supplies as hay, fuel, wood, fresh vegetables, etc. They are also available for general requisitioning duties.
- 12. Six Reserve Convoys (horsed) capable of carrying two days' preserved rations for the whole force; to move in rear of the fighting troops, at least thirty miles behind, and in such a position as not to interfere with the free passage of the mechanical transport. These Reserve Convoys are considered necessary in the event of railways or mechanical transport not being available from unforeseen causes, such as abnormal weather, heavy floods, or snow. This horse transport will also furnish immediate replacement of any heavy horse transport casualties at the front when time does not admit of replacement from the transport depots. Advantage has been taken of the change of system to convert the whole of the Divisional Ammunition Columns into Mechanical Transport Ammunition Parks.
There is then the provision of vehicles on mobilisation. It is proposed to obtain the additional number of mechanical transport vehicles required on mobilisation by means of a subsidy scheme on somewhat similar, lines to those in operation in neighbouring European countries, and we are now entering into negotiations with the principal manufacturers in this country to that effect. Our object is to standardise, as far as practicable, at a reasonable cost, a sufficient number of commercial vehicles, and to ensure, by regular inspection, that the vehicles are kept in a thoroughly efficient condition ready for immediate military service. We hope that a grant of a fair subsidy will result in mutual benefit to the motor trade and the War Department.
- 1. Increased mobility of the Expeditionary Force generally.
- 2. Clearance of roads in rear of the fighting troops.
- 3. Regimental transport officers, Brigade transport officers, and Divisional baggage masters no longer required from the establishment of fighting units.
- 4. Substitution of fast moving motor lorries, carrying one day's supplies only, for the present slow and cumbersome transport and supply parks carrying three days' supplies, and the abolition of the present transport and supply columns (horsed) carrying one day's supplies.
- 5. Proper organisations for exploiting local resources.
- 6. Reduction of Royal Artillery and Army Service Corps personnel required on mobilisation.
- 7. Reduction of horses required for transport in the field.
- 8. Provision of good and regular facilities for evacuating the sick and wounded.
- 9. Driving and slaughtering of cattle removed from the vicinity of the troops.
- 10. Reduction of Army Service Corps peace cadres.
The approximate effect of the reorganisation as regards War requirements is as follows:—
Army Service Corps:—Nett reduction—Personnel, 795; horses, 2,686; vehicles, 1,908. Royal Artillery:—Nett reduction, Personnel, 4,770; horses, 5,934.
The actual effect on the peace requirements of the Army Service Corps will be the reduction of twenty Horse Companies (no longer required), and their replacement of twelve Mechanical Transport Cadres, to be maintained on the Lower Establishment, i.e., a reduction on the whole of eight Army Service Corps Units. 2096 It is estimated that the proposed reorganisation will take two years to complete. Provision has only been made in Estimates for that portion which it is proposed to carry out during 1911–12. This provision includes the purchase of a proportion of the new mechanical transport vehicles, and funds for subsidising the necessary commercial vehicles.
I desire now to say something about horses, because, although mechanical transport helps you as to one kind of horse, it does not help as to another. We have got a very large number of horses in this country. Out of the 1,600,000 which the recent census disclosed I have already estimated that 500,000 are fit for our purposes. We require 128,000 for the Regulars and Territorials, less the reduction I have given, due to mechanical transport. How are we to get those horses? You have got a certain peace establishment. We have not got a large number in reserve, and we have a great many horses for other purposes. We require 86,000 horses for the Territorial Force, and 42,000 for the Regular Army. The horses are there, but the thing is to organise so as to get them. We had a police census to find out the number of horses in the country. That has been done, and it has served its purpose We have now got to organise so that we may be sure on mobilisation that the Cavalry, Artillery, and other arms will be supplied with their horses. We want to organise and to be able to draw at once on our reserve. To do so the matter must be thoroughly sifted and tested. There are twelve County Associations at work experimentally doing that just now. Some of them have made remarkable progress. The view the Government takes of this question is that it is so important that the mobilisation Must be done in very thorough fashion. For that purpose I am going to ask the House when the Army Annual Bill comes up to give me further legislation in the shape of a new Clause which will have this effect. As the Committee knows, on the outbreak of war horses may be taken compulsorily, and the purchase price paid either by agreement or settled afterwards. The difficulty is to know where the horses are. The police got the list last year for the purposes of peace, and have power to do so. The police are not adepts in the matter, and what we propose to do is to transfer to the Associations the power of the police, directing that lists should be taken, and to put at the 2097 disposition of the Associations for that purpose a large staff of expert officers, who will work out under the ægis of the Associations the classification. I do not want to go into details now, but we have got our eye on a very large number of officers and non-commissioned officers who are available. The scheme is to be worked out by the Associations, in conjunction with the General Officer Commanding, who will supply them with the staff which is necessary for the purpose. The Territorial Force horses would be ear-marked for the Territorial Army, and the horses for the Regular Army similarly dealt with, the two working in conjunction so that there should not be overlapping. The whole country would be mapped out in areas.
§ Mr. HALDANE
When I come to the Clause I will give the details worked out. In that way we hope to classify this great mass of horses in the country and to make such arangements as will make mobilisation possible. Of course I do not ask the House to pass an opinion upon a scheme which is not before them. A most important beginning will be the powers, to which no reasonable person can object. They will be such powers as will enable these officers to do what the police do now, to inspect these horses and report on them. In addition to that, we are adding this year to the number of boarded-out horses. We have had a substantial number of boarded-out horses, and we are always increasing that number, because we feel that that is a sort of first reserve for the Regulars.
I come to the Territorial force. In the Estimates £206,000 has been provided for new services, including £156,000 for establishment grants, boots, horses and the like; £30,000 for training; £50,000 for buildings, rifle ranges, and so on. As to ranges, our position is very difficult. I am sorry to say the requirements of the military are rather in conflict with the requirements of a very powerful body, namely, the golfers. We are Suffering seriously from the difficulty of getting extended accommodation for ranges, but we are buying wherever we can. We have contracts for several at the present time, and I have 2098 no doubt that in course of time we shall be able to compass this difficulty. Where Territorial battalions did not shoot their musketry courses, it was almost invariably because there was no range accommodation for them. In the case of the Artillery, we have now the Salisbury Plain range within sight of complete acquisition, and I hope it will be open in the summer. There is an even finer range, for which we have bought £87,000 worth of land in the past year, and for which we have taken a further sum in the present year, which will complete the range.
I come to the question of money. The County Associations on the whole, have not been very badly off. They had on 31st March £250,000 balance in hand. Some were badly off and there were new services required. After a very careful survey we decided that we ought to increase their Establishment Grant. We have done that by giving them money as from 1st April last, which will get them out of debt and put them on their legs, so that for the future they will be very comfortably off.
As regards finance, I will put the position shortly in this way. Increases amounting to £131,000 will be made to the permanent income of the Associations as from 1st April next. The Establishment Grants, which last year amounted to £252,000, have been raised to £320,000, an increase of 27 per cent. About one-third of this has been allocated to the General Purposes Grant. The concessions made under the head of travelling to drills and musketry will, it is estimated, raise expenditure from about £27,000 to £45,000, an increase of 66 per cent. It has not been found necessary to make any concessions under the head of travelling to camp, as last year's Grant proved to be more than sufficient. The new Grants for the provision of horses for the instruction of mounted men will be increased by £30,000, equivalent to an increase of 62 per cent. The Grant for the upkeep of clothing and equipment has been raised from 23s. to 24s. per man, involving an increased expenditure of about £15,000. Besides this, a sum of £50,000 has been distributed in the form of arrear Grants. The total increase of income from 1st April, 1911, will be: Establishment Grant, £68,000; horses, £30,000; clothing, £15,000; travelling, £18,000; total, £131,000; besides a further £30,000 to General Officers Commanding for training, bringing the figure up to £161,000. The upkeep of rifle ranges is provided for in another sum of £50,000.
§ Mr. HALDANE
Yes; £50,000 is to be retrospective, as we know some of the associations are in debt. Then, as regards the progress of the Territorial force. The first thing to notice is that as regards officers there is a distinct improvement as compared with the old Volunteers. There are now 10,773 officers holding Territorial commissions, as against 9,611 holding Volunteer and Yeomanry commissions, an increase of over a thousand. The comparison is the most striking in the subaltern ranks. On 1st January, 1907, the last year of the Volunteers, there were 3,434 subalterns serving, as against 4,509 on 1st January this year, an increase in four years of over 1,000. In the old days the higher commands and staffs were practically nonexistent, but to-day there are fourteen major - generals commanding Divisions, fifty-nine brigade commanders, fourteen commanders of Royal Artillery, and 115 staff officers of various degrees, all of them devoting their whole time to the command and training of the Territorial force, and the great majority of them being either Regulars on the active list, or men who have had Regular experience.
If you take the training as compared with the old Volunteers training, that is also striking in another way. The test is for how long do people go to camp. In their last year, 1907, the Volunteers had 151,998 who attended camp for eight days, and 4,459 for fifteen days. The Territorial force on the last occasion had 74,332 who attended camp for eight days, and 145,631. exclusive of the Yeomanry, for fifteen days. So that about 140,000 more attended camp for fifteen days last year; while if you include the Yeomanry, the number attending camp in 1907 was only 179,928, as against 243,360 last year.
General progress this year has been fairly steady. The greatest difficulty has been recruiting. It has been a bad year for recruiting, probably for much the same reasons as apply to the Regulars. There has been good trade, which makes it difficult for people to get time to go to camp, and there has been a great deal of emigration. But the numbers are going up. During the first two months of the present year there has been a net increase of 5,400 men. I cannot say that recruiting is going on as satisfactorily or as quickly as I should like, but at the same time the 2100 numbers are rather over 272,000 officers and men, which is 5–6ths of the force, and considerably over the 250,000, which I calculated we were likely to get in time of peace. The truth is, as a well-known Territorial said to me the other day, the Territorials are suffering from a disease of ten years' peace—an excellent disease to-suffer from, but one which is not good for recruiting. If there were even a rumour of war the numbers would fill up much more rapidly. A large number have taken engagements for foreign service, amounting to 1,025 officers and 17,459 non-commissioned officers and men. There have been created, which is very interesting. Voluntary Aid Detachments for Royal Army Medical Corps work all over the country. In all 407 have been recognised, of which no less than 330 have been raised under the Red Cross Society. Of the personnel, 308 were composed of women, and 99 of men, showing that this is one branch of military organisation in which the other sex can participate.
As regards Reserves, the House know that we have made plans for three Reserves. There is the Territorial Force Reserve, which is very attenuated so far, but which, I hope, will grow with the influx of veterans; there is the Veteran Reserve, consisting of people who are under no obligation, but whose names are registered by the county associations; and there is the Technical Reserve, of which I have already spoken, and which exists for various purposes. I gave all the details last week at the Mansion House, and I will not take up-the time of the House by repeating them now.
We have now to turn to the staffs. Brigade commands have been largely opened to half-pay officers who are out of Regular employment for the moment, and we have made success in commanding a Territorial brigade or unit of any kind a recommendation for a further Regular appointment afterwards. I need not dwell upon the Adjutants. There has been enough discussion about them. The Estimates provide for an additional forty sergeant-instructors, of whom twenty-four are earmarked for service with the three new Cyclist Battalions to be raised, and five are set aside as a "pool," from which unforeseen demands can be met during the year without going to the Treasury. The training is under very close consideration just now. The Territorial Force Artillery will undergo a biennial practice, this practice to alternate with tactical training; but General Officers 2101 Commanding-in-Chief will have a discretion to arrange for Artillery practice on local hired ranges, either annually or biennially. The Royal Horse Artillery have been completely re-equipped with the Ehrhardt gun. Metal dial sights will gradually become available from now onward. All units will, it is expected, be complete in this respect by March, 1912. In a month or two it is hoped to issue a new pattern of angle of sight scales. Then we now permit Associations to purchase nucleus horses for drill purposes, and encourage them to do so. We are making a moderate advance to start with. Part of the increase in the Estimates covers the increased number of drills for the mounted units.
I have spoken of the Veteran Reserve. I have spoken of the Cadets. Since January fifty-one units, consisting of 122 companies, have been "recognised." Many other units are awaiting recognition. Our purpose is to make the Cadets a better organised and better arranged force, and to confine our official recognition to such I as will conform to some simple regulations. Those who say that any association with the associations tends to increase the spirit of militarism can remain outside. But in that case, do not let them ask for Generals in full uniform to inspect them. Let them be content with a gentleman in a black frock coat.
I must say something about the rifles. As the Committee knows we are busy with the manufacture of a new pointed 174-grain bullet. The results, so far, have been satisfactory; more satisfactory than the 150 and 160-grain bullets. The present rifle would not take a sufficiently large charge to fire these latter effectively. The trajectory of the new bullet, although not so good as the German is quite as good as the French, and immensely better than the trajectory of our own rifle. In resighting we are getting over the difficulty. In passing from the one rifle to the other, when we take the rifles out of stock, we sight them and give them to the troops in exchange for the rifle they are using. Then we take their rifle back to reserve for resighting. In that way we are resighting all the rifles.
§ Mr. HALDANE
The tests have been quite satisfactory for that both at long and short range. It was not until pretty elaborate tests had been made, that the new 2102 bullet was determined upon. It is only as experience on a large scale goes forward that we can say that we have not made a mistake. I want to suggest to this Committee that considerable as this improvement is it is not enough. All other nations are improving their rifles, but we shall never have a proper rifle until we have one which will stand a much greater degree of breech-pressure than the rifle of to-day. We have this question under very careful observation and consideration. I do not think it is as formidable as it seems to be.
§ Mr. HALDANE
A magazine rifle. The automatic rifle is years away, and it will not do to wait for it.
§ Mr. J. C. LYTTELTON
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how the question of the Yeomanry sword stands at the present moment?
§ Mr. HALDANE
That is a question not of armaments, but of the training of the Yeomanry. The view of the General Staff upon that point is that the time the Yeomanry have is not long enough for the-training in two arms. In time they may be able to give them back the sword, but they are fearful at present of spoiling the training in the most important arm. I will only say a word about the howitzers. Two brigades have twelve howitzers each and four brigades are now being supplied with three each, to allow of one howitzer per battery for training. It is anticipated that these four brigades will be rearmed as four-gun batteries before they go to practice by the first week in May, and that all six brigades will be completed to six howitzers per battery by the end of June. We have, however, settled the pattern of the new mountain gun.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I am not sure; I have not got it here. I am nearly at the end of my task. As regards barracks, the new administration and six company blocks at Sandhurst are progressing rapidly, and will be ready for occupation about September. The new block at Windsor at the Victoria Barracks has been completed. These are up-to-date barracks. At Tidworth extension Army Ordnance Store buildings have been constructed, and stables for the Second Cavalry Regiment 2103 are in course of erection. The designs for the hospital which will be the central hospital for Salisbury Plain have been completed, and building will shortly commence. We are paying particular attention to the building of houses for married officers at Tidworth. These are a great necessity. We are making improvements at Wellington Barracks. The old Duke of York's School at Chelsea is being converted into headquarters for the London County Territorial Association and several units. We have established three new Cavalry depots. There is one thing that I think we can congratulate ourselves upon, and that is the steady progress that has been made with the provision of new married quarters, thus enabling the old single-roomed quarters to be enlarged and improved. Then we are improving the officers' quarters. We are improving the sanitation and the electric lighting. We are bringing in the electric light wherever we can, and we also are getting on with a scheme by which we are endeavouring to have centralised large hospitals in the place of a number of small ones.
Looking at this matter broadly, we are working out a scheme or plan. It is now there, but it has to be filled up, and there is a great deal yet to be done. There are many imperfections to be overcome, but the thing I feel the most need of is continuous working—a continuous policy. Far better is it to have an imperfect plan with continuity, than to be changing your policy. What we want is steady working. A good deal has been accomplished. It has been slow work. But the further it goes the more easy it will become. Such as it is, I now leave it in the hands of the Committee for consideration.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
The House is aware of the fact, and I am sure in all quarters regrets it, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) is unable to be in his place to-day in consequence of a great bereavement he and his family have suffered in the death of his father. Perhaps I may be allowed to remind the House that that gentleman was for a quarter of a century a highly respected Member of this House. I am sure we all sympathise with my right hon. Friend, and I for one regret his absence, especially as the Leader of the Opposition has deputed me to take his place as best I can. As in the first place, the intimation came to me at rather short notice, and as in the second place, I find the infor- 2104 mation provided by the War Office—I do not say it in any sense of disrespect to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War—rather difficult to master in a short time; and specially as the report which he was good enough to call my attention to last night—the General Annual Report—is only issued really a few hours before this Debate begins, it is impossible for me to deal with any fullness with the speech to which we have just listened. The Secretary for War apologised for the length of his speech. He had no need to do so, for the ground that he covered was very wide. The information he gave us was very complicated, and extremely interesting. I am rather given to suspect some of the things I read in the public Press. But if the rumours be at all correct it may be that we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman his swan song, or very nearly his swan song. In that case nobody would complain of the length of his remarks any more than they will of their character. I want to say a word about a matter which is not specially connected with these Estimates, and to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in his speech. He dealt with the question raised yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, namely, the publication of a book containing an introduction by himself, and a minute written by the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty. The right hon. Gentleman is a master of the art of public speech. Nobody knows better than he does how to put his case agreeably to the audience he is addressing, and if he could not make out a better case for the book and for the circumstances in which it was published than the case he has made to-day, then I venture to say that its publication is even a greater misfortune than we had thought it to be. The right hon. Gentleman does not deal with the real charge brought against the Government by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, namely, the method which they adopted to make their views on compulsory service known. No complaint is made about the views enunciated in the book. What is the course the Government adopted? The right hon. Gentleman compares the publication of the book to the publication of the evidence in connection with the War Commission, for which my right hon. Friend was responsible. The two things are in no possible way to be compared, and the wildest stretch of imagination would fail to draw real comparisons between these two incidents. The right hon. Gentleman tells us 2105 that possibly the only mistake made was that the initials were appended to the First Sea Lord's Memorandum, whereas it is not the usual practice of the Admiralty to allow minutes to be issued with the initials of those who sign them. I venture to say if this practice became common it would strike a blow at the relations between permanent officials and the Parliamentary chiefs. The right hon. Gentleman and I, and many others who have been long years in this House, know that critics constantly demand that the Government should produce the views of those who give them expert advice, and invariably, and quite properly, that request is refused, because surely it is a duty acknowledged by all Parliamentary chiefs to obtain the advice and opinions of their experts and to act upon them and take full responsibility for what is done.
In connection with some of the reforms for which the right hon. Gentleman has been responsible, and which he has advocated again to-day, would he have been prepared to put upon the Table of the House or into a book the recommendations and the criticisms he received from his expert advisers. We know perfectly well to do such a thing would be perfect madness, and therefore it comes to this, that either the permanent officials and experts are to be limited to making favourable comments and always to support the suggested policy of their chief, or else if this system is to be generally adopted we shall have criticism as well as notes of approval from those who are the subordinates of the Ministers specially concerned. It is quite unnecessary to dwell further on this matter, but I do venture to say the defence which the right hon. Gentleman has given is wholly inadequate.
We were told last night by the Foreign Secretary, speaking on behalf of the Government, that on this occasion and on the Naval Estimates we should have a full explanation of this incident. We certainly have had no full explanation yet, and we have not had an answer to the question which my right hon. Friend addressed to the Government last night, namely, if the views of the experts were hostile, would publication have been given to them. I venture to say the question can only be answered by adherence to the old practice and not by repetition of this new method. The right hon. Gentleman has given us remarkable proof of his power of speech this afternoon, because we have had in our hands a Memorandum issued by him the 2106 other day, and I imagine most of us have carefully read it. That Memorandum gives a different impression to the reader from that conveyed by the interesting speech to which we have just listened. A great part of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman is connected with what is known as the Territorial Force, and in anything I am going to say in reference to the Regular Army or the Territorial Force I no more deprecate or fail to acknowledge the patriotism, loyalty, and devotion of those officers and men who go to form the Territorial Force than I doubt for one single instant the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, but I venture respectfully to say that it is our duty as Members of the Opposition, and it is the duty of anybody who takes an interest in these great questions of national defence, to ask a few questions, not in hostile spirit, but in the spirit of friendly but real and sincere criticism. Anyone listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman would believe that, save a few gaps here and there which could easily be filled up, there remained but little to do in order to make our system perfect. I confess I would be glad if he had developed more fully the statement contained in his own Memorandum. In his Memorandum he deals with a variety of questions, some of which I shall not discuss for I have never been at the War Office and I have never been in the Army, and therefore I shall confine myself to some general aspects of the case which I think may be discussed by one suffering under the disabilities that I suffer.
I do this with greater confidence and satisfaction to-day because whatever the results the General Election may have had for the party to which I have the honour to belong, it had one result which was eminently satisfactory, namely, that it reinforced the ranks of the Unionist party by sending be it more than one distinguished soldier fresh from Service in the Army. In my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bodmin (Sir R. Pole-Carew), we have one whose service is known to all of us who is a most distinguished soldier, and who will take his part in our Debates with the same courage that he has shown on other occasions. We have many others in addition to many who were with us in the previous Parliament, and therefore I shall confine myself to a few questions which I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman, and to a very brief and I hope frank, and honest review of the situation as it appears to me.
2107 We know from previous experience that these Debates on the Army Estimates almost always turn upon the form that the Secretary of State for the time being adopts, for the division or sub-division of the military forces of the country, but the real problem which every successive Minister has had to face is not what I venture to describe as comparatively speaking the minor question as to what way you divide your Army, whether into regular and irregular divisions and sub-divisions, the real problem is how to get the men without whom you cannot possibly have an Army regular or irregular. It is from that point of view I respectfully ask the House to consider in the cold light of facts and figures, the position in which we stand at the present moment. Only yesterday we were discussing a Motion for the reduction of armaments and economy in our military and naval administration. Today those advocates of economy in this branch of public expenditure are congratulating themselves upon the fact that in the Army Estimates this year there is a substantial reduction, but I think we are entitled to call the attention of this House and the country to the question whether the reduction which has been achieved is one which is in itself thoroughly satisfactory. I venture to make a comparison between the military expenditure at two different periods, namely, 1905–6 and 1911–12. I take the figures for the first period, in which I find the expenditure was £28,980,000, and the expenditure to-day, which is £27,760,000, just under £28,000,000.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Acland)
That was for 1910–11.
§ Mr. LONG
I take the figures given. What is the result that has followed? I do not care whether the saving be £1,200,000 or £1,800,000; you have 86,000 troops less, and included in these are 50,000 Regulars. Now, putting aside for the moment the creation of the Territorial Force, are you quite certain, and is the country quite certain, that in advocating this economy you have really been prudent in what you have cut down? Nobody will contend that economy is either wise [...]rudent if it results in get- 2108 ting rid of that which is of essential value to the country. In this reduction—and I think this is a very serious feature of it—there are at least 6,000 Artillery—Horse and Garrison; I am not sure that the figures should not be higher.
§ Mr. HALDANE
Never. These batteries of Field Artillery, of which the right hon. Gentleman talks, only existed as mere training batteries. I added to the personnel of the Artillery generally, and I kept every gun. What I did was to divide it into training batteries and trained batteries, the training batteries supplying the others with trained men.
§ Mr. LONG
That is calling a thing by another name. As a matter of fact, has not the right hon. Gentleman, on many occasions, taken credit to himself for the fact that under the constitution of the Territorial Force, he has created for the purpose of home defence Territorial Artillery which are to take the place of the Regular Artillery for home defence?
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LONG
Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman says he never did so, I naturally accept his disclaimer; but I was under the impression we have now got a Territorial Artillery who are to take the place of the Regular Artillery. If that is not so, what work are the Territorial Artillery to do? Is not the Territorial Army for home defence?
§ Mr. HALDANE
Certainly. I have not so far as I am aware reduced either men or guns. I have added to the Regular Artillery, and I have added to the personnel, which is a little larger than it was when I took office.
§ Mr. LONG
The right hon. Gentleman is much more familiar than I am with this question of the Territorial Artillery which has been created. He is right when he says there was some Volunteer Artillery, but he knows they were limited to certain localities; and they were not in any sense a part of the defensive force of the country as they are at the present time. The work that the Territorial Artillery will have to do is work connected with the defence of 2109 this country. The right hon. Gentleman has claimed that the Territorial Force is to be a complete force organised and equipped for all the purposes of home defence. I believe the right hon. Gentleman will not dispute that all those who have advocated the Territorial system have laid down four conditions:—(1) That there shall be a sufficient stiffening of regular troops; (2) that there shall be a sufficiency of training; (3) a sufficient number of trained officers; and (4) an adequate provision of Artillery. The reduction in the Regular Army is not disputed, and an attempt to justify it has been made on the ground that you are dividing the Army into two parts. One part is to consist of the Regular Army available for the Expeditionary Force and to supply the Army in India and elsewhere with their reliefs. In addition to that you are to have your Reserve here. On the other hand, you have your home army, which is the Territorial Force. Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that the division which he has made is one which can be regarded as put by him to us to-day in a wholly satisfactory light. He says we have here and there some difficulties in regard to men and horses, but what are the facts? Are the four conditions which I have laid down fulfilled? Have we got, in regard to the Territorials who are to take the place of the Regulars, the necessary stiffening of Regular troops?
Here is another question which has aroused a very great deal of public interest. We want to know will the officers and the non-commissioned officers belonging to the Regular Army, "who are now serving with the Territorials, in the event of war, be left with the Territorials, or will they have to rejoin their own regiments? I am not going to criticise the Territorial Army in a hostile spirit, but I shall have a word to say about the recruits we have and what their training has been. Let me come back for a minute to the Regular Army itself. The right hon. Gentleman told us in regard to the officers—and I was very glad to hear him say it—that he feels very strongly that the pay of the officers ought to be improved, and he indicated certain changes which he proposes to make and which he hopes will result in getting a larger supply of officers to come into the Army. Upon the question of pay, I heard what the right hon. Gentleman said with the greatest possible satisfaction, because I believe myself that unless something is done in this direction you will not give to the officer the inducement you ought to give. The 2110 right hon. Gentleman said this change would cost £1,000,000, and I know this is a very serious amount for the Secretary of State for War to contemplate adding to his Estimate. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that on the whole perhaps a man in the position of an officer in the Army is getting as much remuneration as he would have in any other occupation which you can compare with it. It must be remembered that while remuneration for services rendered has risen considerably in every other branch of employment in this country, there has been no addition to the Regular officer's pay for something like one hundred years. It must not be forgotten that every Secretary for War, including the right hon. Gentleman opposite has added enormously to the demands made upon the Regular officer as compared with what they used to be. Another condition which ought not to be lost sight of is this, thatwhile an officer has been serving with the Army he is precluded from taking any other occupation; not only is he precluded from making a living, but he is prevented from preparing himself for any other occupation than that in which he is engaged in the Army. These considerations ought to weigh with this House in every quarter of it, and I believe that whatever a man's views in politics may be, hon. Members will agree with me that the labourer is worthy of his hire, and the pay of the Regular officer ought to be considered without any further delay.
Let me make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman in this respect. A great many officers find themselves under conditions in which they are called upon to make payments out of their own pocket in respect of the work which those forming their command have to do, and which is essential to the proper training of the men. I think that is utterly wrong. For an officer commanding a body of men to have to pay expenses which are necessary for the training of that body is absolutely and radically wrong, and you ought to let an officer understand that from the beginning of his service all he has to meet personally should be his own expenses, and everything connected with the training of the men, every legitimate expense, ought to be borne by the State and not thrown upon the individual. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that that is a reform he may well consider which would do something towards improving the position of officers serving in the Army. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he was making some very valuable changes in regard 2111 to entrants to Sandhurst. He proposes to grant some scholarships, which I think is a very excellent idea, and he also makes a valuable suggestion to vary the system at Sandhurst. I agree with the view he took in regard to boys taken in from public schools. While undoubtedly it is most desirable that a lad, if possible, should be left to gain the immense advantage of his last year or two years at school, yet in some cases those last two years are no use at all, and in those instances the boys could be at Sandhurst preparing for their careers. The right hon. Gentleman overlooked the fact that in dealing with the officers it is not enough to simply facilitate entry into the Army. To-day there is a much greater temptation to a young boy who has got brains—the very kind of lad you want to keep in the Army to make a good soldier—to go elsewhere, to our Colonies, in order to make a living for himself.
If you want to get that class of men then you must make your conditions more satisfactory. It is no use producing general statistics. Let any hon. Member who thinks I am exaggerating make inquiries for himself wherever he finds a regiment quartered at a depot, and where he comes across those who have been in command of regiment or in the senior ranks who know what is going on. In almost every case you will find some of the most capable men, and the very men you want especially to keep in the Service are being attracted away, because, for one reason or another, service in the Army does not seem to hold out a reasonable prospect to them, and they prefer to give it up and enter some other occupation. Often they go to Canada or some other distant part of the Empire. It is not enough simply to generalise on these subjects. It is no use hon. Members saying these officers must work harder and be made more efficient. If you want to get them—and it is in our interests that we should have them—you must do something to improve their conditions. When we come to the question of the men, here again the speech of the right hon. Gentleman differs from his Memorandum, which expresses some anxiety as to recruits, and refers to the prevailing activity of trade as having its usual effect in diminishing the supply. At the end of a period of five years the right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to deal so much in hope, and he must be prepared to face these difficulties.
§ Mr. LONG
Then what do the words "the prevailing activity of trade is having its usual effect in diminishing the supply" mean? The right hon. Gentleman says in his Memorandum that there is danger and risk, and he hopes that it may be all right. Here, again, the right hon. Gentleman told us at the end of his speech what he is doing in regard to barracks. The Government have made a change from the policy of their predecessors with reference to the provision of barracks. The previous system was to build all these barracks out of loans, and that is a practice which I understand the Secretary for War deprecates. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is all very well for purists in finance opposite to say, "hear, hear," but if they are not prepared to adopt the practice of building barracks out of loans they ought to be prepared to support such an increase in the Estimates as will put an end altogether to any further delay. The right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, will not dispute that there are plenty of barracks in this country in which soldiers ought not to be put.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I think we are getting rid of them as fast as we can. We have built the finest barracks that have ever been built in this country.
§ Mr. LONG
The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that in every other Department of our Local Government these works are done, and most properly done, under a system of loans. After all, barracks are not going to last only for a generation; if they are properly built they will probably last for one hundred years at least. Why should not this be done by a loan system? If the Government makes up its mind to build barracks out of loan, is it not certain that they could, if they choose, extend the operations of barrack building and more rapidly get rid of those barracks which are at present unfit for occupation by soldiers? I admit that, to some extent, improvements have been made. I myself know barracks which have replaced old ones with great advantage, and I know the right hon. Gentleman is getting on as rapidly as he can with the additions at Tidworth, but still there are barracks, as he knows, in which soldiers ought not to be put, and, if you put them there, you will not encourage men to remain in the British Army. Important as the question of pay 2113 is, I believe you will do more to popularise the Army by getting rid of some of these difficulties with which the right hon. Gentleman admits he is confronted. The right hon. Gentleman told us he proposes to produce a new plan to raise the strength of certain battalions by adding 200 veterans. My hon. Friend near me asked a question which I think he was not then prepared to answer. He asked whether they were to join as privates or as non-commissioned officers.
§ Mr. ACLAND
May I make it clear as to the ages of the men? A man is to be allowed to join when he has completed his term of service with the colours and the Reserve, that is after he has done his ordinary twelve years of service. That means that the ordinary man will rejoin at or about the age of thirty or thirty-one, having joined say at eighteen or nineteen. My right hon. Friend gave the age as from thirty-six to forty. The maximum age of joining is thirty-six, the normal age of joining being, as I say, thirty or thirty-one after the ordinary twelve years' service. Forty is the maximum age to which they are to be allowed to continue serving in the battalions in the Service. It has not yet been decided whether ex-non-commissioned officers will be allowed to join as non-commissioned officers, but, at present, we contemplate that ex-privates will join as privates.
§ Mr. LONG
I do not express any opinion with regard to that myself, though I have no doubt we shall hear something from my hon. and gallant Friends behind me. I have heard something of the suggestion before. If it is to be adopted, it ought not to be adopted without very great caution and without securing the opinion of officers commanding and of the Medical Staff at the War Office. It is quite clear these men will be subjected in the first instance to very considerable practical difficulties. However anxious a man may be to get back into the Army, he may not relish his position when he is called upon to act with men much younger than himself, many of whom will be non-commissioned officers, whilst he apparently will be a private. On the other hand, if he is to be a non-commissioned officer you may have a man who was quite fit to be a noncommissioned officer when he left, but who may prove himself not so capable or efficient when he rejoins. It is a proposal, therefore, to which the right hon. Gentleman ought not to attach too much value 2114 at present. I rather gather from what he said and from what the Financial Secretary said just now, that the plan at present is a very incoherent one, and that it will be very much more considered before it is finally completed.
The right hon. Gentleman touched very briefly upon the horse question. I understand he wishes to reserve the full discussion of that question for a subsequent occasion, and proposes to make it upon the introduction of some Departmental Bill. It is an extraordinarily difficult thing to get control of the horses which the right hon. Gentleman wants. He told us that the reports he has of what I think is called the system of loan horses, horses let out at very low cost to various people who keep them and who are responsible for them, is, on the whole, working well. I was greatly interested in the system, and thought it would probably work very well indeed; but I confess some of the reports I have heard have not been very satisfactory. They may, however, have been the exception, and I am very glad to hear that on the whole the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied. I hold firmly that if the plan of getting these horses taken up by private people, either for their own riding or, as I believe has happened in some cases, of getting them taken into hunting establishments could be made general the War Office might have a large reserve of horses very cheaply kept which would be ready for them in the event of an emergency. I am very glad, therefore, to hear that, on the whole, the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied with the experiment so far as it has gone.
I want to say a word or two about the Territorial Force. I do so with no desire to criticise them. I myself had the privilege of serving for more than thirty years in a branch of the Reserve Forces, and I should be the last person in the world to find fault with them. I do not think we ought to regard them, however, as an altogether satisfactory and reliable branch of our defensive forces, unless we are prepared to see them improved, so far as we can judge by statistics, on what they are at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman has given us from time to time some information in the House in answer to questions. He told us, in answer to one question, that the number of men tested for shooting was 153,000. and that the failures amounted to over 30 per cent. He also told us that, in regard to the training to which he referred in his speech, over 43 per cent. failed to do their fifteen 2115 days. I do not want to go into details of shooting or into any other figures in connection with the Territorial Force; but I say those are two very serious facts, and, if the Territorial Force is really to be regarded as one which can be trusted to defend this country and in an emergency to be called upon to meet highly-trained troops, the record must be more satisfactory than it is at the present time. I wonder myself whether, in making the attempt to get the Territorial Force up to the standard made for them by the War Office, you are not failing really to make the most of them. Undoubtedly you want to give them a full period of training, and undoubtedly you want to give them a full opportunity of learning to shoot; otherwise you cannot blame the Territorial Force if they fail to come up to your standard of shooting. If you are going to give them this training, however, I think your conditions must be more elastic than they are at the present time, and, if you are to make them good shots, there must be a better provision of ranges and better facilities for getting them to the ranges. These are difficulties connected with the Territorial Force in regard to which I should have been glad to have heard something more from the War Office. No doubt we shall hear something more when the right hon. Gentleman comes to reply.
I certainly do not want anything I say to suggest that the Territorial Force is wanting in ability, still less in courage, and still less in patriotism, but, when you ask of them the performance of the great duty you are now laying upon them, I say it is folly to exaggerate their virtues or to be blind to some of their failings. I go further, and say it is our duty, not as an expert or a highly critical assembly, but as a gathering of business men, to consider this question from a business point of view, and to ask ourselves how far we are satisfied with the provision made for our national defence, how far we believe the Army at our disposal can do its work—the work of maintaining our Empire in all its parts—and how far it can do its work at home in securing the safety of the nation? Those are the two great tasks it is set to accomplish. The right hon. Gentleman has given us to-day a very rosy view of the situation, and I fully admit he is entitled to look back with no small satisfaction upon the time he has been responsible at the War Office, but I do not think he is entitled to ask us to wear his spectacles in looking upon the course for which 2116 he is responsible. I think we are entitled to criticise and to ask for information, and I think this House, if it is wise, will not be carried away by its natural desire to believe everything is for the best, but will submit all these statements to cool and critical examination. I cannot help hoping, if they do that, the result will be to improve the position of both the Regular and the Irregular Army. I for one rejoice that to-day there has been an evidence of an interest in these questions which has very often been absent in some of our War Office Debates. I should be glad indeed if more Members took a practical interest in these very difficult and vital questions, because I am convinced the good of the Army ought to be one of the very first considerations of every Member of this House, and of those whom we represent.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
I beg to move to leave out the words after the word "That," and to add at the end of the Question the words, "The Estimates be referred to a Select Committee, for the careful examination of the details of expenditure, and that the Report of the Committee be submitted to the House before further consideration of the Estimates."
I wish to raise this question entirely outside party politics. It is a question that concerns every Member of this House on whichever side he sits. It is one of the old standing principles of our Constitution that this House of Commons should control the finances of the country. That is the right, privilege, and duty of this House. It has been achieved by means of struggles lasting through centuries, beginning from the fourteenth century down to the seventeenth century, when it was fully confirmed, and since then it has never been practically disputed. How were these subsidies for the Army given in old time? They were given by a special Vote by this House of a certain sum of money, and generally Members of the House of Commons were appointed whose duty it was to see to the disposal of the money, to check the advance of it, and afterwards to report to the House that it was properly spent. Have we kept up that position in this House? How do we control the finances of this House now? You may take it that financial control is divided into two heads: first, there is the policy; and, secondly, there is the actual spending of the money. As to policy, no doubt this House still keeps control. It controls the policy which involves the spending of money. This House has to decide upon it. 2117 But when once the decision has been given and the money is to be spent, then, I am sorry to say, this House has practically lost all control of the expenditure of the money. I do not wish to blame either party. I believe both parties are to blame, but a great deal of blame also rests on the House and its policy.
What do we find? We had a Vote under consideration the other night. What happened? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition raised the question of the Baghdad Railway, and following upon that, we discussed the Canadian Reciprocity Treaty with America. But during the whole time of the dicsussion on that Vote, not a single word was said about the money, whether it was too much or too little, or what was to be done with it. And so it goes on. As we know very well: we have the Army Estimates brought forward; there is a policy of more soldiers or fewer soldiers; that is fully discussed in this House, but when we come to deal with the money and how it is spent, or why it is spent, nobody takes the slightest interest, and, for this reason, that nobody has the slightest power of control, and the policy of party politics goes on. It is debated in this House for many evenings, and then Vote after Vote, printed on slips of paper, and representing thousands, and even millions of money, are presented and put forthwith, with the result that we trudge through the Lobbies without saying a word about them. That I hold is quite wrong. That is not what we are sent to this House to do. The question is: How can we remedy it? We are told, of course, that the amount is so enormous and has grown so much that it is very difficult and almost impossible to control it. There may be something in that. I admit it was much more easy to control the money when the House of Commons granted £50,000 or when even, at the beginning of the last century, the Vote for the Army and Navy was only about £3,000,000. But surely the very size of the Vote affords all the greater reason why we should evolve some plan for securing complete control. I know what the reply is. Ministers say, and their permanent staff say: "Oh, you cannot save anything; we have cut it down to the finest point; depend upon it, you cannot relieve the taxpayer of anything we have passed." But you will have to convince the public of that, and my idea is, that you will have some difficulty in convincing the public that an eminent lawyer, however eminent, or a brilliant scholar, however brilliant, is 2118 a match for a business man. I think that when it comes to dealing with these things, however keenly they may believe it, they will find it to be wrong.
From time to time, we come across cases of extravagant expenditure, and I would like to cite one or two instances which have come to my knowledge. They may have involved but a few thousands of pounds, but still they are important in principle. When the war broke out in 1899, the Army found itself deficient in stone jars for the purpose of carrying vinegar, etc. They thereupon sent to the factories all around London and gave orders for thousands upon thousands of jars to be delivered immediately. The result was that the price of these jars, which normally was. 1s. 3d., was raised to 1s. 6½d., the men having to work day and night. Naturally there was extreme improvidence, for when the war was over the War Office found itself in possession of hundreds of thousands of these jars. These are things which will keep for years; indeed, we have pottery now, dating from the time of Pharaoh, still in good condition. But the War Office threw all these jars back upon the market at the price of 2½d. or 3d. a piece, and at the very time they were doing this the Navy were buying similar jars at full market price! Another case came to my knowledge; articles which cost Is. 6d. were sold back by the War Office for 1d. a piece. Indeed, we need not go farther back than what occurred upon the Front Bench last week. We had a right hon. Gentleman admitting that on one contract they had saved £40,000. But can anybody believe that for years they had not been paying thousands of pounds beyond what they ought to have paid on similar contracts. You will have great difficulty in preventing people who see these things from believing that everything is wrong. But supposing it is absolutly correct, it is well we should take some means of satisfying the public that it is so. This is a long standing question and, in 1902, the present Leader of the Opposition moved for the appointment of a Select Committee on Army expenditure. I have taken some extracts from the evidence given before that Committee, and from the Report of the Committee to this House. Take this extract:—Then I come back to my original question: Is not the value of your criticism very largely conditioned by the strength of the man you are dealing with? If the man is strong (if you like to put it in that way) or if he is obstinate, of course he can resist any criticism, and if he is somewhere away from headquarters, his position is a very strong one, because I do not know the details of what he is dealing with as well as himself.2119 This was in the evidence of the Accountant-General of the Army; it means that if a strong man cannot be criticised by the Accountant-General he is likely to go his own way. But I think the necessity will become more and more impressed on the administration of the Army, and the evidence shows the necessity for more careful scrutiny. The Committee report:—But we consider that the examination of the Estimates by the House of Commons leaves much to be desired from the point of financial scrutiny. The colour of the discussions is unavoidably partisan. Few questions are discusssed with adequate knowledge or settled on their financial merits. 670 Members of Parliament influenced by party ties, occupied with oilier work and interests, frequently absent from the Chamber of the twenty to twenty - three Supply days, are hardly the instrument to achieve a close and exhaustive examination of the immense and complex Estimates annually presented…Your Committee are therefore prepared and recommend that such a Select Committee be appointed; that it be called the Estimates Committee; that it be appointed continuously in the same way, and possess the same powers as the Public Accounts Committee; that in order to combine and unify the machinery of financial control, and as it were to dovetail the Estimates Committee on the Public Accounts Committee, a proportion of Members he appointed to sit on both Committees.So much for the Committee. I should like to read to the House what Mr. John Bright said on this subject in 1868. Speaking on the necessity of scrutiny and of fighting the Estimates, he said:—The fighting cannot be done in the House of Commons under the present system. So conscious is nearly everyone of this, that at present in Committees of the House, scarcely anybody attends to listen or to criticise, except the representatives of the Army and Navy, and their criticism almost always goes in favour of increasing rather than diminishing the expenditure. But we should not accept what the Horse Guards say, or what the Admiralty says, or what the Cabinet says, but we ought to have an honestly chosen Committee of the House of Commons to whom these matters should be referred, and the Committee should recommend whatever charges it thinks proper after taking evidence upon every point. I am of opinion that the time is coming when the people of England will discover that this question is of very grave importance.Can we get such a committee as the Report suggests and as I have indicated. There are many men in this House of large business experience and knowledge—men who have been sent to this House largely because of that very large experience and business knowledge, and many of them would be very willing to sit upon such a committee. They come here and they find no opening for their abilities, and they have nothing to do but to tramp through the Lobbies to support votes. These men would very gladly give their time and services on such a committee, and would be eminently fitted from their business knowledge and acumen to be of very great service to the country on such a committee. Let the Estimates be submitted to them in January. Let them con- 2120 sider them in January, February, and March, and let them report on the Estimates as they are submitted to this House and until such a report is given no Vote should be finished and done with. There are many men who are quite content to leave the ambition of sitting on the Front Treasury Bench as a heritage for private secretaries, scholars of Baliol, and others who are great favourites of fortune, contented, if they can by their services and by their help and knowledge, to be of some service to the State in checking and controlling or, at all events, seeing that the country gets full value for its money. Unless something of that kind is done we shall lose completely that control and that checking of the finances which, I am sorry to say, is under our present system fast slipping from our grasp.
§ Mr. HOLT
In rising to Second the Amendment which my hon. Friend proposed, may I say, in the first place, that I think this is a subject of entirely non-partisan character. There is no partisan element about it, and in anything I happen to say I hope hon. Members will understand I am not introducing anything of a party or contentious character at all. What is the character of the discussion in Committee of Supply as we have it now? I think my hon. Friend is perfectly right in saying that the one subject which is never dealt with is the question of whether or not the financial expenditure is a proper one. The Committee of Supply is used by all sections of the House, primarily as an opportunity for discussing the policy of the Government in respect to the subject-matter of the Department which is being paid for. That is the way in which Committee of Supply is usually occupied, and I think it will not be unfair to say that, on the whole, a very considerable majority of speakers on those occasions advocate not less expenditure, but a great deal more expenditure on some pet project of their own which may, or may not, be a good project. The bulk of the speeches are made to advocate greater expenditure,. and a great many on those occasions are made by hon. Members who, no doubt, are earnestly convinced of the expediency of the money being granted, and feel the subject more acutely because their own constituents receive a very large part of the money. That is an experience which I think is almost universal. It is quite right and quite proper that discussions of that sort should take place, but I submit that they ought not to take place to the exclusion of what 2121 are, after all, the original and proper objects and methods of discussion in Supply, namely, as opportunities of criticising expenditure and endeavouring to see that the burden put upon the taxpayers shall not be higher than is absolutely necessary. Then let the House observe this. A discussion of this kind is of a more or less partisan character. It is conducted in the full light of publicity, and the Opposition very naturally are anxious to do the Government an ill turn if they can, and the Government supporters are very anxious to throw a cloak over their nakedness if there is any. Moreover, if the discussion is of a partisan character, the division is very much more so—indeed, it is entirely of that nature.
As a Committee in 1903 pointed out, the House cannot get a change in the Vote without supporting a Motion hostile to the Government. It is, therefore, quite impossible for any supporter of the Government to vote against them on any detail of Supply, however wrong he may think it. You cannot vote against that detail without, in fact, giving a vote of no confidence in the Government. We may think that a certain expenditure is wasteful, but if we decide to go into the lobby against it we are passing a vote of censure on the Government, driving them out of Office, and imperilling the Parliament Bill. Hon. Members opposite, no doubt, think that would be a good thing for us to do, but I am trying to put this in a non-partisan way, and it is not fair to hon. Members to ask them to reject an expenditure of £50 or £100 if by so doing they wreck a great project which they consider advantageous. That remark does not apply to one party only, and I gave the Parliament Bill only as an example. It would apply to some other Bills if hon. Members opposite happened to sit on this side of the House. Let me give a few instances of the sort of subject which we get no opportuity of discussing. I will take first of all an illustration from the Navy Estimates. There appears in those Estimates an expenditure on steam-tugs amounting to from £35,000 to £40,000 apiece. That item has appeared for some time. I thought I knew something about steamers generally, and I have consulted with friends who know more than I do, and I cannot find the slightest explanation of why the expenditure should be more than £25,000. Yet in four years I have never had the slightest opportunity, and I do not see the slightest possibility of any 2122 opportunity, of raising that question, because the discusson on the Vote is taken up by the question of whether we should build more "Dreadnoughts" or fewer "Dreadnoughts." Nobody can object to the discussion being mainly taken up by the question as to the building of battleships, but it ought not to be so to the exclusion of discussion on the small items of expenditure.
Let me give an illustration from the Army Estimates. The House will remember that last year, on the very occasion on which we are met here to-day on the Question, "That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair" a discussion took place with regard to the Army Clothing Factory at Pimlico. The Question raised was whether the operatives were being properly paid, and the whole object of that discussion was to increase the charge upon the Estimates. I take absolutely no objection to the hon. Members interested raising it, but what I want to point out to the House is this—that we have never had an opportunity of considering whether the nation gets value for its money in that factory at Pimlico, and we have never had the slightest opportunity of ascertaining whether we obtain clothing which we desire for the Army on the most sound and economical terms. These are matters which we ought to have an opportunity of discussing. These are the matters which very often appear in a Supplementary Estimate. There was a Vote in regard to the establishing of an Artillery range in Northumberland, and there is a further Vote for the purpose, but I do not think this House will have any opportunity of considering whether that work is being carried out satisfactorily and economically, and whether the nation is going to get value for its money. I turn to another page of these Estimates for a case which I put forward merely as an illustration. A large sum of money is being asked for under Vote 10, subhead E, for "new works, additions, alterations, and special repairs" amounting to £2,000, and the whole sum is £620,500. That is a very large sum of money, but does anybody here suppose that there will be any opportunity of discussing that Vote or any opportunity of making up our minds as to the proper sum to spend on this purpose. May I remind the House that not very long ago a Special Committee was set up to overhaul the question of printing, under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Toulmin), and I understand that as the result of the investigations of that Committee 2123 no less than £40,000 was saved to the nation on the question of printing.
If this Committee which we are now moving were set up, and, meeting as a Special Committee upstairs, they would be absolutely free from the commands of the Whips, they would meet in an absolutely judicial character, they would probably put off, as Select Committees do, party feeling altogether, and attend strictly to business. They would have an opportunity of seeing expert witnesses before them and having papers before them, and, no doubt, they could obtain information of a character which a Minister does not very often give to the House in full publicity. People sometimes say that if this Committee were set up it would weaken ministerial responsibility. That is the criticism which is put upon us. In the first place, may I point out that a Committee of this House is really the House itself—a certain number of Members set apart to carry on special work on behalf of the House and with the powers of the House. It is merely a delegation from the House, and if, therefore, you have to account to that Committee you are to all intents and purposes accounting to the House and Ministers and the Departments now have the obligation of accounting to the House as a whole. I cannot help thinking in practice, therefore, that Ministerial responsibility will prove to be a great deal more severe. The Minister will find it much more difficult to satisfy the Committee as to expenditure than to satisfy the House as a whole. After all, ultimately, when the Vote is challenged in this House, it is not the logic of the Secretary of State for War, it is not the ingenuity of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Acland) that finally justifies the Vote. It is the persuasiveness of the Patronage Secretary. We are constantly being told that Ministers are overworked, and that there is danger of a breakdown, and we have good reason to know that there is a great deal of truth in that. That may make us rather suspicious whether Ministers actually scrutinise these Estimates in the way they ought to do, because it is almost certain that if Ministers are actually overworked that which will suffer is that which appears less and of which the world knows less. The functions of a Minister which are most in the public eye are those to which he will give preferential treatment if he finds himself unable to attend to all of them properly.
2124 Then I agree with what my hon. Friend said as to the advantages of this proposal from the point of view of providing honourable employment for private Members. Everyone can see that the opportunities which private Members have hitherto enjoyed of taking part in the work of the House, or of making speeches, are bound to disappear, or, at any rate, to be very seriously diminished. If this proposal were adopted it would open out to the ordinary private Member an opportunity of considerable unobtrusive usefulness which would be to many men a satisfaction. They would like to feel that they were doing something for the country which justifies their presence in this place. The proposal, as I understand it, is that the Estimates shall be put before the House at a very early date in the Session, that they shall then go to a Special Committee upstairs and be thoroughly examined and come down to the House, accompanied by a report from the Committee, and in the House undergo precisely the same scrutiny and precisely the same discussion as takes place at present. It is not any part of this proposal that the criticism of the Estimates and the opportunity for debating them which now takes place in the House should be diminished by five minutes. It is a proposal for a special consideration over and above that which is now given. The Special Committee recommended that sections of the Estimates should be chosen year by year a different section, and referred to this Committee. They recommended that the Committee should be permanent in its character and allied to the Public Accounts Committee, which, as everyone knows, has done and is doing very valuable work to wards checking wastefulness in national expenditure. If such a Committee were chosen it would seem to me it might well be altered from year to year by the selection of Members specially acquainted with subjects of the character contained in the Estimates, though having some members the same, no matter what the Estimates were, in order to obtain continuity. You might well have different Members for Army Estimates, for Civil Service Estimates, for Navy Estimates by choosing certain members who have special knowledge on those subjects.
§ Mr. HOLT
No, the Committee would have no power whatever to recommend an increase. The object of the Committee is 2125 to criticise expenditure and lay before the House a report as to the suitability or otherwise of the expenditure proposed. I most cordially second the proposal, and I hope the Government will see their way to give us some satisfaction, and in some way to meet what is, I believe, a very growing desire on the part of their followers for a much more adequate opportunity for doing what we can to check wasteful expenditure in the nation's service.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I rise for the purpose of supporting what has been said by the hon. Gentleman. Probably the hon. Member (Mr. J. M. Henderson) regrets, as I do, that it has been necessary to break in upon the continuity of the general Debate, but really at the same time this is perhaps as important a question as the House can discuss, and, the hon. Gentleman, having been successful in the ballot, this is perhaps the only opportunity that it could have been properly raised. In my opinion, and in the opinion of most people, who have watched the course of public affairs, for the last ten years, half the muddles and half the scandals from which War Office administration has suffered—and everyone knows it has suffered from muddles and scandals under both Governments—would have been avoided if there had been adequate discussion of Army Estimates in this House. The hon. Gentleman brought forward a number of instances where it has not been possible adequately to discuss particular points, and it is common knowledge to everyone in the House that those cases have occurred, and do occur, and will continue to occur, under the present system. Any hon. Gentleman who has come new to this House, and who fondly imagines that the House is in the habit of discussing the provisions by Ministers of the Crown, for the acceptance of this House, for the services of the Crown, is living, indeed, in a fool's paradise. Adequate discussion! What an unattainable paradise it seems to anyone who has sat in this House for the last seven years, as I have done, when either party has been in power. Of course, there is never adequate discussion. The chances of adequate discussion have become less and less under both Governments, although it has become worse during the last three years. The position has been gradually getting more desperate. There is undoubtedly an enormous amount of value which the country and the House might obtain from this discussion which is 2126 at present lost. I was very much struck by what the hon. Member (Mr. J. M. Henderson) said with regard to the large amount of unused business ability which there is among Members of this House. There are a great many hon. Members opposite perhaps less fond of taking part in the more fighting part of the proceedings of the House than some on this side are, and many on these benches also, who are only too anxious to speak if they were given an opportunity to do so on details of expenditure of the highest importance to the country, but who are prevented from speaking by the fact that there is no time to do so, or else that the question on which they wished to speak is massacred, with the remainder of the innocents, on that July night which we know so well, when the House goes to some twenty or thirty Divisions.
I am supporting this Amendment on the same ground on which I have supported other Motions in the same direction and in the same tendency both this Session and last, because there is a growing danger that unless something is done the best kind of private Member will no longer offer his services to this House. If time after time, under Government after Government, you have a combination of the two Front Benches to prevent adequate discussion of important matters which affect the interests of the country and in which the constituents of hon. Gentlemen take an interest, you will gradually find that the best material available will become discouraged. This is an important point to my mind. You will find that they will give their services to the great municipalities and corporations where they have a more adequate opportunity, as they think, of doing useful public service. In support of what has been said about this question of time, may I point out that whereas under one Sub-section of Standing Order 15, where it is laid down that there shall be twenty allotted days for Supply, it is also laid down in Subsection (4) of the Standing Order:—Provided also that on motion made after notice, to be decided without amendment or debate, additional time, not exceeding three days, may be allotted for the purpose aforesaid, either before or after the 5th of August.It is a fact, though it may be an accident, that during the last Parliament in which right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House were responsible for the conduct of affairs, in three Sessions out of four these three additional days were given, and it happens that we have not had them at all during the last four years. I do not make 2127 a party point of that. I know my right hon. Friends only too well to know that, after having once entered what I may call the box-thumping circle, they will be only too anxious, like hon. Gentlemen opposite, to curtail the time of the House.
The only other question I want to discuss is to how great an extent this committee proposed to be set up would be a remedy for this state of affairs. At any rate, I know that compliments paid to these benches, particularly by people like myself, are sometimes rather embarrassing to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but we recognise gladly, those who are fighting and intend to continue to fight for some freedom of discussion in this House and for more opportunity to discuss the Estimates and other things, the spirit which is shown by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, notably the two hon. Gentlemen who proposed and seconded this Amendment, in that direction. I personally shall support them, even against the advice of those who sit on the Front Bench here, in anything which will help to free the House of the shackles which at present are imposed upon it by the so-called exigencies of the Government. I think the analogy of the Public Accounts Committee is a good one. It is not suggested, as I understand, that this committee should in any way entrench upon, or resemble closely, what the Public Accounts Committee does at the present time. You have in the Public Accounts Committee a genuine nonparty committee, which discusses the questions put to it in an entirely non-party spirit, and I deeply regret that the Report of that Committee is one of those things which we are so seldom allowed to discuss. But there you have this most valuable analogy of a Committee composed of Members of both parties which carries on its deliberations in an entirely non-party spirit. Why cannot we have a similarly constituted committee to discuss these details of expenditure? There is no suggestion that it will take away from the Committee of this House the right fully to discuss the Estimates. What is suggested, as I understand, is that they should annotate the Estimates of the day, examine them, and report to the House those subjects which particularly require discussion. There would be nothing done to stop the House from discussing other subjects. The committee would focuss attention on some subjects which most require discussion. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment gave some instances of 2128 items in the Estimates which were never discussed, and which he had reason to think disclosed a very curious-state of affairs. All these items would be considered and discussed by the committee which would afterwards report to the whole House. It is a very simple proposal. At the present time the whole object of Members of the Government in charge of Estimates is to get the Estimates brought forward in such a way that the items with which they can deal the most easily will be considered, while keeping back those they do not wish to have discussed. There are hundreds of items under sub-heads which nobody ever has a chance of discussing. I have not the least doubt the Financial Secretary to the-War Office will, in his reply, state those arguments which can always be found with the assistance with someone in Whitehall against Army discussion in this House. It has very rightly been said by the author of the biography of Lord Randolph Churchill that it is a very dangerous thing for any Member of this House to criticise a Civil servant. I think the growing dependency of this House upon the Civil Service in drawing up the Estimates of the year is extremely dangerous. We are not more fortunate in that respect in this country than in other countries. Where that has been done it has led to the whole machinery of the Government being thrown out of gear. I appreciate the courage of the hon. Member opposite who moved the Amendment, and I hope he will take it to a Division.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
In addressing the House for the first time, I would ask the consideration which a new Member invariably receives, and I will endeavour to deserve it by being brief. In opposing the Amendment I have not had the assistance of any one in Whitehall. The Noble Lord opposite (Earl Winterton) spoke with something of a below-the-Gangway spirit, but from below the Gangway I propose to take an opposite line from that taken by him. I am in complete sympathy and accord with what I conceive to be the motives and objects of the Mover of the Amendment. The evil towards which it is directed is a great and growing evil which threatens to paralyse this House as the instrument of democracy. I oppose the Amendment, not because I am out of sympathy with the objects for which it is moved, but for two reasons. In the first place, I do not think, if the Amendment were carried and a committee were appointed, it would achieve the objects towards 2129 which it is directed, and, in the second place, it would have positive results which would be dangerous and pernicious, namely, the further diminishing of the control which this House ought to exercise over all its business. To begin with, let me draw a distinction between the broad lines of general policy and expenditure on the one hand, and the mere details of expenditure on the other. As to the broad lines of expenditure, this House is peculiarly competent to discuss them, and they are eminently suitable for discussion here. There is no other body more able or with a better right to say whether this country wants a large Army or no Army at all. There is no other body which has a better right to say whether any particular expenditure which is proposed is more or less than the country is prepared to bear. There is no other body which is able to take a broader view over military expenditure in all its relations to other Departments of national business, and to see it in general perspective. On the other hand, on the mere details of expenditure and of policy, this House is at a loss. It has not got the technical knowledge which would enable it to form a correct judgment of those details. This House may well form a decision, but its decision is not likely to have much inherent value or validity on the question of substituting one gun for another, or whether one gun has become obsolete and ought to be scrapped, or on the suitability of a cap designed by the Secretary of State for War in the previous Government or by the present holder of that office. These matters involve very important questions relative to expenditure, but this House is not able to form a proper judgment upon them.
In order to bridge over this gap in its capacity, the House has allowed to grow up in the past the principle of ministerial responsibility. We decide the broad general lines of policy, and we delegate the carrying out of that policy to a minister selected for the purpose. He carries out that policy at his peril. He is responsible for every detail to this House. For all his acts he is subject to interrogation, discussion, and censure. It is his business to surround himself by the best expert advice which he can secure. It is his business to make himself thoroughly familiar with all the details of the vast administrative machine over which he has control, and it is his special province to hold firm the rudder of general policy placed in his hands by this House. But we 2130 have to exercise control over that minister and over the execution of that policy-Hon. Members who have already spoken have said that under present circumstances we are unable to exercise that control efficiently. That lack of control is a growing evil, and the question is, how are we to regain the control which we once had in a greater degree than at present? The remedy suggested by the Amendment is that instead of regaining that control for ourselves we should set up a new body between ourselves and the responsible minister. The remedy proposed is that we should delegate the function of criticising the Estimates in detail to a Select Committee.
I will give four reasons against the-course proposed. In the first place a Select Committee is not likely to be more competent to form an opinion on these matters than this House. A Select Committee would suffer from exactly the same disabilities which this House suffers from. In the second place I submit that Committees never act. It is one of the greatest delusions of Democracy to think that a Committee can act and do anything. Those who have had practical experience of Committee work know that a Committee never does anything of an executive nature. It only lays down general principles, but the whole of the nation's and the world's work is done by individuals, and always will be done by individuals. In the third place I submit that if this House sets up a Committee-between the responsible minister and itself, it will be (thereby diminishing the control which it ought to exercise over that Minister. It will be setting up a body which may have two results. In the first place it may force its will on the Minister. It may compel him to do something he does not care to do. In the second place the Minister himself may persuade the Committee to adopt his policy, and then he will be able to ride off from responsibility to this House by saying that he had the sanction and authority of the-Committee set over him. In either case the valuable principle of Ministerial responsibility has been injured. The last point which I will make is that a Committee of this kind can, in the easiest possible manner, be rigged. It would be-extremely easy, in fact it would be the constant practice, for any Government who wished to burke discussion to secure that it would have a majority of supporters on that Committee. If for no other reason, I should oppose the Committee. 2131 because I should not be on it myself. The result of setting up this Committee would be to diminish more than at the present time the rights and powers of the private Member, and to withdraw still further from the purview of the private Member those important subjects on which he wishes to make his voice heard in this House.
I would urge upon those who are inclined to support this Resolution that the appointment of this Committee would not in the slightest degree nave the result which it is hoped to achieve, that it would not increase the control of this House over expenditure, but that it would make the administration even more bureaucratic and exclusive than it is as present. [An HON. MEMBER: "Impossible."] The true line of advance against this evil, which I feel as much as hon. Members who have spoken, is not to bring forward a proposal which will facilitate and encourage the present system. The true line of advance is to secure more opportunities for discussion in this House. What is the method, and the only method whereby fuller opportunities of discussing matters in this House can be obtained? We all know that what this House is suffering from is the overhelming congestion of business owing to the multiplicity of local detail. There is one way, and one way only, by which we can gain control over policy, and that is by some means of Devolution, some measure whereby we can get clear entirely of the whole congested mass of local detail and local government, which at present is not properly dealt with. I submit to hon. Members that if they wish to strengthen this House and increase the control which it ought to exercise over all the branches of Imperial administration, there is no other way in which they can achieve their object.
§ Mr. W. R. PEEL
I think the hon. Member opposite (Mr. A. M. Scott) is to be congratulated on his ingenuity in bringing round this apparently harmless looking Amendment a discussion upon Home Rule All Round, but, if I may say so to him with great respect, his remarks suggested that he really had not read the Resolution which he purported to criticise, because he spoke about a delegation, and apparently be was under the impression that the result of this Amendment would be that the House of Commons would delegate several of its powers to a particular Committee. If 2132 he had read the words of the Amendment he would have found that that was not so. It says "that the Estimates be referred to a Select Committee for the careful examination of the details of expenditure, and that the report of the Committee be submitted to the House before further consideration of the Estimates." It is quite clear, therefore, that there is absolutely no suggestion of delegation of any kind whatever in that quarter, so that that point of the hon. and learned Member is sufficiently met.
§ Mr. W. R. PEEL
That is not what the hon. Member said when speaking, but I will deal with that in a moment. He says that after all a committee cannot do anything of an executive nature, and that it is confined to criticism. I do not think that there was any proposal that this committee should be of an executive kind in the very luminous speech of the hon. Member who moved it. It is purely a critical committee and one which when it has criticised reports to the House itself, and it is absolutely clear that the House itself retains the fullest control over the details submitted to the committee for report and over the other Estimates which come before it. The last point was that the committee might be rigged. After all, that is rather a general statement. It is a charge which might, I suppose, be brought against any Committee of this House. If the hon. Member does not want to set up committees because they are going to be rigged, he is really making a general attack upon the whole committee system of this House. He dealt also with a point which, of course, is the strongest point against the suggestion made by the hon. Member opposite. He declared that the proposal would impair to some extent Ministerial responsibility. Ministerial responsibility, I understood him to say, had been built up through a long series of ages, and it was a great mistake to attempt to diminish or hamper it in any way. That is one of those vague general terms which very often cover many things that are not fairly or fully considered. The Minister is of course, responsible for policy, but he is very largely in this House merely the mouthpiece of the permanent officials. Just take the extent to which these large Government businesses have grown. You can judge of it in one way, merely by the size of the enormous buildings which we see being put up in Parliament 2133 Street every day we walk out. The truth is, it is not possible for any Minister—I do not care if he has the enormous power of absorption of details of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, who, I believe is almost an example in that capacity. I do not believe that even he is able to deal thoroughly and fully with all the details of the great office over which he presides. I know that ten or twelve years ago it was said it took the Minister of the Local Government Board two or three years before he be-came acquainted thoroughly with the details of his office; but since that time these offices have grown enormously, and now the whole tendency of government is to increase its activities and increase the number of subjects with which it deals, and it is becoming more and more impossible, in my opinion, for a Minister really to discharge that responsibility as regards detail.
I believe, on the contrary, that some suggestion of this kind is necessary, and I have great sympathy with the Mover of the Amendment. It would do something to relieve the Minister. I believe it would enable him to concentrate his attention more on the large questions of policy if he knew that the smaller matters of detail were being dealt with thoroughly and investigated by a committee. If I may say so, I think everybody who has been in the House for a few years is of opinion that a great deal of the criticism of Estimates in this House is exceedingly ill-informed. I think very frequently it happens that, after all, the asking of one or two questions would make a great deal of talk in this House entirely unnecessary. I think, further, that the asking of a few questions of the people who knew would also make a great deal of the criticism in this House infinitely more valuable. Referring to one's municipal experience, I think that that comes out very clearly indeed. There these questions of administration are dealt with by committees, and where discussions take place in open council they are very fruitful and very valuable, because in that case all the members who have taken part in the committee work know all the details of what is going on. They have been able to interrogate the principal officials, and therefore they are not talking in the air, or not making merely fishing criticisms, but are dealing with facts of which they have some knowledge. Surely that would give great fruit and great point to much of the discussion of this House, because, after all, it is not 2134 possible for ordinary Members to go up to clerks in a Government office and ask questions of hardworked officials there, and I quite understand also that there might be some points on which these officials would have to say that they were matters of public policy which they were unable to grasp. I perfectly understand that, but I am quite sure that there would come from those particular committees so set up an amount of informed detailed criticism which would be of immense value to the House, and I believe also of considerable value to the Minister himself.
The last point on which I wish to say a word is this: I thoroughly sympathise with what my Noble Friend below me said as to the increase in power of the executive and the bureaucrat. That is so, and must be so, as the area of Government so very largely increases. As regards economy the officials have not the same interest in economy that the elected representatives of the ratepayers have. It is quite impossible that they should have, but it is and must be of interest to all Members of Parliament; and if they are allowed to submit these officials to an interrogatory, and a very fruitful interrogatory I am confident it would be, in that way you would have at least the suggestion made to those who rule our great offices that in many ways further economy could be obtained. Take the question of reduction of Estimates. Everybody knows that the reduction of Estimates at present is impossible after the Estimates are brought forward in this House. We all move reductions of Estimates, but we all know that hon. Members on the other side, just as we would do ourselves if we were in their place, go into the Lobby and support those Government Estimates, because if they did not the Government which they are supporting might have to go out. That is a ludicrous thing. I have great hopes myself that if criticism of the kind which I am suggesting were made by this Committee the Government might be able to reduce its Estimates possibly before they came to the House of Commons and reduce them without any loss of face; not in the face of the whole world, as would happen if it were done after a general discussion here, but after criticism of the Committee, so that you would have the possibility really of knowing that after these great Estimates were put before you, they might be reduced without the whole Government being turned out on the subject.
At present when we see these Estimates coming in all piled up together, we know 2135 exactly what the expenditure of the House of Commons is going to be, and that all the criticism and weight and authority of the House of Commons on both sides cannot alter these Estimates by a single 1d. I always feel that there is an enormous amount of waste of the ability of this House which is not made use of in the least degree. Sometimes one is inclined to think that 670 Members are really more Members than are necessary to carry on the business here. It is a far larger House than any other representative House in the world; but look at the number of Members who have no opportunity of doing anything at all. Take the case of hon. Members who are supporting the Government. Take the case, which happened last Thursday, when one hon. Member gets up and speaks the whole night, though I am certain many others were bursting with criticism which they wanted to deliver. That acts as a very grave deterrent to hon. Members coming to this House, as they feel that they are wasting their time. This would be remedied if they were able to sit on a Committee on matters of this sort And they ought not to be confined to Army Estimates. There are some subjects, like Foreign Affairs, that could not be dealt with that way because they are so confidential; but the Local Government Board Estimates, say, could be dealt with in that way. If that were done these hon. Members instead of having to sit silent through long discussions—and there is no greater suffering than to sit silent through long discussions when you want to say something yourself—would feel that they were doing some valuable work. And they would be doing valuable work, and I believe you would see in a short time large results in the Estimates of the country, and that you would have done more in the interests of economy than by all the general talk and general appeals that we have heard for many years in this House, because they are, dealing, not with particular facts put before us, but with general appeals for economy which, I believe, never reduced a 1d. in Estimates since this world began.
§ Mr. LOUGH
We have had a most interesting discussion, and I entirely agree with the object of my hon. Friend in moving his Amendment. He has stated that his object is to promote economy, and to assist this House to discharge what, after all, is its prime duty. When I come to look at that great object, and carefully 2136 scrutinise our proceedings as a whole, I am prepared to say that there is a good deal in the destructive criticism which we have heard from my hon. Friend. (Mr. M'Callum Scott). That destructive criticism, however, does not lead me so far as it led him. The Amendment which my hon. Friend has moved may effect something if it does not effect great results; but I do agree with him that we are to-night touching upon one of the most serious points that affects the utility of this House in the opinion of the country. This House has entirely lost control over the expenditure of the nation, and, if that be true, then it has lost much of its ancient utility to the people of the country. I understand my hon. Friend's object is to restore in some degree the utility of the House. I fear that his proposal will go a very little way, and, therefore, I venture to intrude in the Debate in order to give one or two reasons why I think so. In the first place, I remember very well a similar proposal which was submitted in 1902. I found great fault with the committee proposed for the reason that principle of expenditure was entirely excluded from its purview, and it was left only to deal with matters of detail. That also is the fault of my hon. Friend's proposal. He wants only to examine details of expenditure. But it is not by the examination of details that we will get rid of the evils which oppress us at this time.
My hon. Friend remarked that business men do not get a fair opportunity in this House, and that the management of our affairs is largely in the hands of a class who have not got as much ability to handle these things as business men. A great many people say that sort of thing, and I am not at all disposed to agree with it myself. Business men often have swelled head, and think themselves a great deal better to handle national affairs than country gentlemen who may have had the advantage of a university education. But the whole history of the country shows that this is not true. Sir Robert Walpole and Sir Robert Peel were country gentlemen, who had not any of the training that my hon. Friend thinks so necessary. The greatest example of all was Mr. Gladstone, who was a well educated literary gentleman, who might have gone in for the Church, only he happened to come into politics. But he was the greatest financial and one of the greatest business men which this country has ever produced.
§ Mr. LOUGH
Yes; I was only wanting to show that we must not put ourselves into the hands of large business men to prove that they can handle national affairs. In the case of my hon. Friend, we would expect a business proposal from him, and one adequate to deal with the matter. I do not think his proposal is at all adequate, and if the matter is looked into carefully hon. Members will agree with that view. The point we have to consider is what is the best step to take. We ought to pursue a course such as a doctor would follow when called in to advise a patient in a bad way, who may have been a stalwart person but has become weak and ill. The doctor says: "What have you been doing lately? and the patient confesses perhaps that he has been drinking too much or something of that kind; but the doctor will be guided in his remedy by the experience of the patient and what he states. I think what my hon. Friend ought to have done with regard to this matter was to have looked through the proceedings of the House in recent years, and see what this House has done, consciously or unconsciously, in regard to this question, and then to propose some steps calculated to recover for us the control we have lost over finance. Take this afternoon. The proceedings are illustrative of one of the steps by which this House has most completely lost its control over the finances of this country. I am sorry the War Secretary is not here in order that I might say in his presence what I am about to state, after he has given us a splendid speech lasting two hours and twenty minutes. I do not like to say anything that will even appear to be a word of censure on such a youthful and charming representative of the War Department as the Under-Secretary (Mr. Acland). I wish to say that neither he nor the senior Minister ought to have been here this afternoon. What are we, Mr. Speaker? We are the House of Commons with you, Sir, in the Chair. We allow the Government to come in and form a Committee of the whole House to deal with the Estimates. Our ancient and constitutional right was the right to state our grievance, before Supply. Before we ceased to be a House with you, Sir, in the Chair, and went into Committee, we had the right to state our grievances before we permitted the Government to come in with their Estimates, which might be preposterous and inadequate.
We have parted with that right; we do not discuss our grievances at all; and this afternoon, when the Minister came here 2138 and made a speech two hours and twenty minutes long, we should not have allowed him to usurp our position. He is not entitled to come here, and then afterwards leave my poor Friend the Financial Secretary to defend him, after his gross breach of our constitutional rights. Hon. Members may think I have put it too strongly, but that is one of the changes which have been made in this House since I have come into it. We have parted with our rights, and the result is that the House itself begins to look very ridiculous in the eyes of the nation. I say, to begin with, that we ought to banish the Ministers from this House when there is a discussion about going into a Committee of Supply. We take a ballot, and the ballot is to enable us to get a chance for a Motion. We get our chance, and then what happens? The Minister comes down and makes a speech which lasts for two hours and twenty minutes, before we are allowed to deal with our Motion. I attach the greatest importance to this, but I do not want to say one word which would spoil my case by putting it too strongly. What is the next point? The Ministers come down and say that these Estimates are sacred things. I am very glad that my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. W. E. Peel) called attention to the point that Ministers take the attitude that if their Estimates are touched it is a vital matter which might destroy the Government. That is all nonsense. We ought to be able to touch any Estimates we please, without harming the Government. I regret to say that it was a Liberal Ministry which set a very bad example. One day I went to the races at Ascot. It was about the only time I ever went to races, and the only time I ever went to Ascot. It was in 1895, I think, and when I came back by the first train I found it was being buzzed about the House that the Government were in a very bad way. A ridiculous Amendment had been moved about cordite, the amount taken for it, it was said, being £50,000 too little. Nobody ever understood it. The War Minister chose to get into a bit of a tantrum about it, instead of saying generously to the House, "do as you please about the cordite. If you want £50,000 more vote for it; if you think it is too much, knock it off." It was said, however, that if we voted on it, things would happen. We did vote, and the Ministry, who was engaged in a useful work, was turned out. I do not know why it was turned out; I 2139 never could understand it; I think it was perfect nonsense for the Ministry to resign. What is the next step we ought to take? I say it ought to be no censure on Ministers if we touch the Estimates. It is a new doctrine that Estimates are sacred and ought not to be touched, and it is one which tells against the rights of private Members. It is the cunningly devised plan of officials to percent them from being troubled, and to enable them and the bureaucrats behind them to tyrannise over the country as they please. I assert our right to reduce the Estimates if we please, and to do anything we like with them. What nonsense to say that we shall affect the Government if we make any attempt to reduce the Estimates. That is another reason why it is of very little use to be advised by a Committee as to how we shall exercise our power. What is the third step that has been taken since I came into this House. We have automatic closure in Supply. That is what does the real harm. The Minister, if there is a troublesome discussion on the Estimates, simply allows it to be prolonged until we get to eleven o'clock, and no decision is reached. These Estimates never come up again, and they are all swept away—£40,000,000 and £80,000,000 being voted under the closure at the end of the Session. In 1896 I protested against the proposal as a great danger to the State, and I believe the whole experience we have had since proves that the view I took then was right, and until we abolish the automatic closure, whatever other steps we may take, we will not regain control over expenditure at all. There is another point. Outside bodies are beginning to tyrannise over this House of Commons. Ministers are bad enough—I do not mean the present Ministers, of course, because they are the best Ministers we can imagine—I mean the occupants of the two Front Benches. In recent times there have arisen bodies who interfere with what I think is the Member of Parliament's domain. We are the representatives of the people, and ought to have full control over all the matters which touch finance. We have not got that control. We have an Army Council—I do not know what its constitutional basis is—but its work is not as great as that of the Lords of the Admiralty.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LOUGH
I feel in a very great difficulty about it. I do not want to press that too far. The Army Council will do for illustration, because it will suggest that bodies of this kind are able to say that we should not touch the Estimates. My hon. Friend ought to take a larger view of this question, and he will find that he will have to look into all the causes which have led to our loss of control over expenditure. I do not know whether we may not have to examine the French system, which, I believe, in the case of expenditure takes the matter in hand a long time before we do. I am convinced we must not confine ourselves-to details if we in this House are to do any good. I hate details. I like to get hold of the central principle, and the principle must not be excluded from the House or from the Committee. I believe it is because the principle of expenditure is so much excluded now that the House has been so much weakened and so much harmed. The reason I have spoken at all is because I feel very strongly about this: matter. I do think that the idea expressed by my hon. Friend is one which is largely shared in by the people outside. They think we are not conducting our affairs in a businesslike manner any longer, and, above all, in the matter of expense. Look at the growth of from ten to twelve millions, whichever Government is in power. It is impossible for any State to stand it. As I understand, the suggestion is that we ought to take some practical step to secure better control over this matter. For that reason, without complete faith in the committee, I shall certainly not oppose it or say anything against it. I do desire at the same time to say that our procedure with regard to the matter I have mentioned will have to be examined, and I believe a much greater remedy will be necessary.
§ Sir CHARLES HUNTER
The criticism which I have to make is purely financial, and has some bearing, I think, on the Amendment before us, which I am entirely in favour of and support. I will give a case in point, out of these very Estimates, which, if the Select Committee had looked into them, would not have occurred. In the Memorandum issued by the Secretary of State for War, the first paragraph begins with the statement that the Army Estimates are reduced by £70,000. That statement has been accepted as the fact, and every paper in the United Kingdom jumped to the conclusion that we are 2141 spending £70,000 less on our Army Estimates this year than we were last year. Every Radical paper has printed that reduction in large letters, and, curiously enough, every Conservative paper has also accepted that as a reduction. If you go a little further and look into the Estimates you really find that there is a sum of £304,000 saved on the falling in of annuities which are nonrecurrent, and which sum is being spent this year. Therefore, I say it is perfectly plain that this year we are spending £234,000 more on our Army than we spent last year. If a Select Committee of this House, composed of business men, and all classes of men, had looked into these Estimates and considered them carefully they would not have found that funds were being misapplied, but that there is an application of funds which is misleading in the Estimates, and this statement in the Memorandum could not possibly have occurred if previous investigation had been made. There is another matter in these Estimates which would not have occurred if they had been carefully investigated beforehand. There is on Vote 10, page 85, an increase of £20,000 in the advances under the Military Works Act. There is nothing in the Estimates that I can see to show whether that is a capital sum advanced, or whether it is an increase in the interest on a capital sum. Moreover, there is nothing in the Estimates to show on what that sum of £20,000 is to be expended. I think all those matters ought to be inquired into very carefully and made more patent to the public. It is only by means of a Select Committee investigating these accounts and discussing them beforehand that the people will really arrive at what these Estimates really mean. For that reason I support this motion.
§ Mr. ACLAND
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) said many things which impressed me very much, and with which I agreed. He said one thing in particular with which I agree, and that is with regard to the desirability of the absence of Ministers from Debates on these occasions. I can assure him that certainly one Minister would be very glad to be absent from his place today. I have been so long denied any opportunity of speaking in this House that I almost feel as if I ought to ask for that consideration which is asked for by persons making their first speech. On behalf of my right hon. Friend and the Government, what I have to say is simply this, 2142 that this question of setting up a committee to examine into Estimates is, of course, not a matter which concerns the War Office alone. That was recognised by those who have spoken in this Debate-It is therefore a matter which the Government must consider and upon which they must decide. The matter is being considered, and I believe is being sympathetically considered, but in the absence of the-Prime Minister from the House and from the country to-day none of us can say either yes or no on this matter, whether a Committee would be set up or not.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Oh, certainly. I said that the matter was being considered. It has been already under the active consideration of the Government, and, as the Noble Lord will see, it is a matter which concerns other Estimates besides the War Office Estimates, and therefore when the Prime Minister, or anyone speaking on his behalf, can give the House the decision of the Government on that matter that will occur when Estimates on other subjects are under discussion. That being so, I will ask the hon. Member who moved the Amendment to allow what is necessary technically in order that we may go on with the general discussion, to allow his Amendment to be negatived so that the general discussion may be resumed. I think he will agree with me that the matter is important, and I think he will agree that it is reasonable that in the absence of the Prime Minister no decision on that important matter can be announced to-day. He will see that it is an important matter, first of all, to decide whether Committees of this kind should be set up. That is a very important departure which may have very far-reaching consequences. The hon. Member will see, secondly, that if you set up Committees of this kind that it is very important to be quite definite as to the scope which such Committees should cover, and as to whether they should be allowed to go into certain matters, and, if" so, in what way and to what extent. He will see also that it is important to decide, or to consult with other persons, as to which Estimates should be discussed and considered by such a Committee if it were set up. Having said that that is all I have to say officially and on behalf of the Government. I will ask the House if they will allow me to add a little more simply on my own account, 2143 not as representing the Government but giving such experience as I have been able to gather in the time during which I have known the War Office from the inside. That has been for the last five years, with the absence of last year, when I had not the honour of being a Member of this House. During that time I have formed a certain opinion on this matter, and I would like to give some suggestions as to why in my opinion the settling up of a Committee of this kind will not be likely to lead, at any rate, to greater economy. That, of course, does not say that the setting up of such a Committee might not be desirable. Hon. Members may think that, having been in the War Office for this period, I have simply become one small wheel in the great official machine, that I have simply become the victim of that fell combination of experts and jobbers and spendthrifts of which some of them believe a public Department consists.
§ Mr. ACLAND
They would then naturally think that in suggesting reasons why this Committee would not lead to economy I am merely wanting to cover the tracks of the nefarious deeds which are committed in the War Office, and to throw dust in the eyes of those who are proposing the appointment of this Committee. There are others of my Friends who will be willing to believe that the Department, the Finance Department, over which I have the honour to preside, are all the time doing the best we can to carry out the task for which we are there, and that is to see that the Nation gets the best value for the money which it has to spend on the Estimates. I do assure the House that in the views I am giving expression to I am doing so not in any way because I do not want the light of day to be thrown upon our doings in the War Office, but because I genuinely believe that the interests of efficiency and economy would not be furthered by the investigation of a committee such as has been suggested. Let us consider what such a Committee would do. The hon. Member who proposed the Amendment has made it clear what it is he means, but that is not plain from the Amendment as it has been moved. He has made it quite plain that what he wants is a Committee on Estimates. In the Amendment reference is made to the details of expenditure, and he has moved that the Estimates be referred to a Select Committee for careful examination of the 2144 details of expenditure. He does not mean details of expenditure, because they cannot be known until long after the Estimates, and they go before another Committee, the Public Accounts Committee. He wants quite naturally to know how the Estimates of expenditure have been arrived at. He wants what may be called a live Committee on the Estimates while they are under discussion or before they are discussed by this House, and not a post-mortem Committee after the expenditure has been incurred. There are two things that such a Committee might go into. They could confine their examination to the mere arithmetic of the Estimates, to the principles on which the different sums were arrived at. That is a narrow, limited, and rather unprofitable ground, and I am sure that any Committee would want to go rather further into the matter than that. They would want to find out why certain proposals involving expenditure had been made, and, though they might not want to go into the fundamental questions of policy upon which our Army expenditure is based, they would at any rate want to go into minor questions of policy to see why it was proposed to spend the money.
Perhaps I may give an illustration of how these minor questions of policy would arise out of the mere consideration of the arithmetic on which the Estimates were based. Supposing the Committee came to consider the amount of ammunition allowed for the year. That is in a limited sense simply a question of arithmetic. The Committee would find that it was the custom of the War Office to allow a certain number of rounds per man as a practice allowance, and to provide a certain amount of ammunition for the maintenance of a Reserve. They would have no difficulty in seeing what the calculations were and whether they had been rightly carried out. But that would lead to secondary considerations of questions of policy which, it seems to me, the Committee would inevitably wish to investigate. With regard to ammunition they would wish to investigate, for instance, whether the customary supply was sufficient to give our soldiers enough practice. They would want to examine into the details of our system of musketry; they would want to go into such questions as the supply of rifle ranges, the pattern of ammunition, the sighting of the rifles, whether we were going to improve our rifles, and so on. All these matters, which are secondary matters not directly arising out of the consideration 2145 of the Estimates, would be bound to come up, and in my opinion it would be only right that they should come up. But you could not get down to the primary basic principles of policy which really determine the size of the Estimates. In my opinion it is only in considering the great basic principles of policy that any possibility of large economies will be found to exist. An Estimates Committee, for instance, will not naturally go into such great questions of policy as why we maintain the garrisons that are maintained in China, South Africa, or Egypt: they would not go into the question why we have Government factories, even if we have to run them at a loss.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Quite so. I am trying to isolate the sort of questions which would come before such a Committee as the hon. Member proposes should be set up, and I am saying that they would not discuss the great basic principles of policy in which alone, in my opinion, the possibility of a real reduction of Army Estimates lies. I want to give my own private view as to what would be likely to happen before this Committee when there came up any of these secondary matters of policy as distinguished from mere matters of arithmetic. Let us assume the Committee found that we had added to the expenditure on the provision of horses. I take a purely imaginary case. The question of horses is under very definite examination now, and I merely give it as a sort of general illustration. It would not be enough for the Committee simply to know that that extra expenditure on horses meant that we were buying so many extra horses at such a price. That would be a mere matter of arithmetic, which perhaps even I, or certainly my assistant Financial Secretary could give the Committee very well. But the Committee would want to go further. I cannot imagine a Committee which would not want to know whether the number of extra horses was, or was not, sufficient for the service which they were intended to perform. They would want to know what the service was and whether the number of horses was sufficient for it. If they were examining the Assistant Financial Secretary, when they got to that point he would say, "This is a question of policy; I cannot go into it." The committee, quite naturally, rightly and inevitably, would want to go further. The chairman would rule that the question of whether the horses were sufficient for 2146 the proposed service was one which the committee were entitled to discuss. They would send for the chief of the General Staff—the Adjutant-General or the Quarter-Master-General—who, perhaps, when examined, would say, quite honestly and rightly from his point of view, that in his opinion the money asked for was not sufficient for the purposes which he had in view. He would be questioned as to why he had signed Estimates containing what, in his opinion, was an insufficient provision of money, and he would naturally say, rightly again, that the different military members considered the relative importance of the proposals put forward by the different Departments of the War Office, that they considered also the exigencies of the financial situation, and that it was decided that only a very small beginning could be made with certain desirable expenditure, a beginning not at all adequate to carry out fully what he believed to be absolutely necessary for the safety of the country.
I suggest that when you have on such a committee certain Members who are keen on pressing particular Services, and increased expenditure on Services, those Members, who are perhaps experts on the matters which they want to bring before the committee, will always tend to get their opinion agreed to by the committee as against that of an ordinary member of the committee, who is simply interested in general economy. The man who wants to spend more on a particular thing will tend to prevail over the man who wants to spend less on things in general. If the proposal of the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) were carried out, and persons with special knowledge of specials interests in the different Estimates were appointed on the committee, what I have said would be even more true than if you had an average committee not specially chosen with a view to the Estimates to be discussed. A committee of experts selected from this House on the particular Estimates under discussion would, so far as my experience and study have gone, almost invariably lead to recommendations for increases rather than decreases of the Estimates. I am quite aware that it would not be in the province of this committee, perhaps, to actually recommend an increase of the Estimates. But what would happen, I think, would be this: They would say that although they could not recommend an actual increase of the Estimates, they hoped money would be found for completing the different Services, 2147 at the very earliest possible moment, the need for the improvement of which had been placed before them by the military members of the council. The Minister who was criticised on the matters in the House afterwards—and I quite accept the position that the setting up of this committee does not necessarily mean at all the delegation by this House of its powers of criticism of the Estimates to the committee—would surely be inclined to shelter himself behind those recommendations of the Committee on the Estimates!
§ Mr. ACLAND
He would never have any lack of sound, good financial reasons why the Report of the Committee should not be carried out. I would like to place before the House in very brief outline what it is that actually happens when the Estimates are being prepared in order to suggest that, at any rate, there is in the present circumstances, a very considerable amount of financial examination and financial criticism of a very full sort before the Estimates are finally decided upon. I do it because I find in the Press two very divergent views on that matter. There is one view as to what ought to be the state of things: that is, that the military experts in the War Office should simply meet together and decide upon the amount of money which they want to spend in the year, and that they should send the Secretary of State for War to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to simply state what their requirements were in the matter. There is the opposite view expressed always by a different set of newspapers as to what ought to be the proper state of things: that is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer at a certain time should inform the Spending Departments as to how much money can be given for their Estimates during the following year, and that the requirements of the Services must be made to square with the amount of money that can be spared. As a matter of fact, neither of these two courses are in practice adopted. I want to sketch to the House what it is that happens so that, at any rate, they may know how, for better or for worse, the business is done. The Secretary for War is, of course, all the time in close touch with his military and financial advisers. He, therefore, knows fairly early in the autumn, say September or October, 2148 that is at an early stage, what the automatic growth or automatic reduction of the expenditure in the coming year will be. He knows what important new services have come to maturity. He knows the cost and degree of improvement of each of these services, and he is thus in a position of balancing in his mind efficiency against economy. He can lay the position clearly before the Cabinet, so that they may arrive at the total on which the Estimates are afterwards completed in detail. Hon-Members may say: "How do we know what security is given that the proposals of the military heads of the Department are put forward with any regard to correct financial principle?" I would answer that each of the military members of the Army Council has assigned to his Department a permanent official officer as adviser, so that in the earliest stages of the consideration of any question the financial consequences may be kept very prominently in mind. That financial adviser is not one of his own officers, although told off to advise him as to the financial bearing of any proposal which may be made. That financial adviser is an officer of the Finance Department. Financial advice is constantly sought and given from the very beginning of the military proposals. Independently of that advice, which is at the service of every military head of the War Office, there, is, of course, quite apart from that, the Finance Department, which independently examines all schemes and proposals that are put forward, and joins in the discussion through the Financial Secretary in the Army Council. It seems to me, therefore, that the Secretary of State for War is certain of being independently advised of the full military and financial bearing of every plan that is proposed, and that he is able to make his decision with full and effective responsibility as to whether money shall be spent or not.
I would like to conclude my suggestions as to the solid actual consideration and financial control inside the War Office simply by giving one or two very simple figures as to what has actually happened in the War Office expenditure in the last number of years. Let us consider the cost per man of the Regular Army in 1892–3 and 1910–11. There has been an increase. When you deduct from the Army Estimates the total non-effective charges, or the effective charges, which are not incurred upon the Regular Army, such as the-Reserve and Auxiliary Forces, debt reduction, 2149 buildings, and so on, you arrive at this figure: that the expenditure per head of the Regular Army has increased from £66 in 1892–3 to £76 16s. in 1910–11. That is the very large increase of £10 16s. per head. But if you will look into it, you will find that of the increase £8 14s. is on account of the increased pay of the soldier. Only £2 2s. per head remains as the increase of Seventeen years of cost of the man in the Regular Army—when you have deducted the increase in pay. Whatever we do, it will be almost impossible to reduce this. When you consider that that increase of £2 2s. per head has gone very largely in better training and better medical provision, and we are enabled under our present system to mobilise and embark at very short notice a force considerably exceeding 150,000 men, whereas in 1892 the largest force that was then contemplated for immediate mobilisation and embarkation was under 25,000 men, I think that the House will come to the conclusion that there is some justification in believing that we actually do get value for our money; that there is general financial control of all Departments. The bringing of the Estimates before a Committee in the manner that I have described, and as the hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow suggested in his very interesting speech, is much more likely to lead to extra expenditure than really to be in the interest of economy of Estimates. To that view that I have given the hon. Member behind may quite disagree. It is purely my own view, given for such consideration as hon. Members may be disposed to attach to it. I have not given that view in any way on behalf of the Government. The decision of the Government, as I said, is that the matter is being considered, and the Prime Minister, or someone on his behalf, will announce as soon as possible what decision the Government have come to upon this question. I hope my hon. Friend will regard that as, under the circumstances, an answer, and so far as I can give it a reply to him. I hope, therefore, that he will allow what is technically necessary—that he will allow his Amendment to be negatived in order that we may resume the general discussion, and that then at the end of the evening we might carry the Motion that "the Speaker do now leave the chair," because that will lead to a continuation of the general discussion as is the ordinary practice of this House on Vote A and 1, which will then come on for consideration in the Committee to-morrow.
§ Mr. HIGHAM
I am not a very old Member of this House, but still during the seven years I have been here the necessity for the Amendment which is now before the House has become more and more fixed in my mind. With all respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington (Mr. Lough) I think the capacity and knowledge of business men could do a great deal to help a Department in the detailed examination of their accounts, contracts, and expenditure. In the early days, when I came to this House I came like many others, filled with good intentions, and have spent during those seven years, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say, thousands of hours in going into details of expenditure. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that I have millions of figures on sheets of paper going back for fifty years, and I have spent many days in Departments and in Departmental work trying to grasp where the waste is going on. I will give one or two items which I did find out, and I will point out the difficulty and almost the impossibility I found in trying to trace the truth as to what was the cost of these small items. I went through my investigation in the gun factory at Enfield. There I found a large room full of machinery, with its day hands and superintendents, but with its productive hands away. We waited for three years before it was settled finally for a Committee to settle the question of a single instrument—the bayonet. There is not a single business man in this House, or a Minister, who could justify before the Committee, or who would attempt to justify a delay of three years for a Committee to consider a small thing like that while the whole factory had to stand idle with its managers wasting their time and wasting public money. I pursued my investigations at Enfield, and I found that we were ordering tens of thousands of rifles every year from outside factories at 33 per cent. more than we were producing them at Enfield at the time. I put a question in the House and my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War answered me by saying: "We must have outside factories as a stand by." I could not discuss the matter, but if we had a Committee upstairs we could make the Minister answer the question. In the House the answer given to my question by the Minister was: "We must give orders outside because we require a stand by." I pursued my investigations in the Birmingham and London Small Arms 2151 Factory. I found that they had there a number of machines making rifles and working up to their fullest capacity in time of peace. Was that a "stand by"? Even during the South African War outside factories producing these rifles were paid overtime at the rate of another 15 per cent. over and above the 33 per cent. the ordinary price for these rifles. Enfield was practically idle; dozens of machines were standing idle there. My hon. Friend said to-night, if criticism was produced excellent official reasons would justify the procedure adopted. No doubt official reasons would justify it in this House, but these officials reasons would not be sufficient to justify it before a Committee upstairs.
There are some Departments of State managed much more strictly than others. The War Office has the worst name in the whole country. We are told that in its magnificent building in Parliament Street the hours are the shortest, the wages highest, and the holidays the longest in any Department of the State. I have tried to get the figures. I saw them issued in an answer to a question a couple of years ago, and, so far as holidays were concerned, the figures bore out that charge. I went into the Patent Office, and I found that the men had twenty-eight days holidays in the year; but if a man there was an hour late, he signed on, and it was taken off his holidays. If he went away an hour earlier he signed off, and it was taken off his holidays. If he asked to go for a holiday on a particular day, it was taken off his annual holidays. Is that the case in the War Office? I doubt it. We are told that this Committee could not go into questions of policy. I agree, but this Resolution is a beginning. The hon. Gentleman spoke of detailed expenditure. Before the war in South Africa 4,000, or 5,000, or 6,000 soldiers were kept there. We have now got 9,000 men there. [An HON. MEMBER: Eleven thousand.] It was 11,000 two years ago, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War promised that number would be cut down. But it is not really that. The Financial Secretary will agree with me when I say that the cost of a soldier at the Cape is, I believe, double the cost of one at home. We have now twice as many men in South Africa as before the war, and if each man costs £200 that means a cost of £2,500,000, and, owing to the link-battalion system, we have an equal number of men in this country, which 2152 means a further cost of another £500,000. A committee would want to know why we incurred a cost of £2,500,000 for soldiers in South Africa. During the six years that this question has been discussed in this House we never had from the Secretary of State for War a logical answer as to the necessity of keeping all these men in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman once said that South Africa liked to have them, and it would not be nice to take them away. If that is so our South African friends ought to pay for them, because the British taxpayer has quite enough to do besides paying for unnecessary men in South Africa.
It is said that allotted days for the consideration of expenditure in this House might be made sufficient to answer the demands of the Mover of the Amendment. That is quite impossible. If a Member gets up in the discussion on an allotted day he can mention details, but he cannot pursue the subject far enough. A second Member gets up and raises a different question, and a third a different one still. Now when the Minister rises to answer he speaks on the broad question of policy, and the details are allowed to slide. It is impossible for this House to get correct information on the questions of expenditure in Committee on Estimate. Take another illustration. We are told that a certain contract is being ended, that we are going to set ourselves to work, and under a new contract effect an economy of about £50,000 a year. That very contract has been placed and replaced for very nearly twenty years. Does anyone say that a committee such as is proposed examining such contracts would not have discovered this extravagance? In my opinion such a committee would have saved £50,000 a year on that contract twenty years ago. I have known scores of contracts placed in this way. Nine years ago at Enfield I found that the Government were buying a gun in the country at £262 10s. Outside information showed that they were paying too much. The matter was put in the hands of their own officials, and that same gun was afterwards bought for £50 per gun. The fact was that they needed outside information, and a Committee upstairs pursuing their investigation would be able to supply that information. Town councils and county councils have their finance committees, and generally a committee for each separate department. When their work has been done with the assistance of expert knowledge it is superintended again by the finance committees. This 2153 House, by the appointment of such a committee as has been suggested, might save millions of pounds per annum. Every service in the State is extravagantly managed. Proposals to pay large sums for acquiring land might be discussed by such a committee. I am sure we are paying tens of thousands of pounds more than we need pay because we lack investigations of this kind. When we shipped our soldiers to South Africa we paid a commission eight times greater than any commercial man would have paid for the same service. I have only been in this House seven years, but it has been firmly driven into my mind after close investigation that it is absolutely necessary for us to have committees of this kind in order to superintend the expenditure.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
The speech of the Financial Secretary is so far in agreement with the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, and sufficiently satisfactory to enable us to close the Debate, but he went out of his way to make an attack upon a plan which the Government are considering sympathetically.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
They differ from the views which I understand the Government are holding. The hon. Gentleman, in his very interesting and thoughtful speech, did not seem to meet the points that have been raised by every speaker in this Debate. It is a very curious fact that practically every speaker on both sides of the House has supported this proposal, with one exception, and he is a new Member who has had little experience of this House. I say that without any disrespect to the hon. Member, because when I first came here I had grandiose ideas that we were in a position to discuss these matters. I used to consider Estimates by the hour, but I found it was an entire waste of time. The only thing you never discuss on Estimates is money. You hear how many soldiers and "Dreadnoughts" you require, but you never discuss what a soldier ought to cost or whether a "Dreadnought" could be built for £250,000 less. Those are the things we never discuss, and if we do not discuss them here where are we to consider them? My hon. Friend is so pleased with his financial advisers that he seems to think it is altogether unnecessary for us to trouble about the matter at all. We have not got access to all these financial geniuses, and we are responsible for 2154 the taxpayers' money. In our own businesses we do not find that these gentlemen are such wonderful geniuses as the hon. Member makes out. I do not believe there is a business man inside or outside this House who believes that the War Office, or any other Department, could not save money, and save a substantial amount, if managed on more businesslike lines. To say this is not accusing them of being spendthrifts or jobbers; all we claim is that we are to-day not getting in many cases full value for our money. The hon. Member gave us the kind of question which he supposed would be placed before the committee which has been suggested. He began with ammunition, and delivered us a long lecture upon the kind of cross-examination this committee would undertake. He suggested they would ask all kinds of questions which I confess never occurred to me, such as how many rounds of ammunition were required and whether the number asked for was enough or too little. The one question which never occurred to the hon. Member should have been the first question—What will your ammunition cost? He should also have asked how many tenders have you? Does the ammunition cost more in Germany and other countries? Can you get ammunition any cheaper, and is there anybody else getting ammunition cheaper? Those are the kinds of questions the committee would ask, and it would not go into such questions as: How Infantry are to be trained or how many Cavalry you would want? The committee would want to know whether you were buying horses better than you did during the South African war. We know what happened in regard to the War Office and its great financial advisers in the last investigation after the South African war, and I cannot imagine that its traditions are now so entirely altered that there is no room for any business man to give any assistance to a Government Department in regard to its Estimates. We are the only country which proceeds in this unbusinesslike way. In Germany, France, and Italy you have got Estimates Committees, and they are very useful committees. In the German Estimates Committees I find they cross-examine their Admiralty officials in a way which I am afraid would strike horror into the souls of our Sea Lords. They go into such small questions as to why £10,000 was paid for a certain piece of land when it ought to have been bought for £8,000, and the Admiralty officials have to justify such a question. What is the effect of that 2155 on the officials? I do not suppose any official is better or worse than another human being, but the effect of criticism on all human beings is to make them more careful than they would be without it. Every man of business knows the moral influence of a board of directors on the officials of a company, although those directors are very often ignorant of the business. When officials know that they have to justify a thing to a board or committee who are not experts they are more careful, and it has a salutary effect. This committee would operate in a similar way because each Department would know that an Estimate could not be hidden away, and this would make them reconsider their ideas more often than they do now. The fact that they would have other people's minds to rub up against would probably be very useful. I do not imagine that this Committee and the Gentlemen with whom they are going to discuss matters are going to be at loggerheads and at daggers drawn. I imagine they would be mutually helpful and sympathetic, and that useful work might thus be done. We have heard an interesting speech about Enfield, and I know the Financial Secretary to the War Office gave a very good answer, but how good it would be for the sake of the War Office if you could anticipate such attacks, which are not justifiable, and if you could have a report of this Committee that it had been through the Estimates and had seen they had been carefully drawn up. I do not think this Committee would recommend increased expenditure. I understand it would be a condition that it would not recommend increased expenditure. The proposal is not to elect upon this Committee gentlemen who are military experts, such as ex-Army officers; the idea is to place on the Committee gentlemen who are experts in the buying of goods and in the doing of good business. I do not see why you should hope or imagine that men who are great and dashing Cavalry leaders are at the same time the best possible men to purchase stores.
It is in this direction that I feel certain not millions, but very considerable economies could be effected. Whenever we discuss Estimates in this House, I always notice that a certain number of Members say we want to discuss principles, and that we can only save considerable moneys on questions of principle. Those millions of money are never saved, and they cannot be saved. I do not believe that either the 2156 War Office or any other Government Department are so inexpert that they are not usually right, or that amateur Members can really advise the War Office how many battalions of Infantry or batteries of Artillery they should have. We all say the Army Estimates are a great burden, but we can only save on details. You have just saved £50,000 in the Stationery Department, and if you can save £50,000 or £100,000 in a few other Departments you would soon get up to a million. I know these small savings may not seem great, but added together they are great. I am glad the Government are considering this point sympathetically, and I hope they will at any rate come to a decision to make an attempt—after all, if the attempt is unsuccessful and had a bad effect, we can soon do away with it—by a Committee of this kind to get the co-operation of business men on all sides of the House to assist. They could do a great deal to do away with unjustifiable attacks made on the Department, and on the other hand you would give hon. Members of this House the opportunity of bringing their business experience to the assistance of the Government and give them an interest in the affairs of the Army which they do not at present possess.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I think there is a great deal in what the hon. Gentleman has said about the co-operation of business men in judging of these matters, and, speaking for myself, I should be only too thankful to have such co-operation. If it can be given in some organised form, so much the better. I have no abstract objection to this Motion. I may be doubtful about its resulting in any economy, but that is another point altogether. Nobody can go further than that, but the head of the Government, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is, owing to circumstances within the knowledge of all, absent from the House. I know he has this question under consideration, and, when he comes back, I will see him and represent to him the course of the Debate in the House, and I have little doubt he will give an answer before very long. Meantime, I should like to point out that if this Amendment be carried it would upset the whole course of the Debate, and therefore, if my hon. Friend is satisfied with the course the Debate has taken and will be content to let his Amendment be withdrawn, so that we can get to the main Question, I think something will have been accomplished.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. J. M. HENDERSON
After the remarks of my right hon. Friend, and particularly in the absence of the Prime Minister, I feel I ought not to proceed any further with this Amendment, and I am prepared in the circumstances to withdraw it. I think the discussion has distinctly shown the strength of opinion in the House on this subject, and, if my right hon. Friend will convey that opinion to the Prime Minister, I am quite prepared to leave it there. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I will now try and bring the House back to the general question of the administration of the Army, but, before I proceed to discuss the men I should like to say a word on a subsidiary, but, I think, very important question—namely, the question of married quarters in the Army. All hon. Members will agree with me when I say it is a disgrace and a scandal that this country should continue for a day longer than is absolutely necessary to house non-commissioned officers, their wives, and their families in one room. Imagine the execration and the abuse that would be heaped upon the head of a private employer, myself, say, for instance, if it were discovered that I was lodging my gardeners or coachmen or anybody employed by me, and their wives and families, in one room, and that this had been going on for years without any steps being taken to put it right! I think anybody who did that would be rightly held up to condemnation. I do think it was my action two or three years ago in putting questions to the right hon. Gentleman on this subject which prodded him into some sort of activity in trying to do away with this deplorable system. I give the right hon. Gentleman credit for having done something during the last two or three years. Out of an Estimate of £250,000 required to put this matter right he has allocated a sum of £150,000, and £35,000 is going to be spent during this year. I thank him publicly for having done what he has done, but I do think this is one of those matters where, if we cannot put it right at once out of current revenue we ought to have resort to a loan in order that the disgrace should be wiped out and not remain for two or three years more, as it will, under the present system. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sure I shall have the support of hon. Members on all sides of the 2158 House in so doing. It is a question of what the State owes to its employees, and the right hon. Gentleman should try and see his way to devote more than £35,000 this year, and at any rate next year to wipe out this blot from the War Office records.
I now come to the shortage of officers. It is undoubtedly true that we are deplorably short in the Regular Army of officers, not so much because the supply has decreased during the last ten or fifteen years, but because the demand has increased considerably, and the supply has not kept pace with the demand. Is it surprising that it is so? It is really marvellous that we get so many men to go into the Army under present conditions as we do. Compared with the officer of former days, the officer of to-day has to do a great deal more work. When I joined the Army I spent much of my time in play rather than in work. At the present time I fancy the officer has to spend more of his time in work than in play, and unless you offer increased inducements to meet this increased work it must be a deterrent to going into the Army. Then, again, there is the greater stringency of the examination. Formerly one got into the Army with no examination at all. Now I am told that never a year passes without an examination. Foreign officers are highly educated, and therefore it is perefctly reasonable that our officer should be obliged to show a higher knowledge and to acquaint himself with all technicalities, but if you make a man spend his youth right up to middle age practically at school you must pay him specially for that. We are told that in all things the standard of living has gone up. That applies to the class of men who have gone into the Army as officers, just as much as at does to working men, and it must be realised that it costs him more to live. Therefore, I hold that a good case is made out for an increase in the pay of the officers. The difficulty is felt not so much in the first two or three years, but when a man is twenty-five or twenty-six, when he is at the age at which he desires to get married, it is then he wants the increase of pay. He can go along very well until then, but when he is married and has a wife and family to support extra money is required.
I wish next to refer to the establishment of Regular Infantry battalions at home. I do not think that point has been dealt with this afternoon. It is undoubtedly a 2159 fact that the establishment of Regular Infantry battalions at home is much too low, because if they were obliged to be mobilised we should find an unusually large number of reservists in their ranks. Although it is an excellent thing to have reservists to strengthen the battalion, it is equally necessary we should have young men, and the presence of an undue number of reservists might militate against the efficiency of these battalions. The right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon that the maintenance of our Regulars was the first consideration of the War Office. It seems to me a very curious thing to maintain the efficiency of our Regulars at the expense of the other branches. What has the right hon. Gentleman done since he has been in office? He has knocked off 20,000 men, therefore, if he puts such a great store on the maintenance of the Regular Army it seems to me curious that he should have adopted the policy he has done.
Next I come to the Special Reserve Force, which has fallen considerably in number. We were told that when the old Militia were done away with we were going to have a more efficient force at home to meet our needs. But when did the old Militia ever refuse to serve abroad? What did the right hon. Gentleman say? We had a force of 80,000 men which has since been reduced to 60,000 men, and we have lost exactly 20,000 men in our second line of defence. There was an excellent proposal laid down in the Memorandum to increase the strength of the extra Reserve, but if the right hon. Gentleman has lost 7,500 in the last twelve months, what in common sense is the use of saying that you are going to have an increase of seven battalions. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his proposal to take away a number of Regular officers from the special duty. After all, we must remember that if even these officers are taken away these extra battalions will be in no worse position than before, and, therefore, as the old Militia did very good service in the past, I should say no great harm will come from this experiment. I should like to be allowed to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his tardy repentance as to giving permission to the man who has served his time in the Army and in the Reserve to enter the Special Reserve. If he will carry back his mind two or three years he will remember the great scorn he poured upon a proposal of my own similar to this. He said he did not want 2160 old men, and that they were endeavouring to get a Special Reserve of young men fit for service, and used other phrases of that sort. That was when I proposed exactly the same thing that he has now brought forward as a great Army reform. Better late than never, however, but I do think the right hon. Gentleman will find some difficulty in getting these men to enter as privates. The majority of them are men of thirty or thirty-five years of age, and presumably they will be of good character or else you would not take them. I do not think they will see their way to enter the Special Reserve and be junior to men of eighteen or nineteen or twenty, who have been in the battalion for a considerable time. The point I suggest to him is, would it not be best to try and get these men as non-commissioned officers, and they will then be of great use in teaching the young men how soldiering should be carried on, and thereby do a great deal of good to these special battalions. Then I think he is perfectly right in reverting to the Militia training of twenty-seven days. When the Militia was done away with, many hon. Members on this side of the House told him that twenty-one days would not be a sufficient period, and I am glad to see that he has gone back to twenty-seven days. We have in point of fact very nearly reached the Militia again, although he has succeeded in driving out of the force the old county officer was would not give twelve months' training. This has now been reduced to six. The man was perfectly ready to serve his country as he had done in the past, and probably the right hon. Gentleman will find that this six months' training will have to be done away with, and that he will have to take the men into the Special Reserve, as he did in the Militia, without any examination at all, these men after four or five years becoming commissioned officers as in many cases they did before.
Then, one word again about the-Territorial Force. Here again I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman's expectations of what was going to happen in this wonderful new force of his have hardly teen realised by events. At the present moment we have in the Territorial Force fewer men than we had in the old Volunteers, and that is not a satisfactory state of things. We were told that a new heaven and a new earth were going to come into existence, and that in the Territorial Force we were going to have all the men we wanted. Yet, in spite of the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Press and of 2161 various sensational efforts—in spite of all that, we have reached practically the same level as was reached under the Volunteers. I do not think that it is marvellous that it should be so, and I think that anybody who has studied the question must have realised years ago that there are only a certain number of young men in the country who are anxious and willing to take on amateur soldiering such as that which exists in the Territorial Force. It has been in existence for some time now, and only reaches between 200,000 and 300,000 men. It is rather higher than could be expected, but when he says now that he is not discouraged in regard to getting 350,000, I think I am only voicing the opinion of many people who prophesied at the time that whether he would get that number or not would depend entirely upon whether we had any warlike operations or not. I could discuss this matter at much greater length, but there are many hon. Members who want to speak and who have a much greater right than I have to do so, but I would point this out. That the right hon. Gentleman has done a great deal for the organisation of the Territorial Force we all agree, and we thank him for it. But when we come to the Army as a whole, then I must say that in my opinion the right hon. Gentleman has not been the success which we hoped he would be when he first took office. For what is the net result of five years under his administration? We have 20,000 less men in the Regular Army. We have 20,000 men in the Special Reserve less than we had in the old Militia. We have 6,000 men less in the Territorial Force than we had in the old Volunteers, and therefore we have got 46,000 men less serving in the ranks of the land forces than we had five years ago. We have got, it is true, 40,000 more men in the Reserve, but they will soon fade away, and I would ask who made that Reserve? The right hon. Gentleman and the Government did not make it. It was made entirely by the late Mr. Arnold Forster and Lord Midleton, and, therefore, any advantage to the present Army which arises from it is not due to the present Government, but to the late Unionist Administration.
§ Mr. CROOKS
May I ask the indulgence of the House for a minute or two at this juncture. I am not an important person, and I know very little about the Army, or the Navy. I am not a big gun, but just a linch-pin in a wheel, and I have two or three things I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman. I realise at the outset, however, 2162 that it is very difficult to get a definite answer, but after all, one must seize the best opportunity one can for raising one or two important questions. I agree with the hon. Member who has just sat down about housing married women, and I also agree with the suggestion that some committee should go through the Estimates, because I have a lively recollection of that sort of thing. There are occasions when an officer sends in a demand for a beautiful house at an expenditure of £7,000, and he gets it built for him, but, as I said before, if you offered him £700 to-build it himself he could get a better house built than you can. I want to thank the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of those-with whom I am associated for his absolute refusal to be drawn into any question of compulsory training. We are absolutely at one on the subject, and if any proposal of that kind is brought forward in this House we would rather go out than tolerate it.
I do not want to ask so much about the Advisory Board, but I do want to question the right hon. Gentleman as to why he did not enlarge the scope of that Board so as to embrace all the wage earners who would like to come in; but in reply to these matters one always gets the old stereotyped answer, and, as has been said, it is perfectly true you can get a change of the various representatives at the Departments, but you rarely get a change of Government. Those in office are fond of using such phrases as "the continuity of the Constitution must be maintained," or they write, "Your favour is before us, and it shall have serious consideration," but nothing happens. If we go in deputations we are received, and state our views, and then we are told, "Gentlemen, you have certainly raised a very sympathetic feeling on the part of the Department in the views you have addressed to it. Good morning. Mind the step." It is the same-thing over and over again until one gets tired of it, and one wonders whether it is to come to an end and whether something will be done. Then I may ask, would it not be better to publish the report of this Advisory Committee so that we shall know something of what you are doing and what you are going to do. If men have their grievances discussed, even if you do not listen to their demand it is, at all events, something to know that it has been discussed, and some day, in the glorious and unknown future, something will happen. There has never been a period within my memory when any move which was made 2163 was not met with the reply that the Empire was in danger or the Constitution would be smashed. It does not matter who is in office or out of office, the same thing goes on indefinitely.
The appropriations which have been made from time to time show a saving. In the year 1909–10 you had returned to the Treasury £250,000 in respect of the Ordnance Factory, and yet our men were being put off from time to time and suspended because there was no work, though in the immediate neighbourhood the contractor was working overtime doing the very work that your own Department ought to have been doing, while it was keeping men and machinery standing idle. You have fixed a minimum, I know. One Government decided that 7,500 was sufficient, and then your Department came in and said the minimum should be 8,000, and it should be reached by shrinkage. Natural shrinkage is a very nice saying, but it means natural starvation. You saved all this money, and the contractor had the advantage of it. You cannot ask people to believe you when you say you cannot tender at contractors' rates when you only allow 8,000 men to work there with the establishment charges so high as they are. They are continuous. When you talk about expansion in time of war you never get an advantage from the contractor in time of war. He charges you war prices, not peace prices. He always has done. The same applies to shipments and to every other Department. They are on the make all the time, and the only way you can get over that is to do the job yourself, and you ought really, with an enormous establishment expenditure, to have a good many more men. I do not know whether the permanent officials of the Department are sworn to solemn secrecy, or whether it is a hereditary taint, but they look wise and never disclose anything. You really do not know whether they know or not. So far as I can gather they are dead against your 8,000 minimum. I could not swear to it, but they look like it They say, "It is not my fault," "If I had my way," "I cannot say any more." You can read between the lines, and, of course, you raise the matter in the House, and it will receive the same consideration as every other question you raise. "It shall have the attention of the Department."
At this moment you are wanting men to complete work in that Arsenal. You have added £40,000. I understand, to the 2164 estimates for a particular work, but they will never be able to spend it unless you give them the men there and give them a bit of a shove. I hope the House will excuse the expression. I have not been trained intellectually, and to me brown is brown and white is a shady colour. What makes the case against you so bad is the fact that while some Departments of the Arsenal are craving for men another Department in the Arsenal is discharging men, and they cannot get a transfer to the other departments. This is simply a barbarous thing. The torpedo department is closing down, at once the Circumlocution Office enters. An official says: "This torpedo department, although we work for them in the Arsenal, is not under my department. It is a naval affair." You go to the War Office and ask for facilities for the transfer of these men, and they say: "Certainly, we will give it the most serious consideration. In fact we have been considering for months what we shall do." And they go on considering, but do not put any one on. Here are men with experience, and after all, the Government has bought them. Some are men with twenty and twenty-five years' service. "They could have gone if they had liked to Greenock, where they would have been happy and comfortable." My information from Greenock is that they are anything but comfortable. But you have allowed them to remain and have promised them a transfer. Why do they not get that transfer? Openly and deliberately I charge both Departments with simply fooling the men. The War Office will not take them, although they want them, because, as they have twenty years' service, they will make themselves responsible for the bonus. It all comes out of one pocket. The taxpayer is no better off whether it is paid to the Admiralty or to the War Office. Here you are breaking up homes and destroying the family life of a district. There are 12,000 or 14,000 men who have gone away from that place, and their homes have been broken up in the last six or seven years. It it is entirely due to you, but here was an opportunity to do something. Even this very week forty-six more men with long service are to be cast adrift, and they cannot be employed in any department in the Arsenal, where they want men at this moment. It is a barbarous thing men who went into the Torpedo Department with a year's service were transferred willingly and cheerfully, because there was no bonus attached to them. But surely a hundred things might happen to save these 2165 men if they got other employment. There is no other reason for not keeping the men except the bonus. I know the right hon. Gentleman's personal desire is to do the right and honest thing, but behind him there is the permanent official, who defies him and the House, too, and practically (defies the whole country, and does what he likes. The men may go and starve if they like, but the permanent official does not care. It was just the same when the other party was in as it is now, and it is nearly time that it is altered. It is not too late now to take on your extra men. You have allowed the transfers and you want the men. They are skilled men, and they are our servants. They have gained experience in the Service. A man of forty-two cannot be called an old man. He is a very useful man and an experienced man. You have only to say that these men shall be found employment in the other Departments where they want men, and the thing will be done to-morrow morning. I have been trying for a week or two past to make some sort of arrangement without raising my voice, but it has not happened.
I hoped the right hon. Gentleman would have given us some clue as to whether the minimum was going to be raised. What is the report of the Advisory Board about wages? I ask him to include all the badly paid men, if one dares say that anyone is badly paid in a Government Department—I do not mean in permanent situations. There are no bad salaries, there are only bad wages. The House would appreciate the point if it was in my position. It would know the difference between salaries and wages. How many times has the old story been told? I remember when we applied for extra remuneration it was pointed out that men who were badly paid met with accidents more frequently than those who did not take their domestic worries to work with them, who had, in a word, sufficient to enable them to keep their wives and children in decency and comfort. They could go to their work light-hearted, but the men who were badly paid and took the everlasting worry of wives and children to work with them met with accidents more frequently than any others. We get the stereotyped reply, "it is the market value, and we can get other men to do this at the same price. Of course, you cannot wonder that men in my position ask for market value. You cannot talk even good sound logic to starving men. You may say, "Oh, dear, my poor fellow, so sorry, you have my profound sorrow," and he 2166 takes that home to his wife and children and they go to bed on it.
In the early part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman said certain parts of the Army had not succeeded as well as he had hoped and that recruiting was down a bit. I suppose in this House I said some pretty strong things about my predecessor. By an Army Order issued in April 1902, service pay was granted to all warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men who were efficient and of good character, and who had enlisted for more than three years and had served for at least two years, the daily rates of pay being so and so. That lasted until September, 1906, but notwithstanding a promise given to this House that this new proposal was one which would encourage men of better character and of a higher scale to join the service—and it did have that effect, I am told by men who really know—without a word to this House; without asking any person, the Army Council by a stroke of the pen reduced the pay to the extent of 2s. 11d. to 4s. 1d. per week after 30th September, 1906, in the case of men who varied their service in the slightest degree. That was manifestly unfair, because when these men were enlisted they were told that they would get all these advantages. Who are the men who are affected by the alteration of pay made by the present Government? The points appear to be that the alteration of system of pay by the present Government means that as men complete their eight or twelve years' service, their pay is reduced by amounts varying from Id. to 7d. per day; that the Service pay granted in April, 1902, to attract a good class of men into the Army was substituted by proficiency pay in 1906 in the Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery, that it entails a loss of 1d. per day to men reengaging after 1906 who are in Class I., and of 2d. per day to men in Class II.; and that under the new system of proficiency pay men other than those in Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery who reengage lose their proficiency pay and also the Service pay for which proficiency pay was substituted. The corps thus affected are the Royal Engineers, Army Service Corps, Royal Army Medical Corps, Army Pay Corps, Army Ordnance Corps. Military Clerks Section, Military Staff Clerks, Royal Artillery. The effect of this is, that men in these corps when re-engaging after eight or twelve years' service have to submit to loss of pay varying from 2s. 11d. to 4s. 1d. per week. The worst thing in connection with this 2167 seems to be that these men are not allowed to re-engage at all. If the whole of these men desired to qualify for pensions are they not to be classed in the same way as officers who take up military service as their occupation for life?
§ Mr. HALDANE
It is important to our Army that we should have a large Re-serve, and the consequence is that we only engage men for a limited time, and we do not encourage them to re-engage. Otherwise we should lose our Reserve, and one of the reasons for not re-engaging the men was that it was not considered desirable to put them on a better footing than their neighbours.
§ Mr. CROOKS
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the explanation, but it does not alter my opinion in the least. It is necessary to have these men for the Army. I know some officers who do exceedingly well with the men because they never patronise them. The officer who gets on well with the men is the one who sympathises with the needs of the men and deals with them only in matters of discipline. Since you retire officers on half-pay I think you should make better provision for the men. [Cheers.] That remark is cheered on both sides of the House, and I say that we should all, so far as we can, help the soldier to obtain employment wherever we can. We have said that he has to take his chance with the rest of us. It is the War Office themselves that handicap the men by keeping him for twelve years in a particular service. He is not the adaptable man that the sailor is. If he is retired on 6d., 9d., or 1s. a day pension, that is quite inadequate to keep him, and you ask him to make up a week's money by taking employment. He takes a job at 18s., which should be paid at 24s. a week. Well, that is robbing a man of what he has earned and helping him to "blackleg" his fellow-workmen outside. I have raised these points, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will dot the i's and cross the t's. I have already said that I have no particular complaint to make about him as the head of the Department any more than I had with respect to the previous head of the Department. I complain of these wonderful permanent officials, those men whose bread is sure every morning they get up. I do not want something for nothing, but I do want that men who have served the country faithfully and well, either in the Arsenal or in active service, should be treated fairly by this great Imperial 2168 Government. When we talk of our Empire we should mean an Empire in which men can live in decency and comfort according to their station in life, and you ought to sacrifice no man in the way you are doing. The Government can do something to alter this state of things, and the-question I have to put is will they do it? Will they save more of these men, or will it be the old story of the Government contractor? You might want them in times of emergency, and they will make you pay for them too.
§ Sir REGINALD POLE-CAREW
It is with the greatest diffidence that I venture to intervene in this Debate, and I hope the House will extend to me the indulgence which I am told is usual when a new Member makes his first speech. I assure hon. Members that I will not detain the House long at this hour; I should not venture to speak at all had I not spent the best years of my life in the British Army, and had I not had the honour of serving with many soldiers in many countries and many climes. Perhaps I may be forgiven for imagining that in consequence I have some small acquaintance with the soldier. Perhaps I may be allowed to state that I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, that it is impossible to discuss Army matters without first recognising the fact that the Army is entirely dependent on the Navy. It is obvious that without the command of the seas you could not move your Army outside of these shores, and it is equally obvious that if you lose command of the seas, you would not be able to feed the Army in this country. Although I agree with the right hon. Gentleman so far, I do not arrive at the same conclusion. The Secretary of State tells us that if we lose command of the sea we would require larger Army Estimates. I entirely disagree. If you lose command of the sea the Army is no use to-you at all. I want hon. Members below the Gangway on the other side to consider for a moment what would happen supposing that war broke out to-morrow. Rightly or wrongly the price of food would go up. Unless you had a signal success in the first fortnight the price of food would go up again, and if we lost a few food ships there would probably be bread riots, and it would be difficult for any Government to continue a war under those conditions. It is really a question of food supply to a very large extent, if not entirely. I often wonder why great officials like the First 2169 Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for War do not combine together to persuade their colleagues to establish granaries in this country whereby you might have six months' supply of cereals, and to stimulate the growth of beef and mutton. I think that would greatly add to the confidence of the country and strengthen our position. With regard to the Army, I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Blackpool that although we found in South Africa we had not sufficient troops and were wanting in numbers of men, it is a very curious thing that the right hon. Gentleman when he came into power strengthened our Army by reducing the number of those men. He not only reduced the numbers of men, but reduced the Cadres, and our power of expansion, which is a far more serious thing. It is ancient history that he abolished the Militia. I again agree with my hon. Friend in this. It passes my comprehension why he should have abolished the Militia, the old backbone of the British Army, in order to make a new-fangled Special Reserve, and abolished the Volunteers to establish the Territorials.
The right hon. Gentleman told us to-day that by continuous work and not changing methods was the best way to achieve success. All I can say is that he sets us the opposite example. I have the greatest respect and admiration for the Territorials as I have for any man who gives his spare energy and spare time to the service of his country. But I do say that unless the Government can see their way to give the Territorials more chance of training it is money thrown away, and is more likely to be a danger to this country than anything else. I think the worst day's work the right hon. Gentleman has done has been spending money on Territorial Artillery. I cannot help saying that it is done at the expense of the Artillery of the Regular Army. How can the right hon. Gentleman think that he is going with a few weeks' work to train men in the use of an arm which is the most scientific, and which in every nation in the world requires more training and more discipline than any other? Now I go to the Regular Army. I have noticed, and in fact the Secretary of State told us this afternoon, that we had the largest oversea Army in the world. He said it is an enormous Army. I think he told us that it was 300,000 men. He is fond of telling his audiences in the country that we have this great oversea Army as if it were a preponderating force. But I wish 2170 to tell him that our Empire is entirely different from any other, and that 117,000 of these oversea men are serving in peace time within our own frontier. With us oversea is not over frontier, and it is slightly misleading when you tell an audience outside this House that you have this enormous force. It leads people to imagine that we have a force which can compare with that of other nations. Is it possible to consider that we can compare with the other armies of Europe, the enormous masses of men that are liable to serve over the frontier whenever war breaks out? I asked the right hon. Gentleman the other day what was the strength of the expeditionary force. As far as I can see he evaded the answer. He gave me no answer, and I listened carefully to-day to hear whether he would tell the House what the strength of that force is to be. He said it had six divisions. I asked him what the number of Regular troops included therein would be, and he told me 68,141 would be available. I imagine that is from the six divisions of 170,000 men. But we were told not long ago in another place that not more than four divisions could possibly leave our shores at once. If that is the case, that great expeditionary force will whittle itself down to about 100,000 men, of which, by his own figures, about 60 per cent. will come from the Reserve. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman where does he intend to use these troops. If it is to reinforce our own forces abroad in India and other places, that is not so bad. But he foreshadowed to-day that he might possibly use them somewhere else—I imagine in Europe. I ask him what would 100,000 men of which 60 per cent. were Reservists do in a European war? Why, it would be murder to send them. Have you forgotten all the lessons of South Africa? We learned, first of all, there that we were not ready. I ask the House to remember what happened. If it had not been for the contingent of British troops from India the Boers would have driven us down to the sea, and we should have had to begin all over again. It was not a very safe experiment. We withdrew over a brigade of British troops from India. We never have one man too many of white troops in India. I want you to think that if the eyes of Russia had not at that moment, by the blessing of Providence, been fixed on the Far East, they could have walked into India perfectly easily. The second lesson we have learnt 2171 is that good as the Reserve men are—and I have every reason to say so—they must have time to shake down. We all know that in a quarrel of this sort he who hits first hits the hardest; and if you are going to be in the position of the gentleman on the outside of the crowd who tells you that he is going to take his coat off, you will find yourselves on your back before you can get your coat off. You cannot hope to have a body of men chiefly composed of Reserves to be in a position to fight the trained troops of Europe. Mention has been made of a certain book written lately, and which has been sanctioned by the Secretary of State. I confess that with that book I do not agree. There is very little in it, I think, that is worth reading. I have had considerable experience of the writer in former days, and I think the book is very like himself, flighty and unreliable. The book was written chiefly for the advertisement of the writer, and incidentally, no doubt, for the satisfaction of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I must protest, in the absence of the very distinguished gentleman, that an imputation is being made upon him which is devoid of foundation, and Sir Ian Hamilton, as everyone knows, is a man of chivalry, and absolutely above such a thing.
§ Sir R. POLE-CAREW
I am very sorry if I hurt the feelings of the Secretary of State. What I was going to say was this: In that book there is a certain paragraph about the Territorials, and it says that although they would require to be three or four to one against ordinary troops, they would be able to cope with a force which would probably land here after war had been going on some time, and which would be composed chiefly of Reservists. To that the right hon. Gentleman gives his sanction; therefore, I suppose he agrees. How is it possible that the right hon. Gentleman can come down to this House and tell us that a force which will be largely composed of Reservists is fit to fight the world. I have nothing to say except in praise of the troops that we have now. I believe they are extremely well trained; so they were in South Africa. I think we have forgotten one thing. When we came back from South Africa we had the best lot of regimental officers and the best lot of noncommissioned officers and men possessed 2172 by any army in the world, and it is now short of officers. I entirely agree that the pay of the officers should be increased, especially of that of the subalterns. The subaltern is one of the-hardest worked men in the world, yet you do not give him more than the right hon. Gentleman would give to his butler. Something more than pay is necessary also. I think a little sympathy is necessary. The subaltern is a hard-worked man, but he is a human being like everybody else, and the British subaltern requires sympathy just as much as everybody else. The regimental officer, too, requires sympathy. He does not require to be told that if he is to get on in this world he must leave the regiment and goon the staff. It must not be suggested to-him that the regiment is no good. It must not be suggested to him that all the plums are to be given to the staff, and that he is to do all the work and get all the kicks. That is how it is now. I feel certain that if the authorities will only take that into their consideration much good may come of it.
With regard to the men, I know that there are certain classes which are enlisted year by year. That is common knowledge. I also know that for the Brigade of Guards, some years ago—at the time when the three-years' system was brought in—a number of men were induced to join, by giving a preference billet in the Metropolitan Police. The best class of men were obtained, men of the finest physique that I suppose the Guards ever had. What I mean by that statement is that there is a class of men whom we do not get in this country for our Army, but who, I think, could be obtained if we took care to do something for them after they left the Army. There is a certain class of men who wish to make the Army their profession, but who wish also to have the means of livelihood after they have left it. Surely there are numerous Departments in the Government in which employment could be found for men after they have left the Army. I know the difficulty between seven years and twelve years; I know that is a great difficulty, but even then I think the matter only requires to be worked out. I do believe that a little sympathy with the British officer, and a little more care with the British soldier would be productive of great good. I have nothing to say with regard to the number of men, except that we have not a man too many. In regard to our coaling 2173 stations, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is satisfied with the garrisons we have in the Far East? There was a time when we had a Navy paramount in the Pacific. That is so no longer. We find at Hong Kong—one of the finest ports on the civilised globe, perhaps the biggest clearance port in the world, a place of enormous wealth—the Fleet reduced to a squadron; and I want to know whether those expensive inspector-generals, who are always travelling about the world in a sort of semi-regal progress, have advised the right hon. Gentleman as to the position, and whether he is satisfied with it. One British battalion, two Native, and a few guns neatly arranged on the skyline to be shot at. I asked a famous admiral how long it would take to knock them out. He said, about four hours. At Singapore you find precisely the same thing. In Ceylon, which is a very rich island, you have not a single British battalion, a few guns, and the harbour of Trincomalee dismantled and impossible to defend. I say that our Army is as good as any Army in the world, but I say that it is not put in a position where it is fairly treated, and I say this much, that if you are going on under the system which was brought in by Mr. Cardwell it will inevitably lead to disaster. The linked battalion system does not and cannot suit us. I would not destroy linked battalions in order to make depots as was suggested in that famous book of which the right hon. Gentleman is so fond, but I would put back what Mr. Cardwell destroyed. Mr. Cardwell halved the Army in strength in order to make one battalion at home a feeder to the other abroad. That is not right. I would have the battalion at home as full as possible of Service men, not of immature boys, and I would have a depot for every battalion abroad. I know that it costs money, but if you want a good thing you must pay for it. It is far cheaper in the long run to pay money and get a good article than it is to buy things at a cheap price. At least, I always find it so.
I think I may give the right hon. Gentleman a tip as to how to pay the subalterns a little money without costing the country too much, and that is by reducing our redundancy of Generals and Staffs. If I were he I should begin by the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean. I should very much like to know what it costs the country when that General Officer goes to Bermuda, to inspect Bermuda. I believe that there are a few guns, there is one British battalion, there is a lieutenant 2174 general in command, and the guns are inspected by a gunnery officer. What on earth the Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean has got to do when he gets there is rather difficult to imagine. There are many others that might be reduced. When I was a boy and joined the Army, whenever anything went particularly wrong with the Army we always invented a new button. Now they invent a new General and a new Staff, which is rather more expensive than the button but not always as useful. But, in all seriousness, the trouble, the expense, the amount of correspondence that takes place in this country and out of it in consequence of those generals and staffs is appalling. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to imagine-what happens. To begin with our battalions are over-inspected. First of all there is the commanding officer's inspection. Then there is that of the general of brigade, then there is that of the general of division, then there is that of the commander-in-chief of a particular locality, and if he has any luck there is the inspector-general as well. All those gentlemen have different ideas, chiefly about buttons. The poor regiments are inspected almost out of life, and then look at the correspondence. If a man wants a cap the commanding officer writes to the-general of brigade, who writes to the general of the division, who writes to the commander-in-chief, who sends it up to the Horse Guards, and probably it comes all the way back with another question. That is what they call decentralisation. I can assure you that I have had experience of it and I know what it is. If the right hon. Gentleman would only set to work to reduce unnecessary expenses and do his best for the regimental officer and the regimental soldier, then I think the Army would improve.
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
I am pleased to find that I am in accord with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken in one point of which I have often spoken in this House in days gone-by, and that is as to the reduction of unnecessary generals. It is a good many years ago since I first complained that we-had a great many, but I am afraid his-voice, like mine, will not affect the War Office much, as there are so many generals in it, and it takes such great care of them. I do not wish to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman in all his ideas of making the Army perfect, and which, no doubt, are-very good but would be rather expensive, 2175 because, after all, we on this side of the House recognise that as well as having a good machine, we have got to pay for it. We know, too, that people on both sides of the House object to paying taxes when it comes to very heavy expenditure. All the suggestions that have been made by hon. Members opposite have all gone to ask for enormously increased expenditure for the Army, which necessarily would curtail the amount we should have to spend on the Navy. The hon. and learned Member very properly said that the Navy must be our first care.
I say if there is to be any economy it must not be in the Navy, but it must be in the Army. I hope that those hon. Gentlemen who are so keen to keep up the defences of this country will remember that the Army is already as expensive as we can bear it, and that any addition is likely to curtail the amount of money for the first defence of the country, the Navy. I wish to say a word about a matter in reference to which I can claim to know something, and that is the old Militia, of which I was a member for more years than the hon. Member who spoke about it. I have had also the advantage of being able to compare it with the present Special Reserve. Those who have never been in the Special Reserve are fond of saying that the Militia was something much better. Those who have seen both, and who have seen the working of the Special Reserve realise the advantage to the Regular Army that the Special Reserve is, and realise that there is some difference in having the regular Battalion more closely linked and fed by a Special Reserve instead of being fed by volunteers from militia battalions. I know perfectly well that all old Militia men are proud that battalions at Waterloo and ever since that have gone into action have been largely fed from the Militia. But it is an advantage, and I think almost an incalculable advantage, that officers and men should come back into the Battalion that they have been accustomed to associate with, into a Battalion whose officers have interchanged with them to a certain extent, and those men are continually interchanging, and with whom they trained as recruits, and with whom they have been in close contact, and with whom they feel themselves comrades when they are called to join the regular Battalion. Moreover, I think there is an advantage which those who served in the war will realise in connection with the home battalion which is now a Special Reserve 2176 battalion, that instead of the units at home being merely attached they are incorporated as one battalion, and the beet men are sent as drafts—not at one time those who are scarcely mature, and at another the Militiamen who are too old. I want to say a word in defence of what the Secretary of State has done, and is doing, which seemed to be contradictory, when he said that he wished for young men as recruits for the Special Reserve. I quite agree that he was right, and that he wanted to keep the older men in reserve to fill up the ranks in case of need. At present the new system is that we are to take into the Special Reserve a certain number of men who have served their twelve years so as to fill up. Those are the men who formed the best part of the old Militia. What we got rid of out of the old Militia and have now got in the Special Reserve are those men who were best got rid of, also a great number of men who were much older, who had never been in the Regular Army, who were not fit for foreign service, and who had to be left at home, as a rule, when the Militia battalion went abroad. I am quite sure that the young men we have in the Special Reserve are vastly superior to what we had in the old Militia battalion, some of whom were too old, and others of whom, though they had trained for a good many years, were very inefficient.
I want to thank the right hon. Gentleman for having made two alterations in the Special Reserve, which I said three years ago when the system was introduced would be necessary. The first, and perhaps the most important, is that he has deserted the principle of making the officers train for a year. I was quite sure that that would stop the recruiting of officers for the Special Reserve, and it did practically. The right hon. Gentleman had now done away with the system, and reduced the period to three months. I think that that is a reasonable time, and that we should now get more officers. The other thing, which I have always advocated, is that there should be a four weeks' training. I advocated it three years ago, because I was certain that three weeks would be insufficient for the battalions to get together. This will be evident to Service members if they remember that at the depot even company drill is not taught; there is merely squad drill and the rudmients of training. There is one other alteration which mght save the Government some money, and would not injure the Special Reserve, and that is that 2177 we might do with less than six months training at the depot at the start. I am sure that one month might be taken off without injuring the efficiency of the recruit. [An HON. MEMBER: "That has been done."] I did not know that; I am pleased to hear it. I am sure that efficiency will not be in any way injured. There is one thing that is serious, and not because the recruits are less, but because we require more men than in the past and of a better class. We do not get the men we got in the Militia, nor the incompetent men we used to get in the old Volunteers in the Territorials. There are fewer men coming forward because there are fewer capable of coming forward. Therefore it is very important that recruiting should he encouraged in every way it may be. Perhaps the best way, and it is one of the things that was suggested from the other side of the House, is the improvement of barrack accommodation. That has been improved more at the present time than in the old days. It is quite true that an enormous number of barracks were put up on Salisbury Plain by Mr. Brodrick, now Viscount Midleton, when he was Secretary for War. If they had been put up in more appropriate places, and where the troops are wanted all the year round, and not on the camping ground, we should have been better off, and not have been spending £800,000 a year as now.
There is another small point—and I am pressing these small points because they make a great difference, and that is the supply of shoes. I hope the Secretary for War will see his way, now that he has lengthened the period of training, to give back again their shoes to the men. They were a very great advantage to the men, and enabled them to march better than when they were obliged to wear heavy boots every day and all days.
I hope the Secretary for War will remember that at the present time in the Army we fall short in two things in comparison with foreign armies—in the proportion of artillery and the proportion of cavalry. The Regular Cavalry and the Regular Artillery should be the special care of the Secretary for War, and he should, as far as possible, increase those items at the expense of the Infantry, and even though we have to have a larger proportion of infantry in some Militia—that is to say in the Special Reserve, or less perfectly trained men than at the present time—everything should be done for the Artillery and the Cavalry. I know it is 2178 quite true that the efficiency of the Artillery has been increased. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Long) was not quite correct in saying that the Artillery had been reduced. It is true that a certain number of Artillerymen have been done away with.
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
If the right hon. Gentleman will wait till I have finished my sentence he will see that the Artillerymen that performed the duties of the ammunition train have been supplied, and are being supplied, from the special reservists, and some of these come from the Territorials. Those are the Territorials that are to be in the Expeditionary Farce, or the fighting line. They are not actually in the fighting line, because they are the reserve ammunition column. They have specially to supply the batteries and so forth that have been weakened so far as men and horses are concerned.
I am quite sure that the Secretary of State for War has got the importance of having the Artillery and Cavalry Regulars at heart, and that he will do all he can to strengthen these branches. If he has got to make economies he can do it by taking less regular Infantry, and making them more of the type of the old Militiaman. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for having eased the financial strain upon the Territorial Associations. I have, as an old Militia man, great admiration for the Territorial system. It is much better than the Volunteers, because it is really the old Militia system. As a matter of fact, the Territorials are now very near what the old Militia were in old days. They have this great qualification, that they may be embodied, whereas the old Volunteers were useless, because they could not be embodied. You can embody the Territorial in time of difficulty, and he becomes part and parcel of your Regular Army in times of stress and difficulty. For these reasons, I believe the Territorial Force is of immense strength in this country, and infinitely better than twice the number of old Volunteers.
§ Colonel BURN
I ask the indulgence of the House which is always so generously 2179 accorded to one making his maiden speech. The subject under discussion is one that I think to many will appear to be dull and dreary, but to a man who has spent the beat years of his life in the Army I must confess it has a vivid, if somewhat sad, interest. I think we soldiers never can forget we have been soldiers, nor can we ever lose the interest we have in the Service in which we have spent our lives. The right hon. Gentleman told us about the strength of the Army and the details concerning it, but I think myself what most concerns us in this House is the status of the British soldier and the British officer. If the status of these two are all right then I think the Army is sure to go on on successful lines, and sure to put in the best work, and to be the best Army we can provide in this country. The situation appears to me to be well laid down in the very well-known lines of Rudyard Kipling so much better than I could put it that I ask the House to allow me to quote those lines:—It's Tommy here and Tommy there,And Tommy get outside!But it's special train for AtkinsWhen the troopship's on the tide.It's Tommy this and Tommy that,And Tommy how's your soul?But its 'thin red line of 'eroes'When the drums begin to roll.In the piping times of peace the British soldiers' wants are apt to be forgotten in the general run of affairs, and his grievances, be they great or small, are apt to be overlooked. We all know the great difficulty experienced by the time-expired soldier who served his country well when he comes to look for employment at the expiration of his period of service with the colours. He has great difficulty, as we may all recognise in the efforts of the United Service League and the Central Emigration Board, who promote the emigration of those men looking for employment to another land. That is an undoubted difficulty, but it seems to me to be somewhat sad to think that it is necessary for the soldier—who has done his duty to his country, who has borne the heat and burden of the day, as the right hon. Gentleman said this morning—to go to a foreign country, or perhaps our Dominions, in order to find the wherewithal to obtain a livelihood. It seems to me, from the point of view of the British soldier, that the Government can confer a great benefit on him in the special case where the soldier has done his service with the colours, and has afterwards been fortunate enough to 2180 get employment in one of the civil branches. I think that is a perfectly fair case where the State might be willing to count the years of service with the colours in conjunction with those years that he will spend in the civil office in order to enable him to gain his pension. This is an era of pensions, and the tendency of to-day is rather to facilitate than retard the gaining of pensions. The nation recognises the right of a man to earn a pension, and has approved of granting a pension to the old soldier of industry; therefore I think the man who has served his country deserves the same consideration, and it appears to me to be only fair and just that a soldier should be allowed to count the service he has done in the Army in conjunction with the service he afterwards does in a civil capacity under the Government, because they are both national service, and it is only fair and right to give that encouragement and hold that goal in prospect for the soldier in order that he may feel that when he is serving in the Army he is working not alone for his country, but for his future at the end of his time.
§ The question of the shortage of officers in the British Army is one of the greatest importance. We know that this subject has already caused the greatest anxiety to those who are at the head of affairs in the Army. This appears to be a danger that has come to stay. I would like to ask the House why is there this shortage of officers in the Army to-day. I invite hon. Members to compare this state of things with only ten years ago. If you go a little further back than that you will find that the number of competitors for every vacancy in the Army was very large, in fact there used to be as many as ten competitors for every one vacancy, Why has this state of things changed? The reason is that the Army does not hold out the prospect of a career to a young officer on joining it, and it does not compare with those other professions to which young men of the same class have access. In these days of competition all these matters have to be considered. We have to look at the status of the British officer to-day. As has been already said in this House, the pay the British officer received to-day is certainly not more than it was fifty years ago, and I might even go back 100 years. After all, if you consider the value of money at that time, and what you could buy with it, and compare it with what you can buy to-day, you will find the comparison 2181 is very much in favour of those early days. If you expect good work from a man you must pay him well. That has to be done, and in this age it is especially necessary. There are, however, other things that have to be considered as regards the officer. The expense of a regiment is very great. It may be in these last two years a little less in some of the branches, especially in the Cavalry; but up to date most of the officers of the British Army have become officers by heredity, just as the men. They have joined the Service because their fathers were in it before them, and the British Army has been officered by men who have been content to pay a considerable sum every year of their lives in order to have the honour of serving their King and their country. The time has come, however, when there must be an alteration. If we are to get the class of officer we have always had in the British Army, it will be necessary to change the status and to make, from a material point of view, the Service as attractive as the other professions which are open to the young men of the present day. If the Government sees its way to raise the pay of the British officers, then—and I think I shall carry the hon. Members who sit below the Gangway opposite with me—it will be possible for a man without private income to join the Army and go through the ranks, knowing that he can live and keep up the position of an officer, which to-day is almost an impossibility for him. I am sure everyone will agree that we want to get the same class of officer and to improve the class of men we get in the ranks of the Army. If you will offer some benefit to those men serving, then I say you will induce the well-educated and intelligent class to join and will not have to put up, as we do now, with those underfed and undergrown and undeveloped young men who come to join the ranks in the Service, and 50 or 60 per cent. of whom are rejected by the doctors because they do not come up to the standard. It must be patent to everyone, and, if this is only granted by the Government, I feel convinced that they will keep the Army, as it always has been, officered by the right sort and with the best stamp of men. Looking to the past, and speaking from our experience, I say that man for man the British Army can take its place in the field with any Army in the world; but, in these days of competition, let us march with the times. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to consider this question 2182 and to give the officers a little better pay than they are getting at present to meet the needs of the day; and I hope also he will be able to bring through the scheme of allowing the men to count their service with the colours as well as their service in the civil branch in order to gain their pensions.
§ Major M'MICKING
I should like to say one or two words with regard to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Bodmin (Sir K. Pole-Carew), to which I listened with great interest. The hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned the reductions in numbers in the Regular Army, but he did not mention that, owing to the organisation introduced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, the Army has become more efficient, although it has been reduced in numbers. I recollect very well the time when in order to get service batteries out of the country it was necessary to denude other service batteries, not only of men, but also of horses. In fact, under the old scheme three service batteries produced but two batteries at full strength for war.
Then there is the question of the Territorial Field Artillery. I was in the Artillery myself. I understood my hon. and gallant Friend to say it was a mistake to spend any money on the Field Artillery, and that it would be better to expend it on the Regular batteries. I should like to refer my hon. Friend to the Report of the Elgin Commission, which, after the war in South Africa, expressed the opinion that no military system would be satisfactory which did not provide for a large expansion outside the limits of the Regular forces, no matter what that limit might be. It would be foolish to create an army without creating artillery. We knew that at the time the Territorials came into existence it would be most difficult to get the old volunteers to come into the Territorial Force unless it was known there would be a Territorial Artillery. I believe the Secretary for War took the only possible course when, by a stroke of the pen, he changed the Garrison Artillery into Field Artillery. He took the only possible course at the time. Of course for the future that is a different matter. What will happen in the future is that I imagine the right hon. Gentleman will watch this force very carefully, and I am sure that if they do not come up to expectations, whatever change is necessary will be made. The hon. and gallant Gentleman 2183 asked what would our expeditionary force do in the event of war. I feel sure our expeditionary force if sent out to the Continent to take part in a European war would acquit itself very well indeed, but of course nobody thinks we should ever land a force in Europe without allies; we have never done such a thing. The hon. and gallant Gentleman went on to refer to this book called "Compulsory Service." I have it here, and although it may be presumption on my part to differ from such a distinguished soldier I think it is one of the best books that has ever been published. I think it is a very good book indeed, and I will tell you why. We have a League in this country called the National Service League, and it has a number of speakers going up and down the country. In my opinion they teach most pernicious doctrines. I do not mean to say that with regard to compulsion; I would not venture to call it pernicious, and people differ about it. But at the bottom of their teaching they put forward that this country is liable to invasion. I say that it is a false premise, and if it is a false premise the conclusion must be false. Sir Ian Hamilton has done a good service in giving us the true gospel in regard to military affairs. In the first place he has spoken of the necessity for moral force, and I think what he says is absolutely true. I think that all history points to the conclusion he arrives at. There are some people who advocate physical force, and think of nothing beyond; but students of history will, I think, bear me out that that is not so. I would appeal to the hon. and gallant Gentleman and ask him if he does not think that it was greatly by moral force that Cromwell won the battle of Dunbar. In another pasage Sir Ian Hamilton says, if invasion is impossible, then the national strength should be organised for the purpose of over-seas warfare. I believe that is absolutely true. I believe that the most effective defence that anyone can have is to take the offensive, and that is why I am so glad that Sir Ian Hamilton has written this book. That, I think, is the bedrock of matters connected with strategy, and that, in my opinion, is the most important function of the force. The Territorial Force exists to repel raids, to make the enemy come in such strength that a big target is offered to our Navy, and to garrison the country in time of war. The most important function, however, is that it should be able to reinforce the striking force. I take the opportunity of thanking my right 2184 hon. Friend (Mr. Haldane) for allowing this book to be published. Admiral Mahan wrote, or said:—Whatever really enlightens public opinion in a country like ours facilitates military operations.I believe in this great democracy, which is the same as in the United States, we should take the people into our confidence, and tell them for what purpose our forces exist and what are their proper functions. We cannot afford to have wrong teaching in regard to our military matters. If the case is correctly stated we shall reach sound conclusions. There have been litany criticisms of the Territorial Force, but, after all, it has only been in existence for two years and a half, and you cannot make an Army in two years and a-half. There is another type of criticism with regard to the force. People compare it with the best of the Continental troops. That is unfair. Surely the proper comparison to make is between the Territorial Force and the Volunteers as they existed in the year 1905. I feel quite sure that the Territorial Force, even although it has been only two years and a-half in existence, will emerge from that comparison very favourably. The highly controversial problem at present is this defence problem, and it seems to me that there are two distinct cases with regard to it. There is the case of a possible raid before hostilities break out before anything is known about war, and there is the other case of an attempted raid after it is known that hostilities have broken out. It seems to me that the only chance that a Continental Power would have of landing troops in this country would be before hostilities had broken out. In these days of wireless telegraphy, submarines, destroyers, dirigibles, and aeroplanes, I believe if once the Navy knew that hostilities were about to commence they would amply safeguard our shores. In fact, as the Noble Lord (Lord Charles Beresford) said in an interview the other day the danger is not invasion, it is starvation. But then it may be asked, if there is no danger of invasion, for what purpose does the Territorial Force exist? As I have already stated, I think it is quite clear that it exists for a very useful purpose. It is to garrison the country and to deal with any small parties which might land and escape the Navy.
With regard to the alternative policy of compulsion, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether it would not be possible, if there is difficulty in obtaining recruits for this force in future, that something 2185 should be done in the direction of enabling men to get access to the land. I believe, if you combined these two things it would be a very good thing indeed. I believe, if you could get our people on the land and encourage them to come forward for the defence of the country, that would be a most admirable policy. I do not know if such a thing is possible, but a most distinguished general wrote: "The cradle of the Army is the cottage of the peasant," and I believe that embodies a great truth.
§ Mr. HALDANE
I venture to make the usual appeal to the House at this stage to allow you to leave the Chair, so that the House may resolve itself into Committee on Vote A. That will enable the discussion to go on in the same way, the only difference being that the Chairman will be in the Chair instead of yourself.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.