§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. WHITLEY in the Chair.]
§ (IN THE COMMITTEE.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed [Tuesday, 5th March], "That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 186,600, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1913."395
§ Question again proposed. Debate resumed.
§ Mr. LEE
Before coming to my main argument I should like, if I may, to enter a protest against the attempted veto of criticism coming from this side of the House with regard to military topics. After all it is the business of the Opposition to criticise, and the impropriety of criticism has been urged in so many quarters, all more or less favourable to the Government, that I have naturally formed a strong suspicion that there must be a good deal to criticise. Whilst we all agree that the Army and Navy, in fact the whole question of national defence, should be treated essentially as a non-party question, the safety of the country is, after all, more important than the interchange of bouquets between the two sides of the House, and I venture to think that the time has been reached when the military policy of the Government well deserves any reasonable criticism that we can offer regarding it. There is one objection in the way of criticism to which I particularly demur, and that is, that we have got on this side of the House to accept the Government policy as a chose jugêe, that it holds the field, and that it is the duty of all of us to assist them in submitting it to the most rigorous examination. We are also told that we have no right to criticise unless we have a full-blown alternative scheme to offer in place of that of the Government. Well, I think that is absurd. We are not in the position of responsibility. We have no means of gathering all the information in possession of the Government, and it will be time enough when we are in possession of responsibility for us to produce a scheme which, I hope, will be in many respects superior.
The right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary, whom we are all glad to welcome in his new position, and who, I think, must excite our sympathy because he has a very difficult position to defend, adopted the line, with reference to the criticisms of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, that it was most unfair on his part to take any line of criticism which might alarm the British soldier with regard to weapons, and then, in order to try and correct the situation, he himself asserted roundly that the rifle of our soldiers was the very best in the world, although the Secretary of State for War (Lord Haldane) and, I think, every hon. Gentlemen on the Government side of the 396 House who rose to speak on the subject, have admitted that it is conspicuously deficient, and that it is of the utmost importance it should be replaced at once.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Colonel Seely) indicated dissent.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LEE
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that all existing rifles are bad, that none of them are fit for war, but that ours are less bad than those of other countries. If he can maintain that position I will make him a present of it. He went on to deprecate what he called that passion for self-depreciation which he thinks is affecting not only the Opposition but the British nation as a whole. I do not think that anyone will suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is himself suffering from that particular complaint. I think that in the exuberance, I might almost say the fanaticism, of his optimism, he surpasses even his official chief. Having made that protest, I feel compelled to neglect the advice which has been addressed by the right hon. Gentleman and others who have spoken in that sense. While I have no hesitation whatever in expressing the real admiration which I feel for the industry, enthusiasm, and the amazing ingenuity of the Secretary of State for War, I have none the less a deep-rooted and very strongly increasing disbelief in the main lines of his military policy. He has had six years in which to develop it, and during that period he has-been almost immune from criticism; he has been almost the spoiled darling of politics as far as party warfare is concerned, and yet while he has had those chances I venture to assert that recent events have proved that the scheme with which his name and reputation are inseparably bound up and his system are entirely unsuited to the most vital and most likely emergency which this country may be called upon to face.
The Secretary of State for War has not recognised that the situation has completely changed during the last few years, and that the military system which was admirably suited in ways for what I may call our ordinary Colonial wars, which was suited even for such an unusual emergency as the South African war, is entirely unsuited for the sort of European emergency which we have to consider at the present time, and which I am afraid we may have to confront in the future. The former kind of war, what I may call the 397 Colonial war, is very seldom absolutely vital. But a great European emergency, if it comes at all—and it is not likely perhaps to come more than once—will come like a bolt from the blue, and will be a matter of life and death. The whole problem which our military experts and advisers should be considering is the problem which has completely changed during the last few years, and I see no signs whatever in the right hon. Gentleman's policy to show that he is adapting our military system to the altered conditions. Consider for a moment what is the situation in which we may be placed, a situation with which many think we were actually faced in the course of the past summer. It is not necessary to enter into delicate international questions, but it was possible—without going into that—that our first line, our Expeditionary Force, consisting of six divisions of Infantry and a Cavalry division, 160,000 men, all Regulars, might have been called upon to start immediately for the Continent in the course of last summer. When I say immediately, I do not mean at a time when our second line has been sufficiently trained and has been made ready, and when it would be considered safe for the first line to leave. By immediately, I mean that it would have to leave so quickly as to have to be on the scene of action ready to fight within three weeks. I do not believe that I have overstated the case when I state that unless our Expeditionary Force was ready to do that, so far as emergencies are concerned, it would be practically useless and it would be better for it not to start at all.
Many of us are grateful for every reason that our Expeditionary Force and our military system were not put to that test. I not only admit but I commend the efforts which the Secretary of State for War has put forward, resulting in, I believe, increased though not absolute efficiency in organisation and the possibility of rapid mobilisation of our Expeditionary Force. I make that admission in the full remembrance of the very weighty and so far unanswered, if not unanswerable, indictment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), which was delivered yesterday, which showed that in many respects our Expeditionary Force is not fit for duty that necessitates an immediate start. I admit that the Secretary of State for War has done a great deal, though on certain of the points in regard to the rifle, of which we have heard a great deal, there is a very grave 398 indictment to be made against the Government; and with regard to the more debateable point, the ammunition, about which the right hon. Gentleman has not given us any real satisfaction, there has been, I think, a suggestion made—I have no means of knowing whether there is any truth in it—that there was a shortage of ammunition of the kind which had to be used for the Expeditionary Force last summer. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he could not give the figures, but he would show them privately to any Member of this House who wished to see them. I hope he will excuse me if I say that I would be glad if he would afford us that information in private on the distinct understanding that if, in our opinion, the provision made should not be of a satisfactory character, should not be up to what is commonly the accepted standard of war, we should be at liberty to push the matter further. I will give the right hon. Gentleman an hypothetical case. Suppose he told us privately that there were only 150 rounds per rifle available, will he claim that we should not be in a position to call him publicly to account?
§ Colonel SEELY
It is a very difficult matter. No one has ever given information in this House with regard to stocks of ammunition. So far as I am aware it was always considered most inadvisable. The Secretary of State in another place repeated the statement which I made here, that our stocks of ammunition for the rifles to be used were almost three times as great as that of the whole expended in the South African war. It is still the case, or even more so, but I repeat that I will give the information privately to anyone. Of course, if hon. Members still disagree, and if they bring an indictment against us, we welcome the attack, but I wish to enter the caveat that it is undesirable, for obvious reasons, that the precise stocks which we consider necessary should be announced to the world.
§ Mr. LEE
I make no accusation, because I have no means of knowing, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman's undertaking is a perfectly fair one. I say this with regard to what has been the rule, and a salutary rule, that the giving of confidential information with regard to equipment, ammunition supply, etc., at any given moment is perhaps not in the public interest, yet when it deals with matters of past history that objection does not apply. I pass from that point, as the right hon. Gentleman has met us very fairly, and 399 come back to the main argument in regard to the readiness of the Expeditionary Force for service in a European emergency. Even assuming, for the purposes of argument, that it is ready in every respect, I still say that the military system for which the Secretary of State for War is responsible really makes it impossible for that first line of the Expeditionary Force to leave the country as soon as it would be necessary without exposing the country to risks, either real or imaginary, which the people of the country would not tolerate when the time came. The military system of the Secretary of State for War provides two lines, and it seems to me that these two lines are almost perversely designed to neutralise and paralyse each other. You have the first line, on which so much effort has been expended to keep it up, and put it in a position to start at once. We all know that if it cannot start at once it is useless for it to start at all. All these very meritorious efforts have been expended, and yet this force can only take the field—I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will deny that—by to a very large extent denuding the second line of officers, horses, and other things which are essential to the existence of the second line.
Coming to the second line, admittedly in times of peace it is untrained and unfitted for war. The second line, in this scheme of things which the right hon. Gentleman produced, requires the first line to stay at home until such time as public opinion or the Government considers that it is safe for it to leave the country and entrust the defence of these shores to the Territorial Army, and what remains behind? By that very fact the second line necessarily stultifies the raison d'être of the first line as an Expeditionary Force, which is ready at all times to start. The necessity of the first line staying behind is almost inevitable in existing conditions, because it is impossible to ignore public opinion. I do not believe that public opinion would permit the whole of a Regular effective Army practically to leave these shores when they perceive that the second line of defence upon which we have to rely is not only not trained for war, but is actually under a process of mobilisation. The Secretary for War has admitted that. The Under-Secretary of State for War has also admitted it when he was Under-Secretary for the Colonies. He was a very prominent, and important Member of the Government. 400 He dealt with that very point in the course of the Debate on the 9th April, 1907. He said:—If it be remembered that it is most unlikely that we should embark 160,000 men with all their provisions, stores and artillery, until at least six weeks should elapse, it will be seen before the danger of an invasion should have been met by the Territorial Force, it would have piled up the six weeks service which is given in the Swiss army, which is admittedly such an extraordinary success.At the same time that the Territorial Force will be ready in six weeks, he contemplates that the Expeditionary Force will not be called upon to leave this country in six weeks. We know that if the Expeditionary Force is put in use at all in a great European war, not only will it have to leave this country, but it will have to be in action within three weeks. That is a dilemma which has never been faced by the Secretary of State for War, and it is a dilemma which has to be met so far as a great European emergency is concerned. I admit, of course, that it is a situation which is possible, and perhaps tolerable, in the case of a Colonial war or in the case of a war like the South African. The words "South Africa" I believe lie at the root of all the trouble. The hon. Member for Kirkcudbrightshire (Major M'Micking), in defending this scheme, told us that the Secretary of State for War had stated that it was all based upon the Report of the Elgin Commission on the South African war, and that it embodied the lessons of that struggle. I do not necessarily deny that, but I do suggest that the Government or the War Office are affected with an almost fatal obsession with regard to the South African war. The Under-Secretary for War (Colonel Seely) played a very distinguished and gallant part in that war, but I am afraid that he believes that it was the beginning and the end of all things military—
§ Mr. LEE
Whereas, as a matter of fact, it is extremely improbable, if not impossible, that a war of that nature within the British Empire will ever occur again. And yet it has exercised, and is exercising, a fatal domination over our military policy. It has given us a system which, as I have endeavoured to prove, is entirely unsuited to a European emergency and to the sort of life-and-death crisis with which we are threatened under modern conditions. In addition they have given us the Territorial Army. I know that it is a very delicate and in 401 many respects a thankless task to criticise the Territorial Army. When such criticism as that is brought forward we are always accused of attacking a force that is doing its best, a force composed of gallant men deserving of credit. That, of course, is entirely begging the question. What we are doing is not criticising the Territorial Force but its creator. It is always difficult to criticise what is called a popular force, because we are told we are unpatriotic. I would submit, however, that it is much less unpatriotic to criticise when we think it is in the interest of national safety than it is to use the language of the Secretary of State for War, who, in September last, said that whilst the Territorial Force might not be fully trained for war immediately on mobilisation, at the same time he would not hesitate to use it for all it was worth on the very first day of a war. "For all it was worth!" What would it be worth? Food for powder, and nothing else.
§ Mr. LEE
There is the fatal obsession. It is like the Boers. This Territorial Force, which is to prevent the invasion of this country, it is thought would be similar to the Boers in the South African war, though without training. But the Boers in many respects were trained men of war before any outbreak of hostilities in South Africa. When we are accused of lack of patriotism in putting forward criticism we think necessary in regard to the Territorial Army, I say it is more patriotic to do that than to delude the country into the belief that all is well with our second line of defence. I do not wish to weary the Committee with a list of figures in regard to this matter, they are all contained in the Government's own official returns, but let us take the salient facts. Here is a force, which, according to the official returns, is short by 800 officers and 45,000 men in strength. These figures were given to us only in January of this year.
§ Mr. LEE
I doubt whether there is any great improvement in the Territorial Force between the 1st January and now. We can only go by the latest official Returns. Then you have the training, which, even at best, is absurdly meagre, and only 58 per cent. of the force attended the full training during last year, which was so 402 exceptional, and 32,500 men of the force never attended any training at all. Then you had the standard of musketry, in respect of which only 53,000 men qualified out of 179,000 for the musketry course, and about 80,000 were not examined at all. You have, therefore, a force which has increased in cost from £7 to £11 per head, compared with the old Volunteers, and it costs in round figures £1,000,000 more than the old Volunteers, while it has an actual strength of 8,000 men less; and you have a force of which the armament is inferior to that of any enemy with which it is likely to be confronted. We heard some remarks on the subject by the hon. Member for Kirkcudbrightshire. I do not wish to remind the Committee too accurately of his extraordinary remarks with regard to artillery, but, at any rate, this force is armed with the rifle that the Regular Army has discarded.
§ Colonel SEELY
It is not desirable that we should be at cross purposes in regard to this matter. What the hon. Gentleman said was that the Territorial Army is to be armed with the rifle which the Regular Army discarded.
§ Mr. LEE
I said "is armed." I was not talking about the future. I do not know what is going to happen. I was only taking his words up, and I think I am justified in the remarks I made. I am convinced that it is a profound fallacy to think you can arm amateurs, comparatively untrained troops, with an inferior weapon.
§ Major M'MICKING
Would the hon. Gentleman have suggested that the Territorial Army should have been armed with the 18-pounder?
§ Mr. LEE
I should not have done so for this reason, that I did suggest, and suggested in most emphatic terms, that the Territorial Army should have no field artillery at all, but, if they were to have artillery, then they ought to have the very best. On this point I may venture to speak with some little authority not possessed by other Members of this House. My experience of war is extremely limited, but on 403 one occasion when it was my duty not only to be present, but to study the war, to see the lessons afforded for our own Army in the operations of another army, I saw the most striking illustration that has ever been afforded in the history of war of the folly and of the wickedness of arming comparatively untrained troops with inferior weapons. In the course of the Spanish-American war not only was this very policy tried, but the American War Office sent the very best volunteer regiments down to Cuba. They told them the opinion of the experts—and the men absolutely believed it—that when they were armed with the old Springfield rifle they were armed with a weapon better suited to their requirements, and that it was in all respects an efficient weapon for war. These volunteers went with the utmost confidence into action. What was the result? The very moment they came under the fire of the superior rifle in the hands of the Spaniards a spectacle was seen which I hope no one in this House will ever witness. I saw with my own eyes that volunteer regiment become paralysed and demoralised under the fire of the superior weapon, and they had to lie down in the roads until the Regular troops marched over their backs to the front. It was no fault of these men, for they were as brave as any men, but the fault was due to their being armed with an inferior weapon. It was because of this that men, who were not trained to iron discipline, became demoralised, and inevitably demoralised.
When one has seen a spectacle of that kind it is burned into one's consciousness and is never forgotten. I say that this is the time, when we have the opportunity, to protest against this measure of economy, for it is nothing else, of arming the second line of comparatively untrained troops, who, as the Government contemplate, may have to face the best trained men in Europe, with a weapon which would be inferior to that of the enemy. It cannot be denied that the Territorial Army is badly armed and equipped, that it is dwindling in number, that it is increasing in cost, and that it is unsuited to the only vital European emergency with which we are likely to be faced. The whole policy of the Government with regard to this question is one long refusal to face the facts. The Territorial Army is not fitted for war; it is not even ready to preserve our homes in the case of a great war. It is expressly 404 excluded from the duty for which it is peculiarly fitted, and there is a general conspiracy to ignore the truth with regard to the situation, while it is said that it is ungracious and unpatriotic to criticise that force. We hear a great deal of foolish compliments about the Territorial Force. We are told that they are "wonderful considering," and that they have made extraordinary progress. Progress from what to what? We are told that they are gallant fellows. We all know that they are gallant fellows, and they deserve every possible credit for what they are doing. It is not their fault; the fault lies upon the heads of politicians and administrators at the War Office, who lead them to suppose they are fitted to undertake responsibilities of warfare. I say this complacent attitude towards the Territorial Force is either politics or it is nonsense, and I am not sure it is not both. At any rate I am quite sure it is unfair to the Territorials themselves, and might perhaps, in a great emergency, be fatal to the country.
If this system is to be maintained, then I venture to say that there is no argument whatever and no reply whatever to the advocates of compulsory service. Their arguments are logically irrevocable on this question, and politically impregnable. I am not a member of the National Service League, but this question of compulsory training, I do not care what party is concerned, is not, and never will be, made a party question. It is not, and will not. I do say this to the advocates of compulsory service, the National Service League, and I advise them to go ahead and to endeavour to educate public opinion on this question, because their opportunity will come with the first compulsory embodiment of the Territorial Army. If it lasts more than a month it will, for good and all, destroy the Territorial Army so far as the voluntary system is concerned. Meanwhile, if the amount of expenditure upon national defence is limited, and I do not admit it is limited by any consideration except of the minimum necessary for national safety, then I say we are bound to devote every penny that we have, first of all, to our primary line of defence, the Navy; and, secondly, to our Regular Army, or the first line, the Expeditionary Force; and, thirdly, or perhaps two and three should go together, to provide the very finest armament that any army in the world has to compensate for our inferior numbers. Lastly and fourthly, and only then if there is a surplus. I think that we should devote that to that portion of our 405 military forces which are non-effective. The policy of the Secretary of State for War is exactly the reverse of that. He is reducing, or has reduced, our only effective fighting force, and he has started of late to provide funds for the popular army, the Second Line. I say that that policy, root and branch, is one which we are entitled to condemn.
I pass from that lo another point of very much less importance, and one to which I am exceedingly sorry to have to refer at all. It is a somewhat unpleasant subject, but a great question of principle is involved. I refer to the strange and irregular position which is occupied at the present time by the military correspondent of the "Times" newspaper. I say that a serious question is involved in this matter I am sure there is no precedent for it, and I am equally sure that there is grave objection to paying, or partially paying, a newspaper representative out of public funds, and giving him an official post in the War Office, where he is in a position to secure information which is not available to other papers or to other people. We have had an example of that power to secure information only recently in regard to the premature publication of the Annual General Report of the British Army. Here is a newspaper correspondent who is shown actually on the strength of the Imperial General Staff in the Estimates, and who has accommodation inside the War Office. Whilst on this point I must refer to the extraordinary denial of the Secretary of State for War in another place when he stated that this gentleman had no office, no room in the War Office.
§ Mr. LEE
All I can say is, he ought to have known. If he did not know, why did he state that there was no accommodation? Why did he not say that he did not know, instead of which he told us that this gentleman had no room at the War Office. Then the unfortunate Under-Secretary has to get up here, and has to explain, in order to cover the mistake of his chief, that this gentleman had no allotted room in the War Office in the sense of a room with his name on the door. Really I think the Secretary of State's equivocation in regard to this point deepens the ugly impression which the whole incident has caused.
§ Colonel SEELY
If there be blame in that respect it is my blame, and not that of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State said this officer had not got a room because he believed he had not got a room. It was not surprising that he did not know he had a room, because he had not any room in the ordinary sense in which other people have rooms, and the Secretary of State could not be expected to know every room in the War Office. It was my equivocation, if there was any, and not that of the Secretary of State who made a mistake.
§ Mr. LEE
It was not true anyhow. In criticising this arrangement I do not wish to suggest that it is any discredit to the "Times" newspaper. On the contrary, from their point of view, it is most commendable piece of journalistic enterprise, and it is the envy of all their contemporaries. But I do think there is a real and very serious objection from the public point of view. The Secretary of State is a profound student of Continental conditions, and he knows that the Press correspondent who is under financial obligations to the Government is one of the most objectionable features of European bureaucracy. Whilst I do not suggest that the military correspondent of the "Times" writes his eulogies of the Secretary of State for War or his attacks upon the Unionist party to order, at the same time I do say that the fact that he is a paid servant of the War Office does deprive those remarks of any weight they might otherwise possess. I admit he is in a very difficult position. He is called upon to ride two horses at once, and everyone knows you cannot do that without keeping them very close together. The arrangement which has been made is admittedly an excellent one for the "Times." I think it is an exceedingly fortunate one for the Secretary of State for War. But where do the public come in? They only pay. Whilst everybody recognises the great ability of the military 407 correspondent of the "Times," and whilst we are always glad to listen to any of his criticisms in so far as they are independent and impartial, yet I venture to say it is not compatible with public interests, and I will go further and say it is an administrative scandal that whilst a gentleman should be occupying that ostensibly impartial independent position that he should be actually in the pay of the very Department which he professes to criticise. I do consider some explanation is due from the representative of the War Office with regard to this anomalous and, as I think, exceedingly objectionable position.
I pass to my last point, which is less contentious, but I hope equally interesting, the subject of aviation. We on this side, and I am sure hon. Gentlemen in every quarter of the House, must welcome the substantial though lamentably tardy action which the Government have taken with regard to this matter. The Government blindness and indifference in the past with regard to military aviation, with regard to this new arm which may quite conceivably revolutionise modern warfare, have gone so far as to become a national peril, and but for the action which has been taken by the Government in the present Estimates there would undoubtedly have been a concentrated and determined attack by all who are interested in this question. Particularly so is that the case when we realise what the situation would have been last summer if our Expeditionary Force had to go to war. It would have been the only one of the armies which would have been likely to have been engaged which would have been without eyes. I say deliberately without eyes in the modern sense. They would have been able to send practically no flying men with that Army for the purpose of gaining information, and that would have subjected our Army to a handicap which might have been fatal. I know the right hon. Gentleman himself is not to blame in this matter, and we have been particularly lenient towards him about it. I know he has done his best, at least since he was inoculated at Hendon, and that without his help and pressure we should never have got the scheme which we have got to-day. To that extent we thank him sincerely. I wish to say one or two words with regard to the scheme itself. In the first place I should like to recognise the broad national framework which has been 408 adopted. Apparently the intention is to institute a service which is not to be a mere appenage of the Royal Engineers. And fortunately it does away with the air battalion which really has become a farce, and which I am very glad to hear has been taken off. Then I am sure that it is perfectly sound that in this matter there should be a National Flying Corps with the Army and Navy to co-operate rather than make it a purely War Office concern. On this occasion we are not permitted to discuss anything but the Army side of it, but as far as that is concerned, the Government I am sure is proceeding on right lines; that is to say, that before anything else they are trying to get a sufficient strength and reserve of flying men. That is the point which the Parliamentary Aerial Defence Committee ventured to urge, namely, that whilst you are waiting for the best aeroplanes and the best instruments, at any rate get men who are able to fly. I am glad to see that that scheme has been put first. There has been no excuse for the delay which has taken place with regard to this most important matter.
I come to the Central Flying School and its accessories. All that seems to be admirable as far as one can judge from the right hon. Gentleman's statement. I would like to know why it is that £90,000 has got to be spent on land for this school in view of the very large holdings which the War Office already possess on Salisbury Plain. The sum told off for aviation seems to be large, but out of it £90,000 goes for land and £38,000 for building, and I do not know how much more for the school and various accessories. The result is that very little is left for the provision of actual flying men and flying machines which are essential. When we compare the provision which has been made with that of Germany or France—France is voting over a million pounds, of which £300,000 is devoted to the purchase of aeroplanes alone—our Vote does look unsubstantial. But, at any rate, I may be permitted, on behalf of the Parliamentary Aerial Defence Committee, heartily to approve of the Government's action in undertaking the immediate purchase of a considerable number of aeroplanes of any make, British or foreign, that happen to be efficient. After all, what is wanted is to give our Army the necessary eyes at the earliest possible moment, and particularly to give those eyes to our Expeditionary Force. In that way the Government are 409 proceeding on sound lines. They have evolved a scheme by which the Expeditionary Force is to be equipped as soon as possible with a complete aeroplane corps or a series of aeroplane squadrons. I am sure that that is right, and I hope that they will spare no effort to complete that equipment at the earliest possible moment. But do not let them forget that the Army will need eyes in this country also. The closer the country the more need of them. We need sufficient equipment for Home defence also. I hope that that will not be forgotten.
It is also satisfactory that the Government are doing something to encourage private enterprise in this matter. After all, the pioneers who have risked their lives and (heir money in bringing this business to the practical point where the Government can take it up have deserved well of the country. I think the Government is doing a good deal to encourage them. I would ask, however, that the Government should not limit the number of the officers who may be permitted to get the Aero Club certificate at any of these flying schools and to receive the £75 indemnity from the Government as the result. At this stage you cannot have too many flying men. It is not sufficient merely to fill up the ranks of your flying corps. When you consider Home defence and the necessities of the Army abroad, it is of the utmost importance that you should get every man able to fly that you can. The wastage in case of war would be enormous. Therefore I hope the Government will place no restrictions on the amount expended in that way. I hope also, that although the right hon. Gentleman has not been able to make a statement in regard to it at present, adequate remuneration will be given to the officers and men who take part in this Service. We always have our difficulties in getting money out of the Treasury, whatever Government is in power, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will press this point. These men who take part in this extremely perilous service deserve just as well of their country as those who take part in another Service, which is occasionally perilous, I mean the Submarine Service in the Navy. They ought to be treated at least as well, and I hope we shall have an assurance on that point. Finally, I trust that the independence of this new Flying Corps will be secured; that it will be taken out of the hands of any vested interest in the War Office; that it 410 will have some representative of the War Office who is a whole-time chief, and that it will be taken out of the hands of any overworked officer such as the Master-General of Ordnance, who really has not time to attend to a matter of this importance. I hope the commandant of the new school will be an officer of sufficiently high rank and prestige to command the attention of the military public. What is wanted at this stage is not only prestige, but daring, enterprise, initiative, and, particularly, no tethering of the aeroplane or the Flying Corps to the apron-strings of the War Office. I venture very respectfully to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon his personal efforts as chairman of the Committee which produced this scheme, to beg him not to rest on his oars in regard to this great matter, and to assure him that if he requires or is willing to accept any assistance from this side of the House in regard to the establishment of this picked and essential Army Service he will receive it in no small measure.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Tennant)
The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. A. Lee), who has a large and intimate acquaintance with the Army and matters military, has made an interesting speech. My knowledge of the Army is neither large nor intimate, but there are two or three points made by the hon. Gentleman to which I think I ought to reply at once. The hon. Gentleman opened his attack upon the policy of the present Government by saying that, since the South African War, conditions of warfare generally had altered enormously, and that we had taken no steps to meet those altered conditions. I absolutely challenge that statement. I am informed by my advisers that at no period in the history of the British Army were we able to mobilise so quickly as we should be able to do at the present moment. That is an enormously important step. I do not wish to go into the number of hours and days; I do not think that would be in the public interest; but it is of vital importance that we should know that we are better prepared and better equipped for mobilisation now than at any previous period. Nearly every hon. Member who has spoken has had a shot with our rifle, so that I feel inclined to load it and have a shot myself. The Noble Lord opposite said, I believe, that our rifle was an obsolete weapon.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The short rifle. I know that the Noble Lord and the right hon. Member for Dover tried to make merry of the fact that there are three rifles with which our troops are armed and two sorts of ammunition; but the right hon. Gentleman omitted to inform the House that both kinds of ammunition fit all three rifles, so that there is really not much to be alarmed at in that respect. It is true that re-sighting is necessary for certain distances. I do not want to drag up controversial matters, but I may remind the House that it is not only at distances of 800 or 900 yards that you may have to shoot with any rifle. There are other distances, as perhaps the Noble Lord is aware. When you get to greater distances, such as 1,500 or 2,000 yards, the existing rifle with which our troops are armed is very much superior in both striking force and energy to that of any Continental army.
§ Mr. TENNANT
We do not think that we have got the best rifle the world will ever see; that would be an absurd proposition. Although the bullet belonging to a great Continental nation always has the highest velocity up to 1,500 yards, at 1,600 yards Mark VII. .303 catches it up, and beyond that range has the higher striking velocity. So that when you get to 1,600 yards our Mark VII. .303 has a velocity of 808 f.s., the same as that of a great Continental nation; while when you tome to 2,000 yards, our figure is 693 f.s., as against their 677. Not only that, but in regard to striking energy up to 900 yards, that of the Continental nation is better than ours, but at 1,000 yards ours is 408 ft. lbs., against their 396; while at 2,000 yards ours is 185 as compared with 157. These figures show that our rifle is a very useful weapon. There can be no doubt about that.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I do not think it is desirable to mention names. But passing from rifles to ammunition, I may inform the House that our provision of ammunition at the present moment is, I believe, greater than it has ever been before. I am also instructed to inform the House that the full requirements of the military advisers of the Crown are provided for in 412 this year's Estimates. The hon. Member brought a long indictment against the Territorial Force which, if it meant anything at all, means that it was not equipped and ready to fight against the pick of the Continental troops that might be arrayed against it. I do not know whether the hon. Member will answer these few questions. Was it possible ten years ago for the third line of defence to meet the picked troops of the Continent? Is it the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite so to equip and train their third line of defence that it will be able to meet these same troops? If it is, they will have to embark upon a very much larger measure of expenditure than anything that has yet been contemplated.
§ Mr. LEE
The hon. Gentleman asks me a definite question. My answer is that unless the Territorial Force has to fight against the best picked troops of the Continent, it will never have to fight at all. Nobody else can invade us. Therefore it will never have to fight against anybody else. Unless your third line, as the hon. Member calls it, is fit to take part in such a war it is perfectly useless to spend any money upon it at all.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I cannot think that it has ever been contemplated that the Territorial Force would have to meet the troops of a Continental Power by themselves without training. [An HON. MEMBER: "How long."] I do not know how long it would take. That is a military matter in which I cannot attempt to instruct the House. I pass now to the question of the military correspondent of the "Times." There may be a good deal to be said against any gentleman acting in a dual capacity. I dare say there is, but I think the hon. Gentleman went too far in his recriminations against the Secretary of State, and against my right hon. Friend the I Under-Secretary. Surely none of us are infallible, not even hon. Gentlemen opposite. I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the House, that this gentleman, who is the military correspondent of the "Times," and who, the hon. Gentleman says, habitually criticises and attacks the party which he adorns—
§ Mr. TENNANT
I rather gathered that the hon. Member said that the attacks were mainly directed against the Liberal party. In point of fact, I rather think 413 that the attacks are pretty equal against both sides of the House. My right hon. Friend near to me is going to reply to the whole of the Debate later and with this and some other points that I have referred to. Perhaps, however, I may be allowed to deal with one or two observations which fell from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Melton (Colonel Yate). He dealt with the question of officers' allowances, etc. This question, I think, ought to be taken up as a whole. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for State has made a promise, and I think it would have been fulfilled if it had not been for the extraordinary services that we have had to provide for. This is a lean year. We have made in these Estimates large provision for forage, ammunition, and various other things. I think I may use a phrase which is in the first paragraph of the Memorandum, which says, "These things have only been accomplished by the exercise of the strictest economy in other directions." If it had not been for this we should not have failed to deal with this most difficult question.
With regard to officers' furniture, I remind the Committee that when, the War Office took over the furniture of the mess rooms, and of the officers generally, they paid hard cash for it. The 2d. a day for field officers and the 1d. for company officers, which is now charged, is rent and maintenance charges merely. I assure the House that the War Office does not make a profit on this transaction. The Noble Lord is not convinced.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
The statement hardly squares with the hon. Gentleman's predecessor last year; but I will refer to the matter afterwards.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I will give the Noble Lord the figures I possess. With regard to married officers' quarters, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Melton made a complaint that there was £10,000 only put aside in the Estimate. On the preceding line he will see that there is £25,000 to provide officers' quarters on Salisbury Plain. There are several other items. Curragh officers' quarters are mentioned twice; Lichfield, and another one. Then there is hut accommodation for officers.
If that is at Tidworth, will the hon. Gentleman tell me where the hut accommodation is?
§ Mr. TENNANT
There is here £20,000 for hut accommodation. With regard to the complaint of the hon. Member about the cost of the coal and gas, I shall be very glad if he can furnish me with details and the name of the regiment, and I will have the matter looked into. I cannot help thinking it must be a mistake. In regard to bands, there was a Committee under Lord Stanley, now Lord Derby, in 1903. That Committee went most fully into these questions. I have the report of that Committee here. It is Command Paper No. 1421, 1903. It is a very interesting report. They found that the necessary working expenses of a band of twenty-six performers came to £160 per year. The Government had previously been giving an allowance of £80. One hundred and sixty pounds was then-given. It was considered quite sufficient. That is the sum now given. I should like to recommend a perusal of the Report of this Committee to hon. Members considering these questions.
As to the employment of ex-soldiers, I may inform the House that there is a Committee now sitting, under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Ward, to consider how particulars of ex-soldiers and their characters are to be recorded for the information of civilian employers, and I hope that the proceedings of that Committee may be very useful. It is very important that civilian employers should know for what duties ex-soldiers on their discharge may be fitted, and whether his character is really as good as it seems to be on paper.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
No offences, I suppose, will be taken account of which are merely small military-offences.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I am not able to give a promise, but the whole of this question is being gone into by the Committee, and I have no doubt that as the Noble Lord has asked that question in public, it will be taken into consideration. The hon. and gallant Gentleman rather charges us with doing nothing in this matter of the employment of ex-soldiers. On the contrary, I find a great deal is already being done. He made a comparison with France. Of course we cannot expect to do as much as France. We have not got the kind of arrangement that exists between a Conscript Army and the 415 Government. France has so many more Government appointments; but we are doing our best. Out of 69,000 persons holding appointments in Government Departments on 31st March, 1911, as messengers, postmen, caretakers, and park keepers, etc., 16,800, or 24 per cent., were ex-soldiers and sailors. What I want to tell the House is that not only is there 24 per cent. now, but that that number is an increasing number. It is only within recent years that the Departments have been asked, almost cajoled, to employ ex-soldiers. Considerable pressure has been brought to bear upon them, and perhaps in the course of time, not two or three years hence, but ten years say, the present number will be considerably enhanced.
With regard to the numbers employed in other Government Departments, I would rather refer the Committee to the Army Annual Report, page 14, where the hon. Member will find all these figures. He will find that of twenty-six vacancies for park keepers in the Royal Parks during the year, all were filled by ex-soldiers. That is an illustration of what we are doing, though I admit it is rather a good one. If hon. Members will take the trouble to look at this report they will see that a great deal has been done. We are trying to stimulate Government Departments to employ ex-soldiers so that we may not have this really bitter cry, as we have had in the past, of men who, having served their country, have no means of livelihood.
§ Earl WINTERTON
There is one point I should like to refer to—that is the subject of the employment of Colonel Repington. I fully agree with even word that has been uttered by my hon. Friend as to the unpleasantness of this subject, and I do not intend to refer to it at any length. But I think it will be the opinion of the Committee that the hon. Gentleman's reply did not meet the case at all. The point is this: that for the first time in the history of the War Office and of our military administration, a gentleman, I do not care how great his services in the past may have been to the British Army, how great his knowledge of military law and tactics, is being employed in the dual capacity of Pressman and Government official. If the Government think it desirable that there should in this country be started an office of this kind as a military Press vehicle we have nothing more to say. But we are entitled, what- 416 ever may be our opinion as to the personal merits of Colonel Repington, to protest to the utmost of our ability against this dual appointment of a man who is already a Pressman to represent the Press office, and to be an official of the Government.
The position, as one of my hon. Friends has said, may be successful. The War Office may possibly consider the appointment in the public interest. I do not think it is. It certainly detracts from the value of the views expressed by Colonel Repington in the public Press, and I do not envy Colonel Repington his position. Previous to this office he held in this country a position as a Pressman and writer on military subjects which I am quite willing to admit was a unique one. No military writer of our day expresses his views more clearly and lucidly, though I do not always agree with him. He has been in the happy position of being an independent Pressman, writing with full knowledge of military affairs. He is now nothing more or less than a Government official, employed by the Government, and his views cease to have the value they once had. We are entitled, I think, to protest against that position.
There are other matters which have been raised in the course of this Debate, and in the course of the Debate yesterday of far greater importance to hon. Members than the case of Colonel Repington. I was very glad that my right hon. Friend, if I may say so, pursued a line which has been pursued in these Debates for perhaps the first time—certainly it is the first time so far as I remember—while the Army Estimates or Vote A has been in Committee. I have been here now for eight years. For the first time we have had a full and frank discussion, not of mere details, but of the primary and fundamental questions of military expense and equipment. I must say on that point I was rather surprised to see to-day in one of the newspapers that support the Government a statement to the effect that it was almost a farce in this time of national crisis that the House should be discussing military Estimates. I cannot imagine a greater confusion of thought than that statement showed. Last August this country was nearer to a European war than it has been in the memory of hon. Members of this House, or indeed any man of our generation. The circumstances which caused that crisis have only been very partially removed. Many of them remain to-day. To say that a discussion 417 of our military policy as a whole—and that is the discussion, I am glad to say, that we have had in these Debates—is almost a farce in this time of national crisis, is absolutely to ignore the circumstances of our times. I can only say that should war unhappily take place, the numbers out of employment would be far more than 1,000,000 under a coal strike, and would be something more like 15,000,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] If that is denied by hon. Gentleman opposite, it is not denied by any competent authority in the country. We must remember there are 45,000,000 people in this country. One thing has been established in the course of this Debate, and that is that what might be called for all practical purpose the policy of intervention in the European land war is not only possible but probable. The possibility of it is recognised by the creation of the Expeditionary Force. The probability of it came very near in the events of last August and September, and although obviously it is not in the public interest to discuss the circumstances under which that intervention might take place, it is most certainly in the public interest to press the Government to the fullest extent in our power to tell us whether this policy has been fully considered in all its bearings and its eventualities. I think the very weighty speeches which have been made in this Debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) yesterday, and my hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur Lee) this afternoon have not at all been answered. It is true that the Under-Secretary of State for War has not yet had an opportunity of replying to these speeches, and the Financial Secretary has told us that he has left many of these points to the right hon. Gentleman to answer.
I should like to refer to one or two matters that have not been specifically referred to in the course of this Debate. The first of these is as to the mobilisation of the Reserve. I ask whether, in considering this eventuality and policy, the Government have fully prepared themselves for such a state of affairs as that which I understand existed last August or September, when many regiments quartered in England had their reserves scattered all over England, Scotland, and Ireland, and regiments in Ireland had their reserve scattered over England and Scotland, seeing how long it would take to mobilise the reserves and bring the battalions and regiments up to strength. I ask whether the War Office have con- 418 sidered that point, and whether they recognise that it is absolutely essential, as I suppose will be admitted by every authority on military matters, that the Cavalry should be ready first if an Expeditionary Force is to be dispatched. It is very useful and important to refer to the crisis last August in this connection, and I ask whether at that time the Cavalry had sufficient horses, whether they could be mobilised, and whether it is not a fact, as I have been informed in the last two days by two high military authorities—I will not mention their names—that the Cavalry were not ready, and that it was impossible to dispatch them in time with the Expeditionary Force, whereas they would have to be sent first? I should like to quote the words of Colonel Repington, whom we have been so much discussing. He said, in an article on the Cavalry, that last August we could not have mobilised our Cavalry properly with trained horses, and that of those horses that were boarded out not more than 40 per cent. were effective for immediate work—the House will remember that there was a scheme for boarding out Cavalry horses with farmers and others—and if these facts are true they are very serious. It is true that since then I believe thirty horses have been added to the peace estimate in Cavalry regiments.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The very fact that that number, which I regard as ridiculously inadequate, is added to each regiment indicates that the Cavalry was not ready last August, and I think this is a matter that can be very usefully criticised without affecting the public interest. There is another point. I see from the Memorandum published with the Estimates for 1912–13 it is stated that the recent manœuvres brought prominently to notice the large number of horses in the ranks of the Cavalry regiments at home which would not be fit, at the outbreak of war, for the hard work they would be required to do. This Expeditionary Force is in existence for six years, and many of ns understand it is part of our obligation to assist a foreign Power with the Expeditionary Force which should be ready for dispatch at short notice. It is only now, after six years, we discovered that in one of its most important branches there is a very great deficiency. Who is responsible, and who is to be made responsible in future, to see that this does not happen again?
419 There is even a more serious point not referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dover in the course of his speech yesterday, and that is the case of what might be called the screen Cavalry in connection with the Expeditionary Force. I refer to the brigade which is made up of Mounted Infantry. This Cavalry has been referred to by the "Times" military correspondent, and he makes this point against it which I believe to be absolutely true—namely, that it is unfit for European warfare, that it is one of those unfortunate legacies of the South African war, and that it is an unfortunate obsession of the lessons learned in the South African war; secondly, that it is untrained, as I know from experience, because the Mounted Infantry is trained near where I reside; thirly, its mobilisation would deprive the Infantry of some of their most valuable material in physique and men. The "Times" correspondent stated it was the weakness of our Expeditionary Force that it had to rely on these mounted brigades. I think the time has arrived either for bringing home some Cavalry regiment from South Africa or else establishing another Cavalry regiment, o-r for making some other provisions. To continue that Mounted Infantry for screen Cavalry is really to rely upon a very broken reed. All these points mentioned, and many more, shows the inexhaustible trustfulness of the Government to luck should a war break out, and show the incredible optimism of the Secretary of State for War. After six years' experience, he does nothing but continue to praise the progress already made. I thank that no answer has been given from the Front Bench opposite or by other hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken to the points made that our Reserves are absolutely insufficient to stand the strain of six weeks or two months in a European war.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover referred to the case of the Special Reserve, and he pointedly asked the Government what in case of war are to be his functions. I ask the Under-Secretary to tell us why it is that the medical statistics as to the Special Reserve with regard to age, height, and weight are not given, although they are given in the case of the Regular Army. There is a report published by the Public Health Department, and on page 2 a very exhaustive statement is given as to the height, weight, etc., of the Regular Army, 420 but not for the Special Reserve. We know why it is not given in the case of the Territorials; the figures would be so awful that I do not think any Government would dare put them on paper; but in the case of the Special Reserve it is nothing short of a scandal that the country should not have been informed as to the medical statistics. Anyone who has seen the Special Reserve, as I have, at work will agree with me when I say that, judging from their outward appearance, which, I quite admit, is not always a true test, their physique is not very good. We have in the case of the Special Reserve the very worst class and the most difficult class of men that one could possibly have from the point of developing their physique. They are boys taken at sixteen or eighteen years of age, when their first physical growth has ended. They are not kept in many cases long enough to be trained sufficiently to bring them up to the proper Army standard, and I personally think that the physique of the-boy messenger or the boy telegraph messenger is superior. Why? Because they are taken from the ages of thirteen to six-teen. They are very carefully drilled, and their physical health is attended to. I say they would give much better statistics than do the men of the Special Reserve. I do not believe the Special Reserve could possibly stand the strain of a campaign.
I desire to ask whether there are any reassuring figures to be obtained on a point which is almost as important as the question of the supply of horses for the Cavalry—namely, as to the provision made for mechanical transport. Last year, at the time of the crisis, I happened to be in France, and was privileged to watch the French Army manœuvres. The full war transport was there mobilised, and was following the troops. I do not think the full transport of our Expeditionary Force could be got ready at sixteen days' notice or a month's notice. This is really a most essential portion of the equipment of the Expeditionary Force. Upon all these points I think the country and the Committee would welcome assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that matters are being inquired into and that steps were being taken to remedy defects. I can see no greater benefit which the Under-Secretary could confer upon the country than if he could assure us that these matters are being carefully looked into. It is his duty to do so, and we shall hope to learn from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that something is being done. There is one point to which I desire 421 to refer in regard to the rifle, and it has reference to what was said by the hon. Gentleman opposite in the course of his speech. Do I understand the hon. Gentleman opposite makes himself responsible for the statement that our ammunition, can be used in all the three rifles?
§ Earl WINTERTON
I thought the hon. Member had taken up a new point, but I find he has not done so, for this is the old point that you could not use this ammunition without resighting, and in time of war there would be absolute chaos, for you would have your men bringing up three different kinds of ammunition. I am amazed that the hon. Gentleman opposite has not recognised that the case of the rifle put by the Leader of the Opposition has never been answered, and there is overwhelming justification for what my right hon. Friend said in another place on that subject. I understand that the Under-Secretary for War denies the point made by my hon. Friend that the Territorials are armed with a rifle that has been discarded by the Regular Forces. I say that they are armed with a rifle that has been discarded by the Regular Forces. It may be a good or a bad rifle, but it is not up to the standard of modern rifles. On what possible grounds, either in regard to efficiency or economy, can you justify the fact that your Home Defence Army has an inferior rifle to your Expeditionary Force?
§ Earl WINTERTON
That is not the point. The point is that it has been discarded by the Regular Army because it is not considered to be as good as the short rifle. It has been discarded by the War Office, and that point has never been answered. Upon the question of Territorials generally, I wish to ask, Do the Government still continue to rest their case on the assumption that six months' preliminary training is sufficient to equip the Territorials for war? If that is so, who is going to be responsible for garrisoning this country and putting down civil disturbances when the Ex- 422 peditionary Force is abroad, as would have been the case last September if war had broken out, for then we should only have had 2,000 Regular troops left in the country. Does the hon. Gentleman think that the Territorial Force is in such a state of efficiency in regard to training that it is fit to undertake the very responsible, arduous and most difficult duties that any soldier can be called upon to perform, namely, the duty of preventing civil disturbances? Who would have garrisoned this country had the Expeditionary Force been dispatched last August? The only possible troops to do this would have been the Territorial, and you would in that event have been in a state very little short of a national disaster. I want to try and clear up a misapprehension on the part of the Under-Secretary for War which he has created on the subject of the number of the Territorial Force, because on two occasions he has stated emphatically and categorically that the Territorial Force has not dwindled in numbers. On 1st January, 1907, which was the last year of the old Militia, the total was 359,620 men of all ranks. On 1st January, 1910, the Special Reserve and Territorial Force of all ranks totalled 342,223. On 1st January, 1911, the total was 330,610, and on 1st January, 1912, the total had fallen to 327,862. How in face of those figures can it be contended, as it has been twice contended, that there is no dwindling in the number of the Territorial Force?
§ Mr. TENNANT
May I draw the Noble Lord's attention to the following paragraph which appears on page 3 of the Secretary of State for War's Memorandum:—Although the figures as regards officers are somewhat disappointing, the increase in the numbers on the active list is to some extent made good by an increase of 112 in the Territorial Force Reserve. As regards other ranks, it is satisfactory to note that whilst the total increase for the past year is only 101, that for the quarter ending 31st December, 1911, amounted to 1,816, and this rate of progress shows signs of being maintained.
§ Earl WINTERTON
That may be the point which the hon. Member now makes, but it is not the point made by the Under-Secretary for War. His point was that the Territorial Force was not dwindling in numbers, and I took down his words. An hon. Friend of mine said the number of this force was dwindling, but the Under-Secretary for War shook his head, and said, "No," and he gave a similar denial yesterday. I have lumped the Territorial Force and the Special Reserve together, 423 but my point is proved if I take the Territorial Force alone. I will give the figures of the Territorial Force alone. On 1st January, 1910, the Territorial Force numbered 271,757. On 1st January, 1911, the total was 266,852, and on 1st January, 1912, the figures were 265,911. Is that dwindling or is it not? These figures were given by the Under-Secretary in reply to a question on the 22nd February. I do not accuse the right hon. Gentleman of having deliberately misled the House, but I do say that his figures were most misleading. He did not give the latest figures, which show that the Territorial Force is dwindling and has been dwindling ever since 1910, and there was a serious decrease in 1911 and 1912.
How are you going to stop that? You reached long ago the booming time of recruiting in the Territorial Army, and you will never have that boom again. There seems nothing whatever really done to arrest the progress of decay which is going on at the present time. What is the policy of the Secretary of State for War to deal with the rot which has set in? My hon. Friend beside me has referred to the kind of eulogies which have been passed on this force by inspectors, generals, and others in official reports as to the keen spirit which animates all ranks. All that is absolutely futile and beside the point, because nobody denies that these men are keen, because if they were not they would not give up their scanty leisure to do the work of others who shirk their duty. That does not affect the main question, which is whether this force in adequate for your second line of defence. If it is not improving, but as a matter of fact is dwindling in numbers, as I think we have shown, what is the use of maintaining this Force any longer on its present basis? The Financial Secretary made a remarkable admission, because he said that he admitted that the Territorial troops cannot fight Continental troops by themselves.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The hon. Member said by themselves. Admitting my premise that last September the Expeditionary Force had been dispatched, you would have had the Territorials alone to defend these shores. They would have had very little training, and it is quite true that they will never fight Continental troops by themselves while their method 424 of training is what it is at the present time. I will quote on this point from the Report of the Inspector-General on the Territorial Force which will prove what I am going to say. I think we are entitled to ask the Government what they are going to do with regard to this shortage of numbers, and the obvious defects in training and organisation which has been pointed out by their own Inspector-General. In his last Report the Inspector-General said:—Squadrons are much hampered during their annual training by recruits who are without the elementary knowledge necessary to fit them for the ranks. … In my opinion, the Territorial Mounted Artillery is the arm which will be the most difficult to bring to a high standard of fighting efficiency. For this purpose a longer period of continuous training after embodiment than for the other arms will be necessary.The Inspector-General further goes on to say of the Territorial Artillery:—It would be of great advantage if the services of Territorial artillerymen were not accepted for less than the total fifteen days' training. Eight days, when trenched upon by Sundays, wet days, etc., are too few to be of much value, and many eight-day men fail to be present at the practice of these units. The above was strongly recommended at the meeting of Territorial Commandants, Royal Artillery, held last year.What has been done to remedy that state of affairs? The Inspector-General goes on to make other equally damaging references to the training of this force. And what has been done to remedy all this, and what is being done to prepare for the greatest national crisis this country has ever had to face—namely, the growing possibility of a European war within the next five years? Nothing at all is being done. Books are being written by Sir Ian Hamilton, and other literary generals have made contributions, but nothing has been done to remedy this state of things. It has been suggested within some quarters, and I have seen it suggested in the Liberal Press, that we on this side of the House should be prepared to bring forward a scheme to take the place of that which is at present in existence. It is no part of our business to put forward an alternative scheme. The Government are responsible for the defence of the country. They are in power, and they have been in power for six years. It is their scheme, which was heralded with such a flourish of trumpets. We were told that at last we had a Heaven-born War Minister, and that for the first time in our history we had a man who understood military problems. We were told that he was such a thinker, and that he congratulated himself that he had time to study in his room while others were only drilling, fitting themselves for the defence of their 425 country. What is the result? We have this Territorial scheme, which is breaking down. We say to the Government, they must put something in its place or stop the great leaks which have occurred. I do not think they will be able to do so. It is not much use stopping one hole in a sieve. Even if they are able to do away with the present defects, the force will still be fundamentally unfitted for the purpose for which it is intended. We on this side of the House will support the Government in any effort which really carries out that purpose. It is no part of our business, however, to suggest an alternative. It is the business of the House and of every patriotic man to point out the defects which exist, and I am very pleased a strong line has been taken on this subject. I hope the country will realise the real danger that lies in the existence of this sham force.
§ Mr. W. CROOKS
After the speech we have just heard one wonders whether there is any England at all, and whether there is any Army. It was an excellent speech to make our flesh creep. I wonder what the Army generally will think of the expressions of opinion about them. There used to be a time when if we got 100,000 men everyone was full of their praises, but now all we hear is that they are absolutely unable to do anything. I have heard speeches about horses in this House before, and I have seen some marvellous returns submitted to committees on accounts. They were described as "chargers," but the only "charger" about them was the man who took the money for them. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power when that happened. I remember a Bill which will be historic for all time, showing how even one hundred mules were purchased and sent out because they could not get horses enough. Then there was a return about them. Eighty of them were drowned, and the other twenty were never found. All the House knew was that it paid for them. It does not lie in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite, therefore, to say that other people are wanting in their duty. I believe, in spite of the pessimistic speeches which have been made, that there is absolutely no difference in the desire to defend the country in the best possible manner. If one selected little portions of the speeches that have been made and put them into a fairy tale, it would read awful. It would make our flesh creep, and we should imagine we 426 should get no breakfast to-morrow morning. I want to bring hon. Gentlemen back to the ground. I want to ask one or two questions about the domestic happiness of the soldier. We hear a good deal about the officers and the married people's quarters, but it is always the married officers' quarters. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] You see the moment I mention officers, down you come to the ground where I want you. Married officers are allowed 100 per cent., the percentage allowed to non-commissioned officers varies from 50 to 10 per cent., and the private soldier is only allowed 4 per cent.
I want to appeal to the Under-Secretary to see whether he cannot increase the percentages and give better opportunities to the married soldier whose regiment is removed from place to place of conveying his wife and children and furniture free. After all, the strength of the Army depends on the happiness of the men. We want the men contented. If you get a corporal or a sergeant who does not get on with the men you say there is something wrong with him. You always try to make them as happy and contented as possible. I want the War Office to go a little further, and see if they cannot increase the percentage, and say to the commanding officer, "Just make it as easy as you can for the men to convey their wives and furniture from one place to another." There was an order issued a little more than a year ago under which men married on the strength who were within the postal area of London were allowed 6d. per day extra. They welcomed it, and were glad of it. When the garrison in Woolwich asked that they should be allowed the 6d. per day extra they immediately got the answer that Woolwich was outside the postal area. No one would say Woolwich is in the provinces, or that a man in Knightsbridge is any more in London than a man in Woolwich. That is a hardship, and I do not think it is unreasonable to ask that the extra allowance should be extended to the soldiers at Woolwich. We are now within the postal area, and I think you might reconsider the position and extend the allowance to them.
When I heard of more money being allowed to the officers, I thought the private might have a portion. I know how exceedingly generous some officers are in making their men comfortable, but they cannot do everything, and they ought not to be asked to do it as a charity. A year ago the Government promised they 427 would submit a scheme in the next Army Estimates by which certain servants of the Government under the War Office were to be included in a pension scheme of a contributory character. Very little has been heard of that scheme, and the men are getting anxious and want to know whether the Government are going to do anything or not. I would put in a plea whether the time has not arrived for the right hon. Gentleman to say he is not only considering the matter, but is actually going to do something. I have never heard of a Government Department that has not been "considering." I wish somebody would wipe that word out of the dictionary. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would say, "We are not considering; we are going to do it." I hope the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes to reply, will not forget these men who have themselves been endeavouring to work out a scheme. That scheme has been sent to the War Office, and the War Office have sent it back to them. The men are getting older and are still praying for something to be done. Do not give us any more sympathy; give us some help.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. J. C. LYTTELTON
We are told we are going to have a new rifle. That expression is not entirely an accurate one. It is merely a new adaptation of the old rifle. You will never get a new rifle until the automatic rifle is produced. As regards new rifles, we have only had three great changes—the muzzle-loaders, the breech-loaders, and now the magazine and small-bore rifles. I think a great deal too much importance has been given in the controversy now going on touching the rifle to the trajectory and the muzzle velocity of the rifle. It is rather curious, but, if you take every great war that has been fought in one of those groups I have mentioned, you will find the victory always rested with the nation that used the rifle with the lower muzzle velocity and the higher trajectory. In 1857 the Austrian rifle was infinitely superior to the French musket. In 1864 the Danish rifle had a flatter trajectory and a far higher muzzle velocity than the Prussian needle-gun. In 1866 the Austrian Laurenz gun was sighted up to 1,400 yards and the Prussian needle-gun up to 400 yards. Of course I am only dealing now with muzzle velocity and trajectory. If you take other considerations, of course they put a very different complexion on the merits of the two rifles. For instance, the Prussians could fire their 428 needle-gun from cover. What made the difference in the Austrian and Prussian war more than anything else was that the Austrian generals were devoted still to the system of shock tactics for Infantry, and never throughout the whole of that campaign made use of the far greater range of their rifle. Then, of course, in 1877, the Turkish rifle was a far superior weapon to the Russian weapon. In that one group, before you really get to the development of the breech-loading rifle, you see the armies that used the lower trajectory and the higher muzzle velocity invariably on the losing side. When you get to the development of the new rifle, the magazine and the small bore, no comparison can be made. We have only had one instance of that in the Chilian war in 1894. I have spoken of this craze for muzzle velocity and low trajectory, and I want to point out where we are going to. There are pros and cons for and against this system of lightening the bullet, increasing the muzzle velocity, and increasing the charge behind the bullet. In favour of the higher charge and the smaller bullet, and the smaller bore, you get a higher muzzle velocity and a lower trajectory. These give a greater point blank range and an almost continuous danger zone up to 800 yards. Possibly you may get the advantage of greater penetration and perhaps accuracy. Against this new system of making the bore smaller and the bullet lighter you must have a larger cartridge and a larger charger. I do not know if the War Office has worked it out, but it seems to me it means that a lesser amount of ammunition can be carried into the firing line. Then you have the necessity of so constructing the breech mechanism as to withstand the very much higher charge in the breech. During the course of this Debate reference has been made to three different sorts of cartridges. But are there only three? You have the short rifle; it fires with somewhere about fifteen tons per square inch pressure on the bolt; it is tested up to twenty tons, I believe it has been shot up to twenty-four tons, and you get this high amount of velocity with a very low trajectory. You have the rifle under a strain of between twenty and twenty-four tons. The right hon. Gentleman did not say if the cartridge with pointed bullets supplied for use in the old rifle would give as much as twenty tons pressure to the square inch on the bolt or whether that cartridge exerts as great a pressure as that 429 designed to be fired out of the new rifle. Of course this tremendous shock on the bolt cannot be taken regularly on the old bolt; it is obvious some change must be made in the new rifle to take this tremendous discharge. There is only one way in which it can be done with the present bolt to make it a safe bolt. You must carry the shock of discharge right up against the cartridge. That is the system in the Mannlicher and the Mauser. But then you introduce some of the objectionable features we have hitherto withstood, and one of those features is in connection with the difficulty which would arise when the soldiers come to clean the rifles.
In connection with this point I may mention the subject of penetration. It is claimed for the new pointed bullet the Spitzkugel, that it has a penetration far greater than the round-headed bullet. On the other hand, it is claimed that the Spitzkugel bullet turns over on impact, and if that be the case, of course, it eliminates the greater stopping power of the round bullet. If it turns over on impact you have no great penetration. You cannot have both these advantages. You cannot have great penetration and also stopping power attaching to the bullet; you must lose one or the other. My final point is that, under this tremendous velocity, you are wearing out the rifle quicker than would be the case with a more moderate amount of velocity. I have no means of knowing whether the cordite is exactly the same for the new rifle as it was for the old rifle. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I am glad of that. In the old rifle you had a high temperature and a great fouling process after discharge, and if you put a higher charge still behind the bullet in the new rifle the destruction of the bore of the rifle must be very much quicker than in the case of the old rifle. With regard to the accuracy of the Spitzkugel bullet, I have tried extensively both kinds of bullet, and I cannot get anything like accuracy at long ranges out of the pointed bullet. It is affected far more than the round nose bullet by differences in temperature and atmosphere, and particularly if you put the sword on the rifle. I believe it to be the fact that one nation—I will not mention its name—which re-armed its troops, very much more recently than the German 1898 Mauser, with rifles with a big muzzle velocity and comparatively small bullet, found that by reducing the size of the bore of the rifle and bringing down the bullet to a 430 ridiculous weight, they could not get any accuracy in shooting.
I said a little earlier that the next stage would be the automatic rifle, but before we get to that stage there is a very important thing to be thought of. One of the points the right hon. Gentleman made in speaking of the new rifle, was the speed at which it could be fired. You can carry that very much too far. In South Africa, on more than one occasion, it was found if ever the men were at all flurried they let off their rifles as quickly as possible at a time when there was no possible chance of getting a fresh supply of ammunition, should it run short. I believe the authorities have since given attention to that matter. It certainly deserves very careful consideration, because it is a very serious thing in modern tactics to run short of ammunition, and when you have these great distances and low trajectory it is almost impossible to get fresh ammunition from the supports into the firing line. I do not suppose I can hold out any hope to the right hon. Gentleman that even his new rifle will be received with unanimous applause. I do not believe there is a rifle in the world to be produced at the present time, when we are undergoing these extraordinary evolutions in the type of the rifle, the size of the bullet and the strength of the charge, that will absolutely satisfy everybody. You are bound to get criticisms with regard to the size of the magazine and the system of the sighting. In the few remarks I have been privileged to make I have merely wished to emphasise to the Committee the fact that muzzle-velocity and low trajectory are not by any means the only important points. If you have a rifle in more or less the same class and same category as those of foreign nations you find that these points are not by any means all important. The shooting of an army in battle depends upon the skill of the general in giving his men targets that they can scarcely miss, and on the mobility, endurance and discipline of his troops being sufficiently high to carry out his designs.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
I do not propose to deal with the remarks which have fallen from the hon. Member who last spoke. I wish to confine my observations chiefly to the point of the supply of recruits to the Territorial and Regular Forces. In the first place, I wish to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the fact that his efforts to fill the Regular Army have been so 431 successful. I allude to the arrangements made last year for taking in men over the establishment in order to enable men to go away to the Reserve in larger numbers than ordinarily, or than was possible under the special conditions which prevailed some years ago. But this satisfactory state as regards recruiting for the Special Reserve is not maintained in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State. We see that this year there are 1,800 less than last year. Referring to an answer given by the right hon. Gentleman himself on 21st February last, in this House, I find that the Special Reserve then was 28,000 men below the establishment. This falling off in numbers has gone on increasing in the last four years since the Special Reserve was formed, and I think we can fairly deduce from these facts the view that the Special Reserve is dwindling. The right hon. Gentleman dissents, but I would point out that these figures as regards the Territorial Army are actually proved by the figures he himself gave in this House. During the four years 1909 to 1912 there has been a gradual rise in the decrease of men on the establishment. In 1910 the falling-off was 39,000; in 1912 it was 45,000. I cannot see how the right hon. Gentleman can tell us that there has been a great improvement in this matter. There has been a greater increase in the decrease, based on the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman himself.
§ Colonel SEELY
What the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said is quite true. I do not wish to have any misapprehension. I have said it is an increasing force, because there has been a most gratifying increase during the last few months. During the first week of this month the increase has been most remarkable. It was much greater than in any previous year.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
The right hon. Gentleman is taking credit for a matter for which he has no right to take credit. If there are periods of the year when recruiting for this particular force becomes more prevalent, and when a certain number of men are leaving, and colonels are allowed to take in more recruits, this would undoubtedly account for the increase to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
It may be, but all we can take, as reasonable men, are the figures given on 1st January in each year. However the Under-Secretary of State may deal with the figures for the last two months, the fact is that the decrease of the Territorial Force has gone on from year to year, until it is now 40,000 under establishment. It is no good for the right hon. Gentleman to tell us in regard to the Special Reserve that emigration and the labour market have helped to make up the deficiency, which is greater this year than last year by 1,800. What we want to have is some method of helping us out. Then there are 304 officers deficient in the Territorial Force. I think those figures are very significant. I do not see how you can have an Army efficient in any sort of way where there is such a large number of officers deficient. As regards the training, if you have only 148,000 men out of 259,000 who go out for the full period of this training, when the whole establishment which the Secretary of State has laid down as requisite for our national safety is 300,000; when only 148,000 out of the 300,000 can actually give fifteen days' training in the year—that is to say, only one-half; when only 75,000 are able to give another eight days' training, and when you look at the number of men actually belonging to the force, I think it is 32,000, or something like 14 per cent., who have actually no training whatsoever, I think these results are most unsatisfactory. The remarks made in another place by Lord Roberts, and the letter which he wrote not very long ago bear out absolutely his conclusions that the Territorial Force, both as regards numbers and as regards training, does not in any way fulfil the necessities of the case.
I should like to allude to what Lord Haldane has said in reflection on Lord. Roberts. He said, in a speech not very long ago:—Lord Roberts has commanded and led troops with unbroken success; but leading troops is one thing and the dull dreary business of organising war in time of peace was another.As a soldier myself, I am bound to say that these words of Lord Haldane were, to say the least, impertinent. For him, with his limited experience of six years at the War Office, to pretend to sneer at the experience of Lord Roberts, is very cheap swank. For a man who has done more organising and seen more of practical warfare to be compared with a legal gentleman who has had six years' experience at the War Office is perfectly ridiculous. It 433 reminds me of what I heard on one occasion during the South African war. A certain general had just relieved one of the beseiged towns. Another general, who spent most of his time in an office, and who had never been in the field at all, made this remark about the successful general. He said:—Oh, General So-and-so! We do not think much of him. He is merely a leader of men.That, I think, goes on all fours with the criticism of the Noble Lord against the gallant Field-Marshal. I think I have sufficiently shown that in regard to necessary numbers and as regards training that the Territorial Force is absolutely broken down. Notwithstanding the efforts of the commanding officers who have given of their zeal and their patriotism to fill the Force, notwithstanding the zeal of the men themselves, and the patriotic efforts of the employers of labour in the different districts who have striven to fill the regiments and bring them up to establishment, we are still 40,000 men short, the men are not half-trained, and, in the opinion of the greatest soldiers of experience, they are nothing like sufficient to meet any force that may be likely to land here against which they may be called upon to fight.
I do not wish, for one moment, to depreciate the patriotism of these men who join the Territorial Force, or to say one word against the employers of labour who so generously allow their men every possible facility to join the force and to go through the necessary training. We cannot say anything sufficiently flattering about these particular people, but I maintain that it is not fair that a patriotic few amongst the men and a patriotic few amongst the employers should bear the burden of the State. Why should any particular class of employers of labour handicap themselves in their particular businesses as against the unpatriotic employers who do not allow their men to join the Territorial Force? Why should they not all be on the same footing? That brings us to the question whether the time has not arrived when we want some change in our system. Lord Haldane himself has on several occasions said that if this Territorial Force and its organisation was not a success there would have to be some sort of compulsory service. Whenever we have advocated anything in the way of national or compulsory service we have had jibes from Ministers, who have said that if we will only adopt as a party principle compulsory service on the top of Tariff Reform 434 we shall stop out of office for ever. I have heard those jibes from the right hon. Gentleman who has gone upstairs and from the present Under-Secretary.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
They were used last year. These are very poor arguments and very poor jibes, for we have heard the head of the War Office himself say that if this Territorial Army is not a success we shall have to come to something in the nature of compulsion. We have shown that you do not get the men and the training, and that the time has come when we ought to consider compulsory service. It is a time when all parties should combine together on this subject and should drop all party politics and try to get an Army that is strong enough, which contains men of sufficient physique, who are old enough and who can spare the time to go through the necessary training in order to enable them to take their proper part in the defence of the State when necessary. I am quite sure that the temper of the British people is such that if the two great parties in the State combined together they would find they would be backed up throughout the length and breadth of the land, and that the question of national safety would be solved.
§ Mr. HOLT
I want to take this opportunity of again drawing attention of what I consider to be the altogether excessive garrison in South Africa. I had intended to move a reduction in Vote A in order to focus a discussion on that point, but it was represented to me that it would be more convenient to raise it as part of the general discussion, and therefore I do not propose to move my reduction. The number I should have proposed to take off would be 15,000 men. This subject has been, discussed on several previous occasions, and we have had two, I will not say contradictory, but wholly different explanations as to why this garrison is maintained in South Africa put before us. We, first of all, had the purely South African reason, namely, that the garrison was maintained there in the interests of South Africa. I should like to examine that argument. It was put forward in 1909, in 1910, and again last year. In 1910 Lord Haldane told us that it was our duty to assist South Africa with troops while they were organising their own forces. Exactly the same argument was brought forward last year. In 1909 this matter was also 435 discussed in the House, and then we were told that the troops were there to please the inhabitants of South Africa. My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary took part in that Debate when he was representing the Colonial Office. That was the year in which the garrison was reduced from 16,000 to 11,000. My right hon. Friend on that occasion said:—Owing to events there, I think Members of all sections of the House will agree now that the maintenance of a large force there for the purpose for which they were sent there six or seven years ago is no longer necessary.Mr. Mackarness interjected the remark:Why 11,000 men?My right hon. Friend went on:—My hon. Friend knows that one reason is that the troops are so exceedingly popular with the population. It is with the greatest difficulty that my right hon. Friend can withdraw any troops, owing to the protest of the leaders of South African opinion.In other words, in 1909 my right hon. Friend was telling the House that troops were to be kept in South Africa simply because they were popular. We all know perfectly well that it is a very popular thing to keep soldiers in any particular place. It does not matter where you propose to send them, because they are always popular socially, particularly as it means that large sums of other people's money are going to be spent in that neighbourhood. South Africa wanted to have the soldiers because it meant a considerable expenditure of British money in South Africa. That is a wholly unsatisfactory reason for keeping these troops in South Africa. If that is the only reason put forward, I can hardly believe that my right hon. Friend will have the courage to stand at that box and tell us that that is his reason for imposing taxation upon the people of this country.
Then we have another suggestion, that these soldiers are to be kept in South Africa in order to protect our South African dominions. I should like to know against whom it is intended to use these soldiers. Is it intended to use them against a possible rising by the natives? No one can contend that the dangers of a native rising are getting greater, or that while the white population of South Africa is increasing in numbers, while railways are spreading and means of communication are getting better in every way, that is going to increase the dangers of a rising amongst the coloured population. It is clearly absurd to suggest that. Twenty years ago, when the dangers of a native 436 rising must have been very much greater than now, it was considered that 3,325 were quite sufficient to maintain peace in South Africa. Even in 1898–9 the year after the Jameson Raid, when anyone might have anticipated that serious trouble would take place, the numbers then in South Africa were only 8,662. So that now, with 11,485 men, we have a garrison out of all proportion to anything which was thought reasonable before the days of the war. There are now no European white Powers in South Africa outside our British dominions. In 1898 there were independent Dutch Republics against which it might be thought necessary to protect ourselves by force. But that does not exist to-day. As far as I understand there is no conceivable danger to South Africa except from the coloured persons. Why on earth are we to maintain this enormous garrison, for I am quite sure my right hon. Friend is not going to tell us that there is a greater danger of a rising among our white-coloured population than there is in Canada or in Australia, in neither of which countries do we keep any troops at all. Therefore it seems to me there is really no case whatever for the maintenance of a large British force on purely South African grounds. If the House thinks it necessary that troops should be kept in South Africa to allow the South African Government a little more breathing space to perfect their arrangements, I submit that South Africa ought to pay in precisely the same manner as India pays for her troops. Even Egypt is made to give a contribution to the cost of maintaining the Army. Four thousand men, which I am quite ready to see left in South Africa, is 700 more than were necessary twenty years ago, and that should be ample for all reasonable requirements of the South African Government, and anything more they require they should supplement out of their own resources. Perhaps my right hon. Friend can tell us what South Africa has been doing in the last two or three years, whether they have been sponging quietly on the British taxpayer all the time or are really making serious efforts to organise a force of their own which will at an early date relieve us from the necessity of keeping any garrison there at all.
I will turn to the other argument, the general Imperial argument, which was put forward by Lord Haldane, that it was a good thing, in the interests of the Empire as a whole, to keep a large number of troops in South Africa for emergency. 437 Where are these emergencies going to occur? It was partly suggested that they might be in Egypt, but surely England is a very much more convenient place in which to keep troops required for an emergency in Egypt than South Africa. Egypt is much nearer to this country than to South Africa. The other possibility is India. The number of troops in India has remained pretty steady all along. In 1892 there were 72,600, and at that time 3,300 were quite sufficient to be kept in South Africa for any possibility of danger in India. Now we have 76,000 troops in India. Surely India does not now require a greater amount of help from South Africa than she did twenty years ago. Twenty years ago there was considerable difficulty with Russia, and there were considerable threatenings of danger with Russia on the frontier of India. Only the other day the Secretary of State was telling us that we have concluded an arrangement with Russia which has been most faithfully kept. These are his words:—The Russian Government have done nothing since that agreement was made to disturb the Indian frontier, to intrigue so as to make disturbances on the Indian frontier, to push railways across it, or to do any of those things which they undertook in the agreement that they would not do.In other words, the position of the Indian frontier is better and safer than it was twenty years ago. Why, then, have we got to keep a larger number of troops in order to provide against dangers which are more remote than they used to be? Comparing the present with, the past, as regards the possibility of moving our troops about we are in a better position than we were. The bugbear that was always held out to us was Germany. Germany is a much leas serious danger to us as an Empire than France and Russia, who were the bugbears twenty years ago. Anyone who looks at a map can see for himself that Germany has less chance of interfering with our inter-Imperial movements than France has. That is an obvious geographical fact. In Germany it is a case of overwhelming this country or nothing at all. I think I can suggest what is the real reason why the right hon. Gentleman has carried forward no further reduction in the Army. The fact is, and it is very natural, that once the War Office have got a large Army they do not want to see their importance reduced by a diminution in the number of men in the Army. They do not want to be principals in a dwindling business. No person wants to see the business he is carrying on getting less and less important. I honestly believe this is 438 absolutely the only sort of reason which can really be advanced for not making these reductions. A few days ago a Motion was proposed from the other side of the House in the following terms:—That this House is of opinion that national expenditure has been increased by His Majesty's Government in contravention of their pledges.I could not vote for that, and I could not in the least support this style of argument nor the character of the expenditure which was attacked in that resolution. But upon my word I do not consider that we have had anything like the reduction in military expenditure which the Government and their supporters promised when they went to the polls in 1906.
§ Colonel SEELY
It may be a convenience to the Committee if I now offer some reply to the remarks which have been made in regard to the Estimates which I introduced two days ago. I will first deal with a detail, but a very important detail, brought before us by the hon. Member (Mr. Crooks), who asked whether we can see our way, now that Woolwich is in the London postal area, to extend to the men there certain advantages which were denied to them because they were outside the postal area. I did not know until this moment that Woolwich had two days ago been placed within the London postal area, and it is impossible for me to make a definite announcement without consultation with the Treasury. You must make some boundary line, and the London postal area has been defined as being the area for various purposes. If any community suffers through being put in a postal area, not being the postal area which it might naturally suppose it would belong to, which is included in the postal area, justice demands that unless some fresh fact arises it should get the advantage of the change. I will at once consult with the Treasury and with my hon. Friend (Mr. Tennant), and unless some fresh fact has arisen to alter the position we may take it that the drawback under which Woolwich suffered when it was outside the postal area is likely to be made good to them as soon as may be, now that they are inside.
I turn to another very important detail, namely, the question of the education of officers. The hon. Gentleman (Sir Henry Craik), speaking with much emphasis—indeed, he used the word "solemnly"—said last night that he wanted to assure us that 439 largely under pressure from the War Office he, as chairman of the Army Qualifying Board, had been obliged to lower the standard of education, with the result that men were being admitted as officers who had not reached a proper standard. I am sure everyone would regret, if it were the fact, that the officers in the British Army were below the standard which was considered necessary in education and learning. I have inquired into the matter this morning, and the hon. Gentleman is in error in supposing that pressure has been put on his Board to reduce the standard—at any rate during the last two years. Conversations took place on the subject in November, 1907, as to what the standard should be. I have inquired from the Director of Military Training, who has made the most careful inquiries, and the whole thing is a delusion so far as they know, and they are the only responsible people who could have made the suggestion. So much for the actual suggestion that the War Office put forward a proposal that the standard should be lowered—at any rate during the last two years, which is the only period to which I am now referring or to which we need pay serious attention for the moment, because we are dealing with actualities.
As to the question whether, in point of fact, the officers have a proper standard of education. The hon. and learned Gentleman sees a good many of these officers, but he by no means sees all, and he sees those who are the least well educated. During the last five years, of 689 candidates admitted to the Royal Military Academy 347 had leaving certificates and 306 had qualifying certificates. It is only those 306 who have qualifying certificates whom the hon. and learned Gentleman sees. The 347 who pass the more difficult examination of leaving certificates he does not see, so it is the officers who are the most highly educated whom the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot speak about. Therefore I think it is only fair, in justice to the officers as a whole, whose education has been called in question, to point out that more than half the officers who passed into Woolwich in the last five years were officers he has not seen, but who have the higher standard of education. With regard to the Royal Military College the number obtaining leaving certificates—that is, the more difficult examination— 440 was 512, and 1,305 had qualifying certificates, so that in one case the majority of highly-educated men he did not see, and in the other case there were 512. On the whole question my advisers on this matter tell me that they are satisfied with the education of officers who now pass into the Army from Sandhurst and Woolwich, and, of course, these represent, the overwhelming majority. There are smaller categories which I do not mention in detail. The standard of education is higher and better than it has ever been. Of course, they are devoted to their task and they naturally take a pride in their profession. Speaking for myself from inquiries I have made at every source of information, I am disposed, and I think hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House will be disposed, to agree with this, to say that the standard of education and the educational attainments generally of officers in the Army has increased, is increasing, and I trust will continue to increase still further. So much for that point. I trust that nothing I have said will offend the hon. Member (Sir H. Craik). I fully realise that when he said we had put pressure on, it was a pure mistake, such as anyone is liable to make.
I come now to matters of more general policy, and I will deal with the very important matter raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham). Yesterday he made what seemed to me an extraordinarily interesting speech—one of the best speeches in an Army Debate it has ever been my privilege to listen to. There were points in it from which I dissent entirely, and I will try to meet his argument. One matter of general policy I wish to touch upon—and on this I speak particularly, not so much for myself as for the Government as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman asked us to take into account the relative superiority of our Navy in considering the question of foreign garrisons. I fully admit that any country, and most of all this country, must keep a most vigilant eye on the distribution of their foreign garrisons. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we are, to the best of our ability, keeping a careful watch upon the strategical necessities of this country, but I wish to say—and I hope that this is a phrase which will commend itself to everyone in the House—this is the policy of the Government: We do not base our military strategy on the assumption of waning sea supremacy now, and as long as we hold office, we never will. The right hon. Gentleman named many points, notably Hong 441 Kong, Singapore, the Mediterranean, Gibraltar, and Malta. In all these questions there is much to be said on the lines he laid down. I cannot accept his conclusions, nor can I go into the whole question now, because it is essentially one to be discussed in connection with Naval policy. I fully agree that it is a most unsatisfactory plan to discuss the Army Estimates alone, especially in matters of broad policy like this. Some years ago I took part, along with other more eminent Members of this House, in asking the Government to set aside a day for the discussion of the Committee of Defence so as to enable problems like this to be dealt with as a whole, and I trust that may be the case this year. But it would probably be the best plan if that discussion could precede the discussion of the Estimates. Everyone in the House will appreciate the very great difficulty of getting a plan like that adopted, because of the necessity of getting through the necessary business by a certain date. If by general agreement we could take the discussion of the Navy and Army as a whole before we take the Estimates, I have no doubt the Prime Minister would favourably consider the view which is put forward. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will excuse me for not dealing with his suggestion for increased garrisons.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
If the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept my conclusions. If he rejects the conclusion that it would be a mistake to reduce the number of troops we have in foreign garrisons, may I ask if he rejects the conclusion that seventy-four is the minimum?
§ Colonel SEELY
I am afraid I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman. As to whether I accept his conclusion, I will not say "Yes," and I will not say "No," for this obvious reason. Circumstances may alter the case. I am at this moment about to refer to the point put forward, that there might be a reduction made in the South African garrison. Suppose I were to say that the South African garrison was to be reduced this year, obviously that might lead to the view that other garrisons abroad were not to be altered, unless others simultaneously required more men. Therefore, I cannot accept that view. I must apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for not dealing fully with the question of foreign garrisons. We are satisfied that they are now adequate, but everyone must admit that circumstances 442 may arise to render reinforcement necessary at one point or another. I see no evidence to indicate reinforcement being necessary. When I say that they are considered adequate, I must not be taken as saying that the present numbers are fixed for all time. An important point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the Hexham Division (Mr. Holt) about South Africa, and here, I fear, the policy of the Government does not commend itself either to him or to hon. Gentlemen opposite, or possibly to hon. Gentlemen in many parts of the House. I state at once that we do not propose this year to withdraw the garrison from South Africa. I know that many hon. Members on the opposite side of the House consider that when any Colony—I will not say Colony—when any Dominion has full self-government it should assume full responsibility of defence, and that the keeping of this number of troops in South Africa, except so far as necessary for a naval base is undesirable. To these arguments I reply that no doubt it is the ultimate destiny of South Africa that it should take full responsibility for its own defence, and that possibly we should maintain a garrison at Simonstown as a great naval base.
My hon. Friend says that the garrison should be withdrawn now. I frankly say, "No, not now," for this simple reason. On this very day, certainly the day before yesterday, the South African Union Parliament was discussing and attempting to perfect their own defence scheme. It would be a wrong thing just at the moment when South Africa is beginning to do the very thing my hon. Friend asks them to do, namely, to take up the whole burden of her own defence, to say, "We want to save money, and we are going to bring the whole of our force home," thus completely altering the problem which they have at this moment to consider. What we will do is to keep in full touch with the Union Government, whose policy in this matter seems to be proceeding, not fast, but certainly towards the goal we all have in view. We shall not miss the opportunity of pointing out what is necessary for South Africa, as in the case of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but at the same time we shall not hurry South Africa, as my hon. Friend seems to suggest we should do. We should wait until South Africa has had time to look round and perfect her own system of defence. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Protectorates?"] I 443 purposely used the word "Dominion." I understand that Dominion means a self-governing Dominion. The question of the Protectorates of Nyasaland, Swaziland, and the rest must require other considerations, and these were present to my mind when, after using the word Colony, I corrected myself and substituted the word Dominion. We feel that, following out her ultimate destiny, South Africa should undertake responsibility similar to that of the other Dominions. I am glad the hon. Gentleman drew my attenton to this matter, and to what must be in the mind of this or any other Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is it intended to bring back some of the Cavalry to this country?] I am not in a position to make any statement as to the withdrawal of troops from South Africa. If at any time it becomes possible to make any rearrangement of the Cavalry, I will be glad to inform the House at the earliest possible moment, but for the present I must confine myself to a statement of broad policy.
I come next to questions in relation to other branches of the Army, which were referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, and I trust that in answering him I shall be able to answer many of the questions put by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. The first question referred to numbers. I was anxious to make quite plain when I said that the numbers were increasing that I was referring to the last few weeks. It is satisfactory to know that in the last few weeks the increase has been almost 1,000 greater than at this time last year. I think the numbers have increased rapidly in the last three months—more rapidly than they did last year. I do not pretend that we are satisfied, and I frankly appeal to those who have power to recruit the Territorial Force up to strength to do what they can in this matter. There are those who are deaf to the appeal, because they frankly do not believe it is any good. We have heard that view expressed by only one or two. The hon. Member for the Central Division of Hull (Mr. Mark Sykes) frankly avowed a preference for 70,000 being added to the Regular Army, and for the Territorial Force being abolished altogether, and although he did not say so quite so definitely, I think the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) is of the same opinion. We are all very much affected by environments, and especially by moments of crisis and peril, and the hon. 444 and gallant Gentleman has never got over that moment which he had in Cuba, and I do not suppose he ever will. One of the first things that I remember in this House was a speech made by an hon. Gentleman who happened to be telling us what dreadful things happened to our trained troops when they went to war, and he instanced this affair in Cuba, I thought we should hear of it again, because it is an obession of the hon. and gallant Gentleman that unless troops are trained as fully as those they meet and for as long a period, it is criminal to put them into the field against others.
§ Colonel SEELY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman of course objects to their being armed with inferior weapons, in which I entirely agree with him, but he has also frequently pointed out, and did to-day, that troops trained so long as the Territorial Force have no chance against the highly trained troops of Continental Powers. If that view be correct, it can easily be seen to what dilemma we are driven. If you once accept the view that the home garrison of this country is open to immediate attack from the most highly trained troops of the great Continental Powers, and that those highly trained troops are to come in large numbers, the only possible thing we can do is, in addition to having an Expeditionary Force, to have an Army trained for as long and as thoroughly as theirs. Therefore you must adopt conscription, not in the modified form of four months, but conscription of at least two yeans. I do not see any possible answer to that. If you admit that your home defence Army may be exposed at once to the onslaught of a large Army of a hostile power, you must have your troops trained for as long a period, and you must then adopt Continental conscription in its fullest sense and to its fullest period. The answer to that argument is that we do not accept that thesis. The people who think in that way have-forgotten the elementary fact that we live in an island, and that living in an island we have to maintain a sea supremacy, and that having that sea supremacy and living in an island, it is almost impossible for any great military power to pour any great force into this country. We believe that 445 to be impossible, and we base our whole strategy on that principle, that it is impossible. Of course almost all things are conceivable, but if one were to guard against every conceivable danger, however remote, every nation in the world would go bankrupt in its preparations in a few months. You must take that which is most probable, and you must guard against that, and you must guard as well as you can against every probable or possible danger. But we do not believe, and none of our advisers can be got to say that they believe, that the descent of half a million men or more upon these shores within a short period—
§ Colonel SEELY
I am not talking of 70,000, but that will shorten the discussion. Are we, then, to say that all our critics of to-day admit the thesis that we need not expect, at any rate for a long period, more than 70,000 men, who cannot have large quantities of artillery, the disembarkation of which is a problem so difficult that no nation attempting a raid would take a large complement of artillery? As was pointed out with much force by an hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House, there is the obvious and elementary fact that a raid of 70,000 men must be carried out almost entirely by Infantry, who have got to jump into this sea and get ashore as best they can. That is what we have got to guard against. The question is: Is the Territorial Force, as we see it, fit to cope with that kind of descent? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The real question is: Is it possible for 263,000 Englishmen, trained as the Territorial Army has been, with Artillery which, although it may have its faults, has shown an extraordinary improvement in shooting, as I have reports here to show, and as every commanding officer commanding these batteries will testify, is it possible for them to defeat these 70,000 men from another country?
§ Colonel SEELY
The Noble Lord must not assume that in order to make my case I find it necessary to suppose that the whole force would be concentrated exactly where the enemy lands. But the Noble Lord will also have to reflect that in the nature of the case this force cannot be reinforced at the point of landing. Therefore we are dealing with 70,000 men 446 for this purpose in the air. Before they can do anything vitally injurious to this, country the opinion of every responsible person whom I have had the opportunity of consulting is that the Territorial Force of 263,000 with its Artillery, let alone the large number of Regular troops which remain in this country after the six divisions are gone, would eat them up. Taking these various forces, which anyone reading the various documents can see amount to 400,000 Englishmen—[HON. MEMBERS: "And Welshmen"]—Yes, and there are Scotchmen and a good number of Irishmen, too; but the suggestion that the 263,000 who are fully organised, though the training may not be so perfect, and who, with the others, will number 400,000, are going to be unable to cope with 70,000 men, nearly all Infantry, who cannot be reinforced is one which I do not believe that a single hon. Gentleman can get up and defend.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman why originally he laid the number down at 310,000, while now he is satisfied with the total of 263,000.
§ Colonel SEELY
That raises another point. I am most anxious to give way to any interruptions as it helps Debate. I did not say 310,000. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I said 263,000, the numbers we have. I ask the question: is there anyone prepared to get up and say that this great force of men, together with the immense number of men of the Regular Army, who will still remain in this country, are to expect disaster at the hands of 70,000 foreigners, mostly Infantry?
§ Colonel SEELY
If the hon. Gentleman wishes the full details of the Regular Army left behind in this country when the six divisions are gone, I will refer him to the very full statement made by the Secretary of State in the House of Lords about three weeks ago. But a very large number are left, and although I know it is the fashion in these Debates to try to assume that an Englishman is far inferior to anybody from any other country, I deny it. I assert to the Committee that the proposition which I put forward that 400,000 armed Britishers and Irishmen will eat up the 70,000 foreigners, mostly infantry, is 447 one that will commend itself to the common sense of the country at large. That is what the Territorial Force is for. It is to prevent this raid, be it small or great, from doing the great damage which it would do if there was no army to oppose it. I do not believe that there is anyone in this House who will support the suggestion that you should abolish altogether the forces outside the Regular Force and add so much to the Regular Army. I do not believe in that as a proposition which will ever commend itself to any responsible Minister, or will commend itself to anyone here. I will now turn to the question of the rifle. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bonar Law) will give me his attention for one moment, because I am more anxious than I can say to clear up this question of the rifle now from the point of view of what the British soldier is going to think of what is being said on the subject.
The question has been brought down now to a very fine point. The right hon. Gentleman when he said "armaments or weapons" was referring specially to the rifle, and, although he would not admit our universal superiority in guns, he still does not wish to make the gun, either big or little, the basis of criticism. No suggestion of utter inferiority applies to them. With regard to the two sorts of rifles we can go along together. There are, as the House knows, the short and the long rifle. I am glad to say that I have cleared up two points which were left in doubt on the last occasion. The first point was: Is the figure of merit accuracy which put our rifle at the top applicable to the Mark VII. or Mark VI. ammunition—that is to say, the old or the new? As I thought at the time, I find that it applies to both. When the tests were made the two came out the same—at .55 above the other Powers. Another point is with regard to the long rifle and the short. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that trajectory is very important indeed. If we may assume for the purpose of the argument that his view is correct, I had a test made from which it appears that the trajectory of the long rifle is considerably better than the trajectory of the short. It is a few inches better owing to the sixty seconds increase in the muzzle velocity owing to the length of the barrels. Therefore, when the whole Army has been re-armed with 448 this new ammunition, as it will be with all possible speed, the question of the long and the short rifle does not arise, and meantime the question of accuracy is applicable to both. I think we can go still a step further together. I hope that the right hon. Gentlemen will interrupt me if we do not go together, because I do want to restore confidence in the soldiers if I possibly can.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
You say that the long rifle will have as good an effective trajectory with the new ammunition?
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
But is it not the fact that people whose opinion is worth considering think that the breech will not be strong enough for the new ammunition?
§ Colonel SEELY
That cannot be so, because I myself have fired I do not know how many rounds. Thousands of rounds have been fired from it, and I have a definite statement here that there is absolutely no difference in that respect. I sent to the proper branch, and inquired on the very point, Was it quite clear that it was perfectly simple; was the long rifle just as simple as the short one? The answer was "Yes." My experts so informed me. I have seen the thing done often enough myself, and I really think the right hon. Gentleman must be wrong; I cannot believe that my experts were wrong. It only comes to the question of what are the real and vital merits of a rifle. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman disputes that our rifle is a reliable rifle. The Director of Artillery said our rifle is thoroughly reliable; that failures of mechanism are almost unknown, and, apart from the wear of the barrel, our rifle practically never wears out. Of course it is most necessary to put in the word "barrel," because every barrel wears out. The question is whether the barrel of our rifle wears out faster or slower than the barrel of other rifles. We have reason to believe that it does not wear out any faster, because although our cordite has a slightly worse effect on the barrel than a powder used by the French, our lower muzzle velocity greatly prolongs the life of a barrel, and is in this respect a great advantage. The accuracy 449 point, I think, is cleared up, and in that we have the advantage; it cannot be disputed. It is a matter of fact, further, that our rifle is the lightest, and therefore the handiest. So it comes to this, that the only point of substance in which our rifle is at all inferior to other rifles is the trajectory. I think anyone who has seen the rifles in the Tea Room, and who has studied the question, will not dispute—certainly still more so if he has gone into the subject fairly—that in all essentials of a rifle ours is as good as any, except in trajectory. "Trajectory," says the right hon. Gentleman, "is a vital thing, and if we fail in trajectory, then the whole rifle fails."
I have only two remarks to make on that. The first is that we had a most interesting speech, which I was surprised and delighted to hear, from the hon. Member for Droitwich, who knows more about a rifle than most Members of this House, and who showed it in his extraordinarily lucid speech, a speech which was devoted to warning us against the craze for low trajectory. I am sure he was right in saying that you can carry it too far, and I think that the hon. Gentleman's lucid argument appealed to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, though the right hon. Gentleman may be able, when he gets the opportunity, to say that he thinks the Government are the worst Government of modern times because they adopted the high trajectory and the pointed bullet, and they deserve to be hung—with which I do not agree. Why do they curse us by bell, book, and candle, bearing in mind that all the gold in the Indies would not get us a new rifle—even if they were to begin now—for fully three years to come, and, if there be this inferiority, we have got to suffer it, whatever we spend, for at least three years to come. The right hon. Gentleman may be able to say what he means is that our failure in not providing the ammunition required last August is a criminal thing. It was pointed out by the hon. Member for Droitwich that the power of a high trajectory is equal to the power obtained with a low trajectory, but he might have gone on to and cited the experience of the war in which we were engaged twelve years ago with the Boers.
We were armed with the present rifle, or substantially the same rifle, the Lee-Metford, with a maximum trajectory of about twelve feet. The Boers were armed with the Mauser, whose trajectory was, I am 450 informed, between seven and eight feet. Therefore our trajectory was ever so much higher than that of the Mauser. In that war, the striking difference between it and other wars is that Artillery played so little a part, owing to the fact that the enemy had very few guns, though they were skilled artillerists. We suffered a series of disasters which we are not likely to forget; they burnt themselves into the mind of every soldier, and all those disasters were caused by rifle fire. The Government of the day set about putting our house in order, and they said they would spend whatever sum was necessary to give our men the best rifle. They knew very well that the Boer rifle had a trajectory very much lower than ours; yet after all this talk, and with the fullest determination, the party then in power decided not to spare a copper in providing the best rifle, and they deliberately adopted a rifle the trajectory of which was far higher than that of the Boer rifle. What is more, they deliberately so constructed the chamber, that they knew and asserted they knew, that while others might get higher velocity they would be unable to increase it appreciably. It was stated then that they considered other things more important and that to increase the velocity might incur a very great danger of increasing weight and damaging the mechanism owing to the immense pressure. Another point raised was that it was especially dangerous for us to adopt very high velocity in a hurry and without the greatest care, because we are a Power whose soldiers have to fight alternately in very cold countries and in very hot ones.
Foreign Powers who have to fight in a more equitable climate, who turn over their ammunition very rapidly, and never have to fight in hot places, are able to use nitro-celluloid powder, which gives a far less violent and sudden pressure than our own cordite. We do not use it because it does not keep in a hot climate. These and other considerations weighed with the Government of 1903, who decided to adopt a high trajectory rifle. I am here to say that I believe the Unionist Government were right. It may be that the Unionist Government were wrong, and it may be that the right hon. Gentleman opposite is quite convinced that they were wrong, but, at any rate, I think I have convinced him that there must be a doubt, because if there is not a doubt we are to assume that for once the great men, the great soldiers, who advised in 1903 on the 451 question of a rifle with a high trajectory more than 4ft. higher than that of the Boers were all stark, staring mad. They were not mad. The then Government were advised very much by the same then who will advise the right hon. Gentleman when he comes into power. Of course I do not suppose that will be for many a long day. All these distinguished men to whom I have referred to-day will have retired perhaps before the right hon. Gentleman comes into power. But if, on the other hand, he came into power to-morrow he would have the same experts to consult, and if he had the courage his only course would be, to use a homely phrase, "to sack the whole lot" for their adoption of the high trajectory rifle.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The right hon. Gentleman invited me to reply, and I would like to ask two questions which will satisfy me in regard to this matter. He has convinced us that the high trajectory is better than the low trajectory, but by altering the rifle, as he is doing now, the main gain is a low trajectory. Why, then, does he do it? The other point he put to me is one to which I am bound to respond. I do not want our soldiers to think that their rifle is worse than it is, and I am willing to meet him to that extent. But when I spoke our soldiers were armed with the old rifle without adaptation, and therefore I am perfectly ready—and I hope this will satisfy the right hon. Gentleman—to say to him that I am ready to admit that the rifle which they will have after the adaptation is complete, is a very much better rifle than the old one, and approaches much more nearly to the level of that of foreign armies, on condition that he will admit that for the delay in adapting the new rifle he, and still more the Secretary of State for War, do deserve the severest reprehension of this House.
§ Colonel SEELY
This is a most fortunate circumstance. I can reply to both questions in the one answer. I will not admit the fault of delay in the change we are making. The low trajectory is an advantage, as everyone must admit, if it is unaccompanied by other and great disadvantages. The Member for Droitwich is of opinion, I think, that the low trajectory cannot be obtained in our rifle without compensating disadvantages. In my view a low trajectory is only one element. If we could get the advantages of low trajectory without drawbacks, namely, diminished 452 rapidity of firing, diminished accuracy, a greater danger of jams, then we are bound to do it. But we set to work to make experiments, and we met with great difficulty. We got so far as to manufacture and to get the machinery for manufacturing the cartridge, but when we began to test it it either jammed or gave inaccurate results, so we had to keep pegging away to get a really serviceable thing. We have been experimenting with this infernal thing the pointed bullet, for it is an infernal thing, ever since the first Power adopted it. The first moment we got one that would really fulfil the test we set to work to manufacture it. I admit the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to make the point that we ought not to have been so long, but then the experts were engaged in the problem and we could not solve it sooner. A great many other nations have had the same difficulty, and we have reason to believe that a great many of those who adopted it in a hurry now regret that they did not take rather longer time about it. That, therefore, answers the second question, and both questions are answered. Why did you do it at all—because it is an advantage, if you can get rid of drawbacks, and we have got rid of the drawbacks, as I have endeavoured to show the House by showing that the accuracy is as great and the rapidity of fire is not impaired. The reason we did not do it sooner was because we could not get a satisfactory one. If we had attempted to do it too quickly we might have been landed in disaster.
§ Colonel SEELY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman, I presume, is referring to the tests recently made at Aldershot?
§ Colonel SEELY
I am glad the question has been asked, because it is just as well to make this point public. We decided before we used this ammunition to have elaborate tests with a considerable number of lots fired under ordinary Service conditions. We sent a number of different sorts to Aldershot to be tested. Three lots were jammed, not completely, but it was difficult to get the bullet up. You could hardly get it up. One lot was entirely satisfactory, and one not completely so. The whole of the Army ammunition that is now issued is of that lot that was entirely satisfactory and gave fewer jams than the old 453 ammunition. I am glad to have been asked the question, because rumours got about that this was not the ammunition issued.
§ Colonel SEELY
No, not from the information I have got, and I have reports from all the commands of a highly laudatory character.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I infer that success attended these efforts since 20th February, because the Secretary of State on that date said he hoped to overcome the difficulty as to the rapidity of firing?
§ Colonel SEELY
The reports from the command have come in since that date, and though they show very satisfactory results, I do not suppose, taking them over a series of practices, that the rapidity of fire would be quite so great. The rapidity of fire, as I am advised, will be probably as great if you take the rifle from the shoulder. But, holding the rifle here (indicating another position) it will not be quite as great. When it was tested it was as great, but I should imagine that probably this greatly increased pressure, which exceeds all the pressures on the breeches in foreign Powers, may have the result over an extreme range of fire of slightly increasing the liability, not to jam completely, but to force you to bring the rifle from the shoulder, as you must do in the case of every other rifle. I do hope I have made this point clear. I thank the right hon. Gentleman opposite for having made his position quite clear, and I think we may take it, although we are a wicked Government for not having gone about it quicker, at least the weapon which our soldiers are bound to use for the next few years, even in his view, is not a bad one, and it is a good deal better than anybody else's.
There remains a question as to the National Reserves and a question about the promotion of officers in the Royal Garrison Artillery, and a question about aviation. With regard to promotion in the Royal Garrison Artillery, I fully admit to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that there is a real hardship to the officers in the slowness of promotion. We fully admit the hardship. It is not a question of money only that is standing in our way. There are inter-Departmental difficulties connected with India and other parts of the world which would presumably have to bear a share of the cost. Those difficulties I hope 454 may be overcome. I must not be taken at all as giving a pledge, but I can say that we are anxiously considering the question, of the postponement in the Royal Garrison Artillery of promotion caused by the number brought in in time of war, and we are considering it in a hopeful spirit as to meeting the hardship.
§ Mr. LEE
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we have raised this question, I think for four successive years, and that the Secretary of State gave precisely the same answer which has been given to us to-night four years ago, and three years ago, and two years ago, and one year ago, and still those unfortunate officers are being forced out of the regiment and their prospects in life destroyed? Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that now, after all this time, we might have a more favourable and definite announcement?
§ Colonel SEELY
We might have, and I wish we could have. All I can say is that nothing that we can do to facilitate the deliberations of the Inter-Departmental Committee now considering it shall be left undone. I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that although all those statements in previous years appeared to be the same that the matter has progressed, and that we are much nearer a solution one way or the other than we were last year or on previous years. With regard to the National Reserve, the numbers are now 76,000. I was asked what they were for. The National Reserve will be of great value, I have no doubt, in time of national emergency. We are considering with those who are specially concerned as to what would be the best way to bring them into the national organisation. We have had the greatest help, amongst many others, from one who generally disagrees strongly with the views held by people on this bench, namely, Mr. St. Loe Strachey. It is only fair to say that this great force owes its inception more to him than to any other one man. He is helping us and advising us in the matter of how best we can utilise the National Reserve so as to take advantage of the splendid spirit shown by those gentlemen who are willing to give their services to the country. It will, I may presume, be considered best to divide it into two classes, namely, those ready for immediate service, and those who are past that time.
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
Is there any idea of mixing up the Territorial Reserve with the National Reserve?
§ Colonel SEELY
The two subjects are akin. I am thankful to the Noble Lord for mentioning the matter. I was going to say a word on the subject. Although this has a bearing on the Territorial Force Reserve, I am not in a position to make any definite announcement only to say that we are considering it with people like Mr. Strachey, Lord Esher, and Lord Roberts, with a view to putting it on a more satisfactory footing; that is, satisfactory for the men themselves and satisfactory for the country in time of emergency. With regard to the flying ground the question is asked, Why are we spending £90,000 on buying it, and the answer is that it was the best flying ground we could find. It is about 4,000 acres in extent, and a very fine ground. I may say that we did badly want an extension of ground in the neighbourhood of Salisbury Plain. I think everybody knows that that is so, and although this flying ground is primarily for aviation, and nothing must be done by other troops to check this new science, part of it may be useful, provided it does not interfere with its use for aviation. In addition it sets free the area which was hitherto rather unsatisfactorily used by those flying on Salisbury Plain. I was asked about the pay. I am not yet in a position to name the precise sum except to say this as an indication, that it is settled that the commandant, who will be the senior officer of the flying corps, shall have the emoluments, and, on the question of rank, shall have the general status of such officers as the Chief of the Staff College, the Chief of the Royal Military Academy, and the Chief of the Royal Military College. That, I think, will give an indication of the spirit in which we wish to approach this important question. I trust I have dealt with most of the points raised.
I have not dealt with the question of the military correspondent of the "Times," because it has been my privilege to speak on the subject so very often at Question Time, and, indeed, on other occasions, that I really have nothing to add. It is quite true that it is not a usual arrangement. I fully admit that. But although I found it at the War Office before I got there, I do not wish in the least to say that I do not think it a very good arrangement, because I do. It is not a good plan to have in itself a gentleman connected with the Press also holding an official appointment. That I fully admit. But if you want to get the very best man to edit the "Army 456 Review," I do frankly say I am convinced that Colonel Repington is the very best man.
§ Colonel SEELY
It would be a waste of this brilliant writer's opportunities to give him nothing else to do except to edit the "Army Review." It, is enormously important, in my view, that the "Army Review" should be the best possible publication, and I think it compares favourably with similar publications of foreign. Powers. It cannot take up a man's full time. It is what is called in other ranks, of life a half-time job, and I doubt if it is quite so much as that. So if we were to get an officer with his attainments to give his whole time we should have to give him an immense salary, and I do not think the House of Commons would approve of that arrangement. If there is an objection that he is far too likely to have access to secret or confidential documents, I would point out that although he is a gentleman connected with the Press he is an officer who knows thoroughly what is and what is not confidential and secret, and there is less risk in his case than in the case of almost any other man you could name. I do believe the "Army Review" is a good publication. I do believe we have a good editor. I am only sorry circumstances are such that we cannot have unanimous consent in approving of his appointment. I think I have dealt with all the questions I have been asked, and I shall be very glad to reply to any further question.
§ Mr. HAMERSLEY
I wish to say a word on the question of ranges. In the Secretary of State's Memorandum there was a statement showing that out of a total of 263,000 officers and men in the Territorial Force, only 142,435 have qualified for shooting. As I understand, very few of these men have been more than once on an open rifle range. Nearly all of them have qualified by the use of miniature ranges and thirty yards ranges. Neither of these qualifications, in my opinion, can possibly fit anybody to be a good shot in time of war or any other time. In answer to questions it has been stated that there are now fifty-two fewer rifle ranges than there were when the Territorial Force was started. It is perfectly true that the Secretary of State in his Report says that fifteen open rifle ranges have been acquired during the last year, but he fails to state that there have been fifty-two 457 abandoned, so that we are no better off in the matter of rifle ranges than we were when the Territorial Force started. There were 833 rifle ranges when the Territorial Force started, fifty-two have been taken away, and only 416 are in England. I submit that, whatever rifle you may have, and whatever opinion may be held as to a low trajectory or a high trajectory, it is absolutely essential that the men should be given every opportunity to learn to shoot accurately. Without accuracy of shooting it does not matter what arm you put in their hands. I would also suggest that there should be more targets placed on the existing rifle ranges. Many ranges have a much smaller number of targets than they should have. I would also ask the right hon. Gentleman to do what he can to encourage Territorials to learn to shoot and to qualify as good marksmen by giving them greater facilities for travelling on Sundays to the rifle ranges that are available. Could any harm possibly be done, in fact would not a great deal of good be done, by providing means of transport to take men to rifle ranges on Sunday afternoons under a proper organisation, knowing as we do that they cannot reach them on any other day of the week? Unless these facilities are given, unless more rifle ranges are provided, unless the Territorials are given every encouragement to become good marksmen, all the arguments and statements as to the comparative value of rifles, and as to discipline and efficiency, go for nothing. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give some assurance that in the future, especially in this next year, this matter will be attended to. The Secretary of State, in his Memorandum, says that the delay is not due to any financial consideration. I presume, therefore, that the finances are forthcoming. It is due to the difficulty of getting ranges near big towns. I believe that difficulty arises very largely from golf courses being near the towns. I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will not take the proper steps that I submit ought, for the good of the nation, to be taken, to put the provision of rifle ranges far in front of the provision of golf courses.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on the very clear and lucid manner in which he dealt with the large number of questions put to him in the course of the Debate. I wish to refer to an answer which he gave to 458 my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt). It appeared to me that my hon. Friend made out a very clear case for the reduction of the payment for troops in South Africa. I called attention to this matter in 1906, when we had some 20,000 men in South Africa. A very considerable advance has been made, as the number is now about 11,500 only. But why did this process of reduction come to a sudden standstill in 1909? The Secretary of State for War promised that there should be further reductions. My right hon. Friend said that we must give South Africa ample time to put its house in order in this respect. I am entirely with him. But have they not had time? It is now six years since self-government was given to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, which are the only parts of South Africa that have any special action to take in the matter. Surely that is time enough. It may be said that the Union has since been formed, and that they waited until the Union had been consummated before they took definite steps. But the Union has been in existence three years. The Secretary of State told us last year that South Africa had asked for the troops to be retained for a further period. This is a very simple business proposition. If that suggestion was made, why did he not say at once, "Certainly; we are very ready to meet your wishes, but this costs money, and it is the money of the British taxpayer. Therefore I must ask you to make a contribution towards the cost of the maintenance of the troops." That would not be without precedent. It is exactly what was done by our self-governing Colonies when troops were maintained in them, and it is what is done to-day. If hon. Members will look at Appendix 20 they will see that several Colonies are doing their duty in this respect. Some of them are apparently doing more than their duty. The cost of troops in Ceylon is £93,500, and Ceylon pays £94,500, so that we make a profit there. Again, in the Straits Settlement the cost is £187,000, and they are actually paying £217,000. So that I think the right hon. Gentleman has very good ground for asking South Africa to make a contribution towards the payment of the troops. I cannot understand on what principle it is not done.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that provision is being made for the establishment of a defensive force for South Africa. What ground is there for our 459 maintaining this large number of troops in South Africa, when provision is actually being made for an adequate defensive force The right hon. Gentleman does not suggest that there is any Imperial necessity for maintaining troops there. The Navy is amply supreme, and there is no European enemy whom we have any need to fear. The native situation is perfectly calm and peaceful. The greater part of the federation is already provided with defensive forces. What is the reason for the reluctance to ask for a contribution? On ordinary business principles I cannot understand it. Surely the burden on the taxpayer in this country is heavy enough. From the point of view of the taxpayers, and in view of the promise made by the Secretary of State for War, I think that greater diligence might be exercised and a more business-like principle applied in reference to this matter. There should be a reduction of troops—I do not say that they should all be taken away at once, but there should be a reduction within a reasonable time. We have spent £30,000,000 on the troops in South Africa, since the war. That is a very large amount for the people of this country to pay. From 1902 to 1900 we were paying an average of five millions a year. Since 1906 the amount has been about two millions a year. That amounts to about thirty millions since the war, the burden on the taxpayers of this country is sufficiently great to demand that some attempt should be made to put in practice business principles and to get a proper contribution from South Africa, if we are keeping these troops there for South African purposes and not for our own. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take the matter into consideration and see if something cannot be done.
I was somewhat struck by an argument used by the Under-Secretary of State in regard to the Territorial Force. As far as I understood, his argument was that there are 260,000 officers and men of the Territorial Force to repel a possible raid of 70,000 officers and men, and that there would be no very great difficulty, because the 70,000 would bring no artillery with them.
I think that statement requires a certain amount of 460 investigation. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of 260,000 officers and men. Does he mean to say that amongst those 260,000 there would be no recruits not fit to take their place in the field? Does he mean to say there would be no sick?
§ 8.0 P.M.
That, no doubt, is extremely funny, but it does not touch the point. A Continental Power would have a large number to pick from, and they might select 70,000 men who would not be sick even in crossing the Channel or the North Sea. You have to deduct the sick from your 260,000. The argument is that you have only 260,000, with a certain number left from the Expeditionary Force, to depend on. Out of that number you have to garrison your arsenals and your bases of supply. You have to distribute your men very carefully throughout the United Kingdom, including Ireland. You have to prepare for false raids, perhaps in two or three different parts of the country. You must admit that a number of these men would be untrained, because no Continental Power attacking this country would give time to allow the troops to get that six months' training which Lord Haldane acknowledges is absolutely necessary to fit them for the duties which they have to fulfil. It is an extraordinary statement that the right hon. Gentleman should solemnly declare that there are 260,000 officers and men available to contend with the 70,000 who would be sent over with a raiding party. After all, there might be a great many more than 70,000, and it is no use burying our heads in the sand like the ostrich. I want to deal with a few points which have not been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman in respect to some more homely details. Is it going to be impossible for the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers to do something for those unfortunate men who join the Civil Service after they have done their full term of service in the Regular Army, and who are not allowed to count their service in the Army towards their pension If there is nothing to be done for them you are doing them a great injustice. So far as I can see, and I have heard some responsible opinions on the subject, there is no reason whatever—and the right hon. Gentleman knows it—why these men should not be given this privilege except, of course, the reason, which I admit he considers a 461 strong one, that it is difficult to get the money out of the Treasury.
The privilege is a perfectly legitimate one. It is the more legitimate when you take into consideration the fact that only recently you have taken over into the Post Office Service the National Telephone Company's concern, and you are going to allow the service of the civilians in the National Telephone Service to count towards their pensions. These are men who have been serving a private company now taken over by the Government. You deny the privilege to these ex-soldiers, whose only fault it is that they have served their country before going into the Civil Service! They have a real and legitimate grievance. I think the right hon. Gentleman himself admits it is a sound grievance, and I only hope he will do all he can to bring his influence to bear to remedy this grievance, which is felt so strongly throughout the country. In the Memorandum which we have been given by the Secretary of State there is a statement made as to the Territorial Forces. It appears that privates of the Territorial Force are going to be allowed—and very rightly, I think—a separation allowance. I think it ought to have been allowed long ago. I am very glad indeed to see it there. But there is another branch of the Service quite entitled to the same consideration at the hands of the Secretary for War. I refer to the privates of the Special Reserve. Why should they not have the same consideration as privates in the Territorial Forces? Both privates of the Special Reserve and commanding officers, too, have a very serious grievance. As many as 70 per cent. of the men who have joined, in some cases 65 per cent. and in many others 50 per cent., never do any training at all under the commanding officers of their regiment. The men in the Special Reserve get their bounty of 30s., and they then go straight into the Regulars. I grant you it is an excellent thing for the Regular Forces, but it is very hard on the commanding officer of a Special Reserve regiment, who has to do his best to train his men, and who, after having done his best to obtain the number of men, and to keep his regiment up to its establishment, so that as time goes on the men are capable of taking their places in the ranks, finds them going at once.
After all, we must remember that the whole object of the Special Reserve is to take their place in the ranks of the Regulars. I feel convinced that the hon. Member for West Somerset 462 will support me in this particular point. He is a Special Reserve officer. I repeat it is very hard on the Special Reserve officer, when, having done his best to obtain his full number of competent men, he finds he is simply training recruits for the Regular Forces. You would be doing a mere matter of justice if you could see your way to extend the privilege of separation allowance to those men of the Special Reserve who do attend a training, as you have assented to the grant to the Territorial Force. As regards the Special Reserve, I think the situation is not a very satisfactory one. We have this splendid optimistic spirit of the Secretary of State for War. We keep on shifting from our position as regards our defensive forces. We keep on whittling down the conditions of service, which are even now on a dangerously narrow basis. I do not know where we are going to end in the long run. We do all this simply in order to have a number of men on paper, and so that we can issue a report in optimistic terms and say that we have so many men. What about the authorities claiming that we are only 1,800 men shorter than last year? What are the real facts of the case? We are short of our establishment of Special Reserves by no less than 27,962. Instead of trying to mislead the Members of the House of Commons—although I do not think they are easily misled—by stating that we are only 1,800 men less than last year, it would be far better to say that we are 27,900 men short. It would save hon. Members looking out figures, and from the necessity for examining these statements. Then again a statement is issued in respect of the Special Reserve saying it requires only five months' training for recruits, with one month for musketry, and only twenty-seven days in camp, and this on enlistment for six years? Surely this is the very limit that we ought to expect from the Special Reserve if they are to take their proper place in the field. Why have we now a new statement issued which allows recruits six months on joining on enlistment for six years? What does it say besides: that they can have only two weeks' training, one week at a time, under any commander, and in any place? I think the policy pursued here is a foolhardy policy.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I do not rise to continue the Debate, but to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, accompanied by an offer, which, in the opinion of the 463 regular Opposition, would not delay voting either the men or the money for the Army for a day longer than they thought necessary for a proper discussion of Army policy. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that there are still a number of hon. and gallant Members whom the House would like to hear on the general question. Although we thank him for his full replies, there are also certain points upon which he has not yet replied to questions raised. My appeal is that he will give us on an early day next week half a day, that is a Morning Sitting, to discuss the general question. If he will do that my offer is that we will then give him Vote A (for numbers) and Vote 1 (for pay). I am perfectly prepared to get rid of other Votes of not so interesting a character, such as for works and the three non-effective Votes. Another appeal—and with this I am sure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree—is that we must have a full day for the discussion of the Territorial Forces, in addition to the half-day on the general question.
§ Colonel SEELY
I can say at once, although one is disappointed for the moment in not getting the Votes to-night, that I realise that there are a number of hon. Members who wish to speak on the general question. Therefore, on behalf of the Government, I accept the right hon. Gentleman's proposal that we should allot a Morning Sitting, that is until 8.15, some day next week. I know the Opposition do not wish to delay the necessary Votes on the Paper, A and 1, the Vote for buildings, and the non-effective Votes. I make an appeal to them to allow us to get Report without any long discussion, because it is so great a convenience in regard to the payment of the Army. I trust that appeal will be favourably considered, unless, of course, some particular point arises. The right hon. Gentleman also asked me if we might have a day for the Territorial Forces. I think that is an allotted day. I think that is a reasonable request. The matter is very important, and I therefore, on behalf of the Government, agree to that.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again"—[Mr. Hunt]—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow (Thursday).