§ Order for Second Reading road.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I beg to move, "That this Bill be now read a second time."
In submitting this Bill to the House I venture to express the hope that the proposals contained therein may be considered and criticised from a non-party standpoint. Even if it were desirable that any question dealing with the subject of national defence should be regarded from a party point of view, so far as this particular Bill is concerned it would be impossible, because, whilst there are a large number of Members on this side of the House who are opposed to the principles laid down in the Bill, there are equally on the other side of the House hon. Members, like the hon. Member for the Newmarket Division who will second the Motion for the Second Reading, who agree with me that some solution of the kind that I am suggesting is necessary for the safety of the country. I wish also to assure the Secretary of State for War that in drawing attention, as I shall naturally have to do, to the serious shortage in the Territorial Force, my object is not to make capital out of the difficulty of the Government in obtaining recruits for that force, but rather to suggest a remedy for what I regard not as a party embarrassment, but as a national danger. I do not propose to address my 1518 remarks to those who constitute an utterly insignificant minority of the people of this country, and whose views I hope are altogether unrepresented in this House; I mean those who would regard with indifference our degeneration from a free and independent people into what the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs once described as the conscript appendage of some stronger Power. I am unable to follow the argument of those who object strongly to military service in defence of their own country and institutions, but are unconcerned at the possibility of similar military service imposed upon them by a foreign conqueror. I venture with great diffidence to make the suggestions contained in this Bill for the consideration of those who, although they may be sharply divided upon questions of internal policy and domestic government, are nevertheless absolutely united in the determination to protect from the possibility of foreign attack those great democratic institutions of the country upon which the liberties of our people depend.
In justification of the proposals which I am about to submit to the House and of the principles which I have adopted it will be necessary for me to make a brief comparison between the naval and military situation as it existed in 1907, when the Territorial Force Act was under the consideration of this House and of the military authorities, and the naval and military situation as it exists to-day, in order to ascertain whether there are any circumstances that exist to-day in connection with the question of national defence that did not exist in 1907, and which would consequently justify any modifications in the requirements which at that time were thought necessary for the security of the country. So far as our Navy is concerned—and I am comparing the year 1906–7 with 1912–13—our expenditure has increased by no less than 48 per cent.; on the other hand, the expenditure of Germany upon her Navy has increased by 91 per cent. Of British battleships less than twenty years old of over 6,000 tons we have now 27 per cent. more than we had in 1907, but Germany has increased her battleships of similar tonnage by 65 per cent. The personnel of the British Navy has increased by 8 per cent.; the personnel of the German Navy by 65 per cent. I am not now making any suggestion or criticism of the adequacy or inadequacy of our naval position. I am merely stating what must be a question of 1519 accepted fact, namely, that our naval superiority of to-day is very much inferior to our naval superiority in 1906–7. With regard to our Army, I desire to make a comparison between its state on 1st January, 1907, and 1st January 1913. I select 1907 in order to be perfectly fair. Obviously if I had taken an earlier date the comparison would have been very much more striking. I find that exclusive of Territorials and of the Reserves in each case, but inclusive in each case of reserve divisions of Militia—because there are some still existing—I find that taking the Regular Army and Special Reserve, or Militia, as the case may be, there has been in that period a reduction of no less than 43,865 men. This is a reduction of the Regular Army of just over 9,000 men, and of the Special Reserve of 34,545 over the Militia of 1907. It was then at 96,040 men. In spite of the fact that in an extremely optimistic mood the military authorities once fixed the establishment of the Militia at 88,000 men, it now numbers, as the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to inform us, on 1st January, 60,765 men.
As a result of this very brief comparison—which I have tried to put perfectly fairly—I think it must be admitted that our Navy is not in the same position of relative superiority as it was in 1907, whilst in regard to our Army there has been a comparatively small reduction in the number of the Regulars, but a very large reduction in the numbers of the Special Reserve, or Militia. There is one other observation that naturally follows from the conclusions I have drawn: Can it be suggested that during the last six or seven years there has been such a marked improvement in the international situation that the standard of military strength which was required then, is no longer essential to-day? It is a matter of common knowledge that so far from the international situation having improved it has probably not for so very many years past been so unsatisfactory. On at least two occasions during that period, I believe—at least it is generally believed—that the relations between the Great Powers have been strained almost to breaking point, whilst at the present moment the situation in the Balkans is causing the greatest anxiety for the peace of Europe.
The armaments of other nations of Europe have also been greatly increased. Germany last year added 100,000 men to her already enormous military forces. She 1520 intends, by her latest proposals, to add an additional 160,000 men. France, by a return to the three years' system, that all able-bodied men shall serve, will get 160,000 more. Russia is adding to her forces three Army Corps and the appearance of these new military powers in the Balkans is only adding another disturbing element to the situation. As the right hon. Gentleman very justly remarked in his speech the other day on the Army Estimates, the march of science has during the last year or two largely influenced naval and military development. He pointed to the progress of wireless telegraphy, the increased size and speed of merchant ships, and the greater effectiveness and range of submarines. All these are new factors in the situation. Some tell against us; some in our favour. But the progress of science since 1907 has produced one entirely new development which will perhaps revolutionise the whole course of naval and military warfare—that is the development of aerial navigation. The figures are at the disposal of those who care to examine them; but in spite of the fact that we have made substantial progress in naval and military aviation our provision of airships, aeroplanes, aviators and equipment generally can only be regarded as altogether insignificant in comparison with the preparations made by foreign Powers. As improvements in aerial navigation continue — for everyone agrees that this science, or art, is only in its infancy—the effect must be to deprive us of many of those advantages and immunities which we have hitherto enjoyed as an Island Power. It is quite within the bounds of possibility that our natural protection of the sea will be practically obliterated, and that that supremacy upon the sea itself will be ultimately dependent upon supremacy in the air.
Front this very general view I do not think it is possible for us to regard the relative decrease in our naval superiority, and the actual decrease of numbers in our military forces—both factors—with anything but anxiety. If at the earlier time it was thought desirable that the numbers of the Territorial Force should be fixed at, approximately, 315,000, I can see no reason in existing conditions to be satisfied with a smaller number. At present the Territorial Force is 50,000 men under its establishment, and this in spite of the heroic efforts which have been made by the right hon. Gentleman, by the Director-General of the Territorial Forces, by the 1521 County Associations—to which the hon. Gentleman has borne tribute—in all parts of the country, and in spite of the fact that every inducement has been held out to young men to join. I am sorry to say that training requirements have been relaxed. I was reading with very great interest recently the speech with which Mr. (now Lord) Haldane introduced the Territorial Forces Rill in 1907. He distinctly stated that he was going to make attendance at camp compulsory, because he regarded it as absolutely essential for the efficiency of the force. This year I find that so far from attendance at camp being compulsory, the training requirements have been relaxed to the extent that 34,700 did not attend camp at all. In order to get recruits innumerable speeches have been made, and patriotic smoking concerts have been held, whilst, to induce suitable young men to join, I understand that in some localities free dancing classes for recruits have been organised in the belief no doubt that instruction in the "goose step" would be the logical sequence of initiation into the "Turkey Trot." Unfortunately, none of these efforts have been actually successful. A large number of recruits have admittedly been obtained, but not sufficient to meet the natural wastage of the force or the case of those men whose engagements came to a termination, and the consequence is that during the past twelve months the force has suffered a serious decline. The Secretary of State for War admitted very frankly that the situation was unsatisfactory when he said that the force was, I think, only 84 per cent. of its establishment. He also said—I do not think he alluded to this in Debate, but in replying to a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury—it was estimated that the force lost 11,000 officers and men in the last twelve months. The right hon. Gentleman had no practical suggestion to make, but, after reviewing the situation, he concluded with the words:—We mean to support the voluntary system, and we hope and believe that under it we can obtain the number of men we require.I am not finding any fault with the right hon. Gentleman for looking at the brightside of things. Optimism is the first duty of a Cabinet Minister, and it is a very necessary qualification for a Minister of State for War, but I cannot forget that similarly optimistic views expressed from time to time in the past have never been justified by results. I have been looking into the 1522 Debates we have had previously as regards the Territorials. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor came to the House of Commons in March, 1910, and he was extremely optimistic in his views. He said:—I will come to the figures in a moment, but I will only say now that front the way in which recruiting is progressing I have not thought it safe to estimate for less than 300,000 men in the present year.But, unfortunately, when the Annual Report was issued, his anticipation of getting the number of men was not realised, but instead of getting 25,000 men, there was a shortage of 3,000 in the numbers. The right hon. Gentleman was in no way discouraged, because he came back on 14th March, 1911, and while he admitted that good trade and emigration had affected recruiting to a certain extent he went on to say that—the numbers are going up, and during the first two mouths of the present year there is an increase of 5,400.But unfortunately again, when the Annual Report was issued, instead of an increase of 5,400 men, there was a decrease of 2,933. When the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State took over the administration of our military affairs everyone welcomed the fact that about that time there was a considerable increase in the Territorial Force which perhaps justified the right hon. Gentleman in the optimism he displayed last year, but unfortunately, as often happened before, that optimism was not realised. On 6th March, 1912, the right hon. Gentleman said:—It is satisfactory to know that within the last year the numbers increased rapidly, more rapidly than the year before.I am not suggesting for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman did not think himself perfectly justified in alluding to the rapid increase, but unfortunately, again, when the complete results for the year were known, there was a decrease of 89 officers and 10,633 men. I am not suggesting on this occasion that the right hon. Gentleman is not perfectly genuine in expressing the belief that we can obtain all the men we require, but I have the greatest possible doubt whether his forecast is likely to be any more accurate than those to which I have alluded. In view of the fact that over 100,000 men terminate their engagements this year, is it not extremely likely that during the next twelve months the decline in numbers will not be more marked than in previous years? Personally, I have come to the conclusion that under the voluntary system we must make up our minds that it is impossible to get 1523 the number of men required for the Territorial Army. And were the change to take place now, as I do not for a moment expect it will, or were it to take place later on, I am perfectly certain we shall eventually be obliged to adopt, not perhaps the actual system suggested in the Bill, but the principle involved in it; and that principle is, of course, that the privilege of citizenship carries with it the liability to engage in military training for the defence of the country. The question then arises, How far are we justified in calling upon the individual to make a personal sacrifice for the benefit of the State, and not merely in tins case for the benefit of the State, but for the State's actual security and existence, which is at issue? Can we admit in any circumstances that there should be compulsion? We enforce compulsion in taxation against the will of the individual, because we know the payment of taxes is necessary for the government of the country to be carried on. Again we admit the principle of compulsory insurance; we admit the principle of compulsory education, because we believe compulsory education to be not merely for the benefit of the individual, but for the general welfare of the State. Civilisation is in itself an admission that the interests of the individual must be subordinate to those of the community. Therefore, if for the security of the State a certain military force is required, if it is impossible to get sufficient men by a voluntary enlistment, I say we are justified in introducing the element of compulsion rather than run the risk of disaster. In case of emergency the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor himself advocated exactly a similar method to that which I propose in this Bill. Speaking at Bunhill Row Drill Hall on 28th January, 1909, Mr. Haldane said:—I would advocate the passing of a short sharp Act of Parliament if war broke out to compel people to take their share in the duty of defence.There is not very much difference between Lord Haldane's views and mine so far as this question is concerned, except that I believe in organising the fire brigade before the fire actually breaks out. I am perfectly well aware that the arguments I have nut forward will not be acceptable to hon. Members on the Labour Benches opposite. I know that for many years past, I believe with perfect sincerity, they have advocated general disarmament of the nations and the settling of international disputes by arbitration, but there 1524 is this one argument I would like to place before hon. Members, and it is that when they are dealing with disarmament if the policy of disarmament is to be successful it must be simultaneous. If the leaders of the Socialist movement in the various parts of Europe are only able to induce the more progressive and democratic Governments to reduce their armaments, the only result will be to place democracy and progress at the mercy of tyranny and reaction. I would like to refer for one moment to a speech made by Senator Pearce, Minister of State for Defence in the Australian Government. Speaking on the Second Reading of the Commonwealth Defence Bill, 18th August, 1910, he said:—I know that it is sometimes said that we of the Labour party profess to believe in arbitration for the settlement of international disputes. So we do. But before arbitration is possible you must have two things which are precedent to it. Those are that both parties must be prepared to arbitrate, or that there must be a third power which is stronger than either, and which will compel them to arbitrate. Look round and you find that those conditions do nut prevail. There can be no arbitration among the armed nations of the world until they have reached a loftier stage of civilisation than the nations seem to have reached to-day or until the ideal of the brotherhood of man is spread amongst them. For my own part, I believe that that time is coming. I believe that a better understanding formed amongst the workers of the world will bring it about. But it has not arrived yet. We have seen in many countries that even the workers themselves have thrown up their hats for war. Some of us have seen a mad mob rushing down the street of this big city, mad with the war fever. I remind hon. Senato's also that the best of social conditions might be upset in a day or two, unless the country in which they exist was able to defend itself. In times long past in Peru, the people had realised a condition of Socialism. But a few armed invaders under Spanish conquerors swept over their country and overthrew their Socialism at a touch. Although the Peruvians out numbered the Spaniards by a thousand to one, still the Spaniards possessed arms, and knew how to use them, while the Peruvians had no arms, or merely an army in name. The fate that overcame the Peruvians suffices to show that even a perfect social and industrial system, if not efficiently defended, may go down before an armed and trained invader. …. When hon. Senators think of our circumstances, and read the history of other nations. I venture to assert that they can come to no other conclusion than that it is our bounden duty to make our country absolutely safe.Again, I am aware that Members of the Labour party will argue that the principle of National Service is of itself undemocratic. I cannot see that there is anything undemocratic in the proposal that every citizen, to whatever class of the community he may belong, should have the same liability to serve the State under exactly similar conditions. Surely a proposal like that is the very essence of true democracy. It is the very system adopted in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
To come to the provisions of the Bill they will require very little explanation because I think the measure is a 1525 very simple one. The Bill imposes a liability upon every male person resident in the United Kingdom, upon attaining the age of eighteen years to serve as a private soldier of the Territorial Force within the United Kingdom. The term of service and the periods of training are exactly the same as those prescribed under the Territorial Force Act.
With regard to the numbers, of course, only a comparatively small proportion of those liable for service would actually be wanted, and those not required according to this proposal would be eliminated by exacting a high standard of physical efficiency which would be varied from time to time in order to meet the requirements of the force. This is the method which has been adopted in New Zealand, where also eliminations had to he made, though not so large as we should make. It acts perfectly fairly as between class and class. As a matter of fact, I have ascertained from those who know all about this question in New Zealand, the actual result has been that a considerably larger proportion of young men of the upper classes have been able to satisfy the physical requirements of the force and no doubt the same result would be found here, which from every point of view is desirable. Nor is this system unfair so far as the individual is concerned, because I see no reason why a man who enjoys exceptional physical qualities which will be an advantage to him all through life to whatever class of the community he belongs, from a Cabinet Minister to an agricultural labourer. I do not think it is unfair that a man who by the accident of birth has received this physical superiority should be asked to give a service to the State which is not required from those less endowed in this respect. A force selected in this way would naturally be composed of the physical pick of the population, and I am inclined to think that the result would be that as the ordinary average young man at the age of eighteen has a natural desire to excel in physical strength and physical qualities, so I think there would be an anxiety to get into the force, because those who succeeded in passing the medical examination would have obtained what might be regarded as a certificate of physical excellence.
Another provision is that all the appointments of officers should invariably be made from those who have served for one year, at least, in the ranks of the force, except in the case of those who, to the 1526 advantage of the force, have had previous military experience in some of His Majesty's Forces, either as officers, non-commissioned officers, or men, who would be able, according to this scheme, to receive direct commissions. I pass on now to the question of the employers. Those employers, under this scheme, who attempt to penalise their employés as members of the Territorial Force in any way are to be liable to a penalty of £50. If the offence is aggravated, and the High Court so decides, they may further be disqualified for a period not exceeding ten years from holding any public office under the Crown and from voting at a Parilamentary election. Those are the penalties placed upon employers. The men who attempt to evade their liability to serve or fail to fulfil the required training conditions are to be subject to a penalty of £5, and are to be liable to the same disqualifications as the employers. The exemptions contained in the Schedule are those serving in His Majesty's Forces, or those who have served for three years; those who are serving or have served for three years in the British mercantile marine, or the son of a widow whose mother is dependent upon his work for her support.
In the last exemption there is a printer's error, and it should read, "a person whom it is desirable to exempt in the interests of the public service." It appeared to me desirable that in a comprehensive scheme of this kind wide discretionary power should be given to the Army Council to be exercised in the case of those having religious objection to military duties and also for the purpose of excluding those who have received or were qualifying for appointments in India or the Colonies or other public offices whom it was desirable to exempt. It has not been found necessary to mention this in the Bill, but I desire to emphasise this, that the Territorial Force cannot be sent abroad, nor can it be called out in aid of the civil power in the case of strikes. A Territorial Army on a national basis is, in my view, essential for the protection of the country and for the mobility of the Fleet. It is only by uniting high and low, rich and poor, in a common liability to defend their country that we shall secure for ourselves, and for those who come after us, uninterrupted progress in democratic development and constitutional liberty.
§ Sir CHARLES ROSE
I desire to second the Motion that this House gives a Second 1527 Reading to this Bill, the object of which the hon. Member has just explained to the House. [Interruption, and an HON. MEMBER: "Cowards!"]
§ Mr. BARNES
Might I call your attention to the observation of the Noble Lord opposite, who characterised us as "cowards"? Is that a proper observation?
§ Earl WINTERTON
I used it in reply to a very disorderly interruption from the hon. Member himself. He said that all the cheers were coming from the other side, and I said it was because they were cowards. If there is anything disorderly in what I said I withdraw it, but I think, Sir, you ought also to call upon the hon. Member to withdraw.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is not disorderly to say that the cheers are all from one side, but it is very disorderly to use the word "coward," and quite unnecessary.
§ Mr. BARNES
I am not very clear what the Noble Lord attributes to me. As a matter of fact, all I said was that there were cheers from the other side for a Liberal, which I think is quite a Parliamentary observation.
§ Sir C. ROSE
I am glad my hon. Friend has given me the opportunity of seconding the Motion. I believe I happen to be the only Member on this side of the House whose name appears on the back of the Bill, but I should be sorry indeed to believe that there are not many others who, like myself, are heartily in sympathy with the object and principle of the Bill. The main object and principle of the Bill, namely, that every young able-bodied man should hold himself liable to take his place as a member of the Territorial Force in the defence of this country and bear his share of the nation's burdens, meets with my unqualified approval and support. I believe that drill, training, and discipline are good for the character of every individual, and I feel very strongly—here I go probably further even than my hon. Friend—that it is the duty of every citizen, I do not care who he may be, to submit to whatever sacrifice he may be called upon to make to place the defensive forces of our country in such a position as to make our country absolutely secure 1528 against any possible aggression whatever, as to which I confess I have at the present time very grave doubts. I think it is probably more incumbent that everyone should recognise that position at the present time than ever before. I cannot shut my eyes to what is going on in the great Continental countries, the vast increase in expenditure on armaments, and I cannot hide from myself the fact that it may probably be impossible for this country in the future to hold itself entirely aloof from the disputes and quarrels of our European neighbours. Consequently, the necessity devolves upon us to do everything in our power to make our defence at home absolutely secure against any contingency. I do not believe that the youth of this country will consider that a great sacrifice is called upon them under the provisions of the Bill. I believe that the majority of them will recognise their responsibility and will consider it a privilege to be able to take an honourable part in the defence of their country.
I plead complete ignorance as to how this measure might affect recruiting for our Regular Army, and I should like at once to say that I should regret very much indeed if anything were done to make the task of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War more difficult than it is at the present time. Our Regular Army is not by any means as large or as strong as I should like to see it; but I do not wish the House to think that I am imbued with an ultra spirit of militarism, because I am not; or my hon. Friends on this side of the House to think that I look lightly on the horrors of war, because that I certainly do not. War is horrible and cruel, and no one can have a greater abhorrence of it than I have. I honour and respect the efforts of all those in this country who have done so much to endeavour to bring about universal peace by peaceful means and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means. I hope that their efforts may be rewarded, and that they may live to see their dreams realised, but I am afraid I have not changed my mind. As long as human nature is what it is, the final appeal in many cases must be force, and the surest way of preventing that is by seeing that we ourselves are prepared for all possible contingencies. It is for that reason, it is because I have grave fears that the position of our Territorial Force and the defence of our country at home are not all that they ought to be, and it is because I 1529 strongly believe it is the duty of every citizen to submit to whatever sacrifice he may be called upon to make in order to bear his share of the nation's burden that I have great pleasure in seconding the Motion of my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
I am very glad that the campaign which has been waged out of doors in connection with this question and the general question of the military resources of the country has at last been brought to an issue in this House and that we have an opportunity of discusing a Bill containing definite proposals. I should like, before criticising the hon. Member's attitude and his proposals, to express my own appreciation of the ability and moderation with which he presented his case to the House. I think I shall carry with me those on this side of the House who are most strongly opposed to his proposal if I say that we listened to his speech with extreme pleasure. He reviewed the statistics of the whole of the defensive forces of the country, drawing certain deductions from them, and he made certain references to Germany and to other nations. The picture he presented was an extremely partial picture, incomplete in some of the most essential details. His argument amounted to this: If to-day we are not indulging in quite so strenuous a rivalry in armaments with other nations as a few years ago, that in itself is a bad thing and shows that we are drifting towards national disaster. I should draw the contrary deduction from that statement of fact. Whenever comparative statistics are presented to this House, and whenever any attempt is made to estimate our position compared with the position of other countries, certain other vital facts should be placed before us. Surely we have to consider the great distinction which exists between the geographical position of Great Britain and the geographical position and difficulty of the Great European Powers. We have to remember the overwhelming superiority of the Navy of this country; its impregnable character.
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I understand the Noble Lord to dissent. We have to remember the overwhelming strength of the Navy of this country, and the fact that a 1530 Volunteer Army for Home defence, a Territorial Force for Home defence, is not required in the way in which similar armies are required by European nations. We have also to remember, when making this comparative review of our military strength, our friendships abroad, and the probable, indeed the possible, combinations to which we may find ourselves opposed. I venture to suggest with great respect to my hon. Friend who moved this Bill that these vital aspects of the matter were not even hinted at in his remarks, and that, if we are to get some sort of correct picture these very material facts must be taken into our consideration. My further criticism of the Bill is this, that it seeks to make a very revolutionary change in our national life on a very slender ground indeed. There is a deficiency in the Territorial Force which amounts possibly to some 16 per cent., but we have it on the authority of the Secretary of State for War that it is less now than it has been, and that the numbers are gradually, but surely, improving. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Well, I am quoting the words of the Secretary of State for War that the recruits for the Territorial Force are slowly and steadily increasing. [An HON. MEMBER "They are falling off."] I am content with quoting that authority for it, and I am assured by those who certainly ought to know that I am entirely right in making it. I suggest, therefore, that that being the state of things, we shall require very much better reasons than have been presented before we take the revolutionary step which is proposed in this Bill. May I say one or two things about what I consider the not very alarming deficiency in the Territorial Force to-day. Last year a mission was undertaken by General Bethune. That mission will be familiar to Members opposite. As the result of the meetings which he addressed on the subject of the Territorial Force there was a notable increase in the number of recruits. Whereas in the year before General Bethune undertook that campaign the number of recruits was something over 7,000, the number in the year that followed his campaign, and I think as the result of his campaign, rose to something over 11,000. I mention that very important fact in order that hon. Members may realise the influence that such a campaign has, and I suggest that the sympathetic presentation of the case for the Territorial Force, with certain 1531 other improvements which I may have time to speak of in a moment or two, is one of the best ways of raising the numbers of the force. I desire to take this opportunity of expressing the deep regret I feel that this attitude towards the Territorial Force has not been always followed by distinguished generals and by leading exponents of the principle of compulsory service. I regret, for instance, that in the great cities of the country, to crowded audiences, containing in some instances many thousands of persons, a very distinguished general, who is justly regarded as one of the nation's heroes, Field Marshal Lord Roberts, should have attacked, depreciated, and discouraged the Territorial Force.
§ Earl WINTERTON: Give a quotation.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The Noble Lord asks for a quotation, and I will give it to him. I will quote the words of Lord Roberts, delivered at his great meeting at Wolverhampton, as recorded in the "Times" of the following day. He said:The Territorial Force is now an acknowledged failure,"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The Noble Lord will see there is some difference between him and his Friends. Lord Roberts continued:—a failure in discipline, a failure in numbers, a failure in equipment, a failme in energy. I have so often demonstrated this thesis, I have so often analysed the contradictions in the arguments of the supporters of the Territorial movement, I have so often exposed their vamped-up statistics, and the rewards and encouragements offered by politicians to every soldier or civilian who is willing to say a word in praise of that scheme, I have done this also so often that there seems nothing left for me to say.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
Is that not an attack upon the Territorial Force? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Is not that a depreciation of the Territorial Force? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Is not that a distinct, a great, discouragement to every man in the Territorial Force and to every would-be recruit in that force? I am content to leave that extract, with those questions, to the judgment of the House. I will go further: I will ask the House to attempt to realise what must be the effect of such speeches as those delivered by a man holding such an eminent position, and held in such great regard, to vast crowds of many thousands of workmen and other classes of men in the country? The result of such speeches must be to 1532 prevent the recruiting in the Territorial Force proceeding as it would otherwise have done and generally to discourage and degrade the whole movement. If we consider the present condition with regard to recruiting for the Territorial Force, we must remember the signally adverse influences that have been deliberately invoked in order to discourage and render less effective and less successful this Territorial Force, and the doing of those things to force the nation into a course which, I believe, is extremely repugnant to, it. I want also to say to the hon. Member who introduced this Bill that he rather depreciated, at least he did not allow us fully to realise, the serious nature and extent of the change which his Bill proposes. He rather hinted to us that the Bill did not suggest any increase in the establishment of the Territorial Force. The hon. Member is right in one technical and narrow sense. The Bill does not propose in itself any immediate increase in the establishment of the Territorial Force, but the numbers of the Territorial Force are not fixed by the Act to which the hon. Member refers in his own Bill. They are not fixed by the Territorial Force Act, 1907, and, as under the Bill every person fulfilling the conditions set forth in the Act as to age and other matters becomes liable to service in the Territorial Force, it is really equivalent to setting up a Territorial Force consisting of the whole of the manhood of the country between certain ages, for whatever the establishment sanctioned by Parliament at the present moment may be it is simply a matter for the Government of the day, having received the requisite financial and other sanction from this House, to raise the establishment to any number it pleases. That is the new far-reaching policy which is introduced with the words of such gentle moderation by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill. I do not take it that he dissents from that view. Certainly I do not see what case can be made against the statement I have made.
§ Mr. SANDYS
The weakness to which the hon. Members refers as an undesirable feature, if it is undesirable, is in the original Act. It has nothing to do with my Bill.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I cannot accept that explanation as an adequate justification for this Bill. The hon. Member had something to say about disarmament. I listened with very great attention to that 1533 part of his speech and to the extract he read from the speech of a labour leader in another country. For my own part, I regret that greater encouragement was not given to the principle of mutual disarmament and the principle of arbitration. I feel, when I venture to rise to move the rejection of a Bill of this character, that it is, perhaps, necessary to present not only a criticism of the Bill, but also some statement of policy of a different nature. The attitude which I wish to state briefly is that I think the number of people in this country who would not wish to make every effort to guard against disaster to this country is a very negligible one. Those of us who disbelieve in compulsory military service regard compulsory service as wholly unnecessary. We see in it means by which not the defence of this country is secured, but many adventurous designs are undertaken apart from this country, possibly contrary to the will of the great majority in this country. We believe that the defences of this country are adequate, that the defences of this country have to be considered in relation to the policy of this country, and in relation also to the great international problems. We desire to see no check given to all those forces in this country and other countries which make for international understanding, and, later on, lead to mutual disarmament. If I may say so, addressing particularly hon. Members opposite, I am myself—I speak quite sincerely—always filled with great sadness because when Minister after Minister in responsible positions in this country and other countries rises and states that, unless some agreement is come to, this constant race in armaments must lead to disaster, yet, whenever any definite proposal is made for disarmament, it is greeted with jeers and ridicule. For instance, I very much regret, when the First Lord of the Admiralty was proposing, very reasonably and with moderation and reserve, a naval holiday, that it should have been the subject for the instant ridicule which was poured upon it by the Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford) and others opposite.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The Noble Lord says by Germany. I dispute that; it is entirely inaccurate. I may state, first of all, that the Noble Lord gave them every encouragement. He led the way, in case there should be any extremists in Germany 1534 willing to follow him. But the Noble Lord was not successful, because I read the speeches which were delivered in the. Reichstag on the proposal of the First Lord, and was very much amazed at the different tone which was present in those speeches, a tone which we should have heard a year or two ago. There was conveyed, on behalf of the German Government to this Government, the definite statement that they had received this proposal with interest and pleasure, that they would be glad to wait for a more detailed and exact proposal, and that they would give it the consideration and respect it merited. That, I believe, carried us some steps further.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The Noble Lord is very elusive. He passes from one proposal to another with great rapidity. If there is any meaning at all in his last interruption that the German Government is now adding another fifty-two millions to its Army, which I understand to be the statement he made, and from which I venture to dissent, is the Noble Lord now going to suggest that we, too, must make an enormous addition to our Regular Army? I therefore plead that these discouragements, these sneers, and this deliberate ridicule of proposals that are made in order to bring about a better international understanding should come to an end. Here at home we sometimes make a mistake in the very narrow meaning we apply to the word "citizenship" or to the word "patriot." My hon. Friend, in introducing the Bill, I think used both words, and gave to citizenship a close connection with the desire to bear arms. I want to take this opportunity of urging that we should not take a narrow, limited view of what constitutes citizenship or what constitutes patriotism. I should be very sorry to see the narrow and frequently worthless test of a desire to bear arms as the ultimate, and final test either of patriotism or of citizenship. There are many thousands of men and women in this country to-day doing a great patriotic service apart from the profession of arms. There are many 1535 thousands of men in charge of Boys' Brigades, Church Brigades, Boy Scouts, and innumerable other organisations who are not training them to military ideals but to become healthy, resourceful, thoughtful citizens of the Empire. When proposals like these are put before us on the plea that they will improve the health of the nation, I would state that there are other and better ways of improving the health of the nation. I have lived in the slums of several great cities. I have seen the daily waste that takes place of the best assets of the nation—the waste of our children through the unhealthy conditions of life in the crowded portions of our cities. I have seen their premature sacrifice owing to the improper toll taken of them by certain forms of industry, a toll taken before they were fit morally or physically to bear it. Therefore I say we should indeed be making a very serious mistake if we thought that fifteen days' training and a little occasional drill was going to put on a proper basis the health of this nation. In looking at this Bill and the problems which it raises, we have to remember the necessity which falls upon us of creating such conditions of life that it will be possible for these, the best assets of any nation to be properly trained and to become healthy citizens living under healthy conditions, for I say without any hesitation, and I believe I shall carry the whole House with me, that a great nation which consists of great citizens, in the sense that they are healthy, resourceful citizens and men of character, is a nation that need not fear invasion.
§ Captain MURRAY
I desire to second the rejection of this Bill, and I should like to associate myself with the hope expressed by the hon. Member (Mr. Sandys) that the question of national defence would not be allowed to descend into the party arena. The hon. Member was very successful in preventing any such thing taking place. I should like also to join the hon. Member (Mr. Whitehouse) in congratulating him upon the tone of his speech, also may I say with what great pleasure we on this side listened to the speech of the hon. Baronet (Sir C. Rose). The hon. Member (Mr. Sandys) gave us a somewhat extensive discourse on national defence in all its branches. To my mind those remarks would have been more suitable in a debate introducing a Bill for universal 1536 military service than on a Bill containing such modest proposals as these. The hon. Member dismissed somewhat airily the actual provisions of the Bill, and the hon. Baronet did not touch them at all. His speech was simply devoted to the advocacy of universal military training, and he seemed to leave out of account the fact that the only object of the Bill is to raise the present strength of the Territorial Force to the establishment laid down in the Territorial Force Act of 1907. So far as I am aware, in order to maintain the establishment of the Territorial Force there are required annually 70,000 to 80,000 men, and that is under conditions which would exist were the hon. Gentleman's Bill law, because under these conditions a great deal of the wastage which at present exists would very largely disappear. How are these 80,000 men to be obtained? Every year there are in this country some 400,000 youths who arrive at the age of eighteen. Under the proposals of the National Service League some 200,000 of them were to be rejected for medical reasons and for legal exemption, and out of the remaining 200,000, 60,000 are recruited for the Army and Navy every year. That brings us down to a net total of 140,000 men from whom it is proposed to obtain the 80,000 for the purposes of this Bill. How is that to be done? Clause 4, which is the operative Clause of the Bill, does not adopt what might be thought to be a very easy method, the system of ballot, but it proposes to alter the physical standard for the enlistment of men in the Territorial Force. The hon. Member says the proposals of this Bill in this respect are very similar to those which obtain in New Zealand, but I do not think that is so.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I said the principle was the same, but everyone knows that the numbers of the population of New Zealand and here are quite different.
§ Captain MURRAY
I rather disagree with the hon. Gentleman. It depends very largely upon the numbers in so far as the actual working of the Bill is concerned. In New Zealand the Defence Act provides for the gradual military training of every male New Zealander of the age of twelve to twenty-five, and after that age he will serve in the Reserve to the age of thirty. There are no distinctions and no exemptions. Everyone, unless physically unfit, would have to take his share in the defence of the Dominion.
§ Mr. SANDYS
That was the original law. In the Act the number has been reduced to about 30,000 men, and therefore they do practise a system of physical elimination. I saw the Minister and discussed the whole matter with him.
§ Captain MURRAY
This is 1913, and I would beg to differ from the hon. Gentleman in that respect. I have not the quotation which shows the particular proposals, but I know that there are no distinctions or exemptions. The strength of the New Zealand Defence Force will be some 30,000 men.
§ Mr. SANDYS
That is the method by which they reduce the number to 30,000. It is done by physical elimination, and it is the same method as I propose.
§ Captain MURRAY
Let us follow that out. In the New Zealand Defence Force Act the words used are "physically unfit." The hon. Gentleman uses the words "physical standard." He proposes to alter the physical standard in order to obtain 80,000 out of 140,000. I would ask, How does the hon. Gentleman propose to fix that standard, and does he think that under present conditions the Territorial Force standard can be the same all over the country? I think it is quite impossible, but in order to fine down the number required there would certainly have to be what I may call a very high standard. How is that to be fixed—by chest measurement, by height, or by some other means? I think it is quite possible that many hon. Gentlemen in this House who are physically fit in every way might, under the provisions for this Bill, have been prevented from enjoying the existence of a soldier's life. There is another difficulty in this connection to which the hon. Gentleman has not called attention. Does he suggest that, if under a voluntary system all men are called up to serve, there will be then the same willingness to serve as there is to-day? I cannot myself believe that will be the case. The whole system under which the voluntary system is carried on to-day is a system embracing enthusiasm and keenness. I therefore suggest to the hon. Gentleman that under the provisions of this Bill keenness to serve in the Territorial Force will cease to exist, and that it will be imperative to reorganise the whole of that force on a different basis, and to redistribute it on the basis of numbers and population throughout the country, instead of on the basis on which it exists to-day. I suggest further to the 1538 hon. Gentleman that under Clause 4 (a) there are enormous difficulties to which he has not paid the attention that is necessary. Another Clause to which I would call attention is Clause 2, Sub-section (2), under which—Any person declared by the Army Council to be unacceptable for service in the Territorial Force on the ground that he has been convicted of crime of a serious character, or that he is notoriously of evil reputation, shall be disqualified for service in the Territorial Force.That provision is, to my mind, a very dangerous one. I would characterise it as an incitement to crime. [Laughter.] The hon. Gentleman laughs, but he has served, I believe, in the Regular Army, and he knows perfectly well that there are instances every day of a man committing a crime in order either to avoid foreign service or to obtain discharge.
§ Captain MURRAY
That does not affect my argument. My argument still holds, that there will not be the same willingness to serve. The hon. Gentleman has placed in his Bill provision to allow the man who does not want to serve to escape from serving, and it is not at all unlikely that he will avail himself of the provision which the hon. Gentleman so kindly gives him. There is another provision in this Bill which, to my mind, requires some criticism. The hon. Gentleman said, in the course of his remarks, that among other desirable features of the Bill was that rich and poor alike should serve their country and defend their hearths and homes. Clause 7, Sub-section (2), contains the following provision:—If any person liable to serve by virtue of this Act fails (without leave lawfully granted or such sickness or other reasonable excuse as may be allowed in the prescribed manner) to comply with any general regulation requiring him to attend for medical examination or enrolment he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act, and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five pounds, but his conviction shall not of itself affect his liability to serve as a man of the Territorial Force by virtue of this Act.On the face of it there does not appear to be anything wrong in a provision like that, 1539 but I am rather curious to know where these fines are going to end. Under the old Ballot Act it was possible for a man to pay or to provide a substitute in order to escape service, and it seems to me that the hon. Gentleman has provided for the rich man in this particular Clause an easy means of escaping service.
§ Mr. SANDYS
These are points for discussion in Committee, but I would point out that under Sub-section (3) of the same Clause, paragraphs (a) and (b), provide that a man is not only to be fined £5, but is to "be incapable of holding any office in the service of the Crown; and be incapable of voting at any Parliamentary election."
§ Captain MURRAY
There are probably hundreds of people in this country at the present moment who do not wish to serve under the Crown, and who do not wish to cast a vote in a Parliamentary election. I do submit that the hon. Gentleman is providing in this Clause for the rich man, to whom a £5 note every year is of no consequence, a very easy means of escaping from the provisions of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman said that this is a Committee discussion. I beg to differ from him. All I am endeavouring to do is to show that this Bill is impracticable and is impossible to be carried into law. The hon. Gentleman in the last paragraph of his Bill says:—Every person holding a certificate of exemption granted to him by the Army Council as being a person whom it is desirable to exempt in the public serviceshall be a personexempt from liability to serve in the Territorial Force.What a vision that conjures up of the multitudinous applications to the Army Council for release from the service imposed under this Bill! I can only hope that if this Bill ever becomes law I shall have ceased to be a Member of this House. I can imagine the letters that would be received:—"Dear Sir,—My son, as you are aware, is a person whom it is desirable to exempt in the interests of the public service, and I shall be glad if you will notify the Army Council to this effect, hearing in mind that my vote depends upon their answer." I trust that, if at any time compulsory service such as is proposed in this Bill is introduced into law the House as a whole will stand firmly against any such provision. Even if it were a wise and 1540 a good Bill I would consider this Bill to be impracticable. If the hon. Gentleman wants compulsory military service in this country, why is he not honest about it and why does he not propose something better than this? I refreshed my memory this morning with a speech which the hon. Member delivered in this House on the 13th of March, 1912, which was made, I think, on a Universal Service Resolution introduced by the hon. Member for Melton (Colonel Yate). He said:—Without going into any of these figures with regard to numbers of officers, attendance at camp, and so forth, the very fact that it is acknowledged that the Territorial Force requires six months embodiment before it is fit to meet Regular troops is in itself sufficient to condemn the whole system.Again he says:—The only way in which we can place our Home defence upon a satisfactory basis is by adopting a system of compulsory military service."—[0FICIAL REPORT, 13th March, 1912, col. 1218, Vol. xxxv.]If those are the views of the hon. Gentleman, why does he make two bites of a cherry? What a miserable progeny has he fathered to-day! Very likely the hon. Gentleman may think that, if he gets this Bill through, the next stage will be an easier one. There is no illusion in the minds of those outside who support him in that respect. This morning I read in a paper, the "Daily Mail," which gives great prominence to the views of those who advocate universal military service, a leading article devoted to the Bill of the hon. Gentleman, which is headed "A good National Service scheme." It goes on to say:—Under such a system as this the Territorial Force could be raised to a strength of 500,000, which is the minimum which Lord Roberts and other military experts consider sufficient for national safety.Are those the views of the hon. Gentleman? If so, why does he not introduce a Bill to—provided it is not an unparliamentary expression—go the whole hog at once? I see here the hon. and gallant Gentleman who recently won an election in the Kendal Division. I wonder what his views are. Perhaps he will enlighten the House this afternoon. We shall all be delighted to hear him. A very interesting thing took place during the hon. and gallant Gentleman's election. The correspondent of the "Times" writes a column of election news on the 16th March, and in the course of his remarks he refers to a speech or speeches made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman—I think it was one speech:—Then he turned to the question of compulsory military training for Home defence, the one question that is most talked of here and never fails to set, fire to the enthusiasm or indignation of a crowd.1541 I am not quite certain who gave vent to the enthusiasm, and who to the indignation, but it proceeds to quote the exact views of the hon. and gallant Gentleman in respect of military defence.—My scheme says the hon. and gallant Gentleman is simply that young fellows, not all, mind you, but as many as may be necessary, should be called upon in the winter evenings to do a bit of drill. In addition to those drills which the young fellows would really enjoy if they were so arranged as to suit their occupation"—I wonder if the hon. Gentleman can do that under this Bill—the young fellows would be asked in the Spring months, on days convenient to them, to go to the rifle range. The Territorials go three afternoons in the year. That is not enough to make a fellow useful with the rifle.But now the hon. Gentleman having made those remarks received on the day of his election a message from one whose campaign in the country, even those of us who disagree with it cannot but admire and respect. I refer to Lord Roberts, and Lord Roberts said:—I much admire your splendid and independent stand for National Service. We consider that it is every Briton's first duty, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newmarket said, to undergo universal training for Home defence. Please insist that the National Service League's proposal is not for service abroad nor to he used to put down strikes.I quote that to emphasise my point that the Bill of the hon. Gentleman is intended to be the first step in a scheme of universal compulsory service in this country. The hon. Gentleman may retort that this Bill does not go actually as far as that. That is true, but in principle the scheme of the National Service League and the scheme introduced by this Bill to-day are identical. Into both proposals enters the element of compulsion, the substitution of which for the present voluntary system might have far-reaching and momentous results of a nature quite unforeseen by the framers of the Bill. In my humble judgment if you destroy the voluntary system in this country you sweep away all the keenness and all the enthusiasm, which accompanies it at the present day, and which now stimulates every man to do his best. The hon. Gentleman opposite ridicules the remark, but I say you should not take that risk.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Is there any prominent authority except General Ian Hamilton to support that view? I do not know of one other.
§ Captain MURRAY
Oh, yes, any number, though perhaps they do not speak publicly, because there are numbers of eminent soldiers who have not the oppor- 1542 tunity of making speeches, even if it were right for them to do so; but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is any number of them who hold that view. I can assure him a large number of my own contemporaries, who were in the Service when I was in it, hold that view, and I repeat, with all deference to the hon. Gentleman, that if you destroy the voluntary system you destroy the keenness and the enthusiasm that at present accompanies it. Again, I say, once the system of compulsion is introduced you cannot stop at this Bill, and, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newmarket foresaw, under a compulsory system there would be a great danger of recruiting for the Regular Army being severely injured. We have had only one test that we can apply in that respect, and that was in connection with the three years' Colour Service scheme introduced in the year 1902. As the House knows in the year 1904—I take the Infantry as being the chief arm—only about 40 per cent. of the Infantry were willing to engage for a further period of five years, in order to complete their Colour Service of six, seven, or eight years, as the case might be. What does that show? It shows that it is not necessarily the case, as some hon. Gentlemen say, that the soldier who has served for a certain period in this country, is willing to go abroad. To my mind, that is a clear proof that soldiers who had served three years or two years in this country, were not willing to re-engage in sufficient numbers to maintain the necessary strength of drafts which it was imperative to send abroad year by year. I warn, if I may humbly do so, any of those who propose to introduce compulsory service into this country, that they will have the greatest difficulty in keeping up the necessary drafts to send abroad, and that they may have to introduce a bounty system such as was introduced in the year 1904—a bounty system introduced under the compulsory service scheme, the end of which no man could foresee. These are some of the considerations which prompt me to second the rejection of this Bill. It may well be that something must be done in order to raise the strength of the Territorial Force to the standard which is required. Anything that is necessary in that connection, whether it be by the increase of emoluments or some other means—which no doubt are engaging the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War—to anything that may be necessary in that particular respect, I, for 1543 one, should be only too willing to give my support and assistance; but I do enter my protest against this Bill as introducing for the first time, let us say in our modern history, a system of compulsion which, I submit, would be disastrous to the general defences of our country.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
As my name is on the back of the Bill, I would ask the permission of the House to explain the reasons why I support it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down has brought forward a most important question, and one which has to be carefully considered, namely, whether, if this Bill becomes law, any form of compulsion for increasing the number of the Territorial Force will affect the number of volunteers who will join the Regular Army.
§ Captain MURRAY
The Noble Lord has not quite appreciated my point. My point was that we cannot take the risk, if the Bill becomes law, on account of the danger to the voluntary principle.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
The hon. and gallant Gentleman acknowledged that opinion is very divided among the officers as to whether there would be that danger. I wish to reply to the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, who, I think, did not quite understand what I said the other day with regard to the year's holiday that was suggested by the First Lord of the Admiralty. My point was that we have tried on several occasions to approach Germany with a view to disarmament. Such an effort has always proved most unsuccessful each time it has been attempted. Every time we have actually reduced our building the Germans have always increased theirs. I said that any such proposal as the one to which I refer was sure to be misunderstood by Germany. Supposing the holiday for a year had been agreed to, who would have gained by it? Unquestionably we would have gained, and that was the opinion of the whole of the German papers. I said that it was a great mistake to propose anything by which we would gain. I reheat that it is deplorable. The hon. Member shakes his head. Supposing such a proposal were carried into effect, and it was to our benefit, it would be treacherous to Germany. Supposing it was to Germany's benefit, then it would be treacherous to us. I deplore these offers to another 1544 country which will not be accepted, and which are always misunderstood. It is on that ground that I threw ridicule on what the First Lord of the Admiralty suggested. I am as keen, as earnest, and as determined to do anything I can in the direction of peace as is the hon. Gentleman himself, but I do not believe in the arguments adduced by those who want to promote peace by disarmament, because disarmament is not nearly as effective for attaining that end as being so strong that other nations will not attack us. With regard to the Bill, may I ask the hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench (Mr. Tennant) what the Territorials are for? It was given out by the Government that it was hoped the Territorials would attain to a certain strength, which was laid down.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
Who laid that down?
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
have it here. It was laid down by the present Lord Chancellor when he was at the War Office.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I only interrupted because I thought the Noble Lord was under the impression that it was laid down by Act of Parliament.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
No; laid down by the previous Secretary of State for War, and the limit of strength was laid down as being necessary to protect this country against invasion. The number fixed upon has not been kept up; therefore the Territorial Force, on the showing of the Minister for War, will not be able to carry out the duty that it was originally supposed to carry out when first it was proposed. To constitute an efficient force the number was put at 314,000, and it is 61,000 short; therefore they have not got the number even in this insufficent force which is considered necessary to carry out the duty which that force may be called upon to perform. Therefore I think we are agreed in saying that the Territorial Force is a failure as at present constituted. The numbers are short, and the shortage is increasing. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War said just now that the recruiting was going on very satisfactorily. If it is satisfactory he must alter the numbers he has given the House and the Press. The Territorial Force is a failure. As far as the Territorial Force goes I am sure both officers and men and employers 1545 deserve every credit possible for the endeavours they have made to make it a success under the most adverse circumstances. One of the original founders of the Territorial Force, Lord Esher, who got the "Daily Mail" to get up a large subscription, and attended many meetings, only a short time ago in a pamphlet said that the Territorial Force was a failure, and some other means must be devised for making a proper system in this country to resist invasion. With regard to what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has just said, this Bill is not a Conscriptive Bill. This Bill only asks that the Territorial plan at present of joining for four years should be made compulsory, and that the employers should be compelled to allow the men to join, but that the employers should continue the civil occupation for the men. It is not a Conscriptive Bill, but merely makes compulsory by law what now appertains to the Territorial Force. Lord Haldane said in this House that the men of the Territorial Force would require six months' training after the war had commenced. We have only got to look at any war of any sort or character that would be suddenly declared in these days to know that it would be over in an incredibly short time; and that the best organised force is absolutely certain to win. I think it was the hon. Member for Lanarkshire who referred to Lord Roberts and as to his criticisms stopping recruiting. I am sure he would be the first to acknowledge that Lord Roberts would never say anything that he did not think was true. What he said as regards the Territorials is absolutely true in every particular. They are not properly trained; they are deficient in numbers; they have not got proper Artillery; and the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite knows perfectly well that they have not carried out the very first necessity for a fighting force and that is, practising with the rifle.
May I refer to a circumstance that happened to myself with regard to this question of training. When I was ordered to take command of a Naval Brigade in the Sudan I had fifty men with me and a Gardiner machine gun. I asked how many those fifty men had ever handled a Gardiner gun. The men were from different ships in the Fleet, and out of that fifty only four had ever handled a Gardiner gun. They knew the Nordenfelt gun and the Gatling gun, but very few had seen the new Gardiner gun. I had, of course, every hour 1546 that I could to train those men with the gun. May I point out, and it is rather apropos of the question, supposing I had not done that, and went into action and found that the men were not trained in the use of that gun, what a terrible state of affairs would have occurred! Although, I am sorry to say, every man at the gun except myself was killed at Abu Klea, that gun did enormous execution, and saved indirectly, I believe, the column before the battle was over. The point I want to adduce from that is this, that if you have a great Army that has not worked together, and is inefficient in Artillery and is not trained in the arm it will have to use, that is not fair to the country and to the officers and men, who would do their level best, but who would probably be defeated because they were not properly trained. An hon. Member opposite said that something has got to be done, and that is correct. The Territorial Force is certainly not fit as at present constituted. You have either got, in order to fill the vacancies, to pay the men more, a great deal more, or you will have to employ compulsion. Which are you going to do? [HON. MEMBERS: "Pay them more."] If you were to pay them more you might get what you want. But if you do not, and have an ineffective force, then surely this House is allowing money to be thrown into the sea, if you pay so much and do not get any good result. I think the question ought to be grasped. The Territorial Force is not effective now. I believe absolutely in everything Lord Roberts says concerning them, although I do deny that he did anything, in my opinion, to prevent the men joining. I think he merely pointed out the truth, and that being so, we must have either compulsion or pay the men more, and make it easy for the employers to allow their men to go for their drills and still keep their civil employment. This Bill is an effort to put something in its place—in the place of a force that cannot do what it is supposed to do if it is suddenly called on to fight. As far as the British Army goes, and I say the same of my own force, I do not believe that the officers and men of the Regular Service have ever been as good as they are now in both Services, and they are perfectly suitable. They do twenty times the work they used to do. Their one object is to perfect themselves if they are called upon—both officers and men—but there is this 1547 fact, that there is not enough of them. Under those conditions you would have a very grave and serious peril to this country if you rely on an inefficient force short in numbers, an untrained corps to occupy a position which you trust it can fulfil but which it cannot fulfil if it suddenly goes to war. There is another point with regard to the Territorial Force, and that is that aerial warfare and its methods will revolutionise war, and it is the first time in the history of war that it has been revolutionised. May I explain to the House what I mean? When the bullet superseded the bow and arrow, you did the same thing, but in a different way. When the breech-loading gun superseded the muzzle-loading gun, you did the same thing, but the mechanism helped you to do it better and more quickly. When you put steam into the ships, you did the same thing, but it was done in a different way. But this new arm can attack anything and everything. Its real danger will be fire, not bombs and shells. If they take a cylinder of petrol or any other easily inflammable liquid with a sensitive fuse and drop it over a dockyard, arsenal, barrack, or magazine, it is instantly afire. If a shell came into this House it would burn the woodwork and perhaps set the House on fire, but there might be time to put it out. But in the case of this new arm, the fire will be immediate. If we had a battleship with a steel deck, without any wood, the whole of the deck would be covered with fire, accompanied by the most intense heat. That is the great danger. I maintain that the German nation have seen that this country, so far as "Dreadnought" building goes, is going to hold its own; therefore they are taking to these airships, and they have secured an enormous start of us. It may be argued that I am rather creating a scare on this question. But I maintain that this new arm will revolutionise warfare and absolutely alter our position as an Island Kingdom. It may and I believe will be able to put battleships out of action, and we ought to recognise that. We have no right to run the risk. If these airships can do what I maintain they will do, we must build at once to meet them. The danger being that which I have described, makes it the more imperative that we should have a force, whether it is called Territorial or anything else, prepared for invasion, in case these airships put out of action a number of our battle- 1548 ships upon which we now depend for the command of the sea.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
Certainly. The airships, which carry weights, cannot be seen at night, and will not be destroyed by guns, as some people think. The only possibility of fighting them is the plan adopted with regard to all fighting machines ashore or afloat: you must meet like with like. You will have to have as many as other Powers have to guard against this great risk. It will certainly be a far cheaper arrangement than the building of "Dreadnoughts." If there be this great danger to our naval defence, it is the more imperative that whatever force we elect to have in these islands for defence against invasion should be thoroughly efficient, thoroughly effective, and sufficiently large in numbers.
With regard to the question of defence, I agree that if possible it should be kept clear of party, but it is very difficult to do that. It is very difficult, when criticisms are made, to prevent the Press or Members of the House from charging any individual with making national defence a party question. It is our business on this side to criticise, and to criticise severely. Members on the other side criticise us severely. That is quite right. I hope that will always go on in the House of Commons. But it is very difficult to bring these matters up without making remarks about the constituted authority, which must be the Government of the day. But in regard to a question which I honestly believe is so serious, cannot both Front Benches get together and discuss the matter? I believe that that would be best for both parties. I am perfectly certain that both Front Benches are equally anxious that we should not risk our Empire. I am equally certain that it is very difficult for us or anybody else to criticise adversely what the constituted authority is doing with regard to defence. But the matter is so serious that with all respect I submit that it would be a wise thing for the two Front Benches to come together. I am speaking mainly with regard to this new arm, which will develop an entirely new set of circumstances, and render our present command of the sea less effective, possibly making it disappear altogether. The present situation is that a neighbouring country has obtained an enormous start of us, both in the number and in the 1549 character of machines. I would press upon the Under-Secretary that some sort of Committee should be set up or some arrangement come to between the two Front Benches, by which this question should be dealt with from a national point of view, more particularly in reference to the subject immediately before the House. If I am right, the Territorial Force is in no way efficient or effective to meet what it would have to meet if there was an invasion caused by the destruction of some of our ships by new aerial warfare which is coming upon us.
§ Colonel WESTON
I should have hesitated to address this House, with which and its usages I have so short an acquaintance, had I not been directly challenged. But certain allusions have been made to an election which perhaps hon. Members know I have recently been through, when certainly tins question of the Territorial Force was brought very much to the front. I have long felt the necessity for a great improvement in this force. Politicians on both sides have told me that it is not a very popular subject to bring forward at an election time. I felt, however, in the circumstances in which I was placed, that it was my duty to put my views fairly and squarely before my Constituents, and I did so. I confess that I was assailed all round with the charge of advocating conscription, and I had to devote a good deal of time and trouble to attempting to show—and I think I succeeded—that anything that I advocated was very different from anything in the shape of conscription. I went further, and I think I was able to turn the tables on those who made the accusation, for I was able to show, as I believe, that the people who are prepared to sit down and watch our Auxiliary Forces gradually dying away before their eyes, are really the party who, possibly in the near future, may force genuine conscription upon this country. That is the point which I made and which I venture still to maintain. But I took perhaps a line of my own. Knowing that the subject was not a very popular one—at any rate, I was told that it was not—I thought it my duty to try and devise a scheme which would interfere as little as possible with civilian occupations. I talked the matter over with many who know a great deal about this subject. I think I may claim to know something about it myself, for I commanded an old Volunteer battalion and a Territorial battalion. Since then I have been on a county Territorial associa- 1550 tion, and have attended every meeting since its formation, so that I think I may claim to know a little about it.
At any rate what I did feel was that it was necessary that something should be done, and that if we could devise a plan by which the incidence of military duties would not fall too arduously upon the civilian it might be worked without much resistance. I know that anything like taking persons away from civilian life for six months even to join the Colours would be felt to be objectionable in many quarters, but I think myself that a plan might be devised—by compulsion, I admit—by which the civilian should be called upon to put in, say, fifty drills in the winter months for a year or two; that he should, of couse, have to attend camp, and have to do twice as much musketry as is now required for the Territorial Force. I believe by these means we should get a force, not ideal, I quite admit, but very much better than the present state of things. At present the commanding officer is practically compelled to grant leave of absence to any man who says that he is unable to come to camp. That is a very rotten state of things. Equally so there is a larger number still perhaps who say that they find that it is not convenient to attend camp for more than eight days. It makes a very broken training now, and is not very satisfactory. I know of my own knowledge that the plan suggested in the Bill, which was so well introduced by the hon. and gallant Gentleman below me, is on very much the same lines as I have suggested, though I venture to think that at a later stage, if it gets so far, considerable improvements might be suggested in Committee. I want myself to see the Territorial Associations having very considerable freedom in this matter. They knew the difficulties of civilian life. They would be able to see that arrangements were properly made by having committees of employers and employed, and so arranging that the incidence of military duties fell as lightly as possible on the civilian. That, of course, I have advocated. I think if the matter was left to the County Associations to work these things out by local committees the scheme might be made successful.
I know quite well that the military mind is somewhat arbitrary. It does not, perhaps, make quite sufficient allowance for civil occupations, and that is why I advocated, if possible, that we should at any rate enlist very largely the assistance of the Territorial Associations in this matter. 1551 Those are the views I ventured to suggest, and to those I still adhere. I believe this might be done with the consent of both parties, for I maintain that this is not a matter for one party, but for both sides. It is of importance to Members, as the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth has reminded us, that the whole of the conditions have changed, even in the last three months, and if we allow things to go on as we are doing now, from bad to worse, it may in the near future be disastrous to the country. The question of extra payment to the men might be some solution to the difficulty. I can only say that we have been asking for more payment for the last six years, but it has never been forthcoming, and we are really tired of asking the Army Council for it. It seems to me that the right and proper plan in this matter of the defence of this country and the Empire is that young fellows should be called upon to give a fair share of their time, so that the work should not simply be done by those who are more patriotic. If we had young fellows coming forward in the way suggested in this Bill, then there would be more and not less recruits for the Regular Army. I know a great many young fellows who, when they saw a little bit of military life and training, would enjoy it very much, and many of them would be prepared at nineteen or twenty to go forward into the Regular Forces, and these would be strengthened and not weakened. I very heartily support the proposals of this Bill.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
I am sure that in all quarters of the House the intervention of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just preceded me is cordially welcomed. We recognise in him a very picturesque personality, for he was the central figure in an extremely interesting election. I can only say that in my opinion his presence shows how a very popular personality may often be moved to the advocacy of extremely unpopular measures.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
When the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows me, he will understand that by that observation I mean no offence. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] In respect of the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who introduced this Bill, I cordially associate myself with the tributes already paid. I find no fault whatever with the tone and 1552 manner of that speech, although I differ, as in the few minutes I intend to occupy I shall endeavour to show, from the matter of it. First of all, I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman rightly understands the position taken up by myself and those associated with the Labour party. I strongly repudiate the allegation of lack of patriotism. I have never yet seen that the labour movement in the country is less patriotic than any other section of the population. Certainly I have never advocated the theory that this country should immediately embark upon a policy of disarmament until we had arrived at an understanding with the other Powers to secure the simultaneous and gradual diminution of armaments all round. When we advocate what is called the pacificist policy we urge that every opportunity should be utilised for the purpose of promoting friendly relationships with other nations. We believe in so doing we are correctly interpreting the desire, not only of the democracy of this country, but the peoples of the whole civilised countries in the world. We have advocated that the traditional secrecy of diplomacy ought to be abandoned, and that any understandings we have with other peoples should be open and known to the people of this country. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman has ever apprehended that my colleagues or myself felt that immediate disarmament was practicable he has totally misunderstood anything that we have advocated.
In regard to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken, I do not think he gave us much enlightenment upon the principle of the Bill. He devoted himself, in his interesting speech, to dealing with a new scare issue which has recently arisen. He seemed to hitch his support of this Bill to the fact that he feels that our nation now requires immediately to embark upon an enormous expenditure on aerial equipment. That seems to me to be a different issue entirely from that involved in the consideration of this Bill. Everybody is aware of the fact of these inventions, and of the fact that the other nations are now having to consider what shall be the needs of each in respect to an aerial equipment. We are all conscious of the fact that this new problem requires to be considered, but how it can be related to this particular Bill I fail entirely to see. It strikes me as being an importation entirely extraneous to the issue in order to get support 1553 for a Bill which otherwise could not be defended on its intrinsic merits. We of the Labour party have always recognised that armaments must necessarily be determined by what is considered to be our foreign policy. Here, of course, we do come into sharp conflict, I will not say with the whole of another party, but with a considerable amount of opinion which exists in this case. We believe our first and most important line of defence is the Navy. We believe that we should do all we possibly can to maintain our traditional policy of maintaining as far as we practically can all the advantages ensuing from our island position. We believe we should not interfere in the relationship of other nations. We have recently viewed with grave alarm the desire to embroil us in considerations of foreign relationship. We have been told that we are under certain obligations to France, and I have heard and read of this being utilised as an argument in favour of universal military training. For my own part, I do not think we are under any such obligation, and if we were, in my opinion it would be a most unwarrantable departure from the traditional foreign policy of this country.
We regard the Navy as necessary for the purpose of defending our shores. In my opinion the danger to this nation is not the fear of invasion, but of starvation; that is to say, if we are engaged in war the real danger to our country would not be the invasion of a foreign force, but that if our Navy had been destroyed our people would be subject to starvation. Beyond that we want a National Force designed to defend the shores of our country, and I and my colleagues have felt that the agitation behind universal military training is not animated by a desire to secure what is contemplated as national security, which is the immunity of our shores front invasion, but is designed to start this country in an entirely new departure which is a direct aggressive policy in European general affairs. That is one of the considerations that prompt the Members of the Labour party to give uncompromising opposition to a Bill of this character and to the whole principle of universal military training. I would point out to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that never while they were in power and therefore in a position to give expression to the principle in this Bill, did they embark upon such action. That might be due to the general recognition of the unpopularity of these pro- 1554 posals, and I venture to think if the Conservative party is now going to openly advocate conscription they will have to remain in the cool shades of Opposition for a much longer period.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
I am going to argue that this is the beginning of conscription, and I must ask to be allowed to advance my own argument. My colleagues and myself generally display willingness to listen to arguments however unpalatable they may be to us. I always recognise the right of other Members to express themselves as they will, and I claim the same privilege of expressing the views I hold. In my opinion, if a party in the State feels that compulsory military training is essential, they ought to have the common courage to come out and advocate it. The point I was coming to was this: That whilst hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power they never seemed to realise the necessity, at any rate so far as legislative proposals were concerned, for an increase in our armed military force. In fact, I have a vivid recollection of the inquiry of the Committee of National Defence, upon which the late Leader of the Opposition made an extremely interesting announcement in the country, and which was embodied in a Memorandum widely circulated, and which contained the principle that the only danger to this country, having regard to its foreign policy, was the fear of invasion and the extent to which invasion might be regarded as probable. We are all familiar now with the figure, which was put at 70,000 men, and the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers told the country that in their opinion it was quite impossible for a foreign force of less than 70,000 men to invade these shores, and that, therefore, what we required was a voluntary force necessary to repel the invasion of what was regarded as the practical number of soldiers in the invading force. The figure of our Volunteer Force was then placed at 200,000, and the then Secretary of State for War regretted that the Volunteer Forces were being recruited in larger numbers than was absolutely necessary. I was not in the House at the time, but I was an ordinary interested citizen, and I followed the controversy, and I well remember reading the speech of the Secretary of State for War in the late Administration advocating that the old Volunteers ought to be 1555 reduced and that economies could thereby be effected.
When the Liberal party came into power the present Lord Chancellor introduced the Territorial Bill, and he disregarded the 200,000 figure and he suggested 315,000. It was a mere arbitrary figure, and the right hon. Gentleman might as well have suggested 200,000 and utilised all the arguments of his predecessor ever since, and the War Office might be boasting ever since that they had so much larger numbers. I make allowance, of course, for the fact that when a party is in power, and possessed of full responsibility, they have to be very cautious, and when the same party goes into Opposition they can afford to be more irresponsible and much more general in their observations and attacks, and perhaps we may agree that the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth is perfectly accurate in saying, "My attitude and that of my colleagues is we must oppose the party in power for the time being." I believe the introduction of the compulsory system would inevitably interfere with our volunteer recruiting for the Army and Navy, and I believe that apprehension is entertained, not merely by those who are called the anti-military school, but that it very seriously appeals to the advocates of compulsory national military service also. Now it is said that this is not conscription. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman who introduced the Bill is himself in favour of conscription. I do not think the hon. Member will repudiate that. Certainly there are other other hon. Gentlemen in the House who are prepared honestly and openly to advocate conscription.
§ Mr. G. ROBERTS
The hon. Gentleman stated in a previous speech that he was in favour of compulsory national military service.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kendal stated during his election that he was in favour of compulsory military training.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
That is one of those metaphysical points which it is difficult for me to understand. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not at all."] You are going to compel men to undergo military training, and that is only an intermediate stage between compelling him to embark upon any military policy you might desire.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
But after all there are methods of compelling him to do that. Some of us have a recollection of what happened during the South African war when the so-called Volunteers were very largely a figment of the imagination. [HON. MEMBER: "No, no," and "Can you give us an instance?"] At any rate there was considerable compulsion open or covert resorted to. [HON. MEMBER: "No."] Hon. Members have a perfect right to say I am wrong, but I have just as much right to express my own opinion. I believe much of this agitation against the Territorials is due to a desire to impose conscription upon this country. I believe that the Territorial Force at present is quite equal to the duties expected of it. I acknowledge that I am not an expert on military matters, and I would not presume to lecture the House upon this subject, and therefore I have to seek advice upon it. I am assured, however, that the Territorial Force is much more efficient now than it was at any time under the old Volunteer system. Therefore if the old Volunteer Army was sufficient for national defence in the view of the last Administration, in my opinion a much larger and more efficient force ought now to be proportionately more than sufficient. I find there are three times as many citizen soldiers attending camp annually now as compared with the year 1905. In that year things were felt to be fairly satisfactory with 47,918 officers and men spending fifteen days in camp. Last year this number had increased to 163,855 officers and men, and therefore, front the point of view of the citizen army I think the number is quite sufficient. Compulsory military training is very largely advocated, because of the desirability of increasing the physical efficiency of our people, but physical development can be promoted quite apart from military service. I have a keen desire for the physical, mental, and moral development of the people as a 1557 whole, and I feel it is merely obscuring the issue to advocate a point of that sort when you can just as well obtain it in other directions. Like the hon. Member who moved the rejection of this Bill I believe that if you give our people a closer and a more intimate connection with the full life of the nation, you will find a keener desire to participate in the defences of the nation.
We are told that some are born with natural physical qualities. I have a doubt as to whether there is such a great disparity between one child and another at birth. I believe that, generally speaking, there is very little difference between children at birth, but there is a great distinction between the conditions under which they have subsequently to live, and therefore by diminishing the great difference between classes of the community I believe you will tend to a general and higher form of average physical and mental development by giving them a securer standing in the life of the nation. I believe you will on the voluntary principle find a fuller response for the purposes of national defence. We are told that something must be done. I believe that if a person gives his service to the State he ought to be reimbursed his out-of-pocket expenses. I believe there might be more or less a general agreement upon that point. If I understand the Noble Lord the Member for Portsmouth aright, he regarded that as a possible alternative to compulsion, and if that is his view it is a point I am prepared to give friendly consideration to. I must repudiate the idea that it is only the man who enters the armed forces of the nation who renders any service to the nation. Many men go to a school and equip themselves better for the business of the nation, and they do as much, so far as service to the nation is concerned, as the man who might spend an equal amount of time in the drill hall.
I am not one of those who say that defence and defensive forces are not necessary. We are bound to differ as to the methods which ought to be pursued, but I think everything that is possible should be done to promote friendly relationship with the people of other nations. We should keep a sharp eye on the provocative acts of interested sections of our community, because, after all, the instinct for profit may very well be a means of agitation and a cause of embroilment with other nations. I recognise that we should do all we possibly can to create a good and 1558 open understanding with the people of other nations. I want to see the time, but I am afraid I shall not live to see it, when the present expenditure on armaments will be proved to be totally unnecessary, meanwhile I do not want our nation to expend more on its National Services than is necessary. One of the reasons for my opposition to this Bill is that it would place the nation on a path of wider expenditure, the need for which, in my opinion, has not yet been proved. I recognise that a volunteer force or a civil force of 200,000 would be perfectly ample, and I believe it is quite within the range of practicability to maintain that number. I feel that if men are involved in out-of-pocket expenditure when performing military service we ought to see that they suffer no direct loss. To that extent I am prepared to go, but, having regard to the observations I have made, I feel that my colleagues and I will be best interpreting the views of the party and the convictions we entertain by going into the Lobbly in support of the Motion for the rejection of the Bill.
§ Sir CHARLES HUNTER
As one whose name figures on the hack of this Bill, not only do I support it in its entirety, but I actually welcome it, because it places every young man in this country under an obligation to learn to be able to defend his country in case of a great national emergency. This obligation has been adopted by every single one of our great Oversea Dominions with the exception of Canada. Canada has not adopted it because she has no military problem before her, but if she has no military problem before her Canada has certainly made up in her patriotism by that which she is proposing to do in regard to the Navy. I wish this great national question could be kept free from party politics. I feel very strongly that there is very little chance of my wish being gratified. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Kendal Division (Colonel Weston) stated his experience at the last election, and when we hear hon. Gentlemen opposite talking about conscription it is perfectly plain to me that the Radical and Liberal wire-pullers intend to use that word on all and every occasion at the next election. I can mention one case where it was used only the other day at a county council election in Somersetshire. I regret to say that it was an officer who had been in the Army, who placarded the whole place with "conscription" and with statements to the 1559 effect that men were going to be taken away from this country and sent abroad.
"We introduce this Bill," to use the same words as the German Chancellor used the other day, "not because we want war but because we want peace, but if we do have war we want to make it perfectly certain that we are going to win." We are not, in the true sense, a military nation, and it is extremely difficult to get the people of this country to understand military problems in the same way as they are understood in Germany, France, and Russia, because they have fought as nations. I have no hesitation in saying that we have not fought as a nation for 300 years. I do not say that the Army has not fought. The Army has fought on hundreds of occasions, but we have not fought as a nation. People are apt to say the nation was engaged in a great national war at the time of Napoleon. It was not the nation that fought, though Mr. Pitt raised £500,000,000 for other nations to fight. The greatest number of men we employed at the Peninsular War was only 43,241. Then they say the nation fought at Waterloo. People may be surprised to hear that at Waterloo the actual number of British troops was 23,941, and a great many of those were in plain clothes. I say that, being a non-military nation, you cannot get the people of this country to grasp the elementary fact that land and sea defence go hand-in-hand more and more every day. They are inextricably interwoven together. I think my Noble Friend the senior Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford) will bear me out that our weakness at home, our want of men in the Territorial Force, hampers and hinders our naval strategy at every point. It is, I believe, a cardinal principle of naval strategy—in fact, I am certain of it—that to have command of the sea you must be able to go to any point of the world to destroy the enemy's fleet. That is exactly what our Navy cannot do at the present moment, owing to the fact that if they leave our shores we are undefended for the time being. I base my hypothesis entirely on the assumption that the Expeditionary Force has left this country. I do not know what the Army is for, and I very much doubt whether any great number of people can tell me what it is for. One day we are told that it is an Expeditionary Force and the next that it cannot go on an expedition until the Territorial 1560 Force is properly trained and that a portion of it is to be kept here.
§ Sir C. HUNTER
I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman has said it, but I have often heard it said, and, though I cannot exactly give the time and place, I believe the late Secretary of State for War said that a certain force would have to remain here until the Territorial Force was properly trained. I think he has said that often enough. At all events, I base my hypothesis on the fact that as it is called an "Expeditionary Force" it is an Expeditionary Force and will be out of the country. I believe, owing to the enormous increased range of torpedo boats and of submarines, and owing to this new great factor, about which very few people know anything, it is quite possible, from the naval strategic point of view, that the North Sea may be too confined a sea and that a great fleet action may have to be fought right out in the Atlantic. If that were the case, and the Navy had to go right away to the Atlantic, our shores would be temporarily entirely undefended. There, again, there would be an outcry in this country to keep the Navy tied to the shores of this country to defend it while the Territorial Force were gaining strength and being properly trained. It is a very strong and very general argument that voluntary service will be destroyed by any form of compulsion. I wish to make a little comparison with a great nation which has compulsory service, and I take the case of France, because France has a population very similar to our own, her wealth is very much the same, and she has a very large, though not an equally large, Colonial Empire. On 14th December I asked the Secretary of State for War what number of men France employed in her Colonial Empire who were entirely of voluntary service, and his answer was that France employed 55,000 enlisted by voluntary service in her Colonial Empire. She also had, besides that, 64,000 men enlisted in the Army who were mostly enlisted by voluntary means, but I will eliminate that 64,000; they will compare with the men in our own Colonial Armies. But as against these 55,000 men, how many have we got ourselves enlisted by voluntary service to serve abroad? We have about 100,000, which is only 45,000 more than the French have. The French have compulsory service, conscription, and 1561 what have they got as regards their Army? They have got fifty-four divisions of Regular troops against our miserable six, and 4,000,000 of trained and armed men behind them against our Territorial Force. That is how the two countries compare. When you look at the actual expense, although that is perhaps not applicable to this Bill, we are spending on the whole of our defensive forces in this country £13,000,000 more than the French, and we are getting very much less in the way of defensive power throughout the world. Let me mention, in conclusion, a well-known French military writer on military subjects, and quote what he said on the question of compulsory service. This was a gentleman named Colonel Baron Stoffel. I dare say a great number of Members of this House may not have heard of him. At the time before the Franco-German War of 1870 he was sent as French military attaché to Berlin. He saw what was going on, and what he thought was going to take place as between France and Germany, and he wrote dispatch after dispatch to his Government warning them of what was likely to occur. At that time there was also in France Marshal Le Bœuff, who was telling the Emperor that the whole of the French Army was ready to the last gaiter button. Colonel Baron Stoffel, about a year before the war, was nearly stoned in the streets of Paris for what he said. Since that terrible war took place, since France was dragged in the dust from being unprepared, these dispatches of his have been published and are used as a standard book in every French military school. Let me read what he said on the question of compulsory service. I think it is entirely applicable to our condition:—The application of this principle places in the ranks of the Army—that is compulsory service, which the French did not have then—a large number of persons well brought up and educated belonging to the better classes, and thus increases the intelligence and moral value of the Army by the aggregate of the intelligence and moral value of those individuals, to which should be added the healthy and direct influence which these persons bring to bear upon the soldiers of an inferior class …. The Prussians like to call their Army the nation in arms. Universal military service renders the description a just one, and they do not deceive themselves as to the great power the Army derives from the presence in its ranks of persons, well educated and well brought up, belonging to the better classes, who, as officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers, devote to the defence of their country their intellects and lives.I think that is exactly applicable to what is proposed by my hon. and gallant Friend who introduced this Bill, and I should like to ask the House if we have not got also 1562 in this country a Marshal Le Bœuff and a Colonel Baron Stoffel? On the one side we have the late Secretary of State for War, who may be compared to Marshal Le Bœuff. He is continually telling us that our modern Army and our Territorial Force are quite sufficient. On the other side we have an old trained soldier like Lord Roberts, who has commanded armies in war and armies in peace, warning the country that it is in a state of danger. For these reasons I most cordially support this Bill. I believe that the future welfare and prosperity, and perhaps the very existence of this country rests in armed strength and not in unarmed weakness, and that we shall before very long have to take some certain and definite measures for increasing our land forces. It is only by such means as those proposed in this Bill that the Territorial Force and the other forces can be put in a proper state for the defence of the country.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
In the concluding remarks of the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down he alluded to a campaign that has been proceeding in the country in recent months, and I suppose we may look upon this Bill as the first legislative attempt and outcome of that campaign. I am one of those who recognise the patriotism and high purpose which animates many, shall I say all, of those who are taking a part in that campaign, and I am not fearful, for I believe it may have useful results in this country, perhaps in a somewhat different direction to what some of those who are taking part in it believe. If, for instance, it does something to stimulate the idea of National Service on a wide scale in this country it will do good and not harm, and if it does something to arouse the attention of this country to the importance of improving the physique and morale of our people it will do good service. But I often think that those who take part in that campaign want reminding, when they claim that it is to do so much for the physical welfare of the people, that it does not touch the women folk. I think we also want to remember that our educational experts tell us that military drill is not the most useful and the most beneficial method of improving that physique. I fancy that we shall have to look elsewhere, to the work that is going on in the schools, to medical inspection and treatment, to physical drill in the continuation schools, and, I hope, the extension of physical drill 1563 in the factories of this Kingdom. We shall look to such suggestions for perhaps larger results in that way. I am not a military man and my opinion as to the necessity of a measure like this, therefore, is perhaps of small value. I have listened, however, to the reasons which the hon. Member gave for the introduction of this measure and I have also read many of the speeches that have been delivered outside and I should like to say to hon. Members opposite, I know they will not resent my saying so, that one of the reasons why there has been some confusion to-day as to exactly what this Bill does and what National Service means, is that so many explanations have been given outside. For instance, Earl Percy, speaking at a Unionist Conference, with perfect candour, said:—The present situation requires the creation of a national army recruited on the same basis as that of the Continental armies, and similarly trained.Lord Roberts, speaking at one of his meetings, mentioned that one of the reasons for the need for National Service was that we wanted to maintain the balance of power. An argument like that suggests that this army might at some time be used not simply for Home defence, but might be required for action outside. Therefore, I want to ask this question: If the need has been proved—I do not admit it for one moment—for enlarging these forces, is there not another way that, at any rate, should be tried first? I want to ask whether what military friends of my own have told me again and again is not true, that sufficient men could be obtained for the Territorial Force if only there was better pay? If that is the case, I want to ask whether, from a military standpoint, that is not the first step to take. At any rate, it will enable those who are urging this change to pay for it, because we must recognise that if National Service is forced upon this country, it is the labouring men and women who will have to bear the largest sacrifice. [HON. MEMBERS: "No," and "Why?"] The reason is that it is a comparatively small thing for a man coming from a well-to-do family to go into training for longer or shorter periods, but it is a very different thing to tell the youth of this country, coming from working class homes, homes where there is not a proper wage coming in to keep the men and women in a state of physical efficiency, "You have to go in for so much regular training, during which time no wage will be received."
1564 I want to state a point of view to this House which probably will not be accepted, but which I hope will be understood, as to why some of us feel so strongly with regard to measures of this kind. We only look upon this as a first measure. We all have a tendency to bring in first the measures which we think are the most popular or the least objectionable, with the idea of bringing in others afterwards. That is known on both sides of the House. We therefore look upon this as the first measure in a series. What are the objections to this measure? The military objections have been stated with considerable force by the hon. and gallant Member who seconded the rejection of the Bill. As one of the points he made was disputed, I desire to bring very recent evidence with regard to it. He said that he objected to compulsion, because he thought it would kill the volunteer spirit. I recently had to read through a considerable mass of correspondence with regard to the Defence Acts in New Zealand and Australia. I find that a newspaper perfectly friendly to compulsory service, a newspaper coming from the North Canterbury District of New Zealand, says distinctly:—One of the reasons why the Army is unsatisfactory at the present time is because compulsion has killed the volunteer spirit.Other similar extracts could be mentioned. We have heard the objections from the Labour Benches. One point the hon. Member did not make, which I thought he would make, but which I have heard outside, is that labouring men rightly do not want to look to a time when their sons are going to be used against them in their endeavours to get justice. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is not in the Bill."] If that is disputed, let me say that what is in my mind is the way in which the army in Paris was used against the strikers at the time of the Paris strike.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to point out that this Bill expressly refuses that power?
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
I look upon this Bill as the first step, and I said so quite frankly. My special reason for rising to oppose this measure and those which I think are bound to follow if the programme of the National Service League is carried out, is because in the long run it destroys religious freedom for many people, and forces men against their conscience to take service.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
I will explain what I mean. I think I can make my point perfectly clear to the House. Rightly or wrongly, there are large numbers of people in this country, with a profound regard for the sanctity of human life, who believe that in every human personality there is something of the divine, and that for Parliament to force men against their will to train to kill one another is a function that it has no right to perform.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
I will deal with that interruption. I believe the House does not for one moment accept that interruption made from the other side. The number who share that conviction is growing and will continue to grow as they witness human society evolving, and note the growing triumph of law over brute force, and will still further increase as we try to put into practice the underlying principles of our common Christianity. The hon. Gentleman says that those who hold that view get others to do the duty for them, and that they paid others to do it. Those who hold the view that I have expressed are the most insistent men and women, I believe, in the State in impressing the thought of the need for public service upon their people. I looked up this morning a book, which I expect many in the House have not read and which some would find interesting, in which is put the view of these men and women as to what is the duty of the children in that society, and in one of the paragraphs I see that special attention is called to the need for training and equipping men who hold that view for public service, because they do not share in the service of defence.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
I did not want to be personal or to seem to get sectarian. It was the Christian Discipline of the Society of Friends. I should be very glad to present my hon. Friend with a copy. The Friends themselves recognise their duty and responsibility after a war has taken place. One of the things I am thankful for is that even in connection with this last war on the Continent the Society of Friends have raised a sum of over £12,000 and have six of their number voluntarily administering that fund in the distressed areas. The hon. Member (Mr. Sandys) 1566 said the Bill was going to exempt those who have these religious convictions, but there are thousands of others who may not share that religious conviction who are not prepared to put their sons to that training, and those of us who belong to this small body would not desire that we should be exempted unless they were exempted. So what is the position you put us in? When once you have passed through the House of Commons a measure compelling all the children of a certain age to train, you make certain of us rebels. It comes home to one. What is the attitude one is going to take with regard to one's son? One has been trained with this thought and this idea that it is wrong to take human life, and one brings up and educates one's son to that view. One desires him to recognise the claim of National Service and to take a part in administering the laws of this country, but if a law like this is passed you turn these people really into rebels, and you practically say to them that they have to teach their children to resist a law that has been passed by this House, and you know that compulsion is no good unless you practically can get everybody in. In Australia there have been 7,000 prosecutions since the Defence Act was brought in, and in New Zealand there have been 1,500 prosecutions. If the same proportion of prosecutions took place in this country the number would be 70,000 or 100,000. I fancy it would need more than the present "Cat and Mouse" Bill to settle that difficulty. I believe this is a most material point which must be considered by those who are proposing measures for compulsory training. I hope the House will recognise this Bill as a first step and will look upon it in that light and as a menace to English liberty. England and the Empire have attained greatness upon a system which has rested increasingly on the free and unfettered loyalty of the people. I ask Parliament to pause before they pass a measure, even though it is supported by men of high purpose and patriotic intent, which will impair that freedom and destroy the liberty of thought and conduct which has made this country great.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member devoted the concluding portion of his speech to certain ethical and religious considerations. I am sure I never have spoken, and I hope I never shall speak, with any lack of respect for the ethical 1567 views or religious convictions of any Member of the House, or of any man out of the House. But, with all respect, I submit that these considerations were not very closely relevant to the Question we are now discussing, if for no other reason than that the Mover of the Bill expressly stated that there would have to be a provision for all conscientious objections. The hon. Member said that placed some in a difficult position who do not want to take advantage of the privilege which is accorded. Then I must point out that, however great our respect may be, and ought to be, for the ethical views and religious convictions of our fellow-subjects when they are held by a small minority, they cannot be allowed to be decisive of what others consider to be a matter of vital importance to the very safety and existence of the State. They have a right to put those views and to have them listened to with respect, but they have not a right to sum up the argument and to assert that the decision must be in accordance with those views, and not in accordance with what most of their fellow countrymen may think to be necessary for the safety of the country and our existence as a nation.
§ Mr. ROWNTREE
The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that I stated how the difficulty could be met in another way.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
I will endeavour to do justice to all that has been said by those who have preceded me in debate. Before that portion of his speech, the hon. Member dwelt on certain social views—I use the word social in the political sense—and instanced the use of troops in France against some who took part in a civil dispute. But there again I must remind him that that is expressly excluded by a provision of this Bill. It is stated that no troops recruited under the provisions of this Bill may under any circumstances be used in the course of a civil dispute. Then let us get closer to the matter in hand, and I think the hon. Member did get closer to it when he paid a generous tribute to those men, foremost among whom stands Field Marshal Lord Roberts, for the great efforts which they are making at this moment. Although he disapproved of their view—this is where his generosity came in—he gave a measure of praise—a limited measure on two grounds—in the first place, because they were stimulating the sense of duty which we ought to have to come to 1568 the defence of the country if our help is required, and, in the second place, because he thought their energies were useful in so far as they called attention to the need of better physique through all ranks of our countrymen. I am not going to follow him on these grounds. He says there might be other and better ways of increasing the physique and health of our people. It may be so, but the real point is this: He said that if the need of enlarging this force be proved, is there not another way of doing it? That, I think, is the question we have to discuss this afternoon. It is admitted by all that while there may be other means of enlarging the force, it is certain that the need could be met by the proposal of my hon. Friend. Can it be met satisfactorily in another way? I listened to my hon. Friend (Mr. Sandys) and I should like to associate myself with hon. Members who preceded me in the Debate in paying a tribute to the admirable speech he made in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, and I would also pay a tribute to the speech of the hon. Member for the Newmarket Division (Sir Charles Rose), who seconded the Motion. When the hon. Member said that we ought to be ready to make any sacrifice for our country, he stated a truth which came with greater force from him than it could come from any other man in this House, or, perhaps, any other man in this country. The principle we have got to consider was defined by my hon. Friend in these terms: "The principle was that the privilege of citizenship carries with it the obligation of military training." It does so, but, of course, if you did not want to enforce that obligation, it would be necessary to prove that the need of enforcing it was one we had to take into account.
I wish to speak of that principle, and not deviate into detail. If I deviated at all, I should have to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Kincardineshire (Captain Murray). He raised the most important detail that arises out of this Bill. I do not think it necessary to answer the hon. Member in detail. He pointed out certain difficulties which would arise in respect to the numbers who would be recruited under the provisions of this Bill. But there is nothing in the Bill which deals with the question of numbers at all. The question of numbers is dealt with in the sixth Section of the parent Act of 1907, which was passed when Lord Haldane was Secretary of State for War. In that Section it is laid down that the numbers shall 1569 be those which Parliament thinks necessary to provide. It does not affect the case with which we are now dealing. There are others who feel the great difficulty of detail that arises because the length of the training contemplated is not sufficient. They ask, "Why adopt such numbers for so small a result if these numbers are to give an annual training of only fifteen days?" Under the present Act preliminary training, which is a very vital matter, can be any period. There is no reason why it should not be a year under Lord Haldane's Act, Section 14. This Bill does not alter that. You will find that Section 15 of the parent Act provides for the annual training. You will find that by Order in Council the period can be made thirty days. That being so, I say we need not dwell on the difficulties of detail, because they are not pertinent to the Bill which my hon. Friend has brought forward or to the necessities of the case. I venture to submit that if any man in the House or the country was persuaded that the obligation of national training ought to accompany the privileges of citizenship, and was persuaded that it ought to be enforced in order to make sure that the country was safe, he would not vote against this measure which supports these principles because of difficulties of detail, but he would feel it to be his duty to support it.
I think one might say, though my hon. Friend left no room for amendment by his speech that the real definition of the principle in this Bill is that the authors of the Bill are proposing to substitute a practical for an obsolete plan for giving effect to an obligation already inherent in the Constitution and incumbent upon every citizen of the country, just as in times of peace, it is now the duty of every man, and not only of the policeman, to prevent crime being committed, so in time of war it is the duty of every man, and not only the soldier, to defend his country. That principle which is an inherent obligation has become quite obsolete, and although it is still on the Statute Book, I do not think it would work, and those who bring forward this measure say we ought to have something which would work, instead of a constitutional theory and an obsolete passage in an ancient Act. That being so, one may ask is it useful to devote such a short time as is available for a private Member's Bill to the discussion of the subject? I think it is. No one can have failed to observe that to which the hon. Member for York (Mr. Rowntree) drew attention, 1570 namely, the fact that there is a great and growing interest in this very question throughout the country. Opinion is divided, and the great bulk of opinion is not formed, but when interest in the question is increasing I think it is well that this House should be in touch with the public interest whenever it can be. Why is that interest now great and growing in the country? It is because of the events and the facts alluded to by my hon. Friend—because of recent events throughout Europe, coinciding, as they do, with the diminution of numbers, and with the failure on the part of the Territorial Force to come up to the expectations of its authors and the hopes of the country. I hope no one will say that I am overstating the case. Lord Herschell, speaking for the Government not long ago, said:—I can say perfectly frankly tint we are not satisfied because we have not got that at which we aimed.Therefore what is really important is that we should get it. Some think it is of vital importance to the country that these expectations should be realised, and realised without any great delay. This question has ceased altogether to be an academic one. It is a question to which every patriotic man ought to direct his mind and his intelligence, and approach as much as he can in a dispassionate and scientific spirit. It is not a party question. There are supporters of this Bill drawn from both sides. There are opponents of the principle drawn from both parties. It ought never to become a party question. It is a question that can only be satisfactorily decided by the general volition of a free people who are determined to see that their honour is safeguarded and that their lives are secured. I am not going to follow the hon. Member for Norwich in some of his observations which seem to me to savour of a party character, but I must be allowed to refute one statement which was made no doubt in all sincerity. He said that during the South African war volunteers were practically coerced to serve outside the country. I was at the War Office at that time and I know that the boot was on the other leg. I know that we incurred a great deal of, it may be well merited, odium for refusing to accept the offers which came in embarrassing numbers from persons for whom at the moment there was no room in our organisation. The real truth is that, as has been said, a fire brigade may be needed. The point is are we to have it before or after the conflagration? We submit that 1571 we have not got it now. We submit that it is a problem that must be solved in some way. This Bill suggests a solution which deserves from the Secretary of State for War serious treatment and consideration at his hands.
The problem is often described as the problem of Home defence. I do not think that that is a complete description. It is not convenient because its brevity is misleading. It is not the whole of our problem. It is part of our general problem of military preparation. I am going to speak quite frankly, and in what I say I may seem to give colour to some of the grounds for opposition urged by Labour Members. "No doubt," they say, "if this is only a question of Home defence our view might be different, but we do not so regard it. We think it is part of the general military policy which may embrace sending expeditions upon wars of aggression." It is not necessary to argue that this country is not enamoured of wars of aggression. No party in the State desires wars of aggression, but I should not be practising what I have preached and approaching this subject dispassionately and seriously if I did not say that the problem of Home defence is part and parcel of the general problem of military preparation and may under conceivable circumstances involve and enjoin of necessity the dispatch of an expedition from this country as part of our defensive operations. That being so, it is fair to add that in my belief there is if not universal very general agreement on both sides of the House on the great majority of the vital points which are presented by this problem. There is general agreement so far as numbers are concerned, and substantial agreement so far as opinion is concerned as to the necessity of a Navy incontestably superior, if we can make it so, to any force which it might have to meet, and free to operate where it ought to operate. Similarly there is general agreement that our Garrison Overseas cannot be depleted in order to assist in the problem of Home defence. There is general agreement that you should be able to dispatch an expedition, and to maintain it. There is universal agreement that all those four services, the Navy, the Garrison, the Expeditionary Force, and the maintenance of the Expeditionary Force, can only be performed by men who voluntarily undertake to perform those duties.
§ Colonel SEELY
I thought we might shorten the discussion by getting universal agreement agreed to. I do not think that the last proposition is universally agreed to.
§ Mr. WYNDHAM
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but speaking for all those with whom I have any conversation, I have never found any man who believed that our Navy or our Garrison Overseas, or our Expeditionary Force ought to be recruited by people who have not voluntarily undertaken that obligation. I believe that, if we have a reservoir of men with national training by obligation, out of that reservoir of men who will be competent to perform these services we would get a sufficient number of men who would voluntarily undertake them. That is the chief reason that has led me—I am only speaking for myself this afternoon—to think that this is a wise step, and not only wise for the isolated problem of Home defence, but, in my opinion, wise also because, if you had in this country a larger body of men more fitted by their training to undertake military service, you would get a larger body of men of their own free will willing and desirous to join the service where they might be most needed, abroad it might be and not at home; so there are five grounds I think of general agreement. What is the sixth? That you must have a Territorial Force in this country of such numbers and so trained as to admit of liberating the Navy and the Expeditionary Force without exposing this country to a risk which we ought not to run. The seventh point of agreement is that we have not got it. That really narrows the issue down to one—How are we to get it? It is the duty of the Government when there is a problem requiring solution to find a solution, and it is not the duty of a private Member to offer a solution. Still I do think that it is the duty not only of private Members of this House, Members who are not in the Government, but of every man in the country who has a view upon so important a question to state that view, and I think that he ought to state it without any regard to party consideration.
The hon. Member for Newmarket says that we ought all to make sacrifices. The least sacrifice which we can make is to say what we think without considering what consequences might follow from stating our opinions, when we hold them 1573 with sincerity and after deliberation and some study of the subjects on which the opinions should be formed. I say that everybody in this country should assist this or any other Government in this way to review all the conceivable alternative methods for filling this gap, the existence and gravity of which are universally admitted, and, having reviewed all the alternatives, they then ought to examine into them and aim at a balance between their respective merits and defects. So far as I know there are three alternative methods. The first is to increase largely our Regular Army, so that it may undertake this duty of Home defence as well as the other duty which it now can I think discharge. I am not going to take up the time of the House over that. It ought to be mentioned, as it has been put forward by some very able men, but I venture to dismiss it because it finds little support throughout the country, and a scheme must be supported throughout the country if it is to become a national policy. The cost would be prohibitive, and success would be not only improbable but almost incredible. If you tried to compete with the labour market to increase the Regular Army you would spend a great deal of money, and you would not get a proportionate return for the money spent. You might double the Estimates and get perhaps 15 per cent. more men. Is there anything left? The proposal has received some measure of commendation from my Noble Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Lord C. Beresford), that we ought to try and fill this gap by giving large inducements to men to join the Territorial Force under the existing conditions, and on the existing voluntary basis. That is one alternative. The only other is the principle of this Bill, namely, that we ought to have the obligation of national training. How are we to decide between these two? Many tests might be applied, but I am going to leave altogether out of account the advantage of calisthenics, or physical training, because this question can only be decided on national needs. Which of those two plans meets those needs, and which does not? What are the tests? I think we must judge of those alternatives in the first place by the test of cost. The cost of an experiment, if it were prohibitive and likely to cripple our financial position and our power of maintaining the Navy, would have to be taken into account. The second test, as to which of these two methods will advantage the recruiting for the Navy and the Expeditionary Force, and so forth, like 1574 the other, is a crucial test. The two tests are the cost and the reaction on the other part of our military preparations which must be on a voluntary basis.
Take the first alternative of giving larger inducements in order that more men may enter the Territorial Force and apply to it the test of cost. The cost would be very great. I think it would be altogether abnormal and excessive compared with any return we could get. I will say why. The difference between the Territorial Force and the Regular Army is that every man who enters the Territorial Force is separated from his home, if he has a home, and from his calling in every case, each time that he goes out for training. In the Regular Army when a man on military duty is separated from his wife and home, there is a separation allowance. The separation allowance in many cases would not meet the case with regard to the Territorial Force. When a man goes for annual training you are pulling him up by the root from his home, and you would, therefore, have to pay some indemnity in addition to a wage. If you give him an indemnity and pay him a wage, and that wage has to compare with the wage he already receives, I think you will find that the cost of proceeding by the method of larger inducements would be enormous. Above all, if we are to make the training more effective, it would have to be longer. I think there is a very general view that a fortnight or fifteen days is not enough; that we only get eight days, and that we do not get the men on the same day. If we were trying to produce a play instead of an army, would we not insist on the company being sufficiently numerous to fill all the parts, and on the rehearsal taking place on the same day? If the play is to be longer, and if it is necessary to have a simultaneous rehearsal in order to attain efficiency, then the question of fairness comes in, because the burden on those men who undertake to work on the voluntary system becomes disproportionately heavy by comparison with that of those who do not undertake it voluntarily, and you would have to consider the payment of an indemnity in addition to a wage.
Then there is the question of indemnity to the employers, if you are going to make the training of sufficient length and simultaneous. I am only indicating the lines on which I think investigation should be made, and I think it will be found that the cost of applying the first method will be 1575 very heavy, and that there will not be an adequate return. As to the application of the second test—what would be the effect of that method on recruiting for the Regular Army—that is a very puzzling point which has to be looked into. If I am right—and I can only speak to the best of my ability—not only would you have to offer larger money inducements to get men, but you could not do that without bidding against yourself in the labour market and diminishing your recruiting. I say, therefore, that the application of those two tests, the cost and the adverse effect that might be produced on recruiting, give you no confidence that the alternative of larger inducements would succeed. The same test should in fairness be applied to the alternative advocated by my hon. Friend as to cost. Here again it is for the Government to produce Estimates, and not for a Member speaking in this House. But there has been a good deal of difference of opinion on this point. Speaking on 13th March last year—I think that was the date, though it is immaterial what was the date—the right hon. Gentleman said that the adoption of national training on the basis of Lord Roberta' specification would cost £8,000,000 more than the cost of the Territorial Force and the Special Reserve. I rather doubt that. Without going into elaborate calculations, I am prepared to say that half, or less than half, of that sum would give you, in pursuit of the alternatives, results far in excess of any that you could obtain by the other method, no matter how large you made your inducements. I believe £4,000,000 would substantially meet the case. That £4,000,000 would give you, I think, the working model of this plan. I must now apply the last test to this plan in what would be the effect upon recruiting for the Regular Army. Here, again, opinions differ.
General Sir Ian Hamilton, in his book, stated that the result obtained, when men served for three years with the Colours and were asked to re-engage, showed that compulsory service would stint the number of men who would go voluntarily out of the National Territorial Army into the Regular Force liable to oversea service. He laid down that it was necessary to get 25,000 to 30,000 men who would transfer out of the Territorial Force on a National Service basis into the Regular Army in each year. Then he refers to the numbers 1576 of men who, in 1902, 1903, and 1904—having engaged for three years with the Colours—voluntarily extended their engagement, and he said that the experience of those years was pretty conclusive. It is, but in the opposite direction. According to Cocker, you will find that the percentage who re-engaged was more than we need to meet the postulate which the gallant General laid down. In 1902, 31 per cent.; in 1903, 30 per cent., and in 1904, 40 per cent. of the three-years'-service men so engaged. Assuming we are to be guided by these percentages, and taking 150,000 recruits under a system of national training, then, if 40 per cent. transferred, you get 60,000 men, or more than double the number General Sir Ian Hamilton postulated. So that if experience is to count, and if arithmetic is to be our guide, and I think it must to a certain extent, then I do not dread the application of that second test to the alternative plan, and indeed it has been confirmed by almost every experiment that has been made. There was the Spectator Company, and out of the men who served in that company an enormous percentage went into the Regular Army. The whole experience of the Special Reserve confirms it, and a higher percentage than 40 per cent. goes out of the Special Reserve. The experience of the old Militia confirms it, and the experience of the Napoleonic wars confirms it. It was only when national training for Home service was adopted that we got the supply of recruits on a voluntary basis that were necessary for the Regular Army fighting oversea. So I apply the test of cost, and I apply the test of what effect the adoption of either of those methods might have on recruiting for the Regular Army. I believe, speaking as one who has been at some pains to arrive at an opinion, that in each case there would be a larger cost, but if you adopt the alternative of giving greater inducement you will have a larger cost and great doubt as to whether you will succeed in your object. But if you adopt the only remaining alternative of national training, you will have a larger cost, but you will have the certainty of succeeding in your object. My belief is that the cost of national training will prove to be less than the cost of endeavouring to induce men to enter the Territorial Force on the existing basis, and that its effect on recruiting for the Regular Army would be good, whereas the application of the other alternative would be bad.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Colonel SEELY
I think the whole House will be grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wells (Mr. Sandys) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Newmarket (Sir C. Rose) for having initiated this Debate. It has been a Debate of great interest, and, unlike so many Debates I have heard which began by saying, "Let us conduct it in a non-party spirit," it has been conducted in that way throughout. It only shows what a good thing it is to bring these controversies on to the floor of this House, where we can discuss the thing quite frankly, and without any passion or prejudice of any kind, as we have done to-day. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech has, as he has often done before, cleared the issue and taken away a great deal that is redundant. I think I can take away some more, so that we may see how fine a point we have brought the discussion to and yet how important and vital. I am going to ask the House, if I may, to reject this Bill and, above all, to divide upon it and to have a Division, not in the least, as I shall try to show, in order to make a party score against the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend, but in order that we may each to-day decide on which leg we are going to stand in this matter, and then devote our best, efforts to the cause. I think I can make the issue more clear than the right hon. Gentleman did in his very lucid speech. Let me take the point submitted. The Government of the day, which is the Government now, with the full assent of the whole of their supporters, and the support of the Conservatives, the Irish, and in the main, and I gratefully acknowledge it, of the Labour party, decided that we ought to have for Home defence a force of 313,000 men. We have got over 260,000 men. In so far the Government and the House of Commons have failed of achievement, and the question is, How are you going to remedy that difficulty? I must before I sit down give reason for thinking that the Government of the day were not wrong in the view they took, and that the House was not wrong in the view that they took. But the question is, Are we going to adopt the policy proposed by the hon. Gentleman opposite and by my hon. Friend behind me, or are we going to attempt to make the voluntary system a success, and do that which we set out to do, to produce the Home Defence Force which we thought would be required on the voluntary system? There are two main 1578 divisions of opinion on this matter. When you come to real matters that divide men's hearts and minds on this matter there are only two. It is not a question between compulsory service and voluntary service. That is not the real question, as I shall try to show later on. It is between those who think, like the followers of Tolstoi, that our proper course to pursue is to rely on peaceful means, and, indeed, as an hon. Gentleman remarks, like the followers of our master, for everyone must know that Tolstoi based his opinions on study of the Christian religion, and upon a practical experience of one of the most bitter and cruel wars. There is that school of thought, that has few exponents in this House. I was glad my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Rowntree) voiced that view. He represents the Society of Friends, who always held that view, but they are a very small minority in this country, and we cannot take them into account in this Bill because, as was quite truly said by the hon. Gentleman who moved, under the Schedule of this Bill, all such persons would be excluded from service. Apart from that they are a minority and we respect their motives, but we have now got to consider the others who believe that in this imperfect world you must defend your country. Let me explain that in the last Clause of the Schedule this Bill exempts persons who object—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Many of my hon. Friends were not present when the hon. Gentleman opposite made his speech. He explained that it was desirable in the view of those who support him that you should not force anyone to serve who had a conscientious objection, and he explained that this was arranged for in the Schedule of the Bill. It is an academic question, but we had better clear it away before we go further. The Schedule states:—Every person holding a certificate of exemption granted to him by the Army Council as being a person whom it is desirable to exempt in the public service.I am just stating this because I do not want in this detail or on any of the larger questions to take a false point. If we take a false point in support of the voluntary service we must suffer, and we must go on sound grounds or we shall not succeed. The hon. Gentleman opposite explained that this provision was based on the New Zealand law, where all persons who have a conscientious objection are exempt from military 1579 service. I accept the statement of the hon. Gentleman that that is so, and at any rate that is his intention. I am asking the House to vote against this Bill, but we must be quite fair to the hon. Gentlemen opposite and understand what it is he really means by the Bill, which, of course, would be amended in Committee if it were passed to make the point quite clear. Therefore we can, I think, pass from those who conscientiously object to any form of service. They would not be affected by the Bill. I honour those who say that you ought not to have either an Army, a Navy, or a Home Defence Force. They may be right in their opinion; but they are a small minority. I turn now to the overwhelming majority on both sides, who say that there must be a Navy, an Army, and a Home Defence Force. If you say that some form of service is required to defend your country and your country's interest or honour, ought you to begin with the youth of the country and so increase their physical well-being? On that I confess that I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Rowntree). If your object is the physical improvement of the race, you can do it a great deal better by continuing the school age. I frankly say that in my view, speaking as an individual, it would be an enormous advantage if that could be done, or, to carry it a point further, as suggested by my hon. Friend, himself a member of the Society of Friends, if you could extend the Boys' Brigade system to every boy in the country, so that he should have the advantage of physical disciplinary training. That, I think, is admitted both by the hon. Member for York and by my hon. Friend who moved the rejection of this Bill, and who himself has done so much in the direction of the training of boys. That being really agreed, we need not discuss that further.
I come now to those who think that some form of compulsion should be applied. There are two sections. I took up the right hon. Gentleman when he said that it was universally agreed that we must rely on voluntary enlistment for the whole of our Overseas Army. That is not universally agreed at all. A great many persons devoted to the cause of their country believe that to adopt this particular measure and apply compulsion to the Home Defence Force, and to leave out of account the Overseas Force, which, in their view, is much more necessary, is a great mistake. 1580 There are a large number of people who take that view; in fact, I should think that the larger part of the most scientific military thought would be of that opinion. But the right hon. Gentleman tells me that none of those who sit on those benches take that view, and I am not surprised that that should be so. They say that you must rely upon voluntary enlistment for your Overseas Force. This is the point I wish to press upon the House. It is a point of great importance, which I do not think has been mentioned in these debates recently. We now have it from the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I can certainly repeat it for ourselves here, that we must rely on the voluntary principle for our Overseas Army; that is to say, for our Regular Army. We want something over 30,000 troops a year to supply that Army, and we only just get them. The right hon. Gentleman truly said that the cost of increasing that Army in any large degree would be enormous, and that even if you increased the cost it was doubtful whether you would get any appreciable increase in the Overseas Force. Let anyone look at a map of the world. Let us leave out of account the questions raised in the course of this Debate as to whether we ought or ought not to engage in Continental enterprises. That may be left out of account altogether. Still the point I am trying to make will be manifestly true. Look at a map of the world, and see the frontiers we have to defend. No man can say that our forces available for overseas action are more than adequate. We have it now on the admission of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Everyone who has studied the question must, of course, have known that that is the basis upon which we must proceed. We have an Overseas Army, which is, I am sure, judged certainly by any standard, the finest Army in the world. But it is a small Army and only just adequate for the needs of our vast Empire. This matter has been constantly engaging the attention of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I only know what has taken place since this Government took office, but I have heard that these questions engaged the attention of our predecessors. There can be no doubt that as the result of inquiries, which it has been my privilege to attend during the last few years, that we do require the whole of our Overseas Forces for the possible needs of our vital interests oversea. Then we have this to face: we must have another Army to defend our shores.
1581 Parliament has decided that we need 313,000 men. May I say at once what the basis is upon which that figure was taken? So far as present information is concerned, it is based upon an extraordinarily lucid statement which, now that we know it, seems so obvious that the marvel is that nobody ever said it before—but nobody ever did!—made by the late Leader of the Opposition the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, that what we require in this country is a force of such a size that no enemy can come here, dictate terms of peace, and raise a huge indemnity by taking our capital, unless he is forced to come—and one must always put it in a way that will appeal to Irish minds more than to English—unless that force comes in such large numbers that the Navy is quite certain to detect and intercept it; and therefore it cannot come at all. It was put that way by the right hon. Gentleman. Let me put it in another way. We must have a force here so large that an enemy must realise that he cannot possibly conquer the country unless his force is of such a size that it cannot possibly elude our superior Navy. It may be asked whether at this moment we in our 260,000 Territorials have that security.
Speaking as one who wishes to recruit the Territorial Force up to its full strength, I should like to say that we are, in the view of the General Staff, in a situation of great danger. I cannot say that. The considered view of the General Staff, taking the situation as it is to-day, and our Navy as it is, is that the arrangements we now have are adequate to fulfil what is now known as the Balfour Standard; in other words, to prevent any invasion in force in such large numbers, for it would be bound to be detected: moreover, to be able to defeat sporadic raids before they could do us a grave or at any rate a vital damage. I am bound to make that admission—for it is an admission for anyone who wants to encourage people to join the voluntary forces. At the same time our margin of safety, though, in the opinion of the General Staff, adequate, is not large. If times change, if some great change ensues, we might very easily want more and greater strength. How is that greater strength to be obtained? After what I have said I think the whole House will agree that we ought not to increase the Regular Army, because I tried to show, and it is common agreement, that that would not do, nor to increase our Fleet for this purpose because no Fleet, 1582 however large, will save you from some danger of sporadic raids, which might do great damage. There are fogs, there are swift ships, and it is plain that no Fleet will save you from the necessity of Home defence.
The hon. Gentleman opposite comes to us to-day and, in a speech which has been applauded by everyone for the moderation of its tone and the courage of its convictions, tells us that the proper course to pursue is to adopt a system of compulsion based upon this Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Kincardineshire dealt with various details of the Bill and showed that the Bill as it stands has very obvious defects. No doubt it has, but the hon. Gentleman may well answer, "We admit these defects, but they can be amended in Committee. Let us have the principle. In order to fill up the Territorial Force to full strength you ought to adopt a system of compulsion." To-day I answer on behalf of the Government that we do not propose to do anything of the kind. I wish to be quite frank; I do not think it would be right to take the opportunity of this Debate and the Division which will follow to brand the hon. Gentleman or those who will vote with him as conscriptionists, who wish to take people to serve in war against their will. That would be very unfair. In the same way, having said that it would be most unfair to attempt to make party advantage or capital out of what the hon. Member proposed or out of the Division which I hope will follow, then, conversely, I think it would be a mistake to attempt to call those on this side of the House who adhere to the voluntary principle cowardly people for not voting for this Bill. We admit most complete sincerity on both sides. At least I admit it, and I suggest to hon. Members opposite who are going to vote for this thing that they should make the same admission in regard to those on this side. It is quite clear that on a democratic principle if you exclude the followers of Tolstoi the real question is, it being admittedly a necessary business to defend the country, shall you apply to this principle of national defence the principle of the Insurance Act and make it compulsory or shall you follow the principle of the hospitals and the lifeboat service and make it voluntary? That is the real question we have to face. There is no use thinking it is wicked to try to produce 315,000 men by getting everyone to bear his share. That is an argument which will not hold water, because if it is 1583 a duty that has to be done it is at least as worthy to risk your life in a cause as to pay somebody else to do it for you. I am now, and I always have been, a passionate supporter of the voluntary principle. I have made more speeches in support of the voluntary principle than any other man on this bench or that bench. In all parts of the country I have supported the voluntary principle, and I propose to say a word or two upon this point. If my hon. Friends, who I regret to say have not always supported quite so much the cause they have at heart, attempt to take the ground that it is wrong to apply the principle of the Insurance Act to the principle of Home defence, then the voluntary principle is doomed, because they are taking false ground, and those who take false ground go out. I suggest that we shall be wise on this occasion to adopt the principle of the hospitals and the lifeboat service instead of adopting the principle of the Insurance Act with regard to national defence. My reasons for this are as follows:—First of all, the advantages of a voluntary Army are so great that they cannot be exaggerated. I was asked by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bath whether there was any soldier in favour of the voluntary system. I wish to say at once that I have the honour of knowing, and have had the honour of serving, first under and then I suppose over, the greatest soldiers in this country, and I say without hesitation that every single one of them would say that the advantages of a voluntary system, other things being equal, are so great as to be almost overwhelming.
If there be any doubt on the subject I will quote a very great soldier who supported the voluntary principle more vehemently than any other soldier, I mean Lord Roberts. Now, Lord Roberts, referring to the South African war, when he left the war—and I want this to go home—referred to all the different forces who served with him, and he said:—England, relying as she does on the patriotic voluntary system for her defence, is resting on no broken reed.Could any words be more emphatic? They were not spoken words, but deliberately written words. Every soldier must admit that, if you can get it, a voluntary Army is far better. Well, now the question is, can we get it? We had a very interesting speech—although I only heard part of it—from the hon. Member who spoke for the 1584 whole of the Labour party, in which he asserted that he believed we could get it if we paid every man for his loss of time, and if no man were a loser under our voluntary system. I may take it from that speech that the policy he would espouse—and I do not wish to refer particularly to parties in this Debate—and the policy of those who mostly work with him, would be that you should make quite certain of making your voluntary system, or what I would call the lifeboat system, a success by paying a man enough to see that he loses nothing by his service. Against that there may be urged the view that even if you do that the people so raised will not be good enough soldiers to be of any use. It is quite true that under the principle embodied in this Bill—not the Bill itself, for it does not propose to make any change—you could get much longer service. You could have your man more highly trained so far as hours of training are concerned, but you would lose the enormous advantage of the voluntary principle. I can assure the House that from the military point of view no soldier who advises me now, no member of the General Staff, would like to lead in war a force produced under this Bill, that is to say, by making up your numbers by compulsion, half so well as a voluntary force smaller in numbers and of the same period of training. I say that with confidence, and I have-consulted all the greatest soldiers. If it is said that once you establish the principle you can get much longer training, that again is a doubtful policy. You will incur great hostility if you do that. I speak now to right hon. Gentlemen opposite who may have to deal with this question if the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) is successful on one of the many occasions when he lays his most ingenious traps for us.
§ Colonel SEELY
I think we shall follow the second precedent and defeat the trap. However that may be, right hon. Gentlemen opposite and their supporters may have to deal with this question at any time, and I know that they want to face it clearly. Unless you get the people of the country in practically overwhelming numbers to agree to it, the force that you will produce will, as a military machine, be a negligible quantity. If there is one 1585 thing more certain than another, and if there has been one thing exemplified more certainly than any other by the war which I hope is now drawing to a conclusion, it is that if you have a force which is in any way divided in itself, if you have any appreciable proportion who for any reason are not quite sure whether they ought to be there, then disaster is almost certain to follow. Therefore, to endeavour to introduce compulsion in any form would, unless the people were almost unanimous, be a fatal disaster. We are often referred to Bulgaria and to Switzerland. I have not myself had the opportunity of visiting Bulgaria, but I have seen some of the Bulgarian soldiers who have fought in that war. Theirs is a totally different problem from ours. It is true they have a system of compulsion not like this, but in a most complete form, to enable them to wage war whereby it may be necessary in defence of their vital interests. They have suffered for centuries, as they think, from oppression, and they consider that compulsion is necessary for them and for their livelihood, and that their very existence depends upon the steps which they take. That, as I have shown, is not in the opinion of the General Staff our case. We cannot put such a case before our people. How, then, can you expect them to agree to a sacrifice, which in itself is a great sacrifice, and which from any point of view, except the military point of view, is not so good as other means which you may take for improving the population as a whole? With regard to Switzerland, they too know, or every man there thinks he knows, that their independence depends upon maintaining this system. I have had the opportunity of seeing the Swiss Army, and I have had long consultations with the Swiss Minister of War in years gone by. He has assured me that the Swiss Army was not now at all a compulsory system; far from that, any man who was rejected regarded it as a disaster, and there was great competition for the Service. But why? Not because an Act was passed, not because they passed a Bill of this sort, but because the corresponding Minister to the humble individual who is now addressing the House—and of course anyone standing at this box would be in a like case with me—stands up in the Swiss Chamber and says, "If you do not pass this your independence is gone." I cannot stand at this box and say that the General Staff inform me, after most careful consideration, that the arrangements 1586 we now have are inadequate to prevent us suffering from this blow at the heart which would cause the loss of our national independence. The case for it not being there you cannot get general acceptance. That is the real and vital reason for supporting the voluntary principle. Suppose the whole situation were reversed, that for any reason of any kind which we cannot now foresee, the only way to save our hearths and homes was to adopt universal service, there would not be a man on this bench, or on that bench, on this side or on that, or on the Labour Benches, who would not at once be prepared to vote for it, or who would not know that his constituents would vote for it too.
§ Colonel SEELY
I wish to be quite frank with the House. Every man would know that, the thing having general acceptance, it would not only be a safe thing for a man to do from a Parliamentary point of view, but a reasonable proposition which would succeed. Suppose we passed this Bill to-day and instituted a compulsory service, after I have assured the House, speaking for the Committee of Defence as a whole, that even as we stand our independence is in no way menaced under the voluntary system which we have—suppose we did pass it, it would be a complete fiasco. People would not have it. I hope we shall go to a Division, and I repeat that if anyone tries to attack the hon. Gentleman in his constituency because he supported universal service in this Bill, I will go down and support him—not upon any other grounds, but on this ground, because we know he has supported it from purely patriotic motives. I also hope we shall go to a Division for the sake of my hon. Friends on this side and those on the other side, who are very numerous, who also adhere to the voluntary principle, because I do say this, the hon. Gentleman is on strong ground. He is just in the position of a man who came to this House and said, "Your voluntary system for hospitals has broken down. You do not get enough money and people are suffering as a consequence, and I therefore propose to put it upon a compulsory basis." Now it is possible that we should say in reply; I should say at any rate, "It should not be done for the present; I do not say it may not be necessary as time goes on. We believe in this voluntary principle and we 1587 are going to vote the hon. Gentleman down. We shall obtain what we want by other means, we are going to subscribe, and we are going to support the voluntary principle to make up the deficiency." Even so I say to-day. Let every man who votes against this Bill realise that we have failed in achievement. Although this is no time of panic, it is a time of preparation, but we have failed in achievement. We adhere to the voluntary principle. Let him say in the Lobby, "I stand for the voluntary principle in my own person, and by every means in my power I am going to make it a success." There can be no shirking of that issue. We must either adopt the principle of the hon. Gentleman opposite or we must stick to the principle which, as I have said, I love, and to which I stick personally, to which the Government adheres. We must redouble our efforts to make it succeed. We cannot well any longer bear that part of our defensive forces, which by universal consent were decided to be, if not vitally necessary, desirable, shall remain below the proper establishment. I am persuaded that by proper measures under the voluntary system we can fully meet our obligation, and I do venture to appeal to every hon. Gentleman and right hon. Gentleman who hears me to support the voluntary principle, not only in the Division Lobby, but elsewhere, by every means in his power.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I had not intended to take any part in this discussion, but I must say that I am extremely disappointed with the speech to which we have just listened. It seems to me—the right hon. Gentleman will agree that I say this without any desire to bring party feeling into the Debate—that the right hon. Gentleman has failed altogether to touch what we believe to be the reason for the introduction of this Bill, and for the discussion which has arisen out of it; in other words, in one part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman frankly tells us, as he did in the last sentence or two, that the voluntary system, as practised now, is not meeting our needs, yet, in other parts of his speech, he went back to the same sort of thing that Lord Haldane was constantly telling us, that it is all quite right.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. If he will allow me to finish my sentence, if I misquote him, I 1588 shall be glad to give way. In other parts of his speech the impression he certainly left upon me was that while he admitted that the numbers of the Territorial Force were not all he desired, yet he was in a position to say that with the body as it stands he could not get up here and say there was no vital necessity for meeting what we regard as essential. That seems to me utterly to fail to realise what the position of this country is.
§ Colonel SEELY
When I made the statement I did, which I quoted with some care, the right hon. Gentleman was engaged in conversation. I cannot accept the statement he has made. If he reads my statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT—I read from a carefully prepared statement — he will see it was by no means an optimistic statement, and that what he suggests is a travesty.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. If I misunderstood him it was not because I was not listening. What I understood him to say was that not only in his own opinion, which he has a perfect liberty to give, and to which the House will attach the value it deserves—not only in his own opinion, but in the opinion of the General Staff, the Territorial Force, as it stands to-day, was sufficient to meet what he called the "Balfourian" problem.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I put this to the right hon. Gentleman. Does that mean that he states here, on the authority of the General Staff, that in their opinion, if the Expeditionary Force had gone abroad there would be a sufficient number of troops available at home to meet a raid of 70,000 men, which was put down as a possible danger at that time?
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am not going into the Debates we have had many times in this House, but when the right hon. Gentleman says the General Staff, I suppose he means the majority of the General Staff?
§ Colonel SEELY
Oh, no. Really it is most embarrassing in matters of this kind, 1589 on a private Members' day, to raise questions of this magnitude. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] If it is raised I welcome it. It is only embarrassing because I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Colonel SEELY
It embarrasses me to be discourteous to the right hon. Gentleman. He asked me a definite question and I gave a most definite answer. The General Staff, as a whole, advise me in the way the General Staff would advise him if he ever holds my office. They, having considered the matter, have recorded in writing the view—and the questions we are now considering in the Committee of Defence are based upon that—they say, without doubt, that with the Expeditionary Force absent, the troops that remain behind are adequate to meet the danger.
§ Colonel SEELY
They would prevent that. They would meet any danger and prevent any blow at the heart. Let that be quite clear.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The right hon. Gentleman does not embarrass me. All I wanted to find out was whether I clearly understood the statement he makes. Even in his last statement he qualified it. I want now to have it quite clear. What I meant by the qualification was that he said there was no danger of a blow at the heart. I accept that, but I understood him to say before—and I should like an answer to this—that in the opinion of his General Staff what would be left at home after the Expeditionary Force had gone abroad would be adequate to meet a raid of 70,000 trained European troops.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am glad to have that answer. I regard the question of training as the main difficulty in connection with the Territorial Force. In the early stage of the institution of the Territorial Force it was accepted as an axiom by Lord Haldane that there would be six months' time in which training should be given. Everyone recognises that that six months cannot be obtained, and in my belief—and I assume the right hon. Gentleman—I do not want to make party 1590 capital or to exaggerate—the training which is now given to the Territorial Force is quite inadequate to meet such a danger as might possibly come to this country. I quite agree with a great deal that the right hon. Gentleman has said about the advantages of the voluntary system. I should like to go further. Though I have always taken an interest in this subject I have never up to now, even when I occupied a position of less responsibility, voted in favour of a compulsory system. I have kept throughout an open mind in regard to the question. I believe the voluntary system has many advantages, and perhaps all the advantages which the right hon. Gentleman attributes to it, and nothing would induce me to say that some other system was necessary except the feeling that our national safety required a change in our condition. I go further, and I say that if that view is held only by one political party, or is held by that party in such a way as to make it a party issue, it is quite impossible that the thing can be considered on its merits. I have tried to give as much consideration to the subject in the last two years as I could, and all I can say is that the whole condition of this country has entirely changed during the last two or three years. Our insular position gives us an absolutely overwhelming advantage, but it does not, in my opinion, free us, under existing conditions, from the possibility of dangers which did not exist ten years ago. We are in this difficulty in this country. We have never realised the possibility to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded, and which all Continental countries feel, of a danger of invasion of their country, therefore we do not think of it as something which could happen under any circumstances. But are we quite sure that the conditions have not changed in such a way as to make that a possibility which, sooner or later, this country will have to face? That really is the question as it presents itself to me. I quite admit that it is rather awkward to raise big questions at the end of a Friday afternoon, and I should prefer to do it on another occasion. It seems to me that the tremendous growth in the navies of all countries—I am not alluding specially to Germany—has made it possible that at some time for which those who are now sitting in this House may be responsible, there may be a combination of Powers against us that will prevent us from having that absolute supremacy which secures us from 1591 the dangers to which Continental countries are exposed. I think that is possible. If this country realises that that is a danger, it is possible to guard against the danger of starvation by having a supply of food always available for our needs in the event of war. I do not think that anyone who considers the problem can doubt it, and the Prime Minister said the other day that this is one of the things which the Government are considering now. That is not an insuperable difficulty, and I say further that, apart altogether from the possibilty of combinations, the fact that the relative strength of our Navy as compared with other navies is so much diminished, and the change in the conditions of warfare, due on the one hand to submarines and things of that kind, and on the other hand to inventions in aviation, makes it absolutely necessary that this problem should be looked at from an entirely new point of view, that the gentlemen in charge of our defensive forces should realise that old tales will not do any longer, and that they must realise that new needs must be met by new methods. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the present position was not satisfactory. He will not deny that. In answering my right hon. Friend he tried to prove that the need could be met under the voluntary system. If he will say that he is going to see that it is met under any system, I will feel that he has done his duty, but it is really not enough for anyone in his position to say that the present system is sufficient, and to appeal to hon. Members to do what they can to get men to join the Territorial Force. I say it is his duty here and now to say what he believes to be necessary, and to do it under his responsibility.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The Mover of the Bill and his principal supporters have been at considerable pains to repudiate the idea of Conscription in connection with the Bill. So far as I understand it the argument for the Bill is that the voluntary system has broken down, or is breaking down; that it no longer produces sufficient men to make the country secure against foreign invasion. Because of that failure of the voluntary system the principle of compulsory military training is to be applied. If that he not conscription, what is it? It stands in the same relation to conscription as Tariff Reform does to Protection; it is the same thing 1592 under an alias. To call it conscription would frighten people, and therefore it is dubbed National Service. New Zealand has been referred to. In New Zealand compulsory military training is rapidly breaking down. Every Law Court in that country is choked up with cases of boys and young men refusing to come up for their military training. So bad has the situation become in some districts, such as Christchurch, that it has now been agreed that only one out of six of the defaulters is to be tried. The whole working-class movement of New Zealand is against the system. We are told that young men will welcome the compulsion that will be put upon them to go up for military training under this Bill. If that be so, why do not these young men join voluntarily now? It is because they refuse to join that the Bill has been brought in. Then we are told that if this Bill is brought in it will develop the physique of the young men. But in Clause 2 of the Bill it is specifically laid down that men of inferior physique are not to be accepted. The Bill is contradictory of the statements of hon. Members with regard to physical training. The same thing applies to moral character. Persons convicted of offences are not to be eligible. So obviously the Bill is not intended to improve the physique with the moral character of those who are already of good physique and good moral character.
But these are details of the Bill. I oppose it on principle. I may belong to a very small school, as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War has said, who do not believe in war or in preparations for war, but those who hold these views are by no means confined to members of the Society of Friends. The party with which I am associated, the International Socialist party, stands for that principle also. We do not think of the German nation as preparing for war perhaps against this country. We think of the 4,500,000 of Socialist voters in Germany, every man of whom is opposed to militarism and jingoism. These do not think of the British nation as their enemy. They think of the British workman as their comrade and their brother, and the Socialist party of the world is not merely opposed to war; it is opposed to militarism and especially to military compulsion, and therefore we oppose the Bill not because of any detail, but because of its principle of compelling 1593 citizens under pain of forfeiture of their civil rights to become soldiers, however much their principles may be opposed to their doing so. This measure is the first step towards making militarism the dominant factor in the government of the country. The hon. Gentleman who brought in the Bill made what appeared to me to be one slip which reveals the mind of those who are promoting compulsory military training. He eulogised Lord Roberts the soldier, who stands forth from his point of view as the patriot. He sneered at Lord Haldane the statesman. We on these Benches stand for statesmanship as the method of settling international disputes rather than the arbitrament of the sword. But that reveals what is in the mind of those who support this Bill.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I understood the hon. Member to refer to a great soldier, and I thought he meant Lord Roberts.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The soldier, anyhow, was eulogised and the statesman Lord Haldane was minimised. Of course, if the hon. Member says that he did not refer to Lord Roberts I accept his statement. The whole point is that just as militarism grows so will the civil power be degraded. The ruling classes of the country feel that power is sliding from under their feet, and they turn to compulsory militarism to get a fresh grip upon the people. For that reason only I would give this Bill a wholehearted opposition, and I hope the House will show that a proposal like this so thinly disguised, will not be tolerated in any shape or form.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
I wish to say that it is only due to the hon. Member for York to say that when I made an interjection while he was speaking, it was in no way directed against his religious persuasion. I was under the impression that he was talking only of those who were against compulsory National Service. Let me repeat that my criticism was in no way directed to the hon. Member's faith. As regards the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie)—
§ Mr. SANDYS
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his 1594 assent and declined then to put that Question.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil tells us that he represents a party that stands out against war and against militarism and the preparations for war. I suppose everybody in this House is against war if it is possible to avoid it. But if hon. Members of the calibre—
§ Captain MURRAY
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
The hon. Member got up deliberately to say that he and his party would not do anything for our country, and it seems to me a most unpatriotic and deplorable assertion on his part.
§ Mr. SANDYS
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Major ARCHER-SHEE
As regards the remarks of the right. hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, he seems to have avoided the point that the Expeditionary Force might be away from this country in some distant part of the Empire.
§ It being Five o'clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.