Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £443,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Expense of the War Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31k day of March, 1914.
§ Mr. LEE
This being the Vote for the salary of the Secretary of State for War, it is, I think, the proper occasion for raising any questions of broad policy for which he is responsible, and it will give him the opportunity, I hope, of replying to certain inquiries which have been addressed to him, not merely by us in this House, but by important bodies outside, like the National Defence Association and others, as to whether, in the opinion of his military advisers, the Territorial Army and other troops available for Home defence after the Dispatch of the Expeditionary Force are, or are not, equal to the task of taking over the military defence of the United 555 Kingdom. I think it must be obvious to everyone that the position cannot be safeguarded if the Expeditionary Force should be tied to these shores, and the right hon. Gentleman himself, I think on March 19th, in our first Debate told us that it was the fact that the Expeditionary Force could be and would be sent abroad if the strategic situation overseas required it; and, moreover, that it could be maintained abroad for a campaign I assume of reasonable length. That, of course, implies that in his opinion, and I assume of his military advisers, that the Territorial Army must be considered to be capable of undertaking the military defence of the United Kingdom in the absence of the Expeditionary Force. That lands us at once, and once again, in the old dilemma which is created by the contemplation of the two cardinal features of the Government's military policy. What I mean is that the Government's military policy for the last seven years has been, first of all, as regards the Regular Army at Home, that it should be so organised and keyed-up that it should be able to start at a moment's notice for anywhere.
I do not propose to criticise the fitness of the Expeditionary Force for that kind of work. The other side and the other cardinal feature of the Government's military policy which was laid down by Lord Haldane in 1907 was that the Second Line of our Army, the existing Territorials and what remains behind after the Expeditionary Force has left, the Territorials, are deliberately designed not to commence their serious war training until the same moment the Expeditionary Force leaves, and, in the words of the Memorandum which was issued at that time, the Territorial Army will be one of support and expansion to be at once embodied when danger threatens, and not likely to be called for until after the expiration of the preliminary period of six months. It is obvious that those two cardinal features, as I call them, are necessarily mutually destructive. They must be fatal to the whole structure of national defence in the case of war, and, as far as I can see, the inevitable outcome is that in the unhappy event of war we shall be forced to abandon cur Oversea obligations, whether they are within the Empire or elsewhere; and with regard to elsewhere we shall once mere, owing to the fact that the Expeditionary Force will probably not be forthcoming, 556 run the risk of the old reproach which used to be levelled against us of perfide Albion.
I am aware this matter is a very old story that has been raised by us again and again in Debate. I wish to point out that there has been no solution of this impasse offered by the Government, so far as I know, during the many years they have been in office. We put the question often and we have had many evasions of the issue. We have had no definite clear explanation of this, as I think, dangerous position, and recent events within the last week, so far as we are enabled to judge from what we read, impel us to return to the charge, and we intend to persist in pressing the question on the Government until we get some satisfactory explanation that shall dispel our fears, or until the Government takes some satisfactory action with regard to the situation. I would like to point out that in this matter the Government, as in the case of their naval policy, are once more neglecting to maintain the standard of strength which they themselves have laid down. I am not referring now to standards designed by us, but taking their own standards in the case of the military defence of this country, as well as in the case of naval defence, they are not maintaining the standards which they themselves have laid down and laid clown recently. The Prime Minister, speaking in the House of Commons on 29th July, 1909, said:—"It is the business of the War Office to see that we have tinder all circnmstance"—Mark those words—a properly organised and properly equipped force, capable of dealing effectively with possible invasion by 70,000 men.I think it is admitted by the War Office that, assuming there was an invasion by that number of men, a body of trained Regular troops, the number of Territorials required to deal with them should be in the proportion of three to one. Three times 70,000 is 210,000; therefore, that number of men, in the first place, are required as a mobile striking force in order to carry out what the Prime. Minister said was the duty of the War Office. I have made my point, so far. It is admitted that an invasion by 70,000 men is a possibility. It is further admitted that an Expeditionary Force, consisting of 160,000 or 170,000 Regulars in the first instance, may have to be dispatched at once, and may lave in addition to be maintained in the field. In those circumstances we once more come back to the fundamental question as to what provision the War Office 557 is making for the military defence of the United Kingdom, in the absence of the Expeditionary Force, and what troops of one kind or another will remain here when the Expeditionary Force has gone, and what is their quality, and what their standard of training. Taking, again, the official statement of the case as I understand it, it is claimed that 400,000 troops, of sorts, would remain after the dispatch of the Expeditionary Force, consisting of the residue of the Regulars, the Special Reserve—what there was of it—and the Territorial Force. But I do not think it can be seriously denied by the right hon. Gentleman that, in the event of having to send the full strength of the Expeditionary Force abroad, that practically every efficient Regular soldier and every remaining efficient officer, belonging either to the regular Army or to the Special Reserve, would have, if not immediately, at any rate within a very short time, to be sent to reinforce the Expeditionary Army, in order to maintain it in the field.
What will be the position, after the dispatch of the Expeditionary Force? This point was discussed in very great detail by my Friend, the late Mr. Wyndham, speaking at this box at the commencement of the Session, and I do not propose to cover the ground which was so ably traversed by him on that occasion. I would merely remind the Committee. that he arrived at the conclusion—and if hon. Members wish they can follow his reasons In the Debate in the OFFICIAL REPORT of that Debate—that the total number of effectives—he used the word "effectives" in a very limited sense—the total that would be left, after the necessary reinforcement of the Expeditionary Force, would be 225,000 men. There was one point on which he did not touch, namely, that the number of 225,000 men made no provision whatever for maintaining order amongst the civil population of this country—and I must remind the Committee that is likely to be no light task in time of war, for even in August, 1911, we were having internal troubles in this country, and no less than 58,000 men of the Regular Army were employed in support of the civil power, and would have been unavailable for other purposes. Therefore, I estimate, following on Mr. Wyndham's figures, that not more than 200,000 men at the most would be available for Home Defence after the departure of the Expeditionary Force, and that this number would have to deal with any possible serious invasion of the kind referred 558 to by the Prime. Minister in the remarks which I quoted, and with any of the small possible and frequent raids such as have been made during the last few days. In addition to that, they would have to provide permanent garrisons at our coaling stations, our dockyards, fortresses, and any points which require to be garrisoned. If we have 200,000 men for all these purposes, have we any indication of what number is really required? We have the Government telling us of 400,000 being available, which agrees—I suppose it is a coincidence—with the figure of the Norfolk Commission, which sat after the Boer war. That Commission came to the conclusion that 400,000 men represented the minimum that would be required for the defence of this country in the absence of an Expeditionary Force. That was in 1904. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking last year, said—I do not know whether I have the exact quotation—The world has not become more peace-loving. 01 her nations have not reduced their armaments. Our defensive task has not become easier.Of course that is obvious to everybody. It is one of those unfortunate facts which every country may have to face, and presumably, therefore, if 400,000 men was the minimum necessary a few years ago, it is no exaggeration to suggest that 500,000 will be required to-day. But when I ventured to make that claim earlier in the Session, the right hon. Gentleman in reply flatly denied that any such number would be required. He informed me that it might be my opinion, but that responsible military opinion does not take that view. It is not for me to set up my opinion against that of his responsible military advisers, but I do think that we ought not to be met with a mere general denial of that kind coming from them through him, and that we are entitled to know, if that be the case, what is the view of the General Staff with regard to the numbers required—how many men are necessary, and what standard of efficiency and training and armaments they ought to attain to. This is really the main question which I wish once more to press upon the right hon. Gentleman to-day, and which I do hope on this occasion—the occasion of the Vote which more directly concerns himself than any other in the whole of the Estimates—that he will take note, as perhaps he did not in past Debates, when I asked the question, though I feel sure he has observed it to-day, by giving us really a satisfactory reply. If he can give us a satisfactory reply no one will be more 559 pleased than myself, because I am seriously and genuinely concerned about the situation. I do claim that the House of Commons and the country—while certain information is quite properly kept highly confidential, but this is not one of those instances—are entitled to know these elementary and fundamental facts, which go to the root of the whole question of our national defence. So far the Government has steadily refused to answer our inquiries in regard to this matter, and, therefore, I think we must be excused if we feel little confidence in the War Office estimates, numbers, and so forth which have been given to us in the past. In 1907, when the Territorial Force was first launched upon an expectant public, we were told that 315,000 men was the number required. Last year, on 11th March, the right hon. Gentleman, in answer to a question, said that the establishment of the Territorial Force was naturally based upon the requirements of the service for which it was intended. To-day, as we know from the Official Returns, it is 2,000 officers and 60,000 men short. of its establishment, and it is rapidly dwindling. Of the numbers which are actually in its ranks to-day only about one-half are efficient in the very limited sense of the term which has been laid down by the War Office.
There is the Special Reserve. We were told in 1907 that 87,000 men was the number required for that force. I understand, again from the Official Returns, that to-day it is 32,000 short of that number. The officers of that force are 50 per cent. short of strength and, I believe, in some instances that it runs to 60 per cent. The shortage of the non-commissioned officers is a matter of even greater seriousness. Earlier in the Session when we pressed this point upon the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, we were told that we must not refer to the matter because the whole subject was being inquired into by a Committee. I hope he will be able to give us some information, this being the last occasion of the present Session that we shall have any opportunity of discussing Army matters. I trust, therefore, we shall be able to get some statement from the War Office in regard to the present position of the Special Reserve. These being the actual figures in the case of the Special Reserve and of the Territorial Force, and differing as they do so markedly from the original 560 estimates of the War Office, I feel bound to ask what reliance we can be expected to place upon the assurances of that Department when the estimates so far have been so lamentably falsified: I do not want to weary the Committee by unnecessary details in dealing with this matter, but to go back to the main point which I made just now, so far as our information goes, we should, in the event of war and after the departure of the Expeditionary Force, have only some 200,000 men—I do not say they are all efficient — available to discharge the duties which the Norfolk Commission claimed that 400,000 men were necessary to perform. I think that is a very serious position. Whilst the shortage of numbers would have been serious enough in any case, apparently the seriousness of the situation has been deliberately aggravated by the action of the Government during the last seven years. The result of their policy has been so far to reduce practically every branch of our military forces.
The Regular Army has been reduced by some 20,000 men and nine cadres, which latter, in my opinion, is the more serious, because it has taken away the power of expansion which previously existed. The old Militia Force has been reduced by some 32,000 men from the strength at which it stood when the Government came into power. The old Volunteer Force has been reduced by some 22,000 men, although I do not personally attach much importance to the last reduction. This, then, is a total reduction of something like 75,000 men, quite apart from the consequential reduction of the Reserves, which amount to a very considerable figure. So far as we can see, the Government are doing nothing whatever to remedy the deficiencies which have been partly created by themselves. Apart, however, from the Government, the reduction would have been exceedingly serious. As we know, and I regret to say it, at present recruiting is bad. We have no returns to go upon except the Annual Report of last year. In that Report I think I saw that 6,000 men less were taken last year than in 1907. The standards have been lowered, there has been even talk, I understand, of having recourse to that old and happily abandoned system of bounties in order to induce men to serve. So far as we can see, the only prospect that we have before us, unless the Government has some new policy to announce, is a still 561 further dwindling both of the first and second line of our military defence. I do not doubt we shall have still further speeches from the right hon. Gentleman telling us that everything is absolutely ideal; that our army is the best in the world, that it is the best equipped and all that; and we shall no doubt have from him further eulogies of the all-sufficient virtues of the voluntary system of enlistment.
§ Mr. LEE
I did not say abroad at all. I am talking about Home defence. The right hon. Gentleman has not followed the remarks which I am putting before the Committee. The whole burden of my argument has been the deficiency of numbers for Home defence. The right hon. Gentleman's own solution, until he found that he had to cut his military coat according to his political cloth, used to be that the voluntary system was not one upon which we, in this country, could rely for the future. However, I do not want to bring up the past more often than necessary, but the right hon. Gentleman provoked it by his interruption. At the time to which I refer the right hon. Gentleman had memories of the war, and I think they weighed heavily upon him. Now, apparently, war does not enter into his calculations at all. His main anxiety appears to be to produce paper strengths, which look very imposing, and to have fine spectacular reviews on Wimbledon Common and elsewhere. These may help to keep quiet the House of Commons and the country, but they really do not at all solve the problem as to what we will require in time of war. On this point I would like again to call attention to that most able and invaluable document written by the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman in 1907:—The contemplation of large numbers by the people of this country, who are unable to take into account the question of war efficiency and war organisation, necessarily promotes dangerous national illusions.I think that was perfectly true. That is exactly the position in which we find our- 562 selves to-day, where the people of this country are asked to contemplate the large numbers which exist on paper. A large proportion of these are quite unavailable for the purpose of war. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman is trading on the traditional blindness and indifference of the people of this country in time of peace, and gambling upon the chances of there being no war and no awakening by war in his time. I hope that when the awakening comes it will not be in time of war. I am, personally, extremely anxious that the awakening should come now in time of peace, when there is an opportunity to do something, otherwise if it conies in time of. war we shall have a general panic; we shall, at any rate, have such a deterioration of the public morale that it will be quite sufficient to bring disaster. I do not think that this question of public morale as distinct from the morale of the military forces, is sufficiently considered in our military policy. The House will remember the well-known saying of Napoleon:—In war morale is to the physical as three to one.I do not think that is an exaggeration. But in democracies, such as that to which we belong, this force of morale, however-foolish and unreasoning it may be, is. nevertheless 'strong enough to control and deflect the movements of armies and navies, even in times of great emergency, and strong enough also to bring the best plans of statesmen and strategists to confusion and even to ruin. It is very necessary, therefore, for us to consider it. It is also essential on grounds quite other than military that we should have a Home Defence Force which is strong enough, and obviously strong enough, not merely in the opinion of experts, but in the opinion of the people at large, to quiet and reassure' the populace in the event of threatened war. Just let the members of the Committee consider for a moment what would be the effect upon the ordinary people of this country if in time of war incidents occurred, such as have occurred in mimic warfare during the last week, when there-were raids on the coast—and I am not saying they are anything more serious—in which important towns, shipbuilding yards, docks, and so forth were seized and held by the enemy for a few hours only. We had the same thing that has happened now in the naval manœuvres of last, year, when a large force landed on the Yorkshire Coast. Whilst that did not frighten many of us, knowing the whole thing was a mere 563 peace exercise, I venture to say that the effect upon the population, if these things really happened in war, would be of an almost paralysing character.
Apparently, we see from the recent naval manœuvres that it is possible for an enterprising enemy to land small raiding parties almost anywhere along our coast. It would be folly for me to lay down, or to attempt to lay down, what has actually taken place; therefore, I am not prepared to assert that the defenders in these particuar manoœvres were outwitted, but I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will deny that things did happen which will compel the most serious attention on the part of the Government and the Defence Committee, with a possible revision of a good many of the optimistic theories which have hitherto been held. It is inevitable—the history of every country shows it—that in time of war, at the very first threat of war, there would be throughout the country a, popular outcry and a demand from all kinds of localities and particular places near the coast for local protection, either by the Navy or the Army. Hon. Members on both sides of the House would bring pressure to bear upon the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty, saying, "We are entirely unprotected in my Constituency, and we think we ought to be protected." That kind of thing has happened. I remember a very striking example of it in the Spanish-American War of 1898. A Spanish cruiser, a not very powerful ship, was missing. That was all. In Spain nobody knew where it was. Instantly there was a panic down the whole Eastern Coast of the United States, and demands from every State Government and from the corporations of every city on the coast that warships and troops should be sent in orderto preventtheirparticular townanddistrict being laid in ashes by this destroying cruiser. Well, of course, it never turned up—it never appeared at all. Nevertheless, the embarrassment of the Government was very real, as I have been assured by members of the particular Government concerned. It was very real indeed, and I have no doubt whatever that the very same individuals in this House who have been most prominent in demanding reductions of our naval and military forces during the last few years would be the very first in a situation of that kind to be calling out for protection from the Gov- 564 ernment for preparations they have already denounced. That, after all, is not of very vital importance, but what would be the real effect—which is vital? I believe the real effect would be that such pressure would be brought to bear on the Government, that the Expeditionary Force would not be allowed to leave, although the strategic necessities of the Empire and our international obligations might require that it should leave, and, therefore, we should be in the unhappy position of being forced to abandon our Imperial responsibilities with deplorable and, perhaps, fatal results to our prestige and to our world position.
I think the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that the recent manœuvres have shown that some of the expedients at present provided for the purposes of defence are in some respects unreliable, or, at any rate, uncertain. The coast patrol flotillas. on which we were to rely so much, are capable, at any rate, of being lured away. Coast defences, I think, from their moral effect are very useful. They have a very reassuring effect upon the locality in which they are situated, but they are very costly. They cannot be set up everywhere, but, having said that, I wish to say also that I do think they have a great value, and that the citizen soldier—the Territorial soldier—is peculiarly suited for manning defence of that description. He is suited for it, in the first place, because of his general high level of intelligence, and also because no mobility on his part is required, because untrained troops are generally very much steadier in fighting behind entrenchments, and because it is much easier to arrange for the training and firing to bring about a state of efficiency. Therefore, I think the Territorial Garrison Artillery is a force deserving of every possible encouragement, and here I must make a slight digression, and say that, on the other hand, I cannot apply my remarks to the Territorial Field and Horse Artillery. I am not in this matter going to put forward my own personal opinion, but I have talked to a very large number of Artillery officers with regard to this point, amongst others, to Lord Roberts, who, I think, every one in this House will recognise, not only as a great soldier but a great Artillery authority, and I have not found one single opinion which disagrees with this general statement, that the Territorial Field and Horse Artillery is a costly, dangerous—I do not wish to use language unnecessarily strong—but a costly force which would be 565 dangerous to the other arms which it would serve in the event of war, and that in any case it is a waste of money which is much needed for other purposes. Yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman in answer to a question, told us that in the opinion of the War Office, 150 Territorial batteries were efficient.
§ Colonel SEELY
I do not think that was the word. The question was as to "effective." I did not quite know what "effective" meant. The question of efficiency is entirely a matter of opinion. By "effective" I expect he meant that they were actually there. Perhaps he will develop it in the course of his argument, but it is really very difficult to arrive at what is meant by the question.
§ Mr. LEE
Although my recollection was that the' word was "efficient," if he likes I will call it "effective"; but I followed up the question by asking, Did he mean effective for the purpose of war? To that we received no reply. I, therefore, take the opportunity of asking again, Does the War Office consider that these 150 batteries of Territorial Field and Horse Artillery are effective units for the purpose of war, because, if they are not effective for war purpose, what is the use of spending money upon them? I am not going to develop this Artillery question at length, because an hon. Friend of mine who has served a long time in the Artillery will have an opportunity of dealing in detail with it. But I do say that, in the opinion of Lord Roberts and others, it would be far better value for people in this country and our military efficiency to get rid of these 150 batteries altogether and to spend the same amount of money in providing thirty batteries of Regular Artillery. Certainly, such experience as I have leads me warmly to support that view. What, then, is wanted in our opinion to deal with this general situation? In the first place, if I may give my own opinion for what it is worth, I think we want more ships and more sailors in order to make absolutely certain, without a shadow of doubt, our command of the sea, because, unless we have complete command of the sea, the Expeditionary Force cannot start at all. That point is sometimes forgotten. In addition to that, I think we want more real soldiers, and by real soldiers I do not mean necessarily Regular soldiers capable of serving in any part of the world, but a citizen Army which is really trained and made effective up to a point where it 566 can hope with some chance of success to fight with trained European troops. Lastly, I think we require an adequate air service. That, again, I do not propose to deal with at length at this stage.
§ Mr. LEE
Yes, certainly. I think it is most important for Home defence, but I do not propose to deal with that in detail, because another hon. Friend of mine who has recently had an opportunity of inspecting the arrangements of the right hon. Gentleman in that connection will deal with that point. But I must just bring forward again one broad point which I brought to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman before, and which he has never answered. He has told us that our Army —I mean our Regular Army, our Expeditionary Force—is better equipped than any other Army in the world in all the necessities of war, and he has also told us that it requires eight squadrons of aeroplanes to complete its equipment for purposes of war. He also tells us that he does not propose to provide more than five of these eight squadrons by the end of the present year. Why not? If this force is really better equipped than any other Army in the world and is ready to start as an Expeditionary Force, why should we wait until the year after next for this most essential part of its equipment? I hope he will give us an answer to that point, and also as to why we are to have, apparently, no kind of aerial force at all for the Home Defence Army. Surely if the Regular Army needs it, the Home Defence Army, which has enough handicaps already, needs it more. It seems to me quite clear that the only way of dealing with this whole general situation is to have a complete reconstruction of the Home Defence Army as regards its method of enlistment, its training, its arming, and equipment, and this means, inevitably, increased expenditure. That brings me to this point: It seems to me that one root of the present trouble as regards this question of our military efficiency is the indefensible and ridiculous axiom, which appears to have been laid down some time ago, that Army Estimates must always remain at a fixed figure, whilst all other Estimates are showing a steady and startling increase. What possible virtue can there be in a particular figure of £28,000,000, at which the Army Estimates apparently are always now to stand'? There has been an increased cost in everything so far as I know in this country. Our military responsibilities 567 have enormously increased, and, so far as I can see, Army expenditure is the only single item of economy which has been practised by the party opposite which is supposed to be devoted to retrenchment amongst its other party cries. I hope I have not detained the Committee too long in dealing with this question, but I have endeavoured once more to indicate in broad outline to the Committee what are the chief points about which we feel obliged once more—and this is the last occasion during the present year—to repeat our inquiries, and to hope that we shall receive some kind of satisfactory reply. The right hon. Gentleman in previous Debates charged me with omniscience, and I say frankly I was very much flattered at this quite unexpected tribute to my abilities and powers. I valued it very much, coming from such a source, but on this occasion I appear before the right hon. Gentleman as a humble inquirer who is very anxious to know the answers to some very important questions. He said, I think, last year, when I raised a point somewhat similar to this, that he did not believe I meant what I said, and that he did not believe I was really anxious about the situation. I think, quite unconsciously, he does not do me justice. I do really believe what I am saying in this matter, and am really anxious, and I do not believe I am the only person in this Committee on either side who is anxious with regard to the situation. But he went further and said that if I did believe what I said and was really anxious, I ought to devote the elderly and rapidly waning energies that I possess to drilling in the daytime and, as I understand, to exhorting the nation at night. That, I think, throws a flood of light on the right hon. Gentleman's whole attitude of mind. I think he really believes that stout, sedentary politicians, and others with no kind of military capability at all, so long as they are animated by the best and most patriotic motives, are quite capable of resisting invasion by trained Continental troops. I think that was what was at the bottom of his touching belief in the new National Reserve, but I cannot help thinking that the martial memories of his hot youth are a serious handicap to his usefulness as Secretary of State for War. I think it would be far better if he would forget that he had served with so much distinction in the Hampshire Yeomanry.
§ Mr. LEE
I did not say the right hon. Gentleman did, but I think it would be far better if he would try to forget his military experiences, as I have tried to forget that I was once a brevet-major and lieutenant-colonel. I try to forget all these things, and to resign that long past military career in my case to oblivion. The right hon. Gentleman has been more successful than I have been in maintaining his figure, but I do not think that either he or I would be considered by any competent military authority as being of any real value as military assets. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] It is our business here as Members of Parliament elected to speak in this House to study the problem as well as we can, and criticise without fear or favour where we think criticism is necessary. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have repeatedly deprecated criticism of the Territorial Army on the ground that it was calculated to shake the morale of citizen soldiers. I am more concerned with the morale of the Territorial Army as they would appear if faced by the real thing rather than well intentioned criticism in this House, and I am still more concerned as to what the morale of the British public would be if it should find out that the arrangements for its safety are wholly unreliable. I therefore feel compelled to repeat the criticisms which we have made on previous occasions with regard to the present condition of the Territorial Army, and I press the right hon. Gentleman to give us a reply upon these three questions: (1) What are the numbers which, in the opinion of the General Staff, are considered necessary for Home defence after the departure of the Expeditionary Force; (2) What standard of training and efficiency should the second line of troops attain to for the purposes of this work; and (3) What steps do the Government propose to take to remedy the deficiency in numbers and training of our present Home Defence Force.
§ Mr. ROWLAND HUNT
I beg to move, "That the Vote be reduced by £100, in respect of the salary of the Secretary of State for War."
I want to call the attention of the House to the way the Secretary for War treats people who approach the War Office respecting improvements in bullets. Mr. Holland was invited by the War Office to submit a bullet to fulfil certain conditions, and he perfected a bullet after having spent large sums of money upon experiments. He sent it to the War Office, but 569 the right hon. Gentleman's Department have accepted a bullet which, with the exception of slight and unimportant variations is exactly the same bullet as the one submitted to the War Office by Mr. Holland. I submit that the War Office bullet is an infringement of Mr. Holland's patent, and what was stated to be the case by Mr. Walter, a well-known K.C., and an eminent patent lawyer. Mr. Holland supplied the War Office with what they required, and then they searched the Patent Office in order to defeat Mr. Holland's just claims, although Messrs. Ely Brothers, who manufactured the Government bullets pay Mr. Holland a royalty upon his bullets when they are sold to the trade. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will remember that Lord Haldane, just before he was elevated to the peerage, hail agreed to see Mr. Holland on this matter to try and get it amicably settled. The right hon. Gentleman has refused to see Mr. Holland, although that gentleman offered, if the War Office would put the question before any leading authority in patent law, that he would, if that authority said that the Government bullet did not infringe his patent, give up all claim. The War Office entirely refused to do even that. What I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman is that it is a very bad thing for the War Office to get the name that they are not to be trusted. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to put it off as if it did not matter. I have heard that the War Office has no soul to be damned and no body to be kicked: If you get that into people's heads, then you cannot expect the rifle-makers and the gunmakers to help the War Office, because they will be inclined to say, "No, the War Office is not to be trusted, and we will not have anything to do with them." Mr. Holland said himself that he would trust the right hon. Gentleman, but he would not trust the War Office as a body, and I think he was thundering well right, too. I put that point before the right hon. Gentleman. because I think it is a serious matter and I should like, if it is possible, to drive sonic shame into him about the way Mr. Holland has been treated. I want to say a word or two about the Prime Minister and national defence. On the 2nd May I asked the Prime Minister:Whether he would prevent Members of the Government, from prejudicing the question of the defence of these islands by going about the country saying that invasion was an inconceivable possibility.On that occasion the Prime Minister replied that he was not aware of any such 570 statement, and when I referred him to the speech he said he should be very glad to have it. After the statement had been sent, I asked the same question of the Prime Minister again, and the right hon. Gentleman in reply to my question, said:—I have read a verbatim account of the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, mid it is quite in agreement with what he said, although the summary quoted by the hon. Gentlemen is no doubt unintentionally misleading. I must refer the hon. Member to that account of the speech of which I shall be pleased to send him a copy, should he desire it.The Prime Minister was kind enough to send me a copy of what the Colonial Secretary said, and it is perfectly plain what the right hon. Gentleman did say. He said:—With our supreme Fleet and our existing defensive forces an invasion by 70,000 or 100,000 men is not conceivably possible.The Prime Minister particularly said that he was quite in agreement with what the Colonial Secretary said. This is what. the Prime Minister said on the 29th July; 1904:—In these matters we must have an ample margin of safety, and, in order to secure that margin, the force necessary for Home defence permanently maintained here, should be sufficient to cope with a foreign invasion of 70,000 to 100,000 men.The right hon. Gentleman told us very shortly afterwards that the Territorial Force was not sufficient to cope with a foreign invasion of 70,000 to 100,000 men. Surely that is so. From those quotations the House will see that we are in a very unsatisfactory condition at the present time, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give his attention for a moment to what the Colonial Secretary said further on in his speech, of which the Prime Minister said he approved. In the same speech the Colonial Secretary said:—I never wish to see this country committed to an aggressive foreign or military policy, and I can conceive no such circumstances under which Continental operations by our troops would not be a crime against the people of this country.What is the explanation of this force if it is never to be used? The Prime Minister quite agrees with what the Colonial Secretary says, and I think we may fairly ask for an answer to those quotations from the Colonial Secretary and the Prime Minister. There is the question of Belgium. I think we are bound to protect the neutrality of Belgium. The Colonial Secretary—the Prime Minister agreeing with him—says that he can conceive no circumstances under which Continental operations by our troops would not be a crime against the people of this country. Really, it is enough to make you wonder what in the world a Liberal Government 571 will do ! We do not know where we are. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman in this way: We are expected to help to defend Belgium and France if they are attacked. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to get up and tell us that under no circumstances will this Expeditionary Force be sent to help either Belgium or France? Is that what is going to be put into the French papers and the papers of our allies? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will explain this, because it is not the same opinion which he held on 5th June, when he told us that nothing was impossible, and with great respect I think he is right. The First Sea Lord told us that the Navy alone could not prevent invasion, and that we must have a number of well-trained troops. Sir John French says that the Territorials must have months of continuous training before they are able to face Continental troops.
The right hon. Gentleman told us in the last Debate we had that Lord Nelson was supposed to have been the person who declared that one volunteer was worth ten pressed men. But the right hon. Gentleman added that really nobody knew whether it was Lord Nelson who said it or not; therefore, I do not see that we can reckon on that so much. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to say that it was true that one volunteer was worth ten pressed men. Now, really, I should not have thought that even a Liberal War Minister would have made—I do not wish to be rude—quite so idiotic a statement as that! The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that according to our recruiting officers, eighty or ninety out of every hundred men who enlist in our Regular Army do so because they have no other way in which to get clothing, shelter, and food. [Colonel SEELY indicated dissent.] The right hon. Gentleman is really not going to dispute that. It is absolutely well known that 80 to 90 per cent. of the soldiers in our Regular Army enlist because they cannot get jobs at 15s. a week and cannot get food and shelter. I remember a relation of mine telling me, with regard to the Special Reserve, that he knew it to be true that men joined because they were attracted by the menu put up outside the barrack gates showing what they were going to get to eat when they went in. There is no doubt that these are facts, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well. This voluntary system is, as a matter of fact, conscription by 572 hunger, so far as the British Army is concerned. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he is not too angry with me already, whether he considers that each of these hunger conscripts is really worth ten pressed German soldiers? I would ask him to remember that what ho calls pressed men in Germany are in reality not pressed men at all. The people of Germany themselves vote that every able young man must 'be liable to learn to defend his country, and even the 'Socialists themselves believe in that. Herr—I am not good at German names, but the right hon. Gentleman will know whom I mean—has declared that he would shoulder a rifle himself if the Fatherland was in danger. How, then, can the right hon. Gentleman call these German soldiers pressed men, when, with the rest of the population, they are in favour of a system by which every man can be compelled to defend his country '? How can you call them pressed men when they practically all vote for it, and how can you call the system in this country a volunatry system when many of the men who join the Regular Army are compelled to do so because there is nothing else for them to do under your Free Trade system?
Other nations know what voluntary service means. They voluntarily, through their Governments, have decided that all sound men shall be liable to serve. We do not do that, because political leaders, and the right hon. Gentleman is one- of them, deceive the people and tell them that voluntary service means sitting at home and hiring someone else to fight. These people, deceived by the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, stay at home, untrained, drink their beer or champagne as the case may be, and let the small minority bear all the burden of the fight. These are the clear facts of the case, and I wish the right hon. Gentleman would face them. I wonder what the War Secretary would be worth if, not pressed by the Cabinet, he would tell the people of this country the true opinion of the twenty officers of the highest rank in the Army! I have a high opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, but I should have a far higher opinion of him if he would put it to the test in that way, and loosen the tongues of these poor generals, so that they would be allowed to say what they really think. What it really comes to is this, that the right hon. Gentleman and his party are really priding themselves upon a form of the least physically fit and the most prosperous people avoid the trouble of 573 learning how to defend their country, and they do it by trusting to bribery to induce the least physically fit, and the most poorly fed of the population to undertake the defence of the country and the Empire for them, and to do it on very inadequate remuneration. When the Regular soldiers have spent the best years of their life in the Army, the Government, in thousands of cases, leave them to starve in the ranks of unemployed, unskilled labour, and that labour comes into competition, not only with the rest of the world, but with all colours of the human race—black, brown, or white. That is how you treat your soldiers who have served you well. The right hon. Gentleman told us the other day that the voluntary system was a priceless advantage. I conclude, therefore, that in his opinion it is a priceless advantage to be able to hire the blood of your fellow countrymen for cash, because that is what the present system comes to and nothing else. The Government call this service voluntary and pretend that it is patriotic, but I can only say that my astonishment at their attitude is overwhelmed by my disgust at their hypocrisy.
When you come to consider the position of the Regular Army, with its Reserve, it appears, so far as I can make out, that it was reduced by Lord Haldane by 70,000 men. This year it is still further reduced by 2,000 or 3,000. The Artillery has certainly been reduced, and so much reduced that when the Expeditionary Force has gone there will only be one Regular Horse Artillery battery and three batteries of Field Artillery left in the country. I asked the right hon. Gentleman the other day whether he would tell me what Artillery would be left, but he refused to answer, so I wrote again for information, and I have it on very high military authority that what I have just stated is absolutely the case. Of course, I cannot find out any more, because the right hon. Gentleman will not tell me, but that is how I believe the position will be in regard to Artillery when the Expeditionary Force has left. Therefore, for the defence of this country, when the Expeditionary Force has left, you are largely depending on the Territorial batteries, of which very few would have any chance with Regular batteries of men who have served for two or three years. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that Lord Haldane told us—and the right hon. Gentleman has said very much the same thing—that the 4th Battalion of the Special Reserve were only trained for three months, and that they 574 will go out at once in the fighting formation to the Continent, as they were enlisted and organised for that purpose. On the Continent these men would have to meet Regulars, who have been trained for two or three years, and this in spite of the fact that Lord Haldane told us in December, 1911, in the House of Lords, that, in the opinion of his best advisers, men who have been trained from four to, six months were not fit to meet Regulars who had been trained two or three years. Look at the position! In the one case-men trained for three months are supposed to be fit to meet Regulars of long service abroad, while in the other case men trained for six months are not fit to meet Regulars at home. Surely the position is so absurd that it hardly requires comment, but it does show to what length a Minister will go in his attempt to save his own skin at the expense of our soldiers.
The Territorial Force is now about 60,000 officers and men short, and 20,000 less than last year. Only 153,500 men passed in musketry last year, so that less than half the number laid down as necessary for defending the country passed in musketry. Over 40,000 are boys under nineteen years of age, and 34,000 did not attend camp at all. That is your Territorial Army up to date. I think I am justified in reminding the House that we want a strong Home Defence Force far more than we did in 1905, when our strength at sea was practically three to one. Now it is admitted that our strength at sea is only about sixteen to ten. Surely the right hon. Gentleman must be able to see the gravity of the position! Surely he cannot deny the facts I have stated! I would remind him that the Association of Chambers of Commerce, the most important representative commercial body in this country, have most emphatically stated that they are in favour of compulsory military serving. I ask the Minister for War or the First Lord of the Admiralty what the naval manoeuvres, which are just over, are supposed to have proved? [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not over."] Well, at any rate, the invasion part is over, and we know that the conditions were quite unlike what would happen in war. The Territorials were prepared, and in spite of that and the fact that the defending force was allowed twenty-five battleships against sixteen of the enemy, the result has been a successful invasion.
§ Mr. HUNT
They were seen by the newspaper correspondents. I observe that the men were sent back again only the other day.If they had not been there they could not have been sent back. he First Lord of the Admiralty never ventured to deny that next April Germany will have, on his own showing, more "Dreadnoughts" altogether than we shall have at the "average moment." That has been said by Lord Charles Beresford, and 1 have said it any number of times. I ask the War Secretary why he ventured to put the enemy in such a very small proportion in these trials, when in reality, if it came to war, the proportion would be -quite different? It is not a fair trial anyhow. I may also remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are not only very short of Infantry, but we are very short of horses. The Chairman of the Remount Committee has just stated that it will shortly become impossible to get horses for any mounted service other than the Yeomanry, and Field-Marshal Lord Nicholson has said that this applies to the whole country. I understand that the War Secretary is going to tell us how he is going to find horses. In the Army Memorandum of 1908–9 it is said that the Territorial Force is designed, in the first place, to compel any hostile Power which may attempt an invasion to send a force so large that its transports could not evade oar Fleet, and, in the second place, to free the Regular Army from the necessity of remaining in these Islands. It is also said that the Territorial Force is designed to enable both the- Regular Army and the Navy to operate with greater 576 freedom at a distance from these shores. That is exactly what the Territorial Force cannot do. They are really inefficients, people who cannot shoot, and wastrels. You must remember, too, that on the 30th September this year there will be a shortage of 188,000 officers and men, and, even if we get 60,000 recruits and 28,000 re-engagements, it will leave us with only 200,000 Territorials altogether on that date —over 100,000 under establishment. A large proportion of them will be recruits or inefficients, and the best of them will have been trained for only a fortnight. This is the force which is to defend us against 70,000 picked Continental troops carefully trained for two years! It would be murder to put these men in the field to oppose even 50,000 Continental troops.
The Secretary for War regrets the shortage in Territorials, but he will do nothing to remedy it because there is supposed to be no danger of invasion. But, as a matter of fact, the danger of invasion has been proved, or else we should not have such enormous efforts made to make up the numbers of the Territorial Force. Lord Haldane told us himself that the enemy would try a blow at our heart, London, if he got a chance. The War Secretary said there was a complete co-operation between the Navy and the Army, and yet there is the very odd thing that a book was published some few months ago after having been submitted to the War Office. In this book the danger of the naval position is very plainly pointed out, and it is stated that our military affairs are at present in a deplorable state. It also said that no recruits under twenty years are of any fighting value. That is the book that the War Office specially allowed to be printed. I suppose there was somebody at the War Office who wanted the truth to come out somehow. The Secretary of State said that there had been grave irregularities, whatever that may mean. This book says that we must have at least 500,000 men really well trained for the defence of this country, as well as over a million Territorials far better trained than our Territorials are at present. This is the book which was allowed to he published by the War Office, and yet the right hon. Gentleman himself and the War Office consider Lord Roberts' scheme is unnecessary which asked for infinitely less. The truth seems to have been let out by accident by somebody at the War Office, and it is the truth which unfortunately the Government is afraid to tell the people for fear of losing votes. It is a very 577 unfortunate thing that it should be so. Generals in the Army cannot tell the people the truth of the matter It is all very well for the War Secretary to say there are grave irregularities, but really the gravest irregularity of all is that the Government conceals our danger and necessity from the people. This force is not only hopelessly inefficient and short of officers and men—some of them have really not fired a military rifle at all—but it is a force about which, even if its numbers were full, Lord Haldane, its creator, said if we relied upon it as against a surprise attack we should be relying upon very little. The Territorial rifle is inferior, and the bullet is inferior; it is the old South African bullet, and not the sharp-nosed bullet which makes a much more severe wound than the old bullet. There are distinct advantages in compulsory training, and it is for the country to decide whether we should have it or not. I ask the right hon. Gentleman himself again, as I have asked the Prime Minister three or four times, to try to bring about an agreement with the Leader of the Opposition. I feel sure that the Leader of the Opposition would agree to make universal compulsory training a non-party matter. It. is compulsory military training that is wanted.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
I allowed the hon. Member to introduce the subject of compulsory as against voluntary service, but the hon. Member must not develop it. The only way to bring about compulsory service is by legislation, and it is out of order to propose that in Committee of Supply. The subject is also really unconnected with the Vote we are now discussing.
§ Mr. HUNT
If you really think that I am not in order in advocating compulsory training, I cannot., of course, go on with the subject. I dare say that the House and the right hon. Gentleman have had about enough of me, and I will finish up by venturing to remind the right hon. Gentleman that we were to have had, anyhow, one day in which we could discuss quite openly what we liked on Army matters. This is an Army matter, and I have been ruled out by the Chairman, so we have had no day at all for the discussion of the general administration of the Army. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that he knows quite well that when the Expeditionary Force goes away it will leave us in a hopelessly weak position 578 in this country. The Navy will next year be far weaker than in 1906, relatively, to other countries, and in the air we are admittedly outclassed.
§ Mr. HUNT
Why does the right hon. Gentleman say "No"? France, of course, has more aeroplanes than we have. There are now "Dreadnoughts" of the air called Zeppelins, and I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman considers that we are outclassed in that direction. He has admitted that these airships, these dirigible vessels in the air, can drop bombs of all kinds to cause destruction, and yet we have few or none of the guns necessary to hit them, and it must be remembered that these airships fly in the dark, and an airship in those circumstances would be a very hard thing to hit. I must say I think that I am justified in saying that we are hopelessly outclassed in the air. I certainly think that next year we shall be in a very dangerous position, and I will venture to remind the right hon. Gentleman of the late Lord Wolseley's prophecy. He said:—When war came and the talkers had done their work, and the result was invasion and starvation in this country, then the fishwives from the East End of London would invade Downing Street and Whitehall, and hang any Minister that they could catch to the nearest lamp-post.I think that Lord Wolseley was absolutely right, and for myself I would not stir a little finger to save any Minister's neck, for they are neglecting the safety and security of the Empire.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
The hon. Member for Ludlow has put to the right hon. Gentleman a great many questions which are mostly concerned with the future. The questions which I desire to put to the right hon. Gentleman mostly concern the past, and they are in reference to a matter which I think I may fairly describe as the scandal of the Middelburg Farm. I should perhaps remind the House that shortly after the conclusion of the South African War a large tract of country, I think some 28,000 acres, were purchased by the Government for military purposes. From that area a small farm of something like 100 acres was handed over and carried on as a garrison institute. After it had been carried on for some time, about four years ago, the farm suddenly closed down by order of the Army Council. It may be said that this is a matter of ancient history, but my reason for raising it—and, indeed, my excuse for raising it on this Vote, 579 which is the Vote on the Secretary of State's salary—is that during the past few months, when the hon. Member for Bodmin (Sir H. Pole-Carew) and myself have asked questions relating to this subject, we have been met in a spirit of evasion, and the issue has been confused. I go further and say that great inaccuracies were committed in answering the questions,
The FINANCIAL SECRETARY
to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Harold Baker): Will the hon. Member refer to the questions?
§ Mr. GWYNNE
Yes, I will give exactly what I said. We asked questions with regard to this farm, and we were first of all told that it was a private and not a public undertaking. I do not wish in any way to delay the Committee, but perhaps it would be well if I asked the hon. Gentleman straight away, or the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State himself, whether this was a private undertaking?
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I have five or six questions and answers relating to the subject, and I cannot reconcile that statement with the following statements the hon. Gentleman has given me on the subject. The first one was to the effect that this farm was bought with public funds, and was loaned to the Garrison Institute without any rent being paid at all. Does the hon. Gentleman admit that? The next question was this, "Was it not the fact that this farm was started by the use of public money, and that £925 was in fact paid back to the public funds a few years afterwards, and did not the hon. Gentleman himself tell me that it was a loan out of public funds? "If this was a private undertaking, why was it stated by the Commander in South Africa that the Imperial Government Farm was not run in any interest save that of the public? You cannot have it both ways. If it was a private undertaking, why did the Army Council peremptorily order it to be closed down, to use their own words, "in the public interest, in order to obviate any loss falling on the public"? How could the farm be private, and what was the object of the statement that it was closed down in the public interest in order to save the public funds?
§ Mr. GWYNNE
It was the Commanderin-Chief in South Africa to the Secretary for War, sent on 11th February, 1908, and the words were, "In the public interests, in order to obviate any loss falling on the public." I will not read the whole of the document; I will stand by what I have read. Again, I asked the hon. Gentleman if it was not embodied in the Army Council's own instruction that the supreme control of the farm was vested in the Army Council. I ask him does he deny the fact that officers on full pay in the Army were appointed to superintend this farm? It is a private undertaking, yet officers on full pay were appointed to, superintend that private undertaking. I submit that this is quibbling with the matter. Either this farm was public or it was private. The hon. Gentleman may endeavour to make it a sort of hybrid concern—I do not mind which way he takes it—but he cannot take it both ways; he cannot answer in one breath that it was private and in another that it was public. I say that, beyond all question, the answers which have been given to my questions prove up to the hilt that this was a public undertaking, that the. Army Council were responsible, and that they took all responsibility upon them in regard to it. The hon. Member the Financial Secretary asked me whether I would point out inconsistencies in his replies to my questions or those of my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin. I will put to him one straight way. On 6th May he stated, in answer to a question by my hon. and gallant Friend, that there was nothing in the War Office records to suggest that at the date of the closing down of the farm (1909) any repayments were due to public or garrison funds apart from normal trading transactions. On 5th June, a month later, in answer to another question, he stated that there were two items—one of 2600' and one of £100—which were repaid in 1909, to use the precise. phrase, "dates not shown." Therefore, it was distinctly stated in the first case that there was nothing in the records as to repayments that were due, yet after the farm was closed down there were these two payments of £600 and £100. Is it questioned that this is a direct inaccuracy, that it is a misstatement, for which I think an apology is due to the House, because it was deliberate, and I may now call it a deliberate inaccuracy. In regard to the auditing of the accounts, the Financial Secretary to 581 the War Office told me on the 1st April that the accounts of this farm were audited by the officers of the Army Accountant's Department, acting in their capacity of members of the garrison and not as representatives of the Army Accountant's Department. I say that is deliberately untrue. [HON. MEMBER: "Oh, oh !"]
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I have examined t he Estimates, and I cannot find any reference to the subject to which the hon. Member is now alluding. I am very loth to interrupt him in the middle of his speech, but I thought the matter was on the Estimates. I now observe, however, that the whole subject is closed, and therefore it is not on the Vote at all. In the circumstances, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to make his subsequent remarks as brief as possible, in view of the large number of subjects which are to be raised on the Vote.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I certainly do not want to take up the time of the Committee, but I certainly thought that I could raise these points on the present Vote, and that I was perfectly in order.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I must remind the hon. Member that he is out of order, and that it is a matter of grace that I allow him to go on with his remarks at all.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I do not think the Deputy-Chairman quite realises the point I am raising. I am raising not the question of the Middelburg Farm itself, which certainly is a matter of history, but the question of the consistency or inconsistency of the Secretary of State in giving information. Surely, the Secretary of State's salary is the occasion on which to do that, and if I cannot raise this question as to the conduct. of the Department, when can it be raised. I am referring to questions I asked and to the answers given in order to show that the replies were not consistent or accurate. I really think that this must be in order, for when, otherwise, would it be in order to raise these questions, if not on the salary of the Secretary of State? If we are precluded, then it would appear that the Secretary of State might do anything he likes, and we would never have an opportunity at all. I am not discussing the question of audit, but giving two instances to show the inaccuracies in answers to questions during this year, and, indeed, during the last 582 month. I asked a question with regard to the auditing of these accounts, and was told:—"The accounts of this farm were audited by officers of the Army Accounts Department, acting in their capacity as members of the garrison skilled in such matters, and not as representatives of the accounting officer of the War Department.I say that is inaccurate. I challenge the hon. Member to prove that what I say is not correct, that the accounts of the farm were officially audited half-yearly by order of the Army Council, by the administrative staff and not by the board of management at Middelburg at all. The answer was a direct misstatement. Here is another. The hon. Member told my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin on 6th May:—The Army. Council considered it desirable to have these sheets sent, not as accounts of a public concern rendered to the accounting office of the War Department, but for administrative reasons, in order that they 'night keep in touch with the working of a garrison institute of an exceptional kind.That is proved by subsequent answers to questions to be an inaccurate statement. How could the Army Council, if they merely wanted to act as onlookers, send back these balance sheets, as, in fact, they did, and give orders as to how they would be made out? How could they have ordered the farm to be closed down or cause the credit balance to be altered—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member, no doubt with the very best intentions, is endeavouring to get round the ruling I laid down. I cannot allow him to go into further details on the matter, or allow further illustrations he wishes to bring up in that way. I understood that the general charge he made against the Secretary of State for War was that of inaccuracy in replying to questions. I must ask him to cease from going into these details.
§ Mr. LEE
As there is evidently some misunderstanding upon this side of the Committee as to the width that is possible in this discussion, may I say we were under the impression that upon the Vote for the Secretary for War's salary it is possible to raise any question in regard to which he is responsible. Are we permitted, apart from this particular question; to raise any question in this Debate affecting matters for which the Secretary for War is responsible, because there are a great many of my hon. Friends who wish to speak on other subjects?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Hon. Members can discuss anything which is within the Estimates. I have carefully searched 583 the Estimates and can find no reference at all in them to the topic upon which the hon. Gentleman is now addressing the Committee. I have no wish to narrow the Debate at this time of the Session, as this is the last opportunity. I think I have made myself clear to the hon. Member.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member had a very good run. He was speaking for nearly forty minutes. We cannot go outside the scope of the Estimates.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I apologise to you, Sir, if I was trying to get outside your ruling, but I was not intending to do so. The Secretary of State himself has raised the question, and I thought it was understood we should have a discussion on this point this afternoon. I do, not wish to bring up the whole of this ancient history, because it would take too long and lead to no good purpose. On the general principle as to whether Members on this side have been treated candidly and fairly, I was trying to support my hon. Friend who moved the reduction, because I do not think the hon. Member for Bodmin and I have been treated fairly when we wished to get information on this subject. Why were we told, when we asked to have the correspondence laid upon the Table, that no useful purpose would be served? If there has been a scandal, and if it is over, at any rate, let us have it out, and have an inquiry, so that we may be able to avoid future scandal of this kind taking place. Undoubtedly embezzlements took place. The charges were made in writing. Although I do not accuse the right hon. Gentleman now of being in any way responsible for refusing an inquiry, I think he might have inquired more fully into the matter, and gone more thoroughly into it himself, seeing the importance of the principle involved. I will not enumerate other cases of inaccuracies, although there are several more, but I do say that the right hon. Gentleman should have given 584 more attention to this question when it was raised. I am sorry my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin is not here to speak on the subject, because I know he feels very strongly upon it. The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that the career of a distinguished officer is involved at the present time in connection with this case. I am not going to mention any names, but the right hon. Gentleman knows quite well that when this scandal with regard to the accounts took place that it arose through a certain officer in a high position refusing to sign the accounts. Because he refused to sign the accounts he was put under arrest—he was a brigadier-general—and kept out in South Africa. The War Office found out that a mistake had been made. He was brought home and quickly given a command in Ireland, and he was advised to say nothing more about it.
Look at the position in which this man is! That, at any rate, is relevant to this year's Estimates. He was out there in charge of this farm, among other things. It was well known in the district that embezzlement had gone on. The next step was that he was put under arrest. What is the obvious conclusion to draw from that? What must people have thought all round the district? That he must have had something to do with it. He was then sent home to England, and it was found he was entirely right, and that it was through his refusal to sign the accounts, which had been passed by the accountants, that this scandal had been found out. It was owing to that that the farm was shut down. Instead of any apologies being made and any regrets being put on record, he was hurried over to Ireland and given the first available command. When the matter had blown over—now I can, without doubt, be in order—and when that time expired, he found himself refused promotion, and forced practically to retire from the Service. What can the public think? They will say there was a slur on that man's name in connection with the Middelburg Farm, therefore he is not going to have promotion. Quite apart from the efficiency of this officer — I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will dispute the fact that his record is a good one, and that he has performed distinguished service for his country—surely the very fact that he had been so badly treated before and that his private and military career had been more or less blasted by this incident in South Africa, although the War Office should have been grateful to him for what he had done, it was incumbent upon them 585 to see that at any rate he was not forced to retire before the ordinary time and that they should have made a point of finding him promotion and letting him go on taking his usual place in the Service ! It is for that reason, if for no other, that some explanation is due from, the right hon. Gentleman. This brigadier-general is entitled to ask for a full inquiry to be held in order that his character may be cleared. It is significant that since the time when these questions were first put in the House by the hon. Member for Bodmin and myself a communication has been received from the War Office—it is four and a-half years afterwards, a somewhat tardy recognition—to the effect that the War Office have always recognised his straightforwardness and the honesty of his principles, or words to that effect. That, coupled with the practical pushing him out of the Service, is but a poor consolation. I press the right hon. Gentleman to try to put himself in that officer's position. If this gallant officer had been closely connected with the Front Bench, if he had been a brother of one of them, does the right hon. Gentleman think he would have been treated in this way? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] That is a fair comment to make. Would the right hon. Gentleman like to see his own brother treated like that? I ask him definitely the question: If his own brother had been in South Africa and had been degraded and placed under arrest, and it was found the whole thing was a mistake, would he have liked to see him pushed out in this way when the matter had blown over? The War Office is responsible. It rests with them to say they will inquire fully into the matter. I am not speaking on behalf of this officer.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I have only seen him once. He has a right to demand an inquiry. An inquiry should have been held before. After what I have said, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will have a full, impartial inquiry made into the matter, and will see that fair treatment is given to this gallant officer.
§ Mr. SALTER
I desire upon this Vote to call attention to a matter which I think is strictly in order, a matter of administrative concern which is awaiting the decision of the Secretary of State at the present time. I know there is a considerable number of Members who are 586 anxiously waiting to hear his decision in the matter. It is the suggestion which has been made by a committee of officers in South Africa, who are known as the South Africa Garrison Institute, for the permission of the Secretary of State to bring over to this country a sum of money, which probably considerably exceeds £100,000, and which has accumulated under their control in South Africa, and to embark that money in canteen trading in the canteens of the regiments in this country. That proposal either has recently been made public or else people have recently woke up to the fact, because it has recently excited, both in Aldershot, which is in my Constituency, and in every other large garrison town, exceedingly strong feelings of opposition. I do not know how many chambers of commerce and associations of traders have riot been in communication with myself and other Members in strong opposition to this suggestion. The opinion of the soldiers which is always much more difficult to gather, so far as I can collect, it from the military papers, which probably represent him fairly, are unanimously and strongly opposed to the suggestion.
The Secretary of State should carefully consider the nature of the fund which he is being invited to deal with in this way. This money is public money, for which the Secretary of State is responsible to the nation and which it would be a grave impropriety to invest in trade in any shape or form. The history of this matter is very curious, and the position of the fund is very unusual. As I understand, this large suni of money came into existence in this way: In the days of the war, beginning in Natal, when the force was under Sir Redvers Buller, it was necessary to supply the canteens of the men in the field. Apparently the civilian trader was either impossible or unsatisfactory, and I think the canteens of the men were, in fact, supplied and attended to by the officers of the Army Service Corps, though it was, of course, no part of their official duty. The goods were bought not on the credit of the officers, but upon the credit of the State. They were imported as Government stores, they were stored at the Government expense, and they were distributed at the Government expense. I suggest that the profits which resulted from trading in the canteens in these circumstances are public money and are not the money of any private persons at all. This Natal canteen became 587 afterwards the South African canteen, and it has now become the South African Garrison Institute, a rather abnormal body bearing a sort of commercial style, the officer at the head of which is called the managing director. This is a purely military committee, consisting of officers on active service, who are detailed to these duties in orders, and who, I understand, sit upon that committee and manage the canteens of the garrison in South Africa as part of their military duties and because they are directed to do so, not in their leisure time, or as volunteers in any shape or form.
This money is clearly not their property, individually or collectively; they are not a corporate body, and this money is profit which has been made out of the soldier, so to speak, by the State, though it was not intended to make any profit out of him. It was intended to sell the goods in the canteen at such prices as would only pay expenses. But, still, over £100,000 was taken from the pocket of the soldier by mistake through incompetent trading, because I believe it is very difficult indeed to trade without making either a loss or a profit. When you are supplying a large army under monopoly it is not very difficult to make a profit, and here is £100,000 or £120,000 which is now set free, the institute being closed down, and this very large sum of money has to be disposed of. The House is responsible for it, and it is public money. The matter has excited great interest outside, and it will be discussed from all points of view. The argument put forward by these officers in asking the permission of the War Office to embark this sum of the soldiers' money in trade is that they will trade with it upon what they call co-operative principles, and it is said in that way the soldier will get his goods in the canteens cheaper than he otherwise would, because the profits will be saved which would otherwise be taken. That is an argument which is entitled to the utmost consideration. I have considered this matter with some care, and if I thought that really there was any prospect of the soldier being better served in the canteen under what they call in the Army co-operative principles, I should hesitate for some time before I took the line I am taking in this matter. In the first place, I think any real application of the principle of co-operative trading is quite impossible in the Army. The two things are not compatible. The essence 588 of co-operative trading is that it is an absolutely democratic business, in which the consumer is master of the situation. He bands himself together, he puts his money together, he buys wholesale, and he shares out the goods, and he saves the middleman's profit. That is, in many ways, an admirable thing to do, but it cannot be done and it is not done in the Army. The soldier does not bind himself together; he does not decide on any co-operative principle; he does not put his money together; and, above all, he has and can have no control over the buying of the goods which he is going to consume. He cannot control or dismiss or remove the well-intentioned committee of officers who attend to these matters for him. A regiment does not join a co-operative society. If the colonel approves of what he is pleased to call co-operation, he employs a particular organisation. Any real application of the co-operative principle is quite inconsistent with the discipline of the force.
Co-operation, so far as it can be tried in the Army, is no new thing there. It has existed for over twenty years in the shape of a very estimable enterprise known as the Canteen and Mess Co-operative Society, a body which is registered as a co-operative society and trades quite fairly in competition with private traders with its own money. I have considered very carefully whether a soldier whose canteen is served by this society is any better served than a soldier whose canteen is served by the ordinary trader. I cannot see that he is at all. I think the balance has been, in practice, the other way. The point is the return of the profits made and you have to distinguish between the retail profits and the wholesale profits. As to the retail profit, which is the difference between the price which a tradesman will give for the goods and the price at which they are sold in the canteen, that is returned to the regimental fund both by the private trader and by the Canteen and Mess Co-operative Society. The soldier gets that in either case, and he gets this considerable additional advantage from the private trader that the private trader is bound by contract with the commanding officer that the retail profits which he returns shall not be less than so much per man per month. A minimum is fixed and whether he makes it or not he must pay that sum in. But the Canteen and Mess Co-operative Society do not make any such contract, and their only under- 589 taking is to return such retail profits as they make, so that as regards the retail profits, the soldier is better served by the private trader than by this so-called cooperative society.
Then I come to the wholesale profits. The private trader puts the wholesale profits into his pocket, and the Co-operative Society claims to return the wholesale profits when they can make any. They have, first of all, to pay their debenture interest and 5 per cent. on their share capital. I have examined the balance sheets of this excellent society for the last thirteen or fourteen years, and in that time I can only find that they have twice made any kind of return of wholesale profits. I am quite satisfied that, so far as the return of the profit goes, the soldier practically gets nothing more from the co-operative society than he does from the ordinary trader. I think there are considerable practical advantages which show why a soldier prefers, as I am satisfied he does, to be served by an ordinary trader rather than by a co-operative committee of his own officers. I have heard the matter discussed, naturally, as Member for the Division including Aldershot, and I have never heard it suggested that these contractors who serve the Army canteens arc not in fair competition among themselves. The officers do not care what canteen their men deal with where there is a private trader, because they are getting their minimum in any case per man per month. They do not care whether the trailer makes the canteen pay or not, and the men are free to go to any canteen they please, and there are popular canteens always full, and unpopular canteens which are deserted, and that is a very great factor in the men's favour. They can go to the canteen that serves them best. Another great advantage which the soldier gets where the canteen is served by the private trader is that he is not afraid to complain freely if the service and goods are not satisfactory.
Where you get a regimental canteen controlled by a committee which includes the men's own officers—because the colonel of a regiment which entrusts its canteen to the Canteen and Mess Co-operative Society sits upon a committee of that body —the officers of the regiment, in the interests of the regimental fund, immediately become interested in the success of the canteen. I have been told in these cases sometimes the men are required to deal at their regimental canteen, but I have been told again that that is not so, and I am 590 not able to verify the statement one way or the other. But in this case the officers are concerned that the men shall deal at their regimental canteen and not elsewhere because they have no minimum, and if there are no profits they will get no money in the regimental fund. Where you get a canteen served by a committee of officers, including the officers of that very regiment, it is not reasonable to expect that the soldiers will complain with any freedom. They cannot complain. For these reasons I am satisfied that, however delightful is the theory of co-operative trading, as it must be applied in the Army, and as it has been for the last twenty years, the balance of advantage in the soldier's interest is in favour of being served by the ordinary trader, and I think that is the soldier's view as well. There is something somewhat undignified in establishing the relation of shopkeeper and customer between officers and the men under their immediate command. I do not think the men like it. It is contrary to the King's Regulations that officers should be concerned in any kind of trading. I do not know how this is to be got over as regards this society from South Africa. I think it is better to leave all trade to the traders, and to replace them if they are unsatisfactory. We are not, of course, at present discussing the trouble between the large trader and the small trader. In that matter my sympathies have always been with the small trader, and modern changes in canteen management have been exceedingly hard upon the small trader, who has been ousted by the large trader. I wish it were possible to bring back the old-fashioned days when regiments dealt with the ordinary tradesmen in the district -where they were quartered. But that is not the immediate point. The question is between the trader, large or small, and the co-operative society. It is no argument in favour of the employment of the fund in the manner proposed to say that it should be used as has been indicated. That which my 'Constituents dread—and there is a similar feeling in all garrison towns—is monopoly. I think if these well-intentioned officers in South Africa are permitted by the War Office to finance themselves with this large sum of public money, which is morally the property of the soldier, it will result, according as they succeed or fail, in the dissipation of the fund or the gradual establishment of a monopoly. I am not sure that they will 591 succeed. I see a statement in a letter written from the officer at the head of the society—that with so large a sum of money they could carry out this expenditure without loss.I am not at all sure about that. These gentlemen are skilled soldiers, but they are not skilled traders. It does not require much skill to make a profit in South Africa under a monopoly, but to make a profit in England is a different thing. I am not sure that this fund would not be gradually frittered away. If the society succeeded a monopoly would undoubtedly result, and these officers who, with the best intentions in the world, advocate this co-operative system, are all the time aiming at a complete monopoly of canteen supplies. There is no doubt about that. The managing director of this Canteen and Mess Society was examined before the War Office Committee, which inquired into the subject in 1903. His evidence is given on page 192. The following questions were put by Lord Cheylesmore:—From your evidence it would appear that you would like to make it compulsory for regimental officers to go for their goods to canteen and mess societies? — Yes. I would rather drop out the word "mess." I would say co-operative associations.Thai is what you want, your object being to set rip an organisation to secure every penny of profit on goods supplioed to them. And you think it desirable for every regiment to get their goods from such an organization? —Yes. I think it must be for this reason: You cannot get any kind of uniformity unless you have some kind of compulsion.It is perfectly plain that the desire of that gentleman is to force colonels of regiments, whether they like it or not, to entrust their canteens to his society, and the committee, who have made the proposal which we are now considering, are also concerned to establish a complete monopoly. That is what has so much aroused the traders of the country. There is, however, one stipulation that the- directors think absolutely necessary for the success of the scheme, and that is, War Office recognition of the status of the South African Garrison Institute. War Office recognition of the status of the institute means that it is to be intimated to commanding officers of regiments that they should entrust their canteens to this concern, or it means nothing at all. I find from a letter written by General Clayton:Provided sanction is received, the South African Garrison Institute would propose to start in one of the large garrisons in England, taking over the whole of the institutes in the Command, and manage them in exactly the same way as the institutes in South Africa.That I find repeated, and it means that it will no longer be open to the 592 colonel of a regiment to manage the canteen as he pleases, but that he will be compelled by the officer commanding the district to have the canteen served in this way. It will not take long to get a monopoly of the canteens. That would be very bad for the soldiers, and very unjust to the traders, not merely to the large people who now supply the canteens, but also to the smaller traders with whom I am specially concerned, who used to supply direct, but now supply the large contractor. At any rate, they have now the competition of the contractor, and if you agree to this proposal, they will charge what they please. For these reasons, and speaking, I am sure, for the Army, and a large body of opinion inside and outside this House—military opinion and trading opinion—I venture to express the hope that we may have a very definite statement from the representative of the War Office. The matter has been before the War Office since July last, and they have had most ample time to inform themselves and make up their minds. The question is whether they will allow the fund to be thus used, or what they will do. As to how it ought to be used the rules of this very institute say that its surplus funds shall be given to deserving military charities and military institutions of that kind. I venture to say that that is what ought to be done with this money.
In a recent question it was suggested that the money should be divided between military charities and institutions for the benefit of soldiers. If that were done, everybody would approve of it. Having regard to the large size of the fund, I would suggest for the consideration of the War Office whether it would not be more expedient that the Secretary of State should vest this money in a small committee of officers for distribution annually —the proceeds will amount to £4,000 or £5,000 a year—among deserving institutions and charities. It is on these lines that the fund could be properly dealt with and developed, and I hope we may have from the representative of the War Office a definite statement to that effect. If any attempt is made to sanction the use of this money in trading in this country, I am quite sure we shall have endless bitterness and trouble. A canteen and mess cooperative society is quite a different thing. That is a body trading with their own money, but if the Secretary of State allows this purely military society in South Africa to come over here and finance themselves with this money, and carry on any 593 unfair competition with traders at home, there will be endless bitterness, and every time a regimental canteen is captured by this body there will be questions in this House. I am certain that the Secretary of State desires to do nothing except to make the best of the distribution of the money, and I hope he will say that the War Office have decided to refuse the request and to distribute it among military charities.
§ Captain CLIVE
My hon. and learned Friend has stated the case from the point of view of his constituents at Aldershot. That is a point of view which I believe we share, but I would like to endeavour to show that his fears are wholly groundless. The hon. and learned Gentleman more than once spoke in a tone of regret as to some period when the canteens of regiments, instead of being run as they are now, were supplied by the small shopkeepers. I confess that I do not know when that period was. I have only known the Army for twenty years, but it certainly never existed during that time. When I joined the Army the commanding officer made the best arrangements he could for the canteen supplies. Some canteens were very well run in that way, while in other regiments they were very badly run. This resulted in an inquiry by a Committee, presided over by Lord Grey, in 1903, to see what better organisation could be found. That Committee recommended the system of which my hon. and learned Friend speaks with so much alarm and fear. They recommended practically a co-operative monopoly. They recommended that military co-operative societies should be formed to take over all the canteens. That was a recommendation in the Majority Report, but it has not been complied with. What happens now? The Canteen Co-operative Society, which is the only one, has endeavoured to do this business, but it finds itself in competition with two great private firms—Messrs. Lipton and Messrs. Dickeson. I have figures showing how the canteens are apportioned throughout the country. There are 293 canteens, of which sixty-nine are supplied by the Canteen Cooperative Society, Messrs. Dickeson have 117, and Messrs. Lipton have fifty-three. These are the only two firms which really do a big business of this sort. There are six or eight small people scattered about the country who on account of local conditions supply the canteens.I need not go into particulars respecting them.
594 Practically the whole threat of monopoly comes from these two big firms. They are only prevented from having that monopoly by the philanthropic efforts of the Canteen Co-operative Society. No doubt if that society did not exist Messrs. Lipton and Messrs. Dickeson would find very little difficulty in carrying out some amalgamation which would give them control of the whole of the canteens of the country. My hon. and learned Friend is afraid on behalf of his friends the shopkeepers of Aldershot, but I contend that these shopkeepers have nothing to do with the, canteen business.
§ Captain CLIVE
The only produce they supply is what are called perishable groceries, butter, eggs, and such matters as that, which must be obtained locally whether there is or is not a monopoly. Those are the only things obtained locally now at Aldershot or anywhere else, and they would be obtained locally under any system. The whole of this fear is engendered by the suggestion that the £80,000 from South Africa should be contributed to improving and extending the co-operative movement among canteens. The Aldershot Chamber of Commerce themselves in their statement suggest that the whole trade of all the canteens through the country is something like £5,000,000 per year. In face of that it must be fairly obvious that you are not going to transform this huge trade into a gigantic monopoly by the addition of £80,000 of capital. I am not committed to any particular method of spending the £80,000, but on the face of it it is a plausible contention that the money which has been made by trading with the soldiers should be used on behalf of the soldiers to provide capital for further trading with him to his advantage. My hon. Friend says that this is public money. I do not think that the House will agree with him. Money which has been made from the soldier through the necessities of the war, where a monopoly had to be created, should not be taken from him now.
§ Mr. SALTER
I meant that it is the property of the Secretary of State as such, and that he is responsible, and that it is not the property of these gentlemen.
§ Captain CLIVE
My hon. and learned Friend is wrong there, because the South 595 African Garrison Institute are a body incorporated in South Africa under an old Dutch law. They are at present trustees for this money. I do not know where the Secretary of State comes in unless he has to give his sanction to the money being used for the canteen. Then he talked of incompetent trading. On that point I would refer him to the Report of the Committee, where it mentions that the chair-man of the Chamber of Commerce of Johannesburg and the ex-chairman were invited to speak as to the methods of trading of the institute, and they reported that their prices were 10 per cent. Below those of ordinary firms in South Africa, although they have been able to distribute to the garrison profits of over £30,000 in a year. That surely cannot be criticised as incompetent trading. He criticised the Canteen Co-operative Society on the ground that they did not give fixed rebates to the regiments that. Employed them. They cannot give fixed rebates for this reason. Under the true principles of co-operation they have no funds front which they can guarantee anything. All they can say to those with whom they deal is "the whole of the profits which we make out of it are yours. We shall not give you back four or five shillings or whatever it is, but we shall give you back everything that we make out of you." I quite see the point of view of some commanding officers who prefer the fixed rebate system, who like to know how much money they have to handle and to spend on various purposes. That is one of the reasons why the Canteen Co-operative Society have not got these contracts. The wholesale profit my hon. and learned Friend admits goes to increase the dividends payable to the shareholders. In the case of the co-operative societies it goes back to the regiment. The fact that they have only contributed twice during the last fourteen years, which I take from the hon. and learned Member, really does not alter the argument. There are great difficulties to contend with. They have to fight with these very large bodies and still on two occasions they have been able to contribute wholesale profits which no private firm would have contributed to the soldiers.
With regard to the methods of the society, Lord Grey's Committee in its Report says:—The society represents the only attempt to apply co-operative principles to the purpose of supplying regimental inst institutes for canteens. The evidence before the Committae proves that the founders of the society were actuated by disinterested motives, that they hoped to strike a blow at the bribery and corruption 596 which are well known to exist in canteens and that their ambition was to raise and promote the true interests of the soldier.On the point of bribery there is the best reason to know that the danger is by no means past, and that it is a continual menace to the integrity of certain noncommissioned officers and men, and sometimes even officers who have to deal with this matter in every regiment of the British Army, and therefore if you can encourage this trading you will to that extent I hope eventually abolish a very serious temptation which is put in the way of the noncommissioned officers and men. In reference to the official recognition of the societies I do not think that it is their desire to have any sort of official recognition. They are prepared to go on as they have done, competing as before. As regards the request that they should receive War Office recognition if the £80,000 was to be spent in this way, this recognition has already been refused by the War Office. There is no question I understand now that it was recommended by Lord Grey's Report in the nature of granting an absolute monopoly to this society. All I ask the Secretary of State to do is to give the most favourable consideration to this proposal for spending this money, with any safeguard which he may think necessary, but to bear in mind those points which I have endeavoured to put before him in the hope that he will recognise that co-operative trading is in the best interests of the soldier.
The last two speeches to which we have listened afford a good illustration of the non-party character of our Debate, and both are in very marked contrast to that which preceded them. I will deal first with the question of the canteens. I am rather fortunate in one respect at any rate, that is that the hon. Member for Shropshire (Captain Clive) has very largely answered the arguments which were put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Salter) and he concluded his speech by saying, quite truly, that the War Office has already refused official sanction to the proposal put forward by the South African Garrison Institute. The position is that the Garrison Institute have been told that they cannot have official sanction, and that they can have no special facilities in the United Kingdom such as they have enjoyed in South Africa. They are, of course, on their own responsibility, without official sanction, 597 making inquiries from general officers in command at Home in order to discover how they individually view the proposal. Those answers may all be quite unfavourable to the scheme. They have not come to us. Our position is that we have refused official sanction, but the hon. and learned Gentleman wanted something more than that. He wished for a positive definite assurance that in no circumstance would the Secretary of State allow the use of the capital sum of £80,000 in possession of the Garrison Institute. I suppose that there is hardly anyone in this House more capable of dealing with a difficult and complicated question of law than the hon. and learned Member, and I was very much surprised that he did not treat the matter rather more from that point of view, because in my humble judgment the legal position in regard to this fund is rather obscure.
I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman in one respect was quite wrong. He described this as public money. There is only one test of what is public money—that is money that comes out of the taxpayers' pockets, voted by this House, and for which some Minister is responsible. That is not the case at all with these funds. They came out of the pockets of the troops in South Africa. The only sense in which they can be said to represent in any respect public money is that certain facilities were, it is quite true, granted during the war, but I would like to remind the hon. and learned Gentleman and others, who outside the House made grave misstatements on this point, that it cannot be truly said that this money has come out of the pockets of these soldiers. The plan followed was to sell all necessaries to soldiers below cost price, and to sell luxuries to soldiers and necessaries to officers at cost price, and the consequence is that the bulk of the sum probably came out of the pockets of the officers in service in South Africa. I would not suggest for one moment that they would put in any special claim. The money belongs in a general sense to the Army. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of incompetent catering during the war in South Africa, but if there had been contractors free to charge what they pleased, does he not suppose that the troops would have been infinitely worse under a system of private trading? I do not wish unduly to take up the time of the House in discussing the merits of the different systems which 598 might be applied to regimental canteens. There are one or two considerations which are quite obvious. One is that at any rate the regimental system and the co-operative system are solely in the interests of the troops and nobody else. It is possible, as the hon. Member stated, that you do not get the expert management and the business instinct as in the case of private management, but, on the other hand, [...] one can pretend that private management is carried out in the interests of the troops solely. The object, of course, of any contractor, whether he is a brewer or any large firm fortunate enough to secure a canteen contract, is to make a profit or a dividend. It is only in a secondary sense that he considers the interests of the troops. The hon. Member for Shropshire shows that even that system has not prevented something very like the creation of a monopoly at the present time. Out of 201 on the tenant system canteens, 117 are in the hands of one large firm, and 33 are in the hands of another.
I hope I have made clear what the attitude of the War Office is on this matter. I do not think that an absolute assurance can be given in regard to the use of the £80,000. The hon. and learned Gentleman will, I have no doubt, recognise that there are very great difficulties in the way of its being used in accordance with the proposal put forward by the South African Garrison Institutes. He spoke one moment as though the funds were at the disposal of the Secretary of State; they are not, indeed. The Secretary of State, of course, has the general power to veto any arrangement which he thinks is against the interest of the troops or undesirable from the point of view of the Army as a whole. He certainly has not—and I say certainly, as I think I am correct in saying it—absolute disposal of these funds. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not really confine himself to this particular case. He treated it as part of the much larger question of what is the proper plan on which to carry on these regimental canteens. That is a question which is occupying the mind of my right hon. Friend very much at this moment. We cannot deal with this case apart from the general question. The arguments put forward by the two hon. Members will certainly have great weight, and also the suggestions which they have made, but I think it is very likely it may prove to be necessary, and the matter will be dealt with soon, to appoint a Committee to go into this matter in all its aspects. I hope the hon. and 599 learned Member will find himself satisfied with such assurances as I have given. I now pass to another matter raised by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. R. Gwynne). The hon. Member enjoyed a certain amount of latitude in his speech, and I understand that I shall be allowed an equivalent latitude in my reply. Really this case which the hon. Member called the "Middelburg farm scandal" is a waste of the time of this House. The hon. Member seems to be constitutionally unable to avoid suspicion. These matters are ancient. They happened a long time ago, and, of course, none of us sitting here were personally concerned in them, but I am personally ready to give the hon. Member an answer on every point. He accused me and my right hon. Friend of evasion. He no doubt is quite ready to imagine improper motives in anybody, but what possible motive of an improper kind could there be in any one of us for concealing these facts.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
Let the hon. Member answer my questions without making suggestions. If he makes those I shall have to answer them.
The hon. Member accused me and my right hon. Friend of evasion. I shall show that that charge is not true. The hon. Member attached to the case of the Middelburg farm, the case of a certain officer, whom he rightly calls a distinguished officer. He gave a wrong version of the facts attending such check as that officer's career has received. He said rightly that there was nothing against that officer's character. I quite agree, and in so far as he has suffered, it was for a totally different offence from the one put forward by the hon. Member, and I venture to say that he has done no service to that distinguished officer by what he said about him this afternoon. The first statement made by the hon. Gentleman was that this farm had been bought from public funds. The farm was never bought at all. A great deal of land, prairie land, was bought, on which there was no farm, and this farm was subsequently created on that land. He said it was proved that it had been bought out of public funds, and that no rent. was charged. I have already given him in answers good reasons why no rent was charged. The land itself was practically valueless.
§ Mr. GWYNNE
I did not say that. I said, if it was a private concern, why was 600 the farm which was bought with public money let at no rent at all?
Let me correct myself. I mean, of course, not public. I say that no rent was charged for reasons which were given. The land as it stood was quite valueless, but, used as a farm for the troops, was of enormous value in giving a milk supply for the troops and the hospital. It cured one of the greatest troubles at Middelburg station, the dust nuisance. That no rent should have been charged is shown when ultimately, on the withdrawal of the troops, the land did come to be sold. It was owing to the fact that this farm was created that it was able to be sold to the Cape Government for agricultural purposes. The hon. Member said that this farm was started with public funds. What did happen was that a small allowance was made, at the beginning, of R.952 to enable the farm to meet current expenses before the revenue accrued. That sum was very soon paid back. The only other public money that entered into this farm at all was when a small dam on the river there burst and a new darn was constructed, partly at the public expense and partly at the expense of the farm. That money was repaid. The farm benefited in the improved irrigation, and the troops secured a bathing-place. Those were the only two items of public funds which entered into the accounts of this farm. The hon. Member said the point really was whether this was a public undertaking or not. I said all along it was not, and for this reason, that with those two small exceptions, no public funds entered into it. Those farm accounts were not accounts for which I could be responsible, or for which my predecessors before me in office were responsible. They are not moneys voted by Parliament, and in no sense of the word public money. If the hon. Member means by public undertaking an undertaking conducted for the troops, and if he insists on that, I quite agree it was so. Here is a very simple test. If there had been a loss the loss would have fallen entirely on the troops and not on the taxpayer. It would very likely have had to come out of the canteen fund. It. was a recognition of this fact by the Army Council that the troops were in danger by mismanagement that caused them to interfere. They permitted it and 601 supervised it in the interest of the troops. The hon. Member alleged as against that a certain statement made by the General Officer Commanding in South Africa. He stated that as coming from the Army Council. I do not think it really would cause any misunderstading in the minds of most people. The general officer said that farm was being closed down in order that no loss might fall on the public. I should say that was not strictly accurate, but it is quite possible he had it in his mind, "Supposing there is a loss, we shall not be able to pay it, and then the War Office will have to apply to the Treasury as a special case to make good the deficit." There is really no discrepancy between the statement of the general officer and the policy of the Army Council. The Army Council come in for the reason that the Adjutant-General and the military members are continually watching anything which might adversely affect the welfare of the troops. They keep a general supervision over canteens which are private undertakings conducted by private firms, and they intervene in order that they may be well conducted, and in order that the troops may have their interests protected. The hon. Member then gave one instance of what he said was an inconsistency on my part, in which I said:—there is nothing in the War Office records to suggest that at the date of closing down the farm any repayments were due to public or garrison funds, apart from normal current trading transactions.He said that that was inconsistent with an answer I gave him on 5th June, in which I said that certain sums 'were repaid on the closing down of the farm. The hon. Member really seems to be constitutionally incapable of seeing the true difference between two things which are somewhat alike. There is nothing inconsistent between the two answers. I said there was nothing in the War Office records to show, and that was what we thought at the time. Inquiry was made and it was found that there were these two sums. What possible object could I have had in deceiving the hon. Member I guarded myself by saying there was nothing in the War Office records to show. The hon. Member might have the generosity to remember that these events happened a long time ago, and the questions involved delving among records which in the nature of things are not perfect in the War Office on this matter, because it was a private undertaking conducted in South Africa, so that the War Office have not got the full papers. The hon. Member 602 further said that the auditing of the accounts proved that this was a public and not a private undertaking. The accounts, it is true were audited by officers of the accounting officer, but they did not represent the finance branch of the War Office. The hon. Member seems to suppose that that is unusual. The local auditors are always ready to give advice and assistance in connection with non-public accounts, such as mess accounts, charitable funds, and accounts of that kind, when they are asked to do so. Their services are frequently employed in that way, and there is nothing exceptional or unusual about this particular case. Sometimes these officers are even ordered to give their services for the benefit of the Service as a whole in auditing such accounts. The Committee will probably think that I have carried this matter far enough. I certainly maintain that I have met every one of the points which the hon. Member alleged against me. These funds are funds for which no Financial Secretary to the War Office has ever had any concern, and of which the Comptroller and Auditor-General will take no account. Therefore, I venture to say that the hon. Member has not only pressed his case very unfairly, but chosen a matter which might well not be used to occupy public time.
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
My recollection of the management of canteens is very much that described by the hon. Member opposite. For my part, I am not alarmed at the use of the word "monopoly" in respect to the control of the liquor traffic, because you cannot eliminate interested management from the retail trade without monopoly. Under a recent Bill the Government, in their wisdom, have refused to give facilities for eliminating the element of private profit from the retail trade in my country, but I am glad to see that they view this system with rather more tolerance in connection with military canteens. I hope the system will be so successful in that direction as to enable the Government to regard its extension to civil societies with more tolerance. in future. It is not quite fair to compare the elimination of private profit from the retail trade with the management of a co-operative society. H you take the best system involving the elimination of the element of private profit from the retail liquor trade, say, the Scandinavian, you will find that certain persons are nominated, just as cer- 603 tain officers in the Army are nominated under the system which has been attacked by the hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite, who exercise a very strict control over, the trade, and there is nothing of the cooperative principle. The hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that adequate provision should be made for the distribution of the profits. That is an important point and I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman.
The hon. Member who initiated this discussion demanded the reconstitution of the Second Line of defence, but he did not enlighten the Committee as to how that reconstitution was to be brought about. The hon. Member who followed him entered in more detail into the reasons which underlie his argument, and was called to order by the Chair. I do not intend to go into the question of compulsory service, but that, no doubt, was the alternative suggested. As a supporter of the voluntatry system, I naturally do not accept that alternative. At the same time I think that a more specific declaration is required from the Government as to the means they intend to adopt for making good the deficiencies in officers and men in the Second Line of defence. Believing in the voluntary system, I suggest that certain additional provision will have to be made to enable the Second Line to succeed on the voluntary principle. The time has gone by when it can be safely said that those deficiencies will be made good by a given time. I rather doubt that. I think that further provision has to be made to make good those deficiencies, and the sooner we have a clear undertaking from the Army Council and the Government as to how those deficiencies are to be made good, the sooner public confidence will be restored, and the sooner we shall be in a position to face whatever difficulties may arise. I do not exactly feel that confidence, and I shall not so long as these grave deficiencies in the numbers and, to some extent, in the training of the Territorial Force exist. I doubt very much whether any competent military authority will state that the estimate of 315,000 men for the Territorial Force was an excessive estimate. I take that to be the minimum, and I should be sorry to see it reduced. Since 315,000 remains as the establishment I submit that it is quite time that establishment was filled up. I think it can be done. The ship has been spoilt for the 604 lack of a ha'porth of tar. The easiest way of getting the numbers is to give a good bonus for the completion of the fortnight's annual training. It would involve a considerable sum of money, but it is high time that bonus was given, with adequate provision for out-of-pocket expenses when attending drills and musketry, and for separation allowance. Another most attractive proposal is that the insurance of the men should be paid. I do not, believe that that would give you the men you require, but at the same time it is an attractive proposal, and would to a great extent lessen the opposition in the large works to service in the Territorial Force It would grease the wheels.
Above all, I should like to have some clear undertaking from the Government that they are seriously considering the question of physical training for boys and girls between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, and that drill will not be, eliminated from that physical training in the case of boys. That is very desirable from the social point of view, and also as a necessary basis for the success of the Territorial movement. These are clear and definite points, and my- confidence in the administration of the War Office will largely depend upon how those points are met and how soon they are met. I believe that the general principle of the Territorial system, with some slight modifications in the working of the associations—and some of those have been suggested by a Departmental Committee at the War Office—is absolutely sound. I believe that it cart be made a complete success, but the War Office have always funked at asking for another million of money with which to make the system a success. I entirely agree that the fixed limit to the Army Estimates has been a great stumbling block. It is the surest mainstay of those who are asking for a compulsory system of national service for Home defence. It also encourages the War Office to move in a vicious circle, because whenever one asks for the necessary money for the Second Line the answer is, "That is all very well, but it must come off the Regular Estimates, and we do not want to reduce the allowances of the Regular Army." I certainly do not. I think the Regular Army is now at a minimum, and in some respects, perhaps as regards the Artillery, at a low minimum. At any rate there ought not to be a penny taken off the Regular Army for the sake of the Second Line, and-I hope we have heard the last of that heresy. There is also the question of 605 officers. That is a serious weakness. I trust that the point which I mentioned earlier in the year has not escaped the the attention of the War Office. I refer to the provision of a college for the training of non-commissioned officers promoted to the commissioned ranks. Meanwhile, greater care should be exercised than is exercised in sonic cases in respect to the retirement of competent commanding officers of the Second Line. We have lost some men whom we could ill afford to lose, especially in view of the shortage of officers. I trust that on these points we shall have a clear statement from the War Office, because the time has gone by for expressing pious hopes that without further expenditure or trouble the Territorial system will of itself bring about success.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SANDYS
The remarks I desire to make on the subject of aviation would more properly have been made by the hon. Member for Brentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks). But, as the Committee may be aware, the hon. Member for Brentford has been seriously ill, and though I am glad to say he is very much better, he is unfortunately not sufficiently recovered to be here this afternoon to take part in this Debate. He has consequently asked me on his behalf, as well as on my own, to place before the Committee the result of the investigations which he and I recently undertook at the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of aviation. In order that the position may be perfectly clear to the Committee, it will be necessary for me briefly to recapitulate the circumstances which led up to this controversy, and which finally resulted in the visit which my hon. Friend and myself paid to the various branches of the Aviation Department at Farnborough and on Salisbury Plain. For a considerable time past Members of this House, who, like myself, are interested in the question of aviation, have come to the conclusion that a large number of the statements of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to this branch of our Army might be described as unduly optimistic. That is a criticism which it certainly appeared to me could be applied to the statements which the right hon. Gentleman made in that portion of his speech on the subject of the Army Estimates which he devoted to this particular topic on 19th March. In the subsequent Debate which took place on 24th March my hon. Friend the Member 606 for Brentford drew special attention to this question of aeroplanes, with especial reference to the numbers and efficiency of these machines. In the course of his speech he threw considerable doubt upon the statement which the right hon. Gentleman had made when the Army Estimates were originally under discussion that we were in possession of 101 efficient machines. In the course of his speech my hon. Friend defined an efficient machine as one which was capable of starting off at once, flying at a speed of 50 miles an hour, and able to rise in the air at least 3,00o feet. The right hon. Gentleman interrupted my hon. Friend during the course of his speech with this remark: "I say on my full responsibility as a Minister that we have 101 machines which we are flying."
Later, in the same Debate, the, right hon. Gentleman stated that he had been in telephonic communication with his Experts, who had informed him that there were over eighty aeroplanes in possession of the Royal Flying Corns and the Central Flying School together which would come up to the standard of efficiency laid down by my hon. Friend, and the right hon. Gentleman added: "These eighty are ready to go, will fly at 50 miles an hour, and continue to fly at 50 miles an hour, at 3,000 feet." On 5th June, a further Debate took place, and the hon. Member for Brentford definitely challenged the right hon. Gentleman to produce the, eighty machines which the right hon. Gentleman stated that he could do on the previous 24th March. He made it perfectly clear in the terms of his challenge that they were to be machines ready to fly at once, to fly under observation for three hours, to have a speed of at least 50 miles an hour, and to be able to rise in the air at least. 3,000 feet.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I will give the right hon. Gentleman the reference. If the right hon. Gentleman will turn to the Debate of 5th June, column 1070 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will see that my hon. Friend said, "If the right hon. Gentleman will really produce these machines and let us see them fly for three hours and satisfy us, I will not be backward in the apology which I willl make to him." Those are the terms of the challenge. The right hon. Gentleman accepted my hon. Friend's challenge, but he refused—I think mistakenly—a suggestion which I ventured to-make that a small Committee of Members 607 of this House should be appointed to investigate the matter. However, he very kindly offered me personally the opportunity of accompanying my hon. Friend, an invitation which I was very glad to accept. Subsequently, in the course of that Debate the right hon. Gentleman expressed his satisfaction that this investigation was going to take place. He stated also that they, the War Department, were in possession at, that time of 120 machines in first-class order. I am bound to say that I received that statement with considerable surprise, remembering as I did that in answer to a question on the previous day, 4th June, the right hon. Gentleman had stated that we had 126 machines, thirty-one of which were in various stages of repair. I therefore, rather wondered at what had happened to the six machines which had disappeared altogether during the twenty-four hours. I was also curious to know how the repairs had been effected to the remainder of the machines in that remarkably short space of time. However, the final statement of the right hon. Gentleman on 5th June was that he had 120 machines in first-class order. Communications, to which I was not a party, then took place between the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend, and my hon. Friend, as I understand, very properly requested that an expert should be allowed to accompany us on our investigation. The right hon. Gentleman refused, and he also refused—
§ Colonel SEELY
I do not know why the hon. Gentleman is referring to the whole of the controversy. The subject seems to me to be very uninteresting.
§ Mr. SANDYS
My hon. Friend suggested that it would be desirable that some expert who had full knowledge of these matters—at any rate, he did suggest that the hon. Member for Hastings, who has particular knowledge of this subject, should accompany us. In order to make the point quite clear, I have a letter written by General Henderson stating that the right hon. Gentleman could not give permission to my hon. Friend for this gentleman to accompany him.
§ Colonel SEELY
I would like to clear this thing up at once. As soon as I made the arrangement, I handed over the whole matter to General Henderson. I never made any stipulation. However, I take the full responsibility for what General Henderson did.
§ Mr. SANDYS
This is a letter of General Henderson which my hon. Friend received:—The Secretary of State for War is not prepared to comply with your request that Mr. Du Cros should accompany you.General Henderson places the responsibility on the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. SANDYS
The result of that was that my hon. Friend and myself were obliged to conduct this investigation without expert assistance, which, under the circumstances, I think, would have been extremely desirable. Before laying the results of this investigation before the Committee, there are one or two points which I desire to emphasise. Owig to the fact that we were refused expert advice in this matter, I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that he is not in a position to discredit any statements I may make on behalf of my hon. Friend and myself on the ground that we are not possessed of sufficient technical knowledge. Any statement of that kind is ruled out by the refusal to allow us to take the expert assistance which we desired. I just want to make that clear to start with. I also want to explain to the right hon. Gentleman the basis on which we arrived at our decision as to whether any machine which we saw could fulfil the requirements of the test that had been laid down. We immediately came to the conclusion that it was quite impossible for us to judge, not being experts, in relation to machines which were on the ground as to whether they were capable of carrying out any of these requirements. Equally, if we had seen the machines in the air, not being experts, we should have been unable to judge. This was the disadvantage which we suffered from in being deprived of expert assistance. As a matter of fact, no suggestion was made to us during the course of our investigation that any machine which we saw should be brought out and flown. We did see three experimental machines, to which I shall allude later, which were actually in the air. These were the only three machines which we saw flying. We did not like to take upon ourselves the responsibility, under the circumstances, of asking for machines to be brought out and flown. Consequently, my hon. Friend and myself abandoned these requirements altogether —I mean those as to flying for three hours, the speed of at least 50 miles an hour, 609 and so on—and we decided to accept a machine as fulfilling the requirements of the test so long as the officer who was in the habit of flying the machine said it was in good flying order. All the officers were on parade, as General Henderson informed us, for the purpose of giving us information. We decided to ask the officer who was in the habit of flying a machine if in his opinion the machine was in good flying order, and if he said it was we accepted that as sufficient to fulfil the requirements of the test. This, I want to point out, was an enormous concession and entirely in favour of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I suggest that the hon. Member should make his full statement, and then that the right hon. Gentleman should answer it.
§ Colonel SEELY
This is a very important matter, and I would like to make it quite clear. It is a remarkable statement to make and it is very unfair to the officers concerned, who are not here to answer these things.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The more important the statement is the less suitable it is for dealing with by interjection.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I fail altogether to follow the point of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. I am not making any suggestion whatever against any of the officers. All I said was that the officers were paraded in their sheds, as General Henderson said, for the purpose of giving us information. We, therefore, asked them for it. That is not a reflection either upon General Henderson or upon the officers. What I wanted to point out was that by merely asking that the machines should be able to fly and not asking for these other requirements we are snaking an enormous concession in favour of the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore, if his statements were in any degree accurate, what we ought to have found was not merely the eighty machines to which originally the allusion was made, but we really should have found approximately the 120 machines which the right hon. Gentleman had stated only a few days before were there in first-class order; because, I say, a machine cannot be described as a flying machine in -first-class order unless, at any rate, it is able to get off the ground!
610 The method in which we carried out the investigation was that my hon. Friend and myself each took a separate list of the machines we saw—the Army number of the machine, the type and horse-power of the engine, the date of delivery, and the remarks of the officer who NS as in the habit of flying the machine. After our tour was completed we compared notes. Where there was any difference of opinion as to whether any machine could be regarded as ready to fly or not—and there were two or three cases where there was a difference of opinion between my hon. Friend and myself—we gave the right hon. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt. I want also, before I summarise the results of our investigation, to deal with the question of monoplanes. We saw twenty-four of these. Some were in good order. Others were in very bad repair. Some were dismantled altogether. All of these monoplanes, no matter what condition they were in, we ruled out altogether, in view of the fact that they had not been flown since the accident which occurred in the early part of September—that was nine months before we paid our visit to the Royal Flying Corps. This ruling out applied to all monoplanes except two Bleriots, the Army numbers of which were 219 and 221. We did not see these two machines because we were told they were in transit between Farnborough and Larkhill. But we were especially told about them and asked to note them because they were two monoplanes and the only two used for flying at that time. We included them on the list of machines fulfilling the requirements of the test.
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's position in regard to these monoplanes, generally speaking, is that although these machines are regarded as dangerous for use in time of peace, nevertheless he thinks they should be looked upon as efficient in time of war. He said something of that kind, and that is an argument which I think he might be tempted to use again on this occasion. Is that a sound argument? Let us transpose these conditions to another arm of the Service with which perhaps we are more familiar. Suppose we possessed a certain number of guns which exploded when fired with blank ammunition causing a loss of life among the men, and suppose an expert committee decided that none of these guns were to be fired at all until they were altered and made safe, would the right hon. Gentleman suggest that batteries armed with 611 that kind of gun which were not to be fired in time of peace ought to be regarded as efficient Artillery units in time of war? The right hon. Gentleman sees it is ridiculous in regard to guns, yet this is an argument he asks us to accept in regard to monoplanes. We gave the matter most careful consideration, and in view of the fact that they had not been used for nine months owing to the findings of the committee of experts appointed by the right hon. Gentleman, and as it was impossible to get any accurate information in regard to these machines as many of them had never been flown at all, and there was no officer at that time in the habit of flying them, we said they could not be regarded as fulfilling the requirements of the test.
On Wednesday, 11th June, we paid our first visit to the Central Flying School, and I am bound to say we were both of us, and especially myself—because I was there when I heard of the original purchases, and I was looking round when the pegs were driven in to mark the sites for the buildings—very much impressed by the extraordinary progress made in the erection of the buildings and for completing arrangements for the Flying School, and we desire to pay the highest tribute to all its members, both to the enthusiasm of those in the Flying School, whether they were. the officers in course of training or whether they were the staff giving instruction. We both decided that the Flying School was the most satisfactory part of our tour. We were shown eighteen machines which the officers told us were in flying order. We then proceeded to Larkhill to inspect No. 3 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. This squadron was regrettably deficient in machines. I must point out that each squadron should consist of three flights of four aeroplanes each, with two in reserve for each flight. That is eighteen machines in all per squadron. No. 3 Squadron was eight machines deficient. There were only ten machines in all and of these ten, two were under repair. Two of the eight machines which we were told were ready to fly, the commanding officer told us could not be regarded as war machines. I regard this as very unsatisfactory in view of the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman not very long ago that these squadrons were always kept on a war footing. On 13th June we paid a visit to Farnborough. An interesting document was 612 supplied to us before that date. We were given the details, in an Official Return forwarded by the courtesy of General Henderson, of the aeroplanes in possession of the War Department., and the total came to 120 machines, exactly the same number to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded two days previously in the House, and which he described as being in first-class order, but when we came to examine the document, these 120 included 42 machines which were described as under repair, under reconstruction, or totally damaged.
And here is another curious circumstance. We found that the machines "ready to fly," upon which this controversy turned, were in this list enumerated under this very description, and there were fifty of them, excluding three experimental machines and including seven machines described as being under test. Therefore this document with which the War Office was good enough to supply us, really settled the whole matter and absolutely cut the ground from under the right hon. Gentleman's feet. Then as to our visit to Farnborough. Here we inspected No. 4 Squadron. The organisation of this squadron was not so advanced as No. 3; there had been, as far as we could understand, no clear sub-division into flights. The squadron machines and depot machines were so mixed up that it was impossible to distinguish one front the other. At Farnborough there were twelve machines stated to be in flying order. Then we were shown by a civilian, who appeared to be in charge of this particular shed, seven machines which were, under test, but had not yet been handed over to the Flying Corps, but which we were told were in flying order. We did see three machines in flight at Farnborough, and I will give the right hon. Gentleman the numbers. One was 441, another machine B.E. 2, and another machine which had been christened "F.E."—I conclude out of compliment to my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. F. E. Smith). These were experimental machines flown by civilians, and we did not feel, although we were glad to see them in the air, that we could include them amongst the machines that came under the category of the test. Therefore, taking all the machines together that we saw, including the two, Bleriot monoplanes, and including four machines at Montrose—we did not go to, 613 Montrose; we accepted the figures—that gives a total of forty-four machines which on that occasion were ready for flight. If you add the machines under test—that is, the seven additional machines, although you are not justly entitled to do so, because they had not yet been handed over —that gives a total of fifty-one machines, which is absolutely the outside figure of the machines ready to fly which were available between 7th June and 13th June. We made inquiries, and we were told that this was not an abnormally small proportion of the total, and from the information I have had since I think that is an accurate statement. We were told that given the same number of machines there never would be approximately more than about fifty machines which would be in efficient flying order at one given time.
Apart from this question of the challenge, which I think is settled, there are far more important questions which are brought into prominence, at all events to my mind, as the result of this investigation. What would be the position of this country if war broke out? The staff of the Central Flying School desired particularly to emphasise this point, that, in the event of war breaking out, the Central Flying School must go on exactly as before, in order to supply the pilots who would be wanted to make up the regrettable casualties of war. In order to carry on the Central Flying School a minimum of at least thirty machines would be necessary, and I say twenty at least of these ought to be in flying order. I think that is an estimate in favour of the right hon. Gentleman—that is to say, giving them ten machines which are under repair, they must have at least twenty machines in flying order. If you add that and make the necessary deduction, that only gives twenty-four machines actually available for the war squadrons, or, if you add the seven machines under test, you get a total under the most favourable conditions of only thirty-one machines, or less than two squadrons in all. I say that is a most dangerous and unsatisfactory state of affairs.
It was perfectly evident to us that those machines to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded on 24th March as being ready to fly at 50 miles an hour cannot be found, at any rate in these numbers, at the present time. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman how can he reconcile the statement he made in this House, on 5th June, that "we have got 120 machines," and in 614 regard to which he said, "I take only those in first class order"? How can he reconcile that definite statement he made in this House, and which I accepted as perfectly accurate, with the fact that in the official Returns with which we were provided for 7th June, that number of 120 was only reached by the inclusion of forty-two machines which were under repair, under reconstruction, or described as wrecked and only waiting authority to be struck off? How can flying machines under reconstruction or totally damaged, and therefore incapable of flying, be described as flying machines in first-class order? I say such a statement as that is calculated to mislead this House and to mislead the country. We cannot play with this question of military aviation. The success or failure of military operations in the future must largely depend upon the efficiency of our Flying Corps and upon the proper provision of materials and machines. And I feel bound to say this, that unless the right hon. Gentleman can give some satisfactory explanation of the wide discrepancy which appears to me to exist between what he told the House and what we discovered as the result of our investigations, it will be difficult for me, at any rate, to receive in future statements which he may make, with regard to the great Service which he controls, with that complete confidence which should be accorded to a Minister of the Crown.
Sir MARK SYKES
I should like to take this opportunity to draw the attention of the Committee to another branch of the defensive forces of this country, which seems to have been treated in a rather similar way to that in which the right hon. Gentleman apparently has treated the branch of flying. I refer to the condition of the Territorial Force. I think the right hon. Gentleman himself will admit that the Territorial Force is in a serious situation at the present moment, and I submit to him that part of the difficulty which those who belong to the Territorial Force and those who have to try and raise it, are confronted with, is the fact that neither the public nor the Territorial Force itself know exactly what, that force is intended for. Is the situation that within twenty days' notice the force may be required to fight a desperate battle upon which the fate of this country depends, or is the very greatest thing it can be called upon to do to relieve the guard at Buckingham Palace? We really do not know whether this is a force to replace the troops going 615 abroad, or whether it will ever be required for the purpose of defending this country, or whether it is really intended to meet a serious invasion. As long as this question is in doubt, one can never appeal to the public. At present the public, if they think the force is only required for ornamental purposes, will believe that it does not matter if it is 60,000 men short, because if you mobilise the force in a month's time, 60,000 men will have as much experience as the men with three years' service, and if the force is required actually for fighting purposes its position is too hopeless to make it worth while to make any effort to bring it up to strength.
The right hon. Gentleman is always saying that this force is perfectly ready to do anything it may be called upon to do, but that is really his generous nature, because it is the habit of the right hon. Gentleman to avoid any discouragement of the efforts of people who are doing their best though it may not be worth very much. Although it may be generous on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to do that, I think it is rather cruel to lead people into a fool's paradise and trust to luck or Providence to pull them through. With regard to the Territorial Force, the right hon. Gentleman will take risks which he is not prepared to take in everyday life. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman had in his mind that the Territorial Brigade would have to go in three months' time to Egypt to take over garrison duties, I can well imagine the efforts he would make. He would embody the brigade at once, inquire as to it s officers, musketry and the physique of the men and the equipment, and I think he would suffer from insomnia during the whole of his inquiries and would do his utmost to prevent that brigade having to take up such duties. But that is nothing; the Territorial Force may, as far as the right hon. Gentleman knows, be our sole defence, the defence of the capital of this Empire within three months from now.
The right hon. Gentleman's policy is exactly the same as the policy of those who were responsible for the loss of the "Titanic." Matters of everyday occurrence and minor probabilities are guarded against, but the major possibilities are not guarded against except in a formal way. The regulations of the "Titanic" would not admit a case of measles on board for fear of an outbreak, and the most scrupulous care was taken against such minor probabilities, but against the 616 major possibility of running into an iceberg only ordinary precautions were taken, the result being the humiliating tragedy with which everybody is familiar. The same with the British Army. Home defence is left absolutely to chance. I submit that it is very difficult to get the whole of the public to take seriously this danger of invasion. It is like the doctrine of eternal punishment, some believe in it and some do not, but prudent people take precautions to avoid it. I admit that the odds are that the Territorial Force will never be wanted, but if it is wanted, it will be wanted in a hurry, and we ought to leave nothing to chance. In the old clays we were able to lose two or three battles and win in the end, but you cannot play those games on shore in this country. If the first action fought on these shores is not an absolutely crushing disaster to the raider or invader, any soldier will admit that this country is doomed.
I wish to say a word on the point of numbers. We are now 60,000 men under strength on paper, and even an optimist like the Secretary of State for War will admit that the real deficiency is about 80,000. He will also admit that not only a great number of recruits are not fit to take the field, but a great number of them, even after having been recruited, never appear. In the enthusiasm of the moment many men enlist, but often they find that their civil obligations will not allow them to follow the thing right out. I can speak of a case in point which I only discovered yesterday where we recruited 170 men and only 120 of them were finally available. We are not now suffering half so much from the effect of the exits after the boom as people imagine, but we are suffering just as much from the exits of people who do not complete their service. It must be clear to the right hon. Gentleman that we cannot trust to individual enthusiasm and the sporting instincts of the few in order to keep a defensive force for this country. I still believe that the voluntary system will provide us with a modest and effective force, but the possibility to my mind is getting further away every day, and if things slide on for another eighteen months, and we get under 200,000, then I am certain the voluntary system is doomed. It may seem almost academic, but I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that there are two fundamental errors in the working of the Territorial Force, and they were not fore- 617 seen. It may sound odd, but I think a great mistake was made in pinning our faith to what was really a dead force in this country, and that was the Lord Lieutenant and the Territorial Associations. There was an idea that that force could be revived for local defence, but as a matter of fact, these forces were divorced from our defence by the Cardwell system, and wiped out of existence by subsequent developments.
Therefore, a dead force was appealed to in order to provide our local defence. The other administrative error was not including the Cadet Corps. We cannot save the voluntary system unless we do two things, and one is adequate training paid at proper rates of labour up to one shilling per hour. I know it will cost £1,000,000, but the voluntary system is worth that. My other point is the establishment of a more scientific system of recruiting. I suggest that the County Associations have done splendid work, but they have not got the prestige and authority in this country to carry on such an arduous task as recruiting. We recruit for an Army for the defence of this country as you would for a slate club or for a small friendly society. Recruiting ought to be in the hands of a body representing the whole community instead of being done by the County Associations, and trusting to the Lord Lieutenant, who is nothing more than a hat and feathers in the public mind. I think we ought to go to the county councils, and they might do the recruiting and try to get every single soul in the country directly in actual touch with the defence of the country. In that way a great saving might be effected. A further saving might be effected by getting civilians to do such work as the cooking, signalling, and other duties, and in this way a great many rifles might be saved for the firing line. The guarding of wireless telegraphy stations and such places might be left in the hands of the civil police, and this would free about 8,000 from actual garrison duty work. I know this is a very delicate matter to mention, but in the South of England there are certainly two forces which might make our path a great deal easier. I do not suggest that they are against us, but they do adopt an attitude of very rigid neutrality. I refer to the trade unionists and the Free Churches. I know there are some Trade Unionists who think it wrong even to defend your own country, and there are those in the Free Churches who 618 think the same thing, but I do not think that applies to the whole of the body making up those two great forces. I submit that the Adult School in the North of England and the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon organisation could make up our figures in two weeks if they set their minds to do it. I make a fir, al appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to spend more money in training, and making a fairer bargain with the men who join. I also appeal to the Government and to the right hon. Gentleman to open the eyes of the public to the dangers of the situation, which, if once all parties agree to recognise, I am sure public opinion will rise to the occasion, and the danger which many of us feel is not so remote as we should wish it to be will be banished from our minds.
Mr. NEWD EGATE
I should like to ask the Secretary of State for War if lie can inform the House upon what principle. Territorial service medals are given? I ask this question because I happen to know in certain quarters it is supposed that these particular medals can only be got by the exercise of a certain amount of influence. If that idea is allowed to go forward I am sure it will do a great deal of harm to the Service, and we should remove the impression that anything connected with the Service can only be got by favour. I have' been corresponding with the right hon. Gentleman during the last few weeks with regard to a certain case in my own Constituency. It was the case of a man who enlisted in 1868 and who had obtained two medals for active service, and he left the Army in 1893. He was recommended for the Meritorious Service Medal by his commanding officer and the general in command in India. He has heard nothing about this medal from- that time until present day. In the first letter I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman, I pointed out. this man's case, and he replied, in a very civil manner, that the case should be considered, and in reply to a second letter the Secretary for War gave me clearly to understand that there was so many people claiming this medal that this man's claim could not be considered, and he gave that as the reason why the medal has not been granted to him. He said that there were so many warrant officers who had a claim on this medal, and they had the first chance of gaining it. I ventured to point out to the right hon. Gentleman the other day that the man who claims this medal could not have been a warrant 619 officer because he was an armourersergeant, and armourer-sergeants were not made warrant officers until 1st April, 1893. They might just as well not recommend him for a meritorious medal, because he could not obtain the rank of warrant officer under the old regulations. Generals who send up the names of soldiers as deserving the meritorious medal do so under great responsibility, and, if there are more names sent up than there are medals, surely it would be fairest to take the names according to seniority! I venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain how these medals are given, because in some quarters it is certainly considered that a great deal of favouritism is shown in granting them. I feel sure, however, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to disprove such a suggestion.
I want to raise a point dealing with the reorganisation of the Artillery which is at present taking place. The Secretary of State for War in the Memorandum he issued earlier in the year foreshadowed the reorganisation which was to be effected in the Artillery. In the main that reorganisation is to the advantage of the Army as a whole. It has the effect of reducing six of the eighteen training batteries which are at present stationed throughout the Kingdom and have up to now been employed in the training of Special Reservists for the Artillery. Owing to the introduction of mechanical transport and the ammunition column, and the consequent necessity for these men in the Special Reserve, six of these batteries are being reduced, and the remaining twelve are being converted from training batteries into reserve batteries. I find no fault with the re-organisation. It will have the effect of placing all the batteries of the Expeditionary Force on to a six-gun battery basis, and, when we get three batteries home from South Africa, as we shall in a very short space of time, it will give us eighteen unallotted batteries. I should like to know whether those eighteen batteries will be on the six-gun basis or whether they will be kept, as now, on the four-gun basis? I approve of the reorganisation, but I find fault with the methods which are being employed to effect them. It is proposed that certain batteries which are now in certain fixed stations in the country shall be converted into reserve batteries. The. reserve batteries under the present system do not take any part in war; in 620 fact, they are permanently prevented from going on service. Certain stations where it seems suitable to have these reserve batteries have been selected, and it is proposed simply to change the numbers of the batteries in these reserve stations with other batteries which are presumed to take their places. No transfer or change over in the personnel is to take place. The names of the batteries are simply to be changed and their numbers, their plate, their records, and their traditions are to be handed over from one battery to another.
It happens that in these stations which have been selected for reserve batteries there are at present batteries which have a long and distinguished history and career, and they will have to hand over their history and their records to the junior batteries which will replace them, with the result that there will be a distinct break in their sentiment and in their traditions. I do not know whether the Secretary of State for War realises that, although the Artillery are a regiment, still they have battery esprit de corps just the same as any regiment in the Service. I can imagine what would be the feeling of two regiments, either Infantry or Cavalry, which were made to change their names, their traditions, their records, their mess funds, their regimental funds, and their charitable funds simply by an order of the Secretary of State. It seems to me that this method which is being adopted is unjustifiable. When two batteries change stations the whole batteries do not change—in fact, only about 50 per cent. of the men in each battery change from station to station. The horses and the guns are handed over, and only a certain portion of the personnel of each battery change places. The reserve batteries have an establishment of eighty men; the fighting batteries have an establishment of about 160 men; and, as only eighty amen will have to be transferred to replace the old batteries in the reserve stations, and as only 40 or 50 per cent. of that number will have to go in order to change the identity of a battery, it seems to me that the saving of money is certainly not worth while offending the traditions, and, if I may say so, the honour of twelve important and distinguished batteries in the Service. It is not a matter which applies only to the officers; it applies to the men, too, because the battery funds are collected both from the men and the officers, and is as much the property of 621 the men as, for instance, the money which is collected by the South African Canteen institution, and, if we are going to take account of those things in one case, we certainly ought in the other.
If it is a case of efficiency, then it is a lack of War Office administration and War Office control that these batteries have got into a state of inefficiency, and they should be immediately sent to practice camps and camps of exercise where their efficiency can be brought to the highest pitch. There are proposals which can be put forward to meet what is undoubtedly a difficult question and which cannot be allowed to continue. The Army Order says that these changes of numbers and names are to take place on 1st August next, and I welcome the fact that this Debate has come before the changes and that we have had an opportunity of discussing this particular matter. These twelve batteries which are now in these stations have practically all completed their period of service in the stations, and, if they are not ready for moving this year, they certainly could be included in the relief next year, and with a delay of only part of a year we should be able to obviate this very unfortunate proposed change. If the War Office are determined to carry out their present proposal, I would suggest that a certain percentage of the non-commissioned officers and officers should be allowed to transfer and take their records, their plate, and their funds with them to the new station to continue the identity of the battery, because it certainly cannot be for the good of the Service that any honourable corps in the Army should suffer as is proposed in the Army Order.
I wish to express my agreement with what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman opposite. I think that it would be a very great misfortune if the esprit de corps of any battery were injured by the proposed reorganisation of our Artillery. I look upon the esprit de corps of our regiments, Infantry and Cavalry, as one of the most valuable assets in our Army, and anyone who has served with the Army would feel that anything that would interfere with that esprit de corps would be a great disadvantage. It is equally so with the Artillery, and I think that every Service member ought to press upon the Secretary of State for War the necessity of reconsidering this subject. I regret that when we had an answer from the Front Bench we had no reference made 622 to the position of our Army generally. On previous occasions I have brought to the notice of the Committee the deficiencies in the establishment of our Army. At the present time it is very much below strength owing to the difficulty of obtaining recruits, and I think that the Committee might well consider whether some steps might not be taken to make up the deficiency in our recruiting. I do not think that it is nec3ssary for me to say how many recruits we are short, but I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that he has some considerable difficulty at present in getting as many recruits as he would wish, in fact, earlier in the Session the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. H. Baker) did say that the recruiting position was not altogether satisfactory. I hope that when the Secretary of State for War speaks tonight he will be able to hold out to the Committee. some hopes of bringing the proper number of recruits to our Regular Army. The House has voted a certain number of men for our Standing Army. It has voted the pay for that number of men, and I think that we are entitled to know what likelihood there is of that number of men coming forward this year to serve their country. If we have not got that number of men, and it is essential that we should get them, I do say that it is the duty of the Secretary of State for War to have some scheme by which we are going to get more men, and to prevent us falling short of our strength. It may not at present make a great deal of difference, but, if we are not getting recruits in the Army at the present time, we shall a year or eighteen months' hence find ourselves with very few trained soldiers in the ranks, and, even although we then get an extra number of recruits, it will not make up for the lack of that training the men ought to get this year. It is not really for me to make suggestions as to how more recruits can be obtained for the Colours, but if I were consulted, I should have to say that I have certain ideas as to the manner in which it might be possible to attract men into the ranks. Being a humble Member of this House, and having no special claim to press my views upon the Secretary for War, I can only suggest that, if he wishes to maintain the voluntary system, which no doubt is the desire of the country generally, as regards the Regular Army, it is essential that the condition of soldiers in the Service should be considered. One 623 requirement in order to attract recruits to the Colours is, I am almost sure, to be found in some alternative to continuous soldiering. I believe a great deal might be done to attract men if some scheme could be thought out whereby soldiers could be used for other services of the State at various times. We are often accused on this side, when we are criticising the shortage of men, with offering no suggestion as to how the problem is to be solved. I do not wish to criticise without giving some idea of the lines on which a solution might be found, and I would suggest that recruits might be attracted to our Army if we offered them opportunities of being employed on other service than soldiering at various times of the year. At the present moment we are embarking on a great system of road development. There are many other public works of a kindred nature, and, in my opinion, recruits might possibly be attracted to the Army if it were made known that soldiers would be used at certain periods of the year in works of that description, and the use of their services in that way would, I believe, result advantageously, not only to the force, but to the men themselves. I hope the Secretary for War, when he speaks, will hold out some hope that some proposal will be made by which recruits will be attracted in greater numbers to the Colours.
I next wish to allude to the subject of the Flying Corps, which has already been dwelt upon by the hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Sandys). I am only too glad to think we have such a splendid body of men, both officers and rank and file, who have come forward to serve their country in the Flying Corps. It will be due to the willingness of both officers and men if the country is rescued from the difficult position in which it is now placed in this respect. In the past our Army has often suffered owing to a lack of foresight and deliberation on the part of the War Office and of those in authority. But I am glad to say that the officers, arid the rank and file generally, have by the exercise of their known ability been able to pull the country through. Matters in some respects are much better now as regards, at any rate, organisation for war, but I have a very great fear that, owing to parsimony, owing to insufficiency of funds available for the Service, we are going to find our Flying Corps very severely handicapped in making proper preparation for war. I have had the honour of serving in the 624 Army, and have been in possession of true facts in regard to questions which have been answered by the Secretary of State from time to time. Before I came down this afternoon I did not know that the hon. Member who discussed this question of the Flying Corps was going to make the statement he did. I came down thinking that when the Secretary for War made his statement that there were 130 flying machines ready and competent to fly, it was more than probable that fifty was the exact number that could fly at any one moment. That was the impression I had formed in face of statements, given perhaps perfectly truly, but at the same time not absolutely accurate. The right hon. Gentleman comes down here and says we have 120 flying machines which can fly if in proper order. That happens not to have been the question asked of him ire this House.
The Secretary for War always puts the extreme view of what is possible. It is, in my opinion, a wrong thing to do. It would be much better if he would tell the House what the facts really are, and the House would then be in a fairer position. It is most unsatisfactory that we should have been led to believe there were on a given day 120 machines competent to fly, in the sense that they could fly if in proper repair. It is obvious if we had only 150 machines not more than 50 per cent. could turn out on a given day. It seems to be a great misfortune that the country and the House should be misled by statements such as we get from the Secretary-for War, and I would urge that when answers are given here the House should have provided for it a true statement of the fact. I do not wish to suggest that untrue statements are made, but the statements are misleading, and both the House and the country are consequently pledged and induced to look upon things in a different light to that in which they should be seen. As far as the Flying Corps is concerned, in by opinion, it needs more flying machines. We ought to have more than fifty capable of flying at a certain moment. It is absolutely essential more money should be assigned for this purpose. I wish to support what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Leith Burghs (Mr. Munro-Ferguson). He told us that no money had ever been expended on a new Service without taking it from another Service. This is a very great misfortune. I think he said that when money was wanted for 625 the Territorial Army it had to be taken from the Regular Army. That should not be the case; if anything, the reverse policy should be pursued. But I do maintain that if an Aerial Service is to be set up, there must be an increased Army Estimate, and that increased Estimate should cover all the proper preparations for a sufficient aerial defence for this country. I have not the exact figures here, but I believe that, at the present moment, the increase in the Aerial Estimate is a negligible quantity, and the whole of the money has been obtained merely by robbing other Services. It is a most reprehensible course, and one that ought not to be pursued.
In several speeches to-day reference has been made to the Territorial Army. I am afraid I rather look upon that force merely as a very excellent means of inducing military ambition in our young men, and certainly I would thoroughly recommend it to those who feel that a fortnight's holiday spent in acquiring a certain amount of knowledge on military matters is a pleasant way of spending one's time. I fully admit there are a large number of men of enormous value to this country, who, for various reasons, are unable to go into the Regular Army, but who, having a love for military matters, are prepared to give time to the study of them, and are willing to undergo a fortnight's training either in the Yeomanry or in the Territorial Army. I wish to give these men every encouragement, and I agree that it should be made as little irksome as possible for them to undertake the duty. But I very much question in regard to this matter of the Territorial Force, whether we ought to try to get the numbers we do for that Service under the conditions we are able to offer. Undoubtedly, we have an enormoos number of Yeomanry and mounted men in the Territorial Force who are of immense value to this country for the defence of our shores, and who, if necessary, would be prepared to go across the sea to fight their country's battles. We have too, a great number of battalions also of immense value, and everything should be done to encourage them. But we make a great mistake in trying to get the number of battalions we do, because in some districts they are obtained only by securing what is not perhaps the class of men we ought to have in our Territorial Army. A Territorial ought to be a man of somewhat better education, and of more ability than 626 the class which may perhaps be better described as "corner boys," that is young men who have not settled down in any position, and who used, in the old days, to join our Militia, and go thence into the Army. I am afraid our Territorial Force is too much recruited from that source, with the result that we are not only not getting the class of recruits we ought to-have in our force of civilians, a force intended practically for the defence of these shores, but we are also losing those young men who should go into what is known as the Special Reserve, and we are also losing them for future enlistment in the Regular Army. As far as our Territorial Force is concerned, it would be far better if we confined our efforts to those regiments which we know are able to recruit up to strength, and to get proper officering. If we wish to go further in defence of the country, we ought to reinstitute our Militia. If we are not able to get enough men for defence in that way, then I think it would be up to the Government and to the country generally to realise the necessity for a certain number of men, and if we are unable to get sufficient volunteers other means should be adopted in order to obtain the forces required for the service of the Crown.
It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under the Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.