§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
The Supplementary Vote of Credit to which I am about to ask the assent of the House is the eleventh Vote that I have proposed since the War began and the second for the current financial year 1916–17. In submitting to the House the relevant facts and figures I shall confine myself strictly, in the first instance, to the financial necessities of the country, and I shall not enter on this occasion into anything in the nature of a general survey of the military or strategical situation. On 21st February last the House voted the first Vote of Credit for the current financial year, amounting to £300,000,000. The sum which we are now asking the House, by way of Supplementary Vote, to add to that is again £300,000,000, so that if the Vote I am now proposing is agreed to the total sum granted by the House for the current year will be £600,000,000. It may be useful to recapitulate the figures of the Votes of Credit since the outbreak of the War. They fall now into three financial years. For the first year, the financial year 1914–15, three Votes were taken, amounting in all to £362,000,000. For the second financial year, 1915–16, the Government proposed and the House of Commons agreed to six Votes, amounting to an aggregate of £1,420,000,000. If to those two sums are added the £600,000,000 which, if this Vote is assented to, will be the 2004 authorised expenditure so far for the current year, the aggregate of all the Votes of Credit since the outbreak of the War, up to and including that now under consideration, becomes £2,382,000,000.
Turning to the current financial year, the Vote of Credit out of which since 31st March war expenditure is being met is the one passed on 21st February for £300,000,000. I will therefore begin my review of the progress of expenditure from 1st April, the opening day of the current financial year, which has this advantage, that I am able to dispense on this accasion with the complicated adjustments which were found necessary in the year now closed, and particularly in the latter half of that year. When I last addressed the House on 21st February, dealing with the period which the Vote of Credit then under consideration would probably cover, I pointed out that up to that date the average daily expenditure from Votes of Credit for any given period had not, on our late experience, and after making all necessary adjustments, exceeded £4,400,000 a day, and I added that as far as could be seen at that time it was not in any way probable that the expenditure from the Vote of Credit would rise above £5,000,000 a day. That rate of £5,000,000 was indicated by me as a maximum which it was not anticipated we should reach, but I added that if a daily rate of expenditure of £5,000,000 was assumed the Vote which I then proposed on 21st February would last for sixty days—that is to say, from 1st April till the end of May. In the course of the Debate which then took place some criticism was directed against what my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lough) described as "this £5,000,000 a day statement."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Not at all. A rough and compendious expression. The complaint was made in some quarters that the Treasury forecast of expenditure on the Vote of Credit had been exaggerated. My right hon. Friend, I think, made that complaint himself. I should like to make one or two general observations on that point. The first is that under present conditions, with an expenditure of this magnitude, it is exceptionally difficult to make any forecast which can be taken to be accurate of the expenditure which is likely to be incurred in any comparatively short given 2005 period. The shorter the period the greater the difficulty. The outgoings fluctuate considerably week by week, and in some weeks we have actually expended more than £5,000,000 a day. The second observation which has to be made is this: Any estimate must of course allow a margin for contingencies, and when we frame our estimates on the basis of a daily rate of expenditure, the aggregate margin necessarily becomes greater than it would be in the case of an estimate based on a weekly or monthly period, and, as I have said already, on the occasion of every statement relating to Votes of Credit I have always given the House full figures showing what has been the rate of expenditure up to date, and in making a forecast of the future the sum of £5,000,000 has been always treated not as the probable but as the maximum figure. Now let me see how far the forecast which I made last February has been borne out by the results. The period from 1st April till 20th May, the last complete week, covers fifty days, and in that time the expenditure from the Vote of Credit, as far as it can be ascertained at present, has been nearly £241,000,000. It follows that the daily average expenditure has been £4,820,000. That is the highest average expenditure we have reached since the War began as yet over any consecutive period, and the figures, I am sorry to say, show that the rough estimate which was given in February last was not overstated to any substantial extent.
Perhaps I may remind the House at this point that the true expenditure for the last financial year, 1915–16, dividing it into periods up to 17th July—1st April to 17th July—was at the rate approximately of £2,800,000 a day; from 17th July to 11th September it rose to approximately £3,500,000 a day; from 11th September to 6th November the average was £4,350,000 a day; and, as I said when speaking last February, between 7th November and 19th February the daily average was between £4,300,000 and £4,400,000, after adding the actual expenditure in that period due to the Bank of England in respect of advances to various Powers, which had not yet been repaid, and which would in due course be discharged out of the Vote of Credit. In the period between 19th February and 31st March those liabilities were discharged, with the exception of a sum of £12,000,000, which has been paid off in April of the present 2006 year. These payments increased the actual cash expenditure from the Vote of Credit towards the end of the last financial year. They were properly attributable to earlier dates, and were allowed for in the figures of the average expenditure relating to those earlier dates. After that adjustment the true expenditure between 19th February and 31st March was appreciably less than in the previous month. Comparing our experience of the present financial year, so far as it has gone, with the year which closed on 31st March, the highest average expenditure for any considerable period in the last financial year was between £4,300,000 and £4,400,000 per day, whereas in the fifty days which have passed since 1st April we have reached £4,820,000 a day—as the House will see, a very substantial rate of interest. I will explain under what heads the expenditure has taken place. I am dealing now with the period 1st April to 20th May. The first and, of course, the largest item is in respect of the Army, Navy, and munitions—£149,000,000. The second item, loans to Allies and Dominions, amounts to £74,500,000, or half the amount expended upon the Army, Navy, and munitions. The third is for food supplies, railways, and miscellaneous items, in regard to some of which it is not desirable at the moment to state precisely what they are. The total amount under that head is £17,500,000, making a total of £241,000,000.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I hope and believe they will, but we have got to find the money. What I am trying to explain to the House is what we have actually to expend and what we have to get from the Exchequer. That is what is material to the Vote of Credit. What will come back to us after the end of the War, in few or many days, is another matter. What I am giving is actual out-of-pocket outlay. During these fifty days the actual out-of-pocket outlay amounts to £241,000,000. It follows, therefore, as the House will see, that there has been a not inconsiderable growth in the rate of expenditure since I last addressed them on the 21st February. As I have already said, that expenditure includes the repayments of advances by the Bank of England, which were really provided in the previous year, and eliminating that, which really ought not 2007 to be charged against the present year, the daily average expenditure is reduced to rather less than £4,600,000 a day. Even this shows a very serious increase over the figures of the average daily expenditure which have previously been given to the House, and it is an excess over the Budget Estimate of the Vote of Credit for the whole year. So far as regards the Army, the Navy, and munitions, the expendture in the fifty days in question has been on the average just under £3,000,000 a day, which is slightly less than the average expenditure per day when I last addressed the House, when it was just over £3,000,000 a day.
So there has been no rise but, on the contrary, a slight diminution in the daily expenditure upon what I may call the fighting services of the Crown. The growth in the average daily expenditure occurs entirely, or almost entirely, under the head of "Loans to Allies and Dominions"—mainly under that, and to some extent under the miscellaneous items. I need not, except in a passing sentence, do more than once again impress upon the House and the country that one of the great contributions which we are called upon to make, and which we should be glad to make, towards the prosecution of our common cause is the financial assistance which we are able to render and which we feel it our duty to render not only to our own Dominions, but to our Allies. Without that assistance it is perfectly true to say that the great combined operations, in which we are all taking our share, could not possibly be prosecuted with efficiency and success. I do not believe for a moment that the House of Commons will grudge—though the actual daily expenditure upon our own fighting forces has not increased—an addition, which is to come out of the British Exchequer, in order that the whole composite financial, military, and naval fabric, upon whose co-operative work the success of our joint efforts depend, can be kept in complete, efficient working order. In our opinion we ought to continue to the utmost of our ability, by advances as well as by actual naval and military operations, the common task which we and our Allies are together discharging. I must say—I am bound to say it in the present circumstances, lest anticipations to the contrary may be entertained—that we cannot hope, so far as we can foresee, 2008 any sensible dimunition in the average in the expenditure upon loans to our Allies and Dominions. That is a summary of the heads under which this gigantic sum has, during the fifty days of the present financial year, been expended. The balance which we still have in hand of the Vote of Credit already granted by the House in February will, at the existing rate of expenditure, which it is to be assumed will continue at £4,800,000 a day, last until about the 2nd June. We are now at the 23rd May, so that is practically another ten days. As regards the Vote of Credit of £300,000,000 which I am now submitting to the House, on the basis of the facts and considerations which I have put forward, it would seem unwise to estimate for an expenditure on a lower daily rate than £4,750,000 for the present. I think that is a fair and a safe estimate, and I do not think it is over-generous. At that rate of expenditure the Vote of £300,000,000 now proposed will last approximately until the middle of the first week of August.
I hope I have made clear to the House the financial situation as far as this Vote of Credit is concerned. I will not enter, at any rate until we have heard what is said in the course of the Debate, upon any considerations of a more general character. This is the eleventh time it has been my duty to ask the House to make provision for the conduct of the War. Of one thing I am absolutely certain, and it is that that provision will be made as readily, as generously, and with the same confidence in the justice of our cause, and the same belief in its triumphant issue, as every preceding Vote from the first day of the War has been accorded by the House.
§ Colonel CHURCHILL
This is the first time in my Parliamentary experience that I have been called upon to follow in Debate my right hon. Friend, and I am glad that I am not led to do so in any hostile sense. Certainly it is not my purpose to resist or oppose in any way the financial demand that he has made upon the House. The House is rightly resolute, and the country is resolute, that the Government shall have in the most convenient manner and with the least possible delay all the sums that may be required, the great sum now asked for, and any others which may subsequently become necessary, to the utmost limits of our resources. The occasions of 2009 these Votes of Credit afford to Parliament an opportunity of reviewing various aspects of the general position in the progress and conduct of the War, and we should fail in our duty if we did not take proper advantage of them as they arise. The right hon. Gentleman has not entered upon any discussion of the main situation, and from some points of view that is to be regretted because his statements on these occasions have always the advantage of concentrating the minds of the nation upon the supreme issue, too often obscured by passing episodes, and also they have on many occasions rendered encouragement to the Allied Powers with whom we are co-operating. But the right hon. Gentleman has made no reference to these matters, and I shall only make a very brief and general observation on the main strategic situation. It is this.
It is unreasonable for people to expect that the War will turn decisively and suddenly in our favour at the present time. The contending Armies are far too evenly matched at the present time for that. We believe ourselves the strongest. We know we have a certain substantial preponderance in numbers, but against this must be set the advantage which our adversaries have in their central position, the great advantage they have in the unity, the superior unity, of their war direction, now concentrated in two or three minds, and, finally, the advantage which cannot be accurately be measured, though it is certainly very great, of having been able throughout the course of the conflict to retain the initiative. There is very little in it if you survey the forces on each side at the moment. We have, however, Reserves actual and potential, behind our lines far greater than those which we believe to be at the disposal of the enemy, and it is upon the use and development of those Reserves as they become available that our confidence in our final victory may justly be reposed. The great energy and even frenzy with which the Germans and Austrians are now attacking at so many points of the line is a sign and a measure of their enormous strength, but it may also be some measure of their profound anxiety. But for the present numbers of men and formations actually engaged do not show those great differences which are necessary nowadays to give decisive results on the fortune of the general war.
2010 The right hon. Gentleman in his speech confined himself exclusively to finance and accounting. I wish to dwell mainly on the men who are paid and maintained with the money which Parliament is asked and is willing to vote. I desire to make a general survey of the supply of men for our field Armies. I desire to examine some of our available sources, and the use now made of them by the Government and the War Office. I should like to draw attention, first of all, to the revolutionary change in the point of view from which all questions affecting the supply of men must be studied, which has been wrought in our forces, by the passage of almost universal compulsion. The change is fundamental and complete, and it is vital that its scope should be realised by all concerned, in order that the beneficial, far-reaching reaction in other directions which will result from it may be turned to the fullest profit and advantage. It affects first of all, of course, our own Army and our own people, but it also affects our relations with our Allies and our relations with our great dependencies in Africa and in Asia. We have now reached a point when the need of the State is so grave that it has been necessary to compel by law to serve in the field the willing and the unwilling, the married and the unmarried, the young student and the old war-broken soldier, the head of a business and the father of a family. It has been found necessary, subject to the working of the tribunals to make all these different classes liable to serve in the field, and Parliament would not have taken these measures if it had not been convinced that they were indispensable to preserving the life of the State in the most serious and deadly crisis in its history. It seems to me that two propositions follow from that fact. First, that the best possible use should be made of all the men who are taken.
§ Colonel CHURCHILL
I am going to explain in what way. And, second, that every other possible source should be simultaneously used to its utmost extent. This is not a matter, nor is this a time, in which prejudices or preconceived opinions, whether of politicians or of military men, ought to sway us in deciding upon the right course to adopt. After all, military men have their prejudices just as much as politicians. This 2011 War, like other desperate struggles, will be settled by the supply of men. This is now coming nakedly to the front, because the difficulty as to the supply of munitions, which has hitherto proved a limiting factor, is gradually passing, and will soon pass away during the currency, at any rate, of the present year, and if the Germans are to be beaten decisively, they will be beaten like Napoleon was beaten and like the Confederates were beaten—that is to say, by being opposed by superior numbers along fronts so extensive that they cannot maintain them or replace the losses incurred along them. I do not intend to deal with the numbers affected by the Compulsion Act or any other sources remaining in the civil population. That is ground familiar to this House, which has followed the long Debates which preceded and accompanied the passage of that measure, and I do not wish to trespass upon it again. But, apart from that, apart from all the sources of the population not now in uniform, and the sources of this country, it would appear that there are several important sources from which we may draw supplies of men for the fighting line. I shall proceed to examine five large reservoirs of men which are capable of being drawn upon scientifically and systematically to feed the necessities of our fighting lines. I say our fighting lines advisedly, because the first part of the argument which I am asking the indulgence of the House to be allowed to unfold to them is that our fighting troops do not bear any due or any sufficient proportion to the total numbers of our Army. That is the first proposition with which I start, and therefore I select as the first of our reservoirs for examination this afternoon our armies already in the field.
The first thing that strikes a visitor to our Armies in France or in Flanders—and I make no doubt that our armies in the East exhibit a similar condition—is the very large number of officers and men in the prime of their military manhood who never, or only very rarely, go under the fire of the enemy. In fact, you perceive one of the clearest and grimmest class distinctions ever drawn in this world—the distinction between the trench and the non-trench population. All our soldiers, all our officers, are brave and honest men. All are doing their duty, a necessary duty, and are ready to do any 2012 other duty which they may be asked to perform. But the fact remains that the trench population lives almost continuously under the fire of the enemy. It returns again and again, after being wounded twice and sometimes three times, to the front and to the trenches, and it is continually subject, without respite, to the hardest of tests that men have ever been called upon to bear, while all the time the non-trench population scarcely suffers at all, and has good food and good, wages, higher wages in a great many cases than are drawn by the men under fire every day, and their share of the decorations and rewards is so disproportionate that it has passed into a byword. I wish to point out to the House this afternoon that the part of the Army that really counts for ending the War is this killing, fighting, suffering part.
This War proceeds along its terrible path by the slaughter of Infantry. It is this Infantry which it is most difficult to replenish, which is continually worn away on both sides, and though all the other services of the Army are necessary to its life, and to its maintenance—and I am not in the least disparaging their importance and their value—it is this fighting part that is the true measure of your military power, and the only true measure. All generals in the field make their calculations in rifles, but my right hon. Friend knows well how immense is the disparity between rifle strength and rations strength. We have suffered together disappointment in hearing that Armies, so imposing on paper, so large in numbers when they left our shores, were whittled down by calculations of rifle strength by the generals on the spot to two-thirds or even a lesser fraction of their total number. Like him, I have rebelled against that calculation in the past, but, nevertheless, I have become convinced that it is really the true and proper method of computing your war effort at a given moment. Every measure which you can take to increase the proportion of rifle strength to rations strength will be a direct addition to your war power, and will be just as direct an addition to your war power as if you ordered new classes of recruits to join the Colours. Nay, more, it will be a net addition and not a gross addition to your war power. If I may use the language of business—and after all this War is becoming in many aspects to resemble a vast though hideous business—I would 2013 say that the rifle strength actually under the fire of the enemy is the dividend. Everything else of the whole vast military effort may be classed as working expenditure, the result of which is the production of war power. The object of the Army is to produce war power. Everything else that takes place leading to the lining up of men in battle is the preliminary steps by which the final result is achieved.
I will proceed to illustrate this theme. The first thing which I desire to submit upon it is that the most wasteful method that can possibly be adopted is to keep battalions below strength. Unfortunately this has been and is still the case in a large number of units at the front, and as my right hon. Friend knows, it is one of the great causes of the misfortunes that overtook our Armies at Gallipoli. Keeping battalions below strength is a sheer waste of man power. Before your battalion lines up along its parapets to face the enemy it is necessary to deduct nearly 250 men who are employed on the transport, signalling, and orderly services, and as stretcher bearers, clerks, servants, cooks, musicians, road wardens, and brigade and divisional employés. I do not wish to get into an argument with any military expert who may be here as to the exact number, or how it is founded or calculated. Call it 250, or call it 200 if you will. It is suffiicent for my argument. The point I am submitting to the House—and though it looks a small point, it lies at the root of your efficient military organisation—is that there is a fixed reduction irrespective of the strength of the battalions. To use a common phrase, the overhead charges are the same for a weak as for a strong battalion. Therefore, after a certain point has been reached, every available man is pure gain to the rifle strength.
If we assume—and it is a pure assumption—that the battalions in France average 900 strong—I do not know whether it be more or less—with a rifle strength of 650, and if you add to each battalion additional men making the battalion up to a total strength of 1,200, the addition to the rifle strength of the Infantry which would follow from that step would amount to nearly 50 per cent., or nearly half as much again, because you would raise the rifle strength from 650 to 950. If we assume that there are 500 battalions—again it is a pure assumption; I am not attempting to indicate what 2014 the number may be or whether it be greater or less—in the Army in France, and we were to add to each 300, that would be a total of 150,000 men. Thus, for an addition of 150,000 men, you would have added nearly 50 per cent. to the fighting strength of your Army, which we have been told by the Prime Minister is well over 1,000,000 strong. I think that should be very carefully considered by all who take an interest in our military organisation at the present time. It would merely be an extension of this principle: Supposing you were to raise the brigades, in each division from three to four; that would be merely an extension of the principle of developing the rifle strength and the Infantry strength—which is the part which counts—to the highest possible proportion compared with the number of mouths you have to feed and the men you have to pay. But I do not propose to go into that question of additional brigades, because it would undoubtedly produce reactions over the general machinery of supply and transport, and would be very complicated, though it would, I believe, show a very substantial profit in the resulting war power. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, some time ago, put the military effort of the British Empire at 5,000,000 men. That, I think, was the total military effort, and, of course, he included not only casualties but the Navy and the garrisons in India and elsewhere. But the fact remains that he did place before the House, for its contemplation, the broad figure of 5,000,000 men, representing the war effort of the country.
The simple calculation which I have laid before the House raises the impression in our minds that this general figure may not be a very representative way of estimating the war effort of the country. Where are these 5,000,000 men? Certainly they are not, and never have been, in contact with the enemy. What has been done, what is being done, with these vast numbers, equalling, certainly, the whole military effort at the present moment of Germany? Obviously we cannot test this by studying the position of our troops on the different fronts. That would reveal our position. But there is a method by which we can easily test the war effort actually involved. We can test our war effort by measuring the war achievement, and war achievement can be measured by the number of the enemy forces we are holding up on our respective fronts. We have only to measure the number of 2015 enemy divisions that we believe we are holding opposite our Army at different points to see what we are actually doing in the land war, and what proportion of German and Turkish troops we are actually wearing down and holding up. From the Somme to the sea it has been calculated, and has been stated publicly, that there are about thirty-five German divisions opposed to our Army. Do not let the House underestimate that remarkable fact, so wonderful when we think of our military organisation before the War, but neither must we overrate it. In Syria there are three or four Turkish divisions, in Mesopotamia perhaps half a dozen, or perhaps one or two more. I do not know how to bring Salonika into the calculation, because, after all, that is political and not military; but so far as it is possible to compute these matters it is fair to say that there are in front of the British Armies, in all theatres, about forty-five Turkish and German divisions; and 20,000 men per division would be 900,000 all told. Of the 20,000 there have to be taken into consideration the troops on lines of communication, and therefore the actual force in contact is, in effective rifle and artillery strength, about half that number, say half a. million men. If that is the total military effort of 5,000,000 men it is evident that, after every conceivable deduction has been made, there is a large margin not yet usefully applied to the prosecution of the War.
The object of my argument is to suggest to the House that this ample field is one which we are bound in duty and honour to explore and to deal with, so as to free every serviceable man that can by any process of substitution or organisation be recovered, and put him to lengthen and to strengthen the fighting line. It is very difficult for a private Member to make a constructive suggestion. I am going to run that risk, and I do so in the hope that it may be carefully studied by those who have power and grave responsibility at the present time. The conclusion upon which this part of my argument stands is that the establishment of each battalion should be raised to 1,200, and every endeavour should, in the first instance, be made to free the men required, the fit and efficient men, in the prime of life, who are employed behind the front on work which could equally well be done by older men, by recovered wounded men, and by medically unfit men, and to some extent 2016 by natives. I apply this argument to all Services behind the lines without exception, but particularly to the Army Service Corps, hospital staffs, apart from the specialists and medical officers, to transport of all kinds, and motor transport. I say to the Government that the employment of every able-bodied man, particularly men between twenty and thirty years of age, in France or Flanders, behind the lines, should be the subject of individual consideration with a view to his liberation for the front, and his replacement by an efficient substitute.
Let us take another consideration. I find, again giving rough figures, that there are in the Army at the present time something like 200,000 officers. Every officer has his servant, making 200,000 servants, and probably there are 50,000 grooms in addition, bringing the number up to 250,000 servants and grooms. That is an Army in itself. These are points which are really worthy the care and attention of the House to study and to reflect upon. How many of these are in their prime of life? How many of them should be replaced with substitutes? How many should be replaced by natives? Remember that every man saved counts. It may be said that they are included in the fighting strength. They are, but they do not count in it. Then there is the question of the great mass of Cavalry, which have been kept all these months, now years, behind the lines in France and Flanders. Although the whole front, from the mountains to the sea, is wired and entrenched, this great mass of Cavalry have never struck a blow, and for at least eighteen months they have served in the trenches as Infantry. Is not that a matter which the military advisers should carefully reconsider, having regard to the enormous cost of the War and the immense strength of this force and its great value if employed in other directions? In these Cavalry regiments you have the cadres of three divisions, equal to the finest battalions that could be named, equal to the finest battalions of the Guards; you have all the Regular non-commissioned officers, warrant officers, and trained professional troops, with the full complement of officers, when officers are so scarce, with which you could fill up the regiments that now go into the trenches and add to our strength. You would be able to obtain recruits or men from other formations to add to those battalions, so that you would be able to raise a force of the highest possible quality 2017 at the very time of the process of degeneration of the Infantry strength which must ensue in both the contending armies. Although in the early stages young troops can storm the trenches, yet in the confusion which arises in the second or third stage of the fight, you want supplies of men with officers and warrant officers, and everything which is absolutely necessary, if you are to reap the result achieved by the gallantry of the first assault. I think that is a matter which ought to be carefully considered.
There is one other aspect of this question as to the use of the men at the front to which I venture to refer very guardedly. I think the question arises whether, in a war which is so very largely one of attrition, we should continue to hold indefinitely for months those posts which are of no vital consequence, where our men are at a disadvantage, and where, owing to the superior position and artillery of the enemy, the proportion of our daily loss is very much higher—sometimes calculated to be three or four times as great as that of the enemy. There is one part of the line where, it is said, the Germans have orders not to try to push our men out, in order that they may be able to reap the daily toll which has been so profitable to them. I suggest that this is a matter which requires very careful attention on the part of those here and elsewhere who are responsible; and I presume that the military authorities have been made aware by the Government that no reproach would be made against them if they chose for good reasons in any particular case to redress and readjust their lines at particular parts where our men are suffering undue loss, owing to their inferior position. All these matters are of very great consequence. The nation has given itself to the Government and to the War Office, and we are bound to follow with the utmost attention their fortunes at the front. How do the Germans find the men to keep up their forces in the field? All the military calculations and the calculation of unofficial writers, have been vitiated by the continuing force and power which the enemy supplies. That may be because the Germans have studied in this time and pressure of circumstances, with the utmost refinement, all these problems of using men where they could develop the greatest possible proportion of fighting strength to the number of men fed and employed. I was told the other day of a circumstance which 2018 sounded very extraordinary, that the Germans were now forming several battalions of men with heart disease, and at first sight your optimist will say they must be at their last gasp; but the very sinister reflection may be that if they were at their last gasp they would know how to utilise it to the full. At any rate, the use which you should make of this power of compulsion, this absolute power which has now been given, is to have every fit man in his place, so as to secure the maximum development of war power.
The second reservoir to which I wish to draw the attention of the House and of the country is the Army at home. The effect of compulsion on the Army at home is deep and comprehensive. It produces an entire reversal of the standpoint from which the War Office must regard the supply of men. Hitherto during twenty-two months of war the task of the War Office has been one of extreme difficulty. They never knew what men they were going to get nor when they were going to get them. At one moment hundreds of thousands of men presented themselves, pouring in many months before they could be armed or trained, and at another the falling off in recruiting inflicted serious injury on the Armies in the field, and all along men had to be accepted as and when they presented themselves, irrespective of when they were needed, when they could be handled, or whether they were the men best suited or the men who could best be spared. The War Office could not turn away even the most doubtful class of recruits without running the risk of discouraging the whole process of voluntary enlistment and without running the risk of being immediately charged with not loyally endeavouring to work the voluntary system, and they could not refuse men even though the men could not be equipped for many months for fear that later on those men would not be willing to come. The result has been a very large accumulation in our depots, in our hospitals, in our camps, in our training schools of men who have never been and will never be fit to put in the field, but who are nevertheless withdrawn from productive employment and borne on our pay lists and our rations strength. I am told —the Government know whether that is correct—that there are scores and scores of thousands of men in hospital who have never been and will never go to France or Flanders.
2019 With the advent of compulsion, all this can be absolutely stopped, and it should be possible to organise scientifically the whole of our available resources. No man should be retained who is not going to be of use. There is no need to try to swell mere numbers now for paper purposes. No man need be taken until he is required, and no man should be taken who can do more to beat the Germans by staying at home than by serving as a soldier. I have never looked on compulsion as a means to sweep a vast mass into the military net, though it is perhaps the only way in which large aggregate numbers can be obtained. I have regarded compulsion not as the gathering together of men as if they were heaps of shingle, but the fitting of them into their places like the pieces in the pattern of a mosaic. The great principle of equality of sacrifice requires in practice to be applied in accordance with the maxim, "A place for every man and every man in his place."
§ Colonel CHURCHILL
I hope those simple copybook maxims may receive the attention of the authorities during the next few weeks and months. Absolute fluidity should be insisted upon in regard to the supply of men, by which I mean that men must be available for all purposes that they are considered fitted for. The military authorities have no motive for transferring men from units where they have local regimental associations and where they are living with comrades. On the contrary, their interests are the other way, because they know that local associations and regimental feeling have a definite value for war. But the keeping of all formations at the front up to the fullest establishment, and I venture to think the higher the establishment the better, must claim and receive priority over all sentimental or personal considerations.
The numbers in khaki at home at the present time are very large, how large I do not know or seek to know. But we see them everywhere. You have only got to go about the country to see great numbers of men in the prime of life who are all on our pay lists. If we say between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 we shall foe taking limits which are certainly not likely to be incorrect, and to those will soon be added the conscripts who will be brought in by the new Act. And from this pool are 2020 being continually taken drafts and reinforcements for the front. But what of the pool itself? What of this great pool of men through which the recruits are passing from the civil population to the Armies in the field. Do we really need to keep such an immense number at home for training and drafting purposes? The total military effort of 5,000,000, or 4,500,000, or 3,500,000—I do not care how much you put it—at one end, and the actual war resultant of 500,000 enemies engaged actually in contact in the field, is a fact so striking, and the disparity is so large, that the continued attention of all who think about the means of securing victory in this War should be directed to it. It is very hard for civilians to believe that so small a result of all the great numbers we dispose of is really the last word in military organisation. I am sure I am expressing a widespread and well-founded opinion, not only in this House but outside, when I say that there is a very large margin at home of men, not now allocated to general service abroad, who should and could be made available for raising the strength of the units in actual contact with the enemy. I do not think we ought to rest content with general assurances that all that is available is being done. I have not the slightest doubt that it will be stated that all these points have been carefully considered, and action has proceeded upon them. I do not think we ought to rest content with general assurances of that kind. The case of every man, the employment of every man now in uniform, should be subjected to at least as severe a scrutiny as the case of every man not yet joined.
I wish to submit the argument in its completeness. How many men are needed for Home defence against invasion? That is not a question which I expect the Government to answer, but it is a very pertinent question with regard to the relation between our Armies in the field and our Army at home. When the War broke out, or the day before, the 3rd of August, the Council which was summoned asked what the Admiralty opinion was. The Admiralty opinion had been formed, like the War Office opinion on this question, as the result of four years' consideration in the Committee of Imperial Defence, and we were able to say, on behalf of the Admiralty, "Send all the Regular soldiers out of the country—not four but six divisions; their transport to France can be 2021 arranged and the security of the island in the interval guaranteed." At that time the Territorials had only just been called up, and certainly it was a risk only justifiable in comparison with other risks of a still more imminent character. But since those days everything that has happened has tended to consolidate the position of this country in regard to invasion. First of all, our naval resources have increased. Submarines—to count actually and not relatively in this matter, and I mean that the fact that the enemy's submarines may have increased at the same time does not vitiate the advantage you get from the actual increase in your own submarines. If the programmes which were in progress have been maintained, the Meet should be stronger not only actually but relatively too. In the second place, our defensive arrangements and our knowledge of how to perfect defensive arrangements have vastly improved every day that has passed since the beginning of the War. Now that those arrangements And that organisation are under the care of Lord French, with his vast experience of the actual conditions of modern war, we must recognise an immense improvement and consolidation of all our arrangements there.
Finally, and the third point on which I think we should repose confidence, is that the kind of warfare which has developed in this War is the least well suited to an army throwing itself hurriedly on a shore and maintaining itself with a precarious line of oversea communication. What is the form of warfare? It has been shown in every theatre. In a few hours with trenches, with barbed wire and machine guns, a position can be created to force which you must bring up not field guns but great masses of very heavy guns. And of all the armies who rely on this method Germany is the one which relies most and which would be most helpless without it. I think all those considerations should protect us from any panic fears which may alarm the people in this country, or from what is much more serious—to prevent the proper distribution of our military resources. I venture to think that the number of men allocated to Home defence should be continually the subject of regular scrutiny and that every effort should foe made, without damaging the units to which they belong, to release young men between twenty and thirty from being definitely assigned to Home? defence and give them the oppor- 2022 tunity to join their comrades in the field. We hear a great deal, and this is the moral of what I have been saying to the House, about "comb this industry," or "comb that," or "comb this Department or that," but I say to the War Office, "Physician, comb thyself."
I come to my third reservoir, namely, the Armies in the East. We have the Army in the field, the Army at home, and the Army in the East. The Armies in the East are very large; we need not inquire exactly how large. The Germans must know accurately how large they are. It is sufficient for us to say that the Armies in the East must recently have been in the neighbourhood of half a million. What have they been doing all these months? What are they doing now? We have a great Army in Egypt. What is it doing? Who is it fighting? We have another great Army at Salonika. What is it doing? Who is it fighting. Who is it going to fight? Who can it get at to fight, except the Bulgarians, who do not want to fight? The story of the steps which have led to the accumulation of these great forces in the East would be incredible if it were not true. Parliament should at the proper time require the fullest information and the publication of documents, but the study of the past belongs to the future, though I hope to the near future. Used in time, and sent in time, there is no military object in the Eastern theatre which the forces which are now accumulating in the East could not have achieved. But what have they done? What are they doing? Are they threatening Constantinople? Are they helping the Grand Duke? Are they relieving the pressure upon Verdun? In all these tremendous events they have borne and are bearing absolutely no part. The Government is open to obvious and serious criticism everyday that passes without these forces being made to play their part against the enemy. Whatever mistakes have been committed in the past, a new mistake is being made every day that these forces are left out of gear and out of action. The Government is bound to dispose of these forces so as to put them in contact with the enemy, so that they will be fighting and killing the enemy. How and where they are put is, of course, impossible to speculate or discuss here. That is a matter for the executive and its military advisers. But every day that these Armies are discovered sitting behind their defences and 2023 not holding their fighting weight in the conflict, there is a gross and grave misuse and maldirection of our limited military resources, for which there can be no excuse and no adequate explanation. All these matters must be considered side by side with the fact that we require every available man, and that we are inflicting, and rightly inflicting, great hardship on individuals all over the country in order to carry on the War effectively.
I now come to my fourth reservoir, and I hasten to assure the House that I am approaching the end of my labours. The fourth reservoir seems to me to be Africa. What part is Africa going to play in the present struggle? The Allies, and particularly Great Britain, dispose of practically the whole of the Continent of Africa. There are French Colonies, there are German Colonies, there are British Colonies, there are Belgian Colonies, there are Portuguese Colonies. Beyond those, there is hardly any left. What would the Germans do if they had Africa in their possession? We know what they are doing with native troops in East Africa. A small force of German settlers and Reservists organised very effective native levies, which exposed us to the need of making very considerable exertions to overcome them. What are the French doing now? The French African Empire is much smaller than that over which we rule. I am told—of course, it is a purely unofficial figure—that the French are employing, or intend to employ, in the line in France nearly 100,000 men from Africa. At any rate, there are a great many to be seen at all parts of the front. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that that is not a probable figure?
§ Colonel CHURCHILL
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman may have the curiosity to inquire and see. It is certainly a point of importance in this matter. What are we doing, with incomparably greater resources than the French, and with experience far greater than that of any other country in the handling of native races? We are doing nothing at all. Let us project our minds ahead and think what historians of the future would write if they were writing a history of the present time and had to record that Great Britain was forced to make an inconclusive peace because she forgot Africa; that at a time when every man counted, when every man 2024 was needed and the greatest hardships were imposed, the Government of Great Britain was unable to make any use of a mighty continent which sea power had placed at the disposal of herself and her Allies. It would be incredible; but it is taking place. Yet negro soldiers fought for freedom on the side of the Union Government, and fought exceedingly well. Consider all the other services in the Army which might be rendered by natives, thereby releasing white men in full efficiency for the fighting line. Their interests are identical with ours. The result of this War will settle the fate of the African population as much as it will our own. Nine months ago, when I was a member of the Government, I urged upon the Colonial Secretary formally that some steps should be taken in this direction. I suppose I shall get the same answer to-day as I got then—the difficulty of getting interpreters in sufficient numbers, officers speaking the language, taking so long to organise, depending how long the War is going to last, etc. But suppose we had begun then. We should have some results already, and we should have larger results in prospect. Why should we not start now in time for the campaign of 1917? If peace comes in the interval there will be sufficient reason to rejoice on other grounds.
I urge the House not to take "No" for an answer. Remember all the time the other men you are taking; remember the cases that you have in your own mind; and insist upon this resource being used and the difficulties overcome. I can imagine a great place of arms being created in Egpyt, where the climate is suitable, where African troops raised in various parts of the Continent would be assembled, drilled and trained, and then passed into the war as individuals or as units in whatever capacity they were best fitted for, and in whatever theatre of war and against whatever enemies the climate and their religion rendered it most suitable for them to be employed. I would not venture to put such an argument to the House but for the grave situation. I say to myself every day, What is going on while we sit here, while we go away to dinner, or home to bed? Nearly 1,000 men—Englishmen, Britishers, men of our own race—are knocked into bundles of bloody rags every twenty-four hours, and carried away to hasty graves or to field ambulances, and the money of which the Prime Minister has spoken so clearly 2025 is flowing away in its broad stream. Every measure must be considered, and none put aside while there is hope of obtaining something from it. [An HON. MEMBER: "All for a gamble!"] The hon. Gentleman had better wait until the whole of the story is made public. At any rate, what the French can do we can do. Suppose, after all, I am wrong. Suppose there is not any large resource here. Suppose you get only 100,000 men for your theatres of war. Is that nothing? Suppose you get only 20,000 men. Is that nothing? In this War you will find that at the very best you will have to pay a life for a life. Every man counts, and his case must be counted against the case of someone whom, perhaps, you know.
The fifth reservoir is Asia. Our own Possessions and those of our Allies, with the sea power which is at our disposal, give us the means of using the great resources of Asia. What part is India going to play in 1917, if the War should be continuing then? We all read the moving account given by Lord Hardinge of the wonderful loyalty shown by India in the crisis of the early days of the War. The fate of India is at stake as much as ours. It is impossible that England should lose this War and the government of India remain unaltered. It must pass to the conquering Power. I said that the fate of India is at stake as much as ours. It is more at stake than ours. No white race would ever be treated by Germany after she conquered in the way that Germany would treat the natives of India. Zabern would be no measure of the kind of culture that would be meted to India if she fell into the hands of the German Power. The part played by the Indian troops in 1914 and 1915 in France was glorious. They held positions for the holding of which no other resources were at the time available in the Allied Armies in the West. They fought with the utmost heroism and effect. They acquitted themselves admirably both in defence and in attack again and again and yet again in the—for them—most depressing conditions of climate, and against a most terrible foe in the height of his military efficiency. There were the Gurkhas at Gallipoli, storming the foot of Sari Behr side by side with their Australian comrades, thereby creating a reputation throughout Australia which will never be forgotten. The wet wintry weather in Flanders, the pouring rain and mist, the undrained trenches, 2026 deep in mud and water, were a heavy and cruel burden for the Indians. But this War will probably not be settled by events which take place in a winter campaign. It will probably be settled after events which have taken place in a summer campaign.
What is there to prevent you, if you start now—munitions are not going to prevent you—from having ten or twelve new Indian Divisions or their equivalent ready to throw in in 1917 wherever they may be most effective and most needed? Are you really going to allow the fate of India to be settled in this world struggle while she is represented only by the Tigris Corps, whatever it is, and a few detachments at other points? Three hundred and fifteen millions of people and less than 100,000 men in the line! It is a wrong to India; it is a wrong to Europe. I say to the Government: Do it! Do it now. Do it at once. Start to-night. Make the plans for your Indian Army of 1917. If they break down, if after all your efforts you find that no very great result could be obtained, at any rate you will have assured yourselves that there was no aid to be found in that quarter. But, I say, begin now. No doubt there are many difficulties. No doubt the life energies of your best Anglo-Indians would be tapped. No doubt great toils and labours would be required. Never mind; the sword of India ought to be thrown into the scale at the decisive moment of this War. Taking a prosaic and cool view of the situation, of all your chances, and of all your prospects, you are bound to have a large Indian Army ready to bear its part in the final culminating shock. Here let me point to the great difference which has been made by the enactment of national service in this country. If we were keeping our manhood out of the struggle and trying to get it fought for us by subject races and mercenary armies, all the old arguments and reproaches with which history is familiar would apply. But when we are engaging every class, when the last man and the last shilling are to be claimed, we have a right and are bound to claim similar exertions, or whatever exertions are possible, from the dependencies which share our fortunes. The doctrine of equality of sacrifice is not limited by the confines of the United Kingdom.
I have now finished my survey of the resources of men—a survey which, I think, deserves the careful attention of those 2027 who are responsible. There is only one more point about the man-power to which I wish to refer before I sit down. Many of our difficulties in the West at the present time spring from the unfortunate offensive to which we committed ourselves last autumn. My right hon. Friend knows that this is no new view of mine taken after the event. Let us look back now. Only think if we had kept that tremendous effort ever accumulating for the true tactical moment. Think if we had kept that rammer compressed ready to release when the time came—if we had held in reserve the energies which were expended at Loos, Arras, and in Champagne—kept them to discharge at some moment during the protracted and ill-starred German attack on Verdun! Might we not then have recovered at a stroke the strategic initiative without which victory lags long on the road? Let us not repeat that error. Do not let us be drawn into any course of action not justified by purely military considerations. The argument which is used that "it is our turn now" has no place in military thought. Whatever is done must be done in the cold light of science. We must not be deflected by any sentimental argument from whatever is thought to be the right course on military grounds. We mean to spend all we have in this quarrel, and we have only to consider how it may be best employed. In this connection let us never forget that the development of the full war-power of Russia is necessarily slow, and that it has not yet reached its culminating point. For one man Russia had in her line at her worst period last year she has now certainly two, and possibly three. For one man she can put into the line to-day she may perhaps be able to put two into the line next year. The whole world is available for the equipment of the manhood of Russia. When you are able to gather round the frontiers of Germany and Austria armies which show a real, substantial preponderance of strength, then the advantage of their interior situation will be swamped and over-weighed, and then the hour of decisive victory will be at hand. This hour is bound to come if patience is combined with energy, and if all the resources at the disposal of the Allies are remorselessly developed to their extreme capacity.
§ Mr. WARDLE
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has made a speech which has covered a great deal of ground, and has, I venture to say, con- 2028 veyed various impressions to various Members. So far as the right hon. Gentleman desires that his advice and proposals should enable the Government to prosecute the War with greater vigour and energy to a more successful issue, I do not think any of us will be disposed to complain. I interjected a remark, to which I think the right hon. Gentleman took some exception, to the effect that he was giving us a number of "copy-book maxims." That remark was perfectly true. The right hon. Gentleman has asked a great many questions, and he has put forward a good many proposals. It is easy, and possible, for all of us, no matter on what side of the House we are, no matter how ignorant we may be on military subjects and in actual military experience, to put forward proposals to the Government. I submit, however, that when we come to weigh up the whole of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in relation to the problem which is now before us, we shall find one or two plain things which cannot be gainsaid. First of all, I think he is entirely wrong in submitting that at this moment it is a question of man-power. Reservoirs of man-power, according to the right hon. Gentleman, are perfectly open, and we all know them. The man-power of Russia is immense. But what is it that really prevents all this man-power being used? It is not lack of energy on the part of the Government. It is the fact that for every one of these men you have to get supplies, training, munitions, and to create an organisation which is not in existence. When you take the main point of the right hon. Gentleman, I must say that with much of his criticism of the position I agree. I myself have been in France, and one thing that struck me there was the exceedingly large number of men behind the line. I wondered what they were doing there, and what possible influence they were having upon the progress of the campaign. Take the mass of men we have got now. It is one of the problems how to use them to the very best advantage. When the right hon. Gentleman talks about emptying these great reservoirs of men and bringing them into the organisation, he will see, if he considers, that the mere creation of numbers, and the bringing of many men together will only at the present moment result in creating a larger Army with no more effective power upon the War than can be brought about by the present forces. So far as his observations related to making a better use of the Army I agree with much that he said.
2029 There is another point in regard to this to which I should like to refer. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of rifle-power and ration-power. What I would like to find out from him is this: After all there is in France the possibility of employing in the actual front only a certain number of men. However much you multiplied your rifle-power you can only put so many men into the trenches at once. I assume that there are in the front line trenches, and held in reserve, the actual number of men required to defend those trenches; so that our rifle-power, so far as the line itself is concerned, is quite fully in evidence with the men who are already there. So far as the defence is concerned, that seems to me to be adequate. If that is being done from a defensive point of view I consider we are holding our own. When it comes to the offensive we are talking about another matter. So far as rifle-power is concerned, I quite agree that it would be a great advantage to the Army, and to this country, if it could be increased in very much larger measure than it is at the present time in the number of men who are to be employed in the actual fighting. I want to make one other point. The right hon. Gentleman talks about increasing the Armies from Africa, by the employment of Indians, and so on. I would like to know what kind of Vote of Credit we are going to have in this House if that proposal were adopted? We are being asked on this occasion to vote £300,000,000. We are spending at the rate of nearly £5,000,000 a day. The mere creation of larger Armies, whether they be of our own or of other nations, will add to the burden which is already as great as we can afford to bear. In my opinion, if rightly used, the money and the forces which are at our command will end in securing to us the victory which all of us so much desire.
I am not a military critic. I have not seen military service like the right hon. Gentleman. But I must confess that, after I have listened carefully to his speech, while I agree that he is wise to press the Government to the fullest possible effort in carrying on this War to a successful conclusion, I cannot say that in the contribution the right hon. Gentleman has made this afternoon he has said anything that will help very much, except the one point to which I have referred. In regard to some members of the party to which I belong, while outside the House they have on many occasions criticised the Government, while they have not helped 2030 recruiting, there is one thing they have never had the courage to do, and that is to refuse the Votes of Credit, or to vote against a Vote of Credit which at any time has been proposed to this House. This observation also applies to the numbers of men. Therefore we may take it that so far as this House is concerned now, and I venture to say so far as the country and the Empire is concerned, the Government can rely upon all support if the Government will—as I believe they are doing—use the forces at their disposal to the highest possible advantage. For my part I cannot see, even if the plans which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, and the reservoirs which he says can be emptied are emptied, how without shipping, without munitions, and with many of the problems as they are, we can do any more than we are doing to win a final victory for this country.
Major-General Sir IVOR HERBERT
In my first words I must take exception to, and express my total disagreement from, the opinion of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in regard to the effect of the speech to which we have just listened of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee. In my opinion the right hon Gentleman has rendered many great and varied services during the course of this War. None has been of greater value nor of more far-reaching effect than that bold statesmanlike utterance to which we have just listened. I will say, too, not only statesmanlike, but soldierlike, and this latter characteristic is perhaps that which appealed to me more strongly than any other. The first effect of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was, it seemed to me, to sweep away some of those clouds which have constantly hung over the Debates in this House ever since the War began. In the last six months we have had endless Debates on the military situation which have always turned round to the question of men. We have constantly had statements based upon figures which, if we were given, were invariably given, in round numbers. We have been told of 3,000,000, 4,000,000, 5,000,000, and 6,000,000 of men. No one, however, has ever until to-day given the House any sort of conception as to how the men, whatever the number might be, have been distributed, and have been made use of for the purpose of carrying this War to its conclusion.
2031 In the course of those Debates it has been impressed upon me very strongly, and by no one more strongly than the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) in a speech which he made in the early part of March, I think, when discussing the Vote for men, that what has been lacking since the beginning of the War has been any definite policy with regard to the War, with regard to the Armies we were going to raise, the way we were going to maintain them, and what we were going to do with them when we got them, and I have not hesitated to express my opinion as to the cause of it. The cause is—and I say it again—that there has never been the co-ordinating, authoritative presence of a strong and capable Secretary of State for War. The Secretary of State for War, as I have understood the office, is the person by whom the policy of the Government—the large policy, the world policy, as you may call it—should be translated into military action. We have never had any indication that there was that connecting link between the policy of the Government and the operations that were being carried on by the military command, and that is, I submit, shown very strongly by the speech to which I alluded just now of the right hon. and learned Member for Walthamstow. In the course of that speech, not once, but I think four times, he asked what was going to be the strength of our Army. The right hon. and learned Gentleman only a few weeks before had left the Cabinet. Surely one would expect that a member of the Cabinet would have known or formed some conception of what the ideas of the Government were as to the raising of Armies, as to the number of men that would be required for those Armies, and how they were to be maintained. Yet we have the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who has just ceased to be a member of the Cabinet, stating in the clearest possible terms that he had no kind of conception as to what our policy was in regard to the Army.
Then when some of us tried to impress upon the Government the need for taking other steps than those which have been followed for the maintenance of the Army, and so organising the supply of men that we should be able, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite so well expressed it, to put each man into his right 2032 place, to fit together the puzzle of a large number of men, so that you have every piece in its place by means of a system of national service, we had thrown in our faces the argument based upon those round numbers which were made use of in this House. We were told, "You have got 5,000,000 men; what can you want to do with more men? You are simply compulsionists for the sake of compulsion. You are trying to get all the men away from the other services which are necessary." That was not our object, and I was pleased to hear from so high an authority as the right hon. Gentleman that we have at last succeeded in getting, not the complete national service I should have wished to have seen, but still something in that way; and in doing that we have, at any rate, succeeded so far that it will be possible to place each man in his proper place, so as to get the greatest possible collective impulse towards carrying on the War.
I should like to touch upon two of the reservoirs which the right hon. Gentleman spoke of with regard to the supply of men. I do not go into the question of those distant countries from which he thinks we might draw an appreciable force. I agree with every word he said. But I should like to say a few words with regard to the distribution of men both abroad and at home. It has been certainly present to my mind all through this War that there was a great waste of force owing to our adherence to what has been one of the vices at all times in the British Army, that of permitting a constant drain from the fighting force of a unit into various services which, in other armies, are designated as non-combatant services, and are provided for generally otherwise. It is impossible to get any accurate measure of what you will do with an Army in the field unless you have your units placed as a fighting force, and enable them to perform their duty as fighting units, and it has been well known for months and months in this country that all the units at the front were woefully depleted. There were two reasons for it. The first was that system, which the right hon. Gentleman so well explained, of withdrawing men for various services which ought to be provided for in the majority of cases from elsewhere—from inferior troops, so as not to weaken the fighting strength of the units. The other cause of it was the 2033 absence in this country in our depots of the men coming forward to make the drafts and to fill up those units. It was a notorious thing at one time.
I myself, with certain other hon. Members on both sides of this House, endeavoured in the autumn of last year to lay our views before the Prime Minister, because we knew from figures which were in my possession, and which I had every reason to trust, that our supply of men for drafts was wholly insufficient to meet the requirements which were constantly going on, and which the casualty lists day by day bore out. But it was impossible to get such views as those even listened to, much less acted upon, because hon. Members, no doubt with excellent intention, were urging the necessity of keeping up the industrial strength of the country. There is not any reason in the world why the maintenance of an efficient Army in a great war like the present should necessarily destroy your industrial strength, because you have an immense number of men who are over military age, some below military age, and others of military age who are really unfit to serve, but who can well carry on the industrial work of the country. Besides that, we have seen the wonderful development of female labour, and we have only got to go to France to see what is done. But here, unfortunately, hon. Members on these benches prevailed, and until quite recently the situation has not been faced, and therefore we have lost nine valuable months. I can say for myself that I have been working at this for more than a year, trying to get adequate attention given to it by those in charge of the War Office. It is astounding to me that if we have a Secretary of State for War in time of war as we have in peace—it seems to me we have not—those questions which we urged so strongly, and at every possible time we could, upon the responsible members of the Government, should not have been brought forward by that Minister who was properly responsible for the supply of men.
One reason why the supply of men drawn from the home reservoir is not, as the right hon. Gentleman said, and I agree with him, what it might be, is that there has been, side by side with the absence of a powerful and a strong direction of military policy, a drawing in and a centralising of executive functions in the War Office, which has absolutely weakened the military effort of this 2034 country. There are spread all over the country an enormous number of men who have been collected by every device that was possible under a so-called voluntary system, those who are now being brought in under a more or less compulsory system, and those shortly who will be called in by a wholly compulsory system. Those men are scattered about all over the country in large camps, but it is extraordinary, if one goes through the country and has anything to do with the military arrangements, to see how the powers of the so-called commanders-in-chief have been crippled by the centralising influence of the War Office. The result is that, instead of the local commanders being held responsible for the men within their districts, and having to organise them, and dividing up those large masses of men so that each one can be dealt with separately, and you can make sure of getting the best material out of each, the whole of the direction of that is done from the central office in London. The result has been seriously to weaken the whole military system of this country, by weakening the sense of responsibility in higher officers, and by the impossibility of an office such as the War Office in London dealing with a number of organisations multiplied ten or twenty times beyond that with which it was ever supposed it would have to deal. I do not propose to go further into the many very interesting things which the right hon. Gentleman touched upon. I will only repeat that in my opinion the great weakness has lain in the absence of that directing power which is given under Statute to the Secretary of State for War in time of peace, but which has not been exercised in an adequate and effective manner in time of war. We have been at war without a Secretary of State for War. I once more thank my right hon. Friend for having brought this matter forward with the courage and clearness and whole knowledge that he has gained in service abroad, and I am quite sure when that is read throughout this country it will have a very great effect.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has once more attacked the administration of Lord Kitchener. I think we all agree that under Lord Kitchener's administration there have been mistakes which may be attributable to Lord Kitchener or to the Government. One thing is certain, that Lord Kitchener came into office after the War had broken 2035 out, and he had to accept the machinery which he found there. Had he organised that machinery as he would have preferred when Lord Rosebery put forward the demand several years before the War that Lord Kitchener should be appointed to the War Office, he would have organised matters as all war machinery has been organised where one general is responsible for the strategy and another is responsible for the supply of men and munitions. Past history has shown this to be necessary. It was the system by which Germany won the Franco-German War, in which Moltke was responsible for the strategy and Von Roon for the men and munitions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee made a speech which was exceedingly stimulating and interesting, and which I hope will prove stimulating and interesting for His Majesty's Government. I did not agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Navy in a past speech; in fact, I disagreed with almost every point. But I am glad on this occasion to be able to say as respectfully as I can how much I appreciated the right hon. Gentleman's remarks on this question of the reservoirs of men we need in order to win this War.
There are only two limiting considerations I will make to the remarks he gave us. The Government have experienced a very considerable loss of shipping in this War, and we have to meet a very big demand on the part of the troops at the front in France. If we are to bring the Indian troops to France during the summer months, and take them back, as has been suggested, during the winter months, the demands on our shipping will be out of all proportion, perhaps, to the gain that we shall get. It is quite conceivable that the Government, in choosing seventy divisions as our ideal, are hampered by a grave scarcity of officers, and they may not be prepared to provide officers for a very much larger number of fighting men at the front. On that point I do not know, but I suggest that that may be a consideration. In all other respects I agree with the motto the right hon. Gentleman evidently works upon, and that is that he prefers mobility to anything else. We want mobile troops and mobile ships in order to strike quickly at the enemy, and it is no use keeping great bodies of men at home in this country for the purpose of repelling an invasion when that invasion will never come off. It has been the view of naval officers from the first that the invasion of 2036 this country, especially in this War, is a sheer impossibility, and yet we have vast bodies of troops locked up in this country.
With the single line of railway at the disposal of the Turks for invading Egypt, with the interior positions we possess in the Eastern Mediterranean for our shipping, with an accumulation of men, say, at Cyprus, where they could have threatened many points, it is difficult to believe in the serious invasion of Egypt apart from a raid on the Suez Canal. I notice the wise precaution the right hon. Gentleman took when he made his very able survey, for he did not attempt any forecast. We have had forecasts from the Government and from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, and many of them have proved to be wrong. In regard to the provision of troops, I cannot help thinking that the Government did not provide the troops in the early stages of the War because they had made, one and all, an erroneous forecast as to the length of the War. Lord Esher, who has been a member of the Defence Committee for so many years, wrote a letter to the "Glasgow Herald," in which he stated that he had enjoyed close friendship with every one of our leading statesmen and he knew as a positive fact that one and all of them, except Lord Kitchener, had made the erroneous forecast that the War would be over in anything from three to nine months, and it is on that forecast, and subsequent forecasts of the War coming to an end, that we so long refused to face the necessity of compulsion.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of how to get more men, and I cannot understand how it is that we are not able to get more men. There must come a period at which it is absolutely certain that the loss of human life in Germany will have reduced the man-power of the nation to the level of our own. Anyone who makes the calculation will find that it is not the number of soldiers but the available man-power of Germany which has been reduced practically to the level of our own owing to the very much larger losses which the Germans have incurred. [Mr. G. D. FABER dissented.] I am prepared to go over the figures with my hon. Friend if he likes. Germany, according to the Russian estimate, is keeping 170 divisions in the field, and we are aiming at only seventy divisions. Why is there this very large discrepancy of 100 divisions? The Prime Minister has told us that we have greater obligations elsewhere, and that is true. He 2037 said we have to maintain the sea power of our country, the Navy, the mercantile marine, and finance. I cannot see, in connection with finance, that our obligations are very much greater than Germany. Surely Germany is financing her Allies, Austria, Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria, and those demands must be quite in proportion to our own. At any rate, the difference will not be very serious.
As regards the Navy and the mercantile marine, we know that about one million men are employed upon naval shipbuilding and the other requirements of the Navy, which include, I imagine, the mercantile marine. We know that the men employed on munitions are more than double that number. The provision of munitions is the important factor, but we also know that Germany is producing from six to seven times as great a quantity of munitions as this country. Therefore the working power of Germany must be greater than our own with regard to the War, apart from the provision of soldiers altogether. That brings us to the old point—business as usual, or the silver bullet. We are keeping all these men back for business as usual, or for the provision of silver bullets. I cannot understand the sense of proportion which tells us that those £400,000,000 worth of exports cannnot be seriously cut down without any great loss to the country in a War which is costing £1,500,000,000 a year. The right sense of proportion would be to sacrifice some of your exports and get the men into the Army, with a view of ending this War as quickly as possible. We must get those men, and there is no other reservoir from which the men can be got among the Allies
If you turn to France, she must soon get to the point when her reserves must be depleted or she must shorten her front. If you turn to Japan, the people will not allow Japanese troops in any large quantities, or at all, to be sent to Europe. If you turn to Russia, it is not a question of men, but of munitions, and the only way you can get the men to the Western front is by employing the munition ships to bring back men, and I have wondered why this method has not been adopted. There is no reason why, if you carry munitions to the men, you should not bring back men to the munitions and organise them in depots in England and France. By a process of exhaustion we conclude that this country must provide the men that are required.
2038 While the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee was speaking about altering our front so as to avoid a loss of men, I could not help thinking that that was the case in connection with Gallipoli, for which he was largely responsible. The Prime Minister told us, when he was defending the Gallipoli Expedition, that we were tying up a very large body of men there, and that, but for the presence of our troops in Gallipoli, Bulgaria would have come into the War much earlier, the Turkish troops would have been available to overwhelm the Russian forces in the Caucasus, and they would have been able to overwhelm our troops in Mesopotamia and to invade Egypt. When I heard that statement my mind went back to another earlier speech by the Prime Minister on a Vote of Credit, in which he asked the House for a limitless stock of patience and a sense of perspective, but if he had consulted a small scale map he would have seen that it would have been impossible to use those troops on those immensely distant fronts, with no railways to serve them except for a small portion of the distance, through mountainous countries, in the way he had suggested. Shortly afterwards the Prime Minister sent General Munro to report upon the Gallipoli Expedition, and then we got the true perspective. The general told us that—Our entrenchments were dominated almost throughout by the Turks. The force, in short, held a line possessing every possible military defect. They were much enervated from the diseases which are epidemic in that part of Europe in the summer. In consequence of the losses which they had suffered in earlier battles there was a very grave dearth of officers competent to take command of men.And, most important of all, giving an unqualified contradiction to the Prime Minister's statement of the advantages secured by inserting in his dispatch these words:It was obvious that the Turks could hold us in front with a small force and prosecute their designs on Bagdad or Egypt or both.6.0 P.M.
It is obvious, so far from holding up a large force of Turks, that a small force of Turks was holding up a very much larger force of British troops. That is a very grave instance how we can waste and dissipate our resources through erroneous strategy in this War. There is one other very important point with which I wish to deal, and it is the idea that the unity of the Cabinet is essential to win this War. The Prime Minister has repeatedly used that phrase. We were at one period, 2039 if we go back to the Seven Years' War, in danger of losing a war, and it was by Chatham going against that idea of unity in the Cabinet—instead of being half in and half out of the Cabinet to use the phrase of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, it was by being one-tenth in the Cabinet and nine-tenths out of it—that he brought about the downfall of the Cabinet, and was able to form a Government in which he concentrated foreign policy, Navy and Army, in his own hands, and with Anson to advise him on the Navy and Livonier on the Army he was able to bring that war to a more successful conclusion than probably any war in British history. If we are always to insist on unity of the Cabinet and the unity of this House, the Prime Minister will for ever be studying the convenience of a small party in this House, described as the "Simonites." I do not think in the past history of this country that we ever studied what the Jacobites wanted, and I suggest to the Government that they should not study what the "Simonites" want.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I wish to draw the attention of the House to the question of finance connected with the War, because, after all, that is really the most germane question to the Vote now under discussion, namely, whether we shall authorise the Government to advance another £300,000,000 towards the expenses of the War and whether we shall authorise them to go on spending at the rate of £4,750,000 per day. It is very difficult indeed for a private Member to bring forward instances of Government extravagance, because he has not the means of finding out where the waste takes place, though I think most Members will agree that, at any rate, at the beginning of the War very great extravagance and open-handed prodigality did take place in almost every one of the Government Departments. I wish to draw attention to a few instances of what I consider to be Government extravagance which I have elicited in the course of questions to Ministers. These cases of extravagance cannot be recalled, and the money must be written off as bad debts, but I hope to find some support from hon. Members in order that in future we may have a little less extravagance. I object in toto and entirely to the system of putting our contracts on the basis of paying to the contractor a percentage on the amount that the work costs. The only exception I 2040 make, and I think it is reasonable, is in the case of repairing contracts under the Admiralty, where undoubtedly speed is a supreme consideration. If it does cost 50 per cent. more than it would under the tender system, still I think the Admiralty is justified in going to almost any expenditure in order that their ships may be repaired at the quickest possible moment. I think I shall carry most Members with me when I say that I can see no necessity now for going on with a system which may have been necessary at the beginning of the War, when we had to build an enormous number of camps and when we had to obtain large quantities of stores for the armed forces of the Crown. It is now absolutely unnecessary and wasteful, and it causes this country to spend much more money than it ought to do.
Let me take the case of the War Office, first of all. I understand that the War Office is paying on contracts now in existence an average of 9 per cent. on the net cost to the contractor. I submit that is far too large a profit to allow to the contractor. He runs no risk at all. He brings the cost of the material into the account. He is allowed his establishment charges and to state what his wages sheets are, and then on the sum total he is allowed on the average 9 per cent. for his trouble. I submit that is very much too large, and I should be interested to know when we come to it how much larger a percentage has been paid to the contractor who built the camps all up and down the country, and whose contracts amounted to £7,000,000 or £8,000,000. The Admiralty, I understand, allow 10 per cent. on the actual wages to the workmen while they are on Admiralty work, and the contractors are also allowed to add the actual net cost of the material used and establishment charges. That is for new construction. Here, again, there is no risk. The contractor is covered for everything, and yet he is allowed 10 per cent. profit on the sum total of the money charged. Let us consider for a moment what an inducement it is to extravagance. The contractor does not mind, so long as he gets the workmen, whether he pays him £1 or £3. All hon. Members have in their minds cases of workmen who have been taken off work for which they were getting £1 or 30s., and put on work under Government contracts, and, without asking for it, given £3 per week. I do not object to any reasonable rise in wages in order to induce workmen to take up Government work, but 2041 there is no earthly reason why you should double wages. The Board of "Works is rather more reasonable. They only allow their contractors 7 per cent. But there, again, there is no risk involved, and I submit that it is an unduly large profit. I hope, therefore, that I may have the support of other hon. Members, who will join with me in urging upon the Government that the time has now come for ceasing this form of contract except in the case of repair work for the Admiralty. I understand from answers given that the Government do not intend to give up this form of contract, but are perfectly happy in going on in the same way as they did before the War.
Let me give another instance where, if my information is correct, a little adaptability on the part of the War Office and a little business foresight would have saved this country a large sum of money. We have some 20,000 motor vehicles in France, or more than half the total number of vehicles, apart from motor cars, that existed in this country at the beginning of the War. It was necessary at the beginning of the War that the Government should have power to requisition all vehicles for Government service, and in pursuance of this power they requisitioned hundreds, and I think thousands, of omnibuses belonging to the London General Omnibus Company, and they had to pay a pretty smart price for them. I am informed that the London General Omnibus Company, at the beginning of the War, would have agreed to almost any proposition that the War Office had put forward, because, owing to their omnibuses being taken off the streets, they were afraid that they might lose the practical monopoly which they had by another company being formed in the near future, and that they would have to start all their business operations over again. They therefore came to the War Office and begged that some arrangement might be made similar to that which was made with the railways, namely, that the War Office would take over their vehicles and guarantee them the average of their dividends for the last three years preceding the War. The War Office refused entirely, and said it was outside their line of business. They preferred to go on requisitioning, much the same as they would if they took a farm from any hon. Member of this House. What has been the result? If the proposition made by the company when they were in a hole at the beginning of the War had been 2042 accepted, in 1914 no money would have been paid to the company; in 1915, I am informed, some £30,000 would have been paid; and this year, as far as one can judge, very little more on the average would be paid; whereas, if my information is correct, we have already paid the company for vehicles requisitioned £430,000, and more is still due. If this is correct, I submit that it shows a very great want of foresight on the part of the War Office, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will inquire into the matter. In the supply of machine guns, to take another matter, we might with a little management, if my information is correct, and I have no reason to doubt it, have saved £400,000 on an order which has been placed abroad. I will not mention the particular form of machine gun, but no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will have it in his mind. It is a gun which is now being manufactured in large quantities for ourselves and our Allies, and it has proved a very efficient weapon of war.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
Do you mean the Lewis gun?
§ Mr. ASHLEY
Yes. I am told that last December we placed abroad a large order for these guns, and that £1,400,000 was the price to be paid. There is no earthly reason why a particular big firm in the Midlands should not have been given that order. They could perefctly well have turned out the gun in the same time as the firm in the United States, and they would have executed the order for £1,000,000.
§ Mr. TENNANT
The hon. Gentleman cannot expect me to deal with a matter which does not come within my Department.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I quite appreciate the position of the right hon. Gentleman, but an hon. Member of this House cannot be expected not to bring forward cases where money might have been saved because the representative of the Ministry of Munitions chooses to be having his tea.
§ Mr. TENNANT
I was not complaining. I was only stating that being a matter for another Department, the hon. Member could not expect to get an answer from me.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I quite understand the right hon. Gentleman cannot carry all that in his mind. I am told that the answer may be that we are short of men here, 2043 that in England we have not sufficient skilled workmen, that we cannot provide them for making these guns, and that the order must, therefore, be sent abroad. My answer to that is that we have got a considerable number of skilled men here who are making things we could get more cheaply abroad—for instance, motor cars. We have a large number of men employed in making cars who could well be switched off on to making machine guns, and we could buy the motor cars considerably cheaper in the United States. It only wants a little business thought. Each Department should not work in a watertight compartment. One Department would die sooner than communicate with another. We had an instance of that only the other day, When the Admiralty neglected to communicate with Dublin Castle. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not reasonable to ask him to inquire into this matter? If these orders cannot be cancelled, at any rate let him see to it that these things shall not occur again.
Just take the two small questions—matters only involving a few thousand pounds; in themselves they are quite unimportant. The first is the case of the Eastern Command Headquarters in Pall Mall, and the second is the instance of the enormous house in Norfolk which has been taken for the General Officer Commanding the Northern defences. Why should it be necessary for the Eastern Command to be housed in that large building in the most expensive street in London, opposite the Guards' Club in Pall Mall? Surely, if it must be in London, which I do not admit, some less expensive building might have been obtained. Again, take the Norfolk Headquarters. Why for a General Officer Commanding, with a staff of ten or twelve officers, should you have taken the largest country house available? Why should you have requisitioned it under the Defence of the Realm Act? It contains eighty or ninety bedrooms, and you are bound to pay a thumping rent for it. You will have stripped it of all its costly furniture, and you will have to pay for the repair of the roads cut up by your motor traffic. It will cost the nation at least £10,000 a year. A decent-sized farmhouse, or a manor house, such as are to be found in abundance in the district, would have done equally well. I could give many more instances of the same sort, but I will not weary the House with them. I appeal to the Government, when they come down for these enormous 2044 sums of money, to try and control, not the heads of Departments, but the second or third heads, who are the people who spend the ratepayers' money, and who do so in reckless fashion, because they know they will not have to answer in this House. The heads of Departments are extremely busy people, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consult them and see if some sort of economy cannot be introduced.
§ Colonel YATE
I should like to revert for a moment or two to questions raised by the right hon. Member for Dundee (Colonel Churchill) in the speech which we have had from him this evening. On some of the points which he advanced I am in thorough agreement with him, and am prepared to support him in every way I can. For instance, when he asks that the establishment of the battalions at the front should be raised from 1,000 to 1,200, I support him. He pointed out how 250 men of a battalion were taken away for non-combatant service, and I agree with him: that the strength of the battalion should automatically be raised to 1,200, so that we may have its full fighting strength in the trenches. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the various reservoirs of men, and pointed out that at home, and especially about London, there are very large numbers of young, active men driving transport lorries and doing other non-combatant work. It makes one wonder why these young and active men are not at the front, instead of doing work in London and other places which might be equally well done by men over forty years of age.
The right hon. Gentleman touched on the remaining reservoirs abroad—in Africa and India. I quite agree with him that we ought to draw into our scheme every race and nationality that we have subject to us. I say nothing about the self-governing Dominions. They have done wonderfully well. We have seen the English officials in our Crown Colonies coming here, and contingents have been encouraged in every Crown Colony. We cannot expect these Colonies to be loyal unless we draw them within our sphere and get them to realise that they are part of the Empire; and just as the West Indies has sent their contingents I should like to see contingents from Malta, Cyprus, and Egypt and from every Colony with which we have anything to do. There are our African Colonies. We could take the men to Egypt and train them there for 2045 military work. That is an uncommonly good suggestion, and I should like to see it carried out. We have seen what the French have done with their Sengalese troops. They are fighting everywhere, and I see no reason why the British Empire should not bring about the same result with East African and South African troops. We know what grand fighting races they are. Take the Zulus. We have fought them many times. So we did the Sikhs. We fought them, and see now how they are fighting for us. I see no reason why we should not get the Zulus as well to fight for us. We could take them to Egypt and train them there, and then send them to where they would do good service. We should not retain them as an armed force in their own country. We should not keep them permanently, but there is no reason why we should not train them to serve abroad for the duration of the War.
Then there is the question concerning India. I think myself that the Chiefs of the Native States have done extremely well. They have behaved magnificently. They have placed their money and their resources at our disposal. It is not of them that I complain; there is no reluctance on their part. But I do think that sufficient has not been done in British districts. We here in England are raising four millions of men out of forty millions—that is, one man out of every ten of the population. In India the late Viceroy (Lord Hardinge), the present Commander-in-Chief, and the present Financial Member of the Government of India, are the three men who seem not to have risen to the occasion in India. I had occasion to refer to that last November, in connection with Mesopotamia and the want of troops there. Here is the Financial Member of the Council boasting that in India they have only an Income Tax of 1s. with a maximum of 1s. 3d. in the £, while we here are paying 5s. with a maximum much over that, and will probably have to pay a great deal more. India is perfectly willing to bear her share, and the more she shares in the national burden, the better it is. I do not think it right for the Financial Member of the Government of India to boast that he is saving India taxation when she is quite willing to bear her proper share. We know the Army has been starved in everything. We know that in Mesopotamia there was a failure to send enough troops.
2046 Large forces might easily have been raised in India. In connection with recruiting I think that the Commander-in-Chief has not risen to the occasion. He has made no use of the civil authorities. In England the whole of the municipalities throughout the country have joined in forming recruiting committees, but at the present moment in India that work is left to a few young British officers. People in the country have not been brought into the Army in the way they should have been, and that is why I say the authorities in India have not risen to the occasion. I know it is objected that we have neither officers nor equipment there. But the equipment is being made, while as to officers we went through the Mutiny with Irregulars. We had very few English officers at that time, and I showed myself how Irregulars could be raised again now. They do not want all British officers; they do not want British uniforms. They would do well providing they have one British officer. The authorities have no imagination in India at the present time, or they would have done much more. We do not want the complete equipment down to the last button; we want to make use of the material we have got there. In these matters I heartily support the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, and I hope sincerely that his suggestions will be taken in hand, that the Finance Minister will not think that his only object is to save India extra taxation, and that the Commander-in-Chief and the present Viceroy will make use of the supply of material which is available there for the Empire.
I am glad to see the representative of the Navy in his place, and I wish to ask him if he will now tell us what is the present state of the Prize Bounty Fund and prize money due to the Navy, and when he hopes to be able to pay it out. There is great anxiety throughout the Naval Service about this. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the money cannot be distributed until the end of the War. I ask him to put that idea out of his mind altogether. Let him pay an interim dividend, and raise the hopes of the men that they are really going to get something. Will he explain how it is we see in the papers that enormous sums have been deducted from the money due to the Navy for legal fees and expenses? Let us have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that these legal fees and legal 2047 expenses are not to be taken from the money legitimately due to the officers and men of the Navy. Let them be assured they are going to get the money they have really won. There is great anxiety about this matter, and I therefore hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us how the fund stands at present, when it is going to be distributed, and when the first interim dividend will be divided among those entitled to it.
§ Major MURRAY
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Colonel Churchill) made a very interesting speech, and I think this House and the country owe him a debt of gratitude for the fresh light he has thrown on many matters connected with the Army. With one suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman I entirely agree, and that is that the battalions at the front should be brought up from their present strength to a strength of 1,200, or thereabouts. That would make a great difference from many points of view, and it certainly would add to the effectiveness, and probably give the troops of the line more rest than they at present enjoy. Another suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman in connection with the reservoirs to which he made allusion was that the Cavalry divisions at present at the front should be dismounted and that the present regiments should be turned into Infantry battalions of the strength up to which the Infantry battalions there now should be brought. I can imagine the storm which the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion would arouse throughout the Cavalry in France. That would not matter so much if the policy were a sound one, but, with all deference to the right hon. Gentleman, I cannot think that it is sound. It is too early in the War, if I may use that expression, to say that Cavalry will not be needed at some moment or other in a particular theatre of War. I know very well, from experience, how soon dismounted Cavalry become totally unfit to do work as Cavalry after they have been a certain length of time in the trenches. Therefore, with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I hope the Government will not adopt that particular suggestion.
The right hon. Gentleman also alluded to certain portions in the line in which there are from day to day many casualties and from which he said it might be possible, without detriment to the military position, to retrace our steps. That sug- 2048 gestion deserves very full consideration indeed from the Government. No doubt there are sentimental considerations for holding on to this or that particular portion of the line, but we should not be governed entirely by sentimental considerations. The military situation is the only consideration that really counts, and the Government ought not to allow sentimental considerations to weigh in any policy they may determine to adopt in that respect. The right hon. Gentleman made certain remarks regarding the disposition of our forces in the East. He asked, "What is the great Army in Egypt doing; what is the Army now assembled at Salonika doing, or what is it going to do?" If I correctly interpret his remarks, he suggested that all our forces in the Near East should be withdrawn and employed in a different quarter.
§ Major MURRAY
It is a very difficult thing for anyone, either in this House or in the country, to criticise what I may term the larger strategic operations of this War without a full knowledge of the facts. I do not suggest the right hon. Gentleman has not a full knowledge, but if he has a larger knowledge than anyone else it is, of course, due to certain things to which I need not allude. But there are hon. Members in this House, there are people outside, and there are journalists in the Press, who, without a full knowledge of the facts, criticise this or that operation. It is quite impossible for anyone without inside knowledge to know what effect a particular operation in a particular theatre of war has had upon the general conduct of the War, and whether it has had a successful effect or otherwise, unless he knows everything that it is necessary to know in connection with the general strategic situation. I feel sure that certain of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks will be taken up tomorrow in a section of the Press, and that they will be used as a weapon with which again to beat the Government for particular operations which have been conducted in the Eastern theatre of war. I say that because the right hon. Gentleman, knowing more, perhaps, than other people, is able to bring to bear more accurate criticism than the ordinary individual. That, if I may say so with all respect, is why he should have been somewhat guarded in criticising, seeing that 2049 other individuals have not had the same opportunities as himself for access to the facts about this War.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
Perhaps I may be allowed to reply to the questions put to me by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Melton. (Colonel Yate) with regard to the distribution of prize money and prize bounty in the Navy. I think I can do so quite shortly, and, I hope, simply. The position with regard to the distribution of prize money to the Navy is this: that instead of, as in the past, making the award of prize money to the actual captors, the net value of the prizes taken will be pooled and distributed among the whole of the Fleet engaged in this War at the close of hostilities, under a scale of distribution to be approved. This change in the method of distribution, which I know has the complete concurrence of my right hon. Friend who was then the First Lord of the Admiralty (Colonel Churchill), is considered to be more fair all round. It gives the men engaged in fighting the enemy just the same chance of an equal share as the men guarding the trade routes. Besides, in these modern days, liners of very great value might conceivably have been captured by craft carrying a comparatively small personnel, therefore the all round share system seems fairer. This system of pooling, which is the new basis of distribution of prize money, as my hon. and gallant Friend will see, necessarily makes the distribution from time to time—which would have been possible if we gave prize money to the actual captor—impossible. Much as I should like it, and all of as would like it, I do not think it is at all possible to declare what he calls an interim dividend, because of the system of pooling of distribution throughout the whole of the Fleet as I have described it. Even if this were not so, the new conditions of naval warfare, the participation of Dominion ships in naval engagements, the existence of Prize Courts throughout the Empire and so on, all these things make periodic instalments or interim dividends of prize money practically impossible, much as we should like to make them.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Under the new system of pooling, supposing a man is a fortnight in the Service and is then invalided out, would his share be the same as that of a man who is in the Service throughout the whole of the War?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I think that is one of the points we have to consider very carefully and one not to be lost sight of. We shall consider whether he will get the usual unit which those who are engaged during the whole period of hostilities will get or some smaller unit. That is not yet decided.
§ Colonel YATE
If you secure the issue of an interim dividend, would there be any difficulty about it?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I am afraid it is practically impossible under the system of pooling in which all are to share. The point shall be looked into again, but I think the periodical instalment system for prize money is out of the question. As regards the charges against the Fund to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred, of course it is our wish and desire that they should be kept as low as possible. As an evidence of that, I may point out that under the old conditions the ships' agents were entitled to a commission of 2½ per cent. on the net proceeds of the prize. We propose to dispense, as regards prize money, with ships agents altogether. I mention that as evidence of our desire to keep the charges as low as possible.
§ Colonel YATE
As to legal expenses, we saw a case in the papers last Saturday. Will those expenses all be charged against naval men or against the Government?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
There are certain charges in respect of sales, and so on, which are inevitable, but it is our desire that they should be kept as low as possible. I come to the second question raised by my hon. and gallant Friend as to how prize bounty stands. This is very much more simple and follows broadly the old lines. Prize bounty represents an award from Treasury funds equal to £5 per head of the personnel of the enemy warships sunk or captured to the crews of His Majesty's ships taking part. That award is made under a scale of distribution, and for the purposes of this award the scale of distribution has been determined by Order in Council, and was published in the "Gazette," of 29th February, of this year. The Fleet have beer, instructed to send into the Admiralty any applications they may have to make for prize bounty, with which only I am dealing now. We have a number of these in our possession already. As soon as each case is complete in respect of the claim for bounty, the ships' agents, who do come 2051 in here, will be put in possession of any essential information in our possession as to the number of the ship's company, and so an, so that the claim may be presented to the Prize Court. Here, again, I am afraid the award may be restricted by a consideration which I must mention. Before the case is presented to the Court we have to decide whether there is any objection, from the point of view of the public interest, to the full disclosure in public—that is what it comes to—of the details of any given action. Subject to that, which is the only consideration which would cause us to hang up any particular case, we shall, of course, allow every claim to be laid before the Court, and we shall instruct the Accountant-General's Department to make the payment thereafter without delay in every case where award is given by the Court under the scale of distribution to which I have already referred. One case has already been decided by the Prize Court, namely, the claim of the "Carmania" for the destruction of the "Cap Trafalgar." The Prize Court has awarded a sum of £2,115, and all the necessary steps have been taken to distribute this sum under the scheme of distribution to the officers and crew of the "Carmania." At least two other cases are being prepared for submission to the Court by the ships' agents. I will deal with the question put by the hon. and gallant Member (Commander Bellairs) as to the case of men who may be only a short time in the Service. In respect of men who may die, both prize bounty and prize money form part of the estate of an officer or man, and if not paid to the officer or man himself is paid to his legal representative. I hope I have satisfied the hon. and gallant Gentleman how the matter of prize money and prize bounty stands.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I am prepared to leave strategy to the strategists, naval or military, real or ideal, actual or imaginary, and I do not propose to touch upon any of the questions which they have raised, nor will I, as I had intended to do, trouble the Under-Secretary for War with the question of fighting in Dublin, because the Prime Minister gave me a very sympathetic and satisfactory answer to-day. I will pass from the subject merely remarking that the description of what happened there as a featherbed rebellion has caused great distress and indignation in the county from which the Sherwood Foresters are recruited, and I hope the right hon. 2052 Gentleman will in concert with the Prime Minister inquire into the statement made by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. T. M. Healy) that the regiment took the Loophole road instead of the Broad road, and therefore incurred these crushing casualties so that we may know in Nottinghamshire what are the facts regarding this matter. It is admitted on all hands that these two battalions behaved under most difficult circumstances—young and inexperienced troops—with the utmost gallantry and it is desirable that we should know what actually occurred on this occasion.
With that remark I leave the subject, and only wish to refer for a minute to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman (Colonel Churchill). He was of opinion that India had not played its part in regard to the War, and my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Yate) seemed entirely to accept that view. I accept it in so far as I do not think the Indian Government have given the pecuniary assistance they might have done, and as the late Viceroy has said that the enemies of British rule are not to be found amongst the intellectuals of India, I do not know where they are to be found, and I think more Indian troops, if they were wanted, might have been spared for Mesopotamia or the French front. I do not pretend to know whether those troops are so suitable for use in France and Flanders as elsewhere, but the authorities have made the experiment. I give them credit for having made it, and I am prepared to believe that they have some reason which actuated them in the distribution of the troops, and I am not joining at all in attacking them on that ground. I should like to see greater use made of the gallant Indian Army, particularly in all operations in the East and in Egypt. I thoroughly agree with the right hon. Gentleman (Colonel Churchill) that more efforts might be made to make use of the material in Africa. With one portion of Africa I have intimate connection. In the Protectorate of Nyasaland I am convinced that many gallant and useful troops can be raised—in fact, they have been raised—and have been officered by planters and the employés of various companies operating there. They have covered themselves with distinction in the field, and have proved to be brave troops. They fight well with their English leaders, and I think in that direction, certainly, a great deal might be done to develop the resources of the Empire and to bring them all to bear in this great crisis. I did mot altogether 2053 agree with the Indian Finance Minister when I saw him congratulating himself upon the low taxation which prevails in India at a time when the Home Country is taxed so desperately, and necessarily and properly, in order to carry on the War. In Southern India I feel certain troops could be spared wholesale. There is really no danger there which would be incurred by sending more troops, if they can be usefully employed, to Egypt or Mesopotamia, or other areas of the War. As regards Upper India, it is not so clear that the country might be denuded of troops, or indeed in Bengal, but I believe more native troops could be spared, and I join my right hon. Friend (Colonel Churchill) in hoping that every effort will be made to enlarge the contribution in men and money of the Indian Empire to the largest possible extent. I am not attacking the Government on this point at all. I believe they have made a bold experiment in sending to France the troops they did, and I am prepared to believe that there, and in Mesopotamia, a country with which I have some personal acquaintance, there have been reasons for their action in withdrawing them which have perhaps not been made public, and that it is unwise of us to join in wholesale criticism without being aware of all the circumstances of the case.
As regards the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Ashley) and what he said about economy, with which I heartily agreed, I very much regretted that amongst those economies there is not going to be a resort to premium bonds, which would certainly be a great source of profit and economy, and which I believe are not adopted merely for pedantic and sentimental reasons with which I have no sympathy whatsoever. One other word and I have done. I wish the Government would reconsider the appointment of barristers in order to examine claims for financial assistance on the Civil Liabilities Committee. I am not objecting to them at all because they are barristers, but I think sixty-six barristers cannot possibly deal with this work, and that the tribunals themselves would do it far better, and could do it pari passu with their other work, to which it immediately relates, and I earnestly hope the Government will reconsider that point, and that the House will not consider that I have entered too much into detail on this day, which, I believe, it is desired to devote as far as possible to the larger aspects of the War.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I desire to intervene in order to strike what I think is a new note. The right hon. Gentleman (Col. Churchill) seldom rises without saying something original and striking, and one remark of his, I think, is important, that in regard to events which are actually passing under our eyes we should endeavour if possible to obtain the historical perspective, so as by that means to acquire the necessary impartiality and objectivity and scientific judgment which will enable us to form a correct opinion of the events which are now transpiring. If anyone would acquire something of that historical perspective, I think nothing would be more remarkable than that in the midst of this, the most terrible war of human experience, and at a stage which is rapidly becoming decisive, the House of Commons is entirely listless, not with the confidence of men marching on to victory, but rather with the listlessness of men who see no prospect of victory, but find no escape from the dilemma in which they are placed by the incapacity, proved again and again up to the hilt, of those who are directing the War from that Front Bench. The figures which have been quoted by the Prime Minister are almost amazing in their importance. What is the result? It is disaster on every line on which British troops are fighting. This must be brought home, if not to the minds of Members of the House, at least to the minds of citizens of the country, so that they can bring the necessary pressure in order to shake the Cabinet out of the lethargy into which it has lapsed. That result has been due not to any failure on the part of the soldiers, for they have shown a valour and intrepidity worthy of the best days of the national history; it is evidently due to lack of leadership on the part of those who have controlled the War. The right hon. Gentleman said that the initiative which the Germans have displayed might be the result of dash on their part, or it might, on the other hand, show a certain anxiety as to the final result. If lack of initiative were the proof of any higher philosophical qualities, this country would be able to balance the material success of the Germans by the favourite cry which is heard after an election is lost, that the moral victory was ours. If those ideas prevail that will be the only kind of victory which will grace the annals of this country during this War.
On every front again we have this extraordinary condition presented that the whole operations of the campaign are con- 2055 ducted without any concerted plans at all, but in a sort of haphazard fashion, as if our military leaders, or the members of the Cabinet who are directing the War, were unable to use any foresight, even such as is given to ordinary men, and never observed any fact or any incident till it struck them in the face, and that then they had no other resource except surprised indignation. They are helpless, drifting, devising makeshift experiments in campaigns with which they present the country and this House. It is one of the most disastrous features of these disastrous campaigns that a great many of them have not been military campaigns at all. They have simply been political campaigns to throw dust in the eyes of Members of the House.
Take, for instance, the Balkan campaign. Those who have criticised the Government are often twitted with being wise after the event. Long before that event there were many men—I may mention myself amongst them—who clearly foresaw the whole sequence of the events which followed upon the massing of the German troops upon the Danube, and who saw months before, while there was yet time to save the situation, that the best line of attack was upon the Danube, striking at the most vulnerable and most undefended parts of the German Empire. If at a certain period we had had the foresight not to desert Serbia in the cowardly way in which she was deserted, but, responding to the true soldierly instinct, had rallied to her aid in her distress, and placed a million men upon the Danube, not only would you have menaced the very heart of Germany, but you would have secured the adhesion of Bulgaria, of Roumania, and of Greece, and would have transformed the whole face of this campaign. That is what I say now, and it has been verified by every incident of that disastrous campaign, and that is what I said months before it was too late to make it a reality. The right hon. and gallant Member for Dundee has said from his own experience that the resources we have have not been properly employed. Again, that is through no fault on the part of the men, but evidently through fault in the leadership. I know very many men who have served months in the trenches who, through the way in which they are employed, have the fine edge worn off their zeal and enthusiasm by a continual 2056 round of corvées, of almost uselss tasks, at which they are kept under the old spirit of routine, so that even some of the bravest men have lost the necessary dash and keenness.
There again, if that problem had been properly tackled the remedy would have been found. The one principle for the selection and promotion of officers should be their merit in the field; testing them by actual results. That infallible standard should be applied, beginning at the very highest, Lord Kitchener himself. I do not propose now to traverse the career of Lord Kitchener during this War, because there will be a separate Debate on his salary. But when we do gain the historical sense, when we are able to read of all these events with historical objectivity, the one disastrous man will seem to have been the Minister for War, whose blunders are worthy of the swollen reputation he had acquired. Why is he there? Is there one member of the Cabinet who, with perfect sincerity, would defend that appointment and say even now that he is the best man in the best place, and that he has justified his selection? If any man in the Cabinet dared to rise in his place and defend such a statement, how would he meet the accusation that this great man, who was proved such a wonderful success, has been robbed of his attributes one by one until nothing is left to him now as a military adviser or war director? Ministers themselves, by their acts, have been the severest critics of Lord Kitchener, but by their cowardice they have failed to proceed to the final step which would reassure the country, not only because of the removal of Lord Kitchener, but by showing that there were men at the head of the State, men who could replace him by a man of energy and power and brain.
I do not propose to follow out in detail the criticism and blunders of the Government. It woud take too long. Moreover, the opportunity will be presented later, for there will be many Votes of Credit, each one resulting in the same futile attempts and the same futile results. On the occasion of the Air Debate we had a spectacle of the same kind of tacit conspiracy to shield all manner of failures and inefficiency in this House. I am not speaking now as one who is wise after the event. Months ago in this House I advocated a course of action which the Government have fully justified, because months afterwards they have realised it, though in a very weak and faulty imitation.
2057 I insist upon this point, which I have raised before, that for the conduct of this War we want not the tricks and subterfuges of lawyers, accustomed to specious arguments, to convince assemblies of men, but we want men who have been trained to face realities. We want men of the minds and training of engineers, for example, whose works are tested not by courts and juries, but by the forces of Nature themselves, and who by virtue of their training have an innate sense of responsibility and reality. These men can be found. In answer to the usual query, "Who would you put in the place of the present men?" I may say that I can furnish names, but not on this occasion. I will turn that reply, and I will say, "If that be your last argument, and if the men now representing you are the best available in this War, then already you have sealed your doom." These men have written a record which will remain long imperishable. That record is the handwriting on the wall. One by one the avenues of victory have been closed. One by one the resources of the Empire have been frittered away or made of small importance. Only a few means of success now remain, before the adamantine gates of fate close. What we want is a plan, well based, well thought out, pointing to ultimate victory, and pursued with resolution and coherence, step by step, until its final accomplishment. During all these twenty months of war no shadow of such a plan has been given us.
Now the right hon. and gallant Member for Dundee puts forward as the best finish to this campaign a war of attrition. That is to say, whereas we have spent now over £2,000,000,000, if we are to continue fighting upon these lines it will mean spending £10,000,000,000, and even then, I believe, with no attainable results. I say that to come to that conclusion and to present that impasse is a shameful result of the work of a Government which has been occupied all these months, with all the resources of the Empire, conducting a war against rivals of such great organising power and such great military spirit. We want a plan. We have the men. The common soldier is superior as an individual to the German soldier, and I believe there is enough brain in this country if we can find it. We must find it, and bring the best men to the fore, so that throughout every rank the one principle of promotion will be that of Napoleon himself—"La carriere ouverte aux talents" ("the 2058 career open to talents"), so that the common soldier can feel that he carries the marshal's baton in his knapsack. That principle should be carried out rigorously, because the very life of the nation depends upon it. Every leader must "make good," as the Americans say, and must be tried by the one standard of results. If he fail to achieve those results he should be replaced; a new man should be tried, that one who is the most likely and the most available, and if he fails he should be replaced, and so on by a rigorous process of continual selection right throughout the ranks until you are sure that the men who are leading are the best available men, and that they will have the confidence of the common soldier. In place of that clear, coherent plan the Government has presented us once more, as they have so often done, with that wonderful picture in which their effigy might be exposed—a sort of cross between Fabius Maximus and Micawber. There will be other opportunities of trying to do what I have done on other occasions, namely, to instil into the Government some foresight, some courage, and some energy.
§ Sir J. WALTON
To bring this War to a triumphant issue it is, above all, necessary at the present moment to conserve the financial resources of the nation in every possible way. We have in to-day's Vote of Credit brought up the total of our Votes of Credit to the gigantic sum of £2,382,000,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us the other day that the estimated National Debt at the end of the present financial year would be no less than £3,440,000,000, including the £800,000,000 lent to our Allies. The deficit still to raise after this £300,000,000 Vote of Credit for the current year alone is £723,000,000. The expenditure is estimated at £1,825,000,000, less the £502,000,000 of taxation revenue, which leaves £1,323,000,000. Towards that we have two Votes of Credit of £300,000,000 each, leaving Votes of Credit in the year ending 31st March still to be brought forward of no less than £723,000,000. We are entitled to know, in face of this enormous and unprecedented expenditure, what has been done recently to secure that the taxpayers of the country should get better value for their money. There is no question whatever that untold millions have been wasted in the various Departments of the State during the conduct of this War, in mistakes they have made in the buying departments and 2059 otherwise, especially in connection with the mishandling and lack of expert management in controlling and directing the operations of the huge fleet of mercantile marine steamers of eight or nine million tons for naval and military and other Government purposes. I have brought before the Admiralty the question of insurance. They take war risks, and I suggest that they should take also, by the same machinery that they arrange the war risks, total loss risks on the whole of the shipping that they now employ. I say unhesitatingly, on the judgment of some of the greatest marine insurance experts in the Kingdom, that they might have effected a saving of anything from £1,000,000 to £2,000,000 a year if they had adopted that suggestion, and the only reason against adopting it was that they had not got a department to work it. The same machinery that deals with war risks could also deal easily with total loss risks.
The great important question facing the nation is, how can we lessen expenditure without lessening efficiency, and how can we increase the margin of our national income available for taxation and loan. The nation as a whole even to-day has not realised the urgent necessity which there is for the strictest economy in every department of the public service and in private life, and I have to complain that the Government seem themselves not to have realised the urgent necessity, and that we do require and ought to have from them a lead in this matter of a kind that they have not hitherto given. We had committees appointed, and when we are asked to vote £300,000,000 more for the carrying on of this War, we ought to have had from that bench a definite statement as to what has been the result of the appointment of the Economy Committees in connection with the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Ministry of Munitions. It is high time that those Committees reported the results of their efforts to retrench and save a waste of public money, but not a word is vouchsafed to us. What is the use of appointing Committees of this kind if you do not follow the matter up and get to know from them how far they have found on investigation that money could be saved and what economies they could effect? I think that we ought to-night to have a definite statement under those heads. There was another important 2060 committee appointed which simply played with the question, and expenses amounting to only 4 per cent. were cut down. If that is to be the measure of the economies which we are to practise in face of the enormous expenditure, the financial position in this country will prove to be most serious.
We cannot beat Germany in the matter of economic exhaustion. She has no imports to pay for, except a few that she smuggles in. A printing press is turning out twenty, ten, and five Mark notes, without any regard to gold reserve, but simply guaranteed by the German Government and accepted as legal tender by the people in the German nation. Why, on those lines, how can she ever suffer financial exhaustion, so long as the War goes on? When the War is over the financial collapse will be such as the world never knew before. But during the War, so long as the people are perfectly willing to accept as legal tender between themselves these notes, multiplied simply by working a printing press night and day, what hope is there of beating Germany by economic exhaustion? What we have got to look to is to prevent this nation suffering from economic exhaustion, and that can only be done by a very different and more stringent policy than that which has yet been employed by the Government. The practice of economy, both public and private, has been urged in some eloquent speeches, but the result has been practically nil. What we need to-day is that compulsion should be applied. Take the question of our excess of imports over exports. We sold all our American securities to square that to a considerable extent during the last six months; but we are to-day importing at the rate of £700,000,000 a year more than we are exporting. Our American securities are gone. How are we going to discharge those obligations, as regards the excess of imports over exports, say, six months hence? The situation is most serious, and the only way to reduce that seriousness is that the Government should have courage, and should at once stop the import into this country of everything that is not needed for the national life or the prosecution of the War.
They could have reduced the imports very substantially by pursuing a strong policy of that nature, but they have not the courage to shut out the expensive furs that the ladies wear, and all the expensive garbs and hats, and the feathers that are 2061 got by the cruel slaughter of the most beautiful birds in the world, such as the birds of paradise. The Government are too much under petticoat government to effect substantial economies by shutting out luxuries of those descriptions. Look at the shop windows of London, and is there any sign of war? Is there any sign of national self-denial and the practice of rigid economy? I never saw the windows decked with more beautiful articles of luxury than they are to-day. But, after all, this question is absolutely vital if we are to conserve our financial position. We meet taxation willingly, even £500,000,000 a year, but we cannot be taxed 10s. in the pound by Income Tax, Super-tax, and other taxes and also have money for war loans to the same extent. The danger is that we are going to spend enormous amounts of our pre-war capital. We should meet the expenditure of the War to the greatest possible extent out of the income of the year. What is going to happen at the end of the War if we decrease our pre-war capital? It means that when we need further capital to extend business, to manufacture increased commodities, to pay our debts abroad, we shall not have the capital to employ in the conduct and extension of that business. We have to raise this year £1,700,000,000 to clear us to the 31st of March. We were told to-day that we have got £660,000,000 of Treasury Bills towards that. What is the use of that as a permanent arrangement? The moment that the end of the War appears in sight, how many of your Treasury Bills will be redeemed—Treasury Bills at three, six, and nine months? Practically none. The shipowners will say, "We want our capital back to rebuild and replace the ships that have been lost." Other manufacturers and people in other industries will say they need to reconstitute their business and expend fresh capital to do an increased business. If we are going to conserve our economic resources, what we ought to do is to raise the money for this Vote of Credit and for other Votes of Credit by long-date loans free of Income Tax. The fact is that unless we have long-date loans in place of those Treasury Bills—why, the Treasury Bill arrangement was never intended to be used in the wholesale fashion in which it is used; it was never contemplated that they would borrow under that sanction—
§ Sir J. WALTON
I beg your pardon. I had in mind the saving of money by raising it without delaying the issue of a loan, but I quite appreciate your correction that it does appear to come more properly within the Finance Bill. But another way of assisting our finances would be by the increased production of food at home. It was discussed last night, but it does not seem to me that we are at the end of our resources, and with good will all round, and the proper employment of women and children, we might increase the food production at home.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I really fail to see the relevance of that. This proposal is to give a Vote of Credit of £300,000,000 to the Government to carry on the War. Anything arising from that can be referred to, but these other matters are of wider and more general application.
§ Sir J. WALTON
I thought that we were entitled, when we were asked to sanction the Government spending £300,000,000 before any taxation to raise it has been imposed, to ask how they proposed to raise it, or how they proposed to shape our finance, in order to enable us as a nation to bear the total accumulated amount of the different Votes of Credit. At any rate, I presume that I was in order on the question of the reduction of expenditure on the Army, Navy, and Minister of Munitions Department, as by that course the Votes of Credit would be reduced. We certainly ought to have a Report from the Committee appointed to try to get retrenchment in connection with the Ministry of Munitions. There is no question that we are paying the United States probably £2, if not £3, for every pound's worth of munitions of war that come over. Surely we ought to know, when we are granting the Government the power to spend £300,000,000, what is to be done in that respect. The question of effecting economies and getting more value for our money is what I had mainly in view. It is necessary for the Government to give us a lead, and I hope that we shall have more information given to the House as to what steps are being taken with this most important object in view, and that we shall 2063 have some assurance that these Committees that were appointed have not all been allowed to go to sleep.
§ Major NEWMAN
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken. The hon. Member who preceded him completely misunderstands the position. He talked about the British House of Commons sitting listlessly, and he spoke about the English people being listless. He is quite wrong in that. I would suggest that the hon. Member did not show the best of taste in attacking the Secretary of State for War.
§ Mr. LYNCH
On a point of Order. The hon. and gallant Member has made a point that I have no right here to attack the Secretary of State for War. That point has been made before. I would like a ruling on that point, as to whether a Member here has not a perfect right, if he feels it his absolute duty, to attack the administration of any member of the Cabinet, whether he be represented in this House or not.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is entitled to attack anybody or everybody except those whose salaries are on the Consolidated Fund. Those he cannot attack.
§ Major NEWMAN
I venture to suggest that the hon. Member for Clare was not in the best of taste in attacking the Secretary of State for War, more especially as fifteen years ago he was fighting against him in arms. I leave that question and proceed to the few remarks which I wish to make to the House. We have been reminded this afternoon that one person in every ten of our population is under arms. That is the reason why a very great proportion of the large sum which is to be voted will be for the upkeep of this enormous mass of men—nearly 4,000,000. The point is whether we are getting the best value for our money from these soldiers, and, further, is the Army at the front getting the best value in the way of recruits for which we are paying so much. I do not believe that in a single army, whether it be German, French, Italian, Russian, or our own, are the officers satisfied with the quality and training of the recruits gent out to them. Every army has complaint to make of the recruits not having been sufficiently trained, and so on. A couple of months ago there came officially before me a com- 2064 plaint from an officer commanding at the front about a draft of recruits which had been sent out to him. His communication was of a sarcastic character, his report on the draft being as follows:They certainly cannot march. I do not think they can shoot; some of them cannot eat, but I understand they often sleep.Of course, there are difficulties to be encountered where it is the task of the battalion to supply drafts to three battalions at the front, which are, at the particular moment, losing men every day. The draft to which I have referred, consisting of twenty men, was the only draft that could be sent out; they were the only men available in the drafting battalion. Of the 650 men in the reserve battalion half the men were rejects, men unfit for foreign service, and left behind when the other battalions went to the front. The other half consisted of raw recruits, and there were really no properly trained drafts in that drafting battalion at all. It is ancient history that the Kitchener Army was a new Army formed without a reserve, for in the early days of the War there was a rush to create new battalions of the New Army, individual action being taken, and committees being formed, all patriotically inclined to raise battalions, with the result that battalion after battalion was raised without anything being done for reserve at all. Hon. Members know that a drastic method was adopted, and that the Kitchener Army was divided into Kitchener Armies 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5; and in regard to the Kitchener Army 4, it was transferred into the Reserve, and all its battalions became drafting battalions. I need hardly remind the House of the disappointment which was caused to many officers who were commanding the units in this fourth Army, for naturally they were expecting to be at the front in a few months. Many a gallant officer was disappointed at that time.
What I want to impress upon the Committee is that a drafting battalion is a drafting battalion and is not a battalion for Home defence. The two are totally different, but there is a general inclination to mix them together, and that, to my mind, is the main cause of the trouble which has arisen. I remember very well that one morning I was asked to inspect a draft of men sent to this particular drafting battalion. It was a draft of forty men, many with one eye some with only one eye and the other very bad; some lame; one I called forward, as he appeared to me to be 2065 the only well-set-up man fit to go to the front, had one leg shorter than the other. Such men as these ought not to be in the drafting battalion, where they are totally out of place. Some few days after another draft of recruits was sent, and I was asked by the senior officers of the unit to address them. They were paraded, and I told them that they would have to learn the duties of a soldier, as in a very few weeks they would find themselves in the trenches alongside their comrades, and fighting for their country. The sergeant-major touched me on the shoulder and, begging my pardon, informed me that the men I was addressing were only for Home service, and not one of them for foreign service. I asked why they were sent to a drafting battalion which had to train recruits for service at the front. He answered me, "If you do not know, I do not know." These men were only fit for garrison service, and yet they were all dumped down on this drafting battalion. Of course, amid all these difficulties, we have to keep trying to train enough recruits to feed three battalions actively engaged at the front. Recruits now can only be given a few weeks' training—I will not say how many weeks, but only a few—in which to learn them the trade of a soldier, to form fours, to use the rifle, to shoot, to bayonet, and to bomb. All that has to be done in a few weeks, though ordinarily it should take at least a year. It is positive cramming, all done in a short time.
So long as that is the case, the recruit, when intended for service abroad, ought not to be detached from his training for anything whatsoever. Mark what happens. If the recruits find their way into one of those battalions where part of the work is garrison work and part the training of recruits for the front—if they get into one of those half-and-half battalions, in the case of a great many of them their time, which ought to be devoted to the bayonet, to learning to shoot, and to bombing, and so forth, is, as a matter of fact, occupied in garrison duty, while young recruits, who have never fired a shot out of a rifle, are put to guard very important posts, where they might have to use the rifle which they do not know how to handle; other recruits are put on picket guard on the country roads. Each recruit ought to be kept to the work which is to fit him for service at the front in the few weeks which are allowed for his training. I submit that you must differentiate wholly between the recruit who is 2066 intended only for garrison service at home and the young soldier who is fit for active service, and who has only a few weeks in which to cram all his training for the front. You must put the soldier who is going to serve at the front in the training camp, and you must put the soldier who is intended only for Home service in a garrison town. Until you do that you will undoubtedly have a great deal of waste. I have alluded to the number of men who are rejects and left behind. In a great many places they are not worth keeping in the Army at all—men who are lame, or have only one eye, or have very bad varicose veins, or flat feet, and things of that sort. I submit that it would be better to get these men out of the Army as soon as possible, and put them into the Military Reserve, if you like. If we were any other nation except what we are, such men would be at once employed in munition work or railway work. We should try to make it easier to get these men out of the Army, and not to waste money on them. I am convinced if the Secretary of State for War will consider these two or three points which I have raised we will get better value for our money than has been obtained so far.
§ Mr. TOOTILL
Since I became a Member of this House I have not, as hon. Members are aware, frequently interposed in its Debates, and I would not have intervened on this occasion had it not been that I feel impelled to do so by the criticisms which have been offered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee. For some time there has been a cry for an effective Opposition in this House. I think the contribution which he made in the Debate this afternoon is worthy of the very closest attention of the Government. He dealt with the Army in the field, and how it could be much better organised and more efficiently displayed, and with the Army at home. On that, point, as one who has been fortunate enough—shall I say?—to see actual fighting and to have run certain risks, I have felt for some considerable time that the organisation of the Forces at home needs some attention. To the civilian mind it is a disturbing feature to see on every station platform and almost at every country lane and street soldiers walking about with evidently nothing much to do and having a very fine time of it. I think as a layman that something ought to be done if we 2067 ever intend to make this projected onslaught, this great effort which is to be made, and it seems to me we have sufficient men at our command to set about this particular work. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out some of the mistakes and deficiencies the Government had displayed, and in fact suggested to me from his remarks that the Government did not feel the responsibility they ought to feel in the conduct of this War. Nobody ought to feel more the gravity and seriousness of the military and civil situation than those on the Government Bench. When we are talking of their inefficiencies and incapacities and blunders such as are sometimes alleged, we ought to say to ourselves at the same time—what is the alternative? Have you the men to put in their place more capable of doing so? I believe that those who criticise the Government or its mistakes should be prepared with the substantial alternative. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last went into a great many details about the training of troops, but it seemed to me that his remarks would be more appropriate addressing troops than this House unless he was making the point that we were not doing what we ought to do in a scientific and organised manner to prevent waste in the subject of which he was speaking.
I rose to emphasise one point made by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Wardle). Notwithstanding differences among the Members of the Labour party—and there have been acute differences, as the House will have observed—my hon. Friend was absolutely correct when he said that on any of the Votes that had been brought before the House with regard to the financial supply for the Army and other military necessities, that there had never been an attempt to discountenance anything that came forward in that respect, but that the party unanimously supported those Votes of Credit as they came forward. On that point, I think, there has been absolute unanimity in the Labour party. The hon. Member for East Clare (Mr. Lynch) made a gratuitous and uncalled-for attack upon the Minister for War. I am sure that the Minister for War feels the seriousness and great responsibility of his task, and that it is not possible to conduct it without making mistakes. He does not, I am sure, and I hope no one in this House does, claim to be infallible. Mistakes and inefficiencies are associated with us all. I 2068 have always said and believed that forty years' preparation needed some competing with, and that is what we are too apt to forget. The working classes of this country are bearing their share of the burdens of this War in a way which deserves the acknowledgment of the Government and of this House. I believe they are prepared still to bear the burden and do their duty in this great time of trouble. Some of us have visited the great works of this country and spoken to the men as to the necessity of putting their whole life and energy into the work for the larger output of the necessities of war. We have found that very much good has been done by those efforts, and the acknowledgments made yesterday by the Minister of Munitions when he called us together were ample reward for all of us, especially when we found that there was such a large increase in the output of munitions by reasons of those efforts and the efforts of the Ministry itself.
I think when criticisms are offered like those of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee that they are entitled to an answer, and no doubt in due course an answer will be forthcoming. I have only voted once against the Government since I came here, and I hope I am not going to have—shall I say?—the personal annoyance of having to vote against them again, but if they deserve it I hope I shall have courage enough to do so. Those who say that Ministers are in the habit of making mistakes should substantiate and prove their case. The hon. Member for East Clare did not advance a single argument to substantiate his attack on the Minister for War. I think hon. Members ought to realise that the Government are doing their best and they ought to uphold the Government in everything they are trying to do for the successful prosecution of the War. Nobody would suggest that they do not desire, and that they are not seeking by every means in their power, to secure complete victory over our enemies. I have had the opportunity of travelling in most of the towns and cities of Germany, and I know German life among the working classes and can pretty well judge of their feelings at present. Anyone who has been in direct touch with German industrial life and who comes forward and tells me that the British workman could live as well under German rule as under British rule is a stranger to the truth, or, at any rate, is pulling the truth to pieces. I think we 2069 ought to do everything we can as Labour representatives to stimulate the working men of this country to believe that their liberty is simply given to them and to the fact that the State is their great protector, and that therefore that which the State has given to them they should seek to do all that they can to preserve and maintain and uphold. I am a truce Member; I follow a very excellent colleague and friend, and I hope that I shall do my best, like him, to win the confidence and sympathy of the House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Supply considered in Committee.
§ [MR. MACLEAN in the Chair.]