§ 8.0 P.M.
I beg to move—"That Item Head V., Sub-head A [Stock Accounts], be reduced by £500."
I bring this forward for the purpose of raising the question of what popularly is called khaki versus scarlet. We have just had what the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) might describe as a vogue, indeterminate, distant and remote subject under discussion, but now we come to something very near home, something which has really seized popular imagination. We are dealing with a subject in which sentiment and commonsense, economy and efficiency can go hand in hand. When the subject was first raised the Financial Secretary to the War Office was pleased to say that we were going to spend £3,000,000 on turning the Army from khaki into scarlet, for the sake of esprit de corps. I ventured then, I hope not rudely, to interrupt him and to suggest that there was some esprit de corps in the Army during the four years of the Great War, and that it was won and maintained in khaki. Khaki was the colour of the Expeditionary Force. It was in hkaki that Lord Kitchener called upon the manhood of the country and met with a response more wonderful than has ever been known in the history of the nation. On the sentimental side I say that khaki was good enough for war, and is good enough for peace. Let us leave sentiment for a moment, and look at the question from a business point of view. The Army of to-day is a business Army. I hope we have ceased dragging men to the Colours by mere gew-gaws and millinery. We have sought—and the Government are to take great credit for it—to put the Army on a business footing, to give the men a decent wage. Instead of providing them with a dead-end when they leave the Army, we offer them good emoluments and good opportunities, so that when they return to civil life they may become useful and productive citizens. So I say that the lure of scarlet has gone for ever. I take the War Office attitude itself. I have a leaflet in my hand. "Opportunities in His Majesty's Army. Experience counts. A few years with the Army fits a man to go anywhere or 2288 do anything." There there is no lure of scarlet. That is a fair business proposition which is put before the manhood of the country, and we have it from the Treasury Bench that it is a proposition which is attractive to the manhood of the country and recruiting is doing very well. I could go through this list to show hon. Members, if they have not paid particular attention to the subject, that the Army is offering to-day good wages and good opportunities to the manhood of England. I hold in my hand a rather remarkable, well-devised and attractive placard. It is almost equal to those we had in the War. The pictures here are in khaki and not in scarlet, an obvious suggestion that the War Office quite well believes that the lure of good pay and a trade when they leave the Army is good enough for any honest, straightforward Englishman. "His Majesty's Regular Army. Old and the new rates of pay. Comparisons No. 2." Here you see the wonderful comparisons set out with all the money and the Treasury notes which can allure a man to the Colours. A regimental sergeant-major in August, 1914, took 5s. per day. To-day his pay is 14s. An ordinary private has 1s. a day to be shot at, as we used to say. To-day he takes 2s. 9d. and after two years 3s. 6d. a day. A company sergeant-major who used to get 4s. now gets 10s. A quartermaster - sergeant who previously had 3s. 6d. a day now gets 9s. 6d. A sergeant has been raised from 2s. 4d. to 7s., and a corporal from 1s. 8d. to 5s.
I quote those figures because I feel it is necessary to make the point plain that the Army to-day is a business proposition for any man in the country, that we want to get away from the old stupid idea that it was necessary to trick out a man sometimes in a showy uniform in order to attract him to the Colours, in order that he might walk out, as they say, with a nursemaid or a cook. In my opinion, the national sentiment in this matter has been strongly aroused, and national sentiment is of much more importance than the extravagant whims of Whitehall. I have received hundreds of letters on this subject, not only because I have taken a somewhat prominent part in the matter in the House, but because from my peculiar position I get a great number of letters on any subject which touches the public mind or seizes the popular 2289 imagination. [Interruption.] I am putting the case which the country wants put. If the hon. Member has anything to say, let him be courteous and say it when I have finished. I hope I shall hear no more of his interruptions. I have received hundreds of letters. I must admit that I have received one in favour of turning the Army back into scarlet, and that is from an admirable man in His Majesty's dockyard at Gibraltar. Let me make a point against myself, because he said, "Let the Army settle the question. What glorious pages of history do those scarlet uniforms unfold! Salamanca, Heights of Quebec, Alma, Thin Red Line, and so on. We fought and won, in scarlet, £3,000,000 to keep green the memory of those gallant fellows who fell in scarlet for King and Empire in days gone by." A very admirable sentiment, but the millions of men who fell in scarlet in days gone by are nothing to the millions of men and the glorious rivers of misery which have flowed in khaki in the Great War from which we have just emerged. I have a letter from a man in the Wellington Barracks, Dublin—I do not know one soldier here who wants it.That is, scarlet. Here is another—I think that the £3,000,000 the War Office is desirous of spending on the garish colours of pre-War days to clothe our soldiers would be better spent in starting factories to find work for the unemployed ex-service men.Here is another—If Mr. Churchill wishes to leave his name on the roll of fame, let him turn over the £3,000,000 to the Ministry of Pensions to be given as a clothing bonus to all disabled men under treatment.I could quote other letters to show that there is a very strong public feeling which must be recognised in this matter, and I think the Government have shown a lack of what we call imagination in plunging us, as they did, into this £3,000,000 suggestion without any consideration. Let me quote one more letter from a woman. She says:I wish you would read this letter in Parliament.I think it is worth reading, and I will do so—Next time you are conversing with Mr. Churchill regarding the Army going in red, will you be kind enough to ask him to increase the separation allowance of soldiers' wives and their children, as it would be much more appropriate than putting the Army in red. My husband is a private 2290 soldier in Belgium, and all my allowance is 23s. per week to keep me and a son of eight years. I am 39 years of age and in a delicate state of health, and not able to work. I have already written to Mr. Churchill on the matter, and had a reply back to say I could not be allowed any more. I think a little more money for the wives and children of soldiers to feed them properly would be much more beneficial than red tunics for the men and gold lace for the officers.The right hon. Gentleman may think these letters show a wrong spirit, but I beg him to realise that that is the feeling right throughout the country, and in this time of great financial pressure, when everyone is feeling the weight of taxation, the idea of spending £3,000,000 on what we regard as an unnecessary change from khaki to scarlet is a proposal which is received throughout the country with dismay and almost with disgust.
The attitude of the Government on this matter has not been quite straightforward. I think their idea was that they were going to bluff the House of Commons into this £3,000,000 Vote. I remember perfectly well the whole proceedings, and I remember the Financial Secretary said that it was to be a £3,000,000 outlay. He said on 19th May that the total initial cost would be somewhere about £3,000,000. I think we know something of these somewhere-abouts. We know that when expenditure is started on in this way we cannot track it and trace it to its ultimate end. I object to the attitude the Government have taken up on the matter. First of all, we were told it was £3,000,000. Then we were told by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Churchill) that the Government were so committed to this matter that it really was no good the House of Commons objecting to it. It was finished. We had the phrase that the looms were already turning, and when we tackled him on that point the other day he had to admit that he had not been quite candid to the House, that orders had not been given, and that absolutely nothing had been done, except so far as the Foot Guards were concerned. The looms were not turning, and it is to be still left to the House to review the whole policy and express its opinion upon it and make it effective. We had the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter. He, of course, always comes out with a full chest and a stand-or-fall attitude, and he was pleased to tell us that if we objected to this matter it was a case in which the 2291 Cabinet's decision had been taken, and he said in effect: "If you turn it down you will have to find successors to the present Government." I am not out finding successors to the present Government. I believe this is the only Government possible at the moment, and I shall support it whenever I think it is right But I am perfectly certain in my own mind that it is entirely wrong in this matter, and it must listen with patience, and I hope, if the vote of the House is against it, it will act on the vote of the House. Having had some experience of politics I am a little tired of the idea that because a vote of the House goes against the Government the Government must immediately throw up the sponge. I wish we could get a new idea, that when the House of Commons frankly and honestly passes its opinion against the Government on a matter which is not a great or vital important matter of policy, the Government ought to bow to the opinion of the House and not come out in the bombastic furioso attitude: "If you disagree with us we shall disappear." I do not want to see the Government disappear; but I want them to take a straightforward, sensible and common-place attitude on this matter of khaki versus scarlet. In passing, I do not think the attitude of the Government was quite candid in the matter of the sword, which is in a sense part of this question We were told by the right lion Gentleman who now sits on this side that the sword was optional in the case of air officers, but within five minutes we were told that no man could go on ceremonial parade without a sword. Optional to buy but compulsory to wear! It is that sort of thing which makes one feel that the Government has no real policy or opinion on this subject, and when we are told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Cabinet had come to a decision, I should like to know more on that matter. I do not know whether we are going to be honoured by the presence of the Secretary of State for War. In a matter of this importance he might have shown us the courtesy of being present. We all want to dine, but there is something more important than dining, and that is the interests of the country and the interests of public economy. If other people can stay here and go without their dinner it would be only courtesy if the right. hon.
2292 Gentleman, who is the chief spokesman of the War Office, had been hear to listen to something we had to say. But as dinner is so important, I pass that by.
I am all for brightness and colour in our drab life, and I believe in pageantry, but I do not believe in tricking out our soldiers in these pre-War comic opera uniforms, as many of them are. I wanted the right hon. Gentleman to let us see these uniforms, and to let us judge of the scarlet and gold and the plumed hats and the busbies as compared with honest, straightforward working uniform in which our men fought and won their glorious victory; but he refused the suggestion. All the esprit de corps and all the love of a regiment can be attained by having distinctive badges. I wish the right hon. Gentleman were here. I do not say that it would make my speech more effective, but it would he more pleasure for me to address my remarks to the right hon. Gentleman, because I have had sufficient experience of political life to remember the time when he stood almost where I am standing—a violent apostle of economy in the Army. I can remember the time when he inherited that great tradition of economy from his father, and I remember, in passing, that I learned the first principles of Tory democracy from the late Lord Randolph Churchill. Lord Randolph Churchill resigned his position in the Government as Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a protest against the sort of extravagance against which I am protesting. I admit that historically he forgot someone in doing that, but he remembered his duty and left the Government. The right hon. Gentleman, who is taking his dinner while I am speaking, left his party on the question of economy. I remember him standing up from his seat below the Gangway night after night and denouncing the Government for their extravagance, and he passed to this side of the House. I admit that it was a less expensive action than that of his father, although equally spectacular, and he did it as a protest against wasteful Army expenditure.
We have just listened to a Debate in connection with which we must give the Government credit for knowing better than any of us what is necessary in the near Middle East, and we are now as practical men, speaking for a large body of opinion, and protesting against this proposed change in regard to reclothing the Army. I say "proposed" because we 2293 have an assurance now that it has not taken place over the general body of His Majesty's forces. I ask the Government to take this opportunity to signalise and perpetuate the great change that has been brought about by the War. In the minds of the people of this country, the Army has passed from the days of the be-ribboned recruiting sergeant with the King's shilling and the village public house. I have shown that we are offering the manhood of this country to-day a business proposition in a business Army, and it is against the spirit of the people at this moment to deck out our soldiers in expensive and unnecessary colours. Let the Army be taken as a serious profession and a serious calling. Let us make our Army a great human and humanising institution. And here I pay my tribute to what the Secretary of State for War has done already through the courts-martial to enable the citizen who joins the colours to call his soul his own, and I pay my tribute to the action they have taken in doing their best to attract to the colours straightforward, honest, patriotic men, who will go into the Army and learn a trade and pass out of the Army better and more useful men than when they entered it. I understand that it is not intended to clothe the Territorials in colours. They are to maintain the glorious traditions of khaki in which they won undying honour in the War. If khaki is good enough for the voluntary Army it is good enough for the paid Army.
I ask the Government for their own sake, and for the sake of the confidence of the country, to pause before they go further in this wasteful and unnecessary expenditure. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman (Sir A. Williamson), and I hope he will convey as much of my sentiments as he can to the Secretary of State for War, that this proposed expenditure of £3,000,000 for scarlet coats has done more to shake the confidence of the ordinary person in the genuine desire of the Government for economy than anything that the Government has done since the Armistice. There is in the country to-day a passionate desire and demand for economy. People do not mind being taxed, however heavy the burden, if they feel that they are being taxed for a real national necessity, but in this matter of the Army they do not realise the necessity, and we have had 2294 nothing said yet which has proved the necessity. I have no desire to embarrass the Government. I have no ulterior or party motive. Some of us were returned to this House pledged to economy in every Department of State, and we are opposed to this attempt of the Government to force this expenditure upon the House of Commons. First of all, it was attempted in a disingenuous manner. The protest was made that the matter had gone too far, that the looms were running, and that they could not recall what they had done or go back upon this preposterous proposal. That has gone, and we can now review this thing, with the exception of the Footguards, de novo. I ask the House to consider the matter from the point of view of great public sentiment and from the point of view of the needs of the Army, and if it can be proved that public sentiment in this matter is stronger than the needs of the Army, and that we can get the force that we desire without tricking out the soldiers in these colours and all this military millinery, I ask the House of Commons to show its independence and to vote against any further expenditure on scarlet coats for His Majesty's Forces.
§ Sir SAMUEL SCOTT
I listened to the hon. Member (Mr. Palmer) with some interest and surprise. I am sure we are all very sorry that he has not had his dinner, but he must realise that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Churchill) had no other opportunity of getting his dinner while the hon. Member might have had his dinner before the end of the last Debate. The hon. Member spoke of the esprit de corps which had been shown by men in khaki, and said that khaki was good enough for the War and was good enough for peace. With those words he makes one almost believe that esprit de corps did not exist in the army prior to the late War. It would be better if my hon. Friend would take the trouble to read a little military history. If he would read the history of days gone by, when the British army, before khaki was invented, fought in scarlet, he would realise that esprit de corps in the regular army and the territorials was not confined to the days when khaki was introduced, but has been a tradition and a very valuable tradition in the British army for centuries. I do not know what would have happened unless that tradition and esprit de corps had existed when our regular 2295 army, commonly known as the "old contemptibles," went out to France, and withstood the onslaught of the Germans. The hon. Member seems to forget, though I hope other hon. Members will not forget, that esprit de corps is not only built up of love of a regiment and appreciation of a regiment, but that it is very much fostered and encouraged by the past traditions and history of the regiment. Every regular regiment in the British army—and I speak now regarding the regular service, and not about what my hon. Friend describes as the "voluntary soldier": I suppose he means the Territorial force—
I said so; I meant that the territorial, I understood, is to remain in khaki, and that the regular soldier is to go back to the pre-war uniform.
§ Sir S. SCOTT
I understood him to describe the two forces. I do not know how the territorial would like to be called a "voluntary soldier," because I would remind the hon. Member that he is paid for training and also paid now for drill, and I do not think that there is much distinction between him and the other soldier. Both are paid However, to revert to the uniform, the traditions of the uniform are valued in many of our regular regiments, and there is no reason for any hon. Member of this House to come down and insult, as the hon. Member opposite has done, those old and valued uniforms of the British army. How does he describe them? As comic opera.
§ Sir S. SCOTT
Or as gewgaws. What are these things that are called gewgaws? Does the hon. Member realise—I do not suppose he does and therefore I recommend him to read military history—that in the scarlet uniforms of our regular army and so many of the territorial forces every badge and every facing on these uniforms has some meaning, and has been won by that regiment in past wars for some great deed of gallantry.
§ Sir S. SCOTT
Those are the uniforms with which they fought in the old days, and which are absolutely wrapped up in the history of the regiment. Does he consider that these men would be very 2296 flattered at having those uniforms described as comic-opera uniforms? I sincerely hope that my right hon. Friend will retain the red uniforms for the British Army. There must be full-dress of some sort or other. I hope that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary may be able to tell us later on whether, if the suggestion of the hon. Member opposite is adopted, there would be a great deal of difference in the cost of having a full-dress uniform in khaki with facings and badges and that of having the same uniform in the old scarlet with which the British Army first won the great renown which it has never lost since. There is one question which I would like to put to my hon. Friend as to the allowance to officers. I think that I am correct in saying, if this House decides that red should be restored, an officer on joining will obtain an allowance of £150. Does that £150 go also to officers who have fought during the War, but who joined during the War, and who have not got the full uniform? I sincerely hope that these men will be included. Otherwise there would be gross unfairness. Then there is the question of upkeep which I understand the War Office do not intend to touch. I understand that they do not intend to give officers anything for the upkeep of the uniform. I hope sincerely that they will reconsider that, and see whether or not—as the amount is likely to be a very small one—they cannot give some allowance once every two or three years to officers to help towards the upkeep of their uniform. Once again I urge the Government to retain the old-time régime. Although my hon. Friend says he speaks on behalf of the national sentiment, let me say that there is another sentiment, and a very strong one, in the British Army with regard to doing away with the uniform which they prize and value so greatly.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The hon. Member for the Wrekin (Mr. Palmer) referred to the suggestion that this expenditure of £3,000,000 for scarlet uniforms was finally settled and beyond the jurisdiction of this House. I think that, in face of the storm of feeling in this country as well as in this House, it was finally decided at least to let the House discuss the matter, and that was extremely generous on the part of the War Office. I hope I am wrong in my conviction, 2297 but it seems to me that the War Office has rather "queered the pitch" for the followers of the Government. Even if the result of this Vote is in favour of the Government, it will not be, I daresay, because of the real convictions of hon. Members, but because the War Office has largely settled its policy before this House had an opportunity of dealing with the matter at all. As one who is proud of this great representative institution, I wish the Government would have more regard to the sentiment of this House, and would allow its Members to decide the policy of this country without its being settled beforehand. I think most hon. Members know that, proud as we are of this great institution, the War, as in the case of other institutions, has very much tested it. There are certain sections outside who are looking to other ways. I am one of those in the Labour movement who want to see this great representative institution respected and reverenced by the mass of the people of this country. I warn the Government, however, that they are taking a step, and are repeatedly taking steps which are revealing to a great many thoughtful people the fact that even the Members of this House are not taken into consideration in matters of fundamental importance to the nation. That has a very bad effect upon the country at large.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I should like to be clear as to the proposition he is laying down. Does he suggest that it is a constitutional duty of the Government and of the War Office to come to the House of Commons before they make any alteration in the uniforms of our soldiers?
§ Mr. LAWSON
I suggest that the secret of the power of the people of this country, and of the power of this Parliament, is that it has a clear grip of the finances of the Government generally, and I say that my proposition was a perfectly reasonable one. We want to oppose the grant of this £3,000,000 because we want sufficient money to set our own house in order before we begin to talk about extras such as fancy dress. This country ought to honour its obligation to the men who fought in the last War before it begins to spend money in this way. Not very long ago a deputation representing thousands—I believe, indeed, tens of thousands—of ex-soldiers met the Prime Minister, to ask 2298 for increased pensions and more consideration. The Prime Minister admitted that their case was a good one, but he said there was not money to meet the claims of the men who were before him. Is this House going to pass an expenditure of £3,000,000 on giving a certain satisfaction to the Secretary of State for War, or to the older representatives of the Army in this House, whilst it is conscious of the fact that it has not yet honoured its obligation, and the Prime Minister admits that it has not met the case of these men who saved the country during the past five years? The financial stress that is upon the country to-day is well known. Hon. Members from these Benches are continually putting admittedly hard cases among various sections of the workers, and hon. Members on both sides of the House are continually putting what appears to be a very reasonable case for the business interests. On every side we are met by facts which demonstrate that the whole organisation of the working classes and of the commercial, business, and financial interests is being strained, and yet we are talking in a flippant way of spending £3,000,000 on a matter like this. I admit that these are days when a few millions are neither here nor there. A few moments ago we settled the matter of about £33,000,000. I know this is just a little extra, but I wish the Government would get the point of view of the people of this country who really feel what the situation is. If they would do that, they would place a greater value upon even a few pounds than they do upon millions at the present time.
Another case which calls for consideration, and which I know has been raised in this House, is that of the ranker officers. Does anyone seriously suggest that a man who gave good service during the War, who won his commission, and who may have belonged to the working class ranks£does anyone suggest that, out of his ordinary pay, he can maintain himself and his uniform under the conditions laid down here? Men who have left the Army will tell you in many cases that they would not have left it if it had not been for the difficulty of meeting their financial obligations and fulfilling the duties they were called upon to fulfil. In this country there are ever-growing opportunities for men in the lower ranks of society, as they are called, to improve their position and 2299 reach out into the professions and so forth, but we know, to our regret, how strong is the caste that prevails in civilian society. I speak without actual inside knowledge, but from very close observation, when I say that the castes in civilian society are not to be compared with the castes that prevailed in the old Army when the old tunic was in vogue, and it is going to be very difficult indeed—I venture to say an impossibility—for a man how may have proved himself to be a useful, able, intelligent and brave man during the War, to meet his obligations and remain inside if this begins to operate. I have sometimes thought that one of the reasons for the re-adoption of this scarlet uniform system is that there is too great a sense of freedom, too much association with the old civilian Army, connected with khaki, and that the War Office want to get rid of that feeling. I am not going to presume upon the goodwill of the House except to refer to one extract. The Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 16th March, in a very definite challenge, asked this House to put its finger on any practical means of saving half a million pounds. Here are six half millions and we ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how he comes to have practically supported this proposition in view of the statement that he himself made. I am well aware of the great traditions and historical associations connected with the old scarlet uniform, but I venture to say that the associations connected with the khaki uniform are not less than those of the scarlet uniform. On the grounds of reason there does not appear to me to be any case for this expenditure. There is more work for the men on this proposed uniform. From my experience there was plenty of work on the khaki uniform and I do not know how the men will do it with scarlet uniform. The business of the War Office is to ask itself whether it wants soldiers or showmen. If the country has to maintain a standing Army it wants soldiers neatly dressed, but that does not necessarily mean that they should be dressed in vivid scarlet uniform which is going to cost this amount. I hope that the House will turn down unanimously, or at any rate by a big majority, this proposition to spend money which is necessary for other purposes in this country.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I confess I was anxious to catch your eye, because there is now presented to the House in this Estimate expenditure of a kind which must appear serious to all who are impressed with the economic state of the nation at the present time, and, as was said by the hon. Member who moved, an expenditure as to which it is well within the competence of Members of the House to express the grounds upon which they may well have opinions. In coming to the discussion of this matter, I think hon. Members can well put aside extraneous considerations. It is perfectly true that this Estimate has come before the Committee in a way not the most fortunate or most persuasive. There were suggestions that it was already an accomplished fact, and there was an answer from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer which, in the case of anyone less amiable, would suggest a passing tinge of fretfulness. There is a disposition in some quarters to look at the restoration of scarlet in the British Army, admittedly a greater expense than the continuation of khaki, as being so natural and inevitable an occurrence that it was hardly fitting to criticise it or to ask the reasons why it was being done. Are we who live in this country to-day not in a position when it is not only excusable, but when it is rather our peremptory duty to inquire into all kinds of expenditure the necessity of which is not carried absolutely upon the surface of the demand. Here we have the Secretary of State for War and the War Office asking for a sum of money, which in certain aspects amounts to £3,000,000, for the purpose of re-clothing the Army in a kind of uniform which it is estimated is more expensive than that they are using, and a kind of uniform which from its very conspicuousness is bound to call attention to expenditure. Are we not at that point in the history of the country when any expenditure, particularly expenditure which calls attention to itself, requires the clearest and fullest justification.
I admit, and I am sure everyone who approaches this subject in a spirit which desires to be fair to the Government and the Army, and also the financial position of the country would wish to take, that, of course, there are reasons of high position and sincere and genuine sentiments which are attracted by a proposal of this kind. The speech of the hon. 2301 Baronet (Sir S. Scott) on this side was transparently sincere. There is no doubt if this country was in the same financial position to-day as it was in before the War, there would be very much less criticism, or much less varied criticism, than there certainly is to-day in the country, or than there will be in this House during the next few hours, of this proposal. Were were not obliged during the War to put aside traditions and habits and all kinds of things that were pleasant because of the interests of our country, and are we not to-day in that stage of war when military operations have ceased and economic operations are having their most terrible play in precisely the same position. We have to sacrifice many things we care for, many things right in themselves, many things which appeal to perfectly proper and powerful feelings and traditions, in order to see that the supreme duty put upon all of us to help our country into a proper economic position, may not be hindered for an hour by anything which can properly be avoided at this time. The criticism which many of us make on this proposal is that its necessity at this time has never yet been demonstrated, and that reasons for it adequate to override the reasons that occur to all of us, and which are common comment wherever men meet, have never yet been put either before this House or by any other method before the public of which we are members. We are not told if it is true, and we would like to know, that recruiting at the present moment either for the household troops or for the regular Army generally is at once so bad and so curiously due to the present clothing of the Army that the only remedy is to spend millions upon re-clothing the Army in scarlet. If that were the case, and if this is the only way to bring about recruiting in the voluntary Army, let us have that argument based upon undeniable facts and figures as soon as possible. But in the absence of any contention of that kind, we are asked to sanction expenditure which on the face of it does not appear to be necessary, and obviously shows in all parts of the country to anyone who takes notice of it an apparent extravagance which has almost as bad an effect upon national character and habits as if you had proved up to the hilt that every penny of it was actually extravagant. If ever there was 2302 a time when it was the duty of all of us, from the Government to the least influential individual in the country, to avoid the appearance of evil, as well as the actuality of evil, that time is this. At a time when national expenditure is very great, and when there are avenues of expenditure which, with the best will in the world, cannot be kept closed, surely it is more than ever important for the Government to avoid any expenditure of a doubtful character, and for expenditure of this kind, apparently upon show, upon something not necessary but, presumably, attractive, it is surely more important than ever that that kind of expenditure should be avoided, both because of the money involved in carrying it out and because of the example which, at any rate, apparently is set by the Government to those in the country who require, alas, no evil example to tempt them to expenditure which, however much they may enjoy it, is bad for the country. Therefore, from the point of view of a supporter of the Government and of one who supports the existence and the strength and efficiency of our Army, I ask my right hon. Friend, who represents the War Office, whether this expenditure or any part of it is really necessary? There is, indeed, a special reason why expenditure upon our Army at this time should be watched with special care and should be kept sedulously within the narrowest limits. The great tide of military and warlike enthusiasm to which the nation owed much and which went a long way towards the successful conclusion of the Great War, is now of necessity at its ebb, and I can well imagine that it may be necessary for our country for money to be spent upon the Army, which it is unpopular to spend; it may well happen that in this year and for some years to come the safety of our country and our Empire may demand expenditure which will not be popular with the man in the street, which will be open to criticism, which will require very careful presentment to this House to get the proper support behind it, and in circumstances of that kind, when the tide of warlike enthusiasm has ebbed, when the inevitable commitments of a great Empire like ours have become greater and not less with the devaluation of money, with all the complexities following upon an intricate peace, when these circumstances 2303 are the prominent circumstances of the situation, when, in other words, none of us can tell what expenditure upon the Army may not be absolutely necessary, is it not, therefore, more than ever important and more than ever the duty of the Government to avoid, with the most scrupulous care, any expenditure which is not absolutely necessary and directly and inevitably connected with the necessary efficiency of those forces which defend our country and Empire against all the hazards of international life?
I say the moment is most inauspicious for any doubtful expenditure; I say that no evidence has been brought in this House or in the country that the state of recruiting is such as to require this apparent stimulus; I say that the traditions of the Great War connected and intertwined with the use of khaki are traditions at once as sacred arid as stimulating as those older traditions which had so much to do with maintaining the spirit and the efficiency of the pre-War Army; I say that these traditions of the Great War may surely be relied upon to preserve for many a year to come that spirit which it is desirable to preserve if young men are to be ready to come forward to defend their country. If and when those influences have faded, if and when the necessary recruiting lags, and some stimulus of this kind is sought for, this House will then consider the matter under such changed conditions, but to-day economy is the overwhelming necessity and duty for the Government in every Department, for the country everywhere, and for all individuals. The burden of proof is upon any Department which even in appearance seems to violate the demand and necessity for economy, and when that is apparently violated by a provision of this kind, for which no case has been made out, and which certainly arouses the greatest anxiety among all kinds of persons, which brings sincere and loyal criticism from those who are anxious to help and not to hinder the Government, from those who would much rather strengthen than weaken it, then I would ask my right hon. Friend to consider very carefully and fully whether there is really any ground on which the Government ought to ask the House of Commons to approve of this expenditure. It is because I see in this proposal that which is inconsistent with what the 2304 Government's example ought to be that I make my protest against it, and I assure the Government that they do not realise the width and general character of the feelings which have been stirred by this proposal, unless they realise from their friends as well as from their critics that there comes a sincere desire, based on no wish to injure the Army, but, on the other hand, on a wish to keep the Army as popular and as reliant on public sentiment as possible, that this up to now undefended and unexplained expenditure should be abandoned in the interests of the country in all aspects of the country's life.
The hon. Baronet (Sir S. Scott) spoke with a good deal of heat of the esprit de corps of the Regular Army, and I should like to say at the commencement of my remarks that there is no one who has greater respect for the traditions and esprit de corps of the Regular Army than I have. I have had the honour of commanding an irregular battalion, and it was always my endeavour to try and inculcate into my men the spirit of the Regular battalion whose name we bore. Like the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken, I look upon this proposal as unnecessary and unfortunate. I consider it unnecessary because for five years we have got on very well without the full-dress uniform, and I consider it unfortunate because it is one of those items in the business of the Government on which the public mind can become focussed. It is something which the public can easily grasp. They have been educated and taught a great deal lately about the so-called wasteful extravagance of the Government, and here is a proposal which seems to confirm them in that opinion. I am informed that the decision to put the Army back into full-dress uniform was come to after a Special Committee had taken full evidence from all branches of the Army. I should like to know who composed that Committee and what sort of evidence it took, because I am inclined to imagine that the mentality which composed that Committee would not be the mentality which is usually inclined towards economy. To my mind this question resolves itself into this—does the Army really want it? It does not want it for recruiting purposes. I do not think it is necessary to have a showy uniform to attract recruits. If the Army is not good enough on its own basis 2305 as a profession we should not try to encourage young men to enter into that profession merely on account of a showy uniform. But the question is, does the Army really want it? If the Army does want it, I should say it should have it. I do not attach so very much importance to the money. The money is going to be spent over a number of years, and although £3,000,000 is a large sum it is not a large sum in the whole total of the items of other expenditure. But it is an amount which appeals to the public mind, especially on a matter of this kind, and that public mind is not always highly educated in such matters; it is in perhaps something like the state of the mind of the hon. Member for the Wrekin Division (Mr. Palmer), who has spoken this evening. I have made some inquiries. I know a good many soldiers and I have asked them their opinion, and I have come to the conclusion that they do not care very much about it one way or the other. What they do want, however, is an alternative uniform. By that they do not mean a very expensive uniform or head-dress or equipment of an elaborate kind. They want something into which they can change when the day's work is done. I have worn putties, and I do not think that any soldier wants to wear putties when he goes out after his work is done. What he wants is a nice, smart, clean, simple dress which he can wear with pride and distinction. It need not be so very expensive a uniform as that which is commonly known as full dress.
I am glad to see that the Secretary of State for War is in his place. I have heard him explain a good deal about the soldiers' buttons and collars, and things of that kind. I think it is quite right that he should be able to descend to small interests of that kind. If I may say so without offence, the right hon. Gentleman does not always wear a very convenient collar, and I think the members of the Committee to whom reference has been made would not care to wear the soldier's collar themselves unless it was absolutely their duty. There would be a great deal about the full uniform that would want cleaning, and the officers might be depended upon to see, if it is adopted, that everything was polished up to the last degree. Therefore, the soldier does not care so very much about it because it would mean a great deal of trouble to him. I want to emphasise the 2306 importance of the matter to the Army itself. The traditions of the old uniform belong to an age that has passed away. It is many years since the Army fought in anything like full dress, and it is a long time since the Army began to wear khaki. It was brought into use for the Army in India, and was afterwards used in other parts of the world. There is no one who remembers the recent fighting who will not agree that there were deeds of as great heroism performed in khaki as any that had ever been performed in the old Life Brigade days. I hope the Government will reconsider this decision because I feel that it is a very unfavourable, if not unnecessary, proposal.
§ Lieut.-Colonel DALRYMPLE WHITE
This matter may be considered upon various grounds, historical, sentimental, and practical, and perhaps the most vital and practical is the question of recruiting. We have had an official statement from the Front Bench that recruiting is going on satisfactorily, but, so far as an ordinary individual can hear, recruiting is not at all satisfactory, and our Army is very much under its proper strength. I believe the red coat has a good deal to do with recruiting; certainly, a smart uniform has a good deal to do with it. The soldier is not attracted altogether by the higher pay. We have had proof of that in the list that was read out by the hon. Member for the Wrekin Division (Mr. Palmer), showing the enormous increases of the pay recently made, and yet, if I am right in my opinion that recruiting is not all it should be, that shows that the pay is not altogether the necessary attraction. The pay at present is quite ample, and it would seem, therefore, that if there is any need of men, who are not coming forward, there must be some other reason than that. A good deal of claptrap is talked about the soldier's point of view with regard to the scarlet uniform. The hon. Member for Wrekin said that the young soldier wanted to walk out with the cook or the nurse. That is not quite fair to the soldier, because, although the young soldier may wish to attract a girl, there are many older soldiers, married men, who do not wish to attract any girl, and yet they would be proud to wear a smart uniform. So far as I have been able to learn, the men would like to revert to something like the pre-War uniform. I would however join in urging upon the 2307 Government that they should give an undertaking that they will not proceed any further with this proposal except in the case of the Household Troops, which, I understand, is un fait accompli, until next year, and that then they will come down to the House, and it can be considered by the House again. I hope they will not go any further than that at the present time in view of the strong feeling that there seems to be against it in the country. No one wants to have a taunt of "no economy" thrown against the Government. It may be necessary to have full dress for ceremonial duties, and that would involve the scarlet uniform. The Household Troops are in a different position and I do not think that Members as a whole have any objection to reclothing them.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Would the hon. Member explain what he means by the Household Troops? Does he simply mean the Horse Guards Blue and Life Guards?
§ Lieut.-Colonel DALRYMPLE WHITE
The Household Troops include the Household Cavalry and the Foot Guards. I am in favour of the Household Troops having their full uniform. I should be glad to know from the Government what the exact position is with regard to the vote in the House to-day. There are some Members who like myself would be willing to support the Government and make the change for the Household Troops but who would not like to feel that by doing that they were sanctioning the re-clothing of the whole Army in the next two or three years.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HURST
I do not propose to treat this as a "business proposition." No issue that affects so vitally the British Army should be treated merely as a business proposition. Nor should we look upon recruiting altogether from an economical or a financial point of view. No expenditure is too much if that expenditure is really necessitated by the present need of the British Army. We should look upon recruiting as an all-important question. If, for the purpose of recruiting, it is necessary to have scarlet tunics the Army must have them. There never was a time when we were in greater need of a sufficient Army. Whatever expenditure is necessary, we must have an Army which will be 2308 adequate for the great needs of the country. But if it is not necessary in the interests of recruiting to have scarlet tunics, I should like to associate myself with those hon. Members who are in favour of khaki, and not scarlet, because if it is not necessary in order to get the recruits to have scarlet, the issue simply becomes a question whether it is to the advantage of the nation that men should be dressed in scarlet or khaki uniforms. A good deal has been said about what is the opinion of the soldiers themselves. I am not going to arrogate to myself for a moment the task of trying to say what the soldier thinks, because nine times out of ten he does not think at all. I imagine in the old Regular Army the balance of opinion would be in favour of scarlet, but long ago there were opinions in a contrary direction. Hon. Members may remember a book entitled "My Life in the Army," by Robert Blatchford, in which there is a protest against everything which savours of pipeclay and brass, and I know that in my own constituency an association, composed very largely of old soldiers of the Regular Army, has asked me to protest against the re-introduction of scarlet at the expense of khaki. So that I think it is very difficult to dogmatise with regard to the views of the old Regular Army. I think it is much easier to dogmatise with regard to the new Army. I think the great majority of men who served during the War are in favour of khaki, because it is much more easy and comfortable, and avoids the great waste of time and labour, which undoubtedly accompanied the scarlet uniform. It required constant care and attention.
So much for the point of view of the Army, but I am not certain if, at the present time, the outlook of the country as a whole is not more important than that of the Army, because there is a very great suspicion in the country that the Minister for War has delivered himself over to what are called the forces of reaction in the Army, the adherents of that very old school, who are opposed to all progress, and who, in spite of the War, like the Bourbons, have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. There are people like that in the War Office, and in the Army, I suppose. With all their very high and great qualities, those men are very often lacking in a sense of the true perspective 2309 of things, and regard the choice and care of uniforms as something in the nature of a cult, instead of something in the nature of an expedient. There is no doubt that the selection, care, and maintenance of full-dress uniform occupy considerably too much space in their thoughts. A great deal has been very rightly made of the regimental traditions of the Army. So far as those traditions are not embodied in customs which have no associations with uniforms at all, they are very largely associated with things like buttons, badges, flashes and kilts, and other articles of uniform which are easily maintained in the khaki, and have, in fact, been so maintained during the War. The soldier fighting in khaki has worn identically the same buttons and badges as his predecessors who wore scarlet. The change has not been in those emblems associated with past glories, but in the mere alteration from scarlet to khaki. The really essential emblems of tradition have been quite unaffected by that change. Even in the old Army there have been great modifications in dress from time to time.
Hon. Members who support the idea of scarlet have laid a great deal of emphasis on the fact that they are fighting the battle of the old uniforms in which our soldiers won some of the greatest victories in British history, but of course the uniforms which were worn at Blenheim and Quebec, Plassey and Waterloo are as different from the scarlet uniforms to which we are now asked to revert as those scarlet uniforms are from the khaki uniforms which were worn in the War. We are familiar with that happy phrase, "The thin Red line," and I asked the hon. Member for Oxford University, who is a great expert in matters of military history, how that came into being, and he said it was culled from a popular song written in honour of the 93rd Regiment, who repelled a charge of Russian cavalry at Balaclava. And even in the reign of Queen Victoria, in the imagination of the country, "The thin Red line" changed into "The gentleman in khaki ordered South" of the South African War. So that you cannot say that the red uniform is really an essential element in British military tradition. Although there may be certain families to whom these old historic memories fill a very important place in imagination, there are infinitely more English homes where khaki holds that place, and in a country like ours, 2310 where hardly anybody has any history at all, the military associations most cherished are those very poignant, undying memories of men who have gone from their homes quite recently to take part in the Great War, and that I think is the real essential feeling of the ordinary Englishman to-day. When you are asked to conjure up in your mind the vision of the ideal, typical British soldier, the men who come to your mind are not, with all their gallantry and all their greatness, the soldiers of Quebec or Waterloo, but they are those gallant men, our comrades, whom we saw serving in the field, and laying down their lives for their country among the rocky gullies of Gallipoli and on the bloody battlefields of France.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
Although the amount of the Vote at issue to-day is trifling compared with many of the figures the Committee has to consider, I think we shall all agree that there is behind it the principle whether we are only prepared to pay lip-service to economy, or whether we are prepared to put it into practice and reality. We have been told earlier in the Debate by the Noble Lord opposite that on whatever we economise we must keep our hand off Army expenditure. I suppose we are to economise on social reform and expenditure for the well-being of our country as a whole, but we must not reduce our Army Estimates. Yet we have the authority of the Prime Minister, speaking in this House last year, when he said that, if our faith in the League of Nations was to be a real one, we must show our trust in it by reducing our armaments. He said that there is one thing that matters in economy, and it is this: the great nations which promoted the League of Nations should show their confidence in it and trust it. If those who promoted it increased their armaments, it would be a sham, and remain a sham. I suppose, although the particular amount here is small, it goes to make up that huge total of our expenditure on armaments which to-day is greater than in pre-War time. We are told that this was a War to end war. Yet we find to-day our Army Estimates, even making due allowance for the decreased value of the £, are greater than they were before we entered upon the War. I say this Amendment is a test as to whether or not we are really to have faith in the League of Nations. Whether we really intend to show that faith by setting the 2311 example and reducing the huge expenditure on armaments will be decided by our Vote to-day. The amount is small, but surely it is typical of the principle. If we cannot economise on this particular occasion, what occasion is there on which we can economise? We have had quotations and references made to the spirit of the Army. I should like to associate myself with the last speaker, who deprecated anyone putting forward the claim to speak for the mind of the Army; yet I think he expressed that mind very fairly and fully. He, no doubt, spoke from the standpoint of the commissioned ranks. I should like to speak as one who has served only in the ranks, but if I know anything of the mind of the ordinary soldier, it is very much against these irritating regulations which are associated with pipeclay, brass, and cleaning required by the official mind in the past.
I submit the position has changed entirely. With all respect to the old Army, we are to-day recruiting a different type of men, and men from a different strata of society to-day. We want men who will continue to be thinking units, and not merely numbers in a huge military machine, without thought and without individuality. If the modern Army is made up of men recruited from the higher ranks of civilian life, such men do not want to be tied down by this narrow, pettifogging military tyranny which existed so much in the past, and particularly dealt with points of equipment, cleaning, pipe-clay, and buttons. We want the man who has a larger outlook, and who makes a better soldier in consequence. Therefore I submit, if we want to show our faith in economy, we must support the Amendment. We have been told on several occasions that we must economise in our social reform expenditure. I had the honour to serve on the Committee which dealt with unemployment. What was it that was thrown at us whenever we suggested that the unemployment benefit should be increased and the length of period of waiting reduced? We were told by the representatives of the Government that the Government could not afford it. They sympathised—their sympathy was most prolific—with the purpose of the Amendments to increase the amount for women from 12s. to 15s. per week, but they gave the cost, which was a huge amount, and 2312 said they could not afford it. They could not afford to increase the rate of the men from 15s. to £l, because that would mean £3,000,000. The Solicitor-General, in replying on an Amendment which I had the honour to move to increase the rate of allowance to the women, said—I want to quote his words, because they seem to be so typical of the attitude of the Government on this matter—the right hon. and learned Gentleman said:We have considered the matter very sympathetically—to raise from 12s. to 15s. per week the Unemployment Benefit for the women—and I am sorry to say that it is quite impossible at this time. It would mean another £169,000 per annum. The Cabinet have definitely decided they cannot authorise the expenditure of that further sum.£169,000 to do a simple act of justice to the women workers of the land! The Cabinet itself had considered the matter, and could not afford the money to do what they admitted was an act of justice! Yet to-day we are asked to sanction the expenditure, not of £169,000, but a proposal which will ultimately involve the expenditure of £3,000,000. I submit, therefore, that everyone of us who wants to show that he really believes in economy, if we are prepared to put the question to the test, must support the Amendment which is being moved, in order that when real social reforms are required we can turn to the Government and say, "You saved so much on the Army—on the small trappings of the soldier—and we can have it for this real reform, which makes for the well-being of the people and for social improvement."
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Member who has just sat down made a great display in favour of economy. His idea and method of carrying that out is to save money on the clothing of the Army in order to spend it on something else. That is economy!
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I call it the very worst possible form of economy. In fact it is not economy at all. If the hon. Member has said: I desire to save this money in order that I may reduce the taxation—I do not agree with him, but there might be something to be said for it—but to say I desire to save money in order to—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
But that is not economy! Suppose the hon. Gentleman who has just interrupted had an income of £1,100 or £1,200. Does he mean to say that it would mean economy to say: "I propose to save £100 which I will spend on clothes instead of spending in a restaurant." That would not be economy.
No, but if I decided to save it on my clothes, in order to spend it in the restaurant on good food, that might be a right way of expending the money.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
That is not economy. It would be if the hon. Gentleman saved the money on the restaurant and, say, paid his debts, or saved it in other ways, that would be economy. But to divert money from one expenditure to another is not economy. Of the hon. Members of this Rouse who have for the last five or six years preached economy, I think I may say I have been foremost. If I thought that the proposal of the Amendment would result in real economy, I should support the Amendment—though perhaps on different grounds to most—and on different grounds to the hon. Gentleman who made the last speech. But I do not think this will lead to economy. I am going to vote against the Amendment, and with the Secretary for War, because I believe the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman will result in economy. I shall endeavour to show It is necessary to keep the Army up to strength. We must get recruits. We do not want to find ourselves in the position we were in if there should be another war. We have to have an Army. One of the results of our policy before the late War was that we endeavoured to spend little, and we later found that we had to spend many millions which need not have been the case if we had had foresight. Recruiting is not good at the present time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, it is!"] Well, I understood from authentic sources it was not.
May I tell the right hon. Baronet that yesterday the Financial Secretary to the War Office informed me, in reply to a question, that recruiting for our regular army was extremely satisfactory.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Not if this Amendment is carried. Certainly not. Therefore, in my opinion, the most effective way to encourage recruiting is to have an attractive uniform. Hon. Members opposite may say that the soldier who is desirous of serving his country will serve it under any circumstances. As a matter of fact, an attractive uniform does influence, to a very large extent, recruiting in the army, and has always done so. It is not to be wondered at. I think it is a good thing that a man should have a smart uniform. Whether we could do without it or not is quite another thing, but it has a great effect on recruiting. My impression of the new army recruits is that they are very much the same as the recruits of the old army. I do not believe you are going to get a superior class of recruits in ordinary times. I do not say the recruits of the old army were in any way inferior, in fact, I should be inclined to say they were superior. Nobody can deny that the army that went to France in 1914 was the finest army that ever left the shores of this or any other country. What is one of the reasons for that efficiency? Surely it is the old esprit de corps and the traditions of the regiments. The thin red line has always had a great effect upon the soldiers of the army. If that is so, is it not likely that we shall promote economy by encouraging recruiting.
As I understand the proposal, it is that the Household Cavalry and the members of the Guards shall be clothed in scarlet more or less at once, and then, as the khaki uniforms gradually wear out, this principle will be extended to the rest of the army. Where is the extravagant expense in that? It is nothing like the £3,000,000 which has been referred to. Supposing this change does attract a number of recruits, is it not advisable to spend a little money in doing that instead, perhaps, of having to increase the pay or incurring some other form of expense in order to attract recruits. I do not know whether I shall be labelled an out-and-out supporter of the Government on all occasions, but I think, at any rate, that I am capable of exercising an independent judgment in this House in 2315 addition to being a supporter of everything that is economical. From all the information that I have been able to gather on this question, I earnestly believe the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman is in the right direction, and that it would result in economy and a more efficient army.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I must say that I have heard the speech of the last speaker with the most profound regret. He claims that he has taken the lead during the past five or six years in the advocacy of economy.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I do not think I said I had taken the lead. I said there was no hon. Member who had advocated economy with greater zeal than I have.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I accept the version put by the modesty of my right hon. Friend, but up to now I am quite willing to give him the lead in economy, but now I am inclined to put him at the bottom of the class. We have had speeches from hon. Members who are themselves soldiers, and without exception they do not support the proposal of the Government. A minor exception might be the hon. Member for Brighton, but even he said that however desirable it may be it should be deferred this year, and that this is not the right time to do it. I can only repeat my profound regret at the speech of my right hon. Friend opposite. One of my hon. Friends put before us two cases which had been before the Committee upstairs in which the Government spokesman on both occasions said that, however desirable the expenditure might be—one was for unemployment benefit and the other for the injured—the Government had decided that they cannot afford it. An expenditure of that kind would be reproductive in the best sense of the term, and you would have been giving a chance to citizens who were poor and invalided instead of allowing them to become a charge upon the State as they might do, and you might be preventing their homes being broken up by the subvention you were asked to give. You could not have had a more productive kind of expenditure. This proposal which the executive are seeking to impose upon a reluctant House is a charge which is thoroughly unproductive.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
According to the right hon. Gentleman opposite the only way out of it might be that you would have to make the Army a little bit more attractive, and then you need not pay them such high wages. Is that what my right hon. Friend means? If so, that is where I part company with him. Let us see what the proposal is. It is a very serious one. It is backed by the authority first of all of the Army Council. The Secretary of State for War announced that to the House. In addition to that it has the backing of that champion of economy, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who told us in the House that the Secretary for War had acted upon a decision of the Cabinet for which the Government as a whole is responsible, and in reply to the hon. Member for the Wrekin division (Mr. Palmer) it was stated that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Lord of the Treasury are still Members of the Cabinet. And so we have the Chancellor of the Exchequer in favour of it, and the whole of the Cabinet supporting it. But what we are faced with to-night is a vote of censure. That is the issue. The gage of battle has been thrown down, and on what? These are fervid days of appeals by the Prime Minister and new written rhetoric to the State Departments for economy all round. Here you have a Cabinet issue of supreme and vital importance, and it is a vote of censure on scarlet for the Army. What a Government it is! They solemnly throw down the gage of battle on this issue. It is just like them, and the whole of their policy! No doubt I may lose some votes for saying that. The issue has been clearly defined by the Secretary for War. In his answer on the 8th June he minimised it in this way. He said the total avoidable expense in not £160,000 but £130,000. Reference has already been made to two demands which were rejected on the ground that they could not be afforded. I suppose we are to take it that this little sum of £130,000 means nothing. What it really means is this, and I warn the Committee seriously to bear it in mind, that if they give the Government this first step it will mean that the whole of the £3,000,000 will be spent. The Army Council will make no mistake about that, and the Cabinet will be solemnly pledged to it. They propose to stand or fall by their proposal. In the answer given by 2317 the Secretary for War, in the closing paragraph, there is something of which I want more particulars from the right hon. Gentleman. I admit at once that the question of the Household Cavalry does not arise. They have had their uniforms right through the War, and there is no economy to be effected there.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I presume so. I am not raising that point, I am raising a new point, and it shows how reasonable I am. I am just dealing with the new proposal of the Government. The Household Cavalry are to be kept as they have been during the War. What we are objecting to is new expenditure, and I want to bring the Secretary for War straight to that point. What he said was this, that the Household troops meant the Guards, and there would be a waste of fully £80,000, because they had some 7,000 bearskins and I do not know how many thousands of yards of scarlet cloth. Cannot those bearskins and that scarlet cloth keep! Of course they can. They can be kept for years, and if the Army Council or the War Office do not know how to do it let them call in the assistance of some women. What I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman is this. Let him tell us what the last part of his answer really means. I am sure he has no desire to mislead the Committee. I think he has mixed up two things, but will he tell us what is going to be the real amount of alleged waste? I want to impress upon him that you can keep scarlet cloth and bearskins for years. He has millions of yards of khaki. I do not know how many millions of yards of khaki he has placed in the hands of the Disposal Board. At any rate, he told us yesterday he had many million yards of khaki. Why does he not use it? There is no evidence at all that the soldiers want scarlet. There is not a Member of this House who, in his heart, does not support our view that it is of the utmost importance that in an issue of this kind, which the public mind has thoroughly grasped, the question of governmental economy is involved. It may not amount to very much, but it is these little things which show what the Government mean. Every speech I have listened to to-night, with one solitary exception—that of the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton, the effect of which 2318 was much minimised by the suggestion that the change should not be tried this year—every speech, I say, with that exception, has been against the proposal of the Government. There is not a single argument in favour of it except it may be that money might be saved on wages.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
And if you say you are going to get an efficient army only by putting it into scarlet, I would suggest that you are throwing an insult on khaki. Was there ever a more efficient British army than there is to-day? On the ground of economy, on the ground of sentiment, and on every practical ground this proposal of the Government is condemned. The only arguments put before the Committee in its favour are that the Army Council want it, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer says it is a good thing, and that the Government are pledged to it. There is the issue: I wonder which way hon. Members are going to vote.
§ Mr. E. HARMSWORTH
On this subject, I have not heard any reason given why the Government wishes to place the Army in scarlet. It cannot be with any object of economy that they wish to turn the Army into a Red Army—of course, I do not mean that in a Bolshevik sense. But what is it that causes the Government to desire to spend money in this way? is it due to a lack of recruits? We have had various suggestions made on this point. Some Members say, and the Government have stated, that recruiting is very good. Others, speaking from personal experience, say it is very bad. I certainly have heard many men in the Army describe it as bad. Which are we to believe? Will the Secretary for War tell us whether recruiting is good or bad, so that we may know exactly what the issue is? If the reason for this expenditure is that recruiting is bad, I presume the Government imagine that it will be better if the Army don a scarlet uniform. I know before the War that certain women admired the soldier in scarlet rather than the man in khaki. It is very well known that nursery maids have been willing to pay soldiers half-a crown to take them round the park. But those times have gone by, and, after this War, women have a very different idea as to whether they will walk out with a soldier in scarlet or one in khaki. An hon. Member opposite said just now that 2319 soldiers do not think. I venture to assert that women do think and that their decision on this point is likely to make a great deal of difference. I do not think that anyone can suggest that recruiting would be better if a soldier donned scarlet.
Another point arises as to whether we want more recruiting, as to whether this country is not getting a little tired of militarism and keeping up a very large army. The fact that the sum is only £3,000,000 and refers only to scarlet uniforms is not a very important point, but I regard this Debate as a symbol and a guide as to whether or not the House and the country wish to keep up a large army and to spend money extravagantly for that purpose. I understood at the beginning of the year that we were keeping 600,000 men, but that the number would be greatly reduced this year, and would reach the level of a standing army of much smaller size. So far I do not think there is the slightest sign of the Army being reduced to the normal size. Does that mean that we are to continue to keep up a large army? Does it mean that our commitments abroad are so great that it is absolutely impossible for us to reduce the total by a single man? Does it mean that we have such large commitments in the East and other places, and our contingents of men are too far apart? Does it mean that the Army Council are frightened that if an attack came or if some disturbance arose in our possessions in the East, we should be unable, owing to lack of resources, to send men to keep the country in order? I think that is a very important point. It was raised to a certain extent in the Debate this afternoon, and the right hon. Gentleman in reply said that he considered our forces in Mesopotamia rather dangerously far apart. The point as to whether we have large enough forces for our Empire is raised again on this subject of uniforms, in connection with better recruiting. If the Army Council think we have not enough forces to garrison our Empire, why do they not come to the House and say perfectly frankly that that is the case, that they want more men, and that they intend to introduce scarlet uniforms in order to get more men? Then we can argue whether or not we want such an increase in our Empire, as regards Mesopotamia. On the point 2320 as to whether or not we should have scarlet uniforms, because they are scarlet, and because khaki happens to be khaki, I do not think one could bring reasons either way, unless it is the fact that recruiting is bad. The right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) stated, I understand, that he thought we were going to have another war, or something of that sort, very shortly. I think his words were slightly in that direction; and he said we must start preparing with a large Army for a war in the future. I cannot see any reason for preparing for another war in the future. If a war comes within the next ten years the country could not afford to pay for it, so I do not see any reason for raising a large Army to prepare for it.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I quite agree that before the War we should have had a larger Army to prepare us for it, but surely it is quite inconceivable that there should be another war of this kind within the next fifty years. We may have small wars in different parts of the world, but it is inconceivable that we should have enough resources left to fight within the next fifty years. I do not see any reason in that for keeping up a large Army. The right hon. Gentleman also made the. statement, in arguing in favour of scarlet uniforms, that it encouraged recruiting, and he stated that in his knowledge one part of the Army, namely, the Foot Guards, had suffered in recruiting, and at the same time it came out that the Foot Guards were the only regiment that had scarlet uniforms.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
Because they make such an ornament on parade. You cannot compare a band with foot soldiers. I protest very strongly against the proposal of the Government to put the Army in scarlet uniforms unless there is some very good argument in favour of it.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
This Vote appears to me to involve two quite dis- 2321 tinct points. The first is the merits of the question whether it is right or not to restore the pre-War uniform, and the second appears to be the manner in which the Government has handled the question. On the merits of the question as between these two uniforms I have no very strong opinion. I do not know for what reasons the Government desires to restore the scarlet uniform. They may be tolerably good reasons, but in the absence of any convincing proof of its necessity I think the natural inclination in all parts of the House would be to question the wisdom of such a policy. But I want much more to lay stress on the way this question has been handled. The Government, whatever the merits of the case may be, knows perfectly well that on all questions of expenditure at present there is a great feeling of anxiety, if not uneasiness, both in this House and in the country, and a very genuine desire to effect economy wherever it can be done without seriously interfering with the efficiency of the public service or the policy of the Government. The Government, knowing that, has made this proposal, and in the Press and other means of public expression it has been quite clear, from the moment it was made known, that there was at all events a very great deal of doubt in the public mind as to the policy which was to be pursued. Under the circumstances I should have thought that the wise course for the Government to pursue would have been to say, "We will not take any decisive step. We will not commit ourselves to it until we have had an opportunity of laying our views before the House of Commons and trusting to our powers to persuade them that it is a wise and politic course to make this change." Instead of that, and in spite of the manifestations of disagreement, the Government immediately took steps to carry that policy into effect, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer to a question, practically intimated—in fact he said so in terms—that if this Vote were not carried it would mean the resignation of the Government, because he said it would be a question for their successors. That is a course against which this House ought to protest.
I do not think it is right that on a matter of this sort the Government should present an ultimatum to the House. No doubt many hon. Members during the last week have been, as I have 2322 been, interested in the concluding volumes of the life of Disraeli. If so, they will probably remember a very important and interesting document composed by that statesman in 1873, in which he strongly protested on constitutional grounds against the doctrine that the Government had a right, of their own sweet will and pleasure, to make any issue they chose a vital one, and to say that Parliament must accept their proposals or must turn them out and form another Government. Mr. Disraeli successfully resisted that doctrine and by refusing to displace the Ministry that he had defeated in this House, he established a doctrine which I think is as sound a constitutional doctrine to-day as it was in the year 1873. That being so, I would earnestly appeal to my right hon. Friend to allow the House some liberty to-night on this Vote. The Government earlier in the Debate received proof overwhelming of the support which they have in this House on any substantial matter of policy, and it would be most unfortunate if the right hon. Gentleman should force many of those who would most reluctantly go into the Lobby against them, to take that course on a matter of such comparative unimportance as the difference between one uniform and another. I am quite certain that whatever arguments there may be in favour of restoring the scarlet uniform—and I daresay there are cogent reasons—I do not think any Member of the Government can really say that it is a matter of such vital importance to the very existence of the Government, overwhelmingly supported in this House, that it ought to stand and fall by it. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend will take a course, which would be a very popular course, after the demonstration of support they have received to-night, and take off the Government Whips and allow the House to give a perfectly free and untrammelled vote on this subject. I do not suppose there is anyone who is less desirous than I am of turning out my right hon. Friend or any of his colleagues from office. On a question of vote of censure I would vote at any time for a vote of confidence in the Government, but upon this question, if my right hon. Friend forces us to go into the Lobby, even though he choses to say that it is vital to the existence of the Government, I shall find myself quite unable to support him.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
I think the trend of this Debate has elicited at least one fact, that in our present financial straits a monster on a heap of skulls would be less objectionable than a bureaucrat on a mound of pipeclay. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London spoke in favour of this proposal. His main argument, as I understood, was that to clothe the Army in red uniform was conducive to esprit de corps in the Regular Army. I refuse to believe that the esprit de corps of the Regular Army goes no deeper than the tunic. I would remind the right hon. Baronet that, while he and his contemporaries spent practically the whole of their soldiering in the red tunics, the young men of whom the present Army is composed spent all their time in khaki, and all the glory of their regiments is bound up inseparably with the khaki tradition. His second argument was that this red clothing was conducive to recruiting. It is inconceivable that any young man should join the Army without first consulting some old soldier as to what was to happen in the Army. If he consults one of those old soldiers, he will learn from an expert source that one of the most unpleasant duties of soldiers' life is the cleaning of this red uniform. Hours of his time are wasted in this unproductive duty. The red uniform is extremely unpopular among old soldiers. At any rate, it is open to doubt whether the red uniform will assist recruiting. I do not believe that many men are attracted to the Army by the glamour of a poster or the prospect of amatory success. But, in any case, the right hon. Gentleman has assured us that recruiting for the Regular Army is proceeding satisfactorily, and the maintenance of His Majesty's Forces will not depend entirely upon the influence of the romantic nursemaid.
The real argument in favour of the red uniform is that on ceremonial occasions it looks nice. That is the beginning and end of the matter. To pursue that argument to its logical conclusion, hon. Members might just as well say that on ceremonial occasions it would look nice to have Whitehall painted pink. The answer in both cases is that in the æsthetic sense the contention may be true, but that from the financial sense we simply cannot afford these luxuries. I know or I believe that the right hon. Gentleman will avoid 2324 this issue on the ground that it is quite unnecessary to extend this proposal to the main body of the Army and will confine it to the Guards. It was said, I think this afternoon, that the red uniform would be unpopular, and therefore the rest of the Army would be pleased to escape this unpleasing obligation. I quite agree that it is unpopular, but I am quite certain that if any differential treatment is meted out to the Guards immediately an outcry will arise throughout the Army, and the right hon. Gentleman will in a very short time come down to the House with a great pressure of Army opinion behind him and say that he must have the moneys to clothe the whole Army in scarlet. We all know that this objective lies at the back of his mind. It has been urged eloquently by my hon. Friends beside me that this money might be devoted to uses very beneficial to mankind. Many instances have been cited, of which I need quote only one, which I hope will be very dear to the heart of the right hon. Gentleman himself. This £3,000,000 might be devoted to making this country entirely safe against aerial attack. It might be devoted to the development of our Air Service, to putting it in such a position that it would be unchallenged by any other Air Service in the world. To give an entirely different kind of instance, the League of Nations at the present moment is appealing for a sum of £2,000,000 with which to check the threatened attack of typhus during next winter, which will probably involve the loss of at least a million lives. Two-thirds of this money which is to go to gladdening the eyes of bureaucrats might save a million lives next year.
The only mission of this £3,000,000 is to deprive the people of this country of the khaki spectacle which, as I, at any rate, believe, will ever remain one of their most sacred memories. Many of us were inspired with high hopes, when the right hon. Gentleman went to the War Office, that his realistic outlook and forceful character would be thrown into the scale against the retention of these expensive anachronisms. Those hopes, however, have been dashed to the ground. I fear he is bound too securely to military ambition to realise the necessities of peace. The right hon. Gentleman has developed a reputation for modelling himself upon ambitious precedent. It is scarcely necessary to remind him that the 2325 first Napoleon excelled, not merely in the realms of martial display and military achievement, but also in the gentler sphere of peaceful administration. The right hon. Gentleman has already had full opportunity for the display of his genius for war. May I now beg him to turn his attention, flushed as he is with victories won and reverses manfully sustained on far-flung fields—may I beg him to return to the less exciting, but none the less exacting pursuits of peace? I am even ready to believe that, unless he speedily devotes his great intellect to the furtherance of some great constructive work of peaceful organisation—such, for instance, as the League of Nations—he will be in danger of occupying a lesser place in the verdict of posterity than his great predecessor and prototype, the first Napoleon.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
This is admittedly a very difficult question. It is a question about which anybody can talk. Everyone feels on an equality with regard to opportunities of forming an opinion, and no one feels that he need be hampered by a small acquaintance with the character and traditions of our voluntary professional British Army. On the other hand, it is a question which gives rise, undoubtedly, to a good deal of prejudice. Anyone can see how easy it is for skilful ingenious, imaginative and youthful brains to turn the admitted difficulties of this question of clothing in the Army to good effect in an exciting and rousing Debate such as we have had this evening. I hope my hon. Friends who have criticised the War Office and myself in this matter may still, perhaps, remember that from time to time very difficult questions do come up, on which the Minister, who for the time being is responsible, has to form an opinion and advise action. I have had, even in the course of the present Parliament, which has not lasted more than eighteen months, two or three of these very difficult questions, and just the kind of questions about which anybody can form, and about which most people do form, an opinion. We had questions like that of the Slough depôt, in which there was a tremendous newspaper attack of great violence, and in which we were counselled to take most precipitate action, and to scrap or sell at any price the whole concern. I took very careful advice, and I went to people who 2326 knew about these things, and after looking into it I came to the conclusion we would do better to wait and to hold on to this valuable possession. As a result of that decision, which was endorsed by the House, and which the House sustained, we were able to make an exceedingly good business transaction out of the winding-up of Slough depôt. Then there was the case of Miss Violet Douglas Pennant.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am not sure that my hon. Friend was not in both of them. It was just the kind of case which suits particularly his peculiar genius. At any rate, I had not seen the House in a more difficult or more critical mood in regard to any matter with which I have been concerned in my official capacity till to-night since the Debate as to Miss Violet Douglas Pennant. On that occasion I had difficulty sometimes in obtaining a hearing from many hon. Gentlemen. We had these sort of questions which are very, very difficult questions, and I do hope that the fact that I should have to deal with them will be attributed to my office and not to my possessing a double dose of original sin or any other particular personal failing of that kind. That is only by the way. I hope we shall try to come to a general agreement. I quite agree with what was said just now by my hon. Friend, that it is not for us to go on debating as if it were about continents and governments falling on a question of taste and of opinion, and almost one might say of caprice on a question of this kind. Certainly my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in no way intended to convey that serious impression to the House. It was a light reply to a still lighter supplementary.
I would like to point out to the Committee that there is a good deal of authority and of careful thought behind this proposal. In the first instance it was most elaborately considered by what is called the Murray Committee. They sat for months, and they examined hundreds of witnesses from every branch of the Army and from all ranks of the service. They went most laboriously into the whole question and into the details of the uniform of each regiment. They considered all sorts of alternatives. My hon. Friend who moved this Amendment suggested that we should make alterna- 2327 tives to khaki with the colour facings of the different units. They actually made them, and so revolted were they by the appearance of these garments that they unanimously rejected them.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I certainly do not exclude that, and if my hon. Friend's nerves are strong enough it may be possible to arrange for him to have an opportunity. First of all, there was this Murray Committee, which sat for months, and they gave their opinion. Then there was the Army Council. Hon. Gentlemen who spoke from those benches a little while ago spoke of those reactionary, ancient, anachronistic soldiers of a vanished period, but the Army Council, on the whole, may claim to be equal in military personnel to the best brains of the Army at the present time; certainly they are among the most able officers, and all have made their mark in one way or another in the most responsible and serious duties of the War. They came unanimously to the conclusion that this was a very desirable step for us to take in the long, general, permanent interests of our voluntary British Army. Of course, I know there is a certain class of opinion which regards the view of a professional military man, not an amateur military man, but a professional military man, as necessarily beneath contempt—" Ah, well, he is only a soldier; we can put his view aside"—and especially if, in addition to being a military man, he is a military man holding high rank, then, of course, his opinion must on no account be taken into consideration.
In coming to a difficult decision of this kind, I have to try to sum up the advice which I have received from those who have lived their whole lives in the Army, and who have made a special study of the military profession; I have to bring this advice together into a definite recommendation and I have to submit it to my colleagues in the Cabinet. I do not think I am in a position, at any rate, to brush aside as absolutely irrelevant the concentrated and unanimous opinion of all the responsible military authorities. I did not stop there. Before I placed the matter before the Cabinet I had the advantage of discussing this matter with the Service Members Committee of this House. Quite 2328 a large meeting—30 or 40 Members—were present, and I exposed most plainly the difficulties which I felt in the matter. I am quite conscious of the fact that a prejudicial case can be put on a subject like this. There is no doubt whatever that it would be easy to make the kind of argument we have had from the right hon. Gentleman this evening. People would be able to say, "What a Government!" All this sort of argument would be put, and everyone would have contrasted every penny that was spent on the uniforms of the Army with a hundred other exceedingly desirable avenues of expenditure. I therefore exposed my difficulties frankly, as I think some hon. Gentlemen who are here present will remember, and the opinion which I generally derived from those hon. Members was that the difficulty would be the expense in regard to the officers, that officers who had no private means of their own would find a great difficulty in meeting these charges at a time when prices are so abnormally high, and I had particularly in mind the case of officers promoted from the ranks, of whom there are many in the Army at the present time. Therefore I regarded it as essential, in making a proposal of this kind to the Cabinet, that an effective contribution should be made to take the burden of such a change off the serving officers. Having got the matter as far as this—and I am only telling the House these stages, not in order to try and beg the question of who is right or wrong in the matter, but only to show them that it has been seriously, and carefully, and patiently considered at every stage—having got so far, I submitted the matter to the Cabinet. The Cabinet, with all their faults, are not entirely inexperienced. They know perfectly well the sort of difficulties that arise on these questions. They know perfectly well the kind of Press campaign that is being run against us on these questions. It would have been quite easy to write beforehand the headlines and the leading articles which have appeared. We have, however, to take many matters into consideration, and, after full, careful, thorough discussion and consideration, the Government decided upon a definite. policy.
Let us see what is that policy, because it would be a great pity if we were here this evening to make up our minds on an entirely false issue—I will not say on a 2329 red herring, but on an entirely erroneous view of what is the policy of the Government and what is the issue to be decided. My hon. Friend who spoke from these benches (Mr. E. Harmsworth), the anti-waste candidate, brought out the £3,000,000. He could not get away from that figure, which has played such a promient part in our national discussions out of doors. That is not the issue. The Government felt that in principle it was necessary that there should be a full or ceremonial dress for the Army. They felt, in regard to the Household Cavalry and the Guards—who are the guards of the capital of this ancient Kingdom and of this world-wide Empire—that there was a necessity that these troops at the very centre of this the greatest city in the world should have a definite ceremonial dress. We were not able to say that such a ceremonial dress should be extended to the rest of the Army, but we did consider that the Guards and the Household Cavalry stood in a different position in point of urgency as well as to a certain extent in point of principle from the rest of the Army. The Government decided to proceed this year with the clothing of the Guards and, as far as is necessary, of the Household Cavalry, and to leave the question of the clothing of the rest of the Army to some future period.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I really do not think that ought to be brought in, because, as a matter of fact, we ought to take a right decision in the interests of the Army. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is looking at it from the point of view of the election. He ought to look at it from the point of view of the Army.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
When the election comes I do not suppose we shall find ourselves at a great disadvantage as compared with him. The case of the Guards and the Household Cavalry stands in an entirely different position from that of the rest of the Army. In the first place, as I pointed out the other day at Question time, there would be a loss either way. The Household Cavalry have already their uniforms, and to deprive them of their uniforms would entail a great waste. The Guards have already a quantity of uniforms, and of material for making uniforms, and all these costly 2330 bear-skins. There are 7,000 of them—enough to deal with the whole question of the Guards for many years to come. The total cost of re-equipping these troops, who have ceremonial duties to discharge about the Capital, with their pre-War uniforms, simplified as they have been, will be £160,000. That is a very serious figure, and I hope it is not supposed that it is a figure which I regard lightly, but, if a figure is to be quoted, I would rather the figure of £160,000 were quoted than the figure of £3,000,000, which is the only one which has been raised in these discussions. I am very much inclined to think that the conclusion to which the Government came will be taken in a great many quarters to have been a reasonable and sensible one. These troops stand in a special position. They are already partly clothed in this form of dress. Let us complete them, but let us leave the question of the rest of the Army to some future occasion.
We are prepared in this matter to follow a policy which will appeal to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. We are prepared to "Wait and see"—to wait and see what the progress of recruiting is in the unit which has the full dress, and in the units which do not have it. That will give us a very accurate test. We may wait and see the movement of prices, because I cannot think of anything less prudent than to put out on the market an order for a very large number of new uniforms at the present time, and enable tailors to put up their prices. Obviously, if this is done at all, it can only be done by feeling your way from point to point. I think we are entitled also to wait and see what is the movement of opinion in the Army, and of opinion out of the Army. Of course, if my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last is right, that the soldiers dislike the uniforms, and that they will resent having to wear them because of the trouble of keeping them in order, that will easily become manifest, and we shall see a falling-off in the recruiting for the Guards, and a rush to wear the khaki of the ordinary line. We shall also see what opinion the officers of the Army form about it, and their opinion, I readily admit, is by no means united. It is a very difficult question. It is a question where you get as many different opinions as you get men in the interval we shall be using fully the stocks of khaki. It is unthinkable that we should waste a scrap 2331 of khaki or a scrap of khaki uniform. There is no question of doing away with the khaki uniform. It will be the permanent working dress of the whole Army, including the Guards.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
In the interval we can resume the inquiries into a subject, which I do not think is by any means exhausted, namely, the possibility of finding an alternative full dress for the Line. I would like to put this to the Committee as a very practical point. Whatever decision the House may take, the soldier has got to have more than one suit of clothes. You have the workman in the overalls in which he works. He has his Sunday suit as well. The soldier also requires his workaday clothes, his service kit, his fighting kit, and, in addition, a dress of some sort and of a different character more suitable for the ceremonial proceedings of life. Some people think that the soldier in time would resent only having a dress which was associated with the more sober and terrible duties and aspects of his profession. I have had that point put forcibly before me. At any rate, however you look at it, it is perfectly clear there must be at least two complete sets of uniform with which the ordinary private soldier has to be supplied. I am quite ready to go into this question of the alternative uniform in the interval, but I would say it was thoroughly examined by a Committee, which, however, did not find a satisfactory solution.
It is very easy to sneer and chaff at the importance attached by soldiers to their uniform and to refer to their regimental position; but no comparison can be made between the great nationally-raised conscript Armies which have been, and possibly are going to be, raised by all the countries in Europe—except those who are precluded by the Peace Treaties—it is not possible, I say, to draw a comparison between our own small voluntary professional Army and those great Armies on the continent that are taken by compulsion. You do not need to offer them an attractive uniform. The authorities there 2332 know for certain the men they will get each year as they reach a certain age. These men live in their own country, and see their potential enemy just across the frontier. They see the nation from which they have suffered the most terrible injuries: possibly, if all went wrong in the world again, they might again be the victims. The men only serve for a short time, say for one or two years. What, then, is the relevence of the comparison with these Armies, and the Army that this House has deliberately chosen? In the old pre-War professional Army the men served for seven years with the Colours and five years with the reserve. They served in the main on terms of duty through the great foreign stations of the British Empire, and the recruiting was regulated entirely by the free working of the labour market. There is no comparison therefore between, our old Army and the Armies to which I have referred. A smart uniform carries on the traditions of many generations and of many famous campaigns in which are bound up the greatness of this island, and the splendour of its records. Such a uniform is an important element in the regimental life of the Army when the soldier has to go away for years at a time from his country and his family, and his regiment has to supply so many of the social and moral needs which he naturally feels.
It is a very odd thing that I should have to defend this particular proposal. Because I remember well that I was as young as my hon. Friend who spoke a while ago, and about as young as my other hon. Friend; I remember well standing in my place after the Boer War and denouncing, in unmeasured terms, the folly of gaudy and tinsled uniforms. I make this confession quite frankly to the House, I admit that I have changed my point of view to a very considerable extent. The passage of years and the slow acquisition of maturer wisdom have had their influence, as also has the terrible ordeal through which the world has passed and is passing. I confess that I see a far greater value in continuity, tradition, custom and in the structure of our social and national life than I did in the days when I came here as a young Member of 25 years of age. Remember this: We hope we are embarking upon a long period of peace. We hope we are embarking on a period which will extend over one, two, or three gene- 2333 rations, in which no great, vast or terrible struggle will shake and convulse the world. Still, Britain, with her Empire and her vast possessions and great position in the van of the nations, will require to keep some sort of military establishment in being.
These traditions and the uniform under discussion were all we had when the Great War broke out. There has not been any war like the last since the Napoleonic Wars, and yet we have kept alive the full traditions of the British Army. They were so strong that we were able to imprint them at once on the whole of the national force which in a couple of years we rallied and organised for the national defence. Each one of those regiments produced at least 20 or 30 other battalions, and every man who served in them had the feeling that he was one of that regiment, and associated with the long traditions attached to it. I hope that aspect of the question will not be left out in our future consideration of what should be done for the Army as a whole.
The only issue before the Committee is that the Guards and the Household Cavalry should be reclothed this year.
§ I am quite willing to give the Committee an undertaking that before any further expenditure is incurred on the reclothing of the Regular Army of the Line, which certainly would not arise until another year, the House shall have a further opportunity of discussing this matter in the light of the experience which we shall gain from this small experiment upon which we have decided.
§ Colonel GREIG
Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that nothing shall be done to do away with kilts or tartans or to put any of the Highland regiments into khaki kilts?
§ Mr. BILLING
As the right hon. Gentleman is going to protect the best interests of national life in the matter of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, will he not give the same consideration to the best interests of the British regiments, and keep them in their national uniforms?
§ Question put, "That Item Head V., Sub-head A, be reduced by £500."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 85; Noes, 222.2335
|Division No. 158.]||AYES.||[10.55 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. F. D.||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Harmsworth, Sir R. L. (Caithness)||Remer, J. R.|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Hayday, Arthur||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Hinds, John||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barrand, A. R.||Hogge, James Myles||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Bennett, Thomas Jewell||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)||Royden, Sir Thomas|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Seddon, J. A.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Kenyon, Barnet||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Swan, J. E.|
|Briant, Frank||Lawson, John J.||Terrell, George (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Bromfield, William||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Mallalieu, F. W.||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Morrison, Hugh||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Mosley, Oswald||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Davies, Major D. (Montgomery)||Murray, Lieut.-Colonel A. (Aberdeen)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Wintringham, Thomas|
|Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)||Myers, Thomas||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Edwards, John H. (Glam., Neath)||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Galbraith, Samuel||O'Grady, Captain James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Glanville, Harold James||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Mr. C. Palmer and Major Entwistle.|
|Gould, James C.||Rae, H. Norman|
|Hancock, John George||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir james Tynte||Barrie, Charles Coupar||Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-|
|Atkey, A. R.||Barrie, Rt. Hon. H. T. (Lon'derry, N.)||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Bridgeman, Willliam Clive|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Billing, Noel Pamberton-||Brittain, Sir Harry|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Blair, Reginald||Brown, Captain D.C.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Brown, T. W. (Down, North)|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel A. H.||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Purchase, H. G.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn'n,W.)||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel N.|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Casey, T. W.||Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Reid, D. D.|
|Cayzer, Major Herbert Robin||Hopkins, John W. W.||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Howard, Major S. G.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Rutherford, Colonel Sir J. (Darwen)|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Clough, Robert||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Johnstone, Joseph||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Kidd, James||Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Seager, Sir William|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Knight, Major E. A. (Kidderminster)||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Cope, Major Wm.||Knights, Capt. H. N. (C'berwell, N.)||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Courthope, Major George L.||Larmor, Sir Joseph||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lloyd, George Butler||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lort-Williams, J.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Starkey, Captain John R.|
|Dawes, Commander||Lynn, R. J.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Edge, Captain William||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Elveden, Viscount||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Matthews, David||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Middlebrook, Sir William||Taylor, J.|
|Fildes, Henry||Mitchell, William Lane||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Moles, Thomas||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Foreman, Henry||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Vickers, Douglas|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Freece, Sir Walter de||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Morison, Rt. Hon. Thomas Brash||Waring, Major Walter|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Gardiner, James||Murchison, C. K.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Neal, Arthur||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Green, Albert (Derby)||O'Neill, Major Hon. Robert W. H.||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W.||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Greene, Lieut.-Col. W. (Hackney, N.)||Parker, James||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Wilson, Lieut.-Col. M. J.(Richmond)|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Gretton, Colonel John||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Perring, William George||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W (Liv'p'l, W.D'by)||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W.||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Hanna, George Boyle||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Pratt, John William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Prescott, Major W. H.||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, to put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of the Vote.
§ Resolution to be reported to-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again to-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.