§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. SPEAKER do now leave the Chair."—[Mr. Churchill.]
§ Colonel Sir JAMES REMNANT
I desire to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsin the opinion of this House, relatives of those who fell in the War should be allowed to erect monuments of their own choosing over the graves of their fallen relatives, subject to such regulations as to size as may be prescribed by the Imperial War Graves Commission.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. Member that the Motion is not relevant to Army Estimates. The Vote for the Imperial Graves Commission will be, I am informed, among the Civil Service Votes. It could not be discussed on going into Committee of Supply on the Army Estimates.
§ Sir J. REMNANT
May I call your attention to the fact that on page 91 of the Army Estimates the whole of the staff of the War Office for the Graves Registration Inquiry is included. That being so, is not my Motion in order?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I understand that the persons referred to are employed in transferring bodies now buried in open spaces to the cemeteries, and that the control then comes into the hands of the Imperial War Graves Commission, the Vote for which will appear among the Civil Service Estimates.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Lord R. CECIL
When we raised this question on the Vote on Account last year, the Secretary of State for War answered and explained that, although the Imperial War Graves Commission was not, strictly speaking, under any Minister, yet, as a matter of practice, he was the Minister who answered. Under these circumstances, I respectfully submit that this question must be relevant to the salary of the Secretary of State, it being part of his duty to answer for the Imperial War Graves Commission. May I 80 further submit that none of those who are interested in this subject, and there are people who are very profoundly interested in it, could possibly tell that it was going to be put into the Civil Service Estimates. Since the War Minister answered for it last year, we could only move in the Ballot for an opportunity of raising the question on the Estimates which we thought would most likely include the matter. It will be a very great hardship on those who take an interest in this matter if, owing to a new arrangement of the Estimates made by the Government, they are precluded altogether from raising the matter in the House. Nothing would be more disastrous to the reputation and position of this House than that Members should not be in a position to discuss all grievances.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not for a moment say that the question should not be discussed; quite the contrary. The only thing in which I am interested is to see that it is discussed in its proper place, and the proper place is when the Vote for the Imperial War Graves Commission is taken or when the Commission is included in the Vote on Account. It is quite clear that it does not appear among the Army Estimates this year, and it cannot therefore be discussed on a Motion which is limited to the War Office Estimates. When the matter arises, it may well be that the Secretary of State for War will be prepared to answer, but the Noble Lord knows as well as I do that under the Rules of Procedure these things must be discussed in their proper place.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I bow entirely to what you have been good enough to say, but may I submit, since it is part of the duty of the Secretary of State for War to supervise this Imperial War Graves Commission, it must therefore be in order to discuss the matter on a Vote which raises the salary of the Secretary of State for War.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If that were so, every one of the War Office Estimates could be discussed upon the salary of the Secretary of State, and that has been repeatedly held to be improper and impossible. Each matter must be discussed on the Vote relevant to it, and, when the Vote relating to the Imperial War Graves 81 Commission comes on, it can be discussed, or it can be put down for an allotted day.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I give notice that I shall ask the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House on Wednesday whether he will arrange somehow or other that we shall have an opportunity of discussing this question in the House.
§ Sir SAMUEL SCOTT
When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War introduced a Vote on Account the other day, he gave very solid reasons why the Government asked the House to authorise what is apparently a somewhat large expenditure this year upon the Army, and he emphasised the new and various responsibilities, both permanent and temporary, which have been placed upon this country in consequence of the War, but, true to history and true, also, to the traditions of some of the Members of the old Liberal party, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir D. Maclean), in spite of what the Secretary of State for War had said, took upon himself the responsibility of moving an irresponsible reduction of a very large amount. Following, also, the traditions of his party, he thereby placed economy before safety. It must not be forgotten that in 1906 the Government were forced by members of their own party to make big reductions in the Army. As far as I remember, my right hon. Friend the Member for the likeston Division was one of those who took a prominent part. It is quite true that in those days the Government in public scoffed at the warnings of Lord Roberts with regard to the German menace, and no doubt a very large number of Members, the majority of the Members, in this House were of the opinion that there was not a great German menace. We know now how we have suffered through not having listened to Lord Roberts. There may have been some excuse in those pre-War days for hon. Members to move big reductions in the Army, but there is no excuse at the present moment. The Government have been absolutely open and frank with regard to our responsibilities. They have told the House exactly what we have to face and the possible dangers, Therefore those who are endeavouring to reduce our armed forces at the present moment certainly cannot plead ignorance, as they could in pre-War days, of the existing situation.
82 Whether it is or is not possible to create a joint Imperial General Staff, such as that outlined by my right hon. and gallant Friend, I do not know; that is a matter for the Government to decide; but what I would like to hear from the Government is that they approve of the main principle which underlies our suggestion, and I most strongly urge upon them to lose no time in the creation of some independent joint staff. Whatever staff my right hon. Friend creates, whether it be that outlined or some other form, it must be an entirely independent staff to examine all these great and important problems. The other day, on Naval Estimates, the First Lord, I think it was, forecasted the re-creation of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I would make a suggestion to my right hon. Friend, but only if he does not see his. way clear to form a staff such as has been proposed, and which, I frankly admit, I should prefer to any other form. Failing that, however, I would suggest whether it is not possible to create, in connection with the Committee of Imperial Defence some staff to examine these problems. We know that in pre-War days the Committee of Imperial Defence did great and good work, but now it is completely out of date, and needs a thorough reorganisation. I do not know whether the House is aware that in pre-War days, when the Committee met, Army or Navy experts were only asked to be present to answer questions. They sat there representing their Departments, but they took no part in any discussion.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Churchill) indicated dissent.
§ Sir S. SCOTT
My right hon. Friend contradicts me I am only speaking of one or two occasions when I happened to-be present, and then they only spoke when they were asked questions. I asked one of them one day why he said nothing, and he replied, "We are not there to talk but sit and surfer, and, when required, answer questions." However, I naturally defer to what my right hon. Friend says.
I wonder if the House is aware what our responsibilities are with regard to the East. We have at the present moment an Eastern frontier of nearly 4,000 miles. A great portion of this frontier has to be protected against very wild and turbulent tribes, and within that frontier we are directly responsible for the welfare 83 and the government of many millions of people who speak different languages, who have different customs, who have different tribal prejudices, who have even different religions, and who, in some cases, are used to different forms of government. All the tribes, or the greater part of the tribes, in the wilder portions of the East are well armed and have plenty of ammunition. Not only is that the case, but a great number of these gentlemen look upon war in very much the same way as hon. Members look upon golf. They look upon it as an amusement, a pastime and a sport. It is an everyday matter with them. Therefore, it is not very difficult to stir them up to fight if necessary. Our Indian frontier tribes, as hon. Members know, have recently been more turbulent than ever, though they are quiet now. There has been unrest among the Kurds in Mesopotamia: there has been unrest in Syria, there is unrest in Egypt, and, in fact, we may say that at the present time there is unrest throughout the Eastern world. I notice even in to-day's Press in regard to India that there is an agitation going on trying to stir up the Moslems against this country, on the ground of the Caliphate being destroyed. There are, I am told, and I have no doubt of it, strong influfences at work—whence they come I cannot say and do not know—throughout the Fast, endeavouring to stir up and create unrest, endeavouring to stir up the Eastern natives, both in the Midland and Far East, against the Western nations. If once that flame be allowed to start and to get a big hold, it will spread, not in one place, but throughout the whole of the Eastern Empire.
We have to guard against the possibility of that taking place, and we have not only to have a sufficient force to maintain our authority, to maintain law and order, but we must equally have a co-ordinated military and political policy. Local conditions, as hon. Members know, vary in every place, but, if they vary and if each problem has to be dealt with separately, yet there is only one real method of treating the defence of our Eastern Empire and the defence of the Empire generally, and that is by one solid consistent military policy. At the moment, so far as I know, there is no machinery to achieve that object. We have to take to heart the lessons of the 84 War, which have cost us so dearly. My right hon. and gallant Friend (Major-General Seely) has on more than one occasion advocated, with the support not only of a large number of Members of this House, but also as I happen to know of some of the best military brains, the creation of a joint Imperial General Staff. There never was a time, to my mind, when the creation of such a staff was more necessary than at the present moment. I have said a few words about our dangers in the East. Let me remind the House that, in almost every case where there are those dangers, the countries are a very long way from Great Britain, and the question of defence, therefore, not only affects the Army, but equally affects the Navy and every other department. In fact, to get an ideal co-operation, you would not only have to have, on your joint Imperial General Staff, representatives of the War Office, the Navy and the Air Force, but I think you would also require representatives from both the India Office and the Foreign Office, and also, if necessary, from the Treasury as well. It is only by the inclusion of representatives from the India Office and the Foreign Office that you can get a full knowledge of the actual future policy of the Government.
Another thing that struck me with regard to the Committee of Imperial Defence, at least at those meetings which I was privileged to attend, was the entire lack of co-ordination between the Army and the Navy. The representatives of either the Army or the Navy, apparently, looked upon every problem from the point of view of their own Departments, and, when asked their opinion, the Army and the Navy representatives generally contradicted each other flatly. That is not a very desirable state of affairs, and there is no reason why it should be continued; but it will be continued unless there is a complete re-organisation of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that, if he cannot see his way to the creation of a general staff, he should press upon the Government that there should be, shall I say, the equivalent of a miniature Versailles attached to the Committee of Imperial Defence, whose duty it would be to examine these problems, to co-ordinate our military policy in accordance with whatever might be the policy of the Government then in power, and to place before the Committee of Imperial 85 Defence a joint co-ordinated plan, both for general Imperial defence and for local defence—not disjointed one from the other, but as one complete whole. If my right hon. Friend will take that matter up, I am certain that, with his well-known energy, he will carry it through.
I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend will approve of my suggestion, but I do say that, even if his suggestion be not adopted, as long as we have something at once we cannot complain. We live in times of unrest throughout the world. We have upon us Very great Imperial responsibilities, even greater than in pre-War days. We have also other commitments, and we have duties to carry out to which we are pledged to the Allies. Hitherto this country has boasted proudly that she has never shirked responsibility, and has never broken her pledge abroad. It would be a very serious thing, to my mind, if this or any other House, in its wisdom, or lack of wisdom, were to force upon the Government a reduction of the forces which they consider to be the minimum necessary for our safety, and if this country were placed in a position of not being able to fulfil her pledges or carry out her responsibilities. We have not reached that millennium yet which was forecasted by some of those who have supported with so much energy the League of Nations. When the League of Nations has quieted, by talk, if they can, our Eastern races, when they have taken away the turbulent spirit from those races—when that millenium arrives, possibly this House may say to the Government, that now, at last, no more troops will be required, and the Army Estimates can be reduced to almost nothing at all; but not till then.
§ Colonel YATE
I should like to say one word in support of what the hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone has just said with regard to the Committee of Imperial Defence. I can remember giving evidence before it, and seeing all the military and naval officers sitting round the table and not saying a word. The Secretaries of State for India and for Foreign Affairs monopolised the whole of the conversation, and neither the military nor the naval authorities could say a word, nor were they asked to do so. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether he gives us a joint Imperial Staff or a new Defence Committee, to let us have a Committee where all would sit on equal terms, and where military and naval 86 officers would be able to give their views as well as politicians and Secretaries of State. I must confess to a feeling of astonishment at seeing on the Paper today, in the name of one hon. Member on the Liberal Benches on my right a Motion to reduce this vote by 15,000 men, and also in the name of two right hon. Gentlemen on the front Opposition Bench a Motion for a reduction of £15,000,000. Can cither of those Gentlemen have the faintest idea of the dangers that surround this country, and especially the dangers in the East, which the hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone has just dwelt upon so ably? We have two Armies, the British Army and the Indian Army. As regards the British Army, no one can congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State, more than I do, upon the manner in which he has managed to get together a voluntary Army since the date of the Armistice. He has raised a voluntary Army of a certain number of men, and it is wonderful that he has got so many together, considering the enormous number of conscripted men who had to be demobilised. But when we think of that Army, we must remember that those new British battalions are almost all young boys of 19 or so, and that many of those battalions, instead of being 1,000 strong, are only 600 strong, and are going abroad at that strength. Those young soldiers who have just enlisted have not that indefinable spirit which we call esprit de corps, owing to the constant changes of men from battalion to battalion, or from county regiment to county regiment during the war. That spirit has largely to be developed among them, and also the spirit of discipline; and all this requires time. While, therefore, we think of all these battalions of a certain strength, and right good battalions they arc, yet we must remember that, behind them, we have not a single special reserve battalion or militia battalion to provide reserves for them; while as for our second line, the Territorial Force, it has not even yet been commenced. That is the position in which we stand at the present moment, and yet here we have those hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal Benches proposing to reduce the few men we have by 15,000.
The one stand-by that we have at the present time is the Indian Army, and I hope that will be kept even more than usually in view at the present moment. I 87 would ask the Secretary of State to use his best endeavours to prevent the demobilisation going on now in the Indian Army, because I can assure him that every man we have there will be required. Demobilisation is proceeding in India far too rapidly. There are Indian regiments now in Constantinople, in the Black Sea area, and in Egypt, which have been four and five years abroad, and everyone of those regiments should be immediately sent back to India to their own regimental centre near their own particular homes. Let that be done at once, and let other regiments raised during the War be sent abroad to take their place. We all remember that grand Indian army of 70,000 men who came over at the beginning of the War, and saved the whole situation in the first winter of the War, Almost all those men have now gone. I remember the despairing letters which I received at that time in regard to so many of the men who won V.C.'s, Orders of Merit and Military Medals, because they had not one of them to take back to India as they had all been killed. We have now got a much younger lot of officers in the Indian army, and the great trouble is that the Indian officers when they come home say to me, "Sahib! all our old officers have been killed and gone. We have no officers now who understand us." That state of things takes a long time to remedy, and it is a fact that many battalions have only one pre-war officer, and some of them only two, and it takes a long time for the new officers to learn the language and to learn how to deal with their men.
There must be special sympathy and liberality in the treatment of our Indian army if we are to retain the same loyal army we have had hitherto. For these reasons I hope the Secretary of State for War will see that the Indian army is treated in the best possible way. Already the Indian regiments in Constantinople have done a great service. We have in the East a great danger before us. We have road in the paper of a great agitation amongst the Mahomedan population in India which is being backed up by the men in league with the young Turks, and who have been in correspondence with them. We must not forget that the young Turks brought Turkey into this War, and therefore our policy ought to be to help the Sultan, and enable him to hold his 88 own against the young Turkish Party who have brought their country to such terrible ruin. We ought to appeal to the Mahomedan soldiers of India to help us to put the Sultan back again into power, and enable him to turn out all the Enver Pashas and so-called Young Turks who have brought the Sultan and his country into such terrible straits. The more we use the Indian troops the more they will help us, and the more they realise the danger of the present state of things in Turkey the more they will see the responsibility we have in the whole of the East at the present moment. The relations of India and' Afghanistan are absolutely bound up in the question of the retention of the Sultan in Turkey. We do not know what is going to happen there, and the Treaty we made with Afghanistan is one of the weakest things we ever did.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is diverting the Debate into a discussion of the Foreign Office and the India Office, which really are topics not connected with the War Office. We are now discussing the War Office Estimates, and the question of our policy and treaties in relation to foreign Powers does not arise to-day.
§ Colonel YATE
I only desired to point out the danger that faces us in the East, a danger which may come upon us at any moment. I agree that these question are mixed up with foreign policy, but we have to think of the enormous extent of our territory. We have just had a war with Afghanistan, and we do not know when we may have another one. We have also taken over very large responsibilities in Persia, and we have to protect Persia against many forces. One thing I was sorry to see the other day was the announcement of the withdrawal of our Forces on the Persian frontier, because they kept the whole of that country quiet. Only the other day I read in the newspapers an account of how one hundred Bolshevist cavalry attacked some thirteen Indian cavalrymen, who turned upon them and charged them and dispersed them, and they cut through the whole of the Bolshevist cavalry with the loss of only a few men. Look at what happened in the Caspian Sea, where we had a grand naval force. What did the Government do?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that this is 89 the one opportunity afforded for discussing general military topics, and it s inadvisable to diverge into collateral matters. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will bring his mind to bear upon War Office matters generally and discuss those only then he will be in order.
§ Colonel YATE
My point is that we have to protect the whole of the vast country which I have described. In our Eastern Empire we have an enormous slice of the world under our charge, and to protect it we require a large military force. It stretches from Cairo to the Cape on the South and on the East to Jerusalem, Baghdad, Teheran, Cabul, Peshawur, Delhi, Calcutta, Rangoon, Singapore, and up to China, and we must have sufficient forces to defend our interests in those parts. This duty requires every man we have got in the Army, and we want to strengthen our forces rather than reduce the numbers. I want to enter my protest against this proposal to reduce our Army. We want all the men we can get to protect our interests at the present moment. I hope the House will vote against any reduction of our forces, and in every endeavour made by the right hon. Gentleman to strengthen our forces I hope we shall give him every support that is possible.
§ Major-General Sir JOHN DAVIDSON
The words which have fallen from the two hon. and gallant Gentlemen who have just spoken are of very great importance, more especially in reference to the establishment of some advisory body in regard to this question of defence. I think it is time we reached some finality in this matter without any further delay. I want to investigate this question, because we have been fortunate in having the opinion expressed here of four right hon. Gentlemen who have had very considerable experience in this matter, and if the House will permit me I propose to quote certain extracts from their speeches. We can then put them altogether and see what their views are and try and get some finality in the matter, because there is not much difference of opinion between the four of them. The Secretary of State for War, speaking last December in this House, said:These are very revolutionary ideas, and progress towards them can only be made gradually; but progress towards them must be continued, and nothing must be done in reconstructing the Air Perce which in any 90 way conflicts with the final system to which we will certainly be drawn by logic, by economic and by war efficiency, and, in fact, by everything except existing vested interests, namely, a combined general Imperial War Staff for the three Services, actuating and operating under single control."—[OFFICIAL REPORT,15th December, 1919, col. 55, vol. 123.]It will be seen that the right Gentleman thinks it is necessary and essential to co-ordinate the three Services The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ilkeston (Brig.-General Seely), the late Air Minister, said:It is quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman wants the Committee of Imperial Defence enlarged so as to form the necessary council to perform the duties which some advisory body would perform.Two or three days ago the First Lord of the Admiralty, speaking on this question, said:My own opinion, which I give now, as I have given it before, would be that no alterations should be made in that Committee in the direction of increasing the number of its members. I would rather see the numbers reduced than increased."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March. 1920. col. 2446, vol. 126.]Then he goes on to say:We are extremely anxious also that apart from, or in addition to, the Committee of imperial Defence, which is a body of Ministers and experts, there should be a definite arrangement under which the staffs of the great fighting Departments should meet regunlarly for consultation and work out a common policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1920, cols. 2447–8, vol. 126.]I gather from that that the First Lord of the Admiralty is not in favour of a Ministry of Defence, nor is he in favour of increasing the scope of the Imperial Defence Committee, but he would like to see some regular co-ordination of the three services. Then the right hon. Gentleman for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) said,I associate myself with both the hon. gentlemen in deprecating the creation of an executive Minister of Defence who would be over the Army, and Navy, and the Air Service in such a way that they would be, or intended to be, subordinate bodies…. The Imperial Defence Committee was never intended to be an executive body. I must express my earnest hope after a long experience in peace time that the work of this Committee will be resumed…. The great thing is to maintain elasticity in the composition of the Committee."—[OFFICAL. REPORT, 18th March, 1920, cols. 2448–50, vol. 126.]Those four opinions I now propose to analyse. They resolve themselves into two points. The first is that no responsible 91 person is pressing for a Defence Committee at the present moment, and so we may relegate that point to the background. The second point is the necessity for a greater co-ordination for the defence forces in the Empire. But on this there is a "divergence of view as to the method of achieving that end. I just want to note these points before we put the Defence Ministry aside altogether. It is evident that the Secretary of State for War is rather inclined towards it. I believe a great many who are qualified to express an opinion on the subject are also inclined towards it Personally, my view is that the time is not ripe for such a Ministry. I believe in course of time we shall probably have a reorganisation of the machinery of government, and we could then have, for instance, a Defence Ministry with three Under-Secretaries for the Air, Navy, and Land respectively, and perhaps a Commonwealth Ministry with a Secretary of State and Under-Secretaries for the various outlying parts of the Empire. Probably this will be the way in which a solution will come about in these difficulties in the future. The time, however, is not ripe for this.
As regards a better organisation of defence within the Empire, everyone who has spoken on the subject agrees as to the necessity for it. There seems, however, to be a difference of opinion with regard to the Navy. Some go in for the Committee of Imperial Defence. Others go for a Joint Imperial General Staff. One of the four favours a combination of the two. I do not think that there is any great difficulty in the matter, and I should like to run through the speeches of these right hon. Gentlemen and see some way, if possible, in which steps can be taken so as to get something done. They all realise that this body, whatever, it is called, must not have executive power, but have advisory functions only; and that is perfectly true. Everybody is agreed on that. They all realise, I think, that the Navy, Military, and Air experts must meet. The First Lord suggested that they should meet in an informal sort of way as they met before the War. That would be perfectly useless. I know quite well that when I was at the War Office it was perfectly valueless having people meet occasionally. They must meet in permanent session—that is essential! 92 Another point is they must put forth their recommendations as a body, and get the recognition of the Cabinet, though they would have no executive control or authority. So far as I am concerned, I do not care a jot whether it is a Committee of Imperial Defence or a Joint Imperial General Staff. They are one and the same thing, provided they have their proper functions conducted in a proper manner: that is to say, their Military, Naval and Air experts all sitting in permanent session; and not only that, but the representatives of the Dominions and of India also sitting as a Joint Advisory Committee. I would impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, if he has any power in the matter, to press for the establishment of a body without further delay. There is no difference of opinion in this House, or outside, as to the necessity for this, or that the establishment of this body is essential. Firstly, owing to the special needs of economy and efficiency at the present moment. Secondly, owing to the great future developments in material—on which everybody is agreed. Thirdly, owing to our largely increased responsi
I was very much interested in the remarks of the hon. Member who spoke just before mo (Colonel Yate) as to our responsibilities in the East. These are very heavy indeed. I am perfectly convinced of this, that they are not realised in the least bit outside this House amongst the public. They may be, and probably are, realised fully by the Government; but I doubt whether they are fully realised by a great many Members of this House. What are the facts of the case? In 1919 we had an expenditure of £4,05,000,000 on the Army. In 1020 we are estimating for £125,000,000. According to a White Paper issued last year, a normal year's Army expenditure is £60,000,000. I am convinced throughout the country there will be a clamour to reduce the £125,000,000 to £60,000,000—next year's Estimate. It is absolutely impossible, without running risks of disaster all over the world, and especially in the East, to lower it. The demand for lessened expenditure will be increasingly insistent—of that I am perfectly convinced. We shall have to fight to prevent it being carried out. So far as I can make out, the Near and the Middle East is practically the chief theatre where we can make any radical reduction. It 93 is there that a great effort will be made to reduce our expenditure, and it is particularly there, to my mind, where the chief danger lies. It must be remembered that before the war we were really an island Power. India was to some extent—indeed to a very large extent—protected by her enormous boundaries. To-day we have a land frontier in the East, the Middle East, the Near East, and Asiatic, of over 4,500 miles. That is not a responsibility to be lightly taken by any country, and especially over countries thickly populated, where the inhabitants are more or less restless, demanding emancipation, turbulent, or, it may be, openly hostile, and where race, religion, and caste accentuate our difficulties and dangers.
India has been mentioned. No one can look upon the situation there with equanimity. On the North West frontier we have had more trouble in the last two months than for many years past; and with possible Russian influence behind the Afghans we may look forward to a continued period of activity on that frontier. Passing on again to the West, I think we may expect to have some difficulty with Afghanistan. Why we should have given up control there, and in the same breath done as we have done in Persia, I fail to understand. Leaving these two countries, whose affairs, perhaps, come more under the head of foreign policy than that of the Army, and making further westward we come to Mesopotamia. It is true that a reduction is sought there in our Forces. In order to obtain that reduction the right hon. Gentleman has, I think, rightly put it to the Air Ministry to ascertain what the cost would be of looking after that country from the air-point of view, and so see whether any reduction can be made, and if so, to what extent. But the ordinary principle of the occupation of a country, upon which we have always worked, has been that of getting the British character into contact with the natives, and so bringing about that moral superiority which counts. There is the danger in the air-control of the country in losing sight of this, for that superiority very largely rests upon high explosives, bombing, and so on. There is a danger in this regard against which we require carefully to guard ourselves. To the North of Mesopotamia it is likely there will be most trouble. We have to 94 consider who is in possession of Anatolia. There are sufficient difficulties as it is, without any more. I, however, view the situation in Syria with probably most alarm. I am not going into details which would not serve any good purpose. But the facts cannot be overlooked in the consideration of our military expenditure. Then consider the unrest in Egypt, We have been told that the guns of our fleet are trained on Constantinople, that our troops are in control of the city, and, that therefore Turkey can be looked after. I do not believe it for one moment. I do not believe that the troops under Mustapha Kemal in Anatolia care anything for our occupation of Constantinople. I myself see no reduction in this area. Our dangers are increased by growing anti-Westernism and by a lack of coordinated policy. I see no reduction of expenditure in this area for some time to come. We have got to be extremely careful how we handle the situation. The Prime Minister only the other day said that our internal structure is top heavy, and if we were to make a serious mistake anywhere, it would come down with a greater crash than in any other country.
Out of all that I have endeavoured to say, two points emerge quite clearly. The first is the urgent necessity for a Defence Committee or Staff of the three services to be established at once. I do not myself believe that any Government or any individual of a Government has the right to assume these enormous responsibilities without this combined expert advice of which I have spoken. The sooner this body is in being the better. Secondly, as to the great danger of reducing our forces in the East. I have tried to labour that point to make it quite clear where that danger most probably lies and of what it consists. I venture to suggest that every Member of this House should talk on this Subject in his constituency, and it would be a good thing for the country, the Empire, and the world.
Just one small matter upon which I should like to touch—small, but important in its way. I refer to the question of the Yeomanry. I understand that the General Staff has got a scheme showing that certain Yeomanry regiments are to be retained, and that others which do not fulfil the requirements are to be changed. I understand the right hon. Gentleman 95 was most anxious to carry out the projected scheme, but because of the feeling in the country amongst the Yeomanry, agreed that it should not be carried out. That is a weak policy. If the Yeomanry are in existence for two years only they will probably get no recruits, and what will be the situation at the end of that time? I attended a meeting on Friday of the Territorial Forces Association in my own county. The Hampshire Carabineers I found had converted themselves into two batteries of Field Artillery. I have not such a poor idea of the people of this country as that if you only tell them what is really required they will not come up to the scratch. They must, of course, have their grievance, and probably they will grouse. Eventually, however, they will come up to the scratch. I shall be very grateful to the right, hon. Gentleman when he speaks if he will give us assurances on the subject of this Committee of Imperial Defence, or whatever it is to be called.
§ Rear-Admiral ADAIR
I only wish to speak for two minutes on the question of this Joint Advisory Committee to produce co-operation between the sea, land and air forces. I should like to disabuse the mind of anybody who thinks that naval people are adverse to establishing some such Board. I can assure them there is nothing further from the minds of naval officers. Every sane man knows that there must be co-operation in war, and they are most desirous to see such a body set up. The only thing the First Lord of the Admiralty took exception to the other night, was to leaving the administration of the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force in the hands of one man only. The right hon. Gentleman was not adverse at all to a Joint Board, or anything of that sort; his was simply an aversion to the danger of leaving the administration of all three forces to the idiosyncracies and prejudices of one man, and he had behind him in that idea the whole force of the Navy. It is no use individual Members putting forward different suggestions, and I would suggest that the best way to arrive at the proper means of obtaining co-operation is to set up a Select Committee of this House to thoroughly thrash out the matter and to make proposals to the Government.
§ Brigadier - General COCKERILL
I only rise to reinforce the argument of hon. Members who have spoken as to the military responsibilities of this country, and the necessity for improved machinery for the co-ordination of the various services. I do not think that in the statement the House has listened to with such interest from the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Sir J. Davidson), the whole responsibility which the country has undertaken was stated as fully as it might have been. I do not know whether the House and the country have given their attention to the responsibilities which we have undertaken in the new Treaty of Peace in connection with the League of Nations. I do not know whether the House realises at all to what extent we stand committed. I notice in the Estimates that the regular forces proposed—the British Army—are only 20,000 in excess of what were deemed to be necessary in the years immediately preceding the War. I am talking, of course, of combatant forces. The number of combatants befor the War, infantry, artillery, engineers and cavalry was 150,000 men, a force by no means too strong in view of the responsibilities which this country had upon its shoulders. To-day provision is being made for only 170,000 men of all arms.
In the League of Nations this country is not merely undertaking to respect but also to preserve against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all members of the League. Every country which may join that League is to have its territorial integrity and its existing political independence guaranteed. I confess that, when I find the Congress of the United States of America talking of making reservations I am inclined to think the course they have adopted is one that might well be imitated in this country. The second guarantee is that if any Member of the League resorts to war in disregard of its covenants, the other Members of the League undertake to sever all trading and financial relations, and even personal relations, with its nationals. This cannot possibly be undertaken except with a reserve of military force behind it. It is a very serious undertaking, and then, over and above that, there is the military undertaking of this country as a Mandatory 97 of the League. I need not remind the House that here we undertake the tutelage of peoples not able to stand alone under the strenuous conditions of the modern world. I am not saying one word against the League of Nations. I am merely endeavouring to indicate to the House what our responsibilities will be under it. If, and when, we accede to that League we shall be undertaking the integrity of these various countries who join with us, and also the tutelage of the peoples allotted to our care. These areas will include Mesopotamia and peoples inhabiting vast stretches of territory in East, West and South-West Africa. There is, indeed, scarcely a quarter of the globe in which either the British Empire or the Great Dominions which form part of it have not received under mandatories accessions of territory over which they must exercise control, ultimately by means of military force. I do not think I need remind the House that diplomacy ultimately rests upon military force. I was amazed to hear from some hon. Members a night or two ago the suggestion that all you have to do is to pursue a peaceful policy and then you can ensure peace for all time. That story has been told again and again, but the whole history of the world shows it to be false. The same thing was said in 1701 when the defenceless position of this country directly led to war; it was said again in 1783, and some of us believe it might also have been said in regard to the regrettable outbreak of the devastating War of 1914. These are some of the additional undertakings which now rest upon this country.
With regard to the machinery which is necessary, as I think, and as most Service Members of this House think, to set up it should be of two kinds. There is first of will the large question of offensive and defensive policy. They are questions of military policy—and I use the term "military" in the sense of including the Navy and the Air Force as well—these are large questions of policy, and it seems to me that the revival of the Committee of Imperial Defence, with the addition of Members competent to speak for India and the Dominions, would be the best way of providing for the discussion of these large questions of offensive and defensive policy.
98 But behind that what we have in view is a discussion of the joint use of the Fleet, the Army and the Air Force the joint use in war and preparation for their joint use in peace preparatory to war. It is in regard to that that the Committee of Imperial Defence lately constituted gives us no assistance. I heartily agree with my hon. and gallant Friend opposite that we care not whether the machinery takes the form of a Sub-committee of Imperial Defence or a separate organisation. What we do feel to be necessary is that it should be something more than an interchange of ideas between the General Staffs. There must be some permanent nucleus around which this interchange of ideas can take place, a nucleus in the form of a Secretariat which would discuss and come to conclusions as to what action is necessary to be taken. I may say that before I left the War Office nearly eighteen months ago there were already in existence one or two combined committees of the General Staff, particularly in regard to wireless telegraphy, this later developing into a Department of Communication within the Empire. What we seek is the extension of that principle through every branch of the combined Services. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend, and I agree also with the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), that there is an immediate necessity for the creation of that machinery, and I foresee no obstacle either from public opinion or from opinion in this House to its immediate creation.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I feel some little temerity in rising to speak after distinguished Members of the Military and Naval Forces, but I rise as an ordinary Member of this House to say something upon this question of the training and co-ordination of our forces for Imperial Defence purposes—a point which has been discussed by nearly every speaker this afternoon. But before dealing with that point I feel, as must any ordinary Member of this House, that in these discussions on the Army Estimates, it is only right that someone should voice, in a straightforward way, our opinion as to the manner in which the War Office has, in so short a space of time, put the Army once more on a completely voluntary basis. Congratulations have been offered on that to the Minister and his associates, but I desire particularly to take this opportunity of paying a special tribute to one but for whose almost 99 heroic work the efforts of the Minister for War could not have been carried out. I refer to the Adjutant-General. The work of the Adjutant-General and his Department during the last year has been really one of the most remarkable performances of an officer or Department in the history of the British Empire, and I would like to take this opportunity of paying my tribute to Sir George Macdonogh and the officers associated with him in recruiting the voluntary Army, and in carrying out the gigantic work of demobilising over three millions of men with extraordinarily few hitches and with an extraordinary degree of satisfaction to hon. Members in all quarters of the House.
I wish to say something next on the question of this Joint Imperial Defence Staff. It seems to me that the new commitments of Great Britain and her Allies in connection with the League of Nations, and in regard to mandatory territories, make it essential that we should have a new organisation under the Secretary for War for advising and preparing for the strategic and tactical defence of these new areas. Under the Covenant of the League of Nations we have undertaken to assist other members of the League in all parts of the world if they are attacked. That means that the General Staff of this country must have at its disposal a far greater sum of knowledge and experience, not merely of recent mechanical developments of warfare, but of strategic and economic conditions all over the world. That cannot be done with the small staff college for which we are asked to vote. The root basis of the whole thing is the staff college. It is where your highest officers, your commanders-in-chief, your chiefs of staff and your directors of military operations are trained There is no good in having a co-ordinating body of your most distinguished Naval, Military and Air Force officers unless in their early days they are trained at a joint staff college and learn something even if it is a little about the other's business and strategy and tactics of defence from the universal point of view. In future we are going to take on responsibilities to the League of Nations for the defence of Mesopotamia. We are going to undertake the gigantic task of restoring to production the 14,000,000 acres that once formed part of the cultivable area of Mesopotamia 100 which was once the granary of the world, but now, owing to man's destructive zeal, has become a desert.
If that is to be done—and to ensure us peace it should be done—it is absolutely essential that British officers who are entrusted by Parliament with the task of maintaining order within those frontiers should have a training at a Staff College, which will give them a knowledge of the use of the Air Force, the Naval Force, and the Military Force, I go further, and say that in future military officers, especially those in the higher ranks, who are going to fulfil these great obligations under the League of Nations, cannot circumscribe their outlook to a purely military or a purely defensive outlook. They have got to get from the immediate military outlook the actual problems of tactics and the use of military forces to the widest outlook in regard to all forms of defence. Further, there is no use in sending large bodies of men to countries like Mesopotamia unless they can take into consideration some elements, at any rate, of the economic and political factors if countries of this kind, and it is essential in the new Staff College, which I hope we are going to get as a basis of the new coordinated General Staff, that the British Foreign Office and the India Office may send men who will do, as it were, postgraduate courses, at this joint Staff College, in reference to the considerations of the defence and of the responsibilities of the British Empire, so that all the best brains will be put into a common stock in dealing with the common problem of defence and development both amongst civil and military officers.
I would like to refer to the necessity for co-ordination between the Indian Army and the British Army. We see in these Estimates large sums of money for Indian troops in Palestine, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Constantinople, and I know that in the Indian Estimate as a result of these Estimates there are sums for equally large bodies of British troops who are serving in India. I think that more should be done to co-ordinate the work of the General Staff in India with that of the General Staff in Whitehall, because now that the East has been brought to the West by these new responsibilities in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia, and Simla and Whitehall have a new area of responsibility, it is absolutely essential that the 101 War Authorities, the Defence Authorities, in Simla and Whitehall should henceforth work in the closest possible co-ordination.
On those questions I desire to draw attention in regard to the areas in the Middle East. On page 14 we are to budget for approximately £4,500,000 for our responsibilities in Palestine and £16,000,000 for our responsibilities in Mesopotamia, but in those two very large sums there is an item of nearly £1,000,000 for Palestine and one of £6,000,000 for Mesopotamia, both under the heading "Other Expenditure." I hope that the Financial Secretary will be able to tell us what this other expenditure of £6,000,000 in Mesopotamia means. It is important when we are asked in the country to justify these Army Estimates, as I believe they can be justified, that a big item like £6,000,000 for Mesopotamia should be fully and carefully explained to the House. But in the presentation of these Estimates there is an even more remarkable blank. That is the blank on page 97. Hon M embers will see under heading "Terminal and miscellaneous charges and receipts" a series of pages dealing with various items. Those from page 98 onwards to the end of head 6 are carefully itemised and explained, but on the first page there is the gross sum of £41,673,000 and a net sum of £23,000,000, of which there is no explanation. It is important that we should have some explanation of how these figures are arrived at. I have been through these Estimates, and can find no explanation, except that I see that under the heading in connection with the Near and Middle East, there is a reference which I cannot find anywhere else. It is at the bottom of page 13. In dealing with this particular item of the Middle East, where, no doubt, a considerable portion of this expenditure has been incurred, I would ask the Financial Secretary whether he would submit to the House definite budgets for the occupied enemy territories of Palestine and Mesopotamia, respectively. It is important that we should know exactly what revenue is being collected by the military authorities in both countries, and what is the expenditure on the quasi civil administration and development of the country. The House would not only be interested, but I am sure that it will assist the Government, because I believe that in 102 regard to Palestine the people of this country realise that they are going to be asked to undertake a great trust for civilisation, and also that the development of Mesopotamia is one of the things which must be looked to to reduce prices and increase the produce of the world, but they do not wish things to be done without their knowledge. The British taxpayer is committed to large expenditure on public works, railways, canals, irrigation and the like, and he should know exactly what money the War Office is spending.
Are any steps being taken by the War Office to co-ordinate responsibility in the Middle East, because the other day I asked why a battalion of Indian troops was being kept at Adana. I asked the Secretary of State for India, as I thought that he was the right person, and the question was answered by the Foreign Office. Is it the Secretary of State for War or the Government of India who is keeping that battalion there? Further, there is the difficulty that the naval policy of the Red Sea from Suez down to Aden is under the Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies, who takes his directions from Simla and down the Red Sea the military take their instructions from the War Office here. There; is complete overlapping. The naval forces in the Red Sea, I gather, are under India and the military forces are under the War Office here. Aden is under India, and there is no Vote in the Estimate with regard to Aden, but there are Votes with regard to Mesopotamia, Egypt, Sudan and Palestine. The Vote for Somaliland is on the Vote for the Colonial Office. They are all part of one defence problem. The lack of co-ordination in regard to the bridge of British Empire between Asia and Europe is chaotic. I hope that the Secretary of State for War will, at the earliest possible moment, give us information from the defensive point of view and the political point of view of the control of the whole Middle Eastern area.
We shall have the Colonial Office, the Foreign Office, the War office the India Office and the Admiralty, all with their own ideas, and no real co-ordination in regard to the Near East in any particular. That always ends in expense. It always ends in battalions getting into places where they are forgotten. It always ends in ships being laid up and forgotten, and it means further increases of garrison. If 103 the defence of each one of these places was regarded as an end in itself: if the defence of Egypt is to be regarded as a thing in itself, of Palestine as a thing in itself, of Mesopotamia as a thing in itself, we shall have large and expensive garrisons in each of these places, whereas the whole point should be working up for the purpose of reducing the garrisons in the Middle East to the minimum necessary for the protection of frontiers, and the guardianship of law and order; in fact, working up to a single defence policy under a single head, with its necessary bases, reserves, supplies and the rest of it. So far as I can see from these Estimates, that has not yet been done, it is essential that at the earliest possible moment the War Office should consult with the India Office, the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office in order to get the whole of the Near and Middle Eastern situation put upon the most economic and the soundest basis, because the war clouds are all around us in the Near and Middle East. Anything can happen at any time. The reason very largely is the delay in making peace with Turkey. That question would be irrelevant in this Debate, because we are only discussing how far the right hon. Gentleman has carried out his responsibilities. He is not responsible for policy there. That rests with the Peace Conference. All we can say is, "Have you, in view of these delays, in view of this regrettable absence of policy in the Middle East, made sufficient provision, or have you made too much provision in regard to the forces in the Near and Middle East? "
Looking through these Estimates, I say, without fear of contradiction, knowing these countries, that these Estimates, in so far as they provide garrisons for the Near and Middle East, so far from being swollen or extravagant, seem to my lay mind to be on extremely economical lines, because, as I have said, anything may happen out there. There are masses of arms in all those countries. The writs of no one Republic and of no one country seem to run very far out there. There are too many parties out to get all they can from the situation, which is bordering on anarchy on the frontiers of Mesopotamia. We have had during the last six months five or six British political officers killed in the Kurdish mountains. I hope the British authorities will say to our 104 Allies frankly: "We will do our best for civilisation to bring these rich territories into development, and to restore peace to these troubled countries, but we cannot go too far." I hope we shall not attempt to take up more than we can chew. I say that very emphatically in regard to Northern Mesopotamia. The problem there is that north of Mesopotamia you have the Caldeans, the Armenians, the Assyrians, and all sorts of small people whose very existence is being threatened by warlike tribes and by anarchy at the present time, and there is a great temptation for us to go to their rescue. Let us supply them with arms and the means of self-defence, but do not let us make promises to them unless we are prepared to send the necessary military force to them to protect them. I should like to know whether it is definitely decided—I hope it has been so decided—that for the present the British shall stay in Batum. There the Georgians and the Armenians and others all want us to stay. They are anxious that even a small British garrison should remain as a guarantee that the anarchy which is taking place in the neighbouring countries will not break out there. We can do useful work for civilisation and for the settlement of peaceful conditions in the Middle East by retaining our garrison at Batum.
In regard to what one of my hon. Friends said as to Mesopotamia, the Northern frontier is going to be an anxiety to the British Empire and to the League of Nations for many years to come; but I hope we shall be able to reduce the garrison, which is still a pretty large one to its minimum. The only way that can be done is by following the Turkish policy in that country. The Turks, though they are a great military people, had little real hold on these Kurdish Mountains. Their policy was to hold the market towns, and sooner or later the tribes had to come to get their clothes and all the things they required from the market towns, and to sell their surplus produce. There was no effort at military occupation of the hill country, and I hope until the country has settled down and the arms have been in some measure collected and there is something a little more like peace and order in these unruly regions, that we shall content ourselves with holding and developing and restoring peace and order in the market towns. It will be necessary to 105 have a small striking force, and I think that a force of light cars would be best suited to the circumstances. Throughout the whole of the Senussi campaign the light car was used, with infantry and cavalry, but the infantry and cavalry proved superfluous. We could have done the whole thing with light cars on the hard-going desert. The light car in that country, for police purposes and the protection of the frontier is an economical and desirable thing, because in these unruly countries it is very important to keep your necessary police force as concentrated as possible. A great display of military force only tends to excite antagonism. The smaller you can keep your garrison in Mesopotamia, the more chance you have of the country and its frontiers settling down. If, when trouble breaks out, you have a small striking force to deal rapidly and quickly with an outbreak, it is far better than a great parade, a great démarche of cavalry and infantry with troop trains rolling on.
In these parts, which I know pretty well, the essential thing in your military force, as in your civil administration, is that everything depends upon quality and very little on quantity. If you get the staff college trained officer with the widest possible outlook as regards his duties, and if you get a real co-ordinated system of control throughout the Middle East, and above all, if you can reduce your garrison to the minimum, I believe the country will settle down to helpful co-operation between the Arab people and the British people for that protection, well-being and prosperity which is much needed by a sorely-stricken world, and a world which is short of the goods which these countries can supply in abundance. If you do that, if your military policy is dictated in that spirit, and if you co-ordinate your system, I believe these countries will settle down. The present situation, however, is most serious, and I hope we may receive a reassuring reply from the Secretary of State for War.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
I am afraid I shall break into the harmony which has prevailed up till now. Every speaker has been quite prepared to continue spending more money upon the Army and has been advising the Secretary of Stats for War as to the best manner of utilising the Army. One or two hon. Members have taken exception to a notice of Motion 106 asking for a reduction of men and money. After listening to the Debate this afternoon, one's mind is carried back to the early days of the War, the speeches delivered by gentlemen on both Front Benches, and also to speeches that have been delivered by hon. and right hon. Members of this House. We went into the War with the great battle cry that we must enter it to end war and to end militarism. Yet sixteen months after the Armistice we have a vote of money, exceptional in amount, for armies larger than we had in the pre-war period. Do we realise how the country responded to the appeals that were made at that time, and how when the War had finished everyone looked for the early return of those dear to them who were in the Army? Do hon. and right hon. Members realise that the great body of workers of this country have a horrible detestation of war, and that we are up against any inflated armaments and against the voting of more money for the prosecution of slaupghter, either in the Near, the Far or the Middle East? They must realise that amongst the working people of this country there is a desire to put an end to the military system not only abroad but in our own country
A curious feature of this Debate is that hon. Members desire that the officers should be better trained, and that more money should be spent upon the training colleges. If we are going to have an army why should we have training colleges merely for one class? We have the training college at Sandhurst. Can a boiler-maker go there to be trained for the Army if he chooses? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Yes, if he pays the fees.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Which is practically a university examination. I ask whether a working man with the education received in an ordinary school attended by the working classes can pass these examinations.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
If he attends night classes; if he attends a technical college, and goes through a preliminary examination. If you are going to have an Army, let every man enter the Army as a private, and let the Army provide schools for all. 107 Let it be a democratic Army. That would not satisfy hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. They are prepared to keep the officer class as a class for the privileged, whilst the workers must go into the ranks and rise to be sergeants, class privilege again prevailing in the new Army. That is the sequel to the other Army that went out to make the world safe for democracy everywhere but in the Army. In the two finest armies we have on record in history, Napoleon's army and Cromwell's, the most brilliant marshals and generals were tradesmen and artisans, men who had worked at their trade, men who had worked as bricklayers and who rose to the highest positions, and they were able to defeat men who had made warfare their trade during the whole of their lifetime.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
There are a few exceptions, but they prove the rule, that in the ranks of the workers you can find men who, at least, equal the glory and the brilliance of officers who come from the other class. Then why not widen the scope? Why not throw it open to everyone who comes in if you are going to have an Army? I hope if we put an Amendment down hon. Members will support it.
We wish this Government which is talking to the workers about more production to realise what the production of this quarter of a million men whom they are seeking to retain in the Army would mean in the ordinary production of useful articles. There would be more production of useful articles and there would be the economic problem solved that is facing us at present—the shortage of food and of goods throughout the world. Another statement which was made is that by the powers we have taken upon ourselves under the League of Nations we have greater responsibility upon our shoulders. It is curious that the League of Nations, which was to establish a world-wide peace, requires a larger army to maintain it—more money for the Army and more men in it. When will it dawn upon hon. Members and others outside that, as shown during the last war, and particularly since the war ceased, the greatest thing between nations is their economic interdependence. Each nations is dependent upon every 108 other nation. That is going to be the greatest feature in any League of Nations, that you can exclude any nation from the League, you can have an economic boycott placed upon it, and hon. Members know the straits to which Germany, Russia and Austria have been put by the economic boycott which was placed upon them.
There are two points of detail that I wish to bring before the attention of the Secretary of State. One is with regard to the ordinary soldiers who during and since the period of the war have committed breaches of military discipline and are at present suffering terms of imprisonment. We believe there should be a general amnesty for those who have been committing breaches of military discipline. The Army we had during the war was entirely different from any Army we have previously had. It was made up in the main of men who had, prior to joining it, spent many years in civilian workshops. Their whole outlook upon life was dominated by the outlook they had gained in the workshops. They did not take easily to rigorous military discipline. Things which would to them have seemed quite ordinary matters, to which no exception could be taken in their own particular line of work, are looked upon immediately they are committed by them as gross breaches of military discipline, and they have been imprisoned. Other nations have taken a lead in this matter. France, and even our Dominions, I believe, have passed a general amnesty for all prisoners who have been in prison for committing these breaches against military discipline. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman may say we are not yet at peace. Technically speaking, that is quite true. But neither are these other nations. Neither is France, neither is Italy. France may be looked upon as being in greater danger than we are from any recurrence of war with Germany or Austria, and they have declared this general amnesty for prisoners. Why then should Britain, which has prided itself upon being the country that has always stood for liberty, be the last to give an amnesty to our own sons for breaches against our Army rules and regulations. Some of these men deserted from one unit because, in their opinion—I do not say it was right according to military discipline—they were being put upon in some way. But they did not leave the Army. They joined up in another unit and went out to fight. 109 These men, having been demobilised from the second unit they joined, are to-day posted as deserters from their original unit and are liable to arrest and imprisonment. I believe that is the military rule.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
If in any case the hon. Member has in his mind it is shown that the man had served in another unit after this, it is not a matter which the Military Authorities would press.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I am glad to hear it. That is a point which is agitating the minds of quite a number. I have a case of an individual who deserted and is going about in terror of being arrested by the police. I have put several questions to the right hon. Gentleman about boys under eighteen. There are several of them still in the Army. I judge, from a reply to a question, that it is because regulations are in force which entitle the authorities to keep them because they have committed an offence against military discipline by telling a lie in regard to their age. That is a, hardship not merely upon the boy but upon his family. Some of them are the sons of widowed mothers. One I know is an apprenticed bricklayer, four years at his trade. The country is crying out for houses. Hero it, a lad who undoubtedly could perform quite as good work as a journeyman, and yet he is kept in the Army, not because he desires to remain there, not because his parents desire that he should, but because he has said he was eighteen when lie was seventeen years and six months. The whole rule should be immediately put into operation that so soon as it is proved that these lads are under eighteen they should automatically become released and go back to civilian life, particularly when their parents desire it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I hope I may have the indulgence of the House if I rise to address it for the first time on a matter that I think goes to the root of Army administration, and which has not been dealt with in the extraordinarily interesting and enlightening speeches we have had this afternoon. I should like to speak on other things, and I should like to reply to the hon. Member (Mr. Maclean), but I shall not do so because it is not to my point. But I will tell him that if he were to come and sit down with me, as I had the privilege of sitting down two years ago, on the reputed site of the Garden of Eden, he would soon 110 know the reason why we require an Army in order to introduce the reign of civilisation and peace in the territories for which we have taken over responsibility under the League of Nations. He is under a misconception as regards the nature of the work of the Army abroad. A more benevolent and beneficent institution in civilisation has never been known under these conditions.
I wish to draw attention to a matter of Army administration from the professional point of view purely and simply. A medical man has an extensive and peculiar knowledge of the Army and its administration, as Mr. Samuel Weller had of London. There are three points to which I wish to draw attention. The first is purely that of economy. Now is the time when we have to reconsider our methods with a view to getting a move on in the direction of efficiency and economy. It has already been borne in mind by different observers from time to time what a vast wastage there is of effort from the reduplication again and again of technical personnel under the different forces; of the Crown. Confining myself alone to the medical service, you have not only the Army Medical Corps and the Navy and the Flying Corps now starting a medical service of its own, but the ground covered by the Army Medical Corps frequently interleaves and overlaps the ground covered by the Indian Medical Service, by the Colonial Office, and by the Foreign Office. For Pensions we get another administration. You have each of these new sets of administrations largely covering the same ground, and yet they do not cover the whole ground in one particular. The Navy and the Colonial Office Medical Services cover certain ground that is required. They are especially Services for the young bachelor, the man of enterprise who goes into the outer parts of the world under considerable discomfort, but after a time wishes to settle down. Neither the Navy nor the Colonial Medical Services offer a final career for him; but the Services are water-tight compartments. Equally, in the question of stores and equipment. Very largely the same things are required for the one Service and for the other, and in certain particulars for the India Office and the Foreign Office also. It would be an enormous 111 improvement, and an economy could be effected by joining these Services. That would fit in with the general trend of ideas, as shown by this Debate on the question of conferences between the Imperial General Staff and the different Services. You want a similar Co-ordination between the Medical Services of the different Government Departments. As to personnel, the creation of an Imperial Medical Service was, it was promised, to be considered after the War by the Army Council. I would ask the Secretary of State definitely whether the Army Council proposes at an early date to begin consideration of the question of this Imperial Medical Service. There is backing it the highest opinion amongst those who have had experience of War Office administration. Men do not want to serve abroad in the public service all their lives. Their service comes to an end, as a rule, when they are 45, when they are thrown back on the dust-heap or the golf links for the rest of their days, simply because they have reached the retiring age. They should be linked up with services at home, under Pensions, under Insurance, under the Civil Departments and the proposed reform of the Poor Law. This co-ordination of the Imperial Medical Service may be carried to any stage. You may start by co-operation; there is a certain amount of that now. You can go further, and, to use the phrase of the day, decide for coalition. I hope that this matter will be considered by the Government Departments and by the Secretary of State for War.
The second point to which I would refer was brought home to me and to many of us during the War. That is the way in which Territorial officers who had done their best to serve their country before the War were penalised—and always may be penalised when it comes to an outbreak of war—as compared with the casuals who were taken on from the ordinary labour market. I am speaking now only for medicine, though it might apply elsewhere. It was a plain and obvious disability from the very outset. I like the spirit of the young medical officer who gloried to me in his dug-out in Gallipoli that he had left his private practice and his wife and family and was getting 14s. 6d. a day because he had served his country for five years in the Territorial Force before the War broke 112 out, whereas the man in practice beside him at home, who thought it was not worth while giving up his holidays to training and his evenings to lectures and drill by the R.A.M.C. before the War, had been taken on at 24s. a day. That was quite deliberate, because it was foreseen. I do not want these things put straight simply from the point of view of payment, but I do ask that the spirit of it should be considered in the future mobilisation of the Territorial Force. When you are going to mobilise and you have your medical men, you can perfectly well lay it down through their parent hospitals, to which they are all attached, that arrangements shall be made by which they shall get such training and experience as are necessary and compatible with their civil duties, and then you should give them priority when it comes to a case of war. I hope that matter has been borne in mind, though I see no signs of it in connection with the reorganisation of the Territorial Force.
The third point is the position of the medical service, with the Director-General of the Army Medical Service at its head, in connection with the administration of the War Office. It is sometimes imagined that the Director-General of the Army Medical Service is responsible for the hospital service and for the services that are said to break down when a scandal arises, as it inevitably does, on any campaign being undertaken. The medical service for which the Director-General is responsible consists only of these things: The provision of doctors, nurses, drugs, instruments and dressings. It is not as a rule this medical service that breaks down. The breakdown is almost invariably in the provision of hospitals, in the provision of beds or Ordnance equipment, or in the transport arrangements for bringing together the hospital as a whole. In the old days before the Crimean War, you had two definite bodies, the Army Medical Committee and the Ordnance Medical Committee, entirely independent, each with a Director at its head. In the Crimea you had a breakdown, and we were then going to reform everything. The result was that we put the two bodies together. That arrangement did not remain very long because from the first the Director-General was not given his proper and complete function; it was limited simply to the more professional 113 requirements, such as the provision of doctors, nurses, or ward orderlies, drugs, instruments and dressings. At all times the other equipment, barrack equipment and so on, has come under other authority. The re-organisation did not last very long, although the public had been Iulled into a sense of security. Next we come to the South African War We had the same trouble—a tremendous breakdown, Most of us in this House remember the graphic letters, perhaps a little bit coloured but founded on horrible and undeniable facts, which were brought forward in the public press by the hon. Member (Mr. Burdett-Coutts) who still sits, I am glad to know, for the Abbey division of Westminster. We remember those letters in the "Times." They roused the nation to fury. It was again an instance of the difficulty of co-ordination, A great deal of it could not be prevented under the strategic conditions of the advance. A certain amount of it could have been prevented, however. The result was the Hospitals Commission.
When the Commission came home, before the end of the War, the then Secretary of State established a Departmental Committee for re-organising the Army Medical Service. I speak with some little interest in the matter, because I was taken on as Assistant Secretary of that Committee as representing the young ideas from the hospitals, whom it was hoped to attract into the Army Medical Service, but who, in the invariable rivalry between the two branches, were being attracted into the Indian Medical Service. That Committee reported. On it was based the whole re-organisation of the Army Medical Service. The Committee included only one representative of the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was a lieutenant-colonel of most distinguished service, afterwards Surgeon-General Sir Alfred Keogh. The Committee's recommendations gave the result in the late War that most of us know. As regards the personal efficiency of the Regular officers of the Army, no one has too high praise to give them. I speak as a Territorial officer who served with them throughout; their work has been magnificent and incomparable. There was one recommendation on which the Committee were unanimous at the time, and it was brought into force. It was the recommendation that the Director-General 114 should be on what was then called the Army Board. That was in October, 1901. But even then full responsibility was not given him. In 1903 a War Office Reconstruction Committee was appointed to reconsider the whole administration of the War Office. It consisted of three members—Lord Esher, Admiral (now Lord) Fisher, and Sir John Clarke (now Lord Sydenham). At the beginning of 1904 that Committee reported, and one of its recommendations with regard to the Medical Service was as follows:Exclusive of the Nursing Board, there will remain three bodies dealing with the Medical Service generally—the large Department of the Director-General, an Advisory Board, and the Army Hospitals Committee,These, in the opinion of Lord Esher's Committee, constitutedan ample guarantee that the vitally important operations of medical hygiene will be efficiently and adequately dealt with in future.The new Army Council consisted, apart from the Secretary of State, the Under-Secretary and the Financial Member, of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, the Adjutant-General, the Quartermaster-General, and the Master-General of Ordnance. In addition there were added during the war the Deputy-Chief of the Imperial General Staff, the Directors of Military Aeronautics and of Movements and Railways, and, finally the Surveyor-General of Supply. These are still the members of the Army Council. I say that the introduction of these last members has done away with the original idea as to the formation of the Army Council, The point of view of Lord Esher's Committee was that the Directors of the different Departments should not be represented themselves on the Army Council. They said, moreover, that the Director-General, if necessary associated with a civil representative of the Army Medical Service Advisory Board, should be summoned to the Army Council whenever his advice and specialist knowledge were required. That is just the difficulty. Who knows when specialist advice is required? Laymen cannot know when the medical, technical, sanitary ideas may influence strategy or policy of one kind or another.
So we come to the difficulties which were foreshadowed by the British Medical Association when they represented this 115 point of view to the Army Council. We found it in this War. The result was that expeditions were undertaken without the Director-General of Army Medical Services having been consulted. I should like to ask the Secretary of State to what extent was the Director-General of Medical Services consulted when the original expedition sailed for Gallipoli. I think that is a very material fact. We have the report of the Dardanelles Commission, but there is no need to go into the horrors. We know what happened and the blame that was attached was due largely to lack of co-operation and provision in thinking out the probabilities. The chief person to think out the probabilities as regards sanitary dangers and the inevitable consequences of such an expedition was the Director-General of Army Medical Services. You cannot expect that that line will be taken up in the earliest official stages of adopting a policy if it is only represented by another officer, however distinguished he may be, as was the case undoubtedly with the present Adjutant-General and the late Adjutant-General. You want to have a man who is there conceiving the whole problem of sanitation. Sanitation is no longer simply a question of doctors, nurses, drugs, dressings and instruments. It is one which goes vitally to the root of the whole question of efficient strategy. That is why we say it cannot be properly dealt with if it is only referred to the' Army Council by a lay intermediary instead of by someone who is definitely responsible for the ideas ab initio in the consideration of policy.
It is the same as regards the question of hospitals. I do not wish to give the idea that we who are dealing with the prevention of disease are negligent of the humane requirements of hospitals. They are indeed literally almost more important because even if you have a failure strategically the public will general forgive you if you look after your sick and wounded, while if you secure the greatest military success and neglect your sick and wounded there will inevitably be an outcry, and the Government may be turned out of office. It is vital that the public should be confident that their sick and wounded are being looked after properly. Lord Esher's Committee recommended that the Director-General of Army Medical Service should come under the 116 Adjutant-General, because sanitation is so much a question of discipline. It is, but hospitals depend on other factors that depend on the Quartermaster-General and on Military Intelligence under the Chief of the General Staff, and there is no real reason why medical services should come under one more than another of those three officers. I say you want one officer on the Army Council who will be responsible for getting together all the materials and supplies and will have all the power required to get your hospitals efficient, and without that you cannot get the most satisfactory results. I would refer to the public recantation of failure from Lord Esher, to whom we owe the fact that the Director-General of Army Medical Service was deprived of his seat on the Army Board and was put on the Army Council in its first foundation. Lord Esher, as a result of his experience in this war, wrote to the "Times" in 1917 and said:At that time when we were still under the influence of South African experience and when only one or two prescient soldiers foresaw the inevitable European war, all military influences were brought to bear upon us to limit the numbers of the Army Council. It was not realised that to keep a force in the field was at least as vital a necessity as to recruit it. September 1914 swept away this illusion, but the mischief was done. How much of the suffering undergone by our soldiers then and since was due to the short-sightedness of my Committee, and notably of myself, will never be known. Certainly the control of the Adjutant-General's branch of the R.A.M.C. was and is responsible not only for the early failure to grip the medical factors of this war, but for the hampering conditions under which Sir Alfred Keogh has worked. His triumphs and those of the R.A.M.C. have been achieved in spite of obstacles that the subordination of science to ignorance, of elasticity to military discipline, explains but cannot justify. I would appeal to Lord Derby to strengthen the Army Council by placing upon it the Director-General of Medical Services, and to free from the control of a purely military officer (admirable as is Sir Neville Macready in the sphere congenial to him) a-body of men mostly volunteers from highly-trained professions, and dealing with technical difficulties, altogether outside the orbit of vision in which the soldier, pure and simple, habitually moves.I only take exception to one thing, and that is that we as a medical profession do not wish this placed on the ground that it is a reward to the Army Medical Service for good work done. Every single officer and man in the Army Service Corps can only say that they have done as all other 117 soldiers did whatever their department was, their duty, and that is the most they could wish to do. I want to put the matter purely and solely from the point of view of miltary, professional and technical efficiency that the Director-General should not only be given a seat on the Army Council but should be given responsibility, and, what is far and away the most important, power to co-ordinate and organise the whole of the possibilities of medical and sanitary science for the comfort and care of the sick and wounded in war and for the better carrying out of strategy whatever purpose is in view.
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken on a subject with which he is particularly qualified to deal. I am sure that the House has enjoyed his very interesting and informing maiden speech. I should like to bring the House back to the question which has been dealt with by military experts, a class to which I in no sense belong, namely, the question of a Joint Imperial General Staff. I cannot, of course, speak from the military point of view, but I have for a long time felt that such a body is absolutely imperative from the point of view of a sane and wise foreign policy. Take our policy in the Middle East. It would be improper on this occasion to develop at length its recent tergiversations, but undoubtedly the vacillation and uncertainty which have characterised it may have the result of driving the Arabs into co-operation with the Turks. I think it is all-important to have a technical body, able to put before the Cabinet what it is going to mean in military effort, if foreign policy lands us in such a position as that. The uncertainty that exists in regard to the Middle East was, I think, very well illustrated by what fell from the hon. Member for Fareham (Sir J. Davidson). Ho talked of the possibility of the invasion of Mesopotamia from Kurdistan. That is a very interesting suggestion, but I think it is rather against historical experience, because the tide of conquest has flown from East to West, and never, except perhaps in sporadic raids, from North to South. Asia invaded Europe through the long great corridor stretching through the plains of Armenia and the plains of Western Anatolia. It was only a very precarious hold that the people who inhabited 118 the mountains of the North held over the plains, and it was a matter of terrible military difficulty ever to conquer the mountains from Mesopotamia. That is a kind of problem which is of enormous importance under present conditions, because there are many people in this country who, judging from the correspondence we receive, imagine that it would be quite an easy military matter for us to take over the whole of the mountains of Armenia from our present foothold in the plains of Mesopotamia.
We can only have a really well-founded policy in this kind of matter if we have such a body as has been suggested in permanent Session and with direct access to the Cabinet. It is essential that the officers who constitute that body should be of the highest rank and not inferior to that possessed by the highest officers in the Air Force, the Board of Admiralty and the Army Council, because otherwise they cannot possibly be given the necessary weight in matters of foreign policy. The kind of case which might easily arise and which shows one how many Departments will be concerned in policy being laid down by a body of this kind is, for instance, if we found ourselves obliged to use force to quell the efforts of Mustapha Kemal in Asia Minor. Such a military expedition might well involve no less than five State Departments. It is possible that India might have to send to reinforce us in Mesopotamia and that India would herself be reinforced from Australia, thus bringing in the Colonial Office. The Transport would have to be worked out by the Admiralty and, apart from military plans, a great amount of detail work would be thrown on the Air Ministry. In the co-ordination of five Departments of that kind you cannot, leave decisions until the last moment and you must have your arrangements cut and dry beforehand. I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do his best to bring about the setting up of a body of this kind. Personally, I should like to see one Minister responsible for all our defensive services, and perhaps that will come in time, but until we do get this recommendation of Lord Haldane's Committee on the machinery of Government carried out, it is all-important that we should have some body to advise on matters of this kind.
The last point I wish to urge to-night is that we shall not be permitted to break 119 up the Machine Gun Corps. I notice in the Estimates that provision is only taken for 2,196 of all ranks of the Machine Gun Corps, and the House will probably remember that the Secretary for War recently made a speech in connection with the Territorial Force in which he mention incidentally that it was proposed to do away with the Machine Gun Corps and to have one machine gun company in each infantry battalion. The right hon. Gentleman is no doubt right as far as possible to reproduce the pre-War Army, but I feel that it is a pity to neglect the improvements in that Army and its establishment which were suggested by the War, and I say it is contrary to the whole experience of the War and the whole tendency of war organisation to treat the Machine Gun Corps again as a subordinate part of infantry organisation. The House will probably remember that at the beginning of the War machine gun companies were organised in each brigade, and that system worked quite satisfactorily during the period of stationary trench warfare and attacks with limited objectives, because in trench warfare machine guns were wanted pretty well everywhere along the British front, and with an attack on a limited objective it was quite easy in your detailed plans to provide for the pooling of machine gun resources. When it became clear that trench warfare was Hearing its end, and that a more mobile type was going to take its place, machine gun battalions were formed, and the liaison with brigades was very often carried out under trench conditions by more or less ear-marking particular companies for work with particular formations; but as warfare became more and more open, machine guns had to work as an entirely separate arm, and I think in this respect their evolution has been very much like that of the artillery. The House will remember that originally the artillery fought in very much closer touch with the infantry than they do nowadays, and that it was Napoleon who divorced the two arms and used the artillery for mass effect. I think he used mass effect at the Battle of Friedland first, and that he there first made artillery corps troops and made a very definite stage in the increase of the efficiency of artillery work.
The development of the machine gun as a separate arm seems to be analogous. 120 The Canadian Corps were the pioneers in this respect in the late War, but it proved such a great advantage that the whole of the British Expeditionary Force very quickly followed suit, and every army issued instructions about machine guns on very much the same lines as the Canadian Corps. In view of the danger from the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that in peace we are going to forget the lessons of war, I will read the House one or two extracts from a memorandum which was circulated in the most critical phase of the War on machine gun organisation. There was a memorandum on first army policy—each army had almost the same words—which stated:The Vickers gun is a weapon with characteristics of its own, which are not those of the weapons of either the infantry or artillery. The machine-gun service must therefore be regarded as a distinctive arm with tactics of its own. In all respects it is intermediate and Alls the tactical gap between the infantry and artillery, its tactics being radically different from the former and approximating to, but not being identical with, the tactics of the latter.Later on it says:Machine guns are not part of the infantry, and must not be considered as such.I would remind the House that the machine gun is entirely different from the Lewis gun. It has got a fixed platform, which adapts it for firing overhead of the infantry, indirect firing off a map, with an effective range up to 2,500 or even 3,000 yards. Of course, that is out of the question with a gun with a loose bipod like the Lewis gun, which cannot fire over infantry in ordinary country and which cannot possibly fire off the map at unseen targets. The Lewis gun, on the other hand, is lighter, more easily concealed, much more mobile, and therefore pre-eminently the weapon to move with the infantry and to be used in an assault. The result of the introduction of the Lewis gun was to differentiate the Vickers gun and to enable it to concentrate on new tactics and to develop an amount of efficiency at this indirect fire and barrage work never dreamed of in the earlier stages of the War; but subordinate infantry commanders were often tempted to use them wrongly, partly from ignorance of the possibilities of the Vickers gun and partly from taking too local a view of its operations. In the latter phases of the War this was very marked, and even after machine gun 121 battalions were introduced, brigades were very often found using machine guns with far too close an interest in their own front, and our operations often suffered from the resulting shortage of machine gun resources. One of the chief reasons for the change of organisation bringing into existence the Machine Gun Corps was that the machine gun resources were found to be so important that they must be kept fluid, and fluid in a way they could not possibly be under brigade organisation, when the tendency of the brigadier was to use them in place of infantry or in place of Lewis guns.
It would be disastrous technically and tactically to scrap this war organisation, and to put machine-gun tactics and training under infantry commanding officers. Infantry commanders have had no opportunity of realising the technical advance of machine gun work, and the efforts made in the last year of the War to educate even the general staff by demonstration in short courses probably did something to show soldiers with rather less technical knowledge the astounding development of machine gun technique. Infantry commanding officers cannot hope to become specialists in an arm of this kind, and it is disastrous to make them, who may perhaps be specialists on bayonet training or some other particular branch of infantry work, responsible for the very complicated training of machine guns, and I think it was for this reason that the First Army memorandum said:The machine gun battalion is the unit for organisation and training. The training has thus been centralised to obtain greater uniformity in tactics and greater efficiency in technical training.Both technically and tactically it is of importance for this young weapon to retain its corps organisation and to have some senior officer at the War Office to fight its battles. I hope it may still not be too late for the Secretary of State for War to change his mind and to profit by the lessons of experience by preserving the independence of the force, which in the War fully justified the decision to constitute it as a separate arm.
§ Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
The most striking feature of this Debate is that there has been no concerted attack from the Benches opposite on the general military policy of the Government.
§ Mr. SCOTT
There have been a good many speeches made in this House, and only one hon. Member, I think, has risen from the Benches opposite to speak, and that was one from whom we might have expected a vehement attack, but if we put aside a certain acidity of tone and look at the substance of his speech, there was very little in it that might not have been made from these Benches. What were the points to which he directed himself? In the first place, there was an appeal for greater facilities for promotion from the ranks, and that is an appeal which I have often heard made with great effect from these Benches on this side of the House, and it is a subject in regard to which very great advances have been made during recent years. The next point was an amnesty for soldiers who had committed military offences during the War: and the last point was the desirability of releasing from the Army soldiers who had joined under the age of 18. If that is all the attack that can be made upon the general military policy of the Government from one of the most vehement of the opponents of the Government on the Benches opposite, I think the Government has reason to congratulate itself.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for War on the feat which he has accomplished in securing the abolition of conscription so expeditiously—in fact, within a very few months of the ratification of the Peace Treaty with Germany. The task was not a small one. It involved the demobilisation of an Army of 4,000,000 of men held together by the tie of conscription, and the replacing of it by a new Army of 250,000 raised on quite a different principle, namely, the voluntary principle. Even in time of profound peace, the carrying out of a change like that would have been a task of the very greatest difficulty, both as regards organisation in the Army itself and as regards the labour market outside the Army. But this task had not to be carried out in a time of profound peace. It was carried out in a time of the greatest danger and of the greatest difficulty, at a time when the Army might be wanted at any moment as an efficient organisation to take the field in war, at a time when, so far from having commenced carrying out the 123 Peace Treaty, the Treaty had not even been arrived at. In these circumstances, in the midst of such complications, such dangers, and such difficulties, there was the possibility of losing all that we had fought for. The Army had won the victory, the Army was still the chief weapon on which we had to rely for securing the terms of peace and for enforcing them. If that weapon had slipped from our hands or had been shattered, if the Army had been so disorganised that we had not been able to use it, then the Government of this country which had permitted such a state of affairs to arise would have been guilty of a crime for which the electors would never have forgiven them.
I say that this task had to be carried out, and all the time it was being carried out the Army had to be maintained in a position of efficiency, so that it could be used at a moment's notice. Not only that, but there were great intrinsic dangers in the Army. The Army consisted of millions of men, most of whom had been away from their homes for years, who had made very great sacrifices, and whose dependants had made many great sacrifices, in order that those men should remain in the Army. They were naturally anxious to return at the earliest possible moment, and their dependants were naturally anxious to have them back at the earliest possible moment. If these men were convinced that they were being unjustly treated, that they were being unfairly detained in the Army beyond the period that was necessary, then there was a danger that the whole Army would have lost its spirit and would have become demoralised. If we could have demobilised first of all those men and those units who could most easily have been spared from the Army, it would have greatly facilitated the task of the military authorities. If we could have released first of all those men who could most easily be absorbed into industry, it would greatly have relieved from anxiety the civil authorities at home, but if either of those policies had been adopted it would have involved the release in the first place of younger men with comparatively short terms of service, while older men with much longer terms of service were being retained in the Army, and this would have imposed an intolerable sense of injustice upon them.
124 My right hon. Friend, therefore, had the added difficulty of devising and carrying out a scheme which involved the basing of priority of release upon age and upon length of service combined in the case of each individual. He had to carry out this task of demobilisation not only in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances with regard to the external foreign situation, but in a particular manner which imposed the greatest difficulty of organising demobilisation within the Army. Yet this task, which was quite as great in its way as the task of raising the Army, has now in. this month been accomplished, and we are relying upon a voluntary Army instead of an Army raised by conscription I cannot help recollecting the attitude of many of my hon. Friends opposite at this time last year. They chose to assume, for the purpose of debate, that the War was ended with the Armistice. They chose to assume that from that moment there was no further need of conscription, from that moment all the men might be released, there was no question of whether there were ships sufficient to carry them home, no question of what was to become of these men through the process of release, but that, at the moment the Armistice was signed, every man could leave his station in the Army, proceed to Boulogne, Salonica or Basra, take his place in the queue, perhaps 20 miles long, to wait his turn for a steamer. That was a policy which was not practicable, which could not have recommended itself to any responsible Government, and I am sure this policy would not have recommended itself to any section of hon. Members opposite if they had been in the position of being responsible for the conduct of the Government of this country, for the negotiations and for the enforcement of the Treaties of Peace and for the demobilisation of the Army.
The Military Service Bill, which was carried out at that time and was the subject of very great criticism, was not a Bill for the continuation of conscription. It was a Bill for the ending of conscription. It was a Bill which was an essential part of the machinery of demobilisation, and of the machinery for ending conscription in this country. It named a definite date when conscription was to come to an end, and long before the day it was passed demobilisation was in progress. Not a single new conscript was added to the Army as a result of that 125 Bill, but for months before it was passed, and every day after it was passed, thousands of men were being demobilised. The Bill was simply a. part of the necessary and inevitable machinery for securing the orderly and organised carrying out of the work of demobilisation and of ending conscription. When I look back on the speeches which were delivered a year ago in this House on the Army Estimates, and on the Bill, and the vehement and violent attacks on the Government—attacks which, I am sure, we shall not hear repeated to-day with regard to conscription, even from the hon. and gallant Member for Hull.
§ Mr. SCOTT
I am quite sure my hon. and gallant Friend would have tried to find some other stick with which to beat the Government. Those speeches were directed to accusing the Government of a breach of faith, to alleging that the Government was dishonest in saying it was against conscription, that it really was in favour of conscription, and that it was desirous of securing the permanent retention of conscription in this country. They were speeches which incited the soldiers at that difficult and dangerous period to believe that they were being unfairly and unjustly dealt with. I remember those charges figured very much in some of the by-elections which took place at that time. I do not think we shall hear much of conscription again in any of the present or future elections. I think it is desirable that those charges, which were meant to discredit hon. Members on this side of the House, who are just as strongly against conscription as any hon. Member opposite—I think it is desirable that those charges and those accusations, which were so freely uttered last year, should be recalled now at a time when we are witnessing the complete success of the Government's policy for securing the end of conscription.
§ Mr. WATERSON
I have listened with interest to the last speaker, and I am afraid that he was a little premature. I want, at any rate, to draw his attention "to the fact that there has only been one speech made on this side of the House, when he makes the charge that we have been very lax and have not put any ginger into the Debate this afternoon. I would remind him in particular that it was not 126 altogether the general feeling of goodwill on the part of the Government that ended Conscription. It was absolutely the speeches which we were able to make in the country that brought public opinion to put such pressure upon the Government that they could see no other way out of the difficulty, and I am convinced in my own mind that if it had been left entirely to the discretion of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, we might have had Conscription round our necks at the present time. I am also of opinion that Conscription was part of the Government's policy in order that it should tie down the industrial toilers of this country. It was not only from the point of view of military operations in the European areas, or even in the Middle East, or even n the Indian territory, but Conscription was essential at that time as a part of the Government's policy in order to keep down the unrest that was so prevalent in this country because of the Government's mismanagement of home affairs.
Let me come to the Estimates. An hon. and gallant Gentleman said he was extremely anxious that, with regard to the three main bodies, the Air Forces, the Land Forces, and the Sea Forces, there should be unification and harmonious working together, and he argued that it was not only essential in time of war, but it was essential in peace time preparatory to war. That was a remarkable statement, and I want to ask very seriously, if this House in reality believes in the League of Nations, that it should say so without any hypocritical pretence of any kind. To my mind a League of Nations can never be established in reality until we are prepared to put our own house in order, and the League of Nations will then stand as a lasting testimony to the goodwill of the legislators of this country. We have in these Estimates a figure that will suffice for the needs of 20,000 more men than we had in our normal conditions before the War. I am reminded, when I review those figures, that our net call for these Estimates is roughly £125,000,000. Altogether there are for war services £230,000,000; Army, £125,000,000; Navy, £84,000,000; Air, £21,000,000. I have been perusing these Estimates, and I want to say a word of encouragement to the Secretary of State for War, and I hope 127 he will believe I am sincere. I have been watching the item concerning the education of our soldiers. There have been times, in the past, when the Army has been looked upon by many as a blind-alley occupation. When they had served their term, for which they signed their contract, and had come out of the Army and entered into civil life, the only occupation that they could follow would be that of an ordinary general labourer. I am glad that we are going to train the men that are in the Army, and make them skilled in various activities, so that they will become useful citizens in the production of all that is essential to the life of the community. While that is no new thought from our point of view, I am glad to see that, while the Army is here, that opportunity of development will be taken, because it will be money spent in the right direction and will be advantageous to the country as a whole.
I notice that the Army Vote is part of a great extension of War policy which we thought from the very beginning would be the outcome of a war to end war. No hon. or right hon. Member of this House would disparage the noble sacrifices that the working classes of this country, and indeed all classes of this country, made. I am not going to say that the working classes were the only classes in the country who made sacrifices. A man would be foolish to make a statement of that kind. There were men whom, politically, I should reject, but even they were prepared to answer the call, and did so right nobly. But the War was to be a war to end war, and yet we find, sixteen or seventeen months after the declaration of the Armistice, that we are going to spend £125,000,000 to cope with the need of 20,000 more men than we had before the War, although we fought the War with the specific object of making it impossible for any wars to take place in the future. When my right hon. Friend made his speech in this House, on the 23rd February, on the Army Vote, we naturally asked why there was no reduction to a pre-War level, and my right hon. Friend, in the course of his speech, said:The pre-war Army was only for garrisoning the Empire. That is why the removal of the German danger does not in itself enable any reduction to be made.128 He went on to deal with the situation in the East, and said:New and serious responsibilities, temporary and permanent, have been placed upon us in consequence of the War, and the whole Eastern world is in a state of extreme disquiet and unsettlement.I am not going to minimise that statement, but I am going to ask—and I think I have the right to receive an answer—Why is the East troubled? Why is there this disquiet and this discontent? I want to suggest that it may be from the fact that there are European Imperialists still living who are anxious to snatch some territory in that area. This burden has been placed upon us in consequence of the War, and the whole Eastern world, consequently, is in a state of extreme disquiet and unsettlement. I am reminded of the telegram which was sent by His Most Gracious Majesty the King of this country, and which was published in the "Times" of 21st December, 1914. It said:I feel convinced that we will be able to overcome all influences which are seeking to destroy the independence of Egypt.And yet in 1919, not many months ago, after winning the War for the independence of small nationalities—and let me incidentally say that Montenegro's right has been ignored—Britain inserted a clause in the Peace Treaty by which nations recognise that Egypt is a British protectorate. Britain has absolutely refused to allow the Egyptian claim for independence to be heard by the Peace Conference. I will not argue for the moment whether that is right or wrong, but I would say that it would give them an opportunity of knowing why it is a British protectorate, and it would give you an opportunity of saying why you have felt that it ought to. be a British protectorate; and, if your cause is just and honourable, what need is there to hide the situation which at the same time is causing that unrest beneath the surface so far as the Egyptian population is concerned. When we go a little further East, we also find some unrest in India, and these Army Estimates are going to affect the situation there. We know that in 1919 serious disputes took place in India, and they were followed by various sorts of legislation of a penal character, riots, and then there came that great massacre at Amritsar. All this, from our point of view, is the result, or rather the 129 outcome, of economic causes, and we say that, if these things are the outcome of economic causes, the people who make those causes, from the economic standpoint, should bear their burden as far as the cost is concerned. I do not want to dwell upon the situation as far as India is concerned, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education (Mr. Fisher), in reply, I believe, to a question on the 18th of February, gave statistics of the death-rate in British India, which was very high. That only goes to prove that the situation in India is far from being satisfactory, and that we ought to remove those economic causes. Their removal, to my mind, would case the burden of the military situation in India.
§ Mr. WATERSON
I am afraid that if I were to develop that situation, which could easily be done when we are discussing the Indian question—the great amount of profit accumulated by capitalistic speculators in that country has been the entire result of it—if I were to develop that, I should be ruled out of order by Mr. Speaker, and probably that would suit certain hon. Members. In the course of another speech, which my right hon. Friend made on the 23rd February, he said:It is not the Army Council or the General Staff who choose what territory should be occupied. Such matters are decided by the Cabinet with the approval of Parliament.If that is going to have the approval of Parliament, this House cannot have much to say about it, but it would be well to ask ourselves whether all the territories that have been taken have been taken with the sanction of Parliament. Was the Will in North Russia sanctioned by Parliament? It is true 1;hat we have got to pay the terrible cost of it, but as far as the expidition was concerned, this House never had an opportunity—
§ Mr. WATERSON
I submit that that took place after the expedition had been entered into. My argument is that the expedition never ought to have taken place until Parliament had given its authority.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The expedition was sent during the war. It is surely not suggested that Parliament should have passed a Resolution in favour of every military enterprise during the war.
§ Mr. WATERSON
I also want to draw attention to where those soldiers are, for whose maintenance during the coming year these Estimates are asked for. In October, 1919, the combined cost of the Army and Air Force in the normal year was £75,00(),000. This is how we are going to utilise this money during the coming year. Our home Forces will be 161,134. I want to know how much that will be reduced when Ireland has got her just rights. Shall we be able to reduce it by 20,000? Shall we be able to reduce it by 50,000?
§ Mr. WATERSON
I hope, at any rate, that, as far as the 7,000 men are concerned, we shall reduce that If we cannot have the mackerel we will endeavour to get the sprat. In the Colonies there are, roughly, 10,000; on the Rhine, 16,674; in Egypt, 11,605; in Mesopotamia, 18,572; and then there is an item "Foreign Missions, 2,226." It is about this last named that I am more concerned than about some of the other items. What do we mean by "Foreign Missions" Do we mean what might be termed an expeditionary force to go simply at the dictates of the military authority, and the Government then come and ask this House to sanction something after they have completely done it? I am also not satisfied that there is an absolute need of 161,000 men for Home Forces, unless, as was suggested by an hon. member in this House on the 11th February, it is thought fit by the military authorities to keep an armed force of that character to utilise machine guns and tanks against the miners and men of that kind. [An HON MEMBER: "Shame."] We have had experiences in that direction. I have not forgotten the incident in 1911, when the railway-men were only out three days, and the armed forces of the Crown were utilised then against the public and against the strikers. Then we have, I believe, to-day, something like 1,000 men in Russia. 131 These men went out, or rather were taken out, in order to assist General Denikin. What use are they in Russia to-day? If they are any use at all, from my point of view and that of many other hon Members, they can only be of very small assistance to General Denikin in keeping up the struggle against the Government of Russia, which is practically of no avail. I want to, ask what is the official policy of the Government towards establishing the League of Nations and the reduction of armaments? I also wish to ask a question in connection with the Z Reserve men. I would like to know if we may expect their early release?
§ Mr. WATERSON
I am aware that the right, hon. Gentleman has made that statement in the Press, but there are many hon. Members who are still getting letters upon this question, and they are beginning to treat the matter with suspicion.
§ Mr. WATERSON
They are beginning to think that there may be some spurious object behind all this, and that these men may be used in connection with some affairs or other in this country. I do not want to deal with this question as far as our military representatives abroad are concerned, but I ask if the men who were sent from Mesopotamia to India in order to be demobilised have yet returned home? A question was asked the other day as to the necessary transport for ordinary passengers from India to this country and probably to America. Upon this question I received a letter a week ago from the wives of two soldiers who were out in India when they got the last letter from them. I want to say that before ordinary passengers are shipped it is necessary that we should ship these worn-out warriors from India, and get them home to their own families. We are looking very suspiciously upon this matter. With reference to the release of boys, many of them joined quite patriotically with the best of intentions when they were quite lads and they gave a false afe. There are circumstances which sometimes justify one stretching a little bit farther than under ordinary circumstances, but I think we 132 should show sufficient sympathy in this matter and have all those boys released.
§ Major GLYN
I cannot help rising in order to reply to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. The hon. Member's speech brings home the great need for the formation of a joint general staff or body of that sort, because it shows that there is so much misconception as to what an Army, or a Navy, or an Air force is for. The hon. Member spoke of the Army as being a good educational force.
§ Mr. WATERSON
I did not say the Army was a good educational force. What I said was that while the men were in the Army we should take the best opportunity we could find of educating them.
§ Major GLYN
I am glad even to that extent the Army has the support of the hon. Gentleman. If the hon. Member believes that war is unnecessary and that there is no danger in the future, why does he support an Army at all? Is he willing not to move a reduction now, but to advocate the abolition of the Army altogether? To me there seems to be no logical halting-house between those two extremes. If an Army is necessary, then it should be an efficient one. It is easy to criticise the Secretary of State for War for having a large force, but what we want is to see those who disbelieve in any spirit of militarism to have the courage of their opinions and to say frankly and boldly what they mean. The Secretary for War has carried out a task of immense difficulty with a very satisfactory result. This problem is far from being understood by the people, and one really is in despair if those hon. Gentlemen who style themselves representatives of Labour get up and make speeches here which show a total lack of understanding the needs and obligations of the people of this country. With one breath they say they believe in the League of Nations, but as far as I know they always speak for the defence of the Armenians and persecuted small nations. What use would this country be in such matters without the legitimate use of the Army or the Navy to carry out what has been our mission since the early pages of history?
We have not arrived at our position in the world with soft speeches and pious hopes, but because our rulers have used our forces on the side of right and justice, and in that they have always 133 received the support of the whole people of this country. I am convinced that the opinion of the people of this country is not represented by such speeches as we have heard from the Labour Benches. I believe there is a serious danger that unless we point out our great obligations in other parts of the world, that most infatuating cry of economy may run away with our sense of proportion, and we may be in danger of finding ourselves holding a good position in the world and unable to use our full weight in the League of Nations or anywhere else. For these reasons I think it is very necessary at a time when all the peoples in the world, from Armenia to Russia and Africa, are asking for British protection and help, that our policy should be made clear when we have an hon. Member asking what two thousand or three thousand members of military missions are doing abroad? They are preserving order and stopping massacres, and helping those downtrodden people to recover, after a great and devastating war. I cannot believe that it is the wish of the hon. Gentleman or those associated with him that we should desist from that task from which we have never held back in our history. It seems to ma that the Secretary for War could very well use his great influence assisting the formation of a joint imperial general staff, if for no other reason than that once it is established, confidence will result right through the country.
Among soldiers and sailors and people generally there is an impression that vacillating political policies have been our undoing in the past. It is very difficult to have a true form of stable military or naval policy if it is always liable to be reversed by a change of Government. If we had an Imperial general staff of an advisory character no Government that came into office would be liable to swing so violently to extremes. We all want the expert naval or military opinion to be the, ruling factor in our military and naval operations, which, of course, we hope will be postponed to a very distant period; but when you have great newspapers who think that any stick is good enough with which to beat the Government, using arguments of this kind, one begins to wonder where we are. None of these attacks would receive any support from the people of the country if it were clearly shown that the critics were barking 134 up the wrong tree. We must have confidence and strength to enforce our will if our power is to be put to the test. If we are to have true economy it means that we should use the forces of the country in the most economical way and not find ourselves in the position when the time of trial comes that we shall have to adopt scramble methods to get the forces needed for us to carry out the wishes of Parliament and the people of this country. I think the whole House owes a real debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has accomplished in the past, and I trust that he will bring his powers to bear on the formation of a joint committee in order that, with the assistance of hon. Members of that committee, we may educate public opinion in the modern history which has been established as a result of the war, and let the people realise how great our responsibilities are and show them that we are not willing to turn back from the great task that still lies before us.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I desire to call attention to a matter which I do not think has been yet touched upon in this Debate. Although the total Army Estimates for this year show a decrease of something like £280,000,000 as compared with last years' s Estimates, there is one part which shows a very substantial increase and that is the department of the Finance Member of the War Office under the control of the Financial Secretary. A reference to those Estimates shows that the Estimates of the Finance Member's department has gone up by £50,00 this year that is, from £458,000 to very nearly £510,000 in round figures. That is all the more extraordinary in view of the fact that the number of men in the Army has been decreased from 2,500,000 to 525,000 this year. I looked at the Estimates for 1914–15 in order to see at what figure the cost of the Finance Member's Department of the War Office stood, and I found it was £128,000. Whereas this amount was £128,000 before the War it has now gone up to nearly £510,000, and I hope we shall have some explanation of this increase. No doubt it is due in part to the increased cost of the various members of the staff and their subordinates, but why should the numbers not be decreased at a time when there has been such an enormous diminution in the Army. I am unable to find in the Estimate what the exact figures are of the 135 Army Pay Department and Corps, and I would like to know how the figures stand as compared with the past year. Perhaps the representative of the War Office will give me those figures in order to reassure the House that in these matters of pay we are establishing a real reduction as compared with last year.
May I suggest one or two ways in which possibly economies could be effected in regard to pay? In the first place, I suggest to him that instead of the present system of pay and allowances, officers should have consolidated pay. I am aware that this it not a new question. It has been raised before. But the extraordinary thing is this, that although there have been repeated demands for consolidated pay for the regimental officer, last year the War Office de-consolidated the pay of staff officers all over. This, as I hope to show, is a very great increase in cost, trouble, annoyance, and loss of economy generally. The regimental officer gets his pay fixed with so much as allowance under four or five different headings: Rations, servant, lodging, fuel and lighting, with an extra in the case of the married officer. Every Regular officer of the whole Army—and I see there is provision apart from the staffs for something like 17,000—has to send in every month no less than four claims and sometimes five in respect of each of these four or five separate allowances. That is a very great tax upon the officer, an extreme annoyance for him to prepare these elaborate claims for 2s., 5s., and so on. That is not all These claims go in first to the officer commanding the unit. They are examined, vouchers produced, and so on; then they are passed on to the brigade, and the division, until finally they reach the War Office.
Here a similar examination has to be gone through, with an enormous cost of the regular clerks' time, and these things being thoroughly gone into, correspondence takes place, and further examination, with a further number of clerks engaged. Is it not possible to arrange some system by which, instead of all this work being thrown upon the clerks of the different Departments, and of the War Office itself, the pay could be consolidated? Let me suggest to my right hon. Friend how he could save by a method of consolidation. You would avoid a vast number of very complicated forms and 136 difficult Regulations which are constantly being issued from the War Office, constantly varied, and which constantly have to be interpreted by the different offices and by the War Office. You would effect not only a great saving in the clerical staffs, not only throughout the regiments, but at the local auditors' offices, the Exchequer auditors' offices, and finally at the War Office. This is really worth consideration in the interest of economy. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot see his way to do what I request simply on his own official initiative, could he not see his way to set up a Committee of experts. presided over by a chairman from outside, to examine this matter? This would be a committee of men who really understand the working of these things, such as paymasters, and so on.
There are only two other economies I want to suggest. As hon. Members know, there has been a new Department set up, a Costings Committee, though I am not sure that is the technical name given it by the War Office. The object is to find out what any particular unit costs, no doubt for purposes of comparison. I have looked through these Estimates with extreme care to find, if I can, what is the cost of this Costings Committee. I am unable to find out. Perhaps we may be told by the right hon. Gentleman? Also will he say whether it is really worth the cost? As a matter of fact, there is already, I believe, costings committees in the units throughout the country. The system is carried out in the commands. Is there any real necessity for this new-body of the War Office, and can its work not be done through the existing organisation? The last point I want to make is this: I have made it my business, so far as a layman can, to understand the kind of audit which is imposed by the War Office in the case of contractors. So far as I have been able to learn there are five or six different system of audit which have to be gone through before payment of accounts is sanctioned. I do not for one moment suggest that any precaution to ensure that public money is not paid away wrongly ought not to be taken. But I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will look into this question. If there is any portion of this complicated and expensive system of audit which can be avoided, and economy effected, it would be well for the right hon. Gentleman to give it his consideration. If he sets up the 137 Committee of experts for which I have asked, then they could look into this question of audit as well as that of the consolidation of the pay, and so secure some economy. With this enormous Estimates before us, my right' hon. Friend will realise that it is the duty of every Member of this House to contribute what suggestions he can towards economy, and it is in that spirit that I put my suggestions before the House.
§ Captain ELLIOT
In one word I should like to reinforce the argument of the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down in respect to the question of the consolidation of pay. I suffered from it during the War. I can thoroughly substantiate every word that has been said. It is an interminable nuisance the filling up of these forms, and nobody ever knows his pay, or whether he is going to get it. As a matter of fact it depends very much upon the quartermaster. If there is a good quartermaster in the battalion you get your money; if there is not you do not get it. It is a degrading thing that an officer of the Army should be subject to the quartermaster of his unit as to whether or not he gets the pay due to him for repelling the invader. I wish to support the claim put forward by the hon. Member for St. Albans, that the Director-General should be permitted to have a seat directly upon the Army Council. There are a number of medical points of the greatest importance. I think it was said by Lord Esher that the final task of keeping an Army in the field was just as an important thing as raising the Army. Certainly there were many gigantic blunders made during the War owing to the neglect of medical advice which would not have been made if the man responsible for that advice had had a seat directly on the Army Council where he could have put his case direct before those who were about to launch expeditions. There were many points in the malaria-haunted valley of the Struma which were occupied and kept in the teeth of medical advice, and where we lost many thousands of men needlessly throughout the War by the neglect of the plain straightforward advice of the doctors. To continue to despise the claims of medical authority in spite of what we have learned as a result of this War would be one of the greatest follies of which the Army Council could be guilty. The medical people have made contributions 138 of the greatest value towards keeping an Army in the field. I would simply mention two instances—one at home, the other abroad.
The first is in respect of the diet of the soldier. It is impossible to give the young recruit too much to eat. It is nearly impossible to give him enough. You take a growing lad who has much physical exercise, and you give him 3,000 or 4,000 or 4,500 calories per day. He wolfs the food up and, like Oliver Twist, comes back and asks for more. The best proof of what I say is that such a lad—and there were many of them—spends his own private money in buying more food. When he comes off drill in the morning he goes down to the canteen. He does not buy milk or cake or even cigarettes; he buys rice pudding. This at 11 o'clock in the forenoon! That is sufficient proof that he can scarcely get enough to eat. In the first winter of demobilisation the physiological experts warned the Army Council that there were a lot of people coming back from the front, vigorous men, and they urged an increase in the rations. Of course, the Army Council took no notice of this until Australian troops mutinied, and, as so often happens with His Majesty's Government, on the threat of force, they at once gave what they would not previously concede to reason. The rations of the troops were improved, and immediately discontent began to fall away.
The other point is in quite a different area. I refer to the troops sent to Egypt. They were going into a district swarming with a parasitic disease known as bilharzia. The Army Council were warned in time, and they sent out experts. A certain amount of field work was done, and in a very few months the cause of bilharzia was discovered, and our troops were practically immune from this disease which otherwise, but for the medical advice—which was taken—would have invalided many thousands permanmently or semi-permanontly, not only during the War, but when it was over These cases show that the voice of the medical man is of the greatest importance towards the great task of keeping the army in the field. Any medical man knows there are many many instances that could he given. Therefore, with all my might, I beg the Secretary for War to consider the claims of the Director-General of the Army Medical Service to a direct scat on the 139 Council. There are one or two things we find in the Estimates, injustices, which would not be permitted if such representation were in practice.
In the case of Mesopotamia it is an extraordinary thing that there are many white doctors who have been kept there long after the time they were due for demobilisation. Our profession is the only profession to which conscription was applied up to the age of 56. Other people were conscripted only up to the ages of 40, 41 and 45, but the medical profession was subjected to it up to the age of 56. No such strain was laid on any other class of the community. There are many British doctors out in Mesopotamia who are not released because we are told they are indispensable. There are a number of native doctors there who should be able to take their place, but they do not do so because, whatever one may say about the capacity of Indian doctors, there is no doubt that the ordinary Indian trooper himself resents extremely having to depend on native medical officers for medical advice. Another point is that these white doctors are being paid loss than native doctors. It is not here a case of equal treatment for the native doctor; he, in fact, gets preferential treatment and is being paid a higher rate, while he is held to be incapable of performing the work done by the white doctor. This is a great injustice and is causing much discontent in Mesopotamia. The feeling is extending to the Indian Medical Service which is, practically speaking, in a state of seething unrest, and, as soon as permission can be obtained to resign, many hundreds of commissions will in fact be resigned.
The next point to which I wish to draw attention is this, there is a small dental Estimate for the Army Medical Corps. Those of us who were out in the War realised that dental treatment was one of the black spots of our medical service. It was most inefficient, and we therefore welcome this arrangement for dentistry, a small beginning though it may be, and hope that it will continue. We trust that the Financial Secretary will convey to the Secretary of State for War the opinion, which is held by medical men and dentists throughout the country, that dentistry should be a Divisional Institution in the same way as a field ambulance. A Division has plenty of work for 140 the dentists, and therefore we suggest they should form a divisional unit, and be supplied with a motor ambulance-fitted up completely to enable all branches of the work to be done. Many thousands of men are lost to the effective strength because they cannot get dental treatment.
The last point which I wish to bring to the notice of the Financial Secretary is the extraordinary attitude of the War-Office, and of the right hon. Baronet's own Department in particular, towards women in the Army. The attitude of the Army towards women is that of the good old cave-man, the proud fighting man who goes in front carrying his weapon while his humble squaw follows behind with the baggage. She is underpaid and under-fed, and is regarded as nothing but a poor camp follower. As long as the Financial Secretary treats her as she is treated to-day, so long will she remain poor. The salary of the nursing sister amounts to the munificent sum of £50 per annum, and it does seem disgraceful that we should ask a skilled woman to spend her life in serving the Army for so small a sum. I believe the war bonus and allowances bring the total up to about £140, but then there is always great difficulty in getting the allowances, and, further than that, if the nursing sister goes on holiday for a week or ten days the allowances are stopped. The Government, in fact, is the only employer which fines its servants heavily when they go away for a well-earned rest. Nursing sisters have put forward their claims before this, and I think it worth while repeating them. A woman in the position of a nursing sister should rank as an officer. At present she does not do so. She does not hold the King's commission. She cannot be granted the Military Cross; she can only have the awards given to non-commissioned officers, the D.C.M. and the Military Medal. It is scandalous, considering what these people go through, and when they are serving with the troops they certainly ought to have the status of officers. They are as worthy of holding His Majesty's commission as any man who ever fought in the field. Women with the auxiliary forces are in a worse state. A girl driving a motor ambulance may be out in an air raid and may be injured by a bomb, but she is not paid on the same basis as a member of a fighting 141 unit; she is treated as a camp follower and does not get the same rate of compensation as a soldier. It is a scandal that a woman who has to undergo these risks should not get a proper recompense for it and should not, if wounded or crippled, get as much compensation as a soldier.
The last point I have to raise is that medical women in attendance on the women's auxiliary forces are not counted really as belonging to His Majesty's Forces, and do not get the Income Tax repayments to which all the other Army Services are entitled. The Treasury have explained that they are not paid these specifically on the ground that they are looking after women. Women apparently are not classed as part of His Majesty's Forces, although they have served with honourable distinction. They are denied this status though ii; is conceded to German prisoners, conscientious objectors and Army mules. It is not right to say that anybody in attendance on women is in attendance on camp followers and not on His Majesty's Forces. I think the attitude of the War Office towards women is distinctly archaic and badly requires revision. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give us an assurance that their financial status will be revised; that they will be given the concessions which are made to all other of His Majesty's subjects serving in the Army; and that these unfair distinctions will be done away with as soon as possible.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Sir A. Williamson)
I will endeavour to deal with some of the minor points raised in this Debate, leaving my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to reply on the larger questions later in the evening. The hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) referred to a point mentioned on page 14 of the Army Estimate affecting two items of expenditure, one under the head "Palestine" and the other under the head "Mesopotamia," and he wished for an explanation of the items "Other Expenditure." The explanation of these figures is given on the succeeding page, where it says that "Other Expenditure" covers mainly Indian and local labour and miscellaneous expenses of Indian native troops. It has not been possible for the Department to get more details. We are awaiting them from 142 India, but I hope the explanation I have given will suffice. The same hon. and gallant Member also referred to the blank on page 97. The House will notice, however, it is not quite a blank. The page is headed "Summary of Estimate," and at the bottom the summary itself appears. There may be a certain amount of waste space, but all that is needed will be found at the foot of the page. With regard to an explanation of these figures, I may refer hon. Members to page 100, where the House will observe a total figure of £27,307,000, which corresponds with the same figure on page 97. This net expenditure of £27,307,000 is the result of the larger figures shown on pages 98–100, subject to deductions which are also shown, and that is the explanation of what puzzled the hon. and gallant Member. The hon. Member asked if it would not be possible at some time to give to the House and to the country a sort of Budget showing the expenditure in Palestine and Mesopotamia, including the outlay for civil purposes, and on the other side the results of such expenditure. That, no doubt, would be a very interesting statement if it could be procured, but I am afraid the time is not yet for one to take stock of whatever there may be on the assets side of the account in Mesopotamia. No doubt many hon Members feel, and to an extent I share their feeling, some doubt as to the material advantages which may accrue from the possession of these territories, but we cannot on that account lay down the obvious duty which lies upon us as a nation, and especially upon the War Office, to protect and secure that which for the present we hold. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) referred in his speech to the status of officers of His Majesty's Army as if it were desired to perpeutate, a condition of things which I believe the country does not desire to see perpetuated, a condition whereby officers are derived almost entirely from one class of the nation. The experience we have had has shown that it is undesirable that officers of the Army should only be drawn from one social class, but that the profession should be open to anyone who has the necessary ability and education. If there were one subject which is more interesting and hopeful than another in connection with the Army, it is the desire and efforts made to improve the education, particularly of the men.
143 In a Debate which took place recently I explained to the House in some detail the organisation which is being put into operation for improving the education of the men, and I explained how certificates could be taken after certain examinations had been passed, and I explained that these certificates were of four classes. Some of them related to ordinary education and others were higher education certificates. I explained also that some of the education given was directed to training a man for industries and for trades and, furthermore, that some of the education was with the desire that they should have that general knowledge which would qualify them to become officers in His Majesty's Army. The hon. Member either did not hear or read what was said on that occasion, or is not aware of the efforts which are being put forth to meet the very laudable object he has in view. I would refer him to the Regulations for Army certificates and education which were issued with the Army Orders for February, 1920. The pamphlet is called Regulations for Army Certificates and Education, to come into operation on 1st July, 1921. It is true we are only instituting that now, but the matter is not neglected or put on one side but is occupying the very earnest attention of the War Office.
The hon. Member (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) and others have also spoken of the need for co-operation in connection with the medical side of Army administration, and advocated the formation of an Imperial Medical service. There is a very considerable amount of co-operation already between the medical staff of the War Office and the civil medical service, and there is every desire to promote and to extend that co-operation and to make use of the best knowledge which is available wherever it can be found. With regard to the question whether the Director-General if Medical Service should himself personally be a member of the Army Council instead of being represented there as he is at present by the Adjutant-General, that is a matter of policy that I will leave the Secretary of State to deal with himself.
The hon. Baronet (Sir J. Butcher) made some interesting observations which particularly touched the Department with 144 which I am more directly concerned, and he expressed a certain amount of concern, if not alarm, that the Finance Members' Department should be almost the only one to show an increased expenditure in cost of administration. So far as regards the staff of the Finance Member at the War Office there is some reduction in the cost. The main reason for the increase is the increase of the audit staff. The figure for 1920–21 of the audit staff is £229,637, as compared with £140,980 for the year now ending. So that there is an apparent increase of £88,657. But in 1919–20 some hundred officers and soldiers were loaned for temporary duty with the audit staff. They have now been demobilised. Their pay was not charged to the Audit Vote. Possibly it might have been better if it had been so shown, but in last year's accounts there was a good deal of war in the air as it were, and our accounts had not got back to a peace footing, so that really the cost for 1919–20 ought to be shown as £20,000 more, and that would have meant that the apparent increase would be about £68,000 instead of £88,000. This increased cost to which I have referred comes about through the formation of an audit office in Mesopotamia. The audit in Mesopotamia was conducted under the Indian Government, and during the time of war that condition had to subsist, but it is not thought quite right, nor would it be reasonable, that in time of peace this country should supply the means and the audit should be conducted by India. It is thought better that we should send out our own audit officers, which has been done, and the cost of the staff there is estimated at £49,000. In addition to that, there is the increased pay for the audit staffs generally and that amounts to £40,000, so that there is an increase of £89,000, but there has been on the other hand a saving of £20,000 through the fact that we have done away with 100 soldiers and officers who previously did it.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Is it not possible with the enormous reduction in the numbers of the Army to make some corresponding reduction in the numbers of the auditing staff in my hon. Friend's Department?
§ Sir A. WILLIAMSON
I think the hon. Baronet suggests by that remark that the audit work in the Army is perhaps unnecessarily expensive. I cannot agree 145 with him in that. The departmental audit of Army accounts is by no means too elaborate. It by no means goes too far. Also, local auditors act as financial advisors to military officers in addition to performing their regular audit work Auditing in pro-war time consisted of a test only. During the war the percentage of accounts and vouchers tested was necessarily reduced to a low point. In some directions it was as low as 1 per cent., and I do not think the hon. Baronet would say that was an excessive amount of audit. In addition to auditing, the staff may test stocktakings of various stores and the inspection of local accounting methods, with a view to securing efficiency and avoiding unnecessary elaboration. With so colossal an expenditure as has been incurred and still is incurred, in an organisation so large as the British Army and so widespread all over the world, it is absolutely essential that a correct and adequate audit should be had of the various accounts, otherwise we all know, at any rate those of us who have had business experience know, that the leakage would be very difficult to detect and might become a very large figure.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Can the hon. Gentleman give us any assurance that this large sum of over £500,000 for his Office will be diminished next year, or shortly, with the enormous diminution in the numbers if the Army?
§ Sir A. WILLIAMSON
After the Armistice the work of the Department with which I have the honour to be connected actually increased instead of diminished. We had thousands of deceased soldiers' accounts to open up. We had their estates to look after and to distribute. We are still doing that, and we have the greatest difficulty in some cases in tracing the proper persons who should be in receipt of the small sums left by these thousands of deceased soldiers. The work in that and other directions actually increased after the Armistice. It is perfectly true that the aspiration of the hon. and learned Gentleman is a very proper one, and I believe there is reason to anticipate that as the work diminishes—and it is diminishing now—we shall be able, in the course of time, to reduce the staff of the Department. It ought to be added that there is no Department that has been more hardly worked than the 146 Finance Department of the War Office during the years of the war and since. They have had a very serious strain put upon them. They have suffered very gravely from the fact that the other new Government Departments that were opened had recourse to the Finance Department of the War Office to staff the new Department, and many of the best men have been removed from the Finance Department. The Department, prior to my connection with it, has worked under very great difficulties in coping with the immense burden of work thrown upon it.
The hon. and learned Gentleman also suggested that the pay and allowances for officers should be converted to consolidated pay. I have not had time to examine that proposal in any detail, but from the little information I have been able to get since the hon. and learned Gentleman gave me notice of his intention to raise the point, I understand that the trouble would not be eliminated by the change suggested, because there are varying circumstances. At one time an officer is on duty and at another time he is on holiday. The circumstances vary, and there would still be trouble to adjust the pay in such changing circumstances. It is, I am informed, thought fairer to maintain the present system. However, I can promise the hon. and learned Gentleman that I will look into the matter.
§ Sir A. WILLIAMSON
With regard to the suggestion that there should be a committee to examine into the matter, I cannot do more than say that I will bear the suggestion in mind and make inquiries about it. The hon. and learned Gentleman also asked about the Costing Department I am afraid he rather depreciates the value of this Department. I think he is under the impression that we are spending a great deal of money and that we are not getting very much from it. Certainly, the sum of money involved is substantial, The hon. and learned Member did not find the figure in the Estimate, but if he will look on page 8 he will see that the figure is £243,380. That is instituted for the purpose of conducting what is called the costing work. This Costing Department I look upon as a most valuable Department in the War Office, When it is brought home, as it 147 will be brought home when the system is more perfectly instituted, that one officer or one regiment is spending more for arriving at the same result than another regiment is spending for arriving at a similar result, investigation will be instituted at once and economy ought to be effected. I think we shall save a great deal more than the cost of the Department when it is fully instituted. Hon. Members may have noticed from a remark earlier in this publication that the Costing Department is not yet in full organisation. It is only organised up to a certain point. These accounts themselves show the Costing Department's work to some extent, and hon. Members will se that they are on a different principle from the statement of accounts that used to be introduced under pre-War conditions. We intend to carry that system still further. We want to know all the various items of cost, so that comparisons may be made, and we can see whore there is extravagance or anything tending towards extravagance, and where there is economy. So valuable is this system of cost accounting thought to be that the Select Committee on National Expenditure in 1918 recommended that the system should be extended to all the Departments of State. I could not quote a better authority than that Select Committee.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Is it absolutely necessary for the purpose that this Costing Department should be a Department of the War Office, costing over £240,000? Could it not be worked through the Command Pay Offices and the Regimental Pay Offices without having this department at the War Office?
§ Sir A. WILLIAMSON
It is worked throughout the regiments, and it will go throughout the whole Service, but it has to be supervised and organised and regulated from the War Office. It will eventually go through the whole Army. In regard to the observations made by the hon. and gallant Member for Lanark (Captain Elliot), who stated that the women employed by the Government, and particularly by the War Office, were underpaid and underfed, I should be very sorry if I thought there could be any substantial truth in the statement. There is, of course, this truth in it, which I think we all recognise, that almost all women's 148 labour in the country is underpaid as compared with the pay that is given to men. For many years I have taken a deep interest in hospital nursing and have been connected with several large organisations which have to do with the work of nursing, and I am quite free to admit, which I do readily, and as I have done before in public, that the pay of nurses has not been as high as it ought to be. The nurses have to go through years of training to arrive at a stage where they are qualified to conduct their profession, and when they have qualified after these years of training the pay which they have hitherto received, up till quite recently, was altogether inadequate. But it must not be forogotten that when the hon. and learned Member referred to the pay of a nursing sister as being from £50 to £65, he did not refer to allowances which bring the pay to the equivalent of £140. In addition to that, there are other contingent advantages, or deferred pay, in the shape of pensions. It is perfectly true that the pay of women is not high, but the War Office, and especially the Finance Department, cannot authorise payment out of line with the general payments which are made under similar circumstances by other Departments and by civil institutions. The House will be the first to object and to blame the Finance Member of the Army Council if he were to come down here and say that he had instituted pay out of proportion to what was the accepted pay for similar work in civil employment. Consequently, the hon. and learned Member who raised this point must use his influence outside as well as inside the House to remedy the evil of which he very justly complained.
On this occasion I would like to preface my remarks by expressing my sincere gratitude and appreciation, in which, I think, I shall be joined by every Member of the House, for the work done by the late Member's friend, the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. MacCallum Scott). I think that in many hundreds, if not thousands, of homes throughout the land, the personal attention, energy and work which he has given to all the arduous and manifold difficulties of demobilisation can never be adequately understood or appreciated. Therefore, I would like to take the opportunity of conveying to the late Member's friend my appreciation of that great service. Having 149 given that sincere and well-deserved eulogy of his work, I would like to reply to the remarks which he made concerning our criticism, such as it was, on the policy of the present War Office. I can assure him that any silence which may have been observed on this side of the House is not due to lack of criticism. He referred to the OFFICIAL REPORT. I think it is very dangerous to refer to the OFFICUL BEPORT. The OFFICIAL REPORT. contains speeches which were made last year, very complete records of speeches of which I might remind him, such as that of his right hon. Friend on the subject of Russia. I need not weary the House at this time by quoting these speeches, and I should not be in order if I did; but everyone, knows that the policy which we advocated, the criticism which we levelled at the Government policy throughout the whole of last year has boon amply justified by the logical sequence of events in that country.
I will not pursue that subject further to-night. We are satisfied that all the criticism which we offered and all the suggestions which we put forward concerning the subject of Russia have proved that we were right, and we only offer our congratulations to the Minister of War in his adaptability in his bringing the House round without any opposition to the point of view which we advocated constantly and determinedly the whole of last year. I would like to refer specifically to the question of military missions, references to which appear on page 5, Vote A, of the Estimate. I refer particularly to the 2,226 ranks employed on foreign missions. There are many of us on this side who regard with profound suspicion the policy of these missions and the work which they are carrying out in foreign countries. We have a suspicion, nay, we have a knowledge, that these missions are employed not merely in advising these new nations, these bits of our old allies, in purely military matters, but in supporting and bolstering-up the most reactionary elements to be found in those countries. As an example I may refer to the disastrous results which are being felt throughout the whole of Europe to-day due to one of these missions. In Latvia last year 200,000, approximately, German troops were collected, organised, and drilled under Von der Goltz and Colonel Bermondt. The Secretary of State for War was fully cognisant of that operation. 150 He was fully apprised of the danger to the peace of Europe which was arising in that country. We are told that the Supreme Council ordered the demobilisation and disbandment of those troops. We also hear from other sources, which in my judgment were reliable, that instructions were sent through this military mission in that land to inform Von der Goltz, and latterly Colonel Bermondt, that they should see to it that that disbandment and demobilisation did not proceed too quickly.
The Secretary of State for War looked upon that force as a potential weapon which he might use in his wild adventures into Russia. Those of us who looked upon matters with a little more vision and farsightedness than he saw the danger which might arise. Anyone who is in touch with politics in the Baltic States knows that it was a common saying amongst those troops that they would probably be used to attack Berlin first before Petrograd. I know through personal evidence that the matter was fully represented to the Secretary of State for War last August. He flew over to Deauville, where the Prime Minister was taking his well-deserved holiday, and suggested a secret alliance with these men, the object of which was to attack Bolshevism. The result of that intrigue we see in the terrific cataclysm which has shaken the whole of Germany during the last few weeks and produced results whose ultimate effect it would be unwise for anyone to attempt to phophesy. That is one example of of the policy adopted by our missions in foreign countries. I could quote others. For instance, the mission to Esthonia. I am informed that an ultimatum was presented by the British and French Military Missions to the Esthonian Government, who were endeavouring to establish themselves as a free nation, trying to rush them into a war against neighbouring nations against which they have no enmity and no ill-feeling whatsoever. We cannot, in the face of this evidence, help feeling that these missions are utilised for bolstering up reactionary elements in those countries instead of strengthening the spirit of democracy, for which so many thousands of lives were lost in the last war. I could quote other examples of our missions and the bad effect produced throughout Europe. I am told that in Hungary the streets of the big towns are full of British 151 military missions in khaki. The same remark applies to Finland.
I hope that when my right hon. Friend replies later he will tell us a little bit of the work of these 594 officers and 1,632 men who are employed in what can only be called a politicial mission in these new Countries throughout Europe. I hope that he will give us an assurance that at least in future these men will not be employed in party politics in those countries. It is not our duty to take sides in the political matters of those new countries. Under the same heading on page 5, I look with supreme and profound dismay to the total number, 348,432 ranks, employed in those distant lands. That matter will be fully discussed later in the evening. I would only say that it is quite impossible for the British nation to take on the police duties of the whole world. It is quite impossible for this country to take on those enormous Commitments in the vast territories of Eastern Europe and Russia. We cannot make ourselves the protectors of international concessions, and while I am not going to deal with the political situation, I may say that it would be a far better policy to try to engender friendly relations with some of these new States, with the Emir Feisul, the Egyptians and people of these new nations which are putting forward with a certain amount of right their claims to independence. It would foe far better in the case of a future war to have a friendly and independent State full of good feeling towards Great Britain than to have a hostile nation subordinate and kept in that position by British bayonets.
On one or two occasions I have drawn attention to the question of the Guards' uniform. Each time I have been informed that the matter is under consideration. I hope it will be decided that, at least for the present, it is not necessary to revert to the pre-War very costly and very gaudy uniform. With the present price of materials, the outfit of a young officer entails an expenditure of over £300. If khaki was good enough for the winning of the War, it is quite good enough for maintaining the peace. As to the question of a General Staff for dealing with the control and organisation of the fighting services, members who have spoken have been almost unanimous. I approach the question of war organisation with some diffidence, because I feel 152 that in building up an efficient war organisation we are making jobs for people who, in order to justify those jobs, will find themselves called upon to launch the country into a new war. I think we can look upon it from another point of view. Efficiency in the control of our fighting services is bound to bring about efficiency in the control of the economies of that service. I wish that some of the hon. Members who dealt with the question of an Imperial Staff had developed the matter a little more in detail. I welcome discussions of this sort, because they give publicity to an urgent need. One hon. Member has said that it was unwise to discuss the matter in the House, and he suggested that it should be referred to a Committee. I submit that it is only by the publicity of Debate in this House that the urgency of re-organisation will be realised inside and outside the House.
The hon. and gallant Member who opened the Debate stated that the service members, that is to say, the professional members on the old Committee of Imperial Defence, hardly ever opened their mouths in the discussions, and that when my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War—the First Lord of the Admiralty as he then was—took part in those Committee meetings, doubtless because of his great grasp of detail and his magnificent originality, he rather dwarfed into insignificance some of the professional officers present. But anyone who reads the minutes of the Committee of Imperial Defence would appreciate that that was the exception and not the rule. The criticism which I have to direct against the reconstruction of the Committee of Imperial Defence, which was so ably organised and run by Sir Maurice Hankey and Commander Domvile, is that only the heads of the different services met, and that the people who did the work and worked out the details and plans were kept apart in the different Departments. What happened on those occasions? The First Lord of the Admiralty, the First Sea Lord and the Second Sea Lord, and the corresponding members of the War Office, used to meet and discuss general questions of principle. As often as not they would return to their Ministries and, if they thought fit, reverse those decisions. There was no binding decision. On the question of giving a body of that sort executive 153 power, I would not express an opinion at the present time. I certainly am in favour of an eventual Ministry of Defence. I do not think you can run anything on the principle of committees. If a body is to meet and to discuss policy and operations and the organisation of the fighting services, it must have power to carry those principles into effect or else it will develop into a mere debating body. Those of us who favour a Ministry of Defence will look to that to provide the nucleus of such a body. As to the need of such a body it is not necessary to bring forward arguments. Those who took part in the great War realised that the mistakes of Gallipoli and Mesopotamia, and some of the adventures in Palestine, narrowly missed being most brilliant achievements. Had there been greater means of co-ordination during the War there is no doubt that many of these escapades would have succeeded magnificently.
The War has taught us a great deal concerning staff work. Compared with 1914 the organisation of the staffs in the War Office and in the Admiralty, and indeed in the Air Ministry, has increased in efficiency tremendously. It is now a general principle that the staff dealing with future operations should be entirely divorced from the staff responsible for executive work. There exists in the Admiralty and I think in the War Office, a Department known as a Planning Division, which is entirely devoted to looking ahead, has no executive power, and spends its time in thinking what may happen six months, twelve months or two years ahead. It seems to me a very simple matter to get these three Departments, Planning Departments or their prototypes, from the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry together, possibly putting them in the same building, and so to co-ordinate the future policy of our fighting services. Another essential for effective co-ordination, is an interchange of staff officers between the services. We have to-day a beginning in that respect. I believe that two staff officers from the Air Ministry are now undergoing a military course at Camberley. If we are really to work up to the constitution of an efficient Ministry of Defence or merely a co-ordinated Imperial General Staff, that principle should be extended; we should send six or a dozen officers from each of the three services to the staff colleges of the other 154 sister services. We might thus produce a corps of officers competent to deal with the subject from the point of view of the service as a whole and so lay the foundation for better organisation, better control and better administration in the three fighting services.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
Reference has been made by several hon. Members to the great importance of economy in the military expenditure of the country. I do not think there can be two opinions that economy is of the utmost importance at the present time. It is a thing which we preach, not only to the Government, but to all classes of the country, including, I hope, ourselves. But I hope that we will not allow the question of economy in the Army to hide from us the fact that we have very grave duties to perform for which it is necessary to maintain an efficient and sufficient Army. I am not going to enter on the question as to whether we have been right in sending military missions to various small States arising out of the break-up of great Empires, but whether the action of those military missions has been in all cases right, I can hardly myself believe that they have been engaged in egging on those peoples to fight. There is one particular part of the world as to which I do claim to have made some special study of the conditions. I refer to what was the Turkish Empire and adjoining portions of Russia. While I join with everyone in egging the pursuit of economy in the administration of the Army, I should be the last to wish them to carry out economy to such a point as to leave us without an Army great enough in numbers and efficient in organisation to carry out our duties to the people inhabiting those particular parts of the world. After all, it is our doing in the past that has kept them in the position in which they have so long suffered under the heel of Turkish tyranny, and it is our duty at present to see that they are delivered from that terrible position. I am convinced that the troops which were stationed in the Caucasus ought never to have been withdrawn. Happily, the worst of the horrors that might so easily have happened on that withdrawal did not take place, but what has happened has been bad enough.
There has been a great deal of fighting between the three new States of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, which might 155 have been prevented, and would have been, I think, if our troops had been kept there doing what was practically police duty. The best elements of the populations of the three communities desired that they should remain, but they were brought away in pursuance of the idea that we must economise at all costs. Though the worst horrors did not happen, that was due to the fact that all our troops were not entirely taken away, but some were kept at Batoum, and whilst the regular troops were taken from the interior of the Caucasus, what was practically a military mission, though under the Foreign Office, was sent out there to guide, and in some sense control, those three States and bring about peace between them, and arrange differences as to frontiers and make treaties of arbitration one with the other. It is through the influence of those British officers that to some extent good results have been brought about. I earnestly hope we shall sec more British officers in those three States, because I am quite sure if serious bloodshed is to be avoided it is absolutely necessary that there should be some power there or somebody with great influence to guide those new States. If it could be done by the League of Nations, so much the better, because that would lay aside any suspicion of any one State proceeding for its own advantage. But the League of Nations is still in its very early infancy It has not organised its own forces, and we have got to do these things meanwhile until the League of Nations is sufficiently advanced to take on this work. It is all very well to be impatient and to say that 14 months or more have elapsed since the Armistice was signed, but after all that period is a very small matter in the building up of an absolutely new system in the organisation of the world. I hope that the Govornment, while pursuing economy, will not forget the duties which the British people have, and that those duties in these parts of the Caucasus, and what was formerly the Turkish Empire can only be carried out if we have an Army which is efficient in organisation and sufficient in numbers to see that we fulfil those duties which are incumbent upon us, not only because many of these people of subject races fought as our Allies in the War, but because for generations past we, in the pursuit of British 156 interests, have stood in the way of the liberation of those peoples from their Turkish oppressors.
I desire to refer also to a totally different subject, namely, the enlistment of young lads in the Army of 17 or under. During war time that might have been winked at, because every well-grown lad would make a soldier, and was absolutely necessary. But in peace time, when we can afford to be more careful and more strict in these matters, we ought to act differently. Lads of 17 or under know, or are probably told, that they cannot be taken unless they are 18, and they make a declaration that they are 18, and it is exceedingly difficult to get them out. I believe that the Army is retaining these lads in many cases in a totally illegal manner, but illegal or not, I am certain that it is a thing calculated to produce a vast deal of bad feeling in this country. It is not for the honour of the country or the Army that it should go on. If you have up and down the country families who feel that their children, mere children of 16 years of age, are taken into the Army and encouraged to tell a lie about their age, I think it is calculated—
§ Sir A. WILLIAMSON
I cannot let that remark pass—that they are encouraged by the Army to tell a lie.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I have already explained that they know quite well, and probably are told at the time, that they cannot be received into the Army unless they are 18, and surely that amounts to saying, "If you want to come into the Army, you have got to say you are 18," and, taken with what is done afterwards, I say it amounts to encouragement. I put a question to-day asking the Secretary for Warwhether his attention has been called to the case of lads under 17 years of age who enlisted without the consent of their parents, making a false declaration that they are 18 years of age or more; whether such lads are at once released from the Army if their parents give early notice and proof of their correct age; and, if not, on what grounds he claims the right to retain them in the Army against the will of their parents?I was told that where a soldier has enlisted without his parents' consent, stating he is 18, he is discharged, after verification of his correct age, if he is still under 17 at the time when his parents apply for his release. A lad of nearly 17, we will say, disappears from home, and presently it is found that he 157 has enlisted. The parents have to inquire what is the proper step to take to get him out, and, as they do not keep the King's Regulations at their fingers' ends, by the time they know what has happened, perhaps he is just 17, and then we are told that he must be kept, because he is a day or two over 17 when application is made for him. I say that that is a monstrous state of things, likely to create a great deal of bad blood. Nobody wishes well to the Army more than I. I wish it to be an honoured profession for all classes, and I am sure the honour of the Army will be best served by recognising that if 18 is the age, lads are not to be kept if application is made with reasonable promptness. I know there are some cases where lads go into the Army under age and remain there six months or so, and get drilled at very considerable cost, and then, when they find they are going to be sent to India, they or their parents apply to have them out. That is not reasonable. But where the lad is applied for with reasonable promptness as soon as his parents find out where he is and how to make application, then I say that if he is under 18 he ought to be discharged from the Army, because by the law they are not supposed to be taken, I believe, if under 18. I asked that expressly of the Secretary of State to-day I said, "If they are not given up, on what ground does he claim the right to retain them in the Army against the will of their parents?" That question has not been answered, and I hope we shall be told under what law those lads are kept in. So far as I am concerned, I am prepared to pursue this subject on all suitable occasions until I get a really satisfactory answer. I do it not only as a matter of right to these lads and their parents, but I am not ashamed to profess that I want to see the honour of the British Army stand high, so that the Army may be a thoroughly popular service.
§ 9.0 P.M
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I had not intended to take part in this Debate, but the very disparaging remarks of the hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Mr. MacCallum Scott) brought me up He got up early in the Debate, when I think only the hon Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) had spoken from these Benches, and said that every Member who had spoken, with that one exception, had complimented 158 the Government and found no fault at all. He went on to make an attack on certain hon. Members—I do not think he meant me, because I was not in the House at the time—who opposed the Military Service Act of last year. I seem to remember the speeches that were made then, although I was not a Member, and the whole line of opposition to the Bill was that the measure was totally unnecessary. As it was, you could keep as many men as you wanted to for six months after the exchange of ratifications of peace, and, therefore, the Military Ser vice Act of last year was quite unnecessary. That our opposition was fully justified is shown, I think, by the way the Government now take credit to themselves for having got rid of what they call conscription, although I see that, by a reply given to the right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) by the Parliamentary Secretary on the 16th March, to a question asking how many men were still retained against their will in the Army, the House was informed that there was a total of 73,000 men who were put down as demobilisable. I take it that these men are being kept in the Army against their will, because if they were staying in of their own free will, they would have volunteered and got the undoubted advantages which volunteers get. Therefore, on the 16th of March there were 73,000 men being kept in the Army against their will, and I think that needs saying, because the Government are patting themselves on the back very much at having done away with conscription. Of that number, on the Rhine there is a total of 19,800 men. They cost a very large sum of money, which is being refunded to us by Germany, but every mark or pound the Germans pay us for that Army of Occupation is so much off the indemnity. I think that will be admitted, and, therefore, if we could withdraw that army from the Rhine, the money which we are getting from Germany to pay for these soldiers could go to compensate widows of merchant seamen and people of that sort, who badly need the money. What is the good of these 19,800 men? There is a Communist army of 100,000 men just across the Rhine, at present holding the Ruhr Valley. Nineteen thousand are too many really for the sake of economy, and too few to be of any practical use. They may have a moral effect, but 159 I very much doubt if that small number of men is an advantage. You have really a division at less than full strength on the Rhine. It is expensive and apt to become an irritant to the people, and an exile to the men, and I submit with great diffidence—I am not a military expert—that it is quite useless for any practical purpose. If any Government of this country is going to be so mad as to march an army of 19,300 men across the Rhine to deal with Communists or reactionary Germans trying to set up the Kaiser again they do not deserve to hold office for a week. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) and another hon. Member belonging to the Labour party who spoke seemed very surprised that we need this Army of 280,000 men, and they recalled the speeches made during the War. They said that they understood it was a war to end war. I admit we were told that, but they quite forget that we had a peace to end peace, that such Peace Treaties as we seem likely to have are not Peace Treaties at all, but, unless they are modified, means to lead straight to another war. The hon. Member for Consett (Mr. A. Williams) wants troops in the Caucasus to protect the Armenians, but I think it would be admitted, oven by the Government spokesman, that the cause of unrest in Turkey is simply owing to the delay in the Peace Treaty and the terms of the Peace Treaty given to the Turkish representatives who went to Paris. What the Armenians have always asked for is to be armed and allowed to protect themselves, as I understand. As I said when the Air Estimates were brought forward, one-tenth of the money that we spent on Russia on munitions, if applied to Armenia, would have prevented these massacres which every Member of the House deplores. We were so engaged, however, in interfering with other countries which did not want us, that we left the Armenian problem alone, and failed in our duty there, and now, I am afraid, many innocent people have to suffer accordingly.
I do not want to go into the question of Mesopotamia. I am tired of raising that question in this House and getting no reply. I raised it last year, and my right hon. Friend told me he sympathised with me and wished he could give me the information I desired, but that he was 160 not in a position. The question I have always raised about Mesopotamia is this. We went to Mesopotamia to free the Arabs from the blasting rule of the Turks. I take it we went there to set the Arabs-on their feet, and not to annex country. At the worst we shall have to accept a mandate. I am glad that an attempt is to be made to raise native levies in Mesopotamia. Now I am going a little further. I understand the Emir Feisul has been crowned King at Damascus. I understand that his supporters wish to have a great Arab Empire or Arab King over those parts of Asia Minor inhabited by the Arab race. Would it not be possible to give him the mandate over Upper Mesopotamia? I admit we will, perhaps, have to remain in Lower Mesopotamia, but I certainly think that the great Hinterland might be given to the Emir Feisul as a mandatory, with, of course, such assistance in the way of technical officers and military advisers as he requires. I put that forward as a constructive suggestion, and I hope it will be considered when this extremely urgent problem comes forward. For India 62,000 men are required. India is a country, I suppose, of 350,000,000 people. If she could be given Dominion home rule, as I hope she will in the near future, she will have plenty of fighting men to protect her own borders, and I hope we shall be able to withdraw the rank and file of the Indian Army before many years are up. Hopes are put forward by the Labour party of a Labour Government in a few years, and, if so, I hope they will establish home-rule Government in India, and that the forces will be reduced to the technical experts required, as in the case of Upper Mesopotamia, in the event of a mandate being given to the Emir Feisul or anyone else.
May I refer with great delicacy to a matter which has been brought to my notice, and probably to the notice of other hon. Members in this House? I refer to this really to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of repudiation and possibly making inquiry. I do not mention this in any carping spirit. We are being told that the conduct of British troops in Ireland under certain circumstances is not exactly what it ought to be. I do not accept the statements made in propaganda leaflets, and in interested quarters, but these statements are repeated, and I think the matter wants 161 very carefully looking into. I am loath to mention this, because I believe the British soldier has kept his reputation for correct behaviour towards the civilian populations right through this War, and I believe he is doing his best to maintain that reputation to-day. But we are being told—I want a denial and an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that if there is anything in this it will be stopped at once—we are being told that unnecessary violence and damage are done in the houses that are raided. Hon. Members will be aware that raids are, going on in Ireland every night. Houses are being broken into during the small hours of the morning, and search is made for suspects, documents, and the rest of it. In recent weeks complaints have come from Ireland that the soldiery who take part in these raids wantonly destroy furniture and ornaments. As I say again, I do not accept these bare statements, and, in fact, I look upon them with very grave doubt. Nevertheless they are being made, and, of course, are being repeated in America and Australia, and are doing us a great deal of harm. I do hope, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will be in a position to deny them absolutely. We are told that pictures and ornaments are being deliberately destroyed out of spite. One case I have in mind is that of a Sinn Fein bank, so-called, although it is an old-established bank and non-political, which was raided in Dublin. I think it was in Bachelors' Walk. This bank was raided, and a large sum of money taken away with documents and other things. We are told that the inkpots were deliberately broken, that the pens and rulers were smashed, that the pictures on the walls were broken, and that the chairs were taken up and broken against the walls.
These are small things, but they irritate people and make friction. I hope that it is not true;, and, if it were done, that it was not done by the soldiers who raided the bank. If there be any sort of idea of exacting reprisals or following out a policy of terrorism by conduct of this sort, it really is a most terrible state of affairs, and thoroughly un-English. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to favour us with a very complete denial, because it is a matter affecting me, the honour of the whole of the British Array. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he saw 162 the letter of Mr. Erskine Childers, the son of a former Lord Chancellor, and a gentleman who did very excellent service during the War. Of course, he may have views about the rights of liberty in his own country which are objectionable to Members in this House, but, nevertheless, he is a gentleman of very high character, and he declares that when the troops raided his house in the small hours of the morning—he does not complain about the raids; he recognises that in a state of war they are inevitable—the officers came into his drawing room smoking. He wrote to the general officer commanding the troops, and that officer replied expressing regret that this unseemly conduct, as he expressed it, had taken place. We are now raiding en masse in the hoe of here and there finding something criminal, and, if this sort of thing is being done, if officers go into people's houses smoking—remember the women are pulled out of their beds just as they are and the beds are searched by the officer.?—and if their whole bearing be that of contempt, it will only do harm and leave the seeds of hatred when we finally do withdraw our Army of Occupation from Ireland, which I hope to Heaven we shall do soon.
Several hon. Members have spoken about the need of a Joint Staff, and of a Committee of Imperial Defence. I suppose we are going to need a very large Army in the near future. It is due to our policy abroad in continually spreading the beneficient sway of British rule—and it is going to cost a few extra shillings on the Income-tax. I hope hon. Members will cheer when they hear the Budget. I am prepared to fight a by-election with any hon. Member on the question whether we shall hold Mosul and pay an extra eightcenpence on the Income-tax. While We have these large forces, however, do let us have them efficient, and, above all, do let us have a Joint Staff. There is really very little co-operation still between the Army, Navy and Air Forces. There may be between the Army and Air Force because the seals of office are held by the same Minister, but I am sure that there is no close co-operation between the Navy and the Air Force. A Joint Staff is really badly needed, and I hope that it has been formed. I hope that it is doing the spade work of the Committee of Imperial Defence and that it is studying the 163 problems of the League of Nations from the military, naval and Air Force point of view. I would like to see a Joint Staff of all the nations that are in the League of Nations, a Joint Staff of all the Associated Powers of the League of Nations meeting together to discuss the joint use of force when force has to be used, because, while human nature remains what it is, there will have to be some sort of force, and we want an international force instead of a national force. That is the next great step forward, and I hope, while we are waiting for a Joint Staff of the League of Nations, that the Joint Staff representing the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are beginning to consider some of the problems that are certain to arise. The League of Nations is having great responsibilities placed upon it already Some people say that they are too great. It is going to undertake the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, and we are being continually invited to refer other questions to it. I wish someone would put the Irish question to it. The League of Nations is a growing thing. It is having greater and greater burdens, and that fact must not be forgotten. Joint action among nations, as we saw in the War, cannot be done overnight. I do not know how long it took us to get joint command of the Armies on the Continent. We never got joint command at sea, and because we did not the War lasted very much longer than it ought to have done. We are going to have the same trouble if ever the League of Nations has to get busy and justify itself. Unless previous staff work is undertaken it is going to be a failure, and the League of Nations will end in discredit.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ SUPPLY accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Sir E. CORNWALL, in the Chair.]