Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 215,000, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding His Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923.
§ Colonel MILDMAY
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by five men.
I am fully conscious that I have not the technical and departmental knowledge entitling me to speak with any authority as to military requirements, but, equally, do I realise that we Members of the House of Commons, as representing our constituents, have to balance carefully the military and the financial requirements of the moment. A little time ago there was much senseless complaint that the Government did not, as soon as the Geddes Committee's Report was published, instantaneously announce their intention of carrying into effect every recommendation which the Committee had made. By whom were such complaints made? By individuals and by newspapers who were manœuvring for position at a possible General Election. I will not labour the point; I will only say that great is the temptation to strain the truth in the unwholesome atmosphere of a by-election. The self-appointed critics knew well enough, as all of us know, that these reductions could not be effected by a stroke of the pen and without that detailed consideration connected with their adjustment to world-wide policy which was their due. Obviously, the balance between those world-wide responsibilities and our ability to discharge the same must be most carefully considered, and to grudge the time necessary for that process is to invite disaster.
Under these circumstances, private Members, who, although they may have 504 served in the War, are lacking in the experience of professional soldiers, ask, first, what is the view entertained with regard to these Estimates by those in high command at the War Office. Of course, to a certain extent their lips are sealed; and, this being so, should they be regarded as approving these Estimates? That inquiry brings us at once up against a question of perennial difficulty at the Admiralty and the War Office, and the Admiralty especially, for long years past. Ought the Sea Lords, and ought the members of the General Staff, to resign if, in their view, the Estimates will fail to provide adequate forces for the defence of our national interests? That is not an easy question to answer. There is the consideration that officers so resigning will be committing hara-kiri, and that they will be putting an end to their careers. Let us put it on higher ground than that, because British officers are never likely to allow such considerations to influence their sense of duty. It is a very delicate question; but the principle which seems to have found general acceptance in this connection is that it is the duty of the naval and military advisers of the Government, after pointing out plainly and bluntly the possible dangers which may result from excessive reductions, to devote all their energies, to ensuring that the sum of money available in their own particular Department shall be so spent as to conduce to the greatest national advantage.
All the same it is only to be expected that many of us, who may be described as unwise in such matters, should wish to know what is in the mind of those in high position at the War Office. I am not in the confidence of the Chief of General Staff, but although I have not been told, I have derived the impression that the General Staff is of opinion that, in view of the responsibilities that they have to guard, our present military forces are no more than adequate, but, assured by the Secretary of State for War that financial considerations are paramount, and that the financial risk of continuing expenditure at its present height is greater than the military risk of reductions, they have no option but to bow their heads, on the distinct understanding that the responsibility for running military risks is not theirs, but is assumed by the Government. This being so, it is for us Members of Parliament, while we recognise that in 505 these times of great pecuniary stress economies in the Navy, Army, and Air Force are absolutely essential, to insist, in the words of the Resolution passed by the ex-service Members of the House last week—That the extent and nature of the economies must be measured by the liabilities incidental to the foreign policy of the Government, and that any reductions in Establishment and Services must imply corresponding diminutions of naval and military commitments overseas.
§ Colonel MILDMAY
Some ex-service Members were absent. I must confess that investigation on these lines has been most disquieting, and the important speech made by the gallant Field-Marshal the Member for North Down (Field-Marshal Sir H. Wilson) on the Army Estimates the other day did not allay our fears. The responsibilities which our dwindling forces are called upon to defend are so indefinite, perhaps so indefinable, and so immeasurable, that one cannot but be uncomfortable. We have Pacts with France and Belgium involving obligations which are at present most vague and nebulous. Still more disquieting are the possibilities further overseas. To mention only one, there is India. If things went wrong in India, and if the disquietude which is at present localised became general and there was a general upheaval, the demands upon our military forces only for the elementary duty of protecting suffering British families throughout that great Empire might easily become impossible to satisfy. I will not pursue that subject, but, with such thoughts springing to our minds, we who are inexperienced in military policy ask ourselves: Is the Government, in proposing to cut down our fighting strength, prejudicing the possibility of expanding our small forces in an emergency, in preference to effecting their economies in another direction, in preference, for instance, to drastic reductions in staffs and administrative services?
I frankly confess that it is such fears most conscientiously felt that have led mc to put down this Motion for reduction. As to alternative reductions, I am not going into particulars, except to mention two points, merely as illustrations. The London Command is to go. Is there any reason why the Western Command should 506 continue? I know it is said that it is desirable it should be continued for the reason that the General Officer Commanding there is entrusted with the disposition of troops in the case of labour unrest in South Wales. He has no troops, and, if he wished to gather troops for that purpose, he would have to collect them from another Command. I maintain that reason is not sufficient to justify the continuance of that Command. The General Officer residing in the Command from which the troops are to be taken, in view of his knowledge of the officers, would be the best man to have control of them in any such emergency. I think I am right in saying, further, that when last there was a prospect of disturbance in the coalfields of South Wales a special General Officer was brought in to handle and dispose of the troops, and the General Officer of the Western Command was ignored. From all I can hear from those who really are able to talk with authority on the subject, and who have served in very high places in that Command, the services required of the General Officer Commanding hardly justify the continuance of that Command. Is any serious cut really contemplated in the establishment at the War Office? Soldiers will tolerate reductions in rifles, in sabres, and in guns far more kindly if they see that, simultaneously, proportionate reductions are being made in Whitehall and in officialdom as well. We all know that this kind of reduction is very difficult for the Secretary of State to undertake. It is the most invidious task. You might as well ask a man to saw off the branch on which ho is sitting as ask him to reduce his own office on his own initiative. If it is known that he has a free hand in the duty of making reductions by several millions: if it is known that, under the terms of a broad and general instruction, he is going to cut down particular offices, his position becomes too difficult, and he incurs a deadly unpopularity. He is called on to injure his own immediate associates, who work hard and most irreproachably, in order to please him. It is almost impossible for him to do so in the case of the Headquarters Staff of the Army at Whitehall.
It seems to me it has become necessary to apply a far sharper and more specific form of pressure, and that the only effective way to do it is by saying, "It is greatly regretted that the House of Com- 507 mons insists upon cutting down the Army and the staff of the War Office in Whitehall by, say, a quarter or a half, and six months hence only a corresponding sum of money will be available." I am quite sure the Secretary of State will agree with me that such a peremptory injunction would ease his position, and lighten his task and his responsibility. He could then go to the heads of the various Departments and say that this was being done by order of these something, something, politicians. I know the kind of expletives which would be used, because I was familiar with messes on the Western Front. He could say, "These politicians absolutely insist that six months hence and thenceforward your Department shall only get three-quarters or one half, as the case may be, of the money it has hitherto drawn, and you must make your own arrangements." That means there would be no personal odium against him, and things would go on in future, after the reductions were made, just as well as they did in the past.
I am not going to argue as to the necessity of this or that branch of the War Office. I frankly confess I have not got the knowledge entitling me to do so. Admittedly, those who are working at all these branches are conscientious men, working very hard indeed and firmly persuaded that the work they are doing is absolutely essential to the public safety; but am I quite wrong in thinking—and I have taken some trouble to ascertain the position of affairs—that this is not so, and that fully half of what they do is unconsciously manufactured between themselves, but that it needs some detachment from the office to be able to see that this is the case? Here is a bold suggestion from one who, perhaps, ought to describe himself as an ignoramus. Scrap half the civilians in the War Office, not on the accounting side, but on the so-called financial side. That is a very bold suggestion, for, without doubt, the Treasury would join with the War Office in loudly objecting. None the less, I believe the thing has to be done, and the doing of it would oblige military administrative officers to acquire proficiency in the financial side of their work, and to undertake responsibilities which should be theirs; and incidentally we would save half a million of money.
508 I give these two points as instances of many other reductions, comparatively small in themselves, which might be made and which, in the aggregate, would amount to a considerable sum. Obviously, educational establishments, such as the Staff College, Hythe and others, must be kept going at all costs, but with regard to Sandhurst, I should like, tentatively and most deferentially, to make a bold suggestion. Abolish Sandhurst as it is; convert it into a senior officers' and junior officers' school, and, instead of Sandhurst as it is, introduce military degrees and military triposes at the universities. The trouble about Sandhurst is that it leads to specialisation at too early an age. We all know that university life broadens outlook, and such a change would, I am quite certain, admit of very considerable advantage. I am not going to speak at greater length, because I understand many are anxious to speak, and it is desirable the Committee should hear representative opinions from all quarters of the House. I have just one more plea to make; Back up the Territorial Force for all you are worth. We all know how splendidly they proved themselves in warfare, and I think there is hardly a military authority in England but will agree that a very great mistake was made in establishing the new Army on an independent basis. It should have been built up on the basis of the Territorial organisation. At all costs, keep in being the Territorial cadres. I know many people are of opinion that in 20 or 30 years' time the Territorial Force is all that will be remaining to us. As to that, I am not a prophet, but, considering the reaction and the War weariness, I think the response which has been made to appeals for recruits to the Territorial Force has been quite amazing.
Warfare in the future, if we are to have war, which may God forfend, will be national war. Get the Army inside, and not apart from, the nation. I feel I owe an apology to the Committee, and that I can perhaps be justifiably regarded as a type of the presumptuous politician who is a cockshy for British officers all over the world, but I return in all seriousness to my original theme and my main theme. The Secretary of State for War will acquit me of any desire to embarrass the Government. Honestly, there is no one in the House who would do so with greater reluctance, but it is only right to 509 say that ex-service members are gravely disquieted lest, in view of our serious commitments, we are unjustifiably cutting down our fighting strength in preference to effecting desirable economies elsewhere, and I am moving this reduction in the hope that the Government will be able to allay the fears which I know are very widely felt.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I do not propose to attempt to follow my right hon. Friend in the very interesting detailed criticisms which he has made. The difficulty which he felt, I recognise I should feel even more acutely. My technical knowledge is far less than his, but with all respect to him, I rather doubt whether anything is to be gained by any attempt to deal in detail with the proposals of the Government. I am one of those who think that the vice of the Geddes Committee policy was that people outside the Government were instructed to make detailed proposals as to economies inside Departments. Although I should be the last to decry the great skill and ability with which the Committee carried out their work, I think it would have been preferable not to have begun at that end at all. The Government should have first made up their minds, if necessary with the aid of some expert Committee, as to how much the country could afford for these services—very much as my right hon. Friend suggested should be done in reference to a particular branch, I think the Headquarters Staff. Having made up their minds that if the country was to pay its way, it could not spend more than a certain amount on the Army, then they should have left it entirely to the expert military advisers to say how the Army was to be brought down to that figure.
I believe that would have been a sounder plan, and one which would have produced, on the whole, better results and less unpopularity in the Army itself. I recognise that considerable reductions have been made. The House must be grateful to the Government for having done even as much as they have done. My only regret is that it was not done earlier, and that the tremendous expenditure in such places as Iraq—it is not included here, but I take it as an illustration—was not cut down earlier. These expenses might quite as easily have been cut down in 1919, and that would have 510 given us many millions which might have been available for reduction of taxation, or in order, if it was thought necessary, to improve the fighting strength of the Army. The reason I have ventured to intrude upon the Committee is not, however, because I wish to discuss that aspect of the matter. I was very much struck by the warning given at the end of the speech of the Secretary of State for War as to the military danger which his advisers thought we were running by making these reductions. It was a courageous statement to make from the Treasury Bench. I agree that it is for the Government to take responsibility for a policy of that kind and not to attempt to push it off on their military advisers.
The warning was greatly emphasised from a wholly different point of view by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Down (Field-Marshal Sir H. Wilson) in one' of the most interesting maiden speeches ever made in this House. His case is one which really merits very close attention from the Committee and raises questions of the very greatest importance, going right down to the safety of this country, and even further than that. He says that at this moment there are as many armed men in Europe as there wore in 1913, although the German army has been reduced from 800,000 to 100,000 and the Austrian army from 400,000 to 30,000. In other words, there has been an increase of more than a million men in the countries of Europe, other than Germany and Austria. That is a terrible comment on the results of the policy which we have pursued since the Armistice. I am bound to say that I do not feel sure that that policy, which has been in some respects a policy of adventure, has been altogether abandoned. My hon. and gallant Friend gave, with perfect accuracy, a very formidable list of the increased commitments which we now have, compared to our pre-War commitments. He pointed to the perennial commitments that we have with reference to this country and Ireland, India, and Egypt, and he added Hong Kong, the Rhine, Silesia, Constantinople, Palestine, Iraq, and the two pacts with France and Belgium. I think that is a very formidable fact for the whole of the country to consider. I do not deny that some of those commitments—I do not think all of them—were inevitable, but I do think 511 it is a great pity that, having taken these commitments, having taken upon us burdens which really greatly add to our difficulties, and in a sense weaken the strength of the Empire, we should at the same time have contrived to convey the impression in all foreign countries that we have grabbed everything we desire and that we alone have come out of the Conferences at Paris with greatly increased power and prestige. It seems a deplorable result of our diplomacy that we should have, in fact, weakened ourselves and at the same time achieved a reputation for national greed unequalled in the annals of this country.
Now we are not apparently satisfied with that, and, though we are not allowed to know very much about it, we are apparently negotiating pacts with both France and Belgium, which my hon. and gallant Friend says will add to our commitments and liabilities. We are not told exactly what those pacts are. If we inquire, we are told that we are hampering the negotiations of the Government and that we must wait until the Government has completed the pacts before the House of Commons is to express any opinion on the policy which underlies those pacts. We all know that by that time it will be-perfectly useless for the House of Commons to express any opinion, for, if it does so, it will be said that the House of Commons is seeking to go behind the honourable engagements which have been made on behalf of this country, and therefore I must venture, very respectfully, to say that the policy of entering into any separate military engagement with any individual Power is, in the circumstances, of the highest degree of unwisdom. I hope that any engagement which we may undertake will be of a most restricted character. If we make any such engagement to an individual Power of that kind, apart from other objections which I shall have to touch upon in a moment, we are, as it seems to me, giving a right to that Power with whom we have made that engagement to press us to maintain armies sufficient to make the engagement that we have entered into a real one and not a mere pretence. I agree with the argument that my hon. and gallant Friend presented—though I am afraid the conclusions I draw from it are different—that military retrenchment depends on military policy. 512 You cannot have a policy of military adventure and a policy of military retrenchment at one and the same time
I am afraid that I have now reached the limit of my agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend. What, if I understood him rightly, does he propose I He does not criticise the policy; he accepts it, and he says—which, if you accept it, is perhaps true—you must have an increased Army in order to fulfil the engagements and commitments that you have undertaken. I listened very attentively to his speech, and when he came to the concluding passage, where he put forward what he actually proposed, what his suggested policy, was, he said that you ought to have an Army sufficiently large to prevent war. That is a version of our old friend that we used to hear so much about, namely, If you wish for peace you must be prepared for war, the maxim on which all Europe acted up to 1914, and the year 1914 seems to me the final condemnation of that policy. Just let us examine what my hon. and gallant Friend proposed. He recited to the Committee, quoting the Secretary of State, what the present proposals would give us—one division in 15 days and a cavalry division, a second division in from 15 days to six weeks, and a third or fourth division in four months. My hon. and gallant Friend said that is what we should have then, but not what we have now, and he compared with that what we had in 1914, which was six divisions, but the six divisions were not sufficient to prevent war. Therefore, if you are to prevent war, you must have more than six divisions.
§ Lord R. CECIL
That may be, but I am dealing with the policy of my hon. and gallant Friend, which is to prevent war by having a large army. I do not wish, of course, to be at all discourteous to my hon. and gallant Friend who interrupts. Therefore, six divisions are not enough to prevent war, and if my hon. and gallant Friend's speech means anything it means that he advocates an army larger than six divisions. He said more than that; he said that the present condition of Europe is more dangerous than it was in 1914, and he gave a number of reasons, which, at any rate, have some validity, for saying that that was so. Therefore, 513 if six divisions were insufficient in 1914 to prevent war, you would have to have, I do not know, how many, but a great many more than the six divisions now. He did not indicate—perhaps he would say that it was improper for him to do so—the cost of this policy of having an army large enough to prevent war, but I wish to be quite fair to him. He had an alternative, an alternative which he did not at all recommend, which was that if you cannot have an army large enough to prevent war, you should have, at any rate, an army large enough to secure victory. There, again, I feel great difficulty, because he said that we had six divisions at the beginning of the war, but that in order to obtain victory we had to have 80 divisions. I do not know that my hon. and gallant Friend contemplates an army of 80 divisions, or even an army which could be readily expanded to 80 divisions. I cannot help feeling that this examination—I hope it has not been an unfair examination—of what my hon. and gallant Friend suggests, leads one to two conclusions, namely, that if his policy is to be pursued we should certainly have to have conscription—indeed, there was a phrase in his speech which evidently indicated his want of reliance on a voluntary system—and also that the cost would be terrific. I have no quarrel with his argument as an argument. I have already expressed my humble admiration of it. It proceeded with irresistible force from his premises to his conclusions, but to my thinking the proper reply is that his premises are wrong.
If you are going to adopt a military policy, as some aspects of the Government's policy have been, and perhaps still are, my hon. and gallant Friend's conclusion is inevitable. There is only one alternative, and that is resolutely to adopt a policy based on general disarmament and the substitution of some other means for the settlement of international disputes than war. I most fully agree with those who say that disarmament by one country, by this country alone, is an impracticable proposal. No one admires the work that was done at Washington more than I do, no one welcomes the proceedings at Washington more than I do, but it is absurd to suppose that naval disarmament by itself is going to diminish the chances of war in Europe. It is not going to do so. I can 514 imagine some people who would say that, if that is the only thing we are going to do, we are actually increasing the chances of war, because a navy is necessarily, inevitably much more of a defensive force than an army. No one in his senses believes that either our Navy or the American Navy is a serious danger to the peace of Europe, and, for other reasons perhaps, neither is the Japanese Navy. Therefore, it is madness to stop there. We must have general disarmament if we are to avoid the conclusions which my hon. and gallant Friend so well pointed out, and if we are to avoid the policy, which is the only other policy, which he recommended.
May I say that I think the plan of the Government, if it be part of their plan, to have separate pacts with different countries—I am anxious to avoid names as far as I can—is a mistake? As far as we know, there is no provision for disarmament proposed in those pacts at all. That is not the proposal. It is merely proposed to have a defensive alliance. I most fully agree that if you are to get general disarmament in Europe, you have got to make some provision for giving security to those countries which you are asking to reduce their armaments, but not by special, individual agreements. I am sure that that is going to do a very poor service. It is not true that the only danger to the peace of Europe is on the eastern frontier of France. That may be one spot of danger, but it is not the only one. Anyone who knows anything, anyone who reads the papers, knows quite well that there are dangers, as my hon. and gallant Friend pointed out, in many other quarters of Europe. No one who has the recollection of how the last War began will say that a conflagration once set alight can be limited wherever it occurs to any part of Europe. A mere pact between this country and that country is not sufficient security for the peaco of Europe, nor are you going to get it without disarmament, and such measure of security given by Treaty as will enable the countries of Europe generally to limit their armaments.
I am bound to point out that all this is foreseen and provided for in the Covenant of the League of Nations. There is nothing new about the situation. Anyone who considered the cause of peace in 1918, 1919, or any other year 515 must have known perfectly well that you cannot secure peace without general reduction of armaments, and that that is the only real security you have got. And it must be done by a general reduction, and not by a specific reduction in this or that country. Let us be quite frank. Would the peace of Europe be really secured if the Western Powers were to disarm altogether, and leave the Powers of Central Europe armed to the teeth? I am inclined to think the cause of peace would be even then no greater. We must have general disarmament. My hon. and gallant Friend made a reference to the League of Nations, perhaps not altogether of a friendly kind. I know his views in his own profession, and elsewhere. I know that his views have done much to make progress with the idea of the League difficult in his own profession. I regret it. I am sure he will allow me to have my own opinion, as he has his. But, after all, what is his alternative? What is it he really proposes? Is it merely a return to pre-War conditions? Is that really what he wants? Does he really think we are to have alliances and counter-alliances, and competitive armaments and, ultimately, because the whole world is tired and weary of them, another desolating war? I remember my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London saying to me across the Floor of the House that, for his part, he was a believer in the text that, "When a strong man armed keepeth his house, his goods are in peace." It is a dangerous thing to quote the Bible, unless you have read it carefully. If he had done so, he would have remembered that the strong man represents the forces of evil, and it is pointed out that, sooner or later, however strong he makes himself, he will be overcome by a stronger than he, who will take from him the armour in which he trusted, and divide his spoils.
§ Lord R. CECIL
My hon. and gallant Friend would do well to read the passage as carefully as I have done since my right hon. Friend quoted it in this House, before he contradicts me.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I do not wish to get into an unseemly controversy about the meaning of a passage of Scripture. I only put it in because it had been quoted to me. I say with great confidence that that is the real reply to my right hon. Friend. Let them make their armies as strong as they will, they will never be secure. They will merely incite their enemies to build armies and armaments against them. In the end, as Napoleon himself pointed out, material forces are infinitely weaker than the forces which are not material, and, if you are going to have peace, you have got to rely, as a mere matter of business, on the immaterial, the spiritual forces of mankind. It is your only chance. If you do not do that, there is DO hope for the peace of the world, and there is no hope for the safety of the country. The only hope of peace and economy, although that is a lesser matter, lies in the resolute pursuance of a real policy of peace, based on some such plan as the League of Nations, for if not, unquestionably, whether it happens in our lifetime or the lifetime of-those who come after us, a much more desolating war will overtake the country, and Europe as a whole will be reduced to the condition in which Russia and other parts of the world now find themselves.
§ Viscount EDNAM
The hon. and gallant Field-Marshal the Member for North Down (Sir H. Wilson), at the beginning of his speech last Wednesday, appealed to the Speaker and this House for that indulgence which is, I understand, by custom accorded an hon. Member making his maiden speech. If the hon. and gallant Field-Marshal, with his wide experience, his seniority and his great eloquence, had a claim to such an indulgence, how much greater must be my claim and my appeal. In forming an opinion on the question of the future size of the Army, one must look at it from an Imperial aspect as well as from an economic aspect. I am fully sensible of the great dangers which beset our Empire at the present time, but I am the representative in this House of a middle-class constituency, the electors of which, as a whole, are, perhaps, harder hit by the present high rate of taxation than those of almost any other constituency in Great Britain. On the one hand, no Member of this House, whatever his views, whatever his opinions, could 517 possibly have listened unmoved to the grave warning delivered last Wednesday by the hon. and gallant Field-Marshal, for who is better suited to judge of the situation than he? He told us then that the Estimates for 1922–23 now before the Committee were not sufficient for the defence of our Empire, that we were going to maintain an Army which was just large enough to lose a war, and that we were going to take a strategic risk which we have no right to take, even when faced with the alternative risk of financial bankruptcy.
On the other hand, I realise that unless the War Office can effect economies, as all Government Departments must do, the burden of all taxpayers, and of my constituents, many of them men and women with email fixed incomes which have remained stationary since 1914, while the cost of living and taxation has risen to impossible heights, will be no longer possible to bear. It appears to me, therefore, that we have no alternative but to maintain a fighting force sufficient for our home defence, sufficient also for the maintenance of our overseas liabilities, until such times as those liabilities become more quiescent. and until such times as some of them, such as the Rhine, Palestine, and Iraq, are automatically written oft so far as the Army is concerned; sufficient also in the opinion of the general staff, our expert advisers, for any unforeseen contingencies which might arise within the next few years, or for any expeditions upon which they consider it is possible we might have to embark. So it appears to me that this Army will have to be at least as strong, every whit as formidable, every whit as efficient as that "contemptible" little Army of 1914, although, as I pointed out, it is for the General Staff to advise its actual size. But we must count the cost; we must try every means of finding a method of maintaining such a fighting force, and still be able to effect economies in our military expenditure, and I do not believe such a thing is impossible.
It is in this spirit that I would like to make a few criticisms of the Estimates before us. I was until quite recently a regimental soldier. I was a regimental soldier the greater part of my service, and I am afraid, like many regimental soldiers, I would like to see the establishment of all staffs, and the ancillary and auxiliary services very much reduced, 518 and the establishment of the fighting forces—the man who fires the rifle, and the man who fires the gun—increased. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War told us last Wednesday that these Services were incapable of further reduction. I am not inclined to accept that statement. I submit to the Committee that it is not apparent why the establishment of these Services and of the staffs at the War Office and of Commands should have been so greatly increased as compared with 1914. In 1914 the ratio which the ancillary Services, miscellaneous Services and staff bore to the fighting Services, including the engineers, was roughly 20 to 152. It is in the establishments before us 32 to 120, although you include the Tank Corps within the fighting Services. The right hon. Gentleman said on Wednesday that cuts were being made from the ancillary and auxiliary Services and not from the fighting forces. In the reduction of 33½ thousand all ranks, which the right hon. Gentleman proposes as a result of the Geddes Committee Report, 28½ thousand have been taken from the fighting forces.
I submit that by a reduction of these Services and of the staffs to the 1914 ratio, many of those battalions, batteries, and cavalry regiments which now stand condemned could be reprieved. Take one example. Perhaps it is an example I should not take, but it seems to me that it is a difficult one for the right hon. Gentleman to explain away. If in 1914, 117 chaplains were thought sufficient for an Army of 172½ thousand, why on earth should 175 chaplains, an increase of 58, be required for an Army of only 152½ thousand? It seems to me that the work of many of these reverend gentlemen might well be done by civilian clergy at a smaller salary and a reduced cost to the taxpayer.' Then, again, in the case of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, our cavalry establishment has been halved, and our horse-drawn artillery and transport, presumably, are very much reduced, as compared with 1914, and yet in these establishments there is an increase in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. Again, take the case of the Army Pay Corps and the Corps of Military Accountants. In 1914 the whole of the pay and accounts of the Army were dealt with by 744 men. Yet it appears that in future it will take 519 1,890 men to do this work, although the Army is smaller by 20,000. It is hard to believe that this increase is entirely due to correspondence with regard to War accounts. In any case, my humble experience of Army forms dealing with accounts is that they continue for ever, gathering unto themselves vast accumulations of paper inscribed "Passed to you, please," unless strong measures are taken and they are placed in the waste-paper basket, or at least at the bottom of a deep file. I will not weary the House with any more examples. Comparing the proposed establishment of these Services with the establishments of 1914, hon. Members can see for themselves that there is not, I think, a single instance where they have not been increased, although the fighting Services have been considerably reduced. Before leaving the subject of the fighting Services I should like to remark that I cannot help thinking that such a large reduction of the cavalry is most unwise.
Four cavalry regiments have recently been disbanded, and it is now proposed to disband five more, or their equivalent. There are two arguments put forward, I know, by ignorant people against the cavalry. The first is that the European War proved that as a fighting force they were out of date. The second argument is that the aeroplane has taken over the functions of the cavalry. Both these arguments are false. As regards the first one, it is not likely that we shall fight another war where the enemy is able to hold a continuous trench line from sea to sea, or from frontier to frontier. Where-ever the enemy has exposed flanks or a weak spot in his line of defence you will require cavalry in future wars just as you required them in past wars. Four years ago to-day on the Western Front we were standing with our backs to the wall facing the last determined effort by the Germans to secure victory. If the Germans had had their cavalry available on that occasion they would have secured it. If we had had our cavalry available on that occasion we would have stopped the flow of their advance very much sooner than we did. That, I think, is generally recognised and generally admitted by most of the eminent strategists who have studied these operations.
As regards the second argument, the Royal Air Force cannot at present take 520 over in toto the reconnaissance duties of the cavalry. They can never partly take over their night reconnaissance duties. They cannot be compared with the cavalry as a mobile fighting force capable of shock action which, in spite of modern inventions, remains to-day the most deadly and the most demoralising form of attack. I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that in spite of the conclusions arrived at by the Geddes Committee that the increased proportion of officers to men was most striking, yet the establishments before the House provide for 600 more officers than in the 1914 establishment, although the Army has been reduced below that of 1914 by a total of 20,000 of all ranks. I do not agree that one of the lessons we learned in the War was that we should increase our proportion of officers to men. On the contrary, we learned from bitter experience of vast officer casualties that it was necessary to send into action a much smaller proportion of officers to men than was ever for a moment contemplated before the War. Therefore, I maintain that we should reduce our peace-time establishment, of officers to below even the 1914 ratio. We have in this country a large reserve of trained officers which can be drawn upon, if required, to replace casualties amongst the regular officers. I will even suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the re-establishment of the old Special Reserve of officers to consist of those officers on the reserve of officers who would be able and willing to do a period of training each year with their old unit. I myself—and I know there are others—would welcome such an opportunity of keeping in touch with my old regiment and of keeping up to date in military training. This Special Reserve would then be the first Reserve to be drawn upon if required to replace casualties amongst the regular officers. Although I realise the difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman will experience in compulsorily retiring officers to meet the present reduction in the establishments, yet I would urge upon him, in the interests of economy, the necessity for still further reductions.
One more point before I sit down. I would like to refer very briefly to the Army education scheme. There are few regimental soldiers who do not consider 521 that the Army education scheme which has been adopted since the War is ambitious, extravagant, and entirely unworkable. Nobody would oppose the very best system of education which the country can afford in our State-aided schools, but the education of the soldier should be completed before he joins the Army. You cannot get a man out of bed at 5 o'clock reveille, drill him all the morning, drill him or make him clean his kit all the afternoon, and then in the evening expect him to absorb Greek prepositions. I myself have the memory of too many weary afternoons spent in vainly teaching my squadron vulgar fractions, having myself a very imperfect knowledge of vulgar fractions, to be a great believer in the Army education scheme. As a result of the Geddes Committee's recommendations, the Army Education Department has been considerably reduced, but it is still bigger than it was in 1914. I do hope that the War Office will confine its ambition, for the present at any rate, to the pre-War standards of education in the Army, and the education of boys and illiterates. In conclusion, I would like to express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War does not consider me over-presumptions in putting forward these humble suggestions. I am sure that all hon. Members in this House who have had the honour of serving in the Regular Army are in full sympathy with his difficulties, and have the utmost confidence in him in dealing with them. The final paragraph in the Geddes Report on the Army Estimates says:We are convinced from our survey of the War Office Estimates that there is great room for economy in men and money without in any way endangering the defence of the Empire.That statement, applied as it was to the sketch Estimates placed before the Committee, was in my humble opinion perfectly true. I have not attempted to argue that economies cannot be effected, but I believe that some of the economies proposed, especially such a large reduction in our fighting forces, are economies in the wrong direction, and that they will, if carried into effect, endanger the safety of our Empire, and, it is possible, on some future occasion they may lead to the defeat of an Army which hitherto has never known the meaning of the word.
§ Sir CHARLES TOWNSHEND
First of all, may I congratulate, on behalf of other members of the same profession, the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Viscount Ednam) on his excellent speech? Turning to the subject of the Debate, I should, first of all, like to say, in reply to the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) who spoke about the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Down (Sir H. Wilson), that I read the meaning of the gallant Field Marshal in a very different way from the Noble Lord. I should like to associate myself entirely with what the gallant Field Marshal said in his warning to the House against reducing our forces in this—I will say—preposterous manner. The gallant Field Marshal meant to say this: that the best safeguard for the preservation of peace can only be found in a sound military organisation, for the strong is less easily attacked than the weak. Secondly, with respect to arbitration, I do not see why practical men, or at all events students of history, have not a right to look upon arbitration as never having yet been successful, because there has been no power behind it to enforce the agreement come to. Therefore arbitration never can and never will be successful until—in the dreams of the Noble Lord—it may be 50 years or it may be 100 years hence—you have an army belonging alone to the League of Nations, and likewise a Navy alone belonging to the League of Nations, and you permit no other nation to have an army or a navy; then you will get your decrees carried out. Until then arbitration docs not seem feasible. I should like to remind the House, while on the subject, that Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799, when he kicked Austria out of Northern Italy, wrote to the Emperor of Austria and said: "Why do you not disarm: France is quite ready and Europe will follow certainly?" The Austrians wrote back and said: "We should be delighted to do so, but Prussia would not agree."
We all remember the Hague Conference and what happened there. Hardly had the curtain rung down, amid derisive laughter, when Russia and Japan were at each other's throats. I would remind hon. Members also that the Washington Conference is not yet ratified. Up till now the Cardwell scheme 523 has answered the needs of the British Army reasonably well. It will be remembered that the Cardwell scheme was brought in by Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet in 1872 following the downfall of France. France was overthrown by the short service well-trained German army. France had a long service army and it was looked upon as the best army in Europe. Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet was very much alarmed at the absolute un-preparedness of England, and Mr. Card-well, the Minister for War, was asked to bring in a scheme. He brought one in by which he created an effective army reserve by a short service army, that is to say, we gave up enlisting men for 20 years and we enlisted men for seven years with the colours and five years with the reserve. In that way he got a reserve of 60,000 seasoned reservists when war broke out. We saw those reserves brought out for every kind of war. We had to bring out the Army Reserves for the Zulu War, for the South African War, and in the late War, but at any rate the system answered the strategic needs of the nation.
The hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Colonel Mildmay) asked what are these stragetic needs of the Empire. If I may give an explanation I should say they are quite simple, and are well known not only to the military experts of the War Office, but to all thinking soldiers of the Army. For every problem we have to face in that direction of Imperial defence we must have sea and land power, and you must start on that basis. No nation can be supreme both on land and sea, and if they try to be they will ruin themselves in the attempt. No nation could be rich enough to do that. As we have decided, for a very good reason, to be supreme on the sea, we want a reasonably sized Army, not like a Continental Power, but at any rate a reasonable Army, say, of six division plus one, that is seven divisions, as we used to have. That Army had to be ready to embark immediately as an auxiliary to the Fleet, to proceed overseas if necessary. There was also the other principle that the Dominions should be able to defend themselves in the first instance until we could come to their assistance. We had nine divisions from India and 15 from the Dominions. We had to have a complete second-line Territorial Army at home 524 adapted to the civil population to defend our shores when the Regular Army was embarked. We also had to have a Fleet strong enough to keep the seas open so as to be able to combine the Armies of the Dominions and the Mother Country. Those were our strategic needs.
The second-line Army at home was not to be ready until war broke out. They were not to be mobilised until war was declared and therefore they could not be used for some months. Had those Territorial troops been ready when the last war broke out, I doubt whether there would have been that retirement to the Marne. I have gone through the figures, and I have put a blue pencil through all troops which are not fighting troops, and I find that we have 125,000 fighting men. Out of that I find the infantry number 76,000 bayonets of all ranks. Can that number answer the needs of this nation? I say it is grotesque and it is not worth while arguing. That does not include India, but I think we ought to have 80,000 as the bed-rock number in time of peace.
I find that you have reduced the number in India to 73,000 whites. That I unhesitatingly say is wrong, very wrong, and I venture to say that had I been in the position of the Commander-in-Chief of India when that proposal was made I would have resigned, and I would not have put my name to a Measure which might bring disaster on the country. I would like to remind the Committee that 26 years ago, when I came back from the defence of Chitral, I asked Sir George White, "How many men do you want to go to Kabul?" and he said, "We want 80,000, because we shall require 20,000 in the Kyber Pass to keep it open." That was 26 years ago. When we went to Tirah we took 67,000 very fine troops to fight the Waziris, and we had to keep three brigades in order to keep open the roads. Hon. Members will not require any further examples to see whether 73,000 men is sufficient or not.
I apologise for all these anecdotes, but I should like a word or two about this fighting force. I am not out so much to criticise because I know there is a great deal of difference between criticism and execution and that is well known to Ministers and to any practical soldier in the field. I will, however, offer a little constructive criticism. Do hon. Members 525 think that one cavalry division and one infantry division sufficient to send overseas? Such a proposal needs no further comment. We are told that a second infantry division is to be ready as soon as the technical personnel has been taken from somebody else, and there is no comment needed on such a proposal. We are told that in four months number 3 and number 4 divisions will be ready as soon as special enlistment permits, but that seems to me to be making war in homoeopathic doses. This striking force reminds me of the Carabiniers of Offenbach who were always a little bit late.
I want to conclude by offering a constructive and alternative plan which is very simple. It was a favourite scheme with the late Sir Redvers Buller, (with whom I have discussed it, and I believe that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Major-General Seely) himself brought it before this House some years ago. I ask the Minister of War to give it consideration because you will effect great economies by it, and at the same time retain your striking force, and not break up the Regular Army if this plan should be approved of, and I earnestly hope that some consideration may be given to it. You keep your Regular Army and you send it overseas. They remain overseas and never come home. You have only the depots at home, and it is on the same principle as the Honourable East India Company service before the Indian Mutiny with their European regiments, and those regiments never came home. The Regular Army would be quartered in the Mediterranean, Egypt, Palestine, India and other places overseas. That would mean an enormous saving, without the expense of reliefs of regiments, batteries and battalions. The quartering of troops in the Mediterranean zone would give you striking force in a central position. That was the scheme put forward by Sir Redvers Buller and my right hon. and gallant Friend opposite, and it was also suggested that the Royal Marines should be taken away from the Navy and made into Colonial infantry, as has been done by the French. In the same way Marines are not required, I take it, on board ship in the twentieth century. We know that they were wanted in this way in the eighteenth century when detachments of infantry were put on board to keep discipline amongst the 526 crews. That is the plan in its broad aspect. No doubt it can be cut up, but I think it is worthy of consideration considering the character of the man in whose brain it was produced. He was a man who served England well, and for this reason I hope some consideration will be given to my suggestion. It may be said that it is hitting at the Cardwell System. All I can say is that I have given much thought to the matter, and I ask, is the Cardwell System the Ark of the Covenant in this business?
§ Captain GEE
I intervene in this Debate because, although I realise that economies have to be effected, I am rather under the impression that the authorities responsible for the proposed economies are taking the line of least resistance in proposing to do away with something like 2,500 officers in the various units. In the first place, I think they have started at the wrong end of the stick, because we have so many young officers who have had practical experience of war, and whose experienced service would be useful to us for many years to come. Amongst the senior ranks no doubt we have many who are possibly too old to take part in active service again, and have already qualified for a reasonable pension. My intention is to suggest a loophole where big economics might be effected without any reduction in the fighting force or any diminution of the efficiency of that force—I refer especially to that much-belauded Army Education Scheme.
I quite understand that I am laying myself out as an opponent of education. I think there is no one in this House more entitled to say that he believes in education for education's sake more than I do myself, but if the result of the "Army Education Scheme is what is put in front of me as education, then I am bitterly opposed to it. I would like to say that under this new education scheme in the Army we are having the old Army schoolmasters grouped and augmented in the Army Education Corps, and a special section of the War Office has been brought into being for this purpose.
I respectfully suggest that if my plan is adopted a saving to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds a year could be effected. I would immediately abolish S. D. 8, with the exception of that particular small section 527 of it which looks after the vocational training to fit a man for a job when he goes back into civil life. I believe I am right, as a result of something like 30 years' service in the Army, 23 of which were spent in the ranks—therefore I am speaking from the point of view of the rank and file man—I believe I am right in the impression that the supervision of most of the educational duties could be very effectively carried out by the Army Chaplain. I have never met an Army Chaplain who would not welcome such a duty. It would give him the opportunity of getting into touch with the men in the barracks, and he would thus be able to carry out his work better. The same policy has been adopted for many years in the Navy. Why therefore cannot we adopt it in the Army?
The haphazard way in which the educational scheme is being carried out is really beyond comprehension. I will only quote cases with which I am conversant. I know of one case where the educational adviser to a brigade was a young officer, a very good fellow, who was a bank clerk in civil life, and his only qualification for the post of educational adviser was to be found in the fact that he was a very good tennis player. His chief assistant was a noncommissioned officer, whose only qualification for the educational staff was that he had a bad knee and could not march. It is called a voluntary education scheme. I do not think there is much that is voluntary about it. Men are expected to go to school for 1¼ hours on four days of the week during ordinary parade time, and to make them good boys they are offered as an inducement 6d. per day extra duty pay when they had obtained a second-class certificate, a certificate which, in view of the millions we are to-day spending on elementary education, 50 per cent. of the boys ought to be able to get before they leave the Board school.
We have got Army schools. I can quite understand many hon. Members who have not had the honour and privilege of serving in the Army being unable to follow me in this matter, but I am sure that those who have served will bear me out when I say that in the old days when we wanted to go in for higher education in order to get promotion we had to sacrifice something; we had to 528 give up sport, for we were only too eager to go to school and receive education at the hands of the regimental schoolmaster. But that is now practically done away with, and certain Army schools have been brought into existence. What is usual is that an order goes round to submit the names of so many men for a course of study in the schools. The man who is a loafer, in many cases—I speak from experience—the man who wants to dodge regimental duties, will put his name down and the company officer will back him up because he wants to get rid of him. Really the man wants no education at all. I would stop that. I have a personal friend who won high decorations during the War and who, against the wish of his commanding officer, was sent to one of these wonderful Army schools. At the end of two months' training he came out thoroughly qualified as a maker of magic lantern slides!
I want to deal with the more expensive side of this Army scheme, and if it is not wearying hon. Members too much I would like to point out how the money is spent and how it has been and is being wasted. I find that huge libraries are being sent out to each battalion of infantry, to each regiment of cavalry, and to each brigade of artillery. When I speak of libraries under the education scheme, I do not want to mix up with them the ordinary regimental lending library. These are special libraries of educational value sent to the various units I have mentioned under this wonderful educational scheme. May I read one or two of the items? I believe if I do so hon. Members will agree with me that it is a case of education gone mad. I find that under the heading of "Art" we have got no fewer than eight works. I venture to think that the men for whom they are supplied will never read them, because 50 per cent. of those men do not possess a third class certificate in education, which is only the equivalent of the fourth standard certificate in the elementary school. Under the heading of "Art" we have eight works, including the Royal Academy lectures on Painting. Under the heading "Astronomy" we have no fewer than 13 works, including "In the High Heavens" and "In Starry Realms." And I think the Noble Lord who evolved this education scheme must have been in the starry realms when he brought it into being. Under "Biology" we have four works; 529 under "Building Construction" 22; under "Chemistry" 22, including "Applied Bacteriology"; under "Civics" nine; under "Commerce" 52; under "Economics" 36; under "Education" seven; under "Electricity and Magnetism" 28; and also nine works on "Electrical Engineering," including "Alternating Currents in Theory and Practice." In view of the engineering dispute which shows the wisdom of the people who selected these books, I find we have for the benefit of the ordinary private soldier got 60 different works including books on the designing of steel bridges, on water purification, and on sewage disposal. Under the heading of "History," we have 73 different works including, as one would expect, some on the British Empire. We have also got Cicero and Euripedes, and all these are for men who do not possess the fourth standard certificate. We have other various forms of literature including "Rubaiyat of Omar," "Confession of an Opium Eater," "The Compleat Angler" and "Vanity Fair," and inasmuch as there may be a prospect of war in Greece we are supplied with Greek literature—14 different works, including "The Greek: Anthology" Sepulchral Epigrams and the New Testament in Greek. I cannot help referring to the wonderful science of mathematics. I find we have no fewer than 49 different works on mathematics, including volumes on the slide rule, "The Differential Calculus," and one wonders that the Lewis Carrols and that monumental work "The Evaluation of p" have not been included. Then, to crown it all, I find that for the ordinary Tommy Atkins we have, under the heading of "Naval Works," the text-book on "Theoretical Naval Architecture." In conclusion, I would remind hon. Members that it was the old army schoolmaster who produced the Army that fought at Mons. The main function of an army is to keep fit and to fight. Let us do away with all these educational fads. Let us leave educational faddists like the Noble Lord who evolved this scheme to stew in the starry realms of theoretical education, and let us get back to hard facts, and realise that the Army of yesterday and the Army of to-day never did, and never will, consist of Greek scholars and 'Varsity M.A.s. It was, and is, composed of matter-of-fact 530 working men. It is our duty to see that they are kept fit for service, and while we do that we can effect big economies in the way I have suggested.
Major-General Sir CECIL LOWTHER
I desire to associate myself with all that the hon. and gallant Member for Woolwich (Captain Gee). has said about the waste of money on education in the Army. I know a little about the present Army education scheme. It is more or less the illegitimate offspring of something I was partly responsible for during the War. We wanted at that time to help young soldiers in the Army, and we started all over the country a series of classes, mainly of the nature of technical training, in order to enable the lad who had broken his apprenticeship to carry on his work, and thus help young fellows who had a turn for any particular business to learn something about it. It was not an ambitious scheme. It cost the country nothing at all, because we got so much help from the local education authorities and from schools and private firms all over the country. I should say, by way of explanation, that I was in charge of the training of the Army at home during the latter part of the War, tinder the instructions of Lord French. As time went on, this scheme of technical education was taken up very much by the War Office and by the Army overseas, but I think it outgrew its strength. A large body of university men, journalists, and others, invaded the War Office, and our devoted heads were snowed under by Army Council Instructions, which were extremely long and very hard to understand; and we had a sort of hybrid university education foisted on to these young fellows in the Army who, as the hon. and gallant Member for Woolwich has said, were lads who could just about get third-class certificates and no more. I have heard constant complaints from people in the Army about the amount of time and money that is wasted on Army education as it is at present, and it is my very firm conviction that, with the improvement of the general education scheme of the country, this special and very expensive education of a mobile body of troops in the country should be gradually given up, and the national education scheme allowed to do its proper work in the proper way, without our wasting the time of tired men by endeavouring to teach them things which 531 they really do not want to learn. I am an enthusiast for education in its proper place and at its proper time, but I think the education in the Army ought to be confined to enabling men to get their second and first-class certificates of education, and to continuing that trade and technical education which will be of material value to them in after life.
Earlier in the Debate the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) took us for a journey in the clouds when he carried us into the realm of general disarmament. No one would welcome general disarmament more than I should, but we are dealing to-day with what is happening to-day, what will happen tomorrow, what our needs are, and what money we are able to pay. Let us hope for disarmament. If we get it, so much the better. Then we can scrap our armies and need no longer pay money for maintaining troops. Human nature will have so changed that we need not pay any further money for the keeping of police; we shall be able to leave our property on our front doorsteps without any danger from depredators. I think it is very general—I do not say in the House of Commons, but in the country—to assume that the Army Members of the House are opposed to reductions in the cost of armaments and in matters pertaining to the Army- That is not altogether a just charge. The military Members are just as kaen as any others on the making of proper economies. They are in favour of heavy reductions in military expenditure, but they are not in favour of reductions which will jeopardise the position of the Empire. Large naval reductions have already been assented to. The Navy, however, is still in a position to do its work. If the reductions in the Army are assented to, will the Army be in a position to do its work? I very much doubt it. I should like to remind the Committee that our Army never was organised for a great European war. The part which it was contemplated that our Army would play in any hostilities that might arise on the Continent was always a very modest one. In fact, some years ago—some time before the War—a distinguished French General, talking on the subject of British help in a war, said, "All that we want is that you should have one British soldier killed in France. That is all we want in the way 532 of help from you." He had his wish, and more than that, but what he meant was that all that they wanted was our moral support, the support of our Fleet; they did not really expect material support of the nature of that which we gave them.
Our Army was not organised for a European war. We fought the War with an Army specially organised ad hoc. That Army has gone now, and does not enter in any way into our present calculations. All that enters into our calculations is what we may call the police work of the Empire. I am not going to trouble the Committee with details about that, for they have been given already from better inspired sources than myself, but I should just like to describe the police work of the Empire. We have no thought of aggression whatever; our sole idea—and I speak for most of the Army Members of the House with whom I come in contact—is to maintain peace. But the temporary chaos induced by the War—I am not going to enter into questions of policy, or attacks on the Government or the late Government on the question of policy—the temporary chaos induced by the War has very much enhanced our dangers and our necessary commitments, which are very much greater than they were before the War. We soldiers have seen too much fighting during our lives to wish anyone to see any more. We want to avoid it, although some people seem to think we regard it as a pleasant pastime. That desire to avoid fighting, however, gives us what I consider to be a very legitimate apprehension, and makes us strongly oppose the reduction of our British fighting forces—I am speaking of the actual fighting troops—by some 28,000, or roughly 20 per cent. of what they were before the War. Our troops are fewer and our dangers are greater. Although I honestly believe that they are passing dangers, yet, until those passing dangers are over, we have no right to jeopardise our possessions in the Empire throughout the world.
§ Major CLIFTON BROWN
I should like to remind the Committee that those of us who belong to the Army Committee upstairs passed a Resolution to the effect that we regard with great dismay the disbandment of these battalions, and we think that these 10 Irish battalions represent the limit of reduction without 533 gravely endangering the safety of the Empire. Only this afternoon the Colonial Secretary, replying to a question with regard to Ireland, referred to the possibility of his drawing a cordon all round the boundary of Ulster. As the Army consists of one division—and a division is only 10,000 rifles—how far will that go along the 200 miles of the Ulster border? I agree with, the greater part of the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin, and particularly with what he said as to the policy of the Government and our commitments. One of these is a source of tremendous danger to our Empire at the present moment. We are spending £3,000,000 for keeping troops in Constantinople, for antagonising the Turk for ever against us, when he and ourselves have been traditional friends in the past, for antagonising all the Mahommedans in India and adding further to our dangers at the present moment, and we have one division of 10,000 to 12,000 rifles. This comes at a moment when India is in a state of great unrest, and when, in March, the white European is feeling the sun growing stronger, the days and nights growing hotter, and his strength weakening, while the native rebel feels with the sun's rays that his strength is increasing and his opportunity is coming, as it came in the Mutiny, to make in the summer a desperate attack on us. This is not the moment at which to announce drastic reductions in our forces.
Will the Committee forgive me if, having attacked the reductions, I turn for a moment to a few details? All of my hon. Friends who have spoken before have agreed that we want to economise and to spend no more money than is necessary upon such troops as we consider we require. Looking through the Estimates presented to us, I notice that, while one soldier in the Army in 1914 cost £150 a year, a soldier nowadays costs £400 a year.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
I have worked out the figures, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can prove that I am wrong. I think, however, that I can anticipate his answer. The right hon. Gentleman is deducting the £7,000,000 of terminal charges from his Estimates, and if that 534 be so it makes a difference, but I would ask him—
§ 6.0 P.M.
I would ask him, what happens to the £15,000,000 of Appropriations-in-Aid? Surely they, too, still represent money spent on the soldier, and so my figure remains the same. Then we are spending, in comparison, a similar amount of money, allowing for the change in money values, in the present year to that which we spent in 1914, namely, £52,000,000 now as against £27,000,000 then. I think it is a fair estimate that we are spending roughly the same amount in money value, and what are we getting? In 1914 we got six divisions ready within ten days; in 1922 we are getting one division in 15 days, another within six weeks, and perhaps two others later on. We are bound to ask, where have we lost those divisions, and for what are we paying all this money? I have been trying to discover where the money is going, and in digging out these matters I have discovered that our proportion of officers is one to every 14 men this year, while in 1914 it was one to every 17 men. That in itself, as the Geddes Committee points out, means an extra cost of £1,000,000 a year. On looking further into that matter, I discovered that this extra number of officers is probably caused by such corps as have to be heavily officered, such as the Army Pay Corps and the Corps of Accountants, in which the proportions of officers to men are one to four and one to six respectively. It cannot be due to the fighting forces, where there is only one officer to every 30 men. That led me to go a little further. The Noble Lord mentioned the figure by which the fighting troops themselves are being reduced, namely, 28,000 men, but I do not think he gave the figure for the rest of the Army—the non-fighting troops. We have, as a matter of fact, a reduction of 18 per cent. in our fighting troops, but we have an increase in non-fighting troops of 8,302, or a percentage increase of 52½ per cent. You decrease your fighting troops by 18 per cent., and increase your non-fighting troops by 52½ per cent. I have tried to impress upon the Committee that it is fighting troops we want to look after, especially in times of need. Those are the men who cannot be replaced. Last year, in order to try to find out 535 what was in the mind of those at the head of the Army, I asked how many new corps had been formed since 1914. I found there had been six. Three of them—the Welsh Guards, Tanks, and Signals—were fighting corps. The other three were a corps of dentists, a corps of accountants, and an education corps. I am almost sorry to say this, but it seems to me that when you put six new corps on to an Army, three of which have no great fighting value and three of which have very great use in a political sense, for they afford great perorations on election platforms to show how well you are looking after the soldier, it seems to me you are not directing the whole administration in the way you should. If I may follow that up with the number of schools which have since been started I find there are 14, five of which have a connection with the fighting services and nine of which, as far as I know, have very little direct concern at all with fighting. They are, sanitation, Royal Army Ordnance Corps, Royal Army Service Corps, a College of Pharmacy, two schools of training instructors for the educational corps, military administration and a central trade school for boys. I can find no very direct relation between fighting and these particular schools. I would remind the Committee again that with our dangers abroad, our dangers in Egypt, and perhaps our dangers near home, it is fighting men and fighting troops that we want to look after at present. There was in the year A.D. 9 a Roman Emperor who on his dying bed cried to one of his Generals, who had also been killed, "Varus, Varus, give me back my legions." I am afraid if the British nation this summer perhaps in India, or in the near future, makes that same request upon the Government, they cannot, at all events, like Varus, say, "I lost my men fighting." The representatives of the Government will have to say, "We squandered your money on semi-philanthropic enterprises in the Army, we have lost sight of first principles at the War Office, namely, the production of fighting troops and fighting men."
Major-General Sir J. DAVIDSON
I have only just returned from a visit to Iraq and India and am appalled at the 536 proposed reductions which are contained in this Vote. I have been wondering since I saw them whether hon. Members and Ministers are aware that we still have the British Empire, and that it will rapidly crumple up at our feet if the action of the Government which has been going on for the past three years is continued much longer. I do not know whether hon. Members are aware of the conditions in places like Iraq and India. In Iraq there is still considerable unrest. It is on the cards that there may be another rebellion this year. There is no certainty that it will not take place. The garrison in that country is being reduced until it will eventually consist of four battalions, of which three will probably be in Bagdad, and one in Basra. If there were any serious trouble, the Bagdad Garrison might be gravely endangered, and it might conceivably be necessary to despatch a large force from India to relieve it. This is only one possible, and even a probable, situation in which troops would be required. We all know the position of affairs in India. There are schemes now being prepared for the Indianisation of the native army, police and Civil Service, and to my mind this is not the moment to reduce the British forces in India. While the reforms are taking place, and during this process we ought rather to strengthen the British troops there and see that law and order are enforced. I am as much impressed with the necessity for economy as anyone, but there are ways of effecting economy. One way is to put your head down like a bull and go for it without using your brains at all, simply cutting out 24 battalions of infantry.
The other way is to use one's brains and to go in for some scientific method and study the whole problem very carefully in consideration of your commitments and responsibilities. Our commitments and responsibilities are greater and the clangers more insidious now than they were before the War, and yet we find these very large reductions being carried out. I have on many occasions drawn attention to a certain way in which one could carry out considerable economies—nearly every Member of the Government and a large number of hon. Members have agreed that it is necessary to do something in that direction—and that is in connection with the co-ordination of the fighting services. What 537 has the Government done? Absolutely nothing—nothing for three years since the War. They have not used the knowledge which has been gained to effect any economies in that direction, and so long as they do nothing in that way I shall most certainly go into the Division Lobby against the Government on every single reductions they put down. I did not wish to address the House at all, but I did not wish to vote against the Government on this occasion without expressing my views. It is an appalling thing that with the forces of unrest and lawlessness throughout the world and throughout the British Empire we should find, not only that the troops are being cut down, but that a policy of sabotage is being supported in every direction. I shall take every opportunity throughout the Session of voting against the Government whenever any reduction of British troops takes place beyond the 10 South Irish Battalions.
§ Major COLFOX
The Noble Lord a little while ago said it was an old saying that if you want peace you must prepare for war and that that saying has been proved false in the year 1914. Of course it has been proved false as far as Europe is concerned, but that is not quite the point, because everyone must realise that the British Army has never been organised having regard to the danger of a European war. The British Army exists to reinforce our troops in other parts of the Empire and generally for police duty within the Empire. It seems to me that the pith of the whole case for Army reduction was contained in one of the concluding sentences of the speech of the Secretary of State for War last Wednesday when he said:The fact is that the Government have had to make a choice between a maximum of safety, which it is the business of the General Staff to advise upon, and the equilibrium between financial and military risks, which it is the duty of the Government to determine.He suggests that the equilibrium between financial and military risks has been achieved in the proposal which the Government is offering to the House tonight, but I suggest that when he talks about financial risks he really means that the Government is considering the risk of losing votes, and the military risks are absolutely unspecified in his speech. He tells us—and we all agree of course—that the British Army was never organised 538 for a European war. He also said its size is going to be regulated by its overseas commitments and by the necessity of maintaining units at home so as to provide drafts and reliefs for the units abroad and to maintain order at home.
I should like to try to show something of what the military risks are and I should like to show, if I can, that the Army, as contemplated, is totally inadequate for our overseas commitments as they stand at present. In 1914 our Army was organised, as we are told it will be in the future, having regard to our overseas commitments, and it was then not more than large enough for our liabilities. We have been told repeatedly in the course of this Debate and in last Wednesday's Debate how much our liabilities have been increased since those days. We have garrisons in a number of places which we used not to garrison and also many of the places which were then on our hands are now in a much more dangerous state than they were then. But yet the Army is to be reduced. Even the active Army is to be reduced, in spite of the fact that our reserves available on mobilisation to-day are very much less than the available reserves in 1914. Apropos of that, in passing, one might be allowed to suggest that even if these-reductions are considered to be absolutely essential and cannot be avoided, why not enlist a large number of men direct into the Army Reserve. We have many men to-day who have war experience. Why not enlist them straight into the Army Reserve and so have something on which we can fall back I The Secretary of State admits that the General Staff have given him and the Government warning that the Army, as it is contemplated to be reduced, will not be adequate. I should like to quote a couple of sentences from what he said.The Army may be called upon to reinforce the forces of the Crown in India should the native Army and the British troops there prove insufficient. The General Staff have pointed out that in certain eventualities reinforcements much in excess of our future establishment may be required.What the General Staff has, in effect, said to the right hon. Gentleman is, that if a native rising were to occur in India, coupled with trouble on the Afghan frontier, and trouble in Ireland, we have no hope of reinforcing India sufficiently to cope with the trouble. What the General Staff have said is that this sort 539 of trouble is not only, possible, but extremely probable. There is ample evidence to show that the same forces are stirring up trouble in these and many other places. The Commander-in-Chief in India recently made a very significant speech.
Most hon. Members, and certainly most hon. and gallant Members will agree that we shall be faced in the very near future by concerted action on many fronts, and yet the Secretary of State for War says that the size of the Army is being regulated by our overseas commitments. I respectfully suggest that this is by no means the case. The size of the Army should be regulated, obviously, by the policy of the Government. So the Government has a choice between two lines of action, either it can fix a definite foreign policy and then arrange the strength of the Army to correspond, or it can submit to pressure from the electorate at home and fix the size of the Army which it considers it can afford to keep, and then arrange its foreign policy to correspond with that. It must do one or other of those two things, and I suggest that the first is the right course. At present, neither of these courses has been adopted. Both the strength of the Army and the foreign policy is being determined entirely independently one of the other. Surely it is better to face the facts as they are rather than the facts as they may be.
We must alter one of two things, either our military liabilities or the strength of our military forces as proposed in these Estimates. Every sane man admits that it is imperatively necessary that national spending should be reduced, and also that it is the duty of the Government to advise in what direction national spending can best be economised; but the Government have, in fact, told us that they mean to retain their spending at, more or less, the rate to which we have grown accustomed on certain services, incidentally the building of locomotives at Woolwich Arsenal, which they charge to the Army Vote, and they are going to make all their most necessary economies at the expense of the fighting forces. The Government admit that they are running enormous risks, but in order not to lose the votes of the more clamorous and less informed sections of the people, they are prepared to risk the safety of India and 540 the Empire. One is tempted to ask what profit will it be to us or the country if we do succeed in saving £20,000,000 of money this year and retain the votes of the National Union of School Teachers and other powerfully organised sections of the people, and at the same time incur the liability of hundreds, and possibly thousands, of millions next year or the year after, and even then very likely lose large portions of the Empire. The Government owe a duty to the nation bigger than that of retaining the nation's votes, and that is, truthfully to state the position and face the facts.
So far as one can make out, from what one presumes to have been the advice of the General Staff—of course, we have not first-hand information—the facts of the military situation are that in the event of trouble in the East and elsewhere—and that event is extremely probable—we have either to abandon the Indian Empire or spend vast sums of money to recover it. Surely it would have been1 better for the Government to tell the country the actual facts of the position, and then only make those economies in the fighting services—and they are many—as will not affect the fighting efficiency of the Army. Then they must look for the other necessary economies elsewhere, even at the expense of the votes of powerful sections of people at home. There is another possible course which they might pursue, but I do not recommend it. Yesterday, the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) in a speech on the Air Force Vote said that in any future war all the combatants would lose. I have no doubt he is right.
His inference from that was that it was useless, and worse than useless, to make warlike preparations for European war. That is a perfectly reasonable atti-ture to adopt, and the only logical answer to it is, why have any Army at all? It is only reasonable, when one is considering the possibility of a European war. The Noble Lord has a much stronger and a much more vital faith than most of us, but even he will admit that his argument falls to the ground when considered in relation to preparations for reinforcing India and other parts of the Empire. In that case, there is no likelihood of a struggle on the lines of the recent European war, where the combatants were intellectually and scientifically equal. 541 Therefore I earnestly appeal to the Government, in the interests of what I conceive to be real economy, and in no sense as a preparation for another European war, but rather with regard to our Imperial liabilities, to make all possible reductions in the administration of the Army, but not to countenance the reduction of its fighting efficiency below the safety limit.
§ Sir SAMUEL SCOTT
Two years ago my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Down (Field-Marshal Sir Henry Wilson) gave a grave warning to this House and to the nation, and that has been emphasised to-day by the speech of my hon and gallant Friend the Member for Fareham (Major-General Sir J. Davidson), who has just come back from our Eastern Empire. It reminds me very much of the warning which was given by another gallant Field-Marshal, one of our greatest fighting soldiers, and the greatest patriot that it has ever been my fortune to know. I refer to the late Lord Roberts, who spent all the later years of his life going North, South, East and West, warning the country of the danger that was before us in regard to the possibility of war with Germany. It is interesting now to know in what way his warnings were received by His Majesty's Government of that day. They wore received in the same way that I suppose the warnings of the gallant Field-Marshal the Member for North Down will be received by the Government. A Cabinet Minister, Mr. Runciman, said:I do not believe that war between England and Germany is inevitable. I believe a statement like that of Lord Roberts is not only deplorable, but pernicious and dangerous, and if in Germany it is resented, I would like the Germans to know that it is resented no less in England.Another Member of the Government in the same year said:Because a man is a very great General, lie need not be a very great statesman.Lord Roberts proved himself not only a very great General, but a very great statesman as well. My Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) said this afternoon that he thought he had made a very fair analysis of the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend a few days ago. I think he did up to a point, and then it became extremely unfair. What Lord Roberts preached in the pre-War days my hon. and gallant Friend preaches to-day, and that is exactly what 542 the Noble Lord scoffs at, namely, that if you wish for peace you must prepare for war. [An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish!"] I am glad to hear cheers from the benches opposite, and I only hope that the hon. Member will support us in the Lobby, as he so strongly approves of our policy. The Noble Lord went on to twit my hon. and gallant Friend with the fact that, although we had six divisions before the War, that was not sufficient to stop the War. Of course it was not. Had Lord Roberts been listened to we should have had an Army that would have prevented the War, but Lord Roberts was not listened to, with the result that we only had six divisions, and that terrible War took place.
History repeats itself The other day, I do not know whether hon. Members read it, a very interesting article appeared in the Press, pointing out that after the Napoleonic Wars the position of this country was precisely the same as it is to-day, the whole country was howling for reduction in taxation, unemployment was rife, trade was bad, and the parallel even went further, for there was a demand £or a reduction in the numbers of the Army. In answer to the clamour, the Government in those days, as has been the case to-day, turned to the Army and reduced the Army to a very small number, with the result that in a very few years, as will be the case to-day, that Army had to be very largely increased in order to meet the dangers that came before the country. One word to the Secretary of State for War. He thought fit to announce the other day that we had only one division fit to go abroad. In view of the disturbed state of the world is it not simply asking for trouble to confess the existence of such a lamentable state of affairs?
It is worse than that. It is dangerous. Our weakness is more than dangerous. One of my hon. and gallant Friends said that 10 battalions had to be reduced, and that beyond that it was dangerous to go. I agree entirely. You can reduce 10 battalions, with their equivalent, if you like in artillery and ancillary troops. They must go automatically, but I do, even at this last moment, beg the Government to consider what they are gambling with. The hon. and gallant Member for Northern Dorset (Major Golf ox) has pointed out that the Government weighed military expenditure as against national 543 expenditure, and decided against the advice of the General Staff. The Geddes Committee have made many recommendations for cuts in other directions, which have been ignored. I believe that those recommendations have been ignored, because when they came to weigh up the political dangers versus the financial dangers, the Government came to the conclusion that the political risks were not good enough to take.
Nearly everyone in this House realises that it is impossible there should not be very large reductions, and we are prepared to face reductions provided that in our opinion none of these reductions endanger the safety of our Empire I would ask the Secretary of State what would be available now for spending on the Army if, for example, we gave up Constantinople, if we came out of Iraq and out of Silesia, in fact if we came out of that new Empire and went back to look after our old Empire, I will also ask him what he estimates, and this is an important point, will be the amount of the non-effective Vote which is incurred by these reductions? I am very sorry for my right hon. Friend, because I know that he realises the dangers that are in front of us, and also realises what may happen to him in the big position which he holds. But he is powerless. His Majesty's Government have instructed him and the General Staff to make these reductions, and he can but carry them out
§ Sir S. SCOTT
I agree that my right hon. Friend can resign, I only wish that, on this particular point, he had resigned. Is it right to gamble with our Empire? Is it right to sit silent and acquiescent in this House while we see the Government gambling with our Empire sooner than gamble with votes?
§ Lieut.-Colonel CROFT
The admirable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir S. Scott) has covered the ground so well that I shall not detain the Committee at any great length, but there are a few points to which I wish to refer. I believe that there is not a single member of the Army or this Committee, or, indeed, anyone who is interested in this question, who will not agree that we have got to reduce 544 our national expenses enormously, and that every Service of the State has got to take its share of the reduction. We realise also not only that there are risks to be considered at the present time, but that the risks are of such a nature that the British Empire is involved by the action which it is proposed to take. I believe I am speaking for all those who have very strong feelings on this subject when I say that we believe we can still save the money, and save much more money by adopting a different policy, and that even within the Army itself there are better ways of economising than by scrapping your righting soldiers.
Therefore my purpose is to show, first of all, that our organised man power in military formation under these new cuts is far less than it was in our peace time defence establishments before the War, or that it had been for 100 years. Second, that the available mobilisable reserves are enormously decreased. Third, that our liabilities for the protection of the Empire are greater than they have ever been in our history. The Regular Army under the cut at present proposed would actually have 20,000 fewer serving soldiers than in the 1914 peace establishments. But the Militia, better known recently as the Special Reserve, of 70 battalions is non-existent at the present time. They numbered before the War 55,000 soldiers who, as the Committee knows, could be mobilised at the first possible danger. That force at present does not exist, but it was available for overseas and also for civil protection. Then the establishment of the Territorial Army has been reduced by 110,000, and the present strength of the Territorial Army is 60,000 short of establishment. If we take these totals with the actually organised and equipped men in the various forces of the Army at present, we have 210,000 fewer equipped men available in these forces than we had in our previous peace time Army. These outstanding facts were ignored by the five men of good will who came along with their axe and said, "Here is the Army, it is very expensive. It does not involve many Votes. We will make a tremendous chop at that." They ignored that fact, and they did not treat the country fairly by ignoring this extraordinary decrease in the fighting power of the organised manhood of the British Empire.
545 The Geddes Committee even went further in what I am sure was an innocent deception, but it was a complete deception, of the British public, when they made no mention whatever of the reserves of the Army. In 1913 we had 149,000 men in the reserves.? In 1914 we had 146,000. To-day we have 65,000 as members of the reserve of the British Army, and of that number I calculate that only some 17,000 are actual infantry soldiers, who could be mobilised in order to take the field in fighting units of infantry, if needed, at short notice. When therefore we consider our policy and our commitments, I would ask the Committee to face the fact that in fighting men equipped or mobilisable by telegram—that is the test—the grand total to-day is down by 280,000 as compared with 1914 peacetime establishments, and that it is false for the Geddes Committee to try to persuade the country to believe that in fighting men we have to-day, in personnel, a fighting value equal to that which we had before the War. In face of these reductions you have this restless world, and this volcanic Empire with 280,000 fewer men available to deal with a great crisis. I am sorry to see so few non-service Members here, because it is their interest which we desire to secure. When I remind you that the total expeditionary force is something like 112,000, the Committee will realise what the figures which I have given mean in terms of your whole Army.
Then there is another point. Lord Roberts, whose honoured name has been referred to, told us five years before the War that our Army of that day was only sufficient to protect the British Empire as it was then. Compare the Empire of 1914 with the Empire of to-day. In 1914 Egypt was quiet. India was peaceful. The Crown Colonies and Protectorates were all quiet; there was no trouble there at all. Ireland was free from crime and law-abiding, and was still a part of the British Empire under our control. To-day Egypt, we will all agree, could not possibly be denuded of troops, and this must be so for some time. India is seething with unrest from one end of the country to the other, having lost its pathetic political contentment, and in Ireland a section of the population, at any rate, appears to be bent on exploiting the generous gift of a Free State in the direction of civil war. On 546 these facts it must be recognised that the position of the Empire, compared with that which Lord Roberts referred to before the War, is dangerous. You have halved your available lighting men in the case of serious trouble. If that were the end of the story, even then we could sleep quietly in our beds at night, but, as the hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Sir H. Wilson) has told us, we have these colossal additional) burdens to our restless Empire—Iraq, Constantinople, Palestine, Silesia and the Rhine, and I am sorry to say, still, Ireland. The wisdom of the policy of the Government in scattering our forces from this attenuated army in affairs which have no permanent concern for the British Empire is a matter with which we cannot deal to-day. But if it is a question of deciding whether we are to cut down the fighting men of the Army or to jeopardise our financial position, I, for one, say: "For Heaven's sake let us come out of those places at once rather than run the risk of losing the Empire. Let us get back to the old frontiers of the Empire and round them off rather than have the claws of an Empire octopus streaching out with their vast communications to be threatened in distant parts where we have no permanent concern." With the countries and territories I have mentioned you have increased the military liabilities of the Empire by something like 50 per cent., you have stirred up the pathetic contentment of the Empire by probably 100 per cent., and you are decreasing the organised fighting men of the Empire by 50 per cent.
The Secretary of State admitted the other day that we were taking risks. There are many men in this House who do not regard it as a risk at all. It is not a gamble; it is a certainty. The right hon. Gentleman is withdrawing the insurance on a house when the cellars of' that house are flooded with petrol. We have all the inflammable material there. There are warnings from the greatest, soldiers in the Empire, and yet the Government is to cut down the number of our fighting men. In view of the situation, I suggest that he would be a brave man who would disband any of the fighting units. There is no one in this Committee who does not agree that the ten Irish battalions have to go, with their quota of artillery and cavalry and ancil- 547 lary forces, but in the existing circumstances of the Empire, unless we are told by the Secretary of State that he intends definitely to give up these commitments, we cannot agree that over and above those ten battalions further units should be destroyed. There may be some hon. Members here who are very anxious. Not knowing when a General Election may come, they may say, "I have pledged myself to economies in every direction." It would be a very proper question to ask, "How could you still decrease the expenditure of the country and at the same time preserve the fighting men, to whose disbandment you object?" I put it to the Committee that the effect of keeping 14 battalions, which I might call English battalions, with their complement of artillery and cavalry, would cost something like £3,000,000 sterling, or not more than £4,000,000.
How are you to raise that £3,000,000. I say, "Come out of Constantinople, and save £3,000,000 at once. Keep your fighting men and make friends with the Turks and by so doing you will immediately decrease enormously your dangers throughout the whole of the Eastern Empire." The Committee may say that that only just balances things. Then I say, "Come out of Mesopotamia and save £9,000,000, and come out of Palestine and save £3,000,000." There you have a further saving of £12,000,000. Against that you have still to house and clothe and maintain the soldiers coming out of those theatres; but I put it to the Secretary of State that that would cost him about £3,000,000 and there would therefore be a net saving of £9,000,000 in the British Army as a whole. Suppose that figure is not absolutely agreed to by the Secretary of State. I ask him to go further. Sooner than get rid of fighting men why not almost immediately, say, in June, cut down by 20 per cent. the pay of officers and men recruited from that date. I do not think you can break a contract. The Government might have said that every single man in the service of the State, from the Prime Minister down to the Tommy, is to have a 10 per cent. reduction in pay. I think you could have done that, but I am not sure you can do it now. Where there is no contract made you could cut down by 20 per cent. Very soon, say, in a couple of years, you would 548 save the £3,000,000 for the fighting troops.
There is the situation in India. I suppose there is not a soldier who does not admit that if you had a reasonably sized army in India you could walk right through the country with modern appliances. Suppose there is widespread unrest in India on the lines of the rebellion in Ireland, where 70,000 soldiers were unable to prevent disturbances. Suppose, also, that you cannot get more than one division to India in six weeks at the earliest, and no further divisions for five or six months. Surely you are running a risk with the small white population in India, and with the white women there in particular. Surely, it is not our duty to cut down our fighting men at this time. I regret the appalling lack of interest which has been taken in this Debate by Members of the Labour party and the Free Liberal party. It is an astonishing fact that though this is the greatest cut ever proposed in the Army, yet so little interest is shown in it. I am afraid I cannot appeal to them to support us. Theirs is a peculiar kind of creed. They revel in unpreparedness. If we dropped a Mills' bomb at their feet they would hope it was a cricket ball. If a Minenwerfer were thrown they would say that it was a football, I am sure. They are prepared to run any risks. But to those who have been associated with the old traditional Conservative party, to those Liberals who stood by their country so magnificently throughout the War I say, Is it wise or real statesmanship to agree with these cuts now I After all, who is the greatest expert in the British Empire? The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Field-Marshal Sir H. Wilson). Can we neglect the words he has told us? Can we neglect the words of the Army Committee, an important body which unanimously carried a resolution yesterday. I hope the Secretary of State will agree that not a single fighting man over and above the Southern Irish Regiments shall be disbanded from the Army until the Government have drawn in their horns and altered their policy, and until the Empire once more safe.
§ Major-General SEELY
There are many people like myself who are wondering very much in which way it is their duty to vote, if there be a vote on this ques- 549 tion. We shall listen with great care to what the Secretary of State says, because it clearly is the case that he has been compelled by reasons of economy to run things very fine. Having been responsible for three years of military affairs in this House—as Under-Secretary for one year and as Secretary of State for two years—I say that you cannot make reductions in expenditure of any size without reducing your fighting forces. I listened with interest to a speech in which an hon. Member pointed out that there were too many parsons in the Army and too many dentists. There may be too many parsons, but I have my doubts about the dentists who are very useful people in time of war. If you swept them all away, the experience of three years at the War Office has shown me conclusively that you do not make any really big reduction. I go further and say—I can say it impartially because while I was at the War Office, I regret to tell my economy friends, the Estimates continually increased and we were pressed to make reductions by people on both sides of the House, irrespective of party—you cannot make big reductions without reducing units. It is not possible. If the Secretary of State tells us that we shall be in danger of bankruptcy unless we make reductions of the size suggested I agree that we must reduce units.
I understand that an hon. and gallant Member opposite intends to plead on one small matter, as well as on a very big matter. He intends to plead for the retention of certain North of Ireland regiments. I think that is a sound plea, and I shall support him. I say to the Secretary of State that while I agree that if you are to make big reductions you must reduce units, I do not think it would be wise to go further than the proposed reduction of 20 battalions by taking away the third and fourth battalions from regiments which have four battalions. To destroy a county unit, whether in the North of Ireland or in England, would be so disastrous that I plead with my right hon. Friend to find some means of avoiding so great a disaster to our military system. We are faced with a terrible dilemma. We are running big risks, we are told on the highest authority, from the point of view of the safety of the Empire if we do not make these big financial economies. I suggest to the Secretary of State that he will not get 550 much support from the War Office, but he will have some support, and from very important quarters. Let him institute an inquiry forthwith as to whether he cannot get greater security for our possessions abroad if he goes again into the whole question of the Cardwell System. It would not be wise to go now into all the arguments. If you do not stick to your Car dwell System you automatically effect enormous economies. The drawback is that you have not got so large a reserve. The Secretary of State, no doubt, will tell us that we have an exceptionally large potential reserve of trained men, noncommissioned officers, and officers, but let him institute that inquiry and ascertain how far he can give us greater security in Egypt, in Mesopotamia, in Palestine, and in Ireland, by some other method of administering our military forces. On the whole, I await with anxiety what the Secretary of State has to say, but I cannot bring myself to believe that it will not be possible for him slightly to abate the reductions he proposes to make at least by saving some of these battalions, the destruction of which would blow the whole of our military system out of gear.
§ 7.0 P.M.
Field-Marshal Sir HENRY WILSON
The ground has been so well covered by previous speakers that I will not take up the time of the Committee for more than a few minutes. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) took me to task for something that I said a few days ago. He said he thought it was now proved that to be ready for war was not a guarantee that there should be no war. He said that Europe was ready for war in 1914, and yet there was a war. I am afraid I am one of those who think that it was because Great Britain was not ready for war that there was a war. The Noble Lord also said that he gathered from my speech that it was in my mind, when I said that it was cheaper to prevent war than to win war, that it would be necessary to have 80 divisions, and therefore conscription. Nothing was further from my mind. It depends upon what war you wish to avoid how many troops you require. In olden days, with large Empires and large forces, you would require a large number of troops. In these days with small States—many of them, certainly—and with much smaller forces, although the totals are the same, 551 you can have your guarantees with much smaller forces. My mind was not really at that moment thinking of a great European war. It was thinking more of avoiding war inside the Empire, and if I may state two cases where a modicum of troops would have avoided war, I think I may be able to prove my case.
I will take the case of Iraq last summer year. Owing to the fact that we were in Iraq, and that we had not enough troops in Mesopotamia, we had at great expense to draft into Iraq two divisions from India. Had we had more troops in Iraq we never would have had to draft in any, or in any case anything like as many from India, I would take the other case, which is the case we had last summer at home. Had we more troops in England of our own—and I will try to show in a minute how we could easily have had them—we should not have been put to the enormous expense of calling out the whole of the Reserve in making an ad hoc army. If the policy of the Government takes no regard at all for the forces which it has at its disposal, we are quite certain to get into trouble. It is said that if we reduce by 22 or 24 battalions, five or nine cavalry regiments, 47 batteries of artillery, and a great number of Army Service Corps and other units, we will save some £16,000,000. That is so, but there is another way of reducing, of saving that money, which to my mind is much better, and that is—I have been advocating it ever since the Armistice—to come out of those places which do not belong to us, and to hold on to those places that do. The greatest Chancellor of the Exchequer that I ever read of was Mr. Micawber, and hon. Members will remember what he said, "Income £20, expenditure £19 19s. 6d., result—Happiness; income £20, expenditure £20 0s. 6d., result—Misery." It is the £20 0s. 6d. policy which the Government have pursued for the last few years. We can make economies, we can make large economies in the Army, but I think it is not only unwise, but very, very dangerous to make economies in the fighting troops. With the condition of the world such as it is, and supposing that His Majesty's Governmen decline absolutely—as they appear to be going to do—to change their policy, if they decline absolutely to come out of those places that do not belong to us, and to hold on to those places that do, 552 then to reduce the number of your fighting troops is, in my judgment, absolute madness. We are told that we must take risks. I confess that the profession to which I belong is never slow to take risks, but when, as the hon. and gallant Member (Lieut.-Colonel Croft) said just now, the risk amounts practically to a certainty, then a man must be mad to take such risk.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Although this Debate deals with economies, I have not noticed any vigorous support in the course of it from some of the hon. Members who have been returned to this House as "anti-wasters." I have to reply to a very serious Debate conducted in a serious spirit by hon. and gallant Members who are quite clearly disturbed at the extent of the risk they are asked to participate in, and who have earnestly put before the House their feelings—not unnatural feelings—in the matter. I make no complaint whatever of a single statement that has been made. I realise as well as they do how serious the question is that the House has to decide. I am going to ask hon. and gallant Gentlemen to allow me to pass over some of the relatively minor details which have been raised in the course of the Debate. I will try to deal, in passing, with some of them, but there are some which I will leave for a later reply if the Debate goes on.
Practically speaking, the case as put by all the hon. and gallant Gentlemen who have spoken has been this: "First of all, you ought to make no reductions in your fighting forces. We agree that if you can make reductions in the general expenditure of the Army by curtailing ancillary or auxiliary services, or by pruning off extravagances, then you should make these reductions, and we will support you in them. But the moment you come to the fighting forces, except so far as relates to the 10 Southern Irish battalions, we object to any reduction, on the ground that the amount of strength you have is no greater than—indeed, is not great enough for—the needs of the Empire." I believe that is broadly the case that I have to endeavour to answer. Let me first deal with the question of administration expenses, which it is claimed have not been properly reduced in these new Estimates. I do not want, of course, to repeat what I said on the first occasion on which these Estimates were before the Committee, but I took 553 some trouble to go with some detail into the various administrative Services which were being cut down in order to effect economy. It is perfectly true that cutting down a minor administrative Service by even 20 per cent. or 30 per cent. brings out very little economy in money compared with the millions we have to save. It is not so small that we are not trying to do it. Far from it, because if we can get £10,000 anywhere without damaging the fighting forces, I will get it. It is not that it is too small, but that it is a fact that if you knock off 20 per cent. you do not save £20,000 or £30,000, while if you are going to try to save when you come to millions, it is no use blinking the fact that it means a cut in the fighting forces.
The Noble Lord the Member for Hornsey (Viscount Ednam), who is a new recruit to the Committee, which I am sure will welcome him not only for his own sake but for his most excellent maiden effort this afternoon, told us that there were more chaplains than before the War, and he wanted to know why that should be so. The troops are at this moment much more scattered than they ever were in 1914. We have chaplains in every place where troops are stationed, and where units or parts of units are left at depots of home stations chaplains are there also. The distribution of troops abroad does account for the additional number of chaplains. As a matter of fact, there is a Committee now sitting, and I believe as a result of their inquiries into chaplains we shall cut down to pre-War numbers. The same hon. Member referred to the Veterinary Service, and said, again, that there are more veterinary officers now than before the War. That is perfectly true. The two general reasons of that are that the boarding-out scheme for horses of the Territorial Army is quite considerably expensive in veterinary personnel. This Estimate provides that that goes by the board, and the personnel of the Veterinary Corps connected with it will be retrenched. The second main cause is that there are more theatres of war in which their services are required.
Again, the hon. Member dealt with the pay and accounts branch of the War Office, and with the Accountants Corps. He hardly did justice to us in his remarks in that connection, because he failed to realise that these Estimates provide for a reduction of £800,000—not a bad slice 554 from one administrative Service—bringing the Estimate down from £1,900,000 to £1,100,000. As I pointed out when the Estimate was last before us, I am not satisfied with that. I am having an inquiry made into it now, and I promise the Committee that it is not a class on which I intend to have money spent that can be saved in any way. One other criticism which he made was with regard to the number of officers. He pointed out that there are 600 more officers now than before the War. There have been four officers added to each infantry battalion and one to each battery of artillery, and, broadly speaking, that accounts for the bulk of the increase in officers. That has been done as a definite and deliberate part of policy, and I believe rightly done. It is much harder to train an officer, and it takes much longer to train an officer, than it does to train men, and if the expansion of the Army at any time, or in any emergency, was required, it would be necessary to have additional officers. In addition to that, there is another reason. A good many of the units are being mechanicalised and the reduction in the numbers of men is considerable, and so you have got from this cause several cases of increased numbers of officers. I do not think myself there is any substantial economy to be got in that direction.
The hon. and gallant Member for Woolwich (Captain Gee) made a most amusing speech about the books in some library. These books, I understand, are probably part of the large number of books with which the public supplied the Army during the War. There was a collection of every sort, and after the War these were distributed among various units, and I do not think any public funds have been used in connection with that miscellaneous collection. I am not quite certain on that point, because they may also include some books which are intended not merely for the men, but also for officers and non-commissioned officers in connection with their higher education. From the list given by the hon. and gallant Member I am not sure I can identify the class to which they 'belong. Then the hon. and gallant Member talked about the educational scheme, and said a great deal of money was being wasted in that respect. As I explained to the House the other day, we are about to reduce the Educational Corps by 166 officers and 180 555 other ranks. I am going to go into that still further, because here, again, if there is money to be saved without doing injury to the fighting forces, I am out to save that money. On the other hand, I do not want to destroy vocational training in the Army. I feel certain, from what I have heard, that it is good for the men that in the last few months of their military career they should be given vocational training which will help them to reasonable employment on their leaving military life. If they get that, they will be more ready to come into the Army, and it would be a bad thing, in my judgment, if the Educational Corps were reduced to an extent which would hurt this scheme.
The hon. and gallant Member for Hexham (Major Brown) pointed out that there have been six new corps established since the War, three of these, according to him, having military value, and three being without military value. He pointed to the case of the dentists. The Dentists Corps is a new corps and a very small corps. I do not know whether the men's teeth have become very much worse since the War, but it is quite clearly an advantage to the Army when they have a recruit on their hands, to have his teeth looked to and his health maintained. We have found that corps to be of real value, and to make its existence a ground of complaint, unless in itself it is extravagantly run, is not in my judgment fair criticism. If it is extravagantly run, that is another matter. The hon. and gallant Member also talked about the Corps of Accountants and seemed to suggest that this corps is there because it provides a good peroration for election speeches on the platform. I do not know what the hon. and gallant Member's experience of electioneering has been, but I cannot conceive myself making any appeal to the electors by describing the work of the Corps of Military Accountants.
There was one criticism made by the hon. Member for the Wrekin Division (Sir C. Townshend) to which I should like to refer. He suggested that the Cardwell system should be looked into again, with a view to providing an Army of long service rather than an Army of short service. This question of a long service Army has been gone into over and over again. There was an inquiry in 1907. Hitherto it has been found to be of no 556 advantage and the matter has been gone into thoroughly. I do not wish to argue it in detail, but I would point out that under such a system there would be practically no expeditionary force; there would be no supply of reinforcements abroad in a very short time; and there would be, I believe, considerable difficulty in getting recruits for a service which was entirely foreign, and long foreign service at that.
I propose to deal next with two matters about which I hope the House will be glad to hear what I have to say. I am going to deal first with a question which was raised about the Irish battalions. The scheme which I put before the House the other day called for a reduction of 24 battalions. I pointed out how I was going to get 22 of those battalions, and I was in a difficulty with regard to the other two. I realise as well as anyone that while it is inevitable, in my judgment, to disband the 10 Southern Irish battalions and, if the cut is to take place, to disband also the 3rd and 4th battalions of the English regiments, yet to get these last two battalions would mean either cutting into the English county system or a reduction of the Ulster battalions below four. I have had the figures in my Estimate very carefully gone over, and I find that by squeezing here and squeezing there, and making some other economies, I am not bound, for this year at any rate, to go above the 22 battalions. That is to say, the two battalions which I think I mentioned the other day need not be disbanded for this year at any rate.
§ Captain CRAIG
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he is not going to disband any of the battalions of what we call the three Ulster regiments?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
No. What I said was that I could not do six battalions, but I can do four. I can leave four, but I cannot leave six. The plan of 24 battalions would have meant leaving two only. But if only 22 are disbanded, then that plan leaves two more battalions, or four altogether, which can be represented by Ulster battalions. That will have this effect. No regiment except the Southern Irish regiments will be destroyed. It is quite true that four-battalion regiments will be reduced to two battalions, but they can expand again 557 should it ever be necessary. At any rate, the regiment is there, and the regiment is safe, and so of the real North Irish and the English regiments, no regiment will be destroyed.
With regard to cavalry, I have been very anxious, if it were at all possible, to find some method of being able to say the same thing, namely, that no cavalry regiment would be destroyed. I think now I can announce a plan whereby even the four regiments which were disbanded last year, can come back again as one squadron units to represent the old regiments. This is the method which it is proposed to follow. Take the Life Guards first. The 1st Life Guards will become two squadrons and headquarters and the 2nd Life Guards will become two squadrons, and these four squadrons will be amalgamated in one regiment—the Life Guards. Practically the same plan will be adopted in regard to the cavalry line regiments. If I take the Dragoon Guards and the Dragoons as an example, the Committee will see what I mean. The four seniors, namely, the Royals, the Greys, the King's Dragoon Guards, and the Queen's Bays, will remain exactly as they are, untouched. As regards the remaining six regiments, the three seniors will become two-squadron regiments, and the three juniors will become one-squadron regiments. One of the seniors and one of the juniors will be amalgamated, and will become a three-squadron regiment, first and second squadrons of which will have been derived from the senior regiment, and the third squadron of which will have been derived from the junior regiment. In that way we propose to avoid altogether destroying these regiments. I do not pretend to suggest that this proposal is likely to be palatable, but I think it is better than disbanding the regiments altogether. It does give the regiments a chance to expand if at any future time it may be necessary to do so.
Let me deal with the main point made, that in view of our responsibilities no more reduction of the Army should be made, other than the disbanding of the 10 Southern Irish batallions.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
And their complements of artillery and cavalry. No hon. and gallant Gentle- 558 man, speaking to-day, has indicated what that would mean in money. It would mean, possibly, £12,000,000 or £13,000,000 added to the Estimates as they are now presented. It would mean not only the additional battalions themselves, but, of course, artillery and cavalry, as my hon. and gallant Friend has pointed out, and, as well, Royal Engineers and all auxiliary and ancillary services. That would mean something like £10,000,000 or £12,000,000, at any rate, added to the Estimate.
§ Lieut.-Colonel CROFT
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what then is the cost of an infantry battalion? Does it exceed £150,000?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
No, £150,000 for an infantry battalion is a very fair figure. As my hon. and gallant Friend knows, it is not very easy to say the exact cost. It depends on how much of headquarter charges and overhead charges you are going to attribute to a particular unit. By abolishing a unit, you save a corresponding amount in overhead charges. As a round figure, the figure he has mentioned is fair. Let me refer to some of the statements made in support of the suggestion that our responsibilities are such that we can make no further reduction in the Army. The right hon. and gallant Member for North Dorset (Major Colfox) said what we were really doing was, proposing to abandon the Indian Empire and then to spend large sums in recovering it. Surely, that is a grotesque exaggeration of the position with regard to India. I think it would probably be unwise to examine in detail the position with regard to India, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman should realise that for internal order purposes you do not have to consider India in terms of Expeditionary Force conditions. It is quite conceivable that in certain circumstances you might have to reinforce the white troops in India. It is possible, but I do not say it is likely, and if you did want to reinforce them you would not require an Expeditionary Force division, with infantry, artillery, and so forth. You might want extra infantry battalions, and they are there, and they could be sent, and there would be no difficulty in sending them. Conceivably, you might want some extra artillery, and it is there and could be sent, and there would be no delay or difficulty in sending it, but, 559 surely, it is the grossest exaggeration to say that this policy is a policy of abandoning the Indian Empire.
Sir J. D. REES
That does not imply, does it, any departure from the relative standard of Indian and European troops which was settled after the Mutiny?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
It does not imply any alteration from any standard which exists now. It implies simply this. I am challenged that there are not troops to reinforce India, that in the event of disorder we should have to abandon India and at some later date reconquer it. I say that that is a gross exaggeration. There are troops here, if they should be needed, to reinforce India in case of internal trouble.
§ Major COLFOX
Do we gather that the General Staff has expressed the opinion which has just been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
No. I think it would be unfair and improper that I should quote the General Staff. It would be very easy for me to do it, but they are not here, they are not capable of speaking for themselves, and I take full responsibility for that statement, and if my hon. and gallant Friend will look at it he will see it is a mere statement that any man of reasonable common sense would be able to make with a fair certainty that he was right. Now look at India from the external point of view. There has been a tendency to compare our to-day's strength and our to-day's position with our strength before the War and with our position in India before the War. What was the position with regard to India before the War? There was a real Russian menace, active, which we always had at the back of our minds, and which undoubtedly influenced the number of troops in India.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
At any rate to-day that Russian menace has gone. [HON. MEMBERS:"NO, no."] It has gone to-day. I do not say that it will not arise. I am not a prophet, and I do not want to belittle the position. I have been very frank with the Committee, and some hon. Members think I have been too frank, but I do not want 560 to belittle the danger that may arise. I want to look at what there is to-day, and again, if you look at the position with regard to Afghanistan, it is better than it was. There is a Treaty with Afghanistan which I hope may be carried out on both sides in such a way that our friendship will continue and any menace from that quarter will be removed.
§ Colonel Sir C. YATE
The right hon. Gentleman will not forget that it took 340,000 men to quell the last Afghan invasion in 1919, and that may occur again?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I will deal with possible things that may occur fairly and frankly, but I want to run through some of those difficulties which have, obviously, impressed hon. and gallant Friends of mine, and I think it is only fair that they should hear what my view is upon the subject. In Egypt we are, I hope, in the presence of a settlement, or approaching a settlement, which will relieve a great anxiety and which will make the relations between the Egyptians and ourselves more friendly. That is an asset to us, a better position which has arisen relatively recently, and it is quite conceivable—indeed, there are indications already—that the garrison there, or the troops kept there, may be able to be reduced. I do not propose to deal with Iraq or Palestine, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies dealt with them so recently, but let me say a word about Constantinople. It is suggested that we should come out of Constantinople, and that by so doing large sums might be saved which could go to the Army in lieu of some of these present reductions. Why are we in Constantinople, what are we doing there, and when are we coming out, are the kind of questions that have been put to me. My hon. and gallant Friends know very well that at this moment a Conference is sitting in Paris—I think it is actually sitting to-day or to-morrow—at which the Allies are represented, we being represented by our Foreign Secretary, and there an endeavour is being made to come to terms which will be accepted by the Greeks and the Turks, in order to bring to a close their war. As soon as that agreement is made, I hope that it will be possible for the troops to come away from 561 Constantinople. We are not there in an aggressive spirit. We are not there in order to spend money, but we are there because we believe it is one of the obligations of the peace that we should take our share there. As soon as ever we can get out, however, that is our intention and that is our desire. As to the suggestion that any large sum of money can be saved by getting out at once, I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman who said that must have forgotten that these troops have got to be paid, fed, clothed, and housed wherever they arc, unless, indeed, it is intended to disband them on their return home, and, of course, it is not the intention to disband them, because it was to bring them home in order to save the money to keep them that the suggestion was made. The additional cost of keeping troops in Constantinople or Silesia over keeping them at home is relatively small. There is an additional cost, but it is relatively small; it is very little.
Sir L. WORTH INGTON-EVANS
I can tell the Silesian figure, and I will try and give my hon. and gallant Friend an estimate of the actual figure for Constantinople in the course of the evening.
§ Sir H. WILSON
Is it not true that in Constantinople there are two British battalions and four native battalions, and is it not true that if we came out, the four native battalions would be disbanded?
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I am not sure whether it was in my hon. and gallant Friend's time, or whether it was later that a decision was arrived at to relieve the four Indian battalions there by three British battalions, and the three British battalions are going to take the place of the four Indian battalions, with the result that there will be a decrease of the cost in Constantinople, and it has been done for that purpose, because these British battalions have got to be paid, fed, clothed, and housed wherever they are, and putting them in Constantinople will relieve four Indian battalions and so save a good deal of expense.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I know what the cost on Silesia and the Rhine is, but I have not in my mind at the present moment the cost in Constantinople. For Silesia and the Rhine the total cost is £2,500,000, and of that £1,000,000 is paid by the Germans in marks, and the other £1,500,000 is paid and is now going to be appropriated for the first time to Army Votes. I explained the other day that for the first time we shall have got an Appropriation-in-Aid of £1,500,000, and that is the balance of the cost of Silesian troops and Rhine troops, which are paid for by the Germans.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I am not quite sure, but I think it is the total cost. It is eight battalions, and therefore I think it must be the total cost. The whole Committee has been impressed by the speech the other day of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Down (Sir H. Wilson). He pointed out that with all the liabilities abroad we were reducing our Army below the pre-War strength. In making that comparison, however, he forgot to mention the Air Force. The Air Force is now an additional force, and if you take the numbers of the Army and the Air Force, you will find that the actual numbers are not reduced below pre-War strength.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I was obviously talking about the actual men with the Colours. I told the House the other day that the Reserve is 65,000 men, and the Militia does not at present exist, but these Estimates include a sum for starting the Militia, more especially in key men who are necessary for the striking force, and those are included in the Estimate. My hon. and gallant Friend put it to the House that we were weaker, that we had an Army which answered no war purpose before the War, that it was dependent on voluntary recruiting, that if the recruits came in there might be a bigger Army, but if the recruits did not come in, there might be a smaller Army, quite regardless of the purposes for which it was wanted, 563 and quite irrespective of the policy that was being pursued or the liabilities which were being incurred. Of course, that is true, but in order to meet my hon. and gallant Friend's point, it means that you have to abandon the Voluntary system altogether; it means that in order to match your instrument with your policy you have got to have the power to call men into the Army; and it means that you have got to adopt some form of compulsory service.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I am afraid that will not avail my hon. and gallant Friend. It is quite possible that you might not get an actual equilibrium, because your policy does not depend upon yourself. No nation's policy depends entirely upon itself. It may depend upon Allies, or it may depend in part upon potential enemies, and so it is quite impossible actually, and it never has been done at any time, that the Army matched the policy or that the policy matched the Army. That, however, was not the point that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was making the other day. What he was saying the other day was that owing to the voluntary Army we might get an inrush of troops, or we might not get them, because it was voluntary, and what he was claiming was not a voluntary Army, but a conscript Army; and I do not wonder, because he was putting before the House the absolute inadequacy of the pre-War Army of six divisions. He said the position now was worse than it was, that there were more risks everywhere than there were before the War, and that the six or seven division Army before the War was not sufficient then, and, therefore, it could not be sufficient for the greater risks today. He did not say how many divisions he thought were safe. Did he mean 10 or 12? Because the Committee must bear this in mind, that it does mean the abandonment of the voluntary system if you are going to maintain anything like that number of divisions.
§ Sir H. WILSON
I never dreamt of a conscript Army, for the very simple reason that you cannot order conscripts to serve abroad in time of peace. As our Army in time of peace is a police Army, 564 a conscript Army would be of no use to us.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
That, of course, I realise, but when the hon. and gallant Field-Marshal says that he did not contemplate a conscript Army, he was pointing out the weakness of the voluntary system, and the only cure for that weakness is a conscript Army. It is the only cure for the weakness he was pointing out, and, as we stand to-day, we have had more recruits this last year than we ever had before the War. [An HON. MBMBBER: "Bad trade!"] No doubt it is partly that, but even now we are 15,000 men short of the Establishment, and you would be face to face with a problem of the first magnitude if you attempted to shape your Army to-day upon a basis which the hon. and gallant Field-Marshal would consider equal to the risks that we have got to run. You would be faced with these two problems You would not be able to get recruits on voluntary basis, except, perhaps, on conditions much enhanced over the pre sent terms of pay and benefits, or upon a conscript basis. It is not possible for any nation exactly to fit its policy to a voluntary Army. It is quite true that you must, in shaping your policy, see what instruments you have got, and what force you have behind those instruments to carry it out. That is perfectly true, but to suggest that you can ever get an equilibrium between policy and Army is really not a practical thing. It never has been so. The British Empire was not built that way. It was built by taking certain risks in many directions, and, unfortunately, to-day we are actually faced with a position in which we are bound to take risks. We can economise those risks by policy, and I am certain I am right in saying the Government is doing, and will do, that. What the Committee has to ask itself is this. Which is the greater risk? Which is going to put us in the best position in case of some sudden emergency? Are we going to be in a better position with our finances destroyed, our powers of recuperation fatally injured; or are we going to be in a better position with every single regiment of infantry still in existence, with a power to expand, if necessary, and now with every cavalry regiment—also on a very small basis, it is true—
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I admit that; I am not hiding the fact. Why does the hon. and gallant Gentleman jeer?
§ Lieut.-Colonel CROFT
The right hon. Gentleman is not saving, I understand, a single cavalry soldier of the British Army.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I apologise to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He has got a point, and I thought he had none. I am not destroying a single regiment of infantry or a
§ single regiment of cavalry. Should it be necessary at any time to expand, the Army is there to expand, and I suggest that it is better to expand in an atmosphere of financial strength, rather than to expand in the consequences of an over-expenditure, whether it be upon the Army, Navy, or any other Force.
§ Question put, "That a number, not exceeding 214,995, be maintained for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 54 Noes, 243.567
|Division No. 54.]||AYES.||[7.55 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.||Craig, Capt. C. C. (Antrim, South)||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W.||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempsteau,||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Nail, Major Joseph|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Ednam, Viscount||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Pennefather, De Fonbianque|
|Bell, Lieut-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Glyn, Major Ralph||Pickering, Colonel Emil W.|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart. (Gr'nw'h)||Gretton, Colonel John||Remnant, Sir James|
|Blair, Sir Reginald||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Townshend, Sir Charles Vere Ferrers|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Kidd, James||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Coote, William (Tyrone, South)||Maddocks, Henry||Sir S. Scott and Field Marshal Sir|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Coats, Sir Stuart||Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Green, Albert (Derby)|
|Amery, Leopold C. M. S.||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)|
|Armltage, Robert||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Greenwood, William (Stockport)|
|Atkey, A. R.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Greig, Colonel Sir James William|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Dalzlei, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Davies, David (Montgomery)||Grundy, T. W.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Hallwood, Augustine|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hancock, John George|
|Barrle, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Dennis, J. W. (Birmingham, Deritend)||Hartshorn, Vernon|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Dockrell, Sir Maurice||Haslam, Lewis|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Edge, Captain Sir William||Hayward, Evan|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)|
|Bethell, Sir John Henry||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Henderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Entwistle, Major C. F.||Hinds, John|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Evans, Ernest||Hirst, G. H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Falcon, Captain Michael||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Holmes, J. Stanley|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Fildes, Henry||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Bruton, Sir James||Finney, Samuel||Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Hotchkin, Captain Stafford Vere|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Howard, Major S. G.|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Hudson, R. M.|
|Burgoyne, Lt.-Col. Alan Hughes||Forestier-Walker, L.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Cairns, John||Forrest, Walter||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||Fraser. Major Sir Keith||Irving, Dan|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Galbraith, Samuel||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Gardiner, James||Jameson, John Gordon|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Jesson, C.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Gilbert, James Daniel||Johnson, Sir Stanley|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Gillis, William||Johnstone, Joseph|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Churcill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Goff, Sir R. Park||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Lianeily)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Sutton, John Edward|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Pratt, John William||Taylor, J.|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Preston, Sir W. R.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Larmor, Sir Joseph||Purchase, H. G.||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Rae, H. Norman||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Lloyd, George Butler||Raeburn, Sir William H.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Randies, Sir John Scurrah||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Rankin, Captain James Stuart||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Lcrt-Williams, J.||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Lyle, C. E. Leonard||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)||Turton, Edmund|
|M'Curdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.||Rendall, Athelstan||Waddington, R.|
|Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Renwick, Sir George||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|McMicking, Major Gilbert||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Mallalieu, Frederick William||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Rodger, A. K.||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Manville, Edward||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel E.||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Middlebrook, Sir William||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Mills, John Edmund||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wignall, James|
|Mitchell, Sir William Lane||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Morden, Col. W. Grant||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Morrison, Hugh||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Murchison, C. K.||Seddon, J. A.||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Myers, Thomas||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir M. (Bethnal Gn.)|
|Neal, Arthur||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Sitch, Charles H.||Windsor, Viscount|
|Newson, Sir Percy Wilson||Smith, Sir Malcolm (Orkney)||Winterton, Earl|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)||Wise, Frederick|
|Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Spencer, George A.||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Starkey, Captain John Ralph||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Parker, James||Steel, Major S. Strang||Younger, Sir George|
|Parkinson, Albert L. (Blackpool)||Stevens, Marshall|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Stewart, Gershom||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||Strauss, Edward Anthony||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Perkins, Walter Frank||Sugden, W. H.||Dudley Ward.|
Original Question put, and agreed to