HL Deb 05 March 1901 vol 90 cc511-48

Order of the Day for resuming the debate on the present system of military administration at the War Office, read.

Debate resumed:—


My Lords, I think your Lordships will agree with me that our thanks are due to the noble Duke for bringing this question before the House. No question can be more important than that of the Regulations under which the Army is administered, and I am sure no one can complain of the manner in which the noble Duke introduced the subject to your Lordships. I congratulate the noble and gallant Lord opposite—the Under Secretary for War—who replied to him, upon the very effective way in which he showed the knowledge which he has obtained of the Department during the very short time he has been at the War Office.

With regard to the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount the late Comman- der-in-Chief, I venture to express the opinion that, holding as Viscount Wolseley does that the Regulations under which the Army is now administered are bad and should be altered, it was the noble and gallant Viscount's duty, as a Member of your Lordships' House, to express that opinion on the termination of his service as Commander-in-Chief of the Army. I do not think it would have been possible for any man to have expressed that opinion in more courteous terms, with more studied moderation, or with more entire absence of any personal allusion to the late Secretary of State for War. Before coming to the question which has been brought forward by the noble and gallant Viscount, I must allude for a few minutes to the latter part of the speech of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs last night. I am bound to say that the noble Marquess appeared to me to have gone out of his way, without any excuse that I could discover, to make a personal attack upon the noble Viscount. What on earth the noble Viscount's advice to the Secretary of State on the subject of the South African War can have to do with the question whether the Order in Council for the administration of the Army is a right or a wrong one passes my comprehension. I have been some time in politics, but I have no recollection of any instance having occurred where a Minister of the Crown has come down to Parliament, without notice given and without any assignable ground, and related confidential communications which have passed between himself and one of the officers with whom he was associated upon subjects connected with the public service. If this practice is to be continued I entertain grave apprehensions as to its effects. We may have the head of one of these departments coming to Parliament and saying, "My military or my naval adviser said so and so." Or we may have the military or naval adviser saying in Parliament, "I gave such and such advice to the Secretary of State, but he did not take it." And if he is not in Parliament you may have him writing to the newspapers on the subject. I consider that the course taken by the noble Marquess was exceedingly ill-advised. It is impossible for your Lord- ships to express an opinion upon the statements of the noble Marquess, because we have not the Papers before us. The noble Marquess read a part of a confidential Memorandum written by the noble Viscount, and, in answer to a question I put to him, promised to produce that document and lay it on the Table of your Lordships' House. I hope that when the noble Marquess does lay that Paper on the Table he will explain all the circumstances under which it was written. The noble Marquess having taken the course of relating his view of certain advice given by Lord Wolseley, it will be perfectly justifiable for Lord Wolseley, if he thinks it desirable to do so, to move for all the Papers connected with that advice, so that the whole of the circumstances shall be before us.

The attack made by the noble Marquess upon Lord Wolseley has, however, nothing whatever to do with the question before your Lordships. The question is, Is the Order in Council of 1895 a good order or a bad one? Is it one which enables the Commander-in-Chief to occupy his proper position in the War Office? Is it a businesslike and practical Order in Council? Lord Wolseley's opinion, after five years experience of this Order, is that it is not; the noble Marquess thinks it is. For my part, I think it is much more likely that the noble Viscount, with his long experience of the Army and of the War Office, is right than that the noble Marquess is right. However that may be, let us see what this Order really is. A statement is given of the duties of the different departments of the War Office—the department of the Commander-in-Chief, the department of the Adjutant General, the department of the Quartermaster General, the department of the Inspector General of Fortifications, and the department of the Director General of Ordnance. The Order in Council makes the heads of each of these great departments of the War Office responsible to the Secretary of State for the conduct of the business of their respective departments. That is the substance of the Order. But over and above this there is a kind of order that the Commander-in-Chief shall exercise a general supervision, and be the principal adviser of the Secretary of State upon all military questions. The question which the noble and gallant Viscount asked was, How can the responsibility of these different officers to the Secretary of State harmonise with the general supervision of the Commander-in-Chief? It seems to me an impossibility. What does general supervision mean? The noble Marquess did not define it. The Under Secretary for War drew a distinction between general supervision and control; but I want to know who is responsible for these different departments. Is the Commander-in-Chief responsible, or are the heads of the respective departments responsible? The noble Marquess stated, in the course of his speech last night, that— If the noble Viscount the late Commander-in-Chief had paid more attention to the duties assigned to him by the Order in Council, he might have enabled us to turn to better account the large number of Auxiliary forces that we have in this country, and which I am constrained to say have been not a little neglected during the last live years. Here is a Minister who has just left the Office of Secretary of State for War asserting in this House that he has neglected the Auxiliary forces of the country. He was the responsible Minister. Why has ho neglected them, and why, having done so, does he put the responsibility on the noble and gallant Viscount the late Commander-in-Chief? If you turn to the Order in Council your Lordships will see that the duty of dealing with these forces is not put under the department of the Commander-in-Chief, but under that of the Adjutant Generals who is responsible to the noble Marquess. How the noble Marquess can try to throw a slur on the late Commander-in-Chief for having neglected the Auxiliary forces, when he has put the duty of looking after those forces under a department responsible to the Secretary of State and not to the Commander-in-Chief, passes my comprehension. This shows how impossible it is to put responsibility on anyone in respect of this Order in Council. If the noble Marquess misinterprets his own Older, and says that the Commander-in-Chief is responsible for the Auxiliary forces, then I really do not quite know how we stand.

The noble and gallant Viscount said he found that this general power of super- vision, which he could or could not exercise over the different departments, the heads of which were responsible not to him but to the Secretary of State, rendered his duties almost impossible; and it was only, he said, owing to the ability and public spirit of the officers at the War Office who were responsible for sending out supplies and troops that we had not been placed in a considerably worse position than we have been in regard to the war in South Africa. I well believe that. I have always borne testimony to the way in which those officers have worked, and the noble Marquess himself deserves his share of the credit in the matter. But that does not prove the organisation, of the War Office to be right. The Adjutant General and the Quartermaster General perform functions which are essentially connected with the office of Commander-in-Chief. The duties of looking after discipline, training, instruction, and military education are most important, yet your Lord-ships will see that they are, under the Order in Council, separated from the office of Commander-in-Chief and given to another officer. Is it possible that an Army can be managed in that way? How is it possible for the Commander-in-Chief to exercise his duties properly if this most important work is taken out of his hands and given to another officer whom he may, if he pleases, generally supervise, whatever that means, but who is responsible to the Secretary of State and may communicate with the Secretary of State without the knowledge of the Commander-in-Chief whenever it suits him to do so? I say it is an impossible system. The noble Marquess has filled the same office as I had the honour to occupy in India. Does ho suppose for one moment that you could have such an organisation in connection with the Indian Army, the Commander-in-Chief exercising a general supervision over the Adjutant General and the Quartermaster General, but both of those officers being responsible to the Viceroy for their particular departments? It is a plan which seems to me to carry on the face of it the stamp of failure, and it is to the credit of the officials in the War Office that it has lasted so well up to now.

The noble Marquess said that this was the recommendation of the Hartington Commission, and he paid a very right and proper compliment to the common sense of the noble Duke and his able colleagues; but he did not say that the Commissioners did not agree between themselves. I deny that the Order in Council of 1895, to which the noble and gallant Viscount objects, was recommended by the Hartington Commission. The noble Marquess has no right whatever to bring forward the Report of the Commission in support of his Order. The Report of that Commission, as a matter of fact, recommended the abolition of the office of Commander-in-Chief altogether, and the substitution of a Chief of the Staff with certain other heads of departments responsible to the Secretary of State. I do not say that is a light plan, but it is certainly a workable plan.

The real point is whether the duties connected with the discipline and training of the Army should or should not be separated from the office of Commander-in-Chief. The Hartington, Commission recommended that the duties of ensuring uniformity in the discipline, training, and education of the Army at home and abroad, promotions, appointments, selections for command, and so on, should be entrusted to one officer and not to two, as has been done by the Order in Council of the noble Marquess. Therefore I think the noble Marquess has no right whatever to fall back upon the Report of the Commission over which the noble Duke presided in support of his Order in Council of 1895. The noble Marquess, again, attacked in an extraordinary way —I do not know why—the Order in Council passed by one of his predecessors —Mr. Stanhope—in 1888; but in doing so ho must have forgotten that he had sitting by his side the noble Marquess the Prime. Minister, who, if I am not mistaken, was Prime Minister when Mr. Stanhope was Secretary of State, and was therefore equally responsible with Mr. Stanhope for the Order which the noble Marquess the Foreign Secretary so violently attacked. I think that Order did place too much work on the Commander-in-Chief, but I am by no means certain that it was as bad as the noble Marquess has described it to be.

There is no evidence in the Report of the Hartington Commission which gives the noble Marquess the right to say that the system which existed from 1888 to 1895 was "discreditable and disastrous." If that is so, why was it allowed to remain unaltered for seven years? It may be said that it was not desirable to make any change until after the retirement of H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge. I think that would be a mere excuse. I had the honour of being in communication with His Royal Highness on many matters connected with the Army. I was in communication with the illustrious Duke in 1870, when the great alterations were made in the Army; and I am satisfied that His Royal Highness would have been perfectly ready to join in any alteration of the Order in Council and in the duties of the Commander-in-Chief which he thought of advantage to the public service.

I do not see why certain modifications could not be made in the Order of Council of 1895 which would put the administration of the War Office on a sound footing. If the Government simply put the Adjutant General and Quartermaster General's work under the Commander-in-Chief the thing would be done. The other departments might remain in the hands of their respective heads, who should be responsible to the Secretary of State. But we should see that all matters connected with the discipline and training of the Army are put under the Commander-in-Chief. There should be no longer any question of general supervision, which cannot be defined and which prevents proper responsibility being put upon anyone. These matters are not very abstruse; they really lie almost in a nutshell. Anyone who reads this Order can see its defects, and it seems to me not altogether out of the question that His Majesty's Government may be able to put this matter straight. I trust that the effect of this discussion will be to remove the anomalies which have been clearly pointed out by the noble and gallant Viscount, and which have been most inadequately replied to by the noble Marquess the late Secretary for War.


My Lords, the noble Earl has so completely answered all that has been said by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that I have but very little to say. But being one of the oldest military officers in your Lordships' House, I feel that I cannot remain silent when such an important question is being discussed. I confess that I heard with the greatest surprise, and, I may say, with indignation—I am afraid to use a stronger term— the attack which was made yesterday on the noble and gallant Viscount by the noble Marquess. The noble and gallant Viscount began by deprecating the introduction of personalities. He was most impersonal in his speech, and yet the noble Marquess, in spite of that, chose to make charges against him which he knew perfectly well the noble and gallant Viscount could not answer, and in language that certainly does not redound to his credit.

The noble Marquess made a great point of the important duties which under the Order in Council still devolve upon the Commander-in-Chief, but he did not say that the questions of drill, discipline, and the efficiency of the Army are taken out of his hands, and that he is only allowed to retain a sort of general supervision. I will quote short paragraphs from the duties of the Adjutant General and the Quartermaster General and leave it to your Lordships to consider what there remains to the Commander-in-Chief to do. The Adjutant General shall be charged with the discipline, military education and training of the officers, warrant officers, noncommissioned officers and men of the Regular and Reserve Forces and the Militia of the United Kingdom. Other duties are set out, and the concluding words are— He shall advise the Secretary of State on all questions connected with the duties of his department. Where, I ask, comes in the Commander-in-Chief to interfere with or supervise or control the Adjutant General? The Adjutant General is absolutely independent of the Commander-in-Chief, and it depends upon his good will whether or not he consults the Commander-in-Chief on questions of discipline and drill.

Then I come to the Quartermaster General. He also has very important duties to perform, for which the Com- mander-in-Chief was always held responsible personally previous to the Order in Council of 1895. The Quartermaster General is charged with supplying the Army with food, forage, and light, with land and water transport, and with remounts, and also with the distribution of the troops. He has also to deal with sanitary questions relating to the Army. All these matters are taken out of the hands of the Commander-in-Chief. The Quartermaster General is absolutely independent of him and need not consult him on any one of those important points. The Order in Council provides that the Quartermaster General shall submit the proposals of the annual estimates for these services, not in consultation with the Commander-in-Chief, but independent of him, to the Secretary of State for War, and shall advise the Secretary of State on all questions connected with the duties of the Department. Of what use, is the word "supervision" if the Adjutant General and the Quartermaster General chose not to be loyal to the Commander-in-Chief? Then I come to the Director General of Ordnance. He also has to advise the Secretary of State upon questions relating to patents, inventions and designs.

It is a farce, therefore, to say that under an Order in Council of that sort the Commander-in-Chief is left with any power at all. He is, in fact, made absolutely subordinate, in the command of the Army, to the Adjutant General, to the Quartermaster General, and to the Director General of Ordnance, for these officials need not, except at their own free will and by a feeling of loyalty, consult the Commander-in-Chief on matters relating to their departments. I trust that under the change of administration which has taken place in the War Office the whole of the Order in Council will be repealed.


My Lords, I should like to say how much I concur in that which fell from the noble Earl as to the inconvenience likely to arise if attacks such as that made on the noble and gallant Viscount by the noble Marquess the late Secretary of State for War are to become the fashion in Parliament. There can be no question, I think, as the noble Earl has observed, that the noble and gallant Viscount would be justified, if he thought it necessary to vindicate his character, in asking for all t the Papers connected with the opinions that he has given to be laid upon the Table of the House. I doubt very much if that would be a convenient precedent to set. But I would like to point out that two very distinct charges were brought by my noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs against the noble and gallant Viscount on the cross benches.

The noble Marquess said that if the noble and gallant Viscount had paid more attention to that part of the Regulations which requires him to prepare schemes for offensive and defensive operations he would, perhaps, have told the Secretary of State before the South African War that Ladysmith was not a suitable station for Her Majesty's forces to occupy. I do not profess to have any particular knowledge of the general strategy pursued in South Africa, but I have always understood that the main principle was a central advance across the Orange River into what was the Orange Free State, and thence into the Transvaal, and the fact that we had a large force shut up in Ladysmith, and the necessity for relieving that force, interfered seriously with the general scheme of campaign; in fact, that the operation which was subsequently so brilliantly and successfully carried out by the present Commander-in-Chief was the original and main principle of the campaign, but had to be deferred on account of the necessity for relieving Ladysmith. If that be so, the noble Marquess has practically told the House that it was owing to some neglect of duty on the part of the noble and gallant Viscount, the then Commander-in-Chief, that the war has been unnecessarily prolonged, and that many of the disasters we have had to deplore occurred.

The noble Marquess also said that, if the noble and gallant Viscount had paid rather more attention to his duties, he might have warned the Government that it would take more than one army corps to subjugate the two South African Republics. That, again, is a most serious allegation. But, my Lords, I should like to know, was the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief the only opinion that was taken at the time? Had the Defence Committee of the Cabinet nothing to say about the matter? Did not the despatches of General Butler make a reference to the need for 100.000 men?


No, no. No such Paper is in existence.


If no such thing was stated, then the general public have been for a long time under an erroneous impression.


A very erroneous impression.


I will not pursue that further. But is it to be understood that the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief as to the force required was the only opinion taken at the time, and that, if it had not been for the advice which the noble and gallant Viscount then gave, a larger and more adequate force would have been sent out to South Africa? Those are very serious charges—they amount to charges—to bring against the late Commander-in-Chief. I join sincerely with the noble Earl, Lord Northbrook, in deploring the fact that the debate has not been conducted on the lines which the noble and gallant Viscount laid down, and which he adhered to—namely, that there should be no personalities and that the matter should be dealt with from a purely theoretical point of view.

The noble Marquess laid great stress upon the Report of the Hartington Commission. The noble Earl has already alluded to that. But I should like to point out that out of nine members of the Commission six of them made separate memoranda or statements, and that they differed from each other on very material points. One member of that Commission—a very eminent member—the late. Lord Randolph Churchill, issued a very long and able Memorandum, and with your Lordships' permission I would make one or two quotations from it, so far as they are absolutely pertinent to the matter before the House. What Lord Randolph Churchill suggested was a Commander-in-Chief or Captain General of the Army, having, subject to the Government, supreme control over and responsibility for the administration of the Army; and that military training, military experience, and military eminence should be the qualifications for that office. The very opposite of that is what has taken place. Lord Randolph Churchill, in another paragraph, said— The object aimed at is the maximum of efficiency consistent with the amount of expenditure which the taxpayer or his representatives will tolerate. Can any practical amount of efficiency of administration be attained without professional training or knowledge? Can it be attained without direct personal responsibility? Can direct responsibility be reasonably expected without professional control? The answer to these questions, I submit, is obviously in the negative. I think it is impossible in the few words I shall address to the House to make a stronger case against the present system, and when the noble Marquess justifies the present system as being the recommendation of the Hartington Commission. I think it well that your Lordships should bear in mind the fact that, at all events, the opinion of one very prominent and eminent member of that Commission was diametrically opposed to the system now in force.


He signed the Report.


The question really resolves itself into this: whether professional knowledge is requisite in the person who has supervision and presides over the various departments of the War Office. We heard a great deal last night about the efforts that have been made towards decentralisation; but I do not see that any decentralisation has been obtained. Centralisation remains exactly the same. Everything connected with what I may term the military side of the administration, and everything appertaining to the civilian side, is concentrated in the War Office. It is also centred upon one man. Formerly a great deal of it devolved on the Commander-in-Chief; now the whole of it is centred in the Secretary of State. Where does the decentralisation come in? The only difference is that formerly the work was to a great extent centred on the man having professional knowledge, supposed to be, and probably being, the was a Commander-in-Chief or Captain I first soldier in the Empire; whereas now General of the Army, having, subject to it is centred upon a man who, however the Government, supreme control over capable and able he may be, must of necessity be absolutely ignorant of the work which he has to control.

The departments of the War Office are not watertight compartments independent of each other. Nothing can occur in one of these departments that does not affect the Army as a whole; and surely in such a case there ought to be some co-ordinating brain, somebody whose duty it is to see that what is done in one department does not militate against the Army generally or the other departments. Formerly that duty was exercised by a professional expert, and now it is performed by the Secretary of State, who is not a professional expert. I feel sure that no private business could be conducted for a month successfully on the present system in the War Office. Imagine one of your Lordships being suddenly placed at the head of some great manufacturing undertaking. How would he conduct it? I should say, by acting with the advice of and through the expert general manager; certainly not by independently consulting and giving directions to the foremen of the various departments. Yet that is the system under which the War Office, which deals with such gigantic issues that the largest private undertaking bears no perceptible proportion to it, is managed at the present time. As it is, there is no responsibility whatever.

Not very long ago in this House the noble Marquess, then Secretary of State for War, cited as an instance of the activity of the War Office the fact that he was collecting large reserves of stores, which in his opinion had not been sufficiently maintained for a long time. Just conceive if the professional head came and stated that he had known for a number of years that our military stores were deficient, and that he was going to set to work to supply the deficiency in the middle of a war, what would be said of him? And what can one say when the civilian Secretary of State makes such a statement? No man can expect that the civilian Secretary of State can be really responsible for technical matters of military detail. I remember some time ago the noble Earl who generally sits on the cross benches (Lord Wemyss), with his usual vivacity, saying somebody was responsible, and that that individual ought to be hung. Quite so; but who is the individual? I should be exceedingly sorry if the Foreign Office was to be deprived of the services of the Secretary of State in such a summary manner; while it would be very unfair that the noble and gallant Viscount should meet with such a fate, because, as he has told us, the real responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief practically ceases when he has given his opinion—that is to say, if he is asked for an opinion at all. Lord Randolph Churchill, in his memorandum on the Report of the Hartington Commission, used some very pertinent words on this question of responsibility. Speaking of the military chief, lie said— Professional reputation to a soldier is everything next to life itself. And alluding to the Secretary of State, he said that— Administrative incapacity at the War Office brought little evil consequences to the individual nominally responsible. In the majority of cases he was simply transferred to some other office—to a foreign Embassy, to a Colonial Governorship, or, at the very worst, to the House of Lords. The noble Duke who introduced this question asked for information. We have not as yet had a great deal of information. After what fell from the Under Secretary of State for War and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, I suppose we must assume that His Majesty's Government are entirely satisfied with the working of the machinery of the War Office, and that in the main it is as perfect as is humanly possible. That was the gist of the speech of the noble Marquess.


On the contrary. I said that, after five years experience, I thought it very probable that in some respects the system introduced in 1895 required some modification.


Yes, in unimportant details, but I think, the noble Marquess will agree with me that he said the machinery worked fairly well, and that it would have worked a great deal better if the Commander-in-Chief had not in some respects neglected his duty and had given it a fair test. Under these circumstances we cannot look for any large reforms. I deeply regret that. In my opinion, you cannot have an efficient I army and a good military machine unless it is supervised and superintended by a professional soldier. I quite agree that the Secretary of State must be in a sense the head of the War Office. He is responsible to Parliament, and must be the superior; but, as far as possible, if you want full value for the enormous sums the country is spending, you must have a professional man responsible for the training and efficiency of the Army.


My Lords, I think I ought to say a few words on the remarkable debate entered upon last night and continued this evening. Your Lordships will all, I am sure, agree with me that we wish, as far as possible, to avoid the personal matters which have been brought into prominence. The noble Marquess went into those at the end of his speech in considerable detail. I quite admit that the noble Marquess was to a certain extent challenged by the noble and gallant Viscount, who, although he did not quote any personal matters, did attack the system, and the system cannot be divorced from the men who originated it and who conduct it. At the same time, I confess I agree with what Lord Northbrook said with regard to the length to which the noble Marquess went in illustrating his views. It seems somewhat a pity and misfortune to actually show the secrets of the War Office during a great crisis in this country. No doubt it is very interesting to the public generally to know these details, but in the interests of administration it is a misfortune that they should be brought forward, for, being brought forward once, they may be demanded another time.

I noticed with pleasure that the noble and gallant Viscount admitted that there must be official responsibility on the Secretary of State, and I think I shall presently show that if the noble and gallant Viscount's views were carried out it would be extremely difficult that lull responsibility could be had. The noble Earl who has just spoken also said that the Secretary of State must be in some sense responsible, but the stress he laid on the position of the Commander-in-Chief almost obliterated and neutralised the force of his remarks about the responsibility of the Secretary of State. In the Report of Lord Hartington's Commission some remarkable opinions are quoted—the opinion of the Duke of Wellington that it was "much better that the Secretary of State for War should be the person to regulate that matter than that it should be in the hands of officials connected with the Army" and the opinion of Lord Hardinge that "in a constitutional point of view the Secretary of State for War is the proper person to draw up a Mutiny Bill and the' Articles of War. He is bound to stand between the civil subjects and the military."

I should humbly associate myself with the opinions of those distinguished men. But let us see whether the position of the noble and gallant Viscount—for whom I have the highest respect and admiration —is compatible with those views. He instanced a case in which the Commander-in-Chief might differ from the Secretary of State, and he said that such an important fact ought not to be kept in the office, but ought to be made public, so that the country might decide who was right. I have also seen statements that the Commander-in-Chief and the First Naval Lord should publish at the beginning of every year an exact estimate of the number of men and the requirements needed for the Army and Navy. Having had the honour of being First Lord of the Admiralty, I will venture to say that it would be perfectly impossible to carry on the business of the country and to bring forward in a proper way before Parliament the demands of the Services if that principle were allowed. No Cabinet could submit to it, and it would lead to exaggerated demands on the part of the military and naval authorities, put forward in order to get, at all events, some part of them carried out. While saying this, I feel in the strongest possible way the necessity for getting the best expert advice for those civilians who occupy the responsible positions of the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty. It is essential that they should have at hand the best military and naval opinion. It strikes me, in reading the Order in Council, that it lays this down most decidedly as the duty of the Commander-in-Chief to give advice to the Secretary of State, as the First Naval Lord gives advice to the First Lord of the Admiralty. I do not understand how my noble and gallant friend can go as far as he does when he says that the present system has robbed the Commander-in-Chief of his chief usefulness, and has virtually handed the command of the Army to a civilian Secretary of State, assisted by subordinates with whom he deals direct. That is a very strong statement, and I cannot conceive how, under the Order in Council, it can be justified. It is the duty of the Commander-in-Chief to give his knowledge and experience to the Secretary of State, and if the Secretary of State does not ask for it, the Commander-in-Chief is bound, under the Order in Council, to offer it, and to leave the responsibility of refusing it to the Secretary of State.

I know very well the importance of this subject. When I was at the Admiralty I had some very difficult questions to face: and I had to meet and face what my noble and gallant friend called the Cerberus at the Treasury. But when I was at the Admiralty, and also when I occupied another position, I found that whenever there was a great necessity actually proved, the Cerberus of the Treasury always gave way, and I always got what I wanted for the services of the country. I had the satisfaction, too, of working in harmony with my naval advisers. I mention this, because I know it may be said—as it has been said in the public press—that the power of the First Sea Lord was shown when I was at the Admiralty by a threat of resignation. I absolutely deny that during any time I was at the Admiralty I had a hint of resignation from any of my Naval Lords. It is most important for the Secretary of State or the First Lord of the Admiralty to keep on good terms with his expert advisers, and not to allow this extreme step of resignation to be resorted to. I have often rather smarted under the statement that when a certain statement was made in the House of Commons during my term of office it was withdrawn under a threat of resignation. It is absolutely untrue. I took full responsibility for putting that statement right, and my colleague in the House of Commons most honourably withdrew what I had shown him was wrong. I quite understand that it might he desirable—and the noble Marquess said so last night—to remodel some of these Orders in Council: but I am bound to say that, on the whole, I think the Orders in Council could, with proper management by the Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief, be worked efficiently for the Army to secure that which is so important—the individual responsibility to Parliament of the Secretary of State without in the slightest degree impairing the authority of the Commander-in-Chief or the efficiency of the Army itself.


My Lords, after what was said by my noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs last night in reply to the noble Viscount, it is not necessary that I should enter in detail upon the elaborate indictment which was made against the present system of organisation of the War Office. I do not think that it is necessary for me to do more than to take some notice of the charges which have been brought against my noble friend for making a personal attack in reply to the noble Viscount. The noble Viscount has been applauded for confining himself in the statement which he made last night entirely to generalities, and for giving no instances in support of his criticisms of the Order in Council. That is exactly what I think we have to complain of in his speech. These general a priori criticisms are of very little value unless they are supported by some instances; and it would have been much more useful if the noble and gallant Viscount had told us in what respects the defects in his powers and responsibilities had in actual practice led to any of the failures which have taken place in the administration of the Army and in the conduct of the war.

My noble friend did not follow the noble and gallant Viscount in this respect. He took a more practical and useful line in pointing out what he considered to be the entire misapprehension under which the noble Viscount suffers as to the powers and duties and functions of the Commander-in-Chief under the present system of organisation. He pointed out not only that that misapprehension appeared in the noble Viscount's speech, but that also in his tenure of office he had to some extent acted upon that misconception. Whether it was that the duties which are still left to the Commander-in-Chief are too onerous to enable him to devote his whole attention to some of the most important parts of his duties, or whether lie laboured during his tenure of office under a misapprehension, which we believe was apparent throughout the whole of his speech, as to the scope, importance, and magnitude of these duties, my noble friend was bound to point out that in the conduct of these recent military operations we had not received from the noble Viscount all that assistance which the Order in Council made him, as Commander-in-Chief, responsible for giving to us. I do not see that there was anything in the nature of a personal attack on the noble Viscount. But undoubtedly my noble friend has given to him a challenge which it is perfectly competent for him to take up—not, perhaps, in the course of this debate; but I am sure that the House will readily listen to him whenever he chooses to bring this matter before us again, to reply to that challenge, and to show that my noble friend's criticisms upon his conduct, and upon the advice which he tendered or did not tender to us were unfounded. That is all I need say as to that. The inquiry which has been suggested, which has been promised by the Government, into the conduct of the war and the operations in South Africa, and which I trust will take place when the war is concluded, will meet the case. All these matters must be fully gone into. Then I am sure that my noble and gallant friend the late Commander-in-Chief will enter into it and that he will be indebted to my noble friend rather than the reverse for having given him an opportunity of showing in what way he thinks that my noble friend has misapprehended or misunderstood his duties.

I should like to say before I sit down a few words on a subject which has naturally been discussed in various quarters in this debate. I refer to the Report of the Commission which sat some few year ago, and over which I had the honour of presiding, and also the action taken on that Report. It certainly cannot be pretended that the recommendations of that Commission have failed. They have not failed, because these recommendations were not accepted in their entirety. There are, no doubt, good reasons why all these recommendations were not accepted in their entirety either by the present or the late Government; but so far as they have been acted upon they have operated in the right direction. I think there can be little doubt of that, and so far as there has been any failure in military administration since the date of the Order in Council in 1895 it is due to the fact that those recommendations have not been adopted so completely as they might have been. It is quite true that the Report of that Commission, which, notwithstanding certain dissents upon various minor points, was signed unanimously by the whole of the Commission, did recommend the abolition of the office of Commander-in-Chief; and I may state how that conclusion was arrived at. We recognised that ultimately the supreme authority over the interests of the Army must be the Minister responsible for the Department; and the question was how that Minister could obtain—how that Minister, who must be, as was admitted by everyone, the actually responsible head of the Army, could be supplied with—the necessary expert advice, expert information with which it was necessary he should be furnished. My Lords, we found that this advice and administrative assistance was supplied under the Order in Council of 1888 nominally by the Commander-in-Chief. We came to the conclusion that the duties under that Order were so vast, exacting, extensive, and onerous that it was absolutely impossible that that responsibility, either for the giving advice or for the administrative conduct of the Army, should be a reality. We therefore proposed to divide the functions of the Commander-in-Chief and bring in military experts. We recognised that the duty of advising the Secretary for War upon important questions of military policy was the first and most important of the functions, and that it should be entrusted, as it is entrusted over every country in Europe, to an officer to be called Chief of the Staff. We proposed, further, to entrust recruiting, discipline, and the training of the Army to an officer whom, for want of a better name, we called the Adjutant General, and we proposed that the actual command of the troops in Great Britain should devolve on another officer to be called the General Officer Commanding the Forces in Great Britain. The care of transport and fortifications, the charge of artillery, and the manufacture of ordnance we proposed should be placed under other military officers who should be severally responsible to the Secretary of State for War.

As I have already stated, my Lords, those recommendations were not accepted in their entirety, for reasons some of which were good and others, I think, less sound; but those suggestions did not commend themselves generally to the opinion of the public. Some military men thought they were too revolutionary, and that they tended to impair the prerogative of the Sovereign as head of the Army. We gave reasons in the Report why we thought that was not a well-founded argument, but undoubtedly the officers of the Army had become so accustomed to the institution of Commander-in-Chief that there would probably be great apprehension, a want of confidence, and great dissatisfaction if the office of Commander-in-Chief was nominally abolished. The recommendation to establish a Chief of the Staff did not commend itself to others, on the ground that it was inexpedient to establish such a total separation between the consultative and administrative and executive functions. The late Secretary of State for War, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, recorded his view in a somewhat remarkable statement. He said— It is true that in Continental countries there exists such a department as is here described. But those countries differ fundamentally from Great Britain in the constitution of their army and of its government, as well as in the purposes for which it is maintained. They are constantly and necessarily concerned in watching the military condition of their neighbours, in detecting points of weakness and strength, and in planning possible operations in possible wars against them. But in this country there is no room for 'general military policy' in this larger and more ambitious sense of the phrase. We have no designs against our European neighbours. Indian 'military policy' will be settled in India itself, and not in Pall Mall. In any of the smaller troubles into which we may be drawn by the interests of some of our dependencies the plan of campaign must be governed by the particular circumstances, and could be left, I presume and hope, to be determined by the officer appointed to direct operations. And he added— These difficult questions will be far better dealt with, and sounder advice regarding them will be tendered to the Minister, by the experienced soldiers who are engaged day by day in the active administration of the Army than by an officer or body of officers, however able and distinguished, who sit apart and cogitate on the subject. In the light of recent events, I think your Lordships will hardly agree that there is no place in our military system for an officer whose duty it shall be to advise upon great military operations. Personally, I have never attached very great importance to the question on whom the duty of advising upon great military questions should be conferred, the Secretary of State or the Commander-in-Chief; but what I do attach very great importance to is that those duties which were described in the Report of the Commission should fall on someone with a due sense of responsibility. The Report stated that the Chief of the Staff should be made responsible for the following duties— To advise the Secretary of State on all matters of general military policy, and all questions as to the strength, distribution, and mobilisation of your Majesty's land forces, and the relative importance of various services put forward by the heads of departments; to collect and co-ordinate all military information; to prepare and revise from time to time a general scheme for the military defence of the Empire, and to examine the Estimates with a view to ensure that they are framed in harmony with that scheme; to prepare plans of action in certain contingencies; to communicate directly with the First Lord of the Admiralty on all matters involving interdepartmental policy; to examine all correspondence with other departments of the State, and to conduct all correspondence with general officers commanding on questions of military policy; to lay before the Secretary of State an annual report stating clearly all the military requirements of the Empire. Neither the late Government nor the present Government saw its way to the appointment of an officer with purely consultative duties. Those are the duties which have been assigned in the first place to the Commander-in-Chief; but in the lengthy statement of the noble and gallant Viscount he paid no attention whatever to the instructions charging him with those functions, and it appears to me that the noble and gallant Viscount entirely misapprehended the responsibilities which have been placed on him. We felt that it was absolutely impossible that these duties should be adequately performed by a man who was overburdened and overwhelmed by the duty of superintending, and who had the personal responsibility for the charge of the innumerable departments which are concerned in the administration of the Army.

It was not with the intention of lowering the status or diminishing the authority of the Commander-in-Chief that he was relieved of the responsibility of the direct superintendence of the various departments of the War Office, but mainly with the object of giving him the time and the opportunity to discharge those most important duties to which have referred. The noble and gallant Viscount said yesterday that he might be told that, in spite of the defects of administration which he pointed out, much in connection with the recent campaign had been done with great efficiency. A large force had been mobilised, provided with supplies, and despatched with creditable promptitude to South Africa. But my noble friend said that the result, which he admitted, was not due in any respect to the system under which it had been done, but solely to the individual exertions of the admirable and meritorious officers engaged. Surely that was a statement somewhat begging the question. If the work had been well done, it could not have been well done under a system which was absolutely faulty and defective. No individual exertion on the part of any man—and we most cheerfully acknowledge those exertions were ably and willingly given—could have secured that satisfaction if the system had been so radically wrong as the noble Viscount asks us to believe. The noble Viscount said there was no parallel for such a system as that which has been established by the late Order in Council. I do not know what foundation the noble Viscount has for that statement. I think he said that China was the only country whose military organisation at all resembled ours. I think it would be far more accurate to say that no parallel could be found in any civilised military organisaion for that which he regrets.

Take the case of France. You will not find in France any official in the position of Commander-in-Chief charged with, responsibility for the whole of the administration of the army which the noble Viscount desires to see established. You have in France a War Minister, who no doubt is, generally speaking, a soldier, but who need not be so. But, whether he is a soldier or not, you have under the War Minister no officer who stands in any way approaching the position of the Commander-in-Chief which the noble Viscount desires to re-establish In the military organisation of France, which I suppose the noble Viscount admits to be a great military nation, I defy him to point out any official who occupies the position which he would assign in our Army to the Commander-in-Chief. Take the case of Germany. You have there, no doubt, a Commander-in-Chief. Who is that Commander-in-Chief? He is the Emperor himself; and it cannot be alleged that the German Emperor, having the control and conduct, not of the army alone, but of every other department of the Government, stands in the position which the noble Viscount would desire to be occupied by the Commander-in-Chief. In Germany, under the Emperor, there is not one officer, but three officers of equal status and position, who jointly divide the responsibility for the administration of the army—the War Minister-in-Chief, the General Staff and Military Captain, and the Chief of the General Staff. Those three are co-equal, and receive orders direct from the Emperor. They cannot issue orders to one another, and have no personal command over the troops. In addition to these three, between whom the administrative duties of the department are divided, there are a great number of corps commanders owing allegiance to no one except the Emperor himself. I therefore defy the noble Viscount to point to any system of military administration existing in Europe which in the slightest degree corresponds to that to which the noble Viscount invites this House to return.

One word more. The noble Viscount used an analogy which is fundamentally at fault. He said this system which we have adopted was not the system adopted in India, in Ireland, or even in the command of a regiment. He said that the general officer commanding in Ireland or a general officer commanding a division or brigade here was given complete control over his own staff. That analogy is, in my opinion, totally and fundamentally misleading. The duties of these officers differ not only in their magnitude compared with the administration of the whole Army, but altogether in their character. These officers of whom the noble Viscount was speaking are officers responsible solely for the command given to them; they have nothing to do with their food, their clothing, their equipment, their housing, or their arms. The Commander-in-Chief whom the noble Viscount wishes to see re-established would be responsible not only for the discipline and training of the Army, I but for all those other requisites which I have enumerated. Therefore I say there is no sort of analogy between the control which we rightly give to officers placed in these positions and the control which the noble Viscount desires to assume over every officer of the War Office concerned in the administration of the Army.

I am far from saying that the present system is the only possible one, or is certainly and absolutely the best. My noble friend behind me (Lord Lansdowne) submitted that the experience of five years will probably show that modifications are required, and that there are different systems to which, if we thought fit, we might revert. It might be possible to divide the administration of the Army between a Commander-in-Chief solely responsible for training and discipline and another officer responsible for the supply and materiel of the Army. That is a system which has been tried in this country, and which, probably for sufficient reasons, has been given up. I do not say that certain modifications of that system might not possibly be found better than the system established mainly on the recommendations of the last Royal Commission. But of one thing I am quite certain: that it would be a fatal mistake to return to the system which was condemned unanimously by the late Royal Commission, and endeavour to overwhelm the unfortunate officer placed in the position of Commander-in-Chief with nominal supervision, control, and responsibility over a vast series of departments with the business of which it is absolutely impossible for him to grapple.


My Lords, I have listened with the greatest interest to this debate, for the inception of which I think we should be sincerely indebted to the noble Duke opposite. For my part, I shall make but few remarks, and endeavour to do what I think has not always been the case with other speakers —confine myself to the point really at issue. We had last night from the noble Viscount on the cross benches what I impartially thought was a public-spirited effort to call attention, in tin-interests of the public, not in his own, to some defects which he had found in the practical working of the present Army system. I hoped that in reply to that we should have heard from the Secretary of State who is responsible for the last five years for the working of that system some arguments which would have countered those adduced by the noble Viscount in his exhaustive speech. In reply, I am sorry to say we had that lamentable and unseemly attack which I think every speaker except the noble Duke on the front bench has qualified with the severest censure—the lamentable and unseemly attack on the personal advice and responsibility of the noble Viscount which, even had it been in place, had no reference whatever to the question at issue.

What reference has it to the relations of the Commander-in-Chief to the Secretary of State whether the Commander-in-Chief thought Ladysmith a good place of arms or not? It was not a question whether the Commander-in-Chief was a good commander-in-chief or not—that you may argue out at any time you may think convenient. The point was whether under the Order in Council of 1895 the relations of the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State were so adjusted as to be a working arrangement; and to impugn, the judgment, ability, or industry of the Commander-in-Chief individually has nothing whatever to do with that. I regret very much to make that observation. If, however, the case as laid down by the noble Marquess could have been in any way made more disastrous to the interests of the public service at large it would have been by the suggestion of the noble Duke who has just sat down. He invited the noble Viscount to recriminate. He said we should be only too happy to hear what lie has to say in reply, or any charges he has to make.


That is not what I said. What I said was that it would be more satisfactory and useful, and that I hoped the late Commander-in-Chief would take the opportunity of giving instances of the actual inconvenience or failures which had been the result of the defective organisation of which he complained.


I am within the recollection of the House. The noble Duke may be mistaken in what he said, but he certainly invited the noble Viscount to recriminate. I am sorry I cannot accept that contradiction. But even if it be true, what a position would be occupied by this House, and by this Government, so far as it is responsible to this House, if it were to be turned into a cockpit where the ex-Secretary of State for War and the ex-Commander-in-Chief were to exhaust their personal differences in a personal discussion! But, my Lords, I call on the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to testify himself, out of his own mouth, to the validity of the doctrine which I lay down. He spoke, I think, with admirable irony last night in congratulating the noble Viscount on having freed himself from his self-imposed muzzle. Last year we did not understand that the muzzle was entirely self-imposed. We were very anxious last year to obtain some expert opinion as to the proposals and policy of the noble Marquess, and the answer we got was that it would be indecent and improper if the Commander-in-Chief were to appear in this House and to appear in any way in conflict or at variance with the opinion of the civilian Secretary of State.

My Lords, I think on that painful aspect of the question enough has been said, and I wish, with all my heart, that no cause had been given by the Government for saying anything on the subject. The real point at issue is not whether Lord Wolseley was a good Commander-in-Chief or not, or whether Lord Lansdowne was a good Secretary of State for War or not; it is whether the arrangements under the Order in Council of 1895 have worked well and are calculated to work well. And on that point, I confess I have heard a good many remarks, but very few which seemed to me to touch the point at issue. The only point of the speech of the noble Duke the President of the Council for National Defence—that fantastic body which we are always attempting to grasp, but which always evades us—the only point which was really valuable was the light he threw on the evolution of the Commander-in-Chief. What did ho say? He read us out copious passages from his Report. He lingered over them with something of paternal pride; he said—"After all, I got almost everybody to sign it," and he endeavoured to present a picture of concord in connection with that Report which. I am bound to say, is glaringly at variance with the facts, because, when the noble Marquess, in the exercise of his discretion, proposed to abolish the Commander-in-Chief, the other most leading member of the Commission at once responded with a proposal to abolish the Secretary of State for War. But what we really have ascertained from the incidental remarks of my noble friend the noble Duke was this, that he wanted to abolish the Commander-in-Chief. Well, if it be sound and wise, there can be no objection to that course. But he said, "On consideration, it appeared to the late Government and ourselves" —why should he drag in the late Government to shelter behind them in such a matter as this?—" it appeared to the late Government and ourselves that there was some disadvantage in abolishing nominally the office of Commander-in-Chief." And, therefore, what happened was this: the noble Duke, so far as we can gather from his own remarks, with a determination to abolish the office of Commander-in-Chief, kept it nominally in the hierarchical system; and it is from that origin and source, I believe, that all the mistakes and all the friction have arisen.

We are asked by the official vindicators of the system, "What has the Commander-in-Chief to complain of?" The Under Secretary for War, whose manly and breezy speech we listened to with so much pleasure last night, presented an almost ideal picture—a picture that might have been painted by Theocritus—of the pleasures of the life of a Commander-in-Chief. "What has he to complain of? The communication with the Secretary of State is through my room, and I can testify that there is constant communication—too much for my personal comfort. What does he complain of? Every source of information is open to his investigation. Has he any views about discipline? I assure the House that no question affecting discipline is ever settled without consulting the Commander-in-Chief," and so forth. But he did not tell us, and no speaker on the Government side has told us, this: Is there any Commander-in-Chief in Europe, or even in China—to go to the country which appears to fix the attention of the noble and gallant Viscount—is there any Commander-in-Chief in the world to whom the training and the discipline of the army is not entrusted? Is there any independent speaker in this House who will get up and say that there is a Commander-in-Chief in the world to whom the training and discipline of the army is not entrusted? If it be so, I should like to know the character of that army and the quantum of success it has met with in the field.

I venture to differ from what fell from the noble Earl on the front bench here. He read several citations which, I think, were intended to prove that the position of the Commander-in-Chief was an entirely desirable one, and that the relations of the Commander-in-Chief to the Secretary of State under the present warrant were such as they should be. He quoted one illustrious name, a name that will never be quoted in this country without veneration. He quoted the Duke of Wellington; and he said that the Duke of Wellington had said that these functions—my noble friend forgot to say what the functions were—could only be adequately discharged by the Secretary of State. Does my noble friend believe for one moment that the great Duke of Wellington would have accepted the office of Commander-in-Chief as it was held by the noble and gallant Viscount? If he does, he lives in a fool's paradise. There was no Secretary of State at all in the life of the Duke of Wellington. What he was referring to was the financial system of the War Office, which he said would be more properly dealt with by a Financial Secretary for War than by the Commander-in-Chief, who had no relation to that point. I believe the whole mischief of this business has arisen from one of the qualities of our political intellect—which is, when you find that a thing is not working well, to rush at once into the farthest opposite extreme. I do agree with what has fallen from the Minister, that under the scheme of 1888 there was too much centralisation in the position of the Commander-in-Chief. That, at any rate, might have been remedied. What does not seem to me to have been necessary is this: that, starting with that fundamental principle, the reformers, of whom my noble friend the noble Duke was the head, should have rushed to the other extreme and centralised everything in the Secretary of State for War, leaving the Commander-in-Chief as a pale shadow, competent and permitted, if he chose, to give advice on subjects at large.

We have had one or two illustrations of what the position of the Commander-in-Chief is, and I think we must admit that under the system administered by the noble Marquess, and which, I suppose, was founded on the Commission of my noble friend the noble Duke, there has been an attempt to thrust the Commander-in-Chief altogether into the background and substitute the person of the Secretary of State. We had the incident of all the communications directed to commanding officers being sent not to the Commander-in-Chief, but to the Secretary of State. And I confess I find myself in cordial agreement with what has fallen from the noble Viscount upon that point. How is it possible for regimental officers to hold their Commander-in-Chief in that esteem in which he should be held if he is not allowed to send any communication to them except through the channel and person of the Secretary of State?

I do not propose to trespass any longer upon your Lordships' time, because I feel that, as a layman having no experience of the War Office, I have no claim to your attention. But I have the deepest and strongest sense of the gravity of the question at issue. It is not a question of Lord Lansdowne or Lord Wolseley, or of this Government or that Government; it is a question of the businesslike working of our Administration. Now, you have centralised in the Secretary of State the administration of Army Estimates, which have mounted to eighty-eight millions sterling, and of an Army that approaches half a million of men. You have never had such a situation in the history of Great Britain, and I think that in these changed circumstances it does behove the Government to examine once more the, system which they founded in 1895, and against which so stringent a series of accusations has been brought by the Commander-in-Chief who has had large experience of them. The noble Marquess last year constantly told us that we were to look to him, and that we must not look beyond him. Let me say frankly that I do not think that is possible. I do not think that in the present situation of the world the vital matters of the defence of the country, of its military organisation, of the administration of this enormous Army and this enormous sum, can be left solely to the personal responsibility of the Secretary of State. I fully admit that the proceeding recommended by the noble and gallant Viscount was a great flaw in his speech. It is quite impossible that when the Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief diner they should appeal to the public as to which is right. Where is the public? Who are the public? If you ask me to go into the street to-morrow and find the public I should have the greatest difficulty in doing so. I do not believe the noble Viscount himself has the faintest notion of what the public is. Is it the threepenny press, or the, penny press, or the halfpenny press? Is it the press at all? Is it Parliament? Where is it? I think when you come to analyse the word "public" you will see how fruitless is that suggestion. But, on the other hand, I do not believe it is possible to continue the hidebound system of absolute, secrecy and of personal responsibility of one individual as it exists at the present moment. I confess I find it very difficult to suggest a, remedy; and remedies of this kind should not be proposed by unofficial people or in an offhand manner.

I look with the greatest confidence, honest confidence, from the indications he has given, to the Secretary of State's proposals, which he, is to make in so short a, time; and I would not venture to anticipate what they may be; but I hope they may be, drastic and go to the root of the evil. I believe, however, that in the long run Parliament will insist on knowing more than it, knows now. I quite believe that it is impossible that, in the heat of debate and in the publicity of Parliament, there should be elaborate statements made, which would reveal all our strength or all our weakness to the, public eye. Even with regard to that there has been much exaggeration, because I venture to say that there is no intelligence department of any first-rate Power that does not know a hundred times more of our strength and of our weakness than the British Parliament itself. It is only we, Members of the British Parliament, who are compelled, like ostriches, to bury our heads in the sand. But I have never been able to understand, except on account of the extraordinary innate administrative conservatism of Parliament in this country, why it should not be possible for a Committee of Parliament to meet the Secretary of State and the officials of the War Office and of the Admiralty in secret—for I admit, it must be secret—to test to some extent by personal examination what is the real efficiency of our naval and military forces.

I believe that unless you have some such system as that you will never have a real and a, safe guarantee that our forces are in the condition they should be. I know that it is urged, and I think the noble Viscount hinted at something of the kind—I speak under correction—that, some certificate might be given to the, Commander-in-Chief that all things were as they should be in regard to our forces and our stores. That, I think, would be a difficult matter. It would place the Secretary of State at the mercy of the Commander-in-Chief, and when their relations were of such a, harmonious character as those which appear to have existed dining the past five years I think it would only add to the difficulty of the situation. Moreover, I recollect the ease of a Government that was impugned on the very question of the sufficiency of stores, and which, having a certificate of sufficiency from the Commander-in-Chief, was overthrown that very night. Therefore, I do not think the question of a certificate from the Commander-in-Chief would adequately meet the matter. Whether my suggestion of a Committee such as obtains in other countries would meet the point I do not know. I make it in good faith, and I suggest it for the consideration of His Majesty's Government; but I do most strongly feel, and I think the course of the debate has shown, that things at present are not working on a businesslike footing, and that the sooner they are put on such a footing the better it will be for the Government and the country.


My Lords, I am in the same position as the noble Earl who has just sat down in having no right from a professional or administrative experience to take part in this debate. Therefore I will only say a few words to correct a misapprehension into which I think the noble Earl fell with respect to the real character of the controversy between the noble and gallant Viscount and my noble friend. The gist of the noble Viscount's complaint was that his functions, offices, and attributes were insufficient. The answer to him was to read those functions, and at the same time to point out to him that we had always felt that he had shown that he did not fully appreciate the spirit and multiplicity of the duties and responsibilities with which he was entrusted. It was in reference to that circumstance that my noble friend behind me referred to one or two points on which he thought the noble Viscount had thrust aside matters which really belonged to him, and to which if he had given more adequate attention it would have beer better for the public service; but that there was any intention of making an attack on the noble and gallant Viscount I think nobody, except the noble Ear who has just sat down, seriously believes.

My Lords, the difficulty of being plunged into technical and professional matters of this kind must be very keenly felt by any civilian Member of the Mouse who attempts to take part in the debate. To me it has always seemed very strange that things which appear evidently to the professional Member of very small importance appear to me to be of considerable importance On the other hand, things which they elevate into great magnitude do no strike the civilian mind as being of the same importance. What is the dispute which, as far as we can see, is now raging between the régime of 1888 and the régime of 1895? It is admitted on all hands that the Secretary of State must be supreme. On the other hand, it is admitted on all hands that the Commander-in-Chief must know everything, see every Paper, and be consulted in all matters of importance. The only difference is this: that under the regime of 1888 the Adjutant General, if lie has a scheme, takes it direct to the Commander-in-Chief, who sends it on to the Secretary of State; whereas under the regime of 1895 the Adjutant General goes first to the Secretary of State, who sends the proposal on to the Commander-in-Chief. I must say that I think this debate has very much exaggerated the importance of the issue, and that there must be something else, something behind, which can have induced such able and eminent men to devote their minds so exclusively to this one point; and I think we saw it in the conclusion of the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount.

It is said of a certain class of correspondent that the important observation always comes at the end. I think that applies to the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount. He told us, not as one of the main points on which he was insisting, but as something which occurred to him at the end, and which ought to be mentioned before he sat down, what was his solution of any difficulties that might arise if the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State were not of the same mind. I think he puzzled the House. He said we were to take the people into our confidence, and to tell the press what we thought, and then the question at issue was to be discussed openly. How you were to decide which party was to be victorious I do not know, but the result of the battle-royal was to determine the particular decision on which the Office was divided. I allude to to this because I think it is the matter which is really at the bottom of our difficulty. I do not think the disputants, especially if they are military disputants, have entirely realised that the Army is under Parliament, and that the Minister who controls the Army does it as one who is responsible to Parliament and represents all the authority which Parliament possesses. Unless you keep that steadily in mind, no doubt you will see many anomalies in our military system and its relations to the civil power. But it is no use comparing your Army with the army of France or of America, or of Germany or of Russia. They all differ in that one point, that the Parliamentary system of governing the Army does not exist among them.

We must accommodate ourselves to the present state of things. Everybody knows historically how it has grown up, and everybody knows that it is intertwined too closely with all the fibres of our Constitution to justify anyone who forms his projects and bases his reasoning on the supposition that this relation can be modified. At the end you must have an Army governed by Parliament, governed by a Minister who is responsible to Parliament, and in any difference of opinion, whatever it may be, the Commander-in-Chief must be the subordinate of the Secretary of State. He may not like that; military men may not like it, but there it is. It is one of the bed-rock circumstances of the situation, something from which you cannot depart; and von must devote your minds to making it work, as it has worked, in the main, hitherto very well, and take care that it produces in the future, as it has produced in the past, results which it would have been impossible to produce in any foreign country. I feel that this debate will be lost upon us unless we take care to guide ourselves by that chief and predominant principle. In speech after speech from military men, men who know the language and spirit of the War Office, it is easy to detect a desire that military problems shall only be solved by military men; but any attempt to take the opinion of the, expert above the opinion of the politician must, in view of all the circumstances of our Constitution, inevitably fail. It must not lie supposed that in such contests the expert must win. In all these discussions there is an evident and growing desire to shake free of this necessity. I thought I traced it even in the peroration of the noble Earl, although I am sure he is too good and constitutional a statesman to entertain any idea that the existing system can be radically changed. That is where the shoe pinches—that the men who know or who ought to know, namely, the experts, are not the men to decide the dispute in question; but the decision, if it accords with their view at all, must be brought about by the concession of the civilian and the politician.

There is one point with regard to experts that is not sufficiently borne in mind. If the experts were a concentrated body always giving one opinion, no doubt their authority would be very overwhelming. But experts, as we know, often differ in opinion. I remember Sir George Cornewall Lewis laying it down in Parliament that if you could find a distinguished man, an expert in any field of thought, laying down a definite opinion you would always find another man equally eminent laying down an opinion in exactly the opposite direction, Therefore, to tell us that the expert should rule military controversies when they arise is not entirely to set at rest all the difficulties with which we are confronted; and even if the wish of some Members were gratified by putting the decisions of the Commander-in-Chief above those of the Secretary of State you would really only have removed your difficulty by one stage. Because who is the Commander-in-Chief? He may differ from other military men; he may be in profound sympathy with the Government of the day, or he may be the reverse of being in sympathy with the Government of the day—and, considering the mode of his appointment and the circumstances under which he holds office, that is not an impossible contingency. I do not think, therefore, that the supremacy of the Commander-in-Chief of a military nation, even if it were possible to obtain it, would solve all the difficulties by which we are surrounded, and I feel very strongly that we should only lose our way if we attempted to reach a solution without regarding the traditions which our Constitution has handed down.

I quite concur in hoping that the military minds which apply themselves to the reconstitution of these mysterious Orders in Council may remove any defects that may be found. Not entertaining myself that belief in the efficacy of the Orders in Council which evidently penetrates many minds, I do not regard the result as being of vast importance. And if I may sit down with an observation which is such a platitude and such a truism that everybody will agree with it, but which yet seems to me to be in variably neglected, it is that the success of your military system, the victories you are to win, the results of all your efforts, are not obtained by any machine, however theoretically just, however carefully polished, but will be attained, and have been attained in every ago of history, simply by the strength and brilliancy and vigour of the men you employ.


Before the debate closes I am sure your Lordships will allow me to say a very few words of personal explanation in reference to the remarks made yesterday by the Foreign Secretary directly reflecting upon my conduct as Commander-in-Chief. I confess that I was surprised, as well as pained, at the personal tone which the Foreign Secretary gave to the debate. I hope that, in your Lordships' opinion at all events, this was not caused by any personal remarks made by me when expressing my disapproval of the Order in Council of 1805. I intended, as I said, to discuss the present Army system as a system, apart altogether from persons. I am not aware that I deviated from that line in any respect whatsoever. With regard to the reflection made upon me, I will only say that no documents or other evidence of any sort or kind, either to prove or disprove them, are at present in the possession of this House. The noble Marquess has promised to lay on the Table a memorandum by me upon which he commented very severely. I trust that, in justice to me, he will also lay on the Table a full statement of the circumstances under which that document was prepared, it will then be apparent that the memorandum was not. a statement voluntarily presented by me to the Prime Minister, as the House may have supposed, but an expression of my opinion drawn up in obedience to directions I received from the Prime, Minister himself, and which, as I considered only straightforward and right, I showed to my chief, the present Foreign Minister, before I forwarded it to the Prime Minister. I do not propose now further to enter upon the strictures of the noble Marquess who spoke yester day, and who found fault with me so severely and so unaccountably at tin time. To do so would be foreign to tin subject now before the House. I only ask your Lordships to reserve your opinion and judgment, as it is probable that on a future occasion I may call attention to these allegations.