§ Order of the day read for resuming the debate on the motion of the Lord Rosebery to resolve "that this House desires to express its approval of the proposed Council of National Defence, and its earnest hope that the first efforts of that Council may be directed to the adjustment of the national armaments and to the naval, military, and financial conditions of the Empire."
§ Debate resumed accordingly.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
My Lords, the noble Earl the First Lord of the Admiralty concluded his able speech on Tuesday night by a strong and 409 earnest appeal that at all events care should be taken that any future reductions of military expenditure should not be made hastily and should not involve sweeping changes. As to the general advisability of that course I suppose none of us find any objection, but I venture to think that if the noble Earl is desirous of preventing that state of things, as far as he can, the best possible mode of doing so is to begin reductions of taxation at the present time. The war has come to an end; we have entered upon a time of peace. The condition of the country is not un-prosperous. There is, I fear, in many quarters considerable distress, but, nevertheless, I may truly say that our prosperity is still largely maintained. But we all, I suppose, hear various rumours of a period of bad trade which is coming. I hope it may not come, but I would earnestly impress on the noble Earl and upon his colleagues that if they want this gradual reduction of taxation rather than the adoption suddenly of any sweeping measures they must take care that they are not caught by bad trade, because they may rely upon it, that not all the earnestness of the First Lord of the Admiralty or all the determination of his colleagues would be able to maintain such expenditure as we have at the present time, if unfortunately we were to find ourselves in what are ordinarily called bad times.
The noble Earl took considerable exception to the terms in which my noble friend Lord Rosebery spoke of the present burden of taxation. I do not want to enter into any dispute with the First Lord of the Admiralty upon a question of adjectives, but I venture to assert that there can be no doubt that the pressure of taxation at the present moment is heavy, that there are already signs that it is a pressure which the people of the country will not long be able to bear at its present height, and that the time has therefore come when we should recognise the fact put before us the other night by Lord Rosebery, and should set ourselves to work with determination steadily to relieve that pressure. There was one reason offered to us on Tuesday night by Lord Selborne why that course might not at present be necessary, which I confess filled me with 410 much surprise. The noble Earl said that at the conclusion of the great war with France in the year 1815 our ancestors bore the pressure of those times and the heavy taxation which was then maintained; and, he asked, "Why should we not do so? "My Lords, I think it was a little unfortunate that the First Lord of the Admiralty should carry back our thoughts to the years which succeeded 1815, because I venture to say that the six or seven years following the great peace were some of the most unhappy years in this country, when the working classes were in the most wretched and miserable condition, and I confess it does not encourage me to advocate a system of heavy taxation when I recollect what was the condition of affairs at the time to which the noble Earl referred. They were the years of Peterloo and of the Cato Street Conspiracy. But I am bound to say, if that comparison of the noble Earl's surprised me, I was yet more surprised by the reason which he gave for our not being able now to bear taxation that was borne in 1815. I do not admit the fact. I think we are better able to bear taxation now than we were in 1815; but what was the noble Lord's reason for his statement? He said that in 1815 we had very numerous sources of taxation, but that now, in consequence of the policy of Free Trade, we had greatly limited the field of taxation. I entirely deny that that is any reason whatever why we should be less able to bear taxation than we were in the earlier period to which the noble Earl referred. But I will not go into that discussion now. I must say it does not diminish my desire for an early adoption of a more economical system when the noble Earl holds out the prospect that if we are to bear a large weight of taxation the only way by which we can do it is by returning to innumerable small taxes on many articles of consumption and to the financial policy of Vansittart.
The noble Earl told us that the present Army proposals of the Secretary of State for War were adopted very deliberately. My noble friend Lord Rosebery had appeared to intimate that they were hastily adopted; "but," said the First Lord of the Admiralty, "they were adopted 411 very deliberately." If the First Lord means by that statement that Mr. Brodrick took three or four months to consider those proposals, and that he did not act without deliberation; that he did not go down to the War Office one fine morning and write out the whole scheme in half-an-hour, I have no doubt that is the case, but it does not appear to me that therefore it is true to say they were not hastily adopted. I think they were hastily adopted. I think it would have been far better if the Secretary of State, instead of attempting to reorganise the Army in the middle of the war, had waited till the war was over; had waited, not only for the return of the present Commanderin-Chief, however important his concurrence in the matter is, but had waited until we had had the full experience of the war, and until other experienced officers who had been serving in South Africa after Lord Roberts left had returned to this country and been able to assist the Secretary of State for War in the preparation of his proposals.
The main defence at the present moment of these proposals, as I understand it, at least as regards that Army Corps which has been most under discussion of late, rests on the needs of India. I confess I am a little suspicions that that defence is something of an afterthought. I know that somewhat alarming statements have been made in very high quarters with reference to some Indian questions. I agree with Lord Selborne that there is no necessity for our refusing to discuss the possible requirements of India. I concur with him in thinking that we may just as well discuss those requirements as discuss what is necessary for the defence of this country, but I cannot say that I think it is wise or judicious that we should have these vague and uncertain statements made which are calculated to fill the mind with considerable alarm, and out of which panic has often arisen before now. The reason why I say that in my opinion the connection of this Army Corps with the wants of India is an afterthought is this. I cannot conceive an organisation less suited to the possible military needs of India than that of one of these Army Corps. Such an Army Corps is a 412 great body of European troops. The fighting organisation of India does not consist of large Army Corps, some of them European and some of them native. It consists of a constant intermixture of native and European troops. That is the very foundation of the military organisation of India for fighting purposes, and therefore it seems to me—perhaps the noble Earl the Under Secretary may be able to throw some other light on the subject—that if you send out a great European Army Corps to India the first thing you will have to do will be to break it up in order that the European troops may be distributed among the divisions and brigades in India, according to that organisation upon which alone an Indian Army can properly be framed. I cannot but think that the expenditure involved in the maintenance of this Army Corps is unwise and unnecessary. I quite agree with my noble friend opposite, Viscount Goschen, who said that if you were to look mainly to the defence of this country against invasion by your Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers—that is to say, by what is now called the Auxiliary forces—they would require to be stiffened by Regular troops. But then he placed the number of Regular troops that would be required for that purpose at 30,000 men, which is very different from the Army Corps which it is proposed to maintain. I venture to think that this Army Corps will not meet the requirements for which it is now said that it is intended. I think it will cast too great a burden upon the finances of the country, and that that burden will create that very reaction against which the First Lord of the Admiralty pleaded so eloquently the other night.
I must now say a few words in regard to the matter which stands first in the Motion of my noble friend Lord Rosebery—the proposed Committee of Defence; and, by the way, before I proceed to argue that question, I should like to ask what is the real name of this body. The Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Admiralty called it a Committee, but my noble friend in his Motion describes it as a Council. The point is not a large one, but, at the same time, we might just as well know what is the 413 proper official designation of the body. I cannot help thinking that there has been considerable exaggeration in what has been said with respect to the necessity of it, and to the effect that it is likely to have. I do not want to exaggerate upon the other side, though I feel bound to say I am not prepared to express approval of this proposal. As was very well pointed out on Tuesday night, both by Lord Goschen and also, I was glad to observe, by Lord Selborne, this is not the first body of this kind which has existed, nor have the services of those which have preceded it been of a nature which ought to be overlooked. They have been very readily acknowledged by those who have had the best means of becoming acquainted with their proceedings—by Lord Goschen, a former First Lord, and by Lord Selborne, the present First Lord.
We have not heard much of what was done by the recent Defence Committee presided over by the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council, but the Prime Minister assures us that it did good service, and we accept that statement without dispute. But the peculiar distinction of all the bodies that have been mentioned is that they were either Departmental Committees, upon which only the subordinates were placed, or, at all events, no Cabinet Ministers, or they were Committees of the Cabinet of which Cabinet Ministers alone were Members. You now propose to deviate from those principles which have hitherto guided the organisation of bodies of this kind, and to create a new mixed body partly composed of Cabinet Ministers and partly of other persons. I shall have a word to say upon that in a moment, but I think it can scarcely be said that the system which has been in force in the past has prevented or interfered with the progress of military reforms. The greatest military reform of our time, that which is always spoken of with such approval and respect by my noble friend Lord Wolseley, namely, Mr. Cardwell's reform, was made without any Committee of this kind. It was made by Mr. Cardwell in consultation with his professional advisers, and, of course, was submitted to and approved by the Cabinet. Therefore it cannot be said that it is impossible to make a large, important, and successful reform in our 414 military arrangements without a heterogeneous body of this kind. Then, of course, I may be told that what this Committee is intended to do is not only to secure reform but to co-ordinate—I think that is the word which has been generally adopted—Military, Naval, Indian, and political affairs. That no doubt gives a very large scope to the work of this Committee, but I still venture to think that it does not prove that it is the best body that could be established for the purpose.
I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Goschen in desiring that the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, especially the Chancellor of the Exchequer, should be put on the Committee. It is impossible that this Committee, which is heralded by such loud expressions of its great importance and high value, can discharge any such wide functions as it is proposed to give to it in regard to Naval and Military matters without touching constantly and continually on questions of finance. What will be the result? The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not to be a regular member of the Committee. He is to be called in when the Committee like to call him in. I do not think that is a position in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be placed. I do not think it will work well. You cannot always tell in the deliberations of a body of this kind whether questions regarding finance will come into their consideration at a particular meeting or not; and suppose this dignified Committee, this Committee which is to co-ordinate everything, were to come to a decision involving an important expenditure of public money without the Chancellor of the Exchequer having been heard! You are to have upon the Committee the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Lord President of the Council. They are parties to this expenditure. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is not there, but hears of it when the Cabinet meets. What will be his position? How can he hope to contest it successfully; how can he hope to be heard with that openness of mind with which he ought always to be heard if this question has been prejudged in the Defence Committee? I should very much like to have heard what Sir Robert Peel, or Mr. Gladstone, or Sir M. 415 Hicks-Beach would have said of a proposal of that kind. I cannot think it is possible that it can work. I am afraid I must go further than my noble friend Lord Goschen, and say that if you have this Committee you must have upon it another Cabinet Minister, namely, the Secretary of State for India, and he must be accompanied by his principal military member of Council. Everything connected with the Army in this country touches India. When I was in India the Government with which I was connected undertook a great work of military reorganisation, which required that we should look at all the past proceedings in respect to the Indian Army in various directions; and one of the most startling facts produced by that inquiry was that in the eighteen years preceding that period there had been added to the military expenditure of India no less a sum than £800,000 a year. That was added without the Government of India having been consulted, or knowing anything about it until it was done. It was added by small additions here and small additions there, but the result was that the expenditure was being thus increased at the rate of nearly £1,000,000 in twenty years.
I hope that whenever your Lordships are called upon to consider questions relating to Indian expenditure you will remember how extremely limited are the sources of Indian revenue. You can hardly increase them, and those that grow, grow very slowly. To find a new tax in India is one of the hardest tasks that anyone can undertake. You must always bear in mind, when you are dealing with questions of Indian finance, when you are by the action of the Home Government throwing additional burdens on the finance of India, that you will very rapidly arrive at the end of your tether, and will not be able to get the money. We have been discussing, very naturally, as I think, the increased burden of taxation in this country, but we, at least, thanks to that system of Free Trade which does not appear to commend itself financially to the First Lord of the Admiralty, are able to bear, however much we may dislike it, and justly complain of it, a much larger extension of taxation than 416 would be possible in India. In those circumstances I do say that if you are going to establish this Defence Committee you must put upon it the Secretary of State for India and his principal military officer. I do not at all deny what Lord Selborne said, that if you are to have this Committee it is very desirable that it should not be too large; but if you are to have it you must constitute it in such a way that it will not come to important decisions without the knowledge and behind the backs of members of the Cabinet, who are deeply concerned in the matter. Therefore, if you are to have the Committee at all you must, as it seems to me, put upon it all those Cabinet Ministers of whom I have spoken. They are pretty nearly all the most important members of the Cabinet. Why are their decisions to be taken apart from their colleagues, without consultation at the time with their colleagues, and in a mixed Committee consisting of other persons as well as themselves? In that respect I take it that the construction of this Committee has no precedent. I may be wrong in that, but I do not know of one. It will consist, as is proposed, of Cabinet Ministers, of Privy Councillors, of persons who are not Privy Councillors, of important high officials in the public services, and of subordinate officers like the Directors of Military and Naval Intelligence. When I speak of those distinguished officers as subordinate I am only speaking of their comparative official position. I quite agree that they are officers of great importance, and I can only say, upon that, that I wish the Government which was in office at the time the war broke out had more carefully studied the excellent and complete reports which had been prepared by the Intelligence Department of the War Office. Still, I do not think that so great a departure from ordinary and established custom, as is involved in the mixing up of these officers with Cabinet Ministers, has been justified by any argument I have yet heard.
We are told that it will be an admirable system, that it will supply a great want, that it will prepare information for the Prime Minister. I think the Prime Minister ought to have the fullest possible information supplied to him, 417 but I think it might be done in another way. I have also another doubt upon the subject, and it is a grave one. I confess I am unable to dissuade myself nom the opinion that the establishment of this heterogenous Committee will tend to affect the public sense of Ministerial responsibility. I know that that is denied, and, of course, in one sense it must be denied, because no administrative arrangements made by the executive Government can by any possibility affect a constitutional principle like that, but I do think it will have a tendency to diminish in the public mind and in public opinion the idea of Ministerial responsibility. We have seen more instances of late than I desire of an inclination on the part of Ministers to hide themselves behind the expert opinion of their professional advisers, and I think that evil would unquestionably be increased, and that the danger would become more imminent, if you were to establish a body of this kind, placed in the high position in which it is contemplated by this scheme that it should be placed. I have another remark to make, which, I submit, is worthy at least of consideration. You are going to put upon this Committee the Secretary of State for War and the Commander-in-Chief, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and my noble friend Lord Walter Kerr. I cannot think that there is not a risk—I do not say with the present Commander-in-Chief, nor yet, far from it, with the present First Sea Lord—if you bring the Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief, the First Lord of the Admiralty and the First Sea Lord as equal members of a Committee of this kind, of your weakening that confidential feeling which ought to exist between them. The Secretary of State for War ought to be in daily, in hourly, I might almost say, communication with the Commander in-Chief. I am quite sure that the noble Earl opposite, the First Lord of the Admiralty, is in daily communication with the First Sea Lord.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
I am quite sure that the relations between them are of the best and most confidential nature; but bring them together as equals upon a Committee of this kind, and I think difficulties may very possibly arise between them; at least, I think that that free and confidential intercourse which is essential to the good working of the Department will be somewhat endangered. I think I might claim my noble friend Lord Goschen as not disinclined to agree with me in this respect, because he said he hoped there would be no voting. I concur with him in that hope. He said it would be awkward if there had been a discussion in the Admiralty between the First Sea Lord and the noble Earl as to whether there should be four or three new battleships, and they were to have that discussion over again in the Committee. I do not believe that danger is altogether imaginary. I think, looking to men as they ordinarily are, the difficulty will be great. I think that that perfect union which exists between Ministers and the members of the military, naval, and civil Departments in this country, which is the pride of our administrative system, might be somewhat endangered by deliberations of this kind, which are to be placed upon record, which are not to be produced, as I understand, to Parliament, but are to be there to be asked for from time to time, and to be alluded to, if not openly, at least in a manner which will be easily understood either by the Ministers themselves or by those who, having knowledge of the past records, might find themselves in opposition. Therefore I am bound to say, and I say it with great regret in one respect, because I find myself on this point differing to a certain extent from my noble friend Lord Rosebery, that I do look with some uneasiness upon the proposal to establish a body of this kind. The evils which I have ventured to suggest may, no doubt, to some extent be remedied by arrangements which may be made for conducting the operations of this body, and I am sure your Lordships will think that I have not been wrong in frankly stating the view I have been led to take of this matter. For I prefer the strict enforcement of Ministerial responsibility—I wish 419 it was enforced more strongly than it is—to a system which it seems to me will weaken that responsibility and shield Ministers under the protection of an irresponsible Committee.
§ THE UNDER - SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Earl of HARDWICKE)
My Lords, the noble Marquess has been the first speaker in the course of this debate who has not been able wholly to agree with the Resolution before the House. I feel sure that he will not expect me to answer the latter part of his speech, which the House will readily understand is a matter to be dealt with by a Cabinet Minister. The noble Marquess told us in the earlier part of his observations that there were signs that the burden of taxation was beginning to tell, and he referred to a remark of my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty that the burden was equally heavy in 1815. I think he misinterpreted what my hon. friend behind me stated with reference to that period. I did not understand my noble friend to say that the British public were less able to bear the burden of taxation now than they were in 1815, but that the field of taxation had been narrowed since that time, and therefore people were more ready to complain. But I think the majority of the Members of this House will not hesitate to admit that, however large the cost of the late war has been, and however great has been the increase in taxation, no burden has been so little felt in the history of this or any other country. We were told the other night that our securities were falling and that the price of Consols was a great deal lower than it had been for many years. The speakers who referred to the fall in the price of Consols as evidence of financial depression seem to have forgotten that whereas they have in the past borne 2¾ per cent. interest, they will from the end of this month forward bear 2½ per cent. interest only, which in a great measure accounts for the recent fall in the price of Consols. I have also been told on high authority that in the City of London there is no less a sum than £178,000,000 invested in South African gold stocks, and that owing to the insufficiency of labour to work the mines 420 it is not easy to realise those investments. I believe the first sign of improvement in the supply of labour in South Africa will be followed by a large rise in the price of Consols.
I now turn to the noble Marquess's remark with regard to what he describes as the hastily adopted policy of my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War when he introduced the present scheme of Army reorganisation. The noble Marquess considered that it would have been very much better to have delayed any scheme of reorganisation until after the war had been brought to an end. Well, my Lords, had the Secretary of State acted on those lines what would have been the result? The result would have been that to-day we should have no Army organisation. We should be beginning where we began two years ago, and it would be another two years before we should be in a position to show the public that we really had an organisation, shortly to be developed in its fullest possible sense. I think that we should have been somewhat in the position of the noble Earl with his germ of a Defence Committee. If the Secretary of State had delayed carrying out what he believed was the best policy for the military reorganisation of this country it is possible that for some reason or other it might not have been carried out at all. As it is, the organisation that we have adopted is an organisation that carried with it the fullest concurrence and whole-hearted support of the Commander-in-Chief, and when the noble Marquess says that the Army scheme is not adapted to the requirements of India, he seems utterly to forget that the scheme is based absolutely on the organisation of the Indian Army, the only difference being that the units are called Army Corps at home and commands in India.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
The commands in India are composed of mixed troops. When your Army Corps get out there it will have to be broken up in order to be adapted to that system.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
It is quite true that troops in India are black and white. But if an Army Corps was sent to India it would not be split up, but 421 would act as a whole. The next point to which the noble Marquess referred, was as to the title of the Committee to which the Resolution alludes. The proper title of the new body is the Committee of Imperial Defence. I may here mention that the Prime Minister is not the President of the Committee.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
No, but that statement was made by the noble Earl below the Gangway. The President is the noble Duke the Leader of this House. I confess that I find some difficulty in clearly answering criticisms that have been passed which it is not always easy to understand. I understand that it is contended that our Army organisation is unsuited to the needs of the Empire, and that the increased expenditure has not produced a proportionate increase in the strength and efficiency of the Army. I do not know that it is possible for any one to say to-day that what has been done has not produced a proportionate increase in strength and efficiency, because this organisation has only been in force for two years. We have admitted frankly that the scheme of Army reorganisation is not yet fully developed, and I would like to point out to your Lordships that after the Franco-German War the German nation took fifteen years to reorganise its military forces. Seeing that we have only been engaged in the reorganisation of our Army for so short a period as two years, I think we are entitled to some credit for the length we have been able to go.
I would like to point out to the House, with reference to the remarks that have been made in the course of the debate as to the Estimates for this year, that our net total for normal services is this year £27,588,000. From that sum you can take £4,300,000, which represents such charges as annuities on loans for works, fortifications, and other works expenditure not of the nature of maintenance of barracks, War Office expenditure, expenditure for horses for Home force, for manœuvies, and about £2,000,000 for stores. Thatleaves us a sum of £23,288,000, 422 and I will point out how that is distributed. It is absorbed as follows: Force maintained at home to provide for the garrison of India, £2,074,000; force at home and abroad for Naval Coaling Stations (i.e. Bermuda, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Mauritius, Straits Settlements, and Esquimalt), £1,220,000; force at home and abroad for South Africa, £2,388,000; force at home and abroad for Egypt and Colonies, not mentioned above, £3,866,000. Therefore at the present time the total cost for forces abroad amounts to £9,548,000. I do not think anyone will suggest that it is possible to minimise in that direction. Then, for home purposes, our Regulars cost £8,740,000, the Auxiliary and Reserve forces, £5,000,000, making a total in respect of forces maintained for home purposes of £13,740,000; the total for the whole of the men at home and abroad, exclusive of the £4,300,000 to which I have referred, is £23,288,000. As to the proportions of the expenditure between the two branches of the service, it should be remembered what the Army does for the Navy. Does anyone suppose that Gibraltar, Malta, and the various coaling stations are occupied for the purposes of the Army? Of course they are entirely maintained in the interest of the Navy, and I hope your Lordships, in considering the cost of our military administration, will reckon the large sums of money that we are paying which in the nature of things would be charged to the Naval Estimates if we had not got an Army to provide the forces.
The statement that we have done nothing to increase the efficiency of the Army is a bold one for anyone to make, and it is absolutely contrary to fact. In 1895 the Army Estimates, including supplementaries, stood at £18,655,100, and the Navy Estimates at £18,701,000—that is to say, the late Government, of which the noble Earl below the Gangway was Prime Minister, considered that an equal sum should be spent on the Army as was spent on the Navy. Today His Majesty's Government have clearly shown that they think it is right to spend a far larger sum on the Navy. I would point out that we have been able since 1895 to increase the Regular Army by—British, 57,300; Colonial and 423 Indian Corps, 8,860. We have increased the pay and improved the clothing. There has been an increase of over 14,000 horses, and also increases in the medical services and in the veterinary department. A new Militia Reserve has been created, and a new force of Yeomanry, which in the past numbered only 10,000, but which now consists of 24,000, and will shortly, I hope, number 30,000. These changes have not been effected without expenditure. The expenditure under the heads I have mentioned amounts to an increase of £7,680,000. These figures are interesting to those who are apt to think that though we have spent a great deal of money we have nothing to show for it. I pass to another charge that has been brought against the present system. It is said that the Army Corps cannot be sent abroad as they stand. It is perfectly true that it would be impossible at the present day to send the first three Army Corps abroad. But within a few months it will be perfectly possible to send away three Army Corps, perfectly equipped and able to go wherever they are required.
Another argument was—I think it appeared in The Times—that we needed an Army trained as no Army can be trained in this country. It would, of course, be an admirable thing if we could train our Army in the country in which it was going to fight; but that is not possible. There is no other country in which the Army can be trained except South Africa—and I will refer to that directly—and no other part of the Empire so suitable for training as this country. For that reason it has not been thought advisable to keep a large force abroad, except in India. Then it is asked: Why is this particular number of men necessary, and how are they to get to India in the event of an emergency? The number of troops has been fixed as the minimum compatible with the safety of the Empire. It is perfectly certain that if we were prepared to increase the number the expert authorities would welcome it, but they certainly will not consent to any reduction. The suggestion of the noble Earl that in an emergency the troops would take thirty-six days to get to India, and would therefore arrive too late, was a melancholy anticipation which I think no one else in the House will share; and if that is his only argument against having a large force it vanishes into thin air as soon as spoken. Again, 424 it is said that our scheme does not provide for a small body of men capable of being sent abroad at a moment's notice. I deny that entirely. We could send, if necessary, to-morrow, the First Army Corps. Our system enables us to mobilise the Army Reservists, who could be called up at any moment, and we should be able to despatch a small force of 10,000 or 12,000 men abroad as quickly as it would be possible under any other organisation. Then we are told that we do not require what is called any stiffening in the Army Corps for home defence. The first three Army Corps are entirely independent of stiffening. The stiffening that we provide is 30,000 men for the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Army Corps, and the object of that stiffening is very simple. Nobody suggests that you can train the Militia and the Volunteers to be expert artillerymen. In the nature of things the Artillery require continuous and active training, and it is therefore necessary in the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Army Corps to provide Regular Artillery. It has been laid down that so far as Horse Artillery is concerned there should be no Auxiliary Artillery in existence, and that as regards the Field Artillery in the last three Army Corps the proportion to Militia Artillery should be three-fourths to one-fourth.
The noble Duke who spoke the other night stated that according to the requirements of the existing organisation we should have to increase our establishment. The noble Duke was inaccurate in that statement. With the exception of a few thousand men that we require in order to bring up our Yeomanry to the full 30,000, we have all the men that we require for our organisation. Then the noble Duke suggested that we should have to largely increase our expenditure in the future on barracks. The money for barracks has been taken under the Military Works Loans Act, 1901, and there will be no extra charge in the future except for interest. But there will be, I confess, a small extra charge on account of the increase in the Yeomanry, the Militia Reserve, and also for the men that go to the Reserve during the next few years. I now turn to the question that has been raised as to the possibility of keeping a large force in South Africa. 425 I do not wish to say more this afternoon than that if we keep a full Army Corps in South Africa one of two things must happen—either it must be kept at war strength, which would entail keeping battalions at home for drafts, or we should have to create large depots for the supply of men at great cost. If, on the other hand, we adopt the scheme that is proposed in The Times of making South Africa a home station, we are faced with one very serious difficulty, namely, that we would not be able to mobilise for service the troops kept in South Africa until their reserves had been able to join them from this country. Therefore, the obvious conclusion is that if you can send your Reservists to South Africa on mobilisation you could perfectly well send the complete unit. There might also be difficulties in finding sufficient transport in South Africa when the troops had to be moved, whereas, in this country we could always get transports. For that reason, among others, it is strongly felt that the most suitable base for our troops is the United Kingdom.
I now turn to one or two of the points in the speech of the noble Earl who moved the Motion before the House. At the conclusion of his speech he said that he laid his views before your Lordships as those of a common citizen, of a common Imperialist, and a common taxpayer—and, he added, as a matter of common sense. I hope he will not take it amiss if I say that from the War Office point of view I cannot accept this statement that all he said with reference to our Army organisation was a matter of common sense. I do not think it is common sense to be inconsistent, and I think I can show the House that the noble Earl made certain statements the other night which are wholly inconsistent with statements he has made on previous occasions. Speaking of the necessities of this country, and the number of men we might require, the noble Earl said he had no idea of compulsion in his head and that the nation would never undertake the burden. But speaking in this House in January, 1900, he said:—I do not see that it is so immeasurably remote as the noble Marquess considers that some form of compulsory service should have to 426 be introduced to meet the growing exigencies of the Empire."*
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
The remark of the noble Earl was in answer to Lord Newton, who interrupted the noble Earl with the observation "By conscription."
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
Having regard to the context of the noble Earl's remark, I took it to point to a modified form of conscription.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
The Militia Ballot is a form of compulsory service. Would the noble Earl call that conscription?
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I have always understood that there is very little difference between compulsory service and conscription.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
Oh, yes there is. I altogether repudiate the interpretation put upon what I said.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I accept the noble Earl's disclaimer and will not press the point. The noble Earl said there would be 7,000,000 soldiers available if we resorted to conscription.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I was referring to the case of Switzerland, where, without what is called conscription, but with compulsory service, they have a force of no less than 518,000 men. What I said was that, if we raised a force on the same basis, we should obtain 7,000,000 fighting men.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I have been looking up the case of Switzerland and I find that the noble Earl's statement was quite inaccurate. AS a matter of fact, the*See (4) Debates, LXXVIII, 38.427 total number that the Swiss Republic have under their system is 242,462, and not 518,000. Then they have 225,156 men who have served but are now out of the service.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
They are described as a landsturm non armée which I interpret to mean men who are considered not competent to hold arms. In stating that if we raised a compulsory force on the principle of the Swiss we should have a force of 7,000,000, the noble Earl is including women and children. The noble Earl said that, considering that last year we had raised 50,000 recruits, of which 8,000 were specials, we would probably on that basis only succeed in raising 42,000 men in a good year. But the fact is that though we began last year by taking specials at the rate of 33 per cent., we gradually and surely reduced the percentage; and when specials were only being taken at the rate of 7 per cent., it was decided that no more should be taken at all. I therefore think we may reasonably hope that in the coming year we shall be able to get the number of recruits we require without taking specials. Then the noble Earl said that Mr. Brodrick was considering quantity and not quality. The fact that we have done away with specials, and that the character of every recruit is now asked for before he is enlisted—
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
The order was issued recently. We cannot do all these things at once. I only state the facts in order that the noble Earl should understand that we do desire quality just as much as he does, and that we have taken practical steps to give effect to our desire. I turn now to certain remarks which the noble Earl made with reference to a statement of the Secretary of State for War when he introduced his Army Scheme in the House of Commons. Of course, by quoting one sentence it is not difficult to draw conclusions that perhaps are not always fair, and I would like to quote the full statement that was made 428 by my right hon. friend when he introduced his scheme, and to which the noble Earl referred. Mr. Brodrick said—I shall endeavour to lay down what it is for which we ought to prepare. In the first place, when we talk of home defence let us not confuse our minds by considering the position and action of the Navy. The Navy is obviously our first line of defence, and if all naval matters were matters of certainty we might dispense with an Army for home defence altogether. I quite agree that invasion may be an off-chance, but you cannot run an Empire of this size on off-chances. We are bound, with the Army and Navy acting together, to provide a proper system of home defence.Therefore, it is not true to charge my right hon. friend with neglecting the part the Navy plays in the scheme of Imperial defence. The words used by him, which I have quoted, show that the contrary is the case, and when he made that statement he did it after full consideration of all the strategical questions involved, with the First Lord of the Admiralty and his own military advisers. It is, therefore, a little unjust and small that the statement should continue to be made, both on public platforms and in the Press, that the Secretary of State for War had not considered the Navy in his Army calculations. I pass now to the statement my right hon. friend made at the Colonial Conference that we had a total military force of 600,000 men. Referring to that statement the noble Earl said—If they exist, how are we to employ them; if they do not exist the Estimates are too high.I only refer to that to tell the noble Earl that they do exist. Therefore, if I can show the noble Earl that they exist at this moment, am I not right in assuming that in his opinion the Estimates are not too high?
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
But I think it is a fair one. I assure the noble Earl that they do exist, and, therefore, I think the statement of my right hon. friend at the Colonial Conference was fully justified. Then I come to the statement of the noble Earl that if we were at war our colonies would be at war, and that every colony which knew we had 120,000 men to send out for its defence would claim the advantage of that contingent.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
If those words mean anything at all, they seem to me to suggest that we ought not to keep this number of men for fear the colonies might wish to grab them, on an emergency, and might not take proper precautions to defend themselves. [The Earl of ROSEBERY dissented.] I thought I must be wrong, because I remember the statement of the noble Earl that the colonies had come enthusiastically to our support because they believed they were associating themselves with the most powerful Empire the world had ever seen, and that if we deprived them of that feeling, the Empire was threatened. Those were the words he used. Therefore we ought not to let the colonies feel for a moment that the Mother Country was showing any petty economy on questions of this kind. The Defence Committee will have many difficult and important questions to decide, and I trust that they will succeed in convincing the public and Parliament of the real extent and character of our military requirements; and if the Committee succeed in doing that, much will have been done to remove the discussion of Army problems from the arena of party politics, and those in authority at the War Office will be given a greater chance than they have at the present time, when every trivial mistake and every detail of administration is criticised and questioned. I might also point out that at the present time the area of the British Empire is 11,400,000 square miles, that the total population is 450,000,000—that is to say, the area is one-fifth of the surface of the globe, and the population one quarter. In face of these figures, I am sure your Lordships will at once see that the Regular forces we have, both here and in India, of British troops are not extravagant. At any rate I can state this, that the Secretary of State has no hesitation in taking the full responsibility for the strength of the organisation that he has asked Parliament to sanction, and for the expenditure that he has asked the country to meet to maintain it.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
My Lords, I must confess that I feel very considerable diffidence in venturing to address your Lordships on this occasion—in the first place because I cannot claim in any way to be an expert on military or naval matters; and in the second place because it seems to me the ground has already been so well traversed by previous speakers, and especially by the exhaustive and luminous speech in which my noble friend Lord Rosebery introduced the Resolution before the House. My noble friend said practically all that I have to say, and it is needless to add that he said it in a manner and with an eloquence to which I cannot hope to attain. There is, as your Lordships are aware, no possibility of a division on this Resolution, and consequently there is no chance for an individual member like myself to put upon record his opinion on this important question. I would therefore ask permission to state in a few words that I am in perfect accord with the views of my noble friend who introduced the Motion, and that if a division could have been challenged I should have followed him into the Lobby with the clearest conscience and the greatest confidence. The noble Earl who has just sat down has delivered a long and technical speech into which I shall not venture to follow him. He seemed to have devoted many sleepless nights to studying the speeches of my noble friend Lord Rosebery—a very excellent practice—but I venture to think, with all submission, that the result of his studies were not so effective as the noble Earl himself seemed to fancy. The noble Earl, in answer to the statement of my noble friend Lord Rosebery that the Army scheme was produced in a hurry, said, speaking for the War Office—If you had put off this organisation scheme you would have had no organisation at all.If that was so, what, I ask, was going on in the Army during the South African War? The worst enemies of the Government have never said that there was no organisation at all; it has been reserved for the Under Secretary to declare solemnly in Parliament that, there being no organisation of any sort at the time of the South African War, it 431 was absolutely necessary that they should put their house in order at once. If it be true, as the noble Earl suggested—following the precedent of the German Army after the Franco-German War—that it will take fifteen years to reorganise the British Army——
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
But the noble Earl said that, if it took fifteen years to reorganise the German Army, surely it was necessary that we should begin to put our house in order at once.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I merely wished to point out that we were being criticised for not having completed a scheme which had only been started two years, and I stated distinctly to the House that in a few months that scheme would be practically completed.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
I am glad to think that it will not take so long as the reorganisation of the German Army. There was one sentence in the speech of my noble friend Lord Rosebery with which I should like closely to associate myself. I refer to the tribute which he paid to the present Board of Admiralty. If the First Lord will not think me presumptuous in saying so, I think he was somewhat too modest in dissociating himself from the tribute which the noble Earl paid the Admiralty. I am certain that my noble friend did not mean to separate the Board of Admiralty from its distinguished chief.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
I have on many occasions derived much instruction from the speeches of the noble Earl the First Lord of the Admiralty, but I venture to think that in some of the passages in his speech on Tuesday he was not so happy as he has been on other occasions. The noble Earl contrasted the position taken up by my noble friend at the present time with that he took up during the South African War. He said that at that time all the pressure that the noble 432 Earl brought to bear on the Government was directed to increasing our military strength, and I suppose the First Lord deduced from that the argument that we ought at the present moment to acquiesce in this vast Army Scheme, which we are now told comprises 600,000 men. The same argument was used in another place by Mr. Brodrick, who said—You have forgotten the circumstances under which the Army was reorganised.I venture to think that such a defence, if it be a defence, is a condemnation in toto of the scheme, because it is an admission that the scheme was brought about ad hoc, to meet a particular occasion. It is perfectly true that we on this side of the House, and many people in the country, asked at the time of the South African War—Why are there not more troops? The Government ought to have foreseen that more troops would have been wanted; and therefore my noble friend, like others, demanded that the Army should be increased, but it was not suggested that that should be a permanent increase. Such a defence as that is an absolute condemnation of the whole scheme, because it is an admission that it was made for a particular occasion which could never occur again. The business of the Army in the future, so far as I understand it, will be to defend the frontiers. If you had only had to defend the frontiers of Natal and Cape Colony you would not have required more than 100,000 men, but you had to do more than that. You had to conquer and annex two Republics of white men fighting for their freedom—an operation that required 300,000 or 400,000 men. But in what portion of the globe are you going to find another two Republics of white men that you might wish to annex? The business of the Army in the future, as I have said, will be to defend the frontiers, and for that purpose nothing like the great military preparations which the Army Corps Scheme involves are required. So far as India is concerned, the noble Earl the First Lord of the Admiralty found considerable fault with the statement of my noble friend with regard to the conveyance of troops to India. He said the noble Earl's statement filled him 433 with amazement. But what was the position of my noble friend? I am far from saying that the position might not occur in which reinforcements would be required on a larger scale than has been thought necessary hitherto for the defence of that country. I hope that will be in the dim and distant future. But if your policy in India is to be changed, and if it is to be a policy of aggressive defence, I think you will want 200,000, 300,000, and perhaps 400,000 men; and that, I venture to think, will be a policy in which our military and naval authorities will not concur, which the Party on this side of the House certainly will not support, and which the majority in the country will condemn. But reinforcements, of course, will have to be sent to India. The noble Earl found fault with the statement of Lord Rosebery that it would take thirty-six days to get the troops to India. I think my noble friend was understating the case. Does the noble Earl mean to say that the Government has 126,000 men ready at this moment to start for India?
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
Then why find fault with my noble friend Lord Rosebery when he says that it would take thirty-six days to get the troops to India?
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
What I found fault with was the statement of the noble Earl that after the thirty-six days which it would take to get to India the troops would be too late.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I never said anything of the kind. I said that when you had collected the transport—I might have added "and called out the Reserves"—and taken thirty-six days to get to India, you would arrive somewhat late at the scene of action.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
Does the First Lord mean to say that when they have collected the 120,000 men, called out 434 the Reserves, and got together the necessary impedimenta, the Government can put their finger on the transports necessary to take that number of men to India in thirty-six days?
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My noble friend has entirely mistaken the point of my criticism. The noble Earl, as I understood him, said that to take thirty-six days to convey reinforcements to the North-West Frontier of India, no matter how many or how few, would mean that they would arrive rather late. What I say is that if we were involved in such an unfortunate war we might require them many months after.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
I fail to understand the noble Earl. I should imagine that 30,000 troops always on the spot, ready to strike at once, would be worth much more than 126,000 troops in this country who would have to be conveyed to India in transports, and would not get there for some months. But I will pursue that subject no farther. The noble Earl, criticising again the speech of my noble friend Lord Rosebery, said it was better to have 50,000 Volunteers really organised than double or treble that number unorganised. Here I venture, with all humility, again to differ from the noble Earl. With regard to the Militia he may be right, but I contend that you cannot have too many citizens who have passed through the ranks of the Volunteers. What showed that better than the South African War? The first Imperial Yeomanry you sent out did very well; but who were they? They were trained men from the ranks of the Volunteers; they were men who had had military training; but the second body of Imperial Yeomanry sent out did not meet with quite the same approval from the military authorities. And why? Because they had had no military training, because we had exhausted the supply of those who had had military training in the first batch.
I have risen chiefly to express sympathy with the first portion of my noble friend's Motion, which approves the proposed Committee of Imperial Defence. I am warmly in favour of the creation of this Committee. You are 435 giving in both Houses of Parliament by this Resolution a pledge for the first time to the nation that the Government are setting up a body whose principal duty will be to co-ordinate the two great official branches of national defence. It is a matter of the greatest importance which ought to tend to the efficiency of the Army and Navy, and to the economy of our expenditure. What are the objections that are taken to the proposed Committee? It is contended that the constitution of the Committee will lessen the responsibility of the Government of the day. For the life of me I cannot see how it can do that. When the Committee arrives at a conclusion, that conclusion will naturally be referred to the Cabinet as a whole, which will have to consider it and give their assent to it. The Ministers representing the various Departments will have to bring the schemes before the House of Commons, and if the House of Commons withholds its confidence, the Government must inevitably fall. I cannot see how such a Committee can possibly lessen the responsibility of the Government of the day. Objection has been taken to the presence on the Committee of distinguished permanent officials, but I would point out that these permanent officials have seats on the Committees of the Cabinet which are from time to time appointed. They are consulted by the Cabinet Ministers who are present, and the decisions they arrive at are reported to the Cabinet as a whole, just as I suppose the decisions of the Committee of Imperial Defence will be reported. Then something was said about voting. Is it at all likely that a body of this sort would vote? When this Committee comes to a conclusion it may often happen that of the eight members five may support one view and three another, and I can quite conceive that occasions will arise, when the recommendations are submitted to the Cabinet, when the opinions of the three will hold against the opinions of the five.
The only other objection I have heard to the constitution of this Committee is that there is no precedent for it. I have read the statement that it was such an unconstitutional body that it would make the bones of every ancient Prime 436 Minister rattle in their graves. I hope I have a proper and fitting respect for precedent. All of us who have had experience, however small, of official life must have pleasant recollections of the soothing influence of that blessed word "precedent"; but there is such a thing as the pedantry of precedent, and it is against the pedantry of precedent that I lift up my voice. We live in times of vast expenditure and of great Imperial responsibility, and surely if we are to hold our own in the rivalry of nations we ought to be up-to-date and move with the times; and if there is one party which ought to do so more than another it is the party whose motto is "Progress and Reform." There is one thing which the country wants, and which, I venture to think, this Committee may give it, namely, a settled scheme of national defence. The man in the street thinks that those two Departments of the War Office and the Admiralty do not always see eye to eye on matters of Imperial and national defence. The man in the street often thinks that those two Departments are practically watertight Departments that have no communication with each other, and which formulate their schemes and plans independently of each other. If a tenth part of that be true—and I venture to think that more than a tenth part of it is true—surely it is that system which is responsible for the incoherencies in the scheme of defence of which we have heard so much in the past, and for the large and extravagant expenditure of which at the present moment we venture to complain.
This question is far above party. It concerns the safety of this country, of our Empire, of our food supply; it concerns the very existence of the citizens of this country. Unless I am very much misinformed there is, and always has been, a difference of opinion between the Admiralty and the War Office as to the question of invasion. The Admiralty reckon for the defence of the country on the supremacy of our ships, and the War Office formulate their plans on the failure of the Navy. Those are two entirely different schemes. For my own part, I am strongly in favour of the Admiralty view. The noble Earl the First Lord of 437 the Admiralty stated the other night that if we pressed this too far, to what I think he called the bed rock of logic, we then had no necessity for any Army or Volunteers at all. I do not think my noble friend put that forward quite seriously. Surely he must recognise that there is a difference between having no defensive Army at all and having a great military organisation of 600,000 men, which the Under Secretary told the House the Government possessed. This country is an island; it is not part of a Continent, and consequently has not got Continental responsibilities; it has no vast land frontiers to maintain, and therefore we do not require an Army on the Continental principle. The frontiers of this country are not the chalk cliffs of the South or the sands of the East; the frontiers of this country are the Channel Fleet, the Home Fleet, and our Naval supremacy; and the sooner the disputants on this subject arrive at that conclusion, and all that that conclusion means, the sooner shall we be on the direct path to efficiency of national defence and economy of national expenditure.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, so far as the debate has proceeded I venture to think the Government may congratulate themselves on the fact that all the speakers, with the exception of my noble friend, Lord Ripon, have approved the change which the Government propose to make in the reorganisation of the Committee of Imperial Defence. As to the details of that change, as to how far that Committee may enter into fields of work which so far as they are traversed at all, are traversed at present by other Committees belonging to the Admiralty or the War Office, or to other Departments, I think it is unnecessary for us to enter. Those questions will be solved in the course of time by the actual procedure of the Committee. In the meantime the one thing which strikes me is the amount of additional work which will be thrown upon the Prime Minister. So far from thinking this to be an evil, I believe it will be a good thing, because the Prime Minister, although he is not as we have heard to-night, to be the President, is to be a very important 438 member of the Defence Committee, and will be compelled to keep his eye upon the policy and the practice of his Government. I think this will necessarily prevent him from undertaking the management of one of the important Departments of State—a change which will certainly be for the general advantage of Government, of Parliament, and of the country.
It has been the habit to blame the old Defence Committee and to say that they did nothing. Well, my Lords, I never could bring myself to see upon what grounds those allegations were founded, because we never knew what the Committee of Defence did. Their only action of which I am aware, and in which I think they rendered one eminent service, at all events, to the country, was the appointment of Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener at a very critical moment in the late war to take over the operations in South Africa. If they never did anything else, they rendered a very signal and important service to the country at that time. The mind of the country, stable and steady as it was, was beginning to be most seriously perturbed by a series of misfortunes and reverses, and the appointment of Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener steadied the people and prevented what might have been, and what certainty would have been in any other country than this, a serious popular outbreak. I think that in justice to the Committee it should be remembered that the only action we know it to have taken was one of very great advantage to the country.
I now enter upon the more serious and more debatable portion of the subject that has been raised—the position of the Army and the Navy. Our attention was directed to the gigantic proportions of the Naval Estimates, and the First Lord of the Admiralty told us that he could not promise that those Estimates had attained their final magnitude, and that we must be prepared for possibly larger expenditure. Those large Estimates, Lord Goschen pointed out, had been voted without any difficulty. Why was that? Because, in the first place, the country feels that naval supremacy is absolutely vital for the existence of the Empire; and, in the second place, because it believes that the system of Admiralty organisation works with as 439 little friction as possible. It is only just to pay some slight tribute, as, indeed, the First Lord of the Admiralty did not forget to do the other night, to the signal capacity which naval officers seem to possess, not merely of pressing forward that which from the professional point of view they consider desirable, but of being able to enter into the Parliamentary, and other difficulties of those political officers with whom for the time they are called upon to serve. If this expenditure is already so great, and if it is going possibly to be greater, is it unnatural that not merely the country but Parliament should say that it is therefore all the more necessary to inquire closely into the Estimates of the sister service?
I am not going to enter at all into the discussion of whether the Army Corps is, or is not, the right system. I am not an expert in these matters, and the expediency or not of adopting that system rests on circumstances, and depends upon conditions into which I do not feel myself able to enter with any advantage to your Lordships. I wish to approach the subject from quite a different point of view—from the point of view of the number of men. I wish at once to draw a distinction between home defence and foreign service. Some objection is being taken to a force of 30,000 men being voted for the purpose of stiffening the Volunteers and other troops serving at home. I would submit to the House that there is no reason why any exception should be taken to a demand of that sort. It does not seem to me that it is in that part of the question that there is any necessity and objection. It is only natural that there should be a force of men for this purpose, and, after all, 30,000 does not appear at all an excessive number.
But the question I want to apply myself to is that of the 120,000 men who are to be ready to go abroad. I want to know for what they are wanted. I noticed that the noble Earl the Under-Secretary in his speech to-night did not apply himself to that point at all, beyond intimating that they might be wanted for India in certain events. I would ask the House to consider, in the first place, what 120,000 men ready to go abroad means. This force means that 440 we are, for all time to come, apparently, for it is a permanent force, to be a first-class military Power. I would submit to your Lordships that it is very doubtful whether there is any nation which could send out at once 120,000 men. It does not mean merely that you have the transport, or the men, but both, and any nation which has anything approaching to both is, I submit, a first-class military Power. To that position I am not aware that we have ever aspired, and what I should like to know is, what are the purposes for which an expeditionary force of three Army Corps is required, or is likely to be required?
My noble friend Lord Goschen, in his most instructive speech the other night said, "You must trust the Government." I think that is asking us to place a very large measure of trust in the Government. We never have had 120,000 men at one time fit to go abroad. I for one am bound to say that I feel some hesitation in placing a trust to that extent in the War Office; and if any of us feel hesitation in placing a very great measure of trust in the War Office, the War Office itself is chiefly the cause of it. I would ask your Lordships to remember our recent experience of the War Office. The noble Earl who moved this Motion pointed out, and it has been mentioned again to-night, that this scheme was brought forward very suddenly indeed, and within four months of the present Secretary of State for War taking office. As your Lordships will remember, doubts were expressed with regard to it at that time, both in this House and in the other House of Parliament, but those doubts were brushed aside. In the very next year the same Minister was obliged to make a recantation, to admit in Parliament that the scheme had not worked as quickly as he had expected, and he then proceeded to ask for time. I confess I think he would have done better, as Lord Ripon observed to-night, if, in the first instance, being at war, and being in a position of great difficulty, he had said to Parliament, "The Commander-in-Chief has only just come home. The task of reorganising the Army is an enormous one, and I must ask Parliament to give me time." If he had taken 441 that course I am sure Parliament would most readily have given the time for which he asked. I must say I should have felt much more confidence in that course than in the course he ultimately adopted.
Passing from that, the difficulty that I, and, I think, nearly all of us, have is this, that we cannot get any further information with regard to this scheme than we already possess. Every speech that is made, every Return that is given, mystifies me more. I take the very last of them, because it is a Return which I have applied myself to and endeavoured to understand, and which leaves me with just as much information as I possessed before it was issued. Some one in the other House asked for information with regard to these six Army Corps, and he was informed that a statement would very shortly be put forward. Well, my Lords, this statement is now published, and presumably most of your Lordships have looked at it. I do not know what information you have derived from it, but I have been unable to elicit any information of any sort or kind. I will read an extract. Take the First Army Corps. This is what appears—Cavalry regiments—required, five; available, five.That is the whole of the information that is given to us with regard to cavalry regiments. We are not told where the regiments are, whether they are here or in South Africa; we are not told whether they have any horses and whether they are at full strength; no information is given of any description whatever. If you look through the Return you will see that the whole of it is exactly of that kind. I think it was the city of Washington that was once described as a "city of magnificent distances." This is simply a "Return of magnificent blanks," and the hon. Member who asked for it is a very much abler person than I am, if he has been able to derive any information from it. It has been said that this scheme was adopted deliberately, and that therefore we are bound to go on with it. Was the scheme adopted deliberately? I venture to express some doubt as to that. It is quite true that the scheme was adopted by the House of Commons, and adopted in one session of Parliament. Was 442 it at all likely, when a scheme of that kind was put forward, and put forward with the whole strength of the Government, who, of course, possessed a very large majority, that it would not be adopted? I submit to your Lordships that the whole circumstances have since changed. In the first place, there has been a continual fire of criticism, which gives signs of increasing rather than abating; in the next place, the South African War is at an end. When that war was still proceeding the taxpayers of this country would have voted to the Government any sum of money that they required. There was no hesitation then, and there would be no hesitation, on a similar occasion, of doing the same again. But, after all, what we must look to, and what the Government ought to look to, is what are the present probabilities? It has already been pointed out by Lord Burghclere that even supposing war was to break out again in South Africa, it would be quite a different war from that of which we have had such grievous experience. I do not believe there ever will be, but if, unfortunately, there should be, a revolution in that country, it would be dealt with under quite different conditions. Where is there any probability of your requiring an expeditionary force of 120,000 men? If the Government will not give us any information we must make for ourselves such information as we can, and we must take it from the newspapers and other ordinary sources. If there is any truth in the newspapers, and in what we hear in other ways, it would appear that the feeling in France towards this country is very much better than it has been for a long time past, and although German feeling towards this country has not been very cordial, and although we may think that some German Statesmen have given utterance to sentiments they had better have kept to themselves, yet that is removed by many miles from anything approaching to the probability of a war between Germany and this country. Then we pass on to the Far East. I suppose it must be over in that direction that there is danger, if any. Well, my Lords, if that be so, why cannot we be told? These things are quite well known, and, depend upon it, 443 official reticence will not avail this country much. If the papers are all wrong and there really is some danger of which we know nothing, then that makes one draw the disagreeable inference that we may possibly be on the brink of some war of which we have no intimation and no idea whatever.
We have been found fault with for asking questions, and those who ask questions are said, having had a hot fit, now to be having a cold one. I submit that that description is very far from being correct. When we are told that we are for the first time to have 120,000 men ready to go abroad, is it a strange thing that the taxpayers and Members of Parliament should ask for what purposes those 120,000 men are wanted? Let me further observe that in democratic countries it is impossible to avoid having questions asked, and, more than that, the taxpayers and others will think that such questions ought to be answered. The impression that remains on my mind is this. I entertain some doubt as to whether this scheme has been thoroughly thought out and considered. I remember the time at which, and the manner in which, it was brought out, and the fact that the Commander-in-Chief at that time had only recently returned from the war. The question which your Lordships should ask yourselves is—Do you feel satisfied in your minds with the present condition and future prospects of the Army? I am very glad to have heard of the change which has been made in the Committee of Imperial Defence, and I venture to hope that the very first thing to which the members of that Committee will apply their minds will be this Army Scheme, and I hope they will not be restrained from altering it, if they think a change is necessary, by any desire for consistency in their declarations and policy.
§ LORD BRASSEY
My Lords, the notice which my noble friend has placed on the Paper, though dealing specially with the Council of Defence, admits, and even invites, discussion on the whole subject. With regard to the Council I desire strongly to urge that upon a fitting opportunity representation should be given to the federated Governments of the self-governing colonies. It would 444 be a step towards Imperial unity in relation to defence. Until a plan of representation has been devised, it is unreasonable to look to the colonies for subsidies sufficient in amount to give substantial aid. They can greatly strengthen the Empire by maintaining such local forces as their mounted infantry. They did splendid service in South Africa, and Reserves for the Navy have been promised in New Zealand and Australia. While the present loyal feeling remains, we may look on all Colonial forces as in the true sense Imperial.
Turning to the Navy, it is satisfactory to know that the Council finds us in a commanding position. We are above a two-Power standard, and the experience of history shows the extreme difficulty of co-operation between allied Navies. We have not attained to the position we hold without proportionate sacrifices. Adding the expenditure of India and the colonies, and the £3,000,000 to be provided under the Naval Works Act, to the Navy Estimates, the total for 1903–4 is no less than £38,000,000. Let us compare our expenditure with that of other Powers. The return laid before Parliament last session on the Motion of Sir John Colomb gives the aggregate naval expenditure on seagoing forces for the Russian Empire at £9,944,750; for Germany, £9,624,956; and for France, £12,356,602. In round figures the aggregate amount for the three Powers is £33,000,000, as against £38,000,000 for the British Navy. We have to ask ourselves, Is the burden heavier than we can bear? What is the opinion of leading authorities on this grave question? Sir Michael Hicks-Beach has been frequently quoted in this debate, but we have had other testimony, and of the greatest weight. In opening the last Colonial Conference Mr. Chamberlain insisted in impressive language on our increasing burdens.The weary Titan" (he says), "staggers under the too vast orb of his fate.There is another authority to which we are bound to defer; it is that of public opinion. I live in the Rye Division, and know the arguments which were used at the recent by-election. Much was said about taxation. Criticism has been directed chiefly to the growth of military expenditure; yet even for the 445 Navy ever increasing charges may become intolerable, and lead to a dangerous reaction. Let us endeavour to prevent it by maintaining our naval efficiency, as far as it is possible, without adding to the public charge.
Naval expenditure may be classified milder three heads — construction, manning, and works. For 1903–4 our shipbuilding Votes reach a total of no less than £10,137,000. The amount required for the British Navy depends on the expenditure elsewhere, and great as has been the increase in our shipbuilding Votes, our Estimates will not exceed the total appropriations to shipbuilding in France, Germany and Russia. It has been necessary to add to our Votes for shipbuilding. We would gladly follow a lead in the direction of retrenchment. I now turn to the votes for personnel.The aggregate amount for 1903–1904 is little less than £9,000,000. Adding the Vote for pensions, we have a total charge of nearly £11,000,000 for the personnel of the British Navy, as against approximately £5,000,000 for France. Russia, and Germany. The increase of charge has been far in excess of that in other countries. In the last ten years we have added 50,000 to the numbers and £4,000,000 in round figures to the annual cost, as against £1,000,000 for France, Russia, and Germany. If we continue to advance in the next ten years at the rate of increase shown in the manning Votes for 1903–1904, we shall have added £7,000,000 to the manning Votes. The policy we have been following for the manning of the Navy is becoming impossible. We have the disadvantage, or perhaps the advantage, of a voluntary system, as against conscription.
But there is another reason for our heavy expenditure. Great Britain stands alone among the maritime Powers in providing for manning the Navy mainly with a permanent force, and the financial results of our policy are clearly shown in the Estimates. The expenditure on the Reserves is in striking contrast to that on the permanent men. The Reserve Vote for 1903–1904 is £297,000. Ten years ago the Vote taken was £286,000. In ten years we have added £4,000,000 for the permanent forces, and for the Reserves £9,000. I contend, my Lords, 446 that the Reserves have been starved. The training has been imperfect, the numbers insufficient. France has a Reserve of over 100,000 on the rolls, and at least 50,000 effectives; Germany has 74,000 on the rolls; the British Reserves number 34,000 all told. The growth in the numbers and cost of the permanent force has given grave anxiety to successive First Lords. In 1890 Lord George Hamilton dealt with the question of manning in his memorandum of the Estimates.It would" (he said), "be unreasonable to expect that the whole of the extra force required for the next four years should be obtained simply by additions to the permanent establishment of the Navy. To the Naval Reserves we must therefore look to largely supply these prospective deficiencies.The present First Lord suggests an obvious means by which the continual growth in the numbers of active service men may be checked. He deprecates the constant demands that are made in various quarters that additional ships should be placed in commission, with the necessary result that more active service men must be required. The remarks of Lord Selborne bring up for very serious consideration our policy in relation to foreign squadrons. In the distribution of ships in commission the essential principal is concentration at decisive points. We must keep our Mediterranean, Channel, Home, Reserve and Cruiser squadrons at full strength. We must be strong in China. On other stations, however, reductions should be possible. In the Atlantic, the Pacific, exclusive of China, and the East India Station, for many years past no squadrons have been seen under the flags of the leading maritime Powers of Europe. Single vessels have been few. Your Lordships will learn with surprise that on the stations to which I have referred we have a British force manned by more than 12,000 men. We have in commission four first-class, ten second-class, and fifteen third-class cruisers, twelve gunboats, and six sloops. Of these vessels, nearly fifty in numbers the cruisers of the first and second class type alone can be considered as effective for the protection of commerce. The smaller vessels are insufficient in point of armament and speed. They would give no protection from the 447 attacks of larger vessels. The cruisers of foreign powers, in seas so distant from any naval base, must necessarily be of large size. The complements of our small and ineffective vessels on the stations to which I have referred aggregate no less than 5,000. By gradually paying off the small vessels, their complements would become available for seven battleships, without adding to the permanent force. The training of the Navy would be improved by the change. Training in squadrons, with ample means for exercises on a large scale, does more for efficiency than the routine of a foreign squadron.
While employing our permanent force to better advantage—that is to say in manning only such ships as are really effective—prompt action should be taken in the enrolment and training of the Reserves. Sir Edward Grey's Committee, have shown from how many sources Reserves can be raised to any number which may be necessary. There should be no distrust of Reserves on the point of efficiency for the duties they would have to undertake. I can contribute something on this subject from personal observation. When the fleet was assembled last year at Spithead for the Coronation Review, I took the opportunity of paying a visit to the American flagship. In reply to some remarks on the fine appearance of the crew, the Captain said:You will probably be surprised to learn that out of my ship's company of 700 men no less than 135 were drawn from the inland states, chiefly from Chicago and the vicinity. These men have fully compensated for their inexperience at sea by the pains they take to acquire a knowledge of their duties.In addition to the novices the ship carried ninety-five apprentices.
I will refer very briefly to the expenditure on Naval Works. It vastly exceeds that of the chief Powers of Europe. In the period from 1895 to 1901 the amounts authorised under the Naval Works Bills increased from £8,805,000 to £27,502,000. In addition, large sums were voted under Military Works Bills for the defence of Naval Stations, and new proposals are in the air. The projected Naval Station on the Forth is a wise step, and it brings into strong relief expenditure on some other works 448 in progress. There is one obvious remark. If some portion of the outlay were charged on Estimates, it would ensure closer scrutiny.
The circumstances of the time call for increasing care in husbanding our resources. Further additions to Estimates may, as I have said, lead to a dangerous reaction. In dealing with the Navy let us remember that we need an Army; and in this connection I think it was a wise caution that was addressed to us the other evening by Lord Goschen. I have endeavoured to show to your Lordships that without cutting down in manning, in shipbuilding, or in any essential service, it is possible to maintain and even to strengthen the Navy without further additions to Estimates. In conclusion, I desire to make the fullest acknowledgment of the work done by the present Admiralty. They have made a beginning in the redistribution of our Squadrons. I would venture to urge that the changes they have begun should be carried further. They have taken a first step in the reinforcement of the Reserve by the appointment of Sir Edward Grey's Committee, and I must acknowledge that they were not responsible for the Naval works to which I referred as of doubtful necessity. For forty years I have watched the naval expenditure of the country, and I am bound to admit that the present administration of the service has never been exceeded in efficiency by any previous Board.
§ EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I confess I think it is rather hard to have to address the House on an important subject of this kind at an hour when the Benches are certainly not full; and I may here sympathise with the noble Duke who, I am afraid, will find the House even emptier when he gets up to reply. I shall not, however, go into all the topics that have been brought forward to-night. No one has a greater right to speak on the Navy than my noble friend who has just sat down, but I almost wish that his speech had been delivered when the subject of the Estimates had been brought forward rather than on this occasion, when the debate turns mainly on this question of our Council of Defence, and although, no doubt, the end of the 449 Resolution refers to the necessity of co-ordinating the forces and adjusting the national armaments to the naval, military, and financial conditions of the Empire, I shall not go into that. My noble friend Lord Rosebery made a clear and able statement in support of his Motion, with almost the whole of which I most cordially agree. I do not so joyfully accept the beginning of his Motion, in which he asks the House to approve of this Council for National Defence; and in what I am going to say I regret that I do not entirely agree with him and with my noble friend Lord Burghclere, but I have very little difficulty about the position to night; for certainly, even if I had a large majority at my back, I should not feel inclined to divide the House on the subject, and for this reason—that we know that this project is one which, as the Prime Minister has said, he considers experimental and tentative. But I agree with my noble friend entirely in thinking that it is absolutely essential that we should endeavour to co-ordinate the two services. With regard to that some instructive information was given to the House, for it was shown that the germ of the Committee of Defence was sown by my noble friend in the Government to which I had the honour to belong. The First Lord of the Admiralty said that, even if that germ was sown then, it had been crushed out or trampled down; but by whom was that done? It certainly was not by the Government of my noble friend, Lord Rosebery, because this Committee had not been formed very long before, unfortunately for the country, though perhaps to the relief of some Members of that Government, it ceased to exist.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I never said it had been trampled down. I said it had been concealed. We never heard of it.
§ EARL SPENCER
It does not follow that because it was not advertised it did not do useful work. In that I agree with the remark of the noble Viscount opposite that in these days people are apt not to approve of things which are 450 done in silence and in quietude. I entirely agree with the noble Viscount and with the First Lord of the Admiralty as to the work already done by different Committees. The first Committee with which I was acquainted, and the one which did more work than any other when I was at the Admiralty, was the combined Naval and Military Committee at the Colonial Office. That Committee did admirable work. Paper after paper drawn up by it came before me as First Lord of the Admiralty, and they were papers of the highest importance. Then there was the Committee which was, I believe, appointed by the Government of Lord Salisbury in 1890. That also did admirable work, and it had upon it the naval and military experts. I cannot help thinking that too often in this country we condemn a particular office, or a particular system, not really because the system itself is wrong, but because it has not been properly appreciated and handled by those who are in office. The success of a mechanism depends on the force which works it. In this case, however, we have been told by the First Lord of the Treasury that the Committee over which the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council presided did very excellent work. But now we come to the new proposal. I confess I have very considerable doubts whether the new proposal is a sound proposal, or one that is likely to sustain and improve the responsibility of the Cabinet and of the political heads of great Departments. I admit that there is high authority for the proposal, because something extremely like it was recommended by the Commission over which the noble Duke opposite presided. The report of that Commission says—There might be some advantage in the formation of a naval and military council which probably would be presided over by the Prime Minister and would consist of the heads of the two services and their professional advisers.And it ends by saying—It might be summoned from time to time to consider and authoritatively decide unsettled questions between the two Departments on any matters of joint naval and military policy which in the opinions of the two services required discussion and decision. It would be essential to the usefulness of such a council and to the interests of the country that its proceedings and decisions should be 451 duly recorded, instances having occurred in which Cabinet decisions have been differently understood by the two Departments and become practically a dead letter.That looks extremely like the germ of the present proposal; but the Report does not say how these different bodies are to be grouped and in what position they ought to be relative to each other, and in other passages the Royal Commission strongly supports the sole responsibility, for example, of the First Lord of the Admiralty. I confess myself that I see a very grave difficulty. However much I may admire the ability of the different officers of the Navy and the Army who are placed on this Committee, I feel extremely doubtful as to how they can carry out their duties in relation to the responsibility of the Cabinet. I am afraid that the constitution of this Committee may help to weaken that responsibility. I quote the deliberate opinion of important Members who have discussed this subject, to show how they view the matter. I find that some of these Members desire the Committee to deal with all kinds of subjects which seem to me to be of such importance that nobody except the Cabinet itself ought to deal with them. I see a statement, for instance, that this Committee would have prevented the possibility of Russian warships being allowed to pass through the Dardanelles unchallenged. The same speaker said that the incidents in regard to the search of a German mail ship during the South African War would never have happened if this Committee had been sitting. That is one view. There is another view, that the Secretary of State now has a great deal too much to do and that he will be relieved of half his responsibility if this Committee is appointed. I am not saying that His Majesty's Government hold that opinion, but that is the opinion outside; and I think such a state of things would have a very bad and prejudicial effect. I read the reference in the Report of the Royal Commission over which the noble Duke presided to the question of records. There may be considerable difficulty about that also. The moment it is known that these records are kept, those in another place who do not perceive the necessity of maintaining the responsibility of the Cabinet will endeavour to press on every possible occasion for the production of these 452 records in order to test by them whether the Government have taken the proper course or not. I think a very great difficulty may arise.
There is another point. The First Lord of the Admiralty goes to this Committee, and he has with him the First Sea Lord and the Director of Naval Intelligence. It is possible, as the noble Viscount said the other day, that the First Lord may have had an amicable difference with the First Sea Lord as to the number of battleships necessary, or on some other subject. The First Lord of the Admiralty has absolute power to settle that himself. He may have settled it. But is that question to be raised again before this Committee? They are all to be on an equality on the Committee, so far as I can make out. The First Sea Lord has then a perfect right to raise this question. What position will the head of the Department be in then? He will be in a helpless position. The other Members of the Cabinet may decide against the First Lord who is responsible to the nation and to Parliament for his policy. I feel sure that if that took place the First Lord of the Admiralty would have to resign his position. Then there is the question of voting. I do not know what will happen. Will the First Lord of the Admiralty be followed by his two officers, and the Secretary of State for War be followed by his? It might be a very serious matter. I do not think it is right to put these officers, distinguished men as they are, in the position of having to vote when they know their vote cannot be equal to the votes of Cabinet Ministers, who eventually must be responsible. I feel these are difficulties of no small kind. No Minister directly responsible for the direction of the policy of the country would ever attempt to bring a matter before the Cabinet unless he had fully discussed it with the experts who are now to be put on an equality with him. If these distinguished officers are solely on the Council or Committee as assessors, well and good. I quite admit it is absolutely necessary that the Prime Minister should take a deep interest in these matters, and regulate any policy as between the Navy and the Army; but I cannot conceive any Prime Minister being able so to act without obtaining the best possible advice from all the 453 exports now to be placed on this Committee. I do not think the Government will find this Committee very workable or a very useful change in the administration of the country unless they modify the proposals they have placed before Parliament.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Duke of DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, I entirely concur with the noble Earl who has just spoken as to the extremely depressing circumstances in which we are both obliged to address the House. I regret still more the absence, which I know is quite unavoidable, of the noble Earl who introduced this Motion; because it would have been far more agree able to me to make the observations I have to make on his speech in his presence. I do not know why any noble Lord should have thought it necessary to congratulate the noble Earl upon the tone and temper of the speech he made. I do not think that on any occasion we have had to complain on either of these points of the speeches of the noble Earl The speech he delivered the other day was a speech which, I think, we should have expected from him. It was marked by extreme eloquence though it was of a somewhat discursive character; in fact, I think very few other orators would have had the courage or the imagination to enable them to introduce the topics of the Irish Land Purchase Bill and old age pensions into the discussion of a Resolution upon the subject of this Committee. In some respects his speech appeared to me to be not altogether fair to the position of those to whom he is politically opposed. The speech omitted altogether any reference to some of the most important factors involved. But the point which struck me most in the speech was the contrast, the almost dramatic contrast, which it exhibited between the mental attitude of the speaker at the present time and on several previous occasions. I have a very accurate recollection of the noble Earl standing on the other side of this table and, in tones of the deepest emotion, reproaching His Majesty's Government with their total indifference Co the universal feeling of uneasiness and anxiety prevailing in the country, and for not taking timely measures in a 454 matter of life and death to this country. We were greatly impressed by those utterances, and we have endeavoured to secure that the noble Earl should never again be called upon to address similar appeals to us. What was it that caused at that time the anxiety and uneasiness and dread which he found in the mind of the people? We had the Volunteers, the Militia, and the other Auxiliary forces, and all the elements on which he now considers we ought to rely for the defence of the country, but still, in his opinion, we were in a state of danger and unpreparedness. We have provided establishments, and we have endeavoured to organise our naval and military forces in a manner which we hoped would secure that the noble Earl should never again be exposed to similar alarms. But we find that, far from being grateful for having taken his advice, he now tells us that in a state of profound peace we are bleeding our country to death. I think that the speech of the noble Earl shows a most extraordinary and a most dramatic contrast between the attitude assumed by a statesman of his eminence in different sets of circumstances.
The reasons of the noble Earl in bringing forward his Resolution at this particular moment are not quite obvious. I think that the present time is most unsuited for such a speech. He has brought forward a number of questions which have been discussed at great length in both Houses, and still more largely in the Press. Two votes of censure have been moved against the Government in the other House, condemning their proposals, and both Motions were defeated. The Estimates of the Government in respect of their armament proposals have been practically accepted. A vote of censure was also moved in this House, and of that I think it may rather be said that it collapsed than that it was defeated. The Committee of which the noble Earl approved is in existence and is inquiring into the very subject to which he desires attention should be directed. What hen was or is the object of the noble Earl in bringing forward this Resolution at this particular moment? Is it in order to show hat on this as on most other questions a considerable difference of opinion exists between himself and his late 455 colleagues? Or is it rather to show that the noble Earl on this vital question of Imperial defence, as the Leader of a new Party, has definite ideas and principles, which it is possible may in some other changed condition of political circumstances recommend him to the confidence of the country? I doubt, if this was the intention of the Motion and of the speech, whether it will meet with much success. I think that the country will be disposed to take at their true value the declaration and criticisms of a statesman who has, for reasons that are not very easy to understand, declined to give his guidance to the country or to Parliament at the moment when that advice and guidance might have been useful to influence the decision of Parliament, and seeks by this kind of criticism to establish a reputation for superior wisdom and judgment to that either of those with whom he has been politically associated, or of those to whom he has always been in opposition.
I need only say on behalf of the Government, with reference to the Resolution, that whatever be the motives which led to its proposal, we accept its terms without reservation. We do not accept them because they are in the form of a vote of confidence in the Government, framed in much the same terms as the Resolution moved by the Prime Minister in the other House, and which might have been moved by a supporter of the Government. We accept the Resolution without reserve, because we consider that its terms describe with sufficient accuracy, although not exhaustively, the subject of inquiry which we think ought to be entrusted to this Committee. The "adjustment of the national armaments to the naval, military and financial conditions of the Empire" are words which in our opinion adequately, though, as I have said, not exhaustively describe the task—the immensely difficult and responsible task—the responsibility and the decision of which rests upon the Government, and in the execution of which we hope to receive assistance and guidance from this Committee. The adjustment, or rather the readjustment, of the national armaments is a subject which has been already during the present year very fully discussed throughout the country. To hear some of our critics it might be supposed that 456 very little was left to this Committee to do, that we might almost be expected to admit that all these questions had been solved from the point of view of statesmanship and strategy, and that nothing remained but to endorse what has been submitted by our responsible advisers. That is not the opinion of the Government. The difficulties which we have met with in the organisation, and especially in the provision of supplies for the military establishments—difficulties which existed before the late war, but the gravity of which has been still more forcibly brought home to us by our experiences in the war—have led us to consider that as to some of the higher problems of Imperial defence, of defence at home, the defence of our Colonies, the defence of our commercial interests in every part of the world, they have never been adequately confronted by any Government, either on our own side or by those who have preceded us. I say higher problems of Imperial and home and colonial defence because I do not at all consider that there has been a total want of co-operation between the two Departments in the past. Lord Goschen and the First Lord of the Admiralty spoke in terms the other night, which were not in any degree exaggerated, of the value of the services rendered by the Naval, Military, and Colonial Defence Committees. It would be untrue to say that in times past, at any rate in recent years, there has been a want of useful co-operation on a great variety of questions between the members of the two Departments of the War Office and the Admiralty. But these are mainly minor, though still immensely important, questions. When we came to what I may call the higher problems of national defence, those which can only be solved by the Cabinet itself, such as those relating to the scale of our armaments and the purposes to which those armaments were to be applied, we felt that many of them never had been adequately considered as affecting both Services, and that the two Services had been treated too much as Departments on a separate basis, and not, as they ought to be, a part of a united system of defence.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I me now to the Committee of Defence. 457 It was no doubt constituted for the purpose to which I have referred. The Prime Minister has stated some of the reasons which have prevented our obtaining from that Committee all the advantages we had hoped and expected from it In the first place, it was merely a Committee of the Cabinet. The permanent members of the Services were not members of it, although they were occasionally called in for consultation. The Committee had no permanent existence. It was only called together when special questions had to be considered. The President of the Committee had no authority to convene it and to raise questions for its discussion; and, above all, the Committee preserved no records, and its deliberations had not that connecting and permanent character and, in many respects, that authority which we trust and expect will attach to the proceedings of the Council of Imperial Defence. Many questions have been asked as to the constitution of this Committee. It has been stated by the Under-Secretary to-night that the Prime Minister is not at present the President of the Committee. I, as President of the Council, have the honour of occupying that position, although, of course, it is hardly necessary for me to say that in important deliberations, wherever the Prime Minister is able to be present, his voice will be potent; but questions of less urgent and pressing importance will, doubtless, come up from time to time in which his presence may not be necessary, and we thought it better that a Minister, who is less overburdened with work than the Prime Minister himself should keep a constant and general superintendence over the proceedings of the Committee and the preparation of the material for its deliberations, which naturally devolves I upon the President. The question has been asked whether this Committee is to vote. I cannot conceive circumstances arising under which such a course would be taken. The usual procedure of the Committee will be that, after full discussion of any question, it will draw up a report for the consideration of the Cabinet, and the form which any divergence of opinion will assume, will be separate reports, or the recording of a dissent to the conclusion arrived at by the majority of the members.
The noble Earl opposite concluded his criticisms of this Committee by saying 458 that it was unnecessary. He also said that, in his opinion, the Council of Defence might tend to diminish the responsibility of the Cabinet, and he also agreed with the noble Marquess that it might affect or impair the confidential relations between Ministers and their professional advisers. I submit that these are apprehensions of so vague and shadowy a character that it is absolutely impossible to argue from them. These opinions can only be tested by experience. We see no reason why the responsibility of the Cabinet should in any way be diminished by having access to the advice of such a body. We see no reason why the confidential relations between Ministers and their professional advisers should be impaired; but if these apprehensions should be justified, the procedure, as has been stated, is only an experimental one. The Committee has probably not taken even now its final form. It is only by experience it can be ascertained whether any of the inconveniences or dangers indicated will arise. The noble Earl referred to the expenditure and scale of military establishments, and he pitied the successors of the present Government on account of the great legacy of expenditure which he thought we would bequeath to them. Now the Secretary of State for War explained very clearly in the other House where the £10,000,000 that we had added to the military Estimates had gone. The expenditure which we have added is expenditure over the greater portion of which our successors will have complete and absolute control. My right hon. friend showed that £5,000,000 of that expenditure had been incurred by the additions we had made to the regular military establishments. If our successors think these establishments are excessive, there will be nothing easier than by a stroke of the pen to reduce them to what they had been before the additions were made; and therefore full discretion is left to them in this respect. Another £2,500,000 had been added to the Estimates in order to replenish both warlike stores and stores of clothing which the experience of war showed had been kept by former Governments, and by the present Government, at an inadequate amount. That expenditure will not be a permanent charge, but will 459 be in relief of any expenditure of that kind which our successors will have to undertake. Therefore, at least three-fourths of the expenditure which so alarms the noble Earl is either expenditure which will not recur, or expenditure over which our successors will have complete control.
The noble Earl went on to speak about the scale of our establishments, and referring to the 120,000 men who might be sent abroad, and also the 600,000 men, he said he did not know whether they existed or not. I am sorry that before the noble Earl made that statement he did not take the trouble to refer to the Army Estimates which have been laid on the table. If he had he would have seen that those Estimates deal with figures still more "spacious" than those he referred to in a vague and airy way. He would have seen that the Estimates of the year deal with a home and colonial establishment of 850,000 men, of whom 538,000 belong to the Auxiliary Forces and 281,000, including 70,000 Reserves, to British and colonial establishments for Regular troops. He would have seen, also, exactly how far these establishments were represented at the present time by effective men. He would have seen that while the establishment of Regular troops is complete up to that provided by the Estimates, the effectives of the Auxiliary Forces are still considerably below the establishment, because some of them—the Militia Reserve, for instance, and a number of the Volunteer corps—were only called into existence during the war, and the effectives have not yet reached their full establishment. It is difficult, indeed, to understand what the position of the noble Earl is in regard to that portion of these "spacious" figures which concern the Auxiliary Forces. He first says that if they exist he does not know where they are to be employed, and at the end of his speech he condemned us for not giving the Auxiliary Forces sufficient encouragement. Of course the primary object of these great auxiliary establishments is, as everyone knows, home defence. Whether those establishments are excessive or not must be a question—first, for the responsible Minister, then for the Government as a whole, and 460 finally for Parliament to decide; but it is not easy to understand what is the position of a statesman who first charges us with providing establishments for which there is no employment, and then in the same speech reproaches us for not having appealed to the military instincts and the patriotic spirit of our country. The noble Earl did a great injustice to the Secretary of State for War by the way he represented his attitude on the subject of home defence. The noble Earl quoted from the speech of the Secretary of State the following passage, which he described as a very remarkable one—When we talk of home defence, let us not confuse our minds Ivy considering the position and the action of the Navy.But the noble Earl omitted to quote the words which followed—The Navy is obviously our first line of defence, and if all naval matters were matters of certainly we might dispense with the Army for home defence altogether. I quite agree that invasion may be an off-chance, but you cannot run an Empire of this size on off-chances. We are bound, with the Army and Navy acting together, to provide a proper system of home defence.A more unfair representation of the attitude of the Secretary of State for War towards the Navy in regard to the question of home defence could not be conceived. The real point of the critics of our scheme is that we provide in this year's Estimates for an excessive establishment of Regular troops to be maintained at home. I would point out that, whatever opinion we may hold as to the strategical advantages we enjoy from our insular position and our naval superiority, there are certain things which the Navy cannot do. The Navy may, and I hope can, secure to us immunity against invasion of our shores on any large scale. It may relieve our island colonies such as those of Australia and New Zealand and—since the South African war—our South African colonies from any apprehension of attack by foreign Powers. But the Navy cannot undertake, and does not undertake, to protect our Indian dominions from internal disturbances, or to protect India, Canada, and our West African possessions, all of which have long land frontiers, from the possibility of attack by foreign Powers. The Navy cannot 461 secure, and does not profess to be able to secure, immunity from attack to our naval bases in all parts of the world, upon which the efficiency of the Navy itself depends; and, further, whatever protection the Navy may be able to accord to these islands and to our colonies against invasion, we may at some time be engaged in a war with a Tower which is as invulnerable to our Fleet as we hope we are invulnerable to its Army; and such a war could only be brought by us to a successful conclusion by being able to strike at the critical moment a blow of a decisive character. For these reasons it has always been held, and is held now by all authorities, military and naval, that no amount of naval strength and no amount of security which may be derived from our Auxiliary Forces at home can relieve us from maintaining considerable military establishments for immediate service abroad in emergencies.
The question, then, is. Are the establishments for which we provide excessive or not? I would ask the House to remember that the scale of these establishments is based on two factors, neither of which has been referred to in this debate. The first factor is the strength of the standing Army which we are compelled to maintain in India and the colonies for the defence of our naval bases. That is a factor which is permanent, and which is unalterable—at least to any great extent The landing Army which we are thus bound to maintain permanently for the protection of our Empire, and which is now larger than at ordinary times in consequence of the necessity of a larger garrison in South Africa, amounts at present to 138,000 men. Again, a large part of that Army has to be maintained in tropical climates, where it is impossible that the service of our soldiers can be a very long one; that is a fact which cannot be eliminated from the consideration of the question. The second factor is that the whole foundation of our military system—the method by which our troops are raised, by which they are organised—the whole basis of our military system is the scheme which was established by Mr. Cardwell, the principal and main object of which scheme was the provision of adequate 462 drafts to keep that standing Army abroad, of which I have spoken, permanently up to its full strength and in a condition of full efficiency. I know that Mr. Card well's scheme had other objects, objects which in Egypt and the Soudan, and, I will also say, in the late war, it has not unsuccessfully accomplished; but the main object with which the scheme wad devised and recommended to Parliament was to provide in the most efficient manner for the maintenance of a great compulsory and obligatory standing Army abroad. Of course, if we consider that the scheme established by Mr. Cardwell is no longer suited to the altered conditions of our Empire, it is capable of modification. But I think we will pause a very long time before, on the advice of utterly and entirely irresponsible advisers, we discard a scheme which undoubtedly has up to the present stood us in good stead, and adopt another, until we are satisfied that it is recommended to us by those upon whose military judgment and knowledge we can rely. Our scheme of Army Corps has nothing to do with the real question raised by this Motion. That scheme, as has been explained over and over again, was intended to provide, and I think it does provide, a better system of organisation for the troops which we maintain at home; it has nothing whatever to do with the number and the scale of the establishment of those troops, which are based, as I have pointed out, on the requirements of Mr. Card well's scheme. Certain advantages are claimed, and I think rightly claimed, for the Army Corps organisation, but that organisation does not involve cither an increase or a diminution of the numbers of the establishment, which are based on altogether different factors, If I had time I would lay before your Lordships a few figures showing what is the actual establishment of troops in this country and how far they are absolutely required or in excess of the requirements contemplated by Mr. Carnwell's scheme but at this hour, and in the present state of the House, I will not venture to trouble your Lordships with any satistics of this kind. I come to the question which has been asked over and over again in the course of this discussion. How can we need in any 463 possible circumstance an Army of 120,000 men to send abroad? I am bound to say that I do not understand the frame of mind of those who, after our experiences of the last three years, can ask such a question. What would have been thought two years ago of the judgment and capacity of the statesman who had said in the preceding year that he could not conceive the circumstances in which we should ever want three Army Corps of 120,000 men to send out of the country, when at a very short period afterwards we had to send to South Africa a force nearer to six than to three Army Corps. We are asked to say where we contemplate using these troops. If I could be told what our next war would be I might be able to say where we contemplate using these three Army Corps. Will any noble Lord or anyone venture to say that in an Empire of our extent, covering so large an area of the globe and with interests so varied and enormous, circumstances may not arise which may make it in the highest degree desirable and necessary to the protection of our vital interests to have the means of sending for service out of the country a force of the moderate number of 120,000 men?
One noble Lord, I think it was Lord Camperdown, said to-night that we were permanently placing ourselves in the rank of a great military nation. I wonder what France or Germany would say if they were told that their capacity as a great military nation was limited to the sending of three Army Corps of 120,000 men out of the country. It seems to me absolutely conclusive that the power to provide such a force in an emergency is essential to the best and the highest interests of the nation. It is conceivable that for the purposes of home defence we may be able to rely more than we have hitherto done upon a better organised body of Auxiliary forces. It is also conceivable that under some other military system we may be able to provide a more effective Army than has been provided under Mr. Cardwell's scheme. But until that time comes we are bound to ask Parliament to grant us the military establishments which are necessary to make our existing Army an efficient Army. We are not dealing now 464 with the problems of the future. We have not had time since the war to elaborate a totally new Army system which would replace that which we are used to. When the time comes it is possible we may discover a system which may be worked with fewer men than are required at present. What we have to do is to provide for the wants of the present under our existing system; and until we have found some better system we must not grudge the establishments which in our judgment are necessary to secure the safety, and not only the safety, but also the honour and the interests, of the Empire.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before Nine o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.