§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
in rising to call attention to the procedure followed by the Court of inquiry, held on the 14th December, 1902, in reference to events which had taken place in the Grenadier Guards, and to ask—(1) Whether under Sub-section M. of the Rules of Procedure, Part II. Section 124, Colonel Kinloch did not apply for and receive a copy of the report of the Court of inquiry: (2) Whether Sub-sections C, F., G, regulating the procedure of Courts of inquiry, were not violated: (3) Whether it is not a fact that Colonel Kinloch was afforded no opportunity of explaining, completing, or amplifying his statement before he was removed from his command and placed on half-pay: (4) Whether it is not a breach of the Army Act to obtain the publication of, and print as evidence, a voluntary statement made before a Court of inquiry by an officer not on his oath, not on his trial, and assured that his statement is not evidence: (5) Whether the statutory procedure by aggrieved officers for the redress of wrongs as defined in Sections 42 and 27 of the Army Act was followed in the case of Lieutenant Leveson- 1143 Gower, who had been called upon to resign his commission by the regimental authorities as being no longer a credit to his regiment, said: My Lords, I must first explain the reason for again bringing this subject before the House. Last Tuesday the noble and gallant Earl the Commander-in-Chief was not in his place. The noble and gallant Earl kindly informed me that it would be possible for him to attend to-day, with a view, I hope, of taking part in the debate. The noble Duke the President of the Council, said that if it was desired to discuss the case of Colonel Kinloch the Government would not object on an explicit notice being given. I hasten to assure the noble Duke and your Lordships that I have no intention of discussing the case of Colonel Kinloch. My intention is to use that case only as an illustration of the injustice which may be perpetrated by disregarding certain provisions of the Army Act, and by secret Courts of Inquiry conducted in a manner contrary to the Rules enacted by Parliament for the vindication of the character and military reputation of officers concerned. I do not discuss the decision of the Commander-in-Chief, I do not care why he acted. I want to know how he acted. I desire to point out to your Lordships that the character of Colonel Kinloch and the state of his regiment have nothing to do with the legality and the justice, of the methods employed in removing him from his command. Those methods affect the position of every officer in His Majesty's service. They involve important constitutional points besides those of military law and procedure. They do not involve any personal points. I call your Lordships' attention to the procedure followed by the court of inquiry held on the 14th December last. This is not a case of rough and ready justice in time of war, when the rights of individuals must yield to the interests of the service. It is an instance of the strict, deliberate administration of justice in time of peace. Parliament has laid down Rules for the conduct of these Courts, protecting officers against the possible abuses of these secret, informal and extra judicial Courts. No discretionary power vested in the Commander-in-Chief entitles him to depart from the Rules by which these 1144 Courts are governed. In reference to my first question I quote Sub-section M—An officer or soldier who is tried by Court-martial in respect of any matter or thing which has been reported on by a Court of Inquiry, and, unless the Secretary of State sees reason to order otherwise, an officer or soldier whose character or military reputation is, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, affected by anything in the evidence before, or in the report of, a Court of Inquiry, shall be entitled to a copy of the proceedings of the Court, including any report made by the Court, on payment of the actual cost of the copy required, not exceeding twopence for every folio of seventy-two words.In accordance with this section, Colonel Kinloch applied for and received a copy of the report of the Court, because, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, his character and military reputation had been affected by the proceedings of the Court. I do not think that there is a noble Lord in this House who would for a moment argue that Colonel Kinloch's character or military reputation had not been affected by the proceedings of the Court. It therefore follows that the Court of inquiry was a Court holding an inquiry which affected the character and military reputation of an officer. Why, then, were all the provisions for the protection of officers so affected absolutely disregarded?
I now come to Question 2 on the Paper, and quote Sub-section C:The Court will be guided by the written instructions of the officer who assembled the Court. The instructions should be full and explicit, and must state the general character of the information required from the Court in their report.We had it from the noble Earl, the Under-Secretary of State for War, on Tuesday last, that there was no mention of the officer's character or military reputation in those written instructions. Neither the Court nor the officer knew that the officer's character or military reputation could be affected by the proceedings. Therefore, my Lords, I contend, that from its inception and by its actual constitution, the Court and all its proceedings are utterly void and illegal. I now quote Sub-section F:Whenever any inquiry affects the character or military reputation of an officer or soldier full opportunity must be afforded to the officer or soldier of being present throughout the inquiry, and of making any statement, and of giving any evidence he may wish to give, and 1145 of cross-examining any witness whose evidence, in his opinion, affects his character or military reputation.Every one of these safeguards were disregarded. The officer was particularly requested not to be present throughout this Court of Inquiry, because the Court believed that they were inquiring into the conduct of the junior officers, and knew that the junior officers would speak more unrestrainedly if their commanding officer was not present. He was not even allowed to complete his own statement. He mentioned to the Court that his statement was not completed. The Court said he would be called later, but they did not know that the Court was to be suddenly dispersed, and the statement left unfinished. He was not allowed to cross-examine witnesses. He was not allowed to produce witnesses in defence of his character or military reputation. I quote Sub-section G:It is the duty of a Court of Inquiry to put such questions to a witness as they think desirable for testing the truth or accuracy of any evidence he has given, and otherwise for eliciting the truth.Now, there was a direct conflict of evidence between the officer affected and his subaltern. That subaltern escaped all examination by the Court and all cross-examination by the officer, because neither the Court nor the officer knew that his character or military reputat on would be affected by the proceedings. That then, my Lords, is the mode under which the Court of Inquiry collected the information on which the Commander-in-Chief deprived an officer of his command, and of his full pay, and of his prospects of pension.
I now come to Question 3 on the paper. When Colonel Kinloch was informed of the decision of the Commander-in-Chief, he at once pointed out that he had never been heard in his own defence at all, that the statement which he had made was incomplete, and that he had been deprived of those advantages to which he was entitled under the Parliamentary contract. Your Lordships will perceive that this representation at once brought to the notice of the authorities the irregularity of the Court of Inquiry. It is the duty of the Secretary of State to assure himself that accused officers 1146 have received all the opportunities for their defence prescribed by the Army Act and the Rules of Procedure. I have shown to your Lordships that to Colonel Kinloch under the procedure adopted every one of these opportunities was denied.
I now come to Question 4 on the Paper and quote Sub-section L:The proceedings of a Court of Inquiry, or any confession, statement or answer to a question made or given at a Court of Inquiry, shall not be admissible in evidence against an officer or soldier, nor shall any evidence respecting the proceedings of the Court be given against any officer or soldier.I hold in my hand a Parliamentary Paper with this heading, "Evidence given by Col. Kinloch before a Court of Inquiry." The word "evidence" should be struck out and replaced by these words, "A voluntary statement made by Colonel Kinloch as a witness, not on his oath, not on his trial, and which is not admissible in evidence against him according to the Army Act, but has been used by the Commander-in-Chief as the basis for his decision." I challenge the noble Earl, the Under Secretary of State, to prove that what I have substituted for the word "evidence" is not absolutely correct according to the Army Act, and I defy the noble Earl to justify the use of this word "evidence" as it stands on this Paper. If this Paper had been published with the heading I have substituted, and the accuracy of which I challenge the noble Earl to disprove, how would it have been received? I think it would have been received with indignation and derision; but stamped with the word "evidence" and published by the authority of the Secretary of State, it has been received by Parliament and the country as though it were the legal evidence of a man who knew himself to be upon his trial before a formal tribunal, and as the legitimate basis for the decision of the Commander-in-Chief.
I now pass to a question arising out o the speech of the noble Earl the Under Secretary of State for War on Tuesday last. I mean the exercise of the Royal Warrant. I apprehend that the right manner of using the Royal Warrant is as follows. The Commander-in-Chief recommends the Secretary of State to remove an officer from his command, and gives no reason to 1147 the officer for his removal except that he is removed by exercise of the Royal Warrant; that is, by the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief, but on the authority of the Secretary of State, who is responsible that in the procedure adopted, every provision of the Army Act and the Rules of Procedure have been correctly complied with. Now the Commander-in-Chief had decided to proceed by means of the Court of Inquiry, and had based his decision on the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry, which had been irregularly conducted, and the irregularities of which had been brought to the notice of the authorities before the sentence was announced. I now quote again Sub-section L—The proceedings of a Court of Inquiry, or any confession, statement, or answer to a question made or given at a Court of Inquiry, shall not be admissible in evidence against an officer or soldier, nor shall any evidence respecting the proceedings of the Court be given against any officer or soldier.A further constitutional point which I have to put to your Lordships is—Can the Commander-in-Chief, by virtue of the Royal Warrant, clothe himself with authority to do what Parliament declines to permit him to do, and proceed to an act of annihilation upon the information of a Court of Inquiry—information which is not evidence according to military law; which is not evidence according to civil law; and which is not evidence according to common sense. Can he, in a word, nullify an Act of Parliament by virtue of his Royal Warrant?
My last question arises under Sections 42 and 27 of the Army Act. I went into this matter at length on Tuesday last, and my remarks are no doubt in the hands of the noble and gallant Earl the Commander-in-Chief. I therefore only state that I base my argument upon the tatement made by the Secretary of State for War on the 11th March, in which he says—Lord De Saumarez would never have gone to the Commander in-Chief had it not been that a relative of his had received notice from the regimental authorities that on the following Monday Mr. Leveson-Gower would be called upon to resign his commission, because he had ceased to be a credit to his regiment.Why had Mr. Leveson-Gower been asked by the colonel commanding the three battalions to resign? I under- 1148 stand that on the 1st December, in the battalion orderly room and in the presence of the two senior officers of the battalion, Mr. Leveson-Gower admitted having made false statements concerning his commanding officer, and that subsequently in the regimental orderly room he repeated the same admission before the colonel of the regiment and his regimental adjutant. Now there were senior officers of the regiment present on both occasions. I presume that the opinion of these senior officers is known at the War Office. I ask the noble Earl the Under Secretary of State for War, did they agree in saying that there was an admission of false statements concerning his commanding officer by Mr. Leveson-Gower on those two occasions?
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE for WAR (The Earl of Hardwicke)
What are the actual terms of the false statement?
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
I ask if inquiries have been made of the senior officers concerning the false statement.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
That is not my point. Have the senior officers been questioned concerning the false statement
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
My Lords, the noble Duke has recapitulated in clear and concise terms the speech he delivered a few days ago, and I would remind the House that on that occasion I asked your Lordships' indulgence if I did not——
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
I beg the noble Earl's pardon for interrupting him, but I did not understand that the noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Bedford) had concluded his speech.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I was reminding the House when the noble Duke interrupted me that I had asked your Lordships' indulgence if I did not reply in detail to all the unexpected and startling statements which the noble Duke made on Tuesday last. He has not withdrawn any of those statements, but has, I am glad to see, placed Questions on the Paper in a clear, concrete form, with the exception, perhaps, of the last, and I propose to answer those Questions as shortly as I can. I must first deplore the fact that the noble Duke has not the courage of his opinions. He states that it is not Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch's case that he is bringing before the House. Well, I leave that to your Lordships' judgment, but I assert that it is Lieut. Colonel Kinloch's case that he is bringing forward. He has suggested to the House that the treatment which Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch received was a grave injustice to that officer; he has implied that he has not received fair play and that he has been removed from the command of his regiment by unworthy methods. I consider this to be the gravest possible charge that could be brought against the Secretary of State for War and the Commander-in-Chief. I am glad that the Commander-in-Chief is in the House and that he proposes personally to reply to the insinuations made by the noble Duke in his absence the other night. I would point out to the House, before proceeding to answer these Questions in detail, that to remove an officer from the British Army there are three courses open to the military authorities. The first is to try the officer by Court-martial, and the Court can sentence that officer without further reference to a higher authority. The second course is for the Commander-in-Chief to appoint a Court of Inquiry, and on the report of that Court he can judge whether or not a primâfacie case has been made out against an officer sufficient to justify his being sent for trial by Court-martial. The third course open to the military authorities, if they are not satisfied with the circumstances connected with an officer, is to call for an explanation, and if the Commander-in-Chief is satisfied on the documentary evidence placed before him that the complaint is well founded, he has a perfect right, without any 1150 further inquiry, to place an officer on half-pay.
I now turn to the first Question on the Paper, in which the noble Duke asks whether under Sub-section M of the Rules of Procedure, Part II., Section 124. Colonel Kinloch did not apply for, and receive, a copy of the report of the Court of Inquiry. I denied the existence the other night of any such report, and I again deny its existence. I must briefly recapitulate the circumstances which led to the appointment of this so-called Court of Inquiry.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I will come to that. When the Commander-in-Chief had the irregularities that had taken place in the Grenadier Guards brought to his notice he asked the Officer commanding the Home District to report to him as to the truth of those allegations. The noble Duke, the other night, suggested that the Commander-in-Chief was wrong to have acted in that way. He implied, I think, that he should have told Lord De Saumarez, when he approached him directly, that he should have supplied the information through the proper channels. If that is the argument of the noble Duke I would like to ask what action the military authorities should take if they saw in the columns of a newspaper that certain irregularities were going on in any regiment? What is the Commander-in-Chief to do if a Question is asked in the House of Commons as to certain irregularities in a given regiment? Is it suggested that he should take no action? If it is, I think it is a very curious and a very illogical suggestion. The Commander-in-Chief took the only course that was open to him. He sent for the Officer commanding the Home District and said—"Report to me as to whether there is any truth in these allegations." The Commander-in-Chief had actually decided to appoint a Court of Inquiry at Aldershot to inquire into the circumstances of the case, but before that Court could sit it was necessary that he should 1151 have a full report from Sir Henry Trotter, the Officer commanding the Home District, in order that he might frame a reference to the Court and know to whom the responsibility for the irregularities that had occurred was due. Sir Henry Trotter, on his own responsibility, without one word to the Commander-in-Chief on the subject—I do not for a moment suggest that he was acting ultra vires—thought that the most convenient way of getting the information which the Commander-in-Chief desired was to appoint a regimental Court of Inquiry—really a regimental investigation—to find out what officers were connected with these irregularities and on whom the responsibility should rest. The Court sat for two days, and immediately they had finished taking the evidence of the various officers they forwarded the proceedings to Sir Henry Trotter.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
May I ask the noble Earl whether the proceedings were not forwarded in the form of "I beg to report," etc.?
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
The noble Duke is perfectly correct. It was a single officer's report. Colonel Ricardo was the officer commanding the regiment. He sat as president of the Court of Inquiry, and forwarded the proceedings of the Court with a covering letter, in which he summarised the evidence and gave his own views upon it. He wrote the letter from start to finish; it was in the first person, and he signed it himself. The other two officers constituting the Court did not sign it. The report of a Court of Inquiry must be signed by every officer present at the inquiry. I submit, therefore, that I was perfectly justified in denying the other day that such a thing as a report of the Court of Inquiry was in existence. The proceedings of the Court exist, and they consist of nothing more nor less than the evidence taken by the Court from the various officers in the regiment.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
Does the noble Earl consider that this Court was not a properly constituted Court of Inquiry? It has always been con- 1152 tended that Colonel Kinloch was heard by a fully constituted Court of Inquiry.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I am not going to state definitely whether the Court was properly or improperly constituted. So far as I am aware it was properly constituted for the purpose for which it was formed; but the point I wish to make is this, that if the Court had reported, every member of the Court would have signed the report, whereas nothing of the kind took place.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
No. Colonel Ricardo was the officer commanding the two battalions of Grenadier Guards, and he was the president of the Court. I do not wish to dwell on this matter, because I think I have explained sufficiently clearly to the House the point as to whether there was a report or not. As a matter of fact, a Court of Inquiry cannot make any recommendation or report unless it is specially called upon to do so. A Court of Inquiry iS an assemblage of officers to collect evidence and report with respect to a transaction into which the Commander-in-Chief cannot conveniently himself make inquiry, and there is this provision, that the Court will give no opinion on the conduct of any officer or soldier unless so directed by the commanding officer. The Court was not so directed. The only reference to the Court was to report upon the alleged bullying in the 1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. It must be obvious that no report was called for from the Court and therefore no report was sent. In his first question the noble Duke asks whether Colonel Kinloch applied for a copy of the proceedings of the Court. It is perfectly true that he did apply, and I do not think, after having made inquiry, that the noble Duke was justified the other evening in contending that considerable delay occurred before Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch's request was granted.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
I think that in the first instance the existence of the report was denied altogether.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I think it is a mere juggling with words. The moment that Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch applied to see the proceedings of the Court the General Officer commanding the Home District was instructed to show him, not only the evidence that had been given at the Court, but also the covering letter of Colonel Ricardo to Sir Henry Trotter.
Now I come to the second Question, whether Sub-sections C F G, regulating the procedure of Courts of Inquiry, were not violated. Sub-section C reads as follows—The Court will be guided by the written instructions of the officer who assembled the Court. The instructions should be full and specific, and must state the general character of the information required from the Court in their report.I still maintain that the report of a Court of Inquiry can be a report without any recommendations, and that the form of the proceedings of the Court constitutes a report. The reference to the Court was, as I have stated, to inquire into the alleged bullying in the Grenadier Guards; therefore I think I am justified in saying that Sub-section C was not violated. Then we come to Sub-section F, which reads as follows—Whenever any inquiry affects the character or military reputation of an officer or soldier, full opportunity must be afforded to the officer or soldier of being present throughout the inquiry, and of making any statement, and of giving any evidence he may wish to make or give, and of cross-examining any witness whose evidence, in his opinion, affects his character or military reputation, and producing any witnesses in defence of his character or military reputation.The answer to that question is that Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch was not on his trial. No charge had been preferred against him, and therefore he was not entitled to claim to be present during the hearing of the evidence given at the Court of Inquiry.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
May I ask why his statement before the Court is published as evidence if his character was not affected by it?
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
I will come to that. I think the noble Duke has misread the Army Act. The point is that no charge was preferred against Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch and therefore he had no right to claim to be present during the hearing of the Court of Inquiry. As regards Sub-section G, that Sub-section provides that—It is the duty of a Court of Inquiry to put such questions to a witness as they think desirable for testing the truth or accuracy of any evidence he has given, and otherwise for eliciting the truth.As far as I know, and I believe I am absolutely correct in stating this, the officers who gave evidence before that Court were asked such questions as the Court chose to put to them; but for the sake of convenience, and in accordance with ordinary practice, their evidence was returned as written statements by each officer who gave evidence.
Then I come to the third Question, whether it is not a fact that Colonel Kinloch was afforded no opportunity of explaining, completing, or amplifying his statement, before he was removed from his command and placed on half-pay. The answer to that is very simple. An officer is not placed on half-pay until his name appears in the Gazette, and before Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch was gazetted on half-pay he was sent for by the Commander-in-Chief, who, in the presence of the Adjutant-General and of General Oliphant, heard Lieut. Colonel Kinloch in his own defence.
THE DUKE OF HARDWICKE
It is perfectly true that the Commander-in-Chief had decided to remove Lieutenant-Colonel Kinloch from his command, but he had not gazetted him. His name had not appeared in the Gazette and had Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch been able to adduce anything to show that there were reasons why he should not be 1155 deprived of the command of his regiment it would not have been too late. Therefore when the noble Duke suggests that he was given no opportunity of amplifying his evidence or of saying anything in his own defence he is making a statement that is not actually accurate, because Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch did have that opportunity granted him by the Commander-in-Chief as an act of grace. I now pass to Question 4, whether it is not a breach of the Army Act to obtain the publication of, and print as evidence, a voluntary statement made before a Court of Inquiry by an officer not on his oath, not on his trial, and assured that his statement is not evidence. To turn to the latter part of the Question first, I do not know how it comes that the noble Duke thinks he was assured that his statement was not evidence. I understand that no assurance was given him before he gave his evidence that his statement would not be treated as evidence.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
Will the noble Duke read the section of the Army Act again. Sub-section L reads—The proceedings of a Court of Inquiry, or any confession, statement, or answer to a question made or given at a Court of Inquiry, shall not be admissible in evidence against an officer or soldier, nor shall any evidence respecting the proceedings of the Court be given against any officer or soldier.But that means that if an officer has been before a Court of Inquiry and gives evidence, and subsequently has to take his trial before a Court-martial, then the evidence he gave before the Court of Inquiry shall not be admissible as evidence before the Court-martial. I would refer the noble Duke to the "Manual of Military Law," Chapter VI., Section 98, which reads—The proceedings of a Court of Inquiry cannot be called for by Courts-martial, nor witnesses examined as to their contents; nor is any confession or statement made at a Court of Inquiry admissible against an officer or soldier before a Court-martial.To suggest that, a Court of Inquiry having been appointed and having taken evidence, the Commander-in-Chief is not allowed to pay any attention to that 1156 evidence seems to me to be the most illogical and absurd proposition that could possibly be put forward. Then the noble Duke laid large stress on Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch's not having given evidence on oath. Does he suggest that Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch did not speak the truth in the evidence he gave? Does he suggest that he would like to go back on anything he said? Does Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch wish to say, "It is not true that I told Lieutenant Hamilton, in the presence of the Adjutant-General, that he deserved a licking," which, by the way, he got? Is it suggested that he did not hand Lieutenant Leveson-Gower over to be dealt with by the subalterns, he having committed an offence against military discipline. If not, I fail to understand what it is that the noble Duke wishes to urge in favour of Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch. We have his evidence, and on that evidence he was deprived of the command of his regiment, and, until it can be shown that the evidence, for some miraculous reason, was not correct, I can hardly think that the noble Duke is entitled to urge that there was any irregularity in the proceedings because Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch was not on his oath.
I now come to Question 5, Whether the statutory procedure by aggrieved officers for the redress of wrongs as defined in Sections 42 and 27 of the Army Act was followed in the case of Lieutenant Leveson-Gower, who had been called upon to resign his commission by the regimental authorities as being no longer a credit to his regiment. I have explained that I do not quite understand the Question, and, as regards the last two lines, it is really difficult for me to comprehend the particular twist of the noble Duke's mind in this matter. He comes down to the House with the avowed intention of showing your Lordships that the Commander-in-Chief had exceeded his authority, had practically broken the contract that exists between an officer and the military authorities in having placed Lieut.- Colonel Kinloch on half-pay, and jet he suggests that because the regimental authorities had called upon Lieutenant Leveson-Gower to resign his commission, unless some 1157 unknown form of procedure was followed, that recommendation of the regimental authorities cannot be set aside. That would be to say, that what the Commander-in-Chief may not do it is perfectly admissible for a regimental authority to do—a proposition sufficiently preposterous in itself to need no denial, but in the light of military law, and from the point of view of facts as they are, it is perfectly meaningless, because the regimental authorities have no power to call upon an officer to resign his commission. It is only the supreme authority, the Commander-in-Chief, or the Secretary of State, who can call upon an officer to resign his commission. The noble Duke refers to Sections 42 and 27 of the Army Act, but I fail to see where those clauses come in. Lieutenant Leveson-Gower had no grievance to redress. He sent in his resignation voluntarily, but it was not accepted. Where do these sections come in? The noble Duke will not explain, and I therefore regret I must leave that part of the Question. I have nothing to add except to point out to the House, as I pointed out on Tuesday last, that the Commander-in-Chief acted perfectly within his authority and under the King's Regulations. In conclusion, I would read Section 669 of the King's Regulations—A commanding officer is responsible to the King for the maintenance of discipline, efficiency, and proper system in the unit under his command. He will, by advice and by timely influence, endeavour to promote a good understanding and to prevent disputes. He is to discountenance any disposition in his officers to gamble or to extravagance. He is also to check any tendency among his officers to what are termed practical jokes, and, whenever any serious case requiring his interference arises, he is to record the manner in which it was disposed of, and submit the same for the information of the general officer commanding on his next inspection.I regret to have to say it, but it is the case, that Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch did not discharge those duties of the high responsibility placed upon him, to the satisfaction of the Commander-in-Chief, and I submit to your Lordships that his removal was a proceeding which was absolutely and wholly correct.
§ EARL ROBERTS
My Lords, I had hoped, in the best interests of the Army 1158 generally, and those of the Grenadier Guards in particular, that your Lordships and the public had heard the last of a most disagreeable and unedifying episode; and I feel sure that hope was shared by all who are jealous of the honour of our Army, and who, like myself, glory in its grand reputation. I sincerely regret that by the action of the Duke of Bedford I am again forced to trespass on your Lordships' time and patience by a further explanation of my conduct of the painful case under discussion. But, my Lords, the Duke of Bedford in his speech last Tuesday, and in the Questions he has asked to-day, has so adversely criticised my mode of applying the Army Act and Rules of Procedure in dealing with this case, and has placed my action in regard to it in—to say the least of it—such an unfavourable light before your Lordships, that I feel myself constrained to crave your Lordships, indulgence while I state, as briefly as I can, the course I adopted, and my reasons for having followed that course. As I stated when last I had the honour of addressing this House, my interview with Lord De Saumarez took place on the evening of December 12th. The following morning, at the War Office, I told the Adjutant-General what had been brought to my notice as to the bullying of young officers in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, and I directed Sir Thomas Kelly-Kenny to send for Sir Henry Trotter, the General Officer then in command of the Home District. Sir Henry Trotter was not to be found at the time, and the brigade major—Major Ruggles-Brise—obeyed my summons in his stead. To this officer I repeated the substance of Lord De Saumarez's communication. Major Ruggles-Brise then told me that some of the young officers had been behaving very badly, and had also complained in a body to outsiders of their treatment in the battalion, and that this was looked upon as something like mutiny. I asked Major Ruggles-Brise if there was no reason for the young officers appealing to outsiders, and whether it was true that some of them had been severely beaten by sentence of subaltern Courts-martial. Major Ruggles-Brise admitted that this was true; and I then told him that, as 1159 the complaints were of so serious a nature, I considered it necessary that they should be inquired into by a properly constituted Court.
On Major Ruggles-Brise's leaving the room I discussed the matter with the Adjutant General, and he and I came to the conclusion that it would be advisable to assemble the Court at Alder-shot, where the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards was quartered. During the afternoon of that day, December 13th, Sir Henry Trotter came to the War Office after I had left; and, being informed by the Adjutant-General that a properly constituted Court of Inquiry would be held at Aldershot, he begged that he might first be allowed to inquire into the case regimentally. The Adjutant-General consented to this procedure and impressed upon Sir Henry Trotter certain points on which information was required. Accordingly on the following day, Sunday, Sir Henry Trotter convened a Court of Inquiry with orders—To report upon the circumstances connected with the alleged bullying in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.The Court consisted of Colonel Ricardo—the colonel of the Grenadier Guards—with Major Ruggles-Brise and Captain Earle, both of the same regiment, as members. It sat all that day and the early part of Monday; and on Monday afternoon Sir Henry Trotter submitted the proceedings to the Adjutant-General, together with a letter from Colonel Ricardo which, to use Sir Henry Trotter's own words, "practically gives a summary of all the evidence adduced." In his forwarding letter Sir Henry Trotter stated that—The subalterns have acted in many cases in a very ungentlemanly manner … that the evidence discloses several instances of minor chastisement, and one or two cases in which the chastisement has been most reprehensible.
§ EARL ROBERTS
Certainly. Sir Henry Trotter added—I am satisfied that Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch was perfectly ignorant of this; at the same time, I do not with to suggest he is not 1160 to blame; for, apart from his remarks in the orderly room to Lieutenant the Hon. R. Hamilton that he deserved a good licking and he hoped he would get it, he should have satisfied himself by constant inquiry that all was going on well with those under his command.Sir Henry Trotter concluded with these words—I most deeply deplore the whole circumstance, which is discreditable in the highest degree.My Lords, the Court presided over by Colonel Ricardo was, strictly speaking, a regimental investigation, and not a properly constituted Court of Inquiry such as I had intended to have been, held at Aldershot. But, on reading over the evidence, I came to the conclusion that the report of the bullying, as made to me was absolutely true; and I agree with Sir Henry Trotter that Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch was to blame, even if he were ignorant of what was going on. My Lords, three courses were then open to me, and I had to determine whether (1) to try Lieut.-Col. Kinloch by Court-martial under Section 40 of the Army Act, or (2) to order him to appear before the Court of Inquiry directed to assemble at Aldershot, or (3) to deal with his case, under Article 98 of the Royal Warrant, from the evidence given before the regimental Court. I rejected the first course for two reasons—first, out of consideration for Lieut. Colonel Kinloch's former services, his personal reputation, and the high character of the Brigade of Guards; and, secondly, because I wished to avoid the publicity which a Court-martial would have entailed—an object which, as your Lordships are aware, has been frustrated by the action of Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch'a own friends. I also rejected the second course because, as I have already stated, the evidence recorded in the regimental Court gave me all the information that was needed.
And here I would explain to you, my Lords, that all a Court of Inquiry is called upon to do is to record evidence; and, whether that evidence be given on oath or not, it is no part of the duty of a Court of Inquiry to suggest that this or that punishment should be awarded. A Court of Inquiry can, if desired to do so, give an opinion, but its raison d'être is to assist the authority concerned to 1161 form a correct judgment of the case with which he is called upon to deal. I decided to adopt the third course—namely, to act upon the evidence given before the regimental Court—because it seemed to me by so doing I should be giving Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch every possible chance; for surely, my Lords, I was not wrong in believing that he would receive the fullest justice, and that his conduct would be viewed in the most favourable light by a Court composed entirely of his own brother officers. With reference, my Lords, to the Question put by the Duke of Bedford on 28th April, as to—Whether a Commander-in-Chief was empowered to pronounce sentence against an officer upon his statement made not upon oath, and as a witness before a Court of Inquiry,I would explain to you, my Lords, that in all matters of discipline (not dealt with, by Courts-martial) a Commander-in-Chief is most certainly empowered to pronounce sentence against an officer upon that officer's own statement, though not made on oath, or as a witness before a Court of Inquiry, the Commander-in-Chief being satisfied that the officer had failed to carry out his duty as required by the King's Regulations, and believing, as a Commander-in-Chief naturally would, that the accused, being an officer and a gentleman, would speak the truth whether upon oath or not. I can only hope, my Lords, that the noble Duke did not really mean what his question would seem to imply—namely, that Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch's evidence before the regimental Court of Inquiry was not to be relied upon, and would have been different had it been taken on oath. I would ask you, my Lords, can a man be judged more favourably than out of his own mouth? Paragraph 669 of the King's Regulations, to which I have referred, lays down absolutely clearly what is required of a commanding officer. It is as follows—A commanding officer is responsible to the King for the maintenance of discipline, efficiency, and proper system in the unit under his command. He will, by advice and by kindly influence, endeavour to promote a good understanding and to prevent disputes. He is to discountenance any disposition in his officers to gamble of to extravagance. He is also to check any tendency among his officers to what are termed practical jokes, and when- 1162 ever any serious case requiring his interferenc arises, he is to record the manner in which it was disposed of, and submit the same for the information of the general officer commanding at his next inspection.I would now put it to you, my Lords whether, in the opinion of this House, Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch fulfilled these requirements, and whether, in accordance with the rules laid down for my guidance, I should have been justified in permitting him to retain the command of his battalion. Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch's appeal against my decision was carefully considered and treated as laid down in Section 42 of the Army Act; and, before the Gazette placing Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch on half-pay was published, I sent for him and gave him full opportunity of putting before me anything further he might have to urge in his defence. Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch, however, failed at this interview to show any reason why my decision should be changed.
This, my Lords, is an exact account of my action in this unpleasant affair, in the handling of which I had to bear in mind that I was dealing with a famous and popular regiment, the members of which could count on the sympathy of many influential friends. I will not take up your Lordships' time by dwelling upon the absolutely false stories that have been circulated as to my having allowed outside influence to be brought to bear upon me while the case was still sub judice, further than to assure you, my Lords, on my honour as an officer of His Majesty's service and a member of your Lordships' House, that neither directly nor indirectly, neither by word of mouth nor by letter, has any relation or friend, man or woman, of the injured officers ventured to approach me or attempted to bias my judgment in the Kinloch case. Nor will I dwell, my Lords, on the many letters and articles which have appeared in some of the leading journals, written with the object of directing public opinion against the action taken by me as Commander-in-Chief; but I cannot pass unnoticed the insinuation of the noble Duke who began this controversy to the effect that I allowed myself to listen to ex parte statements, nor the noble Duke's assertion that the interview I had with Lords De Saumarez and Belhaven was—a method of presenting the complaints of officers which was nowhere contemplated in 1163 the Army Act, and which might be expected to have novel results.Nor, my Lords, can I allow to pass unnoticed the Duke of Northumberland's more objectionable insinuation that I had laid myself open to a "sinister suggestion" in not adopting what the noble Duke is pleased to assert is "the usual course." My Lords, I was absolutely ignorant of the object for which Lord De Saumarez sought an interview with me. If it had turned out that the tale he had to tell was one of an ordinary case of what is termed "ragging," I might possibly have followed what the Duke of Northumberland describes as "the usual, the plain, and the straightforward course," and have told Lord De Saumarez that "if the officers have anything to complain of, let them make their report to the commanding officer of the battalion, and if he cannot satisfy them, let the complaint be forwarded to me." But when Lord De Saumarez informed me that the young officers who refused to submit to the punishment awarded them by the subalterns' Courts-martial described their life as "a reign of terror," and that they considered it hopeless to expect protection from the regimental authorities, who, they believed, approved of the system, I decided to send for the General Officer commanding the Home District and tell him what I had heard. This, my Lords, was in my opinion the proper and straightforward course to adopt. I must also refer, my Lords, to the letter which appeared in The Times of February 14th last, signed by three noble Lords—the Duke of Northumberland, Earl Stanhope, and Viscount Duncannon—"fathers of subalterns who have lately served under Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards," in which they—wish to state most emphatically that the picture of the 'reign of terror' stated to exist in that battalion is absolutely overdrawn and exaggerated.My Lords, I do not know whether these three noble Lords were in possession of as full and complete evidence as to what had taken place in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards as I was when they wrote that letter; if they were, I can only say that their statement as to the picture of the reign of 1164 terror being absolutely overdrawn and exaggerated is not in accordance with the evidence placed before me. And it is beyond my power to understand how three noble Lords could be content that such a state of things should be allowed to exist in a regiment to which their sons belonged. If the noble Lords were not in possession of the whole facts, I must express my astonishment that they should have taken a step so absolutely subversive of discipline. I am glad, my Lords, to have this opportunity of telling the three noble Lords that I most emphatically disagree with them, and that I am determined, so long as I am Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's Army, not to allow practices to continue which I can only describe as disgusting and degrading. My Lords, I never had the slightest intention of making light of any misconduct on the part of the younger officers which may have called for the condemnation of their brother subalterns or the censure of their colonel. Such condemnation and such censure would have my highest approval, and I should have considered them as signs of a healthy tone in the battalion. I will not weary your Lordships, however, with details connected with the conduct of these young officers; but I cannot, in justice to Second-Lieutenant Leveson-Gower, allow the Duke of Bedford's remarks, so damning to that young officer's character, to pass without comment. In my opinion Second-Lieutenant Leveson-Gower cannot justly be accused of making false statements about his commanding officer. Second-Lieutenant Leveson-Gower was under the impression that Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch had expressed his intention of making him over to the senior subaltern to be dealt with, and he said so under the bonâ fide conviction that such was the case. On Lieut.-Colonel Kinloch's absolutely denying that he had made use of words conveying such a meaning, Second-Lieutenant Leveson-Gower accepted this denial, as in common courtesy to his colonel he was bound to do, and withdrew his statement accordingly. Such, my Lords, was surely the proper course to pursue; and I cannot admit, as an abstract question, that a young officer, having apologised for a statement made under a wrong 1165 impression, can justly be accused of making "false statements." My Lords, I have told my story, and I earnestly hope I have made it clear to your Lordships that throughout this intensely disagreeable affair I have acted not only strictly in accordance with the regulations as laid down by Act of Parliament for the administration of the Army, but also in accordance with what I conceive to be the best interests of that Army, and that in carrying out a most painful duty I have been influenced by no ignoble motives, but have worked solely for the good of the service and the upholding of those honourable traditions of the British Army which it ought to be every soldier's highest aim to preserve unsullied.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
My Lords, I think I need make no apology for rising immediately after the noble and gallant Earl who has just sat down, considering that he has brought my name prominently before your Lordships. He was not here last week when the remarks to which he has taken exception were made, and I can assure him that if he had been here he would have felt that there was no intention on my part to impugn, in the slightest degree, his most absolute fairness. What I said was this, that those who had not very delicate feelings of honour were apt to attribute bad motives, perfectly falsely, to those who, apparently without any reason, took courses which were not the usual courses. What I was referring to was not so much the noble and gallant Lord's conduct as the conduct of the Secretary of State, who waxed very indignant over the fact that such charges were made; and I said that though the indignation of the Secretary of State might so far have been justified, for these accusations, as we all knew, had no foundation in fact, yet he could not be very much surprised if they were made, considering the very unusual course that had been adopted in this case. I hope the noble and gallant Earl will feel that in saying that I made no reflection whatever upon his honour and the motives which actuated him in the discharge of his duty.
The noble and gallant Earl took exception to the letter, which I, in company with two other noble Lords, 1166 sent to The Times some time ago. The reason I signed that letter was this. My son had been under Colonel Kinloch's command some two or three years ago. I had had experience of the extreme kindness and interest which Colonel Kinloch took in his young officers, and I thought, when asked whether I would join with others in testifying to this, that I could not in fairness to Colonel Kinloch refuse to do so. I do not wish to enter into a controversy with the noble and gallant Earl as to whether a "reign of terror" is, or is not, a true description of what went on in the 1st Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, but I think that in the circumstances your Lordships will hold that I was justified, in the letter I sent to The Times, in testifying to my own experience of Colonel Kinloch and the gratitude which I felt, to him for his kindness to my son.
Now I come to the main issue. I think the Commander-in-Chief has put a totally different question to your Lordships from anything which I or the noble Duke behind me have ever brought before the House, for he has actually asked the House whether he; would have been justified in retaining. Colonel Kinloch in his position. That is, a question which I would never have thought of submitting, for I feel most strongly that the decisions of the heads of the Army with regard to officers are not proper subjects for discussion in this; House. I never would be a party to making this House a Court of Appeal from decisions with regard to officers in the Army, but I do think this House has a right—indeed, I think it is its duty—to see that those decisions are arrived at by proper constitutional methods, and, if the means and manner of arriving at those decisions are wrong, the House should ask to be fully informed with regard to them. Before I go any farther, let me say one word with regard to what I do not think was a fair interpretation on the part of the Commander-in-Chief of a remark which fell from the noble Duke behind me. The noble and gallant Lord suggested that the noble Duke behind me inferred that Colonel Kinloch's word was not to be accepted because it was not on oath. I have heard the question asked over and over again in 1167 civil cases, "Was this inquiry conducted on oath?" and the importance of the inquiry is largely measured by that fact. But I pass from this personal matter to one question which the noble and gallant Earl touched upon, but which I cannot think he fully answered, and I make no apology for mentioning it again, because the speech of the noble Earl the Under Secretary of State for War emphasised very much the importance of it. I asked in the House last Tuesday—Why did the noble and gallant Earl not take the ordinary course of telling these junior officers to send in their complaints through their commanding officers?That is not merely the usual course; it is a course absolutely laid down by the Regulations, which provide that—If any officer who thinks himself wronged by his commanding officer, and on due application to him does not receive the redress to which he may consider himself entitled, he may complain to the Commander-in-Chief in order to obtain justice, who is hereby required to examine into the case, and through the Secretary of State for War to make his Report to His Majesty in order to receive the orders of His Majesty thereon.In the "Manual of Military Law," which is printed by authority of the War Office, this note is added to this section—It is the custom of the service to forward every complaint through the officer commanding the regiment, and an officer would not be justified in deviating from this course unless the commanding officer refused or unreason ably delayed to forward. An officer complaining himself to the general in command should apprise his commanding officer of his doing so, and must observe in all channels of approach to the Commander-in-Chief each intermediate gradation as a general of brigade or division.These are the rules of the service, and the noble and gallant Earl admits that on the present occasion he has given the go-by absolutely to these rules. What are the noble and gallant Earl's reasons? His reasons are that he gathered that the state of things was so bad in the Brigade of Guards that officers' complaints would not have been forwarded by the commanding officer. That is a very serious charge to make against the commanding officer, but I submit that the answer is perfectly plain. The fathers of these officers had come to complain of the bullying to which their sons were subjected, and the Commander- 1168 in-Chief Could perfectly well have said to them, "Tell your sons to send their complaints to me through the proper channels, according to the regulations of the Army, and if the commanding officer refuses to forward them or puts any obstacle in the way of their being forwarded, then come and complain to me." He could then have put in force the whole machinery which he actually did put into operation.
The importance of this point is very much accentuated by what fell from the noble Earl the Under Secretary. The noble Earl asked: What is the Commander-in-Chief to do if a complaint is made in the newspapers about the conduct of an officer? Does the noble Earl really suggest that the position of any officer in the Army is at the mercy of the canards which appear in the newspapers? I should have thought that newspaper reports might very well be disregarded by those who are in responsible positions, but I again ask why the Commander-in-Chief should not, if he really thinks that newspaper reports are sufficiently important to act upon, get hold of the man who made the complaint and tell him to make it through the commanding officer? That is the method laid down in the Act of Parliament and in the regulations of the service and I humbly protest against the Commander-in-Chief, or the Secretary of State, or any one else, over-riding and disregarding the law of the land and the regulations of the service. The observations of the noble Earl the Under Secretary with regard to this report remind me of the riddle we used to hear in our youth, "When is a lady's shoulder not a lady's shoulder?" and the question now appears to be, "When is a report not a report?" The Section provides that—The Court will be guided by the written instructions of the officer who assembled the Court. The instructions shall be full and explicit, and state the general character of the information required from the Court in their report.The instructions are to be full and specific, and state the general character of the information required from the Court in their report. However, I do not think it is worth while detaining your Lordships upon the question whether this is a report or not.
1169 I pass to one remark which fell from the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack the other night, and which is rather important, I think, to the bearing of this question. As I understood the noble and learned Earl, he said there could not be a better ground for the conviction of a man than his own evidence. Well, my Lords, I do not know about that. Some time ago we had a Bill before Parliament to enable persons to give evidence on their own behalf, and a great many people doubted extremely whether the evidence given by a person was the best evidence against him. I am not going to put my opinion on legal matters against that of the noble and learned Earl, but I should like to ask him this. Suppose a judge is trying a case and one of the witnesses says something in the course of his evidence which is practically an admission of an offence. Having given his evidence, the witness, thinking he has nothing more to do with the trial, goes home. Would a judge be right in sending immediately for that man, and, without giving him any opportunity of galling witnesses, or of explaining—I will not say of explaining because the noble and gallant Earl says that Colonel Kinloch had an opportunity of explaining—but without giving him any opportunity of calling witnesses—would a judge be justified in those circumstances in committing him to prison? The noble and learned Earl knows perfectly well that he would be entitled to a fresh trial. He might plead "not guilty" if he chose; he might explain away in any manner he liked his evidence; but he would not be convicted upon evidence given as a witness in a case affecting other people. There cannot, of course, be an absolute parallel, because civil and military procedure is so very different, but that is as near as possible a parallel case to Colonel Kinloch's. Colonel Kinloch appeared before this Court of Inquiry as a witness, and the noble Lord himself emphasises the remark that he could not claim to be there the whole while. Yet on his evidence as a witness he is treated as a criminal. That may be military law but it is most monstrously unjust, and the sooner the military law is changed, if such things are possible, the better. What is the summing up of the whole 1170 Case? First of all, an officer who has seen a good deal of service, who has behaved hitherto with credit, is complained against by the parents of two officers who think their sons have not been well treated, much in the same way as two fathers would go to the headmaster of a school and complain of the treatment of their sons. This commanding officer is not informed of any charge against him whatever, but is asked to give evidence before a Court of Inquiry as to the conduct of some subalterns, and, having given that evidence—evidence which, as the noble Duke behind me pointed out, it is particularly laid down cannot be used against him in any proceedings, and therefore which he is safe, apparently, in giving—it is taken advantage of, and the officer is condemned on his own evidence without any chance of calling witnesses, of being present at the Inquiry, or of availing himself of the other safeguards which the law intended should obtain in these cases. The whole of the proceedings remind me very unpleasantly of some trials in foreign countries. It does not seem to me that this sort of method is English or fair. I again repeat, before sitting down, that I have not for one moment questioned the decision at which the Commander-in-Chief arrived, but I do say that these methods are most undesirable. I believe them to be unconstitutional, but if they are not unconstitutional they should be so, or else the Army is no longer a profession for an officer. He is a mere puppet, at the will and disposal of any Commander-in-Chief who pleases to dismiss him, and he has practically no redress. This is called a "Guards Scandal" It is a very ugly story, but I cannot think that the greater part of the scandal lies with the Grenadier Guards.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
My Lords, I think it may not be inadvisable that one Member of your Lordships' House who is not connected with the Government, with the Army, or with the regiment concerned, and who stands totally apart from all these proceedings, should state, from the administrative point of view, how the case strikes him. It has fallen to my lot for two separate spells of some years to preside over the 1171 Admiralty, and I have had duties to perform there with reference to the short-comings of officers. I have had the opportunity of seeing whether it would be wise to tie the hands of the administrating authority with such meshes of regulations as to prevent them from removing an officer whom they did not consider competent for a particular post. Both of the noble Dukes who have spoken on this subject have accentuated, and properly accentuated, the rights and privileges of officers, but it is important that the privileges of the public, and of the Administration who are responsible for the efficiency of the Army and the Navy, should also be accentuated. Much has been made of the action of the two noble Lords who went to the Commander-in-Chief and informed him that a certain scandal had taken place. The noble Duke who spoke last thinks it was incredible that on such information an immediate inquiry should be made. Well, I will say that if the humblest parent of a sub-lieutenant in the Navy had come to me and told me that his son had been treated in the disgraceful and disgusting way in which some of the officers in the Guards' Regiment had been treated, I should immediately have proceeded not to refer the matter back to the ship, but to call for a report from the captain of ship, or have taken some other means to have an inquiry made.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
The parallel is precise. It was to Major-General Trotter that the Commander-in-Chief referred the matter.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
Major-General Trotter was not the head of the regiment. Colonel Kinloch was the head of the regiment, and I think the colonel of a regiment would correspond with the captain of a ship.
§ VISCOUNT GOSCHEN
This shows the quasi-legal way in which both noble Dukes treat this question. They say a Ship is not a regiment. What I take is the general common sense view, is that 1172 when you hear of a great scandal you take the readiest means to get at the bottom of it. I do not propose to concern myself with these points, which have been argued in such detail. The noble Dukes say that there is a scandal in the conduct of the Court of Inquiry, and they hold the Commander-in-Chief responsible even for such questions as whether a copy was or was not sent, or whether or not the evidence was taken upon oath. I do not know sufficient of the case to know whether the Adjutant-General, or the General Officer commanding the Home District, committed errors in that way; but that the Commander-in-Chief should be almost summoned to the Bar of this House, on account of some small legal difficulties which cannot influence the case, is to be regretted in the interests of discipline in the Army. The case is as simple as possible. The noble Duke has not told us what possible matters might have come out at a further examination. A certain number of Courts-martial have been held, followed by punishments, the record of which, I do not hesitate to say, has outraged public opinion. Those who are acquainted with the regiment, those who say that for years such things have happened there, do not count, I think, that, in the general opinion of the public, for officers of twenty-one years of age to be treated as the officers in question were treated, was a scandal of the gravest kind. It is known that that was the case. It is not denied. If there had been no Court of Inquiry at all that fact would have been known; and what could further inquiry have elicited? The point reduces itself to this: Did Colonel Kinloch know, or did he not know? That seems to me to be the only question that could be at issue. If it had been proved that Colonel Kinloch knew of these proceedings, then I am not certain what course the Commander-in-Chief might not have thought it necessary to take, and whether one of the other alternatives that he mentioned would not have been more natural in such a case. We accept the fact that the colonel of the regiment did not know. But he ought to have known. That is important, I think, not only for officers, 1173 but also for the general public to consider. If a practice of this kind goes on for a certain time in a regiment, is the organisation of that regiment what it ought to be, and is the control of the officers what it ought to be, if no hint of such proceedings reaches the colonel commanding the battalion? Is not the colonel responsible for not being sufficiently in touch with the officers in his regiment, and can the Commander-in-Chief be satisfied with his conduct and position in that regiment? That seems to me to be the common-sense issue. Both noble Dukes have spoken of the matter as if the Commander-in-Chief and a judge were in a similar position. The fact is, both noble Dukes have faced the question simply from what I may call the legal point of view. But the Commander-in-Chief is an administrator. A judge's duty finishes when he has heard the evidence and pronounced sentence, but the Commander-in-Chief is responsible for the administration of the Army. Colonel Kinloch was not tried for any misconduct, but the general proceedings of the Court of Inquiry revealed an unsatisfactory state of things in the regiment, and, as I understand, sentence was pronounced on that evidence, the Commander-in-Chief coming to the conclusion that it was desirable that Colonel Kinloch should be removed from his command. The Duke of Bedford has questioned not only the general powers of the Commander-in-Chief acting by Court of Inquiry, but, as I understood him, he questioned even the use of the Royal Warrant, under which the Commander-in-Chief is entitled to remove an officer for other reasons than misconduct. The noble Duke thinks that this was not a case for the exercise of the Royal Warrant. The Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State must surely be allowed to retain the power of dismissing an officer for other reasons than misconduct, and, in a certain sense, in an arbitrary way. With out that power there cannot be efficiency. It is the most painful part of the duty of an administrator, and when my noble friend the Commander-in-Chief is blamed, as he has been blamed, and called to account, as he has been called to account, his accusers—for I must call them so—do not appear to realise that he must have passed through intense pain and sorrow when he had to remove a colonel with 1174 the distinction of Colonel Kinloch from his command. I speak with a certain sense of experience, because I know what it is when one has to deal with officers of blameless record up to a certain point, and when the exigencies of the service require strenuous and vigorous treatment.
I should like to be allowed to recall to your Lordships' attention a case in which I took part thirty years ago, in the very first year that I presided over the Admiralty. A disaster had taken place, a ship had gone aground, and the captain of the ship and two other officers were tried. The captain was censured and severely reprimanded, but he was not removed from his ship. But when the proceedings of the Court-martial came to be reviewed by the Board of Admiralty they thought that the situation was such that they must take vigorous action. I have to-day looked up the Minute of the Board of Admiralty, which was as follows—Perusal of the evidence satisfies my Lords that the material facts connected with the stranding of the ship were fully brought out, and that no further inquiry is necessary. They have, therefore, after careful deliberation, come to a conclusion on the whole case. That conclusion is that, with a view to impressing upon all officers in command the necessity for the utmost vigilance and unremitting attention to the navigation of the ships entrusted to their care, my Lords are constrained to mark their sense of the grave default on the occasion by directing the Vice-Admiral of the Channel Squadron to strike his flag.At the same time the Rear-Admiral was directed to strike his flag. These two officers in high command were removed by the Admiralty, after the greatest possible anxiety as to their case, because they held that the efficiency of the service required that they should mark their sense of the default and want of attention which had been shown. If at that time there had been critics like the two noble Dukes who have taken the Commander-in-Chief to task to-day, I think I should have had to recall that I passed through a time even sadder than that through which the Commander-in-Chief has passed during the last few weeks. But the gallant officer in command of the Channel Squadron who had to strike his flag held, with an officer's sense of discipline, that he was responsible because he had been in command of the Fleet, and was responsible for the action of his subordinates, or for any 1175 laches on his own part; and, without calling for a Court-martial, and without; murmur, he bent to his fate, showing a splendid example of naval discipline That officer was afterwards sent to a high command and served his country faithfully. This act of default did not ruin him any more than Colonel Kinloch will be ruined for ever by being temporarily put on half-pay because he had no shown sufficient capacity for grappling with the conditions of the Guards regiment in London. That is a sentence that has never been passed on him so far as I understand, and one which I hope never will be passed under such circumstances It is a temporary removal from his command; and it is perfectly conceivable that from an administrative point of view a man who exercised the highest authority for leading a regiment in action or generally in a campaign would not necessarily be the best officer to deal with all the intricacies of the garrison in London, just as those who may be the best administrators in peace may not be the best administrators in war. Therefore, while I have spoken strongly from the point of view of the rights of an administrator to deal summarily with a matter of this kind, yet I must say that nothing I have heard or read diminishes, in the slightest degree, my respect for Colonel Kinloch as an officer generally, or my hope that on some other occasion the War Office may find means of utilising his services in command.
Terrible difficulty will be imposed on the War Office and on the Commander-in-Chief, and possibly upon other administrators, if this system is to continue, and if, the moment an officer feels that he is aggrieved, even if he is justly aggrieved, the whole of his friends, or the whole of the critics of the Administration should rush at once into the columns of the newspapers. I cannot but think that if these attacks are to be made in both Houses of Parliament the task of the Commander-in-Chief will be greater than even it is at present. Although the noble Duke the Duke of Bedford is a sincere and zealous army reformer, I doubt if he will not undo much of the benefit that he may secure in the way of efficiency, if by such proceedings as these he should shake the authority and the discipline of the 1176 Army itself. No one can deny that these proceedings are most detrimental. It is worse in London, I am afraid, than anywhere else. These Admirals were on a distant Mediterranean station. When, however, anything happens to a famous regiment quartered in London, Society takes it up and every social influence is set at work in order to neutralise the effect which the Commander-in-Chief and the War Office desire to produce by the action they take. I assure your Lordships that if I have intervened in the debate it is only owing to the sense which forty years of experience of public life has imposed upon me of the necessity of maintaining the discipline of the two great services to which the country as a whole looks for its strength and safety.
My Lords, may I add one word in support of what has fallen from the noble Viscount, but from an entirely different point of view. The noble Viscount deprecates the publicity that is given to painful cases of this kind. What I deprecate quite as strongly, and perhaps still more strongly, is that your Lordships' House should be used by officers holding His Majesty's commission for challenging the decision of the Commander-in-Chief. I am quite aware that the noble Duke deprecated the idea that he had come here to challenge the disciplinary authority of the Commander-in-Chief, but I leave it to your Lordships to say what the effect upon your minds is of the speeches that have been delivered by the two noble Dukes. To my mind, hey sounded like a distinct challenge of the disciplinary authority of the Commander-in-Chief, and I think the Commander-in-Chief's presence here to-night, and the tone that animated his speech, are sufficient indication of how he regards the matter. Some years ago I challenged the attempt to draw a distinction between a commission in the Regular Forces and a commission in the Auxiliary Forces, and I was successful in my contention. The noble Duke who initiated this discussion holds a command in the Militia, and I deprecate in the strongest terms an officer holding an important position of that and in the Auxiliary Forces, taking advantage of the privileges of Parliament to challenge the disciplinary decisions of he Commander-in-Chief. If it is permissible for a commanding officer in the 1177 Auxiliary Forces to challenge the disciplinary decisions of the Commander-in-Chief, it would seem to be equally open to a subordinate officer of the Auxiliary Forces having a seat in Parliament, to challenge any disciplinary decisions of his colonel. The whole object of the authority which is given to the Commander-in-Chief, and to commanders of units, will, it seems to me, be imperilled if noble Lords are encouraged to take the opportunity of membership of this House to call in question the decisions of the Commander-in-Chief on military matters.
§ LORD BLYTHSWOOD
My Lords, I should not have risen but for the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down. The noble Duke who initiated this discussion deprecated from the very first the introduction of the name of Colonel Kinloch. He has not taken up a position either for or against Colonel Kinloch. What the noble Duke has contended, and, I believe, rightly contended, is that in this case the Army Regulations have not been complied with. If it is thought necessary by the Commander-in-Chief, or anybody else in authority, that the regulations should be changed, let them be changed; but at all events let us know what is our position as officers in the Army, and do not let us have red herrings drawn across the path.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (The Earl of HALSBURY)
My Lords, I only join for a moment in the debate as a matter of courtesy, having been referred to by the noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland. I think the noble Duke has been misled in attempting to draw a comparison between this case and the procedure in Courts of Justice. In dealing with the disciplinary power of the Commander-in-Chief, I think the noble Duke has, in this respect, made a grievous error. The facts have no relation to the procedure in a Court of law. If I had a person in my employment who himself admitted that he had been stealing my goods I should not wait for procedure in a court of Justice, or any other procedure, before I dismissed him.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past Six o'clock, till To-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.