§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.
*THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Earl of DONOUGHMORE)
My Lords, I do not, of course, 1652 deny that this Bill, which has been prepared by the Army Council and which I am asking your Lordships to read a second time to-day, involves a considerable change in our present military system, but I claim that the change is not so great as may at first appear. For centuries we have had a force in this country earmarked for home defence and known as the Militia, and though alterations have taken place from time to time in its conditions, for the greater part of the time that this force has existed the same principles will be found to underlie it. The Militia has been essentially a territorial force organised round the county. The Lord-Lieutenant had complete control of it. He could arm it as he liked. It was earmarked for the suppression and defeat of "insurrection, rebellion and invasion." Its expenses were paid by local owners of property. The nation only paid the expenses of the Militia during active service, and offences by Militiamen were punished by the civil magistrate. The force was practically a civil and not a military force.
These were the main principles underlying the Militia for centuries down in fact to the middle of the eighteenth century. These principles I claim, are utterly unlike the principles underlying the Militia at the present day. In the middle of the eighteenth century there was introduced what proved to be that very expensive and very unpopular measure the ballot. I notice that non-attendance, disobedience of the ballot, was punished by the fine of 1s. or the spending of an hour in the stocks, and I often wonder whether the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Wemyss) who is so anxious to revive the ballot, is also anxious to revive this ancient constitutional practice. It was not really till 1802 that the Militia began to assume the complexion under which we now know it. In 1813 an Act was passed whereby it was made possible for the King to accept offers of the Militia to serve abroad, and it was not until 1862 that the Estimates in connection with the Militia forces were framed under the direction of a Secretary of State. I trust, therefore, that your Lordships will remember, if it is argued that in bringing forward this Bill we are absolutely changing the constitution of this force, that it 1653 is not the first change that has taken place in the principles underlying it. From time to time it has undergone considerable modifications to meet modern requirements, and it is only because we wish to bring it into yet further conformity with modern requirements that this Bill is submitted to your Lordships.
Now, what are the principal reasons for this change? They are two in number. The first is undoubtedly the growth in the power of the British Fleet. That growth enabled the Prime Minister to declare eighteen months ago his belief that serious invasion need not be apprehended. That declaration recognises the Navy as the bed-rock of our national defence, and the natural corollary follows that the bulk of our military forces are required for service beyond the seas. I cannot help noticing that the declaration was made eighteen months ago, and that during the whole of last session it was not directly assailed in your Lordships' House. We have, roughly speaking, 600,000 men amongst the forces of the Crown; of that number 360,000, or sixty per cent. are earmarked for service at home in the defence of these shores; and I claim that it is an illogical position that when you admit that your Army is mainly required for service beyond the seas only forty per cent, of your forces should be earmarked for that purpose. There is another reason, I presume, for this change. It is a reason connected solely with the question of home defence. I refer to the growth of the Volunteers. In the centuries during which we looked to the Militia as the force earmarked for home defence the Volunteers did not exist. During the last fifty years the Volunteers have been created and have considerably increased, and it is our belief that we can look to them for that home defence for which, in old days, it was necessary to look to the Militia.
I would remind your Lordships of the position in which we invariably find ourselves with regard to the Militia in time of war. It is a notable fact that in the case of each of the three largest wars in which we have been engaged during the last hundred years we have had to call in the aid of the Militia. I do rot think that can be better illustrated than in the language of the noble Earl 1654 opposite (the Earl of Wemyss) in a speech which he made last July. It is a long extract, but in view of the importance of the subject and the clearness with which the position was stated, perhaps I may be pardoned for reading it. The noble Earl said—In 1803 15,000 Militia Volunteers joined the Army; in 1808 the local Militia was, in addition, established; 20,000 Militiamen volunteered then for the Army for twelve months. In 1812 three strong battalions joined the Army. During the ten years from 1803 to 1813 100,000 Militiamen passed into the Regular Army. In 1815 Militiamen in great numbers joined the Army and served at Waterloo. In 1854 we had the Crimean War, during which fifty battalions of Militia volunteered for service; ten were sent to the Mediterranean as garrison, thus freeing the Regular troops for service in the Crimea. In all, the Militia sent to the War in South Africa 1,691 officers and 43,875 men.I think that passage absolutely establishes the fact that the Militia always have gone to war. We have always needed the Militia to go to the front in a big war.
*THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
Yes, and I hope we shall continue to have them. I believe they will always be willing and anxious to go to war, but they can only go to war by individual volunteering, and that is not a satisfactory state of affairs. In the first place, when you ask men on parade to volunteer in accordance with the formalities which you have to follow on such an occasion, there is always an unpleasant suspicion of pressure being brought on the men. I do not say whether it is justified or not, but that suspicion is always present, and I notice that in the evidence which he gave before the recent Royal Commission my noble friend Lord Raglan used the word "immoral" in this connection. There is also the fact that in trusting to this volunteering you are giving yourselves over to great uncertainty. The War Office has to prepare mobilisation schemes and the like, but in preparing those schemes they cannot look with certainty to the service of any single Militia unit or even man, and I am sure your Lordships will recognise that that is a great inconvenience in preparing for war. If the present position, therefore, 1655 is illogical, immoral, and inconvenient, I confess that I myself can see very little reason for maintaining it.
I believe the change proposed would be acceptable to the Militia. I have been very carefully through the evidence that was given on this subject before the Royal Commission, and I find that the question of the merits of such a proposal as this was put to eighteen witnesses, of whom four were opposed to the suggestion and fourteen in favour of it. I do not wish to minimise the importance of the evidence of the four who were not in favour of the proposal, but I cannot help feeling that the majority were in every way qualified to be consulted upon such a subject. The majority included such distinguished soldiers as the noble Viscount Lord Wolseley, who said that it would be a very desirable thing; and the noble Field Marshal Earl Roberts, who said that it would be very valuable, and added—At present we are in the dark as to whether we can get them or not get them.These fourteen witnesses included persons who, being Militia officers themselves, were thoroughly competent to speak. I notice the names of Lord Selborne, Lord Hardinge, Lord Raglan, and Lord Castletown, who have all by the part they have taken in debates in this House proved their light to speak with authority on this matter. Colonel Holden, who spoke on behalf of the Militia Rifle Association, was also included in the fourteen. As I have said, the right of all these gentlemen to speak on the subject is absolutely unquestioned, and I claim that their testimony must be allowed considerable authority with your Lordships in coming to a decision on this matter.
There is only one other important point in connection with this Bill to which I would like to allude. One of the greatest difficulties with which the Militia has to contend at the present moment is the difficulty of getting officers, and I am sanguine enough to believe that if your Lordships assent to this proposal that difficulty will be very greatly diminished. You will be offering a far more attractive career to a Militia officer than you have ever offered him before. You have asked him hitherto to do his preliminary drill, 1656 and spend a certain number of weeks every year in training his battalion, but the minute war comes, and war has hitherto in our experience invariably come outside this kingdom, you say—"Oh, no, your regiment is not earmarked to go abroad in time of war; you have to stay at home and defend this kingdom." And unless he is lucky enough to go out to the war for some special purpose he spends his time marching up and down Aldershot or Salisbury Plain, and not exactly in pursuits which one would think would convey ideal happiness to an English country gentleman. But under this Bill he will know that while he stays at home in time of peace he belongs to a force which is earmarked to go on service abroad in time of war. I believe that will be a much more acceptable position to him, and I shall be very disappointed if we do not have greater facility in getting officers after Parliament passes this Bill, as I sincerely hope it will.
Your Lordships will have noticed that there are certain very necessary safeguards in the Bill. We can only deal with the Militia under the Bill when they are embodied, and embodiment only takes place by Royal Proclamation in times of national emergency. No Militiaman raised by a compulsory process would be affected by this Bill. Therefore, we do not attack the noble Earl's pet lamb, the ballot, and the interests of present members are amply safeguarded. The Bill does not apply to the Imperial Yeomanry, because it is quite obvious that, while we require to retain some soldiers in this country, a proportion of the soldiers so retained must be mounted men. There are no mounted men among the Volunteers, and therefore we have to retain the Yeomanry for service in this country if they are required. The Yeomanry are a very satisfactory force, and I think your Lordships will see the wisdom of our not having included them under this Bill. Two Amendments have been given notice, of this afternoon. There is, first, the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss, who meets us with a direct negative, and I do not flatter myself that anything I can say can overcome his Toryism in this matter; but I sincerely hope that the majority 1657 of your Lordships will not follow his lead. The noble Marquess opposite, the Marquess of Ripon, has also put an Amendment down asking for further information on a great many subjects before the Bill is proceeded with. That Motion has been on the Paper for a long time. The Estimates have been presented to Parliament since it was put down, and there has been a great deal of oratory in another place on the subject. I do not know whether the noble Marquess is satisfied by what he has heard and road on the subject or not, but at any rate I am glad he does not attack the principle of the Bill in his Amendment. I therefore sincerely hope I shall have his support as well as that of the majority of your Lordships if it is necessary to divide upon this Bill. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a"—(The Earl of Donoughmore.)
§ *THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords, I have listened with much interest and considerable curiosity to see on what grounds my noble friend who moved the Second Reading of this Bill would justify the revolution—for it is nothing short of that—in Militia service, which is proposed by His Majesty's Government. His arguments, however, did not touch the three points I propose to raise, and I can assure your Lordships I shall confine myself as much as possible to those three points and shall not enter into any general disquisition upon the admirable services that the Militia have always rendered in time of war in all parts of the world. Nor do I propose to cite authorities, extending over more than a century, who have favoured the Militia as it is. What you are now asked to do is to establish the Militia on a totally different footing. The points I wish to raise are these: that this is a revolution, that it is breaking up the foundation upon which our military system rests. There is not a man in this House, who knows anything of the subject, who will deny that it is upon the Militia that our existing military system is founded. If this Bill passes it will break up that foundation entirely.
It is desirable, when considering a question of its total change, to know 1658 exactly what the Militia is, and what the extent of the change will be. I turn to the latest edition of the Encyclopædia, and under the head of "Militia" I read as follows—The Militia of the United Kingdom consists of a number of officers and men maintained for the purpose of augmenting the military strength of the country in case of imminent danger or great emergency. For such a contingency the whole or any part of the Militia is liable, by proclamation of the Sovereign, to be embodied; that is to say, to be placed on active service—I ask your Lordships to mark the words which follow—within the confines of the United Kingdom. The officers and men when called out are liable for duty with the Regulars, and in all respects as Regular soldiers, within the United Kingdom.If you want to know what this Bill does, I will tell you. It strikes out "within" and substitutes "without." This force which is raised for military service within the United Kingdom is capable of volunteering to serve outside the United Kingdom, but if this Bill passes it will be compelled to do so. I cannot conceive any greater change than that an old constitutional force, which has existed all this time for service within this country, and which, when embodied, might volunteer for foreign service, should be, at the will of the Government of the day, ordered to go across the seas to any part of the world. That is a great constitutional change which, I think, is highly objectionable.
Secondly, the Bill will put an end to the Militia ballot. The ballot is the foundation of the Militia; the Militia is supposed to be raised by ballot; but if this Bill passes there is an end of ballot for the Militia. If you happened to be in such a position that you had to raise Militiamen by ballot, is there anyone in your Lordships' House who will dare to stand up and say that you could compulsorily, under a ballot, send men to China, Peru, or Timbuctoo? You could not. So practically that power which my noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said was necessary for emergencies, and which he said, speaking on the subject some three years ago, was a power with which he would not readily part, is gone. I venture to think that if this Bill passes you will 1659 have done away with the power of compulsion for home service, and in doing that you do away with the old constitutional right of the Crown to call upon its subjects compulsorily for service in home defence.
My third point is the one on which my noble friend the Under-Secretary laid great stress—the uncertainty that at present prevails as to whether you have these Militiamen under hand or not. The blue-water question has never been debated in this House, though I hope to raise the question when my noble friend Lord Wolseley comes home. I object to the test of my noble friend the Under-Secretary. His test was one which will very soon disappear. He said the country now has the Volunteers, and therefore requires the Militia less for home defence, but you are doing your best to get rid of the Volunteers. I wish we had got rid of them. The great mistake of my life was being a Volunteer. And why? Because in consequence of the existence of the Volunteers those in authority have never done their duty by the State in enforcing the Militia ballot. Afraid of the voter—and the only principle that I can see in legislation now-a-days is to catch votes—they have not dared to enforce the ballot to fill the Militia, and the result is that the Militia is now, and always has been, something like 30,000 below its establishment; and I am inclined to think that when you pass this Bill, which enables the Government to send them to any part of the world, that diminution is likely to increase. My point is that the noble Earl's argument does not hold water. It does not hold water because you have not tried all the means available under the existing law to obtain a body of Militia at all times ready to go anywhere when wanted. You can do this under the existing law without upsetting the very foundation upon which your whole military system rests. I repeat that you can do this now under the existing Act.
Some thirty-five years ago I wrote a number of letters on the subject and was in communication with that most excellent Militiaman, Lord Abingdon, who was then Lord Norreys, and the question arose about the Militia Reserve. Lord Abingdon counselled the Government 1660 to make a list of regiments, whole units, who were ready to go anywhere, and to take note of those that so volunteered for duty. The feeling thirty-five years ago which Militiamen had, as expressed by Lord Norreys, was that the whole force would voluntarily ask to be put on that list in practically the position that this Bill tries to put them. That is the answer to my noble friend as regards the difficulty of getting hold of them. I say, at any rate, try it; try this plan. You can raise no possible objection to it. Try it before you dig up the foundations of our whole military system, as you are doing needlessly, as I hold, by this Bill. The Resolution standing in my name on the Paper is to move to resolve—That, in the opinion of this House, it is contrary to sound policy to tamper with the Militia force and alter, as is intended, its conditions and terms of service.I have been asked, instead of moving that Resolution as it stands, to move the rejection of this Bill. I do not care who votes with me. I simply enter my protest against this kind of legislation. But before I sit down I would say this to your Lordships, that the question at issue, putting on one side the opinion of the blue-water school, is one vital to this nation. I ask your Lordships to look upon it as not only vital to the nation, but as a question outside Party, and I hope that the patriotic feeling and independent spirit of noble Lords will induce them to vote with me against this Bill, which, as I have said, affects the time-honoured constitution and service of that valuable force, the Militia.
To leave out the word 'now,' and add at the end of the Motion the words 'this day six months.' "—(The Earl of Wemyss.)
§ *THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
My Lords, the Bill now before the House, if carried, goes a long way towards converting the Militia into the second line of the Army, a military policy which I have already advocated in your Lordships' House. I find that most Militia officers with whom I have discussed foreign-service enlistment are in favour of enlisting for foreign service and in the manner proposed by the Bill. I do not fear any falling off in the number 1661 of recruits owing to enlistment for foreign service, provided that the same kit, clothing, and equipment are given to the Militia recruit now to be enlisted for foreign service as to the Line recruit. I apprehend some loss to the force on the score of men not being willing to re-engage for foreign service. A re-engaged man is one who, after completing his first term of six years service, renews his engagement at once for a further period of six years. A man would be about twenty-five years old when he has to decide if he will re-engage for a further period of six years, which would take him to the other side of thirty, a period of life when a man may have many perfectly legitimate reasons for not incurring the liability for foreign service. The re-engaged man of twenty-five to thirty years old is a most valuable one in the force and quite at the best moment of his life for military service. If, as I anticipate, men do not re-engage freely for foreign service I suggest offering a bounty for re-engagement.
I cannot agree with the noble Earl who has just spoken that it is a mistake to alter the conditions of service in the Militia. The essential feature of the old Militia system was that it created an insular garrison, locally raised by the compulsion of the ballot, and, to a great extent, maintained by local as distinguished from Imperial taxation. But Mr. Pitt's policy (1798–1805) used the Militia as the recruiting ground for the Regular Army. It is interesting to note that at that time there were two systems of enlistment running in the Militia, the ballot for home defence and a supplementary Militia, raised by voluntary methods, from which men were encouraged to join the Regular Army and serve abroad. This supplementary Militia lasted for a very brief time. During the short interval of peace in 1802 the Militia Acts were consolidated into one general Militia Act of 1802. The ballot was then in operation, and men were not allowed to enlist from the Militia into the Regular Army, which was a return to the old principle of reserving the Milit a for home defence. Under the ballot substitutes were allowed, with the result that the Militia became entirely composed of such substitutes, 23,000 men being substitutes out of 26,000. The system 1662 of substitutes, moreover, encouraged fraudulent enlistment, because it was a temptation to men to desert and become substitutes in as many different regiments as possible. It also discouraged enlistment for the Regular Army, since it paid men better to become substitutes for the Militia than recruits for the Regular Army.
For these reasons the Militia ballot was suspended, but only to be revived in 1807. The Government urgently needed 28,000 men for service abroad. Ordinary methods of recruiting failed. There was a choice between raising men by the ballot for the Regular Army direct or through the Militia. Lord Castlereagh preferred the latter course on the ground that it was the cheapest method, and that it provided the best class of recruit. Anyhow, the measure was completely successful; 27,000 men within twelve months joined the Regular Army after having been balloted into the Militia, and their places in the Militia were filled by 45,000 additional men. But at this moment, in addition to the ballot, the system of fines prevailed. Each parish had to furnish its quota of men for the Militia, and any parish making default was fined £60 for each man deficient. These conditions existed for only two years (1807–1809). Afterwards and throughout the rest of the war, men were to be raised for the Militia in the first instance by beat of drum, as volunteers, and secondly, if that failed, by ballot. But to what extent the ballot was, re-sorted to between 1807 and 1815 cannot be ascertained. Anyhow, after 1815 the ballot was never put into operation, and at no time during the history of the Militia was a balloted man sent abroad, except as a volunteer. In 1813 there was a new condition of service in the Militia. By an Act of George III. the Militia was allowed to serve abroad as Militia, and under their own officers.
There were many changes in the Militia between 1852 and 1860, during the period of the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. The Militia was then made liable to serve anywhere in the United Kingdom, and in 1855 an Act, similar to the Act of George III. was passed encouraging Militia regiments up to three-fourths of their strength to volunteer for foreign service at specified places as Militia, and they did so serve. In our 1663 own day we have had the form of enlistment known as the Militia Reserve. The Militia Reserve was composed of men serving in the Militia, who, in consideration of an extra bounty of £1 a year, agreed to belong to the Reserve of the Regular Army for the purposes of foreign and active service. The original intention was that this Militia Reserve should be a force supplementary to the Militia, in the same sense as the supplementary Militia in the time of Mr. Pitt. But the real result was that the better men in each Militia battalion belonged to the Regular Army on mobilisation. The principle of this form of enlistment was unsound, in that it counted one man in two places, and trusted that he would not be required in two different places at the same time. This form of enlistment was abolished at the end of the South African War.
As regards altering the constitutional character of the Militia, that was very completely done in 1852, when the administration of the force was concentrated in the hands of the Secretary of State for War, with the result that recruiting for the Militia, which used formerly to be the duty of every class in the locality, from the Lord-Lieutenant downwards, is now a Departmental matter in which no one is concerned. I may add that in my experience I have never come across any military authority or any other authority who took the smallest interest in whether a Militia battalion was up to its establishment or very much the reverse. It must be remembered that until recent years the cost of the Militia was defrayed from local taxation, and the man who bore the local burden had a right to demand the local defence. But now that the burden is transferred to Imperial taxation, I submit that the Militia should be available for Imperial defence.
The instances which I have quoted show that at every crisis in the military history of this country the conditions of service in the Militia have been altered to suit the military requirements of the day, and the way in which in the past the Militia has never failed to respond to those alterations shows the great value of the force. The problems of Imperial defence have entirely changed in the 1664 course of the last few years. His Majesty's Government propose to use the Militia for the purposes of the defence of the Empire all the world over. That is a military policy in which I cordially concur, provided always that the Militia is properly equipped for foreign service. It is not so now. But in the belief that if this Bill becomes law the Militia will be equipped for the service for which it is destined, I support the Bill.
*THE MARQUESS OF RIPON, who had given notice to move to resolve—
That this House does not deem it advisable to proceed with the consideration of this Bill until it has before it a full statement of the whole of the proposals of His Majesty's Government for the reorganisation of the Army.
said: My Lords, I gave notice some time ago of an Amendment to the Second Reading of this Bill, founded upon my belief that it was not advisable to deal with the reorganisation of our military system piecemeal, and that we ought to have, before we undertake that great and most important duty, a full explanation of the intentions of His Majesty's Government. But I find that the forms of the House will not allow me to move that Amendment if, as is, I suppose, probable, looking at the benches opposite, the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Wemyss is rejected. If that Amendment is rejected no other Amendment can be moved, and therefore I must ask your Lordships' indulgence if I make the observations which I desire to offer in respect to this Bill at this stage rather than at a later one.
§ I was not surprised that the noble Earl opposite minimised the effect of this measure as much as he could. I do not in the smallest degree blame the noble Earl. Nothing would be more natural in his position. But he tried to make out that the change proposed was, in fact, extremely small. Among other things, he told us, with perfect truth, that there had been many changes made in regard to the Militia in one form or another, and he described them as changes of principle. I cannot agree with the noble Earl in that. They were changes mostly of administration. The Militia rests upon the principle which has been explained so forcibly to your 1665 Lordships by my noble friend Lord Wemyss—the principle that it is intended primarily for home defence. That is the principle of the Militia, and it has not been in the least degree impaired by any of the changes to which the noble Earl alluded. The noble Duke who has just sat down seemed to think that that change was made when the Militia was transferred from the superintendence of the Home Secretary to the Secretary of State for War. I cannot take that view. I remember those days very well, and I can assure the noble Duke that there was no idea at that time of making any constitutional change in regard to the Militia, but military questions of every kind were then being gradually and properly consolidated under the Secretary of State for War.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
The Volunteers also. At any rate, the Militia was placed under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State for War, but no alteration was made in the constitutional position of the Militia. My noble friend now sitting at the Table and myself carry back our recollections so far in regard to this question, that some of your Lordships may think that our views on this, subject are old-fashioned. But I turn to the Report, of the Duke of Norfolk's Commission, and what do I find stated there? That Commission thus describes the Militia—The Militia exists chiefly, and the Volunteers solely, for the purpose of resisting a possible invasion of the United Kingdom.That is to say, according to the Duke of Norfolk's Commission, the primary duty of the Militia is to be employed for home defence. Now, what this Bill proposes is entirely to change that primary condition. It proposes that instead of being primarily meant for home defence the Militia should become, as it was described in the speech made by the noble Earl opposite last February, a portion of the Reserve Army, and similar language has, I understand, been used elsewhere by the Secretary of State for War. Therefore, hereafter, if this Bill passes, you will remove the Militia from its present position as a valuable 1666 portion of our forces for home defence and join it entirely to the Regular Army, and whenever there is a strain of any kind render it liable for foreign service. That seems to me to be a question of extreme importance, and one upon which I am not prepared to give my final opinion until I know what are the other arrangements which His Majesty's Government are going to make for home defence.
This proposal is only the first of several schemes in respect to the Militia which have passed at least through the mind of the Secretary of State for War. The Secretary of State for War has contemplated—I do not know whether or not he contemplates it now, because his utterances within the last few days have seemed to me to be almost contradictory—taking from the Militia a large number of battalions and adding them to what he calls his territorial Army. He has contemplated putting an end to a considerable number of Militia regiments and taking other steps in respect to what may remain. Now, my Lords, before we take this first step in this direction we have a right to know whether His Majesty's Government do or do not intend to adopt the rest of the proposals of the Secretary of State for War with regard to the Militia. I am not by any means sure that His Majesty's Government have any such intention, for it is impossible to make out from a perusal of the remarks of the Secretary of State whether he is speaking for himself only. There is so much of the personal pronoun in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman that it is extremely difficult to find out whether he speaks for himself or for His Majesty's Government. I hope before this debate is brought to a close we may have some clear and distinct statement from noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite as to how far they are prepared to endorse and adopt this system.
If you take the Militia from its present position and turn it into a Reserve for the Regular Army, I think yon are bound to tell us what you are going to do to provide for the defence of this country at home. I know very well that opinion has greatly changed in the last fifty years in respect to the question of home defence. I am myself a humble 1667 disciple of the blue-water school, but I confess I am a little startled by some of the lengths to which persons are inclined to go now in respect to the immunity of this country from danger by raids. We have been told within the last few days that the naval view in respect to that question is that the crew of a dinghy could not land in this country in the face of the Navy. I have the greatest possible confidence in His Majesty's Navy. I have the greatest possible belief that they may may be relied upon to protect us from serious invasion; but I confess I cannot think that it would be safe for us to adopt the view that they can always prevent a boat's crew from landing in this country and that there is no danger to be provided against in the nature of raids of a grave and serious character. The author of the sentence I have quoted, strange as it may seem, is Mr. Arnold-Forster. He is the author of the ''dinghy theory." I cannot swallow that theory. I may be a heretic among those who believe in the blue-water policy, but I cannot follow that. I believe much more in what I find stated in the Report of the Norfolk Commission. In that Report there is a very singular document, a document which had a very curious history. It was sent to the Commission from the office of the Director-General of Mobilisation and Intelligence as being forwarded with the authority of the Secretary of State. I know perfectly well that shortly afterwards the Commission were informed that the Defence Committee repudiated it and that it was not authoritative; but, as it contains the opinion of so important a person as the Director-General of Mobilisation and Intelligence, the document is entitled to considerable weight. He said—It is neld by some that the Government can guarantee complete protection of the United Kingdom against danger of invasion by any larger force than from 5,000 to 10,000 men.That, I think, is the basis upon which you ought to frame your arrangements. My noble friend who spoke just now drew attention to the question of raids. I will not make any allusion to such a terrible catastrophe as a raid which might threaten our greatest seaports. Liverpool or Glasgow. But I ask your Lordships what would be the effect of an 1668 attack of 5,000 or 10,000 men on Yarmouth, Hull, Brighton, or Scarborough. You know what the effect would be; you know that it would create a panic in the land, and that a force so landed, if not immediately met, would do considerable damage. Therefore I say we ought not to take the first step in a direction which may land us in the adoption of a theory that no such raids are possible without having before us the fullest and clearest statement on the authority of the Government of their general proposals for home defence.
Now, what are the proposals which have been adumbrated by Mr. Arnold-Forster? The first is the raising of a large number of battalions belonging to the Regular Army on a two-years service. Part of those were intended to be taken from the Militia, but I should very much like to know what has become of those two-year battalions. I, myself, doubt very much whether they still exist except in the brain of the Secretary of State for War, and I seek for information from noble Lords as to what is their state. I am, I confess, one of those who think that recent experience has shown very plainly that you cannot run simultaneously in the Regular Army two different systems of enlistment, two different terms upon which men are to serve. What happened just recently in that unfortunate experiment of Mr. Brodrick's, which turned out to be such a total and almost disastrous failure? He thought he could enlist men for three years and get them to extend their service in the course of that period for a further term of nine years, but they would not do it. What was the consequence? You had to suspend short-service enlistment. Short-service enlistment is now suspended. From what I see in the newspapers, it is proposed that it shall be suspended for another seven or eight months at all events, and it is by no means certain that when that time comes it will be possible to revert to it. But what seems to me to be proved by this example is this, that if you have two different terms of enlistment men will love the one and hate the other. They will go to whichever they like best, and as they apparently do like short service much better than long service they will go to the short service, and you will be 1669 brought from time to time to the same position in respect to providing drafts for India and the Colonies in which you have found yourselves lately, and you will be obliged to again suspend your short-service enlistment, check the growth of your Reserve, and upset the new arrangement you are going to make.
I should be very glad to know whether it is intended to adopt this two-years system, and, if so, when it is going to be brought into operation. The noble Earl will probably say to me, "We are getting plenty of men now for the nine-years service." Yes, but during the last few months there has been, unfortunately, in this country a great deal of want of employment, and when you tell men that you will not let them come in on the short-service terms they, being forced to seek employment in the Army, take the longer service terms. But we hope and trust that that want of employment will pass away, and when the necessity of men entering the Army is less than it is now I venture to think you will find the dislike of long service more effective than it is at the present time. I confess, speaking for myself, that I am one of those who are very much inclined to think that you will have to return to a single system of enlistment, to single terms of enlistment for a shorter period than nine years. That, however, is an opinion, which I venture to express as being held by myself. You can rest assured that if I am right in my supposition of the difficulty of running two separate systems side by side you will have to come back to that single system of enlistment. If we are not to have the two-years service regiments, or if when we do get them we have again to suspend enlistment in them in order to force men into the nine-years service regiments, what becomes of the Reserve?
No man can have a higher opinion of the services of the Volunteers than I have. In the days when they were first started, and when my noble friend at the Table was most active, energetic, and vigorous in helping to raise that force, I was Under-Secretary of State for War and therefore I know a little about it. I venture to think that it is a very delicate thing to touch the terms upon which Volunteers are to serve. The upward 1670 limit of the demand in the way of training that can be made upon the Volunteers is very strictly confined. If you try to ask too much the force will gradually die out. It has always been thought a great advantage that the Volunteer force should be maintained at a very high figure. I think so still, but at the same time I do think that, if they are to be the sole force for home defence in this country, they will require the strengthening and the backing of a portion at least of the Regular Army, and that unless you can afford that to them you may find yourselvse in no inconsiderable difficulty if any raids of the description referred to should take place.
It seems to be very unfashionable at the present moment to think about the defence of these little islands. The thoughts of men now go to other and more distant parts of the world, but, I confess, I think our primary duty is to maintain the security of these islands upon the basis—and I quite admit the basis—that you must look to the Navy to prevent a serious invasion. But, my Lords, if you weaken the forces which you maintain, at home you do run a risk of raids far exceeding the celebrated dinghy, and which would not merely injure the district which suffered from them, but would spread panic and dismay throughout the country.
There is one other point on which I should like to say a word. It seems to me that very little effort has been made to consider not merely what for purely military purposes you might most desire, but what upon a system of voluntary enlistment you are likely to get. I do not think that enough attention has been paid to the feelings of the classes who go into our military forces. Mr. Brodrick made a disastrous mistake. He tried to get men who wanted short service to take long service, and they would not. I am by no means convinced that the change which it is proposed to make now in regard to the Militia may not very seriously interfere with your recruiting for that force. I do not express a positive opinion on the subject; I am not competent to do so; but it does appear to me that there is a very great chance that the men on the 1671 one hand, and employers on the other, will not be inclined to forward recruiting for the Militia if there is an absolute obligation for them to go abroad.
We are told that very objectionable things take place occasionally in the present system of volunteering. I believe that is so. I have heard some very curious stories indeed on the subject, but I do not think that in order to remedy that it is necessary to revolutionise the Militia. I believe that if the military authorities take that matter in hand and see that the men are allowed their individual free choice, the thing can be done as an administrative matter without an Act of Parliament at all. I therefore venture to say that I do not think that this House or the other House of Parliament is in the position in which it ought to be to decide upon a question involving as much as this Bill involves. We have not the information. It is not in the Memorandum to which we can freely refer. It is not, I think, to be gathered from the statements made in another place, and, therefore, unless His Majesty's Government can give us a much fuller statement of the whole of their plan, unless they can tell us more than we know now, not merely of what are the aspirations of Mr. Arnold-Forster, but what are the intentions of His Majesty's Government, I for one that find myself unable to give support to the Bill now before us. This is not a matter for piecemeal legislation. It is not a matter with which you can trifle. It is a matter of a very serious nature indeed. It is a matter very urgently requiring settlement. At present there is much uncertainty, doubt, and confusion in the minds both of the Militia and the Volunteers. The continuance of that doubt will destroy the Militia and the Volunteers, and it is therefore, I venture to say, essentially necessary that we should have the full confidence el His Majesty's Government, that they should tell us what they do mean, and the whole measure of Army reorganisation, before they ask us to take a partial and a limited step.
*THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
My Lords, the noble 1672 Marquess has challenged us so directly upon one or two points that I am compelled to intervene earlier in this debate than I had intended. I do not think that my noble friend's statement was open to the imputation of having minimised the importance of the measure before the House. Nor indeed, had he desired it, would it have been possible for him to do so, because there is no use disguising the fact that the measure is one of first-rate importance, altering as it does the primary conditions of the Militia service. We have made this great change for a reason which can be stated in a few words. We have done it because we believe that we do want a very large Army for service outside the limits of this country, and that we do not want to maintain within the country another very large Army available only to serve within the narrow confines of these islands.
The noble Marquess greatly misunderstood the so-called blue-water theory as unfolded by my right hon. colleague the Secretary of State for War. What my right hon. colleague said was that His Majesty's Government had come to the conclusion that the invasion in force of these islands was highly improbable or impracticable, and then he went on as an illustration to say that he believed the extreme naval view to be that even a dinghy could not safely effect a landing on these shores. But that is not by any means the account of my right hon. friend's statement which the noble Marquess gave to the House. My right hon. friend also explained that what he did think a danger to be provided for was the danger of a foreign raid of, say, 5,000 or 6,000 men. The noble Marquess expatiated with great eloquence upon the risk of so denuding the country of troops, particularly of Regular troops, that a raid of this kind might take place at the outset of war and create great panic and demoralisation in the country. But will the noble Marquess consider for a moment what our position at the outset of a war would probably be? We should have at home twenty-six or twenty-seven long-service Line battalions. We should also have the short-service battalions, because obviously no part of that large body of troops, could be sent out of the 1673 country at the very outset of war or until we had obtained control of the seas. Added to this would be the Militia and Volunteers. It seems to me, therefore, very far-fetched to suggest that we should be in any danger with that great body of troops at our disposal from a raid of 5,000 or 6,000 men.
But I readily admit that the so-called blue-water school is of comparatively recent origin. The theory under which I was brought up was certainly not the blue-water theory. I was educated to believe that a force of three Army Corps should be available for service outside the country, and that thre eother Army Corps should be evolved and organised out of the great mass of troops that remained for the defence of England and particularly of London, from an invasion in force. I have seen elaborate schemes in which positions were allotted to all the different units in order that such an invasion of this country might be held in check. Then, of course, it follows that it was our duty to organise, arm, and equip the whole of our Auxiliary Forces in order that they might be prepared for a great military operation of that kind. But there has been with regard to this question a great awakening of late—an awakening which has had its origin in two different sets of circumstances. It has resulted, in the first place, from the much more attentive study which these questions have received since the Defence Committee has been in working operation. Up to that time the great Departments of defence, the War Office and the Admiralty, were in the habit of corresponding, indeed, with one another; but I do not think I misrepresent them when I say that the views held in those two Departments were not always so collated as to enable us to arrive at a true appreciation of the facts. The thorough investigation which those great strategic problems have received at the hands of the Defence Committee has been one cause which has led to this fundamental change in our conceptions.
The other cause, also a most important one, is to be found in the financial exigencies of the case. We have all, I think, come to see that the constant growth of our naval and military expenditure 1674 has become a serious menace to the financial stability of this country, and we have had to consider in what direction it was possible to arrest the progress of that colossal expenditure. I believe your Lordships will all agree that the pruning knife cannot be applied to our naval expenditure. Those of us who had the good fortune to listen the other day to Lord Selborne's eloquent speech delivered from this bench will realise that this is not a time when we could contemplate any diminution in the naval preparations which it is our duty to make. Nor is it conceivable that at this moment we should desire to diminish the number of men who would be available, if this country were at war, for active operations in India or in the Colonies or other parts of the world. Therefore, it seems to me to follow that, if there is to be retrenchment at any point, if there is to be an arrestation of the progress of expenditure, that arrestation must take place in connection with that part of the Army which is useful for home defence only. We have, then, to consider from that point of view what is the proper place of the Militia; and I am glad to believe that in the opinion of most of us the proper function of the Militia is that it should form a part of that Army which in time of peace remains at home, but which in times of national emergency shall be available for use in the field beyond the limits of these islands.
I have no doubt that if my right hon. colleague had had a clean slate to work upon he would have been justified in doing what I believe in his original proposal he desired to recommend to Parliament, and that he would have preferred that the Militia should be merged in that short-service Army of which we have spoken in these debates. But sentiment counts for a great deal in these questions, and it became obvious that a measure of that kind would have done great violence to the sentiment of a force which we greatly honour and which commands the esteem of the country. Therefore we propose that the Militia should retain its identity, and that it should not be merged in the short-service Army, but that, on the other hand, it should be so trained, so equipped, and so officered that it should be fit when occasion arises to 1675 take its place alongside the best troops of the Line for the purpose of foreign service.
The noble Marquess expressed his objection to accepting these proposals with regard to the Militia until we had disclosed more fully the whole of our scheme of Army reform. We have made no mystery of the broad outlines of that scheme. They were explained last year by the Secretary of State; they have been set forth again in the Memorandum on the Army Estimates, and they have been more fully gone into in the House of Commons within the last two or three days. I thought it was well understood that our proposals were based upon the creation of a long-service Army recruited for a term of nine years with the colours and three with the Reserve, liable at all times for service abroad, and, on the other hand, a short-service Army with a period of two years with the colours and six years with the Reserve, available for service abroad only in time of emergency. That is the broad basis of the new scheme. But the noble Marquess says, "Where are these short-service battalions? They do not exist. When are "they going to exist? "That is a legitimate question. The noble Marquess, however, I think, answered it himself in the course of his speech, because he dwelt on the failure of Mr. Brodrick's scheme of three-years enlistment to provide a sufficient number of men for the Indian drafts. That is quite true. We found we could not reckon on a sufficient number of men for the drafts for the battalions abroad; and consequently, in order to obtain those men, we had to shut the door to short-service recruiting and to accept for a time, but a time only, nothing but men recruited for long service. It has, however, been stated distinctly by my right hon. colleague that when a sufficient number of long-service men have been recruited—and I may say that long-service recruiting has proceeded in a most satisfactory manner, I am told that we have got 10,600 men—we shall certainly resort to short-service recruiting and to short-service battalions of the kind described by my right hon. colleague. There is to my mind one reason why it is obvious that we must resort to short- 1676 service recruiting, because it is only by means of such recruiting that you are able to build up what I shall always maintain is the thing which is of all others needful for our Army—a great and numerous Reserve.
I must say one word with regard to two of the criticisms made upon the Bill by the Earl of Wemyss. I understood him to suggest that it would be possible to obtain all we require by inviting Militia battalions to volunteer beforehand for service abroad, that is, by taking men as now for service at home, but afterwards allowing the battalions to volunteer for liability to serve abroad. I am bound to say that to my mind all these arrangements under which men are taken into the Army upon one set of terms, and then invited, whether as individuals or collectively, to accept a wholly different liability, are fundamentally bad and wrong. I am within the recollection of the House when I say that during the South African War, much as we rejoiced at the magnificent way in which the Militia came forward to help us in that great emergency, most of us had an uneasy feeling that the procedure by which Militia battalions were induced to volunteer was not one which we could regard altogether with satisfaction or contentment. The only other observation I will make in reply to my noble friend Lord Wemyss is this. He dwelt with sorrow upon the effect which this measure will have in depriving the country of a last chance of having recourse to the Militia ballot. My Lords, that point has been carefully considered by our legal advisers, and we are assured that, even if this Bill is passed, it would be possible, supposing that we desired it, to form a territorial Militia by means of the application of the ballot. Whether, considering the feeling with regard to home service, and the dislike that there now is to collecting large numbers of men with a liability limited to service in this country, that is ever likely to come I do not take upon myself to say.
My Lords, I have only to add that we associate ourselves with my right hon. colleague in the proposals which he has made to Parliament. They seem to us to be the best of which the circumstances 1677 admit; and they certainly fulfil, to my mind, the conditions which are indispensable and which I would describe as follows—that we should avoid the use of compulsion; that we should maintain a strong Regular Army for service abroad; that we should endeavour to build up a large Reserve; and that we should, if we cannot diminish our expenditure, at any rate avoid an increase in the Army Estimates.
§ *VISCOUNT HAMPDEN
My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as I did to the speech of the noble Earl who introduced this Bill, and I think the House will be in agreement with me when I say that we do not know even now what is the view of His Majesty's Government upon the scheme which has been defined by the Secretary of State for War. There are two or three Questions one would be inclined to ask. One is, is the long-service system to be permanent or only temporary? Again, is the infantry of the Line to continue to be divided into two separate Armies with different terms of enlistment and pay? I have put a notice on the Paper with a view to obtaining some information upon the effect of Mr. Arnold-Forster's proposal, but it seems to me that the whole scheme of the right hon. Gentleman depends upon the success of the long-service system. I have asked for a Return of the ages of the men who have been enlisted under the long-service system. I believe I am to have that Return from the War Office. I have asked for it for this reason. It is clearly obvious that if we are obtaining the same class of men now under the long-service enlistment as we obtained under the Cardwell system, then the effect of reducing the period of Reserve service from five years to three years will be to diminish by many thousands the Army Reserve without giving the country any counterbalancing advantages whatever. That is perfectly clear on the face of it.
The most extraordinary point about the whole of Mr. Arnold-Forster's ideas is that he takes credit that his scheme will increase the Reserve of the Army. If there is one thing it will not do that is the thing. Take, for instance, your nine- 1678 years service men. I suppose they will have to serve six or seven years in a hot climate like India; they will come back to this country utterly unfit to compete in the labour market. They will be wrecked in health, and more fitted really for a pension than for fighting. I understand that the Militia are not to be absorbed. Therefore, the two-years service men will be the men drafted into the Reserve. These men will have had two years service. In what way wall they compare with men who have had from six to eight years service under the Cardwell system? I appeal to the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who made a speech last year in this House in which he gave his opinion upon the effect of the Cardwell system on the Reserve of the Army, and it was a convincing statement. I think it is so strong that, with the leave of the House, I will quote an extract from it. The noble Marquess said—I shall continue to believe that the arrangement under which the home battalions acted as what I may call feeders to the foreign battalions, and in their turn when fortified by the addition of Reservists became fighting units, was a very good system, and certainly at the outbreak of the South African War it enabled us to put in the field a larger and more efficient force thin ever before left these shores.My noble friend went on to say he had reason to admit that another system was necessary because our foreign requirements had grown so much heavier; we had to keep such a large Army in India and the other garrisons that we could not get a sufficient number of men in the linked battalions at home to feed them. I am afraid my noble friend cannot have examined the scheme of Mr. Arnold-Forster, because, from what I gather from his scheme as defined last year, he will maintain ninety-six battalions at home as against eighty-eight abroad, or more than we would have to maintain under the Cardwell system if we had as many battalions at home as abroad. I have come to the conclusion that it is very difficult indeed to extract from the Government their policy upon this Army scheme, and incidentally, I might say, upon other matters. We have at this moment no idea what the scheme really is in its entirety, and I think it is hardly courteous to the House of Lords that we should be asked to deal with a Bill which is really 1679 part of a larger scheme without full knowledge of that scheme. Neither the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs nor the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War has informed the House what are the views of His Majesty's Government on that scheme as a whole.
§ *VISCOUNT HAMPDEN
I did not gather so. Mr. Arnold-Forster in the House of Commons certainly did not inform us. I read his speech through very carefully, but failed to find out what part of his scheme was assented to by His Majesty's Government. We have had schemes of reform before. We had a scheme associated with the name of Mr. Brodrick. I remember some few years ago venturing to say in this House that Mr. Brodrick might call his Army Corps by whatever name he liked, but he would never obtain them, and that prophecy, at any rate, seems to have come true, The Army now has another master, and Mr. Arnold-Forster, who was the severest critic of the Army in the House of Commons, has become a constructor, and we have a right to ask what form of building Mr. Arnold-Forster is constructing or has constructed. There is one thing clear, however, and it is that Mr. Arnold-Forster proposes to abolish the Cardwell system and to put something else in its place. Therefore, it seems to me desirable that we should for a few moments examine the Cardwell system and compare it with Mr. Arnold-Forster's proposals.
But there is the preliminary question as to what our military responsibilities are. They have, of course, been immensely increased by recent policy and events, and I suppose that a great portion of the £12,000,000 addition to the Army Estimates may be attributed to the trouble in South Africa and the necessity of maintaining a garrison there. But the military responsibilities as far as regards foreign service are perfectly clear. We must maintain our garrisons, and we must have two Army Corps at least to reinforce India if necessary. With regard to home defence, that is another thing. Is invasion possible? 1680 We have had that argued to-night. It is perfectly clear that there is no room for economy with regard to the Regular Army, and I should have thought, with a sufficient number of troops abroad and the same number at home, so far as linked battalions are; concerned, Mr. Arnold-Forster would have been better advised in seeking economy by making large reductions in the Auxiliary Forces. That would have been better than this system which reduces the Regular Army, destroys its efficiency, and depletes its. Reserve. The Cardwell system was the best piece of work that has been done for the Army in this generation. If that system had only been given a fair chance it would not have partially failed, and it has only partially failed because that condition vital to it, of keeping the same number of linked battalions at home as abroad has never been fulfilled.
The Cardwell system provided us with adequate drafts for India and the Colonies. It provided us with seasoned men for the Reserve, and gave us such a fighting force as we had in South Africa. As a matter of fact, we were enabled, under the Cardwell system, to send the equivalent of five Army corps to South Africa. Now I ask, is it not the height of unreason, or rather the depth of folly, to abolish a system such as that, which has only failed partially, such partial failure as has occurred, moreover, being due solely to the mismanagement of succeeding Governments? We may say with truth that the Cardwell system has been sacrificed to a false principle of economy. Now we come to the point when Mr. Brodrick gave up office. Of course, the difficulty with regard to drafts was increased by the South African War. We had to maintain a garrison in South Africa, and there were a large number of overdue discharges from the Reserve. Mr. Brodrick attempted to remedy that by a plunge into a universal short-service system. The men refused to re-engage, and the result was that the scheme cost the country £2,000,000. I admit that it was a very difficult position in which Mr. Arnold-Forster found himself at the War Office, but I should have thought that what he ought to have done was to take temporary measures to 1681 fill up the drafts for India, and then have had a Departmental inquiry into the working of the Cardwell system, focussing, as it were, professional opinion on its merits. But he did nothing of the kind. He rushed in, really, where even Mr. Brodrick had feared to tread, and proceeded at once to abolish the Cardwell system and put in its stead a scheme which I think for futility establishes a perfect record.
I have not yet found any agreement as to the exact nature of the scheme that he proposed, but taking his speeches last year I concluded that his scheme consisted first of all of dividing the in fantry of the line into two separate Armies—a general-service Army and a home-service Army. The terms of the general-service Army were to be nine years with the colours and three with the Reserve, and those of the home-service Army two years with the colours and six with the Reserve. Of those 183 battalions, ninety-five were to be at home, and eighty-eight abroad, and, as I understand it, this Bill becomes necessary because, in framing the home-service Army, so many battalions of infantry are disbanded, and in their stead is placed so many battalions of Militia. There seem to me to be some fatal objections to that course. I ask the Government first of all how they propose to officer the home-service Army. That Army is to have less pay—that was stated last year by Mr. Arnold-Forster—and will be serving alone at home except on the exhaustion of the general-service Army. Will any young man who wants to take a commission join the home-service Army? He will certainly not do so unless he fails to enter the foreign-service Army. Again, how are you going to enlist 15,000recruits a year for the general service Army? The noble Lord says recruits are coming in well, but we have not heard the ages or the condition of those recruits. I believe in time there will be a very serious deficiency in the number enlisted in the general service regiments.
Look at the scheme as it compares with the Cardwell scheme in respect of the soldiers who will really compose the battalions at home. We had experience of what our Reservists were like in the South African War, and yet Mr. 1682 Arnold-Forster will upset the whole of that and form a body for foreign service composed of men having had only two years service with the colours. They can hardly, I think, be called anything else than an army of boys. I hope His Majesty's Government will pause before they enter on such a scheme as this. If you were to take temporary measures to fill up the drafts, and revert to the Cardwell scheme for the provision of drafts as a permanent measure, I believe you would solve the difficulty. If it is said that that is too expensive, I reply that it is better to spend money on perfecting the organisation of the home Army, making what economies you can in your Auxiliary Forces, than to establish a scheme which will be so highly injurious to the interests of the Army at large.
My Lords, this is a subject which I have had very much at heart, and I shall, therefore, venture to trouble your Lordships with a few words upon it. The remarkable feature of this debate has been that only one of the three noble Lords who oppose the Bill said anything whatever about the subject of the Bill. The noble Marquess on the Front Bench opposite (the Marquess of Ripon) said very little about the Militia at all. The noble Viscount who has just sat down hardly mentioned the Militia, and, therefore, I am afraid their speeches have not carried us very much further. Both the noble Earl who proposed the rejection of the Bill and the noble Marquess on the Front Bench opposite started on the assumption that the liabilities of the Militia were fixed and firm like the laws of the Medes and Persians, that they always had been so, and were to remain so. I think I can in a few words show your Lordships that there have been many great and important changes in the constitution and liabilities of the Militia since that force was first founded.
It is usual to begin the history of the Militia from the time of Alfred the Great, but I shall not go back so many centuries as that, but will commence with the time when the noble Earl's great pet, the Militia ballot, was first introduced, in 1757. I might say here that at that 1683 time there was every reason why the Militia should be confined to home service. Your Lordships will remember that a few years before that period, during the absence abroad of almost the whole of the Regular Army, the army of Prince Charles Edward had penetrated as far as Derby, and thrown the country into tremendous panic. It was chiefly that that caused the country to look again to its armour, and for some years after the question of the resuscitation of the Militia was discussed. The consequence was that, when in 1757 the Militia was reorganised on the principles of the ballot, the greatest care was taken to keep the Militia separate from the Regular Army. There was this reason for that, that when a regiment went abroad it was practically sentenced to death, and you could hardly conscript respectable men into the Militia and proceed to sentence them to death, which was the result then of sending them abroad. That sort of idea went on until the end of the eighteenth century, when we were hard pushed on land, and in 1798 an Act was passed enabling the Militia to volunteer into the Army. That was quite as great a change as any which is now proposed by the Bill submitted by His Majesty's Government.
Then there was the Interchange Act of 1811, which permitted the British Militia to serve in Ireland, and the Irish Militia to serve in Great Britain; and, finally, there was the Act of 1813, which permitted the Militia to volunteer for foreign service. So that on at least two occasions the entire object and constitution of the Militia have been radically changed by Act of Parliament. As the noble Marquess the Foreign Minister pointed out, there is no reason why you should not enforce the ballot after this Bill has been passed into law. And, moreover, behind the Regular Militia there is the local Militia, which is confined to service at home. There are two ways in which the proposals of His Majesty's Government can be looked at—how they affect the Militiamen and how they affect the military defence of the country. There is no doubt whatever that the present arrangements have been pre-eminently unsatisfactory. I have always thought that the fact that we have gone on enlisting men for home service, telling them 1684 that they would only be employed at home, while at the same time at the back of our minds we intended they should do something quite different, was immoral and wrong. It was, indeed, only one of the shams which from time, immemorial have characterised all official dealings with our military forces.
As to the effect of the proposals in this Bill on the Militiaman, I have committed myself before in this House to the statement that I do not believe it will make the slightest difference in recruiting. I do not believe you will lose one recruit by the introduction of this Bill, but I think it is quite possible, as my noble friend the noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Bedford) said, that it may to a certain extent check re-engaging. I do not, however, think that is probable because, unfortunately, re-engagements are now very few; but if His Majesty's Government would think over the question of making some provision for a bounty for re-engaged men—it need not be a large bounty, 10s. or £1 would do a great deal in that direction—it would enable the Militia force to retain one of its most valued constituents, namely the Militiamen who have served for some, time in the regiment, and from which class our non-commissioned officers are obtained.
I now come to the question of how the officers will be affected. I cannot help thinking that this Bill will put the officer in a far better position. We shall know exactly where we are. As things stand at present we do not know where we are. In the late war a great number of officers were put in a most unfair position. They did not like their regiments going on active service without them. In a great number of cases they were married men with families, and they were torn in two as to where their duty lay. I believe that if it was frankly stated to them that they were under this liability if ordered abroad they would go cheerfully. I know, so far as I myself am concerned, that it would lift a very great weight off my shoulders. With regard to the opinion of the Militia on this point, I may state that as long ago as 1896 the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, who I regret is not in his, place to-day, and myself sent a circular letter to every commanding 1685 officer in Great Britain and Ireland asking him his opinion on certain matters in regard to the Militia, and amongst other questions we asked—Are you in favour of enlisting the whole; of the Militia for general service in case of war?Some 112 commanding officers answered our letter. Of those eighty-seven were in favour of enlisting the Militia for general service and only fourteen against. The others did not answer the question or were doubtful. I think that is very strong proof of how, even in those days, the Militia viewed this proposal. The noble Earl the Undersecretary of State for War has alluded to the evidence taken before the Duke of Norfolk's Commission, and I wish I had time to go into the evidence given on behalf of the Militia Recruiting Association. There, again, the opinions of commanding officers of Militia were collected, and an overwhelming number of commanding officers were in favour of this change. Therefore, I think, as far as the force itself is concerned, they are almost entirely in favour of the change proposed.
With regard to the men, people are very apt to argue as if men in this country had a dread of foreign service. Perhaps I speak from a rather different point of view from many others, for my men consist chiefly of industrial labourers and artisans. The proportion of those men who have been out of England is enormous. They have no dread whatever of going out of this country, and it is absurd to say that amongst the working classes there is any objection to going on foreign service or of moving about the world. As to the question of married men, my own experience is that the number of married men is very small indeed. In my regiment the men are considerably above the average age, yet out of considerably over 800 men only forty-three are married. The proportion of married men in the Militia is not at all large. One word with regard to employers of labour. The noble Marquess said he was afraid employers of labour would object to this proposal. If I thought that argument affected the matter one way or the other I should be inclined to pause, but as I do not think employers of labour give the 1686 slightest assistance, but in a great number of cases throw great obstacles in the way of recruiting for the Militia, I do not think the adverse opinion of employers of labour should affect the question the least bit one way or the other.
As to the advantages to the country, it seems hardly necessary to say that a scheme which gives the country 90,000 more disposable men must be of great advantage to it. It seems to me that the danger of the present system of I keeping a large number of men for an emergency which most people believe I will never occur, is that those redundant units are apt to be lopped off in moments of economy, and that danger far out weighs any danger which may arise from altering the conditions of service of the Militia. During the South African War a very large proportion of Militia units did volunteer, all honour to them, but at the same time your Lordships must not forget that a certain number of Militia units did not volunteer. Your Lordships can easily understand that it requires very little to turn men one way or the other. An unpopular colonel, an unpopular adjutant, an unpopular sergeant-major, a speech by somebody, or a paragraph in a newspaper, may turn men from one way to the other. I do not think that any military system is fit to be called by that name which depends on conditions so uncertain as those. If your Lordships pass the Bill, and if His Majesty's Government carry out in their entirety the promises made by the noble Marquess with regard to the equipment and training of the Militia, the country will, at practically the smallest cost, receive a vast addition to its Regular Forces prepared for service in any part of the world.
My Lords, I wish to ask the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War one Question about recruiting for the Militia and the Army. It is well-known to your Lordships that at the present time non-commissioned officers who recruit for the Militia get a certain advantage from that; and very frequently, when the recruit has been a short time drilling in the Militia, induce him to go on to the Regular Army, for 1687 which they get another bounty. In that way the single recruit is in a dual position. Under this new scheme, which I am quite certain will be for the benefit of the Militia and will be greatly appreciated by both officers and men of that force, I think there ought to be some arrangement by which dual recruiting should be stopped. If a man enlists in the Militia he should be kept for the Militia, and if for the Army he should be kept for the Army.
§ EARL SPENCER
My Lords, the debate to-night has been very interesting and, expressing as it does the opinions held by so many who are connected with the Militia, must be of considerable value. The noble Lord who spoke last but one said that many of the speakers had hardly mentioned the word Militia. I do not think that reproach is justified. It certainly cannot be made in the case of the speech of my noble friend Lord Ripon, nor of that of the noble Earl who moved the Amendment. This Bill deals solely with the question of enlisting the Militia for foreign service in the event of war. We are always hearing accounts of the state of the Militia, and of the necessity of reforming that force and putting it in a more satisfactory condition. I venture to say there is no provision in this Bill which has that object. There is a great deal to be said in favour of doing something to put the Militia on a more satisfactory footing. I think most people will agree that the Militia in the past has been greatly neglected, and in consequence of neglect and also mismanagement the force has fallen a great deal from the position it held many years ago. On January 1st, 1904, there were 32,601 men wanting to complete the establishment; on January 1st, 1902, there were 21,148 wanting. That shows that there is still a great wastage and that the ranks of the Militia are not filling up as they should.
I hold very strongly that the course that has been followed so much of late years of always having the Militia trained in camps away from their headquarters has had a very bad effect indeed on training and on enlistment. I can speak for my own regiment which, last year, for the first time in five years, were trained 1688 in the county town. I am glad they are to be trained in the county again. This Bill, however, does nothing to improve the officers or secure better officers. What it doss is to remove a practice which the noble Lord opposite, Lord Raglan, calls immoral, connected with the inducements to the Militia to volunteer for foreign service. The Bill no doubt, remedies that, and it has, I admit, attractions to many people in that it is more straightforward in that respect than the present system. But I maintain with others who have spoken to-night that the Bill introduces a fundamental change; and a far greater change than any of I those which have been referred to, in the constitution of the Militia. The noble Duke opposite, who always speaks with such authority, and to whom the House listens with deep interest, said that as great a change was made when the Militia were taken out of the hands of the Lords-Lieutenant of counties and put entirely under the Secretary of State for War. That change was, no doubt, an important one, but it was justified by the requirements of the day, and was nothing like so fundamental a change as the present proposal. No doubt this change will do away with the undue pressure that is sometimes put on Militiamen to enlist for foreign sevice; but surely that can be remedied by any determined colonel or by the district general, or eyen by the War Office itself, and it is not necessary to make so great and fundamental a change to effect that.
The noble Marquess opposite, who lately was Secretary of State for War, twitted my noble friend near me as to his views with regard to the blue-water school, but when the noble Marquess had explained his view it seemed to me to be almost identical with that of my noble friend. The noble Marquess told the House one thing that we were glad to hear, and that was that the proposal of the Secretary of State to merge certain Militia regiments in the short-service Army had been given up. That is, no doubt, an important statement, but when the noble Marquess describes what the whole policy of the Government is, I confess I think it conies to very little. The noble Marquess says we want long service abroad and short service at home 1689 but we know that now short service at home is destroyed—at all events it has been suspended for a time owing to the impossibility of getting the men to enlist for short and long service at the same time. I cannot help thinking that the argument is a sound one that, though after a time all the regiments for long Service may be filled up, the same difficulty will again arise if you enter on short service alongside the other. I cannot see how that part of the scheme can stand and it seems to me a very serious drawback to the whole scheme, because for the moment it destroys the power getting Reserve men, which is such an essential consideration.
I will not go at length into the whole subject, but I would like to know what is to be done with regard to the Volunteer force, a force to which many of us attach enormous importance. We believe that very often in the Army and elsewhere sufficient weight is not given to the excellent quality of the men in the Volunteer force. We get in that force, just as we do in the Yeomanry, a much higher class of men, more intelligent and more able to do splendid work in the field. I cannot share the views of my noble friend with whom I worked in the formation of the Volunteers, that in so doing we made the greatest mistake of our lives; it is one of the proudest things I have to look back upon in my public life that I have done my utmost to assist in the formation of the Volunteer force. The scheme put forward by the noble Marquess does not seem anything like so complete as that set forth in the speech of the Secretary of State last year. We do not know how much of that scheme will come forward again, and, therefore, I am not inclined at the present moment, for the very small gain obtained by enabling Militiamen to enlist for foreign service, to support this proposal without having before me the complete scheme of the Government. Therefore, if my noble friend goes to a division I shall feel it my duty to support him.
*THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, I do not intend to detain the House at any length in replying upon the very interesting debate that has taken place. I would first deal with the criticism made by the noble Earl who has just 1690 sat down, in which he complains that there is nothing in this Bill to improve the Militia. It is my belief, and that belief has been supported by noble Lords who are Militia officers, that one of the effects of this Bill will be to make it easier to get officers for the Militia; and, beyond that, how would the noble Earl expect us to improve the Militia by Act of Parliament? The way we hope to improve the Militia is through the Army Estimates. It is quite unnecessary for us to bring in a Bill to carry out these improvements.
*THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
Not at all. The noble Earl stated that my right hon. friend the Secretary of State suggested originally that the Militia should be merged in the home-service Army and that that had now been dropped. That has not been dropped, because it has never been put forward.
§ EARL SPENCER
It was proposed that certain Militia regiments should be merged in the short-service home Army.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
They were to be invited to join the short-service Army if they wished to. My right hon. friend made it clear that he would have preferred to see the whole of the Militia merged in the short-service Army, but that he recognised public opinion was not in favour of such a change, and, therefore, he did not definitely put it forward. The noble Viscount opposite has complained that he was still in the dark as to whether the other members of His Majesty's Government supported the scheme of my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War. It is curious that he should have made that complaint within a few minutes of the noble Marquess the Secretary for Foreign Affairs stating that his colleagues associated themselves with the scheme.
*THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
The scheme so minutely outlined by the noble Viscount himself in the course of 1691 his speech. The noble Viscount complained that he does not understand the scheme. I think he understands it well, for he gave it to us very succinctly and clearly. With regard to the other point he raised, that the scheme will not increase the Reserve of the Army, I would refer him to a Return which we presented to Parliament last year. It was moved for in another place by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and he will see from it that the Reserve under the proposed system would be larger than under the present system. I can assure Lord
|Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Northesk, E.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Onslow, E.||Lawrence, L.|
|(L. President.)||Stanhope, E.||Ludlow, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Verulam, E.||Manners, L.|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Manners of Haddon, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Westmeath, E.||(M. Granby.)|
|Marlborough, D.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Methuen. L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Mostyn, L.|
|Bath, M.||Falkland, V.||Muncaster, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Hardinge, V.||Napier, I.|
|Winchester, M.||Hill, V.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Hutchinson, V. (E. Donough-||Raglan, L.|
|Clarendon, E. (L. Chamberlain)||more.)||Ravensworth, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Robertson, L.|
|Brownlow, E.||Abinger, L.||Romilly, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Allerton, L.||Rossmore. L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Barrymore, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Saltoun, L.|
|Devon, E.||Colchester, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Drogheda, E.||De Mauley, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Ducie, E.||Dunboyne, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Ellenborough, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Hothfield, L.||Windsor, L.|
|Lathom, E.||Hylton, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Kenyon, L.|
|Northampton, M.||Hampden V.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Ripon, M.||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Davey, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Denman, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Monkswell, L.||(E. Galloway.) [Teller.]|
|Portsmouth, K.||Monson, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Spencer, E.||O'Hagan, L.||[Teller.]|
|Temple, E.||Reay, L.|
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.