rose to call attention to the present organisation and condition of service in the Militia and the increasing deficiency in the numbers of the force in officers and men; and to ask His Majesty's Government what they propose to do to deal with this evil; and to move for papers.
The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in bringing forward this Motion it is a matter of great satisfaction to know that a question of this kind is never approached in your Lordships' House as one of a purely Party nature. On the contrary, I am fully aware that this subject always receives that consideration which it undoubtedly deserves, noble Lords on both sides of the House being actuated by the same motive—the good of the country, and, therefore, of His Majesty's Imperial Forces. It was, therefore, not surprising, but at the same time none the less gratifying, to find the Secretary of State of War, in his very able speech the other day in the House of Commons when moving the Army Estimates, emphasizing in no small degree the necessity and importance of maintaining a continuity of policy, irrespective of the Party by whom that policy was enunciated. It was also a pleasure, after the many hard things that have been said about the Party now in Opposition, to hear that their administration of the War Office, which had been so freely and adversely criticised in the past, was such that the Secretary of State for War was able to declare in Parliament that—The Army has never been in such an efficient state as it is now.But although this gratifying announcement has been made with regard to the Army as a whole, we find that a different note is struck when reference is made to a most important branch of the Army. I refer, of course, to that old constitutional force, the Militia, a branch of the Service of which many Lords on both sides have had actual experience, and in which I am sure all of us take a great and abiding interest.
In the speech of the Secretary of State the other day we were told that all was well with the Army, but in the same speech we were informed, with regard 7 to the Militia, that its present condition could not be considered satisfactory, and the reason for this was given in this way, that as yet no definite function had ever been assigned to that force. Without desiring to cavil in any sort of way at the eminently statesman-like and patriotic speech of the Secretary of State for War, I must, as one taking a keen personal interest in the Militia, and having the honour at the present time to command one of His Majesty's Militia battalions, express my great disappointment at learning the cause of the position of the Militia force, and observing that no proposal is made to remedy it. It is for the purpose of obtaining information on this subject that I have brought this Motion before your Lordships to-night, and I trust that my noble friend who represents the War Office in this House will inform us in detail as to what the Government propose to do in order to raise the efficiency of the Militia, and I hope he will tell us at the same time what its future organisation is to be.
I am, I must admit, rather apprehensive as to the future of the Militia. There are at the present moment in this country two schools of thought, in neither of which the Militia occupies a place. On the one hand, there is that school of thought to which many distinguished members of both houses belong—the blue-water school; on the other hand, there is that school to which as yet no title has been ascribed, but which advocate general disarmament all round. I cannot help feeling that the Militia would die a violent death at the hands of the one, whilst it would suffer a lingering fate at the hands of the other. The first would undoubtedly abolish it as useless, whilst the second would neglect it as unnecessary. Personally, my Lords, I do not belong to either of these schools, nor am I in sympathy with any of their opinions. I claim to belong rather to that school which has for its maxim Si vis pacem, pare bellum. I was glad to note the statement by the Secretary of State that he would like to see the functions of the Militia more clearly defined, and I shall rejoice if the noble Earl the Under-Secretary is able 8 to define clearly those functions to your Lordships to-day.
The present uncertainty as to the future position of the Militia cannot but have a degenerating influence on that force, both as regards morale and efficiency. So long as this force is used as a stepping-stone for the young officer of the Line; so long as the Militia is used in the manner suggested the other day by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, who would like to see the Militia used as a temporary employment for casual labourers out of work—so long as these suggestions are brought forward will the Militia fail to render efficient service to the Crown. This is a state of things which I desire to see altered, for it is undoubtedly the cause of great anxiety on the part of those who have carefully considered the position, a position which up to now has prevented the Militia taking that place in the Services to which by its historical associations it is most undoubtedly entitled. As a Militia commanding-officer I must protest, too, against this branch of the Service being, as the Secretary of State for War very aptly put it in the House of Commons the other day, bled white in order that the Army should be supplied with its fighting strength in time of war. This may or it may not be a useful position to hold; it certainly is not a dignified one, and I suppose in the future it will not be considered a necessary one.
I am perfectly aware that the noble Earl the Under-Secretary has not been many months at the War Office, but he may have been there long enough to discover why the War Office has always looked upon the Militia as the Cinderalla of the Service. Is it not the fact that the Militia has been treated in the past as a half-way house between the Volunteers and the Line? Whilst it has only received half the encouragement accorded to the former, it has always met with double the criticism allotted to the latter. This is not as it should be when it is considered that anything has been thought good enough for the Militia, as regards armament, clothing and equipment, but not as regards the 9 Volunteers. Is it surprising, therefore, that those taking an interest in the Militia should raise criticisms as to the methods of favouritism which have been adopted, I may say, from time immemorial?
I do not propose to trouble your Lordships to-night with figures, for I am asking to be supplied with them by the noble Earl. What I want to know is, what has been the annual decrease of officers and men in the Militia since the South African War. I believe the deficit at the present time is no less than 1,045 officers and 36,000 men. My point is this—if there is a deficiency, as there undoubtedly is, of officers, noncommissioned officers, and men, how do the Government propose to meet this deficiency? If officers are to be regularly deflected from the Militia to the Line, how can it be expected that they should occupy themselves actively for the benefit of those battalions in which they can have no permanent interest? Therefore, it is surely essential that the officers should know their men, and at the same time that the men should know their officers. Without mutual knowledge there can be no mutual sympathy, no esprit de corps, and without esprit de corps the Militia, or any other force, is virtually dead. The Secretary of State for War in his speech on the Army Estimates the other day informed us that there had arisen in the Army a new school of officers, which he described as the thinking school. I desire to enroll myself in that school as a pupil, and I trust that in future the War Office will give fairplay all round. Then I trust that the claims of the Militia, great as they undoubtedly are, will not in the future be neglected as they have been in the past.
We have recently emerged from a great war, in which the Volunteers nobly took their part, and I think the same can be equally said of the Militia. The lessons that were learnt during that war include, we are told, a knowledge of the fighting capabilities of the Volunteers. That is equally true of the Militia. Do not, therefore, let us forget that lesson now that the ship of State is sailing in peaceful waters, but rather let us encourage to the utmost in time of peace those on whom we must rely 10 in time of war. I venture to think that the most difficult problem that the Government have to meet at the present time is the officer question. It cannot be denied that there is now a most lamentable dearth of officers in every branch of His Majesty's Service. More especially does this apply to the Cavalry. Every one must admit that it is essential that these officers should attain the highest standard of efficiency; but what do we find? We find gentlemen admitted into these regiments who have not pased the ordinary elementary educational tests, but who are admitted on probationary terms. This dearth of officers is also to be found in the Militia, and it is due, as I have said, to the suspense and great uncertainty that hangs over their heads. I believe it is chiefly for this reason that the noble and gallant Earl the late Commander-in-Chief has urged the necessity of introducing into this country some form of universal training for all young men on attaining manhood who are of good physique. He has urged that they should be called upon without distinction of class for service in the United Kingdom. This, to my mind, is the true solution of the officer question, and also, for the matter of that, of the rank and file difficulty.
After the lesson of patriotism taught us by our ally Japan, and bearing in mind the fact of that alliance, it behoves us to take immediate steps to fulfil the compact in a far more patriotic spirit than has been the case hitherto, by making up our minds to see that all branches of our Military Service are raised to the highest state of efficiency. And it is on these lines that the noble and gallant Earl has pleaded with no uncertain voice throughout the country. All must admit that the noble and gallant Earl's opinion is entitled to respect and consideration. I trust, therefore, that the people of this country will take what he has said to heart, and that something will be done to make our fighting forces effective for home defence, and at the same time ready to take the field in any part of our Empire, wherever they may be called upon to do so. Admiral Togo, who has been very rightly called the Nelson of the East, has said, and said truly, that battles are won only 11 by preparation in time of peace—preparation, not only of men and materials, but of character. You cannot have character without enthusiasm. That is what I want to see in the Militia, and when it has acquired it, it will be able to take its position as the great custodian of the security of this country.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
My Lords, I join with the noble Viscount in deploring the lack of officers and men in the Militia. The main reason, and the only one with which I propose to deal, for the decline of the Militia is the policy which has been advisedly and consistently pursued towards that force by the War Office. On assuming complete control of the Militia some twenty-five years ago, the War Office determined that the Militia was not to remain as a substantive force, but to become a feeding force for the Line. The foundations upon which alone a national Militia can rest—namely, local influence and civilian interest—were excluded, and replaced by departmental control. This system, advisedly adopted by the War Office, has completely throttled, as it was meant to do, all the national element in the Militia.
The Militia as a national institution has ceased to exist. What we are pleased to call the Militia is now only a recruiting agency for the Line. Even in that capacity there is abundant evidence given before the Norfolk Commission to show that the methods practised for recruiting the Line from the Militia are unsound and unfair, and consequently injurious to the popularity of both Line and Militia in the country.
The policy pursued by the War Office of converting the Militia into a Line-recruiting agency was based on the assumption that the Regular Army was capable, without the assistance of any supplementary force, of bringing to a successful termination any war upon which we were likely to be engaged. We realise now that no matter how excellent our Regular Army may be, it must be numerically so insignificant that it cannot of itself hope to bring to a successful issue a war against a civilised Power. You cannot contend with any hope of 12 ultimate success against a nation in arms by means of a few hundred thousand Regular soldiers. It was to meet this new development in the military systems of the world that His Majesty's late Government created the Home Service Army. But His Majesty's present Government, by a recent Army Order, put an end to the Home Service Army, about which so many debates took place last year. I venture humbly, but sincerely, to congratulate the Government upon their prompt action.
The Home Service Army was the direct negation of the recommendation of the Commission on the South African War, which advised the extension of the forces of the nation outside the limits of the Regular Army. But how are His Majesty's Government going to replace the Home Service Army which has been just ended? The need for a supplementary force to the Regular Army remains the most pressing problem of the day; until it is solved the defence of the Empire is but ill provided for. I trust the Government may find the solution of the problem in the direction of a force raised on a Militia basis, but recruited by national, not by departmental, methods, organised and enlisted for the purpose for which it is required—namely, the defence of the Empire all the world over. I ask the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War whether His Majesty's Government mean to continue the War Office policy of the last twenty-five years, whereby the Militia as a national force has been destroyed and converted into a Line-recruiting agency, or whether they propose to restore the Militia as a substantive, self-contained force, recruited by national and not by departmental methods.
There is a short paragraph dealing with the Militia in the Memorandum of the Secretary of State for War relating to Army Estimates. The proposals contained therein do not touch the main question—that is, the use for which the Militia will in future be required; but they are of considerable interest, and I am very glad to see them. Some experiments are to be made in the direction of increased training for recruits. The recruits of twenty selected battalions are to be drilled under their own officers 13 for six months on enlistment. I have always been in favour of training Militia recruits for six months duing the slack season of the local industry, but I am not in favour of drill on enlistment. Drill on enlistment means in this case— at least as far as I can understand it— that the moment a man enlists he goes Into barracks and stays there for six months drill.
Now, suppose recruit No. 1 comes into barracks on the 1st of November, and recruit No. 50 on the 1st of January following, and all the intervening numbers dribble into barracks by ones and twos at various intervals between the 1st of November and the 1st of January; then recruit No. 1 will have been in barracks two months longer than recruit No. 50, and hardly any half-dozen recruits will have been in barracks the same number of days. You will perceive that it is impossible to get these fifty men into one class for instruction. Common-sense shows military training cannot be done by squads of five or six with good results. It is bad for both instructors and instructed.
I should prefer the plan known in the Militia as the preliminary drill party. That would work as follows: say a battalion is to train in May, then all the recruits of that battalion would be assembled in November for a six months recruit training, preliminary to the one month of battalion training. Enlist recruits all the year round, but say to the man enlisted in March—" You do not come up for drill till November, when the preliminary drill assembles." In this way you get all the recruits assembled at the same moment for a course of instruction, followed by one month of battalion training. An Infantry soldier can be taught a great deal in seven months, provided always that the system of instruction is the best, but it never can be the best with drill on enlistment. I know well that drill on enlistment will be a great convenience for the unemployed. But I am looking at this question from the point of view of a Militia commanding officer, anxious to give the soundest military training to men at that moment of their life and at that season of the year when they can be best spared 14 from their civilian work. Drill on enlistment all the year round will increase the number, but will detract from the quality of the Militia. I fear, in short, an inrush of bad characters. I would therefore ask the noble Earl if power could be granted to Militia commanding officers to dismiss from the Service, on their own authority, men of bad character, without the delay inseparable from reference to superior authority.
I ask the noble Earl if the standard of instruction for the six months training of Militia recruits is to be the same as that of the Line, or is it to be a lower standard than that of the Volunteers. I ask for this reason. Signalling has just been abolished in the Militia. A short time ago all Militia adjutants were required to be in possession of a signalling certificate. But that is no longer the case. For the last three years I have been allowed to call up a party of men to be instructed in signalling duties during the recruits' preliminary drill. I have been informed this year that leave cannot be given for calling up this party for instruction, because signalling is prohibited in the Militia.
Signalling is authorised for the Volunteers and Yeomary. It is essential for service in the field; but since it is not to be allowed in the Militia, the inference must be that it is not the intention to employ the Militia in the field in the same way as the Volunteers and Yeomanry. The abolition of signalling for the Militia is quite consistent with the policy of using the Militia as a Line-recruiting agency. It is consistent with the absorption of the Militia into a Home Service Army, but it is not consistent with greatly increased training for the Militia. and for using the Militia as units in the field. I would ask the Under-Secretary of State for War if, pending the advent of a little clearness of thought upon these matters, Militia battalions should be allowed to practise signalling, and to call up men for signalling instruction if their application to do so be recommended by the General commanding the division.
As regards remedies for the deplorable and ever-increasing deficiency of officers in the Militia, I have already suggested 15 to your Lordships that lords-lieutenant and deputy-lieutenants should be made responsible for providing officers for the Militia. There are at present 123 lords-lieutenant and about 3,700 deputy-lieutenants in Great Britain and Ireland, all appointed under the Militia Jaws, all persons of light, leading, and influence in their localities, and charged by Statute with duties towards the Militia which, by the policy of the War Office, they are prevented from performing. As regards the deficiency of men, I have on a previous occasion suggested that that deficiency should be met by means of national instead of departmental recruiting. On those two points I have nothing to add to that which I have already said in your Lordships' House. There is, therefore, no need for me to dwell further upon these two subjects.
§ THE UNDER - SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Earl of PORTSMOUTH)
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hardinge has brought forward this Motion with so much fairness and such complete absence of Party feeling that it is my intention to discuss this matter in the same spirit. My noble friend moves for Papers. On seeing his Motion on the Paper I wrote asking what the Papers were that he required, and he replied—The Papers referred to in my Question are as to the present deficiency of officers, noncommissioned officers, and men in the Militia; also as to whether this decrease has been gradual during the last five years.I can assure my noble friend that I shall be very glad to have those figures got out and submitted to him. I would beg him, however, to bear in mind that any figures that we can produce giving effect to his wish must be modified, and that they cover the very disturbing influence of the war itself.
I now propose to deal with the general question of the Militia, which has been raised by the noble Viscount. I am glad that noble Lords have raised in this House a debate upon the Militia, if it is only to have the opportunity of re-assuring your Lordships that it is the desire of His Majesty's Government to utilise to the fullest extent that we can the opportunities and energies of the Militia. The Secretary of State in 16 his recent speech alluded to the necessity for a power of expansion outside the limit of the Regular forces of the Crown, and in so doing he was re-affirming a principle which finds a vital place in the recommendations both of the Elgin and Norfolk Commissions.
It is my intention, appreciating to the full the friendly spirit in which this; matter has been approached, to take the House into our confidence. We admit, and in the admission deplore the fact, that the Militia is at present in a very unsatisfactory state. One reason for this is, to my mind, the decline of county military feeling in the United Kingdom. Another is the popularity of the Yeomanry. They receive high pay and allowances—5s. 6d. a day as compared with 1s. paid to the militiamen; and a yeoman also gets £5 for his horse for the fortnight, and as the horse is often his own, this means a free gift in many cases. There is no doubt that the Yeomanry absorb more officers and men into their ranks than formerly, and also attract more popular attention and sympathy. The Volunteers too, possess considerable political influence. They have of late years attracted many men of the Militia class into their ranks, owing to their being able to pay them whilst in camp, and consequently they also have been greater competitors with the Militia force than was formerly the case.
A militiaman is paid and clothed and fed exactly on similar lines to a Regular. The Volunteers are not paid a daily rate of pay, but the corps are paid a capitation grant per efficient to meet expenses, such as drill-halls and clothing, and camp allowance, to meet the expenses of camp, rations, etc. On the whole there is not much fault to find with the principle of the present organisation of the Militia. It is essentially a county organisation, and, where county feeling exists, it is the one best calculated to attract civilians who can give up a month annually to soldiering. The varying establishments of regiments—they vary from 600 to over 1,200 men in a regiment—are, however, detrimental to efficiency from a mobilisation point of view. In the Regular Army the regiment is of the same establisment, and mobilisation is planned accordingly—transport and everything. 17 required for fitting it for the field. It is hoped that this may be remedied when we know what effect the new system of training will have on the force, thereby enabling us at the War Office to rearrange the establishments of battalions.
Some Militia officers object, and perhaps with reason, to an organisation which places them under the control of the Regulars; for example, the Militia recruits and the permanent staff are during the non-training season under the officer commanding the Line depot, and not under the officer commanding the Militia unit. This is a matter the importance of which the War Office is fully alive to and is seriously considering. The future organisation of the Militia is not yet determined on. It plays such an important part in sharing the duties and responsibilities of the Regular Army that it can only be considered in conjunction with it, and we cannot announce our intentions with respect to the Militia until we are in a position to formulate our policy on the Army generally. The new condition of service, which we propose to try experimentally with twenty infantry battalions, is that recruits will on enlistment, in any period of the year, drill for six months instead of, as at present, for sixty-three days, and the regiment will train annually for forty-one days instead of for twenty-seven. The noble Duke spoke of the difficulties that might arise from the men being engaged at different times. I quite admit the force of that; but we cannot control the conditions of labour. I should like to say that this has nothing to do with the idea of winter training. It is simply an extension of the present periods of training by which it is hoped that recruits will get a more thorough grounding in a soldier's duties, and the trained militiamen will have more time for the many subjects of instruction which now have to be compressed into twenty-seven days—indeed, into much less than that, when Sundays and bad weather are taken into account.
In musketry we anticipate a great improvement by the increased time given to drill and to training. Under existing arrangements the musketry instruction is of necessity much neglected and hurried through. The annual train- 18 ing of units will continue to take place generally during the summer season, as at present. The question of winter training is receiving careful consideration. It will be tested with a limited number of regiments, should they be anxious to undergo it, and should accommodation be available. The difficulties in the way of winter training are that the instruction in outdoor work, especially musketry, cannot, owing to cold weather and bad light, be so beneficial as in the summer; that accommodation is difficult to find; empty barracks are rare; canvas cannot be used. To billeting there are grave social as well as military objections; it is not popular with the officers or with a considerable proportion of the men. With regard to the supply of officers, inquiries are being made of various Universities and educational establishments to ascertain whether a large number cannot be obtained from those sources. The War Office also hope to get increased interest and assistance from lords-lieutenant and deputy-lieutenants of counties.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
We hope, as I say, to get increased interest and assistance from lords-lieutenant and deputy-lieutenants of counties, whose very appointments, as was mentioned by the noble Duke, were made under the Militia Act, 1882 (Sections 29, 30), and who, under Section 6 of the Act, are primarily responsible for the supply of officers for the Militia. The existence of this inherent obligation has in the large majority of cases been entirely ignored of late years, and we are certainly not supported as we should be by these officers. At present the deputy-lieutenants, both in their numbers—they run to thousands—and in their military efficiency, bear too close an analogy to the military patriots in America, who were by no means the least expensive legacy of the Civil War.
The deficiency in the numbers of officers and men in the Militia is much to be regretted. It is not being lost sight of by the War Office. We earnestly hope that if we can place the Militia on a sound basis, and clearly define its military functions, a matter which necessarily involves time and great care, it 19 will recover its old prestige and its position among the military forces of the Crown. With regard to signalling in the Militia, it was found that, owing to the concentration of training into one month in the year, it was impossible to keep up the requisite standard, which was only to be acquired by continual practice, and, consequently, the issue of signalling equipment is not now allowed, nor are Regular officers required to hold signalling certificates on appointments as adjutants, although a certificate of proficiency in semaphore work is essential.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I am not able to answer that Question offhand; but it must be remembered that the Volunteers have an advantage which the Militia have not, in that they are able to practise signalling more or less regularly. This question of signalling is undoubtedly an important one. It is one which shall not be lost sight of by the War Office; but we feel that our decision must be guided by the experience, of the increased training. We are anxious that the Militia, in order to be a real support to the Regular Army, should have every opportunity of training as self-contained units with its own officers. As the Secretary of State has said in another place—By all means let the Militia be the support of the Regular Army, but let them train in their own units and under their own officers.It is not intended to stop the transfer of trained militiamen to the Regular Army, but it is proposed, in the case of the twenty experimental battalions, to restrict that transfer to those militiamen who have completed at least one annual training—that is of six weeks— in addition to their recruits' drill of six months. These commanding officers of Militia will thus be enabled to see, for at any rate one training, all men who have enlisted in their unit, instead of, as at present, having the trouble and anxiety of a large proportion of their recruits merely enlisting in the Militia as a stepping ing-stone to the Line. In conclusion, I desire to say that, without being in a 20 position at present to give more detailed information, we are desirous to give to the Militia the character of a national force, and we are anxious that the Militia should, both by their organisation and training, be at all times prepared to take the field as units.
My Lords, although the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War expressed himself kindly towards the Militia, he was not in a position to make any statement as to what is to be our future position. The position of the Militia for several years has been an extremely unfortunate one. We were first of all told that we were to be very much improved. The late Secretary of State for War when he came into office admitted, in a speech either at Manchester or at Liverpool, that the force had been very much neglected, and he stated that he intended to do great things for it. We heard nothing more until the following year, when the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do a great thing for the Militia by abolishing it. That plan was not adopted; but since then no further word has come, either from the late Secretary of State for War, or from the present Secretary of State, as to what is to be our future.
The effect of the present uncertainty, as every one of your Lordships is well aware, has been most unfortunate to the Militia, and it has been excessively unfortunate in the case of officers. The question of an armed force of any sort is primarily one of officers. The rank and file can be improvised in a short space of time; non-commissioned officers even, within limits, can be provided; but it is absolutely impossible to provide a body of competent officers without long and careful training. The noble Viscount quoted figures to show that the Militia is 1,045 under strength in regard to officers. That practically means that there are something like 30 per cent of vacancies among the officers' ranks. That is a most dangerous state of things for the country; and what makes that particular matter more than usually serious is this, that, as the noble Duke has said, there are great differences in the establishments of regiments. Some are very strong, while others are very weak. I think the noble Earl was too sanguine in putting 600 as his lowest 21 estimate. I am acquainted with a regiment which does not possess, I think, 200; and it is a curious fact that those regiments which have most officers usually have the fewest men, and vice versa. The strongest regiments are in the manufacturing districts of the north. If the noble Earl will turn his attention to the Lancashire regiments, he will find that there are fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen vacancies for officers in those battalions, and a battalion with only one-third of its establishment of officers cannot under any circumstances be considered an efficient unit.
The deficiency of men is also very great. Of course all these things are known at the War Office, and the War Office ought to set to work and correct these deficiencies. I remember some years ago discussing the question with a very distinguished officer, holding a very high position in the Army, and his final words were—You have never had Miltia officers and you can never get them, and there is an end of it.I do not think that is the way the thing should be looked at by an officer holding a high position, but I am afraid that is the view that has been taken hitherto by distinguished officers at the War Office. The difficulties of the Militia lie in the fact that the differences between the various regiments is so great that it is impossible to lay down any general rule. You had in former days a very large number of country gentlemen who officered your Militia regiments. As I have said before in your Lordships' House, those gentlemen have disappeared. You have not got that large number of comparatively idle young men who existed in this country twenty years ago, and therefore you cannot rely upon getting your soldiering done for you in the Militia by a certain idle class in their spare time.
If you wish to have officers for the Militia, there are only two ways of obtaining them—you must either pay them or force them. If you have compulsory service in some form—which, I hold, must come as sure as there is a sun in heaven—the whole of your difficulties will disappear. There are many ways of paying besides the physical act of putting money into a man's hand. You can offer certain privileges to those who give up their time to the service of their country. 22 You can confine distinctions such as deputy-lieutenantships to those officers who have served in the Militia. There are, again, many appointments of a semi-military description throughout the Empire which you could confine to officers of the Militia. Why should not the Indian police be reserved exclusively for officers of Militia? It would cost the country nothing, and it would cost India nothing; and India would have this advantage, that she would recruit officers for her police who had a certain amount of military knowledge and discipline. There are other ways in which officers could be encouraged to serve in the Militia. I think a Militia officer should be exempt from serving as high sheriff, which is a very severe tax now laid on country gentlemen. Personally, I should like to see the whole of the officers of the Army come into the Army through the Militia. I think you would then get a certain amount of work done for the country by these young men who are now engaged at "crammers," doing no good to their country and probably very little good to anybody but I the "crammers" who receive their fees; and those who did not get into the Army subsequently would, many of them, remain in the Militia.
These are a few of the suggestions I throw out, but what I urge most strongly on His Majesty's Government is that they should really take up this question and make up their minds to do something. A force which has lost one-third of its officers and which for many years has had a considerable deficiency in its establishment, is a force which cannot be said to be in a healthy condition. It is, indeed, perilously approaching extinction as a military force. With regard to the question of men, there are ways in which recruiting could be largely improved. You never will get the Militia put on a satisfactory basis until you make one man responsible for a unit. At this moment there are three or four people responsible. There is the commanding officer, who commands the battalion during the training; there is the officer commanding at the depot, who is the commanding officer out of the training; there is the recruiting officer, who may or may not be at the depot, and there is the adjutant. You have these four officers, either of whom could claim all the credit if the regiment was in a satisfactory state, and all of whom could disclaim 23 responsibility if it was not. Until you make the commanding officer responsible for the regiment you can never get it in a satisfactory condition.
I should like to endorse the hope expressed by the noble Duke, that commanding officers will be given power to discharge bad characters. I could quote to your Lordships many instances of the immense amount of trouble, inconvenience, and cost to the country which the retention of one bad man in the regiment has caused. I regret the noble Earl did not allude to one incident which I think the whole Militia force deeply regrets—the abolition of the Militia Advisory Board. That board was instituted some years ago at the War Office. It consisted of six commanding officers of Militia, nominated by the generals of different districts, and at certain periods they met, and, accompanied by high officials of the "War Office, discussed Militia questions. The late Secretary of State for War swept away that board. I venture to think that was one of the most unfortunate things that has ever been done. As long as the Advisory Board was in existence the Militia felt that at all events they had a channel through which expression could be given to their needs. That board has been swept away, and there is now practically no channel through which we can communicate with the high authorities at the War Office. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War will see his way to reinstate the Militia Advisory Board. It was not an extravagant board; the whole of the expenses in connection with it could not have come to more than £25 a year. It gave great confidence to the Militia to feel that they had representatives of their own who were consulted from time to time by the War Office.
In conclusion, I would again most earnestly press on His Majesty's Government the importance of proceeding with the Bill which His Majesty's late Government passed through your Lordships' House, under which the Militia were liable, in the event of a great national emergency, to serve abroad. It would be impossible to conceive a more unsatisfactory condition of things than that which now obtains. The moment war breaks out the militiaman is asked to volunteer for service abroad. I have 24 always looked upon that as a great mistake. It is really fraudulent. It is like the action of our grandfathers, who, while they pretended to keep up the Army and Navy by voluntary enlistment, kept up both by compulsion. You put officers especially in a most unfortunate and unfair position, especially officers who are married men with families. It is the unanimous opinion of the Militia that if the whole force were liable to serve abroad in a case of great national emergency it would raise the status of the Militia and make the force feel that at last it had got a settled position among the forces of the Crown.
§ LORD HAVERSHAM
My Lords, I rise with unfeigned diffidence to address your Lordships' House for the first time. My only excuse for taking part in this debate is my former connection, for some years, with the War Department, and the fact that for the last five years I have had very unwillingly to take a leading part on the Front Opposition Bench in discussions of this character in another place. I venture to think that there could hardly be any subject more important than that which the noble Viscount has brought forward this evening, because I think if there was one matter upon which the people of this country gave their decided opinion in the recent election, it was that some steps must be taken to reduce, if possible, the enormous sum of £29,750,000, which we now spend on the Army of this country. But, as the Secretary of State has impressed upon us, the only possible way of reducing, to any large extent, the cost of the Army, is by reducing the number of men; and if you do that you must look to the second line, and be sure that the men you have behind can take their place, and are capable of expansion when time of emergency arises.
I do not believe there is any assembly in this country which is so capable of discussing particular subjects in connection with the Army as your Lordships' House. I have listened with the greatest instruction and pleasure to those debates which have been initiated by the noble Duke who spoke second tonight, and by many other noble Lords, and I think it must be from the fact that there are so many noble Lords who have themselves taken a part in the commanding and organising of the Auxiliary- 25 Forces, that we always have an illuminating light shed on all these subjects. It was not possible for the Secretary of State in his exhaustive speech to deal in detail with all the particular elements of the question, and, therefore, I think that in dealing with this question of the Militia your Lordships' House is well occupied, and the results of the discussion will, I am sure, be conveyed by my noble friend below me to the Secretary of State, and will be well weighed by him and the Army Council.
There is one matter which, I think, makes this debate particularly opportune at this moment. We have to acknowledge that the Militia has lately gone through a period of extreme peril. It was not so very long ago that we had a direct statement from the then Secretary of State for War that he intended to abolish the Militia altogether, and to divide the armed forces of the country into two bodies, one of which should be composed of men of long service who should serve abroad, and the other, of men enlisted for only two years service, who never were to leave these shores, and who were to constitute what he called a territorial Army. Of all the proposals I think the worst was the amalgamating of the Militia, and the causing of it to lose its local status by making it part of the territorial Army. In the summary of his speech which he issued with the Army Estimates the then Secretary of State for War said that when economy was so earnestly and universally demanded, and when it was conceded that economy could only be obtained by reducing the men maintained, they must begin with the least efficient. Why, he asked, should not the Militia be entirely absorbed in the territorial Army? He added—There will be an improvement in the Militia if public opinion will allow the amalgamation of the Militia with the Line, for the purpose of forming a true territorial Army.I venture to think that that was a method of improving the Militia by wiping it off the face of the earth, and if we lose the Militia we should be denuding our military forces of one of their best arms.
I do not share the gloomy views of the Militia which some noble Lords entertain. Although I deeply deplore that there has been a decrease of 6,000 men in the recruits, after all what is the falling 26 off in the strength of the Militia? Why, 600 men only. It was 86,491, it is now 85,814. Independently of that, which is a mere trifling reduction, there are certain features, if you look at the recruiting returns, which give a silver lining to the cloud, and make us think that matters are not altogether so bad as they seem. In the first place, there is an increase this year of 1,000 in the re-engaged men, and there is a decrease of 1,600 in the number we have lost by desertion. If the desertions have decreased by 1,600 and the re-engagements have increased by 1,000, surely that shows that the Militia is not so discontented as we are led to believe. In regard to the falling off in the number of recruits you must take into consideration the fact that in November, 1904, the standard of recruits was raised, and you have in addition to that a stricter examination for the men. You have both a closer physical examination and an examination into their antecedent character, and it is to that examination that the authorities say we mainly owe the falling off in the number of recruits. They say that while the recruits themselves are certainly not quite equal in physique to the Line, yet at the same time they rapidly improve by the better diet and the better conditions under which they live. I am sure all must rejoice to find that their character has been exceedingly satisfactory, and that that improvement is mainly due to the stricter examination made into their antecedent character.
I should like to say one or two words as to how we can popularise the Militia force. I think one of the wisest proposals of the Norfolk Commission was that for the future the Militia should be exercised, or, at any rate, that two trainings out of three should take place, in the neighbourhood of their county town. It is only human that the men and officers should like to show themselves in uniform among their own friends. They like to be seen at drill and at recreation, and so far as the officers are concerned there is a unanimous opinion, I believe, that many would be retained if they could give an afternoon or so a week to their own business. I think it would be an excellent thing if the plan could be adopted by the War Office of two out of three trainings being held in the neighbourhood of the county 27 town. Then it may be said, "But they must have brigade drill." I never could see why you could not brigade Militia regiments of contiguous counties. Take the case of the Berkshire Militia, the Oxfordshire Militia, and the Buckinghamshire Militia, which are all in contiguous counties. It so happens that in the neighbourhood of each county town there are excellent opportunities for drill. It may be said that if you drill Militia regiments together they will only strive to become equal to the best Militia regiment, and will not see their own faults. But what could possibly be easier than to bring down from Aldershot by train, and station, say, at Reading, two battalions of the Regular troops under an excellent and experienced brigadier. There you would have a force of five battalions which would enable brigade drill to be carried out effectively. Recollect that the alternative is to take the Militia for their whole training to Salisbury Plain, or Aldershot. Sir William Butler says on that subject—I do not see the necessity of assembling men who are only half trained and who can only be half trained, in large masses in isolated and desolate places like Salisbury Plain. You kill recruiting by it.That is what we have to look to. If such training is of use to the brigadiers, and possibly to those commanding battalions, it is not of the slightest use to the private in the ranks, who goes home having seen nothing, having understood nothing, and having wasted precious time.
The real way to increase the number of the men is by entering into some sort of arrangement with the large employers of labour. That is done with singular success in the case of the Northumberland Militia. That Militia—a letter from whose adjutant I hold in my hand—has entered into an arrangement with the directors of the Elswick Works, and these men take their holidays by going out for twenty-seven days with the Militia. The adjutant says—Large employers of labour in Northumberland encourage their men to become Militiamen for the following reason:—The Northumbrian is a hard worker. He gets stale. He goes for twenty-seven days Militia training in the free pure air. He is fed well and regularly, and goes back to work like a giant refreshed. Consequently the works reap the benefit; hence we find very little difficulty in recruiting.
§ LORD HAVERSHAM
Infantry. What proves such a success in the case of the Northumbrian, might surely be carried out in the south. Why should not the Berkshire Militia enter into communication with Messrs. Huntley and Palmer and the proprietors of other large works? Surely this would be equally easy in the neighbourhoods of Manchester and Liverpool; it only requires a little organisation. The arrangement in Northumberland is popular both with the Elswick Works and the Militia authorities.
I cannot agree with the noble Lord who spoke last and who expressed the hope that His Majesty's Government would reintroduce the Bill for making the Militia liable, on embodiment, to servo abroad. I confess that I once thought that that would be a good thing. I thought it would add to the status of the Militia on the one hand, and give the authorities a certainty of having a certain number of men to send abroad on the other. But I understand that it is regarded with the greatest possible jealousy and dislike by some of the best regiments in the country. I know one case—and this is a case of a regiment whose complement of officers is full and which has 900 men in the ranks—where the officers signed a roundrobin to the effect that they would resign their commissions if that Bill passed
§ LORD HAVERSHAM
But even if the Bill were passed it would be of no great advantage, because you get the men already. The men are sure to volunteer for service abroad in the case of grave national emergency. One word with regard to the officers. I endorse most fully what has fallen from noble Lords opposite with regard to the position of the commanding officer. You would never initiate such a system as we have 29 now. You have a man responsible to the Crown for a large number of men, and you do not give him power of appointment, transfer, or promotion, of any noncommissioned officers on the permanent staff. The whole thing is most ridiculous. By the Militia regulations I do not believe the commanding officer is able to see his own recruits except once a year, and then by suffrance. The Norfolk Commission said on that point that the opinion of commanding officers should be as far as possible considered in reference to appointments, transfers, promotions, etc. Sir Alfred Turner declared that the commanding officer goes out of existence so far as his battalion is concerned after training. That is, I think, a very bad system. The Duke of Connaught declared that the Militia commanding officer ought always to command and to have supervision of the regiment during the whole time he is commanding.
I suppose that next to the commanding officer we ought to consider the adjutant as the most important officer, particularly in a Militia regiment. I hope that the greatest possible care will be taken in the selection of these officers and that they will be regarded as responsible as adjutants in the Line. If a battalion is brought up to a high pitch of perfection and the adjutant does his duty satisfactorily he should be rewarded by a staff appointment. With regard to the proposal to interest lords-lieutenants and deputy-lieutenants more in this matter. I was glad the Secretary of State declared that he did not see why we should not make it a condition of the appointment of lords-lieutenant that they should be persons taking an interest in the organisation of the Militia. I can remember the time when the Leicestershire and the Nottingham Militia were 1,000 strong. The reason for the popularity of those regiments was that the Duke of Rutland of that day, who was honorary colonel, took the greatest interest in them, always attending the reviews and inspections. The Northumberland Militia is in a very good state, both as regards officers and men, and the reason for that is attributed to the fact that the battalions are respected, and have been raised to their present pitch owing to the interest taken in the force by the Duke of Northumberland and his family, and by the county 30 gentlemen of Northumberland. If this spirit could be instilled into county gentlemen in other parts of the country, and the forces respected, instead of being looked down upon, the officer question would be solved. If county gentlemen could be induced to take up commissions the old constitutional force would, I think, once again take its place as the premier auxiliary force of the country— a position worthy of its ancient memories, and worthy of its former fame.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I have listened to a number of military debates in this House, but I have never listened to one which left a more hopeless impression on my mind. Almost every speaker up to now has made some suggestion or other with reference to the improvement of the force, or the increasing of its popularity. To my mind, it is not a question of improving the Militia at all. The question is, is it possible to keep the Militia itself in existence at all? As far as I am able to gather, not only from what I have heard this afternoon but from other sources, the Militia is actually perishing before our eyes, in spite of the fact that, according to the present Secretary of State for War, we are now spending upon the Militia £21 19s. 3d. per head, whereas ten years ago the cost of the Militia was only £13 10s. per head. I do not know what moral this conveys to the rest of the House, but to me it conveys the impression that it would be quite impossible to find any more decisive condemnation of what you are pleased to call the voluntary system. I presume there are people—possibly a majority of those assembled here—who still believe in the efficacy of that exploded system, but I have never heard any more convincing proof of the absolute failure of the so-called voluntary system than what has come out to-day.
We have been told by various speakers that the Militia are so many thousand men short, but this does not come upon us in the light of a revelation. It was all brought before us in the Report of the Norfolk Commission—the only Report, by the way, which we have had for many years past of any real value to us with regard to military affairs. In the Report of that Commission the 31 position is put in a nutshell. The Commission state—Under the present system there would seem to be an incessant effort to exact from the Militia and the Volunteers, in the name of the State, more than the State will pay for and more than it has any right to demand.The Commission went on to point out that every Power has abandoned the idea that war is the exclusive business of a limited class, and has subjected its male population to a thorough military training. What further explanation do you want than that? In other words, we are continually endeavouring to do what every other nation has long ago given up.
We have heard a variety of recommendations and suggestions this afternoon. I do not know whether my noble friend who initiated this discussion was satisfied with the reply that he received from the Under-Secretary of State for War, but I must confess that personally, if I had been in his place, I should have derived no satisfaction from it whatever, because it appeared to me to amount to a mere pious expression of opinion that the Government were well aware of the inestimable services of the Militia, and that if they were given time, and if the present Secretary of State for War in particular was given time, eventually things would be brought round to a thoroughly satisfactory condition. I seem to have heard expressions of this kind frequently before. Since I have had anything to do with politics I have seen six Secretaries of State for War, beginning with Mr. Edward Stanhope and ending with the present occupant of that office, and, strange though it may appear, I have never been able to see any real distinction between the eminent persons who have occupied that position, though much of their time has been taken up in pointing out the shortcomings of their predecessors. There may be differences, but they are not perceptible to my mind. The results are in every case precisely the same.
I may add that I have always observed exactly the same phenomena with regard to Secretaries of State for War. When a Government is formed and a person appointed Secretary of State for War, universal approval is expressed on all, sides as to the choice of this gentleman, who is pointed out as the one man absolutely fitted to put everything right. In course of time this paragon makes a 32 speech and after he has done so the applause becomes still more vociferous. Everyone declares that he has shown, as everybody expected, that he was the man absolutely suited to the post. At a subsequent period this statesman produces what is generally known as a scheme, and then, if possible, the feeling of admiration which is felt for him increases, and although people, as a rule, do not understand the scheme very clearly, yet they all say the same thing. "Here," they say, "is a statesman who has at last grasped the rudiments of the case, a man who does understand the necessities of the Empire." This paragon, as I say, produces his scheme, and then there is silence. After about six mouths have elapsed it suddenly appears to strike people that our military system is in very much the same position at it was before, and when a year has elapsed this paragon has probably become the most unpopular member of the Ministry, and the question really is as to who shall throw the biggest brickbat at his head when the first opportunity occurs. As the present Secretary of State is a gentleman of a philosophic turn of mind, he has no doubt anticipated that in the course of a year or two the cloud of unpopularity will descend on his head. I repeat that I have never been able to see any difference between these distinguished men, because they have all been engaged during their tenure of office in what I might term shuffling and re-shuffling the military pack in the hope of discovering five aces instead of only four.
There is not much consolation to be derived from the suggestions that have been made or from the statement of the Under-Secretary. I turn to the suggestions that have been made by my noble friend behind me, the Duke of Bedford. The noble Duke is well known as a highly efficient officer who has taken the greatest interest in the Militia, but I entirely fail to realise the value of the suggestions he has made. There appears to be in this House a touching confidence in the power of lords-lieutenant, and it was a great satisfaction to me to find that this feeling was entertained by democratics opposite like Lord Haversham. He evidently entertained a sub-lime confidence in the power of lords-lieutenant, with regard to which I am 33 not so absolutely sure myself. After all, what can they do? What means have they for forcing either men or officers to enter the Militia? There is only one means that occurs to me by which they could exercise their power, and that would be by some means of social pressure. My noble friend, in his capacity as Lord-Lieutenant, might give a vast garden-party and induce every other lord-lieutenant in the country to do the same, for the express purpose of leaving out those gentleman who decline to join the Militia force.
Then my noble friend has another suggestion. If the Militia force cannot be created by the action of lords-lieutenant, let it be created by the action of deputy-lieutenants. I think I am not wrong in attributing to my noble friend the scheme by which every deputy-lieutenant would be liable for one-third of a Militia officer, and I think he intimated that in his opinion every deputy-lieutenant who failed in conjunction with his two colleagues to produce a Militia officer should be deprived of his commission. I confess I do not see how that could work. I, for instance, am a deputy-lieutenant. Suppose there is a shortage of Militia officers in my district. I presume I must call a meeting, collect everybody I can from the district, and address them in as pathetic terms as I can, saying: "Here am I, a Deputy-Lieutenant. Now, for God's sake, some of you go and join the Militia or I shall lose my commission." What effect does my noble friend think they would have on my hearers? The impression upon them would be very much the same as that which was created on the mind of the Irish landlord when he was told that his agent would be shot. They would toll me probably, in more or less polite language, that it was matter a of supreme indifference to them whether I was a deputy-lieutenant or not; and I think they would be perfectly justified. There have been other remedies suggested. The noble Duke who spoke second in the debate this evening suggested that if a sufficient number of men were not found by a locality, that locality should be fined. I imagine that more than half the districts of the country would have to be fined, and all those districts would necessarily be represented by Members in Parliament, and I should 34 not envy a Government the task of keeping a majority in the House of Commons if a large number of its supporters represented what may be called defaulting districts. These remedies appear to me to be absolutely useless. I do not wish to labour the question of compulsion, but I do hope, before this session is concluded that we may fight this question out and that the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Roberts, who I regret is not in his place to-day, will bring forward a Motion asserting the absolute necessity of introducing some system of universal training. I should like to see the opinion of this House taken upon it.
In the meanwhile, I would point out that if you really want to put the Militia on a sound footing, and if you really mean to have that reserve Army which you all profess to desire, there is only one way of having it, and that is by adopting the conclusions of the Norfolk Commission. A force such as I have mentioned, capable of meeting European troops, not outside this country, but in this country, can only be raised on one principle—namely, that of universal liability to training, and my personal opinion is that remedies such as have been suggested this afternoon are little better than a more beating of the air, and that we shall not make any satisfactory progress until some form of compulsory service is adopted in this country.
§ LORD BURGHCLERE
My Lords, the House always listens to my noble friend opposite with pleasure and amusement, and I am certain that we have followed his remarks in that spirit this evening. My noble friend made some attack on the present Secretary of State. He said he thought that Mr. Haldane would eventually prove as destitute of popularity as those Secretaries of State who have preceded him in that high office. I venture to think that there is a great difference between the policy of the present Secretary of State and that of his predecessors. If my noble friend will carry his recollection back not so long ago he will remember that Secretary of State after Secretary of State came down to this House with a fully-fledged scheme of reform in his pocket very shortly after having entered upon office. I remember Secretaries of State 35 and Under-Secretaries of State who seemed to count their chickens before they were hatched, and in many cases counted chickens which were never hatched at all. But if I may say so of the present Secretary of State without disrespect, he does not try to number chickens which may be hatched in the future; his attitude is rather that of a brooding hen, and I have no doubt that in time we shall reap the reward of that patience which he asks the country to exercise pending the result of his deliberations.
I cannot help remembering other debates which have taken place in this House on the question of the Militia. I well remember one in 1904, when we discussed one of those fully-fledged schemes to which I alluded just now, and which was brought before the country by the then Secretary of State, Mr. Arnold-Forster. The pivot of that scheme was the question we are debating this afternoon. Mr. Arnold-Forster at that time proposed to absorb thirty-three battalions of the Militia into the territorial Army which he was then going to create, and he also proposed to abolish the remaining battalions of Militia. That was to effect a saving of £1,800,000, the cost at that time of the Militia. We were told then, as we are told now, that the condition of the Militia was unsatisfactory. I remember that Lord Selborne in that debate declared that the Militia was profoundly unsatisfactory. He said—The Militia is what the War Office has made it, and the War Office alone is responsible for its failure and short comings. The military officials at the War Office know nothing about the Militia at all.I conclude from what I have heard this afternoon that, in the opinion of those able to judge, the conditions of the Militia are very much the same now as they were then. But, my Lords, I did not rise to make a speech on the Militia. I rose to call attention to one passage in the Secretary of State's speech which bears on the question of the Militia and the Volunteers, and is, therefore, germane to the matter now under discussion. The Secretary of State, in his speech, adumbrated a sort of citizen army composed of the Militia and the Volunteers, in order to effect those economies which both sides of the House are anxious to secure in regard to the 36 administration of the War Office. He said that he looked to the use of men who did not give the whole of their time to military service to bring about economy in Army expenditure. Supposing the Secretary of State is able to create this citizen army, it seems to me there will still remain the essence, the crux, of the problem which Mr. Arnold-Forster himself had to face in his scheme—that is to say, whether the soldiers of that citizen army will be bound to serve abroad.
If economy is going to be brought about by the creation of a citizen army and the preservation of the Militia, it follows that my right hon. friend the Secretary of State will have to cut down his striking force to its effective minimum. Then, in moments of danger, having reduced his striking force to its lowest limit, he must be absolutely certain of the Reserves he calls out from the Militia. He must not leave it to them to volunteer. If he did, he might find it somewhat difficult to get men; although I must admit that the Militia hitherto have volunteered when it has been necessary. But if my noble friend is going to rely on the Militia and the Volunteers for effective aid to a striking force of the regular Army, which he has cut down to its lowest possible limits, difficulty will certainly arise unless he is able to call on the whole of these men to go to his aid in the event of a great crisis abroad. I only put this point because it has not been alluded to this afternoon. I do not bring it forward by way of criticism of the Secretary of State. My right hon. friend made a speech putting forward his policy. It was a speech as statesmanlike as it was modest, and as modest as it was statesmanlike, and that speech has given him, not only the confidence of the nation, but, what I venture to think is a great deal more important, the confidence of the Army itself.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, after the epithets which were applied by my noble friend Lord Newton to the oratory which has been poured out this evening, I am rather diffident in rising to address your Lordships, but I can promise, after what has been said by my noble friends behind me who represent the Militia, that I shall be brief. I note the promise which Lord Newton makes 37 that we are to have what I presume he would permit me to call a National Service League debate shortly, or, at all events, before the conclusion of the session. I for one will welcome that debate. We have been accustomed during the last few months to almost weekly pronouncements of policy by the National Service League. I am sure we shall welcome the opportunity of hearing once more a pronouncement of their views in your Lordships' House, and I think that most of us will also welcome the opportunity of again beating them in the division lobbies.
I entirely reciprocate what was said by the noble Earl the Under-Secretary as to the necessity of treating the subject before us with an absence of Party feeling. It is perhaps natural that noble Lords opposite, after the result of the general election, which I have no doubt they found very satisfactory, should be anxious to treat everything with an absence of Party feeling; but in this particular case I am sure we shall be most anxious to meet the noble Earl half-way. I think nothing proves more accurately the absence of Party feeling when these subjects are discussed in your Lordships' House than the impartial way in which Militia colonels attack the representative of the War Office, no matter to which Party he belongs.
The first point to which I would like to refer is the subject of signalling. I was rather disappointed that the noble Earl did not amplify a little more fully his remarks on that subject. I have been told of regiments which had hitherto been doing signalling, but which under the new orders are debarred from continuing it. One particular regiment has been singled out by the General Officer Commanding as a fit regiment to carry on their signalling exercises, but under the recent War Office decision these regiments are not permitted to do signalling any longer. I admit that the noble Earl the Under-Secretary holds out a possible hope that they may be able to resume at some future time, but for one training, at any rate, these regiments will be debarred from signalling exercises, and a great deal of the efforts they have made in the past will be wasted, even though next year they are allowed to continue. Signalling is a matter with which a man should keep constantly in touch, if he is to be of any use. I would suggest that the decision, 38 at any rate of the particular regiment to which I have referred, should be reconsidered.
With regard to the abolition of the Militia Advisory Board, which was deplored by Lord Raglan, I would like to say a word. This is a matter in which I am not now individually concerned, but I hope we shall never see the Militia Advisory Board at the War Office again. I believe the noble Earl opposite has the advantage of an infinitely better system. He has a colonel of Militia at the War Office always at his beck and call, and I believe that to be a far better channel for communication between the heads of the War Office and the Militia than the Advisory Board. As to the accusation of Lord Haversham, whose maiden speech we all welcomed, that we were anxious two years ago to reform the Militia by wiping it out of existence, I must protest against that statement. I have repeatedly had to argue against the view that it correctly represents what we proposed two years ago, and I am not going to repeat the same arguments now. I content myself with stating that I deny its accuracy.
I recognise the experiment which the War Office is going to carry out as an old friend. It was worked out in the Adjutant-General's Department last autumn. One of our last actions as an Army Council, before noble Lords opposite succeeded us, was to discuss that scheme; and I think I recognise in the very short paragraph referring to this matter in the Memorandum on the Army Estimates the main headlines of the scheme we then discussed.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
Yes. The scheme was based on some of the recommendations of the Norfolk Commission. It must not, however, be forgotten that those recommendations required a great deal of working out in the War Office before they could be acted upon or even adopted. But there are one or two omissions from the scheme which we discussed at the end of last November — omissions in the announcement made by the Secretary of State for War, omissions also in the 39 Speech of the Under-Secretary this evening. I should like very much if some member of His Majesty's Government would tell us, firstly, if these omissions are to be made, and secondly, why they are made. The first omission was referred to shortly by the noble Earl. We had discussed this scheme and given it practical approval. We are gratified to see that the present Government have adopted some of the suggestions we viewed with a favourable eye, but still we had discussed the question of organisation, and had practically agreed that a brigade organisation was necessary, and that the Militia was to be organised in brigades under a permanent commander. I would like to ask, is that organisation into brigades definitely dropped, or is it dropped pending further consideration? Is it part of the scheme still, and only left out for the obvious reason that you cannot put the whole scheme into a short Memorandum such as that which precedes the Army Estimates?
I would also like to ask a question as to the Royal Garrison Artillery. The Royal Garrison Artillery have a number of Militia regiments which have never been included in any defence scheme of any kind. They are most of them in Ireland, and the story we were all told was that when they were raised a hundred years ago it was thought safer to give forty Irishmen one big gun between them than a musket each. But what is going to be done with those seventeen or eighteen regiments of Garrison Artillery? Are they going to be retained, or are they to be reduced? War Office Committees have nearly always recommended that they should be done away with. Last autumn suggestions were brought forward that they might be useful as ammunition columns. I should like to know if His Majesty's Government have considered the future of these regiments.
The last omission from this scheme, which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Raglan, is far the most serious— namely, what is going to be done about the Militia Bill which was passed by your Lordships' House last year? That Bill was opposed by the noble Marquess opposite, the present Leader of the House; but I think he will permit me to say that he did not express any very great objection to the principle of 40 the Bill, but objected to it because we did not state enough as to what we were going to do in regard to the Militia. When this matter came up for discussion at the Army Council last autumn there was no doubt in the mind of any member of that body that practically this whole scheme depended on the Bill's being passed. I have documentary proof of it here. Those who were then my military colleagues at the War Office felt it of the very highest importance that we should employ money primarily to improve parts of our Army which were to be of use to us in service abroad. There is really little objection to the Bill from the Militia, and there is nothing but the strongest enthusiasm for it among the military authorities at the War Office. I know that soldiers are very anxious to see this Bill passed, and I do hope that His Majesty's Government will be able to tell us that they intend to again present it to Parliament and to pass it into law. I am convinced that it will be of the very highest advantage both directly and indirectly to the military forces of the Crown.
I have only one other matter that I feel it my duty to bring before your Lordships. It is a matter that does not concern the War Office, though it does concern the Militia and His Majesty's Government. The noble Earl the Under-Secretary quoted certain reasons, the cogency of which no one will deny, for the deficiency in numbers of officers, and, above all for my particular purpose, men in the Militia. The annual report of the Inspector-General on recruiting, which has just been presented to Parliament, contains the following paragraph—In Ireland articles in the Press have been published and placards posted to deter intending recruits from enlisting, and in England publications and leaflets have been issued by societies averse to military service. Thirteen leaflets published by one society were received in this office.We are a very tolerant nation, and are becoming more tolerant every day, but it is getting a little strong, I think, when we stand open and unchecked attempts to influence people not to serve their country. It is no new thing; it has been going on for some considerable time, and at the risk of wearying your Lordships, I would ask you to listen to some specimens of the sort of thing that has been published in Ireland during the last year 41 or two. Here is a case of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland, a body on a par with the Amateur Athletic Association in England. The rules of this Association, according to an extract from the Freeman's Journal of 19th August last year, provide that—Permits shall not be granted to promoters of athletic meetings held under the auspices of the constabulary or any other section of the British garrison; that police, soldiers, militiamen, or sailors of the Royal Navy shall not be allowed to compete at athletic meetings held under such auspices, and that no permit shall be granted to a sports promoting body that would allow a military or police band to be present.On 5th August last year the Dublin Leader contained an account of a speech made at Tallow by a certain Father Kavanagh. Father Kavanagh said—If the majority of professed Irishmen were sincere in their profession, would England and in the Irish people a nation from which she always could recruit her Army and Navy?At the same meeting Mr. Davitt said—Why should any Irishman join the English Army? Can any honest, self-respecting countryman offer a solitary reason why the English Army is or ought to be one iota less objectionable to young Irishmen than the Russian Army is to the men of Finland?I hope I am not wearying your Lordships, but I think it right that the House should be made aware of these things. In the Irish Times of 14th September last year there is an account of a meeting of the Gaelic League held in St. Patrick's School, Strokestown, at which the following resolution was passed—We are of opinion that it is the duty of all Gaelic Leaguers, although the Gaelic League is a non-political association, to he disloyal to the British Government and her representatives in this country, to weaken its influence as far as possible, and in particular to use all their efforts to prevent all classes of our countrymen from enlisting in the British Army as long as the Government continue to show their utter contempt for everything Irish.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of RIPON)
The noble Earl is wandering from the subject before the House.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
The noble Marquess accuses me of wandering from the subject. Have anti-recruiting placards and resolutions nothing whatever to do with the Militia? I think they 42 have. I am sorry if I am boring the noble Marquess.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I have in my hand an extract which goes to show that this sort of thing is going on even now, when we are all living so happily under the Government of noble Lords opposite. A placard which was circulated in County Longford during the last week in December, called upon Irishmen to—Make a vow that you will not recognise or mix with any man who dons the livery of an Irish slave—a red or black coat, or blue jacket—and keep your children from mixing with this anti-Irish horde—the slaughterers of the innocent Boer women and children.And I may inform your Lordships that a testimonial is being got up to a gentleman who has just come out of gaol after serving nine months for distributing these placards.
The point I wish to enforce is this. This agitation has been going on in Ireland for a year; its primary object-is to sow dissension between the two countries, and to engender a separatist feeling. I do not pretend that I think that that feeling will be very unpopular with noble Lords opposite, but its secondary effect must be to affect recruiting in Ireland. My right hon. friend Mr. Walter Long certainly checked this movement by prosecuting the prime movers in it whenever he could catch them; but all prosecutions in this matter have been stopped by the present Chief Secretary. Let us understand that noble Lords opposite, in stopping these prosecutions, are doing so with their eyes open. Let us know that they realise the results which will follow; and if recruiting in Ireland shows a still further diminution, as rumours tell us it is beginning to do, do not let us be told that the county interest in the Militia is being lost, and that the Volunteers are competing with the Militia. If noble Lords opposite choose to let this movement—this very wrong movement, as I claim it to be—go on, they must be prepared to take the consequences, and it will not lie in their mouths to grumble at any diminution of recruiting in Ireland as the result of these highly seditious publications.
My Lords, I should like to draw attention to a statement made in the other House by the Secretary of State for War, who gave what is to me a new version of the "blue water" school, and one which seems to be of the utmost importance. The Secretary of State declared that in his view, not only can there be no invasion of England in force, but that there cannot even be a raid of 5,000 or 10,000 troops. If this is the deliberate opinion of the Secretary of State for War, and if he finds that the country is with him in that opinion, surely it foreshadows a most revolutionary change in regard to the Auxiliary Forces. What the Norfolk Commission said of the Militia was that they existed chiefly, and that the Volunteers existed solely, with a view to resisting invasion.
It appears to me that the now view of the "blue-water" school is totally different from that which was put forward last year in this House when the Militia Bill was being discussed. At that time noble Lords accepted the view that there was a possibility of an invasion of this country by a small foreign force and that the Militia and Volunteers—the Auxiliary Forces in general—must be maintained partly, if not solely, for the purpose of resisting invasion. But now we are told that there is no possibility of invasion. Consequently our Army is for the future to be what I may call a triple-expansion Army. The first expansion is to be when you call out the Reserves; the second takes place on the embodiment of the Militia; and the third when you call upon the Volunteers to fight outside this country, because it seems they will never be called upon to fight within the country. In these circumstances it seems to me difficult to imagine that the Secretary of State for War will not make the Militia liable to foreign service, because if you do not make the Militia so liable, and if you say definitely that never under any circumstances can they be called upon to fight in this country, you will do away altogether with the utility of that force. It is perfectly true that last year I voted against the Militia having liability for foreign service thrown upon them on embodiment. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House, who also objected to the proposal, did so simply on the ground that it was not part of a general scheme; that it was, I think he called it, 44 an isolated change. That was the principal reason why he objected to the Militia on embodiment being available for foreign service. One word with regard to a small point taken up by Lord Raglan. I would suggest to Lord Raglan that he should not press his suggestion that Militia officers should be eligible to serve in the Indian Police, because for that service special qualifications are required, in particular a knowledge of the native languages and of law.
I did not understand the noble Lord to suggest that Militia officers should go through the examination at present gone through for the Indian Police.
That,of course, alters the position. Before sitting down I would express the hope that the noble: Marquess the Leader of the House will give your Lordships some light and leading on the important point as to whether the Militia, on embodiment, are, or are not, to be liable for foreign service.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
My Lords, I do not think that my noble friend who has just sat down quite rightly understood what was said by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War. I do not remember his having said anything exactly of the kind my noble friend has suggested, but I will inform myself as to what was the exact statement made on that subject. On the main subject which has been discussed to-night we have had a very interesting debate. We have had many interesting debates on the Militia in this House, always, I am afraid, in the same tone, that the Militia is in an unsatisfactory condition. It has been so, I am sorry to say, for a long time. It is highly important, it is a matter of the greatest importance, that steps should be taken to alter that condition of things and to bring about a more satisfactory state of matters. But it is the view of my right hon. friend the Secretary of State and of His Majesty's Government, that after so many Army schemes of one sort and another, sometimes 45 very wide and very extensive, and sometimes dealing only with individual points, have been before the public and Parliament, the time has come when the general question of Army organisation, and of the Militia as part of the general question, ought to be deliberately considered in all its bearings by the Government, and that no partial expression of opinion, except on minor points, should be given to the public until time has been taken for full and deliberate consideration.
His Majesty's Government have been in office but a short time. I think it would have been very wrong on the part of my right hon. friend if he had attempted to deal hastily with this question. We have had Secretaries of State with preconceived opinions on this subject, who have entered on office with the intention of carrying those opinions into effect. They have not been a success; those schemes have one and all broken down. My right hon. friend Mr. Haldane does not desire to put forward another scheme of that kind, and I think, my Lords, that he is acting wisely in that course. He is entitled to the support of Parliament when he declines to commit himself to the details of arrangements connected with general Army organisation until such time as he has had full opportunity, after the freest and most intimate concert and consultation with his expert advisers, to present a general scheme, and if the statement which it has been in the power of my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State for War to make to this House to-night seems to any extent to be limited and narrow, it is because my right hon. friend does not desire to enter piecemeal into this question, but to deal with it, as I have said, as a whole.
The noble Earl opposite alluded especially to the Militia Bill of last year. I took objection to that Bill on various grounds when it was passing through this House. The principal point that I put forward was that it was undesirable to deal partially with a large question of that kind. To that opinion I adhere. That is the opinion of my right hon. friend, and, therefore, there is, as far as I know, no intention of proposing that Bill again this session. I was, I confess, a little surprised to find that the noble Earl opposite attached such extreme importance to that measure, and that he thought it was of such vital interest 46 that it should be passed. Noble Lords opposite could have passed it last year. They sent the Bill down to the House of Commons; it was there in the hands of the then Government with their majority, but they refused to pass it, preferring to pass the Aliens Bill. I think, therefore, that my noble friend has no right to speak as if we were neglecting our duty in this respect because we hesitate to play the game which was played last year, and because we preferr to deal with this question as a whole.
I did not intend to interrupt the noble Earl in another part of his speech. I made a remark to my noble friend beside me which reached the quick ears of my noble friend, but I still think that he did wander from the subject on the notice of the Paper. The subject of the notice relates entirely to the Militia. The extracts which the noble Earl read from the newspapers and placards in Ireland related to the subject of recruiting generally, and I do think that the noble Earl was somewhat out of order. I am quite sure that if the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had the authority in this House which the Speaker has in the other House, my noble friend would have been called to order. All I have to say on that matter is this, I do not believe that placards and notices of that description have any material effect on recruiting in Ireland. The Irish people are a race of soldiers. The Irish people have, as we all know, done great and gallant service for this country, and I do not believe that ill-advised articles of that description and placards of that sort will really be found to check the Irish people from recruiting. If I am right in that opinion, it would be unwise to resort to the measures which the noble Earl sketched out. I think it is much wiser to abstain from taking stringent measures for the purpose of dealing with an evil which I believe to be in itself of comparatively little importance.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, after the speech of my noble friend Lord Newton I feel that it requires some courage on the part of one who is a Lord-Lieutenant of his county and who has been a Secretary of State for War to address even a few words to your Lordships in this debate. I cannot 47 but consider that the matter which was mentioned at the close of his speech by my noble friend Lord Donoughmore deserves the most serious consideration. I can well understand that the noble Marquess opposite should not have been prepared to find it discussed this evening, and that he should not therefore care to pursue it further; but it does seem to me to be a matter of the gravest importance. Its importance is, I think, not to be measured by the effect of these placards and incitements upon recruiting; what is serious is that in a part of the United Kingdom ill-affected persons should be allowed with impunity to discourage their fellow-citizens from entering a service in connection with which, as the noble Marquess reminded the House, Irishmen have conferred so much distinction upon the history of this country.
Turning to the main question, your Lordships may perhaps have listened with some little disappointment to the statements vouchsafed to us from the Front Bench opposite, but I am bound to say that the appeal of the noble Marquess seemed to me a reasonable one. It is reasonable that His Majesty's Government should desire to deal with this great question of Army organisation as a whole, and we shall certainly not grudge them the time necessary for that purpose. It is true that nothing could be more unfortunate than the present condition of the Militia force; we have often had to admit it on both sides of the House.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My noble friend at the Table asks me why. One answer was given earlier in the evening by the noble Lord who spoke first, and who told us that Army reformers had only two ways of treating the Militia—obliterating it abruptly or condemning it to a lingering death. I do not admit the justice of that description. I think it would be fairer to say that there are two currents of thought with regard to the Militia, On the one hand you have the school which desires to introduce reforms of a thorough and drastic character; on the other hand you have the feeling of friends of the Militia whose frame of mind is intensely conservative; and between these two stools Militia reformers have often fallen.
48 The Militia difficulty seems to me, indeed, to be typical of the difficulty which attends the whole question of Army organisation in this country. This country has military requirements probably more extensive geographically and more complicated than any other European nation; and yet I think it true to say that we have an Army which has never been constructed on a scientific basis, which has grown with the growth of the nation, and which therefore is irregular and overlapping in its constitution. The force which has suffered most from that condition of things is undoubtedly the Militia; it has been plundered at one end by the Line, it has been encroached on at the other by the Volunteers; and the result is that at this moment it is in the condition which was described by the Secretary of State for War when he said it had been bled white and is in a state of inanition. We are well content that time should be taken to investigate this Militia question thoroughly; and I, for one, am grateful to the Secretary of State for War, in the first place, for his frank admission that the Army, as a whole, never was more efficient than at present, and also for his readiness to examine all these questions with an open mind and with the desire as far as possible to observe continuity of military policy. For the present we are to have, with regard to the Militia, a very important experiment, and we shall watch that experiment with great interest. It contains one or two features which I regard not without a certain amount of misgiving. I am not sure whether the endeavour to require from the Militia a much longer period of training is a step which will increase the popularity of the force. Mr. Haldane described the Militiaman the other day as a soldier who was one-tenth soldier and nine-tenths civilian, and that is a consideration of which we should never lose sight. It seems to me that anything which you do to diminish the value of the militiaman as a civilian in the labour market during that part of the year when he is not occupied as a soldier is likely to render service in the Militia more onerous, and therefore less attractive, in the eyes of the public.
Again, there is the announcement with regard to winter training. It may be a very good thing; but I earnestly hope that care will be taken not to create the 49 impression in the public mind that an attempt is being made, as I have seen it described, to transfer the cost of outdoor relief to the Army Estimates. If that impression gets abroad, the result will be deplorable. It is also part of the experiment that these more thoroughly trained Militiamen are not to be allowed, during their first year, to be transferred into the Line. That is a suggestion which appeals to me very much, but it must not be forgotten that the effect will be to deprive the Line of a large part of the recruits on which it has hitherto depended. We have been in the habit of robbing Peter to pay Paul, and if we stop doing so Paul will have to go short. I understand from the noble Marquess that the mind of the Secretary of State is open upon the subject of the Bill rendering Militiamen liable for service abroad, and that we are not to infer that it has been dropped. We regard it as a measure of very great importance—and that is not less true because we were unable to find a sufficient amount of Parliamentary time to pass it into law last session. My reason for considering the Bill of very great importance is this. I cannot conceive of any arrangement under which we should be able to avoid occasionally and in times of emergency employing the Militia beyond the limits of these islands; and, if we are to do that, we should do it under statutory powers and not by means of the kind of extemporised arrangements which used to be made and to which I have heard the strongest exception taken in debate in this House. Militia battalions used to be publicly paraded and invited to declare then and at once whether they would or would not undertake the liability for foreign service. Of course in the circumstances it was almost impossible for them to say "No," and very disagreeable things used to be said as to the kind of moral pressure put upon them in order to obtain their consent. That can only be avoided by imposing on the Militia a statutory liability to serve abroad at certain contingencies.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My noble friend asks me about compulsory service. I have very often ventured to tell your Lordships that in my opinion 50 compulsory service was not likely to be regarded with favour in this country, and I for one shall base my hopes on the attempts of His Majesty's Government to solve this Militia problem without having recourse to compulsion in any shape or form.