§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
*THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (The Earl of PORTSMOUTH)
My Lords, if anyone were to look at this 1017 Bill in a superficial or casual way he might suppose that in form and title we are dealing only with the reorganisation of the Auxiliary Forces. But in reality we are dealing vitally with the military problem as a whole. I am sure that I shall only be accurately interpreting the facts of the case and the wishes of your Lordships if I place in the forefront of our Government proposals the effect which they are likely to have upon the position and power of the Regular Forces of the Crown. Amid a mass of detail, it is difficult to concentrate attention upon any one. single point, but if there is a single, point to be considered first and foremost in importance it is the effect of our proposals upon the Regular Army as an effective fighting force and an effective instrument for the purposes for which it is demanded by the special and peculiar conditions of the British Empire. The British Empire has been built up by the operation of natural forces rather than by national policy, and in this respect it presents a totally different aspect from any other empire of the day, or from the empires of history. The great empire of ancient history—the Roman Empire—was military in its essence, deliberately so planned and so systematically constructed. Other empires, like the empire of Napoleon, have been the short-lived creations of a genius for war, while the German Empire of today is based upon military pre-eminence, round which scattered fragments of German-speaking peoples have been able to group themselves. Our Empire is, again, in its natural features so different from any other that what would suit a country prepared mainly for a war in which their troops would enter into a campaign by passing a border-stone on a common road is not suitable to a country like ours, which is only the centre of a scattered Empire united by the sea alone. Nothing but national pressure under very hard conditions of necessity, from which we are happily free, would make our people impose upon their shoulders the intolerable military burden which has to be accepted by the Germans. Fortunately for us there is no analogy between our position and that of any great military Power on the Continent. Our Navy must of necessity be our first and foremost means both of offence and 1018 defence. I remember my noble friend Lord Tweedmouth expressing a sentiment which I entirely endorse, and which I believe is generally and strongly held by the people of this country. Referring to the present position of the Navy and its unquestioned command of the sea, my noble friend, speaking on the 17th April last, said—This axiom will be accepted by everyone—namely, that our country must at all events keep the command of the sea without having any regard to the cost at which that may be done.I feel bound to emphasise this, because in considering Army proposals in a practical way we are compelled to realise the fact that the country is not prepared, in addition to our vast naval expenditure, to pile up the enormous bill for the Army which other countries do.
We cannot overlook the fact that our total combined expenditure for the Army and Navy exceeds that of France or Germany, for instance, by at least £20,000,000. History has repeatedly shown us that if you are to spend money on your Army to provide against, not all reasonable, but all possible risks, the nation will with the other hand curtail its expenditure upon the Navy, which is admitted by the highest experts to be our most important arm, both for offence and defence. If it is argued in regard to this matter or that, that you are not providing for some possible contingency, my answer is that you are necessarily restricted by the national conditions which make conscription unsuitable, and by the expenditure which is the inherent difficulty of voluntary service in an industrial and prosperous community like ours. When we were expending large sums as part of Lord Palmerston's policy on useless fortifications our average naval expenditure was (say, between 1861–71) £10,300,000 only, as compared with nearly £32,000,000 to-day, and actually less than that of the Army, which averaged £15,000,000. I dwell upon this because I do not consider that any criticism which overlooks any financial considerations is either reasonable or practical. Taking it for granted, then, that our military expenditure is not to be excessive, we have endeavoured in our proposals to create what experience tells 1019 us is most important, namely, an effective Expeditionary Force.
Under Part III. of the Bill, we have endeavoured to obtain the fullest value for our money by employing, where the military authorities tell us we can safely do so, for duties of a less important character a class of service on a Militia or non-Regular basis which is less costly, and as regards certain services, such as medical, specially efficient in the latest and up-to-date methods. This is, it may be said, a novel principle, but in reality it is only placing on systematic lines a practice to which the Militia have been subjected in a haphazard fashion for the last 100 years. Let me, to exemplify this, give the figures respecting the Expeditionary Force. This force is to be composed as follows:—six divisions of infantry, of about 21,500 men each, and four brigades of cavalry, of about 1,800 men each, which, with the necessary Army troops, give a total of 61,000 serving soldiers of the various services and subsidiary services, 85,000 Regular Reservists and 14,500 men on a non-Regular basis. All these men will be of an age and physique suitable for foreign service, and will be ready to join the fighting force on mobilisation. At present, in case of war, we could only provide out of Regular troops with their Reserves, at the outside, four divisions of infantry amounting to about 86,000 men, with four cavalry brigades and the necessary Army and lines of communication troops. This gives us a total of not more than 118,500 men. As regards the Expeditionary Force in time of war, our present scheme provides a force, complete in all its units and in every detail, of 160,000 men, compared with the 118,5000 men now available. Of course, you need not require the immediate departure of the whole of the Expeditionary Force, and any part not so wanted is available for Home defence and would be a possible help to bridge over the six months during which the Territorial Army will be receiving their continuous training. The figures quoted by The Times correspondent in his very able article in the issue of 21st June, vary somewhat from mine. The discrepancy is only apparent, as his 166,000 for the field 1020 force includes 5,635 officers, whereas I was only speaking of non-commissioned officers and men. The figures I have given your Lordships are practically identical, leaving the officers out of the question—viz.: —61,000 serving soldiers, 85,000 Regular Reservists, 14,500 on non-Regular basis; total, 160,500 men. Of this 160,000 the effective combatants number about 86,000 cavalry and infantry, and 31,000 artillery, leaving the balance of 43,000 to be composed of Royal Engineers, Army Service and Ordnance Corps, Medical and Veterinary Services. To make quite clear what I mean in regard to the subsidiary services, there would be in these services, in the first place, Regular subsidiary service men, whose work would be skilled; in the second place, men from the Regular Reserve for the same purpose; and, thirdly, men whose work would be under the supervision of the more skilled men to do the work of ammunition columns or the like, which would not itself require any great degree of skill. These would be drawn from the non-Regular Reservists, whom, as I have indicated, we get partly from the special contingent of non-Regular Reservists and partly from the special service section of the Territorial Army.
Nor are these Army proposals either revolutionary or purely speculative. In our proposals we have reverted, as far as practicable, to the principles laid down by Mr. Cardwell. I feel sure my noble friend Lord Midleton knows that I have on more than one occasion, and with the experience I have had of the great difficulties besetting War Office administration, appreciated the interest and the ability which he and others have in the past devoted to the interests of the Army. I desire to avoid the slightest semblance of Party recrimination; but experience has shown that for the demand which is made by India upon our Regular Army for drafts—an obligation which is peculiar to the British Army—the period of twelve years (seven years with the colours and five in the Reserve), is on the whole most suitable. To this period for recruiting we have reverted. But in reverting to the Card-well terms of enlistment we do not solve the problem of a sufficient Reserve to 1021 meet the demands of the Regular Army in time of war. The periods of seven years with the colours and five with the Reserve only give us a Reserve which is practically used up in the actual mobilisation of the field force. To supply the drafts necessitated by the wastage of war, we propose to establish a Reserve on a non-Regular basis under the powers given in Part III. of the present Bill. There we lay down the conditions regulating the employment outside the United Kingdom of individuals who, though belonging to the non-Regular portion of His Majesty's forces, voluntarily accept the additional liability to service abroad on the specified conditions.
Seeing the noble Marquess Lord Lansdowne in his place, I feel that I should be acting with scant courtesy if I did not make some allusion to the proposals which he made at the time when he was Secretary of State for War. The noble Marquess provided an additional Reserve for wastage in war by raising the rank and file of the battalions from 720 to 800 men, and providing that 100 out of the 800 should be three-years men with the colours and nine with the Reserve, instead of all seven and five. Then came the War, and all the three-years men were kept and the experiment had not a chance. Then, in 1902, my noble friend Lord Midleton established for all arms a term of enlistment of three and nine years, which, of course, destroyed any chance of testing the value of Lord Lansdowne's proposal. This proposal of Lord Midleton, which was speedily killed by the failure to provide drafts for the Colonies and India, also killed Lord Lansdowne's proposal, which did provide for drafts, inasmuch as under Lord Lansdowne's proposal only one-eighth of each battalion would be short-service and seven-eighths long-service men in the infantry.
The theory underlying the whole of Lord Cardwell's system, and upon which he constructed his policy, was that a territorialised Regular unit, i.e, a county regiment, was to be raised in its territorial district, and the depot to be located in some prominent town of the county. The unit was to bear the county name, and to derive its strength thence in peace and in war. One or more units of each 1022 arm of the service—infantry, cavalry, or artillery—raised in a given area was to be quartered in peace in the United Kingdom, a certain number of similar units from the same area being in garrison over-seas. The units serving at home were in peace to find and train the drafts required for the units abroad, and on mobilisation were themselves to be completed to war strength by means of Reservists who had passed their colour service in the ranks of the Army.
The Report of the Localisation Committee of 1872 shows clearly that the Cardwell scheme contemplated the systematic use of the Militia as the Reserve for the Regular Army. The Militia had always been regarded as the main Reserve for the Regular Army. Their organisation was purely local and territorial, and in order to combine Militia regiments with the Regular Army it was necessary to localise the Regular infantry. The British Isles, were, therefore, divided into districts coinciding as far as possible with counties, as the county was the territorial unit upon which the Militia was based. Before Mr. Cardwell the Regular infantry had no territorial connection or even designation. They were merely the 38th, 39th, or 40th Foot.
Now, my Lords, we have not only, as I have said, reverted to Mr. Cardwell's terms of service, but we have also constructed our proposals upon his territorial system. For instance, we propose to create for every two Line battalions a third battalion for drafting purposes, whose centre is to be the county depot, and who, while providing a reserve of officers and drafts for wastage for the two field battalions, in addition to the Regular Reserve, will also, as far as possible, by their depot being in the county, maintain their county connection. Weintend to organise similar machinery to meet the needs of the artillery. The thirty-three batteries surplus to the number required for the Expeditionary Force will be organised as training batteries. These batteries will train recruits for the non-Regular Reserve of artillery in the duties they will be expected to perform in the field. The training of these batteries will be on a non-Regular basis, but the men to train them will be a permanent Regular staff,
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
May I ask the noble Earl this question: Are the Regular Artillerymen to be reduced who now form those batteries?
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I cannot answer that Question off-hand. Another point in the territorial connection which bears a close analogy to Mr. Cardwell's principles is that it is proposed to utilise the services of the permanent staffs at these depots to help in every possible way the instruction and training of the officers and men of the Territorial Forces. I am afraid that many of the difficulties in which we have been placed have arisen from a departure from these principles of Mr. Cardwell to which we propose to revert. One overwhelming difficulty confronted the Regular Army since the Militia Reserve, which was established by Mr. Cardwell, was abolished in 1901. Your Lordships will remember that that Militia Reserve was composed of men who for an annual bounty of £1 accepted an individual liability to join the Regular Army in the event of war. On the outbreak of the South African War they gave us a Reserve of29,000 Militiamen. My noble friend Lord Midleton abolished it. I do not say that he had not very good reasons on the side of abolition, for while it provided a most valuable force for the Reserve of the Regular Army, it certainly emasculated the Militia. But be that as it may, we have been confronted with the difficulty of having to make good the men from the Reserve which we got in this way. For the Expeditionary Force we take sixty-six of the seventy-one battalions at home. After taking the best advice we could, and plating the value of the Army as a fighting force as supreme, we have made all our proposals subservient to creating and maintaining in efficient condition our Expeditionary Force. To aim at this under Part III. of the Bill we have made provision for the employment of special Reservists.
If your Lordships will permit me, I should like to put before you the main outline of the changes which this Bill proposes to make in our military system. We divide our military system into two main sections. The first is our Regular Army, organised in six Infantry divisions 1024 and four Cavalry brigades as an Expeditionary Force, composed of the proper proportions of the various arms—Cavalry, Infantry, Artillery, etc.; this, of course, includes the main body of the Regular Army in the United Kingdom. Then, as adjuncts to the Expeditionary Army we have the non-Regular Reservists, and what are called "special service" men of the Territorial Army who join the Expeditionary Force on mobilisation, and, if necessary, replace wastage just like the special contingent. The non-Regular Reservists will be provided by the Militia.
In the numbers he has given of Infantry and Cavalry, has the noble Earl included the Artillery in the number of Infantry?
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I gave the Artillery in the number of the Expeditionary Force. I now turn to what is perhaps the most debatable question connected with the present Bill; it is certainly a question of the greatest interest to very many of your Lordships—I refer to the future of the Militia in our re-organisation proposals. I have already indicated that one of our chief difficulties is to provide a Reserve capable of maintaining the Expeditionary Force in the field and replacing its wastage in war. I have already said that the Militia have in the past been invariably asked to fulfil this difficult and most important task in a haphazard, unsystematic fashion, unsatisfactory to the military authorities, and, if I may say so, unjust to the Militia force itself. Apart from the Militia Reserve, which was on a special footing, ordinary members of the force were only asked to volunteer for foreign service when war was actually imminent or in progress. Such a practice could not but be unsatisfactory. The Militia, I am glad to say, always did respond to the call, but they went to the front labouring under all the disadvantages which naturally attended a force which was asked to do in war time something for which it had never been prepared in peace time. It was, as we are constantly being reminded by ray noble friend Lord Wemyss, ostensibly a force 1025 for Home defence, but it was almost invariably utilised for service abroad. For this haphazard, unsystematic procedure His Majesty's Government propose to substitute an organisation whereby the Militia will be asked to undertake certain liabilities in connection with service overseas, and at the same time will be afforded the preparation which will enable them to undertake these liabilities with success.
There are at present in the United Kingdom 124 Militia Infantry battalions, with a strength of about 73,000, compared with an establishment of 102,000. I may, in passing, call your Lordships' attention to this large discrepancy of 29,000 between the establishment and strength as a most eloquent illustration of decadence of the force and the consequent need for remedial measures. As I have said, there are 124 Militia Infantry battalions in the United Kingdom. Of these we require sixty-six in Great Britain and eight in Ireland to become the third battalions to supply our Regular Infantry with drafts. The men in these battalions will have to accept liability to service abroad, and their primary function will be drafting to supply the demands of the Regular Army in the field. We have never relaxed our sense of the paramount necessity for drafts. The wastage in modern war has been computed for six months to be about 40 per cent. In the late Russo-Japanese war, lasting about a year, the Japanese Infantry regiments, on an average, completely renewed their personnel once. This appalling and terrible fact demands a Reserve above and beyond the Regular Reserve; and to make the financial burden tolerable, it necessitates a Reserve which is less costly than the Regular Reservists of the Regular Infantry of the Line, even if we could get sufficient recruits to produce the Reservists required.
Many of your Lordships who are students of military history are doubtless familiar with that most interesting book, the Autobiography of General Sherman, one of the greatest of those military figures who emerged from that conflict in which America was moved as a nation to vindicate its own authority. Speak- 1026 ing of the military lessons of the war he says—The greatest mistake made in our civil war was in the mode of recruitment and promotion. When a regiment became reduced by the necessary wear and tear of service, instead of being filled up at the bottom, and the vacancies among the officers filled from the best non-commissioned officers and men, the habit was to raise now regiments, with now colonels, captains and men, leaving the old and experienced battalions to dwindle away into mere skeleton organisations. I believe with the Volunteers this matter was left to the States exclusively, and I remember that Wisconsin kept her regiments filled with recruits, whereas other States generally filled their quotas by new regiments, and the result was that we estimated a Wisconsin regiment equal to an ordinary brigade. I believe that 500 new men added to an old and experienced regiment wore more valuable than 1,000 men in the form of a new regiment; for the former by association with good, experienced captains, lieutenants, and non-commissioned officers, soon became veterans, whereas the latter were generally unavailable for a year.My Lords, to face modern warfare we feel bound to obtain drafts, and cannot waive our rights in that respect. These third battalions, whose main function is drafting, account for seventy-four of the 124 battalions. Excluding the permanent staff, they will be maintained at a strength of 500 non-commissioned officers and men. They will receive six months training on enlistment, and fifteen days annual training in addition to musketry instruction. This annual training may be objected to on the ground of its brevity as compared with the twenty-seven days the present Militia receives. But it must be remembered that under the new system the preliminary training will be six months as compared with six weeks. The thorough grounding which this six months training gives to the recruit enables us to reduce the amount of annual training. The shorter annual training, moreover, suits the conditions of labour in this country much better, as many employers can easily give their men fourteen days leave in the year, when twenty-eight would be out of the question.
I would also remind your Lordships that the experiment which the Army Council have tried—similar in principle to the one started by the public spirit of Colonel Pollock, and of the Spectator newspaper, on Hounslow Heath—during the past winter of subjecting twenty 1027 battalions to six months initial training has been an unqualified success, both as regards efficiency and the number of recruits attracted by the scheme. I cannot at present commit the War Office as to whether that training will be battalion training or not.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
The whole of this matter is under consideration. To return to the distribution of the present Militia under our proposals, I have already said that seventy-four of the 124 Infantry battalions will be required, sixty-six in Great Britain, and eight in Ireland, as third battalions for the Regular Army. This leaves fifty battalions. Of these fifty battalions we propose to ask twenty-seven (fifteen in Great Britain and twelve in Ireland) to accept as fourth or fifth battalions similar liabilities to the seventy-four already accounted for. Both the third and fourth or fifth battalions will be liable for foreign service, and both will also be liable for drafting; but as far as is possible and practicable they will be used as units. Their officers and men will be asked to accept service under Part III. of the Bill, but every effort will be made to maintain their corporate existence as units and to preserve their special traditions, names, bands, and colours. They will thus be fourth or fifth battalions to certain Territorial Regular Regiments, and will be liable for drafting or available for lines of communication and relief duties. The strength of these twenty-seven battalions we propose to be 800 noncommissioned officers and men, exclusive of permanent staff.
We have now accounted for seventy-four and twenty-seven of the Infantry battalions—i.e, 101 out of the 124. What is to become of the remaining twenty-three 1 I fear that, as units, they are superfluous to our scheme for the special contingent. The individuals composing them may elect to accept the new conditions of service and join the; selected battalions of the special contingent; or they may remain with their present unit when it becomes part of the Territorial Army. Failing these two 1028 alternatives they will complete their period of service in their present regiments and not be called up for training. The Royal Garrison Artillery (Militia) will be asked to join the special contingent and to take the liability of being trained as Field Artillery in peace and also to go abroad in time of war. They will be used in war to form a proportion of the personnel of the ammunition columns.
I apologise to your Lordships for having been compelled to give so many facts and figures. I must now make reference to some of the main features affecting the Territorial Army. The idea in our minds in establishing the County Associations originated in the conviction that the Army and the people should be brought into closer touch than had hitherto been the case, in other words, that the Army should have its roots more closely than now in the people. The Lord-Lieutenant was formerly the representative of the Crown for military purposes, and he did a great deal both for the support and the expansion of the Army, and we ask ourselves, Cannot he be brought back again into military life? Cannot he do more for the raising and administration of the Territorial Army than could be done by a centralised War Office? For years the Volunteers have complained of their mismanagement by the War Office. Advisory Boards have sat at the War Office, assistant directors have helped the Director of Auxiliary Forces, but still complaints have been urgent and constant. It seemed, therefore, to my right hon. friend the Secretary of State very desirable that we should attempt to establish a system whereby the Territorial Army should do as much as possible of its own administrative business through County Associations, a large part of which, I would remind your Lordships, we propose shall be composed of commanding officers of the force itself. Many questions, such as recruiting, rifle ranges, drill halls, and the proportions of the various arms to suit the requirements of the Army Council in the territorial districts—these we consider are matters infinitely more capable of adjustment by people on the spot than by any centralised or bureaucratic system at the War Office. 1029 All training and discipline will be in the hands of general officers commanding in-chief acting through divisional and brigade commanders. We do not propose to ask the Territorial Army to give up time for training which we know it would be impracticable to expect of men whose primary conditions of life art those of the civilian. The drills of recruits and their subsequent trainings are provided for in the Bill on as elastic a scale as possible. We deprecate placing in the Bill stereotyped regulations which experience has shown we cannot practically enforce. The late Government introduced an annual compulsory camp. It was a regulation admirable in principle, but in practice we have never been able to carry it out. On the other hand, we feel, with a great deal of reason, that we may rely not only upon the public spirit of the Yeomanry and Volunteers who will now compose the Territorial Army, but upon the fact that these men will come from an especially educated and capable class of citizens to whom training will come, we hope, with peculiar ease and quickness.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I should like to take this opportunity of expressing, on behalf of the War Office, our very sincere appreciation of the services which have been rendered by the Committee on the Territorial Forces, better known to your Lordships as the "Duma," over which my noble friend Lord Esher has presided with his usual geniality, tact, and ability. The advice of that Committee has been most serviceable to us on the subject of County Associations. The Committee gave us the practical experience of men of influence and of knowledge throughout the country, and without that experience we could not possibly have obtained the information necessary to work out the proposals contained in this Bill.
A considerable amount of interest and also of misunderstanding has arisen in regard to the question of embodiment. The Territorial Force may be embodied on the issue of a Proclamation ordering the Army Reserve to be called out, and we consider that the instruction then obtained would be of far more value than 1030 it would be in the case of men put through a long course of drill at a time of no national emergency.
§ *THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
My noble friend asks why. I should have thought the men would feel themselves inspired by the common danger. Hitherto the Army Reserve, the Militia, the Yeomanry and Volunteers have had separate Proclamations to call them out. Under Clause 16 of this Bill one Proclamation is to be sufficient. Six thousand men comprising Section A of the Reserve, and special Reservists to the number of 4,000—that is, 10,000 men in all—can be called out under Clause 31 of the Bill without any Proclamation at all. Firstly, when the Government of the day issues the Proclamation in circumstances of imminent national danger or great emergency the Proclamation is general in character, applying to the whole of the Army Reserve. The Army Council then, by Order in Council, can give directions for the whole or part of the Reserve to be embodied as circumstances demand. Though the Proclamation is general, subsequent directions may be partial, as happened in 1885 and in 1899. Secondly, the actual issue of the Proclamation relative to the Reserve comes under Clause 16 of the Bill, which gives the Army Council power, by Order in Council, to direct the embodiment of all or part of the Territorial Army, so that the Bill gives power to embody the Territorial Forces the moment the Reservists are called out by Proclamation. When, however, the directions under the Proclamation are applied to the whole of the first-class Army Reserve, the Army Council are automatically compelled, under the Bill, to embody the whole of the Territorial Forces.
Then I wish to call the attention of your Lordships and the country to the fact that there exists the following safeguards and limitations. Parliament on the Proclamation being issued must be summoned within ten days, and the Army Order issued by the Army Council specifies the regiments or corps whose Reservists are required. The Territorial 1031 Army must be embodied if the whole of the Reserve is called out, but furlough can be given. If only part of the Reserve is called up the Army Council may, but are not obliged to, embody the Territorial Army. It is proposed to increase section A of first-class Army Reserve. To the 5,000 men who have already engaged to accept liability to return to the colours without mobilisation 1,000 are added; and we have also increased the engagement in future from the first year of service in the Reserve to the first two years in regard to any of the 6,000 who are prepared, to accept.
Our proposals have been more than once subjected to the criticism that they are speculative, that we have no guarantee we shall get the number of men we estimate for in the various sections. That is a question of opinion, and applies not only to our present proposals but to every voluntary system. It is a problem inseparable from the voluntary system, and it constitutes a difficulty which will always require careful consideration. [LORD NEWTON: Hear, hear.] I (am reminded by that cheer from Lord Newton that certain influential Members of your Lordships' House are ready to offer a remedy in the shape of compulsory military training for the youth of the country. As a fair example of such an alternative, we may take the proposals of that important body the National Service League. But I would venture to point out that great as are the difficulties besetting our or any other voluntary system, they are comparatively insignificant when contrasted with those attending any form of compulsory training or conscription. The chief military problem in our case is not defence of the United Kingdom, so much as defence of the Empire, and a compulsory system will not help us much in this. No appeal to the country on the grounds that we require more men than are available under the present system for the practical requirements of our Empire is likely to elicit much support. The necessity for a compulsory system for the purpose of resisting invasion of these islands will alone serve as a justifition for the adoption of so radical a change in our military organisation. The difficulty experienced by certain 1032 continental nations in obtaining sufficient men for oversea service is notorious.
But, my Lords, this is not the only difficulty confronting the advocates of compulsion. Limitation of the numbers raised by conscription in this country would be absolutely necessary, because in no circumstances would we require the services of the total numbers (amounting to about 400,000) reaching the age of military service in each year; and I need hardly add that the more you limit the numbers the greater the hardship will appear to those on whom the burden of service falls. The next difficulty is the system of registration necessitated by a compulsory system with its attendant evil of police espionage, the very name of which conflicts with all the civic traditions of this country. When we talk of a compulsory system I do not think we quite appreciate the strong feeling that would be aroused in this country with its industrial, and to a large extent its nomad, population, if we were to alter almost all the habits and the ways of freedom the people have hitherto enjoyed, and submit them, as you would have to do, to a most careful system of police espionage.
Another difficulty on which I need not dwell is the difficulty of harmonising such a system with the upkeep of an Army for service abroad which Imperial necessities demand. But waiving all these objections for the sake of argument, let us look at the system from what, after all, is the essential standpoint— I mean the financial effect. The exponents of such a system say that it is desirable to give six months' training as a preliminary to the quota of youths who arrive every year at the prescribed age—say the age of twenty. In calculating the cost we will assume that: (a) the Regular Army remains as at present; (b) the National Army, which would take the place of our Territorial Force and Special Contingent, receives six months preliminary training and a fortnight's training in the six ensuing years, instead of the six months training on embodiment, which has been so much criticised in the case of our proposed Territorial Army; (c) the recruits for the Regular Army numbering each year 1033 35,000 men, which is roughly the present annual intake of the Regular Army, are taken from the National Army after they have had their six months training; (d) that a Reserve of 500,000 men in the National Army will suffice for our military needs.
In order to obtain this Reserve of 500,000 men it will be necessary to provide, annually for the six months preliminary training of 135,000 men; i.e., 100,000 for the National Army and 35,000 for the Regular Army. We must have depots and training batteries for these and a permanent staff to train them, which must be put down as at least 13,500 men. There must, of course, be added to these the various Departmental Services, such as the Army Service and Ordnance Corps, Medical and Veterinary Corps. Our armed forces in the United Kingdom would thus consist of 170,000 Regulars (taking the figure in the current Army Estimates), 115,000 Army Reserve, 13,500 training staff, 135,000 Recruits undergoing training, and, finally, the National Reserve who have already done their initial six months' training, numbering say 500,000. If we were to make sure of a supply of drafts for our Regular Army for service abroad in war time we should pay a special retaining fee to a portion of this National Reserve for undertaking this additional liability. The financial result of maintaining these forces would be 170,000 Regular Army as in present Estimates, £24,300,000; 13,500 training staff of National Army, £1,200,000; 135,000 recruits undergoing preliminary training, £29 per head, £4,000,000; 500,000 National Reserve undergoing annual training, £5,100,000; retaining fee for the foreign service contingent of the National Reserve, say, £500,000; total, £35,100,000. Such a system, therefore, involves at the very lowest estimate an annual expenditure of over £35,000,000 without including any charges for barracks and general accommodation, arms, warlike stores, tents, ammunition and equipment, horses for the mounted services, etc.
Both on financial as well as political grounds I would respectfully urge upon my noble and most distinguished friend Lord Roberts that, whatever may be said, in theory, for compulsion for home 1034 defence, it does not offer us any present or practical alternative to the proposals contained in this Bill. I venture to express the hope, the confident hope, that this measure will not be treated in any Party spirit. I see in the House distinguished soldiers of great knowledge, authority, and special experience, and I appeal to them for their generous assistance and co-operation. I beg to offer the Bill not in any spirit of boastfulness. My right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War does not propose it in any spirit of what I may call "cocksureness." But we do offer the Bill to the House, not as an ideal proposal, in an ideal world, under ideal conditions, but as one which, having regard to the inherent difficulties of the case that confronted us on all sides is an earnest and honest attempt on the part of the Secretary of State and his advisers to make the Army more efficient for service abroad and, by associating it more closely than we have ever attempted to do in the past with the representatives and leaders of civil life throughout the country, to increase its power, its popularity, and its influence at home.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a—(The Earl of Portsmouth.)
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, in rising to follow the clear and comprehensive speech of the noble Earl I know I shall not appeal in vain to your Lordships for the indulgence which is always shown to a Member of this House rising for the first time. And, my Lords, I need that indulgence in a very special measure to-night, because even though the noble Lord has been clear there is still great doubt in my mind as to the effect of many of the provisions of this Bill. I could not help contrasting the studied precision of the noble Earl's statement at the conclusion of his speech with regard to the possible effects of a measure of conscription and the figures which he brought before your Lordships showing how far beyond the compass of this nation it was, in his opinion, to establish such a system, and, at the same time, I fear I must say the studied vagueness of his references to figures with regard to matters which are within the Bill and 1035 within the scheme which lies before the House to-night.
There is another point on which I hope we shall have better assurances than we have yet had before the close of this debate. At the beginning of his speech the noble Earl said that all the proposals of the Government were subservient to maintaining the efficiency of the Expeditionary Force. I welcomed that statement, and I welcomed it all the more because it was in contrast with some ominous words that fell from the Secretary of State last year. In July the right hon. Gentleman made this remarkable statement—The principle of the Government plan is to ascertain, by way of commencement, what number of regular troops it is necessary to retain at home in peace for the purpose of finding drafts for the forces of the Crown over sea, and then to organise out of them, well within the margin, as complete an Expeditionary Force as possible.That is an organisation of troops which are necessary in peace for the purpose of war so far as they will go, and such an organisation, I venture to say, would be to return to the dark ages of War Office administration.
What we have endeavoured to do, what has been the attempt of successive Governments for the last twenty years to do, has been to estimate the Expeditionary Force necessary and to organise the Army so that it will give us that force. I confess that in this and other respects, the House of Commons and the country have been to some extent under the glamour of the Secretary of State's speeches; for the ambiguous colouring which the right hon. Gentleman has given to these proposals has had a soothing effect on all classes of his hearers. The noble Earl spoke of conscription. There are many men in this country who believe that the failure of this scheme must be followed by conscription. The Secretary of State has persuaded the anti-military party that this scheme is the only bulwark against conscription. I may say that I desire to see this scheme made effective, and if I make any criticisms they only arise from my desire to see it succeed.
Mr. Haldane has told the Army that by a reduction of 30,000 in the strength 1036 of the Regulars he is adding 50 per cent. to our military efficiency. I shall have a word to say on that in a moment. He has endeavoured to persuade the Militia that by continuing on Militia rates of pay and on Militia training, but under the title of Regulars, and without any privilege of going abroad as units under their own officers, they will at the same time preserve the distinctive character and prestige of their force. I do not think he has quite persuaded the Yeomanry that by abandoning the rates of pay which they have enjoyed ever since that force was first established and by being banded with the Territorial Army, they can maintain the efficiency which is at present one of the very few unchallenged facts of the whole of our military system.
Now, my Lords, I wish the word "scheme" had not formed, necessarily, so large a part of the noble Earl's speech. Mr. Haldane told us that the Army was always without a scheme or there was a scheme without an Army. When I think of the present state of our military forces, and that for eighteen months proposals have been going to and fro and the sole result of them up to the present moment has been the disbandment of ten of the best regiments of the Line and of one battalion of Guards, and also I fear, after the words which fell from the noble Earl, a considerable diminution of Artillery, I cannot help wishing that he had enjoyed a little less scheme and a little more Army, I am not going to say a word with regard to these proposals in comparison with schemes which have passed away or are not now before us; but I am one of those who feel that this is a military question, a sheer military question, how you organise the forces for war. Whether you have large divisions, as are favoured by the present general staff, or whether you have those larger units which were established when the noble and gallant Field Marshal on the cross benches was Commander-in-Chief, seems to me less a matter of concern in this House than whether you have the men, the stores, and the guns ready to be sent abroad. To find the reason for the recent establishment of the Army it is necessary to go back to the year 1895, when the noble Marquess behind me first took 1037 charge of the War Office. Lord Lansdowne then found the force available practically the same as it was twenty years before. You had, as Lord Rosebery reminded us at the time, added 2,600,000 square miles to the Empire without adding a single man for the further defence of the Empire. You had laid down certain troops who were to go abroad, and, though I know I had some share of the responsibility in a very humble way in earlier service at the War Office, I say that the provision which the military authorities had asked for had been often refused by successive Governments for years before 1895.
My noble friend Lord Lansdowne added 30,000 men to the Army before the outbreak of war, with the necessary stores; he added several battalions of foot and several batteries of Artillery, and, as the noble Earl mentioned, he raised all battalions at home from 700 to 800. Without that we could not have provided the drafts in time of peace, and without it we could not have maintained the force we had to send to South Africa during the war. We were in 1895 acting under a scheme which required 70,000 men for sending abroad and 35,000 Regulars for home service. In the first nine months of the war a demand fell upon the War Office which was unprecedented in extent and which could never have been met but for the foresight of the Government before 1899. We did not send 70,000 men or 105,000 men; but we sent 170,000 Regular troops between 1st October and 1st July of the following year. But, my Lords, did that satisfy the country? I am in the recollection of every noble Lord here when I say that there was hardly a man outside the Minister who had a good word to say for the War Office after they had mobilised and sent that exceptional number of Regular troops to the front; and I will go further and say that my noble friend was almost overwhelmed by a storm of popular indignation, because after sending these troops we had to apply for auxiliaries.
The whole of the troops raised between 1895 and 1898 have been swept away by the Secretary of State in the course 1038 of the first few months of office, and I wish to know whether the ominous reference, of the noble Earl to-night to the Artillery is to be taken as an indication of the continuance of a scheme which, we had understood, had been abandoned. Our Artillery was the weakest, as compared with our Infantry and our Cavalry, of any Army in Europe. Over sixty batteries were raised before and during the war. Of these batteries the noble Earl tells us that thirty-seven are to be placed on a lower establishment, and are to be worked by a non-Regular force. Would the noble Earl be kind enough, if it is in his power, to tell me whether it is proposed to reduce the Regular Artillery, or are the numbers to be maintained? That is a vital point, and I apologise for pressing it. I am sure the noble and gallant Field Marshal on the cross benches will bear me out when I say that no more important point could be brought forward for consideration in connection with military organisation.
I ask myself, How are we to justify these reductions? They certainly cannot be justified by the experience after the first year of the war, because in the second year of the war and in the third year we sent out every Regular soldier we could train and we sent out 85,000 additional men. Are the reductions justified by the proceedings of the Defence Committee? The late Prime Minister made a remarkable speech as to our position in regard to invasion, and assured the country that, provided we kept up the strength of our Navy, we might absolve ourselves from the necessity of providing against any organised invasion. Raids of 5,000 or 10,000 men might be possible, but not an organised invasion which would demand an armed nation. I understand that that view is held by the present Government and by the present Defence Committee. If that be so, does it not follow that our strength and money and organisation ought to be put first into the Expeditionary Force? I deeply regret to have to say so, but I believe I shall be able before Is it down to prove that the exact reverse will be the result of this scheme, and that the strength and money of the nation are to be put into the Territorial Army, which 1039 cannot be sent abroad except by volunteering, and that the Regular Army and the Expeditionary Force have been starved to a point which is dangerous to the country. We have not only fewer Regulars, but the Reserve has been depleted.
A very heated controversy on this point has arisen between Mr. Arnold-Forster and the military correspondent of The Times; and I am not going to be so foolish as to place myself in the line of fire between these doughty combatants. But I find it very difficult to resist Mr. Arnold-Forster's conclusion that if the infantry of 1905, 146,500 in number, only produced 55,600 men for the Reserve, the infantry of 1908, whose period of Reserve service will be shorter and who will number 132,600, cannot produce a Reserve 8,000 stronger. I know very well that this is an actuarial calculation. I know also that in Parliamentary debate we have only to breathe the word "actuary" and your opponents are supposed to retire routed in confusion. I have had a great deal to do with these calculations in the past, and I am firmly convinced that the Army Reserve placed at 115,000 has been over-estimated; that the Government have been misled by calculations based on the assumption that the ranks will always be full. As a matter of fact, they are never, or rarely, full. And the expectation that 25,000 men will re-engage voluntarily in the Reserve after service is one which I fear will not be realised. But, be that as it may, it is obvious that if you reduce the Regulars largely you must to that extent reduce, the Reserve.
May I make an appeal to the noble Earl to consider the composition of the battalions that are to go abroad, according to the Paper which has been placed before Parliament. It has always been considered that a battalion going abroad should, if possible, have 500 men serving and not more than 500 Reservists. The expeditionary force, owing to the depletion of those men who were added to each battalion by my noble friend Lord Lansdowne, is to consist of 28,000 serving soldiers and 48,000 Reservists with the infantry—not 500 to 500, but 380 serving soldiers to 620 Reservists, a preponderance which, I think, on 1040 military grounds, is altogether undue. The first 100,000 men who went out to the war in 1899 consisted of 43,000 Reservists and 57,000 serving soldiers. There is almost a change, therefore, of 100 per cent. in the proportions under the expeditionary force which the Government find it possible to send out with the reduced cadre which unfortunately they have adopted in the Regular Army. The noble Earl stated that, on mobilisation, they would use up nearly the whole of the Army Reserve. That is a point on which politicians and military men have been labouring for the last twenty years in the belief that by shorter service we should have a larger Reserve. But, if that be so, does it not follow that by far the most important question we have to deal with is, how are we going to follow up these depleted Regular troops and Reserves by those who are to come out as the first draft and be placed in action within two months of the outbreak of hostilities?
Then the noble Earl spoke about the Militia. He spoke most feelingly of what had happened to them in the past. The members of the present Army Reserve cost you £9 a year, and they are the cheapest men you have ever had. The noble Earl spoke of men who would be less costly; he said nothing about more training. I do not think there is any force which has a greater claim on the sympathies of your Lordships. The patriotic manner in which the Militia responded to the call in 1899 was one of the most remarkable things in our history. The Militia had been treated for thirty or forty years as the hewers of wood and the drawers of water for the Army. I do not say that is an ignoble position, but it is one which is very difficult for men who officer good battalions to understand. They had every year sent to the Army between 10,000 and 12,000 recruits. They had been liable in the Militia Reserve to send 30,000 men on the outbreak of war; but a Parliamentary pledge was given, which I myself heard in the House of Commons, that, if they had to lose the Militia Reserve to the Line, they would not then be called upon to go out as units depleted by their best men. But in 1899 the call on the Militia was unexpected, They had to send their 1041 best men out, and after that they were asked to volunteer, with the result that sixty-eight battalions of Militia did go abroad, saying nothing about pledges which had been broken and entirely ignoring the depletion of their cadre. I think, therefore, that we owe some consideration to the very difficult circumstances in which the Militia now find themselves. There are two points of view from which we may look at this question. The first is, what can the Militia colonels induce their regiments to do? I think there has been some misunderstanding of their attitude. As I understand, they have been accused of having said that, although they were willing to go on foreign service, they would not send drafts. I do not understand that to have been the attitude of the Militia colonels. I understand them to have said that, notwithstanding the improvements that had been made in the position of the Militia and the fact; that they no longer had to send 30,000 men to the Militia Reserve, that their pay had been raised, and that their officers had been given better opportunities of training, they had not been able to raise their numbers; and they are apprehensive that, if, at the present rates of pay, and with the present inducements, they are asked to tell their men that they must not only enlist for foreign service when needed, but must go abroad in drafts without their officers, to be attached to regiments which they do not know, and to be deprived of all the advantages gained by comradeship and esprit de corps, the men will not accept that liability. I think they are bound to put that difficulty before the War Office. It is a sentimental view, though it is a practical one.
Has the noble Earl considered what the position is he is asking the Militia to take up from a military standpoint? Has he considered that you are going to pit against the best soldiers of a foreign army men who in all will have had only eight months training? Foreign soldiers are taken at twenty; you take the Militiaman at seventeen. The foreign soldier is trained for two years; you are going to train the Militiaman six months on enlistment and half the time every year. That Militiaman is to be 1042 asked to go out and join another regiment and face the picked troops of a foreign Power two months after the outbreak of war. The noble Earl referred to the experiment carried out by Colonel Pollock, and he spoke highly of those men; but I am very much mistaken if I did not read a speech by Colonel Pollock at the conclusion of the training of his men, wherein he said that, after six months training under the most favourable conditions, he would be very sorry to lead those men against a foreign army. May I ask the Government before this debate comes to a close to reassure us on this point? May I ask them to tell us whether it is the opinion of the Army Council—not only the opinion of the Secretary of State, whose opinion I speak of with all possible respect, but whether it is the opinion of the Army Council—that men with such little training and who join the ranks so young can really be relied upon to fill the first gaps in our Army. I should like an answer, aye or no. I have always regretted for Parliamentary purposes the disappearance of the opinion and authority of the Commander-in-Chief. Does any one of your Lordships suppose that we could ever have heard the late Duke of Cambridge or the noble and gallant Field-marshal on the cross benches, who, I hope, we shall hear in the course of the debate this evening, get up and declare that we could disband ten battalions of foot, one of guards, and a number of artillery? The authority of the Army Council has been vouched for that change, just as the authority of the Army Council was vouched by Mr. Arnold-Forster for different changes a few years ago. On an important subject like this we have the right to ask for guidance, and I press it the more because I know it is the genuine opinion of the Secretary of State that he has improved the efficiency of the fighting force.
The fighting period of a man's life in our rank and file has been taken as lying between the ages of twenty and thirty-five. Nearly half of the present Militia are either under twenty or over thirty-five, and if you take the proportion who are therefore of fighting value for tropical service, you will find, even if the Militia take up the whole liability which it is 1043 sought to impose upon them, that you will have very few more Militia to fill gaps in the Line than you would have had in the Line soldiers and Reservists whom you have disbanded; and if you are going to replace thoroughly-trained troops by partially-trained troops, to substitute for men who know their officers those who do not know their officers, then I say that the man who, knowing all that, says that he is thereby increasing the fighting efficiency of the Army by 50 per cent. is like the Mr. Gladstone of old, of whom it was said that—His tongue could persuade every man of everything and himself of anything.The terms offered to the Militia require me to call attention for a few moments to the financial provisions of the Bill. No one has any doubt as to the mandate which the Government conceive themselves to have to reduce the expenses of the Army and Navy. The Secretary of State for War early expressed his belief that considerable economies could be made at home, and somewhat later, in a scathing passage, he described the Army as extravagant, costly, and ill-organised. Plain figures are dull, but I would like to be allowed to say a word or two on the figures. I was myself in charge of the finance of the Army from 1886 to 1892, when the Estimates were £10,000,000 less than they are now; and for the years between 1895 and 1903 I was responsible as Under-Secretary, and then as Secretary of State, for proposing much larger Estimates to the House of Commons; and I ventured again and again to tell the House of Commons that, if they wanted to reduce the Army Estimates—and nobody desires that so much as I do, and no man has ever worked harder for economy than I have done—I was convinced that it could only be done in one way—namely, by reducing our strength. I do not mean to say that some economies here and there are not possible, but if you are to secure a really large economy, an economy which will bring your Estimates down from £28,000,000, say, to £25,000,000, you must reduce considerably your military strength.
Well, with all these changes, and all these losses, what has been the effect? What are the Estimates of cost if the 1044 territorial scheme is carried out? That is an important question. As no Member of the Government has yet faced the question where we are going to stand in the end, I have done the best I can to make out a balance sheet, and it is at the service of any Member of the House, who cares to examine it. The last Estimates for which Mr. Arnold-Forster was responsible amounted to £28,830,000. That was the first year—1904–5—which was free of war charges. The Estimates at the present time are £27,760,000. If you add to those Estimates the extra cost, as shown in this statement, of the Territorial Army, and if you deduct the saving on Regulars who have been already reduced, but the full saving of which has not yet taken effect, what is the cost to be? The cost goes up to £28,021,000, showing that, after all that has been j done to the Army, and all that has been; said, the only reduction in the Estimates is from close on £29,000,000 to a little over £28,000,000.
But that is not the whole story. You have taken off £1,500,000 from the cost of the Regular Army, you are going to spend something less on your special contingent than you spent on the old Militia, but you are preparing by the concessions made by the Secretary of State in the House of Commons—the Supplementary Estimates bear me out—you are preparing out of that £1,500,000 to devote nearly half to the Territorial Army. So that you have not gained in money that which you have lost in strength. You have abolished 23,400 Regulars, and you are providing something like 25,000 more Volunteers for the Territorial Army. I do not pause to press this home. I will not labour whether or not this economy of £800,000 justifies either the vehement language used at the last election or the very strong statements of the Secretary of State. I do not grudge for a moment what is being done for the Territorial Army. We tried to train for fifteen days some battalions and the Secretary of State intends to try and train all battalions for fifteen days. I look upon that as a laudable effort. I look upon the 25,000 additional men as a laudable addition to our strength, but it is done at the cost of an extra £1,000,000 filched from the Regular Army.
1045 I can assure the Government, from past experience, that they will find their scheme exceedingly costly. Every suggestion about the more generous treatment that the Volunteers will meet with from the County Associations means profuse expenditure. You cannot establish sixty or seventy War Offices throughout the country without an enormous increase of cost; and do you suppose that any Lord-Lieutenant or any man of authority in his county is going to undertake to spend so much money among Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers without a proper staff of accountants and clerks, and all the appanage which we dread in Pall Mall, but which I dread all the more if distributed over sixty or seventy centres throughout the country? We have heard a great deal about drill halls and rifle ranges, and other things which have hitherto come out of the pockets of the country gentleman, but for which the Secretary of State has made the nation responsible in the future; and I very much fear that little will remain of the £800,000 saving when once the ball has been set rolling in this direction. I do feel, when it is proposed to deny money to the Line and to ask the Militia to take on a double liability on the old terms, that we ought to consider them before we do so much for the Territorial Army.
There is one other point. The Government are going back on the whole policy which has obtained with regard to the Auxiliary Forces since the days of Lord Card well. The whole policy of every Government and every military administration has been to try and draw the Auxiliary Forces closer to the Line; you are now going to introduce the chasm of separate administration. There are great gaps in the scheme to fill up; in training there is much to be done, in the economy of the scheme there is disappointment, if not waste; and I would earnestly appeal to the Government even now to reconsider the blots on the scheme.
I do not propose, to make any Motion on the Second Reading, because I would not do anything in the world to check any portion of the scheme which may be made efficient. I especially desire to see some finality about Army organisa- 1046 tion. I desire to see an end of the discussions that have been going on for the last ten or twelve years about the Army, and which can hardly raise the prestige of the Army in the minds of Continental Powers, or be satisfactory either from the point of view of the discipline of the Army or the spirit of the Auxiliary Forces. But I hope the Government will listen to the earnest appeal made to them to purge the scheme of some of those blots in most important particulars which have been placed before them, against which every man in either House of Parliament who has had experience of military organisation in the past has protested, and the dangers of which to the Empire they clearly foresee.
§ *EARL ROBERTS
My Lords, I venture, to intervene in the debate this afternoon with no intention of wearying your Lordships by any detailed criticism of the Army Bill which is now before this House, or of the general scheme of Army reorganisation of which it forms so important a part. There are many features indeed of the scheme which, to my mind, are, to say the least, of very doubtful advantage. But I am quite sure that in framing his scheme Mr. Haldane has enjoyed the full concurrence and support of his professional advisers who, I should think, cannot have failed to realise from the first the objections which now occur to me, and who, no doubt, have had good reasons for disregarding them; and I am only too glad to acknowledge here, as I have acknowledged elsewhere, the very real merit of the present proposals considered as a whole. They undoubtedly constitute in many respects a great advance upon anything that we have had hitherto. Mr. Haldane has, it is true, felt himself obliged to effect serious—in my opinion regrettable—reductions in the number of our Regular battalions. But he can fairly claim that, by carefully considered organisation, by the skilful utilisation of less perfectly seasoned but cheaper material for those parts of the military framework which are not required to stand the greatest strain, he will be able to put a larger organised force into the field than any we had had before, and keep it in the field for some months.
1047 As regards the Auxiliary Forces I think, my Lords, we are all agreed in applauding Mr. Haldane's decision to reconsider the proposed abolition of the historic and often proved stand-by of the Regular Army, the Militia. His deference to criticism has, I fear, been less happily inspired on another issue; I refer, of course, to the encouragement of drill and military training in our national schools. The awakening amongst our youths of a patriotic military spirit must, I should have thought, have been regarded by Mr. Haldane as an essential feature in a scheme which aimed at creating a great national force on the basis of voluntary patriotism. That he should have abandoned that essential feature in order to meet the views of a section which loses no opportunity of proclaiming their dislike to the idea of national defence in any shape or form, seems to be a deliberate stultification of his whole policy. I regret this concession all the more because I so gladly recognise that Mr. Haldane is, through the present Bill, endeavouring to create some kind of organisation for the Auxiliary Forces, to give them at least the semblance and shape of an Army—even if he cannot give them anything approaching reality; and, above all, to set before the people of this country the great ideal of a "Nation in Arms," even if he refuses to adopt the only principle under which that ideal can be realised.
Frankly, my Lords, I do not see how a much better scheme could have been devised, if we are to accept, as final and fundamental facts and principles, the limitation of our military expenditure by the figures of Mr. Haldane's last Budget, the maintenance of the present conditions of service and of drafting in the Regular Army, and the theory that for no purpose whatever and to no degree, however limited, are we ever to improve upon the existing system of voluntary and haphazard enlistment for home defence. But, my Lords, I cannot accept them. The only facts that seem to me fundamental are the facts of the world outside, the military dangers which threaten the prosperity and the very existence of this Empire. The only final and true principle I know is the principle which has commended itself by experience to almost 1048 every other civilised nation, as the most consistent alike with efficiency, with economy, and with social justice—the principle of citizen service.
It is because Mr. Haldane in his scheme deliberately and avowedly disregards the facts that are of the greatest consequence, and because he refuses to recognise the only principle upon which we can deal satisfactorily with those facts, that those of us—members of the National Service League—who are seriously concerned about our national and Imperial security, cannot accept his scheme as a practical solution of our difficulties, or as anything but yet one more of the patchwork and provisional schemes of which we have heard so much and from which we have seen so little result in recent years. I do not in any way wish to disparage Mr. Haldane's efforts. I am quite conscious of the difficulties the right hon. Gentleman has to contend with and the limitations under which, he must work. I do not even suggest that he could have done all, or any considerable part, of what I would have wished him to do; but I should be failing in my duty to your Lordships' House and to the country if I did not endeavour to make clear, to the best of my ability, why this scheme is inadequate to meet the great responsibilities our position as an Empire has laid upon us.
Let us deal first with the fundamental fact that ought to govern any scheme of organisation for war. I mean our strategical requirements. Does the right hon. Gentleman's scheme provide adequately for these requirements? Is it even likely to do so, considering that it has been framed quite independently of those requirements? The strength of the Regular Expeditionary Force, the only force we shall have available for any purpose for some six or seven months after the outbreak of war, is, as Mr. Haldane has pointed out, determined simply and solely by the number of battalions which happen to be abroad. Every battalion abroad requires, under the system which originated with the late Lord Cardwell nearly forty years ago, a battalion at home to provide it with drafts, and itself 1049 secretes a certain number of Reservists with whose help the home battalions can be mobilised.
And so we get our Army. But why should the size of the Army which we require for one purpose, namely, the defence of our frontiers or the fulfilment of our Treaty obligations, be fixed by the number of men required for quite different purposes, such as the garrisoning of naval stations or the internal policing of the Empire? Is the frontier of India made more secure if we withdraw troops from South Africa or Egypt? The very contrary, I imagine; yet the logical conclusion of the proposed system is that, if those troops can be conveniently withdrawn, we should not only disband them, but should promptly reduce by an equivalent number the force available in this country for the support of the Indian. Army. That conclusion, indeed, has been triumphantly singled out by one of Mr. Haldane's colleagues as a meritorious feature of the scheme. Mr. Churchill said in the House of Commons that—If the numbers necessary to maintain the troops abroad can be reduced, then a reduction will be made in the size of the Expeditionary Force, and the scheme of the Secretary of State for War will not lose in its harmony and efficiency.Surely, my Lords, the only harmony in our military arrangements which concerns us is their harmony with our requirements; the only efficiency we look to is the efficiency which will enable us to win in war. Are these preserved if we reduce the forces required to deal with our greatest needs, just because some lesser and wholly disconnected and temporary need may have ceased to make a call upon us? Can you imagine the German military authorities determining the forces they mean to put in the field against a really formidable Power by some fixed multiple of the number required to chase the Hottentot rebels in South-West Africa, or a German statesman suggesting that the reduction of the garrison of Kiao-Chau would justify the disbandment of the Army Corps stationed at Metz? Yet that is precisely the strategical principle upon which the proposed scheme is based.
It would be a different matter, of course, if our real source of strength for great 1050 Imperial wars were to be provided by the Territorial Army, and if the numbers and training of that Army were to be determined by the strategical requirements of those wars. But what has, as a matter of fact, determined the strength of the Territorial Army in the proposed scheme? From the remarkable similarity between the total figures of the present year's Estimates and those of the estimated cost of Mr. Haldane's scheme, I fear that our military needs have been arrived at by a mere process of simple subtraction. The various ingredients which are to compose the Expeditionary Force cost so much; the balance of £3,000,000 must apparently do for "The Nation in Arms." I know Mr. Haldane has since been compelled to revise that figure, and I shall not be surprised if it be revised at frequent intervals, when the attempt is made to put the scheme into force. But that does not affect my contention, which is that the strength of the Territorial Army has been fixed by considerations which have had nothing to do with our strategical requirements.
But, my Lords, why should we trouble to infer the want of any adequate consideration of our strategical requirements in the scheme when Mr. Haldane has himself openly confessed that he has not made a study of those requirements, and that they have not entered into his plans? Surely, that is an extraordinary confession to come from a responsible Minister, speaking on behalf of a Government which is directly responsible for the security of the British Empire? I know that our responsibilities and interests all over the world are so vast and varied that the proper consideration of all of them would require the study of a life-time. But the main features of the situation stand out clearly enough for anyone to grasp; the most serious emergencies which we may have to face can almost be reckoned on the fingers of one hand, and provision for them will naturally cover all lesser emergencies.
When we consider what should be the strength of our Navy, we base all our plans on our strategical requirements, and not on some fixed proportion between our fighting fleet and the coast guard and police services, or upon a rigid Budget. It is on strategical grounds 1051 and on those grounds only that recent reductions in the Navy Estimates have been defended. There, too, the problem is immensely complicated in its details, though its main points, thanks to the exertions of patriotic writers and speakers twenty years ago, are perfectly clear even to the man in the street. What really differentiates the military problem in this respect? I am afraid, my Lords, the real difference is that those responsible for the safety and existence of the Empire have not had the courage to face even the most salient and elementary facts of the Imperial situation, because to do so might force upon them conclusions which they will not, or dare not, translate into action.
What, my Lords, are those elementary facts? What are the practical conclusions to which they lead, and how do those conclusions harmonise with the proposals now before us? Let me try and state them as simply as I can. In the first place ours is an oceanic Empire. Its component parts are divided, or I might say more correctly, united by the sea. Naval supremacy is consequently the indispensable foundation of our strategical security, not so much, however, to furnish the defence of any particular portion of the Empire, as to maintain free communication between the different parts upon which depends the life of the whole.
But our Empire is also a Continental Empire. It covers the largest area of any Empire in the world, and it has by far the longest total land frontier. On three portions at least of that frontier it is in touch with, or in close proximity to, powerful States. Of the existence of one of those frontiers, that of Egypt, we only became aware the other day. Of the existence of the Indian frontier we have been aware long enough. To the existence of another frontier, the longest and most exposed of all, where for 4,000 miles of absolutely open front we border upon the mighty Republic which is, potentially, the greatest military power on earth, we have as a rule deliberately closed our eyes. Vast regions of the Empire are inhabited by alien, and half-civilised or wholly-savage races. There has been an enormous extension of those territories and of the responsibilities 1052 involved in their possession during the last twenty years. Their successful occupation has been achieved by the merest handful of Englishmen, aided by small bodies of native mercenaries. But does that prove that we can maintain them for all time on so slight a basis of military power? India, too, I would remind your Lordships, was won on very easy terms. But the Mutiny proved that something more was required if India was to remain part of the Empire. These are facts of the situation with which a navy cannot possibly deal, which can be dealt with by military power alone. Yet, my Lords, they involve the very existence of the Empire.
There is a school of thought, I know, which, while admitting that the Navy is essential to our existence, looks upon all military forces as a pure luxury. A necessary, natural, and indeed inevitable corollary to that view is that the British Empire is an unnecessary luxury, and that we need only trouble ourselves about the British Isles. That is not my view. I do not believe that it is the view held by your Lordships' House or by the great body of the people of Great Britain. It is certainly not the view that any of us would like to express openly at this moment, when the Prime Ministers of the Empire have so recently assembled to consult over our common destinies. But if so why should we imply that view in our action? If Canada, India, and Australia are integral and essential portions of the Empire, then surely the possibility of having to help to defend them becomes hardly less vital a question than that of having to defend these islands, and the consideration of the means by which they can be defended is one that the Imperial Government cannot be allowed to shirk.
The contingency of internal trouble in the Empire I need not discuss, for however serious it might be, it is the least serious of the contingencies we may have to face. Moreover, it is one with which, I should hope, Mr. Haldane's Expeditionary Force would be able to cope. Of the external problems, the least difficult, perhaps, is that of the defence of Egypt. It might, of course, involve us in further complications, but so far as the problem 1053 itself is concerned I am inclined to think that, with the advantages of our naval position, and possibly with the, assistance of troops from India, the Expeditionary Force would be able to defend Egypt.
But, my Lords, when we come to the defence of India, we come to a very different problem. It is true that no very immediate danger may threaten the frontier of India, but in dealing with military schemes which may take ten or fifteen years even to bear fruit, it is the future and not the immediate moment that we must consider. What would the defence of the Indian frontier involve? To begin with, as soon as the danger became at all real, we should require to reinforce our Indian Army to the strength necessary to make good our preliminary dispositions. But that requirement would at once bring us face to face with one of the inherent defects of Mr. Haldane's scheme, for it would be impossible to secure that reinforcement without recourse either to a general mobilisation, which for diplomatic or domestic reasons we might wish to avoid, or else to the special mobilisation made possible by the use of Section A of the Reserve, a device which Mr. Haldane's scheme proposes to extend, but which inevitably involves the disorganisation of the arrangements for the general mobilisation which might be expected at any moment. The difficulty would be precisely the same as the one with which we were confronted in South Africa in the summer of 1899, with what unfortunate results your Lordships are well aware. That element of strategic flexibility so essential for so widely scattered an Empire as ours, can only be provided by a force, not necessarily large, which does not require mobilisation, or the mobilisation of which, at any rate, does not interfere with the arrangements for mobilising the main field force. But even it that difficulty could be got over, what would be the position at the outbreak of war? Counting the Expeditionary Force and the Indian Field Force as one army we should have 300,000 men at the front, and for the first few months that might be sufficient. But I do not understand that any provision has been made for the simultaneous supply of drafts to the 50,000 or more British soldiers in the 1054 Indian Field Force, upon whom the brunt of the opening weeks of the campaign would fall; and if the Special Contingent is to supply their needs as well, then the six months allowed by Mr. Haldane for training must be reduced to four and a half months or even less; after that time our Army of 300,000 would rapidly begin to shrink.
But what would our opponents be doing? Can anyone who has followed the course of the Manchurian Campaign doubt that it would be perfectly possible for Russia to bring 500,000 or 600,000 men against us on the Indian frontier within the first year of the war, and keep them in the field almost indefinitely? How should we meet that army with a diminishing force of barely half the strength? Mr. Haldane speaks optimistically of his Territorial Army as of a great reservoir of power—a potential source of expansion—from which voluntary patriotism might inspire not only individuals but whole brigades and even divisions to volunteer for Imperial Service. My Lords, in the first place, the reservoir will not be ready to supply any drafts whatever at the front for at least six or seven months after the arrival of the Expeditionary Force; in other words, for some two months after the Army in the field has begun to waste. Consequently by the time the reservoir is ready, 40,000 or 50,000 drafts may be wanted simply in order to bring that Army back to its original strength of 300,000, while 20,000 a month or more would be required to maintain it at that strength. Is it possible, my Lords, that a Territorial Army of 300,000 men could do that, and then go and furnish a sufficient number of organised units to expand the Field Army up to the strength of the 500,000 or 600,000 men required to deal with the forces we should have to encounter?
In considering the liabilities of the Empire as a Continental Empire, we cannot leave out of account the most extensive and most open of all our frontiers—the frontier of Canada. It may be said that any danger in that quarter is excluded by the friendly relations which exist—and, as I rejoice to think, tend to grow more and more cordial — with the United States of 1055 America. But in considering the problem of national existence we have to take account of every possibility, however unpleasant and however seemingly remote. Every other nation does it. We do it ourselves where the Navy is concerned. Is there any one who would venture to suggest that in estimating our Naval requirements we should take no account of the Navy of the United States, or avoid all reference to the subject as offensive to a kindred and friendly nation? But I will go even further. If we are continually comparing our resources, quite openly and unreservedly, with those of other Powers, however friendly, when it is a question of such vital importance to us as the defence of these islands by sea, or the defence of India by land, can we be silent about the defence of Canada without inevitably conveying to Canadians the impression that we do not consider the defence of Canada a matter of vital importance? Will they not construe our silence as implying that we do not really regard Canada as an essential and indispensable portion of the Empire, and that we do not mean to throw our whole heart and our whole strength into her defence if the need should arise? Surely, my Lords, if there are any nations to whom we cannot afford to give ground for offence, they are the nations within the Empire. But how could we offend them more deeply than by refusing even to discuss questions that are matters of life and death to them just as the Naval question is a matter of life and death to us?
I hope, my Lords, in what I have said I have not conveyed the impression that this country, alone and unaided, is to undertake the whole task of the defence of the Imperial frontiers. Let me assure your Lordships that this is very far from being my view. If the Empire is to be defended at all the co-operation of the Colonies and of India in that task is indispensable. No one has better occasion to know the value of that co-operation than I have. I have counted upon it in the field and it has not failed me. I confidently count upon it as an essential element in maintaining the peace and security of the Empire in the future. But as long as the whole political control of the destinies of the Empire 1056 is in the hands of the people of this country, I feel we are in a position of peculiar responsibility for the defence of the Empire as a whole. The task may be beyond our powers. But let us at any rate face it frankly with a full sense of our great responsibility, and with a determination to do our utmost as far as our strength allows us. If we approach the problem in that spirit, I believe it will be met by an equal spirit on the part of the Colonies. For it is to the whole national strength of the Colonies that I look in a great Imperial struggle, not to small contingents ear-marked for our use, in return for our holding a corresponding though far larger Expeditionary Force available to help them. War cannot be waged on limited liability principles. We must all be ready to give our whole national strength, if the need should arise. But it is for this country to set the example by the establishment of the only principle of military organisation which makes possible the full expansion of that strength in time of war.
I have purposely, up to this point, dwelt upon the danger to the outlying Continental portions of the Empire, and left out of account the danger of trouble nearer home. That is not because I have forgotten the security of Great Britain in considering the security of Greater Britain. It is because I believe that the danger to this country, the blow to the heart, is most likely to come at a time when we are already engaged in some other part of the world. Let us suppose the existence of the Empire threatened in India or in Canada. Would there, could there, be any holding back in this country? Would not Mr. Haldane's Expeditionary Force be hurried off as fast as transports could be provided? Would not the Navy be fully occupied dealing with hostile fleets, covering the passage of our transports to the seat of war, and protecting our commerce and our national food supply? What more likely moment than this for an enemy to choose for striking a mortal blow by an invasion of these islands? And to what should we look at such a moment for our protection? To the Territorial Army? Would men who may have had only three or four weeks training be capable of holding their own 1057 against men who have been for two or three years consecutively with the colours? Are we to send amateur artillerists, equipped with obsolete guns, into action against highly trained experts provided with the deadliest modern weapons? Whatever else we may think we can improvise in the hour of danger or begin to train after the crisis has arisen, artillery cannot be improvised. Artillerymen must be trained before the crisis and not after, and given a very different training from the annual week or fortnight, which is all the proposed scheme provides. Inadequate as Mr. Haldane's scheme is in this respect, and in many others, for the defence of the British Dominions across the seas, it is even more inadequate for the defence of these islands in the one contingency under which serious invasion is likely to be successfully attempted.
I hope I may be forgiven, my Lords, if I have wandered so far into contingencies that may seem to many of you highly problematical. They are, I contend, by no means so problematical but that they ought to be kept in view in any military scheme we may frame, though I admit they have never been kept in view in any scheme that has been framed. They are contingencies no more problematical than those which other countries are continually considering; no more problematical than those which we consider as a matter of course when dealing with the Navy, which, though essential to the safety of the Empire, cannot be all-sufficient. What adequate provision is there to meet these contingencies in the proposed scheme? It makes no provision for the strategical reinforcement of our distant frontiers on the eve of a crisis. The Expeditionary Force which it can provide on mobilisation is not large enough to deal with the forces it may have to meet in the opening year of a campaign. It can only be des-patched, as I have said, at the risk of leaving the military defence of this country to a force that is absolutely unfit and unready to face trained troops; and if the crisis has not already terminated in disaster, we shall have, for the double task of defending this country and providing a boundless reservoir for the voluntary expansion of the armies 1058 on our distant frontiers, a total force of 300,000 untrained men.
I feel sure I shall be asked, Is there the slightest possibility of dealing with these contingencies under any scheme whatever? I contend that there is, but only if we realise the extent of those contingencies, and adopt the one principle which alone can provide that great reserve of trained strength which Mr. Haldane dwells upon so eloquently, but which his Territorial Army under his proprosed conditions could not provide. I am inclined to think that a serious study of those contingencies would in the first place lead to a re-organisation of our existing forces, so as to admit of the free despatch of moderate reinforcements before mobilisation, and to allow of the subsequent mobilisation of a considerably larger force than the proposed Expeditionary Force. Such a force can only be provided by a really short service Territorial Army wholly severed from the non strategical duties of furnishing drafts for the foreign battalions. That short service Army can, I believe, be most conveniently evolved out of the Militia; and it is for that reason that I feel especially grateful to Mr. Haldane for his reconsideration of the Militia question. If only I could have considered Mr. Haldane's scheme a final solution of our military problem I should have acquiesced, though with regret, in the extinction of the Militia. It is because I do not consider it a final solution that I rejoice most heartily that the Militia with its historical traditions, its strong corporate feeling, and its great possibilities, has at any rate been kept alive,—kept alive, I venture to hope, so that at some future date it may take a larger and more important part in Imperial defence than any to which it has hitherto aspired.
But, above all, my Lords, the consideration of these problems ought, I think, to convince any dispassionate student that they can be solved on no other principle than on that of the "Nation in Arms," the Nation trained in readiness for war. The Territorial Army, great improvement as it is on all that has gone before, is yet neither in size nor in character what is denoted by these 1059 terms. It is not the nation, but only a small portion of it. It cannot be thoroughly representative, for whole classes and industries are almost certain to be excluded by the conditions of service. It is not trained to arms, but only pledged to be trained, and that under conditions which cannot but be unfair to those who have been induced to pledge themselves. There is very grave doubt whether under these conditions even the 300,000 men will be found. What will Mr. Haldane or his successor do if he finds that to get the men he must either waive all the conditions both as to service and as to the due proportion of arms, and so make a farce of the whole proposed reforms, or else that he must resort to the holding out of increased financial inducements, and turn his "Nation in Arms" into a paid force as costly as it will be inefficient?
Mr. Haldane has told us that he regards his proposal as the strongest intrenchment that could be devised against the advocates of universal military training. My Lords, whatever apprehension I may entertain with regard to Mr. Haldane's scheme, I confess I do not dread it as a serious obstacle to the progress of the great national movement to the furtherance of which I have devoted myself. I can see Mr. Haldane's intrenchment plain as the print and pages in which it is laid out. But I fail to see where the men are coming from who are to hold it; nor do I believe that the men trained under the conditions of the present Bill will be capable of holding it. I, too, have my conception of an intrenchment, an intrenchment not directed against the advocates of any particular policy in this country, but against every external danger that may threaten the country or the Empire. It will be an intrenchment held by the whole able-bodied manhood of our nation, and of the kindred nations of the Empire, duly trained to the task, and trained in due time before, not after, the approach of J danger. They will be men of every trade and of every class, trained side by side under conditions of absolute equality, not under conditions which allow the wealthy, selfish, the indolent and the unpatriotic to escape all the burden and 1060 to enjoy all the benefit of the efforts of others. The burden, indeed, is only one of their own imagining—it is a burden that strengthens and braces up, physically and morally, those who have to bear it. The benefit is a delusion, for it can only exist where there is national security and that security they destroy by their own actions. For my part, I am convinced that, though there may be opposition, particularly by those who view with dislike the Imperial idea, the principle which alone can give security, consistent with economy and efficiency, and which alone is based on the recognition of social justice and equality of duty, will, in the end, be victorious.
§ *THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
My Lords, the Bill before the House is remarkable for the indirect manner in which it deals with most important questions. This Bill, as it now stands, by implication repeals the Militia Act of 1882 and consequently abolishes the Militia system of service. But no mention of that is made in the Bill. Another feature of the Bill is the very wide powers conferred on the Army Council. For instance, by the very first clause the Army Council is empowered to raise a Volunteer force in Ireland to be administered by local associations.
His Majesty's Government claim that their scheme for the reorganisation of the military forces holds the field. That is no doubt true. But I can indicate in a few sentences a course which, had His Majesty's Government thought it well to follow, would have been just as acceptable to the Auxiliary Forces as their present scheme is the reverse. After the South African War the Norfolk Commission was appointed to inquire into the condition of the Auxiliary Forces. That Commission reported that neither the Militia nor the Volunteers were fit to take the field, and made, after a careful and extensive inquiry, most important recommendations for making those forces efficient. I regret that His Majesty's Government have decided to produce the scheme at present before your Lordships' House instead of following the recommendations of the Norfolk Commission, and making the Auxiliary Forces efficient in the form in which they are now organised.
1061 The principle of reorganisation adopted in this Bill is to divide our military forces into two instead of three lines. Three years ago the late Secretary of State for War, with the entire approval of his Army Council, created a short service Army, into which the Militia was destined to be absorbed. One year ago the present Secretary of State for War, with the entire approval of the same Army Council, destroyed the short service Army of his predecessor and foreshadowed measures of re-organisation for the Militia. To-day the present Secretary of State for War, with the entire approval of the same Army Council, establishes a short service Army into which the Militia is to be absorbed.
Under this Bill the name of the Volunteers is changed into that of the Territorial Army. The Volunteers were reported by the Norfolk Commission as unfit to take the field for active service with their present amount of training. No effort is made to increase their efficiency by any additional training, I presume because the Volunteers now become the second line, and we are told that the duty of the second line is "to slumber in time of peace." They are to awake, I hope, early in the morning of the declaration of war, and to commence their military training. Here the Government appear to go beyond the region of originality and to enter into the domain of eccentricity, because to organise for war on the plan of beginning to train for the field after the commencement of hostilities is at any rate at first sight contrary to common sense.
The Volunteers are to be administered in future by County Associations. I am not hopeful of the success of this proposal, because nobody wants the County Associations. The Volunteers and, I believe, the Yeomanry also dislike passing under the control of these Associations. No counties that I have heard of are the least anxious to form these Associations, and the representatives of labour view them with disfavour. The Bill puts the Volunteers under the name of Territorial Force in the second line in place of the Militia abolished. The Volunteers are to discharge the duties of second line troops and must be prepared to accept 1062 embodied service in place of the defunct Militia. Now, are His Majesty's Government of opinion that the Volunteers can accept embodiment? Can they carry out this essential duty of a force of the second line?
Let me remind you of what happened in the year 1900. The country was then in rather a tight place, and the Volunteers were asked to give two months of consecutive service. They replied with one accord that it was perfectly impossible for them to do so, and that two weeks of consecutive service was all they could give. Under these conditions no regiment was asked to give more than a fortnight of consecutive service. But the situation was so critical and the crisis so urgent that Royal Reserve regiments were created at a cost of millions to the country, because the Volunteers could not carry out embodied service. Your Lord-ships must remember that in 1900 there were 124 battalions, of Militia embodied, but, in spite of that, the creation of Royal Reserve battalions was demanded by the state of public feeling—in other words, by panic.
I beg to ask His Majesty's Government why they consider that the Volunteers in 1907 can do that which they could not do in 1900. Possibly there is no intention of ever embodying the Territorial Army. If that is the case, what in the name of common sense is the use of a Territorial Army for the purpose of a second line of defence? I am doubtful if the Government have sufficiently considered if the changed conditions of service which they propose can possibly be accepted by the Yeoman, the Militiaman, and the Volunteer. It must be remembered that under voluntary enlistment the conditions of service must be a compromise between what the War Office demands and what the men are willing to accept, except for the unfortunate class who may be described as the conscripts of hunger. We do not want that class. We want men who are in a position to join or not as they choose. This class can afford to be, and is, largely influenced by sentiment. The Government appear to me to have absolutely ignored the fact that in dealing with the existing Auxiliary Forces they must have due regard for the 1063 principles of voluntary enlistment complicated as they are by sentiment, unless their scheme is to be a failure for lack of men.
On this most important point of voluntary enlistment, I would ask your Lordships' indulgence to explain as briefly as I can exactly what took place between certain Militia commanding officers and the War Office last July. I know it has been repeatedly stated that Militia commanding officers refused to supply drafts to the Line. That is a misrepresentation of what actually occurred. In the first place, by the existing Militia Act of 1882 no Militiaman may be transferred, except by his own consent, from the regiment into which he first enlists. It is, therefore, certain that the War Office could not ask any officers to do that which was contrary to the Act of Parliament under which they served. The question submitted to the conference of Militia commanding officers was whether it was possible to alter the existing Militia Act in two very important respects, and at the same time to obtain a sufficient supply of men. The first alteration required was to enlist the Militia for foreign service on embodiment; the second, to make the Militiaman liable to be drafted away from his original Militia Regiment into the Line. The Militia commanding officers consulted numbered, as far as I can remember, about twenty. They came from every part of the United Kingdom. We were unanimous in saying that the men in the Militia would accept foreign service enlistment on embodiment, provided always that the clauses in the Act of 1882 forbidding the transfer of the Militiaman without his consent remained unaltered. We were then informed that if we adhered to that opinion, which obviously we could not change, seeing that we believed it to be true, the War Office had no further use for the Militia, and that the force would be abolished, as proposed by this Bill. You will therefore perceive that what really happened was that the Militia commanding officers were asked to give their opinion as to what the effect would be from a recruiting point of view of altering certain clauses in the Militia Act. They were unanimous in saying that if the clause as to drafting was 1064 altered in the way proposed by the War Office you would not get the men to accept foreign service enlistment on embodiment. That is the opinion of the vast majority of Militia commanding officers at the present moment. But that is a very different story from refusing to supply drafts to the Line in time of war.
The absorption of the Militia into the short service Army is, I believe, to be effected as follows. The whole Militia Force passes under the Army Act, and the Militia Act of 1882. on becoming obsolete, will be repealed by a Statute Law Revision Act. From the existing 124 Militia regiments of the United Kingdom seventy-four short service battalions of the Regular Army are to be formed for the purpose of supplying drafts, but these seventy-four battalions will never take the field as battalions. At first these drafting battalions will be commanded by Militia officers who are now serving; but, as soon as it is decently possible to get rid of the senior Militia officers, they will be replaced by officers from the Line. The junior officers, who by the way will never get promotion, will belong to the reserve of officers. Then, in addition, there are to be twelve battalions in Ireland and fifteen in Great Britain of the short service Army, which may be employed as battalions, but of course the men will be enlisted under just the same liability for drafting as in the purely drafting battalions. On this point of drafting, a man must either enlist under the liability to be drafted or with an immunity from drafting. The suggestion that a man should enlist in a certain regiment on the unwritten understanding that as far as possible he should not be transferred against his will is perfectly absurd, because you cannot put the words "as far as possible" in any Act of Parliament or in any form of enlistment. For instance, how would it be possible to say to a future recruit—"Mr. Secretary of State Haldane said in the House of Commons in the year 1907 that as far as possible you will not be drafted away from this battalion, but by Act of Parliament you can be so drafted?" In Clause 6, sub-section 4, your Lordships will see clauses protecting 1065 the Territorial soldier of the future from drafting. These clauses are practically taken out of the Militia Act of 1882. I see no advantage in pretending to differentiate between battalions of the short service Army. Apparently all Militia officers of over thirty-five years of age are to be got rid of as soon as possible; therefore, I presume that these twenty-seven battalions will be commanded by Line officers.
The problem to be solved is how to get sufficient recruits to supply the Regular Army and at the same time to maintain the establishment of the Militia, and, more than that, to pass on men to the Army in time of war and yet leave un-depleted Militia battalions available as units for the purpose of second line troops. You will see at once that the whole question is one of recruiting. Militia commanding officers are of opinion, if the War Office would only give them that control of their own recruiting, which has been absolutely refused for many years past, that then they could find sufficient recruits for both Line and Militia. I cannot go into the recruiting question at present, but I have done so before in your Lordships' House. The present methods of recruiting are futile and feeble beyond belief.
The next point is the transfer of men from the Militia to the Army in time of war. All Militia Acts have forbidden the transfer of men from the Militia to the Army except by their own consent, and that voluntary principle of transfer has always acted perfectly well in the past. Take the most recent instance, that of the South African War. At that time in the Militia there were about 25,000 men who had accepted a bounty of £1 a year to serve with the Army Reserve when that Reserve was called out, but 40,000 men, who had always refused to tie their hands in peace time by accepting this annual bounty of £1, transferred to the Army during the war. That shows that the principle of voluntary transfer in time of war from the Militia to the Army can be relied upon. Now, if the Militia is to send on men in batches transferring of their own free will to the Army in time of war, they must be somehow or other replaced in the Militia to avoid the depletion of the Militia Force. That, we 1066 are of opinion, can easily be done by creating a Reserve for the Militia, which could be obtained at an annual cost of £1 per man.
To sum up. It is not reasonable to find fault with a man for not succeeding in doing that which you will not allow him to attempt. The Militia is reproached with its deficient numbers, but the Militia is not allowed to manage its own recruiting. Give us complete control of our own recruiting system, and the Militia are ready to find men for both Militia and Line; to give foreign service enlistment on embodiment and increased recruit training, indeed, to give a far greater amount of recruit training than the Government is prepared to pay for; and to pass men by voluntary transfer to the Line in time of war. That is an offer of service such as no Auxiliary Force has ever made to any Government before and, my Lords, it is an offer which, let me ask you to remember, aims at increasing the efficiency of the Line, just as much as the efficiency of the Militia. It is an offer which I hope your Lordships will carefully consider before it is finally rejected, and before the system which enables us to make it is finally and irretrievably destroyed.
§ *EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, I shall not venture to inflict upon you my views with regard to the Bill generally, but I should like to say that I do not share the aspirations expressed by the noble and gallant Field Marshal who spoke earlier in the debate, and I recognise that if you are to depend upon voluntary enlistment you must make the length of training suit the convenience of your recruits. I hope that in developing their system the Government will bear in mind that all the teaching of recent history is that the less trained the troops the more highly trained the officers ought to be. The records of the British Army are full of the great achievements of levies hastily raised, of every race and colour under the sun, in the hands of firsts-class men who knew their business. But the records of the South African war are also full of regrettable incidents, where officers, however gallant, knew no more than the hastily raised men 1067 they commanded. I trust that the preparation of a strong corps of highly trained officers will be recognised by the Government as an indispensable part of their scheme.
But I rose rather to call attention to another part in regard to which I think my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State was jejune in his information. There are many in this House who have the honour to be lords-lieutenant of counties, and there are many more who take a considerable part in county business. We were told by the Secretary of State when he first introduced his proposals that his desire was to enlist the services of lords-lieutenant and deputy-lieutenants in carrying them out. I think, therefore, that we are entitled to be told rather more fully than we have been yet what are the duties and responsibilities that we are to be asked to undertake. The noble Duke who spoke last reminded the House that it seemed probable that the Act of 1882, under which all lords-lieutenant and deputy-lieutenants were appointed, would shortly become obsolete and lapse. We ought to know what is to come next, and, in regard especially to deputy-lieutenants, whether their acceptance of office implies the acceptance of any obligations, and, if so, by whom those obligations are to be enforced. There is a clause in the Act of 1882—Clause 30—under which the services of the deputy-lieutenants can be dispensed with. The number of deputy-lieutenants has been recently limited in proportion to the population of the counties, and a great many of them are gentlemen who, owing to age or infirmity, would probably be unwilling to undertake any further public duty. Is this dispensing clause to be put into operation? Are any number of these gentlemen to be asked to resign? and, if so, is it proposed to fill up the positions and to confer the statusof deputy-lieutenant on all future members of the County Association? If deputy-lieutenants are to exercise any more than the purely honorary functions which they do at present, I think that is a thing which might very well be done.
Then going on to the County Associations, the first part of Clause 1 empowers the creation of County Associations in 1068 any county in the United Kingdom. What is to happen in Ireland? The Militia are to be part of the Regular Forces, and the only Territorial Forces in Ireland will be a couple of Yeomanry regiments something less than 900 strong. Gentlemen who are lieutenants of Irish counties and deputy-lieutenants would be glad to know whether Associations are to be established all over Ireland to provide for something under 1,000 men; and if not, if counties are to be grouped for that purpose, what is to be the position of the lieutenants of the counties so grouped. Further on, in Section 3, it says the schemes are to provide for the date of the establishment of the Associations. It would be of great interest if the noble Lord or somebody speaking from that side would tell us presently whether associations are to be established next year as soon as the Act comes into operation, or whether there is any truth in the rumour that prevailed not very long ago that the experiment was to be tried first of all only in certain selected counties.
The next sub-clause says that the Army Council may constitute the lieutenant of the county or such other person as they think fit to be president of the Association. We should like to know whether the discretionary power given to the Army Council is intended only to cover the cases of lords-lieutenant who, owing to age or infirmity or to holding high office, or possibly to-absence abroad in the Governorship of a Colony, are unable to undertake the presidency, or whether the Army Council will pick and choose in this matter and be entitled to say: "This gentleman is good enough for the King, but he is not good enough for us to put in a position of authority in his county." The word used is "constituted," which is different from the phrase employed elsewhere throughout the Bill. Chairmen are to be appointed; members of the association are to be appointed; the secretary is to be appointed; but the president is to be constituted. I do not know whether it is more than a verbal accident, but it would be interesting to know whether the office is to be held for life or for a term of years, or up to a certain age, or during good behaviour. I would also 1069 ask what powers and responsibilities the president of a County Association will have. Will the position be analogous to that of a patron of a hospital or of a charity bazaar, or is he really to be a working man on the Association, though not possibly the chairman? Will he be allowed to vote? Will he be allowed to resign if he cannot get on with his colleagues? If he resigns, which and how many of his duties as lord-lieutenant, apart from his duties as custos rotulorum,will he retain? Judging from a subsequent clause of the Bill, it appears to be the intention to substitute the president of the association for the lord-lieutenant, for certain purposes at any rate, because Clause 7, which is almost a verbatim copy of Clause 6 of the Militia Act, transfers to the president, subject to directions which may be given by His Majesty, the power of first appointments in the Territorial Forces. These are all points on which I hope we may get some information later.
Then there is the question of the numbers and composition of the Association. We are told that not less than one-half of the Association is to be composed of representatives of the various branches of the Territorial Forces within the county. That in some counties might mean a very numerous Association indeed, because units are numerous and there is generally a healthy jealousy between them. I cannot conceive that Sir Howard Vincent, for instance, would be satisfied that the Queen's West-ministers were properly represented on any Association by any other Volunteer colonel than himself. There is a further point in connection with the composition of the Associations, which is a very important one. There are to be co-opted members, representative of the interests of employers and workmen. I take it that members of a great trade union and of such Associations as the Miners' Federation would be eligible and probably very desirable members of the association in their respective counties. But what about the employees in His Majesty's arsenals? There are. a great many of them at Plymouth, in the county with which I have the honour to be connected. It has been suggested rather than declared, I think, that men employed 1070 in arsenals are not to be eligible in future as members of Volunteer corps. I think that may be a very sound idea, for it is evident enough that in cases of pressure or imminent invasion they would all be wanted in the arsenals and would not be available as fighting mm; but that again is a matter upon which I hope we may receive some information.
A more important point is as to the appointment of chairmen and vice-chairmen. Who is to appoint them? Are they to be elected by the Association or are they to be appointed by head-quarters? And is the lord-lieutenant if president to be eligible to be chairman or not? What powers will he have in regard to the summoning of meetings and for ensuring attendance at them? These matters may all be provided for in the scheme under subhead (j) (3) of this clause; but they require consideration, because if more than one half of the Association are to be officers and commanding officers of territorial units, it is plain that at certain seasons of the year, and still more at any time of pressure or danger, it would be very difficult for these gentlemen to attend, and all the work of the Association would have to be carried on by the remaining members.
Then there is another section which says that counties may be divided. In such an event what will be the position of the president or the lord-lieutenant? Will he be universal president, a sort of connecting link between the Associations? And what especially will be his position in great manufacturing counties, where, I suppose, as in the case of Yorkshire and Lancashire, a great number of subordinate associations will of necessity be set up? Will the president of the central County Association have any status in connection with the associations of the great cities within his county, such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, and the like?
My Lords, I do not wish to take up the time of the House on Clause 2, though I may say that it seems to me to err rather in the direction of over-centralisation. I think that such matters as the provision of horses for the peace requirements of the regiment, and the safe custody of arms and equipment should be left much 1071 more to the commanding officer of the unit than to the County Association in the county town. I doubt whether those who prepared this Bill quite realise how many square miles companies and squadrons are sometimes spread over, and probably they do not appreciate the difficulty there will be in connection with squad drills and occasional drills in getting arms or saddlery for the instruction of the men unless the commanding officers are allowed to keep them at convenient centres where their men and officers can get at them.
A more important point arises in connection with Clause 3, where we are, told that the Army Council is to pay to the association such sums as they think may be required. We have had very little information indeed, and very little was given in the other House, on this important matter of finance. Are we to expect that a block grant, calculated on the strength of the Territorial Forces in the county, will be assigned to each Association to be dispensed under the proper heads in much the same way as the commanding officer of Yeomanry or Volunteers now is allowed to spend his contingent grant? And if the money granted by the Government is not adequate or seems inadequate, will a County Association be expected to take round the hat to obtain what is necessary to make up the deficiency? I think in one of his speeches Mr. Haldane hinted at local funds being forthcoming to supplement this grant. There are certain purposes for which I think people would be ready enough to subscribe locally in connection with the forces within their county. Such matters as prizes for rifle shooting, I am sure, might be provided by local effort; but I do not think people would be inclined to put their hands in their pockets for things which in their opinion should more properly be paid for out of taxation. I think that Associations and those connected with them would be likely to be put in a very false position if they were obliged to come forward and say to the residents in their county: "The Government do not allow enough for the necessities of the Yeomanry, or the Artillery and Infantry who are recruited from among us, and we, therefore, have to appeal to you to supplement your taxes by 1072 voluntary contributions in providing the men, for instance, with serviceable greatcoats." Of course, we did that very largely at the time of the South African war, but that was a different thing, and I do not think, if this scheme is to succeed, it would be desirable to make anything of the sort either necessary or possible in the future.
There is another point which concerns only a few of us, but which I hope I may be pardoned for mentioning now, because there is no particular clause in the Bill on which it arises. The Secretary of State indicated that when the Bill was in operation each group of regimental districts would have to find the equivalent of a division. How does that apply to groups of regimental districts in which great arsenals like Plymouth and Portsmouth, and in a lesser degree Dover and Chatham, are situated? As it happens, both Ports-mouth and Plymouth are within the same group of regimental districts—the Western Counties. Shall we be expected in that district to find a whole division and to contribute towards the number of men required to garrison Portsmouth and Plymouth besides? I am not aware what the military estimates of the requirements of those two great arsenals might be, but it is obvious that if the western group has to find those garrisons in addition to a division, it will put a very much heavier burden upon them than will be put by the same Act on counties in the eastern or central portions of England. I do not know whether any allowance is likely to be made in connection with the Territorial quota which the districts have to find in the matter of recruits for the Navy, but I find that last year the county of Hampshire alone provided one-eighth of all the recruits for the Naval service, and Devonshire provided 545, which is nearly five time as many as the whole of Wales together. It is only 500 odd, but even put so it is a matter deserving of some consideration before it is decided exactly what burden is to be laid on each part of the country.
I hope my noble friend will not think that I have asked these questions or made these suggestions in any captious spirit. I can say speak for myself and I am 1073 sure I can say also for others who hold the posts of lieutenants of counties, that our only wish will be to accept loyally any duties that are put upon us, and to do our best to the utmost of our ability to make the scheme a success. But I think we are entitled to some further information than we have yet had as to the duties and responsibilities which will be put upon us, and I hope the Government will not turn a deaf ear to any suggestions in regard to those duties, when we know what they are, which our knowledge and experience of local government lead us to make.
My Lords, I wish to associate myself with what my noble friend the Duke of Bedford has already stated on that part of the Bill which concerns the Militia, but I desire at the same time to express my extreme gratification that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War has been able to see his way to come to a compromise with regard to the Militia, and I trust it will be an honest endeavour to save that old constitutional force from final extinction. Anyone conversant with military matters cannot fail to realise that the abolition or practical destruction of the Militia would be a grave national disaster. If the Militia had been included as originally intended in the organisation of the Territorial Army it would undoubtedly have been no more, and I think, when were member the great services that have been rendered to this country by the Militia in the past, and that those great services have been rendered voluntarily, your Lordships will agree that the Militia deserve greater consideration at the hands of His Majesty's Government than was proposed in the first instance.
It has been stated by my noble friend the Duke of Bedford that the Secretary of State when introducing this Bill in the other House stated that his reason for taking this unfortunate step in regard to the Militia was the fact that the Militia commanding officers had refused to agree to the supplying of drafts to the line battalions in time of war, and thereby endeavoured to east the whole burden of blame upon the shoulders of the Militia officers. As a Militia commanding officer I most emphatically repudiate such a 1074 charge. I regret that such a misleading statement was made, for I have yet to learn that the Militia have ever refused to carry out anything that was demanded of them. If the Militia commanding| officers have erred—and I do not admit that they have—in offering opinions or making suggestions which were not. in agreement with the views of the Army Council, I maintain that they have done so in order to preserve the integrity of their regiments. And I think they were fully justified in so doing, when we remember that the Secretary of State for War, in making his first military speech in the House of Commons, said with regard to the Militia that he agreed that the present condition of the Militia, was not satisfactory, but that he attributed that to no fault of their own, but to the fact that no definite function had ever been assigned to them, and that he in the future would see that they were not bled while in order to provide the line battalions with its strength in time of war. After a pronouncement such as that I venture to think that Militia commanding officers were not so un-reasonable as has been suggested in proposing that, if the Militia were enlisted for service across the seas, they should be allowed to go out to the scene of action in units of battalions for duties for which they have hitherto offered themselves whenever in the past invited to do so, and which they have done to the advantage of the country and the credit of their own honour. It is now made perfectly clear, however, to the Militia that these proposals will not be sanctioned by His Majesty's Government, and I venture to think that rather than sign their own death warrant they will accept any reasonable concessions that may be offered to them and sink some of their wishes for the sake of the public good.
I gather from the statement of my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State for War that the basis of the proposed concessions means that the Militia, instead of being split up in the Territorial Army, and thereby being finally ruined, are to go over en bloc to the Regular Army—to use Mr. Haldane's phrase, "lock, stock and barrel"—in order to provide the line battalions with third battalions and fourth battalions, 1075 and to find drafts in time of war and for other services. It must be perfectly plain to everyone that the present Militia service becomes absolutely obsolete, for it is proposed that out of the whole Militia service only twenty-seven battalions are really to remain on the Militia basis, but to serve under the Army Act. I should like to ask one of the noble Lords opposite who will shortly answer the different questions that have been put, why it is that out of these twenty-seven battalions, twelve are to be Irish, and only fifteen from England and Scotland? The worst point in Mr. Haldane's latest proposal with regard to the Militia to my mind is that concerning the officers. The officer question of recent years has been a difficult one for commanding officers to surmount. The great question to my mind is whether the Militia officer will be forthcoming in the future when he realises that he is never to attain the rank of field officer in his regiment, and that when he attains the age of thirty-five he is to be transferred to the Army reserve. I trust that the noble Earl who represents the War Office in this House will appeal to the Secretary of State to pause before he makes such a drastic change so unfavourable to Militia officers, who by devotion and great energy have rendered military service in conjunction with their civil employment, and who, if they can prove they can make themselves efficient in the future, should have better treatment meted out to them than is proposed.
In making these remarks I trust that it will not be inferred that I am actuated by any hostile spirit. I am putting them forward merely as an expression of criticism, for I am fully aware that all questions with regard to the Army and Navy are treated in this House at least in a purely national and not a Party spirit, and I feel sure that that will always continue to be so. Never the less I maintain that full discussion of this Bill is of vital importance to the people of this country, for their security as a nation depends upon a proper comprehension of its principles, and unless every part of the Bill is fully and freely discussed the nation will, at some future time, find itself committed to a policy which it will be difficult to revoke.
THE EARL OF SCARBROUGH
My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just sat down dealt with the case of the Militia, and, without any intention of going into the questions of principle involved, I should like to say a word on the scheme which I understand will be the outcome of the passing of this Bill from the point of view of the Yeomanry. As I understand the Bill, its main objects are, first, to provide a large expeditionary force of 167,000 men for immediate service in the field; secondly, to maintain that force for an indefinite period in the field in case of emergency; and, thirdly, to make adequate provision for home defence. In order to attain these objects the Secretary of State for War is obliged to have recourse for each and all of them to the Auxiliary Forces, and the Militia, the Yeomanry, and the Volunteers are all called upon to make considerable sacrifices. I understand that at the last moment the role which the Militia are asked to fill has been completely changed, and they will be installed in what I venture to think is their proper place, viz., as a real support to the first line. But that entails an oversea obligation and other obligations which are not altogether palatable to the force, and I do not see how under this latest proposal you are going to lift that force from the position in which it now stands of being 1,000 officers and nearly 30,000 men short of its establishment. It will be interesting to know how His Majesty's Government hope to be able to maintain even its present attenuated strength under the additional obligations which they intend to impose.
As regards the Yeomanry, that force is asked to sacrifice its present position, which in many respects is practically that of mounted Militia. They are asked to allow themselves to be absorbed in the Territorial Force under the administration of a local civil authority; they are to suffer a drastic reduction in pay, and, consequently, to undergo considerable unnecessary discomforts at their annual training. They are, nevertheless, asked to increase their efficiency, and to provide fourteen squadrons, which is roughly a troop for every regiment, in order to provide the Expeditionary Force with divisional cavalry 1077 for service in the field. Speaking on behalf of the force as a whole, I am confident that, as in the past, whatever role the military authorities and Parliament decide the Yeomanry shall fill, they will do their best to carry it out. But the Secretary of State for War was good enough some time ago to ask the opinion of Yeomanry commanding officers as to the effect this scheme would have on the force, and with this object a meeting of commanding officers was held last April. Fifty-two out of fifty-six regiments of Yeomanry were represented, and the officers present felt it their duty to come to certain conclusions. With your Lordships' permission I should like to read to the House the conclusions to which they came. They were as follows—This meeting of Imperial Yeomanry colonels, representing fifty-two regiments out of the total number of fifty-six, while ready as soldiers loyally to carry out the scheme of re-organisation submitted by the Secretary of State and approved by the Army Council, should such scheme receive the sanction of Parliament, nevertheless think it their duty to place on record the following conclusions at which they have arrived: —That they agree that owing to lack of organisation the force is unable to take the field; they therefore welcome the proposal to perfect the organisation, and to provide the necessary staffs and administrative services to put them in n, better position to do so.That they believe, however, that so long as the nation is content to rely on the voluntary system for the defence of the Empire, that system must, be varied to meet the different needs of the various classes of men willing to serve.They are consequently of opinion that to merge the Imperial Yeomanry into the proposed Territorial Army purely for Homo De-fence administered by a local civil authority, is a retrograde step calculated to impair its usefulness and efficiency, to reduce its numbers, and to destroy its character.That understanding that the main object of reform of the Auxiliary Forces is to provide for expansion of the Regular Army in time of war, they regret that the terms of enlistment do not include the obligation to serve over-seas, in case of national emergency, as suggested by the Yeomanry colonels at. their meeting in July last, which suggestion received the warm approval of the Secretary of State, and which, if carried out, would have preserved the force as at present constituted under control of the central military authority.That as regards the details of the scheme they are strongly of opinion that to drastically cut down the pay of the force, at the same time requiring a higher standard of efficiency, will have a disastrous effect, and that it is only by liberal treatment in peace time that men of the class from which the Yeomanry are now drawn will be induced to accept the proposed oblign- 1078 tion to servo at Army rates during embodiment in time of war.They submit that a knowledge of riding, and of the care of horses, which a yeoman is usually possessed of on joining, is an asset worth paying for, and that the practical difference between a yeoman who has a horse to look after (which he frequently owns) and saddlery to clean, and a rifleman who has neither, justifies additional remuneration.They protest strongly against any reduction in the period of the annual training, and also against the abolition of Regular adjutants and any reduction of the permanent staff.As a result of these representations and of the representations which have been made in another place considerable modifications have been introduced. In the first place, I understand the Regular adjutants and the permanent staff are not to be interfered with, at present at any rate. Then it appears that we are to have what might be called a period of grace; that is to say, it is hoped that regiments will be preserved more or less intact for a period of three years from the passing of the Bill; recruits are to be allowed to be taken for the usual period of three years on existing terms and conditions, down to the moment when the unit is transferred to the Territorial Army, and in like manner non-commissioned officers are to be allowed to re-engage on existing terms and conditions for the same period. That concession is undoubtedly a very useful one, and I hope that before the Bill passes into law, it will be extended to privates also who are willing to re-engage, for this reason—it is to our minds essential during the transition period, when it is possible an emergency might arise, that regiments should not be denuded of most of their best men—that is to say, men who have completed their first term of service and who do not care to re-engage under the new terms.
Then there is the question of the reduction of men. Commanding officers regard it as essential, in order to maintain the efficiency of the force, that recruits in the future should come from the same class as are serving in the regiments today. If you cease to attract the class who are attracted to-day, you will cease to obtain men who have a knowledge of riding and of the care of horses, and if you lose that asset, which is a valuable one, by shutting the door on the yeoman of to-day, it is absolutely impossible that you can 1079 hope to attain anything like the same degree of efficiency in the allotted period of training. An illustration of that is to be found, as the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies will remember, in the evidence given before the War Commission of the very marked difference between the first, second, and third contingents of the Imperial Yeomanry in the South African War. The noble Earl opposite, the Under-Secretary for War, has himself this evening laid stress on the fact that the Territorial Army, it is hoped, will be recruited from the more intelligent classes, and that therefore they will be the more quickly trained. But I wish to point out that there is very grave risk of our losing this class altogether under the scheme as it stands. I believe it to be the fact that the yeoman of to-day, speaking generally, has no desire to make money by his service. He is willing to undergo hard work and to submit to discipline, provided he incurs no expense and is made tolerably comfortable. On that basis he would probably undertake greater obligations than at present. But if you want patriotism in peace time under a voluntary system you must differentiate between the classes who are willing to serve and recognise their reasonable requirements and then they will be perfectly willing to serve out the same terms as regulars in time of war. Mounted troops, when undergoing training, have a great deal of extra work to perform compared with the Infantry-men. They have their horses to look after, and their saddlery to clean, and it is reasonable that extra work should receive some recognition. Again, for the same reason, on account of the extra work, it is necessary that the feeding of the men should be done on the catering system, either regimentally or by contract. That costs money, and I understand that the Secretary of State for War has so far recognised that as to give a messing allowance amounting to 1s. a head in addition to the 6d. ration. We submit that that is not sufficient, and we hope that before the Bill passes into law an addition will be made to it. so that the men may receive the same substantial comforts that they are at present receiving without cost to themselves.
There is one other point, and that is in regard to the fourteen squadrons which 1080 it is asked shall be furnished for service with the Expeditionary Force. It appears that these men are to be enlisted as special reservists under Part III. of the Bill. If the Yeomanry regiments are to be responsible for these officers and men, I hope it may be possible for them to be obtained under Part II., Clause 12, of the Bill, that is to say, that they should actually belong to, and volunteer from, their units, that they should undertake special service for the specified period, whatever it may be—three years I understand—and then come back and be absorbed into their original units, where they will naturally be of considerable value owing to the higher training they have received. In any other way it seems to me there will be a very poor response to the call for these special service men. I would like to point out that although these fourteen squadrons are to be enlisted for service over-sea, there is absolutely no provision of any kind made for maintaining them in the field in the event of their services being required. The whole of the rest of the force is to be enlisted for Home defence. There is no provision as far as mounted troops are concerned for any expansion beyond the Regular Army. Yet it is one of the vital points insisted on by the Royal Commission. It was on realising this fact that last year the commanding officers of Yeomanry suggested to the Secretary of State that in future the Yeomanry as well as the Militia should be enlisted for over-sea service in case of national emergency. But there is no provision of the kind in this scheme. We know that three months after the outbreak of the South African War then; was an urgent demand for 10,000 additional mounted troops. If a similar emergency occurred to-morrow a similar demand would undoubtedly arise, and we should find ourselves in the same position that we were in in 1899 of having to rely entirely on the patriotism of the moment.
I cannot understand how in preparing mobilisation schemes the General Stall are able to deal with this great question. They cannot count on a single man with any certainty, So as far as I can see the scheme as it stands is merely a speculative alternative. Men are enlisted for one service and asked in emergency to volunteer for another, and at the 1081 best the nation will be spending largo sums annually in training a force for war which in the supreme moment may only be very partially available to support the army in the field. By the Militia being transferred to the Regular side the Infantry of the Expeditionary Force obtain an adequate reserve. But the Cavalry have none, and it seems to me that ultimately the role of the Yeomanry should be to perform for the Regular Cavalry in case of national emergency more or less similar services to those the Militia are now to be called upon to perform for the Regular Infantry. I know that the difficulties of adequate training to fit them for that purpose are great and will prove a serious obstacle, but I hope the possibility will not be lost sight of. I believe the Yeomanry themselves will be willing to do their utmost to fulfil such obligation if put upon them. We in the Yeomanry cannot pretend to like this; scheme, but at the same time we recognize, that in some respects it is a step in the right direction, more particularly in bringing cohesion to the Auxiliary Forces and in providing the necessary staff and administrative; services to enable them to take the field. If the scheme had stopped there we should have been all the better pleased, because in other respects we apprehend that it will discourage recruiting and endanger the character of the force as it exists to-day. But His Majesty's Government may be quite sure that in whatever form the Bill becomes law the Yeomanry will do their utmost to see that it has a fair trial.
I should like to say a few words on this Bill from the point of view of a layman. I propose to deal with it on very broad issues and not to go into detail. In the first place, I desire to congratulate the Secretary of State for War upon the splendid testimonial which has been given to his scheme on the whole by the noble Field Marshal on the cross benches. The noble and gallant Earl has said that it is a patchwork scheme. Of that I am aware. But he adds that it is the best patchwork-scheme that could have been produced for the money, and that it has been very carefully thought out. I understand that negotiations are going on with regard to the Militia, and I hope that 1082 those negotiations will have a successful issue. The noble Earl on the cross benches said that the scheme has been well thought out. No doubt it is the result of very great thought and care, but I think I shall be able to show your Lordships that there are some points on which it has not been particularly well thought out.
First, with regard to what the duties of this Territorial Army are to be, there are two views as to the duties of Volunteers. One view is that the duty of the volunteer is to defend his hearth and home, and the other is that he is to be a sort of second Army reserve. To a great extent this question of Army organisation hinges on whether you take the one view or the other of the volunteer, and the extent to which you take that view. The size of the Regular Army that we must have to meet our needs depends to a very great extent on its power of expansion, because, as Mr. Balfour has said, we shall always have a certain time allowed us in which we can get together our reinforcements. We shall very likely have six months. In six months a soldier can be made from the very beginning. The Times the other day said that no less an authority than Napoleon declared that if you only had willing, intelligent men you could turn them in six weeks into soldiers who could fight and do themselves credit in the first line. Therefore it is a most vital point to determine how many troops you want in these islands to protect us against invasion, because the fewer troops you want here, the more you can expand your Regular Army. Consequently the question hinge s to a very great extent upon how far you are, or are not, in accord with the blue-water school. The noble Viscount Lord Midleton asked whether the Front Bench of this side adhered to the blue-water school, but he did not get any reply. I am not surprised at that, because it is very difficult to say whether the Front Bench do or do not adhere to the blue-water school. I need not say any more about the great importance of the expansion of the British Army, because it was very fully acknowledged by Mr. Haldane in his first speech as.Secretary of State for War in the House 1083 of Commons on 8th May last year. He then said—The first thing we want is absolutely clear thinking "—I suppose we shall all agree with that,we want absolutely clear thinking about the purposes for which the Array exists, and the principles on which it should be organised.It seems to me that it was a little arrogant on the part of the Secretary of State to imagine that nobody before him had thought it necessary to have clear thinking on the question of the Army. It was, I think, rather an unmerited slur upon his predecessors in office to suggest that they had not endeavoured at all events to bring clear thinking to bear on these problems. It was also a slur upon his own chief, the present Prime Minister, who not very long ago was Secretary of State for War. Mr. Haldane announced this proposition with the air of a man who has made a great discovery—an astronomer, for instance, who has discovered a new planet, or a man of science who has discovered a new metal or a new gas. Mr. Haldane went on to apply this principle of clear thinking. He said that by clear thinking he had found the bed-rock on which Army organisation ought to rest. That bed-rock was this—that England is an island, and that the Fleet is sufficient to safeguard our shores. The whole burden of his song throughout was "England is an island." He talked about "this island," and I think your Lordships, if you look at the speech, will find that the word "island" occurs more often than any other. He quoted with approval Mr. Balfour's statement of 11th May, 1905, that the serious invasion of these islands is not an eventuality we need seriously consider. The Secretary of State also quoted with approbation Mr. Arnold-Forster's statement that to land 5,000 or 10,000 troops would be madness on the part of a foreigner, that they would all be cut up and not one of them would get back. Mr. Haldane then said that in our immunity from invasion—we have the bed-rock fact for the organisation of our defence. If we provide against the contingency of that being wrong we shall have to provide against various other contingencies overwhelming in their number and complexity. …. If the Army is not wanted for home 1084 defence then its size is something that is capable of being calculated."And he adds that he looks to the Militia and Volunteers to reduce the size of the striking force. He says also that the Volunteers are not likely to be called upon to defend their hearths and home. but to come to the assistance of the Regular Army in other ways.
After these pronouncements it is not at all surprising that Mr. Haldane was claimed as an out and out supporter of the blue-water school. Mr. Arthur Lee, for instance, in the House of Commons, said that although he belonged to the blue water-school he did not go so far as Mr. Haldane; while Major Evans Gordon said that if Mr. Haldane was correct in his views about our immunity from invasion there was no use at all for the Volunteers, and that they would become as obsolete as Lord Palmerston's fortifications. The matter was put even more picturesquely in this House by the noble Earl Lord Wemyss, who said that Mr. Balfour and Mr. Haldane were both swimming about in blue water. What was the Secretary of State's answer—a very strange answer it was—to that. He said—They could not justify the keeping up of the Volunteers if they were out and out for the blue-water school, but this nation was governed as Mr. Disraeli once said, not by logic but by Parliament As long as Parliament remained Parliament, this country would never be logical.That was rather a strange thing to be said by a man who only a few days before-had declared that the one thing necessary for the Army was clear thinking.
The whole bed-rock of his organisation has disappeared, and we have instead merely shifting sands. We hear no more about England being an island, the hearth and home business is gradually brought to the front. On 12th July, Mr. Haldane stated that the functions of the Volunteers were, first, to do garrison duty; some 140,000 Infantry, 8,000 Yeomanry, and 9,000 other men were to do garrison duty; secondly, to repel raids; and, thirdly, to be a second reserve for the Army. It was pointed out by Mr. Balfour and others in the House of Commons that only 170,000 persons were required for garrison duties and to repel raids, and that consequently there were 1085 70,000 or 80,000 of the Territorial Army not accounted for. In answer to that M. Haldane said—It is a duty cast upon the Volunteers in the last emergency to defend their hearths and homos.And on 25th February, of this year Mr. Haldane had come to the conclusion that—Raids might be serious things, and it is always possible that a considerable force might be got over.Then on 4th March last he went a step further away from the blue-water school, and said—The primary purpose of the Territorial Army is to defend our shores. The force is essentially a home defence force …. they can go abroad if they wish, but the scheme and provision is for a force for homo defence, and it is upon that basis that the Bill is framed.It appears to me that the Secretary of State has absolutely boxed the compass. His first refrain was: "England is an island; our fleet is sufficient protection. "This, he said, is the bed-rock of our scheme. His second refrain is that the primary purpose of the Territorial Army is to defend our shores. "This," he said," is the basis of our plan." Why has there been this stampede on the part of the right hon. Gentleman from the blue-water school? I think Mr. Arnold Forster supplied the reason when he said—All who have endeavoured to recruit men for the Auxiliary Forces knew that the defence of the soil argument was the principal incentive to volunteer service. It was unwise to take away that great inducement to volunteer service.Mr. Winston Churchill said the same, and so did Mr. Ramsay Macdonald from the Labour benches, while Mr. Keir-Hardie said—Men would have no objection to train them-solves to defend their hearths and homos, but they would not desire to be placed in a position in which, when war broke out, they would be practically compelled to serve abroad.Then I would ask the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State to consider for a moment what duties arc to be placed on the Volunteers, and whether those duties could really be done by them in time of war. I can quite understand that in time of peace Volunteers would be willing to go through a certain amount of garrison duty; they would be willing to play at repelling raids, and so on. But when war broke out. when England was 1086 in difficulties, when she wanted to send her last man to the front, does anybody suppose that the Volunteers who had learnt their duty sufficiently to be available in the first line, would be content with garrison duty, with loafing about on the shore on the off chance of some raid or invasion? We all know what the Volunteer would do. He would immediately volunteer to go to the front and he would go, and we should be very glad for him to do so. Therefore, it appears to me that, although you elaborately train your Volunteer to do these various things, in point of fact when an emergency arises he will not be the man to do them. Somebody else will do them. Civilians or persons very imperfectly trained will perhaps do garrison duties; but, depend upon it, your 170,000 Volunteers who are told off for garrison duties and to repel raids will go to the front. So what occurs to me is this. The Volunteer organisation will not work on the lines laid down in the Bill. It is, to use a classic phrase, an "organised hypocrisy." What we do is to inveigle a man into the ranks of the Volunteers by telling him that he will have to defend his hearth and home, but we do not intend that he shall defend his hearth and home, we know that the will not be called upon to do so; what we do mean is that he shall be a part of the Army Reserve and go to the front. That is perfectly right, but I think at the same time that the Volunteer ought to be treated with perfect honesty in the matter.
It seems also that besides the potential Volunteer there is another part of the British public who are unfairly treated in this scheme, and that is the British taxpayer. The British taxpayer is asked to pay for a larger Expeditionary Force than is in many people's judgment necessary. He is asked to pay for it on the plea that you cannot denude England of troops, that you must have a large number of well-trained troops to repel a raid or an invasion. But when we are telling the British taxpayer that, what we hope and expect is that these men will not be used to repel raids; a good many of us do not, think they are necessary to repel raids which will never occur. Our hope and expectation is that when 1087 the stress comes they will join the Regular Army.
In conclusion I would like to say that from my point of view I discern one bright spot in the Secretary of State's scheme. I am afraid the noble and gallant Field Marshal on the cross benches will not agree with me—and that is that the Secretary of State has set his face like flint against anything in the nature of compulsion, whether for service at home or for service oversea. I think he is perfectly right. I entirely agree with Major See when he says that compulsory service saps the spirit of self-sacrifice. If you compel a man to serve at home, he will not be willing to serve abroad; he will give you what you compel him to give, but he will not give you anything else. I think that is profound human nature, and if in this supremely important matter the Secretary of State stands to his guns, as I hope and believe he will, he will have done a great deal to deserve the gratitude of the country.
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
My Lords, like the noble Lord who has just addressed you I approach this question purely as a civilian. I approach it with reluctance in an Assembly containing so many men distinguished both by their achievements and by their knowledge of matters military, but perhaps I have had rather closer touch with the realities of war than many civilians. I have stood on the brink of and looked into the black abyss of national disaster, and the lessons which that experience taught me I shall carry with me to the grave. I have seen this country with its 40,000,000 of people, and the Empire behind it with some 12,000,000 or 15,000,000 more of the same race, engaged in a struggle with a small people about one-hundredth of their number, and on the brink of defeat. And what made that experience bitterest of all was the thought that it was wholly unnecessary; that this country had immense resources in men, brave, patriotic, and willing, and yet at the critical moment it could only just muster a sufficient number to pull through. That experience impressed upon me for my lifetime the fact that you cannot improvise soldiers, and that no amount of patriotism, 1088 willingness, or devotion will save a militarily untrained nation from disaster in any great struggle.
I should have hesitated to have addressed your Lordships to-night, but for two reasons. One is that those who agree with me on the question of compulsory service—I fear we are but a small number in this House, but we are a growing body in the nation—have been directly challenged by the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for War. I do not know why he directed so much attention to this puny body of adversaries, unless it was that he felt a little happier in dealing with those generalities with which it is possible to attack the position of the advocates of compulsory service than in dealing with some of the details of the complicated scheme which he was expounding. Be that as it may, I feel bound to say a few words in reply to some of the points which he raised against us. But there is another reason, and that is I have been asked and pressed to speak by the noble and gallant Earl Lord Roberts, who is my leader on this question. I recognise him as my captain and obey his orders, though I sincerely wish he had a more able lieutenant. I will do this at the bidding of the noble Earl, not only because I recollect the day when he came out to South Africa and turned disaster into victory, which alone would have entitled him to my willing obedience in all questions of this kind, but because, if I may say so without disrespect, I feel when listening to the noble and gallant Earl on this subject that I am breathing a different atmosphere from that which prevails when even the ablest and most experienced of those distinguished statesmen who have to deal with military questions in the country are addressing us. It seems to me that the noble Earl keeps continually before him and is always pressing towards two vital points, viz., our requirements and our capacities, which are the only two points which in my opinion profoundly matter; whereas all others who deal with this question, however great the ability and experience which they bring to bear upon it, never get beyond certain given conditions which have no foundation in the nature 1089 and essence of things, and are more or less accidental—I mean the existing objection on the part of perhaps the majority, at any rate of large classes, of the people to citizen service, and the idea of a given number of millions which we have drifted into regarding as a sort of generally admitted figure round which our military expenditure is bound to revolve.
When I consider how different has been the experience of many of our most distinguished statesmen at the War Office from their experience anywhere else, when I have seen one man after another, who in every other public office or public duty which he has filled or discharged has achieved great distinction, attempting in succession the task of reforming our military system, and not one emerging from the ordeal with increased credit, I do not believe for a moment that it can be the fault of those distinguished men. Why should they always be less successful as Secretaries of State for War than in any other capacity? The fault lies in the fact that we are trying to deal with this question on an impossible basis, and we shall continue to fail as long as we try to deal with it on that basis. Given the necessities of the British Empire, given the vast responsibility for defence which it imposes upon us, I am firmly convinced that you cannot produce any satisfactory military scheme if you are going to be bound by the two rigid limits of Volunteer service and an expenditure of something like £28,000,000 of money. We shall go on from failure to failure unless we recognise that fundamental condition of things.
Do we approach the question of our naval defence in this spirit? Attention has been called to-night to the fact that the Naval Estimates at one time circled round ten or eleven millions, and they have become £36,000,000—reduced now, I believe, to £30,000,000. Why was it that the nation, which at one time would not agree to spend more than £11,000,000 on the Navy, accepted and accepts with readiness this much larger sum? Because the question of naval defence has once for all been put upon an intelligible basis, because it has been approached from the point of view of a reasoned and 1090 thought-out consideration of our requirements. Nothing of the kind is ever attempted—at any rate officially—in connection with the requirements for the defence of the Empire on land. If we were to approach the matter from the point of view of our requirements I do not believe that it would involve so enormous an increase of expenditure, but I have always admitted that some increase would be necessary. We should, however, find that it involves a number of men which we can never hope to get on the present basis. Only numbers far larger than are contemplated by Mr. Haldane's expeditionary force, and far larger than any British statesman has ever dared face, would really suffice to defend this State and Empire in contingencies which are far from improbable. It is because the noble and gallant Field Marshal continually and courageously strives to make his countrymen realise these facts and deal with the subject on the fundamental ground of what is really necessary for the defence of the Empire, instead of for ever arguing upon certain given more or less accidental data which have been conventionally accepted by both Parties in politics—sit is for that reason he appeals on this question to his countrymen as I believe no other statesman of to-day appeals, and is producing an effect upon the people of the extent of which I believe political leaders are at present very little aware.
I wish to be as brief as possible, but I should like to reply shortly to some of the arguments addressed to us by the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of the Bill. I am not sure that I shall cover the ground of all his objections, but I will deal with the most important. One objection which he took, and it is a common one, was that any system of universal military training and service, such as is advocated by the National Service League, would provide us with a much larger Army than we need for home defence, and would not provide what after all we most need, viz., the power of expansion for our Expeditionary Army in case of a serious war abroad. I think that is a fair statement of one of the noble Earl's arguments. But that is an argument which 1091 comes strangely from the noble Earl, representing as he does in this House a Secretary of State who has dwelt with emphasis over and over again and has defended his whole plan principally on the ground of the importance of having such a force in this country as would enable us greatly to expand our Army abroad in the event of any really serious danger to the Empire, That is the whole justification of the "Nation in Arms" for which the Secretary of State has made such eloquent appeals.
Let me say how this question strikes me. I consider that we are killing two birds with one stone. I do not believe that we are so safe in this country either from raids or from serious invasion as some noble Lords assume. I believe there is a great deal of the best military opinion on my side, and as long as there is any serious military opinion in favour of the possibility not only of a raid but of a really dangerous invasion, I for my part decline to have anything to do with running the tearful risk of being as unprepared to meet it as we are to-day. Against any serious invasion We require numbers such as the system we advocate alone Would give. But there is a great deal more in it than that. The existence of a large body of really trained men in this country would give a freedom to our Regular Army which it does not at present possess, because a certain number under present circumstances will always be retained here. Most important of all, it would give to our Fleet a freedom of action which would at least double its effective usefulness in time of war. There is nothing more serious in our present state of Military unpreparedness at home than the cramping effect which it would have on the action of our Fleet. The first principle of naval strategy, whether we belong to the blue-water school or not, is that the Fleet should be free to go and seek out the enemy's Fleet and destroy it. Can any one who knows the state of public opinion in this country realise what the effect of the absence of the Fleet from these shores with an enemy possibly threatening them would be? Can anybody believe that the boldest Secretary of State would venture to send the Fleet where he ought to send it in case of war with any great Power, as long as we had not such 1092 an Army or at any rate such an armed force in this country as would put any danger of invasion out of the question? The existence of a trained nation here would in the first place give far greater effectiveness to our Regular Army, and it would also give far greater effectiveness to our Fleet.
But no doubt the greatest point of all is that, if we had here a trained nation, if we had what the Secretary of State has indicated, viz., a large reserve of men trained to arms, we should be able to send out in case of great emergency a large number of Volunteers who would be effective soldiers from the first moment they took part in the campaign. The risk which we run to-day, the weakness which afflicted us so greatly in the South African War, and the weakness which may destroy us in case of a great war, is that there is no amount of military training and knowledge on the part of the nation at all proportionate to the amount of bravery and patriotism which its citizens undoubtedly possess. The strongest of all arguments undoubtedly for the general military training of the people is the fact that it would put this nation into a position effectively to defend any portion of the Empire if it was convinced of the rightness of the war in which it was engaged. To-morrow you might be engaged in a struggle in which there were not, as there unfortunately were in the case of the South African War, differences of opinion among us—a struggle in which we were all convinced of the righteousness of our cause—a struggle upon which the very life of our Empire depended, and in which we might require 500,000 men. We have got the 500,000 men, but how many of them would be of any use in the field if they were to volunteer and go out? The two vital points of the whole discussion are our possible requirements and our actual capacities. The contention of those who are led by the noble and gallant Field Marshal is that it is the business of our statesmen to see that every potential military capacity of the country is developed in a shape in which it will be sufficient to deal with our possible requirements.
Then one word in conclusion as to the alleged moral superiority of the voluntary principle. We are told that a smaller 1093 number of men giving their services freely are better worth having than a larger number acting under compulsion. What I object to in the present system is the premium which it sets upon a man not doing his duty in the matter of personal service for the defence of his country. If we even held the balance fairly between those who undertake this duty and those who do not there would be something to be said for it, but the present system inevitably throws the whole weight of our habits and social arrangements against the men who are willing to undertake this duty and in favour of the men who shirk it, so that the whole weight of the system leans against the volunteer. But I for my part am totally unable to understand how it can be contended on the one hand, that the training of a man to fit himself to take part in the defence of the country and Empire is a duty, and, on the other hand, that it is an injury to the man to insist on his performing that duty. I cannot see the difference between this principle and the principle of taxation. You might just as well contend that, though it was the duty of a man to contribute with his purse to the defence of the country, yet it was unjustifiable to make that contribution a legal obligation upon him. The two things seem to me to rest upon absolutely the same basis of principle, and I am thoroughly convinced that if you are really going to attempt what I believe this Bill honestly desires to do, viz., to obtain a citizen Army of adequate dimensions, you will never be successful as long as you are not in a position to lay down some general rule with regard to it to which all citizens have to conform. On the very threshold of your efforts you are met by the objection of the employers. We are told that no doubt it would be better if these people trained for a fortnight or three weeks, but that while employers would be willing to let them go for a week they would not for a fortnight. The whole national attitude of mind which makes such an argument possible is wrong. If this is a thing which is for the good of the nation as a whole, the question of the convenience of employers cannot be allowed to stand in the way. Yet it will stand in the way, and these difficulties will for ever stand in the way, 1094 until you have laid down one general simple rule for every healthy-bodied man with regard to service in the Army, and then, in this country as in other more logical countries, these difficulties will give way before you.
My Lords, the general military policy of the Government has been, I think, more the subject of debate to-day than actually that part of its policy which finds expression in the Bill now before your Lordships' House, and it is only because I think that military policy is as easily defensible as it is that I venture to rise and address your Lord-ships to-night. There are a number of specific points that have been brought out in criticism of the Government. The first of these was the question of the reductions that have taken place in the Regular Army. These reductions were made as the result of, and only after, the carefully thought out policy of Army reform was decided upon. Those reductions are all a part, and are really a very important part, of the military system which is under reorganisation. After all, a battalion of Infantry is only an important and a valuable thing in so far as you are able to use it. If the organisation of your Army is such that for the want of other services you are unable to include that battalion of Infantry in your organised force, that battalion will be of less use to you than these subsidiary services, which, in the case in point, those infantry battalions are now to give place to. What has been the net result of these reductions? The result of these reductions is that, although you have a smaller number of valuable and efficient battalions, you are able, as a result of that, to mobilise a force which consists of six divisions instead of consisting of four divisions and that, it seems to me, is the justification of the policy of reduction; the net result of it is that you have been able to strengthen your Army instead of weakening it.
The question of the Reserve was brought up to-day by the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton. It has been the subject of controversy elsewhere, and particuticularly with regard to a Return that was laid on the Table by the Secretary of State for War on the state of our Reserve under the proposed reorganisation. I think this is an important point, because, 1095 although I must say that it was not the least included in the noble Lord's speech, there has been an insinuation that the Government, in order to hide the ravages which it is supposed to be making in the Regular Army, has issued something in the shape of a false Return. And therefore under these circumstances, and in view of the fact that (although, as I say, he did not in the least give any colour to that insinuation) the noble Lord threw the great weight of his authority upon that side, I think that perhaps an explanation of that Return may be of some value. The point which he took up was the fact that there were two Returns—one made in 1905, which estimated the reserve which you would get from 156 battalions of Infantry at 55,000 odd, and another Return issued the other day would get from 148 battalions at 63,000. which estimated the Reserve that you The reason of that it is very easy to explain. In the year 1897, at the time when the noble Marquess was contemplating bringing a certain number of three years' men into Infantry battalions, an estimate was ordered of the amount of reserve that would accrue, and the actuaries were instructed, for the purposes of that Return, to assume that 30 per cent. of the men who were joining would continue at the end of their seven years with the colours to serve the remaining five or twelve years' service with the colours, and on that basis the estimate was made. The estimate of 1905 was made on the same basis. What was the result of that? It means that out of every 100 men who join, at the end of seven years, if 20 per cent. of them extend—which is the normal percentage of extension—you will have eighty men in the Reserve, and if 30 per cent. extend you will have seventy in the Reserve. That means that on the basis of the 1905 Return you are estimating your Reserve at an eighth smaller than in the other case. The 1907 Return was calculated on the assumption of 20 per cent. of extensions, so that in the first place that shows that there was a different basis. If you reduce those two Returns to the same basis you must deduct one-eighth from the 1907 Return and you will make it 55,000. But outside that you have also to make allowance for the smaller number of 1096 recruits that would be wanted owing to the larger proportion who extend and remain with the colours. This would reduce it still lower—to about 52,000. That places the two Returns on the same basis. If you compare the number of 52,000 as the reserve for 135,000 men with 54,000 odd as the reserve for 145,000 men, it will show you that this estimate was not very far wrong. The fact that it is not in any way an over-estimate is shown by the Returns that have already been given. The Infantry effectives from January, 1884, to January, 1892, averaged 125,000 odd, and they produced an average reserve of 44,000. The present establishment of 135,000 would in the same proportion produce 48,000 men. This is Sections A and B of the Reserve only, and this estimate puts it at 45,000. I hope, my Lords, that that disposes of any idea that any new method had been used to produce this Return.
The noble Lord also criticised the proportion of Reservists which was not included in this Expeditionary Force. I think that that critisism has weight like any criticism that comes from the noble Lord, but I do not know if he attaches very much importance to having a large proportion of men serving with the colours being included in your Expeditionary Force. I do not know how he would have reconciled that with his proposal of the three; years service, when inevitably you must have had a larger proportion of Reservists serving with the colours (as after all, you cannot get away from the fact that you enlist men at eighteen), than you would have under the longer period. And what is more, there is a great difference between the man who has been three years with the colours and the man who has served his seven or eight years with the colours, and that I think is a difference that people are sometimes inclined to forget when they are comparing the Army of this country with the armies of foreign countries who have the system of short service—that your men who have been seven or eight years in service with the battalion, and who only give five years to the Reserve, are (as you have heaps of testimony, which you will find all through the South African War Commissioners' Report) in every way some of the finest 1097 class of soldiers that we produce, and it was the opinion of those officers out there that battalions did not suffer in the least in efficiency by having a large proportion of Reservists.
But that question of the Reserves still leaves you face to face with the great question of drafts. You cannot, under your present system—under the exigencies of your peace system—provide for the drafts which are necessary to maintain your Army in war; and the question of drafts brings us to the vexed question of the Militia. I do not think that the question which has been touched upon, I think by the Duke of Bedford to-night, as to the actual details of the negotiations that went on between the War Office and the commanding officers of Militia— —
I object to the expression "negotiations" altogether; there was no question of negotiations.
I beg the noble Lord's pardon; I withdraw the word "negotiations" and may, perhaps, be allowed to substitute the word "interviews." After all, I think that the manner in which this change has been brought about is comparatively unimportant. What really is the great question is this—that you have at the present time, with your Militia and with your Regular Army, two separate forces which are both enlisting the same class of man—both dipping their hands into the same pool.
§ *THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
I beg your pardon. There are two distinct classes of men in the Militia—the man who remains in the Militia, and the other who goes to the Army. You have two separate classes.
If that is so, and nobody has a greater knowledge of that than the noble Duke, all I can say is that the non-Army class in the Militia appears from the figures of the Militia to be an extremely small one. To a very great extent at any rate the two forces are recruiting the same kind of men. 1098 At present the Regular Army has the upper hand. The Regular Army gets its recruits, and the Militia has not been so lucky, and consequently the Militia establishment has fallen. What do the friends of the Militia advocate? They advocate practically removing the Militia from what has been called "the decimating influence of the Depot pressgang"—that is to say, to make the Militia an entirely separate force, thereby setting up two rival establishments. You have two forces separate one from the other, and it must inevitably be the case that where you have two forces existing side by side which arc in any way rivals, you will have a sort of spirit of opposition growing up between them. Of this I take it there can be no doubt—there can be no question about it—that if you did allow the Militia to be a separate force managing their own recruiting and all the rest of it, undoubtedly they would get larger numbers than they get at the present time. But what would be the result? The result would be that the Regular Army must inevitably suffer. That is the reason why, after all, the Army has been forced—has been compelled—to use the Militia depots and the Militia recruits, and to try and get these men from the Militia, because they are dipping into the same pool, and the Army has to depend largely upon the class who go into the Militia for its own subsistence. And that is the real reason for organising in two lines; the first line must consist of the professional class of soldier—the man who goes into the Militia and who goes into the Regular Army—and the class of men who are able to give up the necessary time for Militia service—sometimes men who are in casual employment, and at other times men who are in employment of a kind which enables them to go and give up the necessary time for training. Those are the men who must be brought together. If you have any system but that—if you have the two forces both trying to draw on the same class of man—then you will inevitably have waste, friction, and inefficiency of one or the other force; and as after all the primary object of the whole of this reorganisation is to strengthen the first line of your forces, it is inevitable, if you are going to have efficiency, that you must so 1099 organise those forces as to give you the best results for producing, for mobilising, and for maintaining your Expeditionary Force in the field.
That, my Lords, is the reason why the contemplated change is taking place; that is the reason why these third battalions are being formed. These third battalions are to be primarily and essentially training battalions. I think in many ways they are far the most important feature of the scheme. They have been described as "bridges." I think that almost a better description of them is that these battalions will be the keystone of the arch, supporting upon one side of it the solidity of the Regular Army and upon the other side (with which I will deal in a few moments) the efficiency of the Territorial Army. They will have three separate functions. First of all, the training of the special contingent; they will be the training units of your special contingent, and according to the quality of the training you give those men so will their value in the field be. In the second place, they will form the depot nucleus, and will do the ordinary depot duties of looking after reservists, and they will do the recruiting and look after the clothing of recruits. In the third place, they will assist in training officers and non-commissioned officers for the Territorial Army. For those reasons they are, as I say, training units and are to be organised with a sole eye to training. They are to be local bodies scattered all through the country as training experts, with picked men, both as officers and non-commissioned officers, with the necessary apparatus and with everything they can have to enable them to become efficient trainers.
Then, my Lords, perhaps the most important question just at the present juncture is the method of transferment of the present Militia into these training units. In the first place there is the question of the officers. What is proposed is that you shall draw a sort of line, and divide the present existing Militia officers info two classes, and that division shall be made by age. Sir Edward Ward's Committee, as no doubt your Lordships will remember, recommended the employment of a special reserve of officers up to the age 1100 of thirty-five, and that is the age limit which the War Office now propose to set. With regard to the class of existing Militia officer who agrees to go into the special contingent, what he is invited to do is this: all junior officers up to the age of thirty-four, and of the rank of captain and over, are to be entitled to go into the Reserve under the terms of Sir Edward Ward's Committee's recommendation—that is to say, receiving a retaining fee of £20 a year—and they will rise automatically to the rank of captain after so many years' service; they will then pass into the reserve of officers who do not get the retaining fee—with the rank of honorary major—at the age of thirty-five. Then we come to the senior officers over thirty-five. Well, the War Office and the Government realise to the full the great services which have been done by commanding officers of Militia, and they do not want to treat them in any way that could be called at all cavalier, and therefore what they would ask these officers to do is this; that they shall practically continue to be Militia officers; they will not join this new class of special reserve officers who get their retaining fee of £20, but that they shall go into the old reserve of officers, that they shall join the battalion for duty whenever the battalion of the special contingent is embodied; that is to say, they will do their regular training with them; but the Army Council fully realise that the command of both the third and fourth battalions should be within the reach of those officers provided they are competent in all respects to command them. Therefore it is propose I that so long as these officers remain in the special contingent, it should be open to them when the time comes, and when the vacancies occur, to command those battalions just as they would have done if they had gone on in the Militia.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
Would the noble Lord tell us up to what age the men would be allowed to serve in those battalions?
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
Could the noble Lord say whether, when the 1101 present senior officers have passed away these commands will always be held by line officers?
After the present commanding officer has passed away there will, if they choose to go into it, be other officers of these Militia battalions, who are at present in the Militia battalions and if they are fit to command Militia battalions they will do so, and that will continue as long as any of these officers who are at present above the thirty-five-year-old line remain in the Militia. At the end of that time, in the case of the third battalions, which have to fulfil, as I say, primarily the function of training battalions, it is probable after the present generation, so to speak, of Militia officers has passed away, that they will be commanded by line officers.
§ LORD BATHURST
Can the noble Lord tell us at all what number of officers of the present Militia are over the age of thirty-five, and how many that will affect?
All these questions, I think, are known about. I have dealt entirely, up to this moment, with the third battalion. The officering of the fourth battalion will always be a different matter. It is not primarily a training unit in the same way that the third battalion is, and therefore it will not. have the same staff of regular officers for instructional purposes that the third, battalion will eventually have. The third battalions, as time goes on (and it can only be done gradually) will have posted to them more and more regular officers until you have an establishment of something like nine or ten. The fourth battalions will almost certainly have a much smaller establishment of regular officers than the third battalion will have.
Might I ask the noble Lord if ho. can tell us where 1102 the fourth battalions will get their reserves from in time of war?
The fourth battalions will receive their reserves probably from the third battalions, and also it is quite conceivable that they may perhaps under exceptional circumstances be reinforced from elsewhere. Then as regards the men. The men will be enlisted, or will be invited to enlist, in the Special Conti-gent under Part III. of this Bill, and if they do so they will receive a bonus of £2 for transferring. The Army Council hopes, and it is their intention (and the reason why the Bill was framed in this way, and why you add a third battalion to every two line battalions was because that is the intention of the Army Council) as far as possible to allow a man, when he goes from the Special Contingent as a draft to the line regiments, to remain in his Territorial corps. That is distinctly the intention of the Army Council, and I know that Militia officers attach a great deal of importance to that. It is distinctly the intention of the Army Council that wherever it is possible that shall be done. Of course I know that it would be impossible to ask the Government top in themselves to do that, because, as is well known, you may meet with circumstances in war where a battalion is absolutely cut up, and where you have got to produce practically an entirely new battalion to fill up the cadre. In exceptional cases (and, after all, fortunately those cases are exceptional) you may have to transfer a man outside his Territorial corps, and therefore it is not proposed in this Bill to put in any provision under which the men joining the Special Contigent shall only reinforce their own Territorial corps, though, as I say, it is the intention of the Army Council that it should be so wherever possible. But it is intended that existing Militiamen—and that perhaps is the point that will appeal most to commanding officers of Militia—existing Militiamen who transfer to the Special Contingent, shall have a promise given to them that they shall not be drafted under any circumstances outside their own Territorial corps unless by their own consent. That only applies to the existing Militiamen who choose to transfer, and does not apply to any man who may, after this Bill has passed, be 1103 recruited into the Special Contingent, although the intention is to do it wherever possible.
My Lords, there is the question of the Territorial Army, which I think has had extremely little consideration in to-day's debate. There you are dealing with an entirely different class of men from those with whom you have dealt in the first line as Regulars and as men of the Special Contingent, and it is at any rate in this country the first attempt—the first scientific attempt that has been made—I should think it is probably the first attempt under any voluntary system that has been made really to organise for the purposes of war, and to allot a definite place in the military system to men who admittedly in time of peace cannot give up sufficient of their time, as far as we know at present, to make themselves what is called efficient to meet trained troops in the field. But after all, inefficiency is a question of degree, and the value of the second line depends upon how near you can get it to that high-water mark of efficiency, and that to a very great extent will depend upon what use you make of the time those men can give you, and what kind of training you propose to give them. This is a question which has been absorbing the attention of the General Staff for a considerable time, and with the utmost pains they have been working out a scheme that shall enable them to get the greatest value from the time these men are able to give. And in doing so, I think, perhaps a new principle in the training of Auxiliary Forces is to be put into practice, which I will explain as shortly as I possibly can. It is this. Hitherto, in dealing with your Auxiliary Forces, you have attached to your Auxiliary units, in the shape of a Regular adjutant, an instructor whose business has been not only the administration, but also, to a very great extent—and in practice, to an enormous extent—the instruction of the troops. The adjutant turns up at parade, it is the adjutant's advice that is taken; the adjutant very often drills the men himself, and always the auxiliary officer, whether company officer, sergeant or whoever he is, defers and plays second fiddle to the adjutant. It is indeed only natural that it should be so. Now 1104 the General Staff feel that if you continue that system you will never really give to the officer or the non-commissioned officer that confidence in himself which is desirable. What is really proposed to be done is this —that everything shall be done which can possibly give to the officers and the non-commissioned officers a thorough grounding and training in the work that they have to do, and that then, having been grounded and well trained in that work, they shall go back and command their own men. After all, the thing that makes a man a good commander is to have confidence in himself, and the thing that gives him confidence in himself is the knowledge that he is master of the thing he is instructing his men in, and that is where these training units are going to come in with regard to the Territorial Army. They will supply instruction in every way possible for officers and non-commissioned officers of the Territorial Army. Under their auspices will be held schools of instruction in such things as musketry, gunnery, and signalling. Courses will be held in tactics, reconnaissance, sketching, and a dozen other kindred subjects. You will also have in the Territorial Army, which you have not had before, the divisional and brigade staffs, who will be able to give instruction in such things as staff rides. It is proposed by those means to give that scientific instruction which is so desirable, and if necessary those training units will go on detachment in order to bring the instruction really to the men's doors. One knows how unworkable it is that you should have these schools of instruction a long way away, where neither the officers nor the non-commissioned officers have time to attend them; but if you bring thorn to the men's doors, then they can take advantage, of them, and having learned their subject, they will go back, and it is the theory of the General Staff that, having been given the necessary grounding, they will then be able to teach themselves how to act and to train their men at the same time, and that in that way you will be able to get a really sound foundation for the training on mobilisation when it comes. As to the training on mobilisation, that is a thing as to which you are 1105 not taking any more powers in this Bill than you had before. You are only to be able to mobilise all the Auxiliary Forces, in ease of a great emergency, just as you can do now, and as to its being a bug-bear, as it is sometimes described as being, and a thing that is going to keep men out of the Territorial Army, I think when you come to consider that in the whole of the last century the Territorial Army would probably have been mobilised at the outside three times, in the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the century (I admit that that is a rather large Number One) possibly in the Crimea, and finally in the South African War. That is to say, once in a generation. Well, I do not think any patriotic man—and the men who compose these forces are patriotic—would fear a contingency so remote as that. In conclusion I have to apologise for taking up so much of your Lordships' time.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords, I am sure every one of your Lordships will welcome the noble Lord opposite upon his advent to this House. His arrival here has been a matter of considerable and dramatic interest, and I am sure that we are all very glad that he has followed up that dramatic incident in so excellent a speech as he has just made to the House. He showed a very great knowledge of his subject, and I am sure we all hope that we shall often hear him address us upon this and similar subjects, and I hope further, my Lords, that we may look for a similar knowledge of his subject in the official representative of the War Office when we get into Committee and come to discuss this Bill clause by clause.
We are still in a difficulty, my Lords. We were in a greater difficulty before the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Lucas) as regards the discussing of this Bill, because we really had very little power of understanding what it really intends to do. A few Papers dealing with it have been presented to Parliament—not very many—I do not think nearly anything like as many as have been asked for. But most of those Papers can now be torn up, because they were presented to Parliament before the recent rearrangement or reconstitution of the intentions 1106 of His Majesty's Government with regard to the Militia, and therefore very few of them are worth the paper they are printed on. Secondly, we are at a disadvantage because we realise that, unlike many Bills that come up to your Lordships' House, this Bill has been most inadequately debated in another place. I have seen it stated that only nine-clauses out of the thirty-eight in the Bill have been discussed at all. I do not suppose that my request will be carried out, but it would be of great interest to us all, I think, if the noble Earl could arrange for a copy of the Bill to be printed, showing in one coloured ink how much of it was discussed, and, in another coloured ink, how much was not discussed, and has not had even one word mentioned with respect to it in another place. It would assist us considerably in the many questions we are going to ask when this Bill goes into Committee.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I could easily do the whole thing, but I am not going to print it at my own expense. Now, my Lords, the hour is late, and for that reason, if not for the other reason that we are here to get information more than to get a Second Reading debate—I am going to confine myself more to asking questions, if I may do so, than to following the speeches which have come from this side of the House criticising the Bill—speeches with many of which I cordially agree.
This Bill of course is of a highly technical nature; it comes to us, we understand, with the unanimous approval of the Army Council as well as of the Cabinet behind it, and therefore it is quite certain—it has been certain from the first—that it should receive 1107 sympathetic treatment from your Lordships, and I naturally assume that it will eventually pass into law. I sincerely hope that the Committee will so treat it, and that it will be given a thorough trial and a thorough chance when it is passed into law—because, my Lords, I do believe that it is one of the last bulwarks against any form of compulsory military service, or, as I venture to call it, against any form of conscription. Mr. Haldane has told us most frankly from the first that lie regards conscription as out of the question; and the noble Earl the Under-Secretary followed him in that line this evening. I am extremely glad to hear it. It cannot, to my mind, be too often repeated, and I am more particularly glad to hear, when I take it in connection with what we have been told, that the Army Council are behind the Secretary of State in promoting this Bill. I was reading this morning the evidence given by one of the military members of the Army Council before the Royal Commission, which was presided over by the noble Earl opposite (Lord Elgin). He was extremely emphatic in another direction from that to which the Army Council turns at present; he stated—Personally, I should be in favour of compulsory military service.And four questions later on he said—That would make them liable to go abroad in time of war, as every other foreign nation does.I am glad to understand, or to believe, that that distinguished general has repudiated that opinion, which was given four years ago. He must have repudiated it, if he supports this Bill; and I hope that his repudiation is likely to be a final one. The noble Viscount upon the cross benches (Lord Milner), who spoke so keenly as an opponent of the voluntary system in this country, discussed a subject which has been very often debated in this House; and I am not going to follow him in detail through all his arguments. I would only like to point out one thing: the noble Viscount gave us to understand that one of his strongest objections to any voluntary system lies in the fact that we can never hope to get the numbers that we require for it. And I 1108 confess that I should have liked to have heard very much what number it is that he considers necessary. He mentioned later in his speech some 500,000; but I did not gather for certain whether he intends that to represent the sum we should raise by compulsory service, or not. It is interesting to think of how many troops at this minute—troops of every possible kind—we have that can be called upon in various parts of the world to serve under the British flag. I have a list of them here; I am not going through them in detail, but the list gives the numbers of the Regular Army, the Auxiliary Forces, the Navy, the Naval Reserve and the Colonial and Indian Forces; and the total comes to 1,200,000 men. Well, that number, so far as number is concerned, seems to me amply adequate for anything we could possibly require. But I think the real problem before us is not so much to get the men, as to train them when we have got them; and I think that compulsory service is going to help us very little towards that desirable end.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I beg the noble Lord's pardon—I was not referring to him, but to a remark made by Lord Milner. Now, I want for one moment to express regret for the fact that in moving the Second Reading of this Bill the noble Earl (Earl Portsmouth) did not go more into detail as to why it is necessary at all Why has it been necessary to place this long Bill upon the Table of the House? The noble Lord (Lord Lucas) in the course of his remarks claimed that the power the Government are taking to mobilise the Auxiliary Forces in certain conditions was no more than a power that the Government already have. Then why is it necessary to have a Bill to give them this power? As far as I can judge, speaking very generally, there are only two things that have made it necessary for them to bring in this Bill. The first is, that they are going to take the Militia and put them under the Army Act, and they are going to make them liable to 1109 Serve abroad. That undoubtedly requires legislative action; it requires legislative action such as the noble Earl opposite, as he knows, voted against not very long ago. Secondly, undoubtedly they need legislation in addition to set up these County Associations and to give them certain powers under the law. But putting aside those two things, I do not think there is very much need for legislation; and, therefore, why not have, as they might have had, if the Government had really given their minds to it, a very much more simple Bill? I do not complain—I merely mention this in passing—but I want to pass on to what this Bill does incidentally; because, as the noble Lord (Lord Lucas) pointed out to us, this debate is spread over the whole of the British Army organisation; and it is necessary that it should do so, because there are so many points in our organisation that this Bill touches indirectly, as well as those which it touches directly.
Now, we are to have, as has been often said this evening, this new Territorial Army. To put it in perfectly straightforward language, the Yeomanry and Volunteers are to be called in future the Territorial Army. It is a change of name and a change of very little else. We all understand the reasons. There is nothing the War Office likes better than a change of name, that is always their great idea in carrying out any great reform. We had an Army Order on 1st January this year, which came out with a tremendous flourish of trumpets; it organised the Army at Home into six divisions—in other words, it organised the troops in England, Ireland, and Scotland under a new name as regards their local headquarters. There was not a man added; there was not, as far as I know, a man moved from one place to another in order to fit into the new organisation; it was simply a change of name, and nothing else. In the same way, we are going to have a Territorial Army where hitherto we have had the Yeomanry and the Volunteers. In the first place, I regret extremely that the Yeomanry have been touched at all, and I do not see that there was any necessity to touch them. They are a contented force, contented in absolutely everything, I believe, 1110 except the fact that they are not allowed to drink whiskey in their canteens, which was not a matter, at all events, that required legislation to put right; and they are thoroughly efficient, as my noble friend Lord Midleton pointed out, though naturally enough he did not go on to point out why it is they are so efficient. That omission on my noble friend's part is easily understood when we remember the part he himself took in bringing about that efficiency. Now, they have been threatened with all sorts of terrible things. They were to have had their pay reduced. We remember that when Mr. Haldane made his original announcement it seemed to imply that they were only to be paid 5s. a day for a short time, and that he called the Yeomanry "a costly experiment," an experiment, by the way, which has only lasted 100 years! But although they were originally threatened with a reduction of pay, we are glad to think that they have now received a three years' respite. I most sincerely hope that that three years will be prolonged indefinitely; because, unless the Government are prepared to show us that they have something very much better to give us in their stead, it is surely only true caution, in this particular case, to leave well alone.
I want, very briefly, to touch on two points that are proposed, I believe, with regard to the Imperial Yeomanry; and the first is, that I regret extremely that this idea of a special service section has been revived. I have always believed that the idea of a special service section, or of a special service company, in any part of the Auxiliary Forces was about the most mischievous thing that you could introduce into it; because, after all, it does mean that the best men in the regiment come into that regiment for a time, and then are taken away from the regiment at the time when they are most particularly wanted. I know it was a very favourite thing to propose from the military side of the War Office that we should have these special service sections in the Auxiliary Forces; and I regret extremely that that old idea has been revived upon this occasion. Secondly, I feel bound to point out that in future the corps troops in 1111 an expeditionary force are to be selected, so far as the cavalry are concerned, from the Imperial Yeomanry; they are to be provided as I understand, from these special service sections. I have no objection, of course, per se to the Yeomanry carrying out this duty; but I do think it is a lamentable thing that these special service sections are to be taken into the corps troops when they go to war—that is to say, sent to serve in war with other troops with whom they will not have served in time of peace. It seems to me that this is opposed to the whole essence of any organisation for war, which is recognised after all by the Secretary of State in his desire to organise the Territorial Army into brigades, divisions, and such like in all arms of the service; it seems to me to be a complete negation of that excellent rule that you should use these special service sections in the way which I have described.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I have no objection to their being used as divisional cavalry if they have been trained as divisional cavalry in time of peace with the people with whom they are going to work in time of war; but I understand there is no such proposal. The proposal is that they shall be earmarked as Yeomanry Special Service Section; and that in time of war they shall be added to the corps troops.
I pass from the Imperial Yeomanry, and come for a moment to the Territorial Army. They are to be put under these new County Associations; and the first point which strikes me with reference to this is that the responsibility of the commanding officer is to be very considerably diminished. He, obviously, is the person who, up to now, has had all the management, as far as the Volunteers are concerned, of his regiment—all the administration of the regiment has been under his thumb, but this is to be taken away from him, and handed over to the County Association; that is to say, I presume, it will have to be carried out by him under the orders of the County Association. Who are the County Associa- 1112 tion to be? A majority of the County Association are to be military officers, but not necessarily colonels of regiments. The Army Council will select any military officers they like in the command, and turn them into the County Association. Clause 1 (3), Subsection (d) says—For the appointment of such number of officers representative of all arms and branches of the Territorial Force raised under this Act within the county (not being less than one-half of the whole number of the.association), as may be specified in the scheme.Well, my Lords, is it the intention of the Government that those should ever be junior officers? Will a major who happens to be a cousin of the Secretary of State for War be put on the County Association, and thus be in a position to criticise his own commanding officer in the regiment which happens to be under that County Association? I do not believe it is the intention of the Government that anything of that kind shall happen; but looking at the extremely loose way in which this clause is drafted, that is a thing which it is perfectly possible may happen. And I hesitate to think of what might happen. I can think of one or two particular instances where something of this kind might be carried out, and the trouble would be absolutely endless if it was carried out as the Bill takes power to carry it out. So much for that point. The serious part of it, I am afraid, is that the responsibility of the commanding officer is to be very seriously diminished in matters of administration. Then the Territorial Army is threatened with all sorts of pains and penalties; there is the familiar £5 fine if they serve less than four years and do not do six months training when war breaks out, which, obviously, will be a serious deterrent to many men enlisting. However, we have hopes that possibly these things may not be very strictly insisted upon. And one of course gives credit to the Government at once for the very excellent change they have made in relieving the commanding officer of his financial responsibility, because I have always felt not only that this was a serious detriment to him, but that it was a serious wrong that such a liability should be put upon him.
But, my Lords, personally I doubt very much whether, even with all that the 1113 Government are going to do they are doing enough. I confess I have severe qualms as to whether what they propose is going to improve the Volunteers sufficiently, as compared with what they are at present, to make them (always aiming as I believe we should aim, towards that one goal) as fit as we possibly can to meet the best foreign troops. But there is one point to which I have already alluded, on which I will say a word. The suggestion that they should be organised into divisions of all arms I think worthy of your Lordships' most cordial support, and I hope it will be pressed on as rapidly as it possibly can be. But the pressing on of this scheme makes one thing necessary. It makes it necessary that the Artillery should be organised for the Territorial Army, and I understand it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to organise what I will call, for the sake of brevity, Volunteer Field Artillery, as it is necessary for them to be able to provide 1,000 guns at least for the Territorial Army. This of course will be a pure experiment. It is an experiment that we shall all watch with very great interest, and I only hope that the respite that we understand has been given to reductions in the Regular Field Artillery will remain until we are assured that this experiment in the Volunteer Field Artillery is a complete; success.
I do not wish to go in detail into the proposals of His Majesty's Government with regard to the Militia. They have already been referred to considerably in the course of the debate, and I do not think I could add very much to what has been said. They are, as we know, to be organised into the third and fourth battalions, of which we have heard.so much; they are to be brought under the Army Act, and under the Army Votes; a certain number of Regular officers are to be added to them. At first sight the addition of Regular officers to Militia regiments must inevitably tend to increase their efficiency. I only hope I did not quite understand what my noble friend Lord Lucas was saying about the position of the Militia officer in future in these battalions—whether he would be allowed to get right up to the top and eventually to take command. The noble Lord was being subjected to a fire of cross-examination 1114 at the moment, and I perhaps—not he—rather lost the thread of his statement. But I should like to say that I sincerely hope that the door will never to closed to an efficient Militia officer getting command of his own regiment. It seems to me absolutely necessary, when you add regular officers to a regiment, to keep the three or four highest official positions in the regiment entirely in their preserve. I see no objection to a Militia officer having much more work than he has now. I feel sure you will always get a better class of man if you always leave that I door open to his progress.
The Government also intend, as we know, to amalgamate certain battalions of the Militia, and I am very anxious to know whether that is possible without some legislative power enabling them to do it. The question was often discussed when I was at the War Office, and we always understood that the authority of Parliament would be necessary before any county regiments, or regiments representing half a county, I could be amalgamated. There is nothing in the Bill, I believe, to make such amalgamation possible—doubtless; owing to the fact that such amalgamation; is only part of the scheme recently decided upon. But I should like the noble Earl to look into the matter with a view to seeing whether some Amendment will not be necessary in order to I give the power which he requires. I hope care will be taken to see that these amalgamations are carried out with discretion. I believe no Papers have been laid before Parliament definitely showing what regiments are to be amalgamated; but a rumour has been going about—I do not know whether secrets have been leaking out or not, but I have a letter from the North of Ireland full of the most anxious fears as to what are believed to be the intentions of the War Office with regard to amalgamation. It is a letter sent to me by an officer of one of the Militia regiments, and if the rumours of which he speaks are true, well so much the worse. If they are not true, they may be taken as an example of what might happen unless great care is taken, and therefore that must be my excuse for mentioning the matter to your Lordships. The regiment in question is the Royal Irish Rifles, and the rumour which 1115 is current is that the third battalion is to be amalgamated with the fourth battalion, and the fifth with the sixth battalion. Of course, that is the natural thing that would strike any person who did not know anything about the local circumstances—to amalgamate the third and fourth, and the fifth and sixth battalions. Well, if noble Lords opposite amalgamate the fifth and sixth battalions of the Royal Irish Rifles, they will be amalgamating two things between which there is really no sort of possible connection. The 6th battalion—the Louths—are a most distinguished regiment—a very old Militia regiment—and they are Roman Catholic to a man. The South Downs, on the other hand, are a Protestant regiment, and I think I am perfectly safe in saying that no Roman Catholic recruit has ever been taken into the South Downs. Now if those two regiments are to be amalgamated in a part of these islands where religious feeling sometimes—though by no means always—reaches a heat which is almost inconceivable in modern days, I hesitate to think what will happen to the noble Earl opposite the next time he goes to the North of Ireland for a holiday, or for some other purpose. And, my Lords, I do suggest that this is an example of what might happen when the obvious thing is done to provide amalgamation without proper knowledge of the local circumstances. We do know from a statement of Mr. Haldane's as to the Phœnix regiments what is in contemplation, and I would suggest to him quite seriously that none of these amalgamations should take place until some local inquiry has been held into the circumstances of each case.
The next outstanding feature of the future treatment of the Militia is that the men are to be enlisted for six months, and do fifteen days training. I prefer to adopt the phrase of the noble Field Marshal, Lord Roberts, and call it a short service machine. It is a change of name, and I make the noble Earl a present of; the fact that I have taken advantage of a change of name in the same way that I have accused the War Office of being so fond of doing. It is a short service machine, and I cordially welcome it, and sincerely hope it will be a success, as it will be if the Government put their 1116 shoulders to the wheel and spare no time in endeavouring to make it the success we all should like it to be. I must say the Government are rather light-hearted in the way they try to make us believe that these changes are not going to result in a very considerable increase of the Army Estimates. What is the position? The Militia are to be organised into twenty-seven regiments of 800 strong—that is, 21,600 men—and seventy-four regiments of 500 strong, or 37,000 men, a total of 58,000 men. Well, at present our Militia number about 90,000; therefore your Lordships will see that the Militia are to be reduced by about one-third in numbers. At present Militia recruits number about 30,000 a year. Of those, about 12,000 go on to the line. Therefore we may say about 18,000 pure Militiamen have to be taken every year to keep the Militia up to the strength of 90,000. It has slightly declined of late, but we may take the figure as being fairly constant at 90,000. Twelve thousand from the Militia, and 12,000 going from the Militia into the line leaves a total of 24,000 men to be trained for six months in each year—that is to say, you will have an average of 12,000 men always in barracks plus your officers and so on, which we may put at 5,000. If you are to have these in addition to what you have now, you have got, to begin with, to provide housing for an additional 17,000 men every year. Are those going to cast nothing extra upon the Army Estimates? Obviously there must be a very considerable increase in the Army Estimates. Speaking roughly, it was generally assumed at the War Office as a rule of thumb—not as a close estimate—that it cost £200,000 to house 1,000 men. Some 17,000 men have to be housed under this scheme, which, if I understand it correctly, the Government are putting forward, which means a very considerable increase to provide barracks, which will be wanted at once to carry out the scheme in its entirety. That is only one item which it seems to me will gradually increase the cost of things as compared with what it is at present. There are other items, such as ranges and training grounds, which will be required, and I think it is only fair that His Majesty's Government before we get into Committee 1117 should give us a detailed estimate to show how Mr. Haldane ca me to the conclusion, on the Report Stage in another place, that practically no difference would be made in the Estimates by the very considerable change that is to be made. But if it does cost extra money, one is tempted to ask where is this money to come from? I sincerely hope it is not to come from further reductions of the Regular Army. What, after all, is the position? Is it not perfectly obvious that very soon, at any rate (I shall be very glad to be corrected by the Secretary of State if I am wrong) within a year or two, troops will be coming back from South Africa? We are not going to keep British troops in South Africa for ever doing police work. As troops come home from South Africa, what is going to be done? They will upset the balance you have re-established of feeding battalions at home with battalions abroad—linked battalions. The obvious temptation of the Government will be to unlink them and to abolish them, thus saving money in order to provide money for the Territorial Army. That is the Government's favourite way of doing things. They have already reduced the Regular Army in order to provide money for the Auxiliary Forces. I sincerely hope it is not the intention of the Government to carry that a step further, and in case extra money is found necessary for the Territorial Army to provide it by further reductions in the line regiments and in other portions of the Regular Army.
The Special Contingent has already been dealt with this evening, and I do not wish to say much upon that point. I was very much struck by one proposal of His Majesty's Government—a proposal which I understand still holds the field—that in future recruits enlisted for the Regular Army should go straight from the battalion at home, and not go through the depot at all. That was the position, I understood. I sincerely hope that the proposed changes will not do away with that excellent position. I always regard the time spent by the recruit in a line depot as being absolutely wasted. He was not at all under the care of the officers with whom he would eventually serve. We 1118 know that he did three months with them at his line depot, finishing with fairly advanced drill, but when he got to his battalion he at once dropped back to the equivalent of goose-step and was practically treated as if he had not done a course of anything at the depot at all. I understand that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to do away with that, and that in future recruits will go straight to the home battalion, and go through all their training in the home battalion until they are sent abroad. I most sincerely hope that that position will be maintained. Personally, I would prefer to see a great depot such as Caterham or Walmer, but apart from that, I sincerely hope that no change will be made in the present proposals of His Majesty's Government in this matter, because they can have nothing but an excellent effect.
Now, my Lords, the hour is getting late, and I only want very briefly to recapitulate three only of the points which it seems to me were confronting His Majesty's Government when they undertook the proposals which culminated in this Bill, and to see how far they meet them. It seems to me that they had three problems before them. They had to carry out the recommendation of Lord Elgin's Commission; they had to provide us with an expansive power machine; they had to provide us with officers and non-commissioned officers in order to realise the possibility of expansive power; and they had to provide us with a striking force. What are they doing to meet those three necessities? They are slightly increasing Section A, but they are not really giving us a striking force, though I confess they are altering the position from what it is at present. They are going to give us some extra officers if the Report of Sir Edward Ward's Committee is found to be practicable, and if it is carried out, although I am obliged to say, as a caveat, that they are concentrating their attention at present more upon giving us a quantity of officers, and providing facilities for training them properly, than upon giving us quality. Then as to expansive powers, about 50,000 of the present Militia are to be made available for reinforcing the line in 1119 time of war. But as my noble friend Lord Midleton said, if this expansive power has been provided, it is almost nullified by the reductions His Majesty's Government have made. They have knocked off eight battalions of the line—battalions which I claim to have showed your Lordships were efficient. They were not reduced from military necessity; they were reduced because of political pressure. And the same with the Guards. One battalion of the Guards has been reduced; another has been sent to Egypt, condemned to die. The Secretary of State has told us of his unalterable intention of destroying it, although the General who said "Good-bye" to them on the occasion of their last parade in England told them that if they behaved themselves properly, they might be reprieved. But it is interesting with regard to the line battalions to notice a picturesque little incident that happened in Ireland last year with regard to the fourth battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, which was one of the regiments condemned last year, and which I presume has been depleted, if not disbanded by now. At the All Ireland Rifle Meeting this battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment obtained seven out of ten of the trophies that were offered for competition in shooting, and I see that Lord Grenfell, the Commander-in-Chief, said that it was his intention to send a special report to the Army Council as regards the efficiency in shooting of this particular battalion, which they had condemned. I presume that that Report was received by the Army Council, and I hope that they liked it when they got it. The Secretary of State told us on the First Reading of this Bill that he had been cutting down all things that were merely for show, and not useful for war, and that remark, I think, was an interesting comment on the loss that the Army has sustained of ten efficient battalions. Secondly, the Secretary of State, as my noble friend said, has reduced the strength of battalions at home. He has, thirdly, reduced the Royal Garrison Artillery by 3,400 men, and he has announced his intention of reducing the Horse and Field Artillery, though I believe up to the present there has not been any very great reduction. I notice that last October 1120 the Field Artillery was 18,000 men strong. I believe they are as a matter of fact a little less than that at present, though I should be glad to receive the exact figure. I believe they have probably by the efflux of three years men reduced this by about 800 since that date. I have been told that that figure has been given in the House of Commons. I have not been able to find it this evening, and I should be glad to know whether it is correct or not.
Such, then, is the position. The Government have provided expansive power by turning these Militiamen into 50,000 Reserve men, but they have very nearly nullified all that they are doing by the reductions of which I have spoken. We must remember—we cannot forget—the fact that the Government all along have had two ideals. We have on the one hand Mr. Haldane's ideal, and the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty's ideal, of increasing the power of the fighting forces. But we have also the Prime Minister's ideal—that ideal which he expressed when he rushed into print and wrote to one of the Saturday weekly papers—the ideal that we should convince a number of foreign diplomatists who are now sitting at The Hague that we are making reductions in our fighting forces with the object of encouraging them to do the same. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's words are extraordinarily explicit. He said—We have already given an earnest of our sincerity by the considerable reductions that we have effected in our naval and military expenditure, as well as by the undertaking that we are prepared to give if we find that there is similar disposition in other quarters.You cannot have it both ways. You cannot say at one and the same time that you are increasing the efficiency of your fighting forces and also that you are ready to weaken yourself if other people will do the same, and that you have proved your readiness to weaken yourself. An attempt has been made to bluff somebody, and I want to know who it is. Are the Government trying to bluff the extremely astute diplomatists who are now sitting at The Hague, or are they trying to bluff your Lordships' House? Because the two positions taken up are absolutely irreconcileable, and I will conclude by expressing a sincere 1121 hope that it is not your Lordships, and the nation behind your Lordships, who are going to be bluffed, but that the scheme which has been announced is going to be carried out in its entirety and as thoroughly as it possibly can be done, because if it is not, the result of what has been done by the Government during the last eighteen months cannot fail to be most seriously prejudiced.
§ Further debate adjourned till Tomorrow.