§ THE EARL OF ERROLL
My Lords, I rise to call attention to a statement reported to have been made by the Secretary of State for War on Friday the 20th November, at Guildford, to the effect that, "the Army is 90,000 stronger than it was three years ago," and to ask for details justifying these figures; and to move for Papers.
What I want to know is whether these extra men—and I lay emphasis on the 1598 word extra — represent a net increase of the numbers of the Army, or do they merely represent a change of name and a re-arrangement of units, with the view of persuading the public that the armed strength of the country is greater than the facts justify? Do these men really exist in the flesh, or are they more in the nature of a stage Army, in which the same men are counted several times over? The right hon. Gentleman went on, in the speech to which I have alluded, to claim an increase of 65,000 men in the Special Reserve, and an increase of 40,000 in the reserve of the Regular Army. From this total of 105,000 men he deducted 15,000 as due to the reductions of nine battalions, leaving as the net increase 90,000 men. I venture to say that this calculation is erroneous and absolutely misleading, because it altogether ignores the Militia of three years ago. I maintain that in a comparative statement, if credit is taken for the Special Reserve now, credit should also be taken for the Militia as they existed in 1905. This is a debit and credit amount, and if you take credit for the Special Reserve you must take credit for the Militia as well. You must take credit for both or neither.
Now, what is the Special Reserve? It is merely the old Militia under a new name, with the obligation to serve abroad. At the present moment it is 25,000 men short of what the Militia was in 1905, and it has an annual training of fourteen days instead of twenty-eight days as in the case of the old Militia. In what I may call the pre-territorial days, it was the established custom when calculating the armed strength of the country to include the Militia, and I am informed that the War Office used always to rely on two-thirds of the Militia volunteering for service abroad. Granted that this obligation of the Special Reserve to serve abroad is a good one, which I am quite ready to admit, I maintain that that is no reason why all the value of the Militia of three years ago should be ignored. The Militia never failed to come forward when asked. They fought in very large numbers in the Peninsula, they were present in force at Waterloo, and during the Crimea they occupied the garrisons in the Mediterranean, and their services in South Africa are so recent that I need not allude to them.
1599 The Militia establishment in 1905 was 130,000 men and their actual strength, irrespective of the permanent staff, was 90,000. The Special Reserve establishment is 80,000—its present strength is, I believe, somewhere near 65,000 —so that, even if it were up to its total establishment, it would still be 10,000 below the Militia, of three years ago. Even supposing that the organisation is better, I maintain that you cannot, by wiping out 90,000 men and replacing them by 65,000, claim to have increased the numbers. Really we are in a worse position now than we were three years ago. With 75,000 fewer men in the Territorial Army than we had in the Yeomanry and Volunteer Forces, 20,000 less men in the Regular services, and the balance of loss of 25,000 between the Militia and the Special Reserve, there are, deducting the increase in the Reserve of the Regular Army, 80,000 less men to call upon than there were three years ago.
Speaking in the City the other night, Mr. Haldane is reported to have said—There was no greater fallacy than to suppose that the Government had reduced the Regular Line. They had far more than compensated for any changes by providing the Special Reserve.To me this is a most astounding statement. It was the Militia who were replaced by the Special Reserve. The Regulars who have been done away with have never been replaced at all.
A word as to the organisation of the Special Reserve. It consists of so-called units of 550 men, with an annual training of fourteen days; it is to feed the Line, and is composed of very young men. I am told that not 50 per cent. of the men, after feeding the Line, would be fit, through age and physical defects, to take part in a campaign. Further, it would be impossible now for the Special Reserve to garrison Mediterranean and other ports and so free the Regular battalions there. The Special Reserve will have to remain at home as a depot, to train men to fill up the Army in the field. Than I come to the Expeditionary Force. It is claimed that the Expeditionary Force, which should be ready to go out of the country almost at once, consists of 160,000 men, and that the Army Reserve is now 140,000. I think this would convey to the non-military mind that we had 160,000 men plus 140,000 1600 men. But it is nothing of the sort. Before mobilising this Expeditionary Force all these Reserves would be swallowed up. I am informed that two Divisions, or the equivalent of 30,000 men, would be sent to India. We should then want 100,000 to fill the ranks—that is, two reserve men to every man serving. For the Expeditionary Force the numbers are 169,000. The regiments that we have at home would, I believe, supply—that is to say, they have in their ranks now—120,000 men; but when you deduct the recruits, the unfit, and those under age you get a number something like 50,000. That leaves us in this country with only about 70,000 towards the Expeditionary Force and we should have to take 100,000 men from the Reserve to make up the Expeditionary Force. I believe the Army Council calculate that to replace casualties during the first six months we should want another 60,000 men, so that by that time we should have used up not only our Regular Army Reserve, but what is left of the Special Reserve as well.
Then I come to the Army Reserve of 140,000 men. I am quite willing to admit that that is an advance on what we have had, but those figures at the present moment are abnormal. They are not due to the Government scheme, but to temporary causes, and particularly due to the three years system established by Lord Midleton, but when these men begin to leave the Reserve, the numbers must go down, because their places will not be filled up, as their Reserve producing units have been destroyed, and I think that the normal Reserve will not be much over 100,000 or 110,000 men. Before the war we had an Army Reserve of 80,000, and a Militia Reserve of 30,000 men, so that when the present exceptional circumstances cease to prevail, the Reserve will come to be about what it was before the war. It is, therefore, absurd to say that the Army has not been reduced. From what I can see the exact contrary is the case. You cannot increase your numbers by simply changing a name. By improved organisation and an alteration in the terms of service you may increase efficiency, but that fact does not give you more men. Whether the men are called the First or Second Line does not affect the total numbers available. In my view, such statements 1601 as the one to which I have referred are dangerous and give to the country a false idea of our military strength.
§ Moved, that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to a statement reported to have been made by the Secretary of State for War on Friday the 20th November, at Guildford, to the effect "that the Army was 90,000 stronger than it was three years ago."—(The Earl of Erroll.)
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Lord LUCAS)
My Lords, the speech of the Secretary of State for War at Guildford, to which the noble Lord has referred, was very inadequately reported in The Times. If the noble Earl had referred to fuller reports, he would have seen that Mr. Haldane was speaking entirely about the Regular Army. The noble Earl based his argument on what he has himself described as the condition of the armed forces. The position with regard to the Regular Army is exactly as stated by the Secretary of State. If you count, as you are bound to do, the numbers available on mobilisation and the Reserve, you will find that there is a large increase.
The increase has been obtained in this way. In the first place, we do not wish to take any credit to ourselves for the abnormal condition of the Regular Reserve. Its condition is entirely due to the action of the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Midleton). The three years system which the noble Viscount established, and the number of men who came in as three years men have increased the Reserve very much above the normal figure. It is 40,000 higher than in 1905, and about 14,000 or 15,000 higher than it will be when it gets back to what I may call its normal condition—that is to say, when the present terms of enlistment have been worked sufficiently long for the three years men to have all passed out of the Reserve. I do not wish to deny that it has been of great advantage to have had these 40,000 men. They have given a strength to the force which came in very opportunely to help us through the period of organisation. As gradually the new system comes into full operation the Special Reserve will, we hope, be up to its full establishment, the number of men serving with the Colours will be 1602 older and larger, and therefore we shall have to make much less call on the Reserve on mobilisation than we should have to do at present.
Next you have to consider the other category of Reserve—the Special Reserve. After passing the Act of last year you cannot help yourselves from considering the Special Reserve as a part of the First Line. It is true, as the noble Earl has said, that the Militia have always come forward very patriotically on the occasions when they have been called upon, and they have gone out in their units to the various big wars in which this country has been engaged. At the time of the South African War there was a Militia Reserve of 30,000 men, and without that Reserve it is hard to say what would have been done to find the necessary reinforcements for the Regular Army. But soon after the war the Militia Reserve, as the noble Earl will remember, was abolished, and some means had to be found to obtain drafts for the units of the First Line of the Regular Army outside the Army itself. The only way to obtain these was from the Militia, but the Militia, as we all know, were unwilling to undertake that function, and it was only after considerable difficulty that they did undertake it, and they have now come into the Special Reserve. Had you not had that re organisation, had you left things as they were when the present Government came into office, you would have had practically nothing to fall back upon for the supply of drafts and to fill up wastage of war in the Regular Army. You have provided that by the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, and I cannot conceive how it can be argued that those forces are not to be regarded as strengthening to that degree the Regular Army. I maintain that they are an important source of strength to the Regular Army.
When you talk about a profit and loss account you are again arguing from the point of view of the general armed forces of the Crown. Mr. Haldane carefully stated in his speech that he was only dealing with the Regular Army. It is quite true that the forces outside the Regular Army are proportionately less. What we claim is that by reorganisation and by more carefully and scientifically defining the functions of the various parts of the Regular Army it is possible to make it a more powerful 1603 and more efficient weapon with which to fulfil its duties. You still have the Militia in the present Special Reserve. You do not require more than a certain number of them on mobilisation; but on mobilisation you at once embody your Special Reserve units, and put into them not only the whole of the Special Reserve but also the surplus Regulars. There will be a certain number of surplus Reservists and a certain number of soldiers who for various reasons, being too young and so on, do not go abroad in case of war. They are formed into battalions. At present, if you had to mobilise the Army you would have seventy-four of these battalions, with a large proportion of Regular officers, who would be as capable of fulfilling duties for the defence of this country as the Militia would have been. They are not, of course, mobile troops, but you can usefully use them to release mobile troops for other purposes.
Then as regards the question of garrisoning stations in the Mediterranean and elsewhere to release Regular battalions. Besides the seventy-four battalions to which I have referred, who constitute the training machinery of your drafts, you have twenty-seven other battalions who will be used for that sort of purpose—for the same work, in fact, as the Militia did before. You are not going to call upon them to supply drafts; they are outside your drafting machinery. They are the fourth battalions, and will be used in the way I have suggested. At the early stage of the campaign, therefore, and before the Territorial Army has received its war training, you have these battalions of the Special Reserve who are more efficient from the military point of view than the old Militia, and are able to fulfil the duties that the Militia could have carried out.
§ THE EARL OF ERROLL
Did I understand the noble Lord to say that the Special Reserve units were fit to take the place of the Militia in garrisoning stations in the Mediterranean and elsewhere?
Yes. You have seventy-four third battalions, who constitute the actual machinery for training drafts. Besides those, you have twenty-seven fourth battalions, which are not to provide drafts, but are to be used for 1604 garrisoning the stations in the Mediterranean and for similar purposes. As to the 90,000, there is an increase of 40,000 men of the Regular Reserve, and 65,000 —now nearer 68,000—of the Special Reserve, and against that, you have to put the reductions made in the Regular Army of 18,000 men. The reductions in. the Regular Army consist partly of those troops considered to be no longer required owing to certain changes in defensive policy.
The chief reductions are set out in the Return recently presented to your Lordship's House. The reductions consist chiefly of garrison artillery, which has been reduced by some 5,000 since 1905, and there is a reduction also in fortress engineers. By the reductions of these men the expeditionary force is not affected in any way. The reduction of certain infantry battalions has only taken place because they were surplus to any force you could possibly have organised and put into the field as an organised body. In spite of the reductions, we can at the present time mobilise a larger organised expeditionary force than was ever possible before, and now that the establishment is rapidly filling up, especially in the weak arms, we shall be able to mobilise an expeditionary force of over 160,000. There is at present, as I have said, an increase of 40,000 in the Regular Reserve and 68,000 in the Special Reserve, and if you allow 18,000 for reductions that brings the total increase to 90,000. As to the question of age, the number of men under twenty in the Special Reserve on October 1st was just over 16,000, which compares very favourably with the number under twenty in the Militia in 1905—the number was then 23,000.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, as we recently had a debate on the whole subject of our military strength I shall confine myself on the present occasion entirely to the point raised by the noble Earl, which is whether the Secretary of State for War is justified in going about the country stating that the Regular-Army is now 90,000 stronger than it was two or three years ago. I submit that 1605 the argument which the noble Earl employed has not been answered in the smallest degree by the reply we have just had from the Under-Secretary. The noble Lord introduced a number of qualifications which, if they were all reported and were carefully weighed, would tend to remove from the minds of men a large percentage—perhaps 95 per cent.—of the value of the statement made by the Secretary of State. I would point out the extreme danger of such statements being made without those qualifications. I have in my hand a verbatim report of the speech of the Secretary of State, and this is the sort of statement I find in it—I have to state that, so far from the Regular Army having been cut down, we are to-day 90,000 stronger than we were three years ago; and yet the Army costs two and a half millions less.I believe the first statement is a delusion, and the second I hold to be absolutely incorrect. I challenge the noble Lord the Under-Secretary to substantiate it in a single particular.
If the noble Viscount will add the amount formerly spent annually in connection with military works loans, he will find the reduction in cost nearly twice as great.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Of course, if you give up a barrack programme and do not build the barracks necessary properly to house the troops you reduce expenditure, but it cannot properly be taken as a reduction on the cost of the Army. I speak with some indignation on this subject, because it is far too serious a one to be treated simply as a bone of contention across the floor of the House. The Secretary of State should have told his audience that a large part of the force to which he was referring was temporary and disappearing, owing to a long service system having been adopted as opposed to the short service system partially adopted by Lord Lansdowne, very much extended by his successor, and for which Mr. Arnold Forster intended to substitute a still shorter term which would have given an even larger Reserve. Mr. Haldane declared that it was a fallacy to suppose that an Army consisted only of people with the Colours, and he went on to compare our Reserve and this increase of strength with the Army of Germany. But the 1606 German Reserve is a Regular Reserve. What Mr. Haldane is asking the people of this country to believe is that the Reserve on which he is going to depend is also a Regular Reserve, whereas it is only a Reserve consisting of the old Militia under another name.
There is another point. The Secretary of State went on to justify himself for having reduced certain battalions. He said—We got rid of units which could be of no service. We considered what made for fighting efficiency. We found a very large surplus of infantry, and we reduced them in proper proportion to other arms.Units which could be of no service! He was referring to five battalions of Regular Infantry and one of Guards. Those battalions were raised under the last Administration. We had authority for it in the repeated demands of the Duke of Cambridge, of Lord Wolseley, of Lord Roberts, of Sir Redvers Buller, of Sir Evelyn Wood, and all the officers who served with them. Will the noble Lord tell me that any officer will declare that these battalions were surplus to our fighting efficiency?
I can certainly say that, for the purpose of general military usefulness, the replacing of those infantry battalions by what is infinitely more required—artillery, of which the Army was ridiculously short—is of the utmost value.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
The noble Lord said that these battalions were surplus to any force we could possibly put into the field. Will any one of his military advisers at the War Office tell him that when the expeditionary force had been sent abroad and we were mobilising for home defence, these infantry battalions would be surplus to our requirements?
As an organised force, certainly. There is no organisation into which we could fit them. They are outside any possible organisation.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Therefore, if a foreign force lands to-morrow— and it is admitted that that is not without the bounds of possibility—the 1607 War Office, according to the Undersecretary, prefer to meet the invading force with a Territorial Army and without the support of these five battalions of Regulars and this battalion of Guards. The noble Lord had better not advance such an argument, because it is impossible to maintain it, and the experience of all soldiers is against it. I have made these few remarks simply because I feel that the utterances of the Secretary of State are calculated to mislead the public. If they are not so intended, they ought to be withdrawn or modified. The effect of them can only be to pile up against the Secretary of State in the future the whole military opinion of all those who are now complaining of the undue reduction of our Regular Army. Even when the Secretary of State has got his Special Reserve to the full he will have a force which his soldiers will turn round and tell him they cannot depend on without more Regulars. I will add this assertion, that, even if the Secretary of State's statement is accepted as correct, he has not got the officers for the 90,000 men, and could not mobilise them to-morrow. What I would urge is that we might be allowed in future to gain the advantage on our side that we have endeavoured to give to the noble Lord. Not a word has fallen from this bench in criticism of the present condition of the Territorial Army, although we know its organisation is far from complete, because we believe that time should be given for the experiment and because we desire that everybody should lend a hand to make the experiment a success. But, in the meantime, I would urge that what I venture to call these vain-glorious boasts as to the condition of the Army, boasts which we know to have no military support whatever at their hack, should be discontinued, and that the modifications which the Under-Secretary has to-night introduced into Mr. Haldane's speech should, on the first available opportunity, be made equally clear with the utterance of the Secretary of State of which we complain.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of CREWS)
My 1608 Lords, I do not propose to enter into the technical part of this debate, the War Office reply having already been given by my noble friend behind me. I merely desire to make one or two observations upon what was said by the noble Viscount who has just sat down. The noble Viscount took credit to himself and his friends on the benches opposite that they had not in any way attacked the organisation of the Territorial Army. With all respect to the noble Viscount that really is not the case. The debate which was initiated the other night by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal who is not now in his place, though not an attack on the Territorial Army, amounted to a categorical statement that the whole scheme of the Territorial Army was absolutely ineffective for the purpose for which it was designed and a demano for the establishment of an entirely different system; and noble Lords opposite trooped into the lobby with the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. To say after that that no attack has been made on the organisation of the Territorial Army because noble Lords have not mentioned what has happened in this county or that is not, it appears to me, entirely in accordance with the facts. After that debate we are, unfortunately, obliged to regard noble Lords opposite as wedded to some new, and, I confess, unexplained system of organisation of the forces of this country, and it was in the hope that we might avoid that conclusion that we besought noble Lords not to join the noble and gallant Field-Marshal in the lobby on that occasion. The noble Viscount objected to the inclusion of interest on loans in calculating the annual expenses of the Army because, he said, those loans were for all time. But, unfortunately, that is not so. The complaint was that a very large proportion of the money raised in that way was used for purposes not merely temporary, but which the experience of a few years showed to be useless. Therefore, I am afraid that from, the taxpayers' point of view—and that is the only point of view which, when you come to speak of expenditure, matters—the money spent by way of loan must be counted in as much as the ordinary expenses of the Army.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
The noble Earl, I think, is ignoring the fact that all money raised on loan is being paid off by an annual charge over a short period of, years. They are already bearing on their Estimates the cost of all loans of the last twenty years, many of which are reaching maturity.
THE EARL OF CREWR
We are, unfortunately for ourselves, suffering for the loans raised by the Government of noble Lords opposite. We are still paying for things that have proved, in more than one case, to be useless for the purpose for which they were designed. All the previous speakers pointed, with perfect truth, to the fact that a very considerable portion of the surplus of men to which my right hon. friend alluded is due to the exceptional swelling of the Reserve owing to the initiation and the abandonment of the three years service of the noble Viscount. I really think that, if I were the noble Viscount, I would talk as little as possible about the three years system, because I suppose it is common knowledge that that system had to be abandoned in a great hurry owing to the discovery being made that if it had been continued we should very soon have been without an Army or Reserve at all. We have no complaint whatever to make of this debate having been raised. I think it is a perfectly arguable point to say that my right hon. friend overstated his case, if noble Lords will have it so, in including the Special Reserve in the Army; but my right hon. friend does take up that position. He does differentiate between the position of that portion of the Militia which has been replaced by the Special Reserve and the Special Reserve itself, and there are perfectly sound reasons for doing so. It is, no doubt, the fact, as the noble Viscount stated, that the training in that case is not to the same extent as the Regular Army, but you must regard the Special Reserve now as forming part of the Regular Army, and I think my right hon. friend was quite justified in including it in his figures,
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I am afraid we shall find ourselves wandering away from the point into a some what general dis- 1610 cussion upon a number of interesting military questions. For example, I do not think the question of the policy of providing barracks by means of loans of greater or less duration is quite before us this evening. Nor, again, are we much concerned to-night with the Motion which was brought on the other evening by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. I think by the way the noble Earl did Lord Roberts rather an injustice in representing him as having attacked the Territorial system. Lord Roberts, whenever I have had the pleasure of listening to him has always gone out of his way to applaud Mr. Haldane's Territorial system; but it is quite true that he has added to that an expression of his belief that that system, as at present instituted, will fail to give us anything like the number of men that are required.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I never accused Lord Roberts of having attacked the Territorial system, because, as we all know, he has expressed a general approval of it; but he has so far attacked the whole policy of my right hon. friend as to say that he considered the provision of men for the Home Army to be entirely inadequate.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I rather think the noble Earl did use the word "attack" in connection with Lord Roberts' speech; this evening, however, the only point really before us is the very specific and well-defined point raised by my noble friend on the back Bench. He challenged the accuracy of Mr. Haldane's statement in his Guildford speech, and the noble Lord who so well represents the War Office made a very interesting attempt to justify Mr. Haldane's conclusion. He gave us a profit and loss account—I think that was the expression he used—or a statement of the manner in which the War Office regarded the profit and loss account, the profit being the number of men added to the Army by recent changes and the loss being the loss sustained in men and officers owing to the breaking up of old units. These statistics are not always very easy to handle or to follow, and I confess I do not think the noble Lord was entirely 1611 successful in bringing out the total profit claimed by Mr. Haldane at Guildford. The only point that I did, I think, gather clearly from the noble Lord was that whilst we are not at liberty to count amongst the Regular Army the Militia as we used to know it, noble Lords opposite do think themselves entitled to count in the Regular Army the Special Reservists, who, my noble friend maintains, are the Militia under a different name. But I really rose for the purpose of making a humble suggestion which I think may, perhaps, be helpful. Would it not be possible for the noble Lord to lay on the Table in the simplest and most intelligible form a statement of the profit and loss account on which he relies?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My noble friend suggests that to that might be added a statement of the cost under the old and under the new system. We have before us an interesting Return, moved for by my noble friend, and I was looking at it whilst the noble Lord opposite was speaking; but I am bound to say that I could not work it out so as to show the credit balance which the Under-Secretary so confidently claims. I hope, therefore, the noble Lord will consider whether he can give us the calculation on which he relies.
§ THE EARL OF ERROLL
If the profit and loss account is laid on the Table, I hope it will include the whole armed strength of the country now and three years ago.
I really think the Paper which has been laid before Parliament at the instance of the noble Viscount contains all the information that has been asked for. It contains the difference in strength and in establishment between the Regular Army now and in 1905; it contains also a comparison between the Militia in 1905 and the Special Reserve now, and the Volunteers in 1905 and the Territorial Army now; and, finally there is a statement on the last page as to the Reserves in 1905 and now. I should have thought that that gave all the information 1612 asked for. If, however, noble Lords will specify particular points concerning which they desire additional information, I will see whether the Return can be amplified in order to meet their wishes.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.