§ * EARL ROBERTS
rose "To call the attention of His Majesty's Government to Lord Tweedmouth's statement on 18th May last, and to ask His Majesty's Government if the Committee of Imperial Defence therein referred to has arrived at any conclusions with respect to the necessity for guarding this country against invasion, and whether these conclusions demand a revision of the facts and figures laid down by the Chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence in May, 1905; and to move to resolve, 'That in the opinion of this House the defence of these Islands necessitates the immediate attention of His Majesty's Government to the provision (in addition to a powerful Navy) of an Army so strong in numbers and so efficient in quality that the most formidable foreign nation would hesitate to attempt a landing on these shores'; and also to move to resolve, 'That in the opinion of this House it is desirable, in view of altered strategic conditions in the North Sea, that His Majesty's Government should, following the precedent set by Mr. Balfour in 1905, make a statement on the invasion problem and should state definitely the conclusions arrived at as the result of the recent 1680 inquiry by the Committee of Imperial Defence.'"
The noble and gallant Earl said: My Lords, during the last two years I have endeavoured from time to time to induce your Lordships to take into your serious consideration the vitally important question of home defence, but for some reason Unaccountable to me, my efforts have hitherto been in vain. I can understand the general public turning a deaf ear to warnings that are distasteful to them. They are for the most part so fully occupied with their own affairs and their individual struggles for existence that they do not trouble themselves much as to what is going on in the outside world, but are content to trust the safety of their country to those whose duty it is to watch over it and to take all possible measures for its protection. That duty is yours, my Lords, as it is the duty of those elected by the people to look after their interests. It is a sacred duty, and I am deeply concerned that it should be neglected and that the warnings of men who like myself have earnestly studied the subject, against a danger which appears to us to be all too obvious, should have fallen hitherto on utterly stony ground. For, my Lords, if you, who know from history the fate that overtook all former great and flourishing maritime and commercial States which refused to undergo the personal sacrifices that alone could ensure the safety of their possessions—if you, who have the best means of ascertaining what is taking place in other countries, and who ought to be able to realise that our naval supremacy is being disputed, can rest satisfied to leave matters as they are, and, ignoring the great responsibility that rests upon you, neglect to do all in your power to get this country placed in such a state of defence as would make even the most powerful foreign nation hesitate to attack it, I cannot help feeling that a terrible awakening may be in store for us at no very distant period.
It is impressed upon the British public by a certain number of politicians, whose sole object apparently is to reduce military expenditure, without any thought of the proportionate risk to the country, that an invasion is an impossibility, a 1681 mere delusion of a few alarmists, who regard the maritime advancement made by our Continental neighbours in the interest of peace and commerce as a preparation for attack on these islands. By still another school the people are told that, as long as we have command of the sea, there is nothing to dread, for no foreign troops could ever land on British soil. And, my Lords, they are entreated by a third party to believe that a second line of 315,000 citizen soldiers, officered by men but slightly acquainted with the rudiments of soldiering, and with only the veneer of training which is to be given to such of them as choose to receive it, will be able to withstand and repulse the highly trained troops of a first-rate military Power. If the general public are led astray in this way by those to whom they look for guidance, how is it possible for them to come to any other conclusion than that we are very well as we are, and that there is no need to trouble ourselves about invasion, or to undergo the smallest personal sacrifice for our country?
But you, my Lords, have the means of judging for yourselves whether the politicians, in their anxiety to obtain funds, for, no doubt, most laudable objects, may not reduce the Navy and Army to such an extent as would render them incapable of performing the duties for which they are maintained. You should be able also to satisfy yourselves whether the Navy alone, under all eventualities, could ensure your slumbers never being disturbed. But whatever conclusions you may arrive at on these two points, let me beg of you not to believe for one moment that an inexperienced, inadequately trained second line of citizen soldiers could cope successfully with the thoroughly organised, highly trained troops that would assuredly be selected for an attack on this country. Do not allow yourselves to be led away by specious argument, which is all the more dangerous from the fact that it accords with what we all would wish to believe.
It really would appear that all classes, in their anxiety to give Mr. Haldane fair play and help him in the arduous task he has undertaken, have become somewhat hypnotised. Soldiers apparently 1682 forgetting their well-founded and strongly expressed convictions of only a few years ago, seem now prepared to trust the same stamp of soldier, whose unfitness for service in the field they then pointed out in no measured terms. And this encourages civilians, who have not had the same opportunities for forming a correct opinion on the subject, to think that military preparation and adequate training are quite unnecessary, and that all that is required to ensure our country's safety is to have on paper a certain number of men, guns, and horses, to be turned into a fighting force if the enemy will give us six months' notice of his intention to attack.
I implore you, my Lords, to study this question for yourselves, and to satisfy yourselves whether the Territorial Army, as at present constituted, will be sufficient in numbers and efficient in quality for what it is required. Consider whether a week's or a fortnight's training for two or three years will suffice to make a lad, who has never been drilled or has never fired a rifle, into a useful soldier. And as regards the much-needed six months' training, supposing, for argument's sake, that we could calculate on being given six months warning, can we feel absolutely certain that the few patriotic employers who have allowed their men to join the Territorial Army, and are good enough to spare them for a week's or fortnight's training yearly would or could Consent to their being taken away for six months, during which time their business would go to pieces, while their competitors in trade who have refused to allow their men to serve their country, would be reaping great benefit from their selfishness and want of patriotism?
My Lords, a home defence Army is either required or it is not required. If you come to the conclusion that it is not required and that the Navy can do all that is needed, I would ask you what can be the object of spending vast sums of money on Mr. Haldane's Territorial Army scheme. But if a home defence Army is required—and the only purpose for which it can be required is to resist invasion, and that possibly without any previous notice—then surely common sense tells us that it must be on a scale and so organised as to ensure its being 1683 able to deal successfully with any troops to which it is likely to be opposed. The question, then, on which I desire to fix your attention is whether invasion of this country is possible or is not possible, for it is upon the answer to this question that the necessity for our having an efficient Army for home defence rests. The facts that my noble and gallant friend Lord Lovat and I are about to place before you may, we hope, help you to come to a definite conclusion on this subject, and, holding the views we do, it will be an intense relief to us if we can convince your Lordships that our defensive arrangements cannot be left as they are without the safety of the country being seriously endangered.
Your Lordships will, no doubt, remember that Mr. Balfour, in his position as chairman of the Committee of Imperial Defence, made a speech in the House of Commons on 11th May, 1905, in which he indicated the conclusions the Committee had arrived at on the subject of home defence. These conclusions were based on data furnished by the Admiralty with reference to France, which country Mr. Balfour selected because, he said, it is—The great nation which is nearest to us and from which invasion would be the most easy.But more recent inquiries have shown that, although the data may have been correct as to France in 1905, they are not correct as regards Germany in 1908. The conditions by which Mr. Balfour was guided are completely changed—as the right hon. Gentleman stated at the time was likely to happen—and I trust it will be possible to satisfy your Lordships that we can no longer feel ourselves safe from the possibility of invasion, and that Lord Lovat and I are justified in once more pressing the question of home defence upon this House. Mr. Balfour, in stating the problem to the House of Commons, assumed as an hypothesis that our Regular Army was abroad upon some over-sea expedition, and that our organised Fleets in permanent commission were absent from home waters. He then proceeded to explain the amount of tonnage necessary for 70,000 men, which was considered to be the smallest force with which, under the most favourable circumstances, an invasion could 1684 possibly be made; the number of ships suitable for such a force available in French ports throughout the year; the time required for embarkation and disembarkation; and the places where landings were most likely to be attempted.
After discussing all the pros and co s as to the manner in which such an invasion would probably be carried out, Mr. Balfour concluded with these words—I trust I have convinced the House that, even in these suppositions, unfavourable as they are [to us] serious invasion of these islands is not a possibility which we need discuss.This strongly expressed opinion of Mr. Balfour's has had a most unfortunate effect. The War Office, which up to that time had been preparing a home defence Army equal to any emergency then contemplated, at once stopped all schemes for resist an invasion, and decided that it was only necessary to provide against a couple of small raids of 5,000 men each, while the public accepted the statement with delight. It was, indeed, just what they wanted to hear. They were only too glad to have such high authority for confirming their belief that military precautions against invasion are entirely unnecessary. My Lords, I have good reason for knowing that this is the case, for, in my endeavours to convince our fellow-countrymen that it is their sacred duty to prepare themselves to take a useful part in the defence of their own homes, I am frequently met with this response—"Our homes are in no danger; why should we do anything of the sort? No Army is needed for home defence, for we have the late Prime Minister's assurance that invasion is a matter about which we need not trouble ourselves." This settled conviction is not confined to the proletariat, for Lord Lovat can tell you that at the public schools and Universities which he visited when preparing a scheme for a Reserve of Officers, one of the chief reasons put forward by the masters and graduates for not responding to his call was their belief in the immunity of these islands from invasion. His experience was the same when subsequently serving on a War Office Committee appointed by Mr. Haldane for a similar purpose. It thus became evident to us that it was hopeless to look for any improvement in the Home Army so long 1685 as this false belief in our security from invasion should so widely exist, and we determined to find out whether the information furnished to Mr. Balfour three or four years ago as to the power of France to invade this country was in all respects correct; whether it was applicable to Germany at the present time, and whether any fresh data regarding the movement of troops by sea could be obtained by a study of the Russo-Japanese War.
Great pains have been taken to get at the truth, and our researches have proved that the question of invasion now differs materially from the aspect it presented when Mr. Balfour made his speech in 1905. To begin with, Mr. Balfour only considered the question from the point of view of the invading force coming from France, while we have gone into it on the supposition that it would come from Germany. By taking France as an instance of the quarter from which danger might arise, Mr. Balfour did so only to illustrate his argument. That did not imply hostility to France or fear of France. So far was that from being the case that Mr. Balfour's Government was at that time drawing closer to France. What Mr. Balfour claimed, and was so well justified in claiming, when he referred to France, I claim for my analogous reference to Germany. It implies no hostility, which it would be impossible for me of all people to feel in the slightest degree. It implies no fear. What we are bound to do, without offence or without suspicion of foreign countries, is to take their military position into account in considering what ought to be our own military arrangements. This is done every day in the case of the Navy without offence being meant or taken. We are constantly—Ministers, Government, and all—discussing our Navy with direct reference to the strength of foreign navies. Why should we give offence by discussing our Army in the same way?
With regard, then, to Germany, my Lords, we have ascertained without the possibility of a doubt that vessels suitable for accommodating 200,000 men are at all times available in the northern ports of Germany; that, as the result of their new "service law," by which the period with the Colours is 1686 decreased and the period in the Reserve increased, that number of men could be collected during several months in the year, in the districts nearest to those ports, without any fuss or mobilisation arrangements being put into force; that the railway facilities are such as would admit of an army of that strength being brought to the several ports and embarked in a much shorter time than had been stated with regard to France; that, instead of three tons per man being required, as was previously estimated, one and a half tons would be quite sufficient for all purposes; and that, with the enormous boat accommodation of the big modern liners, with the frequent practice of troops in embarking and disembarking, with the education given to the officers of the mercantile marine serving in the Reserve, and with the various mechanical appliances which now exist, the disembarkation of German troops could be carried out far more expeditiously than had been thought possible in the case of French troops.
In other words, our researches have proved that a force of 150,000 German soldiers could be transported in the same number of vessels that Mr. Balfour had been informed would be needed for half that number of French soldiers, and that the embarkation and disembarkation would occupy a much shorter period than was supposed to be necessary for the smaller force. It is true that the distance is greater from Germany to England than from France to England, but this is only an apparent disadvantage, for German ports are really nearer to those places on our eastern coast most likely to be selected for the disembarkation of an invading army than are the ports on which our own Fleets are usually based. Then a glance at the chart of the North Sea will show you that the German base is in a sense a double one, since it includes both the North Sea and the Baltic, and for naval purposes these two bases are practically one, owing to their being connected by the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal.
Another and most important advantage to Germany is that, owing to the railways being in the hands of the State, all the preliminary arrangements, up to the actual despatch of the troops, 1687 could be carried out with infinitely more secrecy than in France. Another and equally important advantage is that owing to the North Sea being less crowded with shipping than the English Channel, once the German transports had started, they could procced to their respective objectives with much less chance of being detected than would be the case with French transports in the Channel. With the facts we are able to give you, my Lords, and which we have been at pains to verify, I think you must realise that in Germany there would be no difficulty as to the requisite number of troops being speedily collected, as to the amount of tonnage needed for the transport of the same being always available, or as to the great local facilities that exist for embarkation purposes.
The only question that remains is the question of the feasibility of keeping us in ignorance of what was happening until too late for us to prevent a landing. The question of absolute secrecy is one on which we do not insist. We hold that an invasion would be in the nature of a surprise, at a time when it was least expected, and when we might be—as at the present moment—quite unprepared for it. We place no faith in our receiving sufficient warning, and we believe that, owing to the entirely different conditions which prevail in the two countries, what would be impossible in Great Britain would be quite possible in Germany. The German Government is methodical, and in time of crisis would practically become an executive despotism, with control over the telegraph and post offices, over the railways, and, above all, over the Press, and under such conditions it might be difficult, if not impossible, for us to ascertain what was going on.
Then the North Sea is open, and our coast line opposite Germany is extended. The Germans have the choice of landing at various places on our shores, and up to the very end we might remain in ignorance as to their intentions. Even if the surprise should fail and we knew that the Armada had started, our fleets might miss what they were hunting for; they might, so to speak, grope vainly for their object in the metaphorical initial "fog of war," intensified as it might be by an actual 1688 sea fog in the English Channel which constantly causes such disaster to our shipping, and they might never have the opportunity to strike, as has happened over and over again with our most experienced commanders. There is, therefore, a chance, and a very serious chance, that a German army might get into this country as a result simply of the efficiency of the measures taken to secure secrecy, and against this the utmost strength and resources of our Navy can give us no protection whatever.
The Germans are perfectly aware that it would be essential for their transports to elude our fleets. In order to effect this—the only obstacle to a successful invasion of these isles—would they not naturally and necessarily resort to every deceptive device of war? Would they not try to mislead and distract the fleets? They would most assuredly not confine themselves, as we have always hitherto been asked to believe, to one large expedition offering the broadest target, and enabling us to concentrate our efforts on that target, which would be greatly to simplify our problem. Would they not rather draw us and our attention away from their main objective by despatching one or two small raids, which we admittedly could not be sure of intercepting, to points other than those selected for the landing? Our naval forces might be entangled in the pursuit of those minor expeditions, and, while we should be engaged in trying to deal with them, the main debarkation might be taking place undisturbed. It is surely quite clear that if we have to depend upon a brief warning either from our agents abroad, or upon our scouting system on the seas, we could not be certain for some time whether we had to deal with the expedition meant to act as a feint or with the real attack. I will not now attempt to work this out in detail, but that such methods might succeed at sea, as they have repeatedly succeeded in surprise operations on land, must be quite obvious.
But let us take the next point in connection with the secrecy essential to the successful landing of the main invasion. It must be perfectly well known to the German General Staff and the German Admiralty that we might 1689 be more effectually distracted by false information than by silent secrecy. A rumour might be allowed to be spread abroad at the last moment that an attack would be made on certain points of our coast where no attack was really intended, or a raid of 10,000 to 15,000 men, or a couple of raids of that strength, might actually be sent towards those points with the full recognition that they would be captured when their object had been attained. Anyhow, my Lords, it seems clear to me that we have really no guarantee whatever that our Fleets would certainly succeed in intercepting the main Armada of a German invasion. It would be folly to shut our eyes to the possibilities I have endeavoured to describe; at any rate, nobody can now deny that they are possibilities, and not—as the people of this country have been assured—impossibilities.
Grave responsibility rests upon any one who misleads our countrymen by encouraging them to continue in their belief that an invasion of these shores is impossible. I think you must know that Lord Lovat and I have no private ends to serve, and that the safety of our country is our only aim. Therefore, when we tell you, after the most matured consideration, that it is our firm conviction that it is perfectly possible for our Fleets to be effectually misled and evaded, and that this country might be invaded before having the opportunity of bringing her tremendous sea power into play, you must, I think, agree that, when a serious difference of opinion exists on such a vital point, it is wiser to place ourselves on the safe side by acting as if the danger were a reality, rather than by allowing ourselves to be persuaded by those who deny the danger to take no steps to meet it. However much we may desire peace, surely the startling events that have occurred in the Near East within the last two months must have brought it home to the most careless observer that nothing can save a country which is unprepared to protect itself and safeguard its own possessions. No alliances, no treaties, avail. Every nation must depend upon itself, and if, as I have frequently said before, we continue to neglect to take the most ordinary precautions, we may some day find ourselves at the mercy of the invader and forced to submit to the most 1690 ignominious terms. And I would remind those who think that a powerful Navy is all we need that our responsibilities are varied, and that we might at any time have to send our home Fleets, or portions of them, to distant parts of the world, to Asia, Africa, America, Australasia, or even to places in Europe, as we have had frequently to do in days gone by, while a foreign Navy—with no such responsibilities—might be collected in full force in our immediate neighbourhood in a position to take advantage of the absence of our protectors.
Is it not evident, however we look at it, that the danger upon which we insist is becoming every day more threatening and the undertaking every day more practicable? Within one single decade Germany has created, takings ships and men together, and counting intellectual organisation as well as mechanical resources, the greatest sea-power that has yet existed except our own. At this very moment formidable—if perfectly legitimate and praiseworthy—measures are being taken for the further increase of that power. The German North Sea harbours are being improved. The Kaiser Wilhelm Canal is to be widened and deepened. No ports in the world are so well equipped with quays and railway facilities as are the German ports. None are kept so carefully up to date. The German mercantile marine is becoming each day more efficient in respect of the number and speed of its large steamships. Day by day the period required for every stage of an invading operation is made shorter, day by day the chances of success are increased. Severe as has been the financial strain lately, there never has been in the German Parliament anything like such a large majority in favour of naval development as there now is. And the point which Lord Lovat and I particularly desire to impress upon this House and upon the country generally is that we can never be certain of defeating an attempted invasion by naval means alone. Even those who persist in believing in the improbability of such an attempt ever being made must admit that it is the improbable that constantly happens in war as in politics, and that it is the unexpected that most often succeeds in war. It is calculated that there 1691 are 80,000 Germans in the United Kingdom, almost all of them trained soldiers. They work many of the hotels at some of the chief railway stations, and if a German force once got into this country it would have the advantage of help and reinforcement such as no other army on foreign soil has ever before enjoyed.
I will not take up much more of your time, but before I put the Motion that stands in my name there are two points to which I wish to draw special attention. One is that, for the purpose of invasion, it is not an absolute necessity for a nation to have command of the sea in the sense that command of the sea is generally understood. Local or temporary command would suffice. The Germans are fully aware of this, and in General Bonsart von Schellendorf's textbook on "The Duties of the General Staff," after pointing out how in former wars "the want of a strong Navy has been bitterly felt," and explaining how, in order "to co-operate effectively, the Army and Navy must have a common objective—namely, the rapid destruction of the enemy's forces"—he goes on to say—The advantages of gaining the command of the sea, at least for a time, and thereby making possible the transport of troops by sea, may justify the loss of our own Fleet.These are remarkable words, not only because they represent the best German teaching on the co-operation of the two services in war, but because they convey a warning which I most earnestly beseech you, and the country generally, to take to heart.
The other point is that, no matter how strong and powerful our Navy is, the main preventive of invasion is a numerous and efficient Home Army, and the main temptation to invasion is the want of such an Army—the knowledge, in fact, that the country to be invaded is dependent for its defence upon an uncertain number of inadequately-trained citizen soldiers. Even if our Navy were doubly as strong as it is relatively to that of other Powers, the necessity for maintaining a sufficient and efficient citizen Army for home defence would still be an essential condition of peace and security, as well as of public confidence. That citizen Army must be numerically a certainty, and 1692 strong enough, and sufficiently trained to enable it to hold its own successfully against at least 150,000 highly-trained Continental soldiers. In order to do this and to meet the other many demands that would be made upon it, the citizen Army must consist of a million of men. If your Lordships will bear with me for a few minutes longer I will explain why such a large number is necessary, what the Territorial Army now consists of, and how impossible it would be for it, even if it ever attains its established strength, to do all that is needed. I expressly refer to the Territorial Army because that is the only portion of our military forces the condition of which affects the question at issue, for it stands to reason that there is much more chance of invasion being attempted when the Regular Army is abroad than when that Army would be available to take part in the defence of this country.
The actual situation, my Lords, at the present moment is as follows:—Strength of the Territorial Force, say, 200,000 men; strength of the Special Reserve, say, 60,000; net surplus of Regulars after the despatch of the expeditionary force, which, owing to the Army Reserve being temporarily increased by the reduction of battalions and the three years' enlistment scheme introduced by Lord Midleton, now stands at a higher than the normal figure, say, 93,000—total available for home defence, say, 353,000. From these figures must be deducted 15 per cent. for sick and absent, leaving about 300,000, from which again must be deducted untrained recruits, not less, I imagine, than 60,000, leaving a balance of 240,000 men available. It must be remembered also that the object of the Special Reserve is to support the Field Army, and that within a few months, possibly within a few weeks, of mobilisation its best elements may be out of the country; also that in the spring we are poorer by some 17,000 drafts (needed to keep regiments abroad to their full strength) than in the autumn.
Taking 240,000, however, as an approximate figure of more or less trained men available, the requirements that would have to be provided out of that number for protecting the arsenals and navel 1693 bases, and garrisoning the principal places in Great Britain and Ireland, must be noted before any estimate can be made of the force that would be available for home defence. For these requirements, not less than 200,000 men would be necessary, leaving only 40,000 citizen soldiers for the Home Defence Force, which, at four to one to meet 150,000 invaders, should amount to 600,000. Large as this proportion of untrained to trained men may appear it is the proportion recognised by all experienced authorities from Napoleon's time as the smallest that can be safely relied on in war. And in a life and death struggle, such as an invasion of this country would mean for us, it would be folly, indeed, to trust to any less number of men.
These figures are most disheartening, I may say, appalling; the more so, because until the country will agree to a practical system of military training, by which Mr. Haldane's admirable framework can be filled in with the required number of soldiers fit to take the field, they mean that the Navy must be tied to our shores, that the Expeditionary Force will be kept at home by public fears, and that British diplomacy will be deprived of that armed force without which, as recent events have shown, diplomacy is of very little avail. Thanks to Mr. Haldane, we are now getting a satisfactory military organisation, but if we are to provide against the possibility of invasion, even five years hence, we must begin at once to get together the material for a thoroughly useful Home Army. To argue that because the country is for the moment in no immediate danger we need not make any preparation is to encourage national neglect and the procrastinating weakness for which we have paid so dearly in the past—in fact, to invite national ruin.
The more I reflect on it, the more it seems to me that there lies in front of us one of the strangest spectacles that has ever been witnessed in the world. Across the narrow seas, opposite our shores, within a few hours' steaming of our coasts, there is a people numbering over 60,000,000; our most active rivals in commerce and the greatest military Power in the world, no longer depending 1694 upon her supremacy in one arm, but adding to an overwhelming military strength a naval force which she is resolutely and rapidly increasing; while we, on our side, are not attempting to take any military precautions in response. Germany cannot justly be blamed for the situation; rather she should be praised and her example followed, for her people, by their industry, their perseverance, their sound system of education, and by the advantageous military training which every able-bodied man receives, have made her a great nation. The Germans require outlets for their commerce and their steadily increasing population. To fulfil this requirement they recognise the necessity for having a strong navy, in addition to their matchless army, which is essential to their existence in the very centre of Europe. For more than two centuries, my Lords, we have considered it necessary from time to time to increase our Navy, and instead of taking exception to Germany's action—which we most certainly have no right to do—our business is to find out in what way we are likely to be affected by this great increase of sea power to Germany and to adopt such measures as may be necessary for our own protection.
My Lords, I only repeat these appeals in obedience to a most solemn conviction. Words cannot express the responsibility which lies at this time upon the members of both branches of the Legislature. We are not here only, nor even chiefly, for the purposes of the moment. We are the trustees for the future of the Empire. Upon what is done or neglected in Parliament beforehand must depend sooner or later the fate of England and of the British Dominions throughout the world. We are bound in this House to look beyond the bawling and the brawling of the day, and to uphold Imperial policy above the clamour of selfish or short-sighted interests. Is not this, indeed, the greater part of our duty? Unless we occupy ourselves most earnestly, and under a sense of personal trusteeship, with the means by which the safety and greatness of our country, continued from age to age, may be maintained in time to come, we cannot justify our existence even against the subversive force challenging 1695 this House to-day, and we shall not escape the heavy judgment of history.
We are links in a living chain, pledged to transmit intact to posterity the glorious heritage we have received from those who have gone before us in this place. We know that the world is altering, and, indeed, that the conditions of international politics in both hemispheres are changing with unexampled rapidity. Upon the one hand, it is agreed that naval development, in many countries simultaneously, is bringing about a fundamental change in the conditions of sea power. Upon the other hand, we, as an Empire, have the most extensive land frontier in existence, although our military resources are insignificant by comparison with those of the Great Powers of Europe and Asia. It is the most vital necessity of our situation that we should have in the future, as in the past, not only the strongest and most powerful Navy, but complete strategic freedom for that Navy. Under these new conditions we can never again enjoy that freedom without a total change in our military arrangements. The Navy, under present circumstances, is fettered to home waters as it never was before, and without a military force sufficient of itself to make invasion hopeless, and to keep these islands secure under the initial circumstances of war, it surely must be plain to every one—who will give the matter a thought—that our military weakness, if continued, will be the probable cause of the loss of our naval supremacy.
This is not a party question; it is essentially a national question—a question which, as a soldier speaking from the cross benches, I consider it my duty to lay before your Lordships on both sides of this House. My feeling and conviction on this matter are strengthened by the grave events which at this very moment cloud the horizon of the East of Europe with uncertainty; and it is my absolute belief that, without a military organisation more adequate to the certain perils of the future, our Empire will fall from us and our power will pass away. I beg to move to resolve—That in the opinion of this House the defence of these islands necessitates the imdiate attention of His Majsety's Government 1696 to the provision (in addition to a powerful Navy) of an Army so strong in numbers and so efficient in quality that the most formidable foreign nation would hesitate to attempt a landing on these shores—And here I have been asked by Lord Wemyss to add—And thus give practical effect to the Resolution unanimously agreed to by the House on 10th July, 1905;and also to move to resolve—That in the opinion of this House it is desirable, in view of altered strategic conditions in the North Sea, that His Majesty's Government should, following the precedent set by Mr. Balfour in 1905, make a statement on the invasion problem, and should state definitely the conclusions arrived at as the result of the recent inquiry by the Committee of Imperial Defence.Moved to resolve, "That in the opinion of this House the defence of these Islands necessitates the immediate attention of His Majesty's Government to the provision (in addition to a powerful Navy) of an Army so strong in numbers and so efficient in quality that the most formidable foreign nation would hesitate to attempt a landing on these shores, and thus give practical effect to the Resolution unanimously agreed to by the House on 10th July, 1905; and that, in the opinion of this House it is desirable, in view of altered stragetic conditions in the North Sea, that His Majesty's Government should, following the precedent set by Mr. Balfour in 1905, make a statement on the invasion problem, and should state definitely the conclusions arrived at as the result of the recent inquiry by the Committee of Imperial Defence."—(Earl Roberts.)
My Lords, I should like to bring to your Lordships' attention one or two facts by way of supplement to what has fallen from the noble Lord who has just sat down. I shall have in the course of my remarks to go into certain questions with regard to the details of the organisation and preparation of the North Sea ports, and I should like to make my point abundantly clear, not because I believe that the North Sea Power has any hostile views against us, but because it is the Power which has the greatest possibility for action over-seas, and therefore is the Power from the point of view of defence most worthy of our study and preparation 1697 against. In giving you a few facts as to the state of preparation of the North Sea ports I shall not argue that that preparation is intended for use against us, or that there is any reason why it should be put into operation against us in any hostile manner in the near future, but I do earnestly put before your Lordships that these facilities do exist, and as they exist they must be watched in time of peace if we wish to be ready for them in time of war. It would be very easy at the present moment to make an alarmist speech, but in view of the many questions which have been asked in another House about unfortunate occurences in this country or letters, etc., over-seas, I wish to confine myself entirely to matters of fact, because a great many of these vague stories that we have heard told about various endeavours in this country I place little credence in, and I certainly do not wish to refer to them at the present time. I would like to make a second point clear, and that is that in the course of my speech, I shall have to attack Mr. Balfour's speech of 1905, or rather that portion of his speech which was inspired by his expert advisers. With Mr. Balfour's attitude in defining the strategic position by sea and by land I have no quarrel, because it is surely a statesmanlike act when preparing a military policy to take the advice of military experts in order to foreshadow what that policy ought to be. Again I have no quarrel with Mr. Balfour because of the wild theories which have since been fathered on his 1905 speech, but I have to quarrel with his speech from this point of view, that it gave certain facts and figures which may have been true in 1905, but which are totally irrelevant to-day, and which, if we continue to base our military policy upon them, will very likely lead us into error in the future. It is necessary to attack the findings of Mr. Balfour's expert advisers because that speech has been the foundation of so many acts of military administration since. For instance, we can trace directly to it the 10,000 limited raid theory; we trace to it this idea of six months' warning and preparation before any hostile attack can be made; we trace to it the mobilisation schemes only dealing with the small raids; and we trace to it the theory of the training of a Territorial Army.
1698 You may ask why we hold these strong views on the subject of the 1905 speech when it has not been attacked before. The reason for this I think is plain, and it is that we had no wish to come forward publicly in this matter; the defence of this country is far too grave a question for a speech like Mr. Balfour's to be attacked unless it is as a last resource. We have now gathered facts which rebut certain of Mr. Balfour's advisers' figures that were brought forward by him in his speech. We laid these some sixteen months ago before a certain Committee, and it is only now that we have reason to suppose that no finding is to be made public on the subject that we have thought it necessary to come forward at the present time.
The first figure of Mr. Balfour's expert advisers that I should like to speak on is that with regard to the amount of shipping, which he laid down as 100,000 tons, and on which he pressed a strong point, that the collection of sufficient shipping to bring over a force of any size would be a matter of days. As Lord Roberts has pointed out, in the North Sea ports there are three times the amount of shipping which Mr. Balfour laid down, and I think if one based one's calculations on those figures it would be as irrelevant as if when one were calculating an invasion of Turkey by a first class Power one were to base his calculations on how much shipping there might be in the Montenegrin ports.
There was a standard laid down by Mr. Balfour that three tons per man would be required for getting an expeditionary force across from Germany to this land. That figure was not only incorrect at the time but it is a figure which has been incorrect for 150 years. For example, in 1757, Mr. Copeland, the Secretary of the Admiralty, wrote down to say that it was the finding of the Sea Lords that one ton per man was amply sufficient for the transportation of troops for a month's journey, and fifty years later Napoleon crossing to Egypt was able with 47,000 tons of shipping to embark 54,000 men, carrying at the same time 170 guns and horses with thirteen months supplies. We have also later on Sir John Ardagh, who gives 1699 evidence that in the Turkish War some two men were carried per ton. I mention these facts to show you that some of these figures that have been calculated by the experts who advised Mr. Balfour in his 1905 speech were based on very flimsy grounds, and not only so but if those advisers had taken the trouble to read the manuals of either the French or German authorities they would have discovered that it was actually laid down that one ton per man was all that was required for carrying a force such a short journey as from Germany to these shores.
Lord Roberts has laid great stress upon the point that all calculations with regard to the possibilities of invasion and as to the facilities which exist in the North Sea ports for invasion should be frequently revised. He has shown you how the mere fact of a new Reservist Law which has increased the number of men who are serving in certain times of the year, from April to September, doing their periods of service with the colours, may make units which would have taken the usual nine to eleven days to mobilise; but, we know that there have been cases in France and Germany of the mobilisation of large Army corps complete in transport and supplies, the men being equipped down to the last button, which corps have been warned for mobilisation in the middle of the night, and have paraded three hours later complete in every detail.
We know that every year the commerce and the extended facilities required for commerce are making the dispatch of troops to any particular point more easily done, and we know that continental nations habitually move numbers like 87,000 men in a single day without interfering with the regular traffic. At these points make it necessary that whatever figures are laid down by expert advisers must be continually checked and brought up to date.
Upon the question of the actual landing of troops on these shores, Mr. Balfour in his speech made a great point of how the ships that were carrying over foreign troops would have to lie two days at anchor, and would take forty-eight hours to land their men, and that during the two days and two nights that they lay there they would be at the mercy of attacks 1700 by torpedo destroyers and submarines. He pictured the difficulty of getting the troops off, and he showed how the transports might ram each other in making their way out into the open sea. That picture was an excellent one if his facts had only been correct—if his naval advisers had been correct when they told him that it would take forty-eight hours to get the men off the ships. We argue that it is only necessary to take twelve hours to do that work, and in this we certainly have history on our side. In the Crimean War, 52,000 men were landed in a single day under difficult circumstances. In Algiers in the beginning of last century, 41,000 men were landed on the north coast of Africa in a morning. Again, we find cases of 7,000 Germans in practice landing in one hour and a half. We find instances, such as in Chili, of landing practically a division and fighting a battle inland the same day, and of other divisions landing in the morning and engaging in sham fights seventeen miles off in the afternoon.
I give these figures to show that one must accept it that, provided the space for landing is sufficient, the landing is the pace of the slowest boat; the limit of front in which an invading force can land is only that which prevents any part of that landing force being taken in detail. On the East Coast of England and Scotland we have, as the Landing Committee of some years ago will tell you, ample space for such landings to take place, and with a mobilisation scheme which deals with such a small number of people landing it would necessarily follow, if we had some 150,000 foreigners coming over here, that they could afford to be widely distributed along that area.
I need not take you any further into the facts which Lord Roberts put before you, because I do not think His Majesty's Government will deny the calculation that 150,000 men can be put on board ships in thirty-six hours, that they can be taken over to our coast, whether it is from France or from Germany, in under a day, or at any rate in twenty-four hours, and that with regard to the time of landing, though it may take more than twelve hours, on historical grounds there is no reason for so supposing. I have gone into this question of Mr. Balfour's figures 1701 at some length, or rather the figures of Mr. Balfour's expert advisers, because until those figures are definitely rejected, by the whole nation, we have no chance of having an Army in this country, whether it is on the lines on which the noble Lord who has just spoken advocates or whether it is formed on the lines of the Territorial Army. Those who believe in the possibility of invasion base their arguments on facts and peace conditions as they exist at the present time in the countries over-seas: that is to say, the Continental system of intelligent preparation for war, so that mobilisation can take place in the very shortest time possible. They base their case on no hypothesis except the one that a nation which means to attack will choose the best time for so doing, when they are best prepared and we are least organised, and it is on that one hypothesis, which, after all, is a hypothesis of commonsense, that we should act, and it is on the knowledge of that which Napoleon said each leader should credit his adversary with possessing that we base our case. We do not hold that when our Fleet is in the North Sea in superior numbers an invading force will come over, and we do not believe that when the Army has had six months notice and when the Territorial Army have been trained and we have our Fleet at home we shall have any invasion; but we do contend that in case of our getting embroiled in any difficulty abroad which would take away a portion of our Fleet and a portion of our Army that this nation is in serious danger of invasion. We do not base our case on the bolt from the blue theory that in time of profound peace an enemy would try for a surprise, but we do hold that diplomacy and military aggression may march hand in hand, and that a world policy can create a situation of which the sword would under certain circumstances be ready to take advantage. We hold that treaties can be torn up in a few hours, that a military nation cannot be created in a year, and that strained relations at any time when the opportunity is suitable may be taken advantage of and find us unprepared.
The other case, the case of those who do not believe in invasion, is based on a series of hypotheses. They hold, in the first place, the hypothesis of the command 1702 of the sea, that is to say, that the Fleet is in the right place. For invasion purposes, it is very obvious it is no use singing "Rule Britannia" in the Atlantic, when another tune is being sung in the North Sea, and equally so it must be accepted that for invasion purposes tactical supremacy at the critical spot is the only thing which is going to count.
If you look at certain cases in the last few years, I think you will find that our Fleet has not always been in the right spot at the critical time. There have been, for example, two cases in a time of profound peace, and two cases in a time of strained relations. At the time of the Dogger Bank incident the whole of our battleships were at Vigo Bay; at the time of the Lagos manœuvres it was admitted by the front bench of His Majesty's Government that no ship fully manned was at sea within three and a half days, and within four and a half days there was no other vessel than vessels of the "Royal Sovereign" class, which were then obsolete. Again, in recent times, when the state of Europe was not altogether peaceful, by the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, eight of our Channel Fleet Were in dock, and, again, when the vessels of a certain North Sea Power were mobilised in the North Sea the whole of our Fleet was at Lamlash Bay. I do not know whether on any one of those four occasions if trouble had come any noble Lord would say that our Fleet was well posted.
But, apart from that, is there not a situation which may arise at any time, that is, that when our Fleet is in the North Sea it has no walls to lie behind, because our harbours are unsuitable, and practically not accessible, and, therefore, they would be liable to surprise; while if they are not in the North Sea, with the conditions of mine-laying which exist in a narrow strait like the Straits of Dover, and the possibilities of submarines which all Continental Powers are building, and which some of those Powers have already got, with a battle fleet that might be lying guarding the mined field and preventing the cutting out of the mined field by small boats—which is the usual way—I say might not a very grave situation arise if a fleet of submarines and mining boats has prepared the Dover Channel, and our 1703 Fleet from their normal bases at Portland and Portsmouth had to make their way up the Channel to-get into the North Sea?
Then there is the hypothesis on which those who believe in our immunity from invasion insist, and that is the question of what one might call the brigandage theory. I do not exactly think that this brigandage theory is much further believed in now, since recent events in Eastern Europe, but I would ask your Lordships to remember that there must be surely some reason why three Continental nations keep mobolised on their frontiers three of their very finest Army corps to prevent something. It is obvious, therefore, that the brigandage theory must be believed in, otherwise one can have no idea why nine Army corps should be kept in a state of continual mobilisation. Why, if Continental nations have this fear, should we not have this it, merely because there is a thin streak of water between us and the mainland of Europe?
There is a further postulate which is made and that is the invasion question of which Lord Roberts spoke. It is the idea that our fleets being in the right place would at once block all foreign ports. I feel certain that this theory is laid down by men who have not taken part in active service of any shape or kind. I would ask your Lordships to remember what happened in the Franco-Prussian war, when armies of 80,000 lost each other, and what happened in the Manchurian or the South African war, when it was undoubtedly proved to demonstration that a surround or a blockade was practically never effective, and with an extended coastline on the North Sea and with its liability to fog, a blockade would probably be more difficult there than the blockade of a port in any other part of the world.
There is a third postulate which is made: that is the impossibility of secrecy. We base our case on the idea that no preparation is made in time of peace; our whole figures are based on the fact that we take peace conditions, the normal conditions which exist in a country which is ready for war. We ask for nothing for any of our calculations either for getting the men to the coasts or for getting the 1704 ships out of the harbours, except those peace conditions which exist every day of the year. There is a further hypothesis which is taken; that is the question of landing. It is laid down that landing will not take twelve hours, but that for some reason it will take a great deal more; it is said that the transports commanded by amateurs, by men of the Naval Reserve, will run against each other and that other difficulties will occur. But may I point out that these manœuvres are regularly practised in the Baltic, the Reservists being placed in command of ships which are practised in the landing of men? Then it is said that weather conditions may affect a landing. I would ask your Lordships to study the periodicity of storms as laid down by our experts on the subject, in which you will find that in certain times of the year the chances are fifty to one against a storm occurring, and in one month of the year on seven-ninths of the days in that month in an average year there is never more than a three feet wave in the North Sea. We have no reason to say that these difficulties are such as believers in our immunity from invasion would have us hold, and I would ask your Lordships to consider what is the position if we have not an adequate land defence force, whatever one thinks of the possibility of invasion, which would render invasion in any considerable force impossible. If we have not got this defence force we have tied our Fleets for all time to our shores, and we shall be unable to fulfil our function as a world Power to let our Fleet carry out its duties as a strategic cavalry defence, as it were. The wit of no man can tell in which place in the world's combinations of interests offence may not arise against us and if we wish to maintain our position as a world Power it surely lies with us to base our defence at home on solid grounds so that we can enable our Navy to carry out the duties for which it was originally intended.
§ * THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, in the very brief observations that I am about to address to your Lordships, I do not propose to deal with any military details—I must leave those matters to others who are more conversant with 1705 that subject than myself. My main reason for intervening in the debate is, as your Lordships will remember, that on the occasion of a debate which took place in this House last summer I made some observations as regards the possibility of war and the desirability of preparing for such a contingency, which attracted a good deal of attention and criticism. In fact, it is impossible to deal with this very difficult and delicate subject without incurring a good deal of criticism and even of misrepresentation. If one dwells upon the desirability of adopting an internal policy calculated to be conducive to the peace of Europe one is apt to be accused of an unworthy desire to truckle to foreign nations. If, on the other hand, one hints at the possibility of war and urges the need of preparation, one is instantly dubbed an alarmist and a disturber of the peace. I have incurred both those accusations at various times; and, although I plead not guilty to both charges, I wish to say that, although one distinguished member of His Majesty's Government, the President of the Board of Trade, said at a public meeting a short time ago that my warnings last July were "nonsense," I adhere to every word I then said, and I adhere to every word I said even with emphasis. I am a strong advocate of peace; and possibly, if the history of recent times ever comes to be written, it may be shown that within the very limited sphere of my action I have acted quite as strenuously and with as much practical effect in the interests of peace as either the President of the Board of Trade or many of my critics. I am also equally convinced of the necessity of preparing for war. Therefore, when I saw, as I thought, His Majesty's Government rushing somewhat hastily into large and unknown expenditure, without telling us where the money was to come from to meet it, I certainly thought that a word of warning was necessary. I entirely agree with what the noble Earl on the cross benches said, that recent events have shown that that warning was necessary. It would be improper on the present occasion to dwell at any length upon recent affairs in the East. Our interests in the East are in the hands of the distinguished statesman 1706 who presides at the Foreign Office, and who commands the respect and confidence of all parties in the State. But there is one point bearing on the present issue to which I may briefly allude, and that is that although diplomacy can do a great deal, it cannot do everything to preserve peace; it must have force behind it.
The President of the Board of Trade, to one of whose utterances I have already alluded, made, a little while ago at a public meeting, some rather disparaging remarks about modern diplomacy. He said, as far as I can understand the right hon. Gentleman, that he thought if the diplomatists had been sufficiently skilful, and had shown sufficient foresight, the recent crisis in the East might have been avoided. I am wholly unable to share that view. What I think the recent crisis has shown is that under the stress of circumstances, the temptation to ignore Treaty obligations is so great as to be at times incapable of being resisted. And, therefore, any nation, particularly a nation of our wealth and possessions, which relies wholly on treaties for maintaining its rights, is acting very foolishly.
With reference to the Army, there is certainly one point to which I wish to allude. I have always regarded, with a certain amount of apprehension, one portion of the programme of the Government, that is, the portion which involves the carrying out of the destructive part of the programme, that is to say, the abolition of those regiments of the line before anything was certainly known as to what success would attend the constructive portion. No doubt we shall hear more on this point from the opposite Benches; and if noble Lords opposite can assure us that we are now in as good a position to meet all contingencies that may arise, as we were before that programme began, no one will be more pleased than myself. Before I sit down I desire to say one word as to the terms of the noble Earl's Motion. As long as the noble Earl confines himself generally to urging that the country should be guarded against the risk of invasion, and that for that purpose we require not only a powerful Navy, but also a strong Army, I entirely 1707 agree with him. But the noble Earl has now added a Motion in which he invites His Majesty's Government to make an authoritative statement about the invasion problem. I confess that I rather doubt whether the present moment is a very suitable one for those who are responsible for the Government of this country to make an authoritative statement of that kind. I think it has to be borne in mind that, owing to the rather sharp electric shocks which have been received from various quarters lately, the nerves of Europe are at present rather highly strung, perhaps, more highly strung than the occasion really deserves. Also, I am sure, that so far as our own nerves are concerned, the best sedative is to maintain our strength, and if needs be to increase our strength. But I rather doubt whether such a statement as the noble Lord invites is calculated to be a sedative either to our own nerves or to the nerves of others; it might be indeed, to a certain extent, an irritant. One has to take a little into account the situation of the moment. The tension in the East, although it has been relaxed is not by any means over.
I may also remind your Lordships that an important debate recently took place in the German Reichstag, in which many important German politicians altogether disclaimed any feelings of hostility to this country. We may welcome those statements, and we may reciprocate the hope that friendship will take the place of any mutual suspicion which may have existed in the past; but at the same time no declarations of that kind can at all relieve us from the responsibility and duty of maintaining an efficient Army and Navy, although perhaps they do enjoin upon those who are responsible for the Government some degree of extra caution in the way of discussing the matter at this particular moment. Therefore, I venture to hope, if, as may be the case, the declarations from the Government Benches on this particular point are not quite so full and minute as the noble Earl may desire, that he will not press the point too strongly.
§ * VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, I have no desire to enlarge the scope of 1708 this debate or to add any complications to the problem which the noble Earl has put before the Government, and I am well aware that it would be difficult to add anything to the very impressive speeches which have already been delivered, but I have this excuse for troubling your Lordships and occupying the attention of the House for a very few moments, that during the whole period of more than three years from its inception while I was a member of it the Defence Committee was engaged almost continuously on this question of invasion, and during nearly half that period I was responsible as Secretary of State for War for the measures token for the land defence of the country. Therefore, I hope that I may be pardoned if I urge one or two points on the Government before the Secretary of State for the Colonies rises to reply. It has been shown very clearly to-night that there is a difference of opinion between naval and military experts as to the probabilities or possibilities of invasion. After all, that difference of opinion has existed for a long time. The optimism of naval I experts is hereditary, and it has been up to the present justifiable. It existed in the days of Drake, it existed in the days of Nelson, and I believe that at the present moment the naval authorities are as convinced as their predecessors ever were that in all ordinary circumstances they would be able to prevent the landing of any considerable force on these shores, and that even the attempt would be attended with a degree of risk to the invaders which would cause it to be regarded as practically prohibitive.
But, my Lords, there is one subject and one aspect of this case which was not put before us by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, and which he would, I know, be the first to recognise. Even if we look back only ten years, to go no further back, and take the two most recent instances in military and naval war, we see that these calculations are not part of an exact science, and we must be struck by the degree to which expert calculations were entirely disappointing. If we take land operations, for example, in our own war in South Africa, we must not forget that there was not a military authority in this country who did not 1709 under-estimate by thousands—I might even say by tens of thousands, almost by hundreds of thousands—the number of men whom we would be compelled to send to South Africa; or, if you take the Japanese War with Russia, I doubt if there was any naval authority in any part of the globe which would have foretold that the Japanese, in the face of a naval force equal to their own, if not in some respects in calibre superior, would have been able to ferry hundreds of thousands of troops across without interruption, with the exception, I think, only of a single day during the whole of the operations of the war; and when the great naval encounter came between the Japanese fleet and the Russian Baltic fleet, which resulted in practically the total destruction of the Russian fleet, the result of that conflict combined with the comparative immunity of the Japanese was probably unexpected, and came as a surprise to the whole of the civilised world. To all these elements of uncertainty and doubt in military and naval matters Lord Roberts has added to-night a contingency of surprise, a suggestion that I earnestly hope the Government will not rule out or put aside from their calculations as impossible, having regard to the fact, as Lord Roberts has shown us, that a larger force may be embarked than, from his calculations, might be needed to carry out the purpose, and bearing in mind also the rapidity with which in recent times we have seen crises arise and become acute between nations which have hitherto been friendly, and the immense stake which an invading enemy has to gain by anticipating by a few hours the formal declaration of war.
The noble Earl Lord Cromer, has dealt with the final paragraph of Earl Roberts' Motion. There is no doubt that it would be difficult for any Government, and I am sure that nobody on this bench would press the Government at this moment to make a formal declaration in precise terms as to numbers, as to what may be apprehended or what number would be necessary in order to protect the country, or to divulge the confidence of the Defence Committee in that respect; but what I do ask the Government to do is, if they come to the conclusion that the calculations 1710 which the experts arrived at three years and a half ago, and on which Mr. Balfour's speech was based—and I may say in passing that I think it would come as a surprise to your Lordships, as it did to myself, to hear both from Lord Roberts and from Lord Lovat the paralysing effect which they attribute to that speech in regard to our land preparations, especially having regard to the fact that the whole of the scheme of the present Secretary of State has been debated in both Houses of Parliament in the interval, and to the best of my recollection Mr. Balfour's speech did not figure at all in those discussions—I say, leaving aside that, we all admit that there has been a great advance both as regards tonnage and the increased capacity of foreign ports, and also in the experience of the number of men who can be put on board according to the tonnage, that the danger and facilities for invasion have been increased, and if the Government hold, as they must hold, that in certain contingencies, the final struggle may be on land, I urge them to make a formal declaration to that effect to the House to-night. It is no use to cry safety if there is not safety. So long as the country believes that our Navy gives us absolute security from invasion, the country will look on with comparative apathy at the struggles of successive Secretaries of State to provide this country with a military system and an Army at home after the expeditionary force for the defence of our possessions abroad has left these shores. If you want to make a Territorial Army or any other organisation a reality, if you want to inculcate the necessary self-sacrifice among the youth of this country, if you want to raise military training beyond the level of competition in which it now is with cricket, football, and other desirable and, perhaps, more attractive athletic pursuits, you must tell the country the truth in this vital matter, and you must make the young men throughout the country realise that it is only by an organised, combined, and sustained effort that they can avoid the necessity of compulsory service for home defence as against the present voluntary effort. I feel that it is by this course alone that we can put an end to the ups and downs, 1711 the hot fits and cold fits, of military expenditure which have made all our attempts at military reorganisation futile up to the present moment, and which, besides costing us many large sums of money, have been the despair of our administrators and of our experts. I speak with some feeling about this matter, although the problem is one far removed from party welfare.
There is a point which I cannot help thinking specially bears on the speech we have heard to-night. Lord Roberts has told us that for our proper defence 1,000,000 men will be required. This is not the occasion to discuss that figure, but it occurred to me that nothing proves so conclusively the great advance in the opinion of Lord Roberts as to this danger, as the advance from the figure which he considered necessary five years ago, at the time when he was acting as Commander-in-Chief, to the figure which he thinks it necessary to press upon your Lordships to-night. I know that it is his belief that by a compulsory military training any figure of this kind can be obtained, but I am not going to press that question, although, perhaps, I might be allowed to say, in passing, that no compulsory military training, unless it is followed by compulsory military service, and unless the men so raised are equipped, enrolled, and a nucleus of them are with their regiments, will be of any assistance whatever in an emergency of the kind which he contemplates to-night.
But, my Lords, what is our position as compared with what it was, if it be the opinion of the Government that ultimately there may be some land struggle? After the South African War the country agreed to a scheme by which, after the Expeditionary Force of, say, 130,000 men had left these shores, 130,000 men were to be kept for service at home. Of those, Lord Roberts insisted that one-third should be Regulars, and that two-thirds of the artillery should be Regulars. Where are those Regulars now? This is far too important a question to argue on party grounds, but the policy recently adopted has denuded us of over 20,000 Regular troops, and the Reserve has been reduced by over 20,000 troops more by a War Office calculation, and, 1712 in the opinion of many 40,000 more, so that, at the very least, 40,000 to 50,000 less Regular troops are being maintained in this country than was the case three years ago. Does anybody know what the number of the decrease in officers has been during the same time? Your whole organisation for Home Defence depends upon the number of officers. The Regular Army is 500 officers shorter, and the Militia, already short of officers, have lost 500 officers during their transfer up to the present time, and the Volunteers, since the Territorial Army was established—although I hope this is not a lasting figure—have lost 2,500. So that at this moment there are 3,500 officers less with our forces than there were a few months ago, and I believe that our whole mobilisation must be affected by it. I do not wish to use any exaggeration; I know that the Government believe that by better training these forces will be more useful than a more numerous force. I do not wish to discourage, in any way, those who join the Territorial Army. I believe it would be most unpatriotic to do any such thing, and I believe that everyone of your Lordships has done what in him lay to assist our Territorial Army within his own district. But I make this statement with every sense of responsibility, and I appeal to every soldier in this House, to the gallant Field-Marshal, to Lord Grenfell, and to every man who has seen service. I have sat in the War Office for twelve years, and I have heard the opinion of every soldier of eminence who has served the Crown during that period in the higher ranks, and I say without fear of contradiction, that if instead of addressing your Lordships to-night, I were addressing an audience composed entirely of those officers, there is not one of them who would say that the Territorial Army without a stiffening of Regulars, even if it had been trained for two or three months on the outbreak of war, could possibly be pitted, the Regular Army being away, against the picked troops of a Continental Power. That stiffening of Regulars has been removed in the last few years, and under these circumstances I think it fair and right to ask the Government how they propose to deal with any of the problems which Lord Roberts and Lord Lovat have put 1713 before them this evening, and I feel, I confess, great anxiety as to the nature of that reply.
The highest authority on this matter is the Secretary of State for War. He made a speech on Friday last. In that speech he told a great audience that we were not only not weaker, but that by his policy we were 90,000 Regulars stronger than when he came into office, and he added that we had saved £2,500,000 with regard to them. I sincerely trust for the safety of this country that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not call him to account for that £2,500,000 during the next few months, because I cannot help thinking that the Estimates will not be found to bear it out. How did he arrive at it? By quoting the present Reserve and by forgetting to take away any of the Reserve which must be reduced by the reduction of the Army—by crediting himself with all the Reservists of two or three years service which he is disbanding, and by adding to that 50,000 or 60,000 untrained Militiamen, Special Reservists with short training, all of whom he classes as Regular soldiers because they have signed on to serve abroad. But you can always make an account of this kind if you are willing to credit yourself with troops whom you are about to disband and to treat as trained soldiers men who have had about one-third or one-fourth or one-sixth of the training of Regular soldiers. And in the same spirit a few months ago Mr. Haldane told another audience that there was no fear in the matter of invasion, because no Government would send away the Regular troops abroad at a time when there was any fear of complications with other Powers.
Those are the sort of anæsthetics which I think a political doctor has no right to administer to his patients, and I am quite certain that the noble Earl opposite will not take refuge in such statements to-night. I have only intervened in this debate because those facts I think ought to be in the possession of the House before the reply is made. They emphasise, in my opinion, the necessity of a clear statement by the Government. Whatever the emergency is, it is undoubtedly less remote than 1714 it was a few years ago. I have tried to show that our powers of resistance to it have become less, we have gone backward when we ought to have gone forward, and I think it is indisputable that on previous occasions, when we have neglected the obvious teachings of experience, time has somehow been found in which to make up for those defects, but this is a case in which time will not be found, and the absence of it may be fatal to us. I do not wish, in any respect, to be a prophet of woe in this matter. I believe that a wise diplomacy may for a long time put off, or altogether obviate, any peril of this kind. It may be, and should be, only an off chance, but I do not think that any Member of this House will feel that the military preparations for safeguarding the heart of this Empire ought to rest on an off chance. It is for that reason, bearing in mind the recent emphatic declaration of the Prime Minister on the subject of naval defence, that I wish the Secretary of State for the Colonies to tell us to-night to what extent, in the opinion of his advisers, there is a peril on land, and to give us equally categorically and equally clearly as has been given to us with regard to our naval superiority, an undertaking that whatever the danger is, the Government will not hesitate to ask for the troops necessary to obviate it; thereby alone he can relieve the anxiety which will undoubtedly be found after the speech of Lord Roberts and it will also give us a security for the country in the future.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of CREWE)
My Lords, I think the House in general will agree that the noble and gallant Field-Marshal on the cross benches took a very serious step when he placed this Motion on the Paper, and the gravity of that step was not, I am afraid, diminished by the rather remarkable terms in which the Motion is couched, nor, I am still more sorry to say, was it in any degree diminished by the terms of the speech which he made. Parliamentary discussion of such a matter as this is a grave matter, because it is very difficult to conduct it in a way which 1715 may not give rise to serious misunderstanding outside, and I only trust that no such grave misunderstanding may be the result of this discussion to-day.
When on 11th May, 1905, Mr. Balfour made in another place the statement which has been already more than once alluded to this evening, my late right hon. friend Sir Henry Campbell-Banner-man used some words which I would like to quote. He said—At the same time, if I am to criticise—and I freely recognise that this is a subject in which to the utmost possibility of our power we ought to act together—I think the right hon. Gentleman's elaborate reference to the possibility of invasion by France was a little overdone. I admit that his statement would have lacked picturesqueness and the full satisfaction it gave to members of the Committee if this had been omitted. At the same time, his elaborate ex-position of what would happen in a certain eventuality, which eventuality is of all others the one we least desire, and we hope the French people, at all events, least desire, may, in evil hands, and especially if dealt with by evil pens, do harm to the relations between the two countries—though not the official relations—and the feelings especially of the French people, towards us. I gladly say that I am sure the right hon. Gentleman had no such intention, and that the whole people of this country would share his desire. But we have seen, day after day, foolish speeches made, and quite recently in regard to another country; and although the right hon. Gentleman made it plain enough that he was only doing what was absolutely necessary in taking some concrete instances of possible invasion, yet I hope attention will be directed to the fact that he was not contemplating the likelihood of any such invasion and had no such suspicion in his mind.The circumstances to-day are somewhat different from the circumstances of 1905, but I desire to reiterate and reduplicate that appeal—feeling as I do that if such an appeal is not made, consequences which we all should deplore in relation to public opinion both abroad and at home might not unnaturally follow the Motion and the speech of the noble and gallant Earl.
As regards Parliamentary discussion of these matters I can quote even a higher, if an older, authority. The Duke of Wellington, besides being a great military leader of his time, possessed what military leaders since his time have not perhaps as a rule possessed, except possibly the first Lord Hardinge, namely, a wide political experience and a deep sense of political responsibility. The Duke of Wellington during the 1716 thirties and forties perpetually appealed to succeeding Governments to do something towards the improvement of the national defence, which was at that time in a most deplorable condition. In 1847 he wrote his famous letter to Sir John Burgoyne, a letter which became public altogether against his wishes and to his great indignation. In the following year, the Duke of Wellington wrote to a person who had been concerned in the publication of the letter as follows—Upon the subject of the defences of the country, I have formed and have given opinions to several administrations; but it is well known that my opinion has been that the subject would be considered with advantage by the Government alone in the first instance. The rules of procedure so require, and it is quite certain that the House of Lords, of which I am a Member, is the place in which it would be least advantageous to suggest a discussion on such a subject. It is well known that in the course of the last session of Parliament a discussion did take place in the House of Lords on the state of the defences of the country. Lord Ellen-borough spoke; others spoke; I did not say one word. I objected to the movement on the part of any, excepting the servants of the Crown, and positively declared that I would not move in it …. My principal view in desiring to keep the subject in its regular channel was that I knew it was the only efficient one, and, moreover, the only safe one for the public interests.That being so, although it is necessary for me to say something on this Motion, I propose to say as little as I possibly can, and in no case do I intend to attempt to touch on the purely military points that have been raised, and should the course of the debate indicate that it is desired that the specific question, for instance, raised by the noble Viscount who has just sat down, should be answered on this occasion, and not on some future occasion, my noble friend behind me the Under-Secretary for War will be happy to deal with that aspect of the matter.
As regards the terms of the Resolution, the noble and gallant Field-Marshal makes a direct reference to the Committee of Imperial Defence, and the terms in which he does so I think are calculated to give a somewhat erroneous impression as to the functions and proceedings of that body. The Committee of Imperial Defence consists of the naval and military advisers of the 1717 Crown acting in concert and acting together with some of the political advisers of the Crown for the time being. It resembles the Cabinet in so far as it is in perpetual although intermittent session, and it has to deal from time to time with points such as those contained in the noble and gallant Earl's Motion, and its views and its conclusions are of course subject to perpetual revision. It is, therefore, perfectly right to assume that the conclusions stated in Mr. Balfour's speech of May, 1905, must not be accepted as the last word on the matter. They are not absolute and final conclusions, and like others are subject to revision. It is perfectly true, as has been already pointed out in the course of the debate, that the conditions under which national defence has to be dealt with vary from time to time. Mr. Balfour in that speech mentioned the introduction of wireless telegraphy as one important factor. Since Mr. Balfour made that speech more than three years ago, wireless telegraphy has been brought to far greater perfection, and it is open to anybody to ask himself whether that is going to tell in favour of the attack or in favour of the defence.
Then again, there is another point to which allusion has been made by more than one speaker, that is as to the increase in the size and in the speed both of warships and of transports or of vessels which may be used as transports. Then there is the further development of submarines and the further development both of naval mines and of the means of rebutting attack by mines. All those and many other considerations have to be perpetually borne in mind by those who are responsible for considering how the country ought to be defended, and what I desire your Lordships to understand is that the process is a continuous and a perpetual one, and not merely carried out in consideration of any particular question being raised at any particular moment. On this question of invasion there may be said to be two extreme schools, one of which, according to the custom of attaching nicknames to everything in this country, has been spoken of as the dinghy school, namely, those who believe or who profess 1718 to believe that it is impossible that any foreign enemy, owing to the protection and the defence afforded by the Navy, could land in this country a boat's crew of the smallest capacity known at sea. I dismiss that theory, as Mr. Balfour, indeed, dismissed it in 1905. It is not, I think, an opinion that is held in its extreme form by any responsible person in the country, and no doubt it is perfectly true that if it were held there would be no necessity for any home army whatever; it is perfectly clear that if no enemy could ever land in any force on our shores, all the volunteer movement has been a mistake from beginning to end. Is that view in its extreme form held by anybody? Both the noble and gallant Earl and the noble Lord Lovat who followed him seemed to imply that that was the view indicated in Mr. Balfour's speech, and they held that speech as being responsible for the disinclination on the part both of officers and of men to join the Auxiliary Forces, and now the Territorial Army. Mr. Balfour is very well able to take care of himself, but I think, indeed, that that supposition was disposed of by what has been said by the noble Viscount who has just sat down, and it is disposed of still more by the fact that I think by common consent the interest and keenness shown in the raising of the Territorial Army has greatly exceeded anything which has been known in former years, although Mr. Balfour's statement still to a certain extent holds the field. Therefore, I do not believe that it can have been reasonably taken by anybody as implying that we had no need whatever of a home army.
At the other extreme comes the view which, if we have not heard it to its full extent to-night, is undoubtedly the view which has coloured both the speeches of the noble and gallant Earl and of Lord Lovat, namely, that for practical purposes we must not be regarded as an island in this matter of invasion, that we are to a very considerable extent in the position of a Continental Power, that is to say, that a very large army may cross our frontier at any given moment, and that consequently our means of defence must be designed more or less upon Continental lines. This theory of a Continental Army 1719 is pressed by some on other grounds. I do not believe that it is so pressed by the noble and gallant Earl, and we have heard nothing of those grounds in the course of to-night's debate, but I think it is pretty well-known that there are some who press this idea of a Continental Army not only with a view to defence but with a view to offence. It is held by some that the time has now arrived and that our Imperial conditions are such that we ought to take our place as a Continental Power, that is to say, that we ought to be able to throw into the field great masses of troops comparable to those which exist in the forces of the great Powers on the Continent of Europe.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
If the noble Lord would read the literature on the subject he would find a great number of allusions to the point. I do not dwell upon that, because as I say that view is not as I believe held by the noble and gallant Earl.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
By a large number of persons. I need not say that, whoever that view is held by, I am glad to know it is not held by the noble Lord opposite. It is certainly not held by His Majesty's Government. There is an infinite variety of gradations between these two extreme views, although those who have spoken to-night and those who are responsible for the debate are certainly nearer to that view than to the extreme view of the blue water school, as it has been called.
1720 In saying what I have to say, I desire, as far as possible, to keep clear of mentioning actual figures. It is very easy for those who are in no way responsible for the carrying on of public affairs to mention figures, be they large or be they small, but for those who are in any degree in a responsible position it is not desirable to tie down the Departments concerned by expressions of particular figures; and there is this further reason, that whenever you mention a particular figure you are liable to be asked and are asked, whether that is the exact figure. For instance, you may mention for a particular purpose, 50,000 men; you are then asked: "Does that mean, not 49,000 men; well, there is not any very great difference, will it mean not 45,000?" and so on, and so down to 40,000, and then the process begins again. So that it is very much I wiser, I think, in discussing these matters, I to speak in general terms. There are two I clearly understood forms of attack which this country may be supposed to dread, one of which has been spoken of as an attack by raid, and the other as an attack by invasion. The distinction between the two is perfectly clear. I do not pretend to pin myself to the precise figure of a raid, although the noble Lord who left just now would undoubtedly be prepared I to do so, but a raid, I take it, is an attack which is intended to cause damage or panic or diversion, but is not intended to secure the conquest of a country. By common consent, and there I believe we are all on common ground, it is generally agreed that an attack of that kind, or possibly more than one attack of that kind, might evade the Navy, whatever your naval strength may be and however admirably it is disposed.
Then we come to invasion, and I still mention no figures of invasion. It is perfectly well understood that by invasion is meant the landing of such an army on these shores as might conquer the country. That is what is meant by the figure mentioned by the noble and gallant Earl. With regard to that, I wish to say two things. I think it is perfectly true, as the noble Viscount has just stated, that in speaking of the army which is intended to defeat this large invading force when it arrives, to talk of military training is really unmeaning. You must encounter an army 1721 with an army, and your force, whatever it is, however large or however small, must be a complete force, infantry, cavalry and guns, although its proportion to the force that you could expect to have to meet may very reasonably depend upon the amount of actual training that it has received. Because if it was a mere question of training, or what is generally understood by training as distinct from service, the fact that a vast proportion of the men of the country had undergone that training, would not, I should have supposed, act as a deterrent to an invader, and if the invasion was of the sudden kind which has been contemplated by noble Lords, the force of such men could not be brought to bear to defeat it. Therefore, what the noble and gallant Earl asks for is 1,000,000 men who have undergone some period of military service. That, I think, is the first time that that great figure has been mentioned.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
At any rate, it is the first time, I think, that it has been mentioned in relation to the particular force which it is intended to meet—not as an ideal to aim at, but as a necessity in order to encounter a particular enemy who is expected to arise. The existence of that force, trained in the manner in which the Special Reserve is trained, which I believe is the demand made, would mean, I suppose, an addition of something like £20,000,000 a year to the Army Estimates, and without attempting to argue the point with the noble and gallant Field-Marshal as to whether that is necessary (of course, if it could be shown that it was necessary to the existence of the nation, I have no doubt the nation would be prepared to meet the cost), I should just like to call the serious attention of the House to another consideration which arises out of that. We have not heard very much of the Navy during this debate. Slight lip service, if I may use the expression, is done to the Navy in the form of the Resolution, but I should just like to put to the House, what do they suppose will be the effect in the minds of the country of the acceptance to the full of this invasion theory as regards the Navy? It is a commonplace; 1722 it is common to all parties and to people of all political schools that we must have a paramount Navy. Everybody remembers Mr. Cobden's £100,000,000 statement. He was prepared to spend that if it could be shown that it was required. I believe at this moment that if it could be shown that the money was needed and that there was an assurance, as there certainly would be at this moment, that the money would be well spent, there is practically no limit to the amount which the country would be willing to spend on naval defence. But do not imagine that that theory would last if the theories of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal and of the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, are accepted in full. I think it cannot possibly be disputed that a very large proportion of that willingness to spend money on the Navy depends on the existence of a belief in the minds of the people that, although the Navy may not possibly be able positively to guarantee them immunity from invasion, yet it offers them practical immunity, and if that belief is dissipated, as the acceptance of this Motion by the House would certainly tend to dissipate it, I should dread the effect on the public mind as regards the necessity for the maintenance of a paramount Navy. The Navy is not kept or desired to be kept at its present strength by the country merely in the belief that it will be able to fight a great and glorious action somewhere in mid-ocean, but it is undoubtedly kept and maintained at its present strength, which would be increased if necessary, in the belief that it is the Navy—I do not say the Navy alone, but the Navy mainly—which secures the defence of these shores; and that is above all others the reason not merely why I deprecate this discussion on the line which it has taken, but why I should deprecate infinitely more such a thing happening as the acceptance of the Motion in such terms by your Lordships' House.
Supposing, then, that we do not accept the theory of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal to the full, do we then belong to the dinghy school? Not in the least. We fully agree that it is necessary to have a home Army sufficiently strong and sufficiently organised in all its details. There are a number of reasons why this is an absolute necessity. In the first 1723 place, there is the minor function of repelling raids. I have bound myself to no figures with regard to raids, but I should be very sorry to bind myself to a very low figure, and if it is necessary that one or more raids of considerable size should be encountered and overwhelmed at once, as would be necessary, you would no doubt require both a powerful and a well organised force at home. Then again, there is an absolute necessity of preventing panic at home, and that can only be carried out by the existence of a powerful home Army, all the more because the existence of panic might undoubtedly have the effect which was, I think, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, that public opinion might hamper the action of the Admiralty in using the Fleet to the best advantage, by practically making it impossible to send from our shores such a number of ships as might indeed quite safely and properly be sent.
Then again, there is the problem that your home defence force must be such as to compel your enemy to come in very great strength indeed. That is no new theory, and I may again perhaps be allowed to quote a few words from my late right hon. friend Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in the same debate. He said—What has always seemed to me the proper policy in regard to the defence of this country is to see that our force is sufficient not only to overcome the smallest number who might, in any circumstances, be thrown upon our shores, but that there should be so much additional strength as will compel the foreign Power to contemplate sending a larger force than 70,000.—there Sir Henry adopted the figure mentioned by Mr. Balfour, but it must not be taken, I think, as being a governing figure. I now quote again—And, therefore, put it out of the question that they should come at all. The way to prevent invasion is to have within limits overwhelming force such as would compel the invader, if he is to come at all—I am going to put it in an Irish way—to come with such force that he will not come.The meaning of that is that if you can compel the enemy to come with a sufficiently large force, the task of the Admiralty in intercepting him on his way is proportionately facilitated, and if you can compel him to come with a convoy which must necessarily cover a large portion of the sea and, of course, 1724 before he starts to make preparations on a very large scale, you can (although there are no certainties in these matters—there I entirely agree) make the task of the Admiralty in meeting and destroying a fleet so comparatively easy that the approximate certainty, if I may so put it, is that the attempt will not be made.
Consequently, my Lords, in spite of all that has been said by the noble Earl, we do not abandon our reliance on the general power of the Navy to deal with invasion by a great force. At the same time it is perfectly true that it is impossible to announce an absolute guarantee against the landing on these shores of even an invading force; all you can ask for is what I spoke of before a reasonable and practical inmunity such as you find satisfactory in human affairs generally. But you are obliged, for the various reasons I have stated, to have a large and powerful force at home, distinct from the question as to whether your invading force will land or not. Having got it, it is absolutely right and wise to organise it in such a manner that should an invasion take place, however remote the possibility of invasion may be, you would be in a position to meet it, and I am given to understand that the General Staff of the Army have been at work for some time past on schemes which will make it possible to throw the largest possible force to any point at a time when it may be needed. I do not propose to enter into figures of the different possibilities which may occur. Of course a great deal depends on the extent to which the country at any given moment is denuded of its Regular forces. In considering this matter, you must assume, of course, that things are at their worst in the matter of the absence of the Regular Army from our shores, and equally in matters of good fortune and of good management, and into these details I do not propose to go. The specific points as to the present position and means both of the Regular Army and of the Territorial Force, which were raised by the noble Viscount Midleton, will, if desired, be dealt with by my noble friend the Under-Secretary, who is far more competent to deal with them than I am.
1725 I would merely say this in conclusion, that I do ask the House to believe that we are as completely convinced as any noble Lord can possibly be, of the necessity of having an organised system of defence. At the same time, we do not accept to the full the conclusions of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal and of the noble Lord opposite, and consequently we are not prepared to do what we should have to do, if we accepted them, namely, to revolutionise both our theory and our practice not merely with regard to the military, but with regard to the naval defence of this country.
§ LORD GRENFELL
My Lords, in the very few remarks that I intend to make this evening I do not propose in any way to go into the question of invasion or not invasion; the two noble Lords have already dealt with that subject. But before I go to the remarks which I did intend to make, perhaps I might say one word on the speech of the Leader of the Government, who has just sat down. I think we are all rather astonished to find that a force of which at present we have no knowledge exists for the repelling of a large invasion, I take it up to 70,000 strong. It must be remembered that no possibility of invasion exists as long as difficulties do not occur abroad, and as long as our troops are not diverted from England, and as long as we are able to concentrate the men of the Regular Armies together with the Territorial Army at any point to meet an invasion. But our point is that at some period the Regular Army may be diverted, as it was during the late South African campaign, and that at that time when this large expeditionary force which has eluded our Fleet or has sunk our Fleet reaches the shores of England, the only assistance to the Territorial Forces will be the recruits, the cadres of depots, and the men of the Army of under one year's service. Those, as far as we know, would be the only men available to meet this very formidable invasion.
I propose to mention to your Lordships a certain moribund Commission which sat some years ago, and of which 1726 I think sufficient notice has not been taken. I am glad to say that there has been no severe criticism of the Territorial system. We believe, I think, in the Army that as far as the organisation goes, it is a vast improvement on what we have had in past years. But what we do criticise are the details. We criticise the want of training, and what the noble Field-Marshal criticised so very strongly is felt throughout the Army, that it will be almost an impossibility to make an efficient horse artillery and field artillery out of what we get by so very short a period of training. The question is whether this force will be sufficient in numbers and whether it will be efficient to meet foreign troops of a first-class order. The Commission known as the Norfolk Commission sat in 1903. It was presided over by His Grace the Duke of Norfolk. On it sat the late Lord Derby, the Duke of Richmond and Sir Ralph Knox, and the evidence of the best Volunteer and Militia officers tiny could collect in the country was given before them. That Commission sat for seven or eight months; it examined over 140 witnesses, and I venture, though I fear I shall be troubling you, to read some extracts calling attention to the work done by that Commission. When we started, we asked for certain documents from the War Office and the Admiralty. The first document that was furnished by the War Office was a Memorandum entitled "The Organisation of the Auxiliary Forces considered in relation to the Military Defence of the Empire," and the Report says—We were informed by the Director-General of Mobilisation and Military Intelligence that it might be taken as an expression of the views of the Secretary of State for War and of the Commander-in-Chief, but that it had not been considered by the Committee of Imperial Defence.And some months after we had been sitting discussing this document, we were told that this must not be taken as authoritative. In this Memorandum the total number of troops stated to be available required for Home defence was estimated at 320,000, of which 150,000 were mobile, 120,000 in England and 30,000 in Ireland. In the total of 330,000, one-fifth, 66,000, were to be 1727 Regulars. The remaining four-fifths were to be found by the Militia, the Imperial Yeomanry, and Volunteers. We were informed that the troops left available for the defence of the country on the mobilisation of these troops would be made up as I mentioned just now of the cadres of depots, the recruits, and the men under one year's service. The Memorandum continues—The strength of the hostile force which, hiving regard to the existing balance of sea power, could be landed in this country is a matter on which there is a diversity of opinion. It is held by some that the Navy can guarantee the complete protection of the United Kingdom against the danger of invasion by any larger force than from 5,000 to 10,000 men.We were informed by the Director-General of Mobilisation and Intelligence that this was the view of the Admiralty. But it is evident that a defensive army of 330,000 men, of which 150,000 are to be mobile, points to something more serious than raids of 5,000 to 10,000 men. It seemed desirous that we should obtain information direct from the Admiralty, and our noble Chairman then applied to the Admiralty and invited the Director of Naval Intelligence to attend and give evidence before us on this question of the force which might reasonably be expected to invade this country. This is what the Report says—We, as early as 20th May, 1903, invited the Director of Naval Intelligence to attend and give evidence before us in answer to a series of questions, the purpose of which was to ascertain what, in his judgment, were the possible or probable conditions of a landing in the United Kingdom, the strength which a force so landed might be reasonably expected to have, and the time which might be available for preparations to meet it after a declaration of war or after an outbreak of hostilities,We were unable to obtain this information. We received a letter from the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty stating—They could not permit the Director of Naval Intelligence to give us his evidence.No doubt there was good reason for that, but still our Commission was placed in rather an unfortunate position. We had one estimate from the War Office and we had another from the Admiralty. Accordingly the Commission addressed to the Committee of Imperial Defence the questions contained in the Duke of Norfolk's letter of the 26th May, in- 1728 quiring what were, in the judgment of the Committee, the maximum and minimum limits of an invading force, and whether it was contemplated that the duty of resisting this force would fall mainly on the Auxiliary Forces. That was a very important question for us. Our terms of reference were to report as to the best means of increasing the efficiency of the Force and also the keeping up of the number of the Force. Therefore, as I said before, we applied to the Committee of Imperial Defence. On the 22nd June, 1903, the President of the Committee of Imperial Defence communicated to the Duke of Norfolk a Memorandum to the effect that the Commissioners were not intended to inquire into the numbers which should be maintained either for home defence or other services, this question having been for some time, and being then, under consideration by the Committee of Defence. Again that placed us in rather a difficult position. Those questions therefore being closed we went on with our work. We examined witnesses and went into various questions, geographical questions, as to the possibility of landing or not, and we got the military opinions of the best officers of Militia and Volunteers that then existed. The further questions being closed, the Commission asked to be furnished with a copy of the mobilisation scheme, and in reply received a further communication dated 5th August, 1903, from the Committee of Defence, in which it was stated—The Committee of Defence think that it will meet the purpose of the inquiry if the Duke of Norfolk's Commission will base their recommendations on the assumption that the mobilisation scheme for Home Defence will be met by an effective force of 100,000 Militia and 200,000 Volunteers.This is another figure that we received—It is to be understood, as already stated, that these figures do not necessarily represent, those which the Commutes of Imperial Defence will eventually adopt, and that they are only put forward as a basis from which the Royal Commission may prosecute their inquiries.The Report goes on—Your Commission has received no further Communication from the Committee of Defence and has no knowledge of any decision to which the Committee may have come on the subject of the conditions of possible invasion or of the number of troops required to repel it.1729It will be seen that we had not the means of reaching in any scientific manner an independent conclusion as to the adequate strength to be provided and have had no authoritative estimate of that strength. We, therefore, assumed as the basis of our inquiry, so far as numbers are concerned, the figures given us by the Committee of Defence, which correspond in substance with those given us by the Secretary of State for War. Neither the estimate given us by the War Office of a force of 330,000 men, in which are included 150,000 mobile troops, nor that given us by the Committee of Defence of an effective force of 100,000 Militiamen and 200,000 Volunteers besides, presumably, the Imperial Yeomanry, can be reconciled with the assumption that this country can rely for its defence against invasion solely on the Navy. Each of them points to protection against attack more formidable than a raid by 5,000 or 10,000 men. An effective force—in other words, an Army—of the strength proposed to us, can be required only to meet an invasion. Either invasion is possible or it is not. If not, no military force is required for home defence, and our inquiry could hardly serve any practical purpose. But if invasion is possible, it can be undertaken only by one of the great European Powers which possess forces highly trained and ready to move in large numbers at the shortest notice.I have troubled you with these quotations from this Commission, because I think it is a Commission whose Report is worth looking at and studying. It was very carefully drawn up; an enormous amount of trouble was taken by the noble Chairman and the members of the Commission, and a very large number of witnesses were examined. We sat, as I said, for several months; we got every possible evidence that we could, and eventually the Report of the Commission was this—That a home-defence Army, capable in the absence of the whole or the greater portion of the Regular Forces for protecting this country against invasion can be raised and maintained only on the principle that it is the duty of every citizen to be trained for national defence and to take part in it should emergency arise.It is a curious fact that, of the eleven members when the Commission commenced, I do not think more than two Were men who were committed in any way to the opinion of the necessity of national training, and when the Commission ended, nine of the members concurred in this opinion; one, Sir Ralph Knox, did not concur entirely, and the other two members objected. This Commission was received with coldness by the Government and was somewhat ignored by the Press, but it was welcomed by a great many; it was welcomed by 1730 the officers of the Army; it was welcomed by the officers of the Navy, who say through it a chance of their Fleets being able to perform their duty where it was required, and not remaining tied to the shores of England. Some of its recommendations were adopted and now exist in the Territorial scheme. Political reasons will no doubt hinder the immediate adoption of what we desire, but public opinion is greatly changing and I believe that should this national training ever be adopted (and I may mention on that point, as the noble Lord has quoted the letter of the Duke of Wellington to Sir John Burgoyne that in that letter he states the absolute futility of attempting to defend the country by an untrained force) it will prevent the plans of invasion being even considered by any foreign Power, that it will stop the physical deterioration of our race, and that it will free the Fleet and allow the British citizen with a war existing to sleep quietly in his bed.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the noble and gallant Field-Marshal on the cross benches began his speech, to which, I am sure, we all listened with the utmost interest, with the somewhat pathetic observation that he feared his efforts to direct the attention of this House to the necessity of strong measures of home defence had hitherto fallen upon stony ground. I think, if I may venture to say so, my noble and gallant friend takes a rather pessimistic view of the success which he has himself achieved, because I have no doubt whatever that the speeches which he has delivered in this House and elsewhere have done more than any other speeches to interest the public in these important subjects and to induce us to give them the attention, they deserve.
The main object of my noble and gallant friend was to obtain from His Majesty's Government a definite statement that they no longer hold to the position defined by Mr. Balfour in 1905. I must say that Mr. Balfour's exposition of the then policy of the Defence Committee has been sometimes not very reasonably interpreted. Mr. Balfour said nothing to suggest that in his opinion a strong 1731 home Army was superfluous. Indeed, the whole of his argument was based upon the assumption that a strong home Army did exist, and his reasoning was this—If you have a sufficiently strong home Army no foreign enemy will attempt to invade your shores except in considerable force; if your enemy does come in considerable force, his difficulties in transporting that force will grow in proportion to the magnitude of the body of troops he has to ferry across the sea, and for these reasons—that was Mr. Balfour's conclusion—this country has to reckon, or had then to reckon, rather with what we commonly speak of as raids than with the problem of invasion by a large army. But I am quite sure that neither Mr. Balfour nor the members of the then Defence Committee had any idea of suggesting that the conclusions of that Committee were to be taken as the laws of the Medes and Persians and never to be reconsidered or modified by the light of subsequent experience.
It is indeed obvious, and this has been fully admitted by the noble Earl who leads the House, that the conditions of the problem are continually altering. You have new inventions, greater facilities for concentrating troops, greater facilities for carrying them across the seas, new modes of navigating the sea, and, indeed, of navigating the air, wireless telegraphy—you have all these things, and I am glad, therefore, to take note of the fact that up to this point His Majesty's Government are ready to concede freely that the problem of invasion has undergone very great changes; that—I think I am quoting the expression that fell from the noble Earl—the last word has certainly not been said, and that these schemes of defence at this moment require and are undergoing careful revision. I do not know whether the noble Earl went quite so far as to admit—perhaps I do him an injustice—that the conditions of the problem have changed very much to our disadvantage since Mr. Balfour made that speech in 1905. That, however, is the main point made by my noble and gallant friend, and I am bound to say I think he has thoroughly established that point, and I should have been glad if the noble Earl opposite 1732 had been able to concede rather more fully that this was so.
The noble and gallant Earl, relying on the speech made by Mr. Balfour in 1905, asks His Majesty's Government to lay before this House a similar statement, giving similar information, with regard to the problem as it presents itself at the present time. I am bound to admit that His Majesty's Government have reason on their side when they say that the precedent of 1905 should not be pushed too far. I do not think anyone who has had to do with this question would go the length of saying that it is the duty of the Government of the day to take this country, or, we may say, to take the whole world, into its confidence with regard to the details of these vital problems of Imperial defence. The extent of the revelations which are admissible in regard to such matters must vary very much with the circumstances of the moment, and I fully concede that the circumstances of the present day differ considerably from the circumstances when Mr. Balfour made his speech in 1905. I thought my noble friend on the cross benches, Lord Cromer, put the matter very appositely when he said that at this moment the international nerves were rather highly strung, and for that reason I should certainly be cautious how I encouraged any statements which might add to the tension which already exists. But, my Lords, although we do not claim that such a statement should be made in detail, we are, I think, certainly entitled at any rate to some general statement from His Majesty's Government as to their view of the extent to which the conditions which prevailed in 1905 have been affected by subsequent events.
The noble Earl who leads the House, feeling, I think, that something of the kind was expected from him, made a considerable effort to give us some at any rate of the information for which we were waiting. But, if he will forgive me for saying so, he did not take us very far. He reminded us that the country was in the habit of looking to the existence of a powerful Fleet to secure it immunity from invasion. That is all very well. We should all of us, 1733 I hope, regard the Fleet as our first line of defence, but my noble friend Lord Midleton reminded the House of examples of those vicissitudes of naval warfare which we cannot exclude from calculation and which have had the effect of depriving for the moment, or even permanently, a great Power of the superiority which it might have expected from its normal predominance in naval strength. And may I venture to remind the House of a new and, to my mind, a somewhat disquieting feature which now enters into these calculations? There seems to be a disposition to speculate in ironclads. Enterprising shipbuilders build two or three immensely powerful ships of war and sell them to a minor Power, perhaps a South American Power. These vessels come into the market, and the acquisition of one or two of them may at any moment entirely upset the reckoning and destroy the naval balance towards which you have been carefully working.
But one thing I think I certainly gathered from the noble Earl. He told us that, in his view, a large and powerful home Army should be maintained, and I think he said an Army strong enough to compel the enemy to invade us in force. Therefore, I think we may rank the noble Earl amongst those who do not exclude the idea of a coup de main, on these shores, and not only a coup de main, but a coup de main in considerable force such as could not by any use of language be described merely as a comparatively insignificant raid. The noble Earl went on to tell us that, in view of this possibility, a scheme had been prepared under which the military authorities would maintain a force available for this purpose, and sufficiently strong to meet the attack. I think that was the general tone of his argument.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I am glad I do not misinterpret the noble Earl. It would, I think, be rather reassuring to us if the noble Earl had been able to tell us something as to the nature and composition of this force. I do not press him for details. 1734 I think it would be unfair to ask him for precise figures, but I did not gather from his speech one iota of information as to the materials of which this defensive force was to be composed. We know what the available materials are. There is, to begin with, the Territorial Army. My noble and gallant friend dealt with that. He told us, and I do not think he was contradicted, that there would be, in round figures, 200,000 of these Territorial troops available, and he argued, and again I do not think he was challenged, that the whole of these men would be wanted to occupy garrisons and defensive positions. Where there fore is the balance of the Territorial troops available to form part of this defensive force which is to be in readiness to deal with a coup de main? I do not say any more as to the quality of the Territorial troops. I rejoice to believe that the class of men who are enrolling themselves is very satisfactory, and that in many parts of the country an admirable and useful body of troops is being brought into existence. But I have never found any soldier who was ready to admit that a force composed entirely of Territorial troops would be fit to deal with a landing consisting obviously of the most picked men whom a foreign Power could select for the purpose.
My noble and gallant friend says he must have 1,000,000 of Territorial troops to deal with this problem of invasion. I gathered from his speech that he would work them into the framework which Mr. Haldane has contrived; but would these new troops, any more than the present soldiers of the Territorial Army, be fit to take the field at a moment's notice against a picked body of invaders? I confess it would surprise me to hear the noble and gallant Earl tell the House so. They would, of course, be invaluable for the purposes of a prolonged war and for making good the wastage of the Army; but I should have thought that for the purposes of a great national emergency they would hardly be the material on which we should be likely to depend at a few days notice. That brings me to the Regular Army. I shall always believe that if you are to have a compact body of troops ready at a moment's 1735 notice to hold its own against an invading force, it is to the Regular Army that you must, at all events in the first instance, look. Well, the Regular Army is not intended to be always kept at home, and I think the noble and gallant Earl has told us that when the expeditionary force has left these shores there will be no Regular troops remaining for the purposes of home defence. That is a very serious point.
My noble friend Lord Midleton reminded the House that in his time, after the expeditionary force had left the country we had a great body of with Auxiliary troops a substantial stiffening of Regular soldiers still left for the purpose of home defence. That is gone now, and that is the point on which I venture to think His Majesty's Government are most open to criticism. They have, as Lord Cromer told the House, carried out the process of destruction before they accomplished the process of construction. They have got rid of, I think, 20,000 Regular soldiers, and I think the ultimate loss of the Reserve of the Regular Army will be between 30,000 and 40,000. They have got rid of an immense number of officers, and thereby they have weakened what ought to be the mainstay of this country, not only for hostilities abroad, but also for Home defence. It seems to me that His Majesty's Government should ask us not merely to be content with a powerful Fleet or with a Regular Army strong enough to give us an expeditionary force, but that we should have besides a sufficient nucleus of Regular troops to carry out the stiffening of the larger body of less fully trained troops which are always to be found at home.
I pass for one moment to the Resolution of the noble and gallant Earl. I cannot help doubling whether he is altogether wise in asking us to resolve that His Majesty's Government should be called upon to make a full statement on the invasion problem, and to state definitely the conclusions arrived at as the result of the recent inquiry by the Committee of Imperial Defence. If His Majesty's Government think it against public policy to communicate those conclusions I do not think we ought to press them to do so. I would, therefore, suggest 1736 to my noble and gallant friend that he should not ask the House to divide upon the concluding part of his Resolution. If he contents himself with the earlier portion—That in the opinion of this House the defence of these islands necessitates the immediate attention of His Majesty's Government to the provision, in addition to a powerful Navy, of an Army so strong in numbers and so efficient in quality that the most formidable foreign nation would hesitate to attempt a landing on these shores—I am perfectly ready to vote with him if he divides the House; and I should be rather surprised if His Majesty's Government did not accept that part of the noble Earl's Motion, because it, follows very closely the Resolution which this House passed and passed unanimously in 1905. I cannot conceive that His Majesty's Government should declare to the country that the defence of these islands does not necessitiate the provision, in addition to a powerful Navy, of an Army so strong in numbers and so efficient in quality that a foreign nation would hesitate to attack us. That was, unless I misunderstood the noble Earl, exactly what he told us half-an-hour ago should be the bedrock of our policy and I shall be surprised if he votes against a Resolution which does no more than re-affirm that policy.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, as the noble Marquess has directly alluded to what I said, I think I must, by the leave of the House, explain the reasons for which it appears impossible to His Majesty's Government to accept the Motion in those terms. There is one reason which I confess weighs strongly with me. In the case of an Act of Parliament it is perfectly true that the speeches by which the particular clauses of the Act are introduced and supported have no effect upon the interpretation of the Act in a Court of law afterwards, but when one comes to accepting a Motion it is rather a different thing. I think the Motion before the House must be read in conjunction with the speech of the noble and gallant Earl and with the proposals which he indicated. I do not know but that some day noble Lords opposite may be sitting on these benches, and if they are then told that they have committed themselves by the acceptance of this 1737 Motion to the provision of a home Army of 1,000,000 men I am afraid they will find themselves in a somewhat inconvenient position. I cannot dissociate this Motion from the speech of the noble and gallant Earl; and it seems to me hardly courteous to him, and hardly reasonable as far as we are concerned, that we should be asked to do so. Of course, if it is merely intended to pass a platonic Resolution that we ought to have a strong Army as well as a strong Navy, and everybody is allowed to put their own construction on what is meant, it is a simple enough matter to pass a Motion of that kind. Another reason why the Government could not accept this Motion is that it does involve something in the nature of a vote of censure upon us. It does not say the maintenance of an Army; it asks us to "provide" an Army—that is to say, it calls upon us to alter our present scheme of defence and substitute for it something else. We can hardly be expected to accept a proposition of that kind. A third reason why we cannot accept the Motion is that as it stands it does appear to me to involve the full acceptance of the proposition that the Navy must not be regarded as much of a safeguard against invasion, and of the view so powerfully advanced by the noble and gallant Earl that it is to the Army, and, in the last resort, to the Army alone, that you must look for defence against invasion. I have given three reasons, and I am afraid any one of them would prevent our accepting this Motion.
§ EARL CAWDOR
My Lords, with regard to whet has just fallen from the noble Earl, I do not think it is quite correct to assume that we are voting upon a speech. Surely we are voting upon the actual terms of the Resolution before the House; and if any one will take the pains to read the Resolution we are asked to pass now and also the one which your Lordships' House unanimously passed on 10th July, 1905. I think he will find that there is very little difference between them—in fact, it appears to me that, having voted for the one, it is only logical to vote for the other. The noble Earl seemed to think that we were laving down for the first time that we could not rely 1738 entirely upon the Navy against raids and attacks. The Resolution which your Lordships passed on 10th July, 1905, ran as follows—That in the opinion of this House, it would be a danger to the Realm, and limit the power of the Navy as an offensive force in war, to trust to it alone for Home defence, and, inasmuch as it is admitted that the Navy cannot guarantee us against so-called hostile 'raids,' it is the more needful that our land defences should at all times be such that no nation would ever attempt in any form a hostile landing on our shores.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
What I said was that we were now laying down the proposition that the Navy could not be regarded as a defence against invasion, not against raids.
§ EARL CAWDOR
I do not think we are laying that down at all. We are practically making very much the same statement as was made on the previous occasion. I do not see anything in the Resolution that puts forward that the Navy is less efficient to protect us against invasion than we considered it to be in 1905, and I hope your Lordships will support the Resolution.
§ * VISCOUNT MILNER
My Lords, at this late hour I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes, but I do sincerely hope that the noble and gallant Field Marshal will persist with his Motion and not reduce it to what might appear to be a mere platitude. Though I do not altogether like the form of the Motion, I should be happy to have the opportunity of going into the lobby with the noble and gallant Earl, even if I were to go with him alone, in order to record my protest, at any rate, against the eternal shilly-shallying of this Government, and all Governments, on the vital question of the adequacy of our land forces for the defence of this country.
A great deal has been said to-night about our responsibility in discussing such a question at a moment when international relations are somewhat disturbed. I hope that it is not only the occupants of the front benches who may be supposed to feel the responsibility of discussing a matter of this kind. Personally, I have had some 1739 experience, although I have never occupied a position of that dignity, in moments of grave national danger, and it is with the gravest sense of responsibility that I now speak a few words in this debate. I sincerely hope that the noble and gallant Earl will go on with his Motion and that the result of the discussion which has taken place to-night may be something more serious and more effective than has been the case with of other discussions of this character.
We are told of the difficulty which the Government feel in speaking frankly about the condition of the national defences at a time like the present. If any one attempts to raise the question of the efficiency of our land defences at a time when the international horizon is clear, he is pooh-poohed as an alarmist. If any one discusses the subject at a time when the horizon is clouded he is pushed aside as a mischief-maker whose interference is calculated to make things worse. I do not believe for a moment that a manly and business-like nation like the Germans would object to anything which was said by the noble and gallant Earl this evening. Neither do I see why any nation should feel so sensitive about a discussion as to the relative strength of armies, when no such feeling is aroused by the discussion of the relative strength of navies. And yet it is just with regard to our land defences that it is most necessary to arouse the interest of the country, having regard to their present insufficient condition. There seems to be some fatality which prevents every successive Government from dealing with the matter of our land forces, especially our second line of defence, in a manner which is calculated to give an impression that it takes the matter seriously.
I should like to put, very briefly, what the difficulty is which presses upon some laymen who have given a good deal of thought to this matter. I suppose everyone can conceive circumstances—they might arise any day—which would call for the withdrawal of our Regular Army and its Reserves for the defence of our over-sea Possessions. Those, surely, are just the circumstances under which any European Power which had accounts 1740 to settle with us would think that the moment had come in which to settle them; and, in the absence of the Regular Army, what is going to be our protection? I suppose that it is with a view to a contingency of that kind that the second line of defence has been called into existence. But I am beginning to feel a total inability to understand what is the place in any coherent system of national defence which in the opinion of the responsible authorises allotted to the Territorial Army. Is it to be sufficient to protect the country, in the absence of the Regular Army, in circumstances which might easily arise, as they did arise, for example, at the time of the Boer War? I thought that was its object. I certainly understood that that was the object which the Secretary of State for War had in view when he spoke in eloquent and impressive terms of the necessity of a citizen Army, mentioning the figure of 900,000 men as being not an excessive number of trained citizens for the defence of this country. Between that and the provision of 200,000 or 300,000 men, if we can get them, trained not like the Regular armies on the Continent, not like the Swiss Militia, which does constitute an effective fighting force, but trained for fourteen days during one or two years—how vast the difference! If there is a possibility of the Regular Army being removed from the country, I cannot understand how people can feel any confidence in the capacity of the Territorial Army as at present constituted to defend us against invasion.
It is too late in the evening to go at greater length into this matter; nor do I believe that your Lordships wish this discussion to be prolonged. But, taking to heart, as I do very seriously, the warnings which have been uttered by the noble and gallant Earl, I feel that I am bound to enter my protest against this discussion ending in so pointless a manner as either the withdrawal of the Motion or the acceptance of a merely formal Resolution. I am one of those who believe, and believe most earnestly, that a very great change has to be made, and made soon, in the condition of our land forces, if this country 1741 is to be in anything like a position of security; and I should be very sorry if the opportunity which this discussion to-night affords were lost for impressing the depth of the conviction which some of us feel on that subject upon the minds of the people of this country.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I only rise for the purpose of putting a very respectful question to my noble and gallant friend who has made so notable a speech this evening. I would call his attention to the fact that his Motion as it stood upon the Paper for many days did not include the last paragraph. That has been a comparatively recent addition, and upon that last paragraph we have the definite statement made on behalf of His Majesty's Government by the noble Earl, speaking with a full sense of responsibility, that it is not a Resolution with which they can comply having regard to the public interests. Thereupon my noble friend who has recently been responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, and who speaks with immense authority both in this House and in the country, stated to your Lordships that, after that declaration on the part of the Government, it would be, in his opinion, improper to press them any further. I cannot doubt, therefore, that the majority of your Lordships would wish not to press the last paragraph of the Motion. As regards the earlier paragraph—that is to say, the original Motion which Lord Roberts placed on the Paper—my noble friend Lord Lansdowne has stated that he is prepared to support it, and I would venture very respectfully to ask, on his behalf, what the noble and gallant Earl proposes to do.
§ EARL ROBERTS
My Lords, I am quite ready to adopt Lord Lansdowne's suggestion and to withdraw the last paragraph of my Motion.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords, I had no intention of obtruding myself upon your notice to-night, but I wish to express to my noble and gallant friend who brought forward this Motion my grateful thanks for the course he has taken. It is a great public act on his 1742 part, and the nation ought to be grateful to him for putting this vital question so forcibly and in such a practical way before the attention of Parliament. I own to not having heard, through my deafness, all that has been said in this debate; but it was with astonishment that I learned that the Government were going to resist this Motion. In so doing they are acting absolutely inconsistently with what they did three years ago. For what did they do three years ago? Both sides of the House unanimously adopted a Resolution practically the same as that which has to-day been moved by my noble and gallant friend. In that Resolution the House agreed that we could not trust to the Navy alone, and that it was our duty to put our land defences in such a state that no nation would ever attempt in any form a hostile landing on our shores. I say, therefore, that the course which the Government propose to take upon the noble and gallant Earl's Motion is inconsistent with that Resolution. I should have thought the Government and the Opposition would have stretched out hands and agreed together upon a matter which is for the safety as well as the existence of the Empire. Noble Lords on both sides know what should be done and ought to agree; and I protest against the action of the Government in resisting the patriotic Motion of my noble and gallant friend.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord LOREBURN)
As I understand, the noble and gallant Earl omits the second paragraph of his Motion?
§ LORD LOREBURN
I will read the Resolution as amended and in the form in which it is proposed to be put to the House. The Resolution runs—That in the opinion of this House, the defence of these islands necessitates the immediate attention of His Majesty's Government to the provision (in addition to a powerful Navy) of an Army so strong in numbers and so efficient in quality that the most formidable foreign nation would hesitate to attempt a landing on these shores, and thus give practical effect to the Resolution unanimously agreed to by the House on 10th July, 1905.
§ On Question, "That the Resolution be agreed to."
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Hatherton, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Waldegrave, E.||Hindlip, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)|
|Wellington, D.||Churchill, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Leigh, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Falkland, V.||Loch, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Falmouth, V.||Lovat, L. [Teller]|
|Salisbury, M.||Goschen, V.||Middleton, L.|
|Hampden, V.||Monekton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Bathurst, E.||Hill, V.||Muskerry, L.|
|Brownlow, E.||Hood, V.||Newton, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Milner, V.||Poltimore, L.|
|Cawdor, E.||Ridley, V.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Dartmouth, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Rosmead, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Ampthill, L.||Seaton, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Hardwicke, E.||Balfour, L.|
|Harewood, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Tennyson, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Belper, L.||Tweeddale, L. (M. Tweeddale.)|
|Londesborough, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)|
|Malmesbury, E.||Colchester, L.||Wandsworth, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Collins, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Mount Edgeumbe, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Wenlock, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Wolverton, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Ellenborough, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Roberts, E. [Teller]||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Scarbrough, E.||Grenfell, L.|
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Morley of Blackburn, V.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Selby, V.||Haversham, L.|
|Wolverhampton, V. (L. President.)||Hemphill, L.|
|Armitstead, L.||Lochee, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Lucas, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Brassey, L.||Lyveden, L.|
|Colebrooke, L.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.)||Denman, L. [Teller.]||Marchamley, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Eversley, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Fitzmaurice, L.||Pirrie, L.|
|Glantawe, L.||Reay, L.|
|Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Granard, L. (E. Granard.) [Teller]||St. Davids, L.|
|Esher, V.||Saye and Sele, L.|