HL Deb 12 July 1909 vol 2 cc255-352


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is not the first time that I have addressed your Lordships on the all-important subject of our national security. But to-day I want to ask you to do something more than merely to consider the general aspect of the question. I want to ask you to take definite action in order to bring home to the public mind the gravity of the situation, and in order to fix the attention of the country on what I regard as the only satisfactory solution of our present difficulties.

It may be said that the country is not yet ready for such a change as is proposed in the Bill I have now the honour to bring before you, and that it is, therefore, undesirable that this House should be committed as approving of it. I can assure your Lordships that public opinion has advanced a great deal in the last few years, and in the last few months it has made more rapid progress towards the consummation desired by the National Service League than ever I could have dared to hope for. But, even if the country were less ready to accept the principle of universal military training than I believe it to be, is it not the duty of those who are agreed as to the desirability and necessity of national service to use their utmost efforts to convert their fellow-citizens to their point of view? The authority of this House stands very high to-day in the eyes of the public, more especially with regard to those great national and Imperial questions on which so many of your Lordships can speak with exceptional experience. All the greater, I venture to submit, is our responsibility if we hesitate to take the lead or to give a clear and unmistakable expression of our convictions on a matter of such supreme importance as the safety of our country.

I need not go at length into all the facts which have made it clear to me that our present system fails utterly to provide the necessary insurance against the dangers which may at any moment threaten us; nor need I recapitulate the arguments which have convinced me, and have convinced others who have made a careful study of the subject, that an invasion of this country is not only possible, but that it is possible on a far larger scale than has usually been assumed. I can only reiterate my conviction that our present military policy involves a wilful gambling with the safety of the country and of the Empire. It is incapable of providing a force sufficient to deal with the serious military problems which confront us in various parts of the Empire, or with the defence of the United Kingdom.

I know that even in this House many noble Lords believe that there is nothing seriously wrong with our military arrangements, and consider that it was exaggeration on my part to state, as I did a couple of months ago, that— we have neither an Army to send abroad nor an Army with which to defend the country at home. I was not exaggerating, I spoke nothing but the truth. That our Regular Army is quite excellent, as far as it goes, no one has better reason to know than I have. I believe it to be as good, if not better, than any army in the world; but, however good it is, the fact remains that the maximum force theoretically available for over-sea purposes is barely 150,000 men, and any consideration of the strategical requirements either of the defence of India, or of the self-governing Colonies, will show that such a force is entirely inadequate for the purpose. But, as a matter of fact, are 150,000 men really available to-day, or likely to be available in the future? Have we got, or are we likely to get, the officers, the seasoned men over twenty years of age, and the trained horses required to mobilise six big divisions? All the information that reaches me points to a very different conclusion, and there are the gravest doubts whether we could at this moment mobilise and send over-sea a force of more than about 100,000 men, leaving little else in this country than a number of recruits, lads under nineteen and twenty, and even less mature and less adequately trained Special Reservists.

The same applies to the Territorial Force. I have nothing but admiration for the spirit in which its members devote their spare time to their patriotic task. There is no mistake about their patriotism. The mistake lies in assuming that the existence of this country can safely be entrusted to a force the training of which is limited to the few days which are all that can be given under the present adverse conditions, and the total strength of which, in spite of every sort of pressure, and in spite of social and journalistic influences, has not yet been brought up to the low establishment of 315,000. I am only too willing to acknowledge the soundness of Mr. Haldane's organisation, which, as Mr. Balfour said a few weeks ago— may yet be the means of rendering priceless service to the country. I have no desire to find fault or to magnify small imperfections. But I simply ask your Lordships whether any one can seriously believe that a force of some 300,000 practically untrained men, under untrained officers, with an amateur artillery armed with guns which are not of the latest type, a force scattered all over the United Kingdom, the greater part of which would necessarily be absorbed in garrisoning our ports and arsenals, could withstand the concentrated onset of possibly 150,000 of the most highly-trained and best organised troops in the world.

The only standard by which our forces can be judged is that of the strength of the forces which they may be called upon to meet. I am only too well aware of the fact that the majority of our fellow-countrymen comfort themselves with the belief that a supremely powerful Navy is all that is needed to secure our safety, and that an Army, except for foreign service, is superfluous. There are even those who go so far as to accept as a truth the humiliating idea, ventilated more than once lately, that, if our Navy should be even temporarily beaten, there would be an end to the British nation as well as to the British Empire. I have no doubt whatever that this ignominious finale will certainly be arrived at if, while our land forces are in their present deplorably weak condition, such a calamity as a naval defeat were to befall us. And the people of this country must decide whether they will court extinction by remaining unprepared to resist invasion should we, by any chance, temporarily lose the command of the home waters, or whether, by adopting the precautions which almost every other civilised nation has been forced to adopt, they will render these islands impregnable so long as our Fleets have absolute strategical freedom, and are able to keep the routes of our chief food supplies open.

I do not propose to take up your time by again discussing the question whether an invasion is possible or not possible, or what our Navy can or cannot do; I said all I had to say on these points when I spoke in this House last November. Since then, indeed, some startling disclosures have been made as to the greater rapidity with which ships of war can be built in other countries than was understood to be possible even so short time ago. But as I hope this matter will be taken up during the debate by noble Lords who are more competent than I am to deal with it, I will content myself by pointing out with all the force I can, that the less certainty there is about our absolute supremacy at sea the more essential it is that we should be strong on land. I cannot say I am altogether surprised that the general public should pin their faith solely to the Navy, seeing that ever since Nelson's great victory at Trafalgar in 1805 our supremacy at sea has never been challenged. Before Trafalgar the French and Dutch each had a Navy which more than once held possession of the English Channel, and with which we had many a tough struggle for victory. It took some Years after Trafalgar before our naval supremacy was fully realised. This may be attributed to two facts, that it was not at Trafalgar, but at Waterloo—ten years later—that Napoleon was finally defeated, and that no great war had ever been decided by a naval victory. And so late as 1809 our people thought it necessary to submit to considerable self-sacrifice in order to provide a large army for home defence.

I doubt if it is generally known how great was that sacrifice, or how large was the army then considered necessary, and actually maintained for the defence of these islands. Even some of your Lordships may be astonished to hear that in 1809, when the population of the United Kingdom was less than 15,000,000, and when the revenue amounted to only £68,500,000, there were almost as many men under arms as there, are at the present time, when we have population of about 44,000,000 and a revenue of £151,500,000. Figures, my Lords, are wearisome, and sometimes untrustworthy, but I am hopeful that the accuracy of my figures will not be questioned when I tell you that those for 1809 are taken from that enlightening and instructive book, "The County Lieutenancies and the Army, 1803–1814," recently published by Mr. John Fortescue, and those for 1909 from the latest Army Estimates and Mr. Haldane's own statements in the House of Commons. I venture to trouble your Lordships with these figures, as it seems to me essential to the proper consideration of the Bill now before the House, that the sacrifices our forefathers thought it necessary to make for the safeguarding of their country a century ago should be clearly understood.

On May 25, 1809, the number of armed men in Great Britain and Ireland was as follows:—Great Britain.—Regulars, 91,999; Militia, 65,524; local Militia, 198,534; Volunteers, 114,066; Artillery and Engineers, 14,261; total, 484,384. Ireland.—Regulars, 15,858; Volunteers, 75,340; total, 91,198; Grand total, 575,582. This year the numbers are:—Regulars.—England and Wales, 92,835; Scotland, 4,487; Ireland, 26,096; Channel Islands, 1,868; total, 125,286; Army Reserve, 134,000; Special Reserve, 67,780; Militia, 7,454; ditto Reserve, 1,704; ditto, Channel Isles, 2,984; Territorial Force, 240,000; total, 453,922. Grand total, 579,208. These figures show that the number of men under arms in the United Kingdom in 1809 was only 3,626 less than at the present time. And allow me to remind you, my Lords, that the danger against which we have to guard is infinitely greater now than it was a century ago. If any noble Lord distrusts this statement, I would ask him to carefully study the question for himself, and not merely pass my words by as the utterances of an early Victorian alarmist.

The question at issue is a vital one, and far too serious to be passed over lightly. Our very existence may depend upon its being wisely dealt with. We have before us the fate of other nations—commercial, maritime nations, flourishing and powerful like our own—that fell because they trusted entirely to their fleets, as we are doing, and neglected their armies. When our forefathers were threatened with the danger of invasion, they realised the necessity for strengthening their land forces, and did not hesitate to resort to compulsion for this purpose. But there was then nothing like the preponderance in the strength of the several armies of Europe over our own Army that there is at present, and, moreover, the nations were busily engaged with their own troubles. To-day our Army is absolutely insignificant in numbers as compared with the armies of the first-class Continental Powers and we can only hope to have a very small portion of that Army—the Regular portion—trained as fully as are the armies of the Continent. And if this small, fully-trained portion has other work to do away from these shores—as is almost certain to be the case—we shall have to depend, as Mr. Haldane has frequently told us, on our citizen Army alone for the defence of this country. If, therefore, the citizen Army is required for this supreme duty, surely no doubt should be allowed to exist as to its fitness for that duty, no efforts should be neglected, and no sacrifices should be considered too great to ensure its being sufficient in numbers, and as efficient in the matter of training as it is possible to make it.

I am well aware that the public generally have most unfortunately been led to believe that the Regular Army—no matter how urgent the demand for its services may be elsewhere—will not be sent out of this country until the Territorial Army has become sufficiently trained to be able of itself to defend these shores—a period of six months after the outbreak of war being the minimum that Mr. Haldane calculates on as having at his disposal for this purpose—and until the Navy has asserted itself sufficiently to ensure its supremacy at sea being undisputed. I cannot find words, my Lords, to express my amazement that such a policy should ever have been contemplated. I cannot believe that any one in the United Kingdom could be so absolutely lost to all sense of proper feeling as to consent to such an arrangement if it were really understood that it implies leaving India and the over-sea States to struggle unaided against possibly overwhelming numbers, and the possible sacrifice and abandonment of our country-men abroad, who are doing Great Britain's work under the shelter of Great Britain's flag. These men have entered upon their duties realising that they were running certain and often grave risks, but at the same time in the firm faith that, in the event of serious trouble arising, assistance would at once be sent to them from the Mother Country.

Serious trouble has happened suddenly and unexpectedly in a distant part of our Empire, within the memory of many of us now alive. At that time, owing to the want of rapid communication, months elapsed before the much-needed help arrived, many valuable lives were lost, and a number of helpless women and children were ruthlessly massacred. Surely in these days of quick communication we are not going to allow such a deplorable catastrophe to happen again without straining every nerve to prevent it? Are we going to keep the Regular Army at home for our own protection—the Army that is specially maintained for foreign service—because, forsooth, we are so utterly selfish as to refuse to undergo the very slight sacrifice needed for the establishment of a citizen Army? I think better of my fellow countrymen than to believe they would be a party to what I can only describe as such a dastardly policy if they understood in the slightest degree to what it might lead. And I should hope, if after what I have said they are satisfied that we must look to the citizen and not to the Regular Army to defend their country, they will be ready to undergo that sacrifice by which alone a citizen Army can be rendered capable of performing its duty in a satisfactory manner.

Well, my Lords, if the Regular Army is to carry out its legitimate duty, and cannot, therefore, be reckoned upon to assist in the defence of this country, it is upon the citizen Army that we must rely for that purpose. But it must be a real Army, the embodied strength of the trained manhood of our people. To rely upon such a force as that with which the present scheme supplies us is to lean upon a broken reed. Neither in numbers nor in training can the Territorial Army, under the haphazard conditions of voluntary service, reach the standard which the safety of the country demands. As I explained when I had the honour of addressing this House last November, nothing short of a million of men will suffice for our needs; and even this large number would be of no practical use unless all ranks, especially the senior ranks, are adequately trained, and unless the citizen Army is provided with capable commanders and a thoroughly efficient staff. I use the word "adequately" advisedly, because I do not wish it to be supposed that I imagine, or that any member of the National Service League imagines, that citizen soldiers could be so perfectly trained as it is essential for Regular soldiers to be. It would, of course, place the defence question on a thoroughly satisfactory footing if we could maintain a Regular Army large enough both for home and over-sea purposes. But this is out of the question. Expense alone would prevent it, even if we could get—which we cannot—the required number of suitable men to enlist.

What we have to make sure of, then, is that the citizen Army, by its larger numbers, by its greater intelligence, and by its adequate training, will be able to afford us the same security as a smaller and more perfectly trained Regular Army would give us. Larger numbers and greater intelligence are only possible under a system by which all able-bodied men, high and low, rich and poor, shall be made liable to serve in the citizen Army; and it is only by that Army being composed of such men that adequate, as opposed to perfect, training will suffice. And it is for these reasons that I and those who agree with me have brought before your Lordships' House the Bill, by which the required number of adequately trained men will be forthcoming. The Army that would be formed should this Bill become law would provide the solid filling in of the framework which Mr. Haldane has erected, and universal training would place the coping-stone on a well-designed structure. We do not claim for it that it would be a perfect Army—that, as I have already stated, is impossible with a citizen Army—but it would give us in the course of a few years a million of men adequately trained, well disciplined, and able to use their rifles with effect.

My Lords, let me take the question of numbers first. We find that the number of lads reaching the age of eighteen in any one year in the United Kingdom is about 416,000. From this number we have made the following deductions:—forty-eight per cent. for medical rejections and legal exemptions, 200,000; recruits for the Navy and Marines, 8,000; recruits for the Regular Army, 35,000; recruits for the mercantile marine, 15,000; emigrants, 10,000; a total of 268,000; leaving to be trained each year 148,000—say, 150,000. I need not take up your Lordships' time by explaining the data on which these calculations are based, as they are given in the little pamphlet entitled "Estimate of the Numbers and Cost involved under the Scheme of Training Proposed by the National Service League," a copy of which has been furnished to each member of this House. Allowing five per cent. per annum for wastage, the numbers trained annually would be as follow:—Recruits, 150,000; Territorial Army—first year men 142,000, second year men 135,000, third year men 128,000, or 405,000. In addition to the above, who would be undergoing annual training, there would be nearly 900,000 men under thirty-one years of age who had passed through the ranks of the Territorial Army, but would be liable to be called up for home defence in case of grave national emergency. Briefly stated, under the proposals of the Bill we should have a Territorial Army some 80,000 in excess of the present establishment, and we should be able, with proper organisation, to mobilise the million armed and trained men necessary, in my opinion, to safeguard us from invasion.

I now come to the no less important question of the amount of training necessary to secure what I have called "adequate" proficiency and discipline on the part of our citizen Army. Nothing has given rise to such differences of opinion as the duration of the first year's training—some advocate a longer, some a shorter period. After very careful consideration, four months appears to be the most suitable period, having in view the industrial conditions of the country and the fact that this training should, as far as possible, be carried out in camp. We have therefore proposed this period for the Infantry, to which the larger majority of recruits will naturally be allotted. For the other arms, such as Cavalry and Artillery, we propose a longer period of recruit training, up to a limit of six months, although I would point out that, under a national and compulsory system, recruits would not be posted to these arms unless they were particularly fitted to become efficient in them owing to their previous experience in civil life, such as being accustomed to the care of horses, and so on. I myself would never have agreed to so short a period of recruits' training as four months for the Infantry and six months for the other arms, with a fortnight's training in camp and a course of musketry annually during each of the next three years, if I had not calculated on the citizen Army including in its numbers the most intelligent and the best educated men in the land, instead of being composed of men of the class as that from which the Regular Army is, for the most part, drawn. And I now agree to this small amount of training only on the understanding that the training would be carried out by officers and noncommissioned officers of the Regular Army. and that for a time at any rate the citizen Army would be strengthened by a liberal number of Regular officers and noncommissioned officers being attached to it.

I was greatly influenced in coming to a decision on this most essential point by my recollection of the soldierly manner in which the City Imperial Volunteers did their work in South Africa, but only after they had been given an adequate amount of training. The corps consisted of a field battery, a machine gun section, a battalion of infantry, and some mounted infantry composed of much the same stamp of men as would be found in nearly all corps if organised under an obligatory system of service. The total strength was 1,550 of all ranks, taken chiefly from Volunteer corps in and around London, and comprised men of all classes of society and of almost every profession and trade. Nine Regular officers served with the C.I.V. and—what was a very important addition—a second colour-sergeant of the Regular Army was attached to each company. Notwithstanding these great advantages, I think every one belonging to the corps will bear me out when I say that, on account of their want of practice and skill in shooting, and lack of training generally, the C.I.V. were not in a state to take the field when they first landed at Cape Town, even against an enemy so lightly trained as the Boers. Accordingly I arranged for the corps to be encamped on a suitable site on the Orange River, where it remained for more than a month drilling and practising shooting. There was nothing to distract the men's attention—it was work, work, work, all day; and this continued, as far as was practicable, throughout the next two months while on the march towards Pretoria, with the result that when the C.I.V. were for the first time seriously engaged, all ranks acquitted themselves most creditably. But what I would ask you, my Lords, to remember is that their training was carried out in camp, under service conditions, and that when the corps met the enemy it had the great advantage of being brigaded with Regular troops, all of which were commanded by Regular officers experienced in war.

I trouble your Lordships with these details in the hope that those of you who are not expert in military matters may realise the danger we are running by trusting the safety of this country to a force composed of inadequately trained men and commanded by inadequately trained officers. We know that our men, even the most illiterate of them, when well trained, well disciplined, and taught to shoot, make admirable soldiers; but it is a mystery to me why we should imagine that men inadequately trained as soldiers, simply because they happen to be our own countrymen, should be capable of coping successfully with the highly-trained soldiers of other nations. Our nation has no monopoly of patriotism, these highly-trained foreign soldiers are possessed of an equally patriotic spirit and are at least as well educated as our men. And, so far as my knowledge of history goes, no inadequately trained body of men have of late years been successful against a far smaller army of highly-trained soldiers. It is much to be regretted, therefore, that this truth is not plainly told to the men who have so loyally come forward to join the Territorial Army, instead of their being led to believe that the minimum amount of training which their civil duties admit of will fit them to meet on equal, or anything like equal, terms highly-trained soldiers.

I now come to the cost of the scheme. As your Lordships are aware, from the pamphlet to which I have already alluded, the total cost estimated by the National Service League amounted to less than four millions over and above what the present Territorial Army is estimated to cost. The accuracy of these figures has been disputed by the War Office authorities, who, in a Paper published a few days ago, made out that the scheme would come to close upon eight millions. I will not take up the time of this House by going at length into the two estimates; your Lordships have these, as well as the reply of the National Service League to the War Office, before you. You will be able to judge whether the original estimate of the National Service League is not practically correct, and certainly very much nearer the truth than the War Office estimate of eight millions, to say nothing of the wild statement made by Lord Crewe and Mr. Haldane last November that the cost would be twenty millions—a statement which, as is now evident, was made without any attempt to understand our proposals. But, my Lords, even if the cost of the scheme were slightly more than four millions, we should have for this extra sum about 1,200 additional Regular officers and a large number of Regular non-commissioned officers, besides, as I have already shown, some 80,000 more men than Mr Haldane's scheme gives us, with a practically unlimited Reserve. The Territorial Army and the Reserve thus created would have adequate training before the outbreak of war; we should no longer be dependent on a force the serious training of which would be deferred till after the declaration of war. Surely the price we should pay would be a small one for national security.

There are one or two other points regarding which a few words seem necessary, as misconception exists about them, and they have been made use of, to the prejudice of the Bill, by those who are opposed to universal military training. One is that the Territorial Army, as constituted by the Bill, is not really intended, as we say, for home defence only. Quite recently it was stated in one of our evening papers that— such an army must be a conscript army on the European model, and those who demand it are clearly thinking not merely of defence, but of allied military operations abroad. There is not the slightest foundation for that statement. The Territorial Army advocated by the Bill is meant for home defence and home defence alone. And no man belonging to that army will be under any obligation to serve abroad unless he volunteers to do so. At the same time, I wish to guard myself against misconception from an entirely different quarter. I have dwelt myself in this House upon the inadequacy of our over-sea forces. The Royal Commissions over which Lord Elgin and the Duke of Norfolk presided each laid great stress upon that inadequacy, and upon the need for far greater power of expansion than any we possess to-day.

I fully realise the weight of this argument; and in reply to those who ask somewhat impatiently how an army intended purely, for Home defence can help to meet it, I would say first, that the citizen Army, which this Bill is meant to establish, would give absolute strategical freedom to our Navy and to our Regular Army, and so enormously enhance their striking power over-sea. Secondly, if once we create a great reservoir of trained manhood in this country, there is little doubt but that a goodly proportion of that reservoir would volunteer for service with our over-sea forces, and, as trained men, they would be capable of rendering valuable assistance to the Regulars. The experience of the South African war proved that, of the Yeomanry and Volunteers, one man in fifteen volunteered for the front; of the Militia, whose training and embodiment much more nearly resembled that of the proposed citizen Army, one man in five went to the front; but of the mass of our countrymen the proportion of volunteers was only one man in 1,000! This plainly shows that men who have gained some knowledge of soldiering and some confidence in themselves may be counted on to come forward in time of need to a much greater extent than citizens who have no such knowledge and confidence. The essential point on which I wish to insist is that while universal training for home defence imposes no obligation of over-sea service on any citizen, yet under that system, and under that system alone, can we furnish our limited Regular Army with the power of expansion.

In support of this view, and in reply to Mr. Haldane's argument that universal training would interfere with recruiting for the Regular Army, let me give a few instances where military training has had the opposite effect, and I trust I shall be able to satisfy you that there never was a more mistaken idea. Amongst the boys brought up in the Duke of York's Military School at Chelsea eighty-five per cent. on an average join the Army annually. With scarcely an exception they do well, most of them becoming non-commissioned and warrant officers. It is much the same with the Royal Hibernian Military School in Dublin; eighty per cent. of those boys join the Army and do remarkably well. In fact, the picked boys of both schools, with rare exceptions, enter the Army, while those who are less strong physically elect for civil life. From the Gordon Boys' Home also a considerable number enter both the Navy and the Army. Then we have the example of the Spectator's Experimental Company, which attracted much attention three years ago. Of the hundred men drilled at Hounslow for six months thirty-three joined the Army, and I have seen letters written to their Commandant, Lieutenant-Colonel Pollock, in which they express themselves as most grateful for the benefit they derived from the training they were given. But by far the most convincing proof that military training aids, rather than obstructs, recruiting is given in Mr. John Fortescue's book to which I have already alluded. You will find in Appendix I of the report that during the years 1805 and 1813 inclusive a larger number of men volunteered from the Militia—a service which at that time was compulsory—to the Regular Army than that Army obtained by the ordinary recruiting means.

There is one other thing I desire to impress upon your Lordships, and that is that we can never hope to have either a citizen Army such as is needed for the defence of this country, or an effective force to protect Imperial interests overseas, unless we become—what Mr. Haldane has so often held up to us as his ideal—"A nation in arms!" In no other way can every man, woman, and child be led to take a friendly and an intelligent interest in the Army, or become imbued with that feeling of patriotism and willingness to submit to a certain amount of self-sacrifice which is absolutely essential if the Army is to be a success. Every man should esteem it an honour to help in the defence of his country; every woman should feel that the children given to her are at the disposal of her country; and every boy, as part of his education, should be physically and militarily drilled, and be taught patriotism, to honour the King and the flag, and to use his rifle skilfully.

In conclusion, I feel it is due to this House and myself to explain the reason for my pointing out so persistently what I consider to be the unsatisfactory condition of our Home Defence Army. The fact is, I realised some time ago that the lessons of the war were being completely forgotten, and that the unanimously expressed opinion of the two Royal Commissions as to the necessity for some radical change in our military organisation was being ignored. I felt strongly that this attitude could not be allowed to continue without the safety of the country being seriously endangered. And it filled me with despair to find that the leaders of both parties in the State, though recognising the danger, were so firmly convinced that the country would not consent to adopt universal military training for home defence that they decided that we must still adhere to the voluntary system, and entrust the safety of the country to the limited number of men who might be forthcoming, with the inadequate training that could be given to them under such a system.

I honestly believe that all that it is possible to do has been done during the last few years to make the Home Army efficient under the voluntary system. I recognise the many good points of Mr. Haldane's scheme; and the thoroughness and loyalty with which it has been supported by civilians and by all soldiers are beyond praise. I should deeply regret if, from anything I have said to-day, or on any former occasion, I appear in the slightest degree unappreciative of, or ungrateful for, the great effort that has been made and the really good work that has been performed. But, feeling as strongly as I do that no voluntary system, however good, can ever give us what we want, I should be failing in my duty to my King and to my country were I to hold my peace. The voluntary system has been tried for fifty years, and although no doubt the Territorial Army is a grand organisation and in every way better than was the Volunteer Force; it can never provide the required number of efficiently trained men to insure our safety from invasion, or give us the means of expansion in time of war without the introduction of universal training. I cannot for one moment believe that our countrymen would hesitate to accept universal training, were the necessity for the measure put plainly before them by the leaders of both Parties.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Earl Roberts.)


My Lords, the noble and gallant Earl has put before us in clear language the motives which have impelled him to bring in this Bill, and the effect which he believes it will have in insuring the defence of the country. The Bill has in it many details, but they are details of enormous importance, and when the Bill reaches the Committee stage those questions will call for very earnest and mature consideration. There is the great underlying question of expense. The expense may be found so great that some modifications of the scheme may be called for. There is also the question whether the amount of training suggested by the Bill is likely to be adequate or whether a longer period of training may not be necessary. These are all questions of immense importance, and should the Bill reach Committee they would have to be considered. But I venture to believe that the real thought in the mind of every member of this House to-night is not so much the effect of those questions as the great fact that this Bill does, for the first time, distinctly propose to bring in, by Act of Parliament, compulsory service for home defence. To a certain extent the old Militia Act had that object, but this is in a different way; and what we have to consider to-night is to what extent this House should support that proposal or whether it should reject it as one which ought not to be entertained.

The noble and gallant Earl paid a tribute to the patriotism of those who had joined the Territorial Army. I am sure that there is no notion on the part of those who believe compulsion to be necessary of slurring the patriotism of our fellow-countrymen. To form this Territorial Army we have seen some 240,000 men come forward voluntarily to serve their King and country. Is there any other nation in the world that can say the same? We know, proudly, that that is a fact which every nation must see and appreciate; but, at the same time, if, in spite of that patriotic feeling, the proper numbers are not reached, it may be that the nearer success is achieved the greater may be the danger lurking behind that movement because the full success is not attained. But it is not only that patriotic men do come forward. I believe everyone would admit that were compulsion resorted to a great many men, who would be only too glad to come forward voluntarily now, would welcome the opportunity of coming forward then, because compulsion would remove from them great difficulties which impede their following their patriotic impulses at the present moment.

I had the honour to preside over a Commission which reported some five years ago on the question of what was then called the Volunteers, and witness after witness came before us, not to urge that compulsion was an obnoxious thing, but, on the contrary, to aver that they would very gladly come forward to serve their country and would very willingly release from their duties those who were employed by them if only compulsion were resorted to, because then a particular employer would not be made a scapegoat for his patriotism but others would have to do the same. They impressed upon the Commission the obvious reality of the dangers and difficulties to professional men if they came forward to serve their country while other men lurked behind. The present system undoubtedly creates great patriotism, but it inflicts a penalty on those who come forward to serve. It puts them in a position of jeopardy with regard to their livelihood and their profession, and it leaves those who skulk behind to reap the advantages of the patriotism of others. Moreover, it shuts out from the service of their country many who are full of patriotism but are still unable, for the sake of their wives and families, to face the ordeal which must confront them if they come forward and leave others to cut them out in their business. By this Bill we are not whipping men to the front because enough do not come forward; we are encouraging and helping vast numbers of patriotic men to discharge a duty they are only too eager to discharge.

Then we are told that this may be all very well as regards certain individuals, but that the people of this country are not ready for this change. Well, my Lords, is it the part of the House to lag behind the nation? Is it not our business to lead the country, to try and educate public opinion on this great and vital question? We all know that the members of the other House of Parliament—it is only natural—must be perpetually feeling the pulse of public opinion. It is difficult for them to go forward and shock the minds of their constituents. It is part of the business of that branch of the Legislature to keep in touch with public opinion, and to express the feelings which are dominant at the moment. But the House of Lords is in a totally different position, and if we are perpetually looking to see what this man or that man says, if we are here only to register the popular voice, if we are never to lead and take a part in questions because they may be unpopular, I venture to say we are betraying the very reason for which the Constitution calls upon us to exist. I do submit that this is just one of the questions in which we ought to take the lead.

Neither the noble and gallant Earl himself nor any of his closest supporters cherish the least belief that this Bill can become law. The state of business in another place is such that there is not the remotest chance of its becoming an Act this session, and I venture to say that this is not one of those moments of extreme crisis in which there is anything disloyal or unpatriotic in not seeing eye to eye with the Government of the day. Of course, if there were any great crisis at hand, if the foe were actually knocking at our doors, we should all unite in determined support of the Government, and do nothing which would possibly embarrass it in any way. But I venture to suggest that what we are trying to do now is to promote something which will amplify, and, in our belief, carry to success, the very determined and bold efforts which the Minister for War has made to promote a Territorial Army to defend our shores. Those of us who have the honour of being Lords-Lieutenant of the King have during the last month been doing our utmost in the counties committed to our charge to represent the needs of the Territorial Army, to represent the importance of it, and we have frequently used the argument that if the number of men cannot be found by voluntary service, then we must face the fact that the United Kingdom will be obliged to fall back on compulsory service; and it seems to me that if this House to-night throws back a measure of this kind, it will stultify what we have been saying, and lead people to believe that we have been trying to snare them into the Territorial Army by arguments in which we really did not believe and by theories which did not hold water.

The noble Duke, I understand, is going to ask us to pledge ourselves to a loving trust in the military advisers of the Crown. As far as trying to make a success of the scheme now before us is concerned, we have all, as I have said, been doing our utmost to that end. As Chairman of the Commission to which I have alluded, I ought first to express my deep sense of the way in which one part of the recommendations of that Commission has been met, and of the way in which the then disjointed organisation of the Volunteers has now been formed into the nucleus of a real army. But what this Bill suggests is what I believe many of us feel convinced to be necessary in order to make the Territorial Army really effective and to carry it to a successful issue as the outcome of Mr. Haldane's really gigantic labours. So far I entirely agree with the noble Duke that we should do our utmost to support the military advisers of the Crown. But, my Lords, if it means that we are really to endorse all their policy and all the views they express, I am bound to say that that is a very difficult thing to do.

I will only take one point, not to weary the House. Your Lordships know that the Bill enacts that the men who come into the Territorial Force are to go through four months training. The Government cap that, because I understand the Government theory is that they are to do six months training. But whereas the Bill enacts that every man who joins the Force is to carry out that four months training at the commencement of his military career thereby putting him on a firm foundation and enabling later training for shorter periods to bear fruit, the Government make their six months training begin when the invasion is immediately threatened. I earnestly hope that no foreign country has it in contemplation to invade our shores; but in these days of strife and warfare it is probable that many countries have considered what they would do if they were obliged to invade England, and probably have definite schemes prepared in their War Offices or in their Admiralties with that object in view. I do not know, but I should very much doubt if in those schemes there was a clause that six months notice of the invasion should be given. If in none of those schemes that provision appears, and if that period of six months does exist in our scheme of defence, is it not almost—I do not know what language to use consistent with the dignity of your Lordships' House—but is it conceivable that we really could honestly work on in the belief that such a system as that could possibly have any but one result?

Let me allude again to the Commission. It is only fair, in a debate of this kind, that I should bear witness to the untiring energy of the members of that Commission and the patient manner in which they entered into the subject. The Commission consisted of Peers, of members of the other House of Parliament, of professional men, of soldiers, and of civilians. It was clear from the beginning that we approached the questions that were before us from many different points of view. Our discussions were protracted and there was considerable divergence of opinion on many points, but there was not one member of that Commission who, having devoted, I think it was, twelve months to the problem before us, was able to leave the room without reporting to his Sovereign and warning his fellow-countrymen that we could not see any means of securing this country against invasion if the voluntary system only were resorted to. It is fact that when that question did come before us there was not one member of the Commission who, considering the matter with a deep sense of his responsibility, could come to any other decision, and I think your Lordships' House ought to bear a fact of that kind in mind.

We are not passing into law any Statute to-night. This is, perhaps, to a certain extent an academical debate; but we have to consider, Is the country in that state in which it is wise that we should support those who would lull it into a sense of false security? If we do overshoot the mark it will do no harm; but I think we ought to shake the nation up and make it believe that, in the opinion of this House, at all events, this great question of compulsory service is one that ought to be faced, even if not eventually carried into law. It will be a harmful thing indeed if those who are only too anxious to be apathetic, who will not recognise the fact that there are great perils existing and that great efforts must be made to face them, are told that the House of Lords has thrown this proposal back. Of course, I do not expect those in the responsible position of Ministers of the Crown to at once take up a question of this kind, and I am not surprised that the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition is unable to see his way to support the Bill. He is in a position of great respon- sibility. It is not a question of passing the Bill into law, and he may feel that to pledge himself before the absolute moment of necessity comes would be an uncalled-for act on his part.

But I cannot help expressing may great surprise and regret that this has been made somewhat of a Party question to-night. I cannot conceive why your Lordships cannot be entrusted to express your own opinion on a matter of this kind. It very greatly takes away the effect of the vote we shall come to, because, instead of being an independent vote on the part of the members of your Lordships' House, it will mean that the Party system has been invoked and Party pressure brought to bear. Therefore the country will not know what is the view of the House of Lords. I think it is unfortunate that that has been done. At the same time I hope your Lordships will feel that the matter is of such importance that we must consider the merits of the question each one for himself. As I say, I think it is to this House that the country may look for an example and for encouragement in this matter. We know the causes which have helped to bring about the success of the Territorial Army so far as that success has been achieved. All honour to those who have felt bound, at a critical time, to do their utmost; but no one will say that these methods have been always of a dignified kind. They are not the methods on which it is desirable that the Force which should defend England should exist, and, moreover, they are methods which will have very soon become worn out and will fail as a stimulant to recruiting and the upkeep of the Force.

It does seem to me that this House ought to take care, now the question is before us, that it is not rejected, and spurned and cast back, but that it is at all events put on a footing which brings it into practical politics and makes the people of the country understand that it is one which must be considered and faced. It is no use saying that Members of this House may fold their hands and do nothing, but that if the enemy does come to the gate the somewhat hysterical enthusiasm of the Music-hall will arouse the latent patriotism of England. It will be too late then for that course to be adopted, and it will not be a worthy course if it has to be resorted to. I do earnestly hope that your Lordships will feel that what we have to do to-night is to record the fact that, in the opinion of this House, this measure represents the carrying forward of a great question which must some day be faced and which may be faced too late. I trust the day will never come when the cry, "Too late, too late," shall be heard throughout England. This House is in an independent position and a position of great responsibility, and I believe it will seldom have done anything more worthy of its great history than if it does cause the people of England to realise that this is a question which cannot be laid aside but must be patriotically grappled with.

THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND had given notice, on the Motion. for the Second Reading, to move the following Resolution, viz.: "That this House fully recognises the need of a Home Army amply sufficient to secure the country against all risk from invasion, and the advantage of giving to as large a part of the population as possible a sound groundwork of military training, but it is not prepared to proceed further with a measure which, while involving unknown demands upon the national resources, Would supersede the system accepted as sufficient by the military advisers of His Majesty's Government."

The noble Duke said: My Lords, I think I need not assure your Lordships that I fully realise the seriousness of opposing anything of this kind which is advocated by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. There is no one better qualified, by his vast and varied experience, by his great professional talents, by his distinguished services, by the respect universally entertained for his personal conduct and his devotion to public service, than the noble and gallant Earl to deal with a subject of this kind. I also regret to put myself in opposition to the noble Duke who sits on my left, because he has seen service and I have not. He has had the honour, as he has said, of presiding over an important Commission, and he has therefore had ample opportunities, which I have not enjoyed, of forming a judgment. And, my Lords, if I thought that this was merely a military question, I certainly should not have ventured to put down the Motion of which I have given notice.

But what strikes me as so curious about this question is the fact that the advocates of it seem to be unaware that it has a totally different aspect altogether from the military aspect, that it means a most momentous and far-reaching change. I will try and prove my words. I am simply stating a case, in the first instance, that I will presently endeavour to prove. As I say, it is a very momentous and far-reaching change, striking deep into the foundations of society, and affecting the whole character of the nation. I am disposed to dwell and insist on this all the more because I observe that the advocates of universal service appear, certainly from their omissions in never alluding to the subject, to ignore it altogether. Now it is a very remarkable thing that both the noble and gallant Field-Marshal and the noble Duke to-night have evidently a sort of uneasy feeling that the country as a whole is not in favour of universal service. They have alluded to that as one of the difficulties they admit the Government may have to face. It is perfectly true, as has been said, that there are many who would willingly serve their country who are debarred by various influences, and that those influences would be removed if universal service were carried out. That very argument seems to me to be one which is employed by those who feel that there is a great deal to be said on the other side.

Now, is it not worth while, if there is this doubt about the feeling of the United Kingdom with regard to universal service, to find out whether there is any ground for it or not? I beg leave to says at once that I am not here now to deny for one moment that it is the duty of every man, in case of necessity, to defend his country. I am not here to deny that if the necessity exists, if the safety of this country is absolutely dependent upon universal service, universal service must be carried out at whatever cost. I make the noble and gallant Field-Marshal a present of that admission. I will say presently why I do not think it covers all the ground or is a conclusive argument, but I admit it. That is one of the arguments which my noble friends use generally in favour of universal service.

Then there is another argument. They say, Do you not think that drill and training are admirable educational processes? I quite agree. I do most heartily wish that the National Service League when inaugurated had confined them- selves to insisting upon drilling every boy and every girl in every school in England. I believe it would have been a capital thing. I should have put it upon the ground of physique. We are told that the physique of our race is deteriorating. Whether that is true, or whether it is not true, it would have been a capital peg to hang universal training upon, and I fully believe what the noble and gallant Earl pointed out, that this sort of drill and training does induce boys when they come to the proper age to enlist in the Regular Army. I was very much struck with what the noble and gallant Earl said about the Duke of York's School and other schools. It is perfectly true, and I have always regretted that that which I believe the vast majority of the people of this country would have agreed to, and which, at any rate, would have been the thin end of the wedge, the National Service League never would entertain, and never would go in for. I remember we had a meeting in my county at the time, and I put this before them. They asked us to form a branch, and we said, "We will form a branch if you will confine yourselves to the drilling and the training of children in the schools." No, they would have universal service, and the consequence is they have not made, I think, as much way as they would otherwise have done.

Now, my Lords, if I am to show, even very faintly, because it is a very difficult thing to show in its full and lurid colours, what is the effect of universal service, I must take it as it will be when it is carried out fully. It is perfectly true that this Bill asks for a minimum of universal service, and it may be fairly argued that, although the medicine is a very disagreeable one, the pill is so small that we need not make faces over it. But if you want to understand the nature of the medicine, you must study it when it is given in larger doses. I will presently, if your Lordships will allow me, explain why I think the doses will not remain so small if you pass this Bill as it is now suggested. Now, what will be the educational effect of taking boys of eighteen and nineteen, of twenty and twenty-one, and herding them together in one general hotchpot? What is it that guardians and parents of all classes wish for their children when they grow up? Broadly speaking, may it not be put thus: That a young man should imbibe the highest ideals, the best tone and conduct and manners of the class to which he belongs?

Well, my Lords, is that end to be attained if, at the command of a bureau which has no soul to be saved and no body to be kicked, and so far as I know no aptitude for the training of youth, and without regard to the wishes of the parents, boys of all characters and classes are thrown together—at an age when passion is strongest, and experience, judgment, and principle are weakest, an imitative age when lasting impressions are easily made—in the close and uninterrupted intercourse of barrack room, barrack square, and canteen. What is to be the result? Did not your Lordships, with sons to look after about eighteen or nineteen or twenty years of age, devote attention to what they were going to do, to which was the best University to send them, or which was the best college to put their names down for? And if you decided that the Army would be a good thing to put them to, did you not consider what kind of regiment they should join and what the character of the regiment was before you put them into it? I think I have heard of such a thing. And yet we are told that we are to take the whole of that responsibility out of the hands of parents and put it into the hands, as I said before, of an irresponsible authority to carry out. I do not believe, speaking of the masses of the youth generally, that they can emerge from such an ordeal as that without being somewhat the worse for it.

What is the experience of the French? I have been told something about it, and I only give it for what it is worth. Perhaps some of your Lordships have more knowledge of the matter than I have, but I have been told that it is notorious that when a young Frenchman is posted to a regiment far from his own home, as often happens, he is lost, as it were, in the crowd, the consequence being that the years which he spends in the army are years in which all restraint is removed and evils are done which very likely affect the character for life.

It is a curious thing, but no system, as far as I can remember, of universal service has ever been inaugurated without resort having to be had to exemptions, which in themselves are an admission that the hardship is intolerable to certain individuals. In some countries you have a very complex system of exemptions. The noble and gal lant Earl's Bill has a very simple list of exemptions. There is, in fact, in the Bill only one exemption, which I may call an exemption for philanthropic reasons, and that is the only son of a widow who is wholly or partially maintained by that son. The widow with an only son is a very picturesque character, and a character which appeals to us all. We sympathise very much with her. But putting sympathy aside, supposing the mother in question be not a widow but a woman with a crippled husband who cannot work. There are then two mouths to feed instead of one. That couple may be wholly or partially maintained by an only son. I really do not see that her case is very much better, and why that only son should not be exempt also. Nor do I think the same argument is difficult in the case of a large family of orphans without father and mother, but with one or, perhaps, two elder brothers just managing to keep them out of the workhouse. I do not happen to know why that is not a case equally as pitiable as the other, and yet it is proposed to take those two elder brothers away, the consequence undoubtedly being that all those orphan children would be forced to the workhouse. I could take any number of illustrations. No system of exemptions could get over the difficulties of meeting all the varying circumstances of life.

There are two reasons at least why universal service must always be unpopular. First of all, because it takes all control away from the parents; and, secondly, because it inflicts hardships which are almost intolerable under certain circumstances. You are proposing to exchange this system for a system which at least has the one merit that it is voluntary, and the further merit that you know that every man you have got hold of has come more or less because he likes it. I think this means a very serious change, and I again repeat that I am a good deal surprised that those who advocate it—I quite understand their saying the objection is not a sufficient one—have never called attention to that fact, and have expressed a sort of wonder that the nation is not very anxious to fall in with their scheme.

Now, my Lords, I will put another case. The noble Earl has appended a Memorandum to the beginning of this Bill. He says— The Bill secures absolute equality of treatment as between all classes. I think we know what is meant. He means all classes in the social circles. But how about other classes. There are some very curious exemptions here, or rather peculiar provisions with regard to exemptions. One is exempted who is able to certify to the Army Council in prescribed manner that by reason of physical or mental infirmity he is permanently unfitted for training, but that man is to be fined. I should have thought that that was something very like paying for exemption. The only difference is that exemption has to be given, not because the man is unwilling, but because he is incapable of serving. Presumably this man, because he is an infirm man, has a difficulty in earning his livelihood; yet you fine him if he happens to be earning a little more than what is only an ordinary labourer's wage. It goes further than that. The extreme seems to me to be fully as absurd. You have an able-bodied man who has varicose veins, or who has lost a good many of his teeth, or who has only one eye, or some defect of that sort, but a man who is perfectly willing, and, perhaps, very anxious to serve in the Army; but you will not let him, and then you fine him because you cannot accept him. It does seem to me a most extraordinary proposition, and though the fine may not be a heavy one, it seems such an intolerable injustice that I confess I do not wonder that people should fear universal service and think it undesirable.

Then there is a very curious proviso that all these cripples and ministers of religion and policemen are to be liable to go to the front in case of emergency, although they are not to be liable to undergo training. What earthly good they are going to do at the front except to be food for powder and shot, I cannot imagine. But there is one man who is absolutely and always exempt—that is the criminal. If a man is a criminal then he may stay at home and smoke his pipe. All the police have been removed in order to go to the front, so he can make himself perfectly happy at home, and if he chooses to ply his trade he can do so comfortably. I can remember the time when criminals were made to enlist in the Army, and although perhaps not desirable acquaintances, yet they made excellent soldiers and fought exceedingly well, and I should have thought that the very first person to force to the front would be the criminal, and that you would leave the policeman at home.

It has been said that though there has been talk of a great many evils, after all this only means four or five months training. Last week we had a very interesting incident in this House. The noble Earl the late Under-Secretary of State for War came down to the House and denounced a Bill of which he had been the main supporter and defender during its passage through this House. I do not remember ever having witnessed a similar incident. I have known a great many politicians voting against Bills which their own side had brought in, but it has generally been either because they knew their own Department was going to bring in a Bill with which they could better agree, or for some other very good reason. But after defending every line of the Bill with very great patience and good humour through some very interesting debates, the noble Earl came down to this House and denounced that Bill in most emphatic terms; and more curious still, my noble friends here cheered him, and the noble Lord, Lord Newton, got up and defended him. What was the charge the noble Earl made against his Majesty's Government? It was that the territorial scheme would not provide a force which would liberate the Regular Army, so that you might strike at the commencement of a great war.

If he will allow me, I will put to the noble and gallant Field-Marshal one plain question. Does he think that the Army which is to be formed under this Bill, after four or five months training and with two or three weeks drill for three years following, will be ready at the commencement of any war to resist an invasion? If he does think so, why do noble Lords on each side of the House complain of the short time which the present Government has in which to train its Territorial Force? Is it not evident that if you pass this Bill those noble Lords will insist upon lengthening the term of service? My noble friend's Commission recommended a year's service and condemned the Swiss system because, good though it was in many respects, it was impossible to train an army in so short a time. You may be certain of this, after what happened last week, that as sure as you pass a Bill of this kind you will have pressure put upon you to extend the length of service; and if you want an army which is to defend these shores at the commencement of a great war without any support from the Regular troops, it would be perfectly ridiculous, in my opinion, to trust to an army which only had the training which this Bill proposes.

Now, my Lords, I turn for a moment to the question of cost. There is a beautiful vagueness about the question of cost. Cost, no doubt, is not the most important point from one aspect of the question, because it does not matter what we pay for the defence of these shores. Whatever is necessary we must pay. But we should like to have some little estimate of what the bill is likely to be. It varies at the present moment from £20,000,000 to £4,000,000. The noble Earl opposite, the Leader of the House, himself mentioned the figure of £20,000,000, and he is now being told that he did not know what he was talking about. The noble Earl is a responsible spokesman for the Government, and therefore I think I am justified in saying that the estimate has varied from £20,000,000 to £4,000,000. The other day the Government issued a Paper which reduced it to £8,000,000, and I see that there is an answer which has come out to-day from the National Service League reducing it to £4,500,000. This is not a very satisfactory state of things, but what I should like to point out to your Lordships is that the expense which these noble Lords are talking about is only a very small part of the expense which the country will be called upon to bear under this scheme. Will you allow me to call attention to Clause 8, which confers power to make Orders and Regulations for— the preparation and keeping of lists and registers of persons who are or will within six months become liable to serve by virtue of this Act and the obtaining of returns or particulars from or as to any such persons. Then as to— the attendance for enrolment of persons liable to serve by virtue of this Act. Then again— the notification to persons liable to serve by virtue of this Act of their liabilities under this Act. and— the assignment to county associations of any powers and duties in connection with the carrying of this Act into effect; and, finally, in the Schedule there is an exemption for any person who can satisfy the Army Council that he is the only son of a widow, and another for a person who can satisfy the Army Council that he is physically or mentally unfit. How is all this going to be done—by the local authorities, or the territorial associations, or the county councils? I should like to warn your Lordships that you are exacting too much of local authorities already, and you will not find voluntary labour given to an unlimited extent. There will have to be some payment for it, and ultimately you will have to pay county councils and these county associations if you put so much work upon them. But, even as these authorities are now, you know perfectly well that you cannot get all these things done without putting large charges on the rates, and increasing the burdens of the country both directly and indirectly.

I have endeavoured to show that universal service must necessarily have a far-reaching effect on the character of the nation, and that it is a system which bears with cruel inequality on those who are the subjects of it. But I have left out something. Did the noble Earl ever think of the conscientious objector? If there is one man whom Governments always quail before it is the conscientious objector, no matter what Government it may be that is in office. What are you going to do with the conscientious objector? There are the people called Quakers. What is going to become of them? Do you think they will feel no hardship in being compelled to serve in the Army, and yet are you going to exempt them? I hardly like to remind the noble Duke that there are some monastic institutions in this country. Are their members to be compelled to serve, or are they going to be classed as ministers of some denomination? These questions have never been thought out or even touched upon by noble Lords who have spoken in favour of the Bill.

In my opinion, if this system is to be adopted it should be recommended by the military advisers of some responsible Government, and the Government of the country should take it in hand. It has been said that this Motion of mine is nothing less than a vote of confidence in Mr. Haldane and his military advisers. I do not want to say anything discourteous, or I should say that such a statement is absolutely absurd. I do not believe in Mr. Haldane or in any of his works. But I know this, that whether you believed in it or not, you passed the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act and you are responsible, not for the system, but for giving the system a trial. If you were not prepared to give the system a trial, you should have thrown that Bill out. Although I am, I confess, a most profound disbeliever in the system, I do contend that the Government have a right to say, "Give us a fair trial." Having made that statement I do protest most strongly against anybody asserting that I am moving a vote of confidence in the Government, which is the very last thing in the world I should dream of doing.

The noble Duke on my left said that this had been made a Party question. I think I have been sufficiently long in this House for your Lordships to recognise that I am not a too loyal member of my Party. I do not think that I have the credit of always voting with my Party, but I do say this, that it is a little hard to attack the responsible members of any Party, whether in the Government or the Opposition, because they decline to be committed to a system which is not recommended by the military advisers of the Crown, and which has never been sanctioned by any Government, and, further, with regard to which the feeling of the country has never been expressed. It is a little bit hard to blame them because they use every endeavour to prevent this House committing itself to a course which, once adopted, it cannot retreat from.

My Lords, I am very much obliged to you for the attention you have given me. I feel the full responsibility of this Motion. I feel how weightily this measure comes before you, proposed, as it is, by a General of such eminence as the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, but this much I hope I have proved, that the advocates of this system should at least show that they know and that they realise what the disadvantages are. They ought to realise, as I said at the commencement of my speech, how deep down they are going into the character of the whole of the population, and they should endeavour, if possible, to remove the objections and allay the fears of those who, like myself, think it would be a very perilous experiment. I say again, if the safety of this country really depended upon it, and if any Government came forward and said on their own responsibility that this country was not safe without it, then if the evils I see in it were tenfold I would vote for it. But until that day comes, my Lords, I think we had better hold our hands. It is for that reason I have ventured to put this Amendment upon the Paper.

Amendment moved— To leave out all the words after 'That' for the purpose of inserting the following Resolution, viz.: 'This House fully recognises the need of a Home Army amply sufficient to secure the country against all risk from invasion, and the advantage of giving to as large a part of the population as possible a sound groundwork of military training, but it is not prepared to proceed further with a measure which, while involving unknown demands upon the national resources, would supersede the system accepted as sufficient by the military advisers of His Majesty's Government.'"—(The Duke of Northumberland.)


My Lords, I feel so very strongly, in the face of such considerations as have been brought before us in the speech of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, how difficult our course is; and knowing how many of your Lordships must already have formed a conclusion upon this subject, I rise with great diffidence and great hesitation to place any opinion before you. I cannot but feel that the fact that compulsory service has been to those who have served at the War Office a constant thought and has been dangled before our eyes for years past as an easy and practical means of emerging from the morass of difficulties in which we find ourselves with regard to military organisation, furnishes a special reason why those who, like my noble friend Lord Lansdowne and myself, have had the charge of the Army, should not withhold from your Lordships to-night the considerations which guide us in coming to a conclusion upon an issue which I venture to say is a grave and far-reaching one, and involves dangers which have been but little appreciated.

I think I shall best be consulting the wishes of all those who heard the speech of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal if I do not attempt to dissect in detail the Bill which he has moved to-night. I believe what we are occupied upon is a consideration of the principle, and in considering that principle I think we may do a good deal by clearing away in the first instance those points which are points of common agreement. I take it that we are all agreed that the organisation of our Army must be such that we can afford to send 150,000 Regular troops abroad, and yet defend this country after that army has departed. That was the underlying note of the noble Earl's speech. That also was the view of the last Government, and that view I take to be held in its entirety by the present Government. The noble Earl has pressed upon us most strongly that there is a serious danger of invasion. That is his case, and I understood that it was the case of the noble Earl opposite, and that he accepted on behalf of the Government that there was a very serious danger of invasion.


No, I am afraid that is not accurate.


The words are not immediately before me, but they were most clear and definite. The noble Earl said he was not one of those who held the dinghy theory. He said there was a fear of invasion against which such reasonable precautions as can be taken in all human affairs must be taken. He did not tie himself as to the extent of the danger, but surely he cannot contend to your Lordships that he did not admit there was a danger and at the same time that proper precautions should be taken against it. I think we must claim that the noble Earl admits that.


Perhaps the noble Viscount will allow me to deal with the matter at greater length in the course of the debate than I can do at this moment.


I will not press the noble Earl further, but it is a vital point that the Government admitted the danger of invasion, and therefore insisted upon a home Army with which to meet invaders. If I am not correct we are in absolute disagreement with them on the main point on which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal's Bill is poised to-night. The third point on which I understand there is common agreement is that we must have a field Army, and that Army must be amply sufficient, in the words of the noble Duke who has just spoken, to secure the country at all times from the risk of invasion. That is where the difference of opinion comes in. We have heard to-night how insufficient the noble and gallant Field-Marshal considers our present forces to be. On the other hand, only five days ago we heard from the Under-Secretary of State for War what I understand to be the military opinion with regard to those forces. In reply to the noble Earl opposite, Lord Portsmouth, he said that if the noble Earl asked whether the Territorial Forces ever could be capable of meeting an invasion the answer would be, Yes. The noble Earl pressed him whether that Force was capable at this moment to resist invasion, and the Under-Secretary said— I answer unhesitatingly No; the Territorial Force is not at, present fit to meet anything like equally the most highly-trained Continental troops. He added, that on the other hand, when the Territorial Force had had a period of proper training there was no doubt they would be as good as any other troops in the world for their purpose. That is the point at issue between the two contending parties to-night.

I hesitate to get into that line of fire, but I should not be dealing frankly with your Lordships if I did not say that we hold a position somewhere between the two. We can follow the noble and gallant Earl in one thing unhesitatingly. If there is a doubt as to the safety of this country, we give our votes for keeping within the safety zone at all hazards. There are no men in this House who can compare with those who sit on this Bench in regard to feeling the necessity of being fully reinforced to the extent of safety. Those of us who went through what the noble Marquess behind me went through, in the winters of 1899 and 1900, with nearly all the available Artillery gone abroad, and all the Regular troops out of the country, and when we were in a state with regard to national defence which it is not indiscretion now to say was regarded by military authorities as highly dangerous, will never forget that time, and are not likely to vote against any measure, the loss of which would in any way place us in the same jeopardy again. I am quite sure the noble Marquess will never forget that time; and if I may speak for a year later, within a few days of my becoming responsible at the War Office, I remember well receiving repeated telegrams from Lord Kitchener asking me for fresh mounted reinforcements, without which he considered the war must drag on indefinitely. The opinion of my military advisers then was that no force short of 30,000 troops efficiently trained and mounted would be of any service. At that time I had not of trained men in the country above 3,000 to send out, and I had, after a vote of the Cabinet, to send the full number available, and to raise, organise, and improvise the whole of the remainder, with not merely the difficulty of getting the men and of buying the horses, but even the difficulty of finding military saddles which would be useful and on which the men could sit when they had got them. I can truly say that I do not think that any man who has had any experience of the late war will, if he can help it, allow this country to be placed in such a position again.

There is another point on which I should like to express our concurrence with the noble Earl. I do not labour it, because we have much to get through, but if the question is raised whether compulsory military service is a good thing in itself we believe, as the noble Duke who has just sat down believes, that it would be an advantage to, the nation that every boy who can be should be drilled. I am glad—and in that I venture to differ from the noble Duke—that the noble Earl did not stop short, if we are to have it at all, at military training, because, good as military training may be for the individual, it is only by organised military service that you can produce a result which will give us safety if we are not safe at present. Again, I believe that the spirit of discipline is an advantage in an age which is neither too serious nor too earnest. I would say myself that my whole instinct is in favour of military service, and any whole desire is to see the people and the leaders of the working men recognise the advantage which would be gained to the country by it. But, my Lords, I submit for your consideration that it is not sufficient to prove that this system is useful, or that it has advantages. If you are going to make so great a change, surely you must also prove that it is necessary, and that we cannot be defended without it.

Now, let me say a word on that subject. I do not like going back, as the gallant Field-Marshal did, to what happened in 1800. I do not know that it is a subject that we can entirely draw our conclusions from. All the facts that I mentioned just now as to the straits in which we found ourselves in the late war were well known to the noble and gallant Field-Marshal when he became Commander-in-Chief, and I cannot help asking myself what has occurred since he vacated the post in the last five years to make it necessary for us to adopt this great change. In that connection I would urge upon your Lordships this consideration. The noble Earl spoke of this change as being a slight sacrifice to be asked of the people of this country. The speech of the noble Duke who seconded him certainly gave the idea that it was no great change, that it was merely the development of the present Territorial system. I think that the noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland, did genuine service to this House by pointing out that it is not only a great change, but a fundamental change. Do not let us go into this subject with our eyes shut. I am not going to say that circumstances may not arise in which we must do it, but let us be frank and genuine with the country if we do do it. I agree with every word that fell on this point from the Duke of Northumberland. If such a sacrifice is necessary, let us count the cost and do our duty. But do not let us represent to the country that it is what it is not going to be.

I should indeed be wanting if, from the experience which has come to me during many years of public service, I did not very respectfully suggest to the noble and gallant Earl that he has undervalued the difficulty of carrying this change into effect, that he has underrated the training which it will be necessary to give, that he has underestimated the cost to which the country must be put, that he has not, as I fear, grappled with the difficulty of providing officers for this immense force, and, above all, that he has not sufficiently relieved your Lordships' minds as to certain difficulties which must be met with regard to the Regular Army. I cannot help feeling at the very outset that there was a certain weakness in the Bill when we heard the noble and gallant Earl apologising to us for taking so short a period of training as four months, and found him seconded by the noble Duke whose Commission, after great consideration and after hearing all the military witnesses, asked for a year's training. There, again, I know that if the noble and gallant Earl took a regiment of the Guards, with Guards officers, Guards non-commissioned officers, and even 100 or 200 Guards privates, he would probably find himself able to put men with four months training into the ranks, and to get a very fair result with them after the four months were over. But that is not the condition. We are not to have all Regular officers. We are to have some. We are not to have a large nucleus of the best trained troops, and the question I ask myself is what would happen if your Lordships passed this Bill this week and if it came into operation on January 1 next. I will only say, so far as my experience goes, I do not care who the military advisers of the Crown may be, I do not care what Government is in office, before two years have elapsed, you will have the whole of the military advisers coming forward and saying that four months training is insufficient, and that they must make a much larger demand upon the patriotism of the country if we are to have a sufficient defence. That, again, is deeply involved in the question of cost.

I do not want to enter into a discussion as between the National Service League and the Government as to the question of cost, but my conviction is that you will not be able to run this force on the cheap; you will not be able to save those £2,000,000 in pay, for which credit has been taken; and unless you can change the whole sentiment of the country you will be forced to pay good wages to those you take against their will, and not less pay than the Regulars. Having done that, you will find yourselves not merely involved in higher pay but in longer training than is allowed. for. Moreover, you will be forced into a very large expenditure for the purpose of providing barracks, I do not say for the whole of the force, but in any case the cost would be enormously increased. Again, there is the question of officers. These points are points of extreme importance. How are your officers to be got? Are they to be voluntary, or are they to be compelled to serve beyond their four mouths?


You will hear later how it is proposed officers are to be found. They will be compelled, as everybody else will be compelled, to come forward and serve. There is no difficulty in other countries in getting officers.


You cannot train an officer in four months, and the whole success of this compulsory training depends upon this, that the shorter you make it for the men the more it is absolutely necessary to have the best officers you can find. I do not know what the military view would be, but I submit that a year would not be an undue period of training to ask for in the case of an officer; and if you can only compel him for four months how are you to obtain these officers? And be it recollected that out of the 11,000 officers at this moment needed for the Territorial Army you are short by 1,700. No power on earth has yet enabled us to get the right number of officers for our volunteer forces. If you can only get within 1,700 of 11,000, how are we going to get the extra 9,000 required under this Bill? I do not say it is an insuperable problem, but it is one which is not solved by the Bill, and you will have to make a much greater demand on the patriotism of the country than the noble and gallant Earl professed to make in the proposals we have heard this evening.

And, again, I feel most strongly as regards the effect on the Regular Army. At present you keep 260,000 men in the Regular Army, and of these, 120,000 are abroad. You have to depend on the Regular Army for your garrisons, for your striking force. You have to depend upon your Regular Army for your first shock of war. Your Regular Army at present costs you £18,000,000. Your Territorial Forces and your Special Reserve are to cost you £5,000,000, when you get to the normal. In order to get that £5,000,000, the Secretary of State thought it necessary to disband a number of regiments, and make a reduction in the Regular Army to the extent of £1,500,000. Now, the Secretary of State found soldiers to advise him that it was possible to reduce a million and a half of the money on the Regular Army in order to find £5,000,000? Suppose this new force is to cost £10,000,000, and that is a moderate estimate, in addition to the present cost. Does any member of this House believe that the Secretary of State would not find himself advised or obliged to reduce, out of the £18,000,000 spent on the Regular Army, something more in order to make up this enormous extra charge which would give him, behind the Regular Army, so much greater security than he has at present? My Lords, I do look upon it as one of the most vital considerations in the whole of this question of compulsion for home defence that you should not cut down the Regular Army below the strength necessary to fulfil the duties cast upon it.

Then again, there was the question of recruiting. The noble and gallant Earl gave us some further considerations which, he said, led to the belief that military training would cause an increase, or, at all events, would give a stimulus to recruiting for the Regular Army. I hesitate to put my opinion against his in any way, but may I point out what a flaw there seems to be in that reasoning? The noble and gallant Earl said that the Militia when they were embodied between 1805 and 1813 very largely enlisted in the Regular Army, but what the noble and gallant Earl did not, I think, fully realise in making that statement was that these men were permanently embodied at home whether they liked it or not, and the question was whether a man who could not go back to civil life, had the spirit and the courage and the love of adventure to cause him to enter the Regular Army and fight for his country abroad. But it is not the case in this instance. In this instance you will have men who will be forced to do their duty at home, and they would be asked to abandon all their chances in civil life within their reach in order to join the Army.

May I remind the noble Earl of an enterprise in which he and I were engaged in changing the period of service. We had before us the whole question of re-enlistment after service, and we had the whole experience of 8.000 men in the Guards to guide us. How were we misled. The Guards, who were only getting eightpence and ninepence a day, all these fine men, who had the best association for finding them work when they went back to civil life, at a time when the noble and gallant Earl and myself changed the service in the Army from seven years to three, the Guards with all those advantages, re-enlisted to the extent of about thirty per cent.; and yet when we did the same thing with the Line, not leaving them with eightpence or ninepence, a day, but offering them eighteen pence, the young men who were serving at distant stations, who could not be certain of employment upon their return home, and had none of the advantages possessed by the Guards—the result was that in the first year only between twenty and twenty-five per cent. re-enlisted, as compared with the sixty or seventy per cent. we had been led to anticipate. My Lords, that is an instance I venture to give your Lordships as showing how great a danger you may run into if you rely on your men raised compulsorily extending their service to the Army.

Under this Bill you are going to try and teach men in four months what the Germans teach their soldiers in twenty-two months. As the noble and gallant Earl has said, the idea is that you are going to give them work, work, work, and if you have good officers they will be forced to work these men in order to train them. I have the greatest doubt whether after men have seen the very worst side of military life they will be so enamoured of it that they will be willing, to the extent of 35,000 or 40,000 a year, to join the Regular Army as they do at present. These seem to me to be the main difficulties, or, at all events, points which must be seriously considered before any such scheme is adopted. On the other hand, if there is difficulty, I agree with the Duke of Northumberland that the only way by which it can be possibly got over is by a consensus of military opinion that we are not now sufficiently defended. My Lords, that consensus of opinion is wholly lacking at this moment. We have had speeches made by the Secretary of State which I have personally deplored, and against which I have protested time after time. I do not believe that by the addition of 60,000 or 70,000 men to the Militia force, what may be called the Special Reserve, you have increased your striking power abroad, as the Secretary of State has told us, by 90,000 men. I do not believe that you turn the men from the Militia, by writing on a piece of paper, into Regular soldiers, or that you increase your Regular Army. I personally have, so far as I can, protested against this thing.

If I may call your Lordships' attention to one figure, I will show you to what an extent it has been carried under the Army Council. If you will turn to the Return sent out on October 1 last, showing the state of the Special Reserve on that date, you will find there were 59,500 men in the Special Reserve, but of these 16,500 were under twenty years of age. Therefore, assuming that every man on that list was fully trained, you would have had only 43,000 men fit to go abroad. And yet I turn to the War Office Paper circulated last week, and I look to see what was the strength of the Special Reserve to go abroad, and I find that on January 1 there were 50,777 men on the Special Reserve. Three months earlier, according to the last Return, there were only 43,000 over twenty years of age out of 50,777 of the Special Reserve who are mentioned as being available, after the usual deductions have been made, for service abroad in January, 1909. I cannot but look with deep regret and deep suspicion on these exaggerations. I do not think they would stand the fire of a Committee of this House or any other Committee, but the difficulty in which we are placed is this, that one by one every statement has been vouched for by the Army Council. I do not want to put on the military advisers of the Crown any responsibility they ought not to properly bear, but I do remind your Lordships, with all seriousness, that the military advisers of the Crown are not the subordinates but the colleagues of the Secretary of State. He is not merely their mouthpiece as the head of the office. They sign the Estimates. They are responsible for the Estimates, and if that responsibility does not exist, then I say the whole position of the Army Council as we have been led to believe it must be regarded as a sham.

But, in addition to that, Mr. Haldane has, throughout his career as Secretary of State, vouched his colleagues for every change he has made. With your Lordships' permission I will give you three or four quotations. In 1906, on July 12, Mr. Haldane said in the House of Commons:— I cannot express my obligations too deeply to my colleagues of the Army Council for assisting me in the way they have done to work at the scheme of reorganisation which I have to present, and on the hypothesis that reductions are right—the whole-hearted concurrence they have expressed in a proposal which, just because it is their own, I believe will result in the increase of the efficiency of the British Army by 50 per cent. Well, that whole-hearted concurrence was in the reduction of ten battalions of the Army, and in the reduction to the particularly low strength of forty-two batteries of Artillery which his previous body of military advisers had advised every previous Secretary of State was absolutely necessary for the work. On February 25, 1907, he said:— I may say emphatically that the Army Budget this year is a soldier's Budget. That, my Lords, covers the whole of the changes made in 1907, and I felt this state of things so deeply that I ventured in this House to address Lord Portsmouth as to whether two officers in a special degree—namely, General Nicholson, who, I may add, served with me in the War Office, and General French—were or were not satisfied with the reduction about which I felt so strongly that I had indeed in public discussions stated that I believed it to be a military crime. I was told— I am permitted by General Nicholson to say that he is a member of the Army Council, and he accepts the fullest responsibility for the decision arrived at. And he went on to say that it was very unusual, that General French should not be quoted, because the Reports of the Inspector-General were highly confidential and could only be given to Parliament. But here we have the opinion of General French, which supplies one of those curious hiatuses as between the present Under-Secretary of State and the late Under-Secretary.


I hope my friend has taken the trouble to read correctly what was said about General French. What was said was that it was a very unusual thing to show this Report at all, and he implied that it was not to be taken as a precedent. It was so stated.


I do not complain of the noble Earl's position. I have no doubt he was stating what was exactly correct from his official standpoint; but, at all events, when the Inspector-General agrees with the system we all have the advantage of his views. With these broad facts which I have brought forward, one cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that the military advisers of the Crown expressed themselves as satisfied with the system His Majesty's Government are establishing. What is it? It gives us 600,000 troops at home, as shown on this Paper: 330,000 available for abroad and 270,000 at home. We require 150,000 men to go abroad and 150,000 in garrison, and it was the opinion of the late Government that an army of at least 150,000 men should be available for field purposes at home. I understand the Government are satisfied, their military advisers are satisfied, that out of those 600,000 men, when the system has reached its full development, they will be able to obtain the forces which they consider necessary. Lord Newton has complained that we are giving a vote of confidence in the Government. I entirely join with the noble Duke in repudiating that construction of this Amendment. We are simply saying this, that we cannot make this great change if, in the opinion of the military advisers of the Government, it is unnecessary for home defence. If the Government tell us, on the authority of their military advisers, that these 600,000 men are not enough; if we are told we are not defended; that there is no prospect of meeting the needs of the situation under a voluntary system, then I would join hands with the noble Duke behind me and say we will take any step which is necessary to secure the safety of the country.

We are ready to make any sacrifice which any Government may call upon us to make, whether it be in purse or popularity, to do so. But I urge upon your Lordships that you will indeed take a grave responsibility if, against the advice of the trusted advisers of the Government, without allowing the system upon which they have placed reliance to be fairly tried, you proceed to charge upon the House of Commons—for you have not merely to deal with a resolution or an abstract proposition—the duty of finding an extra five millions of money. I believe that if we do so, instead of advancing, as we all desire, we shall retard the establishment of an efficient military system.


My Lords, I am at a great and obvious disadvantage in having to stand up and oppose, on a military question, so great, and, in many ways, so unrivalled a military authority as the noble and gallant Field-Marshal whose Bill we are discussing to-night. But I am encouraged to a certain extent in doing so, because I feel that the Bill we are discussing is much more the Bill of the National Service League than the the Bill of Lord Roberts. We all know the opinions of Lord Roberts on our military forces, and we have all heard what steps he considers necessary to place them in a proper condition. All I can say, my Lords, is that anything that you are going to get under this Bill is totally and absolutely unlike what the noble and gallant Earl has asked for in this House on previous occasions. He has stated that in his view we are liable to an invasion by an enemy falling upon us in large numbers, like a bolt from the blue, and we must be prepared to receive them at the very outset of hostilities. He says, in order to meet the invasion, he considers it necessary that we should have a citizen Army of no less than 600,000 men. In the scheme set forth in the Bill and in the estimate of the National Service League there is no provision for an Army of 600,000 men, and no provision for making it ready to meet Continental troops at the outset of hostilities.

Let us first consider the question of numbers. There will be every year 150,000 recruits trained. The men in their second and third and fourth years will be brought out to undergo a fortnight's training, and they will number about 400,000. Behind that there is to be a reserve of about 800,000 men. Well, there is certainly material for forming an army of more than 600,000 men if you wish to do it. But in the first place, the estimate of the National Service League states that there is to be no charge for the Reserve—that is to say, your Reserve is not to be organised, drilled, clothed or equipped—it is not even to be armed. Therefore, under those circumstances, your Reserve will not be ready when the bolt from the blue falls and you have to mobilise your Territorial Forces. What remains? You have the 150,000 recruits. Well, if our enemy is going to be kind enough to make his invasion at the end of the recruits' term, I daresay you will include these 150,000 recruits in your fall Army. Should he come at any other time, it is out of the question that you should include them in your Army. That keeps you down to 400,000 men. But 80,000 come out for your Special Reserve. If you are going to have a Special Reserve, you will have to take it out of the class to which these men belong—from depôt battalions and depôt units, because you cannot have units serving in the field, with large drafts taken from them. If you take 80,000 men out of the 400,000 men you are left with an Army of 320,000 men available for immediate mobilisation, as compared with an establishment for the present Territorial Forces of 313,000. The net increase for the purposes for which you say it is required is 7,000 men.

Then I come to the question of efficiency. How far is this force, raised and trained in this way, going to be capable of meeting the trained Continental troops in an outbreak of war? In all that we have said and thought and done with regard to the Territorial Forces, we have drawn a hard and fast distinction between the training of the individual and the training of the unit. It is quite true that under this scheme your individual is going to be more highly trained than, at any rate, a large number of the Territorial Forces, but what about the training of the unit? If you are only going to have a fortnight's embodied training during the year, no forces under those cir- cumstances can very well be trained within the limitations laid down here. That force will not be capable of taking the field instantly. The considered opinion of the General Staff on this question is that while they do not underrate the value of the training which the individual has received during the time he is a recruit, a force such as this, which will only have had an average minimum of three weeks, or an average maximum of five weeks, of embodied training, will not be fit to do what you ask it to do, set free your Expeditionary Force, and take the field against foreign invaders on the outbreak of war.

There is nothing to show whether you propose to train recruits with the units to which they will eventually belong during the period of their recruit training. If you do not, then the average period of embodied service of your force will be three weeks. If you do, its average period of embodied service will be five weeks. Neither period is adequate to make the force fit for immediate hostilities on the outbreak of war. I believe that in the opinion of all soldiers those troops would not be capable of taking the field on the outbreak of war. In the soldiers' mind, there would be no question. I can claim the support of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, Lord Roberts, on this point, because when he was asked before the Norfolk Commission whether the Militia and the Volunteers with six or eight months embodied training would, unaided by Regular troops, be equal to such a task, he replied that— in such an event the Auxiliary Forces would be considerably better than they are now, but I cannot believe it would be adequate to leave the defence of the country to them, without the assistance of the Regular troops. But there are other points in the training and the efficiency of the machine besides the amount of embodied training you give it, and first stands the question of the officers. I observe that the system which is to be adopted is that when a man has passed through his recruit training if he wishes to take a commission as an officer he should go through a second period of training as a subaltern. No mention is made as to how you are to get him. He is to cost the State for that period of five months the sum of £50. Out of that £50 he is to be clothed, fed, housed, and everything else. He will be exceedingly lucky if, after the period of five months, he will receive in the matter of salary the princely stipend of £1 a week. I fail to understand how you are going to get officers in sufficient numbers to give up a considerable part of their second year in order to take a commission in the Territorial Forces. But under these proposals for subalterns, there is not one word said in the Bill or in the estimate to indicate that any steps are to be taken or any money spent on the higher training of officers. You propose to have a large number of Regular officers, but you will have to have a large number of Territorial officers who will want a great deal more training than the fortnight you propose, if you want them to take the field at once.

On this question of providing officers, I know that before this debate is much older we shall have the case of Switzerland thrust at us. We shall be told that there is no difficulty in finding officers there. That is quite true. But you cannot compare the case of Switzerland and the case of this country. You have to take in all these questions the psychological facts and conditions. Switzerland has no Navy and no Regular Army, and the possibility of the invasion of Switzerland is far more imminent than it is here. Switzerland concentrates upon her Army, the one national institution of the kind they have got, and is it wonderful that you should get people to come forward under conditions much less arduous than the conditions which are proposed here, in order to take commissions in these forces?

Take the case of Germany. You find that the difficulty of getting officers is exceedingly great there. In fact, they can only get the supply of officers they require for mobilisation by giving them a bribe which you cannot give under this system. They let them off a year's training, but your term of embodied training is too short to make that recommendation here. For those two reasons, which are the two principal factors in determining the efficiency of the forces, I see no advance on the present system in the Territorial Army. Your embodied training is no longer, possibly it is not so regular, and the system of training officers seems to me to be lamentable in its weakness. Then you have to take the difference between a force serving voluntarily, and a force serving compulsorily. There are men belonging to the new units of the Territorial Forces who, during the past year, have done five or six drills a night throughout the whole year, which is as much as men would have done under this scheme in their four or six months of recruit training. You have that as an asset. You have the spirit which animates a force of this kind and which cannot be so strong when it is a force raised by compulsion.

I see it is proposed under this scheme that the greater part of these 150,000 men are to be trained in camps. Presumably that will be in summer and not in the winter time. That raises a social problem of extreme importance. Generally speaking the labour market expands in the spring and contracts in the autumn. You will be taking the greater part of those 150,000 troops away on an expanding labour market, and on a contracting market you will throw back the greater part of them. That will produce a problem of unemployment which will take more than the ingenuity of the Tariff Reform League to solve. And it is quite inevitable that before you have had that system in force long, you will have a demand that men shall not be taken away from an expanding market, but that they shall go to training when the labour market is contracting. This means winter training entailing expenditure on barracks and housing generally.

There is a question, which I believe is influencing people here, with regard to the effect this scheme is going to have on national physique. Well, I fail to see how a system of this sort, which is going to take men already of the highest physique and to discard men of the lowest physique, is to do any lasting good to the general physique of the nation. If you do that you are bound to divide your population into two parts, the part whose physique is gradually improving, and the part whose physical development you leave alone and which is going to deteriorate.

Then, after the first training, in subsequent years they are to be brought out for drills. We have great difficulty at present in the Territorial Force in getting drills carried out in such a way that they are of a useful and instructive nature. Owing to the nature of the physical standard, the majority of your Army will be drawn from the country districts; they will be scattered all over them, and when you consider the tremendous difficulty you have got in collecting men for drill, and the tremendous expense in getting them together, it will be impossible in a large number of places to have more than what is called squad drill. What good squad drills are going to do men who are supposed to have been given a thorough recruit training I cannot understand. It does not show that the thing has ever been thought out in detail, or, if it has, it has been thought out in a very unmilitary manner.

Then there is the question of the Regular officers you propose to provide. At the present time the Regular officers with the Territorial Forces number 440. Under this scheme it is proposed to take 2,250 officers. Where they are to come from perhaps we shall hear from the supporters of this Bill. Possibly they may know of some hitherto untapped source from which they will be able to get men of the officer class. But unless that is so—and after all, we have explored most of those places ourselves pretty thoroughly—this inevitable fact remains, that if you are going to take these 2,250 officers, you will cut short your supply for the Regular Army. This Bill seems to have been conceived simply and solely in the interests of this force which is going to be raised and at the expense of the Regular Army. When this Territorial Force is out for training, officers serving with Regular troops at home are to go and help. But the Regular officer during the summer is actually occupied during the whole of his time training with his unit, and if you are going to take those officers away from their units the Regular Army cannot but suffer.

On the question of how this system is going to affect recruiting for the ranks, I cannot add anything to what the noble Viscount has said. I think, however, the noble Viscount is exceedingly generous in placing before us so fully the failure which occurred during his time in getting the three years men to prolong their service. This thing is, to a certain extent, a matter of speculation, and if the National Service League can produce no better proof than the Duke of York's School to back their theory, I can only say that this is fraught with the most disastrous possibilities to the Regular Army. Now I come to the question of the cost. We have been twitted with the fact that our estimate of twenty millions has come down to eight millions. It is quite true it has dwindled, but not so much as the million men whom we were to put into the field, on which the estimate was based, have dwindled. In fact, when I consider the gigantic drop from a million to 320,000 as the force we were to put in the field, our figures have kept up remarkably well. But it was definitely stated that our estimate of twenty millions was for a force of a million men, fully equipped and thoroughly organised.

We have had on this question of cost another estimate. I would like to express my thanks to the National Service League for their courtesy in supplying us with advance copies of that. On the basis of that we have put forward our estimate of eight millions. We have said it is quite a rough estimate, and until a great deal more of the detail has been marked out, it must remain a rough estimate. But I am certain there are a large number of points on which we have under-estimated. For instance, we have omitted something to which the Duke of Northumberland drew attention—the machinery for applying this recruiting system. We have omitted that, and so has the National Service League. We have not taken into account the cost of provision of officers for the Special Reserve. We have omitted actual charges for ranges, training areas, and, what I believe will inevitably come later—the provision of barracks. Therefore, obviously, our estimate is an under-estimate. But such as it is, it seems to have touched the National Service League on the raw, because we have had this morning a rejoinder on our estimate, couched in terms which can best be described as hysterical. I have read their document with some care. I have submitted it to the financial experts of the War Office, and the outcome is not to shake any single one of the conclusions we came to. The document, therefore, is what I am tempted to call distinctly amateurish.

We are charged with accusing the National Service League of making their calculations by taking the average cost of the soldier and dividing it by the number of times in which he comes up. When we did that we took the words out of the original estimate. They say it is not fair. They say the only charge for men of all ranks at home is £72 odd per annum, which is £3 for fifteen days, as fifteen days is one twenty-fourth of a year, and £3 is one twenty-fourth of £72. The fact that the same fallacious proportional method is applied to the five months training does not justify the "fifteen days" calculation. We point out that there is a very large number of things under which expense is incurred, on which the cost is very much greater than the one twenty-fourth part of that sum as indicated by the National Service League. We are also taken to task on the question of officers. When we point out that the provision of officers is absolutely insufficient, it is said that we are not taking into account those 150 Colonels and 300 Majors of the Regular Army who are going to do duty. Of course, we have taken count of them; but does the National Service League really mean that these 450 Field Officers of the Regular Army are going to fill the whole of the higher units of this Army which is to be raised? Because if not, and of course that is an impossibility, then you have to provide for higher officers, and there is no amount in the National Service League's estimate for that. I believe the scheme as it stands is hopelessly costly and hopelessly unworkable. But, if you are going to have unlimited funds and the power of applying compulsion, none of these difficulties are insuperable. They are all capable of emendation, and there is no doubt you can devise a scheme which is less impracticable.

But there is a much more important question than details involved in this. It is a great question of principle. The noble and gallant Earl maintains that if we adopt this system we are going to strengthen and increase our power of taking the offensive. It is because we believe that the very opposite of that will be the outcome of this, that our power of taking the offensive will be weakened and not strengthened, that we oppose this or any other system of compulsion. Our belief is that the more you draw the centre of gravity of your defensive system into home defence, the more you will impair the power of taking the offensive, the more you will starve those forces which will have to take the offensive, both in men and money. Take the question of finance. It is going to cost you at least £8,000,000. Is there any man in this country prepared to get up and say that there is the faintest intention on the part of this country, in addition to the already heavy expenditure on the Regular Army and Navy, to add another £8,000,000 to the cost of home defence? That is one of the most crucial points in the whole question. Can any common-sense person think there is any possibility of this country going to saddle itself with another £8,000,000? Well, then, what is the result? If you are going to have this system you will have to take that money eventually from the funds available for the Navy and the Regular Army.

Our view that this encouragement of the Homo Defence Force reacts unfavourably on the other forces is backed by the whole experience of history. This, after all, is no new question. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal has quoted the experience of this country during that long period which followed the French Revolution, but he entirely ignored the earlier experiences of the Army during the same war. For the purposes of this discussion you can divide that time into two parts—before and after Trafalgar. During the period before Trafalgar, the history of the Army and the measures that were taken led to what the historian Hallam called "an ignominious panic of invasion." And what do you find? You find a parallel of the system which is now being advocated applied in full force. You find the Militia ballot being applied, and Militiamen being compulsorily raised. You find every kind of home defence being brought into existence—Yeomanry, Volunteers, Fencibles, and so on. In fact, you had a concentration on home defence at that time, and what was the result? Did it set free the Expeditionary Force and enable the Regular Army to take its part in the wars? It killed the Regular Army and the Expeditionary Force. The record of the Regular Army of that time is one of the most disastrous things in history. It is a long record of expedients, desperate and very often dishonourable, to obtain men. Men were crimped into the Army, and sometimes bribed, as much as eighty guineas being given to a man to join the Army, and foreign mercenaries had to be hired to fight our battles. That was because we had concentrated on home defence.

It was not until after Trafalgar that people got out of their heads the idea that the first and only duty of the Regular Army was to defend these shores, and we began to develop our military strength abroad. And then, after the Militia had been embodied for years and years, efforts were made to induce them to volunteer for service abroad. That is perfectly true; but the lesson of those wars is that when the Government and the people of this country concentrated upon home defence our power of taking the offensive simply waned to nothing, and that when home defence fell into a secondary position we were able once more to take the offensive. You have only to read the two brilliant books by Mr. Fortescue about that period, and the speeches of Mr. Windham, the most able of War Ministers of that period, and you will see running through them, repeated over and over again, the fact that home defence killed all possibility of maintaining a Regular Army. The same thing happened later. After Waterloo you had the home defence school beginning to get the upper hand again, with the result that when the Crimea took place the most appalling defects were revealed in the Regular Army.

The defects that were revealed in our Regular Army at that time led to the policy of building fortifications. It was not until Mr. Cardwell came into power that we at last got a clear view, and a clear policy with regard to our Army. It was recognised as a necessity to have in this country a force capable of taking the offensive. That view has steadily progressed from that time. Mr. Stanhope, when Minister for War, was the first man to produce a concrete Expeditionary Force of two Army Corps. Another step was that taken by the noble Viscount himself in the direction of establishing three Army Corps, and the next step has been the reorganisation which we have set up. What does all this show? It shows that you cannot concentrate your efforts, attention and resources on home defence without impairing your power of taking the offensive. That is our true policy. It is an historical fact that it has been our system of regarding our neighbours' coast line as our frontier that has rendered us immune from invasion. The lesson of history is that when you have concentrated on home defence, and spent an undue proportion of money on it, the power of taking the offensive has inevitably suffered. This scheme seems to me to be liable to undo the work of the last forty years. It is taking up a sort of pre-Cardwellian attitude of mind, and if the country is going to be asked to do that, it will be but a very short time before the Regular Army is in a pre-Cardwellian condition.

In spite of the fact that history shows that our success has always been obtained by the interdependence and co-operation of our Navy and Army, and that, in following out that principle, the Committee of Imperial Defence has been set up, and the co-operation of the Navy and Army in policy has been very much more closely brought together, we have never heard all through the many debates which we have had, and in the publications of the National Service League, any authoritative statement of the naval question from any body really in a position to state with authority and knowledge what the views and the attitude of the Navy is on this question. We are discussing the question of home defence in its narrowest sense against Imperial defence in its widest sense. There never was a time in which our responsibilities with regard to Imperial defence were greater than they are at the present moment. I will quote figures which show how important it is to consider this question from the Imperial standpoint. The Empire is by no means lacking in men trained to arms. The total military forces of the Empire amount to something like 1,200,000 men. But out of that number of men who are available for service outside their particular country—and in taking that you have to exclude the Native Army of India which may be legally taken outside, but whose use outside is restricted by a whole number of considerations—is 416,000, and they are scattered all over the world, while the Expeditionary Force, which, after all, is the practical thing, is, or will very shortly be, 166,000 men. That is to say, your Expeditionary Force, your striking force out of the 1,200 000 men you have got in the Empire, is 166,000. Under these conditions I think nobody who looks at the problem from the Imperial standpoint will do anything which is likely, as we say this scheme is, to decrease the power of the forces which are to take the offensive. It was after full consideration of these facts and with the object of giving effect to the principles which I have attempted to lay down, that we were led to the recent reorganisation of our military forces, and the present balance between the forces for home defence and the forces capable of serving abroad was struck.

Our position in relation to home defence is this. We consider that a home defence force on the lines of the present Territorial Force is essential, but that, should we ever find ourselves at war under conditions which rendered us liable to invasion on a considerable scale on the outbreak of hostilities, our military system as a whole will be stronger and our power of taking the offensive greater if the duty of repelling invasion is at first shared by the Territorial Force and by part of the Regular Army, than it would be if we were to set up an exclusively home defence force, trained up to the pitch of being able to meet a large body of Continental troops immediately it was mobilised, which would necessitate a system far more burdensome and costly even than that which we are now discussing. That is our position on home defence in a nutshell, and on those lines we intend to go forward with the scheme which we have laid down. We have no intention of making any modification, and I have heard no argument which calls for it. Besides being a sound scheme, drawn up on sound lines and principles, it has the advantage of being a scheme which meets with the approval of the country.

Our Regular Army at the present moment is in a higher state of organisation than it has ever been before. The Special Reserve, in spite of all prophecies of failure, is attracting a good class of man. That man is being well trained, and the Special Reserve is already practically ninety per cent. of its strength. The Territorial Force, which has only been in existence fourteen or fifteen months, already numbers 270,000 men. During those months it has taken no fewer than 144,000 recruits. It is animated by a glorious spirit and by the set intention of making itself as efficient as it is possible under the conditions it which it serves. It has done more than any scheme put forward by the National Service League could ever do. It has struck its roots firmly and deeply in the national life of the country, and I believe that the country means to do everything it can to make the Territorial Army a success, and worthy of the great task put upon it. Under such conditions I have no fear that the proposals of the National Service League will ever bear fruit. I believe that the present system will always stand against them. They are not required for the military necessities of the country. The proposals which they make would be an intolerable burden and entirely opposed to the spirit and feeling of the country, and they are being advocated by arguments which I believe will not appeal to the great mass of the people.

[The sitting was suspended at a quarter to eight o'clock and resumed at nine o'clock.]


My Lords, the few words I intend to say in support of the Bill now before the House will be directed to an issue which from the point of view of this debate must necessarily be somewhat subordinate, but which in itself I am persuaded is of very far-reaching importance. The military and financial considerations, which must necessarily engage the foremost attention of your Lordships' House, have been dealt with in this debate very ably by different speakers, all of whom realise the obvious fact that this Bill is not likely during the present session of Parliament to become the law of the land. The practical difficulties which beset those sides of the matter, and on which I do not purpose to speak, are obvious, and yet I cannot but express the hope, in passing, that in the time which must necessarily elapse before this Bill, or some Bill of this kind, assumes the character of imminent legislation, it will be possible to keep this question before the country and to see to what extent those difficulties are really insuperable.

The grounds on which I support this Bill are the moral and physical benefits to the nation which, I think, would distinctly accrue supposing some such measure as this were eventually to become law. It is perfectly true, as the noble Duke said, that it is possible to form the highest idea of the moral and physical benefits which may come with more general military training, without going so far as to wish that that training should be compulsory; but I venture to say that unless military training becomes compulsory those benefits will leave untouched precisely those classes of the population who are most conspicuously in need of them. The moral and physical benefits which I have principally in view are the benefits to the whole life of the young men of this country, who are very much in need of some reinforcement to those manly capacities of endurance and of discipline which have been at the back of whatever in past history our country has achieved to earn the admiration of mankind; and upon the continuance of these qualities our place among the nations of the world must in the future very vitally depend. There are still in our midst, I am quite certain, the high qualities of patriotism and of manliness which have been the glory of England in the past, but those qualities are in need of reinforcement.

My Lords, there are forces abroad which are threatening to undermine and to sap those qualities, and some such healthy influence as will be supplied if this Bill or some Bill like it becomes law is likely more than anything else to counteract the evil tendency to softness, indiscipline, and unmanliness which, especially in our town-bred population, is threatening the moral future of our country. We want some influence in the lives of the young men of this country which will drill into them the principle that things have to be done not because they happen to appeal to us, or because we enjoy doing them, but because they must be done, and that life must be lived, not on the principle of pleasing oneself, but of obedience. I am quite certain that in the country where universal military service has taken deepest root—a country which I do not in all respects wish to hold up to the admiration or imitation of England—yet in that great Continental country the young people at this day carry into all the callings of life upon which they enter the instinct of obedience and discipline to a degree which is increasingly lacking among the young people of this country. It is not merely a question of military discipline and of military obedience, but of that manly discipline of life which faces tasks because they have to be done, and which goes to make the foundations of success in every calling of life.

One word, my Lords, I would say in conclusion. I am not supporting this Bill, it is needless to say, in any spirit of what is called militarism, or With any desire to foster or increase that spirit in our country. If I thought that by the establishment of universal military service we would be brought one hair's-breadth nearer to the horrors of war I would not support such a Bill for an instant. If I thought that the establishment of this system would do anything to inoculate our masses with the madness of lust and thirst for war, which sometimes does seize upon whole populations, or would in any way tend to strengthen what is called—I must apologise to your Lordships for using such a term— a spirit of jingoism in our midst, I would not support this Bill for one moment. But you do not find the spirit of aggressive militarism in democratic countries like Norway and Switzerland, where this system is now in force. In those countries every young man, as a matter of course, goes through his period of training, and is possessed with the conviction that in the hour of national danger he should not leave it to others, but that it would be his own duty to turn out and give his life, if need be, to the service of his country. What we need in these days is something to stimulate the nobler side of human nature in our great masses, to possess our rising generation more and more with the sense of duty, not only as affecting the concerns of daily private life, but the duty of the individual to the country whose traditions he inherits, and whose protection as a citizen he enjoys; and for that I am certain that in the long run we shall have to look to some such system as prevails in the countries I have just mentioned, and which it is the object of this Bill to make part of the laws of our land.


My Lords, I will only say one or two words just to explain my position with regard to this Bill. My reasons for supporting the Bill now before your Lordships' House are that I honestly believe that without some form of compulsion it would be impossible to get the necessary number of men for the defence of the country. I also object to the burden which should be borne by every able-bodied man of the country being thrown on to the few; and I think that the Territorial Force cannot possibly give the time necessary to make themselves efficient soldiers because they have to compete in the market with those who recognise no responsibility at all in this national duty.

I base all my objections to the voluntary system on the two questions of numbers and training. It has been well said by, I think, the military correspondent of The Times, that the period of training appointed for the Territorial Force is altogether inadequate, and that any attempt to increase the training will destroy the Force. In this connection I think it is very difficult for employers, however patriotic they may be, to give sufficient leave as long as they have to compete in the market with those who are not prepared to make similar sacrifices. Under universal service these conditions will disappear, and the willing would no longer be handicapped in having to compete with those who shirk their responsibility. It is not my intention to say anything on the question of finance. The difference, as far as I can make out, is something between three million and four million pounds. All I can say is that I think no price is too great to pay if we can thereby obtain absolute security for the country. One argument generally used against compulsion is that we can get all the men we like under the voluntary system. I entirely deny that statement. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal has shown that if the Territorials were to reach to 350,000 men, which is their establishment under the present system, that number would be utterly unable to guard against invasion.

To show the weakness of the military position I will suppose that the Expeditionary Force is out of the country. I know I may be told that it is unlikely that the whole of the Expeditionary Force will be absent at one time. I think that that shows a woefully short memory for, if your Lordships will recollect, during the South African war the country at one time was almost denuded of troops, and I see no reason why those conditions should not recur. The Expeditionary Force consists of 150,000 men, of which 50,000 are Regulars, 70,000 Reserves, and 30,000 are on a Militia basis. I think it wall be generally acknowledged that the proportion of Reserve men in that force is far too great, especially as the Reserves are not, as in the case of the Reserves in foreign armies, called up every year for training. To keep that force in the field for one year would dispose of every man we have outside the Territorial Force, and unless the Force could be kept up to say 160,000 I think that our friendship as an ally would hardly be worth having. The country would then be left with only 250,000 Territorials and they would be short of officers by over 2,000. They would be armed with a gun which is more or less obsolete, which would be hopelessly outranged by the enemy, and they would only be able to get in one shot to every three shots which the enemy could fire. Lord Roberts has shown that the requisite number to provide garrisons and local mobile forces as well as a central mobile force is 600,000 men. I cannot see how under the present system anything like that number can be produced. Under the most favourable conditions and under the most severe pressure, all that we have been able to get at present is 263,000 men enlisted, and that we have done with very much difficulty. I ask your Lordships how it is that the administration of the War Office has always been regarded as a failure, and why it should be looked upon as inferior either to the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, or any other of the public Departments. It has been, and it is at the present moment, administered by one of the ablest and most eminent of our public servants, yet it is impossible to hear anyone say a good word of it. I think the reason is that the task which they have undertaken is an impossible one The conditions under which they act Make success absolutely impossible. Under the voluntary system they have to make bricks without straw, they have to make an army without men. The Duke of Northumberland, in his Amendment, talks of the system which is accepted as sufficient by the military advisers. I should like to point out that these military advisers have no option between the voluntary and the compulsory system. They have to do the best they can under the existing circumstances and existing conditions. If they were asked the plain question as to whether they preferred voluntary or compulsory service I should be very much surprised if they asked for the former. If they did, my Lords, I feel perfectly certain they would get no other officers in the Army to agree with them.

The noble Duke made some remarks as to the disadvantages of young men living in barracks because of the companions with whom they might have to associate. I would like to point out to your Lordships that under compulsory service, where everybody has to serve, the tone of the barrack room would be far higher than it is at the present moment. I hardly thought the noble Duke was consistent when he found fault with what I may perhaps call the "scallawags" that would be met in the barrack room, and then did his best to have criminals included amongst the soldiers. I know that I shall be told the country will not have any form of compulsion at the present moment—that it is the Englishman's privilege to let other people defend his home, and that it is no business of his. My Lords, I rather think there is a change coming over public opinion in this matter. I do not find the idea of compulsory service now scouted in the way it was a very few years ago. Even amongst the Socialists, Mr. Blatchford and Mr. Hyndman, I notice, have been doing their best to bring before their comrades the fact that they ought to be able to do something for their country. In my opinion compulsory service of some sort is bound to come sooner or later. All I hope is that it may come before and not after disaster. I am glad that this question should have been ventilated in your Lordships' House. It cannot, at any rate, be regarded in any way as class legislation, because every one of your Lordships' sons would come under this provision, and all would have to serve their time. It is for these reasons that I venture to support the Bill brought in by Lord Roberts.


My Lords, I speak as one of those who share the responsibility for, the framing and introduction of this Bill, as well as for the propaganda we are conducting throughout the country. A great deal of the criticism which we heard from the last three speakers before the adjournment related to details of the Bill, and I should like, if I may, to exhort your Lordships to come back to the question of principle, because, after all, it is a question of principle we are discussing. We are not so unreasonable as to think for one moment that this Bill can pass into law in the present session, or in the lifetime of the present Government, or, possibly, even of the next Government. We know that that is impossible in the present political circumstances. Nevertheless, in introducing this Bill we have an important and a legitimate object in view, and that is to secure the acceptance of the principle which we advocate. We are anxious that your Lordships' House should have the honour, as we regard it, of affirming the principle of universal military service, and of thus giving a lead to the nation. That is our principal object. We have other objects of lesser importance.

In the first place, we wish to make our own policy clear. We wish to remove once and for all unintentional misapprehension and deliberate misrepresentation with which we are so constantly assailed. Solely with a view to pursuing our propaganda in the most effective manner, we wish to find out from the highest authorities and those who have the present responsibility for the Government of this country what, if any, are their objections to the policy which we advocate. We wish to find out who is on our side and who is not. We wish to try our own strength so that the 80,000 in this country who have rallied round our flag may gain even greater confidence than they have now in the cause which they have at heart. In fact, my Lords, this is, to use a military metaphor, a little reconnaissance in force, in which we hope to give their baptism of fire to some of those who aspire to be leaders in our cause. We wish to prove to those who think with us that the members of the League who belong to this House will not deny their faith even though they may suffer the scourge of the "whips" of their political leaders. To those who believe in universal service, it is a faith that can only be held with all the ardour and all the conviction of a religious faith, seeing that everything we hold dear depends upon the security of this country. If, therefore, we think that the security of the country depends on the acceptance of universal service, every one of us necessarily must consider the question far more important than any other question in politics.

We are confronted to-night, not with downright straightforward opposition, but with a Resolution which is designed to shirk, to evade, and to postpone the issue. I find it difficult to believe that any noble Lord who values the reputation of this House, let alone his own reputation, will vote for this Resolution. Either you believe in the principle of universal service, or you do not. Whatever your opinion may be, why hesitate to say it? This is not a Party question; it never has been a Party question, and to avoid giving a plain answer to a plain question will not gain credit for either Party from the electorate. I am firmly convinced that what the electors of this country admire most of all is courage of opinion on the part of those who pretend to lead them. I do not think that the people of this country would find fault with any man, to whichever side he may belong, for declaring himself in favour of universal service or against it. What they do object to is the politician who will not say "yes" or "no," but who seeks to burke and to shirk the issue. The noble Duke's Resolution is not merely equivocal and evasive, but, if passed, it would place on record ignorance of the actual circumstances of the time and disregard of an elementary principle of our Constitution, and I still maintain, in spite of what my noble friend said a short time ago, that it would be tantamount to a vote of confidence in the Government.

I think most of us agree that the Territorial Army scheme is a very great improvement on the old system. Most of us on this side of the House are doing our very best to further that scheme. Without our aid noble Lords opposite would find themselves in a very awkward fix. But still it is our right and our duty to criticise the policy of the Government—their military policy as well as any other part of their policy; and if we pass this Resolution, if there is any meaning in words at all, we debar ourselves from the exercise of that legitimate and rightful function. I say that the Resolution is equivocal and evasive, and that it ignores the actual circumstances. We have the opinion of two Royal Commissions that a home army on a voluntary basis is not amply sufficient to secure the country against all risk of invasion. The Resolution declares that this Bill will involve "unknown demands" upon the national resources. The demands on national resources are not unknown. The actual amount which the institution of our system would cost can be ascertained with mathematical accuracy. At the present moment we have before us two varying estimates, and noble Lords can see for themselves, if they choose to apply themselves to the study of these documents, what the cost would be. Therefore, to say that the measure would involve unknown demands upon the national resources seems to me to be a statement which would stultify this House. Then, again, the Resolution declares that the system advocated by the Bill would "supersede" the present system. The noble Duke who framed this Resolution can hardly have given himself the trouble of studying the Bill. The whole object of the Bill is to complete and to perfect the system which has been instituted by the present Government—to give to the Territorial Army system just those two things which every impartial critic admits that it lacks, and that is sufficiency of men and sufficiency of training. The noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for War seems to me to be inflated with pride because we had at the present moment some 270,000 men on the strength out of an establishment of 315,000. I cannot for the life of me see any cause for pride in it. On the contrary, I think it is absolutely disgraceful that we have not already got the full establishment of the Territorial Force. The noble Lord talked, and I have noticed that his chief also talks, as though the Territorial Army has been raised de novo, as though it were an entirely new Force. The fact is, of course, that it is to a very large extent the Volunteers under a new name and with a different organisation; but to speak as if 270,000 men had been recruited from the civil population in the course of a year is to trifle with words.


Over half of them have been.


But, lastly, what I object to almost as much as anything else in this Resolution is the phrase with which it concludes—namely, that the system is "accepted as sufficient by the military advisers of His Majesty's Government." My Lords, the responsibility does not rest with the military advisers of His Majesty's Government. If we pass this Resolution, we are lending countenance to the idea which is gaining ground far too much at the present time—the idea that responsibility is to be thrown upon the permanent officials of the Government. The military advisers of the Government, as was well said by my noble friend just now, can only advise within the limits of their reference. They advise to the extent to which the Government allow them to advise. The responsibility rests upon His Majesty's Government. But the reponsibility for a question like national defence rests on an even wider basis than the opinion of His Majesty's Government. It is, as has been said over and over again by our greatest Statesmen, a matter not for the Government or for the Department, but for the people themselves. I would rather that any member of this House voted downright against the Second Reading of the Bill than for this Resolution. I find it difficult to describe it in words which would at once express my own opinion and also be in conformity with the conventions of this House, but perhaps I shall be on the safe side if I borrow a favourite expression of the noble Earl the Leader of the House—the expression with which he thinks to crush any argument—and say it is simply fatuous.

I do not propose to deal with the speech of the noble Duke. In the first place, he is not present, and, in the second place, I do not think it is possible to take it seriously. I cannot believe that that speech was made in a serious vein. It seemed to be made in what I will euphemistically call a lighter vein. I should like to say more, but I will content myself with saying that it was in a tone which is utterly inappropriate to the present circumstances. I will add that we who are advocating this measure are hurt and offended that our cause should be treated with so little seriousness. Now, my Lords, I will leave the speech of the noble Duke and will once more refer to the question of principle. We are asking your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill in order to affirm that principle. This is no new principle; it is an old English principle. I daresay the noble Duke would be surprised to hear that it is a principle which is embodied in the law of the land and has been reiterated over and over again in the Statutes of this country. It is, of course, a principle which is accepted in almost every other civilised country in Europe, and it is simply that it is the duty of an able-bodied citizen to take up arms in defence of his country when he is called upon by his Sovereign or by the supreme Government of the State to do so.

My Lords, we ask you to meet us on the high ground of principle alone. If you will do so, we are absolutely confident that you must agree with us; but, unfortunately, it is only too clear from what has already been said to-night that you will not meet us on the ground of principle, but that you will seek to evade the question of principle in every possible way. The case is best stated in three plain straight-forward questions. Is it, or is it not, the duty of the citizen to fight for his country at a time of invasion? It is absolutely impossible that any answer should be given to that question except the answer "Yes." The next question is this, Can any man perform that duty properly unless he has been previously trained? I cannot imagine any man giving any answer except "No." Then follows the third question, which is, These things being so, is it not incumbent upon the State to provide, and the citizens to submit to, this necessary training? The answer is of course, "Yes." I challenge any noble Lord to give different answers to those questions. It is impossible, it is inconceivable, that any Member of this House should give a different answer to my first two questions, and the answer to the third follows as a necessary and logical con- clusion, unless you can prove that invasion of this country is absolutely impossible. All I will say on that point, for I am not going to enter into a technical discussion, is that if invasion is impossible why in the name of fortune do we have a Home Defence Army at all? Either we want an army for home defence or we do not. That is the whole question. If we want it, and it is universally recognised that we do, it must be efficient for the only purpose for which it can possibly exist, and that is to resist an invasion of these shores. Efficiency depends mainly upon two things—sufficiency of men and sufficiency of training. In arguing the question I think I can assert that there is an immense consensus of expert opinion that you cannot get either under the existing voluntary system, and, as I have already pointed out, we have only got a proportion of the very small establishment.

We rest our case then upon necessity, but we are also prepared to defend it on the equally high grounds of justice and advantage. We say that universal service is the only system which is fair as between one citizen and another. We say that it is the only democratic system, and, therefore, the only system that can commend itself to a nation which is perpetually boasting, as we are at the present time, of being democratic. We say it is the only system which recognises that duties and responsibilities must be shared by all alike in the same manner as rights and privileges, for that surely is the whole essence of democracy. We say that apart from defence, universal service would be of immense advantage to the nation for the purpose of improving character and physique, and, consequently, for increasing our industrial efficiency and for promoting our general progress in civilisation. We are confident of agreement, therefore, with anyone who will discuss this question with us on the high grounds of necessity, justice, and advantage. But unfortunately this is just what those who are afraid to face this question will not do, for they seek to draw us into the ravines and morasses of dubious speculation on side issues. If we say it is necessary, and point to the indisputable fact that a nation which is not a nation in arms cannot hope, in the ordinary nature of things, to survive a struggle against nations which are nations in arms, we are confronted with the argument of "the target for the Fleet" or that of "Raid versus Invasion," arguments which are really too foolish for serious discussion.

We are told, for instance, that a given number of transports might be able to evade our Fleet, but if the number of invading transports was increased, presumably by only a small number, our Fleet would be able to discover them. All I think it necessary to say on that argument is that it is not complimentary to the Royal Navy. It is tantamount to saying of an individual that he can hit a haystack with a gun, but he cannot hit anything smaller in size.

Again, there is the argument of the "raid." which is certain to be brought up in the course of the debate, and which assumes that the enemy will begin an invasion with an insufficient force. All I think it necessary to say is that such an argument is not complimentary to foreign strategists. Then, there are others who, ignoring the existence and the recognised necessity of a Home Defence Army, say that we must depend on the Fleet alone. But the whole point, whether we depend on the Fleet alone, or whether we depend on the Fleet assisted, as we think it ought to be, by a Home Defence Army, is that the Fleet must be free to act. The great battles of our Fleet in bygone days were not won off the coasts of this country, or in the Straits of Dover. The battles of the Nile, Trafalgar, and St. Vincent were not won close to these shores, and our Fleet cannot dispose itself in a chain around our coasts solely in order to resist raids.

I agree with the Under-Secretary of State for War, Lord Lucas, in all he said about a purely defensive action never having been successful. There must be the power of offence. That is an elementary principle of strategy, and strategy, after all, like statecraft, does not in essence amount to much more than common sense. We have the analogies of the games of cricket and football. You cannot imagine a football team winning a match if it contented itself with merely guarding its goal, and a cricket eleven which numbered no bowlers would not be likely to defeat the opposing side.

The noble Lord, the Under-Secretary of State, said he wished the National Service League would enter into the question of the attitude of naval men, and as he has raised it I am only too glad to meet him on that point. He said we have not considered the view of the Navy, and have made no reference to it. My answer is that in the ranks of the League we have no fewer than seventy flag officers, and, so far as we can judge, it is the opinion of almost every naval man that it is essential the Fleet should be free, and should not be hampered by having to do coast guard duty around these shores.

If we attempt to discuss this question of principle from the point of view of justice we are met with catchwords and maxims which have been a fetish of politicians for too long, and which I venture to say are as untrue as they are irrelevant. For instance, it has been suggested this evening that one volunteer is worth ten pressed men. What are the facts? The battles of old, the battles which made us a nation and which built up our Empire, were none of them won by volunteers. I cannot imagine anybody who has an actual personal acquaintance with the circumstances and the work of the present members of the Territorial Force saying that they are the pick of the nation either as regards physique or many of the other qualities which go to make up a first-class soldier.

We are told that "the nation will not stand conscription." Our answer to that is that nobody has the right to make that statement until the nation has been asked. The nation has not been asked yet, and the nation has not yet made up its mind, though we believe that it is in a very fair way towards forming a definite opinion on the subject. In view of the defects of the present system, with which any Volunteer officer—or Territorial officer, if you like it better—is familiar, we say that our system is the only means of securing justice as between one employer and another, as between employer and employed, and as between one workman and another workman.

Again, we are told that the introduction of our system would cause a great dislocation of our national life, and an interference with trade and industry. In the first place I should like to refer those who rely on that argument to the actual number which we should have under training under the system we advocate. There is a wild notion abroad that the whole nation would be an armed camp, and that everybody would be clanking about with a sword, or parading through the streets with a rifle. As a matter of fact, however, if the system we advocate were in force I do not suppose any outward difference would be visible anywhere in the country except as regards the general bearing and physique of the people, for the number of men under training each year would not be much greater than it is now. The difference would be that every able-bodied man would take his turn at the duty. Our answer to that argument as regards interference with trade and industry is that you should look at foreign nations. They are able to compete with us, and not unsuccessfully, in spite of universal service. Indeed I should like to tell your Lordships of an experience which I had two days ago, and which bears on this very point.

I met a great employer of labour who had just been on a visit to Germany to look at the great engineering establishments there similar to those he controls in this country. He asked this question of one of the owners of a great factory at Leipzig: "How does it affect you if your men are taken away for two years to serve in the Army?" The answer of the German employer was: "We do not fear your commercial or industrial competition so long as you stick to your present voluntary system." He went on to explain that the military service of his men was worth more to them than any amount of schooling. So our argument is that universal service would make, first, a healthier population, and, secondly, would give us more efficient workmen.

The noble Duke referred to kindred subjects and spoke as if we had never considered these questions at all. I admit we have never thought it necessary to look at the question from the extraordinary point of view which he has adopted himself, because never yet have I come across anyone who argued against the proposal in the way he has done. For instance, the noble Duke talked of the possible moral dangers to young men if they were obliged to serve. One would almost think that he believed our young men at college or the university were under the care of governesses.

I pass on to the remarks of the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State, who said he saw no advantage in a system which only improved the physique of half the nation. Accepting the maxim that "half a loaf is better than no bread," I cannot follow him in his argument that if half the nation were rejected on account of physical inability to serve, there would be no advantage in improving the physique of the other half. My own view is that if you improve the physique even of only half the nation, you thereby insure that the next generation bred by those healthier men will also be improved.

Now I will come to objections put forward on behalf of the Government. They are two. The first is—and this is the one on which the Secretary of State for War chiefly relies—that the system we advocate would interfere with recruiting for the Regular Army. The second is that the cost would be too great. I cannot agree with my noble friend opposite that volunteering has interfered with recruiting for the Regular Army. It is certainly on a small scale the experience of everyone I know who has had to do with volunteering that it actually leads to enlistment in the Army. A man who has had a taste of a soldier's life without being finally committed to it very often eventually goes in altogether for a soldier's life, when he would never have thought of doing so without the preliminary experience.

On the question of officers, the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State seemed to feel very great alarm at the prospect of not getting a sufficient number. So far as I can understand, his argument rests on a supposition that there is absolutely no margin of men fit for military service in this country. He appeared to think that if you increase your Regular Army you decrease your Volunteers, and if you increase your Volunteers you decrease your Regular Army.


My point is that if you are going to try to get 2,250 more Regular officers, you cannot obtain them unless you take a worse class of officers than you get at the present time. They are not available.


I think every man who has had to do with the Auxiliary Forces knows a great many men in his own comparatively narrow circle who would make suitable officers if only they could be persuaded to join. They will not join because they are not sufficiently patriotic or are too lazy, or, in most cases, perhaps, because they would suffer in competition with others whatever their walk of life. I cannot believe, however, that there is absolutely no margin in this country of suitable material either for officers or men, and I feel no alarm on being told that we should have to provide 2,300 more officers. In the first place we are turning Regular officers out of the Army every year who feel that they have any amount of work in them, and who undoubtedly would be qualified to serve under the increased requirements of a larger system.

On the question of cost, I hold that no impartial critic would be impressed by the manner in which this aspect of the problem has been dealt with by the War Office. I think the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State has been badly served in this matter, and I do not think I have ever seen a more perfunctory document than that which professes to criticise the estimate of the League. We were told, in the first place, that the cost would be £20,000,000, but it has been shown several times over in the course of this debate that the officials who made themselves responsible for that estimate, and furnished it to important members of the Government, had not even taken the trouble to ascertain what the scheme was which they were criticising. Now, by devices which are sufficiently obvious to those who will take the trouble to read the Papers, they are only able to make it £8,000,000, instead of £20,000,000, though undoubtedly their brief was to cause the system to appear as costly as possible. Yet we are asked in this Resolution to rest satisfied with the opinion of officials who are capable of discrepancies of this kind.


I should like to point out, in defence of the officials, that there is no discrepancy whatever. The £20,000,000 cost was estimated when we understood that the noble and gallant Field-Marshal required an Army of a million men, armed, equipped and organised. That has now dwindled down to 320,000 men, and naturally the cost has come down, too. There is no other explanation, and I hope the noble Lord will accept my assurance on the point.


I am talking of the discrepancies which have appeared in the Paper some few days ago, and which were pointed out in the statement issued by the National Service League. The noble Lord criticised the document published by the League as amateurish. I should like to tell him that in compiling it the League had the assistance of at least one former and highly placed official at the War Office; so that if the compilation of our estimate was amateurish, we can legitimately assume that the compilation of that which was issued by the War Office was also amateurish. But our answer to all that is: What of the cost? What does it matter if it does cost more? Surely we can do what other nations do. We see other nations raising and maintaining armies four times larger than our own, and at the same time creating fleets which might become a menace to us. As a matter of fact, on this question of expense I believe it can be fully established that we are paying less for national insurance at the present time in proportion to our population and our wealth and the extent of our Empire than we were 100 years ago.

I say it is better to pay even £8,000,000 more by way of annual premium for national insurance than to run the risk of losing £500,000,000 at one fell swoop as the result of a disastrous war. But it would not all be money out of pocket. There are gains to be set on the other side that ought not to be lost sight of. We should gain in the improved health of the people and in the consequent increase of industrial efficiency. We should save in having a smaller bill of sickness for the whole of our people. We do not expect the occupants of the Front Benches to vote for this Bill. Perhaps they do right from the point of view of the custom of Party politics in this country to wait for their mandate; but what we do ask of them is that they should give the nation a fair chance of forming an opinion on this subject and of giving a clear mandate. It is a significant fact that as soon as a man leaves either Front Bench he joins us. You have the notable instances of Lord Rosebery, Lord George Hamilton, and the noble Earl the late Under-Secretary of State for War.

It is an equally significant but extremely disconcerting fact that as soon as a man joins the Front Bench he leaves us. I may quote as a notable instance the case of the present Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, Colonel Seely, because it shows what extraordinary changes of opinion are possible even on such a vital question as national defence. Speaking in 1902 Colonel Seely said— I consider it would be extremely desirable that it should be obligatory for every man in this country to be trained to arms. I also believe that five-sixth of the people of the country would welcome such a proposition. On June 5, 1909, Colonel Seely mocked at what he called the "conscription idea" as a "profound failure," and he added— If we can by any method keep to our voluntary system we shall be far more formidable in time of war. I have quoted these words in order to show why we cannot, in a matter of this kind, place blind confidence in the guidance of the two Front Benches. But I would venture, with all respect, to say to them, Do not rely on the shortness of public memory and on that indulgence which covers the inconsistencies of Party politicians. This is a serious matter, and the people of this country will not forgive those who mislead them, either intentionally, or unintentionally. If disaster should come, which Heaven forbid, bitter would be the curses which would fall on the heads of those who refrained until it was too late from placing fairly and squarely before the people of the country all the considerations which underlie the vital question of national defence.


My Lords, I should not have ventured to intrude myself on your Lordships' attention on a subject of this kind had it not been for the fact that for years I have been thinking of these matters, and am the founder of an organisation which has done a certain amount of work in preparing the way for the magnificent scheme of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. Though I have no military knowledge to enable me to speak on the matter, I may say that at all events I have had some experience in regard to foreign countries. I was educated in a foreign country, and for six years I was a diplomatist serving abroad. I have visited Germany and other countries even more frequently perhaps than many of your Lordships who travel, and I have only just returned from accompanying a peace mission to Berlin. It has not been mentioned to-night, but what strikes me is that the real danger to this country is a permanent one as long as we have no military force behind our Navy. The more I converse with foreigners and the more closely I get in touch with their ideas the more I find that the reason of this mad competition in armaments is that they think there is a loophole through which they can force their way. If we had compulsory military service in this country we should not have that mad competition in fleets and we certainly should not have any danger of invasion.

I am speaking from what I have recently heard in private conversation with men of German and other nationalities. The purport of all the conversations I have had is this: "How did you get hold of your Colonies? Because you were the salt of the earth. Because you knew how to fight. Because in proportion to your population you were able to raise enormous armies. Because you knew how to invade the Continent. Because you fought in Portugal and Spain and overcame." Now they ask: "Are you the same people you were in those days?" They are generally too polite to continue the conversation, and they leave one to answer the question oneself. If you go further and ask them to find a reason for what they say, the answer is: "Oh, you English, you seem to be so dreadfully afraid of defending your own country. How is this? We don't believe you are cowards; but there is something wrong, and we should like to know what it is." Then they say "You have a philosopher who propounded the doctrine of the survival of the fittest. There are some of us who believe that armies are only the handmaid of the Divine Being, and it is for the good of the world that the fittest should rule." They add "We believe we are the fittest, and we have no intention of ceasing to develop ourselves in every direction we choose."

We made beautiful speeches to each other—the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Hereford can tell you of them better than myself—but it was in private conversation that the good was done. The danger to this country lies in the fact of our acknowledged military weakness. The noble Lord only on Wednesday last told us that the Territorial Force, however good they might be, were not fit to compete with, an equal number of Continental soldiers. What does that mean? That we shall have to keep our whole Regular military force in this country if we go to war for fear of the chance of an enemy being able to force the Channel for twenty- four hours. I ask, Is it the way to consolidate the Empire to say that for six months after the declaration of war we are to seal up the whole of our Army in these islands whilst perhaps our self-governing Colonies or India are being overrun by the enemy? Is that the way to give confidence to our self-governing Colonies? It that the way to prevent unrest in India? Is that the way to show how an Empire can be ruled?

I do not propose to go into any military details, for I am not competent to do so, but I think I know something about social questions and I do care for the social condition of the people. Therefore when the Duke of Northumberland says that this service of four months is going to demoralise the whole youth of England I can only answer that I do not believe him. No doubt he believes it himself, but I am entirely of the opposite opinion. I know that my own son as a Volunteer private from one of the Universities went to Aldershot and mixed with the common soldiers of the Regular Army in the most friendly manner. He is now an officer in His Majesty's Guards and I am not aware that he is any the worse for that contact with the soldiers. He told me he had the very highest opinion of the private soldiers whom he met there, and he met them as private soldiers in the public house. I am perfectly certain, and I am speaking from some experience, that the more military discipline you can give to the young men of this country the more will their moral virtues increase. The experience which I have had in social work as the President of the Church Army has shown me for years—and I am more and more convinced the longer I live—that the danger to this country is not a material or a physical danger, so much as a moral danger. I will tell you what I mean. I have, as I say, just come back from Germany. I know that country well. I was educated there, and I have been spending the last four months there. It has impressed me more and more that the strength of that country lies in the discipline which is given to the population in the nursery and in the school as well as in the Army. It is the discipline which runs through the whole land which gives that people its strength; and, my Lords, it is indiscipline which is so apparent to all who work amongst the people, or who know the people, of our own country. The right reverend Prelates well know how much of their work is hampered by the lack of training and discipline which is met with in the homes of some of the poorer classes in this country.

What we want is discipline. Discipline in the upper classes, discipline in the middle classes, and discipline in the lower classes. If we had more discipline we should not have such a large number of men and women who think nothing of the State and of the community, whose sole idea is pleasure, pleasure, pleasure; and we should not have those "slackers" in the lower classes whose whole idea is how much money they can get out of their employers and how little work they can do. You do not see that in Germany. While in Germany I only saw one man who looked anything like a tramp, but the very morning I arrived in this country I saw two men opposite my own house singing hymns with their hands in their pockets, and as President of the Church Army I knew that it was useless to offer work to them. A few days later I went to my own little cottage in the depth of the country, and when I came out of church I found two men and two women walking along at a snail's pace, with heads down, singing hymns. Having, as I say, just come from Germany, where I saw nothing of this kind, I was disgusted at the appearance of these "slackers." I went up to them, and I said to the younger of the men, who was not much more than a youth, "You are a disgrace to us. If the country is invaded it will be owing to you." He had not a word to say in reply. Then I said to him, "Do you want work?" He answered, "Yes." I told him that I would give him work. Then the "gentleman" who was with him, and who told me that he was too old to work—he was a younger man than I am—came forward and said, "He cannot go to work for the Church Army; because what am I to do, and what is the misses to do?" I said, "I did not offer you work; I offered it to the young man." He remarked, "What am I to do then?" I said, "I do not know; go into the workhouse, I suppose." His reply was, "Workhouse. I am not going to the workhouse. Nothing of the kind for me." I ask you is not that the weakness of the country? Is not that one of the dangers we have to face? It is the moral danger, the slackness, the indiscipline which confronts us so seriously.

If there was no question whatever of defence I should still support the noble and gallant Field-Marshal from a social point of view. But I support him also from the military point of view as far as a layman can know and common-sense can see. We do not require advice from the two Front Benches because we know that to-day we are in a dangerous position. What is wanted, of course, is public opinion favourable to universal military training. We have to form public opinion. I do not blame the two Front Benches. They cannot go in front of public opinion; but we who are more or less independent intend to form that public opinion. The day will come when the young men on the Front Benches will eat their words, and we shall have that done which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal desires, or in the meantime we shall have suffered extinction.

My Lords, I am not going to detain you longer. I shall only say this, that I believe, and I think you ought to believe, that this is a question of the very highest importance. I believe that military training will restore that credit to the nation which our distinguished ancestors held, and which I firmly believe we do not possess to the same extent as we did in the past. There will be lots of people who will deny this. It is what I have published in an article in the Nineteenth Century and After, and many people tell me I am wrong. But those who only turn their attention to sport will tell you that everything is not quite right even in that direction. I am thankful to the noble and gallant Field-Marshal for having brought this scheme before us, because, having it in the form of a Bill, we know that it is now within the realm of practical politics. What is more, the Bill can be studied by every man in the United Kingdom. I feel certain that the noble and gallant Earl does not bind himself to every single detail of the Bill, but the principle is there, and the principle will succeed. I support the Bill chiefly because I recognise that the discipline which will be given to our young men in the future will strengthen their morale, will render them a stronger, nobler, and more virile race than at present, a race more capable of worthily bearing that enormous, that almost overwhelming responsibility attaching to the citizenship of an Empire of 400 millions of people, an Empire the like of which the world has never seen.


My Lords. I once was a member of the National Service League. I admired the efforts of the League to educate the youth of this country in patriotism, and in self-sacrifice, and above all to learn its responsibility, but I overlooked the fact that the ultimate goal of the League was compulsion to serve. Of course I shall be told I have only my silly self to thank for such a mistake. That is so, but the fact remains that when my dull brain awoke and when I heard utterances in public places from responsible officers of the League detrimental to the welfare of the Territorial Army, I came to the conclusion that even if the lion and the lamb could lie down together the National Service League and the Territorial Army never could do so, and I resigned my membership. And for that reason, my Lords, and because, as it seems to me, this Bill is nothing more nor less than a vote of censure on the military policy of the Government, and because it reflects doubt upon the capability and knowledge of their military advisers I shall strenuously oppose, both by vote and voice, the passage of the measure through your Lordships' House.

I contend that the Territorial Army is not only an accomplished fact, but a fact for which this country, and the people of this country, might well be very thankful. I further contend that the Bill of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal is unnecessary to the needs of this country, and, moreover, that its appearance at this particular juncture is most inopportune. If it could be proved that the Bill was necessary no one would stop for a single second to consider whether its appearance were opportune or inopportune. But what are the facts? What is the basis on which our Imperial Defence must rest? Surely the supremacy of our Navy. Surely that is a fact which is recognised by everybody, by all naval and military critics, by all experts alike, including the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. If that be so, what advantage is there if we turn every man in these islands into a soldier and lose our supremacy on the sea?

But now, my Lords, what are our local wants? Surely we require a sufficient force to prevent a would-be invader with a small army and with a few hours, or even days, at his disposal, from attempting a landing on these shores. I contend that we have such a force. In my opinion my noble friend Lord Lucas has been far too merciful to his questioners in this, matter. I would have him close with them once and for all with the contention that we are ready to meet all contingencies. In making that assertion I contend he would have the greater part of the best and most up-to-date military opinion behind him. Why not? Should the blow, which the National Service League tell us must fall, come when our Regular Army is at home, or should it fall when the striking force is away, we are ready to meet it.

I personally, as an adjutant of Line and Militia for nearly ten years, and not so, very long ago, have trained more Infantry soldiers than probably most of your Lordships have done; and I assert that, with their little annual training up their sleeves, with the intelligence which is in their ranks, which no one will deny, with the driving force of hearth and home behind them, with the stiffening of Regular troops which they undoubtedly will have, and with the splendid organisation which Mr. Haldane is day by day making more perfect, the Infantry of the Territorial Army will do all that is asked of them. I will say nothing of the Artillery with my little knowledge of that arm, or the Cavalry, except to ask the noble and gallant Field-Marshal to remember those Auxiliary batteries from Canada and Australia which played no small part in crowning his reputation in South Africa, and the Irregular Horse—Bethune's, Thornycroft's, and the like—which gathered from here, there, and everywhere, and with so little training performed such gallant deeds.

This Bill seeks to create a great compulsory force for home defence only. Is that supplying a national need, or is it a local selfish conception of which with our present-day talk of Empire we ought to be ashamed? In my opinion it is the latter. Of course it is lawful for us to talk about our local needs within these islands, but I doubt if it is expedient. Surely the Empire requires large Imperial Forces, prepared to take the field in a national emergency outside the portion of the Empire in which they are raised. It is to be hoped that a truer sense of the needs of the Empire will be arrived at when the Imperial Conference meets at the end of this month. Such a conception is not to be found in this Bill. Rather will it tend to hinder Imperial Defence, showing the Colonies how little we mean when we talk of Empire, and suggesting to their representatives that even our leading soldier fails to realise the situation when he suggests a remedy that goes so far from the root of the matter. If you were to bring the workmen of this country into this Chamber here—now—and put to them this question, "Will you consent to compulsory service, or will you give up your Indian Empire?" what would be their reply? I have no doubt they would say, "We do not know much about the Indian Empire or any other Empire, but we would give it up, whatever it is, sooner than consent to compulsory service." You say they would be wrong. Yes, and so far as Empire is concerned so do I, but you must remember they do not possess ancient coronets and musty title deeds; and, after all, education and the franchise are but recent events in the life of a nation.

Do not hurry them. Patriotism a few years ago seemed to be almost dead, but with the advent of the Territorial Army, aye, and with the tuition of the National Service League, there are signs of a revival. Do not hurry it. Urge on the Government if you will to provide more training, but hang on to the voluntary principle as a valuable national asset. I read in the paper a few days ago that a noble Lord closely allied to a foreign potentate had taken German measles. That is a simple and childish complaint, but it carries with it, if neglected, grave complications. My Lords, do not neglect it. If you suspect that the gallant Field-Marshal is sickening for this complaint I would pray you consign him and all those who have come into contact with him to the isolation ward—that ward which we on these Benches know so well; and I will carry comfort to them on the isolation in the words of a general officer on the active list, who, in distributing medals only a few days ago, said— I am delighted to see that this division, which comprises the whole of Wales and the four border counties, is 5,000 stronger this day than it was on the 1st January last. This is the expression of a free people that they intend to remain free, and I feel sure that in a very short time we shall have a Territorial Army worthy of this great land. I concur with what the gallant officer said on that occasion.


My Lords, I feel quite unworthy to take part in the debate to-night, because I do not for a moment pretend to the military knowledge displayed by some of the speakers. I will, however, offer a few remarks on behalf of the small minority of well under 300,000, out of a population of 40,000,000, who are trying very hard under adverse circumstances to take on the duty of home defence in this country. I have been in the Volunteers or the Yeomanry almost ever since I first went to school. I have followed the Yeomanry through the vicissitudes of the good old days of floods of champagne at the Judge's lodgings at Warwick, and the torrents of rain which never seemed to come down with half so much force as when the Yeomanry did their training on Salisbury Plain. There is not the slightest doubt that at the present moment there are far more men in the Yeomanry than we used to have, thanks to Mr. Haldane and better organisation, but it is exceedingly doubtful whether the men we have now, in spite of extra training, are very much more efficient than they used to be fifteen or twenty years ago.

Not only that, but there is a very grave doubt as to whether a great many of them will enlist again. They might, or they might not. It is touch and go, because the pay has been whittled down to such a point that it becomes a very doubtful thing whether a man is going to get a fair remuneration for coming out with the Yeomanry. The country has got to such a state that it demands a man's patriotism and time for practically nothing at all. Observe, my Lords, that now the Yeomanry get no musketry allowance and no allowance for preliminary drills, while, in addition, there is this anomaly, that a serjeant who has just enlisted under the new rate of pay may get a less sum at the end of the training this year than a trooper under the old system. That I can assure your Lordships has caused a considerable amount of heart burning. The old scale of pay and the £5 horse allowance was the making of the force, and it was the irreducible minimum of pay by which you could persuade the best men of the country to come out with the Yeomanry.

I do not think that the report of General Sir John French on the Territorial Force has yet been alluded to. I have been through it, and I do not think that it is particularly satisfactory reading. There is no doubt a general commendation of the Territorial Force, but we also see references to the Supply and Transport Companies, to the question of the adjutants, to the immobility of the medical units, to the shortage of officers, and to some anxiety about the working of the system of horse supply under which the same horses are claimed by two or three regiments. The inaccessibility of existing ranges and the unfitness of a considerable proportion of the adjutants for their duties, together with one or two other matters, also come in for serious condemnation. I do not think, in the face of that report, your Lordships can be asked to accept the suggestion that His Majesty's military advisers really consider the Territorial Force at the present time to be an adequate force for the protection of the country.

I know I shall lay myself open as a Territorial Officer to the charge of "crabbing," to use a colloquialism, the Territorial Army. But those who know anything about the Territorial Army at all, and who endeavour, notwithstanding their knowledge, to cover up its defects are not its real friends. There could be no greater calamity than for the responsible leaders of opinion in this country—of whom I am not one—to persuade the people that the Territorial Army is all right when it is not, and lull the public into a false sense of security.

The Territorial Army has had every conceivable assistance that could be given to it. It has had every advantage in the matter of its "send-off" that could possibly be accorded to any scheme. I do not suppose anything was ever so much advertised. It has had all sorts of influence—Royal, social, political and theatrical. It has had the benefit of influence in the King's Council Chamber at Buckingham Palace, and it has also been "boomed" in the half-penny Press, while a rather amusing burlesque, in which the foibles of the upper middle class are rather mercilessly exposed, has been performed in its honour. If the play to which I refer was worth anything at all, it was, I consider, an argument for national military training much more than for the Territorial Army.

I always thought at the beginning of the movement that it was rather humorous to listen to the War Minister appealing to the patriotism of the country gentlemen. Of course, he got that patriotism. It was given cheerfully. They were very glad to give it, but in view of some of the legislation sub- sequently produced the names of these country gentlemen will be handed down to posterity as those of men exercising some, if not all, of the higher Christian virtues. Yet in spite of all this influence and advertisement we have heard it from General French that the Territorial Army is still considerably deficient. Those who are rash enough to think there is a possibility of invasion have to struggle with the fact that the War Minister is not at all concerned about a "bolt from the blue," and that he thinks we are certain to have at least two, probably six, months to prepare the Territorial Army for fighting, practically in the presence of the enemy. That is one of the reasons why I cannot possibly vote for the Amendment of the noble Duke, and I do not think our own leaders really wish to endorse his view.

I listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Duke, and it seemed to me that he was struggling with the most extraordinary adroitness with a very bad case indeed. Surely the remark about herding boys together at a certain age must apply to every institution where educational facilities of any sort are given—to Sandhurst, Oxford, Cambridge, Eton, and the naval schools of the country. But the most extraordinary thing about the speech of the noble Duke—of course I may have misunderstood him—was that while first of all he attacked the scheme propounded by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, at the end of his speech he said, with equal candour, that he wished to renounce the War Minister and all his works. Taking the two phases of home defence, I am bound to say that if we are to adopt both together we shall be in a very parlous condition.

I do not propose to go into the details of the scheme. As Lord Ampthill so truly remarked, what the friends of national military service want to see is the principle of the thing adopted by both the great political parties, or at any rate by one of the Front Benches of the Legislature. We say that we are only following what the Duke of Norfolk said in the House of Lords soon after his own Commission reported. The noble Duke said— The breakdown of the voluntary system is in almost every case attributable essentially to the nature of the Volunteer system itself, which makes it impossible to demand a reasonable standard of efficiency without greatly reducing the force. I do not command a Volunteer regiment, but I occupy a subordinate post in a Yeomanry regiment as a squadron leader, and I can assure your Lordships that the duties which are gradually being heaped on officers in the Yeomanry render it almost impossible to carry them out. So they have to go by the board. It is all very well to send an order down that not a shot is to be fired on the range without an officer being present, but with the kind of material you have to recruit from for officers of the Yeomanry you cannot get sufficient men of leisure to fulfil all the requirements of the War Office.

We are told that we must accept the present system because the military advisers of His Majesty's Government do not consider the time is ripe for adopting the principle of universal military service. The Under-Secretary for War made a very powerful speech dissecting the scheme of the noble and gallant Earl, and also making a general statement against compulsory military training. But I was very much relieved to find at the end of a very powerful collection of remarks that he dismissed them by saying, "Of course, if it were really necessary," by which I suppose he meant if the electors became prepared for it, that would possibly do away with all the objections he had urged against the scheme.

I do not envy in the future the task of noble Lords who so hotly oppose the ideas of Earl Roberts, because I am sanguine enough to believe the day is not far distant when the people of the country will wish to adopt universal military training, and should it fall to the lot of some of those who have so bitterly opposed the scheme to have to propose the system in the House of Lords I hope to be here to see them. We have been told about military advisers of the Crown being opposed to all this sort of thing, but if you will refer to the evidence before the Royal Commissioners you will find that Sir John French, at any rate, is not altogether so much opposed to compulsory military training as you might be led to think he is. He was asked this question:— Do yon think that the requirements of a possible military situation can be satisfied short of general service—that is, liability of everyone to serve? And his answer was— No I do not think it can. Then he was asked— Q. Do you mean by general service liability to service for a couple of years on the part of everybody?—A. Yes. Q. Conscription, in fact, for a period of two years?—A. That is a thing I could not commit myself to. I have not thought sufficiently about it. I believe in the principle. I consider any body of troops, such as a battalion, must be together under strict military training and supervision for at least one year before you could expect them to have any chance of holding their own against an enemy in the field by themselves. The noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, said something about that amount of training being requisite. That cannot be taken as an argument against the scheme of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. I am not competent to pronounce an opinion about the length of training which is necessary, but the noble and gallant Field-Marshal I believe would have got even more support if he had made the period of training a little bit longer.

I am very sorry to have to tell my leader that it will be impossible for me to follow him, though I have no doubt he will survive the news of my pronouncement. I do not speak on this subject because I pretend to have any military knowledge, but as a member of the Territorial Army I am conscious of the extra number of duties which I find myself increasingly unable to perform, not because I wish to spare myself in the matter, but because I do not see why the willing and patriotic should be asked to go on any longer performing tasks which the nation has no right to ask them to perform, simply in order to postpone the time when other people should be asked to undertake their share of the duty as well. It is because I wish to record my vote in favour of compulsory military training that I shall follow the noble and gallant Field-Marshal into the Lobby.


My Lords, after the remarks of the members of the two Front Benches regarding the sincerity of their opinions on this great issue, it may perhaps be appropriate that the most humble member of one of the Front Benches should say a word on the views placed before your Lordships by the recent speakers in this debate. One may sympathise, as I do, with the aspirations for the benefit of the people of this country at large which the Earl of Meath expressed and which he thinks likely to come from a change in the present system to compulsory service, without giving ones support to this Bill. But when I look at the provisions of this Bill I do not see that they, any more than the system which they are designed to supplant, would bring about the results which the noble Earl has at heart.

I must attempt to answer the challenge of Lord Ampthill, who invited those noble Lords who oppose this Bill to do so on principle. I do that with the greater readiness, because I think the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for War, with the powerful assistance of the noble Viscount opposite, who has held the post of Secretary of State for War, has completely disposed of the War Office and admininistrative side of this question. I should be the last man to question the authority of the noble and gallant Earl who brought in this Bill, but I think it is well to remember that the two representatives belonging to opposing parties in this House who have hitherto spoken, who have held high office in the administration of the Army, both take a view contrary to that which is taken by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal; and in so doing they have behind them authority which is at any rate historically very great, because they can quote in support of their opinions as against the principle of conscription no less authorities than the Duke of Wellington and Lord Hardinge, who, after Wellington, held the post of Commander-in-Chief in this country.

It is also fair to say that military opinion even at the present day is by no means unanimous on this issue. But I agree with what the noble Lord opposite said that this is not a military question. It is not a question to be decided merely by military opinion. That would be a novel and unconstitutional doctrine to which surely no subscription would be made at this time of day. It is a national question in which all classes and all interests have a right to be consulted. Above all, Parliament should be supreme in a matter of this kind.

But it seems to me the questions which the noble Lord put to the House are based on a fallacy. They are based on the procedure of isolating and ignoring all other circumstances from the consideration of this one question of the duty or the absence of duty of a man to give national service. To withdraw from the purview of the whole matter all advantage or disadvantage to be derived from one course or another is to ignore all the necessities of the case, and to assume that under all circumstances the duty remains the same. That, I think, is an entire fallacy. Are there no other tests of national greatness? Is military superiority the only superiority between nations? Is there no competition between us and other nations in trade, or learning, or industries? It seems to me that these considerations are all absent from the mind of the noble Lord when he puts the simple question, Is national service a duty under all circumstances to be undertaken by every individual in this country?


That was not the form in which I put this question. The noble Lord professes to take up my challenge, but when he does so I think he should quote me correctly.


I shall endeavour to do so.


What I asked was, Is it or is it not the duty of every able-bodied citizen to assist in the defence of the country when the country is invaded? That is the only thing we have to consider.


That is exactly where I part company with the noble Lord. He assumes that this country can be invaded and is likely to be invaded. He goes on to assume that the duty of every citizen of this country is to accept compulsory military training. In the first place, I want to say that this is conscription. Noble Lords say "No, no," but it must be conscription for a few weeks or months if the system of this Bill were in operation. The element which distinguishes conscription from every other form of service is the element of compulsion, and compulsion is in this proposal. The noble Lord pointed to the injustice of the present system. Could there be anything more unjust than conscription by lot?


Nobody advocates it.


I do not want to enter into an argument with the noble Lord. But in this proposal, which is called by various names, sometimes national service and at other times compulsory volunteering—the latter is rather a paradoxical description—you have, as in all proposals which include the principle of compulsion, the essence of conscription. I believe myself that there is an invincible repugnance, on the part of the people of this country apply the element of compulsion. May I point out, in the first place, how great an interference it is with a man's personal liberty, with his occupation, and with his home, and his family. All these objections must be overcome before you will get the principle of compulsion accepted in this country.

And when you regard not the individual but the community, how great must be the interference with trade, with commerce, with manufactures. No matter for what period your compulsion may be applied, it must interfere very much with the individual and the life of the community, and on that ground alone it is bound to encounter a very strong and a very deep-rooted opposition. The noble Lord says it is the only just system. His idea is that every man must give up a certain amount of his time to be trained as a soldier and therefore it is a just system. Are you asking from every man the same sacrifice? Is it the same to a man of leisure to give his time as to ask the workman not only to give his time but his labour? I do not believe the people will ever accept as a just system that which calls for such an unequal sacrifice and such unequal services from the different classes of the community.

To my mind there are several reasons which must be held strongly as against this system, and I address myself to these points because I was invited to do so by the noble Lord opposite. It is assumed to be a duty that every citizen shall give national service. Then we are not to regard the necessities of the case? We are not to regard the material advantage or disadvantage to the nation of requiring such service from the individual? Every man is to devote some of the months of the year—and possibly later on a longer time—to his drill. Even if the lion were to lay down with the lamb, or the millennium were to be here, still this relentless national service must be carried out. It seems to me there is a confusion here of means with ends. The object of the Army and of the armaments generally of this country is to secure for the country national safety. If that is done by other means short of requiring this universal national service it is none the less done freely, and the public of this country are to be the judges of the circumstances so as to know whether it is well done or not. You are to secure the country against invasion, and if the country is sufficiently secure, in the opinion of those who have the responsibility to judge of the matter, then the imagined general obligation of this kind of service disappears. It is the duty of the father to give meat to his children, and he may even have to beg bread for his children under some emergencies; but it is not therefore true that every father should necessarily be a beggar. You may just as well say every soldier is to be an Artilleryman as to say that under all circumstances every man is to undergo national service.

There are other ways in which men may help to accumulate resources, no less important than the resources of money, which may go far to defend the nation. The leaders in industry, the men who build up great businesses, the men who make great scientific discoveries, the men who make great inventions—gunpowder, steam engines and so forth—have all contributed in a great degree to our national safety and greatness. In these ways men are discharging national services. Those who are so alert to hear the claims of soldiering might recollect other ways in which powerful contributions must be made to the strength of the country. There is our educational system to perfect. The training of a soldier and of every other class in the community is much simpler when you have a well-grounded intelligence to work upon. There are the conditions of life which are depopulating our country districts and overcrowding our city slums. To attack those, to do something to mitigate evils which proceed from those conditions, would surely be doing some national service; and I protest against the idea that there is no national service done except that which is done in uniform.

Then let me deal with another objection which I think was suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Meath. We are reminded of the incidental advantages which come from a system of general military training. It is to train our hooligans, to inculcate the virtues of discipline and obedience, to reduce the numbers of the unemployed, to improve the physique of the country, to arrest the physical deterioration by giving better food—we all know how the recruit improves after some time in barracks—and rational exercise. These are not only by-products; they are not only important enough to be considered byproducts; I think they are important enough to be considered as ends in themselves. But I may surely remind your Lordships that every young man of eighteen is not a hooligan, and that the seeds of physical deterioration are frequently sown long before the youth of the country reaches the age of eighteen. Nor will it, as I think my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State for War showed, cure the difficulties of the question of unemployment to keep men in barracks for six months.

The truth is that these evils, which are great and urgent and should be attacked, ought to be attacked directly by other means. It is by the regulation of boy labour, by the establishment of a system of labour exchanges, by workmen's insurance, by physical drill in schools, and by facilities for athletics and gymnasia—it is by those means that you will attack these evils much more directly and with much less cost than you will by establishing for that purpose a system of national training. The insistence upon conscription leaves out of sight as the remedy for these things—I do not, of course, charge noble Lords with doing more than indicating that these are by-products of the system which it is sought to establish—the real causes of these evils. It is the congregation of large populations in our cities, the divorce of the people from the land, unhealthy conditions of life and labour—it is these things, far more than the absence of general military training, that are undermining the general physical condition of our country.

One word on the question of invasion. The people of this country have never believed in the danger of invasion. I think if they had believed in it they would have made preparation long ago. But they know, as everybody knows—and in support of which there is not absent both military and naval opinion—that the landing of a considerable force on these shores is a protracted and difficult operation. I will not trouble your Lordships by going into so old a story. I will not even enumerate the concatenation of circumstances which must take place before any such operation is possible. But it is a protracted operation, and it is difficult to believe that it could take place—in fact, it could not possibly take place—without the absence at any rate from Home waters of our Fleet, and it is difficult to see how those conditions could arise except after our sea-power for the time had been broken. And if you imagine this operation taking place when the power of the Navy had gone, it would be far simpler for an enemy, instead of risking so hazardous an operation as bringing over to this country 100,000 or 150,000 men and attempting to land them on these shores, and just as effective for him, to rest on what he had done, breaking the sea-power of this country and placing at hazard the food supply of the people of this country. His work would have been done, and no general conscription for home defence—you might have 1,000,000 of men—would help you one jot to feed the population of these islands.

For all these reasons, my Lords, I cannot help thinking that on principle, as the noble Lord pointed out, and also on the military case which has been presented with such force by my noble friend Lord Midleton, it would be a serious injury to the defensive forces of the Crown at this moment if any action were taken by your Lordships' House which would throw doubt upon or which would arrest the working of a system which promises to place this country in a position of greater security than ever before. After all the wisest course for this, as for any country, after having sufficiently provided for its defences, is to husband its resources, to husband its finances, to develop to the full the mind and intelligence of the people within its borders, and to see that its foreign policy avoids provocative and irritating measures.


My Lords, at this late hour I do not propose to follow the noble Lords who have spoken into the details that have been raised, but I should not like to give a silent vote on this occasion. I would therefore ask your Lordships to bear with me for a few moments while I explain the reasons why it will be impossible for me to support the Second Reading of this Bill. It may be presumptuous for a civilian to enter into a discussion of this kind, but we have to remember that, by the formation of the Territorial Force, for the first time in the history of the Army the civilian element has been introduced, and the main reason why I cannot support the Second Reading of the Bill is that, having undertaken a somewhat responsible position in the formation of that Territorial Force, I do not feel myself justified in supporting any other scheme till that one has had a fair chance.

I am quite ready to admit that the duty of the defence of the country is common to all. I am quite ready to admit that it should be the duty of us all to render our country impregnable to attack. I may also admit that the military experts as a rule unite in the opinion that the Territorial Force scheme is entirely inadequate for its purpose. At the same time, I think we have a right to claim on our side the military advisers of the present Government, because, as far as I know, they have made themselves responsible for this scheme. If they did not approve of it, of course it was very easy for them to resign. The critics very naturally fasten on the weak points of the scheme, which are obvious and regrettable, and which, with a little necessary assistance, I maintain can be rectified, but they entirely ignore anything that may be good in the scheme.

What puzzles civilians generally is that whenever any Minister for War undertakes a scheme of Army reform all the other experts unite in denouncing it as unsatisfactory, and it is the Minister before who is almost always the bitterest critic of the attempt on the part of his successor at the War Office to deal with Army reform. I do not forget that when the noble and gallant Field-Marshal who has introduced this Bill was Commander-in-Chief the Duke of Bedford made a speech criticising the scheme with which the noble and gallant Earl was then identified, and if you will look back at what was said at that time you will find that almost the same criticisms were made against that scheme, with which Lord Roberts was identified, as are now made against this one. We were told that there was rubbish in the Army, rubbish in the Militia, and a great deal of rubbish in the Volunteers. I am glad to think that we have been able to get rid of a good deal of that rubbish. Then it was stated that we had a sham Army, a sham Militia, sham Volunteers, just as it is now said we have a sham Army, sham Special Reserve, and sham Territorial Force. And I am convinced that, if this Bill became law to-morrow, the next day we should have the same experts denouncing it as compulsion which gave sham results.

I do not see the great magic of the word "compulsion," and I do not understand why training which, under a voluntary system, is described as absurd, would be considered quite sufficient when under a compulsory system. With the exception of four months initial training there is less training in the proposal in this Bill than the great majority of the Territorial units receive under the present scheme. I think it was Mr. George Wyndham who said, at a meeting of the National Service League, that there could be no method without compulsion. That seems to be rather a strange statement to be made to any party of Englishmen. I have always understood that our system has been a. voluntary one from top to bottom. That, voluntary system, as I know, is appreciated, and has created a certain amount of envy on the part of other nations. We are now asked to break up the voluntary system and adopt a compulsory one. I do not argue that a compulsory system may not become necessary by and by, but why, in order to get the. principle admitted, should we read a second time a Bill which does not, I maintain, give us what we really want. We were told by the Duke of Norfolk that if we do overshoot the mark we should not do much harm. My own opnion would be that if we overshot the mark in this direction we may do a very considerable amount of harm. Personally I am quite ready to admit that the time may come when compulsory service, may be necessary.

We were told, in a letter which appeared in The Times to-day from Lord Newton, that-the proposal contained in this Bill is the only practical alternative to our present system. I wonder why. There seems to be a great deal of confusion between military training and military service, and I think the great majority of the country, who would be perfectly ready to support a system of universal compulsory training, would not be so ready to support a system of universal compulsory service. Though we are told that this is the only alternative, several proposals have been made by various gentlemen of more or less importance as to what our system should be. One of these gentlemen goes so far as to suggest that the necessary continuous service to provide an efficient compulsory service force would be two years initial training. Personally, I think that would be much more likely to produce an effective force than that contained in the Bill. What are the two extremes? We have had the ideal soldier described to us as a man capable of meeting the best trained Continental troops. On the other hand, in order I suppose to discredit the Territorial Force, the men in that Force have been described as undisciplined rabble. We certainly do not contend that the Territorial Force may be of the ideal type; on the other hand, I am quite prepared to deny as strongly as I possibly can that they are undisciplined rabble. And we are asked to believe that this little difference of four months initial training proposed in this Bill is going to make the whole difference between efficiency and rabble.

The noble and gallant Field-Marshal, speaking in your Lordships' House the other night, said, What is the good of asking us to double the numbers of the Territorial Force when we cannot even get the limited numbers that are now asked for? I should like to know on what authority he makes that statement. The time given for the completion of the Territorial Force was three years; and in two years more than three-fourths of the number required have been obtained. I maintain that that is a remarkable state of things, and I have not the slightest doubt that when the three years have elapsed it will be found that the Force is up to its full strength. In many counties in England the force is already up to its full establishment, and in my own county it is now not a question of "Will you join us?" but "May we join you?" There is a unit in Middlesex which is not quite up to its full strength. It has eighty per cent. but it has discontinued recruiting because it cannot provide the necessary instruction for the recruits that it already has.

And that brings me to the question of training. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal, speaking in your Lordships' House on May 18, urged the necessity of having trained men, and he proceeded to quote the passage from Bacon— Nay, number itself in armies importeth not much where the people is of weak courage; for, as Virgil saith, 'It never troubles the wolf how many the sheep be,' Unless there is something very much more definite and very much more continuous in the training that is suggested, I am certain that all we shall do by the proposal contained in this Bill will be to add to the numbers of the sheep. The main reason why I am unable to support this Bill is that I am confident that the amount of training suggested will not produce what we all want—namely, a sufficient and efficient home defence force. There is another point in connection with that question. As I have said, one of the difficulties we have experienced is in providing sufficient instructors for the recruits we already have, and I think that before we make the great departure from the voluntary to the compulsory system we ought to have a much more reasoned estimate as to what the requirements of the country are. We ought to know how many men the military authorities are able to train at the commencement. Much depends on the number of competent instructors, the number of training grounds, and the accommodation available for continuous training both in winter and summer. I should extremely regret being a party to a departure from our voluntary system until we had information a good deal more definite.

There is also the question as to the manner in which this enormous new force is proposed to be administered. As I understand, it is to be added to the Territorial Force. I want to know whether it is contemplated that the County Associations should continue to deal with the Force as they do at the present time. Their work is sufficiently hard even now, and if they are to have this great addition I think that a good many of them would be apt to complain. The only suggestion I make to the noble and gallant Field-Marshal is that while he is contemplating the introduction of a compulsory as against a voluntary system he should extend that compulsory system to the civilian side and compel the civilians also to do their share of the work.


My Lords, I should like to say, at the outset, that it is chiefly on account of the belief that this Bill will contribute very greatly to the improvement of the manhood of the young men in the population that I support it, and cordially associate myself with what has been said in its favour. But my chief reason for rising is that it was my duty for twelve years to live as a Bishop in one of the most democratic Colonies of our Empire. There is much to learn from our Colonies. The people of those Colonies generally go about their business with a seriousness of life and purpose that makes it worth while for us to study why they do the things that they undertake. They love freedom and exhibit a freedom in social and in political matters to which we are strangers because of our more conventional ways, and the fact that these people think it worth while to curtail the liberty of the individual in order that he may give his service to the State affords an object lesson which we cannot afford to ignore.

It must be known to your Lordships that a Bill has been introduced in the Commonwealth of Australia for the purpose of bringing about pretty much the same kind of scheme as that suggested to us by the Bill of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. A study of that Bill—I have a copy of it here—reveals that a great deal of care has been taken with all its details, and it elaborates in a more plentiful manner than one would have expected many points that are treated with great simplicity in the Bill now before us. But the fact that these people have thought it worth while to do this is a lesson to us that the democracies of the world are not so opposed to the principle of conscription as might be imagined from some of the speeches that have been made in this House to-night.

Some two years ago the then Premier of South Australia came to England. I am sorry to say he has since died. He was a democrat of the democrats, and while in this country he did me the honour of talking over with me his Bill for the promotion of compulsory service. He told me that the object he had in view was not only the safety of the Empire; he believed his Bill would contribute more than anything else to the well-being of those hooligans and troublesome men who were a constant pain and grief, and he thought that by bringing them into line with some direct service to the State there would be drawn out some better principles than had been previously exhibited by these men. It is just because I share that opinion that I am here tonight to support the Bill of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. Eight days ago I heard one of our most distinguished Generals say that when he found himself at all oppressed with pessimistic thoughts about the future of our nation there was one thing that always encouraged him, and it was the spirit shown by the boys of the Church Lads' Brigade and the Boys' Brigade. He praised them very considerably. I believe I am in a position in some way to support that praise from knowledge of what these lads are, not only because I served on the governing body of the Church Lads' Brigade for a good many years but because year after year I used to camp out with them and see what effect the discipline of camp had on these lads. We never went into camp with a large body of new lads without some great anxiety as to how they would turn out, but. I never knew one of those camps end without our going away with admiration for the manner in which boys had acquired the spirit of discipline, thus proving that there was really mettle in them worthy of further treatment.

The noble Duke rather struck terror to the hearts of a good many of us by his statement that the result of bringing together so many young men at a critical age would be practically to demoralise them. I have seen enough, I am glad to say, of the effect of a really good principle amongst lads and men to know that good is just as powerful in prevailing as evil, and to believe that in the long run good will prevail. I cannot help thinking that if the noble Duke could have seen the effect of camp discipline on some of those lads to whom I have referred he would be inclined to think that, after all, there is a great deal more to be said in favour of bringing together lads of all classes than he perhaps apprehended when he spoke tonight.


Might I ask whether all classes of the community were brought together, from the hooligans to the lads of the upper middle classes?


The officers were from the upper classes, and the lads were of the very poorest.


But the officers did not sleep in the same tents.


No, it was the moral effect of the officers upon these lads, the good influences that they were able to exert, that made the lads change so very much and catch the spirit that they did. Such camp-life as the new recruits under this system would probably have to undergo would be of so strenuous and vigorous a character during the short time they would be under arms that there would not be much time for loafing and for that which was evil; and I cannot help thinking that the whole effect would be of the kind one would desire. Some, of course, would be likely to say that if the effect on lads is such as is described why not be content with that and simply give compulsory training to boys, letting men alone, being sure that in time you would have such a number of Volunteers in your Territorial and other forces that you could dispense with any further thought of conscription of any kind. But boys very soon get tired of a thing if they find they are obliged to do it, and if it were compulsory drill in the sense that our brigades were swept into State-managed cadet corps it would be very difficult to bring to bear on the lads all those good influences which are now brought to bear on them, and I am afraid that you would not find that at the end of the period of compulsory drill the boys would be very willing to volunteer. It happened at one time to be the duty of the battalion serjeant-major at Oxford to gather recruits for his Volunteer corps. That duty fell upon me at one time, and I know that it always seemed more difficult to get recruits who had been as boys obliged to drill in the schools to which they had belonged than it was to get recruits from young men who had come up from other schools, unless they were so impregnated with the life of soldiering that they wanted to do their best no matter what they had gone through before. Compulsory drill for boys does kill out a good deal of the love of soldiering which they have when they are allowed to enter into it in a free manner as at present.

In the list of exemptions the noble Duke seemed to think it would be necessary to consider all sorts of people, among others the conscientious objector. There are many things the conscientious objector might do besides fight if we had conscription. The noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland spoke about bakers' shops. There is that work and also the schoolmasters' work to do, and there are many employments which might be found for those who objected to being actual combatants. I cannot help thinking that though the exemptions may not have been very carefully drawn in all respects, it would be found that on most of these points they would work exceedingly well; and if this Bill is read a second time it will fortify us in the belief that here is a principle upon which we can act as a basis, altering it to fit the circumstances.

Moved, That the debate be adjourned.—(Viscount Milner.)

On Question, further debate adjourned till to-morrow.