§ Debate on the Amendment moved by the Duke of Northumberland to the Motion that the Bill be now read 2a, viz., to leave out all the words after "That" for the purpose of inserting the following Resolution: "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"; resumed (according to order).
§ VISCOUNT MILNER
My Lords, in rising to give my support to the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill I shall do my best to avoid trespassing unduly on the time of the House by going over ground already covered by previous speakers on the same side. And that will, I hope, be easier for me, because my point of view is in some respects rather different from that of many of the supporters of this measure. For one thing, my strong attachment to the principle of a citizen Army is independent of immediate apprehensions—apprehensions of danger from a particular quarter, which are so prevalent at the present time. I felt it before those 357 apprehensions arose. I should continue to feel it if they were, happily, dispelled. I regard the adoption of national training and service as the only means of removing a permanent weakness in our organisation, a permanent handicap, under which we labour, as compared not with one, but with all the great European nations who are our rivals. The effects of that handicap will, I believe, make themselves felt more and more, and that in many directions in which we do not as yet always recognise its influence. And they make themselves felt in the competitions of peace almost as much as they would in war.
On that side of the question—that is to say, on the great physical, moral, educational value of military training and discipline for the youth of the country—I will not dwell at length, because it has already been so forcibly urged upon your Lordships. I will only say this. So strongly am I convinced of the value of such training, the benefits which it would confer on those who went through it, the improvement it would effect in the stamina and morale of the nation generally—as it has done in the case of other nations—that, even if we were never to have another war, I believe the country would be richly repaid for the expense of its adoption. But, while I hold that belief strongly myself, I fully admit that, as a matter of practical politics, a proposal like that of the noble and gallant Earl, or any other proposal on more or less similar lines, involving as it does, not only fresh expense, but a considerable change in the habits of the people, and in all our social and industrial arrangements, can never be adopted unless the nation is convinced that it is essential for national safety. Its indirect effects for good may be its most important effects, but its first introduction is only possible if public opinion is aroused to its direct necessity for purposes of defence.
Now what is our contention on this point? Broadly speaking, and putting aside for the moment all technicalities and details, we rest our case on two main considerations. The first is that, looking at the position of this country and the Empire as a whole, having regard to all that we have got to defend, we need to be strong enough at home, in the United Kingdom, to defeat or deter any possible invading force, without having to retain any substantial portion of the Regular 358 Army for that purpose, and without crippling the Navy in the discharge of its main duties by turning it, or the bulk of it, into a sort of coast-guard of these islands. That is our first argument. And our second is that, in order to attain this degree of security at home we require a military force superior in numbers, in training, and in immediate readiness for use, to any that we can ever hope to get under the voluntary system. Any Member of this House who agrees with these two main propositions ought, I venture to think, to give a vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, even if he holds that it is capable of considerable improvement.
I should like, my Lords, to say a few words on each of these, in my view fundamental, propositions. And first as to the necessity of having such a defensive force in these islands as to render invasion, even in the absence of the Regular Army, a hopeless enterprise. It is possible to believe in that necessity without holding that the invasion of these islands is the most likely form in which danger may first arise to our Empire. The idea of a sudden attack on the United Kingdom by some foreign Power, while we were otherwise disengaged, may not indeed be a chimera, for there is such a thing as picking a quarrel, and the experience of 1870 shows how rapidly war may spring up, even in the midst of profound peace. It may not be a chimera, but it is, I venture to think, a most unlikely contingency. And, in such a contingency, we should have the protection of the Navy, concentrated as it now is in European waters, and of the whole Expeditionary Force, which would still be in this country, to say nothing of the Territorial Army, which, especially in conjunction with a large body of Regulars, would certainly not be a negligible quantity.
But the case would be very different if the whole Expeditionary Force had been called away to deal with some serious trouble in one of our distant possessions. And surely, my Lords, there are such dangers present to all our minds—it is not necessary or desirable to specify them— to meet which we should, or at any rate we ought to, send out all the fighting men we had got to send. But it is just at a time when we might have our hands full in some distant quarter of the Empire that European complications would be most likely to arise for us. The revolt of the 359 American Colonies was originally just such a local affair, yet before it was over we found ourselves embroiled with half Europe. And it will be within the recollection of many of your Lordships that there was more than one moment during the South African war when a repetition of that experience did not seem out of the question. And if a European war did come upon us, with the whole of our Expeditionary Force abroad, then certainly, under present conditions, an invasion, and an invasion in force, would become a very imminent danger. Would our Territorial Army as at present constituted be able to deal with it? The Secretary for War himself tells us that it would not, at least not till after it had been embodied for six months, and it is obvious to everyone that six months or even six weeks, might not be given to us. And all this applies equally to the case, perhaps not such a probable case, but certainly not a wholly improbable one, the case of a war breaking out in Europe itself, in which we might through our Treaty obligations, or by obligations of honour, become involved and be called upon to send our last available man to the assistance of a foreign ally.
But it may be said we never should send the whole of our Expeditionary Force. I am afraid that is only too true. And that is just where the shoe pinches. The Expeditionary Force is small enough, in all conscience, for the work which it might any day be called upon to perform at a distance from these islands. But small as it is, should we ever venture to use the whole of it? One cannot but feel a doubt, and more than a doubt whether any Government would risk employing the whole fighting strength of our Regular Army abroad, if by so doing it exposed these islands to an attack which might be successful. Our military weakness at home, the insecurity of our base and the sense of that insecurity, will always hamper the free use of that Army for the purposes for which we ought to be in a position to employ it to the fullest possible extent. Yet it is absolutely in our power to put an end to that insecurity if we choose. We have only got to do what other nations do, and indeed much less than most other European nations. The advocates of universal military training are often told that they forget that this Kingdom is an Island Kingdom. But that is not at all the case. If these were not islands, the proposals of the Bill would be 360 quite inadequate. We do take into account the undoubted advantages of our insular position. What we contend is that our present system of national defence presumes too much upon these advantages.
My Lords, I have been contending that the measure now proposed is necessary to set free the Regular Army for the discharge of its proper duties. The same is true, and even more true, of the Navy. No doubt the commonest form of objection to the creation of a strong Army for home defence is that it is a waste of money and effort, which had better be devoted to strengthening the Navy. My Lords, what we contend is that by adopting the measure now before the House we should be strengthening the Navy. You may strengthen the Navy in more ways than one. You may strengthen it by increasing the size of your fleets. The only objection to that is, that you cannot prevent other nations increasing the size of theirs pari passu, and so the relative position remains unaltered. Incidentally I may observe that this objection does not apply to the increase in our total strength, which would result from developing our latent military resources by training the manhood of the country to arms, for other great countries have already done this, and they are practically at the end of their tether in that direction.
But to return to the Navy. I say you may strengthen it by adding to the size of the fleet, but you may also strengthen it for the discharge of those duties which it alone can perform by relieving it of responsibilities which can be placed on other shoulders. It may sound heretical, but personally I cannot admit that the primary duty of the Navy is to prevent any foreign enemy setting his foot on these islands. Invasion ought to be an unprofitable business in any case. And the Navy surely has enough to do without being expected to watch every shore on which an enemy could land, or to block every port from which he could sally. It seems to me it is not fair to the Navy, it is not giving it a chance of using its strength to the best advantage if in the discharge of its vast duties, including the duty of keeping open communications throughout the Empire and protecting our commerce, it is hampered and distracted by constant anxiety about the security of its base.
The object of this Bill is to remove that anxiety. It has been argued that it does 361 not effect that object, and even that it would not afford us any greater, or indeed as great, security as that afforded by the Territorial Army as at present constituted. My Lords, if that proposition could be established, the proposition, I mean, that we should be no better off under this Bill than under the present system, it would, of course, be fatal to the Bill. It might not be fatal to a belief in the principle of national service, but it would certainly put an end to the present proposals for giving effect to it. And so I naturally listened with close attention to the argument of the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State in support of that proposition. But while the noble Lord undoubtedly made some good points against the Bill, and points to which in Committee most careful attention would have to be given, his attempt to compare the scheme of the Bill with the present system to the advantage of the latter seemed to me nothing but a brilliant piece of special pleading, only marred by the attempt to prove too much. I could not help feeling all the time what a pitiful exposé the same able advocate, with the same experts behind him, would have been able to make of the Territorial Army, if he had happened to be briefed on the other side.
I do not think your Lordships, of whom so many are practical soldiers, would wish a civilian like myself to engage in a controversy about military details, but I should like to say this. The noble Lord in the opening of his speech tried to dissociate the noble and gallant Earl from the proposals of his own Bill. He tried to discredit it as only the Bill of the National Service League, a body, as his tone seemed to suggest, of irresponsible civilians. My Lords, the principles of civic duty and of patriotism, which are the mainsprings of the National Service League, are not the exclusive property of any profession however honourable. But we are not guilty of the levity of bringing forward practical proposals like these without careful consultations with military experts. Apart entirely from the high authority of the noble and gallant Earl, we have had the advice of soldiers, just as the noble Lord has, and of soldiers as able and experienced as the excellent men, and I should be the last to disparage their capacity, whose services he commands at the War Office. But doctors differ. Unfortunately it is not only always possible to quote military 362 expert against military expert, but it is often possible to quote the same military expert against himself. But it would not be fair to the National Service League to let it be supposed that it was acting in a matter of such gravity without much deliberation or without careful consultation of the most competent authorities.
Some of the criticisms directed against this Bill seem to assume that we are absolute children! One noble Lord, speaking late last night took exception to our allowing only seventy-five non-commissioned officers for the training of 150,000 men. He failed to observe that it was seventy-five for every 1,000 of these 150,000 which we propose. It was, I think, the same noble Lord who made the remark that he could not see much difference between the Territorial Army under the present system and the same Army as we propose to recruit it, except the four months initial training. But, my Lords, that makes the whole difference. It is a fundamental point. We absolutely reject the idea that you can leave the serious training of the Home Defence Force to be begun when war breaks out. We do not want to pass any man into the Home Defence Force who has not had from four to six months initial training. That is our starting point, and, if we are told that that amount of training is of little value, then what becomes of the training of your Special Reserve? The noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State said the 1,000,000 men whom the noble and gallant Earl declared to be necessary had disappeared in the present scheme, and that we are left with 400,000, or, so he makes out, 320,000, as against 315,000 under our present system. I should prefer even 320,000, every one of whom had had some substantial military training, to 315,000 of whom an indefinite number might have had virtually none at all.
But it is not true to say that the million men have disappeared under this scheme. By the time it has been in operation for ten years there will be, besides the 400,000, or, if the noble Lord pleases, 320,000, men to be first embodied, 800,000 or 900,000 men in this country, all having had this substantial amount of training, all liable to service in case of need. The noble Lord says we have not provided for their rifles, ammunition, or equipment. That may be, and I think is, a good criticism of the estimate which has been circulated in 363 explanation of this Bill. But it is no criticism of the Bill itself. The Bill provides for the training of these men and it provides for their liability to service. When the Bill is in full operation there will be nearer one and a half millions than one million trained men in this country, liable to service for home defence, capable, if they choose, of serving their country anywhere. It is impossible to blow away a fact like that as of no importance or to make out by any logical juggle that it is not a great advance upon the present position.
It is said we shall have difficulty about officers. I know we shall. The officer difficulty is the greatest difficulty we have got to confront. But it is the greatest difficulty of every scheme. Is anyone prepared to say that it does not beset the present Territorial Army? As far as the present shortage of supply of Regular officers is concerned, I believe it can only be removed, or mitigated, by a revival of confidence in the Army as a career. Something has got to be done in any case to get over the existing feeling of distrust and make the career more attractive. If that is not done, we shall be in trouble any way, and if it is done, the comparatively small addition which the scheme involves to the number of our Regular officers will not, I think, be found seriously embarrassing. And as for the supply of non-professional officers, I think it is rendered a great deal easier by the adoption of the principle of general liability to service. Having to serve in any case there will be rather too many than too few men ready to devote the extra time, and take the extra trouble, necessary to qualify them to serve as officers. You will be able to insist on a high standard of qualification.
My Lords, not to detain you too long, it seems to me that the improvement in our Home Defence Force, which would be effected by the Bill, is made up of two main factors—the greatly increased number of men, and the thoroughness of the first grounding which they would all have received in military duties. I am the last to say that with regard to the question of the period of training, or to other essential details of a most intricate problem, we have, at this the first attempt, found a complete solution. What I do say is that when once you have crossed the real Rubicon, when once you have imposed 364 liability to service for home defence on every able-bodied man, you have broken the back of the problem, and the question of the proper period of training for men of the different arms, and all questions of organisation, will become infinitely easier of solution. For you will then have got over the radical difficulty of numbers, which is bound to undermine every scheme based on the voluntary principle. Once assured of an adequate number of men, you can afford to consider all questions of organisation with a sole regard to military efficiency. Under a voluntary system you cannot afford to do that. You are in constant danger of not getting the necessary number of recruits, and in order to make sure of reasonable numbers, you have to sacrifice efficiency at every turn. Does anybody suppose that the Secretary of State or the Army Council fixed fourteen days annual training, reducible to seven, because they thought it sufficient, or that they would not have preferred to fix a longer period. They fixed it because they thought it was the maximum they could ask if they were to get a sufficient number of men to make any sort of decent show at all. And I have no doubt they were right. And it is the same with all the other demands made upon the Territorial soldier. They are based on the principle of getting as much out of him as you can hope to get without driving him away.
I trust that nothing that I have said will be regarded as said in any spirit of depreciation of the admirable work which has been done, either by the military authorities, or by the County Associations in connection with the Territorial Army, still less of the admirable zeal and patriotism shown by the members of that Force. Having regard to the weakness of the principle on which it is recruited, the attempt to create a National Army by persuasion—you might just as well try to collect the National Revenue by persuasion—I think it is perfectly wonderful how much has been achieved. I am sure there is no other country in the world in which it would have been possible. It is just because we can do so much more than any other people on the voluntary system that we go on trying to do impossibilities by it.
In saying what I have done about the Territorial Army I think I faithfully 365 represent the views of that large body of people who are represented by the National Service League. They are the last in the world to decry the work of Mr. Haldane, as he has given them at least the framework of a Home Army such as they desire to see. Neither have they, in fact, taken up a hostile attitude to the Territorial Army or failed to do their duty as good citizens in joining, or otherwise supporting it. On the contrary, some of those who have worked hardest for the Territorial Army are also out and out advocates of the principles of the League, and I have no doubt the success of that Army, such as it is, is due in a large measure to the vigour with which the propaganda in favour of National Service has been carried on in all parts of the country. Moreover in the continual struggle, which is certain to be waged in future between the enthusiasts of the Territorial Army trying to make that Force as efficient as possible, and the spirit of parsimony, dictated by political considerations, which, as soon as the present excitement on the subject has subsided, will begin to starve it—in that struggle the Territorial Army will have no stouter allies than the followers of the noble and gallant Earl. But it is one thing to be willing, and, indeed, eager, to make the best of the system actually in existence, quite another to desist from pointing out its radical and incurable defects and trying to remove them. The Amendment of the noble Duke speaks of this Bill as trying to "supersede" the present system. The object of the Bill is not to supersede, but to underpin it.
One word in conclusion on the question of expense. The Government profess to be terribly alarmed at the expense which the adoption of this scheme would involve. I do not think they can be quite serious in that. For as far as I can make out, from a careful study alike of the finance of this scheme and of the present Budget, it appears to me that the amount involved in Lord Roberts's proposals is just about equal to, and if anything a little less than, the amount which the Government are now trying to raise by taxation, over and above what is needed for our public expenditure. Well. Here is an excellent use for the extra money. The Government cannot pretend to think that it would be an intolerable burden to the taxpayers, since they are themselves proposing to impose it, just for fun. If we can so well afford 366 these extra millions, merely to supply the Government with pocket money, we surely can afford them for national defence. But, my Lords, even those of us who do not contemplate additional burdens on the taxpayer with equal gaiety, do I think feel this. We do not believe there is one man on either of the Front Benches who does not know in his heart that, great as has been the growth of national expenditure for defence in the last few years, we have not yet seen the end of it. Under whatever Government, in whatever form, that expenditure will go on increasing at any rate for many years to come. It is only a question of the comparative value of different forms of expenditure. Certainly there is no room for waste. If the cost of training the ordinary able-bodied citizen to arms is a waste of money, then it is just as unjustifiable to spend £500,000 on it as to spend five millions. But if we are right in holding that of all forms of expenditure on defence it is the cheapest, the form in which you get most for your money, and furthermore that it will stop a gap, will strengthen our system of national defence in that respect in which we are at present weakest, and will not only guard against invasion and scares of invasion, but will increase the striking power of our Regular Army, increase the mobility of our Navy, and give us a large reserve of trained men, then I say it is not four, and it is not eight millions which will be allowed to stand in the way of so great an addition to our national security.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, I cannot help thinking that this is in more respects than one the most paradoxical discussion to which I have listened since I have been a Member of this House. The Bill itself appears to me to be something of a paradox, and it is supported, with the single exception of the noble Viscount who has just sat down, in a spirit of paradox by those who will, I assume, vote for its Second Reading. That is not of necessity to condemn the measure, but I think it may be worth while to point out the singular lack of logic which can be remarked both in the Bill itself and in the speeches of those who have spoken in support of it.
This Bill is a Bill to abolish voluntary service in an important department of our national life, and to substitute compulsory service. I think it is probably true that in all other departments of civic activity 367 noble Lords who will vote for the noble and gallant Field-Marshal's Bill would say they prefer the results of voluntary effort to those of State action. In other departments of life free service is given to the State and contributions are given to public objects, such as hospitals and charities of all kinds. In all these matters the noble Lords who are going to support the Bill uphold voluntary effort, and maintain that the interference of the State is mistaken. That is the first paradox. Coming to the second paradox, I take the Bill as it stands, and the speech and known opinions of my noble and gallant friend on the Cross Benches, not the speech of the noble Viscount who has just sat down, because his point of view, as he frankly himself admitted, differs in some material respects from that of others who have supported the Bill.
This Bill then is, I take it, founded on the invasion theory which was promulgated by the noble and gallant Earl last year, which was discussed before the Defence Committee, and which was the subject of a debate in your Lordships' House last November. The Army which is to be created under this Bill is exactly the kind of army, whatever its merits may be on other grounds, which is the least suited to meet that particular theory of invasion which the noble and gallant Earl has put before us. Then, again, this Bill is to apply to Ireland. We have heard a great deal from the Benches opposite at various times about Irish disloyalty. So far it has not been attempted, except on a very small and tentative scale, to institute Irish Volunteers. This Bill will train, arm, and habituate to the use of arms the whole of that particular part of the Irish population which you are fond of describing as disloyal. That is the third paradox.
Let us consider for a moment what the invasion theory of the noble and gallant Earl really is. Last night I ventured to interrupt the noble Viscount opposite because he seemed to me not to indicate quite accurately what our position was in regard to that matter. I understood him to say on this question of invasion that we were all upon something like common ground. That is not so. We do not agree that the noble and gallant Earl in bringing forward his suggestion as to the possibility of a sudden invasion by a very large force had proved his case. On the contrary, we 368 hold, and it is held not only by civilians but also unanimously by the military and naval advisers of the Crown, that the case which was put forward to prove that it was possible for a foreign Power to land, practically without any notice, a very large force—150,000 or even more men—had broken down in several important particulars.
The noble Viscount who has just sat down spoke with great moderation on this question of invasion, and in a manner which I think cannot be altogether palatable to noble Lords who are supporting the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. My impression is that if they had to describe his speech they would apply to it that epithet which we all occasionally hear applied to our own speeches, and which we consider the most disparaging that can be applied—namely, that it was statesmanlike. The noble Viscount who has just sat down considered that a sudden invasion, the bolt from the blue, was an improbable contingency, but he indicated the possibility of what might no doubt be a greater danger, that of an invasion in force at some time when the greater part of the strength of our Army was engaged in operations in a different part of the Empire. But in 1857 and again in 1900 we were in the position that the noble Viscount described—that is to say, almost the whole strength of our Regular Forces was abroad and yet, whether owing to the good will of our neighbours, or the fact that they did not think the enterprise practicable, we were not attacked, and if we were not attacked we are entitled, I think, whatever we may think of the good will of other nations, of which we may hope in the future to receive the same measure as we have received in the past, to ascribe our immunity to the strength of the Navy.
This question of invasion is to a very large degree a naval question. I entirely agree that we must not assume that the fighting Fleet is to be perpetually tied to these shores in order to prevent an enemy landing here. But that is not the same thing as to say that the Navy is not the principal machine for preventing invasion, and I think this can be shown by the fact that this particular demand for compulsory service on land has never been made by the responsible naval advisers of the Crown, so far as I know, under any Government 369 and has not been made for the obvious and good reason that they know that if we are to be told that the Navy is not the prime defence against invasion and that a large sum must be spent on land defence, there is a prospect that the country will insist on taking some part of those funds out of the amount now spent on our naval services.
Supposing that the theory of this very large hostile force arriving unexpectedly in this country is accepted, are the proposals of the Bill as they stand the best means of spending that amount of money for meeting that particular contingency? The proposal of the noble and gallant Earl seems to create a very large force of very partially trained men. That might be the right kind of force to create if you were looking forward to a long and rather irregular resistance of the type which our troops encountered in South Africa. But according to the noble Earl, what we have to meet is a coup de main, and the mere fact that you have got in the country a number of men who some years before had four months training would not, it seems to me, affect the success or failure of that coup de main, and that is why I call the Bill a paradox looking at it in connection with the well-known views of the noble and gallant Earl.
What is the exact military value for this purpose of the man in his eighth or tenth year of this compulsory service who has had four months training in his first year and a fortnight's training for three years more? It has been said over and over again that it is the duty of every man to defend his country. And every time that observation has been made it has been received with the applause which an honourable platitude always commands. But in connection with compulsory service, if adopted in this country, several matters have to be borne in mind. It has been said with greater truth, I think, than can be generally found in an epigram that while an Englishman loves liberty and does not care for equality, a Frenchman loves equality but does not care for liberty. This scheme of compulsory service obviously infringes the liberty of the individual. I again remind noble Lords opposite that in all other arenas of activity they are for the voluntary as against compulsion.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
Education is compulsory, but a very large slice of it, which I fancy the noble Lord does his best to support, remains voluntary.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
The most important form of compulsory public service which is demanded of the British citizen is that of serving upon a jury, and it is one which I believe is regarded as a bore by most of the citizens of the country. It is true that this principle of compulsory service enforces the principle of equality. I do not deny that the intensely democratic nature of this measure will cause it to have attractions for many, but the noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland, pointed out in this connection some facts which seem to me to have no little force.
I do not say that it is right or reasonable, but it is the fact that the ordinary British parent of the middle classes and also of what might be called the respectable working classes would not like the idea of their sons being put into camp for a period of some months with those whom they would consider the riff-raff of the country. I do not say that the feeling is a worthy one, but I do not think any noble Lord opposite will deny that it exists; and when one noble Lord said that after all this was what everybody had to go through at Eton and Sandhurst, he seemed to me to be travelling wide of the question, nor did the right reverend Prelate who spoke yesterday of the boys' camps at the seaside appear to me to touch this side of the question. The fusion of classes carried out in this sort of way is not a popular thing with any class in this country. Every one knows that there are a great many working men who dislike sending their children to particular Council schools because there they may have to sit on the same benches with those whom they describe as gutter children, and when it comes to fusion with this class somewhat later in life I think the difficulty will be found to be still more pronounced.
The advantages of this training have been eloquently spoken of, and I am not concerned to deny that there are a great number of cases in which a lad may be 371 infinitely the better for training of this kind. My noble friend Lord Lucas pointed out that at any rate only half the nation would be affected, and the noble Viscount who has just sat down combated that argument on the ground that taking the average of the national physique it would be greatly improved by this training. But if you are to have forty-eight per cent. of exemptions and rejections, there will be a very great number of those who most need this training who will not get it. I think that is beyond dispute. Again, you must remember that you will catch practically the whole of the rural population, while you will get a smaller proportion of the urban population; and from the point of view of those who desire to see the younger generation of the rural population remaining on the land and settling down I do not think that this universal sweeping into your military net will do anything but operate somewhat adversely to that hope. The difficulty as to officers must multiply as you multiply your total numbers, more particularly if all this great reserve of men in the later period of their twelve years have to be formed into some sort of organisation and to have skilled officers ready to lead them if need should arise.
I pass for a moment to the question of cost. I think that the controversy as to the estimate of £20,000,000 has been disposed of. When we named that sum it is quite true that we were speaking not of the proposals contained in this Bill, but of an Army of a million men, which is a different matter. The noble Viscount who has just spoken very good humouredly chaffed us about the large sum of money which we were supposed to have at our disposal, and said that a saving of £4,000,000 could not be better employed than in this way. I dispute that statement. If I wanted to spend £4,000,000 more on defence I should not spend it in this way. But when the noble Viscount talks about £4,000,000 I read his statement in connection with another in which, in almost an apologetic manner, he alluded to some of the proposals of the Bill, and spoke of them as Committee points. If it be a Committee point to substitute a longer term of service, which is very likely to be one of the points which he has in his mind, that obviously means a very great increase in the cost. Surely when the noble Viscount said, what I believe to be and regret to be true, that our expenditure on the Navy is 372 not likely to diminish in coming years, for reasons with which we are all acquainted, we return to the question whether this £4,000,000 of which Lord Ampthill speaks so lightheartedly could, even if the case is proved, be regarded as bearing a proper proportion to the necessary expenditure on the Navy.
Yesterday afternoon my noble friend dwelt on the historical circumstances which have existed in connection with scares as to invasion in former years, and told us how in the early years of the Great War, when this theory of home defence was carried out in the fullest degree by the immense multiplication of Militia, the Regular Army certainly did not add to the glory of its annals. Your Lordships know very well how in the last years of that century millions of money and many thousands of men were wasted in inglorious campaigns in the West Indies and the Low Countries, until the honour of the Army was redeemed from something very like disgrace by Abercromby and Moore. There were other invasion scares in 1852 and in 1859. Anybody who will read the speech made by Lord Lyndhurst in initiating a debate just fifty years ago might imagine that it had been made in the course of this debate. A certain melancholy interest attaches to that debate because the Government reply was made by Lord Ripon, then Under-Secretary for War, whom we are all now lamenting. All the points which the noble and gallant Earl who has introduced this Bill urges were advanced by Lord Lyndhurst, who said also that the invention of steamships had entirely altered the conditions relating to invasion. Lord Lyndhurst went on to say that the national security could not be maintained unless there was in this country a sufficient force of Regular troops to meet an enemy who might land on these shores. There, I think, Lord Lyndhurst had the courage of his opinion, because he demanded Regular troops.
If all the statements which we hear from time to time are true, what we really want is not military training of this kind, but a conscript army. Mr. Arnold-Forster, whose name, somewhat strangely I think, has not been mentioned in the course of this debate, was not prepared for a conscript army—at least, I do not know that he was. But the proposals which I understand he favoured were for a short- 373 service army for home service and a long-service army for foreign service. That is a logical proposition. Its only defect, so far as I know, is that in the conditions of this country it is impossible to combine it with voluntary service. That army would be something very different indeed from the army or force which it is proposed to create by this Bill.
Once more I find myself in agreement with the noble Duke who moved the Amendment. He said, and I think very truly, that you would not be able to stop here, that if you are to have a compulsory force sufficiently well trained to meet Regular troops who may land on your shores you must go a little further. You might draw a distinction between home and tropical service, and make your conscript troops liable, at any rate, for service on the continent of Europe. If you are to have universal service that is a proposal which I think will not unreasonably be pressed upon you. These are reasons why I assert that this Bill raises tremendous issues, which are obscured by all this talk about social advantages and boys' camps. The issue must be taken to be one between voluntary service and compulsory service, which I do not believe you will be able to limit. Therefore in giving our vote against this Bill we are giving it against the principle of compulsory service for this country.
With regard to the Amendment, I do not know exactly what the noble Duke who moved it means in this connection by military training. I should prefer to see the Amendment somewhat amended for this reason. There is a tendency both in our schools and in the training of recruits to substitute in an increasing degree physical training for what is called military training. It is believed that Swedish exercises and exercises of that kind are of greater permanent advantage to recruits and to schoolboys than purely military training would be. To that extent I would rather see the Amendment modified.
But in other respects I cordially agree that it is only fair to give a reasonable chance to the scheme of my right hon. friend. That scheme, sanctioned by the vote of your Lordships' House, has met with a greater measure of success than any military change which has been made in the memory of anybody now sitting in this House. It has only been in operation for 374 little more than a year, and it does seem unreasonable in the absence of any proved emergency, to ask your Lordships to register for all time an opinion that the scheme has broken down. If the scheme proves to be inadequate, change it if you will, spend more money upon it if you like; but do not, I beg you, embark lightheartedly upon the plan proposed in this Bill, which is by the admission of its advocates costly, which many people think would be infinitely more costly than those advocates are prepared to admit, and which at the same time does not, as I think we have shown, give any measure of real security against the particular danger which it proposes to meet.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I find myself in the somewhat unusual position of having to reply, not to any attack delivered from the opposite side of the House, but to some rather heavy batteries of artillery which were unmasked during the course of last night's engagement, and which have been supported this afternoon in a very telling manner in the eloquent speech delivered by the noble Viscount who now sits on the Cross Benches.
There is one point in the attack about which, although it is a comparatively trivial point, I should like to say just one word. More than one noble Lord has taken exception to the fact that we had invited the presence of those noble Lords who generally act with us by means of an Opposition whip in the usual form, and Lord Ampthill in particular posed as a martyr suffering under the scourge of my noble friend Lord Waldegrave. I think my noble friend rather overrates the potency of a House of Lords' whip. I have never had the honour of a seat in the other House of Parliament, but I am under the impression that there a whip means a good deal, and that a member who is habitually refractory and disregards these intimations is very likely to experience a certain amount of inconvenience perhaps when he again seeks election.
But my noble friend Lord Waldegrave has no such engines of oppression at his command, and really all we can do on occasions of this kind is to call the attention of our friends to the fact that a very important debate is going to take place and to intimate to them the line which we 375 ourselves propose to take. Rightly or wrongly, that is the immemorial custom in this House. Lord Waldegrave can call up "spirits from the vasty deep"; sometimes they come, sometimes they don't, and when they do come they occasionally flit into the wrong Lobby. I go further—I think there are one or two Members of this House—it would be improper to name them—who almost as a matter of principle disregard gentle intimations of that kind. I know one or two noble Lords who if they were asked the old question "Where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?" would reply, we do not know exactly, but on no account look for it on either of the Front Benches. Well, we sent out this intimation because we do regard this debate as a very important one, and we think the Division to be taken this evening is one which may very seriously affect the position of your Lordships' House.
Perhaps I ought first to say what, in my opinion, our support of the noble Duke's Amendment does not imply. I say unhesitatingly, it does not imply any desire to snub or discourage the National Service League, with which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal is so honourably connected. On the contrary, I think every one of us recognises that a debt is due to the League on account of the successful efforts they have made to rouse in this country a feeling of patriotism and sense of civic duty. I can assure my noble and gallant friend, with whom I have so often been associated under different circumstances, that it gives me real pain to oppose any proposal made by him. But he does ask this House to take a very serious step. It has been said that, after all, this Bill cannot become law, and that we can therefore not do much harm by voting for it. I cannot accept that view. In my humble opinion, if your Lordships vote for the Second Reading of a Bill of this kind it means that you approve of it, and that you are ready, if the opportunity offers, to take it up yourselves; and I for one am not able to say that that is the manner in which I regard the measure on the Table.
This Bill, remember, is not merely an attack upon the Territorial system instituted by Mr. Haldane; it is an affirmation 376 that the voluntary system has been tried in this country and has failed. It is an affirmation that we desire to substitute for that voluntary system a system based upon compulsion, and compulsion in the particular form in which we find it in the clauses of this Bill. And we are invited to do this at a time when a brand-new military system, introduced by a powerful Government, backed by one of the largest majorities we have known in the history of this country—a system based upon an Act of Parliament, for which every one of your Lordships, unless I am mistaken, voted—a measure which has been cordially supported throughout the country, and by no one more effectually and energetically than by Members of this House who hold the high office of Lord Lieutenant of their county, is still in the experimental stage. We are asked, while that system is on its trial, to take upon ourselves to say that it has failed, and that its failure has been demonstrated, and to ask the country to accept in lieu of it a wholly different system—a system which, as I shall endeavour to show, is not in accordance with the Territorial system of Mr. Haldane, but which is described, and properly described, by representatives of the War Office as entirely antagonistic to it.
Well, my Lords, my noble friend the Duke of Northumberland meets this Bill with an Amendment, about which a good deal has been said. That Amendment asks your Lordships to record an opinion that a Home Army of sufficient strength to resist invasion is indispensable, that a sound ground-work of military training for as large a part of the population as possible is a desirable thing, but it adds to that a refusal to inflict upon the country at this moment a new measure, admitted by its authors to be extremely costly, and intended to supersede the plan which is now upon its trial, which is believed by those responsible for its administration to be achieving an unexpected measure of success. I put it to your Lordships whether an Amendment which can be so described deserves to be characterised, as it was last night, by my noble friend Lord Ampthill, as equivocal, evasive, ignorant, and fatuous? Those were four epithets which I collected from a single sentence of his speech last night. May I venture as an old friend to suggest that those are not epithets which we usually apply to those with whom we act in political life, and it 377 does not seem to me that his argument was very much strengthened by their use?
I want at the outset to make two admissions. In the first place, I am not going to say anything to challenge the absolute right of the State to demand of every member of the community military service in any shape or form in which that service may be found to be necessary for the public welfare. I do not care whether it is military service at home or over-seas. In the next place, I am bound to say that I think my noble and gallant friend is correct when he tells us that the dislike with which compulsory service is now regarded in this country is much less than it was. I think that is due in great measure to the strenuous advocacy of my noble and gallant friend and those who act with him. I think, too, that more and more people are coming to hold the view expressed by Lord Meath last night and by Lord Milner this evening that what I might call the subsidiary advantages of military training —its effect upon the character and physique of the people of this country—are far more valuable than they used to be considered.
I may be asked:—"If that is your feeling, why do you not support the Bill on the Table?" I will give my answer with absolute, frankness. I do not believe public opinion in this country is ripe for such a change as we are asked to make, and I do not believe that the proper way to ripen it is to pass this Bill through the House of Lords. The enthusiasm exhibited at public meetings requires to be a good deal discounted. You have to reckon with a great deal of inarticulate opposition to compulsion. Compulsion to many people—people perhaps who do not express their opinions very loudly—is hateful, and I believe that if this Bill were to become law, and if it were to be studied and the attention of our people called to the heavy pains and penalties which are to be found in some of its provisions, there would be a very strong feeling of reaction against it, a feeling which in my belief might go very far to check the progress and impair the usefulness of the many measures which are now in force for the advancement of military efficiency in this country.
Again, I entirely agree with the noble Earl Who leads the House in believing that it 378 would be an extremely serious thing to apply a measure of this kind to Ireland. Curiously enough the case of Ireland was never mentioned until the noble Earl mentioned it, but it is a serious obstacle in my view to the application of this Bill to other parts of the United Kingdom.
I venture to suggest that if a measure of this kind is to be seriously put forward it should be upon the responsibility and on the initiative of the Government of the day and of the people who will have not only to pass the Bill into law but to put it into operation when it has found its place upon the Statute Book.
Something has been said on the question of the cost involved. Lord Ampthill treated that matter rather lightly. "What does it matter?" he said. I think it matters a great deal. I will not now pursue the controversy as to whether four millions or eight millions or twenty millions is to be the figure taken. But I am inclined, being an old War Office man, to back the War Office accountants, and I suspect that the eight millions of the Under-Secretary are nearer the mark than the four millions of the noble and gallant Earl. But whatever be the sum, of this I think we may be certain, that if it be taken for the purposes of this Bill out of the pockets of the taxpayers an attempt will be made to get some of it back by starving either the Regular Army or the Navy, and I for one should be very sorry to see that result.
There is another by-product of this measure which I regard with the utmost apprehension. I mean its effect upon recruiting for the Regular Army. It seems to me impossible that a Bill of this kind should come into operation and not very seriously affect recruiting for the Regular Army. In what way it would do so may not be very easy to foretell, but that it would have an effect of that kind I for one have no doubt. But then what about its effect on the Territorial Force? The supporters of the noble and gallant Earl recommended this Bill to us on the ground that it fits in with the scheme of the Government and is calculated to promote the success of the Territorial system. I cannot believe that that is the case, and I must say that on a point of that kind I think we must to some extent at any rate defer to the opinion of those who invented the 379 Territorial system, and who are now carrying it into operation, and they tell us in the most unambiguous language that the adoption of this Bill, far from promoting the success of the Territorial system, far from being helpful to it, would on the contrary be destructive and injurious to that system.
Then I cannot put on one side the statements made by the Under-Secretary last night when he told us that after all this measure would only increase by, I think, 7,000 men the number of those actually available for the purposes for which this force is required. Nor can I disregard his announcement that in the view of his military advisers these men would be trained in the wrong way, and that the General Staff altogether objected to the plan on which the Bill proceeds. That leads me to say one word with regard to the position of the military advisers of the Government. I entirely agree with what was said last night to the effect that it was very unfair to those military advisers to put upon them the whole responsibility for everything that is done by the War Office. It is quite true that they have to advise within certain limitations. I have no doubt a great many of them would be delighted to have compulsory military service and I daresay a great many of them would like to add twenty millions to the Army Estimates. But they have to cut their coat according to the cloth that is given to them. His Majesty's Government have, however, in this case gone out of their way to explain to us, not once, but many times, that what they are doing does satisfy and has the entire support of the General Staff and of the Army Council, and, therefore, I think my noble friend who moved the Amendment was within his right when he dwelt on the fact that we have reason to suppose that the military advisers of the Government are behind them in the fullest sense in the policy which they now favour.
But I am led to ask myself whether, after all, putting these considerations on one side, this Bill really would give us that which the noble and gallant Earl and his friends are so anxious to obtain—a strong Home Army available at a moment's notice for the purpose of repelling a powerful invasion. There are two contingencies we have to consider. There is the contingency 380 of invasion, and there is the other contingency of the supply of wastage in time of war. Let me say one word as to the contingency of invasion. I am not one of those who ridicule the idea that this country might be exposed to serious risk of invasion. I have never believed that there was such a thing as an out-and-out supporter of what is sometimes called the Blue Water school. And I make another admission. I am ready to admit that the risk of invasion is a risk which does not diminish but rather increases; that the conditions have changed in recent years and have changed to our disadvantage. We have no longer, I am sorry to say, the two-Power standard for our Navy. We know that the facilities for the concentration, for the ferrying over, and for the disembarkation of an expeditionary force are now much greater than they formerly were. And I am afraid I must add to that, that we are painfully conscious that the Regular Army of this country—upon which in my view we shall always have to depend largely for opposing an invading force—has been very considerably diminished during the last two or three years, and that that reduction of the Regular Army carries with it a corresponding reduction in the Reserve. Therefore I gladly associate myself with those who demand that we shall have an adequate and sufficient Army for home defence, as well as a Navy of unchallengeable superiority.
But while I say that I am bound to add that I can never bring myself to believe that we are so absolutely and completely at the mercy of the invader as the noble and gallant Earl would have us believe, I observe that three conditions are always assumed— (1) that the whole or virtually the whole of our Regular Army has gone abroad, (2) that our Fleet has been decoyed away or disabled, and (3) that the Territorial Force has not yet had time to undergo the training necessary to render it efficient. I find it difficult to believe that the whole of these conditions are likely to present themselves simultaneously at the very outbreak of a war. If I may sum up my view I would say that while I am ready to go the full length in insuring against all reasonable risks, I do not want to lay upon the country the burden of insuring against risks which do not seem to me to be reasonable. But I admit there is a great danger, particularly for a civilian, in endeavouring to treat these questions as 381 general propositions. We are concerned, not with invasion in the abstract, but invasion by a particular Power and under particular circumstances. The Power may not always be the same and the circumstances may be different. We cannot deal with these matters across the Table of the House; and I therefore assume that these problems which, remember, are not military problems merely, but composite problems depending on naval as well as military considerations, have been thoroughly considered not only by the military, but by the naval advisers of His Majesty's Government.
We certainly have received from Ministers of the Crown distinct assurances that this is the case, and that they are themselves satisfied with the precautions that have been taken. Only a few months ago the Secretary of State for War, in introducing the Army Estimates in another place, explained to the House that under the directions of the General Staff the whole coast line of the country had been surveyed, that troops had been allocated so as to be ready to oppose a landing, and that besides that there was a central force which was to be despatched at a moment's notice, a force consisting partly of Territorial troops with a stiffening of Regulars, for the purpose of meeting and "overwhelming" the invader. Last night also the Under-Secretary gave us a general sketch of a somewhat similar plan which he said had been fully developed at the War Office for the purpose of dealing with an attack at the very out-break of war. We cannot, of course, conceal from ourselves that there is the vulnerable period of six months before the Territorial Force has undergone the necessary training when we shall be at our weakest; but are we to assume that during that period there will not be a ship of war of any kind near home to engage the invading flotilla and not a Regular battalion available to stiffen the Territorial Army? Both of these seem to me to be very extreme assumptions.
But even if we are wrong on this point, would this Bill give us a Territorial Force sufficient by itself at the outbreak of war to cope with that invading force, which is variously estimated at between 70,000 and 150,000 men? Would it give us a force so efficient that it would release the Expeditionary Army from its liability to 382 remain at home? Would it give us a force so powerful and so well organized that we could afford to say to our Navy, "Depart for foreign waters; we shall depend for the security of these islands on the Territorial Army left behind"? I am by no means convinced that it would do anything of the kind, and I am bound to say that the speech of the Under-Secretary, to which we all listened with interest, made that abundantly clear. What is there in this Bill, or what is there that arises out of the Bill, to show that this larger force of Territorial troops which would be collected if the Bill became law would have any organisation, that it would be made up of fighting units ready to take the field? What is there to show how they are to be trained? What does the noble Lord the Under-Secretary tell us as to that? He says that it is the considered opinion of the General Staff that a force so trained will not be fit to set free the Expeditionary Force at the outbreak of a war, and a fortiori not fit to set free the Navy.
Then there is the question of officers and of housing. I think that the Under-Secretary made an interesting point when he reminded the House that if these men were trained under canvas during the summer months you would be taking away 150,000 men at a time when the labour market was expanding, and sending them back to private life in the autumn when the labour market was a contracting market. This to my mind is a serious consideration. It is said that these are mere paltry details and that we need not occupy ourselves with them. Believe me, it is on points of detail of this kind that our military schemes get shipwrecked, and I am afraid that I see in this scheme a great many points on which it stands a fair chance of being shipwrecked.
Then as to the effect which the Bill might have in enabling us to deal with the question of wastage in time of war. I confess that I am much more perturbed at the prospect of what might happen in the event of a prolonged war, and at the problem of how we should supply our Regular Army when it is employed away from this country, than I am by this other problem of the risk of invasion. We had painful experience of that at the time of the South African war. Our Army Reservists left nothing to be desired in 383 point of quality, nothing to be desired in the manner in which they responded to the call made upon them. But in point of numbers they were miserably inadequate, and I confess that if I were Secretary of State for War I should be inclined to spend my last shilling in endeavouring to set what we call the Cardwellian Reserve fairly on its legs again. I regard some of the proposals of the Government with special dislike, because they must inevitably have the effect of diminishing the strength of that Reserve. I am afraid that we on this side of the House at any rate feel that the new Special Reservist is a very poor substitute for the old seven and five years man. What does the Bill of the noble and gallant Earl do to supply the needs of the country in the event of a prolonged war? It has been emphatically explained that this Bill carries with it no suspicion, however remote, of eventual liability to serve beyond the shores of this country. I am glad that is said, because I am sure that nothing would so much increase the suspicion with which the policy of the noble and gallant Earl is regarded as the idea that men were to be first compelled to serve in the Home Army and then afterwards to serve abroad.
These are all considerations which render me unable to support my noble and gallant friend. I recognise, however, that his policy has one great advantage —an advantage which appeals to me very much. It would have the effect of largely increasing the number of trained men in this country. That is a great advantage, because I am convinced that if you could induce a large part of the population to submit to military training, the men who have undergone that training will, when the emergency arises, come forward of their own accord. I ask myself whether, if, as I believe, the proposal of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal is not one which we can accept, there is no other way of attaining what he and I desire—I mean a large increase in the number of men who have, at any rate, some rudimentary knowledge of the soldier's profession, men who might be called one-half or one-third manufacured soldiers. I venture to think that there is something to be done in this direction. I listened with great interest and approval to what was said on that point by Lord Meath last night. I believe that it should be possible as part of our system 384 of education to give to the whole of the boys of this country at school, and perhaps during the first year or two after they have left school, a certain amount of military training. Let us teach them discipline, how to hold themselves, how to use a rifle if we can. Depend upon it, a training of that kind would have incalculable advantages both from the military and from the civilian point of view. From the military point of view, because every man who had undergone this kind of training in his boyhood would be so much to the good when he came forward to serve his country in the field. But most of all, perhaps, from the social point of view. I believe there is a growing dissatisfaction in this country with the kind of education which we are giving to our boys in the elementary schools of the country. We teach them a great number of useless things, and we leave untaught a great many things which they might very well learn. I am afraid that our present system stands convicted of turning out a great many hobbledehoys who do not know how to dig, or how to fight, and who have very little idea of earning a decent livelihood.
If your Lordships want evidence on that point I would ask you to consider the Report of the Committee appointed by the Board of Agriculture last year on the question of the teaching received by children in the elementary schools in agricultural districts, and I would also ask you to consider what is said in the Report of Lord George Hamilton's Commission on the Poor Law. There you will find a pronouncement, which would probably have been much more emphatic if it had not been desired to secure the unanimity of a large body of Commissioners, in favour of physical or military training as the corrective of a great many of the troubles from which society is now suffering in this country. And if you care to pursue your researches further I commend to you what will be found in the Appendix to that Report written by Mr. Cyril Jackson, who was specially deputed to inquire into the question of boy labour. Mr. Jackson establishes a connection between the question of unemployment and the uselessness of the teaching at present given in the schools, and he recommends that the teaching should be more practical and should include compulsory physical or military training, so that our youths may have a chance of 385 something more than that kind of "blind alley" employment with which so many of them have to be content.
I gather from what was said by the Leader of the House that he does not greatly differ from me on that point, although he would like to alter the wording of the Amendment so that it should refer, not to military, but to physical training. I am not very particular about the wording. What I am more concerned about is the substance, and I entreat the Government to consider whether by moving in the direction indicated they cannot do something to meet the views pressed upon them in connection with compulsory service. I believe that if the War Office and the Education Department would take up this question they would find that public opinion was entirely on their side. It has been moving in that direction and is moving in that direction at this moment. What else can we gather from the manner in which the Territorial system has been taken up all over the country? What else can we gather from the manner in which rifle clubs and boys' brigades are springing into existence?
Is it impossible for His Majesty's Government to graft on to the Territorial scheme some excrescence of this kind? I certainly hope they will consider the matter. I ask them not to forget that when they first produced their Territorial scheme the Bill, as originally drafted, contained a clause enabling the Government to establish cadet corps in connection with the Territorial system; but, I suppose under pressure from those who regard all military training with suspicion, the clause was dropped. I ask now whether it would not be possible to resuscitate that clause. I believe that a moderate expenditure for purposes of this kind would do a great deal more for the physique of the lads of the country than any amount of fining them for smoking cigarettes. I think all these possibilities should be exhausted before we go to the length of agreeing to compulsion in any form. I cannot help believing that on foundations of that kind it might be possible to build up something, not, perhaps, reaching the ideals of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, but something in the nature of a "nation in arms." But if I am asked what I think of this Bill, I have to say frankly to your Lordships that I doubt very much whether it would increase the military 386 efficiency of this country, that I am very much afraid that if it were passed into law it might produce a very dangerous reaction, and that I am also very much afraid that by passing it your Lordships will not greatly add to the reputation of this House.
§ LORD GRENFELL
My Lords, this is a late period in the debate and most of the arguments which I should naturally use in support of the Bill have been already used by previous speakers, much more capable than myself. But I think this discussion will be a great advantage in many ways, chiefly because it will clear the air and demonstrate to the public what exactly are the ideas of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal and of those who act with him. I am glad that in his speech and in the speech of my noble friend Lord Milner any sort of criticism or attack upon the Territorial scheme was deprecated. Anyone connected or having been connected with the Army must see and acknowledge that the organisation of the new force is an enormous improvement on anything we have ever had before. The energy and determination of the Secretary of State have captured the County Associations, and though many of those serving on County Associations like myself are critics of the scheme, yet every member of the County Associations is working hard and doing his level best to make this Territorial scheme the success which it deserves.
I noticed in the description of the duties of the Territorial Force the Secretary of State and the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State did not quite agree. Lord Lucas told us yesterday that the duty of the Territorial Force in repelling invasion should be shared by the Army. The Secretary of State, in explaining the original scheme, said that the duty of the Territorial Force was to free the Army from remaining in these islands to fulfil the functions of home defence, and to permit greater freedom to the Navy. That is a very striking difference. If this Territorial Force is to fulfil the conditions imposed upon it by Mr. Haldane, very great care must be exercised. The large number of officers who are now wanted must be made up, and a much longer period of training must be arranged for. The Under-Secretary of State yesterday twitted the promoters of this Bill upon the fact that we were considering 387 too much the defences of this island and not the question of offence—that is to say, that we would spoil our Force by confining it merely to the defence of this island. And he spoke of "the ignominious panic of failure," confirmed no doubt by the author whom he quoted, which existed in 1805, just before the Battle of Trafalgar. But there was some reason for that panic. At that period Napoleon, with what he himself described as the finest army he had ever commanded—the Army of Austerlitz—was in force at Boulogne. His Admirals were engaged in making rafts for the invasion of this country, and I think the inhabitants of this island were justified in that panic. Was there not another reason in the fact that the defences of these islands had been neglected? The Under-Secretary of State also told us that we were neglecting Imperial defence for home defence. As regards Imperial defence, the safety of this island is the first necessity for any Imperial defence which is undertaken.
I do not wish to enter into the financial part of this scheme, but I had the opportunity this morning of seeing and hearing those who made this scheme, and who had answered the last War Office criticism, and there is one item which is very difficult for us to understand. The whole of it has been gone over carefully and those connected with this scheme adhere entirely to their original statement. The item we want explained is the cost of the Territorial Force as regards their training. The whole calculation of this Army is based on the statement that each man in the Territorial Force is estimated to cost about £10 annually, of which £4 10s. goes to a fortnight's camp and hire of horses and £5 10s. to clothing, equipment, ranges, and buildings. Now we are told that in that £10 is included the cost for the staff. Added to that, we know not why, is the sum of £3,000,000. Our accountants have gone carefully into it and I mention it so that if Lord Lucas or any other noble Lord on the Governemnt side replies, I hope we shall be told why this is so framed.
Various noble Lords have mentioned the want of officers, and we are now in a very critical time. A few years ago, when I was at the War Office, there were five or six applicants for every commission at Sandhurst, and, I believe, Woolwich. There are much fewer applicants now, 388 and those who enter those institutions I believe will enter them without a qualifying examination. I believe that one reason for the great deficiency of officers is the want of confidence on the part of parents and guardians of young men who might enter the Army, by reason of the reduction which has taken place and the reductions which we are told may take place in the future. Of the ten battalions that were reduced, two were serving under my command, and I cannot forget the dismay and the difficulties that those reductions caused. A large number of officers were cast out of their regiments; they waited for a long time attached to other regiments, and then they were placed with battalions who did not desire them and in which they did not wish to serve.
The noble Duke who proposed the Amendment, was, I think, rather hard upon the reputation of the military forces. He mentioned that probably the moral influences of those forces would do great harm to those youths who would be attached to them. The noble Duke must be thinking of an Army of a different period. At present army life is one which the youth of the day can enter without any harm to himself, both as regards the officers and the men. I am certain that if the noble Duke could view more intimately the life which the British soldier lives in his battalion, he would say that those who joined any branch of the service would, instead of suffering any depreciation, receive advantages which would be of great value to them in after life.
I wish to corroborate most strongly the statement of the noble and gallant Field. Marshal as to the advantages of the various boys' brigades and other semi-military institutions which are growing up. I have the honour to act as commandant of a large lads' brigade, and we heard last night the eloquent speech of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, who pointed out the great advantages that accrued from service in those brigades to the lads in this country. Together with the noble and gallant Field Marshal I have noticed that every organisation of the sort is a success, and I think it is only a success if the semi-military element is attached to it. The particular corps of which I am commandant numbers 66,000. There is another brigade in which Lord Meath is interested, which numbers 389 nearly as many. There are in all two or three hundred thousand, taking the various other organisations of these lads, coming under a sort of semi-military education, and I do not believe you would catch them or get this great moral influence over these lads but for the fact that there is a military organisation.
I echo the words of the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, whose excellent speech will have a very great effect upon this House. We sat on his Commission for many months; we examined many witnesses; and reluctant at first no doubt, as most of the members of that Committee were, to come to the conclusion which we eventually came to, in the end we came to the unanimous conclusion that no proper defence force could be obtained except by means of compulsion. You cannot get the officers and you cannot get the men. As an old Inspector-General of Recruiting, I am fully aware of the great difficulties which you have in obtaining recruits after a certain time. I fear that the Territorial Force when it arrives nearly at its maximum will experience very great difficulties in recruiting. I trust that this Bill may eventually, not now, perhaps, but in the future be passed and become law. Only by such a Bill or some system of compulsion can we ever obtain an adequate number of officers and men for the proper defence of this country.
I want to ask Lord Crewe a question on a statement he made on the subject of invasion. He stated that the case of invasion which was put by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal Lord Roberts before the Defence Committee, that the possibility of invasion by 150,000 men, had broken down in the evidence given before that Committee. I would like to call the noble Earl's attention to a statement made by Mr. Haldane in the House of Commons on the subject of invasion, to the following effect—You would have to consider what was the size of the invading force. That is a problem you cannot answer with exactitude, but much investigation and consideration makes it pretty plain that somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 men is the force you must guard against by keeping your Home Defence Army sufficiently strong to prevent the enemy coming in large numbers.I would ask the noble Earl if that statement is accepted by the Front Bench in this House?
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I confess I do not see anything incompatible between what 390 I said and what my right hon. friend said. What I said just now was that the idea of an absolutely sudden invasion within a very limited number of hours by 150,000 men had not, in our opinion, been proved to be a possibility. If the noble Lord dislikes the word "broken down" I will change it for that.
Then you accept the particular statement that 100,000 men could, at any given moment, invade this country?
Then I do not know what to understand, because in one House the number of 70,000 to 100,000 is accepted as the number which could possibly execute an invasion, but here it is not accepted. And it becomes still more strange when we look at another statement made by another Minister, Lord Pentland, on the same subject. He said that the people of this country did not believe in invasion. Of course that is a matter of opinion. But he says that the landing of a considerable force on these shores would be a difficult operation, and it was difficult to see how the necessary conditions could arise unless our sea-power had been broken. It is necessary to arrive at the real opinion of the Government on this point, because the defence of this country must. Obviously depend upon two questions—first, on the number of invaders from abroad; and, second, on the number of defenders we have at home. We have tried to get the opinion of the Government on either question and as yet we have signally failed.
The reason, I think, a good many on this side of the House are supporting the Bill, although many do not agree with it in all its particulars, is that we feel that we want more definite information about the military situation of England to-day. We have had from both Front Benches in this House a great deal of criticism of detail, but we have failed to get any statements as to whether the total number of men is or is not sufficient. But this total number of men is a matter of the first importance. First of all, with regard to the Expeditionary Force, as far as one can learn from the statements of noble Lords opposite the Expeditionary Force can only sail at all under a series of hypotheses. It is admitted that only a portion of the force can go abroad, because the Territorial Army have to wait for the period of training 391 before they can take over the defence of the country. If a crisis arose in India another Power might give indication that an invasion was possible, although there might be on the surface friendly relations between us. That would put us in the position, as Lord Newton says, of having our Expeditionary Force mobilised and ready to sail, yet by inadequacy of home defence "tied like a goat" to these shores. I do not know if that is regarded as a satisfactory condition.
We have, according to Lord Crewe, the possibility of invasion by a number not absolutely decided. We have individual opinions by Members of the other House as to the possibility of an invasion by 100,000 men. Let us see what we have to put against them if the Expeditionary Force is over-seas. We have, according to Lord Lucas, 101 battalions mobilised yet immobile, consisting of the relics of half-drilled boy Regulars, Reservists unfit for active service, and Special Reserve. After the wants of the fixed defences had been satisfied we would have to depend for our central force upon the Territorial Army. I ventured to prove with figures the other day that we could not get for this force, on whom the brunt of the fighting would fall, 100,000 men. But suppose I am wrong and we could actually get 200,000, would that be sufficient to meet the number of troops that Mr. Haldane has admitted are able to come across? It is stated here that, even with four months training, these men would not be equal to men trained on the Continent. I agree, but how much less so will they be if they have not had this four months training at all?
May I compare for a moment the training which a man would get under Lord Roberts's scheme and the average training of the Territorial Army to-day A certain portion of the Territorial Army camp out for fourteen days and others for seven days. Look for a moment how those fourteen days are spent. One day for going into camp, one day for coming out; no work is ever done in those two days from a military point of view. Then there are two Sundays, which makes four days, and one afternoon for regimental sports. Then from the fact that these men join every year you have to brush up a certain number of recruits, and the first three or four days are taken up with preliminary drills and those exercises which cannot be got through at other times. The 392 result is that the commanding officer and the other senior officers of the unit only have three or four opportunities a year of training men in any numbers. Compare that with the conditions under the noble and gallant Field-Marshal's scheme. These men would come into the Territorial Army on the same day. There would be no waiting for casual recruits, and, still less, waiting for those seven days men who come in after the camp has been opened and go out before it is over and confuse the whole thing. Compare the results which you would arrive at with these two methods of training. I think no one would deny that under the noble and gallant Field-Marshal's scheme you would get a very much more efficient force. It is over the question of numbers that I regret I am unable to agree with what has been put forward by either of the Front Benches. I think that we are not within 300,000 men of adequate home defence, and this constitutes a definite danger. I do not say if we sent our Expeditionary Force away we are 300,000 men short. If our Expeditionary Force stays here, of course, we shall not be invaded; but then if our Expeditionary Force cannot expedition we must abandon the idea of defending our Colonies or of being a world-Power at all.
Frankly, I do not like this Bill. I do not think it is a good Bill. In the first place it is a mistake to take men to train as early as eighteen years. What is wanted is to be ready for immediate action, and the men should be taken at a time when they would be fit immediately to take the field. The noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State asked, in a previous debate, what was the difference for home defence between a man of eighteen and one of twenty years of age? There is a great difference. At twenty they are men and can carry a man's burden. The troops who would come over here would be men of twenty-one years of age and over; they would all carry three days rations and part of their tent and cooking utensils. That may seem a detail, but that gives the General commanding the Force something like three days away from his supplies, and that, cœteris paribus, might make the difference between victory and defeat. There are other points I do not care for in the noble and gallant Field-Marshal's Bill. If we are going to abandon the whole idea of voluntary service, I would like to see a Bill which would give 393 longer training and provide for a greater length of training for officers and noncommissioned officers.
On the other hand there are many points in Lord Roberts's Bill which get us out of our difficulties. He gets over the question of officers. If you have compulsion you can always compel officers to go into training before they come into camp which would render them efficient. At present they come into a volunteer force totally inefficient; they are bundled out with men who know very little themselves, and the result is that your junior officers of the Territorial Army are not nearly up to the standard they ought to be. Once you get conscription or compulsion—I do not see much difference between the two terms—you can say to a man when he joins, "Unless you are qualified, either by your University or public school course, or otherwise, to command men, in you go into the ranks." And, as has been found in France and Germany, this has acted as a deterrent, and officers have, by passing examinations, fully qualified themselves to command troops.
There is another thing I like about Lord Roberts's scheme. He supports Territorial principles which Mr. Haldane has put forward. I do not think anyone can overestimate the magnificent work for the country which Mr. Haldane has done, and the splendid organisation he has established; and anything which progresses on the lines Mr. Haldane has laid down must be on the right lines. We have altered our schemes so often that we do wish for continuity as far as it can be obtained. It has very often been asked, What is the difference between four months continual training and that amount of training dotted about during a year? There is first, and most important of all, discipline. If men are together in camp for four months they very soon get to know that an order given has to be obeyed. There is no "please" at the end when an order is given, but it is carried out instantly; and when you get Regular officers, as there would be under Lord Roberts's scheme, at the head of the training of the regiments you would get discipline maintained, and the junior officers, knowing what discipline is, would keep it up themselves. If the principle of voluntary service could be followed. I would follow it, but I regard the question 394 of the safety of this country and of remaining a world-wide Power before any personal predilection for voluntary as opposed to compulsory service, and for that reason I shall follow the noble and gallant Earl into the Lobby.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
My Lords, I beg to ask the Government if it is really impossible for them to tell us the precise purpose for which their Territorial Army is designed. Let me remind your Lordships of the many and various uses which in the imagination of its creators the Territorial Force during its very brief existence has already served. In December, 1907, the Secretary of State for War, speaking in Staffordshire, is reported to have given the warning that—We may not be able in days to come to depend wholly and absolutely upon our Navy with the completeness of to-day, and should that time arrive, it would be upon the Home Defence Force that we should have to rest our trust.How on earth the Territorial Army can retrieve a disaster on the high seas is a point for the Government to explain. However, two years ago, in order to reconcile the country to the great changes and sacrifices we were called upon to make for the sake of the new Home Defence Army, it was necessary first to convince public opinion that too much reliance should not be placed upon the Navy, and, moreover, that in the event of any naval failure, the situation could be retrieved by the proposed new Territorial Force.
Two years elapse, and in that interval we see the Regular Army and the Regular Reserve diminished by more than 40,000 men, the Militia abolished, the attempt made to substitute for the reductions in the Regular Reserve a new Force, the Special Reserve, and it is upon the uncertain result of this experiment that the future of the Regular Army depends; finally, the abolition of the Volunteers, and the appearance of the Territorial Army—a Force confined by Act of Parliament to the United Kingdom, but limited in its recruiting area to Great Britain, and, unlike the old Militia which it replaced, incapable of recruitment by compulsion. Then on January 28, 1909, the First Lord of the Admiralty announced that the Navy was to be maintained—at such strength as would secure, beyond question or doubt, our shores from invasion and the freedom of the great highway of the sea.That announcement destroyed for the 395 moment the perilous situation pictured by the Secretary of State for War, which he had met by creating a new purely Home Defence Force but at the expense of the Regular Army reduced.
The view of national defence expounded in 1907 by the Secretary of State for War cannot be reconciled with that held last January by the First Lord of the Admiralty. It is, therefore, not surprising to find the Admiralty and the Army Council at loggerheads over the details of national defence. We know the naval view—namely, that the Navy can prevent the landing of 3,000 men with just as great a certainty as they can prevent the landing of 300,000 men. To their view of invasion the Admiralty has given practical effect as follows. When they took over the charge of our submarine defences, which had been brought at great cost to a pitch of elaborate perfection by the Royal Engineers, they destroyed them all, because from the naval point of view of national defence they were useless. Then at our naval bases, such as Portsmouth and Plymouth and Chatham, the landward forts are maintained by the Army Council for the purpose of defending our great dockyards from attacks coming over land. But in deference to the Admiralty view these forts have been dismantled of their permanent armament. In the end we find the Army Council allotting on mobilisation half-trained units of the Territorial Force to garrison forts from which the fixed armament has been removed in order to resist attacks, which, according to the Admiralty, are impossible. On the other hand, if the Army Council is right and the Admiralty is wrong, then the present condition of the great dockyard towns is an intolerable danger. If the Army Council is right and our great dockyards are likely to be attacked from the land side, then they ought to be made secure. This cannot be done by first depriving the landward forts of their permanent armament and then attempting to defend the whole fortress by a semi-trained field force armed with an antiquated mobile equipment.
Nor is the Territorial Army a mystery to the Admiralty alone. I note with interest but not surprise that distinguished Generals on the active list have arrived at opposite conclusions regarding its use in war. Last October General Baden-Powell lectured at the Royal United Services Institution on "Training for Territorials," with the Secretary of State for 396 War in the chair. The Territorial soldier was held to be beyond all question a First Line man. In view of that fact, the problem considered was how to ensure that the Territorial Infantry should after the inside of a week's work in camp be able to defeat at a moment's warning the very best Continental troops, because it is certain that these are the only description of troops against which the Territorial Army can ever be employed. The solution arrived at was to give the Territorial companies when in camp a course of "battle practice," but to dispense with all other training, no time being available. I understand that "battle practice" means that every man fights his own battle on his own plan. In the new model Army of the Government every man will be his own commanding officer when in action, thus solving the problem of the dearth of officers by providing a positive plethora. But I am not now concerned with the question of officers.
My point is that the Territorial soldier was held by certain distinguished military authorities to be so essentially a First Line man, and required for battle in such a terrible hurry, that he has not even time to learn during his annual training the elements of drill, discipline, and musketry, the practice of such antiquated military details being relegated to odd moments during the non-training period. Then comes the Inspector-General of the Forces, Sir John French, who tells us that—The Territorial Army is now the Second Line of the great national Army, and the only difference between the Second Line and the First Line is that whereas the former has to meet the first onslaught of war and is therefore continually employed, the Second Line has to meet the waste of war and to furnish reinforcements after the war has gone on for some time and to begin its training after the war has broken out.It is clear from these words that Sir John French considers the use of the Territorial Force to be to supply drafts to the Regular Army during the progress of a lengthy campaign, and a lengthy campaign can only take place abroad. This view quite agrees with that expressed by the Secretary of State for War in July, 1906, when the right hon. gentleman said—Some of them [the Volunteers or Territorial Army] would have to form that big national Reserve out of which an Army must be fed and expanded when the great emergencies come in a national crisis.397 But it is for home service only that the Government have enlisted the Territorial Army. They cannot, therefore, send the men abroad without their own consent. For my own part I have always disliked the plan of enlisting men for one service and then, at a moment of national crisis, when refusal is practically impossible, asking them to volunteer for another. Such a form of volunteering contains more than a spice of compulsion. It is well described by that very able exponent of the new model Army of the Government, the Military Correspondent of The Times, in a lecture delivered before the Aldershot Military Society. He says—Imagine the Regular Army at grips with a formidable enemy abroad. Imagine fourteen strong Territorial divisions of all arms embodied at home and trained continuously up to the point of efficiency. Imagine an appeal to them to succour the Regular Army in its need. If the Territorial Army should be deaf to that appeal the only resource will be to shut them up in our gaols, for nowhere else will they be safe from their women-kind and from the insults of the infants of the streets.The Territorial Force describe themselves as Home Guards serving Pro aris et focis. The Army Council think that with the aid of a national crisis they can easily make that motto read Ubique. I infer that the Territorial Force and the Army Council do not exactly understand each other on this most important of points—namely, foreign service for the Second Line Army in place of the Militia abolished. It is true that the Government has very distinctly told the Territorial Army that they are to be our only Second Line and consequently to discharge all the duties of the defunct Militia, the most important of which was the expansion of the Regular Army overseas. It is idle for the Government to expect us to believe that their new model Second Line Army in any way carries out the recommendation of the Royal Commission concerning the expansion of the Regular Army. All they have done for Imperial defence is to reduce the Regular Army and Reserve by 40,000 men, and then to rely on the casual volunteering of men to perform exacting duties from which they have expressly contracted to be free. As a matter of fact, it is impossible for the General Staff or for the Imperial Staff or for any other Staff of honest men to work out even the simplest schemes of expansion of the Army abroad when there is no certainty of the number of regiments and battalions and batteries which will volunteer 398 for foreign service or of the number of men in any one unit who will do so.
It is, of course, from the Volunteers that the Territorial Infantry has been formed. As to their capacity to undertake foreign service, let me quote the opinion of the Director-General of the Territorial Army. In his evidence before the Royal Commission, General Mackinnon was of opinion that—The whole of the Volunteers of London could not be relied upon to provide more than two regiments for a foreign war.I believe that when that view was expressed there were about 35,000 Volunteers in London. An attempt was made in 1900 to establish Volunteer Service Companies —that is, a company in each Regiment who would agree to serve abroad in time of war. But, according to Sir Alfred Turner's evidence before the War Commission, the scheme was abandoned owing mainly to the opposition of the Volunteers themselves. An enrolled Volunteer so long as he was a member of that Force was not allowed by the Volunteer Acts to serve outside Great Britain. Thus he was absolutely protected from every form of compulsory volunteering for service abroad. So long as he served under the Volunteer Act he could never find himself, as the Territorial soldier will find himself, in the position of belonging to a battalion which on parade is called upon by its commanding officer in time of national emergency to volunteer for foreign service, and all men not willing to do so ordered to fall out on the reverse flank. It seems to me that you must restore to the Territorial soldiers the same protection against foreign service which was accorded to the Volunteers by Act of Parliament before recruiting the Second Line by compulsory methods. The Bill places no liability for foreign service upon Territorial soldiers, but it does not confer any immunity similar to that given by the Volunteer Act to members of that Force.
In considering universal compulsory military service for the Territorial Army it is only fair to remember the greatly increased liabilities which must devolve in time of war upon the soldiers of the new Second Line in comparison with those of the Volunteers of the old Third Line. It is true that the peace training of the Territorial soldier is even less exacting 399 than was that of the Volunteers. That is due to a notable discovery recently made by the Army Council—namely, that a few Saturday afternoons, Easter Sunday, Good Friday, and a Bank Holiday or two, with a week-end or so in a seaside camp—in short, precisely the amount of time which patriotic civilians striving to earn their daily bread can spare for military training—will suffice to convert them into soldiers so sure to beat the pick of Continental troops that the Regular Army may be safely reduced and the Militia abolished.
When the Territorial Force was first explained to us we were informed in an Army Memorandum on the military forces in the United Kingdom that—The Territorial Force will be one of support and expansion, to be at once embodied when danger threatens, but not likely to be called for till after the expiration of the preliminary period of six months.This gave rise to what became known as the six months of close time for the Territorial Army. The Secretary of State for War himself endorsed that view when speaking at Workington in July, 1908. He is thus reported—It was said that they were only preparing their Force to become operative after six months of the enemy's invasion. No, they had arranged to keep command of the sea in the early days of the war, and they would not allow the Regulars to leave these shores until the Territorials were hardened sufficiently to resist any foe.But if on the outbreak of hostilities you are to keep the Regular Army, including the Expeditionary Force, at home until the Territorial Force is hardened sufficiently to be sure to beat Continental invaders, you lose indefinitely the power of offensive action on the part of the Regular Army. Again, if the Regular Army should be sent over-seas by any sudden call to double the white garrison in India, to which no Government could be deaf, before the country has absolute confidence in the hardness of the Territorial Force, then the sphere of action of the Fleet must be limited by its retention in home waters as a coastguard. It soon became apparent for the success of the Territorial scheme that this particular feature of the new model Army—namely, its incapacity to take the field until six months after the day it is required, that day being the declaration of war, must be made to vanish. And so it has. The Secretary of 400 State has advised the Government that the Territorial Infantry can be relied upon at a moment's notice to defeat the foreign invader.
The reality of this readiness is a serious issue. It is directly raised by a most important statement on home defence which was made on November 30 last at Cambridge by the Secretary of State for War. It was made in consequence of a debate which had taken place in your Lordships' House. The right hon. gentleman is reported to have said that in the case of invasion—the Home Defence Force would be of three kinds. There would be a local force all along the coast for the purpose of delaying and hindering an invading force. Then behind those there would be a swiftly moving central force which would consist of Regulars and Territorials in combination, and next there would be the garrison force. All this had been worked out months ago, and the work of the War Office had passed the stage of being talked about.We see here the Government and their expert advisers are agreed amongst other matters upon a swiftly-moving central force composed of Regulars and Territorials in combination, acting behind local Territorial forces. I propose to consider only the quantity and quality of the Infantry arm. Of course, as regards the Territorial Artillery they must have a period of close time, because they have neither horses nor ammunition.
The Secretary of State is preparing to crush a possible raid. A raid must be secret and sudden. It cannot be anything else. Its descent would be one of many opening moves in a great game to be simultaneously played by land and sea in many different places, and one of the first tricks would be played for here in Great Britain. This particular trick would be won or lost for what it is worth in less than forty-eight hours. Twenty-four hours to disembark and another twenty-four hours to strike the point aimed at would be all the time the raiders would require to achieve their object.
Now let us first see what Regular Infantry there are available for this central force. The average strength of an Infantry battalion of the Regular Army at home, according to a Return laid on the Table of the House last year, was 580 men. The average number of men in each battalion 401 of under twenty years of age was 247. I read in the last Army Medical Report that—Average British recruits are on enlistment the youngest and in the poorest physical condition of those in any civilised Army. They cannot stand work which would not injure well-fed conscripts of twenty years of age.Since that was written the immaturity of the Line at home has been increased by lowering the standard of age by one year—namely, to seventeen instead of eighteen—by means of enlistment through the Special Reserve. Eliminating all boys and all the unfit, a Regular Infantry battalion at home would not average, after the Indian and foreign service drafts had just gone abroad, more than 300 men for the fighting line. That is to say, a brigade of four battalions would, as regards numbers, represent the equivalent of one battalion at full war strength.
There were in Great Britain by the last Army Annual Return forty-nine battalions of the Line and eight of the Guards—fifty-seven in all. It would not be possible, owing to the many other demands for defence in the rest of the country, to put more than half of the whole Infantry battalions at home into the swiftly moving central force. Taking the strength of a Line battalion for the field at 300 men, and that of a Guards battalion rather more, we should get thirty battalions giving a field strength of less than 10,000 men. I believe the most reliable plan of securing victory in war is to have troops at least equal in quality with those of the enemy and very superior in quantity. If our Infantry is to be equal in quality to that of the invaders you must eliminate boys under twenty. The invasion of this country will not be carried out by cadet corps. But—and this is more important—this central force has not yet been concentrated. The Government, with the full support of the Army Council, propose to begin to concentrate their central force after the enemy has landed. At one time they meant to begin to train their Home Defence Army after war had broken out, but now, at the dictate of convenience, they use it at once and dispense with that training which they formerly said was essential. Pending the concentration of the central force and its subsequent transport to the scene of action—an operation not of hours but days—the enemy has been delayed by local forces all along the coast. In other words—it is better to 402 put these matters plainly—he has been winning a succession of easy victories over hastily collected driblets of our military forces, an inspiring and useful exercise for the invader which must have a disastrous effect on the morale of our Territorial Army. Assuming that it is possible to concentrate and then to convey the central force to the scene of action within forty-eight hours, then we may be able to oppose the invader with 10,000 Regular Infantry before he has attained his objective.
But if we are to be superior in quantity as well as equal in quality we must rely on the enemy not landing more than 8,000 Infantry. You can for the moment bring all these home battalions up to 1,000 men or more apiece, thanks to the Regular Reserve formed by Lord Midleton which the Government have inherited but not created, and which they are proceeding to destroy. You must have time to get the Reservists back to the Colours. Are you justified in assuming that that interval of time will be allowed you? If you admit, as the Government do admit, the possibility of surprise, then you ought to be ready to deal promptly with that situation. If the surprise came when Parliament was not sitting, then constitutionally Parliament must assemble before the Reserves can be called out and the Territorial Army embodied. Under any circumstances, whether Parliament be sitting or not, or whether the Secretary of State for War acts with or without the sanction of Parliament, the Reservists must be summoned back from civil life by letters sent through the post from the different depôts to the men's last address. Every man after receiving his summons and railway warrant must travel to the depôt of his regiment to draw his kit and equipment and for medical inspection. There are plenty of men here in London whose kits are in the north of Scotland or south of Ireland. They must go and get them. After that, if communications were stll open, Reservists must be dispatched from the different depôts to seek their several battalions wherever they might be. Then what of the fighting efficiency of the battalions as the Reservists come flocking in? There will be two or more Reservists, just called back from civil life, in the ranks for every young serving soldier. Battalions so composed can be no match in quality for the battalions which have been trained on a war footing for a considerable time. So much 403 for the Regular Infantry before and during mobilisation.
Now let us consider the Territorial Infantry. First I note that the Army Council by advising the Government that the Territorial Infantry is fit to be used in the swiftly moving central force at a moment's notice flatly contradict the finding of the Norfolk Commission which they emphatically endorsed in 1907. In an Army Memorandum issued in 1907 the following paragraph occurs—Military opinion is unanimous in holding that the Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers, as at present constituted and serving under existing conditions, are quite unlit to take the field against European troops. This was the view adopted by the Elgin and Norfolk Commissions after taking a mass of evidence.It may be interesting to refer to the views expressed by two witnesses before the Norfolk Commission—Sir John French and Sir Ian Hamilton. The Inspector-General of the Forces stated, in evidence, that it would be very risky to attempt to meet Continental troops with our Auxiliary Forces, even after they had received a full year's training, which is rather different from a short fortnight's training. The Adjutant-General was then of opinion that six months recruit training and two months of annual training would produce troops which he would prefer to use to relieve Regular battalions in garrisons and coaling stations rather than to trust to in the field.
This opinion completely condemns the Special Reserve, whose annual training is three weeks instead of two months, for the purpose which that force is designed by the Government—namely, as a substitute for the Reserve of the Regular Army. Let me remind the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for War of his words in the debate of May 18. The noble Lord then said—The only thing you can hope to do is to mobilize your battalions on the peace establishment. You may have a few hundred or a few thousand men over, but, practically speaking, whatever is left over is a negligible quantity.The present strength of the Regular Reserve is 135,000. The total number of men required for the Expeditionary Force from the Regular Reserve, according to an Army Memorandum of April, 1907, is 85,023, leaving a margin of 50,000 Regular Reservists at home. That is the result of 404 Lord Midleton's Reserve, but the policy of the Government will reduce that Reserve to the negligible quantity described by the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for War. Then in place of these 50,000 Regular Reservists reduced you employ Special Reservists, and hence it is quite clear that the Special Reserve is a substitute for the reductions in the Regular Reserve. But the Special Reserve, when the men who were obtained by bounties from the Militia become time-expired, will itself become a negligible quantity. In three years time, not now, if the Expeditionary Force should be sent abroad, then there would be nothing left behind except the unfit from the Reserve and the immature from the Colours. Then we must rely both for Home Defence and for the maintenance of the Army abroad on the Territorial Army.
Under these circumstances it is indeed fortunate that since 1907 the opinion of the Army Council and of the great officers of the Army has entirely changed—I regret that we have never been told the reason—and that Territorial soldiers with no more training than the Volunteers and far less than the Militia can now be relied on to defeat the best of Continental troops. Are the Government prepared to assure us that that which they held to be true of the Volunteer Infantry in 1907 is untrue of the Territorial Infantry in 1909? Are we to believe that the change of name, for there is no change of training, plus an admirable paper organisation, has worked this miracle in efficiency? The Territorial Army do not profess to have time to acquire either drill or discipline. It is impossible to have discipline without the authority of the officers and non-commissioned officers having been fully established by long and constant association. The habit of discipline in a battalion can only be acquired by process of time, and time in the case of the Territorial Force is not available. The fighting value of the Territorial Infantry would, therefore, reside in the superiority of their skill with their rifles, their patriotism, and their courage. I am sure of their patriotism, and I do not doubt their courage any more than I doubt the patriotism and courage and devotion to duty of the men to whom they will be opposed. The difference will be that the invaders are all of them grown men and trained soldiers, and that the large majority of the defenders are neither.
405 On the point of superiority in skill with their rifles over their opponents, let me tell your Lordships the musketry training of the Territorial Infantry. The training of the recruit consists of two parts. The first part is to fire forty rounds, which need not be fired on a rifle range but can be fired in a shooting gallery with Morris tube ammunition, and this, being far more convenient than losing time and money by visits to the rifle range, is the course followed. The time necessary is two afternoons. The second part of the recruit's course is to fire twenty rounds of ball ammunition at distances between 100 and 500 yards. A recruit's course, therefore, consists of forty rounds of Morris tube ammunition which takes two afternoons, and twenty rounds on the rifle range which takes one afternoon—a total recruit's musketry course of three afternoons, necessitating one visit only to the rifle range. The trained Territorial soldier's annual musketry course is divided into three parts. Parts 1 and 2 may be fired in a shooting gallery with Morris tube ammunition. Part 3 is to be fired with ball cartridge, and consists of twenty-three rounds at distances of from 100 to 500 yards. The annual musketry course of the trained Territorial soldier is, therefore, two or three attendances in the shooting gallery and twenty-three rounds on the rifle range to be fired in one day. If the Territorial soldier makes thirty points out of a possible ninety-seven on the day when he fires with ball cartridge on the range he is said to have reached the "qualification standard." I quote the following paragraph from the Musketry Regulations for the Territorial Army—An efficient soldier, as regards musketry, is a soldier of the Territorial Army who has reached the 'qualification standard,' or, having failed to reach the standard is certified by his commanding officer to have made at least three visits (including standard test) to an open, miniature cartridge, or thirty yards range, and fired at least fifty round of ball ammunition or their equivalent,which is 445 rounds of Morris tube ammunition. Now that paragraph and the words "ball ammunition or their equivalent"—the equivalent being Morris tube ammunition—allow men who have failed to qualify in making an easy score on the range to be classed as "efficient soldiers as regards musketry" by firing a certain number of rounds of toy ammunition out of a service rifle. To ask us to rely for the defence of our country upon the skill of Territorial 406 marksmen who are returned year after year as non-efficient with their rifles would have been an obvious absurdity, so these men can be returned as "efficient soldiers as regards musketry" on the plan and according to the standard I have just explained. A Regular soldier fires an annual musketry course of 225 rounds of ball ammunition. The trained Territorial soldier fires an annual course of twenty-three rounds, with which he never need hit the target and yet can be classed as an efficient soldier as regards musketry. It may be better to have fired twenty-three rounds and missed than never to have fired at all. But that is all that can be said on behalf of this standard of musketry efficiency. I ask the Government whether they will not arrange that during this or the next training at least half the Territorial Infantry, instead of going to a seaside camp, which is pleasant and the mainstay of recruiting, or carrying out "battle practice" with rifles which they cannot use, which is futile, should be put as battalions through the musketry course of the Line, under the supervision of the Musketry Staff of the Regular Army, and publish the results compared with the musketry of the Regular Army. Then, but not till then, the country will know what kind of riflemen the mass of the Territorial Infantry really are.
By the Return of July 7 there are now in the Territorial Infantry 674 officers and 67,087 men who have never fired a recruit's course of musketry. There are 1,805 officers and 53,367 men who have not fired a trained soldier's course. That is a total of 2,479 officers and 120,454 men who have not yet completed their annual musketry course of one afternoon. I also ask if the Territorial Force could not be medically inspected by Army surgeons during the course of their annual training. The Militia on the day of assembly were always inspected by Army surgeons and unfit men discharged. Surely it is not asking too much to be informed if men drawing pay to defend their country are really physically fit for that duty, and how their skill with their weapons compares with the standard of that of Regular troops, for to none other will the Territorial Army ever be opposed. If the result of these two tests was recorded in the next Report of the Inspector-General of the Forces on the Territorial Army, that Report would be of much more practical interest than the one now before us. At present the 407 Territorial Army is 41,371 men below its establishment—that is, below the minimum which we were told was consistent with safety. There are 98,335 non-commissioned officers and men below twenty years of age, and 162,341 men of twenty years of age and over, and out of that number of men 62,506 are serving on a one year engagement.
It is incomprehensible to me, but I know it to be a fact—the Army Council know it to be a fact and they take every advantage of it—that if the Territorial Army can be recruited up to ninety per cent. of its establishment, then public opinion will consider the success of the scheme complete, our military problem solved, and the safety of the Empire assured. I am quite aware that not to be satisfied with mere numbers on paper but to ask for tests simple but searching, such as I have done, is held to be the mark of an unpatriotic and of a narrow mind. I admit that on one point my mind is of the narrowest. I can never consider any military force designed for instant use against a foreign invader save from the point of view of its immediate fighting efficiency. Whatever may be the other purposes served by the Territorial Force we are assured that it stands between the country and compulsory service. Towards this question the attitude of the Government is most obscure. If the Government were genuinely opposed to all forms of compulsion, why were they in such a hurry to destroy those forms of voluntary service which existed amongst our military forces, and which, in spite of many imperfections, none of them incapable of remedy, enabled us to maintain an Army of 300,000 men over-seas during the South African war?
The statement, or rather the threat, contained in the Proclamation to the men of London issued last December that—the only alternative to voluntary is compulsory service,shows no objection in principle to the adoption of that alternative. It also supplies one of the strongest arguments that can be used to destroy the principle of voluntary enlistment. I cannot myself conceive any better argument for keeping men out of the Territorial Force than telling them that they ought to join in order to save others from the burden of military service. A certain business company lately decided to insist on all their new employées joining the Territorial Army.
408 This decision did not find favour with the leaders of the Labour Party, but the Secretary of State for War, when interrogated by them upon the subject, expressed his approval of the course which had been adopted. Why is compulsion by an individual employer more justifiable than compulsion by the State? The question I ask the Government is, Do they approve of recruiting the Territorial Army firstly by threats of compulsory service if recruits are not to be obtained by voluntary enlistment, and secondly by encouraging compulsion to enlist on the part of individual employers? If they do approve of such a system, surely they must see that they are supporting compulsory methods. If they do not approve, they ought to repudiate at once a recruiting system of this kind, instead of profiting by its results.
The Government started by proclaiming that the whole aim of their new organisation was to bury deep deep down compulsory service. Yet as a matter of fact they are getting nearer and nearer to compulsion every day. For instance, the Secretary of State for War, in addressing the London Rifle Brigade in January last, is thus reported—The question increasingly put to him was, 'Why don't you ask Parliament to impose an obligation on all to serve for home defence?' He had sympathy with that question. He thought most people agreed that the slacker, who simply amused himself and did nothing for his country, was a poor creature, and if the time of need came the country would no doubt show what it thought of him. In all probability he would find a short and sharp Act of Parliament passed if war broke out, compelling hint to train himself and do it in some inconvenient and unpleasant part of the country where he would not have the prominence of the undoubted popular esteem which was given to the man who trained himself as a Volunteer for the defence of his native land.Here the Government express their conviction that when war comes a short and sharp Act of Parliament will be passed applying compulsion to that military organisation with which they have just endowed us. I observe that Sir John French, on March 22, in a speech at West Bromwich, advised all those in favour of compulsory service to support the Territorial Army—because if ever their views came to prevail compulsory service could be brought about with the present force by a mere stroke of the pen.The Government warmly approve of compulsion on the part of the individual 409 employers of labour, although they condemn it on the part of the State. They anticipate a short and sharp Act of Parliament to compel men to serve on emergency in their Territorial organisation. They specially devise a plan which shall bury deep deep down all compulsion, but the plan is yet so ingeniously contrived that by a mere stroke of the pen compulsion can be applied. Yet that stroke of the pen, according to the Secretary of State for War, will destroy the Regular Army. The right hon. gentleman, in introducing the Army Estimates, insisted—that a compulsorily-raised Army at home is incompatible with a voluntarily-enlisted foreign service Army.The noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for War informed us, in an address on the Territorial Army which he delivered on May 14 at the City Liberal Club, that—He thoroughly believed that conscription was the only alternative, because the present scheme was the last word that would be said, and the last that could be done, for the voluntary system.But the Secretary of State for War has told us that a compulsorily-raised home Army is the destruction of the Regular Army. And, my Lords, the disappearance of the Regular Army is the end of the Empire.
This then is the blind alley into which we have been led by His Majesty's Government after four years of clear thinking about military problems. Absolutely apart from all military organisation I strongly support a universal compulsory system of physical training for both sexes. But that is an entirely different question from the one raised by the Bill now before us. If the time has really come when perforce for the defence of our homes we must rely, like Continental nations, on universal compulsory military service, then we must also perforce adopt Continental methods. If not, we must assume that we can obtain better results by training eighteen-year-old boys for four months than Continental Powers secure by training twenty-year-old men for two years. Any increase in the training period beyond four months would entail an expenditure which must cripple the Regular Army, and might even affect our spending power on the Navy.
I do not admit that the failure of the Special Reserve and of the Territorial 410 Army must entail resort to compulsion. There is an alternative. The Secretary of State for War, in introducing the Army Estimates, said—The old Auxiliary Forces cost £4,400,000. The Special Reserve and Territorial Army may cost £4,900,000, but, on the other hand, the Regulars will be cheaper.And so they ought to be, for there are 40,000 less. Take these five millions now wasted on the Territorial Army and the Special Reserve—wasted because no adequate return is obtained in national safety—spend these five millions on the Regular Army in keeping part of the Army always on a war footing, in obtaining a sufficient supply of officers, in increasing your Regular Reserve, and in being more generous in the way of pensions to the men who have been invalided and have lost their health in the service of their country. Then you will indeed have made a substantial addition to our national defences.
The First Sea Lord told us eighteen months ago to—sleep quiet in our beds and not be disturbed by those bogies of invasion which are being periodically resuscitated by all sorts of Leagues.My own state of mind as regards the bogies referred to by the First Sea Lord is much the same as that of the man who said he did not believe in ghosts but was always afraid of them. I do not believe in "bolts from the blue," but I am afraid of them. Never would I be unprepared to meet them, and never would I meet them on the lines proposed by the Government, lines which concede initial success to the raider and entail great subsequent slaughter of patriotic but untrained men in desperate attempts, which may or may not be successful, to smother quality by quantity. In my opinion there is but one method of dealing swiftly and successfully with raids—namely, to keep part of the Regular Army always on a war footing, that is to say, ready for instant action, without calling up a single officer, man, horse, or gun from any Reserve. A force of that kind was in process of formation by His Majesty's late Government, but was at once abandoned by the present Government.
We read in the last Report of the Inspector-General of the Forces that some of the factors acting adversely to an entirely 411 satisfactory training of the Infantry of the Regular Army are—
The men are not there. The Officers are absent employed on duties away from their regiments. The surprise, admitted to be possible by the Government, comes, and what then? Mobilisation ensues, and we are not allowed to know anything about mobilisation. The time has undoubtedly come when the choice must be made between an increase of our Regular Forces, such as I have indicated, and universal compulsory service, but on the Continental method. We are not, however, a Continental country, but an island; and I, for my own part, believe you will find it sounder, more efficacious, and certainly in the end more economical, to pay for the skilled labour you require for a Regular Army with a Regular Reserve sufficient to set your minds at rest concerning national defence, rather than to attempt universal service.
- (a) Numerical weakness of many of the companies, especially in the early part of the training season.
- (b) The deficiency of subaltern officers in many units during company training often owing to their absence on other duties, such as Mounted Infantry, signalling, musketry, etc.
I appeal to the Government to abandon ambiguities and to tell us plainly and once and for all what is the use of the Territorial Army. Is it to compensate us for maritime failure? Is it a mere paper inscription of the names of all sorts and conditions of men ready to assemble on mobilisation and commence systematic training for war with the units on whose rolls their names are borne? Is it an Army upon which we must rely to defeat at a moment's notice the best of Continental troops who have effected a surprise landing upon our shores? Is it a big national Reserve out of which to supply the waste of war for the Regular Army serving over-seas? All these uses have been assigned to the Territorial Army by the Secretary of State for War in speeches made in his place in Parliament, on public platforms, and in the many Memoranda issued from the War Office on military matters.
I cannot give my vote for the Bill introduced by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, because I agree with the Secretary of State for War that a compulsorily-raised home service Army is incompatible with a foreign service Army on a voluntary basis. I cannot follow the noble Duke into the Lobby, because that would be to give a vote 412 in favour of a Territorial Army, to which, in my opinion, for the reasons I have given, it is hopeless to look for the solution of the problem of defence insular and Imperial. But immediate action is required. I agree with the view expressed by Mr. Arnold-Forster in the last book he ever published, that our first duty is to strengthen the Navy; our second duty is to strengthen the Army; the rest may wait.
My Lords, I desire to associate myself with the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, who, in introducing this Bill has, in my opinion, shown the necessity of having the Territorial Army far more efficient than it is at the present day for the purpose for which it has been formed—namely, national defence. He has, I think, very clearly proved that this can only be done by universal service in some form, thereby putting the military fabric of this country on a sounder basis than it has ever been before. If there is one man in England at present who may be regarded as best qualified to speak with authority on military questions, that man undoubtedly is the noble and gallant Field-Marshal Lord Roberts. The scheme as set forth in this Bill will enable the people of this country to concentrate their opinion and realise the nature of the proposals. When the principles of the Bill are better understood, I have little fear as to what the verdict of the people will be, for I am not one of those who believe that the Englishman of the present day is lacking in Imperial instincts. I have always contended, in fact felt quite sure, that if some great leader would come forward and teach the people that the first duty of an Englishman is to learn to defend his country, whilst to shirk this duty is to jeopardise its existence, such an appeal would be readily responded to by the nation as a whole. Time will prove whether I am right or not in this contention.
My excuse for taking part in the debate is that I was one of the original members of the National Service League, and therefore cannot be regarded as a recent convert to the question of universal service. Had I not been already convinced, I think, after hearing the very sound arguments laid before us by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, and also by Lord Milner, my conversion on this occasion would have been complete. Having also been connected 413 with His Majesty's Forces for over thirty-two years, I know only too well what the opinions of the officers of the Army are on this question. They are of opinion that unless the people are taught to realise the necessity of universal service, the security of this country cannot be assured.
What possible objection can be urged against the principle that every able-bodied man shall be called upon, not only throughout the United Kingdom, but throughout the Empire, to fulfil the first and most fundamental duty of citizenship—that of the defence of his country? At the present time I regret to think it is a matter of individual goodwill rather than one of universal sacrifice. It has often been mentioned that if we had universal service recruits for the Regular Army would not be forthcoming. The Spectator company showed direct proof against that argument. I contend that if we had universal service we should get far better noncommissioned officers and officers than we have ever had before, and in cases of emergency we should be able to put our hands upon a far larger number of men for active service abroad than we have ever been able to before. Under our present voluntary system can anyone say that we are getting the pick of the manhood of the nation. Can anyone believe, too, that if we had had universal service in this country prior to the South African war we should have lost so many valuable lives and so much money? In my opinion the war would probably never have taken place.
There is another very important aspect of the case which has been referred to by a member of the Episcopal Bench. The moral welfare of the nation would undoubtedly be greatly improved and there would be produced qualities of discipline, self-control, and obedience, whilst at the same time the physique and the health of the nation would be improved. When the people of this country realise the many hard facts that have been adduced in the discussion in your Lordships' House, I believe they will recognise the advantages of compulsory service and thereby dispel the argument that has often been used that the people of this country would not stand it. A more unpatriotic sentiment was never uttered, and to my mind it is most unjust, for the question has never been put to them.
What, then, is the alternative to compul- 414 sory service for home defence? I suppose the answer would be the present Territorial Army. But only last week the Under-Secretary of State for War said that at the present time it was not capable of meeting an invasion, but was likely to be so at some future date. If that is so I venture to think that the proposal which the noble Duke, myself, and others brought forward about eighteen months ago in your Lordships' House—that until the Territorial Army actually came into being, it was folly to abolish the Militia— was a legitimate one. It is quite evident, from the War Office Return laid on the Table of your Lordships' House, that the main object for which the Militia were done away with and transferred to the First Line under the name of the Special Reserve was to make the people believe that there are more trained men in the country available for active service than there had ever been before. Therefore I was not in the least surprised when on putting a Question a month ago to the Under-Secretary of State for War with regard to the Expeditionary Force, he was obliged to give me an evasive answer on the plea of public interests. When tactics such as these are pursued it is, in my opinion, nothing more or less than endeavouring by a juggling of figures to hoodwink the people of this country as to the real state of affairs. I think that is one of the strongest arguments in favour of compulsory service. My Lords, I shall have great pleasure in supporting the Bill brought forward by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal.
My Lords, the noble Earl who leads the House referred to a speech made by Lord Lyndhurst in this House about fifty years ago. I well recollect reading that speech and the interest that it caused right through the country. He was an old man of eighty-seven, and his "Væ victis" speech, as it was called, was quoted and re-quoted on every platform and by every paper in the country. That scare of 1859 did one great thing for Great Britain. It gave us the Channel Fleet and it gave us the Volunteers. I hope that this scare will not pass away until it has left us definitely with a two-European Power Standard for the Navy and universal service for the Home Army.
The Under-Secretary of State for War remarked yesterday that no authoritative statement had been made on the naval 415 question and of the view of the Navy in this House. I think it would be very difficult to get an authoritative statement. In the first place, there is no real representative of the Admiralty in this House. There is no one, failing the Master of the Horse, to represent the Government, and he is so busy in attending to matters connected with the performance of his Court and other duties that he cannot do it thoroughly. No Member of this House has ever commanded a Fleet, and I believe only one Member of this House has ever commanded a battleship. I refer to the Marquess of Bristol, who I understand does not intend to address the House to-night. When this House has been reformed, and all First Sea Lords and Admirals who have commanded our chief Fleets in home waters are made Life Peers on ceasing to hold office or while holding office, then this difficulty will, as a matter of course, be removed.
I have studied the question of invasion for years. My first acquaintance with the embarkation and disembarkation of troops was in bringing our Army back from the Crimea. I have been First Lieutenant of two troopships, and have been personally responsible for the details of the embarkation and disembarkation of thousands of men. Lord Lucas declares that the enemy's coast must be our frontier. I hope that it may be so, but we must recollect that underwater warfare has revolutionised naval tactics. If we keep our battleships close to the enemy's coasts they will run a great risk of being sunk by mines and torpedoes. If we had a day or two of ill-luck, and these tactics were adopted, the command of the sea might pass away from us. If an enemy could hold the North Sea for four or five days it would be a case of Good-bye England. It would be of little use to recover the command of the North Sea after a large force had landed in this country. Look at the islands with which the coast is studded from Jutland to the mouth of the Scheldt, and see how far superior it is for strategical and embarkation purposes than the French coast which is opposite the Channel. A great deal of our success over the French has been due to that magnificent natural harbour behind the Isle of Wight, for which the French have no equivalent. Torpedo vessels can pass along nearly the whole of the German and Dutch coasts, issue from whence they please, and it would be impossible to 416 know at which particular point of the coast they might be assembling. If an enemy's fleet got into the open sea our natural course would be to follow it, if necessary, across the Atlantic and strike it wherever we could. If it evaded us, which is quite possible—our fleets do miss one another at naval manœuvres, and we may miss an enemy's fleet in time of war—we shall have no second fleet to beat the enemy in the North Sea as we are giving up the two-Power standard. We should therefore remain for some days open to invasion. If to avoid this we kept our Fleet in home waters, the enemy's ships in the Atlantic would intercept our food supplies and in a fortnight high prices and famine would probably ensue.
There are very exaggerated ideas about the amount of transport that troops require for a journey. One ton per man and sufficient deck space for the man to lie down in is all that the Board of Trade allow passengers between Hamburg and the Thames. As troops are under discipline they would require even less. I do not think an enemy would bring many stores with him except ammunition and harness for his artillery. Horses, provisions, and wagons are to be found by the thousand in England. Any moderate-sized farm could feed an enemy's regiment for a day or two. There would be sheep and oxen, potatoes and roots for the rank and file, and ducks, turkeys and geese for the officers. The half a dozen different patterns of carts and wagons found about our farms would be soon organised, classified, and put into their respective categories. The difficulty of embarking and disembarking increases more in proportion than the size of an army. I think it would be five times as difficult to bring 100,000 men across as to bring 50,000. We made an experiment in disembarking troops two or three years ago at Clacton-on-Sea. That was our first attempt to disembark a trained army on the beach, and you can draw no conclusion from it unless such an experiment is repeated sufficiently often for the men to learn their work. Then the transports were at anchor all night, and it was said that that was a very dangerous position. So it was, but in war they would probably have been run ashore to avoid being sunk by torpedo boats. In a war the loser would have to pay for the transports; therefore a country risking the invasion of England might risk a great deal with the 417 idea that we might have to pay for those transports.
The fact that seventy Admirals belong to the National Service League is, I think, sufficient proof that some of them believe invasion to be possible. I will touch on one non-nautical matter. It has been asked where we are to get officers for this force? If we have compulsion a large number of the men who otherwise would have to serve in the ranks will prefer serving as officers, and the well-educated and well-to-do parents in this country will send their sons to the officers' training college at the University. When once you have the power to make them serve in the ranks you will get a considerable rise in the number and in the standard of officers. I was well acquainted with the French Army many years ago. Before 1870 I met them on service in China, and saw them at several places when my ship was on the coast of Mexico when war was proceeding on that shore. Before 1870 conscription was avoided by a money payment of about £60, and the result of that was that there were very few officers in the French Army belonging to what we call in England the well-to-do, well-educated classes. After the Republic was established the French proceeded to democratise the Army, and insisted upon universal service regardless of the size of the purse. They made all youths liable to conscription on reaching a certain age. Many of the sons of the educated classes preferred to enter the French Army as officers, a thing that had not happened before, and the result is that the French Army is very much better officered than it was in the time of the Second Empire. It has been said that we are putting an intolerable burden on the shoulders of the people liable to universal service. It may be heavy, but it is lighter than the yoke of the foreigner. I hope that this debate and the Division which will shortly take place will do much towards advancing public opinion in the direction of compulsory service.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, what we have to vote upon to-night is the noble Duke's Amendment. It is a very clever piece of political strategy which does not commend itself to my ideas with regard to this great question. I do not know whether it will commend itself to the country, but I am certain it does not com- 418 mend itself to a great many noble Lords in this House. At no period in our history were the doings of this House so carefully watched as they are now. Everybody is asking, "What will the House of Lords do?" And in view of that I take very strong exception to the Amendment proposed by the Duke of Northumberland. This House is quite capable of voting, yea or nay, upon a Bill of this sort, and not on a Resolution which practically sidetracks the gallant Field-Marshal's Bill.
I also take exception to the Amendment on the ground that it puts us into the Lobby with the present Government. I would like to remind the noble Duke of what he said about the Secretary of State for War at the end of his speech, when he referred to Mr. Haldane in no unmeasured terms. He said—It was absurd to say that his Motion was a vote of confidence in Mr. Haldane and his military advisers. He did not believe in Mr. Haldane or any of his works. But their Lordships passed the Territorial Army Bill, and although he was a thorough disbeliever in the system he felt that the Government had a right to ask that it should have a fair trial. He protested that the last thing he would think of doing would be to move a vote of confidence in the Government.But the noble Duke asks us to-day to go into the Lobby with the Government who are supporting Mr. Haldane's scheme, and I take exception to that. I do not wish to be a passenger in the Government's boat, or to take an oar and help row the boat even for a short while. Therefore I shall not give my vote for the noble Duke's Resolution.
But the question is a much larger one than one of momentary political expediency. Do we think it necessary, in the face of the enormous armaments which the Powers of Europe are now creating, especially one Power, to have compulsory military training or a voluntary system? This Bill has been called by the noble Lord the Under-Secretary for War conscription. It is not conscription. Conscription is when a man is forced to become a soldier, and also forced to leave the country and fight in a foreign land. That is just the difference between Lord Roberts's Bill and conscription. This Bill is not conscription; it is, as the noble Lord will admit, compulsory military training. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Lansdowne, rather advocated that every youth 419 in a school should be trained to hold himself up straight and to shoot with a rifle. That is something to have gained from my noble leader, who is going to vote for the noble Duke's Resolution.
When the critics begin to attack the noble and gallant Field-Marshal's Bill they attack it in detail. That is done to every Bill, and when it becomes an Act we are then told that a coach and four can be driven through it. But the critics take it for granted that we are to swallow the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill. There are other stages at which the critics of the Bill can bring in any Amendments they think fit. The principle of compulsory military training, not conscription, is one that no one need be afraid to put before the rising generation of this country, the young men who will govern and fight for their country in the future. I will make one remark upon the criticism of Lord Midleton, who said in the debate yesterday—He submitted that it was not sufficient to prove that this system was useful or advantageous. All the facts as to the situation in which we found ourselves in the late war were well known to the noble Earl when he became Commander-in-Chief, and he could not help asking what had occurred since the noble Earl vacated the post in the last five years to make it necessary to adopt this great change.What has occurred? Lord Lansdowne himself admitted that the two-Power standard had been given up. And the noble Lords in office now and the Prime Minister have admitted that the armaments of one great Power have advanced much more quickly than we ever gave them credit for. Therefore the situation has completely changed. That change has taken place since the noble and gallant Field-Marshal was Commander-in-Chief of the Army; hence the reason for bringing forward this measure.
With regard to Ireland, I know my country pretty well. Ireland has been treated separately with regard to other measures, and with regard to this she will have to be treated in a separate manner if you impose compulsory military training upon her. There is that difficulty, but I set off against that the extreme popularity of the Yeomanry both in the North and South of Ireland. The difficulties that have been put forward and used as arguments against Lord Roberts's Bill are not so insurmountable as one imagines. I 420 would like to say a word on what the noble Lord on the Front Bench said with regard to the voluntary system killing the power of the Regular Army to go and fight in a foreign country. Lord Lucas said—The noble and gallant Field-Marshal had quoted the experience of this country during the long period which followed the French Revolution but had ignored the earlier experiences of the Army during the same war. During the period before Trafalgar there was what was called 'an ignominious panic of invasion.' A parallel of the system which was now advocated was then in force.The noble Lord, I suppose, has read history. Let me remind him that there was nothing ignominious about the panic. It was a very serious question. On October 2, 1804, Napoleon had assembled 160,000 men at Boulogne, with 10,000 horses and a flotilla of vessels and 17,000 sailors, to invade England. A really serious crisis had arisen.
THE EARL OF MAYO
Yes, but you quoted those words in order to support the argument that if we went in for strong home defence the Regular Army could not be detached to go abroad. But there is no analogy in the situation whatever. I do not care a brass farthing what Hallam said. I only give the facts quoted in history. I cannot see why Lord Lucas mentioned that very great national danger. If there had been fine weather these flat-bottomed boats might very easily have got across. What happened? Trafalgar came. Napoleon felt that he had no power to protect his troops coming over, and then came the battle of Austerlitz. Then we were quite free from the terrible force at Boulogne, and our Army was free. I take exception to the noble Lord reading history in the way he did. There was a real danger then and that is why the Volunteer movement of those times took place. The people could almost see the Frenchmen on the opposite side. I will not give my vote to the Duke of Northumberland's Resolution, but shall vote for the principle of the Bill. I admit that the Bill is open to criticism, but I should not be the least afraid, and a great many on this side are with me, to go to public meetings in this country and say that I consider a situation has arisen on the Continent, admitted by both political Parties, which would justify compulsory military training in this country.
421 I admit that a little blow was given to the scheme in regard to Ireland and that special arrangements would have to be made in regard to that country. But we in Ireland do not want to be invaded any more than you in this country do. There are plenty of very loyal people over there like there are here. You hear a great deal of irresponsible talk, and, I am sorry to say, what is called disloyal talk, but when the crisis comes there will be no difficulty. An illustration is given by the north and south Yeomanry in Ireland; they were, at first, laughed at but they have been a great success. I came here with an open mind, but I shall not vote for the Duke of Northumberland's Resolution. I think it is not a right way of dealing with the matter, and I shall, as I have said, vote for the principle embodied in the Bill.
My Lords, the noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland, said this was an entirely new departure. I venture to say that this is nothing like a new departure. Compulsory service for the defence of this land has been the law ever since there was a law. It is at this moment in force, although noble Lords opposed to this system always conveniently forget it, and it would only require the omission of a certain Act from the Expiring Acts Continuance Bill to put the ballot once more into force.
In asking the House to affirm this principle, we are not bringing any new departure before your Lordships, or springing upon the country any system to which they have not hitherto been accustomed. As recently as the year 1831, which, after all, is within the recollection of many members of your Lordships' House, the Militia was composed entirely of balloted men. Therefore the fact that compulsory service was in existence a comparatively short time ago proves that this is no new departure.
There are one or two points to which I regret the noble Duke should have alluded. One is the extraordinary line he took up with regard to the deteriorating influence of soldiering on those people who are called upon to do it. If the noble Duke was serious in regard to that it is the very strongest possible argument against having any military force at all. That deteriorating influence would affect men serving voluntarily equally as much as it would 422 influence men serving compulsorily, and therefore these deteriorating influences must be having a very serious effect upon those men who are now in the Territorial Forces of the King. I think that the noble Duke, when be comes to think over and to read the words he has spoken, will be ashamed of them, and will not attempt ever to use that argument again.
Another point to which the noble Duke alluded was that of passive resistance. There are plenty of ways of dealing with the passive resister. There are many duties connected with an army which can be performed with perfect safety by any man who objects to shedding blood. He can join the Medical Corps or the Army Service Corps. The number of passive resisters, I assume, will not be very great, and there would be very little difficulty in dealing with them. One other point which has been brought up repeatedly in this debate is the question of the drill of boys at school. The noble Duke suggested that it was a great pity the National Service League did not confine themselves to advocating the drill of boys at school. The noble Earl opposite devoted a large portion of his speech to advocating that subject, and even the noble Earl, Lord Meath, devoted the greater part of his speech to that particular subject. I am very anxious about this point, because it is one of a series of continual and repeated attempts to sidetrack the National Service League. The object of the National Service League, the object of our agitation and of this Bill, is to provide the country as far as possible with a military force which is capable of defending it. I entirely deny the possibility of doing one atom towards producing a military force of any description by drilling little boys at school whom you lose sight of at fourteen years of age. Then again, drill is not the extraordinary and abstruse kind of thing people seem to imagine. I would undertake myself, having had some considerable experience of soldiering, to take any ten men out of the street and to teach them within ten days or a fortnight amply sufficient drill to enable them to take their place in any well-organised force—that is, as far as drill is concerned. Personally, I do not consider accuracy of drill is everything. It is something, but it is not in itself discipline. Discipline is an essential to an armed force, and discipline can only be obtained by mutual training. That a boy drilled at school by an instructor five or six years ago, when drill may be 423 very different from now, would be an efficient substitute in any way for a trained soldier I entirely deny.
The noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for War made a very interesting, and, from his point of view, very admirable, speech with regard to our proposals. He dissected our subject into little pieces, picked a great many holes in it, and argued that forces trained as we suggest would be absolutely useless for the defence of the country. He said that men after four months preliminary drill would be no use at all. If that is so then the noble Lord is bound to deduct the whole of his Territorial Force, because most of them have not done anything approaching four months drill. We arrive at this extraordinary position from the noble Lord's speech, that 500,000 men who have done four months drill to start with, and will do a fortnight for two or three years, are not sufficiently well trained to defeat an enemy, whereas 250,000 men trained for a fortnight a year are. That is perfectly absurd on the face of it, and only shows to what shifts the noble Lord was driven to find fault with our scheme.
There is one other point to which the noble Lord drew attention. He jeered at us for reducing our million men to 300,000. I should like to point out to the noble Lord that the Secretary of State of War reduced his 900,000 men to 300,000 men, whom he has not got. The noble Lord who spoke afterwards pointed out to the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for War that in our scheme we should have something approaching a million and a half of men who at least would have received considerably more training than the 250,000 men in the Territorial Army. The noble Lord the Under-Secretary made one most excellent pronouncement, for which I thank him. He laid down in the clearest and most unmistakable manner that the truest form of defence was to be in a position to take the offensive. The noble Lord then proceeded to point those remarks with certain facts and fancies taken from the old French war. He said that in the old French war the nation spent very vast efforts and a considerable sum of money in raising local forces for local defence, and that that had not only done no great good to the country, but had prevented the Regular Army from being sufficiently recruited to enable it to carry on its work across the seas. He also quoted 424 the words of Mr. Windham. I take it that the noble Lord has not got a very large amount of time for reading, but I would most earnestly commend him to read the Parliamentary debates that took place in the early years of the last century. The complaint of Mr. Windham and his party was not that the Government had reformed this or that, or done too much or done too little. What they said was—Not only have you failed to raise an Army such as the country requires, but you have taken the most effectual possible steps to prevent that Army being raised.What was it they did? The Government went half-heartedly into the question of national defence. They thought they were going to effect national defence on a voluntary system. They had their Regular Army, the Regular Militia, whom they kept up by the ballot to a certain fixed figure, generally between 60,000 and 80,000, and they thought they would encourage the formation of an immense force of Volunteers. Those Volunteers arrived at this pitch. They clamoured continually for more money, they refused to do the very smallest modicum of training, and they absorbed the entire available manhood of the nation. It was only when the country frankly accepted the view of personal and universal liability for service by raising the Local Militia and compelling everybody to serve in it that they were enabled to raise a sufficient Army to make a respectable appearance on the continent of Europe. It was only when that was done, when the Volunteers practically disappeared in the formation of Local Militia, that we were enabled to produce a sufficient Army to make an effectual diversion in a European conflict.
There is one point which has been more than once alluded to. We are told that this is going to interfere with the Army and with the Navy. I wish to echo most emphatically what has fallen from many friends of the movement that our chief object in these proposals is to free the hands of the Regular Army and of the Navy. We all know, and His Majesty's Government have said so over and over again, that such is the state of our military forces that the whole of our Regular Army must be tied to these shores for an indefinite period in the event of a war. I think very possibly a large portion of our Navy will be in the same position. What does that 425 mean? Imagine a war declared. The Government of the day may be very strong. Well, I have sat a great many years in this House, and my experience is that as Governments get more strong so they get more timorous. The country will practically have no respectable local force for defence. Very possibly political pressure will be brought upon the Government of the day not only to send no Army abroad or any troops abroad, but to keep the Navy within sight of these shores. Every watering place around the coast will be clamouring to have something it can see in the shape of a fleet. The Government may be strong, but it will find it very difficult to resist pressure of that sort, and I cannot help thinking that what you will see will be a sort of wild attempt at stringing over a large stretch of coast little wretched weak squadrons trying to defend the country everywhere and being unable really to defend it anywhere. So strongly is this felt by naval officers that the National Service League includes among its numbers over seventy flag officers of the Navy. I think that is a very strong point.
The noble Earl the Leader of the House alluded to the fact that the naval advisers of His Majesty's Government had never asked for compulsory service in any shape or form. I dare say that is the case. I do not know that naval officers in the present state of things are likely to be very free with their advice on any important subject, but every naval officer of any standing has most strongly felt the absolute necessity of compulsory service for the Army in order to free the Navy. It is a matter that admits of no doubt whatever. I can assure the noble Earl that every naval officer I have ever spoken to, unless he happened to be for the moment inside the Admiralty, was even more strongly in favour of a scheme of this description than any soldier I have ever come across.
There is a point with regard to the Territorial Army which I think has not been touched upon in this debate, and about which I myself feel very strongly. It is the danger, I think I can say the absolutely certainty, of the embodiment of the Territorial Force being put off until it is too late. I have a memory. I can remember nine years back. There was a war going on in South Africa. The country was in a state of very considerable 426 —I will not say panic, because that is a word we are not allowed to use—but of very considerable uneasiness with regard to its armed forces and its state of protection in the event of further complications. The Volunteers as they then existed were asked to do a month's training. They refused. I do not blame those men for refusing. They said it was impossible for them to carry out that month's training. His Majesty's Government, a strong Government with a large majority in both Houses of Parliament, with the country thoroughly behind them clamouring to have its military forces put in order, were afraid to insist upon any portion of the force going out and doing a month's training. If the Government under those circumstances were afraid, how will any Government in the future be able to deal with the Territorial Force? Necessarily the same thing will happen. The Territorial embodiment will be considered advisable by the military advisers of the Crown, the Government of the day will send for the commanding officers of the Territorial Force and say, "We consider it necessary to embody you at once." Everyone will immediately begin to make excuse. They will say, "Our men cannot do it, they cannot give up their situations." The result will be that the embodiment of the Territorial Force will be put off to the very last possible moment, and the famous six months training, of which we have heard so much, will under no circumstances take place.
The Under-Secretary of State for War also alluded to Mr. Cardwell's scheme. I would like to remind the noble Lord that one of the most fundamental principles of the whole of that scheme was the revival of the ballot for the Militia. It was dropped and it knocked the bottom out of the scheme. When one of the greatest War Ministries we have ever had set to work to reorganise the forces of the Crown one of the first points which he considered absolutely essential was the filling up of the Militia Forces for home defence by compulsory service.
The Secretary for Scotland is the only person I have ever come across in any class who says that it is not the duty of an able-bodied man to defend his country. The noble Lord is the only man I have ever heard of who has said that. He practically said that it was not a particular duty 427 of a man to defend his country. He used the expression "an assumed duty." I will leave the noble Lord on that lofty eminence in a minority of one, except to add one word. The noble Lord says invasion is impossible. Then why does he belong to a Government which keeps up the Territorial Army? Why spend money on a Territorial Army? Why not disband the Territorial Army, divide the money between the Regular Army and the Navy, and so save money which, if he is correct, can only be spent on an unnecessary luxury?
Then as to the Navy I quite agree with the sentiment that the Navy is the only thing that, under God's good providence, defends this country. How long is the Navy going to be in a position to defend this country? Only to-day, for all I know to the contrary, an airship may have crossed from Calais to Dover. You may say that is a toy. The first locomotive was a toy, and the first steamship was a toy. It may be a toy now; it may be a toy for six months, for one year, or for five years, but sooner or later it will cease to be a toy; and when dirigible airships are able to cross the seas what is the value of a Navy? That is a point on which I feel very strongly. At any moment your great Dreadnoughts may become, I will not say useless, but their value may be enormously depreciated. The moment that occurs this country ceases to be an island and becomes, for all practical purposes, a Continental nation.
There are many of your Lordships who have seen war; there are many who have seen a great deal of war; but there are not many of your Lordships who have seen a Continental war. We all know that war is a most appalling thing. I suppose war is one of the most awful things that can befall a nation, but we in this country know nothing about war. There is hardly an inhabitant of a Continental country who cannot remember, or at any rate whose grandfather cannot tell him of, the time when his country was overrun by a foreign foe. Those people know what war really means. Nobody on the Continent of Europe has to walk more than a certain number of miles to see a frontier, and to see on the other side of the frontier, men in a strange uniform, speaking a different language, and possibly potential enemies of his country. We have not 428 that here, and the people of this country have forgotten to all intents and purposes what war is like. War is a horrible thing even for a victorious army, but for that army it has its compensations in the fact of the glory and success of their cause. To the defeated army war is a much more horrible thing, although they may have the consolation of having done their duty and struggled against impossible odds. To the inhabitants of a country in which war takes place there are no words in our language that can adequately convey the appalling results. The Englishman is the one man in the whole of Europe who cannot defend his hearth and home, his wife and children, against a foreign foe; he is the only male creature in Europe that cannot do it. Not only can he not do it, but, according to the laws of warfare, if he attempts to do it he will be shot down by the foreign foe. It is because I feel so strongly the appalling results of even a temporarily successful raid that I urge most strongly on your Lordships that the moment has come when this country should take up the same burden that lies on every other country in the world.
My Lords, being an absolutely convinced believer in the necessity of some form of compulsion for home defence, I feel it my duty to say a few words in support of the principles of this Bill. I regret very much that I cannot follow the lead of the noble Marquess who told us that it would not be either to the credit of this House or of the country to vote for the Bill. I believe that this measure, or some such measure, would be for the good of the country. I wish, first of all, to approach this measure entirely from a military point of view. I think that most of your Lordships will agree with me that from military and naval questions Party element should be, if possible, eliminated. I do not lay any claim to expert opinion, but I have for a certain number of years served in the Regular Army both regimentally and on the Staff, and I have also been in the Volunteers, the Militia, and the Yeomanry, and for a short time in the Australian Horse, and I am now on the Staff of the Territorial Army. Therefore I think I may claim that at any rate I ought to have some military knowledge.
The first thing we have to remember is that this problem of national service cannot 429 be viewed by itself. We must take it in conjunction with all the difficult naval and military problems that are before the nation to-day. The first question we ought to ask ourselves is what are the duties of our sea and land forces. I think the answer is a very simple one. A short time ago we were given an excellent and concise description of our foreign policy. The duty of our land and sea forces is to make it absolutely certain that that policy can be carried out. I do not think that in present circumstances this result could be arrived at. The groundwork of the whole system is that we should be strong at our heart; that the heart of the Empire should be absolutely secure. Without that no schemes of defence are really sound. We hear a great deal in these days of Imperial general staffs and Imperial armies. I believe thoroughly in such things, but we are beginning at the wrong end. It is no good making your arms and your legs strong if the heart is not strong. You must begin at the right spot, and I believe that home defence is the groundwork of the whole thing. I notice that the same argument was used by the noble Lord the Under-Secretary for War, but with the difference that we arrive at exactly opposite conclusions. He thinks that by having a really strong home defence we kill our powers of offence. I think, on the contrary, that by having a really strong home defence we free our Fleets and allow our Expeditionary Force to be sent abroad.
There is no question that the first line of defence is our Navy, but I would rather describe the Navy as the first line of Imperial defence than the first line of national defence. I think that the power which would be given to the Navy to be able to strike hard and to strike quickly would be a far greater asset than a mere increase of Dreadnoughts. It would be far better, and the interests of the peace of the world would be further increased by giving this power to our Navy. If other nations realised that we were able to use the instrument of our Navy in such a way the prospect of peace would be much greater. There is only one safe and sound way to insure the security of our homes and that is by personal sacrifice and personal service. I do not believe that is possible under a voluntary system. I understand that the position of noble Lords opposite is that a period of six months is going to be allowed us to train our Home Army on war being 430 declared. Of course that may be a good argument from a political point of view, but from a military point of view it is not an argument at all. It is simply an impossibility. The noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, told us we should be taking a great responsibility if we passed this Bill against the opinion of the trusted advisers of His Majesty's Government, and he went on to say that if the Government told him, on the authority of their military advisers, that there was no prospect of meeting the needs of the situation under a voluntary system he would be prepared to vote for the Bill. A short time before he had described the position of affairs in 1900. He said the Expeditionary Force was then out of the country, and he added—It would be no indiscretion on my part if I told you that my military advisers informed me that the position in this country was highly dangerous.Why should we require any further information from the military advisers? Is the position in this country in the event of war any better to-day than it was ten years ago? The position in 1900 was highly dangerous, and if our Expeditionary Force were away from this country to-day the position would be even worse.
The noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland, said "Why don't you find out what the opinion of the people is?" Why should the people wish for national service? The leader of neither Party takes it up. Why should they wish to serve if they are not told they ought to serve? We often hear that there is an analogy between sport and war. We have had a very interesting lesson in the victory of the Americans at polo lately. In the friendly rivalry of sport these mistakes can be rectified, as this one no doubt will be rectified. But in the serious business of war a small mistake of this kind means the destruction of the Army. I am very strongly in favour of this system of compulsion, and shall certainly vote for the Bill.
My Lords, I do not like to give a silent vote on an occasion like this. We have before us now the alternative of voting for the Second Reading of the Bill or for the Amendment of my noble friend the Duke of Northumberland—the alternative of either expressing satisfaction with the present state of 431 affairs as given by His Majesty's Government—because I prefer to put the responsibility on the Government and not on their military advisers—or of approving of the Bill brought in by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. I do not admit that in giving this vote for the Second Reading I am supporting all the details of the Bill, because some of them may need altering, but I feel that there is a principle involved in it in which I have the very strongest belief. That principle is that every man is bound to defend his own home.
I think it is most essential that this measure should be brought forward now, because I do not think the people of this country realise the position they would be in if the country were invaded. Of course they say that if an invasion came they would all be ready to rise en masse and try to shoot anybody with any wretched gun they happened to have to scare crows with. The people of this country do not realise that that is not allowed in civilised warfare, and that under the laws of the civilised world the civilian who did that would be taken out and shot at his own garden gate. I hope and trust the National Service League will endeavour to make the truth known to every Englishman, and then there will be a very different view taken with regard to the necessity for some measure of this sort.
I am very sorry to have to differ from the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, but he will, I know, give me credit for my strong belief in the principles I hold. It is not so much against the principles as against the details of the scheme that the critics carp. One thing which they, and especially the Under-Secretary of State for War, have attacked so much is that under the noble and gallant Earl's scheme of compulsory training there would be a perfectly inadequately trained force in the field. I think that is a condemnation of the training of the Territorial Forces by the Under-Secretary himself, because if, as he says, the four months training advocated in this Bill is not enough, how can he justify the training now allowed to the Territorial Forces? Still more do I feel myself justified in voting for the Bill of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, because, as the Under-Secretary himself said, the Territorial Forces are unable, without six months notice, to meet a foreign invasion. To my mind that does not 432 imply security to this country, and I think the sooner this country realises, as the Under-Secretary says, that the Territorial Forces without this extra training are not able to meet the enemy, the sooner will come the absolute necessity of some Bill like the present one.
In saying this I hope it will not be for a moment thought that I am disparaging the work that is done by the Territorial Forces or their zeal. It is my pleasure and my pride to have been connected with the Yeomanry all my life, and I have been glad to see the way in which the Yeomanry has been recognised and the way it has come on. I do not quite agree with what was said by Lord Willoughby de Broke about the Yeomanry. I think an enormous change has come over it. There were, no doubt, a great many individually good men in the Yeomanry in the old days, but the Yeomanry as a whole was in a different position altogether from what it is now. I attribute the change a great deal to the longer Yeomanry training of the last few years. I hold that it is most essential for the training of men that you should have them in camp, where you can get hold of them, keep them thoroughly in hand, and teach them every detail. The men like it, and it is proper that it should be done. I most deeply regret the remarks of the noble Duke about young men of all classes being thrown together, and, although I do not think he meant it, I think it was rather an undeserved slur on the Army and the Yeomanry to say that a large number of recruits could not be brought together without doing harm.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
If that interpretation is put on my words, which I do not think is wholly justified, I ought to explain. I did not say one word, so far as I know, against the ordinary training that has hitherto been in vogue in the Yeomanry, Militia, and Volunteers, where you divide officers and men and look somewhat to the character of the men you enlist, and where you certainly do not take men entirely away from all their surroundings; I was speaking of a system under which there would be a hotch-potch of all classes and characters, who would be taken right away from their surroundings. You cannot expect that that would have no influence on the morals or conduct of those subjected to it.
I am very glad to hear the noble Duke make that statement, because I am quite sure the last thing he would wish to do would be to disparage the Army. I hope he will not think me unkind for alluding to the matter and giving him the opportunity of denying any such intention. But what I do think with regard to this Bill is that it is absolutely essential that the whole country should realise the duties they have to do. As to what the noble Marquess has said with regard to compulsory powers never having been used, will he allow me to remind him that at the time of the South African war a Bill was brought into this House for making the Ballot Act compulsory, and I think the measure was introduced by the noble Marquess himself. As time went on, however, it was not deemed necessary to press the Bill, unfortunately, in my opinion, because I think that if it had been carried then a great deal of the present trouble would have been avoided, and we should have had in working order an Act which would give a sufficient number of men to defend this country.
I do not think that at the present moment we have got, in spite of the zeal of the Territorial Force, sufficient men to repel an invasion. I cannot quite take the optimistic view of the noble Earl on the other side, that invasion is practically impossible. I am afraid nothing is impossible nowadays, and I am sure there would not be this general feeling all over the world if there were not a great deal in it. What I feel very strongly is this. Here we have a Bill recommended to us by the noble and gallant Earl, whose experience of war nobody can rival, and to whom the whole country looks as a great military adviser. We have from him the admission that the present state of defence of this country is not satisfactory. He proposes a remedy, and asks us to read this Bill a second time. Against that we have the political expediency of the present time, and I prefer to trust those who know what war and military defence is rather than the mere question of political expediency. I shall, therefore, have the greatest possible pleasure in giving my support to the Second Reading of the Bill, because I believe it will bring home to every Englishman the absolute necessity of enrolling himself in some force or other, so that whenever the time comes he may be able to defend his country. At any rate, I shall be free from the accusa- 434 tion that I, in my time, did not do something to prevent "Too late" being said.
§ LORD REDESDALE
My Lords, I confess that my sympathies are entirely with the noble and gallant Earl who has introduced this Bill. The noble Field-Marshal speaks with an authority which is probably unique, and when he sounds a note of alarm it should not fall upon deaf ears. He spoke weighty words, doubtless with a full sense of the responsibility which rests upon him and which must attach to every utterance of his upon any military subject whatever. The question to my mind is simple. Are we at the present moment in the position of the strong man armed who keepeth his palace and whose goods are at peace? Is there no danger lest a stronger than we should come upon us and overcome us, taking from us the armour in which we trusted, and dividing our spoils?
My Lords, the armaments of the whole world now are in such a condition that per, haps we stand in a worse position as regards our Army than we ever did before in the history of the nation. Great nations are arming in every direction, and even the smaller nations are turning their attention to military matters in a way they never did before. Even the countries which were known in the old days as the Danubian principalities have their great armies, and I am told on high authority that even Roumania has an army which, so far as its numbers go, is second to none. What can be the object of all these armaments? It is not for pleasure or amusement, it is not idly, that the countries of the world spend large sums upon these bloated armaments. To us they must be a danger. At the present moment we are happily on terms of friendship with the whole of the rest of the world. We hope that it may long be so. But friendship among nations is apt to be fickle. We had an instance of the suddenness with which war begins in 1870.
It is no new matter this alarm of sudden invasion of this country. That great soldier, Lord Wolseley, speaking before a Committee of the House of Commons upwards of thirty years ago, foretold that the wars of the future would be quick in their inception, short in their duration, and woe be to those who were not prepared. The noble Duke in the speech in which he introduced his Amendment, foreshadowed a 435 state of things in which it might be necessary for all men to take up arms for the defence of the country. He said that if the safety of the country depended upon universal service, that service must be given at whatever cost. It will be too late then, my Lords. We must be prepared beforehand. It is no use beginning to prepare when we are attacked. It will be too late unless, indeed, the country that proposed to attack us should have the considerate courtesy to give us six months notice of its intention.
It was my luck some three years ago to see something of what perhaps is now one of the best and most formidable armies in the world. Of course, my opinion of that army was worth nothing, but I was in the company of those who were experts in military matters, and they were absolutely astonished—taken aback—by the perfection to which the Japanese Army had attained. At a place called Hiroshima a review was held in honour of Prince Arthur, and General Kelly-Kenny, who certainly must be regarded as an authority in such matters, told me he was quite astonished at the steadiness and the precision of the drill of the men he saw there. To my inexperienced eyes they seemed to be veterans. Yet these men had only joined the Colours in the month of December, and we were then in the early days of March. That shows what preparedness can do. Throughout Japan the whole of the schools have a system of physical drill which is probably second to none in the world. The boys, and even the girls, are drilled in such a manner that when the boys join the Regular Forces half their lesson has been learnt. The system which the Japanese have adopted for their army is based upon the German model. Service is compulsory. A man serves for the first three years continuously with the First Line. Then he has four years and four months in the Reserve—two periods of service of sixty days each. Then comes the Second Line corresponding to the Landwehr, in which they have two trainings of sixty days. Then come two years and eight months in the Kokumin, which is the Home Defence Army, or Landsturm, completing twenty years service. In the Reserve, which is for making good the war waste, the men perform a service of seven years and four months, which means one training of ninety days and two trainings of sixty days each. They then enter into the Kobi, or Landwehr, for ten years, and finally into the 436 Kokumin for two years and eight months, making twenty years service.
It is impossible to conceive an army which has been more scientifically organised or better prepared for war than that of Japan. During the few years which preceded their great war with Russia they were always prepared. Nothing was left to chance. Not only their fighting men but their medical staff, their nurses, their hospital staff, were brought to a pitch of perfection which made them ready to take the field at any moment. Every gun was numbered, with its carriage, ammunition, and transport, and was in an absolute state of readiness. Nothing was left to hazard. Even in such a small matter as lint, the ladies of Japan were engaged for many months in making piles of it for the hospitals. The consequence was that when the Japanese Army took the field it was in a state of preparedness such as probably no Army has previously enjoyed. Could this have been effected by any other means than compulsory service? I venture to think not. The feats which that Army performed are one of the marvels of the world's history.
Now, my Lords, what do we who believe, at any rate, in the principle of conscription, ask? It may be extremely difficult, it may not be possible, for you to bring that principle into operation at once, but at any rate you can affirm the principle, which is so simple, so straightforward, so absolutely intelligible, that I cannot imagine any man objecting to it. It is simply the principle that every citizen should be ready, as he should be willing, to bear arms for the defence of his country. It is not sufficient that he should be willing. The most willing men in the world, if not drilled and trained, will simply hamper the action of the Generals. But if you have a system of national service you will have something which I venture to think is more valuable than any voluntary service that can be established by means of this Territorial Army or in any other way. Surely it is better to trust to the whole-trained manhood of the country than to any voluntary system whatever. Nay, more, is it absolutely impossible that these two systems should walk hand in hand? It seems to me that if you have the compulsory system you will have a bank upon which to draw cheques for your Regular Army and for your Territorials. You will have a great 437 fund of military power in reserve which will make you formidable indeed. We have occupied, and thank heaven we still occupy, a very proud position among nations, but that position was won by the enthusiasm, perhaps I might say even the imprudences, of youth. If we lose that position it will be because we have allowed ourselves to sink into the decrepitude of a slothful old age. I hope that that day is far distant. I do not know whether your Lordships will give a Second Reading to this Bill, but I hope you will. Even if it should never become law, you will have asserted a great national principle. You will have asserted that it is the duty of the man to fight for his country, and that it is the duty of the country to teach the man to fight to the best advantage.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I have on this and on previous occasions derived a certain amount of mild enjoyment from observing the attitude taken up by noble Lords on the two Front Benches, first of all with regard to my noble and gallant friend Lord Roberts, and, secondly, with regard to the proposal which he advocates. I have observed that their estimate of my noble and gallant friend varies in the most extraordinary degree. When he is in agreement with the Government he is treated as a sort of military pontiff to doubt whose opinion is akin to blasphemy, but when he disagrees with the views of the Government he is airily dismissed as holding early Victorian notions, and those notions are consigned with other archaic opinions to that lumber-room which is supposed to exist in the political world.
What I have observed with regard to the attitude of official politicians to these proposals is that behind the keen discomfort which is felt in having to form an opinion upon questions of this kind there has been equally keen anxiety on the part of both sides to fix responsibility for taking this step upon the other; but on this particular occasion there has been no cause for anxiety at all, because my noble friend has come forward to relieve them from taking any unpleasant action of that kind. In fact it has been quite unnecessary to indulge in that elaborate and solemn stage fight to which we are by this time so well-accustomed, when ex-Secretaries of State and Under-Secretaries pound each other for hours together, it being understood that no real damage 438 is to be inflicted. In place of this theatrical combat we have witnessed noble Lords on the two Front Benches falling upon each other's necks. The Leader of the Opposition has been so warm indeed in his commendation of the Government's military policy that I have doubts whether he will ever be able to criticise it in an unfriendly manner in the future. And it is a matter of extreme pain and surprise to me—in fact, it has inflicted a greater shock to my belief in human nature than I have ever experienced before—that the Duke Of Northumberland should have come to the rescue and built for these embarrassed politicians a bridge by which they can simultaneously retreat. This is a profound shock to me, because I candidly admit that I have the most sincere admiration for my noble friend. I have always looked upon him as a singularly sane politician, and I have endeavoured to imbibe wisdom from his utterances. One thing which is impressed upon me more frequently than anything else is that whenever the two Front Benches are in agreement they are invariably wrong, and it is the duty of every right-minded man to vote against them.
A word with regard to my noble friend's Amendment. I understand he rather resents the suggestion that this Amendment represents a vote of confidence in the Government; but, after all, the proof of an Amendment lies in the Division afterwards, and I gather that noble Lords opposite are going to vote with alacrity for the Amendment. How under the circumstances can the noble Duke pretend that it is otherwise than a vote of confidence in the Government? I understand he repudiates the idea of expressing confidence in the Government, but he desires to express confidence in His Majesty's military advisers. In my opinion that comes to exactly the same thing.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
I would remind the noble Lord that I have not the slightest confidence in His Majesty's Ministers. What I said was that I thought the House of Lords, having adopted the Territorial Bill upon the authority of the Government's military advisers, was bound to give that experiment a fair trial.
§ LORD NEWTON
After all, it comes to this: we are to vote for this Amendment which represents confidence in the military 439 advisers. These military advisers, I was about to observe, are a remarkable race of men. Every soldier I am acquainted with and nearly every officer in the Territorial Army is a pronounced adherent of our proposals. With regard to military advisers, it is an extraordinary thing that the Government are always able to obtain the services of gentlemen whose opinion can be quoted in their favour. I do not like to be disrespectful to these advisers, but they remind me in some respects of the class of officials who exist in Turkey and whose business it is to agree with their superiors. They are known as men who say "Yes." Without being disrespectful to members of the Army Council it does seem to me that it is the business of these gentlemen to say "ditto" to the Secretary for War, and they form a kind of human zareba, or fortification, into which the Secretary for War may retire when hardly pressed by his political opponents.
In spite of the touching unanimity which has been shown by official politicians on both sides with regard to the beauties of the voluntary system I cannot help thinking that any impartial person who has followed the debate must realise that this most boasted system is almost on its last legs. Only a short time ago its great champion—I was going to say that great blusterer—the Secretary for War, announced that the nation was never so near conscription as it was last December. What saved the country from relapsing into this horrible conscription which inspires the official Opposition with horror? I am not exaggerating when I say that the collapse of the Territorial Army system was averted by a sensational play, and the remarkable thing is that the play was written by an innocent, simple-minded soldier who desired to advocate compulsory service. With almost superhuman ingenuity this was seized hold of by Lord Esher and the Secretary of State for War and converted into an advertisement of the Territorial Army. The noble Viscount and the Secretary for War sat in the stalls and recruited from the pit and gallery for their Army, with the assistance of anonymous benefactors and of the Daily Mail. I sometimes wonder whether the Daily Mail will not be authorised one of these days to issue a special decoration for the Territorial Forces. It seems to me obvious that it will be necessary to work up this hysteria again in four years time and get people to write sensational 440 plays or the equivalent, discover anonymous persons who will give large sums of money provided the Chancellor of the Exchequer permits their existence in this country, and utilise those means which usually commend themselves to advertisers of patent medicines and to circus proprietors in order to keep your numbers up. It is hoped that by means of these various devices the Territorial Force will amount some day to rather more than 300,000 men, but nobody but a Secretary for War has had the hardihood to maintain that 300,000 men represents what he is pleased to call a nation in arms. That number works out at something between 1/150th and 1/160th part of the population, and I do not think there is a man living with the exception of the Secretary of State for War who will take that fraction as representing a nation in arms. When it comes to the expansion which the right hon. gentleman claims to have obtained the numbers really are not any larger than the figures of a few years ago, and it is really much the same thing as if a man bought a new kind of cheque book and then said he was enormously richer whilst at the same time his balance at the bank remained the same.
I am not going to waste your Lordships' time by going over the arguments. I only desire to summarise our objections to the Territorial Army as it exists at present. We consider that it is deficient in numbers and deficient in training. Anybody who suggests that the training of the Territorial Army is deficient, or who ventures to hint that because a Volunteer has been changed into a Territorial that therefore the man has not suddenly assumed all the military virtues, is looked upon as a sort of traitor, unfit to consort with ordinary human beings. One is rather apt to measure standards by oneself. Let me take my own case. Look at me. I am in my person a deplorable object lesson of the failure of the voluntary system, for, although I was for many years an officer in one of the Auxiliary Forces, passed through two special courses at Aldershot, rose to comparatively high rank, and was even reported upon favourably by simple-minded inspecting officers, some of whom I think I recognise here to-night., yet in spite of all this I know perfectly well in my own heart I was in a military sense a fraud. And I venture to make the admission that what influenced me chiefly in leaving the Yeomanry Force was 441 not so much advancing years as the intuitive knowledge that I was unfit for high command. I cannot help thinking that, notwithstanding the change of name of the forces, there must be a number of people in the same position as I was in that respect.
I must say that I agree with what I have heard expressed by some of the speakers to-night that, considering all things, the results we obtain under the voluntary system are quite extraordinary considering that the whole system, the whole theory, is built upon an evident fallacy—the fallacy that all that is required to make a really efficient soldier is the amount of time which an ordinary individual can give without personal inconvenience to himself. That is the fallacy, and it is a fallacy which I have no hesitation in saying does not prevail in any country except this. Let me deal with one point, the point which is always dwelt upon as the crowning weakness of the Territorial Force—namely, that the serious training for war is not to begin until hostilities have actually been declared. My own view is that it is hardly worth while attaching much importance to this particular point of view, because I am quite convinced that under a voluntary system no Government would ever venture to call out the Territorial Forces as a whole. I will give two reasons for it. In the first place there are a large number of gentlemen belonging to the Party opposite who, if we were involved in hostilities with another Power, would be most distinctly in favour of the other Power as against ourselves, and who would object to any preparation on our part as a kind of blood guiltiness. This is a minor objection. But the unanswerable objection which occurs to me is that under a voluntary system the calm proposal that you should ask a certain number of men to go out for an indefinite period whilst the great mass of the population do nothing at all is absolutely unthinkable, and I do not believe any Government would ever do anything of the kind.
One thing has impreessd me very much in this debate—I refer to the speeches made by noble Lords upon the Back Benches who are now serving either in the Territorial Force or in the Special Reserve. Those are the men who are honestly doing their best to make your scheme a success, 442 and who come here and tell you in all honesty that they cannot do it without compulsion. Their plain and unvarnished tale carries a great deal more weight with me than do the more elaborate utterances of more distinguished persons. In the course of this debate we have had many culogies pronounced on the voluntary system. The noble Earl the Leader of the House is so fanatical an admirer of the voluntary system that he actually posed this afternoon as the defender of class and privilege. He objected to everybody being treated alike—a somewhat curious position for a leading Liberal politician.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
I was not objecting to people being treated alike. I said that there were a very large number of people in this country who objected to being treated alike. That is a very different thing.
§ LORD NEWTON
The impression made upon me by the noble Earl's speech was that he objected very much to the idea of what he called "riff-raff" being associated with the middle classes.
§ LORD NEWTON
If the noble Earl repudiates it, of course I accept his repudiation. We have had an even stronger eulogy from the Under-Secretary of State for War. But the Under-Secretary is a pronounced optimist. I rather think he undertook last year to turn out a first-rate horse artillery battery in a week provided he were given intelligent civilians. We had an almost equally enthusiastic eulogy from the noble Lord, Lord Pentland. For my part I can see no beauty whatever in the voluntary system when it is applied to home defence. What is it, when you look at it sanely and calmly, but a sort of conspiracy on the part of nine men to induce the tenth man to do the duty which they ought to do themselves, and which they probably would be much better for doing.
What I detest more than anything else about the voluntary system is the hypocritical, nauseating appeal which is constantly being made to employers of labour to come forward and save the situation. Why should the employer of labour be more liable for the defence of his country than anybody else? That is, I know, the view of the Socialists. The 443 Socialists are quite logical people. They hold that nobody except a capitalist or an employer of labour has got anything worth protecting, and that therefore capitalists and employers of labour ought to do the fighting. But the Government is not Socialist yet in name whatever it may be in practice, and I should like to know what arguments can be advanced in favour of, say, a colliery proprietor, or a railway director, or anybody of that kind being penalised for the purpose of defending his country rather than, let us say, a stockbroker, or an artist, or a dentist, or anybody you like to think of who employs next to no labour at all.
The duty of national defence is not the duty of a particular class. It is the duty of the community, and I do not think it is any argument to say that employers of labour ought to take Governments and public bodies as their examples. The Government if they choose, can make it a condition of labour that their employés should enter the Territorial Army. The Government have got the taxpayer behind them, and local authorities have got the ratepayer behind them. There is no sacrifice whatever involved in the practice in their case. But when it comes to asking an employer of labour to go and do this work, then you are deliberately asking a man to penalise himself. It is a contemptible practice which prevails only in this country, and I wonder we are not heartily ashamed of it by this time.
Two years ago I went on a sort of pilgrimage with my noble friend Lord Ampthill to Switzerland in order to follow the Switzerland manœuvres. We were accompanied by a large number of gentlemen, some of whom were Liberal Members of Parliament, some of whom were Labour Members of Parliament, and some of whom were Socialists. Many of them spent their time quite ineffectually in endeavouring to discover some objection to the system of compulsory service prevailing in Switzerland. We inquired into this question and the effect upon employment. According to noble Lords opposite, if a young man in this country is taking four months military training it will create the most fearful havoc in British industries. The conclusion to which we came, after inquiring into the matter, was that there were no objections whatever on the part of either employers or men. As a matter of fact 444 both had been, so to speak, through the mill, both regarded it as a perfectly fair thing, and there was no complaint of any kind. But they said—If this were optional, and if one employer were called upon to send out his men in order that somebody else might escape, we should consider that a gross injustice, and it is not a thing we should agree to at all.That was one of the lessons which we learned from the pilgrimage. But we learned something else besides. We realised not only the extraordinary patriotism which prevails in Switzerland, but we were able to realise the equally remarkable pride, and, I might almost say, affection which is felt by a free people in a really national force, a feeling which I venture to think does not exist in this country. I must say that, although I am not of a particularly sentimental disposition, when, at the conclusion of those manœuvres, I saw thousands of these unassuming-looking men in their unpretending uniforms marching past, it crossed my mind that this, perhaps, in its way, was a finer and a nobler spectacle than the more gorgeous military pageants to which we are accustomed in this country, and an equally uncomfortable thought crossed my mind that if it were ever our fate to have to contend with a Power more or less equal to our own, victory was hardly likely to rest with the country which put its faith in money and machinery rather than depended upon the higher ideals of national sacrifice and personal responsibility.
I have only one word to add. I feel some small measure of responsibility for this debate, because it was at my instigation that our proposals were put into this Bill and brought before your Lordships' House; and I would venture to make a very respectful, but, at the same time, earnest, appeal to all who are in favour of this principle, not to be dissuaded from giving their vote in support of it in consequence of what has fallen from the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition. We have many times been challenged to put our proposals before you. It has now been done. They are now before you in a concrete shape, and you are asked to vote for the principle. This is not a Party question, but until we are in earnest and until we really show what we want neither Party is going to take up this question. This is a unique opportunity. This is an 445 opportunity, I venture to say with great submission, on which noble Lords might well decide the question for themselves, and vote in accordance with their convictions. When my noble friends say that the country is not ready for this great change, and that if we pass this Bill it may create a prejudicial feeling in the country, I cannot help feeling that if we are really to gain the esteem of the country we shall be more likely to do it by voting independently upon this great question rather than by waiting for a mandate which may possibly never arrive at all, or which, even if it does arrive, may arrive too late.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, Lord Ampthill said he regarded this Bill as being a reconnaissance in force. It is a reconnaissance in force on the part of those whom we may term the rank and file, or the men in the street; and I do not think that noble Lords sitting on the Front Benches are quite entitled to decide a matter which is really of a non-party character. But there have been very few noble Lords who have really endorsed the Bill as a Bill, though they have approved of the general principle; and we can hardly expect either Front Bench to commit themselves to a Bill which does not meet with their approval or with the general approval of the House. I think the two objects which the noble Lord, Lord Newton, said this Bill proposed to effect were, first, to secure that those who are serving in the Territorial Force, or who would have to serve, should have more efficient training; and, secondly, that there should be a greater supply of men. I quite agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Milner, who said you cannot expect men to continue year after year so zealously engaging in military duties. You cannot expect those who are now in the Territorial Force to give up so much time, and to sacrifice, perhaps, so much of their money, whilst the rest of the population do nothing to secure the defence of the country. As an officer in the Territorial Force I believe that that is very true, and also that the training is undoubtedly insufficient. I do not see how we are to get a longer period of training except by some form of compulsion.
There is one point which those who are the advocates of this Bill seem to have lost sight of, and that is the great diffi- 446 culty of enforcing any compulsory system. It means an absolute change in the whole social life of our country. It means that you must put every man under police supervision. Anybody who has resided for any length of time on the Continent recognises the truth of what I say. A man would not be free to wander about this country in the course of his employment. Every time he did so he would have to leave his address. That means a revolution in our social system. Therefore I see great difficulty in enforcing any such principle as is now advocated. Some less stringent process would probably meet with greater success, to start with at all events. Hence I was very much impressed by the speech of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, and was also very glad to hear—and I think those who are responsible for this measure may take credit to themselves for getting such a strong pronouncement—that he does advocate some form of compulsory training for youths; that there should be some training given to the youth of this country. As being the least complicated system I suggest that no man should be allowed to exercise the franchise without having passed through some compulsory service, of course with the necessary exemptions extended in every country, such as for weakness of health and other reasons.
I gladly associate myself with the noble Viscount, Lord Milner, in being a total disbeliever in any idea of invasion at the present time. I think if we really feared that a great powerful Continental nation was strengthening itself with the idea of invading this country, no Government, however little we might think of them, would allow for a moment that Power to be increasing in strength day by day without having taken some step to prevent that growth of strength. But what I am anxious to see is a prevention of the scares and the state of panic that this country is liable to get into. I regard it as vitiating our foreign policy in different parts of the world, and to it is largely due our weakness at the present time and what is going on in Persia. Absolute believer as I am in the strength, both political and military, of the Empire as a whole, I recognise that the people of this country are in a state more or less of scare or panic and will not be assured until they feel their shores are properly defended. The Secretary of State for the Colonies mentioned as a paradox 447 that we on this side are always declaiming against State intervention in every department of life. We say that the first department in life in which every citizen should be interested is the defence of his country, and although other instances of State interference in the various activities of life are offensive and harmful, nobody can deny that in this case it is absolutely essential for the good and prosperity of this country. In the past it has been said that property has its duties as well as its rights. In these more advanced days surely we can say that democracy also has its duties as well as its rights. We who support this Bill believe that the democracy will be only too anxious, when it is put before them, to accept responsibility for the exercise of their duties in the defence of their country.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
My Lords. I desire to pay my tribute of sincere admiration to the astuteness with which this Bill has been recommended in the speeches of its supporters. I welcome the Bill. We have been waiting for this Bill a long time. The National Service League has been active for years, and it has been very difficult indeed for anybody who desired to criticise the League to realise effectively what the League was formed to advocate. If ever you quoted a speech of one member of the National Service League to another member of the League my experience has been that he invariably repudiated the opinion that that speech expressed. But here for the first time we have a definite proposition made in the Bill. This, I take it, is in future to be regarded as the official propaganda of the National Service League, and as such it will doubtless very often receive examination in your Lordships' House.
But I do complain that hardly any advocate of the Bill who has addressed us in the course of this debate told us anything about the Bill at all. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, summarised his highly entertaining and delightful speech in one sentence. He said—I am going to summarise my objections to the Territorial Army.The noble Lord's speech was a continual stream of criticism formed upon the Territorial Army. He made no attempt to prove that the proper remedy for the evils which he believes exist in the Territorial Army is to be found in this Bill. I think my noble 448 friend was extremely wise to follow the course he took. Destructive criticism is always far easier than the defence of creation, and nowhere is that seen more often than in connection with the War Office.
The noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, evidently recognised from the first that it was desirable that there should not be too close examination of the provisions of this Bill, and he furnished an extremely astute excuse for avoiding that criticism. He said they all recognised that in the present state of affairs, quite apart from the merits of the Bill, it was impossible for it to pass into law, and therefore he suggested that it was desirable that we should discuss the general question and not trouble very much about the details of the scheme now before us. I wish to remind your Lordships as earnestly as I can that it is impossible to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill without approving, not only the principle underlying it, but also the details of the scheme which is to be found in its pages.
We are not discussing a general principle such as we have often had to discuss in the course of the last four or five years. We are discussing definite proposals, put forward on the very, highest authority, that deal with evils which noble Lords who support the Bill evidently believe exist in far greater intensity than we believe they exist. But, however that may be, every vote given for the Second Reading of this Bill is a vote not only for the provisions of the Bill, but in favour of the system which the Bill itself sets out. That being so, I think an obligation lay upon the promoters of the Bill to prove to us three things. They should have proved that the country desired this change, that some such change is necessary, and that, some such change being necessary, the provisions in the Bill provide a system which will constitute the best change that could be made under the circumstances.
My noble friend Viscount Midleton, at the very beginning of his speech, threw out a challenge. He challenged noble Lords to deal with the first of those questions—the question as to whether there is any demand in this country for a Bill of this kind; and your Lordships will have noticed that except for the reference by the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, that challenge, like most of the challenges in the speech of my noble friend, has been absolutely 449 ignored. Lord Ampthill, if he will permit me to say so, gave the usual reply, "but the country have never been asked." It is true that the country has never been definitely asked in the form of a referendum or of a general election. This question on the whole, perhaps, like the question of invasion, has to be decided on the opinion of experts; that is to say, on the opinion of people who are in closer touch with the constituencies than we are. But there have been slight indications that might help us to judge, and I think noble Lords, if they had liked, could have given us more opportunities of judging. Why do you not give us a few more National Service League by-elections? Why not give us a few more by-elections like Stratford-on-Avon? In Stratford-on-Avon there was a candidate who adopted from beginning to end the programme of the National Service League. It is true it was repudiated by the League, and I am quite ready to argue with noble Lords as to whether that repudiation did not do him more good than harm. The fact remains that there was a by-election fought on the programme of the League.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
I was going to say so, but the fact remains that there was one candidate who had nothing whatever to do with Tariff Reform or Free Trade—the candidate who adopted the programme of the National Service League, he obtained five and a-half per cent. of the support of the electorate who went to the poll, although the noble Earl, Lord Roberts, and the noble Viscount, Lord Milner, gave him the benefit of their moral support. I think it would be too much to throw in the face of noble Lords the fact that Captain Kincaid-Smith did not win that election, but not too much to say that if there had been any great 'weight of opinion behind the National Service League, he might have been expected to get more than five and a-half per cent. of the support of the voters who went to the poll. Whether noble Lords dislike that reference or not, the fact remains that my main proposition is established. No attempt whatever has been made in this debate to prove to us conclusively that the country desires some such change as this Bill would bring about.
450 The obligation certainly lay upon noble Lords to prove to us that some change is necessary, and here I admit that Lord Newton did keep within the requirements of the debate. Here I may say that these debates illustrate how nothing exceeds the contempt of a person who advocates compulsory service for a person who does not advocate it. Noble Lords who advocate compulsory service claim, of course, a monopoly of patriotism. We are unpatriotic because we oppose it. [A NOBLE LORD: No, no.] I am very glad to hear that contradiction from one quarter of the House, but I did not notice it coming from the headquarters of the League just behind me. It is obvious. We have had scores of these debates in the last four or five years, and I ask your Lordships, Have you ever heard any statement made by an opponent of compulsory service, or conscription, as I prefer to call it, when there has not been an audible growl of dissent from Lord Newton? There has certainly been a continuous series of these audible growls during the present debate. I am not in the least complaining. I have now got well accustomed to these growls, and should miss them if they were absent. But they do illustrate the fact that there has been a cock-sureness, in the course of these discussions, as to the necessity for some change, which I do not think treats us quite fairly because noble Lords who express that cock-sureness do not trouble us as we should like to be troubled with detailed argument.
I desire to refer for a moment to one remark that was made by the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches who initiated the discussion this afternoon. I do hold strongly to the view that we must look to the Navy as our first line of home defence. But I do not think it is fair to represent those who hold that view as desiring anything that would have the effect of crippling the Navy by turning it into a coastguard," as the noble Viscount said. I entirely concur that we must do no such thing. So far as I know nobody has ever suggested that we should. But I think the mere fact that those remarks can be made show that noble Lords do not fully realise what we mean when we say that we desire to look to the Navy as our first line of defence.
I hesitate to go into this argument very deeply. It is an argument that would be 451 much better expressed by some naval expert, but unfortunately we are not in the position of having any naval experts to take part in these debates. But noble Lords seem to think that the only way of defending the country through the medium of the Navy is to have the Navy in a string, so to speak, right around our coasts. They seem to forget that the Navy is not a single unit but that it is rather a conglomeration of very different units. Nobody expects our battleships to lie in a row around our coasts waiting to be attacked. It is obvious that our line-of-battle Fleet must be expected to go wherever the enemy is, and to search out the enemy's Fleet and to sink it at the very first opportunity. I submit that that in no way minimises their effect upon the problem of home defence, because, even with the battleship Fleet away, occupied, as I assume it should be occupied, with the battleships of the enemy, there is no reason why the duty of dealing with the transports in which an invader might be expected to come should be in any way neglected. That duty might safely be left to the cruisers, torpedo boat destroyers, and submarines told off for that particular purpose. As I have said, nobody expects our battleships to lie in a row around our shores waiting to be attacked. They must go and seek out the enemy's Fleet, and those auxiliaries to which I have alluded can safely be depended upon to deal with an unconvoyed fleet of transports. We had many proofs of this in the recent Russo-Japanese war. A noble Lord said he could not admit that it was a primary duty of the Fleet to defend our shores. I agree with the bald sense in which that statement is made. The primary duty of the Fleet is to maintain the unquestionable command of the sea, and if that unquestionable command of the sea is maintained the subsidiary duties of the Fleet are performed at the same time.
Noble Lords who intend to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill must, in order to make their case, believe in the danger of invasion, not merely of a raid, but of serious invasion. It has not yet been explained in the course of the debate how far the scheme in the Bill would provide a system equal to dealing with the danger of a serious invasion. Is it a complete scheme? Has it been carefully thought out in all its aspects, or even in all its military aspects? The noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland, asked the question, "What will you do with the 452 passive resister?" and that question was not answered. The noble Earl, Lord Crewe, and the noble Marquess behind me, asked what you are going to do about Ireland, and no answer has been vouchsafed to that question. I hesitate to think what the answer can possibly be. The scheme depends upon the Territorial system, and whoever drafted this Bill seems to have forgotten that the Territorial Army system does not apply to Ireland. It would be absolutely necessary, if you started this system in Ireland, to institute county associations there, and I should like to know from members of the National Service League whom they would find to be members of those associations. I am quite certain they would be extremely stormy bodies, and I should myself, without hesitation, follow the lead already given by my noble friend Lord Newton and carefully abstain from joining any association in the neighbourhood where I live.
Has the cost of this scheme been carefully thought out? I do not desire to enter into details as to the question of cost, but I desire to repudiate one suggestion made by the noble Viscount who spoke first this afternoon upon the subject. He said that an argument used by the Under-Secretary of State for War affected only the estimate of the promoters of the Bill, and did not affect the Bill. I desire to repudiate that suggestion. If the argument is good against the estimate it is obviously equally good against the Bill. You cannot dissociate the estimate from the Bill, at least if the estimate is correct. But I do not, as I have said, wish to go into details with regard to this question of cost. I only desire to make one protest against what Lord Ampthill said in regard to the War Office estimate. In comparing the two estimates, those of the War Office and the National Service League, he said one thing which I heard with the very greatest regret. Referring to the officials at the War Office who prepared this estimate the noble Lord said that their brief was to make the estimate as near £20,000,000 as possible.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
That is quite sufficient for my purpose. I had the privilege for two years of working in the closest touch with the distinguished 453 official at the War Office who prepares these estimates. I know that Mr. Harris is incapable of cheating in the way the noble Lord has suggested. He is a very high principled, a very able, and a very devoted public servant, and if he were asked to produce an estimate he would produce one which was low or high according as he found the facts warranted, and nothing in the world would induce him even to colour an estimate he was preparing. I think the suggestion that such a thing is possible by any public servant is most unfortunate, and with my special knowledge of the facts of the particular case I thought I should be failing in my duty if I allowed that remark of the noble Lord to pass without my most earnest protest.
I was asking questions about this scheme. Is the scheme a complete one? Has it been thought out? My noble friend Lord Midleton asked another question, "Will this scheme endanger recruiting for the Regular Army?" and my noble friend Lord Ampthill again gave what I may call with all respect, the stock answer that once give men a taste of the Army in some form or another and a great many of them will accept it in another form. It is not necessary for me to go into that because it has already been answered by Lord Midleton. The experience of the three years enlistment showed conclusively that if you give men an experience of the Army at home the unfortunate result is that the vast majority of them do not show that alacrity to extend their services and to go abroad as it was hoped they would.
I can only see one way in which the danger of doing harm to recruiting for the Regular Army can be avoided. It is quite true that a great many recruits, as many of your Lordships have often complained, used to be got for the Militia by a system roughly described on several occasions as the depôt press gang—that system under which in a depôt the lot of the Militiaman was made so uncomfortable as compared with the lot of the Line man that a great many of them were encouraged to join the Line with the greatest alacrity. It was a system which in my opinion had a great deal to do with bleeding the Militia to death. It is quite true that under the scheme which the Bill proposes you might extend that depot press gang system and so benefit recruiting for the Line. You could make 454 it very much less pleasant for the conscript under your Bill as compared with the comfort given to the long service soldier who enlists in the Regular Army, and so you could counteract what I believe, especially after the experience we have had of the three years enlistment, would be the great difficulty in getting recruits for the Line as a result of this system. That that could be done where it is desirable that it should be done is, I think, a very moot point, and I should regret very much if any such expedient as that were called for by any system approved by your Lordships' House.
I know I may be told that these are questions of detail, and that we have been asked to discuss this matter on the ground of principle. Very well, my Lords, let us discuss it on the ground of principle, and let us give our votes on that ground. What are the principles, for there are more than one, that underlie this Bill? In order to vote for this Bill you have first to accept the principle that invasion is possible in spite of our Navy. Secondly, you have to accept the principle that to meet such an invasion compulsion is necessary. I do not admit either of those two principles; but let us admit them for the sake of argument. If you accept those two principles, you have also to accept a third one, which is that four months training is required for the condition of affairs which the Bill presupposes. Now, as I have said, the Bill presupposes that serious invasion is possible, and I submit to your Lordships that, if that is so, we must be prepared to resist it with troops every bit as efficient as those which would take part in the invasion. This Bill presupposes an invasion by picked troops from the Continent—I do not care what country they come from—who will have had at least two years service with the colours, and against those picked troops this Bill tells us it is sufficient to put conscript soldiers with four months training. That is the third underlying principle in this Bill, and in order to vote for the Second Reading you have to accept it. Has any soldier ever said that troops who had received four months training would be fit to meet troops who had had two years training? It is not necessary to trouble your Lordships with quotations, but I have quotations from almost every soldier of distinction who has held office in the British Army in the last ten years, and every one of them says that at least a 455 year, and most of them say two years, is necessary in order to prepare British troops to fight on equal terms with Continental troops.
I think the only Member of your Lordships' House intending to vote for this Bill who dealt with this point was the noble and gallant Field-Marshal who is fathering the Bill, and I am bound to say that he treated it extremely gingerly. He explained to us why he had agreed to this four months training. I understood that he agreed to this short period for two reasons—first, because he thinks it is best suited to the country; and, secondly, because his connection with the City Imperial Volunteers convinced him that men of intelligence could be made good soldiers in four months. That opinion expressed by the noble and gallant Earl was a revelation to me. I have been looking up lately the evidence which Lord Roberts himself gave before Lord Elgin's Commission, and there I find almost the same words used in order to justify a training of two years, or, in some very special cases, one year. Will the House allow me to read what the noble and gallant Earl said? I quote it in extensor—Question 13,160. SIR GEORGE GOLDIE: What would you put as the shortest time in which an Infantry soldier could be really trained under severe discipline?—LORD ROBERTS: It depends. In a conscript army like the German Army two years are considered enough. We think it requires three years with the ordinary class of recruit.Q. And in France it is one year?—A. I think those are Volunteers.In France they have one year to enable them to pass the examination?—A. Yes, for educated people. That makes all the difference. If we had conscription or educated troops to deal with one year's training would suffice.In reply to Question 13,290, Lord Roberts said—If I had a thousand well-educated men of the stamp of the C.I.V.'s I think in one year I could be quite satisfied that they would be thoroughly well trained. If I had the ordinary recruit I should say he wanted two or three years. Education and intelligence make all the difference in the world to my mind.Well, my Lords, that opinion I have always accepted as one of the cardinal canons of military training, and I have the gravest difficulty in deciding which to follow—the opinion of the noble and gallant Earl as Commander-in-chief, supported by unanimous military opinion, or the opinion of the noble and gallant Earl the advocate of four months training and the father of this 456 Bill. I confess that with the weight of military opinion the other way I feel the very greatest difficulty in believing that anybody, granting the danger of invasion in large force by efficient foreign troops, can maintain that four months training, as proposed under this Bill, is adequate. This, then, is the position in which we find ourselves. As I have said before, we are not now concerned with pious opinions, or with a general discussion. We are concerned with concrete proposals. We have no proof of a desire for them by the public. We have had little or no attempt to prove that the system is necessary. We have proof that the scheme is unthought out and that it provides a system of training almost in the teeth of expert opinion. I think it would be a lamentable thing if your Lordships approved of any scheme on any such subject under such circumstances, and never more lamentable than when that scheme refers to the defence of the nation.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, the noble Earl, in the rather scornful speech which he has just delivered, has propounded an entirely novel Parliamentary doctrine. It is this, that every vote given for the Second Reading of this Bill is a vote not merely for the principle upon which the Bill is constructed but for every detail contained in the measure. I venture to say there is no Member of your Lordships' House, whatever may be the practice of this assembly, who has served in the House of Commons, who would not repudiate such a doctrine as absolutely fantastic.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I am sorry to say it was. I took down the noble Lord's words as they fell from his lips. They were—Every vote given for the Second Reading is a vote for the details of the Bill.As everyone knows, even Governments have voted in the House of Commons over and over again for the Second Reading of a Bill while carefully dissociating themselves from any approval of a large number of its details. I do not mean to repudiate the details of the Bill now before us. I only mention the matter in the hope that none 457 of your Lordships who are in favour of the principle of compulsory service will be prevented, by the kind of argument to which I have referred, from giving on the first occasion open to you your approbation to the general principle on which it is founded.
The advocates of this Bill have been attended, if I may say so, by some disadvantage in this debate. In the first place, we have had against us the combined authority, I might say at times even the tender embraces, of the two Front Benches. The Bench opposite has had behind it all the departmental knowledge and information always at the disposal of the Government of the day, and on this side, in spite of what the noble Marquess so graciously said early in the evening, there has been the silent pressure of the official whip. Over and over again we have been confronted with the opinion of the military advisers of the Government. I do not desire to speak with the slightest disrespect of that opinion, but I venture to say that there is an increasing and an undesirable tendency in our public life to shelter our selves and to shelter the Government behind the opinion of the military advisers. The responsibility rests not with the military advisers but with the Government, which acts or declines to act on their advice. For my own part, I am not much impressed by the factor of military opinion, because in my own experience it has not been always a consistent, and it is sometimes a malleable, factor. I am not quite certain that its malleability is not sometimes in direct ratio to the opinions of the Government which it serves. Anyhow, as has already been pointed out to-day, it is frequently contradictory in character, and when we are confronted, as we have been over and over again in this debate, with the alleged opinions of the military advisers of the Government, is it not open to us to reply that we have behind us the opinion of a commander who may legitimately be called the military adviser, not of the Government, but of the nation? I do not envy the courage or the optimism of the man—I doubt if any such exists in your Lordships' House—who can ignore the warnings which have on so many occasions been addressed to us by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, speaking with an authority and experience greater than that of any commander during the last half century of our history, and detached to a degree 458 unparalleled in our public life from the slightest suspicion of personal or Party feeling or prejudice.
Although I shall incur the sharp disapproval of the noble Earl who has just spoken, I avow myself an unhesitating advocate of national service. I believe that the case for it is not one that will arise only in the dim and distant future, but that it exists now. Until some such system has been adopted by the people of this country I believe that our national integrity and the safety of our shores cannot be secured. With the tremendous armaments that are now being developed by great Powers, with their navies increasing in a ratio, equal, if not superior, to our own, I say that the integrity of this country cannot be permanently insured under the voluntary system. I cordially accept what the noble Earl opposite described as the honourable platitude that every able-bodied man is bound in the last resort to assist in the defence of his country. But I should like to amend that proposition and to say that every man should regard it as his duty, not in the last resort but in the first resort, and that if he is not prepared to undertake it—and in this idle and self-indulgent age, it is too much to expect that the burden, will be voluntarily borne—there is no resort but compulsion, and if compulsion is carried sooner or later, as I hope it may be, I cannot for my own part doubt that the nation will reap enormous benefits in every department of public, civic, and social life and action.
There is one thing which I think has perhaps been insufficiently recognised in this debate, and that is the great change of opinion that is proceeding with regard to this matter. I think there have been not insignificant symptoms of it in this discussion itself. I do not know how many of your Lordships are going to follow us in the Division Lobby. I hope it will be a goodly muster, but anyhow we cannot forget the fact that last night we had two right reverend Prelates for the first time pronouncing definitely on the side of compulsory military training—not in any spirit of military ardour, but with due regard to those necessities of the moral and physical welfare of the people which are specially committed to their charge. But this change in the House itself is nothing to the change which is taking place outside. This question is being debated 459 and discussed everywhere in this country. I do not venture to say what is the opinion of the man in the street—that mysterious and inscrutable phenomenon who is always brought up to support policies and measures which are in need of it; but whatever may be the attitude of the man in the street, the man in the railway carriage, who represents, perhaps, rather a superior grade of society and intelligence, is, if I may judge from my own experience, becoming an increasing convert to these proposals. Several leading organs of the Press are in its favour. Eminent writers and thinkers, strongly tinctured with Radical views, write letters to The Times and announce their conversion. You have Labour Members of Parliament openly expressing their advocacy. Across the seas you observe great democratic communities of our own race voluntarily bending their minds to the idea of compulsory citizen service. Everywhere people are beginning to ask themselves the question, "Why should we be the only great Power in the world to dispense with a system which is found so indispensable by our neighbours?" And still more are they asking the question, "Is our present Army, about which we hear so much, adequate to guarantee the safety and integrity of our homes?"
My Lords, another factor has been introduced into the case to which the noble Marquess, with his habitual fairness, alluded to-night. Surely an immense change has been produced in the situation, and an immense impression has been left upon the mind of the people, by the discovery that our naval supremacy, hitherto a matter of such complete reliance, even if it still continues to exist, is no longer unchallenged, and that if measures are not taken to maintain it—and there seems a strange reluctance about taking some of those measures—it may in no short time slip away from our grasp. When, therefore, we are told, as we have been told over and over again in this debate, that the country is unalterably opposed to these proposals, that they conflict with the liberty-loving instincts and inclinations of the British people, I take leave to doubt that statement altogether. I believe the wish is father to the thought. For my own part I am inclined to believe that there is an enormous reserve of patriotic ardour and a keen sense of national duty amongst our people. I doubt very much if the Under-Secretary would have been in a position 460 last night to offer that beautiful panegyric upon the labours of his chief if Mr. Haldane had not been able to appeal to this patriotism. To my mind the attitude of the people of this country, if one can form an opinion about it at the present moment, is not one of hostility or alarm but one of hesitancy, of expectation, of waiting to see what its leaders will say and do. There is the noble and gallant Earl. He is not afraid to lead, but in the political custom of this country it is from politicians that the lead has to come; and in my view the moment the politicians make up their mind on this matter and give the lead—although I do not detect many symptoms of it to-night—the country will be ready to follow, and opinion will mature upon the question of national service with a rapidity which you can now hardly conceive.
The noble Earl who preceded me very rightly pointed to the fact that the real pivot of this debate is the question of invasion. That question, somewhat ignored yesterday, has very properly come to the front this evening and it is upon the whole question of invasion and our capacity to meet it that our case depends. We have in this country for so long been immune from anything like invasion that the whole thing is unintelligible to us. I have no desire to paint any lurid picture of what invasion might mean, but yet I think when we talk about it your. Lordships ought to realise that supposing our Fleet were disabled or destroyed, and supposing an invading force of any considerable number were to effect a lodgment on our shores, the consequences to this country would be such as we can scarcely imagine or describe. An enemy with his hold upon this capital would be able to exact what indemnity and to impose what conditions he chose, to disable our dockyards and arsenals for years to come, and to cripple the whole future development of our Fleet. Then think, too, in a country of old and ordered civilisation like this what would happen, if the forces of crime and disorder were suddenly unchained. The successful invasion of this country would mean not only the destruction of all our material resources but the crumbling and collapse of society itself. It would mean the utter subversion of the old order of things to which we are accustomed.
The question is, of course, Is there any 461 risk of such a contingency? On this point also public opinion has sensibly advanced. Ten or twelve years ago we were in what may be described as the Dinghy period, the time when the popular belief was that even a boat's crew of the enemy could not be landed on the shores of our country. Then we passed to the period of what I may describe as the petty-raid period, when the idea was that the utmost we might have to meet would be a sharp and sudden incursion of 5,000 or 10,000 men. But we have advanced since then. We now hear statesmen and spokesmen of the Government talking about a contingency in which a force of 70,000 men or more may have to be contemplated, and there are—the noble and gallant Earl and other military authorities in this House will correct me if I am wrong —great military authorities both in this country and in the intelligence departments of foreign countries who believe that it would be a perfectly easy thing for a particular foreign Power, possessed as it is of great resources in the shape of railways, quays, transports, and other appliances, provided it could only secure uninterrupted command of the sea for seventy-two hours, to land a force of 150,000 soldiers on our shores.
Lord Crewe in his speech to-night, without denying this proposition, took consolation from the fact that in 1857, the year of the Mutiny, and in 1900, the year of the Boer war, when this country was relatively helpless and when its Army was engaged in foreign parts, no advantage was taken of this position by our rivals and enemies; and his argument was that if we were thus generously treated before we might hope to be so treated again. I am not certain that in 1900 there were not those who, if they had been able to carry out their desires, might have made such an attempt as that to which the noble Earl alludes; but, whether that be so or not, surely the great difference in the position is this, that on all previous occasions our Navy has held the incontestable command of the sea. That position is at an end, and do you mean to say that on a future occasion, whether you are having a Mutiny in India or a war in South Africa or anywhere else, your enemies, if you have enemies, possessing as they do military forces incomparably superior to your own and a fleet which may even exceed your own, are going in a spirit of false and spurious generosity to abstain 462 from attacking you? Surely the idea is one which cannot be entertained by responsible men.
Then I come to the question, If invasion is conceivable and possible in one of these various forms, have we the Army with which to meet it? We have the Regular Army, and not one word shall fall from my lips in disparagement of that branch of the service. I believe at the present moment it touches a higher point of efficiency that at any time during the last twenty years. You have the Special Reserve, about which not a single person in the course of this debate has been found to speak in any language except that of polite contempt. In the third place, you have the Territorial Army. Now, my Lords, I must congratulate the Secretary of State for War upon the manner in which, by efforts on his own part which are beyond praise, he has induced people to accept and applaud that organisation. It is true that most of the noble Lords who have spoken of it qualified their language, and described it as a framework, a skeleton, or a scaffolding, and that, of course, a little modified the eulogy. At the same time the Secretary of State has received a testament from many of your Lordships which must be very gratifying to him.
But yesterday the crescendo of enthusiasm reached its climax in the speech of the Under-Secretary for War. A speech more loyal to a chief was never delivered. The noble Lord said that the Territorial Army had struck its roots deep into the heart of the nation; that it was a perfect organisation, which admitted of no modification whatever. As I listened to the ample rhetoric of the Under-Secretary I could not help recalling the well-known passage of Don Quixote, in which that gallant knight asked—Dost thou not hear the neighing of the steeds, the braying of the trumpets, the roll of the drums?to which his faithful squire responded—I hear nothing but a great bleating of ewes and sheep.It would be far from my wish to institute so invidious a comparison; but when we hear this stream of undiluted panegyric poured upon the Territorial Army it is necessary to remind the House that of its 270,000 heroes as many as 100,000 are 463 under twenty years of age, and to ask whether a single independent military critic in this House or in the country will say that that Force, whatever its merits, is adequate in physique, in training, and in numbers for the objects which it may be called upon to perform, or will deny that it is hopelessly unreliable for purposes of serious war. It may be the very finest raw material in the world, but nobody could dream for a moment of calling it a finished product.
Then we come to the point which is really the gist of this debate. It is all very well to deride or depreciate the Territorial Army, but the question may fairly be put whether this Bill is likely to provide you with a better, force for the purpose for which it is required. I have been very much astonished that almost all the speakers have thrown very great doubt upon this. There has been a much greater inclination to disparage the Army proposed by the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Roberts, than there has been to analyse or expound the merits of the Territorial Army. But let us look at the point. Surely there can be but one opinion about it. Under your Territorial Army scheme, as I understand, your recruits are supposed to have fifteen days, but as a matter of fact most of them only have seven days training. That is not a training in any serious or practical sense, but is merely recruit drill. It is accompanied by no shooting. It is a sort of holiday performance in uniform. Under this Bill your recruits will have four months in camp under competent officers, receiving rifle instruction throughout that time, and benefiting by practical training. The four months in the first year are to be followed by fifteen days in each of the three succeeding years; so that you will get a total of 165 clays in the period of four years devoted to the business-like training of the soldier. It is quite true that at the end you will not get a finished soldier, but you will get a half or a two-thirds finished soldier—at any rate, you will get a very different sort of product from the Territorial Army man who has merely had his seven days training and is supposed to defend his country against the trained soldiers of Germany upon the strength of that contemptible preparation.
May I be allowed here to notice the two somewhat curious pictures that have been 464 drawn in the course of this debate of the life that the recruits are expected to lead under this scheme? The Duke of Northumberland drew a really pathetic picture, with a touch of parental anxiety in it, of the youth of this country being drawn at an impressionable age away from their homes, huddled in barracks and canteens—why barracks and canteens I have no idea, seeing that the training is to take place in camp—losing the virtues that they have imbibed from their fathers and acquiring all sorts of faults and vices in their place. That may be a true picture of the life of a conscript in France or Germany, but it has nothing whatever to do with the life of the recruit under the Bill of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal.
Then the noble Earl the Leader of the House gave an extraordinary description of what is to take place in these camps. We learn that the working classes will not like to go into them because the fusion of classes is not popular. I drew the conclusion that what he was going to point out was that the working classes would not like to associate with people like ourselves. Not a bit of it. The working classes would not like this admirable scheme because they would have "to associate with the riff-raff." That is surely a strange doctrine to emanate from that Bench. Then the noble Marquess (Lord Lansdowne) spoke of the 150,000 first-year recruits as though they would be agricultural labourers and artisans, and he spoke of the danger to industry that would ensue if they were taken away in the summer months. Well, the 150,000 men will not all be agricultural labourers, or all artizans, or all riff-raff, or all democrats, but they will be a mixture of all the elements of society. I should hope that the upper and educated classes will be largely represented in the training camps. I can imagine nothing better for all classes than the discipline of the camp, nothing more democratic than that all these persons, the aristocrats, the middle class, the lower class, and even the "riff-raff" should be drawn together to take their training side by side, nothing more patriotic than that this national duty should be undertaken by all instead of being devolved upon the shoulders of a small minority more self-sacrificing or less indolent than their neighbours.
The next point is this. We have been told 465 that this force would be no more ready to take the field than the present Territorial Army. Now we know that the Territorial Army will have to wait for six months before it can take the field at all. It is hoped that its numbers will reach 313,000, but so many will be occupied upon garrison duty and other necessary avocations that it has been calculated that not more than 40,000 or 50,000 would be available to enter the field against the invader. On the other hand, compare with this the scheme of the noble and gallant Earl. Of course the number produced by his scheme would depend largely on the time it had been in operation. The total would increase year by year, but in any case you must get an enormous advantage as regards numbers. The majority of them, or, at any rate, a large number of them, would be drawn from a good class of people. They would be a highly educated and respectable class of men, and above all, they would have had a real and serious military training. Of course it is quite true to say that man for man they would not be fit to set against the professional soldiers of a European army. But what they lacked in individual quality, they would make up in numbers, and, in any case, they would be sooner ready for their work than the soldiers of the Territorial Army could possibly be. Above all this force would set free the Expeditionary Army for service outside the country and the Navy for its operations in any other part of the world.
There are only two other arguments which have been used of a general character to which, with your Lordships' permission, I will allude. They have been endorsed by the highest authorities. The first is that if this money is spent on the Home Defence Army the effect must be to reduce the amount available for the Regular Army. But the expenditure on the Army is not a fixed sum, so that if something is added at one end it must be taken off at the other; and there is nothing therefore to prevent the Government from increasing the expenditure upon any one branch of the forces if it finds it necessary to do so. Any Government that attempted to stint or jeopardise the Regular Army with a view to buttressing up the Home Defence Army would speedily be taken to account by the constituencies. For my own part I believe the people of the country would be the last to use any such argument. I think they expect both the Home and the foreign Army 466 to be kept up to a proper state of efficiency; and all the arguments used in this debate about the intolerable burden of £4,000,000 or £8,000,000 a year for a particular branch of the service are arguments which, I believe, would not appeal at all to the constituencies at large. What the people want is to be certain that the country and their homes are safe, and they will not quarrel about four or eight millions, but will be ready to give much more provided they can be assured of security.
The second argument is one to which I should not have been disposed to attach very great weight if it had not been used, and seriously used, by the noble Marquess. It is the argument that compulsory service would injure recruiting for the Regular Army. Is that the case? The argument has more than once been employed, but is it anything more than a speculation? Is it possible to pronounce upon the matter so definitely as some noble Lords have been disposed to do? Surely all military experience is to the contrary. When you had the old Militia is it not well-known that men were always being drawn away from the Militia to the Regular Army, and it was one of the complaints made by Militia officers that they could not keep their men because of the rival attractions of the superior branch of the service; and why a man should be driven away from a military career because he has been put through four months compulsory training I cannot for the life of me understand. It would seem to be much more likely that his preliminary experience would arouse the dormant martial instincts that lie hidden in him, and that you would find your Home Defence Army acting as the best recruiting sergeant in the world for your Regular Army.
The hour is getting on and I must bring my remarks to a close. The only concluding argument to which I would draw attention is one upon which great stress has been laid, particularly from the Front Opposition Bench, and that is the argument that the introduction of a Bill like this is the business of a responsible Government. It is true that a Bill introducing compulsory military service can only be introduced and passed on the initiative and authority of the Government of the day, and, further, that no Government is likely to take this action unless it is con- 467 vinced that it has the sanction of the country behind it. That we all accept. We introduce this Bill not in the least because we expect it at this moment to be carried into law, not even because we expect it to pass its Second Reading in this House. We know that the attitude of the noble Marquess has rendered that impossible. The present Bill has been introduced as the recognised way of bringing our proposals before the public. So long as we were content with resolutions people said, "You indulge in generalities; let us have concrete proposals." Now that we put them in the form of a Bill everybody says "How very inconvenient! Do you really mean that you are going to ask the House of Lords to pass this Bill, and if they do so are you going to have a conflict with the other House?" We contemplate nothing of the sort. We have introduced our Bill because we think it is the best way of submitting to the public a more detailed scheme than anything we have before put forward. Some day, perhaps, a responsible Government will be willing to take up a measure of this sort. In the meantime it is for irresponsible persons to push it forward. A good deal of spade work will, I daresay, be required on our part, but you may be perfectly certain of one thing, that as soon as the country gives any general indication of a willingness to take up this matter, a responsible Government will be found to take it up also.
My Lords, we are not dissatisfied with the reception which has been accorded to
§ our Bill in this debate. It is true that many useful and valuable criticisms have been passed upon details of the measure. By those criticisms we shall, I hope, profit in the same degree as I trust the country will benefit by a more clear understanding of the principles which we advocate. For my own part, I believe that whatever be the fate of this immediate Bill, or of its successors, there is no shadow of a doubt that this country will ultimately be driven to the acceptance of some form of compulsory military service. It will be driven to it, if it does not accept it of its own free will—and you may be right in thinking that it will be reluctant—by the sheer force of necessity, and the necessity will arise because you cannot permanently stand the strain and cost of the effort to keep up your naval supremacy. You cannot expect to do so, viewing the competition you have to face, the resources and the spirit of the countries with whom you have to compete. Your naval supremacy is already wavering. In years to come you will find it has slipped away altogether from your grasp, and when it has gone, then you must have an Army for home defence, and after you have realised that you must have such an Army you will have no alternative but to resort to compulsion.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Motion?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 103; Not-contents, 123.469
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Londesborough, E||Oxford, L. Bp.|
|Argyll, D.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Manvers, E.||Abinger, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Mayo, E.||Ampthill, L.|
|Somerset, D.||Onslow, E.||Barrymore, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Portsmouth, E.||Blyth, L.|
|Westminster, D.||Powis, E.||Castletown, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Roberts, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)|
|Hertford, M.||Shrewsbury, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|Stamford, E.||Collins. L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Curzon of Kedleston, L.|
|Brownlow, E.||Colville of Culross, V||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)|
|Cairns, E.||De Vesci, V.||Dunboyne, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Falkland, V.||Dunleath, L.|
|Carnwath, E.||Goschen, V.||Ebury, L.|
|Coventry, E.||Halifax, V.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Hampden, V. [Teller.]||Elphinstone, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Hardinge, V.||Faber, L.|
|Devon, E.||Hill, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Gainsborough, E.||Hood, V.||Grenfell, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Milner, V.||Harris, L.|
|Howe, E.||Ridley, V.||Hothfield, L.|
|Kilmorey, E.||Tredegar, V.||Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)|
|Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)||Monteagle of Brandon, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Mostyn, L.||Seaton, L.|
|Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)||Newton, L.||Sherborne, L.|
|Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Ormathwaite, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Lamington, L. [Teller.]||Penrhyn, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford|
|Leconfield, L.||Playfair, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Leith of Fyvie, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)||Southampton, L.|
|Lovat, L.||Raglan, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Michelham, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)||Vivian, L.|
|Monck, L. (V. Monck.)||Rathmore, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)||Rosmead, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Montagu of Beaulieu, L.||Saltoun, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Stradbroke, E.||Glantawe, L.|
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)||Granard, L.(E. Granard.)|
|Wolverhampton, V. (L. President.)||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Grey de Ruthyn, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||Grimthorpe, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.|
|Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Hastings, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Hatherton, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Cross, V.||Haversham, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Hemphill, L|
|Portland, D.||Herschell, L.|
|Morley of Blackburn, V.||Hindlip, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Portman, V.||Holm Patrick, L.|
|Bath, M.||Selby, V.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)|
|Camden, M.||Killanin, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Peterborough. L. Bp.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Lawrence, L.|
|Acton, L.||Lucas, L.|
|Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.)||Airedale, L.||Ludlow, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Allendale, L.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Allerton, L.||Manners, L.|
|Ashburnham, E.||Alverstone, L.||Marchamley, L.|
|Bandon, E.||Ashbourne, L.||Middleton, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Balfour, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Basing, L.||Monson, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Newlands, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Belper, L.||Northcote, L.|
|Chichester, E.||Bowes, L. (E. Strathmore and Kinghorn.)||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Craven, E.||Pentland, L.|
|Cromer, E.||Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)||Pirrie, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Brassey, L.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Revelstoke, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Clinton, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Clonbrock, L.||St. Davids, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Colchester, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Leicester, E.||Courtney of Penwith, L.||Shaw, L|
|Lichfield, E.||Crawshaw, L||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||De Mauley, L.||Stalbridge, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Denman, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Morley, E.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Stanmore, L.|
|Morton, E.||Egerton, L.||Swaythling, L|
|Northbrook, E.||Eversley, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Forester, L.||Welby, L|
|Resolved in the negative accordingly.|
|Then the said Resolution agreed to.|
|House adjourned at Twelve o'clock, till to-morrow, half-past Ten o'clock.|