HL Deb 27 April 1911 vol 8 cc6-17


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, it may be convenient that I should state shortly the nature of the provisions of the Bill the Second Reading of which I now rise to move. To begin with, the Bill contains the usual clauses required to keep alive the law under which alone the Army is legal. Therefore it has to become law by April 30. These provisions are in the usual form. Then there is a short clause at the end which I need merely mention, which enables the Army Council to make stoppages from pay for the purpose of satisfying costs incurred by women in obtaining affiliation orders against soldiers. That, of course, is perfectly right and reasonable, but there has been no adequate provision for it up to this time.

But the real point of interest to your Lordships in the Bill of this year is the new set of provisions as regards horses. Everybody knows that of all the difficult subjects connected with the British Army that of horses is by no means the least difficult. No systematic attempt has been made in years gone by to deal with the question of how to provide the Army on mobilisation with the horses that it requires. Two years ago certain additions were made to the Army (Annual) Act in the form of clauses enabling County Associations to undertake the beginning of a classification and census of horses. A census was, in the first instance, taken by the police under powers which they possessed, but it has been found that, although several counties have been engaged in carrying out the census, the powers conferred did not go far enough. We propose now to put the whole matter upon what after consideration we have decided to be the most satisfactory footing.

The importance of this question I need not dwell upon. The Expeditionary Force must be hampered upon its mobilisation until adequate provision has been made for the supply of horses. It may be convenient that I should state to your Lordships the result of inquiries which I have just made as to the progress of the arrangements in connection with the Expeditionary Force on mobilisation. The state of matters now is that the combatant personnel, the fighting line, in all arms is now complete. The whole of the stores are there, the whole of the weapons are there, and the whole of the ammunition is there. The only points connected with the Expeditionary Force which are not yet in perfect order are certain minor auxiliary services and the officers. As regards those services, the changes that have been made have now supplied everything required except in the case of the Army Service Corps, the Army Medical Corps, and the Veterinary Service. As regards the last-named service, a temporary provision has been made, and the deficiency will presently be properly filled up. As regards the Army Service Corps, the arrangements which have now been completed will supply shortly all the personnel wanted to complete for mobilisation, and in the meantime temporary arrangements have been made which will enable the Divisions to be mobilised. As regards the Army Medical Corps, again machinery is working which will produce the full quota required for mobilisation, and meantime arrangements have been made which will supply sufficiently trained men to fill up.

I am therefore in a position to say, as a result of my inquiries, that the entire personnel of the six Divisions could be mobilised at once, subject to this, that the arrangements as regards the Army Service Corps and the Army Medical Corps, although in a form which is quite sufficient for immediate mobilisation, are not vet in the scientific shape in which we hope to see them when the machinery has been working a little longer. Then as to the number of officers, there are quite sufficient officers to mobilise the entire Expeditionary Force. We have a surplus of officers in the higher standing. In subalterns, however, we should have to make great demands on the staff at the depôts. We shall not have many left over for the depôts and for wastage of war unless steps are taken. The steps which it is proposed to take have been organised in the shape of the new Special Reserve of Officers—a young organisation but one which has now begun to work, and I am hopeful that it will give the results it has been designed to yield. Meantime, if war came we would, with the temporary steps which we have taken, be able, we think, without difficulty to fill up what is required in the way of subaltern officers for the services at home. For mobilisation, as I have said, we have amply sufficient officers of all standings to mobilise the Expeditionary Force.

Our ideal has been to be able to mobilise the entire Expeditionary Force within ten days. We can at this moment, except so far as regards horses, mobilise four Divisions within ten days, and the whole of the six Divisions within twenty-one days. That is what I am informed as a result of inquiries which I have made this week in the different departments. Therefore all that has to be done is to complete matters so as to be able to mobilise the other two Divisions within the ten days. That is what we are aiming at, and it is in sight. But as regards the supply of horses the situation is much more serious. There is no proper organisation in respect of that supply. Under the law as it has stood for some years everyone in this country who possesses horses and vehicles suitable for military purposes is bound to produce them on mobilisation, and they may be taken compulsorily, the price to be paid being afterwards settled, in the event of a dispute, in the County Court. There is also power on the part of the police to make a list of those who would be liable to contribute horses and vehicles, but the powers of the police are very limited. The police, moreover, are not fully qualified to discharge the somewhat delicate task of saying what horses are fit and for what purpose.

It is that situation with which we have to deal. The police census, however, is valuable as showing the number of horses in the country and their general quality. Excluding horses under four years old, brood mares, and stallions, there are 1,600,000 horses in the country which would be available. Of these I reckon that certainly not more than one-third—I prefer to take it at a little lower than a third—could be counted upon as likely to prove fit for Army purposes; but even that leaves us with 500,000 horses on which we could draw. I now come to the number required for mobilisation. The Territorial Force requires 86,000 horses for mobilisation, and the Regulars, who already possess a considerable peace establishment of horses, require for mobilisation 52,000 more. These figures amount together to 138,000; but there are 12,000 horses at present registered and on which we can put our hands. Therefore taking it that we have to find 126,000 horses on mobilisation for the Regulars and the Territorials, the question is, How is this to be done? There are about 500,000 suitable horses out of which they can be got, so that there is an ample margin and an ample supply for wastage; and young horses, of course, would be coming on in the course of a prolonged war.

This Bill contains clauses which provide what we think is the machinery necessary to solve the problem of sifting out and classifying these horses. The police cannot do it. They can tell you what horses there are, but they cannot classify them. We have never regarded a police census as giving us anything inure than an indication of how many horses there were in the country and what sort of horses they might be. We look to the County Associations to do this work but they cannot do it without great help. They have in some ten counties made progress in the way of mapping out the districts into areas and sifting the horses, but what is required is something much more thorough than that. Accordingly we propose in this Bill to enable the County Associations to use the powers which the police possess, but we leave the police their powers in case it: is necessary that they should exercise them, as it will be, for instance, in the case of Ireland. There the Lord Lieutenant is the head of the Constabulary, and the Lord Lieutenant can set the machinery which I shall presently describe in motion; but in this country, where County Associations exist, although it is well to retain the police powers to fall back upon in case of a breakdown, the County Association seems to us the body most likely to inspire confidence in the people in the neighbourhood. We give the County Associations the same power, with some improvements, that the police possess at the present time for entering premises and looking at the horses; and if they are resisted, there is power to go to a magistrate and obtain an order.

The County Associations, however, will exercise these powers through the medium of Regular officers set apart for the purpose. There are at present 500 Territorial adjutants, some of them possessing considerable knowledge of horses and all of them available for the work. We propose to give them in the winter months, when these adjutants have very little to do, time duty of classifying the horses within definite areas, and we propose that they should do so under the supervision, and, indeed, under the command, of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in the district in which the county is situated. The legal powers will be with the County Association, and the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief will be in consultation with the County Association as to the exercise under their ægis of his powers of setting his officers to work. We have every confidence that they will be able to come to arrangements which will work without friction. The position, therefore, will be this. The Territorial adjutants, who will have the assistance when it is required of the Permanent Staff, will have the duty of making the classification. It will not be necessary to take a census. We think that with the basis we have in the existing police census the adjutants will be able to set to work. We leave the County Associations the same freedom that they possess at the present moment to co-operate in the work, but the primary work will be with the adjutants.

Then there comes in another body of Regular officers whose duties will be specially concerned with the horses required for the Regulars—I mean the Remount officers. We propose to strengthen the staff of the Remount officers in the Command and to set them at work to co-operate with the adjutants. We shall not need to classify every horse in every county. There are remote parts of counties where, for instance, there are only draft horses; it will be unnecessary to make a search there. But applying the principle of fair distribution of the burden, the plan is that a list should be made out of the horses that are reasonably available and necessary in each county in order that there may be a complete view of what horses there are there and for what purposes they would serve. The Yeomanry will not have their horses interfered with; the horses that they have they will keep. The regulations will require rather a better class of horse for the Regulars than suffices for Territorial work, for Regular horses may have to go abroad and have very rough experience. It is, therefore, desirable that they should not be younger when sent to service than six years. Steps have been taken with a view of putting the ages and training of Cavalry horses on a better footing. I shall, however, say nothing upon that just now, because there is a Question on the Notice Paper in the name of Lord Willoughby de Broke which deals with this subject, which is being investigated at the present moment by a very strong Committee of the War Office, and steps are being taken in order to determine the standards up to which Cavalry horses ought to come in the future. As I say, I will not go into that matter now, but will do so next week when I reply to the noble Lord's question.

The work of the General Officers, co-operating with the County Associations, will be to sift out the horses which are to be for the use of the Territorials on mobilisation and the horses that will be required for the Regulars on mobilisation, and to classify and assign the particular horses; and when mobilisation comes then the old powers of the Army Act apply and there will be a right to take the horses. The price, I hope, will be agreed upon in many cases beforehand in time of peace. That is the process which seems to be popular already in some parts of the country. If there is any dispute, it is, as I have said, to be settled by the County Court Judge, but the taking of the horses is not delayed. We are making arrangements for the establishment of mobilisation centres to which the horses will be sent, and then delivery will be taken over by the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, who will undertake the distribution. In this way we hope to prevent overlapping between the interests of the Regulars and the Territorials. The veterinary assistance that is required will be provided by the General Officers Commanding-in-Chief, and as I have said, we propose to give extra assistance to the remount staffs. The money now spent on registration will be no longer necessary, and we shall devote that money and any further sum that may be required to improving the remount and veterinary staffs.

I have explained the general purpose of the provisions contained in the Bill now before your Lordships. The important clause is Clause 4—

Amendment of section one hundred and fourteen of the Army Act with respect to lists of carriages and animals.

4.—(1) The power conferred on police authorities by section one hundred and fourteen of the Army Act of causing lists to be made out of persons liable to furnish carriages and animals and of the number and description of the carriages and animals of such persons may in England and Scotland be exercised either by the police authority or by the county association established under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, and accordingly in that section the words "the authority hereinafter mentioned" shall be substituted for the words" the police authority," wherever those words occur, and at the end of the section the following subsection shall be added: (4) The authority for the purposes of this section shall in England and Scotland be either the police authority or the county association established under the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, and in Ireland the police authority.

(2) After subsection (1) of the same section the following subsection shall be inserted: (1A) For the purpose of assisting the authority hereinafter mentioned in the preparation of such list as aforesaid, any proper officer authorised in that behalf by the authority shall be entitled at all reasonable times to enter any premises in which he has reason to believe that any carriages or animals are kept, and to inspect any carriages or animals which may be found therein. If any such officer so authorised is obstructed in the exercise of his powers under this provision, a justice of the peace may, if satisfied by information on oath that the officer has been so obstructed, issue a search warrant authorising the constable named therein, accompanied by the officer, to enter the premises in respect of which the obstruction took place at any time between six o'clock in the morning and nine o'clock in the evening, and to inspect any carriages or animals that may be found therein. In this provision the expression 'propel officer' means any officer or person of such rank, class, or description as may be specified in an order of the Army Council made for the purpose.

As your Lordships will see, this clause enables either the police authority or the County Association—not merely the police authority, as at the present time—to make the list; and it gives authority to enter, and to obtain, if necessary, a magistrate's order to enter premises if there is obstruction. Then it enables the Army Council through the General Officers Commanding-in-Chief to detail to the assistance of the County Associations, or the police authority, as the case may be, the proper Regular officers to whom I have already referred. These officers will be, of course, under the command of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, but will be detailed to the assistance of the Associations, and we have every confidence that the Associations and the General Officers Commanding-in-Chief will work so well together that friction is not likely to arise. I have now explained the general provisions of the Bill. I can only say that in this, as in other matters, one is in the region of speculation, but this horse question is so difficult that we felt that unless some vigorous and energetic legislative steps were taken it would be hopeless to get it on a satisfactory footing; and I venture to commend the provisions in this Bill as an attempt, made after much consideration, to solve a problem that has weighed upon us all like a nightmare for a long time past.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Haldane.)


My Lords, I do not desire, I need hardly say, to in any way oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. It is obvious that the Bill must be passed, and there is nothing in it that any one would desire to see rejected. But at the same time I do feel that particular attention ought to be drawn to the new Clause 4, which obviously the Secretary of State for War regards as the most important new matter in the Bill, and I desire to do so, though I feel sure that all your Lordships on this side of the House are just as anxious as the Secretary of State for War to see this question solved and to help in its solution. I cannot help regretting that the noble Viscount did not explain a little more fully why this clause is in this particular form. The clause seems to me to be much more stringent—I would almost say more roughshod—than is necessary in the circumstances of the case, though I am quite certain that the noble Viscount in drafting it in this form had no such intention. The clause, however, authorises the proper officer to enter at all reasonable times any premises in which he has reason to believe any carriages or animals are kept. What exactly is intended by the conferring of those powers? Is it that an officer is to start out in a motor-car at 8 or 9 o'clock one morning and make a tour of a county, calling everywhere? He may visit premises on a day when it is snowing—for this is to be done in the winter time—and say to the person concerned, "I have called to see your horses; bring them out; I am going to walk them, to trot them, to gallop them, and to veterinarily inspect them, and generally turn your establishment inside out. You have had no notice of this, but I am here with power under the Army (Annual) Act to do this." The clause as drafted may work in a most unfortunate way in making what the noble Viscount is endeavouring to do unpopular, and this will be of no use if it is not done with the hearty goodwill of all owners of horses.


He would be a very bad officer who behaved in the way the noble Earl suggests, and he would be promptly removed from his duties. It is, however, impossible to draft a clause in a legal form unless you provide for all cases which may arise. We certainly have no intention of using the powers in the way indicated by the noble Earl.


I understand it is the intention that these things should be publicly done and done with the greatest convenience to the countryside. I ant not a lawyer—I do not know whether I ought to say I am sorry or glad—but as the clause is drafted it seems to me to confer stringent powers which might be badly worked. I trust that the Secretary of State for War will see that the convenience of horse owners is considered as much as possible. That was the only point I desired to make when I read the Bill, but having heard the speech of the Secretary of State this afternoon I desire to make one other. The noble Viscount made a very strong statement on the subject of the personnel of the Army. He told us definitely, from information he has at his disposal, that he is now prepared to mobilise four Divisions in ten days and the two other Divisions in twenty-one days.


Except for horses.


I quite understand that the noble Viscount was referring to the personnel only. Those who have heard the questions asked by my noble friend the Duke of Bedford this session and the answers which have been given to them have drawn a very different estimate as to the time that it would take to mobilise the Expeditionary Force. I think that after the very definite statement of the Secretary of State—the most definite statement that has been made for many years on such a subject—we have a right to ask that figures showing how it is arrived at should be laid before Parliament, and I suggest to the noble Viscount that he should take this into consideration with a view of laying figures to prove effectively to the country the accuracy of his strong and emphatic statement.


My Lords, I should like, as chairman of a County Association, to give to my noble friend the Secretary of State for War the assurance that at any rate as far as we are concerned we shall render every possible assistance to him in carrying out his plan. I have always felt that the police were hardly the authority to carry out this work. It is obvious that a policeman is not a judge of horses. One very useful result, however, of the police census is that they have found out the actual number of horses there are in this country. As far as I could make out from the figures which the noble Viscount quoted, we would require 126,000 horses out of the 500,000 which are considered serviceable for military purposes. I would ask my noble friend to take care, if this work is to be handed over to the County Associations, that very definite instructions are given to them as to the qualifications required of the horses—that is to say, as to their age, whether they are fit for draft or the saddle, and all those detailed explanations without which we should be entirely at sea.

As I understand it, the arrangement is to be this, that the General Officer commanding the district is to nominate a certain number of officers, who presumably will either be adjutants of Yeomanry or Remount officers, or officers specially qualified to judge of horses. But I would ask whether it would not be possible for members of County Associations themselves to form part of these officers. In my own Association we have three gentlemen who have commanded the Yeomanry of the county, in addition to the officer who now commands that force. They would be able to give very useful information, and would be exceedingly good judges of the horses required for the Yeomanry. I think there ought to be some elasticity in this matter. I had at one time an idea that we might get rid of the police altogether, but I observe from a statement in another place that the police will give valuable assistance. For instance, in the case of any county—I there will not be one—not undertaking this duty, then the police will fill the vacuum. In addition to that, in the case of a recalcitrant owner who objected to his stables being inspected, all that the police officer would have to do would be to get an order from a magistrate under this Act. I do not share in the alarm of the noble Earl opposite as to the compulsory character of Clause 4. If he will look at it again he will see that it only says that they are to make out a list of the persons liable to furnish carriages and animals, and of the number and description of the carriages and animals, and to inspect. You cannot get any information at all unless you inspect, and I do not see how my noble friend could possibly have omitted that from the clause.

One other point. There has never been a year in which there has not been a dispute about the amount granted to innkeepers for the provision of meals to the troops. I was happy to see that in another place it was stated by Colonel Seely that this schedule would be examined, but I should like to have an assurance from my noble friend the Secretary of State that before another year elapses he will examine it. I am aware that the amount of allowance must be absolutely defined in the Schedule, but I would ask any one whether it is proper to allow a soldier only 2½d. for supper and 4d. for breakfast while he is on the march and performing heavy duty. Surely this schedule is more adapted to the gentlemen who make their headquarters on the Embankment than to members of His Majesty's Forces. I hope that before another year elapses the noble Viscount will look through the schedule and redress what has been a long-standing grievance.


My Lords, I should like to say, as chairman of a County Association, that I think the scheme foreshadowed by the noble Viscount is one that ought to be capable of being worked without any great difficulty. I do not share the apprehensions of the noble Earl, Lord Donoughmore, about remount officers riding roughshod over people whose horses they have to inspect and register. A considerable number of these officers will be adjutants of local units. These gentlemen have the re- cruiting of their own corps very much at heart, and they know that the worst possible thing they could do for recruiting would be to upset any of the people of the locality with whom they come in contact.

There are some points on which I hope guidance will be given to County Associations in the arrangements that will have to be made under these proposals. The noble Viscount, if I understood him correctly, suggested that in a great many cases arrangements as to the price at which horses might be taken would be made beforehand in time of peace hope there will be no very rigid limitations on the price that may be paid for horses. I believe that far the greater number of horses that broke down in South Africa broke down from want of condition. It is notorious that none did better than the London 'bus horses, which had been having hard food and had been doing regular work. In my own opinion it would pay over and over again to give better prices for horses that had a year's corn in them than to give £30 or £40 for soft animals direct out of the farmer's hands. If you buy a horse at £100 that will last six mouths, that horse does not cost you so much as two at £50 which only last three months apiece. It would be of great assistance if it could be understood beforehand that remount officers will not be limited in price provided they get a good article for the money.

Another point on which we shall require guidance will be as to the exemptions. I understand that horses owned by doctors would be exempt, and probably exemption would be given in a great many cases to people who only own one horse. I think such an exemption would be a cheap one to give, because a man who only keeps one horse can very seldom afford to keep a good one. There are, however, many horses belonging to village tradesmen which from running about the country every day are in excellent condition, and I think it would be well if in such cases Remount Officers were to be allowed to offer good prices for animals that were sound and serviceable.

On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived: Then Standing Order No. XXXIX considered (according to order), and dispensed with: Bill read 3a, and passed.