§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH rose to call attention to a speech delivered by the Secretary of State for War at Barn-staple on April 20, and to ask His Majesty's Government how they are able to reconcile the principles of foreign and military policy then enunciated with recent events and the statement made to the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, in calling attention to the speech which the noble Viscount delivered at Barnstaple, I must remind your Lordships of what was said by Sir Edward Grey in November last in the House of Commons. I shall therefore be obliged to read from the speech of the Foreign Minister an extract which generally summarises the foreign policy which Sir Edward Grey, after full and careful deliberation, considers is the one which should be accepted by this country. Speaking in the House of Commons on November 27 last, Sir Edward Grey made use of these words—
There is one foreign policy different from the one which I have been endeavouring to sketch to the House, and it seems to me to be advocated in some quarters of the country. It seems to me to be simply disastrous. It is that we should give it to be understood that in no circumstances, however aggressively, provocatively, or wantonly, a friend of ours was attacked, we should give our friend no assistance whatever. That would be an attempt in revert to what was once called a policy of 'splendid isolation.' It would deprive us of the possibility of having a friend in Europe, and it would result m the other nations of Europe, either by choice or by necessity, being brought into the orbit of a single diplomacy from which we should be excluded. The ideal of splendid isolation contemplated a balance of power in Europe to which we were not to be a party, and from which we were to be able to stand aside in the happy position of having no obligations and being able to take advantage of any difficulties which arose in Europe from friction between opposing Powers. That policy is not a possible one now. Any single Power that attempted to adopt that policy in Europe to-day would be felt as a public nuisance, and if we were that single Power, one result would be that m the course of a few years we should be building warships, not against a two-Power standard, but probably against the united navies of Europe. As a matter of fact that policy, which would be disastrous, is not a policy. It is the negation of policy.
Those words are very clear and distinct, and I believe that the vast majority of the people of this country supported Sir Edward Grey in that clear and moderate statement of our policy abroad.
I must ask your Lordships to consider the effect of the language of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War. Speaking at Barnstaple on April 20—I am quoting from the Western Morning News report, which I believe to be on the whole the most reliable report I could get—the noble Viscount made use of these words—
All military organisation, all naval organisation in this country depends on foreign policy.
I am sure We entirely agree with the noble Viscount on that point. He proceeded—
It is on our foreign policy that the shape of our Army and Navy depends…If foreign policy changes, you will Have to have a new system, but I hope foreign policy is not likely to change. I do not think it is likely to change, as I believe our best policy is to be as free as possible of Continental alliances, to manage our own affairs in our own great Dominions, to have our great Fleet commanding the sea, to have our great Oversea Army which we can send anywhere—the Continent or anywhere else necessary—and to retain our independence, relying for home defence on the voluntary efforts of our citizens.
I do not know what the noble Viscount meant by our independence unless it implied an independence of all understandings with foreign Powers. It does seem to me to be impossible to reconcile the principles of policy stated by Sir Edward Grey and those views expressed by the noble Viscount opposite.
I should also like to ask the noble Viscount what he means when he talks of our great Oversea Army. He went on to say—
We have 320,000 men engaged for oversea service—77,000 in India…
But, my Lords, we could not send the men in India anywhere. Those men in time of crisis, or presumably so, would have to remain in India. Then the noble Viscount went on to say—
We have an Expeditionary Army with its line of communications which is about three times as large as the Expeditionary Army for oversea service of any other Power in the world.
I cannot understand what the noble Viscount had in his mind when he spoke of our having an enormous Oversea Army. He went on to speak of Germany. He said—
Germany has somewhere under 3,000 men who are engaged for voluntary service oversea. They have 3,000 men in Africa; that is the whole Oversea Army of Germany.
But surely the German Army and the French Army, provided they had the ships, would go and take their part wherever the theatre of war was in Europe. It seems to me ridiculous to talk about the German Oversea Army as limited to 3,000 men. Why, I believe that at the present moment, though it is difficult to get at the exact figures, it is a modest computation to say that the Italians have at least 100,000 men in a purely Expeditionary Force in North Africa.
§ I come back to the point of an Oversea Army. When the noble Viscount talks about a great Oversea Army, let us see what the great armies of the Continent are, which for all practical purposes, if they could land on these shores, could be used as much against us in England as if we were part of the Continent. At the present moment, putting it at a very modest computation, the Germans can put at least 900,000 men into the field at once, and it is a very modest computation also to say that the French could put at least 700,000 men into the field at once. I should like, now that I am touching on this question of Germany and France, to call your Lordships' attention to this fact, which is a very significant, and, I confess, a very serious one. The population of Germany is 65,000,000, with a yearly increase of 900,000. The population of France is 40,000,000, and their population is practically stationary. The French have to take at the present moment for military and naval purposes, of those attaining the age of twenty, 77 per cent.; the Germans have only to take 47 per cent. Germany, by adding, as she has decided to do, 29,000 men to her peace establishment, will in five years' time add at least another 100,000 men, well trained, to her army. On the other hand, the French Military Budget for 1912 provides, owing to decreasing birth rate, for a decrease of 10,000 men as compared with 1911. All these facts give great weight to what I have no doubt was in the mind of Sir John French when he spoke at the Royal Academy and stated that the maintenance of these great Continental armies must depend very largely upon the maintenance of population. That brings me back to this point. I have great respect and regard for the German people, but this is not a time when, if we wish to maintain our good feeling with and fulfil our obligations to France, we ought, knowing how 1032 pressed in regard to population the French are, to show any inclination that we are not prepared to take our part in a reasonable assertion of the balance of power in Europe.
There is another part of the speech of the noble Viscount which seems to me to indicate a contradiction or confusion of thought, unless it is a further emphasis of the policy of splendid isolation. Speaking on the subject of home defence the noble Viscount said—
We do not need to make home defence our first concern, as we are girt round with the sea, and so long as we have a Navy that commands the sea we can rely on the exertions of the citizens, properly organised, to do the rest. Our first line of home defence is the Navy, the second our professional Army, and the third the Territorial Force, which owes its existence to the sense of duty of our citizens. If we tried to combine the thing, if we brought in compulsion, we should do just what the Chancellor of the Exchequer does—he stops all voluntary gifts to himself.
With your Lordships' permission I would like to deal with these sentences as they stand. The noble Viscount says, first of all, that we can rely on the exertions of the citizens properly organised. If that means anything it means the Territorial Army. It is not necessary to make general statements against the Territorial Army. Every one realises, no one more than myself, the enormous difficulties that have confronted and must confront the Territorial Army. Among other things, I think people are beginning to realise that the Territorial system is one which in a nation like ours, a great commercial nation, introduces, not technically a system of compulsion, but involves and brings with it a great sense of hardship. The best of those who join the Territorial Army—I think the larger portion of them—are more or less engaged in trade. One of the reasons which I am convinced in my own mind is beginning to have a considerable effect in recruiting for the Territorial Army is this, that the men are beginning to realise that not only are they performing a duty which ought to be shared by all alike, but that in case of mobilisation they are placing themselves in a very serious business difficulty. What I mean is this. Supposing that the system of the Territorial Army had obtained during the time of the South African war. Men engaged in business in London and elsewhere would have had to leave their places and would have been taken away from them for an indefinite time, and they
realise the fact that, however well disposed employers may be, it is impossible for them to keep the places open for an indefinite period.
§ But, my Lords, do not let us go into the question now merely as to the difficulties of the Territorial Army. Let us look at the facts as they have been disclosed to us by official statements. We know, according to the last Return—that of October 1, 1911—that we had a shortage in officers of 1,774; in non-commissioned officers and men, of 47,351—the difference between strength and establishment. We know that the engagements of over 80,000 non-commissioned officers and men expire between October 1, 1911, and September, 1912. We know also that if these men remain on it is not possible for them to form a Reserve. We know, further, that after four years of existence the Territorial Force Reserve numbers only 166 officers, and 490 of other ranks. Again, we know that Sir John French, in his official Report, was not able to say a single word as regards the efficiency of the Territorial Army. He spoke a great deal of their patriotism, but said nothing about their efficiency. We know also that quite recently he told the East Anglian Brigade that the Territorial Artillery could not possibly be fit to meet Regular troops without more training. We know that there were absent from camp, with leave, 1,450 officers and 25,317 non-commissioned officers and men, and that there were absent, without leave, 41 officers and 6,703 non-commissioned officers and men; so that out of a total strength of 264,000, about one-eighth, or 33,500 officers and men, did not attend camp at all.
§ Then as regards the question of discipline. No punishment has been awarded for absence without leave; in fact, the Under Secretary of State for War, in reply to a Question in the other House on May 7 as to what punishment had been awarded to the officers and men of the Special Reserve who had absented themselves without leave, and who I find from the Army Annual Report number 41 officers and 1,455 men, said that the War Office had no information as to whether any, and, if so, what punishment had been awarded to these men for what, after all, as regards the Special Reserve, which is a higher branch of the Army, is a very serious offence. Then as regards physique.1034
§ We know that 12.76 per cent. of the Territorials are under nineteen years of age. As regards the physique of the recruits of the Special Reserve, Colonel Seely would not give any information. I am informed—I hope it is not general—that in some cases men have been engaged whose height was only 5 feet 1½ inches, and their chest measurement 29½ inches, and it is really absurd to suppose that these men can possibly carry the field service equipment, which, as your Lordships know, amounts to close upon 60 lbs.
§ Then the noble Viscount said that our second line of defence against invasion is our professional Army. If our professional Army is to be our second line of home defence, what becomes of the Expeditionary Force? You cannot count it two ways. I think it was the noble Marquess who leads this House who, in some former discussion on this subject, implied that if we could not send the whole of the six Divisions of the Expeditionary Force abroad we should have to send fewer. Judging human nature by what it is, do you suppose that if we were confronted by a serious Continental Power the people of this country would allow our shores to run the risk of being invaded by 70,000 men, if they could get across and avoid our Fleet, and permit the invaders to be confronted only by Territorials whose numbers and discipline and training are admitted by official figures to be absolutely incomplete and inefficient?
Then I come to another sentence in the noble Viscount's speech—
If we tried to combine the thing, if we brought in compulsion, we should do just what the Chancellor of the Exchequer does—he stops all voluntary gifts to himself.
It is always difficult—in fact, it is impossible—when you enter into the region of prophecy, to know exactly what will take place. It is impossible to predict exactly what would be the effect, if we had in any shape or kind a compulsory system, upon recruiting for outside service; but it seems to me that the balance of fact, judging from the past, is in favour of our being able to work in conjunction a voluntary and a compulsory system. I do not for one moment say that the system of the Militia ballot, which was a matter of chance and unequal, was a good one, but I should like to give your Lordships certain figures which were drawn up by the Adjutant-General's Office in November,
1813—that is to say, figures which showed the working of Lord Castlereagh's Local Militia Act. Those figures are rather significant. That Act, if I remember rightly, was passed in June, 1808, and the following returns were drawn up by the Adjutant-General's Office of that time. In 1809–10 we got, for the Napoleonic wars by ordinary recruiting, 20,815; during that year we got 23,885 volunteers under the Local Militia Act. In 1811 the numbers were—by ordinary recruiting, 11,472; volunteers, 11,453. In 1812 the numbers were 14,432 and 9,927 respectively; and in 1813, 11,285 and 8,834 respectively. Therefore during the years of the Napoleonic wars 43 per cent. of the recruits were volunteers under the Militia Act. It is not my object to-day to discuss compulsory service, but at the same time, if the noble Viscount wishes to controvert the arguments as to compulsory service, I do not think he can say with any certainty at all that compulsory service would interfere with voluntary recruiting for the Regular Army. There is only one other matter which I wish to put to the noble Viscount. I do think that the country ought to have some assurance that the principles of foreign policy enunciated by Sir Edward Grey now hold the field. Certainly the speech delivered by the noble Viscount reads in a different direction. At any rate, so it seems to me, and I am sure it would have that effect upon a provincial audience. It seems to echo a sort of return to the old provincial policy which we had hoped was dead and buried—the policy of splendid isolation.
§ One word more, my Lords. I am very anxious that I should not be misunderstood with regard to a certain sentence in the noble Viscount's speech. I am at one—at least I hope I may say I am—with the noble Viscount in a dislike and a distrust of what are technically called Continental alliances, offensive as well as defensive. But unless Sir Edward Grey's speech meant nothing and was mere empty verbiage, it is not a reasonable policy for this country to ignore the balance of power in Europe; nor does it seem to me an honourable policy, still less an effective policy, to make no adequate military provision for acting up to any understanding we may have with our friends on the Continent, whose interests under certain contingencies, which it is unnecessary to discuss here this evening, deserve and demand mutual 1036 help and support. Without wishing for one moment—I should deprecate it very strongly—to use any language which could be provocative to or distrustful of any foreign Power, I do hope the noble Viscount when he rises to speak this evening will be able to assure us that we shall do nothing which in any way could weaken the sense of our good understanding with our friends. I go further than that. I hope that the noble Viscount may realise, perhaps more fully even than he did in his speech at Barnstaple, that it is our duty as well as our interest to provide suitable military provision to carry out our obligations abroad.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, the Notice on the Paper in the name of the noble Earl was to call attention to a speech delivered by me at Barnstaple and to ask the Government how they were able to reconcile the principles of foreign and military policy then enunciated with recent events and the statement made to the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The exordium and the peroration of the noble Earl's speech dealt with that topic, but in between there was interposed a large body of matter which does not appear strictly relevant to the Notice, and therefore I do not propose to go into the general question of the principles which lie at the foundation of the Territorial Force. I would rather refer the noble Earl to those speeches which he made when he was the eloquent and enthusiastic apostle of this Force during the conduct of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill through this House. He spoke to-day of Territorial numbers. Territorial recruiting is always a difficult question. But if I am too optimistic, the noble Earl ought not to be quite so gloomy. After all, on April 1 last year the Territorial Force was within eleven of the highest point it ever reached during the boom period. Recruiting has been very good during this year; and as to the exodus, men have remained and others have taken the places of those who have left. As to the future we cannot tell; we must await that. But as to the present, I do not think that any one has any title to be full of gloom. Then the noble Earl spoke of the lesson to be drawn as to the possibility of combining compulsory service with voluntary recruiting from what took place at the beginnings 1037 of the last century. The period of the Napoleonic wars was very different from a period of peace. Therefore I do not think much of the case which can be founded upon that.
I come to what was the real point of the Notice and speech of the noble Earl. It may be clue to some obtuseness on my part, but I cannot for the life of me find anything that is in the slightest degree inconsistent between my humble utterances at Barnstaple and the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the House of Commons last November. We said, as far as I can see, precisely the same thing. I certainly meant to say the same thing, although I did not say it so well as my right hon. friend did. We both of us spoke in the same sense. It is quite true that the policy of splendid isolation is over. I never said that it was not. I was speaking of the difficulties which alliances impose. I never uttered a single syllable about those friendships, those ententes, which are much more the order of the day than they used to be. What I was speaking of is apparent from the excellent report with which the noble Earl provided himself, and I have in my hand a verbatim report of my speech taken from another local newspaper. What I said was this—No one Empire has ever been so great as our Empire, and it extends all over the globe, in distant places to which our soldiers have to go. The result is that we must have a great Navy to command the seas, and an oversea professional Expeditionary Army which can go out and reinforce the garrisons which defend the distant possessions of the Crown. No other country has such an Empire; no other nation such an obligation.In that sentence I defined what I meant by an Oversea Army. I did not mean an Army that travelled for a short distance over an arm of the sea, or that crossed a frontier such as that of France or Germany, or that made a short transit like that of Italy. I was speaking of an Oversea Army which is required to defend our distant possessions in India and in other parts of the Dominions of the Crown, which may have to go there for prolonged periods and serve for many years, and the men of which have therefore to be recruited professionally for long service in a fashion which enables you to get them only upon a professional and voluntary basis.
The noble Earl referred to the German Army, but if he will give his attention to 1038 the story of the German Army he will find that Germany did not send its compulsorily raised soldiers to China, its last long distance expedition; the men who were sent were raised voluntarily. Germany does not send compulsorily raised soldiers to Africa; she gets them voluntarily. Germany has some 2,850 professionally recruited soldiers for service oversea, as against 320,000 which we get, and get without very great difficulty, under our voluntary system. That is why I said I did not wish to gamble with our present system, because our present system is essential to us so long as our distant Dominions are not in a position to provide for their own defence. Therefore I said that our first concern was a great voluntarily raised Army and a Navy commanding the seas. Then I went on to point out what I meant by alliances. I said I could conceive a change of foreign policy, one in which we entered into actual alliances with other Powers possessing great Navies, which might relieve us from the necessity which we are under at present of keeping an enormous Navy for ourselves. I did not advocate that policy. On the contrary, I said I hoped we might never come to it; but I said that if we did the price exacted by these Powers under alliances might be the provision of a large Army for service on the Continent which could only be got by compulsory service.
I pointed out that our military system depended on foreign policy and changes in foreign policy. f should have thought that was a truism, and I ask the noble Earl, Wherein in the enunciation of that truism is there anything inconsistent with what was said by ray right hon. friend in the House of Commons? I certainly said no word in the slightest degree referring to our friendship with France, a friendship on which we rightly set great store. I spoke of a policy of alliances in a sense defined, which is a very different policy from our policy of to-day. Our policy to-day is not a policy of splendid isolation; it is a policy of certain friendships which my right hon. friend explained in the other House. I was not quite sure from the conclusion of the noble Earl's speech whether, although he said he did not like alliances, his mind was not tending a little in the direction of alliances and the kind of Army we might have to raise if the alliances included in their terms the provision of such an Army.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I share with the noble Viscount distrust and dislike of Continental alliances in the technical sense. My first point was that it was possible to read into the speech of the noble Viscount a weakening of the position taken up by Sir Edward Grey, and the other part of my speech was to show that where you have an alliance or understanding your military policy and military position must be sufficient to be able to maintain your diplomacy.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I hope I have shown that any suggestion such as the noble Earl feared is not to be read into any utterance of mine. As to the noble Earl's second point, there again he puzzles me. You cannot provide a great Continental Army contemporaneously with the pursuit of the policy which is our present policy, and which is conditioned by our obligations with regard to the distant Dominions of the Crown. If that ever changes, then would arise the possibility to which the noble Earl has referred. The reason why I carefully guarded myself from pointing in that direction in the speech to which he has referred was the reason which I have given to-day. I think I have now made it clear that there was no deep-lying or sinister intention in the speech I made at Barnstaple, and I confess, having read that speech over again—a thing I very rarely do with my own speeches—I am very much puzzled to understand how such an idea could have got into the noble Earl's head.
My Lords, the debate this afternoon has been particularly interesting in that we have had an opportunity, which is rare in this House, of hearing the two noble Lords who were responsible for the introduction of the Territorial Army scheme—one pointing out the weakness of the scheme, and the other defending the scheme. The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War has rather talked round the point which I feel sure many of your Lordships would like to get at—namely, whether the Expeditionary Force is actually there and able to sail. The noble Viscount said there was no contemplation of any policy of a great Army on a Continental basis. I do not suppose that any of us imagined for a moment that there was. But is it possible that this Expeditionary Force, of which we hear so much, can be sent out 1040 of the country? Through the policy which His Majesty's Government have adopted in regard to the land defences of the country they always find themselves on the horns of the same dilemma. They talk very largely about the Expeditionary Force, and for the purposes of this Force all the officers are counted in. But when it comes to a question of home defence these unfortunate officers are counted over again. I should like to ask, in the first place, whether we have the organisation to send out the Expeditionary Force; and, secondly, whether we can afford to let it go. The noble Viscount ought to tell us at some time or another whether the policy of His Majesty's Government is the policy laid down by Sir Edward Grey, or the policy which I read into the noble Viscount's speech—that we cannot compete on the Continent with the great Continental armies.
Every day that passes we see less and less hope of the Expeditionary Force being able to set sail. The noble Duke behind me pointed out the other day the lamentable state of things in regard to officers in the Special Reserve. If I read The Times report of the noble Duke's speech correctly, he stated that there would be practically no subalterns at all in the Special Reserve at the moment that the Expeditionary Force is to sail. I understand that for this integral part of our home defence officers are to be improvised after the Expeditionary Force has left these shores. I notice that the noble Viscount dissents from that. But, according to him, 'we shall be 1,100 officers short in the 74 battalions, and we are to make up for 600 of them by getting boys from Sandhurst. Youths with only six months' training at Sandhurst or Woolwich are to be pitchforked among a number of men they have never seen, and perhaps at the moment before action. You are to make up 600 officers of cadets. What are the remainder going to consist of? The noble Viscount spoke of two or three hundred "patriotic gentlemen" who are to come forward. God help those men! They will indeed be patriots to join an army which is going to be organised in this manner. In the noble Viscount's own words, there will be 1,100 subalterns short at the moment of mobilisation. Therefore I ask the question again, Can this Expeditionary Force sail, or can it not? And is there any intention that it 1041 should ever sail? All sorts of attempts have been tried to get out of this. We were told by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House some two years ago that Continental operations were outside the scope of the Government's ideas—
No, I have not; but I will give it to the noble Marquess afterwards. Then we had the statement that only four out of the six Divisions would sail. And afterwards we were told that only three were going to sail, the authority for that statement being Lord Lucas. Then we had a statement in the other House of Parliament by the Under-Secretary, who produced plans by which the six Divisions could get under sail within fifteen days. If they are going to fight on the Continent and fight with success they must be on the spot somewhere between the fourteenth and the fifteenth day. The great battle would take place between the eleventh and the twenty-fifth day, and unless we had our Expeditionary Force there in time for the great action we might as well not send it at all. Our bagatelle of troops would be nothing to a defeated army on the Continent, but it might make all the difference if our Expeditionary Force arrived in time. I trust that some noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite will give us further enlightenment on this point, and let us know what the policy of His Majesty's Government is and whether they can send this Expeditionary Force oversea if circumstances arise which make it desirable that we should send it for the support of our ally.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, I think the question put by the noble Lord who has just sat down is a fair one, but your Lordships are in some difficulty over the Notice on the Paper. The noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, put down a most innocent looking interrogatory, and on that he has founded a speech which in reality goes into the whole question of the external relations of this country, and, in addition, raises in a very definite form the desirability of our adopting compulsion for military service. I am under a difficulty which I think a good many of your Lordships are under in that we had not the advantage of reading the speech 1042 which the noble Viscount delivered at Barnstaple. I have tried hard to get a copy, but have not been able to discover what this epoch-making speech actually alleged. But to a great extent we are relieved from that difficulty, by the speech to-day of the noble Viscount, who has practically ranged himself in line with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I can only say that we on this side of the House congratulate ourselves that the noble Viscount has taken that attitude. If there was anything in the Barnstaple speech which appeared to differ from the attitude of the Foreign Secretary, we are obliged to Lord Portsmouth for having succeeded in obtaining so reassuring a statement as we have had this afternoon from the noble Viscount. The only thing I think we are entitled to say, after that statement, is that that announcement of policy, that clear abandonment of the isolation of this country, the adoption of the policy of alliances, does involve a corresponding obligation and liability on the Secretary of State for War.
What I think your Lordships in these discussions sometimes find so difficult is to disentangle the interchange of criticism and recrimination as to the past as against the present, and as to our alleged strength and our real strength. What seems to me to be the really important issue is this. Is the policy of His Majesty's Government such as involves a heavier charge and liability on the country than was the case seven years ago? And still more, Have circumstances altered in relation to our possible antagonists in such a way as make the professions of the Government more difficult to carry out than they were some years back? I for one do not shrink from these comparisons of strength as against a few years ago, because I believe that the state of our Forces as we handed them over in the then circumstances of the time was absolutely defensible, indeed in some respects a good deal more defensible than would be the case under similar circumstances at the present moment. But I think we ought to keep clearly in our mind that the obligations and dangers of 1912 are very different from the obligations and dangers of 1905. There has been a great change in the comparative power of Fleets, of our own Fleet as compared with foreign Fleets. We know that the two-to-one standard was then adopted, and we know now that 1043 His Majesty's Government have not found it possible to work up to so high a standard. There has been also a great change in policy. Upon this matter the noble Marquess asked for the reference to his speech which was alluded to by Lord Lovat. I have a perfect recollection of that speech, in which the noble Marquess told us that we did not expect so to organise our military forces as to enable us to employ them on the Continent of Europe. The change which was made last year was, I venture to say, an epoch making change, and especially so coming from the Benches opposite. There is also, I am afraid I must say, too, in this relation a considerable decrease in our offensive power in certain particulars, especially in the case of Artillery and of officers. What I really ask for, in supporting what has just fallen from Lord Lovat, is that we should get on all these subjects rather more chastened information than we have had in the past.
I do not wish to accuse the noble Viscount of any desire to do otherwise than give the House absolutely reliable information, and I am not going either to follow out the question of whether we can defend ourselves at present without compulsion, which was raised by the noble Earl, or even the question of whether six Divisions could be sent abroad at the present moment, but I am going to lay down two things which I hope your Lordships will take note of, and which I think the country ought to study. The first is that the policy of the Government has changed completely in the last three years with regard to the number of troops they would send abroad in the contingency of there being a European foe by whom we might apprehend invasion. This point was put over and over again to the Government in a debate about three years ago, and in the end we had a direct statement from the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. We pressed the Government on this point. We said, "You can make up six Divisions somehow, no doubt. If you do, you will, in our opinion, leave behind forces quite unfit to use against a European army. Will you, in these circumstances, send six Divisions abroad?" The noble Marquess, after the fullest deliberation and after the question had been put by four different speakers on this side, stated that if there was anything like a danger of invasion, if there was anything to apprehend, unless 1044 the sky, so to speak, was clear in that respect, the Government did not propose to send more than four Divisions abroad.
In certain circumstances last year the Government, as we all know, found it necessary to contemplate sending abroad the whole of the six Divisions which were said to constitute our Expeditionary Force. That involves a complete change in the situation in regard to home defence, because the whole of the Government's scheme rests upon their having six months in which to prepare forces for home defence. That six months would be taken away, and my noble friend Lord Lovat was anxious to pursue the question and to know whether or not, in the circumstances, the six Divisions could go. I have my own opinion about that, and I believe that, one way or another, they would go. I believe that the organisation for sending them is in a far better state. I am not quite so sure about the stores, and the noble Viscount has not been so reassuring on that point. I should like to know a little more as regards the reserves of stores for that occasion, of course assuming that a sufficiency is left behind for home defence.
A dangerous feature in all the assumptions of the noble Viscount is that regiments at home will have to be wrecked in order that the six Divisions may be sent abroad in complete form. The noble Viscount stands first on one leg and then on the other, and expects us to believe that in each case he is resting his whole frame on both. I have here the remarks which he made on March 6 last and the remarks which he made two nights ago, in reply each time to the noble Duke. The noble Duke's point is this. He says, "You may be able to send the six Divisions, but you are going to take practically every subaltern out of the Special Reserve. You give Regular officers to the Special Reserve and you say the Special Reserve will not be efficient without those officers, yet you are going to take the whole lot away on mobilisation." On March 6 I asked the noble Viscount what number of officers who would go abroad would have to be taken from the Officers Training Corps, the noble Duke having said that 600 of them would be officers of the Special Reserve. The noble Viscount replied—I am quoting from Hansard—You would not, at any rate to any large extent, take officers from the Officers Training Corps of 1045 the Special Reserve for that purpose. What you would do would be to draw upon the Regular officers belonging to the other establishments at home. There are 780 of them with the Special Reserve battalions. You would make your Expeditionary Force as perfect in officers as possible.That is a definite statement that from the 780 Regular officers with the Special Reserve battalions will be drawn the officers necessary to bring the six Divisions up to strength on mobilisation. Two nights ago the noble Duke made a very damaging case as to the condition of these regiments if officers were to be taken away in this manner, and the noble Viscount then used these words—All the Regular officers belonging to the Special Reserve establishment in peace will remain with them on mobilisation.That is an absolute divergence of statement. I do not for a moment suggest that the noble Viscount deliberately intends to mislead the House. But when the attack is that the six Divisions cannot go, he tells us that he can draw on the Special Reserve and take away their Regular officers for that purpose; and when the attack is that the Special Reserve will be perfectly useless because it will have no subalterns of experience in it, he says that the whole of them will be left for home defence. A man cannot be in both places at the same time. I am not going to ask your Lordships to go more deeply into this question to-night, but I have deprecated on previous occasions and I deprecate now the system under which the noble Viscount, who is trying to make bricks without straw, endeavours to prove to us that all the bricks will be forthcoming at the time of mobilisation. We are not in the least averse to helping the noble Viscount in his difficulty if he has any. We do not in the slightest degree complain of the firm language which has been used in certain foreign difficulties recently, but we do complain that the Government will not tell the country what sacrifices may be necessary in order to make that firm language effective.
There is, the noble Viscount must know, one serious grievance amongst officers in this country. I have long been of opinion that it is impossible to fill the ranks of officers unless you pay a living wage. Army subalterns are worse paid, in my opinion, than any other body of men in this country, except, perhaps, those who go into the Church. While other trades and pursuits have been more highly 1046 remunerated, I do not think there has been any improvement in the position of the subaltern officer in the Army for a great number of years. For a long time the argument used to be—I remember hearing Lord Randolph Churchill make use of it in a speech in the House of Commons—that it was absurd to talk of adding to the pay of officers in the Army. The great mistake, said Lord Randolph, was to pay them anything at all; they were quite willing to join for the honour of serving the Queen, and it was absolutely unnecessary, he said, to consider the question of pounds, shillings, and pence. That is not the case now, and, considering the lavish expenditure into which this Government has been plunged, I do say that before we desert the idea of voluntary service and before we say that Regular officers cannot be obtained in sufficient numbers we ought to consider whether the inducements offered to them ought not to be improved.
I add the pious hope that, with these strong pronouncements of policy, we may be allowed some insight into the difficulties and, what is really more important for the remedying of them, some admission that there are difficulties now that the policy of the Government includes sending six Divisions abroad immediately without the six months' delay for training, and now that the Government themselves must realise that there are difficulties, not anticipated by the noble Viscount five years ago, in filling up the ranks, not merely to the numbers which now ought to be there in case of invasion, but to the numbers which then, under much more favourable circumstances, he said were the minimum on which he could contemplate the efficient defence of the country.
§ THE EARL OF ERROLL
My Lords, I should like to say a word in support of what has fallen from the noble Viscount as to the necessity of paying officers better. In every other walk of life when men are wanted higher wages are offered and the men are generally obtained, but during the last 100 years I believe the pay of officers has been almost stationary while that of the men has been very much increased. It seems to me that the British officer at the present moment is the worst paid in the world. You give him the wages of an artisan or of one of your 1047 Lordships' butlers, and you expect for that to get an educated gentleman to Rive his services to the country. I should like to read to your Lordships a comparison with what is paid to officers in America and in Australia, and you will see how very much worse off are the officers in this country. I gave these figures to your Lordships four years ago, but since that time I believe nothing has been done.
A second-lieutenant in the British Army gets the princely wage of£95 a year; in Australia, apparently, there are no second-lieutenants; but in America a second-lieutenant receives£280 a year. A lieutenant in the British Army gets£118 a year; in Australia he gets£200, rising by£25 a year to£300; and in the American Army he gets£300. A captain in the British Army receives£211; in the Australian Army a captain receives from£325 to£400; and in the American Army£360. Majors receive in this country£247 a year; in Australia they get from£425 to£500, and in America£500. Lieutenant-colonels receive here£328 a year; in Australia they get from£500 to£600, and in America£600. These figures show that the Colonies recognise the justice of giving a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, and that they treat their officers much more generously than we do. I cannot help thinking that there are plenty of young men in this country ready to come forward and officer the Army, young men who are absolutely suitable from their pursuits and their traditions to do so, but at the present moment I do not think the conditions offered are adequate to induce them to come forward in sufficient numbers. At present the rates of wages which you offer are too low, the prospects are hazy, and the plums are too few.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA, (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, as the noble Viscount opposite stated, we are all placed at some disadvantage owing to the fact that the quite simple Question put down by the noble Earl opposite was as to the possible discrepancy between the terms of the speech delivered by my noble friend in Devonshire and another speech delivered by my right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary in another place. That apparently harmless Question has grown into a discussion ranging over the whole field of foreign policy and Imperial 1048 defence, and both sides are placed at a certain disadvantage by that, as when the noble Viscount opposite wanted to call attention to some former words of mine he was not able to give me the reference, and equally I am not in any position to contradict him, not having the reference at hand myself.
My noble friend, Lord Haldane, performed a service in the course of his speech in pointing out that these discussions are apt to be conducted with a certain laxity of language and without a perfectly clear understanding of what particular terms mean as we use them. He instanced the term "Oversea Forces." It is quite true that the term "Oversea Army" is used alike at different times for a force which has to take a long spell of service in tropical countries, and for the entirely different services which a British Army might conceivably be called upon to fulfil—namely, that of serving on some part of the Continent of Europe. The battle of Assaye was fought overseas and so was the battle of Waterloo, but they were engagements of a totally different class, fought by the same General but with entirely different armies and under totally different conditions. It is important, I think, to keep this distinction clear in one's mind, because it has a real bearing upon the difficult and vexed question of compulsory service, which I quite agree this is not the moment to discuss in all its bearings, although it has, of course, a close reference to the subject under discussion.
My noble friend behind me also pointed out that there are two extreme policies, both of which were repudiated in his speech and also in the speech of my right hon. friend Sir Edward Grey. On the one hand, there is the policy, which some people regard as an ideal policy for this country, of complete isolation, of remaining absolutely uninterested in what happens on the Continent of Europe, and of resolving that in no circumstances will you take part in any complication unless you are yourselves directly attacked. That is a policy which, as Sir Edward Grey pointed out and as my noble friend has also pointed out, it is riot possible for this country to pursue in existing circumstances, if indeed it ever was a possible policy for this country to maintain as an abstract proposition. Certainly it has never been maintained as a historical 1049 fact. The alternative policy, of course, is the policy—also repudiated by the noble Earl opposite—of close alliance with great Continental Powers involving the performance of serious obligations on our part, perhaps in matters in which we have no real interest whatever.
I was not quite certain what the noble Earl intended when he spoke of offensive and defensive alliances as being the kind of alliances which he thought we ought not to undertake. I was not quite certain whether he desired to hint that we might conceivably undertake a policy of defensive alliances as distinct from the universal obligation attached to offensive and defensive alliances, but I am sure the noble Earl will be aware that what is called a defensive alliance may, as a matter of fact, throw almost as heavy an obligation upon any Power as an alliance for all purposes; and for this reason, that where an attack is made by one Power on another, which is the really responsible party in the collision between the two Powers is a matter which in fact can only be decided by the ultimate verdict of history. It is a matter upon which it is hardly possible to give a sound opinion at the time. If the noble Earl would consider all the various wars that have taken place in which European Powers were concerned in the whole of the latter part of the nineteenth century, he would find on examination that in the case of almost all those collisions each side would have said that it was not the attacking but the attacked party. Consequently such a distinction as I could not help thinking the noble Earl meant to draw is one which in fact it is exceedingly difficult to make.
The noble Lord opposite, Lord Lovat, alluded specially to the Expeditionary Force, and to some phrases of mine which I used, I think, about two years ago. As I stated earlier, I have not the precise reference to what I said, but I have no reason to think that I hold now a view in any way different from that which I held then; nor, which is infinitely more important, have I any reason to suppose that the policy of His Majesty's Government has in any way been modified since that time. If I remember aright, on that occasion an attempt was made to pin us to a statement that at a moment's notice, in all circumstances, whatever might be the condition of affairs on the Continent 1050 of Europe and whatever might be the threats which had been levelled against us, we should be prepared to send out six Divisions to some part of the world—it is not important where—but that we should be prepared at once to send them out of the country. At that time I stated, and I am quite prepared to state again, that the circumstances of Europe might be such that it would not be possible to send at short notice more than four Divisions out of the country.
I am prepared to go further than that. I can conceive other circumstances in which it might not be possible to send more than two Divisions. I can conceive other circumstances in which it would not be possible to send a single man out of the country, and I have not the least doubt that there is not one of the great military Powers on the Continent of Europe which would not be able to make a similar declaration as to what might happen in special circumstances on the Continent of Europe. The fact is, my Lords, we have two forces which both exist primarily, of course, for purposes of defence, but are both capable of offence—the first being the Fleet, and the second being that portion of our Army winch it is possible to send abroad. Without knowing what the precise circumstances are, what Powers are hostile to you in Europe at the time and what are friendly, what are their relations among themselves, and what is the position on the Continent of Europe in regard to alliances inter se—without knowing all these things it seems to me altogether impossible to lay down as a general proposition that you are prepared either to send abroad 50,000, 100,000, or 150,000 men, or, in the course of time, the whole male population of this island which is capable of bearing arms.
That is our point. We say you are not sufficiently strong at home to be able to make use of the Expeditionary Force in all circumstances.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I in no way dispute the conclusion which the noble Lord chooses to draw from the observations which I have made. It appears to me that it would apply equally well, as I have said, to every country in Europe. If it were at the time being engaged in a contest of a particular kind, it might not be able to send either part if its Fleet or a particular 1051 part of its Army to a particular part of the world. You could, easily devise a case, I suppose, with regard to any of the great military Powers of Europe which have possessions abroad, in which it would be exceedingly difficult for them to send any troops abroad. It would not, I should think, be taken as a confession of weakness on the part of the German Army or of the French Army were they to admit freely that if they were engaged in a great European war on their frontiers they would not respectively desire to send, or even in a sense be capable of sending, 100,000 men in one case to South Africa and in the other case to Indo-China. It would be an entirely irrelevant question to put to those who control those armies to ask them if they could conceive any special circumstances in which they would not be able to move their men about the chess board in the manner in which they might move them supposing no complications existed. That being so, I am quite certain that my noble friend will not feel himself in any way pinned into a corner by the fact that he is obliged to admit that the precise number of men that can be sent away from this island at any particular moment must depend on the special circumstances of the case and primarily upon the issues of foreign policy.
Some part of the speeches made has dealt with specially military questions of the character of those touched upon in the Questions of the noble Duke which are next on the Paper. I have no desire to attempt to play any of my noble friend's cards by dealing with those questions, which excite great interest, such, for instance, as that which was dealt with by the noble Earl who spoke last and was also touched upon by the noble Viscount opposite—namely, the exceedingly important question of the pay of the British officer. Nor would there be any advantage in my attempting to deal with those other questions as to the supply of subalterns for the Expeditionary Force or for the Home Defence Force, which were touched upon by the noble Earl who initiated this debate and also by Lord Lovat. With some of those matters I have no doubt my noble friend the Secretary of State will be able to deal in his reply to the noble Duke's Questions. I have endeavoured to confine these observations simply to questions of policy, and to show, so far as I could, that the discrepancy alleged by the noble Earl 1052 between the observations of my noble friend and of the Foreign Secretary does not in reality exist, because although this country does not take up a position of complete isolation from all possible interests on the Continent of Europe, yet it is equally removed from the policy of the opposite pole—that of entangling or embarrassing alliances.
The noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, used the word "alliances." That could only have been a slip, because he is, of course, aware that no such alliance with any Great Power on the Continent of Europe exists. We have no engagements of any kind, as has often been stated, involving military obligations on our part. That has already been clearly stated by my right hon. friend, and in view of the character of this discussion and of the rather easy manner in which the possibility of moving large bodies of troops on to the Continent of Europe has been mentioned, it is desirable, I think, that that statement should be categorically made again. We have no entangling military alliance. But, as noble Lords opposite know very well, we have friendly understandings of an intimate character, and of the possible bearings of those understandings upon conceivable foreign complications noble Lords who keep their eye on the world at large are as competent to judge as we are, because the whole business is entirely above board. We have no secret engagements or obligations, and noble Lords opposite are entitled to figure for themselves, and are quite capable of doing so, the conceivable circumstances in which those understandings might lead—which Heaven forbid should be the case—to our interfering in some complications abroad. But I think that my noble friend made the matter, as far as he is concerned, quite clear, and I have done nothing more than to repeat what he said.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, it appears to me—I do not know whether I am mistaken or not—that the noble Marquess has just dealt a mortal blow to the military policy of his colleague beside him. The keynote of that military policy, so far as I have understood it, is that this country, owing to the admirable arrangements which the noble Viscount had made, was in a position to send abroad 150,000 men whenever they were required in any conceivable contingency; and the Under-Secretary of State for War went so far 1053 as to assert in the House of Commons the other day that he had only to address an envelope and the thing was done. Now we gather that in certain circumstances that are not altogether improbable the Government are not prepared to despatch a single man of the Expeditionary Force. I do not desire to offer any further comment upon that. I am not going to say anything on the general political situation, because I venture to think that without notice and on an impromptu occasion like this it is a very imprudent thing to discuss international relations. But I hope that at least the nation will realise what the military position of this country actually is. I do not know how this declaration will be taken abroad. I do not know how it will be taken in this country. But, at all events, I do feel convinced that anybody who studies the declaration which has just been made will come to the conclusion that the veil of optimism with which the noble Viscount has so successfully clothed his scheme up to the present moment is in rapid process of disappearing.