§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, before I refer to the special points connected with the Bill which I am asking your Lordships to read a second time to-day, I wish to say, in the first place, that I hold very strongly that the question of the military defence of the country ought not to be made a Party matter or used in any way for electioneering purposes, and I sincerely hope that while I am criticising the action of His Majesty's Government it will be clearly understood that I am prompted by patriotic motives and that this is not in any sense a Party attack. I would also like to say that I do not intend for a moment that this Bill should in any way run counter to or against the scheme proposed by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal Lord Roberts, for whom I have the greatest admiration and of whose proposals I am a strong supporter, and I trust that the noble and gallant Earl will live to see the day when his scheme will be carried out.
471 But with regard to the question of the defence of the country, what I feel is that we must all be most anxious to see that the country is safe from invasion. There are some people who seem to think that invasion is impossible, and there was placed in my hand the other day a resolution, carried at the Spring Assembly of the Baptist Union, in which they declared that—The geographical position of Great Britain makes the defence of our frontiers by a standing Army needless.We cannot accept that position. Naturally we look to the Navy to be our first line of defence, but at the same time we must admit that it is impossible to expect the Navy to be, as it were, lying at anchor wherever an invasion might come. For the Navy to be of full practical use to this country it must be a mobile force ready to take the offensive at any given moment. It must be remembered that in our present position the Navy may be called away at any time, and therefore I hold that we ought to be in a position to be able to resist any invasion which may be attempted in the absence of the Navy.
As to depending upon the Navy alone, I should like to quote to your Lordships the plain, commonsense statement which was made at the Union Jack Club recently by the gallant First Sea Lord, Prince Louis of Battenberg. He said—I trust that one great truth will always be remembered—that no one Service can dispense with the other. One hears a great deal of loose talk on the matter…. There are people who go about saying 'if war comes the Fleet alone is quite enough to keep anybody from coming anywhere near the shores of this island kingdom.' There can be no more foolish or mischievous statement. The Fleet alone could not do so, and the presence of a sufficient trained professional Army in this island at all times is quite as necessary as the other arm of the Service.It is clear, therefore, that even in the opinion of our naval experts we cannot rely on the Navy alone for the defence of these shores.
Then when we come to the Army we are told that it never was in a more efficient state than it is at present, and that it is ready to move at any time. I am not going to enter into that question, but I think it would be worth while for some noble Lords more conversant than I am with the matter to make inquiry as to 472 whether it is not true that Artillery are being absorbed and reduced on their return from Africa at the present moment. That, however is beside the question. I am prepared to take it that the Army is ready to move at a moment's notice. But the fact that the name "Expeditionary Force" is attached to it shows that it is not intended that the Force should remain always at home to defend these shores. We have the largest frontier of any nation in the world, and our Army may be called away at any moment. Therefore it is our duty to see that, in the absence of the Expeditionary Force abroad, and in the absence of the Navy from these shores, we should be able to protect the country against invasion. For there can be no doubt that if we were invaded the enemy would not come at the moment most convenient to us, and I do not suppose for an instant that he would come in driblets to suit the convenience of the War Office, as I heard suggested the other day.
Now what would be our position in the absence of the Expeditionary Force and the Navy? We should have nothing but the Territorial Force to fall back upon. The scheme of the Territorial Force as a whole is, no doubt a good one. I regret that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack seems to think that any criticism of that Force is deleterious to its existence, because I think it is only right that those of us who are serving on County Associations and doing our best to make the Territorial Force a success should be free to call attention to what we consider to be the faults of the Force in the hope of having them remedied. What is the position of the Territorial Force at the present moment? Certainly those of us who are connected with County Associations and look upon the matter dispassionately are compelled to admit that the time allotted to the training of the Force is not sufficient. We wish to see the time allotted to training extended. I think it would be very much better if in connection with the Territorial Force there was less red tape, and if the knowledge of the local requirements which is possessed by the County Associations was paid more respect to than is the case at present.
We have now had the Territorial scheme at work for some years. First it was proposed to be almost a "nation in arms," but eventually 310,000 was fixed as the 473 minimum force with which the country would be safe. The Territorial Force has never reached that number; it has always been from 50,000 to 60,000 short from the start. What has been done during the last few years to remedy that? There have been expressions of regret that more men have not come forward, and hopes have been expressed that they will be forthcoming in future; but to express regret that your Force is not up to full strength is not the way to prevent an enemy from attempting to invade this country. I understand that, the suggestion has been made—I do not know how far it has gone—that members of the Veteran Reserve would fill up the vacant places in case of necessity. With regard to that, I should like to point out two or three things. In the first place, the members of the Veteran Reserve would not know their officers or their comrades. They would also possibly be not up-to-date in their knowledge of the latest drill. But there are other things more important titan that. I ask, with regard to the Veteran Reserve, where are their arms and where are their uniforms? It is important to remember that men put into the field without uniforms would, according to the recognised rules of civilised warfare, be liable, if captured, to be shot; and therefore I think it is most unfair that there should ever be a possibility of men who have enlisted in the Veteran Reserve being put into the field without proper uniform. I hope that whoever replies to me from the Government Bench will take this matter into consideration, and if an answer is not given with regard to these two questions of arms and uniform, I trust that some other noble Lord on this side of the House will demand a categorical reply on both points.
What is our position at the present moment? The Secretary of State for War has admitted that we have failed of achievement in getting the requisite numbers. What is going to be done? I have heard no definite proposal made on the Government side as to how they propose to get over the difficulty, and I think the time has arrived when the attention of the country should be directed to the fact that we are these 50,000 or 60,000 men short, and when This Majesty's Government must do something in the matter. I propose, therefore, in this Bill that in those parts of the country where the Territorial Force is not up to its 474 establishment the old Militia Ballot Act should be brought into requisition for Territorial service. If noble Lords opposite prefer to let the ballot apply only to the present. Militia (the Special Reserve) and give the Territorial Force exemption, I have no doubt that would equally meet the case. At a meeting the other day of the Council of County Territorial Associations the following resolution was adopted—In view of the continued deficiency in the establishment of the Territorial Force of the country, notwithstanding the extraordinary efforts that have been made during the past live years to obtain recruits, this Council is of opinion that some system should be adopted which would provide a Territorial Force adequate in numbers for the defence of the country.I also note that the Secretary of State for War himself said in the House of Commons:We cannot allow any longer a part of our defensive force, which by universal consent we consider to be, it not vitally necessary, at any rate desirable, to be below its establishment.I ask, therefore, that something should be done at once. We have been demanding all these five Years for something practical to be done, but nothing has come of it.
I see that my noble friend Lord Fortescue has placed on the Paper an Amendment to the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill. I should have thought that the question of the apportionment of numbers, seeing that the apportionment took place six years ago on a very late census, was properly considered and fairly dealt with at the time. But the effect of the Resolution which Lord Fortescue has placed on the Paper would be, if carried, that the Government need do practically nothing whatever in the matter. The noble Earl's action, therefore, looks to me—though I can hardly believe it for a moment—as if he were satisfied with the present state of things. With regard to the Bill itself, I would point out that everywhere there is a great sense of dissatisfaction that the Territorial Force is not up to its full numbers, and the feeling is gradually increasing in strength all over the country that the voluntary system has practically failed. I have inserted a clause in my Bill providing that a workman who shall be drawn by ballot to serve in the Territorial Force shall not he penalised by his employer on that account. We know that there are a large number of patriotic employers all over the country who support the Territorial Associations as much as possible, but there are others who do not, and I think it would be very unfair on the man who happened 475 to be one of those who had to serve his country compulsorily that his employer should in any way visit that fact upon him.
There are certain exemptions in my Bill, and they follow more or less the lines of the old Militia Ballot Act, from which the list of exemptions was taken. I have brought this Bill forward because I feel very strongly that the policy of drift ought not to be allowed to go on any longer. I do not for a moment ask any noble Lords who vote for the Second Reading of the Bill to pledge themselves to all the details of it. But what I do ask them to do is to vote for the Second Reading, and in that way record their sense that the time has come when it is absolutely necessary that something should be done to raise these 50,000 or 60,000 men so that the Force can be brought up to the minimum number regarded as sufficient for the purpose for which it was founded. And I also ask your Lordships to give the Bill a Second Reading as a direct protest against the optimistic apathy of the Government, who seem to be content with the pious wish that some day or other a sufficient number of men will come forward. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Galway.)
§ *EARL FORTESCUE had given notice, on the Motion for the Second Reading, to move to resolve, "That until the Territorial Force is re-distributed in a manner that bears fairer relation to the population and capabilities of different counties, this House withholds its approval of a Bill which would aggravate the inequalities in the share of national defence now assigned to various parts of the country."
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, in rising to move the Amendment which stands in my name I cannot help saying that my noble friend, though he dealt with a good many things which his Bill would not at all affect—the training of the Territorials and the provision of equipment for the National Reserve, for instance—quite failed to say anything to your Lordships on some of the points in the Bill itself. Clause 2 is a somewhat remarkable clause. The Bill enacts that in any county which fails to provide its quota for the Territorial Force the ballot should be enforced. The ballot, of course, is a 476 modified form of compulsory service, and the Bill leaves it to the War Office to codify all the Militia Acts, of which there is a tolerably large volume, and make whatever regulations it likes for the application of the Bill, and that without laving the result of its deliberations on the Table of either House of Parliament or giving Parliament a chance of expressing its opinion on the manner in which this new departure is to be carried out. I think that if my noble friend Lord Camperdown takes part in the debate, either now or at a later stage should the Bill proceed, he will very likely have a good deal to say of legislation by Government Department in a matter of this magnitude.
§ There is another point to which in his speech my noble friend made no reference. He did not explain to your Lordships the distinction between Territorial training and Militia training—a distinction which will, I think, involve him in considerable administrative difficulties. There is a good deal of difference between sending a man from a country parish to the county town for a month's permanent duty and putting the same man through ten, twenty, or thirty drills when the nearest drill station is some miles distant and he has to do them at intervals of a week or more. According to the census there are no less than 185 parishes in my noble friend's county, Nottinghamshire, with a population of less than 500 apiece. According to the proportion of men assigned to Nottinghamshire the quota of these parishes would not be much more than two men for every three parishes, and there would be a great deal of difficulty and considerable expense in collecting the exact number which, on their population, those parishes were due to furnish in order to get them to the nearest drill station so that they could put in their proper number of drills. But these are comparatively minor points.
§ The great defect of the Bill, I think, is that it proposes compulsory training in the last resort without applying it equally all round. Clause 2 says that the number of men to be raised shall be apportioned according to population, but the number of men to be raised will be the difference between those who have come forward voluntarily and the total of the establishment assigned by the War Office to the county. The burden imposed on different counties is very different indeed. The 477 population of Sutherlandshire and Rutland-shire is almost the same, that of Rutland being a trifle the bigger of the two. But under this Bill Sutherland would be compelled under the ballot, if they did not come forward voluntarily, to raise 618 men. while the needs of Rutland would be fulfilled by the raising of 236 men. Again, to compare my own county with the noble Viscount's. The population of his county is a trifle bigger than that of my county, but we are expected to find twice as many men, and according to the last return, dated October 1, 1912, we were finding seven men for their four. Notwithstanding, that, we are a good bit below our establishment, while in Nottinghamshire they have the distinction of being very nearly up to establishment. We should be obliged under this Bill to provide compulsorily a very much larger number of men in proportion to our population than would be the case with Nottinghamshire.
§ The Bill seems to me to be founded on a false assumption which takes it for granted that the distribution of the Territorial Force among the several counties mid parts of the kingdom is perfect; and it looks only to the percentage which the strength bears to the establishment in the different counties. If you compare the seven counties which have the highest; percentage of strength to establishment with the seven which have the lowest—I ant for this purpose, of course, ignoring the small counties—you find that the seven best average 93 per cent. of their establishment and the seven worst only 75 per cent.; but although on paper one lot are doing so much worse than the other, the seven counties which are finding only 75 per cent. of their establishment are, in fact, finding seven men for every five which the other seven counties found. And if you go beyond the area of counties and compare divisions you get some remarkable results. The Highland Division has a population of, approximately, 2,000,000; the North Midland Division has a population of 3,670,000; and the Wessex Division has a population of 3,000,000. One would expect that the proportion of men to be found in each would correspond more or less to those populations; but, as a matter of fact, the Wessex Division is asked to find half as many men again as the North Midland Division, while the Highland Division, with 1,600,000 people less in it, is asked to find 1,000 men more.478
§ I am quite unable to make out on what principle the distribution of the Territorial Force has been allotted. If you take the counties on the East Coast which are exposed to attack from a certain quarter, the percentages in them go up and down like a temperature chart in an English summer. If you begin at Northumberland, you find that the percentage of establishment to population is 98 per cent. That goes down to less than half in the North Riding of Yorkshire. It goes up again in the East Riding, and then down again to 55 per cent. in Lincolnshire. It goes up to nearly double in Suffolk; down to 53 per cent. in Essex; and up again to '81 per cent. in Kent. It is quite impossible to discover any system or any principle about it. I am not at all sure that the number of the Volunteers who were raised sixty years ago at the time of the French scare has not got as much to do with it as anything else. It cannot be argued that the Force has been distributed in accordance with strategical or tactical necessities, otherwise it would be absurd that there should be a difference of '30 per cent. between Kent and Essex on different sides of the Thames.
§ As far as one can judge front a limited number of counties, those which are fairly treated in the matter of quota, and are not asked to find more than the average of the whole country, seem to be able to do it. The united population of seven of them is only 2,250,000; but still those seven with that population do find 90 per cent., on an average, of the quota assigned to them; and as far as that goes it does look as if, where counties were not overburdened, they were able to do most of what was expected of them. I am far from being satisfied, as my noble friend seemed to think, with the present condition of affairs in the Territorial Force. Something will have to be done in order to bring it tip to its establishment; but I do not think that in this Bill the noble Viscount is going the right way to work. It would be far better, in my opinion, to reduce the establishment in some counties and increase it in others, and to set up a careful inquiry in each division to find out how it is that in every division, in every brigade, and in almost every county there are some units which are strong and good, while there are others which are weak and bad, and some which are between the two, in some cases weak 479 and efficient as far as they go, and in others strong but inefficient and badly trained. I cannot help thinking that if some evidence was obtained on these points, and advantage taken of it to try to bring the inferior units, inferior both in numbers and efficiency, up to the strength and standard of the others by regulations which were not too cast-iron, a great deal could be clone. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
To leave out all the words after ("That") for the purpose of inserting the following Resolution "Until the Territorial Force is re-distributed in a manner that bears fairer relation to the population and capabilities of different counties, this House withholds its approval of a Bill which would aggravate the inequalities in the share of national defence now assigned to various parts of the country."—(Earl Fortescue.)
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, whatever may be the merits or the defects of my noble friend's Bill, at all events it has the advantage of proposing something definite if it is not practical, and like the two previous speakers I have never yet been able to discover that His Majesty's Government have any definite proposals to make with regard to this matter. So far as I can gather, their hopes with regard to meeting the deficiency in the Territorial Force rest upon pious aspirations of the usual kind, upon Royal Reviews, upon a proposed remittance of the Insurance Tax, and upon such devices as putting Mr. Arthur Balfour upon the Defence Committee. In short, they are obviously waiting in the hope that something may turn up. Anybody can see perfectly well why they should adopt this particular attitude. They know, as we all know, that a General Election is due before very long, and it is in the highest degree improbable that any Government, with this contingency facing them, would take a step which might render them more unpopular than they happened to he at the moment. Obviously they are going to wait, and if, by chance, they are unsuccessful at the polls, then it will fall to their opponents to deal with this difficulty in whatever way occurs to them.
I am bound to say—I desire to be quite honest in the matter—I have never observed any indication that the official leaders on this side of the House have any definite plan. In this consists the strength 480 of my noble friend Lord Galway's position. But, nevertheless, it is perfectly impossible —and I think I may say that I speak on behalf of all who belong to the National Service League—for us to accept his proposal. There are a variety of reasons why it seems to us to be perfectly incompatible with our views. In the first place, anybody who is in favour of universal service would refuse to admit for a moment that the establishment of the Territorial Force was adequate even if it was absolutely complete. That establishment—the fact has never been sufficiently dwelt upon—is a purely political establishment. it has no reference whatever to the military necessities of this country, and I often think that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack must deeply regret—I think he must almost shed tears in secret—when he reflects that if he had placed the establishment at 50,000 men lower than it stands at the present day he would be able to boast that he had achieved a distinct success, whereas, as a matter of fact, this deficiency is a think, which even his ingenuity is unable to get over.
The second obvious reason why anybody who believes in the system of universal service could not support this Bill is that the element of chance renders it a thoroughly unfair system; and the third reason—I have not seen it adduced publicly so far. but to my mind it would be obvious if this Bill became law —is that the Bill would undoubtedly lead to the institution of a system of bounties, for it stands to reason that if a district were provided with an insufficient number of recruits, recourse would at once be had to raising funds for the purpose of paying people in order to serve in the Territorial Force. I am sure that every one of us must deeply regret the absence of the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss, upon this particular occasion. I can imagine with what glee he would have seen his own projects developed by noble Lords on this side of the House. But although I used to sympathise with Lord Wemyss to a certain extent in his efforts with regard to the Militia Ballot, I confess that it always seemed to me that there was considerable weakness in his argument. He always used to say, and probably does so still, that the ballot is a thing which ought to be introduced because it represents decimation. Well, decimation always appeared 481 to me a singularly unfair and arbitrary proceeding. Take, for instance, the case of this House. Supposing that Mr. Ure, or Mr. Ben Tillett, or somebody of the kind, had the power, for instance, of decimating this House. Why, the lot might fall upon a right rev. Prelate, a person who had led a perfectly blameless life, and who naturally would think himself greatly aggrieved if he were selected for sacrifice in preference to, for instance, the noble Earl, Lord Russell, who brings in Bills which shock the Episcopal Bench, or the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, who shocks the Nonconformist conscience by winning three Derbys. If I had to submit to a disagreeable alternative of this or of any other kind, I should much prefer to rely upon the record of a blameless, irreproachable life than submit myself to the turn of my noble friend's roulette-wheel or dice-box, or whatever instrument it may be with which he is going to arrive at his decision.
I look upon my noble friend's proposal as one more of those somewhat helpless and hopeless devices which are brought forward in order to avoid the inevitable, and I look upon it as a very unsatisfactory one as well. Almost the only thing to be said in favour of our present system of home defence, the so-called voluntary system, is that no one actually serves in the Territorial Force against his will. Men, or, to speak more correctly, boys, enter that Force for a variety of reasons. Some enter it—let us hope the majority—from motives of patriotism; others, perhaps, enter it from a desire for novelty; others because they are anxious to wear a uniform, whilst many have been successfully induced by the arguments of other people who want to get their work done for them. But the fact is—and this is the sole strong point of the present system —that there is not a man in that Force who can say he has been forced into it. Now, if my noble friend has his way, side by side with those men there will be a number of men who will have been drafted into the Force in a purely irrational and illogical manner, and who will therefore be suffering under a perfectly legitimate grievance.
What I suggest to my noble friend is that he should not press his Bill to a Division. In the first place, it seems to me that there are hardly sufficient of us 482 present to-day to decide so important an issue. In the second place, it is quite clear that if a vote were taken upon it great misconstruction would be placed on the action either of those who opposed it or of those who abstained from voting. I would rather urge my noble friend to devote his energies to supporting the more rational and logical system under which every able-bodied young man in this country will be liable to serve, and under which definite exemptions will be allowed, as is the practice in every other civilised country.
*THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VICOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, whatever speculations we might have entertained as to the remedies for the present state of the Territorial Force, there was one thing certain, and that was that the Bill of the noble Viscount would at once provoke a torrent of protests. To begin with, there was the national service principle. The noble Viscount in his Bill runs foul of that., and Lord Newton, with his great skill as a critic, has pointed out conclusively that between national service and the proposals ill this Bill there is a great gulf. Whether the noble Viscount would desire to accept the somewhat seductive invitation which Lord Newton tendered to him to leap across the gulf and identify himself with the principle of national service straight away, I do not know, but of this I am certain—that the Bill is wholly incapable of being reconciled to that view. Indeed, I am afraid it might be called by an ugly name. I always think it unfair to use question-begging expressions, but if I were asked whether the noble Viscount's Bill was not a Conscription Bill I should find it very difficult to deny that imputation. However that may be, there is another objection of a very formidable character which comes from a different quarter. Lord Fortescue has pointed out that the effect of applying the ballot to establishments distributed as are the establishments of the Territorial Force would be to place a very uneven burden on different sections of the population. Whatever may be said about the proposals Of the National Service League, they operate all round geographically; but the proposals in the noble Viscount's Bill, adapted to the Territorial Force, would not operate evenly, and therefore it seems to me that the noble Earl, Lord Fortescue, has made a point which is quite incontrovertible.
483 When the noble Earl says that he never knew the principle on which the establishment of the Territorial Force was based, he does that Force some injustice. It was not based on the principle of inducing every one in the country, wherever he might be, to serve under the same circumstances. Its purpose and scheme, worked out by the General Staff, were to provide establishments in parts of the country where experience had shown that they could be raised, and where they might be best available for the purpose of carrying out certain strategic plans. In other words, the distribution of the establishment was made on a strategical basis and not on a basis of population. I agree with the noble Earl that that is one reason why it is almost impossible to apply the principle of this Bill to the establishments of the Territorial Force without producing a sense of injustice; but I do not agree with him in thinking that the distribution of the Force was not a wise distribution.
There are other difficulties in the way of this Bill. It has been said, very truly, that there is nothing in the Bill that would make the training of the Force any better. I listened with some surprise to the noble Viscount who moved the Second Reading of the Bill when he spoke of training as one of the defects we had to remedy in regard to the Territorial Force, for his Bill is innocent of any attempt to improve training. The Bill simply proposes to ballot people into the Territorial Force, and leave them as at present. If the noble Viscount's Bill passed it would make things in no way different in respect to training, and that is a blot which the supporters of national service will naturally allude to in connection with the Bill. Then, turning for a moment to the Bill itself, Clause 5, which deals with the duties of employers and makes it a penal offence to refuse to employ any person on the ground that that person is liable to he balloted for service or is liable for service in the Territorial Force, is obviously absolutely unworkable. There is another feature in the noble Viscount's Bill which surprises me. The Bill is a mere skeleton. There is no criticism more made at the present time—sometimes with justice, often, I think, without justice—than that it is left to the Executive by Orders in Council and Rules practically to put in the whole of the substantive provisions of a Bill, nothing but a mere skeleton having been 484 submitted to Parliament. If any Bill sinned in that respect it is the Bill of the noble Viscount, for under it the Acts relating to ballot for the Militia are to be applied to the Territorial Force "with such modifications and adaptations as His Majesty, by Order in Council, may prescribe."
The Militia Ballot Acts apply to a very different position of things, and to adapt them to the Territorial Force would involve very extensive alterations. Three clauses at least of the noble Viscount's Bill are taken from the Bill which the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition introduced when he was Secretary of State for War in 1899, and the provisions in the noble Marquess's Bill were provisions which were adapted to the Militia system as it was then, and were introduced with a view to bringing that system up to date. But they were not provisions adapted to anything like the system which we have now. Other provisions are to be introduced which the noble Viscount does not define, so that the Bill will be enlarged to a very big one indeed. Whether Parliament is likely to approve of that mode of legislation with regard to a matter affecting the liberty of the subject is a question which the supporters of this Bill will have to consider if it proceeds any further. The question which the Bill raises is the old one, and the proposals in the Bill show its difficulty. We have all heard the discussions which have taken place on national service and the enormous controversy which it raises. The proposals of the noble Viscount fall foul of the reforms proposed by the advocates of national service, and they also fall foul of certain other reforms.
The noble Marquess who leads the Opposition has suggested that a considerable amount might be done in the early period of youth if in the schools there were introduced something like physical training, which would prepare the way for subsequent military service, if those who had had the advantage of that training chose to take it up. I think that is a very fertile suggestion. No system of national education is complete unless it embraces the physical side, and I do not think the physical side can be adequately dealt with unless there is brought in some reference to organisation and discipline. To put it under the War Office would not be a workable plan; 485 but I have never seen why in our educational system you should not bring in some of the admirable features which we witness in connection with the Boy Scouts and the Cadet Corps. If that were satisfactorily and extensively done I think a good deal of ground would have been traversed which would enable us to make up that shortage of material which at present exists in the Territorial Force. Bin; these are not the lines on which this Bill is conceived. This Bill is just a demonstration of the extraordinarily thorny nature of this question, which, whether you take it from the point of view of the noble Viscount, or from the point of view of national service, or from the point of view of training youths without raising the scare of militarism, or from the point of view of leaving things alone, confronts you with difficulties at every turn, difficulties probably inseparable from the existence of a voluntary system such as we have in this country and must for long continue to have for a great part of our Forces. It is probably true that it is impossible to work a voluntary and a compulsory system in one without bringing about friction and confusion.
This brings one back to the question whether, after all, we are not unduly alarming ourselves. It is quite true that there is a shortage of from 50,000 to 60,000 men in the Territorial Force. But when you look at all the circumstances, is it very surprising that there should be a considerable shortage. Who is there who is engaged in employing labour who does not know the great difficulty there is in getting labour at all? This extraordinary demand for workmen is one of the difficulties which stand in the way of men going to camp. The small employer is particularly pressed at such a period as this, and in the circumstances you would naturally expect the Territorial Force to diminish. Emigration is also a substantial source of difficulty. Then, again, a vast section of the Press has been pouring discouragement on the Territorial Force. But is it right to conclude that the last word has been said about the Territorial Force? I do not think so. It is quite true that this year and last year there has been an exceptionally large exodus. This year, owing to the four years' engagement of the men who enlisted in 1908–09 expiring, the exodus will be 114,000. That is a tremendous drain on the Force, 486 and the result would have been worse but for the very remarkable recruiting, to which I will refer in a moment. In 1909–10 recruiting fell off enormously as compared with the 114,000 for the year before, and therefore the exodus will drop next year. In 1910–11 recruiting fell down to 41,000, and therefore the exodus at the end of this four years will likewise be less. Last year recruiting rose to 46,000, and this year it has been quite remarkable. Despite all the difficulties the Territorial Force has this year taken 61,000 recruits. That is an increase of nearly 15,000 men on the numbers of last year. Let us not be over-sanguine; but let us not be over-despondent.
I hold in my hand a communication which I have received from the very distinguished officer who has superintended the affairs of the Territorial Force with such energy, General Bethune, and I should like to read to your Lordships what he has permitted me to read to you of his views. He says—The position of recruiting is at present better than it has been for sonic years. We have the abnormal influx of four years ago to face. That influx gives an enormous wastage this year; but even if we go down to 240,000 non-commissioned officers and men I shall not despair, as those who remain are more earnest and sincere. We only get men who are keen now. Last month produced a marked increase in officers.It may be that for a considerable time we shall remain short in the Territorial Force; but even if we do, I do not think we need despair of getting up to the proper numbers are we in such a very bad position? What does the Territorial Force exist for? It was to be an organisation better than the Volunteers, better in equipment, better in training, and better in the characteristics of organisation, which should be sufficient in numbers to make a foreign Chief of the General Staff pause before attempting the invasion of this country with a force of less than 70,000 men, a force of which the Navy was ready to take charge. We have, it is true, at this moment only a little over a quarter of a million officers, non-commissioned officers and men in the Territorial Force, but we have also the National Reserve with its 200,000 men, of whom 109,000 are under forty-five years of age in the case of the men and under fifty-five in the case of the officers. Now supposing there was a shortage in the Territorial Force, can 487 anybody suppose that a large number of these men at a time of need will not come forward? And if they do come forward, I have the satisfaction of telling the noble Viscount that they will not find themselves without uniforms and rifles. Under a change which was made two years ago in the organisation of the Territorial Force, we keep the rifles and uniforms and equipment up to establishment, so that we can always fill up if we get the men. And I need not remind the noble Viscount that these men will be trained men.
I am not urging these things as meaning that the Territorial Force is in a really satisfactory condition—no Force is in a satisfactory condition that is short. But I am urging them to impress upon your Lordships two things. First, that it is premature to despair. I, for my part, see no reason why we should; and if we could only get a little inure unanimity in the matter, I believe the numbers could be filled up. The second thing is that every plan which you bring forward is brought forward only to be riddled with criticism. I submit that it is better to be content with the evils to which we are accustomed, and which we know how to deal with, than to fly to other evils of which we know nothing. The evils embodied in this Bill are such that I cannot help thinking that the noble Viscount received wise advice from Lord Newton in the suggestion that it would be well not to press the Motion for its Second Reading to a Division.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, it may be convenient that, before this discussion goes further, a word should be said from this Bench as to the manner in which we regard the Bill of my noble friend and the Amendment which has been proposed by the noble Earl below the Gangway. My noble friend's speech in moving the Second Reading of the Bill consisted of two parts. He dealt at some length and with great force with the shortcomings of the Territorial system as we see it to-day, and then he went on to propose the particular remedy which he desires to apply in order to meet these shortcomings. So far as my noble friend's dissatisfaction with the present condition of the Territorial Force is concerned, there can, I think, be no two opinions. The matter has been before the House several 488 times, and it is really not disputed—it was admitted by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack a few moments ago—that the Force is largely below its establishment; and there are other imperfections not less serious than the shortage of numbers which have been brought to light by official Papers laid on the Table of your Lordships' House. Both the Secretary of State and the noble and learned Viscount, and also the noble Lord who represents the War Office in this House (Lord Herschell), whose continued absence we greatly regret, have all admitted with the utmost frankness that we cannot sit still under the present condition of things. That is the more alarming because we know that these deficiencies have arisen in the face of tremendous efforts which have been made by all concerned in endeavouring to promote the success of the Force.
There is another point which was not touched upon by the noble and learned Viscount, but which I think weighs a good deal with your Lordships. It is this, that while the Territorial Force is in a condition which leaves much to be desired, its liabilities have proved to be much more extensive than any of us contemplated at the time when it first took shape. What is the attitude of His Majesty's Government with regard to this question? We have been told that the whole problem of invasion is undergoing examination by the Committee of Imperial Defence, and, of course, the dimensions of that problem cannot be without their effect upon these, questions of strength which we have been lately discussing. We also have been told that His Majesty's Government are considering the question of the inducements at present offered to the Force, and that they will not shrink from improving those inducements should occasion arise. Besides hat, your Lordships must, I think, have been struck by the new vein of hopefulness which has characterised the utterances of His Majesty's Ministers in reference to this subject. The noble and learned Viscount is always an optimist, but lately his optimism and that of his colleague the Secretary of State for War has been especially conspicuous. A few nights ago the Secretary of State, speaking at Barnstaple, told his hearers very much what the noble and learned Viscount told us just now. The Secretary of State said that recruiting for the Territorial Force was buoyant at this moment, that there 489 had been no such recruiting for the last lour years; and the noble Viscount tells us the same thing this evening. I desire to make one comment upon those statements. If it is the case that recruiting is buoyant at this moment, what becomes of the argument which we have constantly listened to during the course of these debates and which was hinted at a moment ago by the noble and learned Viscount—I mean the argument that the Territorial Force has been killed by the criticisms of the National Service League? I am under the impression that that stream of criticism, which we were told was fatal to the Force, has been flowing as strongly as ever of late. Those of us who read the newspapers cannot have failed to notice the extraordinary vigour and eloquence with which Lord Roberts has been pursuing this matter throughout the country. But, my Lords, the effect of Lord Roberts's speeches has apparently been, not to discourage recruiting for the Territorial Force, but to stimulate it, and it is a matter of common knowledge that some of the gallant officers who are acting most energetically with Lord Roberts in this matter are amongst the keenest Territorials and the best friends that the Force possesses. I noticed with great pleasure a statement that a few days hence there is to be a remarkable gathering, at which the Secretary of State for War is to propose the toast of Lord Roberts's health. I hope that may be taken as a tardy recognition that these two forces should work in harmony and not regard each other as mutually destructive.
We have to consider in these circumstances what we should do with regard to the Bill of my noble friend, and I am bound to tell him that at a moment when His Majesty's Government are responsible, as they are, for the safety of the country, and when they are themselves engaged in devising remedies for an evil the existence of which they themselves frankly admit, I run not prepared to take upon myself, or to advise your Lordships to take upon yourselves, the responsibility of imposing or endeavouring to impose upon the country the particular remedy which my noble friend desires to see adopted. I should say that, as a matter of principle, we were not called upon in such circumstances to relieve His Majesty's Government of a responsibility which is theirs and not ours. But, quite apart from that, I share some of the doubts 490 which have been expressed this evening as to the appropriateness of the Bill in the particular circumstances which we have to contemplate. I should be very slow indeed to part with the right which the State at present possesses of calling upon its citizens to serve in defence of the public safety, and the noble and learned Viscount very properly reminded me of the Bill which in 1899 I introduced in this House on behalf of the then Government; but, as the noble and learned Viscount told your Lordships, the circumstances then were wholly different from the circumstances with which we have to deal this evening. I am prepared to go with my noble friend as far as saying this, that if we find, when we have ascertained what number of men are really necessary in order to provide for the safety of the country, that we are unable to get that Force by voluntary means, we shall have to be driven inevitably to some form or other of compulsion. But I do not think that is a combination of circumstances which has as yet arisen.
Apart from that, I own that to my mind there is a good deal in the contention that if this liability is to be assumed by the citizens of this country, it ought not to depend upon chance whether a particular individual is liable or not. I am sure that the people of this country quite understand what voluntary service means; I think they can understand that there should be an ultimate liability for compulsory service; but this halfway house between the two will, I believe, prove to be very distasteful to the great mass of our fellow-subjects. They understand voluntary service; they understand compulsory service; I doubt whether they will understand or tolerate service as the result of the lottery of the ballot. But there is another objection to the ballot. The ballot, after all, supposing my noble friend's Bill were to become law, would only have the effect of giving you the numbers that you require. It would do nothing to improve the efficiency of the Force. It would not give you the training; it would not give you the exercises in camp; it would not give you any of those elements of greater efficiency which, as we know from the published documents, are so seriously wanting. And I am bound to say that to my mind the question of efficiency is at least as important as the question of mere numbers. 491 In these circumstances, although I greatly regret not being able to support my noble friend behind me, I cannot vote for the Second Reading of his Bill.
Then I turn to Lord Fortescue's Amendment. I think my noble friend is perfectly right in calling attention to the anomalies of the manner in which the liability to provide members of the Territorial Force is distributed. He has pointed them out with great force to-night and upon other occasions, but that is after all not the main objection, or my main objection at any rate, to the Bill of my noble friend; and I therefore should not like to give a vote in favour of the Amendment, from which it might be inferred that if this question of redistribution were adequately dealt with I should then he prepared to give my vote for the ballot as proposed by my noble friend Lord Galway. If, therefore, Lord Galway goes to a Division I shall vote both against his Bill and against the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Fortescue.
There is only one other observation which I desire to make before I sit down. I heard with great satisfaction the observation which fell from the noble and learned Viscount just now upon the question of physical training in schools. His pronouncement this evening is to my mind the most important contribution which has lately been made to the discussion of this subject. I observed that his colleague the Secretary of State for War made a very similar announcement the other evening. Now, my Lords, I hope that we may take these statements made by the present Minister for War and his predecessor as indicating that His Majesty's Government really mean business with regard to this most important suggestion. I have so often wearied your Lordships with observations in regard to it that I do not like to dwell upon the subject this evening. I have always been deeply convinced that if we could deal with this question of physical training—it is a euphemism, but let us call it physical training—in the schools and continuation schools we should do a great service to the youth of the country, and that we should also provide an almost inexhaustible reserve of partly trained men who would be an invaluable asset to us if ever this country had to face a moment of serious trial. The noble and learned Viscount 492 used a strong expression. I think he said that no system of education would be complete unless it included some training of that description. We all know that the noble and learned Viscount is going to deal with the question of national education, and to deal with it on broad and comprehensive lines. I hope we may assume from what he has said this evening that his scheme when laid before the country will be found to include definite and well-considered proposals for giving effect to a policy which has been approved by himself, by his colleagues, and by almost all of those who have given serious attention to this great military problem. My Lords, I venture to conclude by supporting the appeal made by Lord Newton to my noble friend Lord Galway, and by expressing the hope that he will not, through insisting upon a Division, compel us to give a vote which might possibly be misconstrued out of doors.
§ LORD JOICEY
My Lords, I hesitate to take part in this discussion because I am neither a military nor a naval expert; but I have heard the debates which have taken place recently in your Lordships' House and have been struck with the unanimity of doubt as to our position. I have opportunities of gathering the opinions of people engaged in the commercial world, and I am bound to say that I find a great and growing anxiety throughout the country as to our military position. Again and again I have been struck with timings which I have heard; and correspondents whom I have abroad, and who are British subjects, have expressed, in strong language sometimes, the reasons why we ought to make further provision for the military defence of this country.
I used to be strongly against any form of compulsion for this country, believing that the Navy was supreme even against two or three other navies, and therefore adequate to secure us against invasion. I thought that we could, as has been said, sleep in our beds with perfect safety. But things have changed. Other nations are building large navies, and there is throughout this country amongst the ordinary population a doubt as to whether our Navy, strong as it is, would be able to cope with a combination of two Continental navies; and if we were to find ourselves at war it is quite possible that we might have great difficulty in preventing an invasion of this 493 country. In discussing this question all soldiers, and even his Majesty's Government, too, admit that there is a possibility of invasion. Personally I cannot see why there should not be a possibility of invasion. After all, large vessels can cross the North Sea in thirty-six hours, and every vessel would be packed with troops. That does raise in one's mind a doubt as to our present position. If we get into a war with a European Power we shall have very little notice of it, and we know from experience that in these clays wars begin very quickly, and it is those who are able to strike first and powerfully who have the advantage. Take the case of the Balkan war. Why, in six weeks practically it was decided who were the conquerors. Unless we have every preparation and are well organised when we get at war with a European country I rather tremble as to what will be the result.
What is the position of the Territorial Force? We hear that it is dwindling; and I was very much struck with what was said by the noble Marquess with regard to the question of efficiency. In my opinion efficiency is a much greater power than numbers; and I believe that an efficient Allay of 100,000 men would be able to deal successfully with 400,000 or 500,000 men who were not trained. We see that in our Colonial wars, where a small force of efficient troops often meet and defeat untrained and undisciplined troops ten times their number. In the event of the invasion of this country by 70,000 Continental troops I doubt very much whether our Territorial Force, without being armed with the best weapon—which I do not think they are—and without the discipline necessary, would be able to successfully cope with the invaders. I have not yet been satisfied that our position is a safe one, and I think His Majesty's Government ought to devise some scheme to satisfy the country that it is.
We have had the opinion of experts on this question. Lord Roberts, whose name has been mentioned in the course of this debate, has done splendid service. Surely he is likely to guide the country aright as to what we require. What is Lord Roberts's opinion His opinion is that we are not safe, so far as our military power is concerned, in case of invasion; and I have been very much struck with the enthusiasm with which the noble and gallant Field- 494 Marshal has been met everywhere where he has spoken. It is clear that the country is beginning to realise that something must be done to make us secure against invasion. I am told that we ought to have at least half a million men. Surely it is the duty of the Government to devise some scheme by which we could have half a million efficient men under arms if necessary. The Government are responsible for the defence of the country; they have the power and if they would only have the courage to put a scheme before the country I feel sure it would meet with very much greater support than they have any idea of. It would be the more popular because people are seeing what other countries are doing. Depend upon it, if we do not use our powers aright we shall be the sufferers.
Possibly we may have to resort to some form of compulsion. I am not particularly fond of compulsion; but if we cannot get an adequate number of efficient troops for the defence of the country on the voluntary principle we shall have to adopt compulsion, which, by the way, has other advantages apart from its military advantage. There never was a time when the physique of our young people was so bad as it is now, and if the children of this kingdom were subjected to drill. either at school or after they left school, I feel sure we should see a great benefit to the country in the shape of improved physique. Then there is the question of discipline. As a large employer of labour I employ some thousands of boys, and I have been struck with the fact that there is no discipline among the youths of the country. There never was a time when boys were so independent, when they cared so little for their parents, their employers, or their schoolmasters. Depend upon it, physical training for young men of from 17 to 20 years of age would have a very beneficial effect upon the community as a whole. I hope that His Majesty's Government will realise the danger of delay. It is most necessary that the whole question should be fully considered by them, and I hope they will recognise that the country is becoming anxious and that something effective ought to be done without delay to satisfy the country of our national security.
THE EARL OF DERRY
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken has given a rather wider scope to this debate than had hitherto existed, but I think we shall 495 all agree that the interesting speech to which we have just listened will be of great value, not only from the fact that it comes from the Benches opposite, but from the additional fact that the noble Lord is one of the largest employers of labour in this country. I venture, therefore, to predict that from his speech we shall undoubtedly have good results in his own part of the country. The noble Lord put the case very clearly. It has never as yet seemed to be realised that for our very existence at home we may have to fight abroad. It may be essential to the safety of the country that we should send abroad, to aid some Continental combination, as large a force as possible; and that force, to be of the slightest value, should go at the very outset of the war, for the decisive battle of the campaign may be, and probably will be, fought within the first fortnight. The question is whether the country would consent to denude itself of every Regular soldier, as it would have to do to send even a comparatively small Army abroad, and depend for home defence entirely on the Territorial Force as it now exists.
I want, if I may, to say a few words from the point of view of one who has been actively engaged in assisting to the best of his ability the Territorial Force; who still believes, to a great extent at all events, in that Force; who believes that when the Territorial scheme was first put forward it was a good scheme, and that to a great extent its failure is due, not to the scheme itself, but to the apathy which seems to exist all over the country. Having said that, I want to tell my noble friend who has introduced this Bill that, quite apart from the provisions of the Bill, with which I cannot agree, there are other reasons why it is not possible for me to support his Bill. In the first place, it is not our business on this side of the House to put forward remedies for the state of things that at present exists. As Lord Joicey said just now, the Government are responsible, and the Government themselves must put forward the remedies. The Government recognise that there is a shortage in the Territorial Force. How are they going to make good that shortage? It is for them to say, and to put into execution whatever proposals they think necessary.
The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, if he will excuse my saying so, 496 put forward a very inadequate substitute for the shortage in the Territorial Force when lie mentioned the National Reserve. Although every one of us must admire the spirit which leads these men to come forward and offer to do what they can in time of need, one does not require to be a military expert to see that the greater number of these men are long past their work as soldiers. They are entirely without organisation, and I do not understand what the noble and learned Viscount meant when he said that they would be well trained and drilled. Indeed, many of the men who now belong to the National Reserve have never even seen the modern rifles. The shortage in the Territorials is a matter which the Government must make good. The question of training is one for the military authorities. The noble and learned Viscount omits one point when he talks about the training being good and sufficient. He, I think, will admit that every single one of the military authorities whom he has consulted has told him that the minimum amount of training in camp which the Territorials ought to have is a full fortnight, and I appeal to the noble and learned Viscount to say whether it is not true that, as a matter of fact, a very small percentage even of the small number of men who have joined the Territorial Force have gone into camp for a full fortnight.
I wish to advise my noble friend Lord Galway not to pursue the course of attempting to find remedies for the Government. Let him take warning from the attitude which has been taken up by certain Ministers and their followers towards the Party to which we belong for the assistance we have given to the Territorial Force. At the present moment it is recognised on all hands that the Territorial Force is a failure, or is failing. The noble and learned Viscount informed us that there had been over 60,000 recruits this year, and that the men now in the Force are more enthusiastic than any of those who have gone before them. Exactly the same thing was said four years ago. The only result of taking in 61,000 men now is that probably 61,000 men will go out in four years' time. The Government originally appealed to both sides of the House to assist in making the Territorial Force effective, but now they turn round and abuse those on this side of the House, and charge those who 497 hold the views which we hold with being the cause of the failure of the Force. is, of course, a political move, and, if I may say so, I think it a particularly mean move, because if it had not been for those who hold opinions similar to those held on this side of the House the Territorial Force would probably never have conic into existence, or, if it had, it would not have survived many months. This is the way in which the attack is made. First of all, it is said that the National Service League is the cause of the deterioration of the Force, and then that the National Service League is identical with the Unionist Party, and therefore the Unionist Party is really the cause of the failure of the Territorials. In the first place, I deny that the National Service League is the cause of the failure of the Territorial Force.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
The noble Lord may have had some personal experience of the working of a Territorial Association, but all I can say for my part is that wherever the National Service League is strongest there I get; the most and best recruits. Further than that, the fact mentioned by the noble Marquess that Lord Roberts's campaign has resulted not in a reduction in the number of recruits but in an addition, surely shows that the interest which he has aroused in the country in national defence has brought about this increase in the number of recruits. Personally I am very glad to belong to the National Service League. I believe that it does extremely good work in putting flesh on the skeleton of the noble and learned Viscount's scheme. I believe that the National Service League will gradually educate the people of this country to such a pitch that the ranks of the Territorials will be filled without any need of adapting compulsory service, though. I myself should be perfectly prepared at any time to vote, if necessary, for compulsory service to fill the ranks and bring the Territorial Force up to the minimum number which the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said was necessary for the defence of this country.
Then Ministers proceed to identify the National Service League with the 498 Unionist Party. I absolutely deny that there is any identity between the two. The National Service League is a purely non-political body. It commits no Party; it only commits the individuals who belong to it. There are a great many members on the Government side who belong to it, as there are on our side. I absolutely deny that the National Service League in any way binds our Party, although I quite admit that it binds individuals such as myself and other members of our Party who belong to it. Having, to secure a political advantage, identified with the National Service League the Party on this side of the House, who have, as a matter of fact, done most of the hard work with regard to the Territorial Force, they proceed to say that we are the cause of its failure. It was very clearly put in a speech by Mr. Runciman at Birkenhead in the middle of April. He does not make the charge, it is true, in so many words, but he infers it. He said—It is a curious fact that where the Territorial Force receives the greatest support, these are the places at which Liberals were returned to the House of Commons.You cannot have it both ways. If you are going to make a political cry out of the failure of the Territorial Force, say so; but then do not rely upon us, your political opponents, to do all we can for the Force.
These speeches are made by colleagues of noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite, and I have waited for some time to see whether there would not be some repudiation of those speeches from noble Lords who, like the Lord Chancellor, know how untrue and how unjust they are. May I hope that we shall have some such repudiation to-night. If so, we shall gain nearly as important an admission from the other side of the House as we did from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack when he assured us that we were going to have some form of training in schools inserted in the next Education Bill. If the question of the Territorial Force, its success or its failure, is to be made a political one, let us know, because then there will be many others like myself who will be glad to withdraw from a work which they only took up because they thought it might be of national service and without any regard for Party.
THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (LORD LUCAS)
My Lords, the noble Earl has accused our side of misrepresenting the attitude of the Unionist Party with regard to this question of compulsory service. It is quite true that charges have been levelled at the Unionist Party of having been in favour of national service, and I do not think that is in the least to be wondered at. One quite understands the position of the National Service League. The position of the League is altogether outside that of Party. It is a non-Party body, but it is a body whose personnel, at any rate, are closely connected with the Party opposite. Leading members of the Unionist Party belong to the National Service League and take every opportunity to praise its propaganda. But what is less plain than the attitude of those outspoken members of the National Service League is the real attitude of those other members of the Unionist Party who do not belong to the National Service League. I hope I may not he considered discourteous to the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, hut I must say we have never had from him in this House a downright disclaimer of the principle of national service. We have listened in vain for an announcement from him that the Unionist Party, as far as he is concerned, would never take up the question of national service, and I think the same may be said of most of the other leaders of the Unionist Party. It is that reluctance on the part of the leaders of the Unionist Party to state categorically what their attitude is on this subject which is doing so much harm to the Territorial Force at the present time. The noble Marquess has asked how it is that, simultaneously with the campaign which is going on at the present time in favour of the principles of the National Service League, recruiting for the Territorial Force has been on the whole good. The thing is explained, I think, to a great extent by the enormous amount of energy which the supporters of the Territorial Force and those who are concerned in its administration, the members of the County Associations—
Yes; I think they are chiefly Unionists. It is due to the great efforts and the extra work which these 500 people are putting into the cause. At the same time, in spite of what the noble Earl has said—and I know there are very few people better qualified than he is to speak with actual experience about questions concerning the Territorial Force —I completely disagree with him when he says that the propaganda of the National Service League does not have a bad effect on recruiting for the Territorial Force. The attitude of the National Service League has been the attitude of the man who, coming out on to his village green and finding the village crowd dealing out lynch law to a culprit who had been caught red-handed, said "Don't put him in the horse-trough," and then turned his back. They don't advise men not to join the Territorial Force, but the general effect of the propaganda of the National Service League is undoubtedly to decrease the prestige of joining the Territorial Force.
Patriotism is a sensitive plant which it is easy to kill, and very little ridicule will do it a great amount of harm. One of the arguments most commonly used by speakers on behalf of the National Service League is an argument which it is amazing to find in the mouths of Englishmen. It is this: "Why should you do something when your neighbour alongside you is not doing it?" That is an argument which up to the present time has not had any force in this country, but it is an argument freely used by members of the National Service League. What is the result? The result is that the National Service League attracts to its banner every "slacker," every selfish person, every person who is only too glad to find some excuse for not doing his duty to his country and trying to get the burden which he rightly ought to have on his shoulders transferred to the shoulders of others. I speak from my own experience as an officer of the Territorial Force who has done his fair share of recruiting. Undoubtedly you come across people who, either because they are "slackers," or because they think they will be a little out of pocket, or for some reason of that sort, are only too glad to find some reason for not joining the Territorial Force. Those are the men who say, "I do not believe in the Territorial Force. I am a follower of Lord Roberts." That is the effect one is finding at the present time of the propaganda of the National Service League.
501 You hear a good deal of talk on the lines of the speech of Lord Joicey to-night; but I should have liked to ask that noble Lord, had be been still in his place, how many of the men in his employment he himself has encouraged to join the Territorial Force, and how many of his fellow huge employers he has impressed with the duty of doing their share to maintain the Territorial Force? There is too much of the kind of talk we have heard from Lord joicey to-night and too little practical work being done. The voluntary system demands sacrifices just as great as any compulsory system does, and as long as there is another channel, the channel provided by the National Service League, so long will what the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said remain absolutely true—namely, that we shall not have a satisfactory system in this country. The voluntary system, above all, depends on concentration of effort. It is no good for those who are working hard in this matter to continue their efforts unless they can get general support. A few ounces of ridicule does as much harm as a ion of solid support in this matter. That is the reason why we have a complaint—I think a very legitimate complaint—against the National Service League.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, we who sit on this side of the House have listened to the speech of the noble Lord opposite with some astonishment. He got up, we had hoped, at the invitation of my noble friend Lord Derby to nuke smile kind of apology on behalf of the Government to Lord Derby and others like-minded with himself who have for same years past done their utmost to make the Territorial scheme a success. I must say I thought in what he said about himself and others, my noble friend Lord Derby was too modest, and perhaps, as I do not, belong to the Territorial Force myself, I may be able to put it rather more strongly. My belief is that nearly the whole strength of the Territorial Force, and nearly the whole of the valuable efforts made on its behalf, have come from professed Unionists. I wonder whether the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and the noble Lord opposite remember the sort of attitude which their colleagues took up with regard to the Territorial Force when it first came into being. You would certainly have expected, 502 if not support from the rank and file of the Liberal Party, that the Leaders of the Liberal Party would have done their best to support the scheme; but I do not remember-any speeches until quite recently coming from any Cabinet Minister, except the noble and learned Viscount himself and perhaps one other, in favour of the Territorial scheme. Yet the noble Lord abuses us and our Party for the failure of this scheme, which he and his colleagues have done so little to maintain and support.
I must say I thought the attitude taken up by Lord Lucas a most astonishing attitude for him to take. Apparently those who do not agree in all respects with the noble and learned Viscount are "slackers." The noble Lord below the Gangway, one of the pioneers of industry in this country, is, in the view of the noble Lord, a "slacker"; and the noble and gallant Field-Marshal upon the Cross Benches, the most eminent soldier we possess, is apparently in the noble Lord's view the leader of the "slackers." I must say I thought it a scarcely decent attitude to take up with regard to the distinguished gentlemen who, the noble Lord knows, support the National Service League. I say 30 with all the more freedom because I am not a member of the National Service League. I am a humble occupant of this But I desire to repudiate absolutely the view of the noble Lord opposite that all Unionists are necessarily members of the National Service League.
I did not say that the whole of the. Party opposite were members of the National Service League. I carefully stated that they were not. What I said was that there were members of the National Service League who were distinguished members of the Party opposite, and that if the views of those who were not members of the National Service League had been as outspoken against compulsory service as the speeches of members of the National Service League had been in favour of it, we should know much better where the Unionist Party now stand in the matter.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The Unionist Party are not responsible for the government of this country, unfortunately, at this moment, and until they are it is not for them to express confident opinions as 503 to what the precise policy should be with regard to military matters. But to come back to the point. The noble Lord has criticised Lord Roberts and others as "slackers" because they have hot agreed with the policy of His Majesty's Government on military matters. The noble Lord and his friends must make up their minds that honest men will do their best to speak the truth, and the fact that the noble Lord and his friends do not agree that that is the truth is not to the point. They are not going to persuade Lord Roberts and those of my noble. friends who belong to the National Service League to hold their tongues because if they speak the truth they may do injury to the Territorial Force. Unless the policy which the Government defend can stand the truth, it is not worth defending; and unless it can stand open and free discussion and the expression of honest conviction on both sides, it is not a policy that ought to be supported by this country.
We have done our hest to help forward the Territorial Force. I do not believe that my noble friend who leads the Opposition, or the Leader of the Opposition in another place, has said a word against the Territorial Force. What we have said is that, though the members of the Territorial Force are deserving of every credit., we do not think that the standard of efficiency which they have reached is sufficient to enable them to meet the obligations which the Government themselves desire to throw upon them. Is that a severe criticism? I doubt whether in their hearts the members of the Government differ from us. The standard of efficiency is not sufficient. We have said over and over again that you have not got a Force sufficiently trained and sufficiently large in numbers to do the work you have thrown upon it. That being the case, and seeing that. the Force is going down in numbers, failure seems to stare it in the face. On the other hand, we say you must make it more efficient. But if you demand more efforts on the part of members of the Territorial Force, do you think it will improve the numbers? Quite clearly it will diminish the numbers of the Force, so that you are not only face to face as it is with failure, but with increased failure in the future.
You have, therefore, to find some other remedy. That is for the Government. If the noble Lord opposite and his friends would like to resign and allow us to go over 504 there, we shall have to prescribe; but until that happens the Government themselves must prescribe. I emphatically protest against the noble Lord's attitude. He has no right to charge noble Lords on this side of the House, who have done their utmost for the Territorial Force, with being the cause of its failure. He has no right to say that those who criticise the Territorial Force are "slackers." He ought to apologise for the way in which this side of the House has been treated, and he and his friends ought to devise a policy which will provide the country with what it is vital to its interests that it should possess.
My Lords, the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition made what was to my mind a very important statement—namely, that the Defence Committee are now considering the whole question of invasion and will decide what force is, in their opinion, absolutely necessary for the defence of the country, and that the Government of the day will then have to see that those numbers are obtained; and I think in that the Lord Chancellor concurred. Although I am a strong supporter of Lord Roberts's scheme, I have worked on my County Association in the interests of the Territorial Force ever since the scheme started, and I brought this Bill forward purely from patriotic motives. But I have not the smallest intention of pressing it forward with a view to helping the Government after the way in which we have been attacked.
§ Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn: Then the original Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.