§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I propose this afternoon to ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading to a Bill designed to increase the military strength of this country. But before unfolding to your Lordships the principle on which the Bill is based and before alluding to the details or the clauses of the measure, I think some account should be taken of the military position of this country and also generally of the condition of our national defences. I do not intend this afternoon to make anything like a Party speech. I shall try to avoid anything like a controversy between both sides of the House as to whether or not the Government have been discharging their duty in the matter of national defence. But I think, without any Party recrimination, I can ask your Lordships to accept two propositions. The first—and I would pray the attention of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, because he has played a large part in the military preparations of this country—the first proposition that I should like to establish is, roughly speaking, that there is no unit of the military forces of the Crown that is not short of the number which the Government would like to obtain. The second proposition, with which I think the noble and learned Viscount and noble Lords opposite will agree, is that, even if every single unit was up to the strength proposed by the Government as necessary to the safety of this country, still—on account of the fact that the Territorial Army has, on the admission of those who are responsible for it, got to be trained for six months after a war breaks out—our system of national defence would to some considerable extent be imperfect. If any noble Lord opposite disagrees with that last proposition, then I say that he is in the position of affirming that we have already everything that we want; that really nothing more need be done, and that we need not consider any further measures for increasing the military preparation of this country. But in spite of all the optimism which we have recently heard expressed, I do not think that that 462 frame of mind can really be complacently enjoyed by anybody.
It was very instructive to read the answer which the Prime Minister gave to a deputation which approached him the other day with regard to compulsory military service. Mr. Asquith, you will all agree, can put a case better than any man in this kingdom, and if instead of being Prime Minister of England he had chosen to join the junior ranks of horsedealers—called, I believe, "copers" —he would have been able to exhibit a "screw" in order to make it look like a sound horse better than anybody. But even he, with all his dialectical skill, all that adroitness with which we are so familiar, when the deputation came before him made what is called in the current phrase of the day, an exceedingly bad "get-out." I ask the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, who I understand is going to speak in this debate, to follow this point. I am not a military expert. I was not here the day before yesterday, but I understand, from reading the speech which the noble and learned Viscount then made, that he rather accused noble Lords of speaking as if they were military experts when really they were not. He said that he was not a military expert himself, in which I think he did himself a great injustice. But it must be obvious to anybody who has given even a most superficial study to our military position that whatever type of foreign policy you adopt it must be better to be able to strike suddenly and swiftly and at a moment's notice with as many men as you can place in the field. Therefore whether you have a policy of splendid isolation or a policy of maintaining the balance of power by means of friendly co-operation with certain other European Powers, which I understand is now our foreign policy, you must be able to postulate in regard to the armed forces of the Crown that you have a sufficient force in this country to enable your Expeditionary Force to mobilise and go to any part of the European Continent or anywhere else where they may be required at a moment's notice; and in the conditions of modern warfare that necessity seems to be very much accentuated. I do not believe that you can place the whole of your Expeditionary Force in the field at once with any real degree of safety. It seems almost impossible to do that. 463 If one is to believe what one sees written and what one hears said by military critics who cannot have any other interest except the safety of their country, one is bound to believe that if you sent the Expeditionary Force away at once, all types of reserves would be speedily mortgaged for that purpose and the safety of these Islands would be, to say the least of it, extremely problematical.
I have tried not to exaggerate the state of danger which many of us believe, and have good cause for believing, the country is in at the present moment. What I want to know is, Who has any remedy, any practical remedy, which the country or Parliament is prepared to accept here and now in order to put the Territorial Force in such a condition that the Expeditionary Force can be mobilised at a moment's notice? Some gentlemen who form a body called the County Councils' Territorial Force Association disclosed the other day the very urgent state of affairs with regard to the Territorial Force. I do not think that their remedy was one which would commend itself very long to serious people or to people who desire to improve the national character. What they said, in effect, was that if you only gave the Territorial soldiers enough boots, enough shirts, enough socks, and enough money, then we should be able to persuade them to go out to camp. That, at best, would be, even if it were successful in filling up the ranks and getting a fortnight's training out of every man, a very lame expedient. The only serious remedy for this state of things is based upon the Report of the Norfolk Commission which sat and reported some years ago. I have not with me the exact terms of their Report, but every noble Lord understands what was the gist of that Report. It was that you will not be able to form an efficient body for home defence unless it is based upon the principle of the universal or compulsory military training of every able-bodied male in this country. That is, roughly speaking, the base of what forms the policy of the National Service League. I am proposing to your Lordships this afternoon a measure which, while not going so far as the National Service League, will, I think, go very far in the required direction.
But since I put this Bill down for Second Reading an Amendment has appeared in 464 the name of my noble friend Lord Newton, who proposes to move "That in the opinion of this House no system of home defence which is not based upon the democratic principle of universal service can be fully effective and reliable." I agree with Lord Newton. I do not claim for one moment that the proposal contained in this Bill is fully effective or reliable. Without wishing to be impertinent to Lord Newton in any way, I venture to suggest that his Amendment is not wholly relevant to this debate, and if he presses it—I understand the Question will be taken on his Amendment before the Bill is put—if he presses it to a Division, then I think that on the whole I shall be inclined, though I am not going to pledge myself beforehand, not to challenge a division on the Amendment, but it will depend very much on the manner in which that Amendment is put. If the Amendment is going to be put by Lord Newton merely as a pious expression of opinion, as a restatement of the position of the National Service League, then as a member of the National Service League for a great many years—and I hope I shall not be turned out on account of what I am doing this afternoon—I have no very great quarrel with the Amendment. But if, on the other hand, I have reason to believe between this and then that the Amendment is proposed for the purpose of what Mr. George calls "torpedoing" my Bill, then I shall consult with my friends and see whether it will not be our duty to try to defeat the Amendment.
I do not wish to dismiss lightly anything that Lord Newton says, but I am not very much concerned with his Amendment to-day. I am concerned in extracting an expression of opinion from this House as to whether or not they agree with the principle contained in this Bill, and that is what, no matter what happens to Lord Newton's Amendment, I intend, come what may, to press to a Division. I do not wish to be understood to speak in terms of mock heroism when I say that if there is one noble Lord who will tell with me in favour of this Bill I shall take a Division upon it, because I believe it contains a real principle, a vital principle, a method which is capable of great development, and one which will add very much, not only to the armed forces of the Crown, but eventually to the vigour and the spirit of the people of this country, 465 which is the absolutely necessary foundation for our national defence. If Lord Newton and the National Service League were able to carry into law to-morrow morning the proposals of the National Service League there would be no reason for me to stand here and move this Bill this afternoon. It is partly with the idea of accelerating the object that they have in hand that I am proposing this Bill. The movements of the National Service League have been followed in the country with a great deal of interest. Anything undertaken and urged with so much spirit by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal Lord Roberts, whom I am sorry to see is not here this afternoon, is bound to command the respect of a great many people. But it is no use denying the fact—I know this just as well as anybody else, because I have spoken on scores of National Service League platforms and hope to do so again— that there is something about the proposal of the National Service League, the proposal of universal military service, which is keeping it back. Neither Party in either House is prepared to accept it. For some reason or another, universal military training is not sufficiently popular at the present moment to have influenced either Party in either House of Parliament to take it up and place it on their legislative programme.
Now, what are the forces that are out against universal military training Of course, there are gentlemen like Mr. Keir Hardie who believe, I have no doubt quite honestly, that no military preparations are necessary; there are gentlemen of the school of Mr. Norman Angell who hold the same kind of belief; and there are those pacifists and peace-at-any-price people who cannot bear the sight of a soldier in uniform of any sort, kind, or description, and who shudder at a military procession going through the streets as Mephistopheles shuddered when he heard the church bells. We must write these people off as a bad debt. I do not think their opposition is of a quantity to which we need pay serious attention. But there are forces against universal military training which, although they may be ill-founded, are none the less sincere, and forces with which we have to reckon. It is said that the idea of universal military training is equivalent to what is called conscription, and that in this country it is a device on the part of the 466 well-to-do to gain control over the poor in order that the poor may be drilled and brigaded to defend the possessions of the rich. That is what is said, and that is what is thought perfectly sincerely by a great many poor people. It is with the idea of disarming that thought that I propose the principle contained in this Bill, which I will unfold to your Lordships in a very few minutes.
There are a great many noble Lords in this House who are members of the National Service League, and who think, I dare say, that by voting for this Bill they will be doing injury to the cause of compulsory military training. I wish to say to those noble Lords that this Bill is not intended to be, and cannot be, a substitute for universal service. It is, as I believe, a step in the right direction, and it is a guarantee of good faith on the part of the well-to-do classes in this country that they are not going to ask the poorer classes to undertake any obligation which they are not prepared to undertake themselves. There may be other noble Lords who think that you cannot have a compulsory and a voluntary system existing in the country at the same moment. I should very much like to hear why not. I am not expert in the way in which what are called the conscript armies of foreign countries are utilised by their respective Governments, but I understand that in France and in Germany there are some parts of the national forces at any rate which are voluntary with regard to operating outside their own country, while the basis of the whole scheme in both countries is that of universal or compulsory military training. There are other noble Lords and people outside this House who will say, practically in the terms of Lord Newton's Amendment, that if you are to have compulsion for one, then you must have compulsion for all; that it should be made universal and that there ought to be no distinction. I venture to think that the proper way the most likely way, to bring that about is for the comfortable classes themselves to set the example.
Not very long ago I was talking to a gentleman of considerable influence in a foreign country whom I knew intimately. I asked him what were his views upon certain religious subjects, and he said that he thought religion was a very good thing 467 for poor people. And I am not at all sure that some of the poor people in this country do not think that when you and I advocate national service on the platform we think in our heart of hearts that national service would be a very good thing for poor people, and that somehow or other we rich people would escape. I venture to suggest to your Lordships that we ought to make a beginning by giving a guarantee of our own good faith in this matter of compulsory military training. If your Lordships are good enough to accept the principle of the Bill, I am perfectly prepared to be corrected almost to an unlimited extent in Committee with regard to the details of the measure.
Briefly, this Bill contains a proposal that all males domiciled in the United Kingdom and between the ages of sixteen and forty-five, who are at a public school or University, or belong to the higher professions—such as the law, the medical profession, the Stock Exchange, and others—or enjoy means exceeding £400 a year, are required according to their age to belong to a recognised Cadet Corps, and thereafter for a period of ten years to a new branch of the Territorial Force called the Imperial Force, which will be trained under the conditions already so successful in the case of the existing Special Reserve, and thereafter to the Territorial Force Reserve, making that Force, which has now an existence little more than nominal, a really useful addition to the nation's military defences. Therefore this Bill catches every single boy who goes to any of the public schools named in the schedule to the Bill on page 14. It also catches every single graduate at all our Universities, and it also catches everybody who enjoys an income of more than a certain amount. We had some difficulty in deciding upon what income ought to be the proper limit, but fortunately the House of Commons has given us a very good guide in this matter. The House of Commons has laid it down that to be a gentleman you must have £400 a year. Therefore we took £400 a year as being the proper income limit.
Every boy at a public school of the age of sixteen and upwards will be required to serve in his school corps. When he leaves school, or attains the age of seventeen if he leaves before that age, but in any case 468 before he enters a University or any of the higher professions or before he attains the age of twenty-one if that first happens, he will be required to undergo a continuous course of six months recruit training in the Imperial Force. There may be many who may think that they would not be liable for the training proposed by this Bill in any case, but might become liable to it after they had reached the age of twenty-one. If that is so, then it will be a wise precaution for them to undergo the necessary training before they reach the age of twenty-one, in order to have placed it behind them in case they may wish to enter any of those professions or to enjoy that income for which the military training proposed in the Bill will be a necessity and a passport. In each of the four years following the year of his recruit training, it is proposed that each recruit shall train for a continuous period of fifteen days in addition to undergoing a course of musketry and attending such other drills as may be required. In each of the following five years he will train for eight days with musketry and drills. During the whole of this period of ten years in all he will belong to the Territorial Force Reserve. That brings him up to the age of thirty, and between thirty and forty-five he will be liable to be called out in any case of grave national emergency. That is, as briefly as I can put it, the amount of training which will be imposed by this Bill, and I have described as briefly as I can the kind of people who will be subjected to this training.
I am well aware that there are many details in the Bill, if we ever get into Committee upon it, as I sincerely hope we shall, which will be criticised and which I am perfectly prepared to meet. For instance, it has been pointed out to me that it is difficult to ask anybody to undergo the training before he goes to his University. Well, I am perfectly prepared to waive that, and to say that no undergraduate shall get his degree before he has undergone his training and that it shall be a passport, not for matriculation, but for obtaining a degree at a University. There are many objections of that kind which will readily occur, but what I earnestly beg of your Lordships to do is to accept the principle contained in this Bill. Lord Newton will, perhaps, find fault with it by saying that it is not democratic. He uses the word "democratic" in his Amendment. I am 469 not quite sure what this word means. If a democrat is what I think he is, I certainly am not a democrat. I do not believe Lord Newton is a democrat either, and in the ordinary acceptation of the term I do not believe that the vast majority of our fellow-countrymen are democrats. I believe that every Englishman and woman who is worthy of the name is in his or her heart of hearts a patriot and an aristocrat, and would like to see the realisation of those principles which they have been brought up to believe constitute the foundation of the greatness of this country. One of those principles, which I am not sure has not been neglected in recent years, is that the enjoyment of property, of comfort, and of privilege, however much you may defend it as an abstract and a legal principle, is only honourably legitimate, morally legitimate, so long as it is accompanied by the performance of duty; and I say that this is an admirable opportunity for this House, as representing the comfortable classes in this country, to let our fellow-countrymen and the Empire and foreign countries into the bargain know that we at any rate are prepared to give effect to that principle in our own persons, and to use compulsion in the case of all those of our own class and those other members of the comfortable classes who are desirous of shirking these duties.
It may be said that on the whole the comfortable classes in this country do their duty. I was delighted to hear Lord Lucas say the other afternoon that the vast majority of agricultural landlords were entirely blameless, and I am sure he meant in this respect as well as in the respect we were debating the other day. I do not want to go into Party recriminations, but I should like to say this. Had Mr. George wanted to start a real genuine attack upon any class, one that would have counted and been fundamentally true, if he had come to me for a little instruction I could have told him the kind of people to attack. If instead of attacking the country gentleman be had attacked those who have not practised those traditions which used to be associated with the enjoyment of wealth in this country; if he had attacked those comfortable people, of whom there are a considerable and growing number in this country, who, as far as I can see, spend every shilling they possess on nothing but their own amusement, and whose preoccupation in life seems to be criticising 470 masters of foxhounds and other desirable people—then I think there would have been something in it. These are the kind of people whom I want by this Bill to get hold of and to drill. I am giving your Lordships an opportunity of doing so. Let me beg of you not to let this opportunity go by.
Just consider for one moment the position of the poorer classes, who will not under this Bill be compelled to undergo what they are told by their leaders are the horrors of conscription and compulsory training. We say to them, "We think the national defences of the country are in a weak state; in order to improve the character of the nation, to revive that character which was associated with the greatness of England, we will undergo what we consider to be our military duty in our own persons; at the same time we ask you to join voluntarily, and if you will do this we will make it as easy for you as we can." Now, I have no doubt whatever that if this Bill were to pass into law you would get an amazing response from the poor people of this country. I will tell you why. As your Lordships must be aware, when you want anything done in your county, when you want some national object carried out which entails a certain amount of sacrifice of pleasure and even of money, it is not always the comfortable people who are the most anxious to come forward. In the farmhouses and the cottages where the poor people live you are just as likely, and in my small experience perhaps even more likely, to find real patriotism and a desire to work for the common good. I do not say for one moment that the richer classes in this country are unpatriotic. I shall be as bad as the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a moment if I make myself responsible for that theory. But let nobody think that a desire to work for the common good is the exclusive property of the rich or of the comfortable people in this country. You are just as likely, or more likely, to find that in the homes of the poor. I want to thank your Lordships for the patient way in which you have listened to what I have had to say. I intend to press this Bill to a Division no matter what happens to Lord Newton's Amendment, and I most earnestly hope that for the credit of this House my Bill will receive a Second Reading. I know that if it does it will have a good effect, not from the Party point of view—I have really 471 not been thinking of that this afternoon, and have tried to keep off Party points— but a very good effect, an effect which we could hardly measure, upon public opinion in this country.
I have talked about this Bill and the principle it contains on a great many platforms before all sorts of audiences, and I can assure your Lordships that the principle contained in it has received most favourable acceptance. If "democratic" means popular, I am not at all sure that this Bill would not be more popular if it had the able exposition of many noble Lords whom I see here than the proposal for national service all round. But at any rate I do claim this, that it is much more likely that you will be able to pass this measure through Parliament than that you will get either Party to agree to the whole propaganda of the National Service League. I say to your Lordships, with all the force at my command and with the greatest respect for this House, that if you will give this Bill a Second Reading I feel confident that we shall be producing a very fine effect upon our fellow countrymen by illustrating in our own persons and in those of our friends and the comfortable classes generally in this country the theory of duty associated with property. We shall be giving an illustration of the force of example; and I say that if this House passes this Bill and makes itself responsible for this principle it cannot be without its effect in foreign countries. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Lord Willoughby de Broke.)
§ LORD NEWTON
had given notice, on the Motion for the Second Reading, to move—That in the opinion of this House no system of home defence which is not based upon the democratic principle of universal service can be fully effective and reliable.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, whatever may be thought of the merits or the demerits of this Bill, I am sure that everybody will agree that my noble friend is a singularly appropriate person to have brought it forward. I do not suppose that my noble friend has any enemies, but if he had I believe that the most bitter of them would admit that certainly no one could reproach him on the ground of slothfulness, and certainly no one 472 would reproach him with a lack of courage. Had my noble friend been a soldier I am convinced that wherever there was any dangerous work to be done he would have been the first to volunteer; and, in addition to his other good qualities, my noble friend has been an active—I might say an almost invaluable—worker on behalf of the National Service League. His speech, if I may say so without appearing to unduly patronise him, shows a genuine sense of duty and responsibility, and that is a sentiment which has been handed down to us from the remotest ages of antiquity. I am bound to add that in some respects my noble friend's Bill is an improvement upon the various schemes which are brought forward from time to time by Secretaries of State belonging to either Party, inasmuch as those schemes invariably rested upon nebulous hypotheses and upon the assumption that everything would come right when the day of trouble arrived.
§ Having said so much in favour of my noble friend's scheme, I am afraid that, looking at it in the most friendly and impartial manner, I must say that it appears to me to be one of those well meant schemes which are bound inevitably to fail. My noble friend is, if I am not mistaken, a very careful and diligent student of Lord Beaconsfield and his works. He may, perhaps, remember a character in one of those novels—I think it was "Sybil"—of the name of Sir Vavasour Firebrace. When this country was in a parlous condition, when the Crown and Constitution appeared to be in danger, Sir Vavasour Firebrace had his remedy. He pointed out that there was one body of men who were evidently destined to serve the country—who were the natural and hereditary champions of the nation. That body consisted of the Order of Baronets, and his suggestion was that the baronets should march down to Westminster, clad in dark green and wearing white plumes in their helmets, and there, as soon as they appeared, they would be instantly recognised by the people as their natural leaders. Now, without wishing to be unduly disrespectful to my noble friend I confess that I see a resemblance between Sir Vavasour Firebrace's baronets and the Prætorian guard composed of persons with £400 a year which the noble Lord proposes to enlist. I noticed that my noble friend was reticent as to the number 473 of persons enjoying means exceeding £400 a year whom he would obtain, but I think it would take a considerable time to amass a substantial force under the conditions enumerated by my noble friend.
§ The object of the Bill—and I confess that my noble friend said rather less about the Bill than I expected—is to secure the adequate defence of this country by putting the burden of defence upon the upper and middle classes. I observe that he is inclined to be extremely strict with the upper and middle classes, because in a pamphlet which is in my possession and which serves as an epitome or memorandum on his Bill—a pamphlet dedicated to my noble friend and costing threepence—I observe that he deals with members of those classes who are unable to serve in a very drastic manner. A member of the upper or middle classes, if he is incapable, is to be very seriously taxed—"at a rate which can be made more and more severe as time goes on; this is the proper way to deal with the rich unfit." It may be the proper way, but it seems to me a singularly severe way. It seems to me more severe than anything yet recommended by Mr. Philip Snowden or Mr. Keir Hardie. It amounts to this, that if you are unlucky enough to be born with one shoulder higher than the other, or with one eye or one leg, you are to be very heavily fined under the provisions of my noble friend's Bill, and the penalties are liable to increase.
§ LORD NEWTON
I have looked at Clause 4, and that is the interpretation which I put upon it and which I think anybody else would put upon it. My noble friend hopes that by this provision he will obtain the support of the working classes. I cannot conceive a greater misconception. The views of Labour leaders upon the question of national defence are, if I interpret them rightly, that the burden of national defence should rest upon the middle and upper classes as my noble friend proposes, and that in addition to that the upper and middle classes should pay all the taxation that is necessary to keep the Government going. But that is quite a different thing from allowing the upper and middle classes to organise 474 themselves into a fighting force and thus get all effective power into their hands. If I were connected with the working classes or if I were a Labour leader I should certainly not submit to any proposal of the kind, because it would have the result of putting the working classes into exactly the same position as the Christian subjects in Turkey occupied prior to the recent Constitutional changes which have occurred in that country. The only difference between them would be that whereas in Turkey the Christians were forced to pay the exemption tax, under my noble friend's proposal it is true they would escape altogether.
I have stated what I believe to be the views of the ordinary Labour leader and trades union leader, but the view of the more extreme people—the view, for instance, of the Socialists—is that, Labour having nothing to lose, all expenditure upon what they call armaments is pure waste of money. These remarkable views, I believe, are not entertained in any other country. They are certainly not entertained in the Colonies, where Labour takes a very different view of the question of national defence. And it would not be very difficult to refute the proposition that the working man, for instance, has nothing whatever to lose in the event of this country being conquered. It has always struck me that, supposing this country were invaded, the invader would not draw any material distinction between my noble friend's £400 a year man or even a man who pays super-tax and the other man who is qualifying for an old-age pension. I am quite certain that he would not make any distinction on account of the training which a man had received in his youth, and he would be unable to make an exception in favour of the academies which are patronised by my noble friend.
In the course of his speech my noble friend said that a great deal would depend on the way in which I treated his Bill. I am extremely anxious to treat the Bill in as friendly a way as possible. But I am bound to say, speaking quite honestly, that it does seem to me to conflict with the principles of those who advocate universal service for home defence, because it undoubtedly violates the cardinal principle of equality. Years ago when the Boer War was going on I remember a 475 dreadful jingle, of which the author, Mr. Rudyard Kipling, is now probably ashamed, which ran—Duke's son, cook's son, son of a belted earl,or something to that effect. The poetry is, of course, deplorable, but the sentiment is an excellent one. That is the principle upon which people who advocate universal service have always acted. Those people who, like myself, as members of the National Service League have advocated national service advocate it on a double ground. They maintain, in the first place, that under a voluntary system you do not obtain adequate safety in this country, and they urge it upon the other ground that if the principle were adopted it would confer immense moral and physical benefits upon all classes in this country. If my noble friend had his way, the class which most requires benefits in this respect would be automatically deprived of them.
My noble friend found fault with me for using the word "democratic." I admit that it is not an epithet of which I am very fond, and I certainly do not class myself as a democrat, but it really is difficult to adopt any alternative to that expression. If you have universal service, under which everybody, no matter to which class he belongs, is treated in the same way, surely you cannot describe it as anything but democratic; and the military system which prevails in every civilised country, with the exception of this country and the United States, is based upon this democratic principle. I do not know whether my noble friend would go so far as to assert that the military system in this country was based upon an aristocratic principle. I certainly should be prepared to assert myself that it was based upon an archaic principle, and that our military system really belongs more correctly to the eighteenth century than it does to the twentieth. I think I might denounce, if I chose to do so, the Bill of my noble friend as being somewhat archaic in its principle, because it seems to me to propose a state of things which prevailed, say, in Prussia up to the time of the battle of Jena, and which prevailed in Japan before the revolutions in that country took place.
The Bill is a very long and elaborate one, and I do not propose to say much about it. 476 I have no doubt that the schedules alone lend themselves to considerable criticism. But when my noble friend talks about this being a remedy, and a much-needed remedy, for the loafing and slothfulness so prevalent in the upper and middle classes, I confess that I cannot help thinking that the noble Lord must live in rather a vitiated neighbourhood himself. In the purer atmosphere where I live, in the neighbourhood of Manchester, by the way, so far from there being a large loafing class of people who spend all their available means on their own amusement, I find that everybody works. In former days the state of things was quite different. It was not thought in the least disgraceful if a young man passed the greater part of his lifetime on a race-course. But that has vanished now. I should be ashamed of my sons if they did not take an active part in any system of national defence. I should be equally ashamed of them if they spent their lives loafing in any way. Loafing is a thing which is entirely out of fashion. There may be rich loafers in the neighbourhood of my noble friend's dwelling-place, but in any case they must be gentlemen who would be exempt from the provisions of this Bill because I take it they are past the age of twenty-one.
It seems to me that it would not be very difficult to slip out of the meshes of my noble friend's net. Let me assume for the purpose that I am an anti-vaccinating, free-importing pro-Boer, or something of that kind, with strong proclivities towards the doctrines of Mr. Norman Angell. My course would be fairly simple. If I did not want my son to serve I should educate him at home; I should not send him to any of the academies included in my noble friend's schedule, and I should allow him less than £400 a year. Therefore it would not be possible to make him serve. I can imagine another difficulty. I feel quite sure—perhaps Lord Morley will corroborate me — that, if approached, Mr. Carnegie would be prepared to find any amount of money to found an academy where the youths of the middle and upper classes could be educated free of charge on condition that they never entered any military or naval service whatsoever.
I do not want to waste time discussing this Bill unnecessarily, but I own 477 I much regret the step which my noble friend has taken. The two great difficulties which the advocates of national service meet with in this country are these. In the first place, they are confronted with the opposition of the case-hardened politician, who says, "Your scheme may be admirable and desirable and most beneficial to the country, but it conflicts with the principle of my Party; it is not the kind of thing which a Liberal politician or a Conservative politician can adopt; therefore I will not have anything to say to it." The second difficulty is that of the trades union leaders. It seems to me that the only chance of our ever succeeding is to persuade all classes in this country that there is some similarity of interest. If my noble friend has his way, he destroys that hope altogether. He destroys it at one fell swoop; perhaps it would be more correct to say by one fell cut. We have heard something about a clean cut with regard to Ireland. What my noble friend proposes is a clean cut with regard to the whole of society in this country; and whilst I am reluctant to appear in opposition to the noble Lord I confess that I think his proposal will only have the effect of misleading public opinion and confusing the issue. I do not know whether my noble friend intends to adhere to his determination or not. I expect he does. I do not know that I have ever made any impression upon him with arguments at any time. If he would listen to my suggestion and withdraw his Bill, of course my Motion would fall automatically and I should not move it. What I wish to submit to him, in conclusion, is this. A highly important question of this kind should not be decided and voted upon without more consideration. There are not a very large number of Peers present to-night. The subject is one of great importance, and I would respectfully urge my noble friend once more that he has served his purpose by explaining his motives—motives with which many of us sympathise—and might well withdraw his Bill. But if he refuses to do so it would be impossible for me to withdraw my Motion. Therefore for the purpose of putting myself in order I beg to move it.
To leave out all the words after ("That") for the purpose of inserting the following resolution viz. ("in the opinion of this House no system of home defence which is not based upon the democratic principle of universal service can be fully effective and reliable.").—(Lord Newton.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, notwithstanding the very agreeable form in which the noble Lord who has just sat down has wrapped up his Motion it is a Motion for the rejection of this Bill, and the only question which your Lordships can discuss is whether or not the Bill is to be read a second time, and that makes it necessary to deal with the terms of the Bill. The duel which has taken place between the two noble Lords who have already spoken has been so pleasant that, although mine is a triangular intervention, I shall try to take part in the controversy in the same agreeable spirit. I think we all ought to be obliged to the noble Lord who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill for the high level to which he has raised his principle. Noblesse oblige is that principle. He wishes that those who are prosperous and fortunate should show the way to those who are less prosperous and less fortunate. That is a fine principle, and the difficulties as usual come in the working out of it. £400 a year! That includes the case of a clergyman with ten children. [LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE interjected a remark.] I am afraid that even if he postpones his marriage and escapes the mesh of the noble Lord's Bill he will still find himself under its terms after the age of 21, from which, indeed, the only safeguard provided is either the tender mercy of the Army Council or, what is much more certain, the commission of crime. Unless you get out in some such way what is your position?
The noble Lord proposes to do some very remarkable things in this Bill. First of all, people are to serve for a large period of their lives between the ages of sixteen and forty-five. In the latter period, it is true, they go into the Territorial Reserve. But for ten years they will be in the Imperial Force and they will have to serve for six months with Regular troops, or nine months if they have not excused themselves by taking part in preliminary training in the Officers Training Corps or the Cadet Corps. That is a pretty severe undertaking for a great many people. It does not stop there. During the first year it is to be six months or nine months as the case may be. In each of the four years following the man will train for a continuous period of fifteen days, and in each of the following five years he will have to undergo eight days compulsory training. By that time the quiver of the clergyman may be filled and 479 the olive branches may have grown up around him; and when that period is ended even then he is not quite free, because he is under liability as a member of the Territorial Force Reserve and subject to the law which applies in that case. That is a very severe system, and it can only be justified if it is necessary.
But the opposition that any such proposal would be likely to meet does not stop there. There are other difficulties in the way of the Bill which must be considered on the Motion for its Second Reading. In order to secure that its machinery should operate, the noble Lord imposes a new Income Tax of 3d. It is an Income Tax in every sense of the term. This is the first time that I have heard of a Bill proposing to impose an Income Tax originating in this House. There are some things which we have conceded to the House of Commons, and in the Resolution of 1678 it is laid down that all Aids and Supplies have to originate in the other House. What happens to a Bill which is introduced in this House in disregard of that principle? By order of the other House it is "laid aside"—that is to say, they will not consider it. Consequently we are in this position, that owing to the very structure of the noble Lord's Bill we are wasting our time except in so far as this is an academic discussion. The noble Lord's Bill does not, as most Bills of the kind do, propose to set up a new force. It is true that he says he sets up a new force, which he calls the Imperial Force, in which people are to serve, but it is not a force which is organised in any units. At any rate, there is no provision in any part of the Bill for officers; there is no plan for training officers; there is nothing to indicate whether a man who joins is to be an officer or a private. Indeed, one of the great objections to the Bill is that if it became law it would take away the very class of people who volunteer as officers in the Territorial Force, and, for that matter, in the Special Reserve, and upon whom we greatly depend at the present time. Therefore the noble Lord's Bill is subject to this initial objection— that instead of strengthening us it deprives us of the class which we require, the class which is already too scanty, those who are willing to come forward as officers in 480 the Territorial Force and the Special Reserve, and it gives us nothing in their place. It takes that class and turns them into privates, who are not organised as units and who do not form new battalions which can be brought to the assistance of the Territorial Force. At the best he makes a reservoir, and it is not clear whether it is intended to be a reservoir specially attached to the Territorial Force or a reservoir for some other purpose.
The noble Lord said what is quite true, that it is a difficulty in this country that under the voluntary system the units are never full. They never are. As regards the Regulars we need not trouble ourselves; the shortage is nothing to what it has been even in recent years, and I have no doubt that the shortage will soon be made good. As regards the Territorial Force there is an apparent deficit; it is a deficit of some 60,000, I think. But there has grown up alongside of the Territorial Force a body of which we hear a great deal too little—I mean the National Reserve, which consists of highly-trained men a large proportion of whom are still of fighting age. Of these between 60,000 and 70,000 have now taken on an obligation for home service, and a smaller number an obligation for service overseas. There you have a body of over 200,000 men, of whom between 60,000 and 70,000 are available to fill up vacancies in the gaps of the Territorial Force and for whom arms and equipment are ready. In that state of things I do not think the case is one so serious as regards numbers as to justify the great dislocation which the new system of the noble Lord proposes. He spoke of training. It is quite true that the training of the Territorial Force is a very short training. But the Territorial Force is not a First Line army; it is a Second Line army designed to work with a certain number of. Regulars, a nucleus of Regulars at all events, and it may have to cooperate with much larger numbers of Regulars.
On these things it is impossible to make a statement at the present time, and I will only say this. The whole question of invasion and of home defence has been the subject of an investigation which has now been going on for a year under 481 the presidency of the Prime Minister. My right hon. friend stated the other day that he will endeavour to give as much information as he legitimately can about the contents of that Report. I was myself privileged to take part in the deliberations of this Committee. Experts preponderated in numbers over laymen. Soldiers and sailors were there in great numbers, and the most minute and elaborate consideration has been given to the whole problem. It is a problem which certainly ought to be thought out afresh after a not too long interval of years. I cannot anticipate the Prime Minister and disclose the details of the Report. The Prime Minister will make certain general principles, which it establishes, clear, and it is better that I should say nothing further upon this more general question. All I would add is this, that our situation as regards home defence and as regards voluntary service is always a situation that will cause us some embarrassment, because, as I have said before, our great problem is not a mere problem of home defence but a problem of the defence of a distant Empire. We have the most wonderful Oversea Army in the world—an extraordinary Army if you compare it in the matter of size to those of other nations. But we get it at a cost, and the cost is this. You cannot have a large home defence Army raised by compulsion alongside of it.
Lord Willoughby de Broke expressed a doubt whether voluntary and compulsory service were so difficult to reconcile as was sometimes said. That is a question to which I have given a good deal of attention. I have discussed it on the Continent and have talked it over with military officers of great experience, and they all tell me the same thing. In Germany the feeling is very strong that the two systems are impossible to maintain side by side; and they point to this, that they have extreme difficulty in getting men who have been compulsorily trained to volunteer for service abroad. I am not sure what the figures are at the present time, but a year or two ago the German Army for over-sea work, on the footing of our professional Army, numbered only 2,850, and the terms of pay are very much greater than they are in this country. They say you cannot have the two things. Germany has to concentrate on home 482 defence because of her land frontiers; we have to concentrate on Imperial defence because we are a greatly extended Empire. We require a force for home defence sufficient, in conjunction with that, to make us safe. It is that point which the Committee over which the Prime Minister presided has investigated with such minuteness, and it is possible, as I have said, that the Prime Minister may be able to give the country some light as to the outcome of the deliberations of that Committee. He made a statement the other day, from which I think it may be inferred that he intends before long to give information which will be of an interesting character.
I come back to the provisions of the Bill. Although I have touched upon two cardinal difficulties, I have not exhausted the difficulties. The noble Lord has done his best to produce a Bill which carries out the principle of putting the obligation on the shoulders of those best able to bear it, but the fashion of the Bill shows the extreme difficulty of carrying out that plan. There is the £400 a year limit. If ever there has been an in-and-out arrangement it is the in-and-out arrangement of the noble Lord. A man may have £400 a year in one month and not in the next month, and he goes out and comes in again when his income exceeds the limit. I have great difficulty in seeing how the noble Lord could put a provision in the Bill which would prevent this in-and-out obligation from resulting. Not only that, but there is a reason for it of which I will tell you later. A man has to declare an income of £400 a year, and a man cannot always be declaring his income at a certain amount unless there is some basis to go upon. The noble Lord has not taken the basis with which we are all familiar, which governs the taxation of this country. He could not. Through no fault of his the system would not work—the ordinary principle under which Income Tax is deducted from the source of investments—a principle with which we are all familiar. On the contrary, he has applied still further the principle of the Super-Tax, and has extended it to a large number of the population. There, again, you have a departure altogether from the principle of the Income Tax Act as we know it, and, indeed, of the Income Tax system. The noble Lord has an entirely new system which is 483 quite unknown to the methods of the Inland Revenue.
But the trouble in regard to the provisions of this Bill does not stop even there. I have pointed out that there is a lack of organisation and of provision for officers, and that because of this want of organisation there is no valuable addition to the military strength, certainly nothing comparable to what we have got in the shape of the National Reserve; and these objections really go to the root of the matter. This is not a Bill which you could materially modify in Committee. The noble Lord said that if we went into Committee we could amend the Bill. But I think his Bill embodies a system which is logical. He takes a principle and applies it, and the difficulties which arise do not arise from the faults of his draftsman, but from the fact that he and his draftsman have to deal with a wholly new system. The force is wholly new, the Income Tax system is wholly new, and the system set up is wholly new. The Bill sets up a system every part of which depends on the other, and if you take away a material part the rest will collapse.
I have said so much not in a spirit of hostile criticism of the attitude of the noble Lord. I think it is a fins thing that he should come forward and say that there are those who are more under obligations to bear the burdens of this world than their fellow-citizens, and that a higher obligation rests on the rich than on the poor. That gives me a kindly feeling towards this Bill. My objections, "however, to the Bill are based on a two-fold ground. First of all, I do not think, for the reasons I have indicated to-night, that any system of compulsory service is either wanted or possible for this country. My second objection is that when you come to work out the machinery of this Bill, it is a Bill which cannot be amended in Committee. It violates the fundamental principle that you cannot originate taxation in this House, and you cannot set up a force of this kind without tremendous and far-reaching changes which the Bill does not contemplate. Because the Bill is unworkable, and for the reason that I think it is an unnecessary Bill, I feel compelled to tell the noble Lord that he can meet with no assistance from those I represent on this occasion.
§ LORD JOICEY
My Lords, I always listen with the greatest pleasure to a speech from the noble and learned Viscount. With his silvery voice and his very lucid arguments he very often convinces me against my will; and I often wish I could hear him taking the other side of the question, for I feel sure he could make just as good a case for the other side as he does for the side he represents. I used to be in favour of voluntary service. I would still favour voluntary service provided voluntary service gave us what we want. But when I hear gentlemen occupying the highest military positions and upon whom this country is dependent to fight its battles—men like the noble and gallant Field-Marshal Lord Roberts—make statements that the voluntary system has broken down so far as our Territorial system is concerned—well, it rather staggers me, and I want to consider whether the voluntary system is really worthy of further support. I am bound to say that my confidence is rather shaken in it, and I have been compelled to change my views with regard to the matter during recent years.
We see huge armies on the Continent, armies which could eat us up so far as numbers are concerned. We see these great continental Powers developing their sea power in competition with ourselves; and when we thought that our sea power was supreme against any competition which could be brought against us, we find now that it is doubtful indeed whether we should be able to maintain our position. We have experts saying one thing in connection with the Navy, and we have experts saying the other—that we are not safe. I may be wrong, but I am under the impression that when the naval manœuvres took place the attacking Fleet landed three forces in this country without ever having been seen by the defending Fleet. Surely if that could be done by our own Fleets it could be done by foreign Fleets. Consider the force which could be brought against any invading force. Even the noble and learned Viscount admits that our Territorial Force would require six months training before it could be effective against disciplined trained troops. When you consider the vast interests that are at stake in this country and the temptations there are to an invading Army to attempt to invade this country, surely the Government should make the position safe beyond doubt. I cannot see how that can be done 485 unless we have an efficient land force which could compete with any other force likely to be brought against us.
What would be our position if 70,000 trained troops were landed in any part of this country? Have we a force to compete with it? I doubt it very much. We have no land defences. If 20,000 troops were landed in the Humber, or at Bristol, or on the Tyne, they could march right up to London; and when they had once got to London, what use would our Fleet be? Our Fleet would be of very little use. I think that if 20,000 disciplined troops got to London they could dictate their own terms, which we should be only too glad to accept. Surely the Government ought to put this matter beyond doubt. The only way they can do that is by having some system of compulsion if we cannot get sufficient trained troops by the voluntary system. I am alarmed when I think what the result would be if foreign troops were landed in this country. If we had 400,000 or 500,000 men who had had some training I think it would put it out of the mind of any foreign country to attack us, because they would know perfectly well that if a force of 70,000 or 100,000 troops got here they would never get back again, but would probably be defeated and have to surrender. At the present time I am not satisfied that we have a force that could compete with invading troops, and that is why I am anxious to see a system of compulsion.
I do not approve of this Bill at all. I think it is a fanciful Bill, and it has been practically pulverised by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. I think that any form of compulsion should apply to every class in the country. Of course, there would have to be large exemptions. We do not want every man to be fit for service, but we want to have such a body of men as would put it beyond doubt that we could meet any invading force; and I do not see why some system of compulsion could not be adopted when we have not sufficient Territorials to carry out the objects we have in view. Then, again, look at the other advantages. I object to this Bill because the classes who would most benefit by compulsion are left out. How many men are there in this country who are practically loafers, who do not do any work if they can avoid it? You miss that class altogether. Look at the 486 street-corner boys; they will not work, and they do not want to work. They are parasites on the country, and I do not see why some system of compulsion cannot be adopted to apply to them. I think the Government should look at this more seriously than they have done, and give us a force which will put the matter beyond doubt. I know there are difficulties in the way. It is considered unpopular. But if it were put before the country by a responsible Government that it was necessary that such a force should be developed, I feel sure that they would get very much greater support in the country than they think. The reason I take this view is that I feel the serious position in which we are at the present time, and I hope that His Majesty's Government will think more seriously about the matter, and, if possible, develop some such scheme.
§ EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, I rise to support the Bill of my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke, and in doing so may I say that I am also strongly in favour of the Resolution which has been moved by my noble friend Lord Newton. If that Resolution were not a blocking Resolution I should certainly vote for it, but as apparently, as put by the Lord Chancellor, it would be so considered, I shall, of course, vote against it. Now, what are the arguments that have been produced against this Bill? Lord Newton, by his Amendment, lays it down that any system of home defence not based on the principle of universal service must fail to be fully adequate. That is perfectly true. But it is rather an inconsistent position, if I may say so, for the noble Lord to come down here yesterday and propose to this House that a Betting Bill should pass into law which he himself admits is inadequate, and then to come here to-day and put down an Amendment to a Bill because it is inadequate.
§ LORD NEWTON
May I explain? I am going to get my Bill through. But this Bill is not going to be received by any one.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I might, perhaps, give the well known answer, "Wait and see"; because it is quite possible that I might put down an Amendment of this character on the Third Reading of my noble friend's Bill.
§ EARL STANHOPE
This inconsistency is very much the same as that of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, who is in favour of compulsion being applied to the individual to safeguard him against personal disaster, but who is opposed to compulsion being applied to the individual to safeguard him against national disaster. Every noble Lord who has spoken has on the whole upheld the principle of this Bill; the objections are merely on questions of detail. The noble and learned Viscount has pointed out that it is impossible for this House to impose any Income Tax, and that if such a proposal were carried through this House the House of Commons would inevitably sweep it aside. I speak under correction, but surely it would be possible to omit from the Bill all the clauses referring to Income Tax, because they are not absolutely essential and could no doubt be put into the Bill in another place. I venture to suggest that that, at any rate, is a possibility worth considering.
Lord Newton said that there were no figures with regard to the Bill, and that we were left very much in the dark; and I think the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack also thought that it would raise a very inconsiderable force. That? is not the case. Naturally, figures are very difficult to arrive at in this case, because there are no returns showing exactly the number of persons with incomes over £400 a year. But there have been suggested several other ways of arriving at the amount of income held by individuals, and one of them I propose to mention to your Lordships. In the fifty-third Report of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, which I believe is for the year 1908–9, the Commissioners go into the question of the number of private dwellings occupied by individuals and those in trade, and put them down at their various values. It is usually considered that a man's income is, roughly, ten times the annual assessment on his house. Therefore, if I take houses of the annual value of £40 a year, and in that way arrive at the number of people, as householders, with £400 a year income and over, I find that private dwellings of over £40 annual value amounted in that year to 414,000. There are then to be considered the dwellings which are partly used for trade and partly for private habitation. 488 It is generally held that if you put two-thirds of the value of the house as belonging to the trade you can put the other one-third as the value of the house for residential purposes. If you add houses partly used for trade and partly as private residences, you get these figures: Private dwellings and places partly used for trade of over £40 annual value, 439,000. You can deduct 4,400 as the percentage of houses unoccupied; you can also deduct houses which belong to the same individual. No doubt many of your Lordships have two, or perhaps three, houses, and naturally you cannot count yourselves as two or three persons liable for military training. I also make a deduction for women occupiers, and I reduce my 439,000 down to 350,000.
Now I turn to another system of calculation. It is estimated that one per cent. of the people born in this country come to military age every year, but as householders are almost all adults and almost all males, obviously one per cent. is much too low a calculation. I have had naturally to guess at the proper proportion, but perhaps your Lordships will not consider that I have put it too high when I say I have placed it at 4 per cent. That gives us 14,000 men arriving at military age every year. I will deduct those who are exempted under the Bill—those, for instance, who are going into the Navy and the Army, and also those who are unfit. I put them at 2,000, thus reducing my 14,000 to 12,000. That would be the annual quota, I imagine, that would be raised under this Bill. What sort of size force does that give us for war purposes? If this Bill goes to Committee, as I trust it may, I should hope that the age for training would be raised from seventeen to eighteen, and that no one should be able to commence his training until he reached eighteen years of age.
I have made the following calculations on that basis. I wipe out the whole of the 12,000 during the first year of training, because almost all would be under 20 years of age. I wipe out two-thirds of those doing their first annual training of 15 days. I then get 3⅓ contingents of men doing 15 days' training a year, who I think would be over 20 years of age. That gives me 40,000 men. I add to them five contingents of men doing eight days' training a year, and that gives me a further 60,000 men, making a total of 100,000. If you so further and take 489 men who are still liable for training between the ages of 30 and 45, you get a further number of 180,000. You will see that I have allowed nothing for casualties; but under the Bill volunteers are allowed to come into the Force, and for reasons which I shall explain later I think those volunteers will be a considerable number. Therefore the volunteers may at least be taken as cancelling the casualties. We get a force of men, therefore, between 20 and 30 years of age amounting to 100,000; and we get a force of 180,000 additional men between the ages of 30 and 45. I suggest to the noble and learned Viscount that that would be a very useful body of men to be the "centrally situated, swiftly moving striking force" of which we have beard on many occasions, but which we cannot find even on paper.
Now I go to the question of cost. The noble and learned Viscount, answering a Question in another place on December 14, 1908, said the cost of a Special Reservist for six months, including barrack accommodation and bounty, was £27 19s. 6d. a year. Excluding the bounty of 30s., that comes to £26 9s. 6d. I may say here that in making these estimates I have taken the highest figure I think is possible; I have taken every single recruit as doing the full nine months' training, and with that calculation each recruit would cost £40 a year. My 12,000 men would therefore cost £480,000. I allow 30 officers per 1,000 men, at £400 a year each, which I think is a very high figure. That comes to £144,000. I allow also 75 non-commissioned officers per 1,000 men at £100 a year each, which comes to £90,000. That gives me a total cost each year of £714,000. Four trainings of fifteen days at £5 each would cost £240,000; five trainings of eight days each at £3 would cost £90,000; and ten officers and ten non-commissioned officers per 1,000 men would cost £60,000 —a total for the three items of £390,000. Your Lordships will see that I have reduced the non-commissioned officers for the further period of training; I have also only allowed a commanding officer and adjutant and eight company commanders per 1,000 men because in my view after the nine months' training many men would be fit to fill the junior ranks of officers and non-commissioned officers. That gives me a total cost for the Force of £1,104,000. If the Force were paid sixpence a day less than Special Reservists, we should reduce the sum still further.
490 May I be allowed to point this out? This Bill has not been proved, either by Lord Newton or by any one else, as standing in the way of any scheme for compulsory training. As a matter of fact it assists it, and it does so in this way. As my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke pointed out, many voters in this country have considerable suspicion of the proposals of the National Service League. They feel— explain it, though we do, as being untrue— that it is a proposal for sweeping into the net all the working men of this country and ramming discipline into them while the sons of the rich escape. That is not true, but it is none the less believed. By this Bill we prove once and for all, by example, that the middle and upper classes are prepared to let their sons undergo this discipline themselves. It is not necessary to point out to your Lordships that one ounce of example is worth a great deal of theory and talk on public platforms. Now, there are two methods of getting men in this country. One is the method which is proposed and favoured very strongly by members of the Territorial Force Association. I call it bribes; they call it pay. Well, you cannot compete with the labour market in giving sufficient pay for men in this country to join the Territorial Force for a period of fifteen days and then ten drills a year, and for this reason. It is not a profession which lasts the whole year. It is not a blind alley profession such as even the Regular Army might perhaps be described. It gives merely temporary work, and naturally also temporary pay; and therefore it makes it impossible for men competing in the labour market, one of them to go into the Force and the other not. The other method is compulsion, and the question of compulsion I am not going to argue on this occasion. But I do venture to submit to your Lordships that if we can manage to show the working men of this country that the middle and upper classes are prepared, by example, to do compulsory military training, the working classes will be prepared to follow suit, and that at no very distant date.
It has been said in the course of this debate that this scheme raises class differences. It is perfectly true that by this Bill it is proposed that members of certain classes shall be compelled to do military service, and those who are not in those classes shall not be compelled. I am one 491 of those who believe that military training is a great benefit. If, as I feel certain, military training is proved to be a benefit, the first people who will desire to have the advantage of that military training will be the classes who are left out. They can have it under this Bill. They have the right to volunteer, and they have, of course, the right at any time through their representatives to demand that this principle of compulsion shall be extended to all classes whatever their income and whatever their standing. It has been said that they will feel that it is only right that the richer classes should have to do military service because they have to defend their own property. Well, the working man will realise that the provision of this Force does a great deal more than that. I think the noble Lord, Lord Newton, stated that the working classes would be against this Bill because it puts all the power into the hands of the upper classes. If that is true, the working classes must be very much more foolish than I believe them to be if they allow that to last for more than a very few months. They would at once demand that they should also have that power; and they could regain the power they had by mere force of numbers, by being ready to join the Force, and by their numbers they would necessarily swamp those who come from the upper classes.
This Bill does provide a real addition to the military forces of the Crown. No one will deny that 100,000 men, all between the ages of twenty and thirty, after several months training would certainly be a most valuable and necessary addition to the military defences of the Crown. This Bill proves that the so-called idle rich are prepared to undertake genuine work for the sake of their country. I am not one of those who believe very much in the talk about the "idle rich." There are idle members of every class, and the "nut" and the loafer appear to me to be very much the same. Both of them require some Bill of this kind, backed up, perhaps, with a thick stick, to make them more suitable members of society. There is an objection, which at any rate cannot be urged very strongly against this Bill, which is urged strongly and constantly against the proposals of the National Service League. It is this, that any idea of compulsory service would interfere most drastically with the trade of the country. Now, the professional classes, 492 if I may so call them, spend a considerable amount of their early manhood in getting a limited amount of training of limited value. No one will say that a University training is absolutely essential either for a barrister, a solicitor, or a doctor. Surely when they spend so many years getting training which is not of great value it is not a great deal to ask of them that they should do six months or nine months training which is of value, morally and physically, for the sake of their country as well as for themselves.
As the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said, the Bill places a burden on the shoulders of those most able to bear it. It is a burden, no one denies it. But those who have to support a family with very small means—not that many of them at that age are likely to have a very large family—are not to be found in such large numbers, at any rate amongst the middle and upper classes. I quite realise the point made by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack of the clergyman with a family of a rabbit-warren type, but I do venture to point out to the noble and learned Viscount that, after all, men in the Army are paid, and to suggest that the sons of the clergy could not serve because they had the same pay as the ordinary soldier or non-commissioned officer seems to me a curious argument to be put forward by one who has held the office of Secretary of State for War.
Finally, with regard to this Bill, may I say this. I am one of those who believe that wealth, position, or power entails responsibilities and obligations. That I know is agreed to by every member of this House. But the question is, How far is it being carried into practice? A very large number do carry it into practice; they do a great deal for the public service—in fact, I believe there is no country in the world where so much unpaid work is done as in this country. But there are a certain number of people who do nothing at all, as my noble friend pointed out, and they are as thick about Manchester as in any other part of the country. In their case compulsion is necessary. I regret it as much as any one else. I agree with the noble and learned Viscount that noblesse oblige should be sufficient, but unfortunately it is not, and as it is not sufficient something else has to take its place. That something else has to be compulsion; and I 493 venture to suggest that when the loafers have been compelled to do something in this direction for the sake of their country they will be much less likely to shirk services of other kinds than they have been in the past. That is generally found to be the case with men who have been in the Army, not only officers but men of all ranks. Only the other day amongst the papers of an ancestor who died nearly 100 years ago I found a prayer which really might have been written yesterday. My ancestor had written down that he hoped, if he could by any sacrifice help the country from the dangers and difficulties that beset it on all sides, if he could improve the character of his countrymen, if he could improve the virtue of this country, that he should be ready, and, with Divine guidance, able to sacrifice all the comforts and blessings of life, and if necessary life itself, in order that he might be able to benefit his country in those respects. That is the principle which is put forward in this Bill. It is a principle of which we all approve; and, little as I care for the law, I shall have an even lower respect for it if these principles cannot be put into the form of a Bill and carried through both Houses of Parliament. I gladly support this Bill.
My Lords, I would like to support the Second Reading of this Bill from a rather different standpoint from any which have been as yet urged in its favour. I think the whole question turns on whether this Bill, as drafted, is likely to face that principal of all our military difficulties—the officer question; whether it will create a reserve, or "reservoir," as the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack called it, of officers for use for the defence of this country. If we can say that this Bill, as drafted, is going to produce trained men who from their rank will naturally take the position of officers, we shall be facing the most clamant difficulty we have to-day.
May I take a comparison of what this Bill may do should it become law and what has been already done by certain regulations in conscript armies, in France and Germany. A certain class of men on passing certain examinations in the German Army are allowed to pass for election to the corps of officers, and in France in the same way by certain training and having gone through certain schools, to qualify themselves for the position of 494 reserve officer. The result of this has been that in Germany a reserve of something like 25,000 to 30,000 reserve officers has been built up; and in France something like 16,000 to 18,000 reserve officers. These figures are some years old now, but I believe they are substantially correct. I believe the French, even with this reserve of 16,000 to 18,000 junior officers, were far short of what were required on mobilisation, but since these figures were obtained they have largely added to the numbers. I have the figures for three years ago and have not revised them, but they are certainly greater now than they were then.
I believe that if we can only bring this Bill to Committee we should have a chance of discussing the whole officer question, and let full daylight into the matter of our deficiency of officers—a shortage which I do not believe the country or even this House fully realises. It is for that reason, and for that reason only, that I should support this Bill. But if it can be proved, as the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack says, that this will reduce rather than increase the number of officers, I certainly would absolutely declare against it at once; but I do not follow that that is so. As the Bill is drafted it does not convey that impression to me. I admit that I have only seen the Bill this morning. I do not pretend, therefore, to have mastered the whole of its contents, but it does strike me as a means by which we can get at this question of officers.
May I remind your Lordships that the officer question is more than ever important. I suppose every noble Lord is aware that there is the greatest difficulty in filling Sandhurst. I believe that now for the first time we carry practically no officers over from those who fail in the examination. I mean to say that practically every man qualified in the simple subjects for Sandhurst gets in without any further examination. This is only what I hear. I intend to ask questions in order to get the exact figures on the subject. But I must say that at the present moment there is a great shortage of candidates coming up for the Regulars, and practically every youth can get in who qualifies as I have already said. This is a matter which gives the greatest concern to those who wish to see the right class of officer in the Army. We 495 all know the great shortage of officers in the Territorials. Noble Lords who have taken a keen interest in the Territorials know the difficulty of going round and getting officers of any sort or kind. If we had a Bill of this nature we should not only get our officers readily, but we should also get men who had some vestige of training. They would either have to qualify for officers or go through the course. No man is going to sleep sixteen in a tent for the whole of his drill season if he can sleep alone by himself in comparative comfort. These men are surely going to take the trouble of qualifying for officers rather than go through the compulsion contained in this Bill. I mention this point to show that this matter is worth while going into.
The Bill should be read a second time in order that we may have an opportunity of discussing whether something cannot be made out of it and seeing whether we cannot meet the difficulty of this shortage. Then with regard to the scheme of the Officers Training Corps, what is wanted to make that scheme a success is some driving power to get these young lads to take it on. I submit to the noble and learned Viscount that this scheme will be tremendously helped by the Bill of Lord Willoughby de Broke. Instead of having to pay those undergraduates—and I believe it is an accepted fact that very shortly they will have to be paid some bonus in order to get them to take up this business—-here you have a means of getting them to do it, and I think in good numbers. It is not necessary to go over the experience in the past with officers. The evidence given before the Elgin Commission was that once they had got through the first run of voluntary officers, the second class were absolutely hopeless. I myself went out to one of the depots in South Africa where the Yeomanry officers were harboured. There were 200 of them there. I went through the cases of most of those officers, but came away without taking a man with me. It was the same in the Japanese War; and no one who has read Lee's book on the American War can have failed to notice the shortage of officers there, and how the losses, partly from desertion, partly from misconduct and partly from even cowardice in the field, were greater than in the men themselves. I put these arguments to show that this is a question which every country knows must be faced; and when we add to that the well-known fact that we are 496 short to-day, not only in our existing forces, but still more short in our means to meet wastage of officers, we must recognise that this Bill is not one which can be thrown aside simply because it may contain some clauses to which objection can be taken.
I congratulate the noble Lord on the drafting of certain of his regulations for the training of these men. Curiously enough, they coincide with the ideas set out by the present Director of Military Training and the present Military Secretary, so that as far as the form of military training advocated is concerned I think there is very little to be said against it. The general principle which Lord Willoughby de Broke advocates is a good one—namely, that we should be prepared to do ourselves, and get our sons to do, what we ask the people to do. I think it is very difficult to bring any argument against the contention that comfortably-off people should be the first to show the way. With regard to my noble friend Lord Newton's Amendment there is a point which I think must appeal to him. It is this. Is not the proposal in this Bill an absolutely necessary forerunner of any general form of conscription? To my mind the chief argument that can be made against conscription is, Where are you going to get your officers? You must have men to train those who will be called out for a certain period. Where are you going to get your officers? You have not got them to-day; and it is necessary to get officers before you can come to compulsory training.
Whether this is the right time to press this Bill or not I do not particularly know. In the last few days we have certainly had a great deal of information. We have had the Report of the Committee which has sat a year—at least some of the items have been published; and, as far as we know, there is nothing which removes our belief that the danger is greater than it ever was before. May I give an example? I think it is sufficiently close to the case we are advocating. On April 11. 1913, Colonel Seely replied to Mr. Bonar Law that the Army left at home within these shores, after the Expeditionary Force had sailed, was quite enough to deal with any force that came. I have the words here. But only yesterday Colonel Seely, on being 497 asked by Mr. Lee exactly the same question as Mr. Bonar Law had asked, absolutely declined to give any answer at all. There must be some reason for this. We know that the Committee has sat, and we know that in the interval all the experts have gone into these questions. If Colonel Seely was ready to give that answer in April of last year, why did he absolutely refuse to give it this year? Surely the question of the betrayal of military secrets is the same in both cases, unless the betrayal on this occasion would not redound to the credit of the Government. That seems to be the only argument.
Then we have the question of the Navy. On April 16, 1913, Major Guest asked a question of Colonel Seely, and the answer given was—The Admiralty state that it would not be possible for an organised invasion far less in numbers than 70,000 to elude the Fleet after the departure of the Expeditionary Force.Now this year we had the statement of the First Sea Lord at the Union Jack Club. He said that the presence of a sufficiently trained professional Army was quite as necessary as the other branch of the service. Now if one takes these two things together—first of all, the fact that with regard to the Army Colonel Seely was ready to answer a question last year and this year he was not ready to do so; and, on the other hand, the Ministerial statement that an invasion of 70,000 troops was not possible, and the statement of the First Sea Lord that a sufficiently trained professional Army was absolutely necessary—one sees that some daylight has been let into the question of home defence. And when we take also what Mr. Lee said as to the possibility of an invasion by 70,000 men, from all three points we see that the situation is certainly no better; and, judging by the military and naval experts, it would appear to be considerably worse. In these circumstances we can justly claim that now is the time to urge that the question of home defence as regards officers should be thought of; and as I think this Bill will give an admirable opportunity of discussing the question of officers, both for the Expeditionary Force and the home Army, I would strongly urge upon your Lordships not to reject this Bill but to consider it in Committee, and throw it out on Third Reading if you think the working of it is impossible.
§ LORD SOUTHWARK
My Lords, as I am opposed to compulsory service and believe that the country is opposed to it, I shall be found, if we come to a Division, opposed to both the Bill and the Amendment. For my part, I have always advocated the formation of Cadet Corps, and I regret that in this discussion there has been no mention of Cadet Corps. When the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack commenced his observations, he said he was going in another direction. As he has told us on previous occasions that he had sympathy with the formation of Cadet Corps, I was hoping that that sympathy was coming into action and that he was going to suggest to us that in all probability drilling in schools would become universal—not compulsorily but voluntarily. As I have said before, I think the formation of Municipal Cadet Corps would be of the greatest possible benefit to the country and to the children of the country. I have seen in the division which I represented in the House of Commons poor children drilled in small mission hall brigades. Boys whom at one time it was absolutely impossible to control have become quite respectable and well-ordered children because they had been under some sort of discipline. I do not deny that a sort of control is exercised in all our Board Schools throughout the country and in other schools, but when these boys leave school, about the age of fourteen, there should be what I call Municipal Cadet Corps into which they could go, which I also think ought to have the sympathy of the War Office. There ought to be some sort of connection between these Municipal Cadet Corps and the War Office. That system would provide plenty of volunteers for the Territorial Force and the Regular Army. It is not that we require a vast Army for this country. We do not require a vast Army. We require a comparatively small Army, which could easily be obtained, in my opinion, in the way I have suggested. I have not come here to-night to propound a scheme for Cadet Corps, but I should like to have a full-dress debate in this House some evening on the question of Cadet Corps and Cadet Corps alone. I know that we have sympathisers in the noble and gallant Field-Marshals Lord Grenfell and Lord Methuen, who, like myself, have had experience of the Duke of York School, which has produced, I believe, some of the most efficient and 499 most excellent soldiers in our Army. If the work can be done amongst those boys it can be done amongst the other boys of the country, and an enthusiasm for joining the Army and the Territorial Force would, I believe, be the result of that training. We discuss from time to time these very elaborate and, I have no doubt, very well prepared measures, but until we have made up our minds that we are going to have compulsion and that there is no possibility of getting volunteers through any source or channel such as I suggest, I think these discussions for providing officers before you have got the men is putting the cart before the horse. I hope that on some future evening we shall have the presence of some of those Field-Marshals and military men who I know take a very earnest and active interest in the system I suggest, believing that it would be of the greatest possible benefit to this country both from a social and a military point of view, and that this system of Cadet Corps will be ventilated, encouraged, and, I hope, brought into operation.
§ The further debate adjourned to Wednesday next.