§ Debate on the Amendment moved by the Lord Newton to the Motion that the Bill be now read 2a, viz., to leave out all the words after "That" for the purpose of inserting the following resolution ("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") resumed (according to Order).
§ THE EARL OF ERROLL
My Lords, I regret that I am unable to support the Bill which is before your Lordships' House. I am the more sorry as Lord Willoughby de Broke introduced it with such evident conviction, and, if he will allow me to say so, with such singular moderation. It is not because I am opposed to coercion that I object to this Bill. On the contrary, I admit that it is a step in the right direction and the embodiment of a very high ideal. My objection is that I do not consider this Bill goes far enough. Even if I looked upon it as an instalment I should not be inclined to accept it, as I regard this 519 as a national and not a class question. It is because I feel strongly that the burden of military service should be borne by all alike that I cannot support this Bill. I have, however, no wish to excuse any of those mentioned in the schedule. On the contrary, I think that a little compulsion would be an excellent thing for the comfortable classes. But, on the other hand, I contend that every man capable of bearing arms should fit himself for the defence of his country. I maintain that the discipline which would be excellent for the wasters of the comfortable classes would be equally good for the wastrels of the other classes. Further, I advocate that any such system should be run on democratic lines. I would have no exemptions, and I should be in favour of providing officers from those in the ranks who proved themselves most capable and most efficient.
Though I am unable to support this Bill, I am very glad of this opportunity of emphasising the necessity for something being done to place the defences of the country on a sounder basis. I maintain that as far as home defence goes the voluntary system has already broken down absolutely and completely. As far as the Territorial Force is concerned, this failure was admitted by the Council of the Territorial Associations who went as a deputation to the Prime Minister during last autumn, and it should be remembered that the men who composed this deputation had for five years loyally tried to make this system a success. How do we stand now as to numbers? Lord Lucas told us the other night that the Regulars were 9,000 men short, the Special Reserve 14,000 short, and the Territorials 63,000 short, making a total of 86,000 below the establishment authorised by Parliament. Colonel Seely the other day took comfort to himself that, although the Regulars were below their establishment, the Reserves were considerably higher than we had any right to expect, and he said that he would be able to mobilise the Expeditionary Force of 162,000 men at very short notice. That is good, as far as it goes. But in this connection I should like to point out that the percentage of Reservists to trained men in our Army is very much higher than in any Continental Army, and I conceive that it would be unwise, not to say dangerous, to increase that proportion to any appreciable extent. As it 1s, efficiency must be reduced on mobilisation owing to the 520 large number of Reservists required to fill up the gaps, as many as two Reservists being wanted to every trained man to mobilise the Expeditionary Force.
The Special Reserve shows a deficit of 14,000 men on the present establishment, and I would point out that it is an old, time-worn device to reduce the establishment and then to say that the numbers are not very far below what they ought to be. If we look back a little, the Special Reserve is 28,000 less than the old Militia which it replaced, the actual numbers in 1905 of the Militia being over 92,000. At that date the Yeomanry and Volunteers numbered 274,000; the Territorials now are only 249,000—again a dwindling of 25,000 men. Colonel Seely warned us the other night that though recruiting at the present moment was good, he expects a further drop in these numbers in the not very distant future. In 1905 the actual strength of these three branches was 649,000; whereas now the establishment is 548,000 —that is to say, 100,000 less—and on this reduced establishment we are now 86,000 short. These figures are simply appalling, and something, I conceive, ought to be done to stop the rot. It is impossible to view without concern this gradual but steady shrinkage of the armed forces of the Crown. It must be a matter of anxiety to the Government however much they affect to ignore it. If they are satisfied with things as they are, they ought to reassure the public by telling them that, in the absence of the Expeditionary Force and after providing for garrison and other duties, the Territorial Force would be capable of dealing with 70,000 picked Continental troops. That, my Lords, is what we want to know. That is the bedrock of the whole problem. If not, I say that the present system has proved a failure.
To my mind these figures prove that without compulsion you cannot get the numbers; without compulsion you cannot get adequate training. Numbers and I training constitute the only real standard by which to judge of the soundness of any system of defence. Nothing else really matters, and no system which cannot provide both numbers and training can hold water for a single moment. If you can by the voluntary system get them, I admit that the advocates of compulsion have not got a leg to stand upon. But if, on the 521 other hand, you cannot, then you must come to compulsion sooner or later. I admit that at the present moment compulsion is not popular with the politician. There are no votes in it, and until there are votes in it I suppose no Party will take it up. When, however, the shrinkage approaches the vanishing point, the argument in favour of compulsion will become so i strong that the country will have to accept it, and then the system will have to apply to every male capable of bearing arms and not to one particular class of the community. I do not admit for one moment that the working classes have no stake in this country or would not be worse off under the foreigner. In the first place, they would be put under conscription of a very different type from the universal service which we suggest. Even the threat of invasion would be felt by all, and by none more than by the labouring classes. They would be the first to feel the pinch of hunger due to famine prices. The breaking of banks, the paralysing of commerce and industry, and loss of credit would have a disastrous effect upon employment and would affect every man and every family in the country, and nowhere would the immediate effect of these forces be more felt than in the homes of the poorer classes. My Lords, it is for these reasons, and because I consider that this Bill does not go far-enough, that I shall vote for the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, the debates which from time to time take place in this House on military questions are always extremely interesting. But I confess that the particular discussion in which we are now engaged appears to me to be attended with a certain degree of unreality. One point is abundantly clear, and that is that the military defences of this country are in a highly unsatisfactory condition. The mere fact that the Regular Army is 13,000 and the Territorial Force is 63,000 below their proper strengths is an ample justification for the very grave warnings which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal (Lord Roberts) and those who have been acting with him have been, with admirable persistency, giving to the country for a very long time. But though I think this question should be faced and boldly faced, it is quite impossible not to recognise that there is a great reluctance to face it. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, in his interesting speech 522 the other day, went round and round about the question, but he must pardon me for saying that he did not evidence any extreme eagerness to grasp the nettle. As far as I understood him, he said that he did not think that compulsion of any kind was either necessary or desirable. Well, it may be so. But I confess that I do not think the noble and learned Viscount produced any very convincing or conclusive arguments to justify the faith that was in him.
It can be no matter for surprise that Party politicians will not face this question. It is almost too much to expect of electioneering virtue that a great amount of electoral capital will not be made out of any proposals which can effectually deal with the question; and it is also too much to expect of any Party leader that he should incur the great risk of wrecking the fortunes of his Party by putting forward proposals which run diametrically contrary to all our history and traditions, which would certainly be extremely unpopular, and which perhaps more than any other subject would afford a most fertile theme for platform oratory and also for platform misrepresentation. A very keen political observer, Sir John Seeley, once said that the Party system developed an extraordinary talent among Party leaders for quarrelling by rule. There cannot be a doubt in this particular instance of what the application of the rule would be. There cannot be a doubt that if the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition and his friends were to identify themselves with either the proposal of Lord Willoughby de Broke or the proposal of Lord Newton, they would be violently attacked on every platform in the country by the adherents of noble Lords opposite, and I dare say they would be successfully attacked.
What is the conclusion to be drawn from these circumstances? The conclusion I draw from them is that there is only one way in which this question can possibly be settled, and that is to lift it entirely out of the Party atmosphere. I am convinced that we shall never arrive at any settlement until there is agreement among responsible statesmen on both sides as regards the main principles on which it is to be dealt with. It may be said that any agreement of this sort will be extremely difficult. I am well aware of the difficulties. But those difficulties have been overcome 523 in other countries and I do not see why they should not be overcome here. Take the case of Germany. I instance that case because Germany is really what may be called the centre of gravity of European thought and action in all this vast armament question of which we are now discussing only one branch. I know it has been thought by some politicians in this; country, and perhaps is being thought now, that the democracy would exercise such a growing influence as to be able to stop this ruinous race of armaments and influence the governing classes. I believe it is also the fact that when the present Government first came into power they so far indulged in these ideas as to adjourn to a certain extent the execution of their naval programme, and then had some difficulty in making up lost time. You may rely upon it that when the pinch comes and national defence is at stake all parties in the German Reichstag, which is split by animosities and Party differences quite as much as our Parliament—Right, Centre, Left; Conservative, Liberal, and Socialist —will all merge and vote together as one man in order to secure a commanding Army and Navy for the German nation.
If any one has any doubts on that subject let him read the very interesting work recently published by the ex-Chancellor of Germany, Prince Bülow. It is a very remarkable work. He gives fair hope of peace, but, my Lords, the whole of his book is really an expansion of the theme on which the noble Viscount (Lord Morley) dwelt last autumn in Manchester—that is to say, that the "State is Force." And as regards Party management, what does Prince Blow say? He looks to one sole object and none other, and that is to bring every party in the Reichstag into line in order to secure votes for the Army and Navy. The same may be said to a certain extent in regard to France, although there the institutions are more democratic than in Germany. It seems perfectly obvious with these facts staring us in the face that so long as we allow this question, which is a matter of supreme national importance, to be the mere shuttle-cock of Party, we must be at a great disadvantage as compared with any other Power in Europe. Until this preliminary obstacle is got out of the way I do not think that anything very effective will be done. I look, therefore, upon the proposals of Lord Willoughby de Broke and 524 of Lord Newton as interesting questions for academic discussion, but I think that such discussions will be barren of result.
Now I should like to say something about the actual Bill under discussion. Although I am a staunch Unionist, the fact that I sit on the Cross Benches is a sufficient indication that I am not an extreme political partisan. At the same time, I firmly hold that the Parliamentary machine becomes unworkable unless there is a certain amount of Party discipline and Party cohesion. In this particular instance I must say I think that if the Unionist Peers on this side of the House are to be asked to ratify a principle of such enormous importance as that embodied in the Bill now before us or in Lord Newton's Amendment, they should do so at the bidding of the recognised Leaders of the Party and not at that of any independent member, however cogent his arguments may be. We have not yet heard what the views of the Front Opposition Bench are, but I understand that my noble friend Lord Midleton is about to address the House. I wish to say, therefore, as one humble member of the Unionist Party, that whatever advice, the noble Viscount gives the House I shall certainly follow it, and I shall do so not only because I have the utmost confidence in his judgment and discretion and knowledge of the subject, but also because I think, on general grounds, it is extremely important, more especially at this moment, to testify to the unity of the Unionist Party in this House.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Earl who has just sat down into the somewhat domestic lecture which as a Unionist he read to Lord Willoughby and to Lord Newton. We all listened to his remarks with interest. They were general remarks, but I think they lifted us, as it were, into a large room and started the debate on a high plane. I propose to confine myself, as far as I can, more particularly to the merits or demerits of Lord Willoughby's Bill. Looking back over an experience of thirty-five years in this House I remember constant occasions on which it has been brought home to everybody that we have not got the right sort of Army either in quantity or in quality. We have been all those years, and apparently we still remain, the prisoners of hope. We are still sighing for lack of many a thing we seek, and to 525 some extent we are still lamenting, not only our dear time's waste, but, what is perhaps more important, the waste of a good deal of sterling money.
Now in a comfortable country like England a Bill which sets out to make uncomfortable a good many comfortable people, and, as I understand, to penalise them unless they are willing to be made uncomfortable, certainly possesses almost sinister advantages of originality. At the same time I am bound to say that the noble Lord's proposal opens out and forces upon us aspects of a very large question to which the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, just now did justice and brought us, as it were, right up against. I was here the other night when this debate started. I came down not particularly interested, but anxious to hear what was to be said; and I must say that, after hearing Lord Willoughby's speech and also what Lord Stanhope, Lord Lovat, and Lord Joicey had to say, it seemed to me that this Bill was, at all events, a concrete proposal, and I cannot personally see any reason why the House should not go into Committee, and why some of the points raised, especially by Lord Stanhope and Lord Lovat, should not become the subject of a Committee discussion, which, as everybody knows, are always real and useful discussions in this House.
Lord Willoughby, I am sure, must have been pleased with the very charming way in which the Lord Chancellor complimented him on the noblesse oblige, the setting of an example, and all that part of his proposal. It was most agreeably done and with great sincerity; and as I always look upon the Lord Chancellor as the apostle of rationalism I think his words had a particular value, coming from the Woolsack as they did, which Lord Willoughby is not likely to forget. But the Lord Chancellor had two broad lines of objection. One was an obvious one—which it rather surprised me to see in the Bill— regarding the arrangement about an Income Tax. I should have thought that the most simple student of Constitutional practice and the most innocent draftsman would have known that a provision of that sort would not look very well in a Bill introduced in the House of Lords. But very possibly Lord Willoughby, who I assume has a right of reply, will explain why he put that particular clause in.
But when we come to Lord Haldane's second line of objection, I could not there 526 follow the Lord Chancellor. The noble and learned Viscount paid Lord Willoughby and his draftsman a very handsome compliment as to the extreme ability with which the Bill had been drafted. He said that it had been so well drafted according to Lord Willoughby's views that if we touched it at all it would tumble down like a house of cards. Well, my Lords, I have heard that said very often before, and I do not attach very much importance to it. It is a debating objection to which we are pretty well used, and although I am a supporter of His Majesty's Government as regards the Irish question, I cannot dismiss from my mind what has very recently happened. When Parliament rose in the summer we were told that the Government of Ireland Bill was a perfect instrument of government, that any change in parts would be fatal to the whole, and so on. Yet only . ten days ago an offer was made by the Government to His Majesty's Opposition which must, whatever its effect, most gravely complicate, if not defeat, the original financial and administrative details of the Bill which a very few months ago we were told was in a form which could not be improved upon. That being so, my advice to Lord Willoughby would be not to allow himself or his nerves to be in the least upset by the dictum from the Woolsack that no amendment in this Bill is possible because it has been so beautifully drafted.
Then we come to Lord Newton, who moved the Amendment. Lord Newton relied, I thought, for his opposition to Lord Willoughby's Bill very much more upon emphasis than he did upon argument. His second line of objection to the Bill, however, was by way of illustration. He gave us a citation from one of Lord Beacons-field's novels, which he employed most capitally, about Sir Vavasour Firebrace, and so on. We all remember that, and we were all amused at it. Per contra I am quite willing to give the House, not a citation from fiction, but one from real life. In 1759 the ardours and difficulties of the times led the country gentlemen of England to occupy themselves with what they could do at home for the defence of their country. The historian Gibbon, certainly a gentleman who belonged to the leisured and comfortable classes, became a captain in a Hampshire Regiment of Militia, and he did not like it at all. He missed his books and his comfortable study, and he did not care about the society of the rustic officers 527 with whom he was thrown. "Bellona," he tells us, "gradually unmasked herself in her naked deformity." But he further declared that thanks to the discipline, the trials, and the adversities which he had to encounter from an outdoor life and extremely bad weather, the captain of the Hampshire Grenadiers was useful to the historian of the Roman Empire. That is quite as good an example in favour of the kind of measure which Lord Willoughby is proposing to us as that of Sir Vavasour Firebrace was in favour of Lord Newton's Amendment. At that 18th century time all the gentlemen in England were doing very much the same as what Lord Willoughby de Broke recommends us to do now. Nobody cares about the good deeds or the misdeeds of their neighbour's predecessors, but my great grandfather was so employed. He raised and financed a great levy called the Craven Legion, but I am sorry to say that to carry out his patriotic task he sold all the land upon which Oldham now stands—a very sombre reflection for me.
As to the actual proceedings under the Bill as it stands, there I am not so very sanguine. Lord Stanhope was, I think, very reassuring. He made a careful speech with a great many figures, but to get at his numbers and to reassure us on those provisions, as far as I recollect, though we were still at the Second Reading stage Lord Stanhope voted himself into Committee, and having made a slight change he told us that now it was all right; we had got so and so. But, after all, that is one of the reasons why I think it would not be a bad thing to go into Committee. I was for some years in the Army myself, but I think this is the first time that I have ever intervened in an Army debate, and I do not wish now in any way to pose as a military man. But what I see awkward, as it were, in this Bill is that it does not provide a military climate for these comfortable gentlemen who at the risk of their pockets have to serve. We all know what climate means. We know that if you want to read, the climate of the Round Room at the British Museum is favourable to it. I believe that if you want to go into pugilism you must get into the climate of prize-fighters; and there is little doubt that this kind of what the Lord Chancellor called fancy arrangement for levying troops does suffer unless you can give the troops so levied the actual climate of barracks. For myself, I remember quite 528 well the extraordinary difference one felt between soldiering at Aldershot and soldiering at Winchester or at Eton. I do not know where all these 100,000 comfortable men who are to do a great deal for us, and no doubt would do a great deal for us, are to go; but perhaps we shall hear about that a little later.
Then I was struck by the speech of Lord Joicey, who said that he had been very much opposed to compulsory service all his life—which, as he has been a life-long Radical, I can well believe—but that he had now come to the conclusion that something must be done, and the matter of our defences must be put beyond all doubt. Whether that is right or wrong, I am not prepared to say; but I was rather sorry to hear him state that if you are to have universal service—which he seemed to think right—it was to be universal service with a great many exceptions. I remember years ago hearing Lord Milner make a speech which, given the very doubtful hypothesis that universal service in this country was feasible and could be introduced by any Party, laid it down absolutely that universal service must have no exemptions, and that in an industrial country exemptions would be fatal to it. In Austria-Hungary sixty per cent of the population are engaged in agriculture; in Germany and in France something like forty-five per cent. are so engaged; while in this country the percentage is only twelve. In this country, a commercial country, unless you had universal service without exemptions you would get the whole thing into a terrible mess owing to the commerce and industries of the country not being able to accommodate themselves to it. After what Lord Lovat and other Peers had to say about the shortage and the training of officers and my own general feeling about this, I feel that this is a concrete proposal that we might very well go into Committee upon, and that many points would emerge and be discussed which might be useful at some later time. If we go into Committee and have the kind of discussion which I have in my mind —and which, no doubt, the Peers connected with the Army will see that we get—I believe that this Bill will receive a greater measure of attention in the country than it is otherwise likely to get, certainly than it is otherwise likely to get if it is thrown out. For that reason I shall vote in favour of the Bill going into Committee.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, I regret that I am unable to support either the Motion or the Amendment now before the House. If Lord Newton's Amendment had asked us to affirm as a general abstract proposition that the principles of democracy were tending more and more in the direction of compulsion, I think it would have been easy to agree with him, but that is not the meaning of the Amendment. The Amendment really asks us to accept as a military doctrine the statement that only by a system of universal service is it possible to secure the home defence of an island State dependent entirely for existence upon maritime communications. To that doctrine I cannot subscribe. I quite agree that our present military system is far from satisfactory in many respects. Much has to be done to bring it into the state in which it ought to be for the security of the country. I am sure we may assume that when the Territorial Force was fixed in its establishment, it was the minimum strength that was intended to be laid down; but that strength has never been reached, and I am not sanguine that it ever can be reached unless some further measures are taken. Nor do I think that the standard of training for that Force is quite as high as the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack hoped for and contemplated when he abolished the Militia.
This Bill, in Clauses 17 and 18, contains some provisions which, if they were applied to the existing Territorial Force, might perhaps serve to fill its depleted ranks. Employers and employees alike are exempted from paying contributions under | the Insurance Act during the training years, and, further than that, employers who facilitate the training of their employees are placed upon a recognised list and are promised preferential treatment in the matter of Government contracts. Those suggestions may be well worth consideration if, as I assume, it is necessary sooner or later that the ranks of the Territorial Force should be filled up and its standard of training developed. In the last resort, I do not see any reason why the Ballot should not be adopted to fill the ranks of the Territorial Force to such strength as may be prescribed. That would be in consonance with the democratic principles to which the noble Lord referred, and it would add a sporting element which might not prove entirely unattractive.
In 1905 the whole question of home defence was most carefully investigated, 530 and the results obtained by that investigation were stated by Mr. Balfour in the House of Commons. I do not think I betray any official secret when I say that during that investigation we did not find it possible to make out a case for compulsory universal service in this country. That whole question has now been most wisely re-examined, but I shall be very much surprised if the verdict differs very greatly from that which was arrived at in 1905. I have given most careful thought for more than 30 years to this question of home defence, and I have never been able to see eye to eye with the National Service League. But I think I understand the arguments of that body, and at least I can say that I do most sincerely admire their motives and especially the patriotic efforts of the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Roberts. If their proposals were practicable, which I doubt, I do not think the results would be such as are best suited to our special and peculiar national needs. The only valid defence of an island State is a powerful Navy able to act upon the offensive. That, it seems to me, is the plain and consistent teaching of our history going right back to the days of the Saxon Kings; and if the naval situation were ever such that an enemy could continuously pour troops, stores, ammunition, and transport into this island as we did into South Africa—and that is what invasion means—it would be quite impossible to feed our population or maintain our industries. In that case the large forces raised by the adoption of universal service could not avail us if the Navy were reduced to impotence, or to act on the defensive. On the other hand, the creation of such great "forces of only partially trained and not wholly disciplined men, with the very great cost involved in forming them into a highly equipped Army, must in my opinion tend to weaken the Navy and the Regular Army, and might introduce in some circumstances an element of danger. I wonder whether it is realised that we have now, leaving out the Navy and the fine Native Indian Army, roughly speaking 450,000 men either serving abroad or liable to be sent abroad if the occasion arose. That differentiates our position sharply, as the noble and learned Viscount pointed out the other day, from the position of foreign Powers, which find very great difficulty in raising even a small voluntary force for oversea service. But if we add the Navy and the Native Indian Army, we have a 531 total of more than 800,000 men, all liable to serve the Empire in any part of the world, and all raised by voluntary recruitment. Having regard to those large figures, it is surely impossible to say that the principle of voluntary recruitment is quite played out. My Lords, I believe that the policy which was arrived at in 1905 and which has been accepted by the present Government is a sound and logical policy, and a policy which would give results suited to our requirements. It is quite true that that policy has not yet been carried out, and I believe, as Lord Cromer told us just now, it can never be carried out except by cordial co-operation between the two great Parties in the State; but I think it is far wiser to go on working on these lines than to embark on the military revolution which would be created by establishing universal service.
Turning to the Bill, I congratulate the noble Lord on the care which he has bestowed upon its complicated provisions, and I sympathise with his objects. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has explained some of the difficulties that would arise under the Bill, and there are a great many more to which I will not refer. The leading principle of the Bill demands that we should draw a sumptuary line across our social system, and that seems to me a difficult thing to do. There cannot be a hard and well-defined line of cleavage, and the arbitrary line which the Bill proposes to draw would certainly give rise to hardships and injustice. There would be many men below the line who would be in more comfortable circumstances than many above it. I doubt whether the Bill would produce the results which the noble Lord imagines. One effect might be to consecrate the idea that personal service is a duty which rests entirely on the well-to-do classes, and if that were so the recruiting of the Territorial Force would badly fall off. An example given under compulsion cannot be so effective as if given voluntarily, and already the classes which would be affected by this Bill do freely give personal service, service which is of the utmost value to the Territorial Force and without which that Force could not exist.
But there is one provision in the Bill which, if it received extended scope, might confer very great advantages. Under Clause 7 recognised Cadet Corps are to be established in all scheduled schools and colleges. I see no valid objections to compulsory Cadet training of all classes of school age, and I believe that most 532 beneficial results would arise from such a training. I suppose that in rates and taxes and contributions we now spend much more than £30,000,000 a year upon free and aided education. That is a very large sum, but I do not think that the results are all that we have a right to expect or that we must desire. Last year, at the Birmingham meeting of the British Association, Principal Griffiths, in addressing the Education and Science Section, said these significant words—I consider that we are proceeding in the wrong order, in that we give greater prominence to the acquisition of knowledge than to the development of character. We want to introduce the spirit of our much abused public schools into all schools—namely, a sense of responsibility and, as a necessary consequence, a sense of discipline, a standard of truthfulness and of consideration.Those words express to my mind a great truth, and they also convey a grave warning. Knowledge comes, perhaps, in a limited and not always in a very desirable sense, but wisdom plainly lingers.
We can bring this matter to a rather simple test. I suppose there is no movement in recent years comparable in good effect upon our boys to that known as the Boy Scouts. It is really doing a wonderful work in our midst, a work which the State system of education has either neglected or has signally failed to accomplish. The Boy Scout movement is inculcating manliness, chivalry, patriotism, self-control, and, above all, that sense of duty which is so easily lost in times when many people of both sexes are busily engaged in claiming rights. It seems to me that the measure of success of the Boy Scouts movement is the measure of the failure of our national system of education to give the training which is calculated to produce the best type of citizen, and I believe that under a compulsory national Cadet system, organised on the lines of the Boy Scouts, this great work might be extended to all our boys, even including wastrels for whom we ought to show care. Only the other day the Prime Minister used some very remarkable words in which I found distinct encouragement for this idea. He said—I am the last person to deny—I am the very last—and I am very sure, that in our present educational system we do not give nearly enough weight to some of those physiological considerations which have been so powerfully urged to-day. There is, I am sure, vast room for improvement in that direction.And later on the Prime Minister added—I should welcome to the full any supplementing and even reconstruction, if you like, of some parts of our system of national education which 533 should pay more attention to physical improvement and to discipline and self-control.Surely, my Lords, those are very remarkable words coming from the head of the Government, because they do constitute a full and complete admission that all is not well with our national system of education and that it needs to be supplemented by the moral and physical training which I believe a compulsory system of Cadet Corps might provide. If the noble Lord would bring in a Bill on those lines I think it would receive strong support from both sides of the House, and I think such a measure would find very little antagonism from any quarter. I believe it would be regarded by the National Service League as a first step in the direction in which they wish to move, and I also think! that it would tend to strengthen the moral fibre of our citizens, upon which, as much almost as upon military force, the nation might have to depend in times of darkness and danger.
My Lords, I wish to speak in support of the Bill now before your Lordships' House, although I confess that I am in sympathy with the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Newton. I feel that we owe a debt of gratitude to Lord Willoughby de Broke for bringing this question of compulsory service for the well-to-do classes before the House for discussion, and I trust that your Lordships will see your way to give the Bill a Second Reading. In view of the serious shortage of officers and men at the present time in His Majesty's land forces Lord Lovat said the other evening that the House would be well advised to proceed with the Bill to Committee and see whether something could not be made out of it when we arrive at that stage. I thoroughly agree with Lord Lovat in regard to that.
In saying that I am a supporter of this Bill I would like to point out that I am, and in fact always have been, an ardent supporter of universal military training such as has been advocated by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal on the Cross Benches, whose remarkable energy at his age in going about the country and urging the necessity of people taking their proper share in the defence of the country is, I venture to think, the admiration not only of members of your Lordships' House but of all true patriots in the United Kingdom and throughout the British Empire. I think every one must agree that the noble 534 and gallant Earl's long and distinguished military record is the best proof that when speaking on a military question such as this he knows full well the necessities of the case. And we know that Lord Roberts is not actuated by any spirit of political partisanship, but simply by a sense of duty to his country. I am sure we were all pleased the other night to hear the speech of Lord Joicey, who said that, although he had been against the principle of compulsion for many years, he was now an advocate of compulsory service. Those who support national service have had during the last twelve months a good object lesson of the advantage of military training as exemplified by the loyalists of Ulster.
The principles of universal training as advocated by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal and by the National Service League are well known. Those principles, in my opinion, can be classified under two headings: First, that it is the duty of every able-bodied man, no matter what his position in life may be—high or low, rich or poor—to learn the most sacred and fundamental duty of citizenship, namely, how to defend his country against any national danger; and, second, that in order to perform that duty efficiently it is absolutely essential that he should be trained for war in time of peace. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal has proposed service in the Territorial Army with training to be carried out on the Swiss system, which embraces these three conditions—first, that the training should be short and in the summer months; second, that its purpose should be purely for home defence; and, third, that the whole basis of it should be democratic, not only with regard to the method of enlistment, but also with regard to the selection of officers— in other words, that every one is to serve in the ranks and remain there until he can earn promotion by proving that he is well qualified for command. Those I believe to be virtually the principles of universal service as suggested by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. It is the same system that has been carried out in Switzerland for several years past to the admiration of all the great Continental Powers, and it has worked there with the consent of all political parties. That being so, I fail to understand how it is that the noble and gallant Field-Marshal is so often accused of advocating conscription, which his opponents are never tired of preaching in 535 order to hoodwink the people on this question. I would like to remind your Lordships that the noble and gallant Field Marshal proposes universal training for another, and, to my mind, equally important purpose—namely, in order to improve the physique and those moral qualities which—instilled by tradition, discipline, and pride of service—our soldiers and sailors acquire in every branch of His Majesty's national forces.
In spite of the active propaganda work which has been carried on by the National Service League, and notwithstanding the warning of the noble and gallant Earl in season and out of season that to depend upon our present national defence is to live in a fool's paradise, where do we now stand with regard to universal military training? I candidly confess that no one can shut his eyes to this fact, that at the present moment the people of this country will not undertake universal service or universal training. No one regrets having to say that more than I do. Having served in His Majesty's land forces for the best part of my life I know well the opinion on this question of the majority of officers— not only regimental officers, but Staff officers and officers at the War Office— and I have no hesitation in saying that the large majority of them are absolutely with Lord Roberts. They do not believe that this country can be properly defended when our Army leaves these shores unless we adopt some form of universal service— although I know that that is a contingency which the Prime Minister stated only the other day is in his opinion an extreme hypothesis. With all deference to such an expert assertion I must confess, looking back on past history with regard to India, South Africa, and Egypt, that I think such an eventuality may come far sooner than many of us anticipate. I am firmly convinced that were it not for the fear of losing votes there are many politicians on both sides in both Houses of Parliament who would be with Lord Roberts on this question.
I believe that the people of this country are on the whole patriotic to the backbone; but this question of national service has been so grossly misrepresented for purely Party motives that I am not in the least surprised that the people take the view they do. Our opponents are never tired of telling them that universal service means conscription, and would entail forcing the poorer classes to serve in order 536 to defend the property of the rich. Such assertions are nothing less than outrageous. These fallacies have been preached in the past and are being preached now, with the result that it is by no means an uncommon thing for an intelligent working man to say this, "My country! What is my country? I have no country except the dirt that's in my window box." That is bad enough. But it is something still worse that a public writer, Mr. Norman Angell, should write a book called "The Great Illusion," and infer that "Preparation for war is a childish futility." I contend that such an extraordinary theory is against all experience of past history, and the publication of such sentiments cannot but have a most harmful effect. For there are at the present time thousands and thousands of people in all classes of society, from the influential politician down to the timid spinster, who are only too pleased to hear such arguments, which they believe may be a step to some of their delusive hopes, such as disarmament, economy in regard to our national forces, and universal peace—delusions which have been aggravated in some degree by such official statements as that "people can sleep comfortably in their beds," and that when the Army goes away we can rely on the Territorial Force, and that that Force will not be mobilised until war has been proclaimed. My Lords, is it surprising when such fallacies as these are being preached that national service has not made the headway which we should have liked?
It is therefore for these reasons that I support Lord Willoughby de Broke's Bill because I regard it not as an alternative to, but as a forerunner of, the whole policy of universal service. I stand for national service, which I think should be undertaken by the whole race. But as they have not accepted it up to the present it appears to me that it is for the richer classes to come forward and set them a good example, and I have little doubt that the rest would soon follow. The security of this country would then be placed on such a basis that we should rest respected because we should rest secure. I therefore hope that your Lordships will see your way to give this Bill a Second Reading. I am sure that it is the best step towards advancing universal service throughout the country that your Lordships should show the people that we are prepared to do our best in order to attain that high state of efficiency that we want in our land forces.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I rise in fulfilment of a promise which I gave to my noble friend the author of this Bill— namely, that I would make the effort of forming a sincere opinion on his measure and expressing that opinion, whether favourable or adverse, in this House. Well, my Lords, I do not like the Bill at all, I am sorry to say. I regard it as wrong in principle; I regard it as unpractical in detail; and I think it would be mischievous in its effect on our social system, in that it would produce class divisions instead of bringing about that national unity which is so obviously essential to national strength. But, nevertheless, I agree with those who are willing to give this Bill a Second Reading in order that it may be discussed in detail, for the simple reason that I think it is a great advantage to discuss every aspect of the question of national defence in order that in the consideration of details we may better be able to discern the great principles which underlie the whole question. While, therefore, I am perfectly prepared to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, I should, if I remain of my present opinion—and I have no doubt that I shall remain of that opinion—unhesitatingly vote against the Third Reading supposing the Bill got so far as that.
There is, however, the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Newton standing in the way, and the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has ruled that that Amendment amounts to a direct negative. That being so, I am in this difficulty. I should feel bound to vote for the Amendment, because it expresses those principles which I am convinced are right; but I have a hope that my noble friend will withdraw his Amendment, because, if I am not mistaken, it was not his object to use it as a block or a direct negative to the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill. I can only speak on supposition, but I think that what he intended was to afford an opportunity to those who, like myself, believe in universal service, of giving expression to their opinion and thus making it a proviso to any consent they might give to further discussion of this Bill that it was clearly understood that they did not abandon their adhesion to the principle of national service. But in view of the opinion of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, I venture to suggest to my noble friend that this Amendment 538 produces an unnecessary and undesirable complication, and I hope, therefore, that he will allow us to vote on the one question of whether my noble friend's Bill should be further discussed.
I, like everyone else, admire the ideal which has actuated my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke. It is an attempted adaptation of the principle of noblesse oblige, a maxim to which, I take it, every member of your Lordships' House sub- scribes and sincerely endeavours to follow. But I submit that that, maxim is really not applicable to this question at all. The principle of noblesse oblige is surely a moral and not a legal obligation. It is based, not on fortune, but on rank; and nobody will contend that an income of £400 a year constitutes a nobleman. I cannot object to the notion that the well-to-do should set an example of civic virtue, but that argument does not hold good with me in this case, since I take the view that to be prepared to take part in the defence of one's country is not a matter of virtue but 'rather one of duty. I share the view of the noble and gallant Field-Marshal that it is the duty of every citizen to take part in the defence of his country in the hour of danger, and that in order that he may be able to discharge that duty he ought to be trained in time of peace. Then in regard i to this idea that an example would be set by the well-to-do classes, I suggest that an example to be of any value at all must be spontaneous and voluntary. An example which is not voluntary and spontaneous is no example at all, and would not impress anybody. By all means make military service more exacting and more thorough for the well-to-do classes; insist, if you like, that those who have the advantage of rank and fortune and of higher education should go through the training of the officer in case they should be required to serve as-officers in the Citizen Army; but what I say is, do not depart from the principle that it is the duty of every man, without distinction of rank or fortune, to take part in the defence of his country. That principle, I think I am right in saying, is not I disputed in the abstract by any sensible person. Noblesse oblige may be a very i high ideal, and it has been held up as such during the course of this debate; but I think there is a higher ideal, the ideal of united patriotism, the ideal which is based on a true conception of manhood and nationality, the ideal which was set forth 539 in Nelson's great watchword, that England expects every man to do his duty.
There has been much talk about democracy. The tendency nowadays surely is to base political rights, not on property, but merely on manhood. That is the tendency of all these movements for the extension of the suffrage, for the abolition of plural voting, and so on. Surely it is unpractical and futile to set yourselves against a tendency of that kind—almost as hopeless as to bid the advancing tide to stand still. My noble friend disagrees; but my view is that it is better statesmanship to take advantage of such a tendency and. use it for the welfare of the State. Rights and privileges involve corresponding duties. Let those duties be developed pace by pace together with the development of the rights. There can be no dispute whatever that the first duty of citizenship is the duty of defending the State, and that, therefore, is the duty which ought first of all to be brought homo to the minds of all citizens who are claiming larger and more extended rights. The responsibility of providing for national defence has always throughout the course of our history belonged to the governing class; and hitherto it has been regarded, not merely as a duty, but also as a high privilege and honour by the governing classes. When the Sovereign was supreme the responsibility and also the honour rested with the King alone. Then came the turn of the aristocracy and you had the feudal system, and the aristocratic classes also regarded their duty as a privilege and a distinction. But now, who are the governing class? The governing class are the masses, the whole body of the people. It follows, therefore, that the people ought to take over the duty of providing for national defence, and should learn to regard it as a privilege, just as the governing classes in times gone by used to do. One of the greatest of our statesmen, I believe it was the late Lord Salisbury, used words to this effect—that to provide for national defence is the duty, not of statesmen or even of soldiers, but of the people themselves; and that is the principle to which we must adhere if we believe at all in what we call democracy at the present time.
My noble friend spoke in his accustomed witty way and made light of the use of the term "democracy." But where he misapprehended the use to which that 540 term was put by my noble friend Lord Newton was this. It is not a question of what a democrat is, or who is or who is not a democrat, but of the form of government which exists at the present time, the form of government under which we live, and the form of government which, in all human probability, will continue for some generations to come. Everybody agrees in calling our present form of government democratic—I say calling it democratic; I do not say that it is democratic. There are some who say that during the past few years our Government has been more democratic than at any previous period. I do not agree with that view. The system is democratic, and in regard to that there is no dispute. But the term, unfortunately, is one which is very constantly abused and misused, and I saw a ludicrous example of that the other day in regard to the celebrated breakfast party which was given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Admiring journals declared that even the fare was democratic. The fare, I may remark, was bacon and eggs and sausages; and I wondered very much what those people who write such stuff for the fooling of the people imagine the detested Peers consume for their breakfasts. Do they really think that we breakfast off champagne and oysters, and despise such democratic dishes as sausages and bacon? The principle underlying that democracy which exists at the present time, which we all agree in acknowledging, is surely that there should be equal rights and equal duties for all citizens; and universal military service is the only system that corresponds to that democratic principle. The noble Lord on the Cross Bench, Lord Sydenham, suggested that the Ballot was the only principle which conformed to democracy.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
Then I misunderstood the noble Lord. But nevertheless I am perfectly ready to prove that Conscription or the Ballot is totally inconsistent with democracy. It is on that account that Conscription or the use of the Ballot for military service has been 541 abolished by every European nation, and has not been adopted by our kinsmen in our Dominions over the seas. Democracy cannot make men equal. What democracy can do is to give men equal opportunities, and that is what is not being done in regard to military service at the present time. It is not equally open to every man to do his share of patriotic service if he wishes to do so. I need not dwell on the point, for your Lordships are well aware how impossible it is for some men to serve in the Territorial Force, however much they may desire to do so—because they would lose their employment, because they would be at a disadvantage with their fellows, and so forth. And I humbly submit that what democracy can well do is so to amend the law that it would be equally possible for every man to learn the first duty of citizenship. I am so convinced that universal service is right in principle that I should never agree to any compromise with that principle such as is suggested by my noble friend.
I said that I was afraid that this Bill would be mischievous in its effect, and I do sincerely dread the invidious class distinctions which I believe would be created. It would be suggested that the Army that was formed under this scheme would be the Army of the capitalists; and there can be no doubt that that would further accentuate those class divisions which, unhappily, exist at the present time and which are so fatal to our progress and welfare. It is merely a matter of commonsense to recognise that for the sake of national strength it is above all essential to have national unity—that is to say, all classes and all men pulling together so far as it is possible to do so. The appeals to expediency which formed a great part of my noble friend's argument, appeals to the effect that half a loaf is better than no bread and that it is something to make a beginning, leave me entirely unmoved. I think that any appeals to expediency should be set aside when a great principle is at stake. The scheme of this Bill will not give us the Army we want—that is to say, an Army sufficient in numbers and sufficiently trained. It will not give us that citizen Army, that "nation in arms," which the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack held up to us as the ideal on which was founded his great scheme of reform. I am content to base myself on a celebrated utterance of the present Foreign Secretary 542 when he declared that in the matter of national safety there could be no half-way house. I think that is profoundly true, and I am firmly convinced that the only right course is to go straight ahead without stopping until we get to that which is necessary and sufficient for our safety.
There are obvious objections in details to the Bill, but I repeat what I said before. By all means let them be discussed in order that in such discussion we may be better able to discern the great principles which underlie this whole question of national defence. My noble friend wound up, if I remember rightly, by saying that we should never get universal service as proposed by the National Service League, because no Party would take it up. I agree with him that it is not likely that any of the Parties as they at present exist will take up that scheme; but I am one of those who do not believe, and cannot believe, that the Party system will continue indefinitely as it exists at present. I do not think it is possible that it should do so. It has reached such an abnormal and morbid state of development that I think sooner or later it is bound to be revised, if it does not actually break down. But even if I am not right in that conjecture I am still optimist enough to hope, even to believe, that the time will come when the leaders of all Parties in the State will for once in a way be true to their profession that national defence is, and ought to be, above Party politics, and will meet together and agree to recommend to the nation such a system as will give us as many men as we want and allow those men to be given such training as is necessary to make them efficient. When that time comes I have no shadow of doubt that ninety-nine out of every hundred of our fellow-countrymen will approve the proposals thus submitted to them by the responsible men of all Parties, and will cheerfully embrace the opportunity of proving their manhood, their pride of race, and their love of their country.
§ EARL ROBERTS
My Lords, greatly to my regret, for I know how entirely the noble Lord and I are in accord in our ultimate aim, I find myself unable to support this Bill. No one is more anxious than I am to see the defence of this country put upon a satisfactory foundation, but I do not think that this Bill offers a practical method of attaining this object. If 543 the Bill were enforced it might indeed have a very different result from what the noble Lord anticipates. Instead of appealing to the working-classes to accept a system of universal military training it would accentuate the division between the different classes of our ranks, and it would render the working people suspicious of what might appear to them as an attempt on the part of the wealthier classes to get full possession of the military power on their own side.
The two great principles on which I have for some time past been endeavouring to obtain a national home defence Army are —first, that the duty of defending his country is incumbent upon every man, no matter what position or rank he may hold; and, secondly, as a necessary consequence of that first principle, that that citizen Army should be thoroughly democratic in character, that there should be no distinction of class, and that promotion and advancement should be dependent upon merit alone. This Bill cuts at the very root of these two great principles. It would draw an invidious distinction between fellow-subjects. It would recognise and sanction the exemption of the larger proportion of our population from a duty in which I feel satisfied it would be of great advantage to them in every way to take a share. It would go far to increase that odious feeling expressed in the word "militarism." For the defence of this country we require, as I have often said before, a national Army. We require, as the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has told us, to be a nation in arms. Our Army must be a representative Army; it must be an Army in which every man, women, and child will be interested; and to try and start an Army on the lines indicated by the noble Lord's Bill would delay instead of hasten such an Army as I think we ought to have. It is for these reasons, my Lords, that I cannot support the noble Lord's Bill.
I could wish, as Lord Ampthill hinted just now, that Lord Newton might withdraw his Amendment, and thus let this Bill go for Second Reading. Not that I should support it, but I think that anything that would give an opportunity of discussing in this House the condition of our Army would be valuable. I agree with what Lord Sydenham said just now as to the supreme importance of training 544 Cadets. That I think could be done, and probably would be done, without any opposition at all. But I certainly do not agree with Lord. Sydenham's figures or those given in the other House as to the number of men we have for the defence of this nation. I put no faith in those figures; but I do think, if this Bill gets a Second Reading, that such information might be gathered about the condition of our Army as would perhaps bring home to the people the necessity of having the state of the Army considered by a carefully formed Committee of both Parties.
This question of national defence is not a Party question, and so long as it is treated as a Party question there is not the slightest chance of universal military service or any other form of service being considered. But without putting before them the question of national military service, and although I should vote against the Bill, I would willingly see a Committee formed to consider the condition of our Army—a Committee representative of both sides, who would go into all the details and not be guided in their opinions as Party politicians are bound to be. I should be very much astonished if the information thus adduced would not bring home to the nation the necessity of some change taking place in our Army. For this reason I would willingly see this Bill go to Second Reading.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BANGOR
My Lords, if it were necessary for one occupying a position such as I do to offer an apology for taking part in a debate of this kind, I would quote the precedent of the Bishop of Worcester preaching before King Edward VI's Privy Council, when, after speaking of the sinful way in which the youth of the country were accustomed to pass their recreation time, he urged as a remedy that those who heard him should put in force the old laws with regard to the learning of the use of the long bow. "Shooting," he said, "was a gift of God by which our fathers were able to overcome their enemies, and was only to be learnt when young." I dare say if he were alive at the present day he would thankfully perceive the way in which some young men now pass their recreation time, but I think he would advocate training as good for the physical and moral welfare of the young and the safety of the country.
545 The noble and learned Viscount raised objections to the proposal of my noble friend. One was on the finance question, into which I will not enter. Another objection he raised was that the Bill was creating a new force. I really do not understand the Bill in that sense. As far as I understand it, my noble friend proposes to add to the existing forces a large number of men whom we have not now got. The noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, said 100,000 men. I do not know whether that is right or not; but still there would be 100,000, or whatever the number is, that we have not got at present and that we sadly want. What is to be done with them is another matter. They might be used to swell the ranks of the noble and learned Viscount's Territorial Force; they might increase that reserve of officers that we desire; or they might be utilised in another way. The main fact is that we should get the men whom every one says we want but whom we have not got. I do not know what effect all this discussion upon the state of the country, put forward by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal and others, has upon other people, but I feel myself something like a puzzled juryman trying to understand a case that is too difficult for him. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal and others tell us that our forces are not adequate. On the other side, we have the official reply. Then there is the summing up we see in The Times and other papers. I think the verdict that one is inclined to bring in is this—that the country at the present moment is in a thoroughly defenceless position; that whereas our fathers depended for the defence of the country on God and their own good swords, we are dependent on the forbearance of some Powers and on a fragile, delicate alliance with other Powers. But we should recollect that possibly our alliance might not be considered of very great value by those Powers unless we were able to send to their assistance when required a force as proportionately adequate as our fathers were able to send in days of old. For that reason I think that many of us would sleep more comfortably in our beds if these 100,000 men, or whatever the number is, were added to the forces of our country.
The noble and learned Viscount pictured the case of an unfortunate young clergyman of thirty-one with ten children who was called upon to go out and do his 546 share of training. I think he wasted a great deal of pity. I really think that the Rev. Mr. Quiverful would rather look upon it as a relief from domestic worries and a nice holiday at the public expense. If I have read the Bill rightly, the noble Lord's proposal is to deal with people earning £400 a year and over. I do not think that many of our young clergy will be affected, because none of them get £400 a year; and if another Bill passes into law they will be lucky if they get £40 a year, at least so far as our Welsh brethren are concerned. But I feel that if called upon to go into military training the young clergy would not grumble, but would love it. There is not a summer in which scores of our young clergy do not go out under canvas with the Boy Scouts, Lads' Brigades, and similar organisations. In fact, I think they would be the cheeriest body of men that ever went out from Waterloo to Aldershot. And I must say that when they do go on service they do their duty. One of our Welsh curates whom I know was mentioned in despatches for the way in which he ministered to the soldiers in South Africa when they fell in the fighting line.
It is not the details of the Bill that we have to consider, but rather the principle. If I understood rightly an admission made by my noble friend when he moved this Bill, it struck me that he would not altogether be sorry if his gun were fitted with a new lock, a new stock, and a new barrel, provided that by passing this Second Reading your Lordships agreed that it was aimed in the right direction. The principle which I should like to advocate is this, that when there is a national want, when men are wanted to serve their country, it is a good thing for those who are accepted to act as leaders by reason of their position to show the way, and the rest will follow. That is the principle, I understand, of this Bill. Lord Newton poured a certain amount of ridicule on the Bill. We always laugh at his jokes, but I thought that two of the jests with which he assailed this Bill might be turned the other way. He mentioned the line "Duke's son, cook's son." Well, I am not going to stick up for the poetry of it, but in spite of its jingle that rhyme caught the popular fancy because it enunciated the great truth that when the duke's son and the class to which he belongs started to serve their country, the cook's son and 547 the class to which he belongs did not lag behind. Therefore, I believe that if this measure were passed into law, those whom it affected would do their duty cheerfully, and all the best of those classes who are exempted from the scope of the Bill because they have not got £400 a year would start up and join just as they did during the South African War. I think also that there would be such a large number of people voluntarily coming in that there would be a public opinion created that would not allow the existence of laggards and shirkers—we know how it goes at schools and in life generally—and this thing that Lord Roberts and the National Service League recommend would be brought within practical politics. Lord Newton will, I am sure, forgive my alluding to him again by mentioning Sir Vavasour Firebrace. It is many years since I read "Sybil," but I should have thought that the perusal of "Sybil" would lead people to vote for this Bill.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BANGOR
What was the object that Lord Beacons-field had in view when he wrote "Sybil"? He wrote it to show that the great danger was in two classes of the nation, the rich and the poor, existing antagonistic to one another; and he hit, with an unsparing lash, people like Sir Vavasour Firebrace and others who simply thought highly of their property and their privileges. But the remedy, as he pointed out to us in the last page, was in the well-born youth of the country starting to do their duty by their country and their State and healing these evils and divisions in every way they could. In one passage he says—In the heroic energy of our youth is the welfare of the kingdom to be found.Then if I might I would refer to a book which many of your Lordships read in your school days. I refer to Livy. There was a story that seized the imagination of many of us boys, and it was this—that in the days of Rome, when there were just the same troubles between the rich and the poor, when, as it were, the elected representatives of the poor were going in for land legislation and advocating the reduction of the defensive forces of the State, a noble Roman family marched out of Rome to be an out-post of their country 548 in order that the people might cultivate their fields in peace; and it was on such acts as that that the City of Rome proved to be the great Empire it afterwards became.
One last word. It is a good thing when the way of conscience is clear not to ask what other people say. As the old Scottish saying runs, "They say—what do they say? Let them say." But there are other occasions when one is not quite sure what one ought to do or when the conscience seems to leave a free choice, and it is then a good thing to ask the opinions and judgment of others. Your Lordships are perfectly well aware that there are a large number of people who can always obtain a kind of cheap applause by crying down your Lordships' House, describing it as a mischievous body composed of individuals who never have done or tried to do One bit of service to the State. We laugh at them here, but out where these things are said they do an enormous amount of mischief. It was owing to speeches of that kind that the Parliament Act got its majority. Now I invite your Lordships to ask yourselves with regard to this measure, which, as it were, calls on the members of this class to discharge a public duty, Is there a better way of meeting those charges than that this House should accept and not reject this Bill?
THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES (LORD LUCAS)
My Lords, the underlying principle of the Bill which we are discussing to-night is not a new one. The principle may be broadly stated as being that the rich should serve the poor, and it was first preached about nineteen centuries ago, since when it has fallen, as far as I can trace, into complete disuse until it has been revived by the noble Lord in this Bill. The. reason that it has fallen into disuse is not, perhaps, difficult to find; you have only to examine the nature of wealth. Disregarding for the moment the somewhat complex powers which wealth confers under a complex community, I think it would be generally agreed that the primary object for which any man desires to accumulate wealth is to be able to obtain certain privileges which the possession of that wealth gives him. Those privileges consist in being relieved of certain obligations which press rather heavily upon a poor man—first, that he should 549 have to work to support himself; second, that he should have to work to support his family; and third, that he should have to work in some form or another to support the State. It is because a man has the desire to relieve himself of those obligations that he sets to work to accumulate wealth, and the possession of wealth has always carried with it the enjoyment to a great or less degree of all those privileges. I would suggest to your Lordships that if you are going to make wealth a thing the possession of which instead of conferring those privileges is to take them away, you will have to change altogether its nature and attributes. In trying by this Bill to make the rich serve the poor, the noble Lord is endeavouring to do something that has never yet been achieved by any country, civilised or savage; by any nation, Eastern or Western; by any form of government, constitutional or despotic; or by any kind of religion, Christian or pagan. When it is suggested that we should adopt a system which neither Caesar nor Napoleon could carry out, and which even the Founder of Christianity preached and preached in vain, one is not unduly sceptical in doubting whether the noble Lord will achieve the purpose he has undertaken.
It has been attempted by many people, but it has never succeeded completely, it has never lasted anything but an extremely short time. May I suggest to the noble Lord that a far simpler method of carrying out his object would be to withdraw his present Bill and introduce another to do away with rich men, because unless you can denaturalise wealth altogether and make it into a thing which it is not at the present moment you will never be able in this country to make the possession of wealth carry with it burdens which not having it relieves you of. The noble Lord must to a certain extent have realised the difficulty of his task, because in the form that his Bill takes it does not live up to the high principle with which he started. As I understand, he allows people to contract out of the obligations simply by paying an annual super-tax. The rich people against whom obviously this Bill is intended can most easily contract out of it, while the people who will find it much 550 more difficult to contract out will be the poorest of the class who come inside the £400 limit. In other words, this is a Bill which is going to press most heavily on those whom, perhaps, I may describe as the poor but honest rich—the class of which we often hear as being those who suffer so heavily whenever there is a Liberal Government in power. Either they will have to pay this perpetual super-tax, which hits a man with £400 a year more than one much richer, or else they will have to do the service which the richer men will get out of. I am bound to say that I think this Bill is probably the most unworkable measure that has ever been submitted to your Lordships' House. The noble Lord denied that he was a democrat and said he belonged to some school, the name of which he did not specify. I can only say that if this Bill typifies its teachings, the school to which he belongs is certainly different from the easy-going school of democracy.
Though this debate has been confined very largely to the question of this Bill, there has been a certain amount of discussion as to the safety of the country in the case of a foreign war. I do not want to delay your Lordships with a discussion on that—it is not really germane to the Bill— but in reply to the speeches which dealt with that particular aspect of the question I would submit this to your Lordships. The whole of the present position has been, and is being, carefully reviewed by the Committee of Imperial Defence; and the fact that the Prime Minister has announced his intention of making a statement upon this question causes it to be extremely difficult for us to discuss it at the present moment. Since the last very comprehensive statement that was made on the subject—the one made by Mr. Balfour in 1905—the position has in certain features undergone change and the discussions we have had have been based on those older debates which, in some respects at any rate, are to a certain extent out of date. Therefore I do not want to go into the broad question of our position to-night, because in the first place, I suggest that it would be better to defer a discussion of that kind until we have the full and most recent facts before us; and, secondly, I do not want to take up your Lordships' time with that which is really outside the purview of this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, despite the somewhat severe castigation which the noble Lord opposite has administered to my noble friend's Bill, I think that Lord Willoughby may rest satisfied that he has not only initiated a very important and interesting debate, but that amidst all the divergent opinions as to the particular remedy which he proposes for our present national unpreparedness there has been one note common to every speech which has been made, with, perhaps, the exception of the speech made by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and the speech made by the noble Lord who has just sat down—I refer to the fact that every member of this House who has spoken has recognised the necessity of our taking some step forward from our present position. That is in itself a very important admission, whether we are to take it in the direction which Lord Willoughby proposes, or whether, as some noble Lords even sitting on this Bench advocate, in the direction which Lord Newton foreshadowed, or whether it should be taken in some other direction which I will endeavour to bring before your Lordships. At all events, it is a great point that in this Assembly it is recognised almost as a platitude that it is necessary that we should go forward in some direction; that we cannot stay where we are.
I am not sure that the noble Lord was not a little too severe on the proposal that those who are best endowed with this world's goods should take the lead. At all events, there is no assembly to which that appeal can be addressed with more force than your Lordships' House. I will undertake to say this, that if the services in the forces of the Crown by the members of this House are placed against those of any 600 men, either picked from the professions or taken at random from any part of these islands, it will be found that your Lordships' House comes out easily at the top. Therefore we have some special reason to speak. I do not think that those who were in a position to take up officers' commissions have anything to look back upon with regret, or that we have any apology to make for them. When the war broke out we had, of course, to enlist a large number of men; we could have done with more, but in officers I think we commissioned in one year, as against 800 officers usually commissioned, no fewer than 4,800. That shows the way in which that class came 552 forward when their services were most needed. And let it be remembered, though I do not think the soldier's pay is excessive —under present conditions I think it is reasonable remuneration—the officer, for his class and considering the other occupations which are open to a man of his intelligence, is infinitely worse paid than the private or non-commissioned officer; therefore the attractions are considerably less.
I do not know whether the noble Lord opposite was quite correct in his history. He not only told my noble friend—which was very flattering to him—that he was attempting to do that which Napoleon, Caesar, and others had failed to do, but he went on to say that at no time, under no system of government, had it ever been laid upon the wealthy to provide for the defence of the country as compared with the less favoured classes. Is that correct? Surely in old days under the feudal system the knights were not only expected to show the way into action, but they were expected to raise the lower orders of fighting people and to pay them to a large extent. In fact, the whole defence of the country, if I remember rightly, practically depended on this class.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
That may be so. But I think if the noble Lord looks up his history he will find that he went a little further than he can make good. But a much more serious objection has been raised in the speech of my noble friend Lord Hardinge, and in the speech of the mover of the Bill. They urged that this Bill is necessary if only to show the poor, to use the expression of Lord Willoughby, that they are not brigaded simply to maintain the possessions of the rich. One thing comes from that very clearly. It is high time that in the education in the national schools some effort was made to teach every child what advantage he gains from being a citizen of this country rather than of another country. I trust that some Education Minister will some day consider the matter. We spend from £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 annually on education; we give free education and a number of other advantages; but we never teach the children by history or by modern practice what are the advantages to a child or a 553 man living under this Constitution, the freest, as we consider, in the world and the best protected. I hope that this reproach will not be allowed to continue without some effort on our part to remove it.
I am bound to say that many of us on this Bench doubt whether it would be wise to lay down a precedent by which would be put on one class a responsibility which in these days must certainly rest on all. Once you had laid down that precedent you would find it very difficult to go back on it. Difficult as that makes it for us to support the measure which my noble friend has brought forward, it would be— and I am sure it is recognised by Lord Newton—still more difficult, if it were in order for him to put his Amendment, for us to commit ourselves to a sort of sidewind opinion in favour of universal service, on which, to do them justice, the advocates of it have not been afraid to challenge a direct vote on one occasion at least in this House. This is not the time and these are not the means by which such a question should be decided. It would, however, be deplorable if we stopped short at that point and came to the conclusion that no advantage could be gained and no progress made after such a debate as this. I hope the last word has not been said by the Government.
The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack made, as he always does, a very strong case for trusting to the present means and not diverging from them. He is a convinced defender of the voluntary system. He told us, in language which I believe he will live to withdraw, that compulsion of any kind for home defence is not compatible with a voluntary foreign Army. I know as well as the noble Viscount all the difficulties, but I do not think those difficulties are insuperable if for the purpose of the defence of the country it is necessary to have compulsion of some description at home. And, again, he told us that compulsion was not desirable and was not wanted. To say that it is not desirable is to hold a conviction which any man of his experience has a right to hold; but when he says it is not wanted I think we have a right to ask on what he founds that assumption. I do not want in any sense to make a Party attack, but I should like him to grapple with the position as it is and the position which he foreshadowed 554 to us seven years ago. It is not the noble and learned Viscount's fault that all his hopes have not been realised. But, after all, who could listen to Lord Lovat's speech about the paucity of officers and want of training and not realise that the noble Lord was speaking with great weight and saying that which could not be contradicted by any soldier in this House or by any soldier you could bring from the War Office? That is a very serious matter.
We are 13,000 short in the Army; the. Special Reserve is, I believe, nearly 30,000 short; but the Territorial Army is nearly 60,000 short. All those figures we might dilate upon, but that is not our purpose. We believe that the Government have worked vehemently, and that the noble and learned Viscount and the present Secretary of State for War have done all they could to make effective the voluntary system as it stands; they have spared nothing in organisation; and they have spent an amount of money which largely accounts for the fact that their Estimates with less men are still nearly equal to the figure when they took over the business nearly seven years ago. But you cannot fill a ship with a spoon. You cannot fill the gaps unless you can get the necessary recruits and the necessary number of officers. Now, the noble and learned Viscount told us that compulsion in any form—and, I gather from that, any change from the present system—was not wanted. I would ask the Lord President of the Council, who, I believe, is going to speak to-morrow night, whether that is the opinion of the General Staff and of the Chief of the General Staff. I know that this question of asking the opinion of the military advisers of the Government is one on which there is a difference of opinion between us on the two sides of the House. I can only say that when I had the honour of serving with Lord Roberts in the War Office I was pressed over and over again in the House of Commons as to whether it was his opinion that such-and-such a number of troops were sufficient or such-and-such a number of officers were required, and I cannot believe that it is contrary to the public interest that we should know, in the present depleted state of our resources as compared with the ideal that was held out to us seven years ago, and with the very great change that has occurred in the Fleets of rival Powers, whether the 555 military advisers are satisfied with the troops they will have remaining at their disposal.
We quite admit that the Expeditionary Force can start. The Secretary of State the other day claimed that he could send 162,000 men abroad. I believe that to be perfectly accurate. I know that in the present state of the Reserve, which will not be so strong in two or three years time, there would be still a considerable residue left. We want to know the military value of that residue, and until we get that information we really are shooting in the air. I ask the Government to-night to take us a little into their confidence. Lord Cromer made an appeal that, so far as I could judge, went more home to the House than any made in the course of this debate. He said, "Why cannot you settle this question on non-Party lines?" Take one question, on which Lord Sydenham made a strong appeal. He pointed out the immense advantage which had come from the Boy Scout system. On that there at once comes the question of Cadet training—the training of boys in schools, part of the noble and learned Viscount's original proposals. Matters have moved on since then. I am not impeaching him for dropping it. But if the case was strong when he included it in his original proposals, it is ten times stronger now. Look at it from every point of view. If you had Cadet training, universal and compulsory, in schools, you would be doing only that which every doctor would advise for the physical benefit of the boys. You would be helping every boy afterwards, if he chose to join either the Regular forces or the Territorials, to accomplish his drills in the minimum of time; you would be helping every officer by enabling him to train in less time the men who came under him. I defy any one to find a real solid argument against compulsory Cadet training in our present condition. Cannot we induce the Government to join hands with us in considering this question? My noble friend Lord Curzon once suggested a sort of round-table conference. Let us get forward in some direction. Let not this debate end, like so many, in vain repetitions.
We made when in office as large a provision as we were able to, and as large as we were asked to by our military advisers; but there is now a state of things for which 556 what we left in 1905 was wholly inadequate, as much as it was to the state of things which the noble and learned Viscount found in 1907. We have now in these days of excitement on other questions surely the strongest reason for taking this one question out of the arena of Party politics. We have the Constitution in the melting pot. We have plenty of chances of civil disorder. Is not that a sufficient sacrifice to the Party system without every point which is raised on the most urgent question of national defence being thrown into the same line? The noble and learned Viscount led us to hope that at some time or another the Prime Minister would make a statement on the whole naval and military position. We were promised that nearly a year ago. Time is passing. Cannot we take the military question out, it being admitted by all parties that some provision must be made against invasion? Every soldier admits that the present provision is not sufficient, simply through lack of officers and lack of training, and not through lack of men. That is the point on which we ask the noble Viscount opposite to give us an opportunity of seeing whether the two sides of the House, working together, with the best military opinion to guide us, cannot come to some point where we can take a step forward and save ourselves from the impeachment, which would lie heavily upon us in the future, that during seven years of profound peace we were not able to make proper preparation for an emergency which abroad as well as at home is known not to be very far from us.
THE EARL OF STRADBROKE
My Lords, in giving my support to this Bill I say at once that I should prefer that it were possible to find all the men we wanted by the voluntary system. But unfortunately that is not the case. The arguments in favour of the Bill have been put before your Lordships with great force and clearness, and there is no object to be gained in going over the arguments again. It is quite clear that owing to the small number of our land forces a tremendous strain is placed upon our Fleet, and in case of war numbers of ships would be retained in home waters which otherwise would be free to protect our trade routes or to strengthen the main Fleet. I have not in any way lost faith in the Territorial Force, As I still have the honour of holding a commission in that Force it would not do 557 for me to sing its praises, and there are plenty in this country who criticise its weaknesses. But I do think that too much credit cannot be given to the rank and file, who give up their annual holiday to attend camp besides devoting a great deal of time during the year to drills, many of the men attending over 100 drills in the year. Unfortunately there are not enough of them. It is true that many counties have done fairly well, but we have never yet approached the full number that we were asked to find; and it must be remembered always that the Government told us that that number was the minimum body of men that they required. Even if we had the full number I do not think the County Associations would have been satisfied, because we ought to have a waiting list of men ready to come forward and fill up vacancies whenever they occur. It has always been our pride in this country that a great deal of the public work has been done voluntarily without any sort of remuneration. Now, unfortunately, it seems that the spirit is spreading that every one is to be paid for what he does, and there are throughout the country a number of men who are quite well enough off to spare both the time and the money to make themselves efficient Territorials who at the present time take no active part in the defence of the country. When they are approached they make various excuses. Some say that they agree with those who criticise the Territorial Force and say it is no use, and therefore there is no object in their joining that Force. Others will plead as an excuse the stress of competition in civil life; and no doubt it is very galling to a man who is keen about his profession to find himself left behind and rivals taking his place owing to the fact that he is devoting some part of his time to the public service and doing work for his country. In that way we lose a great deal of very good material which should be at the disposition of the Territorial Force. The need for this Bill is due to the apathy of those who are well off, and for that reason I shall support the principle of the Bill by voting for it if it comes to a Division. And I feel sure, in spite of what has been said by some of those who have addressed your Lordships to-night, that when it is seen that those who are in a comfortable position are taking an active part in providing a strong defensive force for this country, many who hang back will come forward and join the Territorials.
My Lords, I should like first to make a few remarks about Lord Lucas's history, for the conclusions to which I have come are totally different from his. I cannot detain the House by giving a lecture for half an hour on the battles in which nobles, princes, and kings have been killed, from olden days right down to the present time; but the pages of Froissart show that amongst the rich men of France there were leaders of the Army. And in the Wars of the Roses, when there was no property except land, the landowners went on exterminating one another. Look at the death-roll of Flodden Field.
Can the noble Lord quote a case where rich men were compelled to serve and the poor men were excused from serving?
I think you will find in mediaeval history that if a man did not go out and serve he lost his property, had his shield turned upside down, and was otherwise badly treated.
At any rate, if the noble Lord will look the matter up he will find that what I say is right. Take the Army of Louis XIV. If a gentleman did not come forward he was boycotted or ill-treated. I do not say he would have been tortured exactly, but he lost some of his property or was disagreeably treated in some way. In those days a landowner could not stop behind—he had to go forward on one side or the other. The leaders of trade unions will always disapprove of any form of compulsory service, but it does not follow that the working classes will always disapprove of it. I think it will be brought home to the working classes generally that compulsory service is desirable. At the same time I think they would not show such hostility to Lord Willoughby de Broke's Bill as to Lord Newton's Amendment; and on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread I shall vote for Lord Willoughby's Bill. The money clauses, to which much objection has been taken, can certainly be struck out in Committee. I do not suppose that Lord Willoughby really meant to send them down to the House of Commons. He probably put them in print so that people could see the suggestions, and those who 559 sit in another place can take advantage of them or not as they choose. Some money clauses had to be in the Bill, but they can be taken out as I have suggested. This House contains many Peers of military experience, and if five or six of them would form themselves into a small sub-committee to consider suitable Amendments I believe this Bill would come up for Third Reading in a workable shape. I do not think it is in a workable shape now, but I believe it would be if a sub-committee such as I have suggested settled its shape.
The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said that this Bill would deprive the Territorials of their officers; that the men who would be serving in the Territorials as officers would be taken by this Bill as privates. But surely the War Office have power to promote from the ranks, and would certainly be able to give commissions to the best of those who had gone through the drills and requirements laid down. Lord Lovat made a speech; with which I entirely agree, especially when he said that the effect of this Bill would be to officer the Territorial Force. Take the case of France. Before 1870 any man of means could be bought out of the 560 compulsion to serve; he could pay a certain sum of money to avoid it. The result was that there were very few well-to-do French people in the Army. But after the Republic had been established a little time it was made compulsory for every one to serve in the ranks. Many disliked that, and they found that the only way to avoid it was by becoming officers. The result has been that the French Army is now very much better officered than it was in 1870. Also the ranks of the Reserve of Officers have been filled up by officers of means who served for a short time in the Army and then retired but who find their proper places in the scheme of mobilisation. I beg to support the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ The further debate again adjourned till to-morrow.