HL Deb 08 July 1925 vol 61 cc1097-123

THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND rose to call attention to the treatment of Major Adam, late 5th Lancers, by the Army Council; to ask whether the War Office will conduct an Inquiry into all the circumstances of the case; and to move for Papers. The noble Duke said: My Lords, the subject of this Motion is, I am afraid, a very old story, but my excuse for bringing it to the attention of the House is that it is a story which has a very unsatisfactory conclusion. As it has received great publicity and formed the subject of a libel action, as it has affected and continues to affect the reputation not only of an individual but of the Army Council, and as the officer has written a book in which he makes the most serious charges against other officers and against the Army Council, it seems to be a matter which is worth the consideration of your Lordships.

The case presented to the world by this officer, Major Adam, formerly of the 5th Lancers and at one time a, Member of Parliament for Woolwich, is that he had a promising military and political career ruined by the action of the Army Council, and his final appeal, one of many appeals, to that body for a revision of his case was summarily rejected last autumn. It is to be hoped that the War Office can satisfactorily explain to this House the principles which have guided them in the conduct of this case. If they cannot it seems desirable in the public interest that they should undertake an inquiry into all the circumstances.

I should like to make it clear that I am not making any charges against the Army Council or against anybody else, because I am not in a position to do so, having only heard one side of the case. All I am going to do this afternoon is to give the ease which Major Adam has presented to the world, which has been accepted by a considerable section of the Press, and which is believed in by a great many people in this country. If the War Office can show that the facts which I am going to give are untrue, and if they can explain satisfactorily the principles which have guided them in the conduct of this case, I shall have no more to say, because I have no desire to press this Motion. It seems clearly desirable that such charges as those made by Major Adam should not remain without reply. If his statements are true, they disclose a most serious situation, and suggest that he has suffered a very great injustice. If they are untrue, their falsity ought to be exposed, and Major Adam himself ought to be exposed.

The following is a very brief summary of the main facts of the case. I will try to be as concise as possible. In 1906 Major Adam was serving in the 5th Lancers at Aldershot. He had at that time a distinguished career behind him, and an equally distinguished career in prospect. He was a graduate of the Staff College, had seen considerable war service, was proficient in foreign languages, and had received uniformly favourable reports from his commanding officers. His General Officer commanding at Aldershot informed him in writing that he would not be recommended for promotion in consequence of an unfavourable report. The report referred to had, he declares, never been shown to him, and this involved a breach of the King's Regulations, for, according to the King's Regulations, if there is in a report anything unfavourable to an officer, reflecting in any way upon his conduct, either professional or otherwise, that report is bound to be shown to him. He declares that this report was not shown to him. He at once applied to see it, and after some delay, it was shown to him. It was a report of the Brigade Commander, which stated that his com- manding officer had given him chance after chance, and found him quite impossible. His commanding officer was unable or unwilling to explain this report. Major Adam appealed to the War Office officially. What happened to this appeal is unknown, and he has never been able to find out. A few days later a War Office letter was forwarded to him by the General Officer commanding at Aldershot, intimating that the Army Council, after full consideration of his case, had decided to call upon him to resign his Commission. The words used were to the effect that the King had no further use for his services. That expression is employed only in cases where an officer has done something of a discreditable nature.

There are two points which seem to be worth noting in this connection. This decision of the Army Council was not apparently based upon the report which Major Adam had seen, although it had not been shown to him when it should have been shown to him, but upon another report which he had never seen at all. The report which he had seen had at that time not reached the War Office, so that they could not possibly have acted upon it. They acted upon a report of the General Officer commanding at Aldershot, which had never been shown to him, and has not since been shown to him. Accordingly, this letter was sent in direct violation of the King's Regulations, which require that such a report should be shown to the officer concerned. In the second place, the King's Regulations require that before an officer is asked to resign his Commission unfavourable reports should have been rendered in two successive years. That was not carried out in this case, for there is only a single report against him.

Upon his receiving this communication Major Adam at once interviewed the Brigadier who was responsible for the report. The latter expressed unbounded astonishment and dismay, and the very next morning went up to the War Office himself, and not only succeeded in inducing the Army Council to withdraw their threat, but actually persuaded them to give Major Adam a post on the General Staff at Whitehall. He was further assured by the Brigadier that his report should have no deleterious effect upon his career. This procedure seems a most remarkable one. An officer holding a high command reports that one of the officers under his command is quite impossible, and the War Office declare that he is unfit to hold a Commission, but the very day after having come to that decision, they give him an appointment on the General Staff, which is generally regarded as the goal of every ambitious officer.

One year after this surprising and inexplicable occurrence—that is, in October, 1909—another hardly less mysterious incident occurred. Major Adam received an official communication informing him that, on account of further unfavourable reports, the Army Council had decided to place five officers of the 5th Lancers on half-pay. One of these officers was Major Adam. As he had not been serving with his regiment for the past year, but had been at the War Office, it is difficult to see how any further report could have been unfavourable to him, but if there were any such report, it should obviously have been shown to him. He declares that it was not shown to him, nor were the other reports which reflected upon the remaining four officers shown to them. Beside, he had been distinctly led to believe that the only unfavourable report which he had ever seen had been cancelled. Accordingly, he applied officially to see these reports on his conduct.

At this point the mystery which surrounds this very mysterious case deepens perceptibly. He was sent for by the Chief of the General Staff, whose private secretary informed him that his request to see these reports was quite reasonable and justifiable, but if he insisted on seeing them he would be deprived of his Staff appointment. In these circumstances, of course, he had no choice but to acquiesce under protest, and to withdraw his application to see them. Major Adam continued to retain his Staff appointment at the War Office until 1909, when he stood for Parliament as Unionist candidate for Woolwich and was returned at the General Election in January, 1910. He was therefore seconded from the Service, in order to fulfil his Parliamentary duties. All applications to the War Office for reconsideration of his case having failed, he decided to raise the question in Parliament of the unfair treatment of himself and his brother officers, by being placed on half-pay without being shown the evidence against them.

To cut a long story short, he accused the Brigadier who had reported on these officers of wilful and deliberate misstatements of facts, and, before doing so, he informed that officer and the Secretary of State of the action that he was going to take. The Secretary of State promised Parliament that the case would be investigated. As a matter of fact, it appears never to have been investigated at all. All that happened was that Major Adam was invited to submit in writing the evidence upon which he had based his accusation. He not unnaturally replied that the subject could not be adequately dealt with by correspondence, and he requested a full inquiry and a personal examination of everybody concerned. Upon this the War Office published in the Press a letter which they had written to the Brigadier, whom Major Adam had accused, and who had himself asked for a Court of Inquiry, as, indeed, he was bound to do, since his character had been very severely reflected upon in public. In this letter they informed the Brigadier that they had investigated the case, and were satisfied that his conduct had been in all respects correct and fair, and—this is an important point—at the end of their letter they drew special attention to the fact that Major Adam had been called upon to retire from the Service some years before, and had been given another chance only owing to the Brigadier's intervention.

I confess that this action seems to be both unjust and futile. It seriously injured Major Adam, and it injured the Army Council hardly less. It will be noted that if Major Adam's account is true the letter gives a most misleading interpretation of the events of 1906, and, while it casts the gravest reflection upon him, it fails to explain what train of reasoning had led the War Office to discover that an officer who was unfit to wear His Majesty's uniform on Monday was eminently qualified for an important Staff appointment on Tuesday. It seems most unfortunate that the War Office failed to hold this inquiry, which they had promised both to Major Adam and to the Brigadier whom he had accused, and who had asked for it. But, instead of carrying out their promise, they seem to have endeavoured to defend the accused by casting reflections upon the character of the accuser.

After this Major Adam was unable to obtain further consideration of the case in Parliament, as he lost his seat at the next General Election, which occurred about a year later; and he lost his seat largely owing to the capital that his political opponents were able to make out of the War Office letter, which, they naturally concluded, involved something discreditable against his character. Having lost his seat, he tried to secure employment on the Staff, but was informed that the Army Council had decided that an officer who had behaved as he had in Parliament could not be re-employed. He was also informed by the War Office that they knew the whole story, and therefore they were not prepared to employ him again. This was a somewhat cryptic remark, which evidently had a sinister meaning.

It will be observed that he had thus not only been deprived of his political career by the Army Council's public attack upon him, but he was now to be deprived of his military career too because in his capacity as a Member of Parliament he had ventured to question the procedure of the military authorities in regard to the system of confidential reports. All attempts to elicit from the War Office the reasons why he had been placed on half-pay continued to meet with evasive answers, and therefore, in order to clear his character, he at last asked whether he could issue a public statement himself in the Press in the same way as the War Office had issued theirs. This request, which seems to have been only a fair one, was refused.

After further attempts to obtain satisfaction Major Adam at last abandoned all efforts to obtain satisfaction by these methods, and in 1914 decided to bring an action for libel against the Army Council. That action resulted in a verdict for £2,000 damages, and the disclosures at the trial of the manner in which the confidential reports were rendered and the conduct of the Army Council in publishing the nature of those reports, without investigating the case, or allowing Major Adam to be hoard in his defence, created a public sensation, and called for scathing comments by the Judge who heard the case. The War Office did not deny the libel, but pleaded privilege, and on that ground took the case to the Court of Appeal, where the verdict was reversed, and the decision of the Court of Appeal was upheld in the House of Lords. Thus Major Adam again failed to obtain satisfaction from the Army Council, who evaded responsibility on the narrow legal ground of privilege. The rest of the story may be very briefly told. When the War broke out, in spite of his qualifications as a Staff College graduate and his knowledge of foreign languages and Staff experience, he was only given a few unimportant jobs at home. He continued to appeal for a revision of his case, with the same lack of success, and finally, in 1917, his health having broken down, he was required to retire from the Service. He continued to press the War Office for a revision of his case, the last appeal being made in October last, and met with the same refusal. During the whole period since 1910 the reflection cast by the War Office on his character has not ceased to prejudice his chance of standing for Parliament.

Such are the facts of the case, as given by Major Adam and not by me. He asserts positively that there is a great deal behind all this, and there would seem to be some reason for his assertion. It is rather difficult, for instance, to suppose that in 1906 the Army Council would have ordered an officer who seems to have had such an unimpeachable professional record to resign his Commission on the strength of a single unfavourable report which, as a matter of fact, had not reached them when they sent in the order. Moreover, the terms of the order would seem to preclude any possibility of that order having been given on account of his military record. The whole attitude of the War Office seems to indicate that they acted upon information which reflected on his character apart from his military capacity. Major Adam asserts that they had such information, that it was false, and that it was deliberately and maliciously given to them, and he is prepared to give evidence proving that they had this information, that they imparted it to others, and that it is false, and I have seen that evidence. Moreover, he has written a book in which he sets out in black and white certain definite charges against a former officer of the 5th Lancers whom he mentions by name, and who was the commanding officer of that regiment, and he declares that this officer, who was commanding the regiment in 1906, deliberately supplied false information to the Brigadier and that the whole of the report of the Brigadier and General Officer at Aldershot is based upon that information. His charge against the Brigadier is that he acted recklessly and ignorantly and without due regard to the consequences of his action, and his accusation against the commanding officer is that he acted maliciously and out of personal enmity. Those were the charges made in 1914. They were never answered. The Brigadier had died by that time, but the commanding officer was and is still alive. If the charges be true that officer has been grossly libelled, yet never in 1914, or since, has he ventured to defend himself against charges so injurious to his character, so far as I know. If all these charges are false then Major Adam should clearly he shown up. Obviously it is desirable in the public interest to prevent an ex-officer publishing defamatory statements about his former superior officers and the Army Council.

The conclusion of the whole matter, as presented by Major Adam, is this. He has seen his military career wrecked, his political career lost to him, and his character as a gentleman impugned. His health is seriously affected, and all this is, he claims, owing to the action of the Army Council, and the question is by what principle has the Army Council been guided. Let us suppose what seems difficult to believe, that their action has been based solely on Major Adam's military record. In that case, if his story is true, he seems to have suffered serious injustice at their hands. In the first place, the King's Regulations, as I have shown, have been violated, because he was originally condemned upon one report, instead of upon two reports received in successive years, and also because the confidential reports upon which he was then and subsequently judged have not been shown to him; secondly, and more important still, because, while ostensibly judging him on his military record, they have gone out of their way to impugn his private character also. On the other hand, supposing the War Office have been in- fluenced, as he claims they have been, and as there seems some reason to suppose they have been, by other alleged facts which have nothing to do with his military capacity, in that case the injustice seems to be graver still, for they have given other reasons than the true ones for the action which they have taken, and have denied him any opportunity of clearing his character from the real charges or from the stigma they have gratuitously placed upon it.

I submit, my Lords, that the time has come when this mystery should be cleared up and the War Office should disclose to Major Adam all the information upon which they have acted, whether in the form of confidential reports or of other communications which reflect in any way upon his character as an officer or as a gentleman, and give him full opportunity of being heard in his own defence. As the matter stands at present the only conclusions which the public can draw are these. On the one side is an officer whose private and public characters have been impugned, and all he asks is that the facts against him should be made known to him, and that he should have art opportunity of defending himself. On the other side is a body which has already been unable to defend itself against a charge of gross unfairness, made in a Court of Justice, but which nevertheless, if his story is true, has wrapped itself in a cloud of mystery, and given him none of the information upon which he has been judged. The conclusion which the public are likely to reach is that a man who only asks that his public and private life should be subjected to full inquiry is not likely to have anything to hide—not so much as a body which refuses to give any explanation of its conduct. This conclusion may be unjust, and if the noble Earl who is going to reply can show that the facts which I have given, and which are not my facts, but those which Major Adam has given—if he can show that those facts are untrue, and can satisfactorily explain the principles which have actuated the War Office throughout the case, I have no more to say, and I shall have no desire to press my Motion. I do submit, however, that, as the facts stand at present, and as far as they are known to the public, some explanation is required. I beg to move.


My Lords, in venturing to address your Lordships for the first time I hope that I shall be granted the indulgence of the House. I am very desirous of supporting the Motion made by the noble Duke. I am Colonel of the 5th Lancers, and when I was Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the Regiment Major Adam was an officer serving under my command, and my reports on him were uniformly good. I left the regiment before the episodes referred to occurred, and my knowledge of them is only through hearsay, through reading the newspapers, and through conversations with Major Adam, who has from time to Lime spoken to me and written to me about them. I naturally feel that, having made good reports on him while commanding the regiment, I must be interested in the case as Colonel of the regiment at the present moment. I support most heartily the Motion made by the noble Duke.


My Lords, it is always a pleasure to hear a noble Lord speak for the first time in this House, and it is a special pleasure to hear the noble and gallant Viscount, and I trust we shall often hear him on subsequent occasions. I also listened with great attention to the speech of the noble Duke, couched in terms of great moderation, in which he intimated that if the facts which he alleged were disproved in a satisfactory fashion he would be satisfied. I have risen at this moment for a very particular reason. I was Secretary of State throughout the period with which these events are concerned. I entered on my duties with no desire to deal with the case of any officer in a perfunctory fashion, but to apply to any such case the principles which a lawyer would carry out in weighing evidence. I did apply those principles in the case of Major Adam. I was intimately concerned with the case of Major Adam, and I was responsible for every step taken in it, and I took no step and was party to no step without carefully investigating the circumstances. I saw Major Adam, I saw the members of the Army Council, and I saw the officers concerned in the decision, and I was satisfied, and more than satisfied, with the decision which was come to. The noble and gallant Viscount tells us that he was in command of the 5th Lancers. So he was, but at an earlier period than the period to which these events relate. As to whether there were confidential reports which came under the notice of Major Adam at that period I will say nothing. I leave it to the noble Earl who represents the War Office.

I am going to confine myself to what happened from 1906 to 1910, when I was responsible. This case was raised in the House of Commons. I was Secretary of State at the time, and I answered fully Major Adam's case, and I believe to the satisfaction of the House of Commons, which decided accordingly. We have nothing to do with that here. We are dealing with a case brought up by the noble Duke. I ask your Lordships' attention to one or two circumstances. I am not going to ask the House to rely on my word, but I am going to ask them to rely on documents. I am also going to rely on the decision given by the Law Courts and by your Lordships' House, in which the whole case was disposed of in such a way as to decide the case raised by the noble Duke. The noble Duke will not desire to challenge a decision on law and facts by this House.

The year 1906 was a crucial year for the Army. It had been determined that the Expeditionary Force, then in the making, should be brought up to the highest state of efficiency possible. It was desired to make it fit to hold its own in the field against any foreign nation against whom it might he brought, and the instructions to General French, who was then Commander-in-Chief at Aldershot, were to see that that was done with the two Divisions he was training there, and also with the cavalry regiments which he was training at Aldershot at the time. One of the means of securing efficiency, and one of the most important means, is to make it clear that you have efficient leaders, and particularly cavalry leaders, because Cavalry is a delicate arm and requires good leadership at least as much as any other arm in the field. Those were the broad instructions given to the Commander-in-Chief, and he proceeded to carry them out.

In the summer of 1906, Lieut.-Colonel Graham, who was commanding the 5th Lancers, became very uneasy about the state of his regiment. He thought that certain of his officers were not fit to lead a cavalry regiment in the field, and he Consulted his Brigadier-General Scobell, afterwards Major-General Scobell, one of the most careful and honourable officers in the Army. The powers of the Army Council were quite clear. Under the Royal Warrant the King, who is advised by the Secretary of State and the Army Council, may remove an officer at any time, and he may remove him without giving any reason. There is no question of confidential reports. The first consideration is efficiency—that there must be officers fit to lead in the field. That must be paramount, and that is a principle very carefully applied. The regiments are inspected annually, and also specially, and, if the reports are adverse, the King's Regulations declare that these reports are to be communicated as soon as possible.

That was the state of the law of the Army when Lieut.-Colonel Graham entered upon his investigation. He consulted his Brigadier, and he and his Brigadier made the most close and careful inspection of the 5th Lancers in its training, and they drew up a report which was very unfavourable to the capacity of certain of the officers in that regiment for the performance of their duties, and particularly of the duties which they might be required to perform in war. That report, made by Lieut.-Colonel Graham and Brigadier-General Scobell in conjunction, was made in October, 1906, and was referred to afterwards as the combined report. It was communicated to Major Adam, and the purport of it was that he was unfit to be a cavalry leader in the field. The Army Council, naturally concerned with this, directed General French to make a special report, and General French did make a special report in very scathing terms. I do not know that there is any reason why I should not tell your Lordships what that report was. It is a long time ago, and I tell it the more willingly because, as I shall show in a moment, it was communicated at once to Major Adam.

General French's report is dated November 3, 1906, and I think I had better read it to your Lordships as it came. It is addressed to the Secretary, 'War Office, London:—

"SIR, I have the honour to bring to the notice of the Army Council that Major W. A. Adam, 5th Lancers, although he possesses some exceptional qualities fitting him for employment on intelligence work, none of them are such as are necessary in a good Cavalry leader in the Field. So much is this the case that the Officer commanding the Regiment has found it necessary to relieve him in the command of the Service Squadron by a junior Officer, relegating him to the command of the Reserve squadron."— That was an arrangement which it was within the power of the officer commanding the regiment to make. I can in no way consider such a state of affairs satisfactory, and although I consider Major Adam to be an officer of ability and fitted for employment in the Intelligence Department as an Interpreter or in some kindred employment"— Major Adam had a very good knowledge of languages— I do not consider that he will ever become an efficient Squadron Commander in the Field, an opinion shared by Major-General H. Scobell, C.B., Commanding the 1st Cavalry Brigade, and Lieutenant-Colonel H. Graham, D.S.O., the Officer Commanding the Regiment. In these circumstances, I wish to place on record my opinion as above expressed, so that if it is decided to leave him where he is, which might involve at some time his having to take Command in the Field, it may be clearly understood that I "— General French— cannot hold myself responsible for any vagaries the may commit. Now the noble Duke has suggested that this report was not shown to Major Adam, and I do not doubt for a moment that the noble Duke is acting on information which seemed to him, from the way it was given, reliable. Unfortunately for that view, it has been judicially found, not by the military authorities but by this House sitting in its judicial capacity, that it is not true. Major Adam denied, as apparently he has denied it now, that he was shown that report, and the noble Duke states that he did not see it at once. Not only did he see the combined report made by the Commanding Officer and by his Brigadier—I have myself verified the endorsement showing that he saw it—but he saw, and saw at once, within a very few days, the report made by General French. In the witness box in the action to which I shall presently allude he denied that he had seen it. Unfortunately, the tribunal did not agree with the evidence he gave.

The case was very fully dealt with in your Lordship's House. Major Adam brought an action against the Secretary of the Army Council under circumstances to which I will come in a moment. That was tried before a jury, which the noble Duke says found in Major Adam's favour on the point of privilege; but on the facts Major Adam went, into the box, General French went into the box, and various people went into the box, and the evidence was sifted. When it came up to your Lordship's House it was dealt with, and this is what Lord Dunedin, who was one of the Judges, said upon the point as to whether the retort which I have read—a very damaging report—was shown to Major Adam. Major Adam said that it was not, but this is what Lord Dunedin says:— And that that report was communicated to the plaintiff, notwithstanding the denial in the box, is, I think, proved (a) by the evidence of General French; (b) by the expression used in the plaintiff's letter of March 25, 1911, in which he speaks of the communication of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief at Aldershot, which I hold in my hand, and requested him to apply for the (Colonel Graham's) report to be sent to me to read'; and (c) by the fact that in his, letter of December 9, 1906,"— which was a few days after the General's report had been sent in— he begs for reconsideration of the decision announced in that letter and makes no complaint of the non-communication of the report therein contained. In face of that it is a good deal for anybody to try to argue in this House that the Commander-in-Chief's report upon him was not communicated to Major Adam almost at once on its being made. Indeed, the endorsement which I have seen on the document would put that out of the question on other grounds. I was myself satisfied at the time that he had seen it, and I make this broad statement at this stage. It is with these two reports that, we are concerned. It is said that they resulted in injustice. It is said that they were influenced, or that at least the decision of the Army Council was influenced, by private gossip about Major Adam to which they had listened. I can only say, firstly, that these two reports themselves would be amply sufficient to entitle the Army Council to take the step it did and, secondly, as far as I have been able to find out, no question of private gossip about Major Adam's affairs or anything else was ever entertained by the Army Council, or ever came before them. What the Army Council said, in view of these two reports, was that Major Adam must resign, and they called upon him to do so.

Now I come to the next step. Had that decision, a decision which was clearly within the powers of the Army Council under the Royal Warrant, a decision which was amply justified by the two reports they had before them—the reports which Major Adam had seen—been acted upon that would have been the end of Major Adam; but, perhaps unfortunately, Major-General Scobell was a kindly man, as everybody who knew him remembers (he is now, alas, dead), and he went up to London and said: "Give this poor fellow another chance. He cannot be employed in the field, but he knows languages. He has been at the Staff College, and he might be suitable for employment in one of the branches of the Intelligence Department of the General Staff." That was done. The Army Council did not insist upon his resignation, but they put him upon half-pay, and he was employed in the War Office until 1909 in the capacity I have spoken of, and not on duty in the field. They never doubted the rightness of their decision not to allow him to continue as a cavalry leader, but they gave him this kind of employment, and he continued to have it until he sat for Woolwich, and then under the Army Regulations he went on half-pay in order to do so.

Then he goes to the House of Commons and there he makes a speech. Major-General Scobell was away in South Africa, but was on his way home and, notwithstanding that General Scobell had been his benefactor, certainly to this extent that he had saved him from dismissal and from being called on to resign, and had done everything in his power successfully to get him employment of another kind, Major Adam said this in his speech in the House of Commons—it is very important, to note the words because much followed upon them:— Major-General Scobell is on his way home at the present time from South Africa. He arrives in England at the end of this week and I hope when lie sees the report of this "— that is the speech Major Adam was making in the House of Commons— in the paper, as I intend he shall do, he will appreciate the meaning of the words 'wilful and deliberate mis-statement of facts.' That is what he charged Major-General Scobell with. I have tried to make it clear, and I hope he will turn up that paragraph in the King's Regulations which compels an officer in a case like this"— that is to say, charged with conduct unworthy of an officer and a gentleman— to refer the matter to his superior authority, the superior authority in this case being the Army Council. After the matter had been gone into, this is what the Lord Chancellor said in your Lordships' House about that passage: This speech must have conveyed to everyone who heard it or read the report the impression that Major-General Scobell was charged with conduct unworthy of an officer and a gentleman within the meaning of the King's Regulations. It is impossible to suppose that Major Adam did not intend to convey this impression. At the trial, however, he stated that he did not impute such unworthy conduct to Major-General Scobell, and that he said what he did merely in order that Major-General Scobell might demand an inquiry to clear himself, in course of which Major Adam believed information might be obtained with regard to the attack upon him which he believed was in the general report. The Lord Chancellor continued: I abstain from commenting on Major Adam's conduct in making, for such an indirect purpose, an unfounded attack upon General Scobell, who had rendered Major Adam great service at the time of his removal. So much for that, but the Army-Council naturally was very angry at what was said in the House.

It was suggested that what was said in the House was privileged, but Major-General Scobell, feeling his character was impugned, appealed to the Army Council, and the Army Council made an investigation. It was a very careful and full investigation, and as a result they replied to Major-General Scobell's request for an inquiry into his conduct, and they told him they had investigated the facts fully, that there was no reflection on him at all, that he need not be in the slightest degree under a misgiving about what he had done, and that it was the more surprising that Major Adam should have done this when he was under great obligations to Major General Scobell. On that Major Adam brought an action against the Army Council for libel. I am not sure that I was named in the writ. I may have been, because I was one of the Army Council who had sanctioned the vindication of Major-General Scobell. But the action was brought at any rate against the Secretary of the Army Council, and in the first instance Major Adam got from the jury—juries are emotional—damages, but when the case vent to the Court of Appeal the Court of Appeal said obviously this was a privileged communication, it was not a case in which the facts had not been gone into, in which the case had not been tried, but, they said, on the ground of privilege alone the action failed.

Then Major Adam appealed to the House of Lords, and your Lordships' House dismissed his appeal, using the language which I have spoken of, and finding that the confidential reports, of which he complained that they had not been communicated to him, had been shown to him at once. In that state of things I ask your Lordships to accept the decision of this House, and also the finding which I have stated, that all the confidential reports complained of had teen communicated to Major Adam, and to disregard what he suggests now. The case had been investigated twice, once by the War Office very fully, and again by this House, and in no case vas any reflection ever made on Major Adam's private character, further than this, that it was considered an unworthy thing to have attacked Major-General Scobell as he did in the House of Commons. For the rest, my connection with the case ceases at this time. I made a statement in the House of Commons to the same effect as I am making here. I ceased to be Secretary of State in 1911, when a subsequent event in this matter occurred with which the noble Earl who represents the War Office now may think fit to deal. I do not know whether he will or not, but at any rate I have put before your Lordships to the best of my ability what I have to say on the matter. I will only add this. I am quite sure the noble Duke only took action because he was thoroughly convinced of what he had been told was the truth, and, if I am right, then it is obvious some of the things he was told were not the truth.


I particularly said that I did not know what the truth was.


I know. I am saying that the noble Duke acted with great discretion in warning your Lordships' House that he only went on what he had been told. I have given some further information to the House, and, for the rest, I leave the matter to the noble Earl opposite.


My Lords, I need hardly say that I should be very glad indeed to give all the particulars that I can to my noble friend in regard to this question. The Army Council have nothing whatever to conceal. All they desire is to be absolutely fair to everybody concerned in this matter, not only to Major Adam, but, to others who may have been concerned in this case, especially to those, who are no longer among us and who are not able therefore to give any further information on the subject. As your Lordships are aware, these who were most intimately concerned in the case have passed away. I think we are very much indebted to the noble and learned Viscount who was Secretary of State for War at the time when the incident took place for the information which he has given to your Lordships to-day. The records of the War Office exist, but the noble and learned Viscount's recollection of the case is far more intimate, and his knowledge, therefore, is much greater than mine can be, for I can only obtain my information from the minutes and papers at the War Office. Some of the observations which I have to make in reply to my noble friend may repeat some of those made by the noble and learned Viscount, but I will endeavour to deal as briefly as I can with this case. I should like to add that I am sure your Lordships were very glad to hear the speech of the noble and gallant Viscount (Lord Allenby) to-day, and you will unite with him in the desire he expressed that every information shall be given in regard to this case. I will endeavour, therefore, to satisfy those who have put these questions to me.

My noble friend was good enough to let me know the various points he was going to raise, so that I have been able to go completely into them, and to get the considered reply of the Army Council on the matter. The noble and learned Viscount referred in his speech to the incidents in June, 1906; therefore I need not discuss them at any length. I should like to say that in June the commanding officer of Major Adam's regiment asked for permission to remove him from the command of a service squadron on the ground that he was unsuitable. A copy of this letter was given to Major Adam, and he took occasion to see the Brigade. Commander on the subject. Then we have heard from the noble and learned Viscount of the adverse report of October—the combined report—and also the further report—the special report—which was furnished to the Army Council by the General Officer-Commanding, Sir John French. I was glad to hear what the noble and learned Viscount said about the communication of the report of October—the combined report—to Major Adam, because there seems to be some doubt as to when it was communicated. The Lord Chancellor in his judgment said it was not shown to Major Adam before being sent in as it ought to have been by the King's Regulations, but it was shown to him some weeks later, about December 6, 1906. It would seem that was not the case. It was shown to him, or at any rate was received at the War Office and acted upon, before the report of Sir John French, which was dated I think November 3. In any ease the action which was taken was upon the report of Sir John French written on November 3, and communicated to Major Adam on November 8.

On November 26 Major Adam was given an interview by the Military Secretary. At this interview he was informed that, although his confidential reports until recently were not adverse in the technical meaning of the word, according to paragraph 214 of the King's Regulations, yet many of them were not altogether favourable. On December 1 Sir John French was informed that it had been decided that Major Adam should be called upon to retire from the Service, and the letter was communicated to Major Adam. Later, as the noble and learned Viscount has informed your Lordships, it was decided to give Major Adam a further trial on probation in the office of the Chief of the General Staff. I want to make it clear that it was on probation in the first instance. Major Adam accepted this appointment. He served for some time on probation, and in August, 1907, he was appointed General Staff Officer, third grade, under the Director of Military Operations. My noble friend in his letter to me said that Major Adam was under the impression that the adverse report which had been made about him had been cancelled. I should like to say that this matter has been investigated and there is no record in the War Office of anything which could have led Major Adam to suppose that the adverse reports had been cancelled. The noble Duke has said that there was a suspicion that there was something behind this action of the Army Council. As the noble and learned Viscount opposite has said, so far as I can see there is absolutely nothing to justify any such supposition, and in order to make that matter quite clear to your Lordships I should like to read an extract from the judgment of Lord Justice Buckley in the Court of Appeal. Lord Justice Buckley said this:— So far as I can see no imputation ever has been, or is now, made against either the character or the capacity of the Major except in respect of his efficiency as a leader of cavalry in the field. I hope this statement, combined with what the noble and learned Viscount has said, will show that it is not accurate to say that only one adverse report was seen by Major Adam. The letter of his commanding officer of June, 1906, was seen by him the adverse report of October, 1906, was seen by him; and the special report of November, 1906, was also seen by him. In addition, the annual report of his commanding officer, rendered in 1907 after he had left the Aldershot Command and become a General Staff Officer in the War Office, which stated that there was nothing to add to what was said in previous reports, was also communicated to Major Adam.

The next point put by the noble Duke is that on December 1, 1906, Major Adam was ordered to resign his Commission before any official report had reached the War Office. I think this has been explained by the noble and learned Viscount, and it seems perfectly clear from what I have already told your Lordships that the official report had been carefully considered by the Army Council before any action was taken. Then the noble Duke alludes to the fact of Major Adam being placed on half pay in 1907. Perhaps I may be allowed to mention the facts as they took place. In the first place I should like to quote a communiqué issued by the War Office to the Press on November 30, 1907, which ran as follows:— We are informed by the War Office that the recent action of the Army Council in placing five officers of the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers on half-pay was not due to any cause detrimental to the character of those officers. Though they were not considered suitable to retain their positions as officers in this Cavalry Regiment, their services can be, and in three cases are being, utilised in other appointments. The Regiment is not inefficient to take the field. Major Adam was one of the three officers whose services at that time were being utilised in another appointment, in the Intelligence Department of the War Office. Automatically he went on half pay when he was struck off the strength of his regiment, before this communiqué was issued, but he went automatically on full pay on the following day, so that he did not really go on half-pay at all. He did not actually go on half-pay until 1910, when he became a Member of Parliament.

The noble Duke also pointed out that in January, 1910, the Army Council refused to promote Major Adam, although recommended by his General. The circumstances are these. Major Adam was no longer on the regimental list, and there was therefore no vacancy for him to fill. It is quite true that his immediate chief wrote in 1910, in answer to the question "Do you recommend him for promotion?"—"Yes, when passed for promotion." But Major Adam had not qualified for promotion, as he did not pass the "tactical fitness examination," which was necessary for the promotion to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. I need not go into the question of the libel action brought by Major Adam against the Secretary of the Army Council, because that has been dealt with by the noble and learned Viscount.

I should like now to come to the year 1911. In that year the noble Duke says that Major Adam was refused employment, although he was recommended by the Adjutant-General. I have looked into this matter very carefully, and there appears to be no trace of any refusal to employ Major Adam in 1911, or of any such recommendation by the Adjutant-General that he should be employed. Now I come to the year 1914, when the War broke out. In October, 1914, Major Adam was given a Commission in the King's Own Scottish Borderers. He went to the Aldershot Training Centre, and there he again was the subject of an adverse report by the General Officer Commnding; and this report was duly communicated to him. In regard to these reports I must tell your Lordships that from 1904 it was compulsory that any officer should be shown adverse confidential reports. They are read to him by the Commanding Officer, or in his absence they are sent to him in writing. In 1913 it became compulsory that any and all confidential reports should be shown to officers and initialled by them. This report was duly communicated to Major Adam.

In May, 1915, he reported as sick. He was "medically boarded" and went on sick leave. He was again "boarded" in June, August, and November and December of 1915. In August the board, and subsequent boards of that year, found him unfit for general service but fit for service at home. I cannot find any record that he joined his reserve battalion; his battalion by that time had gone overseas. In January, 1916, he was found fit for general service by a medical board, and on February 14, he was ordered to proceed overseas to join his battalion. He replied to the orders in a long letter addressed to the Secretary of State, who was then Lord Kitchener, in which he referred again to his grievances, and stated that he could not comply with the orders of the Adjutant-General to join his battalion in France at the seat of war. The Secretary of State replied to this letter on February 18, to the effect that his orders to join his regiment answered his demand for a redress of his grievances.

Inquiries show that on February 26 he had not obeyed orders and embarked to join his regiment in France, so further orders, on February 27, or rather, on the evening of February 26, were sent to him to embark on the 27th, and were handed to him by a Staff Officer of the Adjutant-General's Department, and a receipt was obtained for them. That Staff Officer had an interview with Major Adam, and at the interview he explained to him that he had received a certificate from his doctor stating that he was unfit to proceed overseas, and that he had forwarded a request for a further board. That was in order. A board was held in March, and certified that Major Adam was unfit for any service whatever, and was suffering from neurasthenia. This took place on March 2, 1916. No term could be placed on his disability, and on January 1st, 1917, he was placed on retired pay. That is the reason why Major Adam was gazetted out of the Army.

The noble Duke says that between 1911 and 1924 the Army Council have repeatedly rejected appeals for a reconsideration of the case. I should like to explain this point. In 1911 Major Adam exercised his right under Section 42 of the Army Act to appeal to His Majesty the King. The result of that appeal was that His Majesty, on the advice of the Secretary of State, was not pleased to issue special instructions in regard thereto. Although it is a custom that an officer should exercise this right only once in respect of any one complaint, Major Adam was allowed to make a second appeal in 1915, after the outbreak of the War, but again, on the advice of the Secretary of State, His Majesty was not pleased to issue any special instructions. Then, in 1916, Major Adam was informed that the Army Council definitely and finally refused to re-open his case.

I should like to come to one point which, I think, requires a certain amount of explanation, because it is a point upon which, I believe, considerable stress has been laid by Major Adam. On October 18, 1907, the following letter was sent to the General Officer Commanding, Northern Command:— I am commanded by the Army Council to inform you that in consequence of further unfavourable reports concerning the following officers it has been decided to recommend for His Majesty's approval that these officers should he placed on half-pay under the provisions of the Dispensing Warrant. Then follows a list of the names of the officers, among whom Major Adam's name is included. The use of the words "further unfavourable reports" has perhaps been understood as conveying the impression—I think it conveyed that impression to the mind of my noble friend—that between the report of General French, dated November 3, 1906, and October 18, 1907, reports had been received by the War Office in regard to Major Adam which had not been shown to him. The records of the War Office show that this is not the case. A report on the efficiency of the 5th Lancers had been received at the War Office, but it contained no mention of Major Adam. It was referred to Sir John French for his observations, and he made a report to the Army Council on the subject. There is only one reference in that report to Major Adam, and that reference was not an adverse report on Major Adam. Sir John simply referred the Army Council to the adverse report made by him upon Major Adam, dated November 3, 1906, which, as I have already stated, had been shown to Major Adam.

As regards another point to which my noble friend has drawn your Lordships' attention, the statement that Major Adam's military career has been ruined, I should like to point out that he served in the War Office on the General Staff for two years, as a General Staff Officer, 3rd grade, from 1906 to 1910, and that he only left the War Office in order to enter the House of Commons. When the War broke out in 1914 he was given a Commission and had every opportunity of serving at home. He did serve at home and, had it been possible—it was not possible, for he was prevented by ill health—he could have served with his regiment on active service abroad. It appears to me, therefore, that Major Adam had ample opportunity, both by service on the Staff in time of peace and with his regiment in time of war, to prove his military value.

As regards the alleged aspersions on Major Adam's private character, I do not think that I can do better than refer again to the statement of Lord Justice Buckley, of which I have already quoted one or two lines. After the words which I have quoted, Lord Justice Buckley went on to say: Secondly, that the grievance under which he has conceived himself to lie has rested principally upon a misapprehension upon his part. He has attributed the action which the Army Council have taken to the effect of the report or reports made by Major-General Scobell upon information supplied by Colonel Graham. In his evidence it is rather of the latter than of the former that he has complained as being the person who made on him reports that have been to his prejudice. He has forgotten or ignored that, as is plain from the evidence of Sir John French, the action of the Army Council was based upon reports made by that distinguished officer, reports based, not on information derived from others, but from Sir John French's own observation. As I have said, Lord Justice Buckley prefaced those remarks with the words which I have quoted.

My noble friend says that Major Adam made an appeal to the Was Office in October, 1924, stating that the Army Council had been misled by false information deliberately given to them, and requesting the revision of his case. I can only say that both this letter from Major Adam and the memorandum which accompanied it received very careful consideration indeed, but that the Army Council were unable to agree that it afforded ground for re-opening the case. The matter has been thoroughly threshed out three times before the Courts—your Lordships' House, the Court of Appeal and the court of first instance—and has been considered by the present Army Council, and by successive Army Councils since the time of the noble and learned Viscount opposite. The record of the War Office shows that all the adverse reports on Major Adam have been shown to him in accordance with the King's Regulations. I may say that, if Major Adam wishes to see them again, there will be no objection to his doing so, but I am unable to quote from them textually or to give any undertaking to allow their publication, as the maintenance of the confidential nature of these reports has always been adhered to by the Army Council. I apologise for taking up so much of your Lordships' time, but I have desired to give as full an answer as I could to the Question that has been put to me.


My Lords, I am very much obliged to my noble friend for promising to allow Major Adam to see all the confidential reports in the War Office. I think that is really all that the War Office could be expected to do in the circumstances, and it certainly meets the requirements of my Motion, which I have no desire to press. I should, however, like to point out, with regard to the point which the noble and learned Viscount opposite raised, that all these reports upon Major Adam—that is to say, the report of Major-General Scobell and that of Sir John French—were presumably dependent upon information which they derived from his commanding officer, and not from their own personal observations.


General French inspected the regiment personally, and so did Major-General Scobell.


There was an earlier report from General French in the year 1905, in which he commented very favourably upon Major Adam's conduct and the leading of his squadron.


General French?


I have not the information with me, but it is stated in Major Adam's book. In any case, with regard to that which the noble and learned Viscount said about his accusations against Major-General Scobell, if we assume—I do not assume it at all—that his story is true, and that his commanding officer was his personal enemy, Major-General Scobell had, without questioning him or finding out the truth, received verbal information which seriously damaged Major Adam's character, and had forwarded it to the War Office.


There is not a tittle of evidence of that.


That may be but that is Major Adam's case. As I have said, I have no desire whatever to press this matter any further. There is one point, however, which is of some importance. General French's report, which the noble and learned Viscount opposite produced, is now heard for the first, time. It was not produced at the trial nor during the libel action.


No, but Major Adam saw it.


He states that he held it in his hand, but was not allowed to read it.


It was shown to him.


It was not allowed to be produced in evidence.


No, I do not think that there is any evidence of it.


I have no desire to take up the time of the House any further. I am much obliged to the noble Earl for having met my request so fully.


I should like to say just one word. My noble friend spoke of all the confidential reports at the War Office. That I think is rather a large order, and I think I ought to limit it to the confidential reports in the War Office which we say Major Adam has already seen and was entitled to see.


I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn