HC Deb 09 March 1855 vol 137 cc352-79

The House then went into Committee of Supply.

(1.) 1,387,500l., Barracks, Works, &c.


said, he wished to call the attention of the Committee to the very large amount proposed to be expended in works at home, at a period when such extraordinary exertions were required abroad. Among other items included in this Vote was 30,000l. for defences at Dover and the coast of Kent, 60,000l. for new barracks on the western heights of Dover, buildings for new stores and gar- rison hospital in the Tower; 48,000l. for defence of commercial harbours at Hull and Liverpool; but the principal charge to which he was desirous of directing attention was one of 250,000l. for barracks at Aldershot. With respect to this last charge, he was desirous of knowing how the contracts for the erection of these buildings were to be carried out if they were to be built only of Christiana deals? Then, what was the object of the barracks at Aldershot, and whether the temporary barracks included in a previous Vote formed a portion of the same? Or whether the large sum of 150,000l. already voted for temporary barracks was to be swept away, and the further sum of 250,000l. now proposed to be expended in addition? It would also be desirable to know what was the number of troops proposed to be accommodated in these new barracks.


said, that the sum of 30,000l. was for the works at Dovor which were intended to carry out a series of defences that were commenced some years ago, and had already received the authority of Parliament, and for which, as a matter of course, a certain sum was taken by the Ordnance every year. The works were proceeding in a satisfactory manner, and Sir John Burgoyne thought them second in importance to none in the country. With regard to the sum of 60,000l. for the new barracks at Dovor, he had to state that, for the defence of the works at Dovor, barracks were required for at least 5,000 men: there were barracks now for 1,200 men and casemates for 1,200 more; those casemates, however, were considered to be unfit for young and unseasoned troops; and it was very desirable to provide for them additional barrack accommodation. As for the garrison hospital at the Tower, the troops there wanted it very badly. The sum of 48,000l. for the defences of commercial harbours was not merely for Hull and Liverpool, but was the commencement of putting many of the harbours of large commercial towns along the coast in some state of defence. It was a subject which had been continually and urgently pressed on the Government, and would give satisfaction to a great number of taxpaying people. As for the barracks at Aldershot, there was some confusion the other evening in the statements about temporary and permanent barracks. The object of erecting the temporary barracks was this. At present we had not in this country accommodation for lodging the troops and the embodied militia, for whom it was probable we should have to provide in a few months. To attempt to provide for them by billeting would be injurious and demoralising, and to take temporary buildings in the different large towns was also an objectionable and expensive mode, although the Government had been obliged to adopt it to a certain extent. At present we had not the means of concentrating large bodies of troops together, so that the officers might be accustomed to handle them in masses. It was believed that ample accommodation might be provided for 50,000 troops, officers and men, at the rate of about 5,900l. per thousand men. It was intended to erect buildings for 20,000 men at Aldershot, and for 10,000 men at the Curragh of Kildare; the place was not yet decided upon where the remainder were to be located. But these barracks were to be entirely distinct and separate from those for which the vote of 250,000l. was taken, which were to be erected at Aldershot. These latter were to be permanent barracks, and were to accommodate 10,000 men, being 7,000 infantry, 1,500 cavalry, and the remainder artillery. These permanent barracks would afford us the great advantage of being enabled to have at all times a large body of troops collected together for exercise and drill. Some observations had been made the other evening by the hon. Member for Coventry (Sir J. Paxton), as to the impossibility of obtaining the necessary quantity of Christiana deals for the construction of these barracks. He believed that the words of the contract were, "Memel, Riga, or Dantzic timber, and yellow Christiana deals." Many of the builders who offered themselves for the work said, there would be no difficulty in obtaining the quantity of timber of the description specified, but they doubted whether the sawing could be performed. It was considered that the best timber would be the most economical for permanence, and the inside lining might be of an inferior quality. The statement, therefore, that the contract included merely Christiana deals was incorrect; there were four qualities of deal included, and a very large proportion of the quantity had been already supplied. The total quantity of timber of all kinds required was 11,255 tons, and there would be no difficulty in obtaining a supply of 20,000 tons at the present moment. It was supposed that with care those wooden barracks would last for many years, and the engineer of the Ordnance had stated that by the adoption of an inexpensive process they might probably last twenty years.


said, he had seldom heard a more alarming statement than that now submitted to the Committee by the hon. Gentleman the Clerk to the Ordnance. He was the last person in that House to advocate false economy and to grudge the Government the means of conducting the war in the most effectual manner, but he hoped they might consider war an exceptional, and not the normal state of things for which they were to provide in this country. He thought, then, that if a scheme so vast as that they had just heard of were considered necessary, his noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury ought at least to have explained the general principles upon which the Government were proceeding. If, happily, peace were restored in the course of the present year, in what condition would this country be left with such enormous establishments? For what purpose were these barracks to be erected? He did not quarrel with the sum required for fortifications at Dovor, but it appeared that 60,000l. was to be laid out there in barracks this year on the ground that 5,000 men were required to garrison these fortifications. Such a force as this, however, was only required under the exceptional circumstances of war, and when they were told that already there was barrack accommodation at Dovor for 1,200 men, and that 1,200 more could be lodged in the casemates, it was utterly beyond his comprehension that they should be asked for 60,000l. for fresh barracks. With respect to the vote of 48,000l. for the protection of the commercial ports, what emergency was there which required such an outlay at this particular time? He granted that this was a point which ought to be looked to. He said nothing against the principle of erecting those works at the proper time; but, whatever might have been the case two or three years ago, there was no pressing occasion for these works just now, and he thought it most inexpedient to select the present moment for adding unnecessarily to the burdens which the country was obliged to bear. Then they came to that most objectionable demand for a sum of 175,000l. on account of temporary barracks for the probable wants of the embodied militia, and for the accommodation of the troops raised this year in augmentation of the army. Now, he knew the inconvenience which would probably result from embodying the militia, but that was a temporary want which should be met by a temporary expedient, and no permanent provision such as that proposed was required. Then, again, with respect to the sum of 250,000l. for permanent barracks at Aldershot and the Curragh of Kildare, for the reception of an additional military force, he owned that he could not understand with what ultimate view this money was to be laid out. Was it supposed that we were to become a military nation when peace was restored, and that we were to put ourselves in competition with the great military Powers by keeping up a large standing army? That might perhaps be the intention of the Government, but this he knew, that when the question came to be raised by some worthy successor of his lamented friend, Mr. Hume, the House of Commons would not be induced to vote the money required for such a purpose. He warned the Government that when this war should be at an end, which he trusted would be much sooner than appeared to be anticipated by the Government, they would not be able to have a vast standing army, and by the course which they proposed to take in providing accommodation for it they would only be throwing away the public money. The Government ought therefore to be careful how they raised establishments which that House would certainly reduce after the peace. He doubted whether, after peace was restored, we should even require so large an army to be kept up as had been maintained during the last forty years. We were withdrawing our garrisons from many of our colonies, where the public money had been lavishly and prodigally wasted. He had been appointed one of the Committee upstairs on the Army Estimates, who found upon inquiry that 7,000,000l., or 8,000,000l., or 9,000,000l. of money had been wasted in maintaining a large military force in the Canadas, for no other purpose than that they might act as police in a country that ought to pay for its own. Here was this vote of 250,000l. for permanent barracks at Aldershot, which might only be required for the present year. He did not wish to undervalue the advantages of the camp at Chobham, and small emcampments of the troops might, no doubt, be useful from time to time, but were the men never to be encamped again under canvas tents, or cotton tents, which, he understood, were an improvement upon canvas? He was favourable to granting every shilling necessary for carrying on the contest with vigour and efficiency; but he would restain the Government from forming permanent establishments of a military character, and which could not be maintained, believing, as he did, that the defensive power of the nation consisted in its maritime supremacy.


said, that if he agreed with his right hon. Friend that these were votes for creating great and permanent establishments which would not be required after the momentary emergency had ceased, he would concede to him that the Committee ought not to sanction them. But the contrary was the fact. The great mistake which the Government and Parliament of this country had made since the last peace was, that they had acted by fits and starts, and from the impulse of the moment, rather than from any settled and steady system of policy. It was all very well to say that the permanent defence of this country must be its naval force, and that we wanted no army or troops; but that was a claptrap which the good sense of the right hon. Gentleman ought not to suffer him to use. [Mr. ELLICE: I did not say that we ought to keep up no army.] These votes were part of a permanent system of defence, not providing against any particular danger in one year rather than another, but enabling the country to maintain a proper position of independence. It was perfectly manifest that a great nation like this must have organised within the country some means of defence proportioned to its financial and political condition, and something in addition to its naval force. [Mr. ELLICE: Hear, hear.] Well, that was granted, and it was very well to have some foundation to proceed from in an argument. The great mistake, however, he would repeat was, that after the termination of the last war, the Government and the Parliament considered that halcyon days were beginning, and that we should never again have occasion to defend ourselves from aggression, to vindicate our honour, or prepare for active hostilities. The consequence was, that the Government had rushed to the demolition and disposal of the greater part of its barrack accommodation, the inconvenience of which was, that in time of peace there was not barrack accommodation even for the re- duced numbers of the army on the peace establishment, and the Government were compelled to billet the troops, to the great inconvenience of those upon whom they were billeted. No doubt innkeepers received their licences upon condition that troops might be billeted upon them, but there was no denying that this was a hardship upon them nevertheless, and in populous towns it was not only a hardship upon the persons on whom the troops were billeted, but it was also highly detrimental to the discipline of the army. From the inconvenience of billeting large bodies of men in particular towns had arisen the necessity of distributing them in small detachments, scattering them over districts where they were not wanted, and thus seriously injuring the discipline of regiments. Thus, while the Government imposed hardships upon the districts in which the troops were billeted, they also diminished the efficacy even of the regimental system. What had that House heard more strongly urged than that, however good the regimental organisation of the army might be, yet that there were no means of educating officers in the practice of those staff duties that belonged to the aggregation of large bodies of troops? The experience gained at Chobham, where not more than 5,000 or 6,000 men were assembled, had been of the greatest service, as well to staff and regimental officers as to the men, and he was told that those regiments sent to the East which had been encamped at Chobham were so much more handy, and so much better able to shift for themselves than those who had not had the advantage of being in camp, that the difference was exceedingly striking and easy to observe. The Government did not propose such vast establishments as his hon. Friend supposed. They proposed at Aldershot to have the means of together collecting together some 7,000 infantry, with a proportion of cavalry and artillery, whereby they would be able every year to train in combined movements that number of troops, which was only a moderate portion of what they had always in the country even on the most reduced peace establishment. With regard to the militia, the greatest inconvenience had arisen from the impossibility of organising that force. He had been taunted by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) with want of foresight in not embodying the whole militia, The Government did embody as many regiments as it was possible to accommodate in barracks, but they were unwilling, without pressing necessity, to call out regiments which must have been billeted, at a time when better means of discipline were desirable. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Ellice) appeared to think the Government should wait until a time of profound peace before they erected barracks and defended port towns, but it seemed to him the proper moment for making military defences was when they happened to be at war, and when they might be required to use those defences. With regard to Dovor, the arrangment did not at all depend on the circumstances of the day. For several years it had been a subject of remark, that the coast towns had not proper defences. Dovor was considered one of the most important points which required defence. The fortifications of Dovor had been put under a system of progressive repair and improvement. Those western heights had been fortified, but the fortification was useless unless they had the means of lodging men who were to defend it. The casemates were certainly places where, in the event of a siege, they could lodge men, but they were not fit for permanent occupation, and he could assure the Committee that the barracks proposed on the western heights afforded no more accommodation than was absolutely necessary, if they were to have any defensive works at all. With regard to Liverpool and Hull, and several smaller ports, he could assure the Committee that for the last year and a half the Government had been beset with applications from commercial seaport towns to provide them with some means of defence if only to meet the attack of a privateer. When the Committee recollected what an amount of property was aggregated in these places, and how they were exposed to attack, he was persuaded they would be of opinion that the erection of some small batteries to defend them on any sudden emergency was due to the interests of the commercial establishments in those ports. His only astonishment was to find how small a sum, comparatively speaking, was sufficient for their protection. He hoped the Committee would not be led away by the eloquence of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Ellice), but would feel that the Government were not proposing works which would be only wanted for a year, but that these were arrangements essentially necessary for maintaining an army, even on a peace establishment, competent to do the duties which an army was called on to perform. His right hon. Friend was engaged in an inquiry into bad arrangements, resulting entirely from the want of sufficient organisation in time of peace. We had been suddenly called upon to make war, and we found ourselves deficient, not in the bravery of our troops, in the devotion of our officers, in those military qualities inherent in man, or in the ordinary practice which regimental discipline developed and created, but deficient in those arrangements which were only to be acquired by the collection of large bodies of troops practising evolutions which belonged to a system of war. The right hon. Gentleman said—"The Government were not to imitate the great military Powers of the Continent; Parliament will never sanction it." He knew that as well as his right hon. Friend. It was folly to imagine England would ever have large standing armies like those of France, Prussia, or Austria; but, however small the standing army, it should be as good and as perfect, according to its magnitude, as care and arrangement could make it. He contended it was the worst economy, the most improvident system, to have an army and deprive it of the means to make it effective in proportion to its aggregate amount. Whatever they might choose the army to be, let it have the means of practising all that tended to make an efficient force, and when by any misfortune they were compelled again to engage in war they would have the foundation of a good army and the means of augmenting it on a basis which would render it complete, as far as its magnitude would allow it to be so.


said, he did not differ from the noble Viscount as to the policy of endeavouring to render our military force as effective as possible; the more so as it was so small, and in periods of emergency had to form the nucleus of a large organisation; but what he deprecated was an unnecessary extension of our military establishments. As to barracks—this was the first time he had heard of any deficiency, and he had been under the impression that we had ample accommodation for our troops in that respect. [Cries of "No, no!"] Certainly our barrack accommodation had been very much augmented, and there were large barracks in different parts of the country. He had never heard complaints as to billeting, and for the last eight years hardly had heard of an occa- sion for billeting our regular troops. He grudged no expense which the existing emergency rendered necessary, but he feared we were enlarging our establishments beyond what was necessary. He wished that these Estimates had been submitted to a Select Committee up-stairs, to inquire whether there was sufficient barrack accommodation for the usual number of troops, and, further, what temporary accommodation was required for the enormous augmentation obliged to be made in war time, including, of course, the largest of all augmentations, the militia. He placed confidence in the Government, and should make no opposition to the Vote, but he thought it his duty to warn the Committee before it embarked in establishments which he did not believe to be at all necessary for the permanent accommodation of our regular force.


said, he was glad to find that the Government were, though too tardily, about to adopt a system of greater concentration in our army at home. He had himself been some years in the army, and his experience enabled him to state that nothing was so injurious to the discipline of a regiment as to fritter it away in small detachments, or to place the men on billets in public-houses. And if this was prejudicial even to regular and trained troops, how much more so must it be to newly-raised levies like the militia—raw and undisciplined as they necessarily must be? It was a system equally injurious to them and detrimental to the inhabitants of the districts in which they were billeted. The camp to be formed at Aldershot had great advantages for the militia and the army at large, and he believed it was intended to form a permanent military station; if so, certainly it was being constructed very hastily and superficially, and in such a way (the wood being fixed in the ground instead of being raised on a brick footing) that it would not last above three or four years, and enormous expense would be incurred in repairs; whereas, for a little more money, it might be constructed durably and properly. Great injury and inconvenience arose from the old system of having the troops scattered up and down the country, as a kind of aid to the police: occasionally called out to assist the Coast Guard or preserve the peace of manufacturing towns. It was necessary that such a system should cease, and he thought the collecting the troops together in camps would be of the greatest advantage to the service. The noble Lord had referred to the state of the defences of some of our commercial ports, and he was happy to hear the Government were about to fortify Liverpool and Hull. As to Hull, the Humber was more defended, at present, by its sandbanks than by any fortifications; and the late First Lord of the Admiralty, sailing down the river to inspect the place, had found his vessel stuck fast on a shoal. The inhabitants had been very uneasy at the defenceless state of the place. The only fort at present existing had been in the same state ever since the time of the civil war, 200 years ago. The site of it was not well chosen, and would afford no sort of defence to the town in the event of an attack by an enemy. At a very small expense a battery might be erected, which would afford effectual protection to the town, and, if the site of the old fort were sold, he had no doubt but that it would be sufficient to defray the expense of the new fortification.


said, he was happy to be able to inform the right hon. Baronet that his views with respect to the town of Hull were at this moment being Carrie out. A portion of the Vote of 48,000l. for fortifications would be spent upon Hull. The Government had considered it inexpedient to dispose of the site of the old fort of Hull until the new fortifications were completed. It was, however, their intention, as soon as that completion was effected, to sell the site, which he believed with the right hon. Baronet, would realise a sum sufficient to pay the expense of erecting the new defences; a work that would not only be of most important service to the country at large, but most acceptable to that particular part of the kingdom.


said, he considered that the Government had taken a wise and proper course with regard to the erection of new barracks at Aldershot. He went down himself the preceding day and saw the whole arrangements, and he thought they were being carried out on a plan which would prove highly beneficial to the country. He, however, concurred in the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Trollope), that the timber, instead of being laid on the bare ground, should be supported by a foundation of brickwork. It might be done at a small expense, and would make it a permanent building. He was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice) should take objection to this expenditure for erecting new barracks. If there was one thing more than any other that had been a crying evil in the army for a long series of years, it was the want of barrack accommodation. He would only instance what was the state of things in the metropolis itself. So inadequate was the accommodation for the troops that at a memorable period, when there prevailed great excitement in this metropolis, and a large number of troops were assembled here, Her Majesty's horses and carriages were absolutely obliged to be removed to Windsor, in order to afford barrack accommodation for those additional troops. The whole amount of barrack accommodation in London would not meet the requirements of more than 3,000 men, while the brigade of Foot Guards alone consisted of 7,000 men; and there was not a single barrack to which in a time of popular excitement or riot they could lodge a battery of horse artillery in. He could not forbear calling attention to that disgraceful building called the Portman Street Barracks. It was nothing more or less than a villainously bad stable, and totally unfit for any men to be quartered in. And yet the rent of it, he understood, was perfectly enormous. He wished to know whether it was the intention of the Government to build another barrack on the site of the present? He was also much surprised that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ellice) should have said that there was ample barrack accommodation throughout the country. He could point the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a place on the coast of some importance, where it would be requisite to have a barracks erected—he meant Brighton. He therefore hoped the Government would pay proper attention to the subject of barrack accommodation, the want of which throughout the country generally, as well as in the metropolis, had been felt for many years; and he was glad that the Ordnance had shown a disposition to grapple with the subject.


said, he wished the Government would inform the Committee when the Portman Street Barracks were to be given up. He should also be glad to hear some statement of the general intentions of the Government with regard to the important subject of barrack accommodation. New barracks, he perceived by the Vote, were to be erected at Dover, at a cost of 60,000l.; at Plymouth, for 9,000l.; at Winchester, for 18,000l.; and at Gosport, for 61,000l.; making a total expenditure, under this head, of 148,000l. He wished to know on what principle they were to be built, and whether the old system was to be adopted? He gave the Ordnance credit for what they had already done in increasing the comfort of the soldiers, but he could not help thinking that, if the Committee appointed last year on the subject of barrack accommodation had sat, the result of their labours would have been most beneficial. Both the public and the House of Commons had recently had an opportunity of seeing what noble materials the British army was composed of, and in his opinion nothing which could tend to improve their social condition when on home duty would be thrown away upon them. They deserved well of their country, and their barracks were at present not sufficiently commodious for them; it was, therefore, the duty of the Government to make them so, He thought one means of accomplishing that object would be the establishment of a day-room, in which the men could associate together, and read or write without inconvenient crowding. He deemed it highly objectionable that a System should be continued which allowed women to reside in barracks; and, although he was aware that lodging-money was allowed by the Government, it was not sufficient to provide the requisite accommodation. He was glad to see gas was to be introduced in barracks; he had always felt that it would increase the comfort of the men, and some years ago he had called the attention of the House to the subject. He wished to know whether the Government intended to alter the present canteen system, which he considered highly objectionable? The subject of providing the means of rational amusement for our soldiers was of great importance, and, as he observed a sum of 900l. put down for a gymnasium for the Artillery at Woolwich, he thought, wherever it was practicable, something of the kind ought to be done for the other branches of the army.


said, the other night, when the first Vote on these Estimates was proposed, he stated that, in addition to the great difficulties which the contractors would have to contend with in the building of the huts in the short space of six weeks, the specification contained materials which could not be procured in this country, and in answer to the noble Lord the Member for Totness (Lord Seymour), the hon. Gentleman the mover of the Estimates said there was no difficulty in procuring these materials. Now, he should like to know if these huts were being erected according to the specification, and if Government were aware that the deals which were specified, and which contained about two-thirds of the whole of the timber, were Christiana deals. He thought it would be a great waste to put the timber on the ground; but if the huts were built on piers, he had no doubt that they would last twenty or thirty years. On a previous evening he had complained of the loss of time which had taken place; and he still thought that if the works had been commenced as early as they might have been, there would have been no occasion for the hurry which had characterised the operations of the Government. He had also to complain that the contracts had not been let in a business-like manner. The ordinary mode, when a great work had to be executed, was to provide plans, specifications, and bills of quantities. Some sort of plans, indeed, there had been, but there had been no bills of quantities—the contracts having been let on a schedule of prices. Bills of quantities, however, he regarded as absolutely necessary, in fairness to the persons who might be disposed to tender.


said, he was quite sure that the Committee—if they were aware of the present state of the port of Hull—would not be surprised at the anxiety expressed by the inhabitants of that town with respect to its defenceless condition. It should be recollected that Hull is the great emporium of the trade of the north of Europe, and of late years there had been a great deal of accommodation furnished by the dock company of that port. They were now engaged in hostilities with Russia, and it was not surprising that a strong desire should be evinced to place the enormous amount of property congregated in that port in something like a position of security. When they considered the extent to which projectiles could now be thrown, it must be perceived that the port of Hull might as well be without defences at all as left to depend for its defence on the present fortification. If a hostile force should come up the Humber, the walls of the fort would be in as much danger from the recoil of the few guns upon it as from the fire from the enemy's vessels. He was, consequently, glad to hear of the measures which the Govern were about to adopt with respect to this port, which had been too long left in a very improper state.


said, he wished to call the attention of the Committee to the Vote for the defence of the River Thames; and also to an item for 2,000l. for the erection of buildings for the accommodation of military lunatics at Fort Pitt. It seemed contrary to common sense that a lunatic asylum for the whole army should be placed in the middle of Fort Pitt, where unfortunate invalids were now experiencing comfort after their return from the Crimea.


said, he had urged upon the Government the necessity of establishing defences along the coast, and did so with the conviction that the Bristol Channel was not sufficiently defended. He had called attention particularly to the ports of Cardiff and Swansea, and he hoped a portion of the grant intended for the protection of harbours along the coast would be applied to the defence of those two ports to which he referred.


said, that the misfortunes which had befallen our troops had created so great a feeling of sympathy that nobody had made the least objection to any proposition of the Government. He thought, however, that Her Majesty's Ministers had taken advantage of the feeling of the House to bring forward items that were quite uncalled for, and that were upon a scale the most extravagant. Thus, he found in the Estimates for the last and the present year no less a sum than 871,000l. for building new barracks, and 285,000l. for repairing old ones; to this must be added 300,000l. for the huts, which, as they would last for twenty years, must likewise be reckoned as barrack accommodation, making a total sum of not less than 1,456,000l. for providing accommodation for an army which had never exceeded, if indeed it had ever reached, 60,000 men. That would give 25l. per man, whereas the cost of comfortable labourers' cottages was not more than 60l. each. Surely, then, the soldiers ought to be better housed than almost any other class in the community; and yet they were always hearing complaints of the insufficiency of the accommodation provided for them. There must be something wrong somewhere, and he thought that there ought to be a Committee to inquire into the subject. Again, it was proposed to vote 500,000l. for new fortifications. Of that sum only 12,000l. was proposed to be spent on Liverpool, in addition to 1,000l. for barracks, and only 10,000l. on Hull. And yet those two places had been strongly put forward by the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) in justification of the Vote. Colonels of militia were generally very anxious to have their men placed in barracks, but he (Mr. Williams) did not think that it was desirable to take that course. During the last war, a militia force double that now called out was embodied; and where were they lodged? They were billeted on the public-houses; and that was what he recommended the Government now to do. If they did so, when the force was reduced or abolished, they would have no difficulty in dealing with the places where the men had been billeted; but if they built barracks for them, those barracks would be a perpetual source of expense and loss. If a return of the sums expended on barracks during the last twenty or thirty years could be procured, the public would be astonished to see the vast sums which had been spent in this way, notwithstanding the constant complaints which they had heard of the insufficient accommodation provided for our troops.


said, that a great number of the militia had been lodged during the last war in barracks, which a false economy had led previous Governments to get rid of. At this very moment they were building new barracks at Winchester, whereas an edifice which would have supplied a much larger amount of accommodation had been sold, for a miserable sum, by one of his (Mr. Monsell's) predecessors, about the year 1833. It would be well if the Committee would take warning for the future from the experience of the past. He (Mr. Monsell) had lately had his attention strongly drawn to the subject of lodging the troops, and the result of his calculations had been that supposing the regular forces to remain on the footing on which they stood a month ago, there would be a deficiency of accommodation to the extent of 70,000 men. Under these circumstances, it appeared to him that the wisest course would be to erect those temporary buildings of which they had heard so much. He believed that it would be the cheapest measure they could adopt, and it would afford the troops the advantage of being exercised in large masses. With respect to the sum which was to be expended on the defences for Liverpool, he could assure the hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. Williams) that it would be 34,000l. in all. The observations of the hon. Member for Coventry (Sir J. Paxton), as to the materials of the huts, he had already answered—the deals were to be either Christiana, Memel, Riga, or Dantzic, and he was informed that about a month ago there were 20,000 loads in this country. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the rapidity with which these works were required to be executed, but up to that moment the Government had not obtained possession of the whole of the land at Aldershot. It was only determined to purchase the heath about a year ago, and there had been great delays in obtaining possession of it owing to the complicated rights of common involved. During the present week, however, they acquired land enough to justify the commencement of the building; therefore, the Committee would see that it was impossible for them to have begun at an earlier period. A Committee had been appointed by his noble Friend, Lord Panmure, which had put itself in communication with the most experienced builders in the country, and he had no doubt that the new huts would be constructed upon the most approved models. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Coventry with respect to the injudiciousness of placing the huts on the bare earth, and he would take care that that was not done. In reference to the question of the hon. and gallant Member for Glamorganshire (Sir G. Tyler), he was happy to say that the Government fully appreciated the rising importance of the commercial ports in that county. They had given directions that Cardiff and Swansea should be included amongst the first that were to be fortified, and the others would be attended to in due course. The large works at the mouth of the Bristol Channel would afford a further protection to Glamorganshire. The bon. and gallant Member for Wigan (Colonel Lindsay) appeared to think that some partiality had been shown to the artillery with respect to means of amusement, but he would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the barracks intended for the other troops were to be provided with racket grounds. It was quite true that the canteens had only been let till the 1st of September, and the reason was that the Government were anxious to introduce some improvement into the canteen system. All the proposed barracks would be constructed on the newest principles, and every available improvement would be introduced. He entirely concurred with the hon. and gal- lant Gentleman (Colonel Knox), who had, referred to the state of the London barracks. The Portman Street barracks, indeed, were only kept on from year to year, until a new building could be provided; but the difficulties connected with the obtaining of a suitable site had as yet proved insuperable. With respect to the Thames fortifications, he was hardly prepared to give an answer to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Masters Smith), but he should be glad to afford him any information in private. It had been decided to send the lunatic soldiers to Fort Pitt, but the Ordnance had no authority in the matter; and he must, therefore, refer his hon. Friend to the Secretary of State for War upon that point.


said, it was the fault of preceding Governments that such a large expenditure was now required for providing barrack accommodation. In the place where his regiment was stationed there were only a few small barracks for the reception of the men, and the great outlay for barracks was now absolutely necessary. A large sum was expended on the lines at Plymouth, and it must be considered that that money was thrown away. When the lines were condemned by the late Duke of Wellington, it was to be regretted that such an expenditure had taken place. He wished, in conclusion, to draw attention to the absence of warm water, or warm baths, in the military hospital at Devonport. He thought it would be of great assistance to the sick and wounded arriving from the Crimea if some accommodation of that sort could be provided.


said, he wished to remind the hon. Gentleman the Clerk of the Ordnance that all along the eastern coast of Scotland, where there was a vast amount of capital engaged in the pursuits of industry and commerce, there was nothing whatever in the shape of a fortress to serve for its protection. And yet, of this large sum now to be voted not a single shilling was to be applied to that purpose, unless, indeed, something was included in the vote of 48,000l., which was for the defence of commercial harbours. Perhaps he might be allowed to ask whether a proposal had not been made within the last year to Government by a gentleman named Anderson for the erection of six or seven fortresses along that coast at an expense of about 20,000l. He had been given to understand, at all events, that that gentleman had been directed to make certain surveys, and prepare a plan for the fortification of the island of Inchkeith, which lay mid-channel in the Frith of Forth. The survey, however, made, in the first instance, was rejected by the Ordnance officers as not being sufficiently minute, and he was directed to make another. This was done, but on Mr. Anderson applying subsequently to be reimbursed for his expenditure—he made no claim for remuneration for himself—his claim was rejected by the Government. Now, really it did strike him as something very unfair that this gentleman should be invited to incur a certain expense, and that his demand for repayment should not have been favourably entertained.


said, he begged, in the first place, to offer his thanks to Government for their efforts to render the army more efficient. He was quite able to confirm the statement which had been made with respect to the condition of the barracks at Plymouth and Devonport. Some five and twenty years ago he was quartered in that part of the country, and he could assure the Committee that at that time they were condemned as being in a most disgraceful state. Well, about three years back he was again there, and he found the barracks in precisely the same condition. The troops could hardly remain within them in consequence of the smoke, while the drains could not do their work in consequence of the insufficient supply of water. Indeed, the condition of things was perfectly intolerable. He hoped the Government would take into its consideration the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) with regard to the employment at Aldershot of the senior officers of departments at Sandhurst, in order that they might become practically acquainted with their duties. He was quite sure it was a suggestion well worthy of consideration, and he thought, if carried out, it would prove most useful to these officers.


said, he trusted that, taking into consideration the immense amount of shipping in the Clyde, the Government would see the necessity of rearming the fortress of Dumbarton.


said, he wished to impress on the Committee the expediency of improving the accommodation of barracks as they existed at present, for he believed they were very limited. There was no doubt that it was a false economy, and it operated very injuriously, especially with regard to the recruiting service, to have barracks without the necessary accommodation for the troops. Three or four years ago, a Commission was sent by the Government to inquire into the state of the barracks in Prussia, France, and other continental states, and report thereon. That Report was made, but it had never been laid before Parliament. He had no doubt that Report showed a decided advantage for the soldiers of France, Prussia, and two or three other countries, over the British soldier, as to the accommodation afforded them in barracks. There were some hon. Gentlemen holding office who entertained the notion that it was better to accustom the British soldier to hardships in barracks than to provide him with ordinary comforts. It was thought, indeed, that such a training would better enable him to rough it in foreign service, but he doubted that very much, because the officers, when they were obliged to rough it, were able to do so quite as well as the privates. The fact was, the system which those Gentlemen advocated was not only injurious to the health of the soldiers, but it also deterred men of a better class of society from entering the army. Now the importance of this question could hardly be overrated, because experience had always proved that an army selected from a better class of men was far more efficient than an army raised from the lowest orders of the people. We had several instances of this in our own country. One was, doubtless, familiar to every one in that House. There was a consultation between Oliver Cromwell and some of the other great men of that time, as to the difficulty which they had in getting troops who were capable of resisting the cavaliers, at the commencement of the civil war; and it was represented that the persons who then composed the Parliamentary army were tapsters and people of the inferior classes, who could not resist in the field the sons of peasants, and the better classes who had enlisted under the Royal standard. Now at the present time there was a difficulty in getting the sons of farmers and shopkeepers to enter the army, and the inferior accommodation in the barracks was one of the obstacles. These classes, as well as the officers, were quite prepared to meet the difficulties of a campaign, to be without tents, and to lie upon the ground when necessity required—but for a long continuance at home they would probably improve the moral composition of the army materially, by letting people know they would not be kept in a state of physical discomfort unnecessarily. Depend upon it, if Parliament wished to raise the moral condition of the army, the barrack accommodation must be improved; and that being so, he for one, could not understand the reluctance which Government invariably evinced to bringing these portions of the estimates prominently forward. It was absurd to think that in this metropolis, the greatest that ever existed in that world, there was only barrack accommodation, and part of that of the worst description, for about 3,000 men. Besides, it was notorious that there were one or two barracks in the metropolis which were totally unfit for the maintenance of the health of the troops. Medical men who had directed their attention to the subject had stated that it required a certain number of cubic feet of air for the preservation of health—the number he believed was 800 feet per man—and yet there were several barracks in the metropolis which did not contain half that quantity of air. From time to time very little progress had been made in this matter, He would suggest, now that military matters were more attended to, from the urgency of the state of national affairs, that the Report to which he had referred should be laid before the House. He believed that Report had been made by the chaplain-general, who was partly a military and partly a clerical authority; for he had been originally in the army. He knew that a Report had been drawn up at the public expense, and the Executive Government had no right to withhold it from the House. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman the Clerk to the Ordnance, who had probably not heard of it before, would inquire about it, and ascertain whether there was any objection to its being laid before the House. He believed that Report would prove that the continental governments paid more attention to this subject than we did, and expended more money on barrack accommodation. With regard to the camp at Aldershot, he had been rather surprised to hear the magniloquent speech of the hon. Member for Coventry (Sir J. Paxton) which led him to suspect that a general election was near. That hon. Member seemed to say that this was a maritime country, and only a maritime country. At all events, it was admitted that we had now sufficient military means; and to say that our maritime resources were all that was required for our defence was a little too strong. It would be most inconsistent, after voting 120,000l. last year for the purchase of land about Aldershot, which he thought extremely wise and judicious, if they were to prevent the executive Government from carrying out the object comtemplated by that purchase.


said, he merely wished to direct attention to some huts open for inspection at Willis's Rooms. These huts each contained twenty-two feet of space, and could be divided into four parts; the whole weight was eighteen cwt., while they had stoves and glass windows. Besides this they were double boarded and lined with India rubber, and he had seen them taken down in four minutes and put up in eight; their total cost being 22l. 10s. per hut.


said, he believed that our present system of barracking was attributable in a great measure to our system of quartering troops. If a plan were adopted of concentrating the troops the saving to the country would be immense, and he could not, therefore, but regret that the barracks at Aldershot and the Curragh were merely intended for a temporary purpose. With reference to the vote for the additional barracks at Dovor, he wished to observe that he could see no reason why the troops stationed there should not be lodged in the casemate barracks as well as at Malta and Corfu, whereas every one who had been quartered there knew the casemates were not so occupied. He thought, however, that the expenditure would be much more judicious if the money were allotted to erecting permanent barracks at Aldershot, and in addition to that, he believed it was wrong in a military point of view to concentrate a large body of troops at such a place as Dover. As regarded the barracks at Sheffield and Preston, although they are not perfect, still a great deal of money had been expended on them. Indeed, those at Sheffield had cost, as he had been given to understand, as much as 100l. a man, while troops were retained there merely for police purposes. Now, what he contended for was that if these towns required the presence of military for such objects they should be made to contribute to the expense of lodging them. Such, at all events, was the practice in France. The hon. and gallant Member for Wigan (Colonel Lindsay) had called attention to the Canteen system. There could be no doubt it was perfectly disgusting as carried out abroad; for there the Government farmed the whole, and the worst wines and spirits were served to the men that some saving might be effected for the Government. There could be no doubt there was the greatest possible want of economy in the system adopted of getting rid of barracks and the taking them up again. Some time ago the barracks at Fermoy were sold for a poor-house. Now, however, they were taken back again, and a large additional expense had to be incurred. He would also like to know from the hon. Gentleman the Clerk to the Ordnance, why it was that the Government had purchased houses in Ship Street, Dublin, for the purpose of barracks, which was confessedly one of the very worst situations in that city. With respect to the hospital to be erected at the Tower, he saw likewise that a vote was required for building a store there also. Now as there was only room for one of these within the walls, he wished to know which of these buildings was to be placed there. And, lastly, perhaps the hon. Gentleman would tell the Committee when the bar racks in Portman Street would be given up, and where a substitute was to be found for them.


said, it was impossible to look upon this Vote without some amount of consternation, when they saw that something like 1,500,000l. had been devoted in this and last year to the repair of barracks, and to new works in connection with them. It seemed to him very desirable that the troops should, as far as possible, be lodged in barracks and not be billeted, and if the people of this country were to be called upon to contribute so large a sum as this, they were entitled to expect that the troops should be so lodged. He would call the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Monsell's) attention to an item of 2,000l. for the accommodation of military lunatics at Fort Pitt, and he wished to know whether at a more reasonable price, and with more comfort to themselves, the patients lodged might not be placed in private asylums there?


said, he wished to have some explanation of the item of 3,560l. for the erection of chapel schools at Sheerness. He wanted to know whether a school or a chapel was required; and if the latter, would there be any additional expense in providing a chaplain? There was also an item of 6,000l. for officers' new barracks at Sheerness. What did that mean?


said that there had been some new barracks built for the soldiers, and now there were new ones required for the officers who commanded them. As to the item for chapel schools, the building would be used as a school on week days, and for the purpose of celebrating divine service on Sundays; but there would be no extra charge for the services of a chaplain. That matter was not in his department, and therefore he should not offer any explanation of it. In answer to the observations of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. A. Pellatt) with respect to the officers' barracks at Sheerness, he begged to say that there were no barracks at present existing which could be used for the accommodation of the officers, and it was therefore intended to provide them now. The hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington (Colonel Dunne) complained that the barracks at Aldershot were temporary; but the truth was, that they proposed to erect permanent barracks for 10,000 men, which would be constructed according to the most approved plans followed in France and Belgium, as ascertained by the Commission of engineer officers. He quite agreed with the hon. and gallant Member, that it was extremely desirable to promote the comfort of the soldiers in barracks, and that object had not been lost sight of in the present estimates. With respect to the Ship Street barracks in Dublin, a sum of 5,000l. had been already expended; they had commenced the concentration of troops in that city, and hoped that the system might be found advisable in future years. As regarded the means of defence for harbours, he was happy to assure the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Cowan) that Scotland had been very liberally treated. At Dunbar the whole battery was to be restored, at Leith considerable fortifications were to be erected for the defence of the harbours and roads, and at Arbroath, Aberdeen, Peterhead, as well as in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and in the Clyde, the old batteries were to be restored and new ones constructed, whilst at Banff the question of restoring a battery was under consideration. With regard to the Tower, certain storehouses, which were absolutely necessary, would be erected, as well as a hospital outside, which would not interfere with the stores.


said, that in reference to the Votes for works in the Colo nies, he thought it was high time that the Cape of Good Hope, which had now a representative government, should undertake works for the defence of its own frontier. The only forces calculated to keep that country quiet, and to meet the attacks of the Kafirs, were the local forces to be raised there. The Government should not encourage the colony to lean any longer upon England for its defence. A similar course ought to be taken in respect to Canada and Australia. In respect to the erection of barracks at Williamstown, Port Natal, Quebec, and other places, he thought that, as a principle, it was most essential that the Committee should come to some general conclusion upon those items in the Votes. He hoped that the few words he had said would be deemed deserving of the attention of the Government, and that they should not find such Votes in the Estimates of next year.


said, he could assure his hon. Friend that the attention of the Government had been directed to the subject. They had taken steps this year to withdraw the garrisons from all places in Canada, except Quebec and Kingston. In Australia, the military force was at present about one-fourth of what it was. In regard to the Cape of Good Hope, the necessity of the large expenditure proposed arose from the removal of the head-quarters to Graham's Town. It was impossible to effect the desired object at once, but considerable progress towards it had been made.


said, what his hon. Friend (Mr. Adderley) complained of, was the cost of erecting barracks at the Cape. His hon. Friend said, that if we pay for troops at the Cape, surely it was not too much to expect that the colony would furnish them with barrack accommodation.


said, he concurred in the view of the hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley). With regard to the various items of the present Vote, there were some which appeared to him to be very extravagant. There was one item of 250l. for making two water-closets. In any new barracks to be constructed he trusted that ample space and room would be allowed, so as to provide for the health of the troops.


said, he believed that the vast total of the Estimates arose from the large number of small items which usually passed unnoticed. In offering the contracts the most ample information should be laid before the public, so that men might come forward to tender immediately, and that there might be no room for favouritism. He should like to know whether it was the expectation of the Government that the war would be of long continuance. If they did not, where was the necessity of providing barrack accommodation for 70,000 men. As the Cape of Good Hope had been mentioned, he begged to observe that there were two regiments there which had seen some service, the 45th and 73rd, and which, as they had served their period of colonial service, might be made available for the operations in the Crimea.


said, he had no wish to object to the providing of sufficient barrack accommodation, but he should like to know whether, before this estimate was framed, a general survey of the barrack accommodation of the United Kingdom had been made; and if so, whether any Report had been made, and whether there would be any objection to lay such Report on the table?


said, the most minute and careful calculations had been made on the subject. It had been already stated, that there would be a deficiency in barrack accommodation th the extent of somewhere about 70,000 men, when the whole of the militia were embodied. Although a large sum was taken for lodging 50,000 men in temporary barracks, there would be no necessity for proceeding with the permanent barracks more rapidly than they were required. Permanent barracks for 30,000 men were now in progress, and although the Government had proposed votes which would enable them to provide permanent barrack accommodation for 20,000 additional men, those barracks would not be erected unless it were found they were likely to be wanted.


said, he wished to know what was the amount of barrack accommodation for infantry and cavalry already available in the country, and what was the number of troops which would require such accommodation when all the militia were embodied? They would then know what their position really was with regard to barrack accommodation. He thought it was most desirable that the whole subject of barrack accommodation should be carefully reviewed, and that they should get rid of the numerous old and detached barracks which were spread over the country. As the contract system had been alluded to, he must say he thought there was a great deal of deception with respect to the cheapness of contracts. The Government often found themselves bound by contracts which, although they had been supposed very advantageous to the country, proved to be very expensive. Indeed, it had been stated by Mr. M'Culloch, before a Committee upstairs, that the contract system, unless it was carefully conducted, allowed more jobbing and cheating than any system that could be devised.


said, that it would probably be his duty, in the course of a few days, to explain certain alterations about to be made in the Ordnance Department, by which he hoped that any faults existing in the present contract system would be entirely removed. The subject of barrack accommodation had received the careful attention of the Government during the last year, and changes were in contemplation which would involve the abandonment of the detached barracks, many of them not affording accommodation for more than 200 men, which he regarded as a pest to the country, and as objectionable, not merely on economical, but upon social and political grounds.


said, he wished to know upon what Report of the Ordnance Department the hon. Gentleman had made his estimates?


said, that the cost was founded, in the first instance, upon the estimate made by their own officer, and afterwards upon the amount of the temporary barracks already contracted for.


said, it appeared to him that there was great dissatisfaction felt both as regarded the locality and the requirements of the service to much of the barrack accommodation throughout the country. He hoped that the subject of barrack accommodation generally would be now carefully considered. He hoped that the new barracks would be erected only in those large and open spaces where ample room would be afforded for large masses of soldiery acting together.

Vote agreed to; as was also—

(2.) 158,196l., Scientific Branch.

(3.) 197,657l., Non-Effective Services.


said, he wished to ask whether any plan was under consideration for bestowing a mark of approbation on the subaltern officers of the artillery corps for their distinguished services in the last campaign. From the rules of the service it was impossible to promote these officers. Four captains had been promoted to majorities, but the subalterns had received no reward. He would suggest that a system might be introduced similar to that adopted in the navy, with regard to mates, of noting subalterns who distinguished themselves for promotion to brevet majorities as soon as they attained the rank of captain.


said, the hon. and gallant Member must be aware that he had no control in the world over that matter. He could only promise to bring the suggestion under the notice of the proper authorities.

Vote agreed to.

The House resumed.