HC Deb 03 August 1860 vol 160 cc665-7

said, he rose to ask the Secretary of State for War, Whether it is proposed, and by whose advice, to shorten the stocks of all the Rifles in course of manufacture at Enfield one inch? He had recently inspected the rifle manufactory at Enfield, and he could bear his decided testimony to the admirable manner in which that establishment, in all its branches, was conducted. Not less than 1,000 excellent rifles were made there weekly, at a cost of only £2 1s. 3d. each; and so extensive was the machinery employed for that purpose that it took 1,800 men to superintend its working. He was afraid, however, that the proposed shortening of the stocks of the rifles would necessitate costly alterations in the machinery.


I am glad to find that the hon. and gallant Officer (Colonel Dickson) has inspected the factory at Enfield, and I wish other Members of Parliament would do the same. I do not believe there is another establishment in the country where the machinery is so complete and where the system works so admirably. The expediency of shortening the stock of the Enfield rifle was raised by the Small Arms Committee. The question was submitted to the head of the Enfield factory and to General Hay, and it was decided that in the proportion of six to four there should be issued to every regiment so many muskets with short stocks and so many with long, so that there should be rifles to suit the different stature of different men. I do not believe it will necessitate any particular change in the machinery. The main object is that every man should get a rifle to fit his shoulder well. We have consulted eighty-seven regiments, and there is a great preponderance of authority in favour of issuing rifles of different lengths.

With regard to the question of the gallant Member for Wigan (Colonel Lindsay) I have submitted the two plans to the Commander-in-Chief, and I have had some communication with him on the subject, but he has not come to any decision. I believe he thinks there will be a great difficulty as regards the rest of the army in adopting either of the proposals made. That is a subject on which he is a good judge, and I should be disposed to be guided by his opinion when it comes before me.

With regard to the question put to me by the gallant Member for Chatham (Sir Frederic Smith) in reference to the Report of the Committee on Military Organization, the Report is before the House, but the evidence is not produced at present. As soon as I have that evidence before me it will be my duty to lay it before the Government, with a view to considering what changes ought to be made in the administration of the army. When I was examined before the Committee I expressed a very strong opinion that there ought to be a greater infusion of the military element in the administration of the army. I felt that the army is necessarily jealous of being exclusively managed by civilians, and that in carrying on the business of the War Office we had not a sufficient number of officers to whom we could refer with respect to the regulations of the army. When the proper time comes I shall draw the attention of the Government to the subject, but I cannot undertake to make any proposal on the matter this Session. My hands are full enough already, but next Session I hope to be able to propose some changes which will add to the efficiency of the army.


said, there was a strong feeling in the army with respect to the affairs at the War Office being so largely conducted by civilians, and he was happy to hear the declaration that had been made by the right hon. Gentleman on that subject. It would give great satisfaction to the army, and a larger infusion of the military element into the War Office would be received with great gratification.