HC Deb 16 March 1863 vol 169 cc1544-7

SUPPLY considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £635,637, Barrack Establishment,


said, he wished to inquire how it was that at page 21 there was an item of £25,000 for washing and repairing barrack bedding, and at page 25 a further sum with respect to hospitals, for repairing bedding. Then for washing of sheets a sum of £10,000 was paid into the Exchequer by private soldiers, who were charged 2d. a month for that purpose. He wanted to know whether they were charged that money in the Colonies as well as in the United Kingdom, and when in billets as well as in barracks? He was informed, that when the Guards were in London, they did not pay for their washing, but somebody else did—namely, the Corporation of London. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give some explanation of this matter.


said, he thought the soldier should be relieved from the charge for sheet-washing at barracks.


said, the present canteen system of the British army was not in harmony with the spirit of the age. The system of letting them out to contractors was very' bad, and he knew one man who made £10,000 a year by them. The experiment made at Chatham, he believed, had succeeded in improving the character of the soldiers there. He saw no reason why the rooms in them, instead of being dark and ill-ventilated, should not be rendered light, and furnished with newspapers and other periodicals.


said, he felt it his imperative duty to call the attention of the Secretary at War to a painful subject, The establishment of camps at Aldershot and other places had produced a fearful amount of immorality and disease in the neighbourhood of those camps. From information which had reached him regarding the camp at Aldershot, he believed the careful attention of the Government was urgently required to the state of things there. There were no police regulations there. The French and other Governments on the Continent, who had for several years past formed military camps, had provided in connection with them various means of amusement and employment, which had tended very much not only to lessen the evil to which he referred, but to improve and elevate the minds of the soldiers. He knew that the Secretary at War was deeply interested in any movement beneficial to the army.


said, that during the recess his attention had been attracted to the subject of canteening. He had not found the evils of which the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Wyld) spoke, so generally prevalent, and at present he was at a loss to know how any material alteration of the system was to be produced. No doubt, it was to be wished that the soldier would not drink spirits or beer; but that state of perfection was not likely to be attained for some time; and if the soldier did consume those intoxicating liquors, he was not aware whether a preferable mode of supplying them to that which existed could be devised. With respect to the painful subject adverted to by the hon. Member for Finsbury, he could say that it had not escaped the attention of the Government, who had caused an inquiry to be instituted respecting it. They were in possession of an official Report on the subject, founded upon a careful investigation of facts and statistical accounts. It was difficult to exaggerate the evil as respects both the army and the navy, and he was afraid that it would be very easy for him, with the assistance of the Report to which he had alluded, to lay before the House a picture conveying an idea of the great intensity and depth of the evil. The difficulty consisted in suggesting such a remedy as would conform with public opinion in this country, and which the majority of that House would be likely to assent to; but he did not altogether despair of devising some practical means of mitigating the evil, and he thought that in the course of the Session it might be possible for him to call the attention of a Committee of the House, at all events, to the subject.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £46,097, Divine Service, agreed to.

(3.) £43,012, Martial Law.


observed, that he thought the expenditure for military prisons was capable of reduction.


said, he would recommend the military prisons to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary as a model for the civil ones, as they were really a terror to evildoers.


pointed out that there was an increase in the items for subsistence.


commended the effectual and economical administration of the military prisons.


explained that the Vote for the administration of martial law appeared separately in the Estimates for the first time. The increase of £12,000 for subsistence was only nominal, as a deduction on that account was made from the soldiers' pay. Formerly the balance only was stated, but now the whole sum was set down. As the number of inmates in each military prison was small compared with the proportion in civil prisons, the expense was, of course, greater.

Vote agreed to.

(4.) £255.993, Medical Establishments.


said, he could not but express his regret at the diminution of the Staff. The warrant founded on the Report of the Sanitary Commission of 1858 was calculated greatly to improve the medical establishment, by inducing talented men to join. Its provisions had not, however, been carried out, and he thought the medical officers had just ground for complaint. The result was that the number of candidates was falling off, so that on a recent occasion, when there were forty-five vacancies, only fifteen candidates appeared, and some of these broke down under the qualifying examination.


said, there had been some difficulty in the navy in regard to the warrant. Negotiations had been opened with the Admiralty, and he hoped that before long the warrant would he issued in a form likely to be satisfactory to all the medical officers. The numbers of the staff medical officers were given in accordance with the return of the Medical Director General. The reductions had been chiefly effected in foreign stations.


said, he thought that the item for purveying staff, which had sprung up of late years, was capable of reduction.


said, he wished to ask for some explanation respecting the appointment of a civil medical officer, whose salary, being a civilian, did not appear in the Estimates.


said, he was not aware that Dr. Sutherland, the gentleman referred to, held any permanent office in the War Department. He was a sanitary commissioner, and was engaged on several inquiries.

Vote agreed to.

(5.) £751,084, Disembodied Militia.


said, that the Government proposed a Vote for the English Volunteers, hut none for the defence of Ireland. There ought to be a Vote for longer time for the drill of the militia regiments, or some equivalent, for defensive purposes, to the English Vote for Volunteers.


said, he thought that the War Office ought either to increase the pay of militia surgeons, or withdraw the circular requiring them always to remain at head quarters.


said, he wished to inquire, whether the Secretary for War had taken into his consideration the Report of the Committee of last Session on the pay and duties of army medical officers?


said, it was his intention to act upon the Report of that Committee, and the present Estimates included the additional sum necessary for that purpose. With regard to the claim put forward by the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Dunne), it was impossible to give money to the Irish militia regiments as a bounty, because there were no Volunteers in Ireland.


said, that no one would assert that the time the Irish militia were out was enough to render them efficient.

Vote agreed to.

(6.) £94,162, Yeomanry.


said, he would move that the Chairman report progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Vote agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again on Wednesday.