HC Deb 20 March 1863 vol 169 cc1703-14

SUPPLY considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £321,884, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge of the Volunteers, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1804, inclusive.


said, in replying to the latter observations of Sir Henry Willoughby, with reference to going into Committee of Supply at this time of night, he had a distinct recollection that when the change was made from the former to the present practice, there was a clear understanding that the Government were to be at liberty to go into Supply on Friday, if the time of night permitted. The question then was, whether it was proper to go into Supply at ten o'clock at night. And he never heard it objected that it was not right to go into Supply at that time. In fact, it was usual to do so. With regard to the Volunteer Vote, there was an increase of £199,000 this year, owing to a proposal of Government, founded on the Report of the Royal Commission, recommending the increased grant which he now submitted. The opinion of that Commission was, that the Volunteer force had reached a stage at which a certain part of it would dissolve unless it received some subsidy from the country. He did not know whether that was in the shape of censure; but inasmuch as the force was supplied by the voluntary contributions and the volunteer services of members, it seemed natural that after a number of years the zeal which originally animated it should somewhat cool, and the expense be regarded as heavy. In 1801, when a former great Volunteer movement took place, the country came to the assistance of the Volunteers at a much earlier period, and to a much greater extent than at present. The plan of the Commission was that there should be a grant in aid of Volunteeer regiments to be calculated on the principle of a capitation charge; not that a sum should be paid to each individual, but that a sum, determined by the number of Volunteers, should be paid to the adjutant to be disbursed by him, and account for the same to the War Department. The proposed capitation was to all Volunteers, except the artillery Volunteers, 20s. per man who passed a certain scale of drill; another 10s. per man to those who passed a certain portion of musketry instruction; and 30s. per man to the artillery. The purposes to which these allowances were to be applied were head-quarters, drill-ground, care and repair of arms, cost of instruction, and cost and conveyance of clothing. And this was the only increased expenditure, on account of the Volunteers, in the Army Estimates for the year.


said, that he thought the amount of the proposed Vote rather alarming. At first it was not imagined that any expense of the Volunteers would have to be defrayed by the country, except for arms and ammunition and staff Serjeants. Well, the first grant was £88,000, the next £133,000, the next £172,000, and the present £321,000 odd. But were the Committee to grant sums of money to bodies of men who performed no service for the amount? We had it from high authority that in cases of public disturbance the Volunteers could not be brought out with arms; nay, more, that their presence was a positive source of danger. He had seen it stated that when a riot broke out in Birkenhead, so far from the Volunteers being able to stem it, they were, on being called out, obliged to take their rifles to pieces, and put the barrels on one side and the locks on the other, in order to prevent the mob from, getting hold of them. He did not impugn the spirit and patriotism of the Volunteers, but in moving the reduction of the Vote he claimed the assistance of hon. Members below the gangway on the Ministerial side of the House; because they must admit either that the danger which called the Volunteers into existence still continued, and that it was therefore necessary to maintain them, or that the danger was past, and that the Volunteers must therefore be left to support themselves. They were going to spend upon the Volunteers more than the cost of the transport service of the regular army; and to cripple that service was to detain in India beyond the time for relief, and to shorten the life of, the regular soldier, who was worth more than the Volunteer. He moved that the Vote be reduced by the amount of the capitation grant, £154,579.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £267,308, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge of the Volunteers, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1864, inclusive.


said, that the noble Lord complained of the expenditure of £154,000 upon the Volunteer force, but lie made no complaint of the expenditure of £14,000,000 upon the regular army. He thought that no one of the Votes which had been submitted to the House was more economical than this. But the real secret of the noble Lord's objection had crept out. The noble Lord thought that the Volunteer force was a dangerous one.


said, that he had never considered the Volunteer force as dangerous.


said, that no danger was to be apprehended from putting arms into the bands of the middle classes of the community. He hoped the Committee would not be led aside by the noble Lord from doing their duty towards the Volunteer body.


said, that the question was, whether the Volunteer force was a useful body or not. He was one of the Royal Commissioners who had to consider this subject, and one of their inquiries was whether or not the Volunteer force was likely to dwindle away unless this Vote of money were made. The Commissioners thought that would be the case. They found, also, that there was no other way than this of getting a class of men to serve their country without pecuniary assistance. The Volunteers included in their ranks a body of men who would never volunteer into the ranks of the army, navy, or militia. He thought, if this money were voted, it would not be thrown away. At a comparatively small expense a most valuable supplementary force would be obtained to the regular service of the country.


said, that he agreed that this was one of the most economical Votes that had been proposed to this House. He thought nothing was more creditable to the Volunteers than that they came forward at the hour when they thought they might by possibility be required for the defence of their country, and then, when the danger was passed, they were ready to relinquish their military duties and return to their ordinary occupa- tions. But the truth was the country had found the advantage of these men, and it would be most unwise to sacrifice a body whose fidelity to their country had been so conspicuous. He thought the Volunteers were a most reasonable class of men. They had given up their time, which to them was money, and more than money, because it involved the sacrifice of many comforts. He thought the Volunteers ought to get their uniform cloth at cost price, and he thought that such a grant would be received by the Volunteers with much gratitude. With regard to the adjutants, he would observe that there were 160 adjutants for the disembodied militia, being an average as compared with the number of men of 35½ per cent. The average of adjutants for the yeomanry cavalry was 20 per cent. For the Volunteer force he found there were 280 adjutants. He thought a less percentage of adjutant officers might be sufficient for the education of Volunteers, who were considered to be a class superior to the militia in point of intelligence and education.


said, that the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Lovaine) would be received with unanimous dissent by all classes in this country. The Volunteers came forward at a moment of emergency, or supposed emergency, and he did not believe that the country would grudge the expense necessary to keep up so valuable a force in an efficient state. There was considerable advantage in keeping up the military spirit of the nation; and as the Volunteers contributed to this end, he thought they ought to be supported to a fair and reasonable extent.


said, that things constantly happened in that House which occasioned much surprise. This evening they had had a discussion about the Galway subsidy of £78,000, and yet here was a proposal made with the greatest coolness fur a grant of £160,000, or £1 ahead, to gentlemen for their patriotism. They talked of jobbery. What was jobbery? The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams), said this patriotism was very cheap at the price. Well, he did nut think that the Volunteers had any present military value. Dressing a man in a sheet of blotting-paper, carrying a dirty market, and taking up four times as much ground us the regular troops, would not make a man a soldier; and he was sure the people of Ireland would laugh when they read how the House began with the discussion of the Galway subsidy, and ended with voting this money for the English Volunteers.


to ask whether it was not worth £1 a head to instil military ideas into men who, in case of invasion, would admittedly be relied upon as soldiers. The bounty would not be received by the Volunteers themselves, but was mainly intended to overcome the difficulty of bringing members of administrative battalions together in rural districts — a difficulty which was exceedingly great when they bad to travel thirty or forty miles to attend drill. Without discussing the amount of room required by a Volunteer battalion to move in, he maintained that the aptitude exhibited in learning their drill, and the precision with which their movements were executed, were astonishing, and it was impossible for any old soldier to refuse them his admiration. As to making them perfectly disciplined soldiers, that could only he done by the continuous discipline of the barrack yard; and if the amount of time requisite fin-that purpose were demanded at their hands, it would be necessary to pay, not £300,000, but £3,000,000. To the Volunteers their time was money, and he believed they cheerfully sacrificed as much of it as was consistent with their other engagements, for frequently the men were not their own masters. They were an honourable force, and one that it was a pleasure to command.


said, that there had been no falling-off in the payments from enrolled members, but the public had ceased to give subscriptions as freely as they used to do. The question was whether it was worth while to pay the sum proposed in order to retain 150,000 men as part of the permanent defences of the country.


said, that he was one of those who thought, that while we did not need any more soldiers for the purpose of aggression, we certainly for years required a force for defence. The Volunteers supplied that want, and were at once efficient and cheap; and that was the reason why they received the support of Gentlemen below the gangway.


said, that he was happy to say that in the battalion he commanded, consisting entirely of working men, there was as much zeal as ever. Since it had become known that the Government grant would enable the corps to reduce its ex- penses 170 recruits had joined its ranks. He felt grateful to the Government for having proposed a measure without which it would have been impossible for the force to keep together.


begged to state, that in the case of the riot, or rather row, referred to, which had occurred at Birken-head between the Orangemen and the Roman Catholic mob, the Volunteers were not in a position to use their muskets, even if such a course had become necessary; they were acting as special constables merely, and an order was made by the magistrates, with the concurrence of Lieut.-Colonel King, that the nipples should be taken off for the purpose of rendering the muskets useless to either of the contending parties.


said, that he thought the efficiency of the Volunteer force was greatly exaggerated. There were not more than 50,000 thoroughly efficient Volunteers in the kingdom. The Volunteer force in the country districts fell far short of the efficiency which might be seen in the Volunteers of towns. It was incumbent on the Government to see that the money voted by Parliament was spent in making them really efficient.


said, that he thought the objections which had been made to the Volunteer force and its efficiency had been satisfactorily answered. If it were assumed that the regular force available for the service of the country did not amount to much more than 40,000 bayonets, it was impossible to conceive a more efficient auxiliary body at a less expense than the Volunteer force. With regard to the number of the Volunteers, he bad it on authentic information that there were on the muster-roll 157,000 men, of whom 138,000 might be considered effective.


begged to explain that what be had said was, that the arms of the Volunteers were a source of danger. The Volunteers could not act as military men in case of riot; but if there were soldiers present, they could. He would not trouble the Committee to divide, but would merely enter his protest against what he considered an unnecessary piece of extravagance, and would leave it to those Gentlemen who were always anxious for economy with regard to the regular army to justify themselves in voting so large a sum for 170,000 men who were not soldiers in time of peace, and could only be converted into soldiers in time of war.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £55,847, Enrolled Pensioners and Army Reserve.


begged to ask what was the nature of the latter body.


said, the reserve force received a sort of retaining fee, and attended a certain number of drills in the year.


said, that it was a very useful force.

In reply to Lord WILLIAM GRAHAM,


said, that there was a stoppage from the soldier's pay for washing shoots. He was rather opposed to those small stoppages, but the present one involved a considerable sum in the aggregate, and did not press heavily on the individuals who paid it.

Vote agreed to,

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £956,365, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge of the Manufacturing Departments, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1864, inclusive.


said, that there was a large decrease under this head as compared with last year. A short time since the contract with the Elswick factory was terminated, in consequence of the inability of the Government to supply the company with a sufficient amount of orders to render the works profitable to the company. The diminution of orders was clue to the fact that while the present ordnance experiments were going on, the Government did not like to proceed with the rapid manufacture of cannon. By the terms of their contract with the Elswick Company they were bound to make compensation if the works were not profitable, and under these circumstances they deemed it better to pay the forfeit and put an end to the contract. Sir W. Armstrong had thereupon resigned his post as head of the Ordnance Factory, because he wished to be perfectly free from all connection with the Government, and to devote himself entirely to the Elswick factory. This change would necessitate a revision of the existing- arrangements in the Department, and an opportunity would be afforded of correcting certain abuses of the old system. It was a most important question whether the Government should maintain manufac- tories of its own or employ contractors, In discussing that question some confusion arose from the application of abstract principles of political economy to circumstances wherein some modification was required. In general, the Government could not employ contractors with advantage unless the article to be produced was one for which there was a natural demand, and which was required not merely by the Government but by the general public. Clothing, for instance, came under that category. In the case of iron ordnance, however, there was no general demand. No one wanted that commodity, except our own or perhaps a Foreign Government. The consequence was, that if a contractor undertook to supply the Government with guns, it was necessary to enter into a special contract, either to take a certain quantity of guns in the course of the year, or to advance a sum for plant and fixed expenses, or else in some other manner to maintain the contractor in his special manufacture. Thus a contractor, producing an article for which there was no general demand, became almost a Government manufacturer, and would scarcely be considered in the light of a free and independent contractor. On the other hand, articles like clothing, in proportion as they admitted of verification by inspection, might be supplied by private manufacture. There was an exception in the case of shoes, since sides might be filled up with an inferior article and might not be quite solid. The practice, therefore, was to cut up one or two pairs here and there to see if the soles were perfectly made. As a general rule, however, articles for which there was a natural demand, and which admitted of being verified by inspection, ought almost invariably to be supplied by contractors. Where, on the contrary, the article was one for which there was no natural demand, and one of which the Government were exclusive purchasers, and where also the inspection could not he verified, a Government factory was more economical and advantageous than a supply by contractors. If this principle were sound, the House would see that the Factory at Woolwich had not undergone any unjustifiable enlargement, and that the Government would be better supplied by its own factory in this instance than by employing contractors.


said, that the question raised by the Secretary at War was rather too important to be discussed at half past eleven at night. He had given notice of a Motion for reducing the grant to these Establishments, and should propose a small reduction in the present Vote to enable the Committee to consider the effect of the Government manufactures upon the public expenditure. He agreed in the principle that there were certain articles which it was desirable to produce by Government factories. But it was well Parliament should know how this source of Government expenditure was increasing. Previous to the amalgamation of the War Office with the Ordnance, this expenditure was very small. It had, however, gone on gradually increasing from about £15,000 in 1855, until it was now about £30,000. The present Vote was considerably reduced since last year, but there had been no reduction in the establishments. It appeared that Sir William Armstrong had wisely retired from a position inconsistent with his other pursuits, and his retirement left perfectly open the question of the reduction of the establishment with which that Gentleman had been connected. Did the right hon. Gentleman propose to appoint another person in his place; and, if so, on what terms? Were the Committee aware of the immense expenditure employed for wages and stores in the manufactories supplying the army and navy? During the last two years the items of wages and stores for the army and navy amounted to not less than £15,120,000. In the present year there was a considerable reduction in the stores, but no reduction in the establishments, and that was the point to which he wished to direct the attention of the Committee. If they meant to reduce the stores, they should act on the same principle, and reduce the establishments as well. The witnesses who gave their evidence before the Committee on Military Organization, and who were likely to form a sound opinion, thought this system of manufacturing had been carried too far. Sir Benjamin Hawes was in favour of relying more on private enterprise, and less on public establishments, and did not believe that the contract system had had a fair trial. The House had not the accounts of the store branches and the manufacturing branches before it. Without that information, and particularly without balance sheets, it was impossible for them to know what they were about when voting these large sums. Messrs. Anderson and Arbuthnot, well-known gentle- men, whose evidence was conclusive on matters of finance, stated that the system was entirely unsatisfactory in the store branch. The late Lord Herbert admitted that proper financial control was wanting; and there could be no doubt that the accounts were faulty and unsound both in the store and the manufacturing departments. Unless they took stock and knew the prices of the articles so as to be able to tell whether they cost more than those produced by private manufacturers, the basis of any correct system of accounts must be entirely wanting, and they must be left, on these points, as Mr. Anderson said, "very much in the dark." He did not wish to make any violent change, but a moderate limitation of these establishments. His complaint against the system was, that it did not give them the cost. He should like to know the expense of the artillery and gun factory for the last two-years. The accounts were radically faulty, and the same remark applied to some extent to the gun-carriage department. But the foundation of the whole, the valuation of the store, was a perfect blank at the time when Captain Gordon gave his evidence. What he now proposed was that a small reduction should be made upon the sum of £35,871 for the nine establishments embraced within this Vote. He would therefore move that that amount be diminished by £2,000. At all events, before they were called upon to agree to this large Vote the right hon. Gentleman ought to afford them some explanations of the system carried on in these establishments.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Item of £35,871 he reduced by the sum of £2,000."


bogged to ask for explanation respecting certain other details of the Vote.


thought that the first thing the Government ought to do was to inform the country what amount of stores was necessary, and could be obtainable, in the event of war. There were certain articles which the Government could obtain much better from contractors than from their own factories. There were, however, some other articles which the Government could better manufacture than any other parties. Gun-carriages and guns, for example, could be better obtained from our Government arsenals than from the hands of contractors. But why should clothing be made by the Government factories? What was the use of sending articles, that came into the hands of the Government from nil parts of the kingdom, to be tested at Pimlico? All these arrangements went far to swell the Estimates.


said, that he thought it impossible to pass the large Vote under consideration at that advanced period of the night. Nevertheless, he wished to say a few words upon the Vote for Warlike Stores, and to read extracts from the Evidence given before the Committee which sat on this subject, to show that it was more economical for the Government to manufacture for the public service than to obtain the necessary stores from contractors. He hoped the Committee would require from the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) an explanation of his ominous words, "a new system of inspection," spoken of by him.


said, that there were in the War Office audited accounts of each Department; and if the hon. Baronet (Sir James Fergusson) would move for them, they should be produced. He did not propose any increase of expenditure for inspection at Woolwich Arsenal.

To report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported on Monday next.

Committee also report Progress; to sit again on Monday next.

  2. c1713
  4. cc1713-4