HC Deb 03 March 1864 vol 173 cc1414-6

in rising, pursuant to notice, to move— That it is expedient that the recommendations contained in the Report of the Committee on the proper means for the Instruction and Employment of Soldiers and their Children in Trades, and of the Under Secretary of State in a letter to the Quartermaster General, Horse Guards, dated 23rd May, 1862, be carried into effect, said, that the matter was one of great importance to the efficiency of the army. In 1861 the late Sir George Lewis appointed a Committee for the purpose of investigating the subject, and the Committee addressed questions to officers of all ranks, with the view of obtaining a perfectly impartial statement of opinion. It should be observed that the Instructions which were drawn up by Sir George Lewis were of the most liberal and impartial kind, and that his desire was not so much to have his own preconceived opinions confirmed as to have such a result produced as would contribute to the general efficiency of the army. Replies were sent by a great number of officers, and many of those replies were of great length and went very much into detail. There was but one distinguished officer who replied in the negative to the inquiries addressed to him, and that was Sir George Brown. With that exception, all the replies were favourable to the increased employment of soldiers in trades. Sir George Wetherall, Sir John Burgoyne, General Hutchinson, Sir Percy Douglas, and Colonel Simmons, of Aldershot, were all favourable to the project. The only objection of any weight to the employment of soldiers in trades was that soldiers who could earn money by trades would be likely to quit the army the sooner; but Sir Percy Douglas grappled with that objection, and contended that, though the loss of good soldiers was a thing to be regretted, yet the benefit of attracting good men into the army, by holding out to them a prospect of being able to provide for themselves whenever they might leave, was so great as to outweigh any disadvantage on the other side. It was well known what the French soldiers could do in the various trades. When he was last in a French camp an officer took him round, and, showing him an eagle, said, "Everything in the camp, except that eagle, was made by the soldiers." He would direct the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington), to this point; what n great saving of expense might be effected in employing soldiers to make their uniforms and to execute the various repairs in barracks. He should like to see the noble Lord signalize the commencement of his career, which he trusted would be one honourable to himself and beneficial to the country, by a reform of that kind. It had been remarked over and over again, that the morality of the soldier would be greatly increased by giving him increased employment, and there was nothing the House had more at heart than the moral improvement of the soldier. They had reason to suppose that some measures calculated to improve the moral condition of both services would be introduced by the War Office and the Admiralty, and nothing would contribute more to the morality of the soldier than to provide him with employment. To prove what might be done by soldiers, Sir John Burgoyne had instanced the great works of defence at Antwerp, which had been executed by soldiers. The Report of the Committee concluded with the opinion of Sir Hugh Rose, who had introduced the system largely into India, and with the utmost success. Sir Hugh said he found the men very desirous of being employed in their trades, and, though those who were so employed were able to earn considerably more than others not so employed, not one case of drunkenness among them had ever been brought to his notice. The workmanship, too, was superior to that of native mechanics, and several articles of furniture which could not be produced by the Natives were turned out by men of the regiment. In the early part of the evening the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. H. Baillie) had referred to the condition of the soldiers in India, and he should like to read an extract upon that subject. The commanding officer of the 91st Highlanders in India, by taking measures for the amusement, employment, and occupation of his men, reduced the number of district court-martials among between 900 and 1,000 men from 50 to 13, and the regimental court-martials from 105 to 48, and never had a case of flogging during six years. What he desired was, that the House of Commons should express their opinion that more employment should be introduced among the soldiers, because, if they did that, the Horse Guards would, no doubt, be induced to push the matter further than they had hitherto done. The hon. Member was then about to make his Motion, when—


said, the hon. Member would not be in order in moving.

Main Question put, and agreed to.