HC Deb 12 April 1869 vol 195 cc642-60

In calling attention to this subject, I cannot help feeling that, although by no means new, it is a matter of such vast importance that I regret no one else better fitted to grapple with it than I can possibly be should have taken it up: but it seems to me that it is of so much interest to the country that thorough ventilation should be given to the views entertained by those who are of opinion that military works should be undertaken by military labour, that I think I may fairly lay claim to the kind indulgence of the House in trespassing for a short period, in endeavouring to call attention generally to the question. Now, Sir, what I am anxious to show the House is, that nearly all the experiments made, during the last ten years, have shown conclusively that a saving of 30 per cent can be effected by the employment of soldier labour on military works, and at the same time efficiency and discipline have by no means been impaired where the plan has been tried. I wish to show the House that the amount of money which might be saved annually with benefit to the country—providing an organized system were adopted throughout the Army on the Home Station—would be about £100,000. I also want to point out that, in order to effect this, what is termed the "Industrial Employment of Soldiers" must be utilized for the public benefit. It appears almost unnecessary to dwell upon the fact, so patent to every one, that the more you combine the structural with the combatant functions in an army, so much more efficient does that army become. But I regret to say that there are still officers existing who are not yet convinced, and in this country. Although of late years—especially since the great struggle on the American continent—public opinion has made rapid strides in arriving at the conclusion of what the beau ideal of an army ought to be, there is yet very much to be done before we can place ourselves on a par with Continental nations in their views as to what the perfect organization of an army should be. It is the opinion of every foreign officer of distinction—and, I am thankful to say, of a great number of our own—that an army to be thoroughly effective and fully equipped ought to possess, amongst its component parts, units able to exercise intelligence and resource to carry out the supply of all its wants without assistance. If we search history, we find that the Romans, centuries ago, used not only to train their soldiers to the use of arms, but also to the mode and manner of entrenching camps, of building bridges, and of works likely to be of use to an army. Not only was this done when under instruction, but whenever their camps were moved their troops were practised in entrenchment and general works. Of later date we find Na- poleon stating, when at St. Helena, that "with soldiers properly trained, a good general could fight as much with the spade as with the musket." It was that great General's opinion—the highest authority on such matters—that the handier you made the soldier, so proportionately did his value increase. The famous army of Boulogne was a force trained in this respect; and it seems open to the commonest understanding that the more a man is made to use the muscles of his frame, to have active bodily exercise, to be made handy, and to depend on his own skill, the more useful will he be. Only the other day the Americans found, during the war in the United States, the greatest possible benefit was derived from having a large number of skilled artificers in the ranks, and many of our own officers, who went over during the war, are witnesses of how inferior our troops are, in comparison, in this respect. Lord Grey, in his evidence before the Recruiting Commission, described this so well, that I will, with the permission of the House, read an extract. His Lordship said— I would on no account take away any part of the time that was necessary for making the soldier perfect in his military drill, and I would especially require a complete knowledge of the use of his weapons; but I am told that the Americans have found that the system of drill is capable of very great simplification, and that they have discovered that the efficiency of their army depends to a very great degree upon the skill of the men, not only in the use of weapons but in the use of tools. The efficiency of the American army was increased to a degree that it was difficult to describe by the skill of those volunteer soldiers many of whom were drawn from the western parts of America, and who had the ready habits of settlers in applying all the resources they could find to their own advantage. The efficiency of those men in that respect was one of the great sources of strength of the American army, and it was found in that contest that entrenchments could be erected in a wonderfully short space of time by skilled men. They had the power not only of making earthworks, but of rapidly constructing railways, and laying down electric telegraphs, and making all the arrangements for the communication with the army and carrying on all the work necessary for its advantage. Some of our own officers tell me that there was very much indeed for them to learn from what they saw actually done in the course of that contest in America. It is quite true that the scheme of making soldiers independent of external assistance has made some progress of late years in many quarters. Trials have certainly taken place at a few barracks of doing all the repairs by soldiers, and also of employing Engineers and Line on the erection of fortifications; but what I want to point out to the House is this—that down to the present moment no organized attempt has been made to carry out a general system. There are about 500 barracks on the Home Station occupied and unoccupied, and out of these I believe I am correct in saying that only six have their repairs executed entirely by the troops. Notwithstanding trials are successfully carried out, no practical use whatever is made of the knowledge so acquired, and hardly any perceptible saving of the public expenditure has as yet been made. The War Office seem first to have recognized the necessity of carrying out the industrial employment of soldiers on a large scale in 1861; and in that year Sir George Lewis, Secretary of State for War, was so much impressed with the advantages which would accrue from the soldier being made less of a machine, that he appointed a departmental Committee to inquire into the whole subject. That Committee, in May, 1862, after having received a very voluminous correspondence, reported strongly in favour of the system being generally attempted, stating, however, that the first consideration should be that only well-drilled first-class soldiers were to be employed. The only two objections amongst the letters they received came from General Sir George Brown and the Dublin Board, whilst forty-five were in favour. Amongst the correspondence, I find that Sir John Burgoyne stated— It is quite needless to advert to the advantage to the social position of the country, and to the soldiers themselves, if any portion of them can be converted from habits tending rather to a disinclination and disability to work, even as labourers, to an aptitude for becoming workmen of the class of artizans; while the progress of conversion will obtain for them increased health and comforts; in many cases may be of assistance to the public service, and might perhaps eventually, in some degree, repay the moderate cost of carrying the measure out. And Lord De Eos said that— No doubt that almost all barrack repairs could be done, and well and cheaply done, by soldiers. Painting is very soon learned, paving of stables and yards, clearing and repairing drains, and even ordinary carpenter's and bricklayer's work would, under competent direction, be quite within the compass of the soldier in barracks, and in camp the repair of huts and tents, and the forming of drains, above all, the making of roads, seem almost essential to rendering him able and efficient on service. Both of these officers are of the highest standing in the army, and great authorities on this matter. The Committee, in their Report, recommended that a certain outlay should be made for the purchase of tools and erection of workshops, and this I believe to be one of the reasons why the attempt has not been carried out on a large scale; and the other reason has been that the War Office and commanding officers have looked upon the teaching soldiers different trades too much as a means of affording recreation and amusement for the troops, instead of carrying out an organized plan by which these industrial trades could be utilized for the country's benefit, and thus making the public service the first object. In Clause 39 of the Report the Committee state the manner the troops ought to be employed— We consider the troops should be employed upon the repair of barrack damages, fair wear and tear repairs, making and repairing barrack furniture or stores, and indeed upon any work that the officer commanding the regiment or corps, or the commanding Royal Engineer, may consider they could be advantageously employed upon, and that the general officer commanding at the station may approve of. I apprehend, Sir, that if we are to employ soldiers on military works, if their industry is to be made available, surely the duties enumerated by the Committee, of repairing barrack damages of all description, is the most essential to be carried out. The future principle of action on the part of the War Department ought to be, that it is as incumbent on the soldier to keep his dwelling in repair as it is to guard it. In all the discussions which have taken place in this House and in the House of Lords since that Committee, the inquiry appears to have turned far more on Industrial employment for purposes of recreation than as a means of reducing military expenditure. In the Return moved for by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Sir Harry Verney), in. 1865, we find that in India it has been carried out on a largo scale. In one instance, I believe, watches have actually been manufactured, and every description of trade seems to have been sot on foot, but hardly any of this labour has been carried to the benefit of the State by reducing expenditure. Thanks to the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, I have been permitted to see the whole of the corre- spondence which has taken place on this subject for the last ten years, and I have received the fullest information on this subject from the different officials at the War Office. I regret, however, to say that with the exception of a few reports from Barracks where the experiments have been carried on, the great bulk is composed of correspondence relating to the Industrial Amusement of the troops. Now, Sir, I am very far from deprecating this course as far as it goes, and I am well aware of the advantages which accrue to the soldier when his time is employed; but I do think that the day has arrived when we ought to look at the question broadly in the face, with the view of seeing how far we can carry this "Industrial labour and talent," which has been so easily evoked in these regiments where the experiments have been tried, to the benefit of the State by employing soldiers on military works. I am quite confident that the experience gained since 1862 is sufficient to enable us to deal in a large and statesmanlike manner with this most important matter without further inquiry or loss of time. There are a large number of officers who still think a soldier ought to be a mere machine; but I am sure that it only requires a little pressure from this House to enable the system to be fully developed. The repairs of Barracks are classed under two heads, first repairs arising from occupation which are termed "Barrack damages," and secondly "fair wear and tear repairs," which are called "Incidentals." "Barrack damages," as the House is aware, is charged against the troops inhabiting, and are a most vexatious burden, although the whole sum expended on the Home Station does not amount to more than £7,000. It seems to me, Sir, that the sooner this item is entirely done away with the better will it be for the army. Small though the amount actually is, it is on pay day a source of great irritation to the soldier, and is generally regarded as a robbery. Often and often these damages occur from the building being in so dilapidated a state that it is impossible to inhabit it without risk of large damages; and, in many cases, I fear regiments are charged with damages arising from neighbouring unoccupied buildings, because there are no others to pay for them. Until lately these Barrack damages were executed by what was termed the "Barrack damage contractor," employed by the Barrack master without any supervision on the part of the Royal Engineer Department, and were open to the chance of collusion; but I am thankful to say that, by the new Control regulation, it has now been placed together with Incidentals under the direct supervision of the Royal Engineers. In some cases regiments have attempted to do these small repairs, and in some cases have succeeded, especially in the regiments of Guards; but as a rule, and from want of a system, and because the incidentals have nearly always been obliged to be undertaken by civilians, the two sets of artificers have clashed, and the attempt has been a failure. In regard to the incidentals, which on the Home Station amounts to £135,000. At a few places experiments have been carried out in their integrity at Parkhurst, Woolwich, Aldershot, and the Curragh camp, and at these places, where the commanding officers happen to have been favourable to the plan, a saving, in round numbers, of nearly 30 per cent has been effected. At Parkhurst, I believe, the system has been more fully tested than at any other station. Fortunately the commanding officer—Colonel Jeffreys—an officer of great ability, was determined to give the plan a full trial, and threw his whole energy into carrying out and developing the idea, and gave it his most cordial co-operation. The result has been most satisfactory. We find, in the Return which has just been printed, that Lieutenant McHardy, of the Royal Engineers, under whose supervision the works were carried out, states that— The result which has attended the employment of the labour of soldiers on barrack incidental repairs has been very satisfactory; the works have been properly performed, and with expedition. The percentage calculated from the last quarter of the year (this being the only quarter during which the estimated amount was accurately determined) would be 35 per cent of saving by employing the soldiers, instead of a contractor. The estimated expenditure for civil labour was £159 5s.; the actual expenditure (the soldiers doing the work) was £103 6s., the saving being £56 nearly. Calculating by the data thus obtained, the saving on the total expenditure for the year—namely, £303—would be £106 yearly. The success of the scheme is in a great measure due to the hearty co-operation of the late commanding officer, Colonel Jeffreys. Disadvantage arose from time to time by the men employed having to join their respective regiments, so that the shops were often required to be rearranged with fresh men. This inconvenience, incidental to a depot battalion, would not of course be felt in a regiment. It is to be remarked that the co-operation of all concerned, especially of the commanding officer, is absolutely necessary for the successful employment of soldiers. In regard to the efficiency of the regiment, perhaps the House will allow me to read a letter which I have received from Colonel Jeffreys himself. He says— Seafield House, Ryde, 3rd April, 1869. Dear Sir,—I have the greatest satisfaction in being able to inform you that the employment of soldiers at Parkhurst, for upwards of eighteen months, in executing "Barrack Damage Repairs," "Fair Wear Repairs" (termed incidentals), has resulted in a great success. These repairs, as well as various new works of considerable extent, have been performed to the satisfaction of the resident Royal Engineer, at a saving of fully 30 per cent. Discipline has not, in the slightest degree, been impaired; there, of course, have been cases of drunkenness and absence, but those cases have been exceptional. Some commanding officers may object, because the system is an innovation, that soldiers while employed would forget their drill; but I cordially concur in opinion with Colonel Baker, that their being usefully employed does not necessarily make them inefficient in the ranks; tailors and shoemakers are regularly employed without objection. The benefit to be derived from the system in a military point of view is undoubted; as a trained body of artizans would be always available, either in quarter or in the field, a soldier's energies would be developed, and he would become habituated to work instead of passing his time in listless idleness. Moreover, when discharged he would be able and willing to earn his livelihood, instead of (as is too frequently the case) becoming a burden on bis parish. It is, however, most important to observe, that the system cannot be carried out in the army without the cordial co-operation of commanding officers, combined with general officers of districts, acting under instructions conveyed through the Adjutant General of the Forces from His Royal Highness the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief. I remain, dear Sir, yours truly, EDMUSD JEFFREYS, Col., Late commanding 5th Depot Battalion. To the Hon. C. HANBURT TRACY, M.P. Now, Sir, up to this time these experiments have rested entirely on the willingness or unwillingness of commanding officers to undertake the additional trouble connected with the commencement of this system, and of training a certain number of their men as artificers. I undertake to say that if any other officer had been at Parkhurst who disliked the work, the result would have been very different, and we should have probably heard of a loss. I ask the House, Is it right that the success of this plan should be allowed to depend on the mere caprice of commanding officers? Unless the War Department lay down an imperative order that all regiments are to possess a body of skilled artificers, and that they are to repair their own barracks, and take a determined stand, however successful a few experiments may be here and there, it will end in failure. At Aldershot, we find that the saving has ranged from 10 up to 50 per cent— It is estimated that a saving of about 10 per cent on incidental repairs, rising up to 50 per cent on some new works, has attended the employment of soldier labour. A larger number of military superintendents are required for military labour than for work performed by civilians. At the Curragh, the saving has been estimated at 39 per cent— The employment of soldiers at the Curragh has been attended with the most satisfactory results. The saving is estimated at 39 per cent; to work the system satisfactorily it is essential that the troops should remain for a considerable time at each station, and that they should be superintended by officers and non-commissioned officers of Royal Engineers. In regard to this, I wish to say that I am informed this saving has been effected only during the past year. Previous to that time, the experiment appears not to have been successful, owing, I presume, to the superintendence not having been sufficiently effective. The saving of 39 per cent is due, I believe, entirely to the 28th Company of Royal Engineers, which is stationed at the Curragh. This is another proof of the great necessity of the superintendence being very efficient when soldier labour is employed. At Woolwich, where the system has just been commenced, it varis from 20 to 25 per cent— A saving, estimated at 20 per cent on incidentals and 25 per cent on new works, has attended the employment of soldier labour. A continuance of the system will develop its advantages in a higher degree. In many of our colonies, where these experiments on fortifications have been made, soldier labour has been employed with the most important beneficial re- suits. We find it has been successful at Bermuda, Gibraltar, Quebec, New Zealand, and the Cape, and that savings have been made. This shows that there exists a vast amount of latent power in the army which only requires organization to enable the labour of soldiers to be carried out on a large scale with benefit to the country. On the Home Station, works of considerable extent have been conducted at Weymouth and Dover. At Weymouth. we find that Captain Smith, who so ably conducted the works there, states that the employment of skilled military labour resulted in a saving of nearly 30 per cent— Memorandum of the comparative Cost of Sapper and Civil Labour.—1. The saving effected by employing military labour (Royal Engineers and Line) instead of contract, is 2841 per cent. 2. Every soldier, during each day that he is actually employed on the works, clears off (by doing the work cheaper than a civilian) his whole coat to the country, including regimental and working pay, bounty, clothing, barracks, hospital, &c, in fact everything except 3¾d. per diem. 3. The amount of work done by an average soldier (taking day-work and piece-work, Royal Engineers and Line, together) is 71 of that done by a civilian. (Signed) PERCY SMITH, Captain Commanding Royal Engineers. Weymouth, June, 1866. The officer who carried out the works at Dover is, I am happy to say, a Member of this House (Captain Beaumont), and I trust he will give us his opinion as to the success of the experiments, and to the necessity of organization. In many of these experiments on fortifications, the soldier of the Line has acted as a labourer, the Sappers doing all the skilled labour; but there is nothing whatever to prevent every Line regiment having a large body of skilled artificers receiving full working pay on the same plan as carried out in the Royal Engineers; and if a complete organization is adopted, you will have every regiment with its corps of artificers, like ships in the navy carrying their dockyard with them. I have endeavoured to obtain some reliable statistics as to what percentage of the troops at present employed have served in trades, but without success, as it appears a large number of recruits will not admit the fact of their having been employed in trades, and frequently men declare themselves to be tradesmen who have no qualification. In the Return moved for by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Sir Harry Verney), it would seem that the percentage of men who have had some knowledge in useful trades in Line regiments amounted to 8 per cent; but I am inclined to believe that this is over the mark. Supposing we were to state the case in its worst aspect, and to presume that there were actually no artificers in the Infantry whatever, I am convinced even then, that if inducements were held out of fair working pay being given, you would soon find a large number of artizans amongst your recruits, and the general class of men very much raised. In this view I am borne out by the Recruiting Commission, and also by the manner in which the Royal Engineers are recruited. I find that Mr. Buckley stated this view very concisely before Sir George Lewis's Committee. He said— The knowledge of the fact that a soldier can return to his home an independent member of the community instead of being an outcast almost of society, would have such a tendency to improve the recruiting for the army that parents would no longer hesitate to allow their sons to enter its ranks. Young men of respectability, as tradesmen, would no longer hesitate to become soldiers, if they knew they could still continue to practise their trades; a better description of recruit is obtained for the Royal Engineers from the knowledge that a certain amount of working pay is certain. I shall no doubt be told that in every regiment you have already established an artificer's corps in the Pioneers of the regiment, and, to a certain extent, this is true according to regulations. But, Sir, until last year nearly every regiment selected their body of Pioneers, not on account of their' being artificers, but because of their size and capability of growing handsome, luxuriant beards, and to look well at the head of regiments, with their magnificent polished tools, which never showed signs of laborious use. Their duties have hardly ever been that of artificers, unless, indeed, it may be urged that they have been employed in performing small jobs of little real utility. Now, Sir, I apprehend that nearly every commanding officer would object to the Pioneers being largely augmented, not only because it would interfere with the interior economy of the regiment, but also because it would make an invidious distinction in the ranks which ought to be avoided. I am aware that in this view I am not borne out by Colonel Jeffreys, who has had so much experience in the matter; but I think he is an exception to the rule. The plan, therefore, which seems to me most feasible and open to the least objection would be to abolish the Pioneers altogether, and in lieu thereof to enter a certain number of artificers in each company, obtaining the same pay as their companions, but whose privilege and advantage it would be, to be employed, as a rule, four or five days a week on working pay, under the Royal Engineer of the district, on repairs and new works. Now, Sir, in making these suggestions, I wish the House to understand that I do so with the utmost diffidence, being well aware that there are considerable difficulties to be overcome; but after discussing the subject with officers in the army of considerable experience, it seems generally to be thought that this would give rise to the least interference with the internal economy and discipline. I believe that if you were to lay down the rule that seven men in each company were to be artificers, you would soon obtain them, and that these seven would form the nucleus of a still larger number anxious to be employed. It will no doubt be asked—How is this complete organization to be carried out? How are you to obtain the requisite superintendence? Who is to purchase materials? Where is your builder's yard, with its tools, its ladders, and appliances? Sir, my answer is simply this, that you have already a complete system of superintendence to carry out a general plan for the employment of military labour, without going to the expense of a single shilling. The private soldier has always been accustomed to look to the Royal Engineers and the Sappers as their legitimate superintendents and foremen when employed in time of war on works and fortifications, and it is this valuable force that you must utilize in time of peace to the fullest possible extent. It would be the greatest mistake, in my humble opinion, to set up a regimental organization distinct from the Royal Engineers. The plan, to be properly carried out in its integrity, must be local, and not regimental, and in this I think I shall be borne out by most gentlemen connected with the army. If you try to keep the organization in a regiment, you will find not only that it will interfere very much with the internal economy, but accounts would be multiplied, endless confusion would prevail, and that the upshot of it would be that the system, as applied on a large scale, would infallibly break down. If anything further was required to corroborate this statement which I have endeavoured to lay before the House, it would perhaps be the testimony of any man who practically tried to carry out a system on a large scale. Fortunately, I am able to say that I have that testimony in the person of Colonel Clarke, Director of Works at the Admiralty. I believe, Sir, that Colonel Clarke, who is an officer of the highest ability in the Royal Engineers, is one of the best authorities on this subject, having not only been a warm advocate of its adoption during a long number of years, but also having had practical experience. I find, Sir, that as long ago as 1847 he superintended the construction of barracks in New Zealand, which he appears to have carried out with great success by soldier labour. On being appointed to the Admiralty a few years back, he strongly advised that the Marines should repair their own barracks; but he found every colonel commandant strongly opposed, and the Board of Admiralty difficult to move. Not, however, the least despairing, he set to work to see what could be done, and, with the cordial assistance of Sir Sidney Dacres, the scheme has, to a certain extent, been successfully carried out, though there is yet very much to be done. I find that nearly all the barracks are now repaired by the Marines at a saving of about 30 per cent, and that the commanding officers testify that discipline has not been interfered with. In the Return which has not yet been printed, I find that at Chatham a saving of 23 per cent has been effected. Colonel Lamb rick states— I have found the artificers and labourers employed, efficient soldiers in the Brigade and Battalion. Their conduct is good. I rarely have any complaints. They appear to like the work, and being so employed I am sure makes them better soldiers and therefore more valuable to the State. At Woolwich a saving of 41 per cent has been made, and Colonel Luther states ''Marine labour has worked most satisfactorily." At Plymouth the saving is 40 per cent, and Colonel Foote says— I am of opinion that the ordinary repairs of barracks has been very satisfactory, the work having been well done, at less cost than would have attended the employment of contractors' men, and with less delay. At Portsmouth the saving is about 22 per cent, and Colonel Schomberg, who is supposed to be very strict in regard to drill, says— Irrespective of the actual gain in money, I consider that such employment has other advantages. It offers a reward to deserving men, and encourages good conduct. These men, whilst serving, keep up a knowledge of their former trades. On actual service they would be most valuable, and could assist in engineer operations. Discipline is improved—drill and appearance on parade not injured in any way whatever. Now, Sir, I am well aware that objections have been raised against adopting soldier labour on any large scale, but I have been unable to find a single one which cannot easily be answered, although I do not wish for a moment to deny that there are difficulties in the details which require careful consideration. It is said that it would be impossible to obtain a sufficient supply of artificers; but I think the recruiting for the Royal Engineers shows unmistakably that this would not be the case provided you gave a liberal amount of working pay; and if, after making the attempt, you failed, it would then be perfectly easy to teach a certain number of boys different trades in order to start the system. Then I am told that the men would buy their discharge directly they had made sufficient money, in the same manner that several companies of Sappers out in the colonies have preferred civil life and left the Service. Well, Sir, I do not think much harm would arise if this were to be the case, as I am confident the vacuum would still be filled in, and if the purchase-money were increased for artificers, no loss could be sustained. I am quite clear, however, that the working pay must be put entirely on a new footing, and must rise and fall in proportion to civil pay. It is absurd to think that under the existing regulations an Engineer in the colonies, where the wage for artificers is naturally high, should be receiving the same working pay as if he were on the Home Station. It is said by some officers that it would affect drill; but I think all the experience we have gained shows that this is not the case. I am informed that Colonel Pasley, who erected some stone barracks at Melbourne, used to fall his men in one afternoon in the week to what was termed "swaggering drill," and it was found to answer admirably, and the men were always well set up. Then I am told that in garrison towns it would be impossible to carry it out. Now, Sir, an officer at Dublin has been kind enough to send me the garrison statistics, and I find that even there—which is supposed to be the most heavily garrisoned town on the Home Station—a percent- age of seven men to each company could be employed every day in the repair of barracks. It seems to me, Sir, that this also leads to another question—namely, whether the duties in garrison towns could not be considerably cut down? Then I am told that you would be put to a great expense for workshops and tools. But this need not be the case, as the Royal Engineers have the tools. In almost every barrack in the kingdom a portion of the building is at present reserved by the Royal Engineer Department as store and workshops for the civilian labour employed under the contractor, and it is only necessary to alter the appropriation of these places to obtain the necessary accommodation. Then I have been told that it would benefit the soldier, but not the State. I think, Sir, that the only answer to this is that the time has gone by when it was thought "that the greater the blackguard so much better the soldier;" and that we now feel that the more you raise the tone of the soldier, so much more efficient does your army become. These, I believe, Sir, are the chief objections, and I now come to what would be the financial result if an organized system were adopted. I find that the number of civilians employed daily on the repair of barracks on the Home Station throughout the year, is about 1,200, and that if soldiers were employed you would require about 2,000 to work four days a week. If my proposition were carried out of having seven men in each company, you would have on the Home Station a splendid body of no less than 5,000 skilled artificers. If, then, 2,000 were taken for the repair of barracks, you might employ 3,000 on the other works suggested by the Committee. I believe that by this means the expenditure on barracks, amounting to £133,000, might be reduced by £40,000; and that the remaining sum of £357,662, which is now spent under Vote 14 for the Home Station, might be reduced by £100,000. In France, the employment of soldier labour is carried out to a very large extent, and I am informed that all the gun-carriages are made by the Artillery. I do not see what is to prevent the same course being adopted in this country. I will not now take up the time of the House any longer, which I fear I have already trespassed upon at far too great a length. I will therefore only add. that I believe the organization of the armies of all foreign nations has, during the last few years, advanced by rapid strides: it must not be that England should be left behind in the race. Sooner or later the strife must come, and the result must depend on the general aptitude of our armies for the emergencies of war; the clinging to a system of machine made troops not in harmony with the age will not avail us in time of need. Let us, then, in this period of peace, by timely and judicious and systematic reforms, lead our men to a better general acquaintance with the structural duties of the Service; and by so doing, I am confident we shall effect vast economy in our expenditure, and proportionally increase the efficiency of our armies. The hon. Member then moved the Amendment.


, in seconding the Motion, said, his hon. Friend (Mr. Hanbury Tracy) had done exceedingly good service by bringing the subject before the House. He (Mr. Headlam) had long entertained a strong opinion that soldiers might be employed, very beneficially to themselves and the public, upon such works as had been indicated. He did not wish to enter into the economical part of the question; his hon. Friend had shown that a great saving would be effected by the employment of soldiers. But his own experience as Judge Advocate General enabled him to say that many of the crimes which soldiers were guilty of arose in reality from lack of employment. He believed that if they had the opportunity of earning an honest penny, they would be better soldiers and better men, and would avoid many heavy punishments which were now inflicted. He believed the House was scarcely aware of the long terms of punishment to which soldiers were subjected for various crimes and offences against military discipline; and if they could be saved from the commission of these crimes, that in itself, independently of any economical advantage, would be a great and material benefit. This subject had been brought forward previously—at least in the other House—and there had always been a perfect concession of the truth of the arguments; but somehow the military authorities had always neglected to carry their professed opinions into practice. He therefore wished to im- press upon his right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for War that he should not simply say that he acceded to the proposition, but that he should, by a strong exercise of his own will, give effect to it, because unless he did this it would not be carried out by commanding officers. He was certain that if some system of this sort were carried out, the condition of the army and the character of the soldier, in all the higher senses of the term, would be improved.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, an authorized organization should be adopted for extending the system of 'Military labour to Military works' to all stations of Her Majesty's Army,"—(Mr. Hanbury-Tracy,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he rose to prevent the House assuming that the difficulty in the way of the employment of soldiers arose exclusively from the opposition of officers. Another difficulty to be got over was the financial one. When Engineer officers were not available to superintend the labour of soldiers, it was in many instances cheaper to employ contract labour.


said, he need not assure the House of the entire sympathy with which he regarded the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Hanbury Tracy). There could be no doubt that everything which diminished idleness among soldiers was a boon, seeing that in the army, as out of it, idleness was a fruitful source of evil. Anything which increased the pay of the soldier, and enabled him to add to his comfort, and that of his family, if he had one, and anything which broke down the barrier between military and civil life, and gave the soldier participation and interest in the pursuits of those by whom he was surrounded, must have a beneficial effect. Another signal benefit which might be expected to follow from the introduction of soldier labour was the enlistment of artificers who, entering at an early period of life, might look forward to returning to civil life, and resuming the employment to which they had been accustomed, particularly if the term of service were shortened, as he hoped it would be. All these advantages recommended the Motion to the favour of the House, and he should be happy to promote any organization which would attain the desired result; but he would caution his hon. Friend not to forget that in the army you must depend on commanding officers, as it was through them the organization must be carried into effect. When men were separated from the army and given work to do, it was the commanding officer who was responsible for maintaining discipline and preventing undue pressure being put on the other men who were engaged in ordinary regimental duties. It might materially impair discipline and do serious injury to the army if the commanding officers were in any way ignored in this matter. When large savings were spoken of to be effected by this mode of industry, it must be remembered that superintendence had to be provided, and he did not think that in the statistics quoted anything was reckoned for this superintendence. They could only obtain superintendence when they had Engineer officers at their command. Then, again, much must depend upon the number of men in a regiment who were trained for the particular service to which it was desired to put them, and upon their aptitude for it. Of course, if a contractor were doing any given work it would be for him to say what labour should be employed. He had presented a Return to the House, from which hon. Members would find that there had been no indisposition lately to prosecute this system. At Portsmouth, the average numbers of men employed were—civilians, 67; soldiers, 29; at Woolwich—civilians, 35; soldiers, 108; at the Curragh Camp—civilians, 24; soldiers, 53. The Controller had received a letter from Colonel Meredith reporting the results of the system as tried at Parkhurst. The Colonel stated that the men having been selected and classified in trades, they were sent to the shops, and received 1s. 3d. a day if they worked as artificers, and 9d. if as labourers. In some cases the pay was increased. The hours of labour were eight hours in winter and ten in summer, and the men were paid for overtime. The work was very popular among the men, and though it had been only carried on for a short time, the effect on the men's characters was most excellent. The money earned was mostly spent on their families, where they had families, and some had accumulated considerable sums in the savings bank. He had the pleasure of telling his hon. Friend, that in the recent barrack regulations, arrangements had been made for the barrack repairs to be executed, as far as possible, by the men themselves, under the direction of the Royal Engineers. In communicating the information contained in the Returns to the Commander-in-Chief, he had expressed his wish that the attention of commanding officers should be drawn by a circular to the good resulting from the system, and that regiments might be moved as little as possible in cases where they had been tolerably successful in obtaining useful work on their station. He therefore hoped his hon. Friend would be satisfied that the military authorities were alive to the importance of the subject, and fully desirous of extending the system as far as practicable.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.