HC Deb 09 June 1870 vol 201 cc1831-41

SUPPLY consideredin Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £43,400, Divine Service.

(2.) £45,600, Martial Law.


said, he wished for an explanation of the increase in the item of travelling expenses for prisoners, and also on the subject of the item for deputy-judge advocates, and of the item for prison charges.


said, that while there was a decrease of £10,704 in the establishment charges, there was an increase of £5,000 in travelling expenses. This increase was caused by the carrying out of a recommendation of the Commission on Courts-martial, to the effect that there should be one central prison. By the establishment of a central prison the War Office had been able to shut up no fewer than six military prisons. The Government had not acted on the recommendation of the Commission in respect of increasing the number of deputy-judge advocates; because, under existing circumstances, they had not thought it expedient to do so.

Vote agreed to.

(3.) £247,500, Medical Establishments and Services.


said, he would call attention to the Vote of £11,500 for the maintenance of military lunatics. He wished to know whether any of them were confined in Netley Military Hospital?


said, he wished to ask the Secretary of State for War, If he was sure that medicines were properly purchased, and that the Army was not like another Government Department, paying 9s. for an article which ought to cost only 3s.?


said, he believed that great care was taken in the purchases of medicines for the Army, and he was not aware that for medicines which ought only to have cost 3s. a sum of 9s. had been paid.

Vote agreed to.

(4.) £720,000, Militia and Inspection of Reserve Forces.


said, he would beg to ask whether any change had been made in respect of the pensions to adjutants of Militia? In consequence of the small amount of these pensions, there was little or no inducement to adjutants to retire. It was desirable that some change should be made if no change had already occurred.


said, he could not say that any change had been made in the system of retiring allowances to adjutants; but he had under consideration the question whether the rule should not be that adjutants should retire at the age of 60, unless the commanding officer interposed with a recommendation to the contrary. At present the rule was that an adjutant might retire at the age of 66.


said, he desired some explanation as to the system of inspection of Reserve Forces. He believed that at present some confusion existed; for he heard that on a recent occasion two inspecting officers—one from Manchester and the other from Plymouth—attended at the same place to conduct an inspection. They tossed in order to arrive at a decision as to which should inspect, but both dined at the mess.


said, he had not before heard of the occurrence just mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. A most important change had been made, in accordance with which the inspection of Reserve Forces would be under the control of the officer command- ing in the district. If the mistake stated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman had occurred, it was not perhaps to be much wondered at, as the new system had only been a few weeks in operation.


said, he would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to postpone this Vote for the Reserve Forces. An important discussion on the subject of those forces was to be raised; by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), who was not now present; and he thought the Vote ought not to be taken till after that discussion.


said, he must appeal to the Committee. The Session was advancing, and he had had the Army Estimates on the Paper several nights without being able to get a Vote. He was quite prepared to discuss the subject of our Reserve Forces. He would, however, make a compromise with the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Barttelot). He was willing to postpone the portion of the Vote that related to the Volunteers. He believed there would be no controversy as regarded the Vote for the Militia.


said, he believed that if the officers of Militia were appointed by the Crown through the Horse Guards, that mode of appointment would induce many more gentlemen to join the force.


said, he wished the number of Militia officers were larger than it was; but he believed there was a considerable desire on the part of gentlemen to join the force.


said, he wished to know what was the meaning of the sum of £39,600, under the head of lodging allowances for furniture in connection with the Militia, in lieu of the charge for lodgings, furniture, billet-money, &c. The different counties of England had expended large sums in erecting barracks for the accommodation of the Militia, and, therefore, he was unable to understand how this expenditure was accounted for.


said, that the lodging allowance was made to the Militia at the same rate as to the Line, while under temporary duty. If they were put into barracks they only received half the amount for furniture.


said, that £35,000 was put down for the accommodation of the permanent Staff. If the obligation of supplying barracks rested on the counties, the obligation ought to be enforced in all cases.


said, the obligation was in force.


asked what was the effective force of the Militia last year?


said, the effective force last year called up for drill was 79,000, and there were 6,216 absent.


said, he wished to know what would be the number of the Militia Reserve this year; and whether it was true that the second surgical examination of men who had been in the Militia had been dispensed with on their entering the Militia Reserve; and that the result of such change had not been that an inferior class of men had been enrolled in that Reserve Force?


said, that the second surgical examination, having been found unnecessary and very vexatious to the men, had been dispensed with on their entering the Militia Reserve. As to the number of Militia Reserve, the whole of the Returns were not yet in; but he felt very confident that the Militia Reserve would be entirely filled.


said, that the former regulations had required that the men entering the Reserve should be 32 inches round the chest, and that they should be 5 feet 4 inches in height. He thought that the object of the change had been to throw dust in the eyes of the public with regard to the strength of the Militia Reserve, which it was desired to make as strong upon paper as possible.


said, there was no intention of throwing dust in the eyes of the public with respect to this question. His only desire had been to draw into the Militia Reserve Force the men who had been already passed for the Militia.


said, that it was of the greatest importance that the public should be informed what was the actual strength of the Militia Reserve. He also wished to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to his hon. and gallant Friend (General Lindsay), who was at the head of the Reserve Forces in the War Office. That hon. and gallant Gentleman had been sent to Canada to bring home the troops who were at present in Canada, but who were to be brought back to this country, in pursuance of the colonial policy of the Government. He wished to know how long the hon. and gallant Gentleman was to be absent for that purpose; and, whether the intentions of Her Majesty's Government had undergone any alteration with respect to bringing home the troops now in Canada, in consequence of recent occurrences in that part of the Empire?


, in reply, stated that the number of the Militia Reserve, as far as the Returns had been sent in, amounted to 16,312, but that 43 regiments had not yet sent in their Returns. He believed, however, that the full number of 20,000 would be brought into the Reserve. General Lindsay had been sent out for a limited period at the request of the Canadian Government, who were anxious to have the advantage of his assistance in forming their military force. The intentions of her Majesty's Government with regard to the withdrawal of the troops from Canada had undergone no change in consequence of recent events in that country.


said, he would beg to supplement the answer of the right hon. Gentleman to the hon. Member for Chippenham by stating that in many counties the accommodation for the permanent Militia Staff was not sufficient, and that, therefore, lodging allowances had to be made.


said, he would make inquiries into the matter.

Vote agreed, to

(5.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £81,900, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Yeomanry Cavalry, which will come in course of payment from the 1st day of April 1870 to the 31st day of March 1871, inclusive.


said, that when he objected to this Vote last year he was met by statements that steps were being taken to render it more efficient, but that promise had not been fulfilled. Notwithstanding the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that breech-loading rifles were to be served out to this force, only 3,200 of such weapons had actually been issued to them. Sir John Burgoyne said it took three years to make an efficient cavalry soldier; and he (Sir Henry Hoare) appealed to Yeomanry officers opposite to confirm his statement that the Yeomen, were drawn from a class who could not afford the time to learn the duties efficiently. The hon. Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) and Kendal (Mr. Whitwell) had stated as much. He therefore asked whether it was reasonable to spend £81,000 on a force of 15,000 imperfectly t drilled cavalry soldiers. If the men were to be regarded merely as mounted riflemen, why was it that only 3,000 rifles were issued to them? County Members, he knew, upheld the Yeomanry from social considerations; they thought it a pity to put an end to an institution which maintained happy social relationships between different classes. In Buckinghamshire, he understood the Militia was not to be called out for fear of the smallpox which prevailed in the county. This £81,000 would be spent on a great county job which he resisted in the interest of the taxpayer. He must take the sense of the House against the Vote.


said, he could not agree with the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Hoare), whom he knew to have a great antipathy to the Yeomanry Force; indeed, he might say they were the "favourite aversion" of the hon. Member for Chelsea. The utility of this force had been demonstrated over and over again, and they might be sure that the present Government, with their economical views, would not have proposed the present Vote unless they were satisfied that the force was one that deserved to be maintained. As one practically acquainted with the Yeomanry he would say with regard to the new regulations, that there was some difference of opinion among the officers. He knew that the Yeomanry were in a high state of efficiency, especially considering the amount of drill they went through, and the force, he believed, was fairly reported on by inspecting officers. His own opinion was rather in favour of instructing them in the use of the sword, as the class from which they were drawn—men with strong arms and a good seat in a saddle—were more likely to be effective with that weapon than with a rifle, and might become ridiculous when skirmishing on foot. However, there might be, undoubtedly, a very wholesome rivalry wherever butts had been provided for the Volunteers, and a tendency to practise shooting which should be encouraged as much as possible. The arrangement to reduce the number of officers was wise, and he should like to know whether the officers reduced would still hold their rank nominally, and would be eligible to take the place of the permanent officers when absent or disabled—an arrangement which would be very satisfactory to those who must now become supernumeraries. He believed no impediments would be found in getting the men to attend the extra drills laid down in the new programme, as already several regiments had expressed their readiness to fall in with it, and he for one could say that a little judicious arrangement on the part of the officers would obviate every difficulty. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would be more explicit in regard to the regulations by which, in case of accidents to horses, some allowance might be made by the Government if it was shown that the mishap occurred while on preliminary drills. When a farmer was asked to go out on extra days his horse was liable to injury, and it would be satisfactory to know that the Government would not grudge some compensation in such a case.


said, that by the new regulations three of the eleven troops of Staffordshire yeomanry, consisting of six squadrons, would be done away with, and the effect would practically be to do away with the regiment itself. He had recommended to the War Office that in the case of a large county like Staffordshire two regiments should be formed, so that they could meet as before, except that the force would be formed of two regiments instead of two wings. The Yeomanry of Staffordshire had preserved the county from a most fearful outbreak, and had received the thanks of the county for their services on that occasion, which happened to be harvest time. The hon. Baronet had stated that rifles were of no use to the Yeomanry, but the truth was that they had been supplied with efficient carbines in lieu of inefficient ones. He agreed with the last speaker, however, that it was a great mistake to dispense altogether with the use of the sword.


said, he desired to say a few words in support of the hon. Baronet's (Sir Henry Hoare's) Motion. Last year we had a fairly efficient cavalry force; but at the present moment there was not a single cavalry officer in the British Army who would not say that our cavalry force was entirely destroyed. If, then, the country could not maintain an efficient force like the regular cavalry it ought not to support an inefficient and merely ornamental one like the Yeomanry. We might safely reduce our infantry to a considerable extent, because foot soldiers could be trained in a much shorter time than cavalry, and, moreover, we had the Militia and the Reserve to fall back upon; but the Yeomanry could not be regarded as an efficient Reserve for cavalry. It would be a fatal mistake if the civil power should in the present day use the Yeomanry Cavalry for the suppression of civil riots. The best thing to do in such an event would, be to employ the regular troops. While admitting that the Yeomanry performed their duties marvellously well, considering the few opportunities they had of attending drill, he must express his belief that there was not a general in the Army who would employ them in active service in the field. In conclusion, he would remark that half-trained infantry would not inflict so much injury on their friends as a half-drilled cavalry regiment.


said, he could not perceive the force of the argument of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Major Anson), who stated that the circumstance of the efficiency of our regular cavalry force being destroyed was a reason for not maintaining the only other cavalry we had. As to the value of the Yeomanry Cavalry, the opinion of general officers, from the Duke of Wellington down to those who were now at the Horse Guards, was diametrically opposite to that entertained by the hon. Member. If the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Hoare) and other inferior Members of the House continually brought forward complaints of this kind it was the duty of the leaders of the House to say distinctly whether the corps was useful to the country or not. As long, however, as the services of the Yeomanry were deemed useful, they would continue to be given. He trusted that next year the hon. Member who last spoke would be guided by the Government he usually followed, instead of launching forth his very crude notions respecting a force which he understood as little as he appreciated.


said, this was an unfortunate time for an ardent supporter of the Government to bring forward the present Motion, because the policy of the Government had been the reduction of the regular and the increase of the Reserve Forces. During his brief military career he had held a subordinate position under, a general officer, whose duty it was to inspect many Yeomanry regiments, and his opinion as to their value was quite opposed to that of the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Hoare). One point had been entirely overlooked in this discussion. In case of invasion a mounted force would be required for patrolling, and what force was so suited for such service as one composed of men who were conversant with every road and lane in their county.


said, he should not defend this Vote on the ground that the Yeomanry Cavalry were at all required in aid of the civil power. Indeed, he entirely concurred in the opinion of those who thought that if unfortunately we were obliged to have recourse to military force, we ought to employ the regular Army. He defended the Vote on the ground that we had in this country no conscription, and that it was desirable to secure the voluntary services of all classes of Her Majesty's subjects. Last year the House had decided, by a large majority, that the Yeomanry Cavalry Force was to be continued; but that it was to be put upon a more economical and efficient footing. To carry out those objects the Government had used their best exertions. That the force had been placed on a more economical footing was shown by the sum which was asked for in the Estimates, while its greater efficiency might be inferred from the fact that to 22 regiments 6,687 Westley-Richards carbines had been issued, with which some of the Yeomanry officers had declared themselves to be greatly pleased, stating that the men could do anything with them at 800 yards. Whatever might be the opinion of the Yeomanry, they constituted the oldest part of our Volunteer Force, their institution being due to Lord Chatham, in 1761. He was sorry, therefore, to hear so distinguished an officer as his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bewdley (Major Anson) speak of them in such terms as he had used. What, he would ask, had been done to destroy that cavalry which, according to his hon. and gallant Friend, was last year so fine a force? The number of the regiments in the country had been added to, though in order to produce economy the depôt troops had been reduced from two to one—that was to say, we had seven, troops, in order that when six went abroad there might be one left at home. He could not imagine that, adding two to the number of regiments and diminishing by one the number of troops could fairly be described in the terms employed by his hon. and gallant Friend. But, however that might be, our cavalry force, though extremely efficient, was very small, and it was necessary that we should have a Reserve which would furnish escorts and outposts when required, and for those purposes the Yeomanry would be found most valuable. The reports of the inspecting officers, he might add, were generally favourable to the force, and he hoped, under those circumstances, the Committee would adhere to the decision which was arrived at last year.


said, it must not be argued that because one branch of the service had been injudiciously reduced the same operation ought to be applied to all. He protested against the remarks which had been made with a view to disparage the Yeomanry Cavalry. There was a great deal of nonsense spoken about regular and irregular troops. Every officer of experience would, he believed, be able to make good use of the latter as well as of the former. He would not ask them, of course, to perform the same duties as regular soldiers; but when fairly organized, an irregular force might be found very valuable.


said, he must express his regret at not hearing any conclusive testimony to show that the Yeomanry Cavalry had increased in efficiency.


said, in reference to the remarks of the Secretary of State for War, he might point to the testimony of the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Major Anson) to show that the Yeomanry were not efficient troops for the performance of the duties of outposts. It was considered by many experienced officers that the best descrip- tion of men were required for outpost duty. He was resolved to take the opinion of the Committee on this question.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 124; Noes 20: Majority 104.

Resolutions to be reported Tomorrow; Committee to sit again Tomorrow.