§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [15th July], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
MR. HOLMS moved that the Bill be read a second time that day three months. He said he had from the first opposed
the scheme, because he believed it to be based on an unsound principle, and entirely opposed to the principles which the Government urged upon the House in 1870 and 1871, but which they had now deliberately abandoned. He did not blame the Government for having so long delayed the introduction of the Bill, although he had from time to time, along with other hon. Members, endeavoured to obtain from Government an earlier period for its introduction and discussion. It appeared to him that the House should consider well before it put the country to the vast expenditure of £3,500,000. The scheme of the Government was preceded by a Memorandum drawn up by a Committee appointed to consider the organization of the military forces of the country. That Memorandum was dated on the 22nd of February last, from which time the question remained dormant until the 15th of July, when the present Bill came on for a second reading, although only a week previously a supplementary Report from the same Committee had been circulated among hon. Members. The supplementary Report showed very clearly that the Committee had not yet made up its mind as to what the scheme ought to be in its entirety. He thought the House was greatly indebted to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) for drawing the attention of the House the other night to the importance and magnitude of this question; and, for his own part, having the strongest conviction that this was not a measure adapted to this country, he rejoiced to see that the Members of the House had at last risen to a full conception of the vastness and importance of the subject. He had always said—and would say again—that the more this measure was understood by the country and the House, the less it would be liked. Nor had he been without witnesses continually coming forward to show that that was the case; and one of the last and most important was the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot), who had at first accepted the scheme, but who did not now believe that it stood so well with the country as it had done at first. He had asserted what he would now venture to repeat, that a large number, if not the majority of the military men in this country were dissatisfied with the scheme
of the Government. ["No, no!"] He repeated that he had evidence in his possession to show that was the fact. ["No, no!"] Among the numerous letters which he had received on the subject was one from Major General Sir John Lintorn A. Symonds, dated the 10th of July, and he expressed apprehensions that the new depôt centres about to be established at a cost of £3,500,000 would have a serious and damaging effect in postponing the real reform of the Army, which he believed could only be brought about by placing trained soldiers in the Reserve. The question, he said, hung altogether on the time that was necessary to make a soldier, and he asserted that 99 out of 100 officers were of opinion that three months' annual training of the Militia would not answer the purpose. The same officer expressed his conviction that the depôt centres would prove a failure, and that the system would lead to idleness and inefficiency among the officers and non-commissioned officers. For his own part, he believed that if the tongues of the officers of the British Army were let loose for one day, or if they were asked to vote by Ballot as to whether they were for or against the scheme of the Government, they would decidedly declare against it. Such an expression of opinion coming from an officer of such high standing was in itself a reason, among many other reasons, why the House ought to pause before agreeing to this Bill. But there was another strong reason for delay, and that was because the Committee was not up to that moment ready to declare that this was the right measure. The supplementary Report, which was presented at a most fortunate moment, made it perfectly clear that certain counties wherein depôt centres were not to be established did not wish their men to go to the centres which it was intended to establish in other counties. Therefore, the Committee proposed to leave the Militia battalions at their existing headquarters, at least in the first instance. They stated in their first Report that they desired to buy the Militia headquarters, stores, and barracks; but now they said they would not purchase them, in the first instance, at all events. Then, as regards Ireland, it was stated that complaints had been received from certain places in that country to the effect that barracks existing there were not
occupied by the regular troops; and it was expected that one result of taking a number of barracks on creating depôt centres for the accommodation of the Militia battalions would be to cause the Government to station regular troops at those places where barracks existed. There was a further reason why the House should ask for a short delay. In counties where it was not proposed to introduce depôt centres, the Militia authorities and the county interest generally were in favour of such depôts; whereas most of the large towns objected to depôt centres being established among them. ["No!"] He adhered to the statement he had just made. For these reasons, the House would, in his judgment, do well if they left the measure unpassed in the present Session. The Organization Committee had, no doubt, considered this question for four or five months; but they had not yet decided what was the best scheme. If the present measure were not passed, they would have seven months longer to complete the scheme; and if it were a wise and a sound one it would live and be strong in February next, when it would pass without difficulty. On the contrary, if it were weak and a sham, as he believed it was, it would die as quiet and as natural a death as its best friends could wish. In reference to the first Report of the Committee, two points struck him forcibly. One was, that although £3,500,000 might be the maximum cost in relation to the 66 depôt centres, it would not be the entire cost in relation to the scheme, because the counties where it was not proposed to locate depôt centres would ask to have them established there. Besides, every depôt centre would become a spending centre, adding every year to our enormous Army Estimates. It would be found by-and-by that this measure was intended to do little beyond extending the Militia, and establishing certain recruiting depôts. The Committee in their supplementary Report spoke of this as a system devised expressly for the benefit of the Militia; but if the Militia was the force on which the Government intended to rely, the House should have been told so before voting the money for the abolition of purchase. The Government in this Bill completely abandoned the principles which they had laid down in 1870 and 1871. On the second reading of the Army Enlist-
ment Bill, the Secretary of State for War expressed his own concurrence with the opinion that "the system of short service lay at the root of Army reform," and defeated by a majority of 66 an Amendment proposed by the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) to extend the period of three years' service to five. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, speaking upon the Army Estimates last year, and referring to the scheme of the Secretary of State for War, said—
The mind and judgment of the country is set upon carrying forward with rapidity of execution the plan which has been formed for the efficient introduction of the system of short service …. and for the formation of those Army Reserves which we must hereafter look to."—[3 Hansard, ccv. 489.]
He had supported the Government loyally through the whole of the abolition of purchase controversy, believing that the officers of the Army would be really professional in the future, more thoroughly under the control of the War Office, and therefore men who would more quickly bring up the Army and its Reserves to a proper standard of efficiency in drill and discipline. If he for a moment had thought that by taking this course he was encouraging and intensifying the Militia force, he should have voted against the Government obtaining one penny for the abolition of purchase. And what had been the "rapidity of execution" with which the formation of an Army Reserve had been pushed on? According to the Army Estimates now on the Table the Reserve Force number one—the only one on which they could rely—only showed 1,000 of an increase
§ MR. CARDWELL
was sure the hon. Member wished to be accurate; but he did not know what he could mean by saying that the increase in the Army Reserve only numbered 1,000 men.
§ MR. HOLMS
repeated his statement. Last year the Estimates made provision for 9,000 men of the Army Reserve; this year the number stood at 10,000, showing that this "rapidity of execution" of which the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had laid such stress consisted in adding in 12 months 1,000 men to the Army Reserve. He believed he was right in stating that on the question of short service the Army practically stood very 1640 much where it did 25 years ago. There were many Members present better acquainted with the facts than himself. [Mr. CARDWELL: Hear, hear!] He had said that the term of enlistment now was really the same as 20 years ago—for an army must consist of a fair proportion of the various branches of the service, and enlistment in the Cavalry, Artillery, and Engineers was still, as heretofore, for a period of 12 years. He did not think the Secretary of State for War would contradict that statement. Accordingly, the Government, even yet, were hardly upon the road to a short-service system, though the country were asked by this Bill to expend £3,500,000. He could not go as far as the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard), who desired to have no Army at all; but he was sincerely desirous of doing anything he could to diminish the evils attending a celibate Army. By a Report dated the 13th of July, 1871—the latest which he could find—it appeared that out of 180,000 men in the Army, 57,000 were over 30 years of age, 20,000 were over 35, and a considerable number over 40. He looked upon the formation of an Army Reserve as the opening of a door by which these men might be allowed to go back to their own homes and to the ordinary occupations of life. Was there any Gentleman in the House who could tell, after all the discussions which had taken place, what the constitution of the Army would be in three or four years? The position of things at the present time could scarcely be considered sound, because it was clear that Englishmen were in a better position to predict the probable state of the armies of Europe in any given number of years than they were to foretell the probable condition of their own armaments. Was there anyone who would show where the economy was to come from? It cast a stigma and discredit upon England as a nation of business men, able in their private concerns to conduct enormous undertakings with profit, that she should at the present moment, in time of peace, be expending upon her Army a sum of money so frightful as that which appeared upon the Estimates. So far from economy being likely to result from the scheme now under consideration, he believed that if it were adopted they would in a very few years see the 1641 largest Estimates ever known in England in time of peace. If the scheme had been proposed by the party now sitting in opposition it would have been so pulled to pieces in that House that there would have been no chance of its adoption by Parliament. Even if they were then on the right road, many years must elapse before a sound system of Army administration could grow up, because much required to be done in the way of decentralization, and the scheme proposed was not a step in that direction. He could not admit that the establishment of depôt centres, such as were contemplated by the Bill, would tend to increase the efficiency of the Reserve Forces. That could only be done by increasing the area of the centres, and planting them in districts where the men composing the Reserves could, when not in actual training, easily obtain employment suited to them. There were already in existence over 100 barracks, conveniently seated in different parts of the country, and he would suggest that they should be used in order to ascertain the practicability of some such plan as he had shadowed forth. It was proposed to establish recruiting depôts—recruiting traps he would prefer to call them—in different parts of the country; but he did not think they would be of any use as long as the present mode of treating soldiers remained in existence. Let the men be better treated and have greater inducements offered to them to join, and then it would not be necessary to do more than to advertise in the newspapers in order to obtain as many recruits as were required. He wished to see England strong in her peace; but no nation would, in his opinion, be likely to regard her as occupying a sound position for defence if they judged her by the present scheme of reorganization. The present Administration had done much good work of late years; but if they persisted in a scheme such as was now under consideration—increasing the Militia and neglecting the Reserve of trained soldiers—they would inevitably impair the defensive service of the country, and inflict injury, if not disaster, upon the Liberal party. What had occurred in the Navy ought to be a warning to them in dealing with the Army. They had thought that all was right at the Admiralty; but it turned out that much was wrong. A ship was lost, inquiry was made, and 1642 then the system was exposed. If it were found that our Army system was equally unsound, we might have to lament more than the loss of a ship. He complained that the House had not had an oppornity for the full discussion of this question. Great responsibility would attach to them if they adopted a plan of that kind without a free and full discussion. If this measure should pass it would retard our attainment of a sound military system. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Holms.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he was desirous to add a few words to what had been said by the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill, because the House now approached the subject-matter of the Bill under circumstances totally different from those which existed when the Bill was last before them. He agreed with the hon. Member in regretting that the Government had left this important discussion till so very late a period of the Session. It was to be lamented that a matter of such great importance, which had been opened to them in February, should have remained so long without attention. Now, the hon. Member had said that he would divide against the second reading, and, therefore, hon. Members must make up their minds as to whether they would support Her Majesty's Government. He (Sir John Pakington) did not feel it his special duty to support the Government; but it was his duty to give an honest vote, and he could not make up his mind that it was his duty to say "No" to the second reading of the Bill. The change proposed was of great magnitude, and the Government had brought it forward on their own responsibility, and the House had before them the anxious question whether they would be justified in attempting to stop the Government in proceeding with a measure which they thought calculated to give stability and efficiency to our military forces to a degree which they never before possessed. He regretted the change of 1643 policy on the part of the Government, which had centred 70 battalions in this country where they were not immediately required; and, although that was not the question now, the battalions being here, we had to adopt such arrangements as would make them most efficient, and such as would, above all, aid the Government in carrying out that portion of their plan, in which he, for one, most cordially concurred, which was designed to bring together in harmonious action the Regular and the Auxiliary Forces of the country. This was one of the main objects of the Government, and to that he subscribed as cordially as any Member of the Government. He always thought the Government were right in bringing the Militia more directly under the Crown, and, differing in this respect from the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms), he would give greater efficiency and discipline to the Militia, in the hope that it would long continue to be the main Reserve of the Army of England. The hon. Member for Hackney, who had evidently devoted great attention to that subject, seemed to wish to do away with the Militia altogether.
§ MR. HOLMS
said, though he was decidedly against the maintenance of a Militia force trained for 28 days, or even for three months, he should not object to a Reserve Force which might pass into another force, which might be called the Militia if Parliament liked. That force would then consist of men who had been three years with the colours, and four with the First Reserve.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, it was clear that on that point no two men could be more widely separated in opinion than the hon. Member and himself. He looked to the Militia as their main Reserve, though he thought the Government were right in trying to form another Reserve. Still, he believed that for all military purposes in this country we must look to the old constitutional Militia as our main Reserve. He should give his vote with reference to the general objects proposed by Her Majesty's Government. In the difficulty in which they were involved by having so large a force as 70 battalions in this country, some plan must be adopted for the disposition, training, and discipline of that 1644 large force. He was not prepared to say that this was the best plan that human ingenuity could devise, but it was the plan before them; it was a practicable plan, involving certain obvious advantages, both directly and in connection with the Militia, and therefore he should not feel justified in opposing the Bill. He thought explanations were needed, especially as to the financial arrangements proposed, and he hoped to hear more on that subject, as well as with reference to the barrack accommodation to be provided, from the Secretary for War. He wished to know what was to be done in a county where there was not now any military establishment?
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
also wished to hear something more about the disposition of the second battalions, especially during the winter months, and he should like to hear some explanations with respect to the camps at Shorncliffe and at Colchester.
, who rose with several hon. Members, said, he was very desirous not to usurp any portion of the duty of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, who would in due time answer the perfectly legitimate inquiries which had just been made, but to call the attention of the House to its general position with reference to this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Pakington) might observe that he (Mr. Gladstone) smiled when reference was made to the late period of the Session when this important subject was brought forward, and the reason why he smiled was that he had heard the same remark made with reference to almost every important measure which the House had recently been called upon to discuss. The exigencies of the public interests rendered it impossible, consistently with the limits of human time and strength, to bring all important questions under the consideration of the House with due regard to those conditions of time and convenience which it would be most desirable, if we could, to observe. There was, however, less difficulty in approaching the Bill now than there had been with regard to several other important measures; because, although the House had never yet given a direct vote on the general principle of 1645 the Bill, yet it had given other votes on which the general principle of the Bill was distinctly understood to be involved. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had very properly observed that it would not be a legitimate use of the time of the House if they were now to discuss the policy according to which the present Government had acted. Though the right hon. Gentleman conscientiously objected to the concentration of a large portion of the military force at home, he had given his frank approval to the principle of the present Bill. He would, therefore, come to the speech of the hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Holms), and he asked himself what distinct idea the House could gather as to the grounds on which it was called upon by him to reject the Bill. He did not intend to say that the hon. Gentleman had not stated objections to the measure. Undoubtedly he had stated all manner of objections; he had stated objections of such a nature, and in such number, that his speech could only be fairly described as a general and hostile review of the military policy and military administration of the country. As regards the military administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, the House had not shown any desire to interfere with it or to pass a censure upon it. And as regards the military policy of the country, so far as represented in the principle of the Bill, the House had discussed it, considered it, and approved of it. His right hon. Friend in his statement in the month of February last had not kept back any of his intentions. As far as time permitted he went into unusual detail, and with no small clearness and perspicacity he laid before the House the intentions of the Government as regards a distinct local plan of military organization for the country. The House was aware of the plan, discussed the principal Vote of the Estimates for several nights, and after several nights' debate it was pleased to grant its approval of the general plan of the Government by a majority of 234 to 63. The hon. Gentleman had said that this Bill showed some retrocession from the policy adverted to by the Government in the early part of the year, and he had also supported the principle of having no Militia in this country. He had certainly explained in what sense he was willing to have a Militia; but his expla- 1646 nation made it obvious that his use of the word Militia reduced the question to one of terms, and terms alone, while in respect of substance he sought to abolish the Militia. Now, this Bill, as regarded concentration, and as regarded the maintenance of the Militia, proceeded on the idea that there was to be concentration of the Regular and Auxiliary Forces, and of the Militia in particular. No wonder, then, that the hon. Gentleman, who was opposed to the Militia, was opposed to the Bill, and the Government had not the slightest title to complain of his having moved the rejection of the Bill. But the hon. Gentleman should have moved the rejection of the Bill on the express ground that he was opposed to the Militia, and challenged the judgment of the House on that express ground. That point he had not placed in the forefront of the battle. The hon. Member said that the large towns objected to having depôt centres; but when he made that statement he was met with immediate manifestations of dissent from official and non-official Members. [Mr. HOLMS explained that what he said was that large towns in many instances objected.] "Many" was a word which would be estimated differently, by different persons; but the statement would be totally inaccurate if it described a general rule. The concurrence in the scheme was general, and the objections were isolated and few. With reference to the other complaint that the right hon. Gentleman had not carried into effect all the plans he had sketched out, the hon. Gentleman had made allusion to morality in the standing Army, and lamented that the attention of Parliament had not been sufficiently given to the moral aspects of the question. But the Secretary of State for War was entitled to contend that the policy of localisation, on which this Bill was founded, along with the policy of short service, was a policy which among its other advantages, among its more direct military advantages, went to reduce to a minimum whatever evil there might be attended with the institution of a standing Army with regard to the temptations to immorality of those who belonged to it. The House ought to be reminded of another of the resources of this Bill. On 19th June, 1871, it had been contended by the noble Lord opposite, the Member for Middlesex (Lord 1647 George Hamilton), that the places for storing the arms of the Militia ought not to be provided by the Justices of the Peace at the expense of the counties; but it was contended by him and others that that was a charge which it was fair enough to maintain as a local charge so long as the Auxiliary Forces were not under the direct control of the Crown, and that the change about to be made in the military organization required that the charge should be transferred to the public. Well, the Government did not dispute the principle of the Motion; all they pleaded for was that time ought to be given to them, and they promised they would not lose time; but so strong was the conviction of the House in favour of the principle of the Motion, that Government only succeeded in getting rid of it by a very narrow majority. To give effect to that scheme was one of the purposes for which the Minister of War had introduced this Bill. The hon. Member for Hackney, with all his regard for morality, nevertheless refused to give to the Secretary for War the means for abolishing billetting, which every one else thought it desirable to get rid of. The hon. Gentleman, when speaking of the abolition of the Militia, said he would take time to bring it about. It would take a great deal of time. The objects which the Secretary of State for War had proposed were—first, the policy of short service; second, the policy of a system of large and efficient Reserves, with a view to render it necessary only to maintain a very moderate force in this country with the colours; and third, the policy of combination of the Regular with the Auxiliary Force. These three principles had been fully discussed, and accepted by a large majority of the House; some of them had met with the unanimous and enthusiastic approbation of the House, and to the giving effect of the whole of these three principles this Bill was directly addressed. Was it possible that any Member of the House could forget that the Bill was only a sequel and corollary of a series of measures which had already passed the House? It would be hardly fair, after the House had approved of the principle, to make this Bill a means of reopening the entire question of the military policy which had been brought forward by the Secretary of State for War. His hon. Friend's (Mr. Holms') ground plan was that it 1648 was quite impossible for them to know what would be the strength of the Army some years hence.
§ MR. HOLMS
It was the composition and constitution of the Army to which I referred. I said that no man would be able to tell how it was to be composed; whether mainly by Militia, and how large the standing Army would be, and how large the Reserve would be. I said that no man could tell—and I think no man can.
said, if no man could tell, it was not from want of copiousness and clearness in the expositions of the policy of the Government by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. The hon. Gentleman had argued that it was easier to predict what would take place in a foreign country than in our own, and he considered that a matter of hardship. In some respects that was true; but it surely ought to be taken into account that there was a greater degree of freedom among the people and a greater degree of power in the Parliament of this country. It would be, indeed, strange if his right hon. Friend, who had to deal with the free will of the free men he brought into the Army, could predict with the same certainty as a man who could send forth an edict and call upon a man and make use of his services within the conditions of the law as he pleased. What his right hon. Friend had planned and propounded he had planned and propounded with deference to the freedom of the subject and the authority of Parliament. The measure proposed by the Secretary of State for War, although it differed from our former system in making arrangements for a regular, uniform, and systematic application of the resources of the country for military purposes, was yet perfectly elastic and perfectly free, in so far as it left it with the House of Commons in future years to adopt whatever propositions it might think fit with regard to the amount of force, and the composition of the force which might be required by the public interest. The Bill, so far as the principle was concerned—and he admitted that it opened legitimately various 1649 questions of detail—was addressed to the purpose of giving effect to the military policy heretofore announced by the Government. That military policy, in its main features and details, had already received the adhesion of the House. Under these circumstances, it was scarcely necessary at the close of the month of July to cripple the War Office, and intercept the active exercise of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and his coadjutors, by withholding from them at the last moment the means of giving effect to purposes which had already received the deliberate sanction of the House.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
observed that the right hon. Gentleman had laid a good deal of stress upon this being the 23rd of July; but two years ago, on the 2nd of August, the Secretary of State for War came down to the House and proposed a change in his Estimates amounting to £2,000,000, and involving 20,000 additional men. Surely if such a change as that were proposed two years ago on the 2nd of August, they were now entitled to go closely into the policy of the Government on the 23rd of July. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) had got over this Motion in a very nice way by leaving the responsibility of this Vote upon Government, and casting it off from his own shoulders. There were some, however, who could not do that, and who, representing the people who had sent them thither, must speak a word as to the dangerous course Government was entering upon. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had on a former occasion described his policy as intended to blend the Army into one harmonious whole. This Bill, however, would do anything but blend the Liberal party into one harmonious whole. [Sir HENRY HOARE: Hear, hear!] The Prime Minister had argued in favour of the Bill by saying that the House had already sanctioned the policy of Government. But both the Vote and the Bill appeared to be extraordinary when they considered the time when the Bill was brought forward, who it was that proposed it, and the arguments by which it was defended. During the last 10 years they had spent upwards of £260,000,000 upon the Army and Navy; and here was another grand scheme for organizing the whole 1650 thing afresh. There was no threatening aspect of affairs in Europe, and Her Majesty's Government had now adopted the glorious policy of arbitration which they had reason to believe would be successful; and, nevertheless, the War Minister came down and asked the House to consent to a larger force than had ever been maintained in a time of peace. Then as to the person who proposed this policy, they should remember that at the last General Election he raised the great cry of the "Abolition of the Irish Church." But the Government rode a second horse—"Retrenchment." They all remembered the eloquent and telling speeches made by the Prime Minister in Lancashire in favour of retrenchment, and the conduct of the Government in bringing forward this large expenditure after their declarations before the country had done very much to shake the confidence of the public out-of-doors in their declarations. One of the most distinguished of the Premier's late Colleagues (Mr. John Bright) had declared that a Ministry which could not govern this country for less than £70,000,000 a-year was not worth supporting. As to that policy, he had listened during the present Session to find out any reason for having such an exorbitant Army, and the only statement he had heard was that, in the face of the enormous military powers on the Continent, the force asked by the Government was not disproportionate or absurd. Who was it that Government wished to protect us from? There was no need for this large Army if Government did not mean to interfere with foreign complications—and as for panic-mongers, they were quite unappeasable. The people of the country towns were afraid of the invasion of vice and immorality to which this new scheme would expose them, and a Petition presented on the subject by the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. G. Hardy) stated that the young people who gathered there from all parts of the country should not be exposed to the temptations arising from the presence of such a class of the population. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War must not suppose that he had the support of the whole Liberal party in the policy which he now proposed. On a former occasion when his hon. Friend (Mr. Muntz) moved the reduction of the 1651 whole Vote for the Army by £10,000, only 97 Liberal Members could be got to vote for the Government proposals, and they were not supported by a single Member for one of the great towns, such as Liverpool, Glasgow, or Sheffield, unless it were by the minority Tory Member for Leeds. Under the circumstances, he felt that those with whom he was connected were bound to protest against this measure, and to fight the question out, even at the cost of delaying the business of the Session. If the House endorsed the policy of the Government, they must be prepared for a permanent charge of £15,000,000 per annum, and for keeping up a military force amounting to 500,000. That was a policy to which he, for one, was strongly opposed; and if it were carried into effect—as he had no doubt it would be—it would only be by the agreement of the Leaders on both sides of the House; both of whom, however, when out of office, were inclined to speak in condemnation of "bloated armaments." The Bill, if it passed, would pass by the aid of hon. Gentlemen opposite, as had been the case in so many other instances; but he had confidence that the time would come when public opinion would endorse the view which he sought to impress on the House, and which in season and out of season he would maintain, because he believed the policy of the Government was as dangerous as the expenditure was reckless.
said, he would, as an independent Member, notwithstanding the speech of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms) and the moral essay of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard), vote for the second reading of the Bill. The latter hon. Gentleman had, he thought, hardly done justice to the Army and the Navy. He stated, on a former occasion, that their moral condition was simply appalling, and that a military station, wherever it was located, was a corrupting and demoralising influence. Now, against the justice of that statement he, for one, most strongly protested. The Army and Navy were, to say the least, no worse than their neighbours; and he should like to ask the hon. Gentleman, whether he had never heard of any appalling vice and immorality among the mining population of Wales? It was true that his right hon. Friend the 1652 Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) had very eloquently declaimed against Oxford being made a depôt; and he was surprised when he heard the right hon. Gentleman say that when the Oxford Militia were being trained in that city, the discipline of the University could hardly be preserved. Now, as a rule, that Militia had not been trained in Oxford of late years at all, and last year and the year before they had been trained at Aldershot, and it was the wish of the colonel that they should be so trained, he probably being as much alarmed at their being exposed to the example of the students as his right hon. Friend that the students should be exposed to theirs. He had yet to learn, he might add, that when the Militia were not trained at Oxford, the proctors or the Castle could be dispensed with. As to the hon. Member for Hackney, he would remind him, when he spoke of the necessity of drilling a soldier for only three years, that the opinion of such men as the Duke of Wellington and Sir John Burgoyne was that the old soldier was the bone and sinew of the Army. He was aware that Major General Sir J. Lintorn Symonds wrote to the newspapers a letter in reference to the Militia; but he (Colonel Gilpin) doubted whether the knowledge of the writer was more than superficial. Further, he did not know what latitude was given to general officers in reference to their corresponding with editors of newspapers; but he could say that if regimental officers on full pay had written such letters to a newspaper, they would not only have been guilty of great indiscretion, but would have acted in a manner that would have been altogether contrary to the rules of the service. He was, he might add, entirely opposed to the scheme of the Government on the ground of expense; for, notwithstanding what had been said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer about its coming out of the balances, it must fall on the taxpayer. He was opposed to the scheme, in the second place, because nothing could be done under it which could not have been equally well done under the old system, and because it gave dissatisfaction in the Army altogether without parallel. The scheme, however, had been sanctioned by a large majority, and under these circumstances he felt it to be his duty to vote—although he did 1653 so with reluctance—for the second reading of the Bill under discussion.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
said, he did not know why it was he sat on the benches below the gangway. He entirely differed on subjects involving patriotic feeling from many hon. Members who sat immediately behind him; but he would remain where he was, thinking it desirable that those benches should be leavened by some solid patriotism. Three peaceful shepherds had already tuned their pipes behind him. The House had listened to the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) and the hon. and rev. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard). ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, it was not a becoming expression, and the hon. Member would, no doubt, withdraw it.
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
said, he would do so at once, and at the same time apologize to the House for having used it, in consequence of a slip of the tongue. The House had also heard the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who would no doubt be followed by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright). Now, their reasons for voting against the second reading of the Bill amounted, when analyzed, to this—"We wish to see this country disarmed, because it was stated in the Speech from the Throne that we were on terms of amity with all European nations." Indeed, it had been said by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle that the only foe we had to fear was now prostrate. He, however, deplored the prostration of France, who was our nearest neighbour, our best friend, and our truest ally. Still, the circumstance of France being prostrate was no reason why England should not be in a position to withhold her assent to whatever the new military Power of the Continent might endeavour to dictate to her. Two years ago the Military Estimates were increased by 20,000 men and £2,000,000; but that increase was made in order to enable them to defend Belgium in the event of that country being attacked. But were they not as much bound now to defend Belgium against Germany as they were formerly to defend her against France? Again, were they to connive at the connivance of Prussia 1654 with the policy of Russia in the East? They should be armed because they ought to be in a position to resist aggression on their part. It had been stated that the ultimate result of the adoption of this scheme would be to double the Military Estimates, and to throw a vast burden on the finances of the nation. That, however, he denied. He believed the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had brought forward a scheme which would ultimately much diminish the military burdens of the country. If they could put their Reserve Forces into a state of real preparation and discipline, and if, in a few years' time, they could pass short-service men into their First-class Reserve, they might ultimately diminish largely the numbers of their standing Army. There were behind him many Gentlemen of the "Peace at any price" party, who would rather not have a standing Army; but he was sure the vast majority of Members of that House, and the great mass of the citizens of their great towns, would not like to see England rendered defenceless against any aggression or invasion. Some of the Gentlemen he had just referred to entertained so profound a horror of war that they would lead a hostile force into Woolwich or Plymouth rather than draw the sword in defence of the country. But he was sure the large constituencies of this country were quite willing to pay the price of its insurance, and the Gentlemen behind him would find themselves mistaken at a General Election if anything happened to affect the honour of this country, which the working classes, above all other classes, held dear, for they were as true patriots as any of the Gentlemen connected with the Army who sat on the other side of the House.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
agreed that the Army was by no means so moral as they could wish; but, at the same time, it should be remembered that the morality of large masses of the population could certainly not be held up as being superior to that which prevailed at our military establishments. There was this difference, however—that what took place in the latter localities was patent and open to view. The hon. Members (Mr. Holms and Sir Wilfrid Lawson) spoke of the position which they were now considering as being one which was likely to break up the Liberal 1655 party; but was the existence of the Liberal party to be preferred to the national defence? He did not believe that the two things were inconsistent; and he believed that the breaking up of the Liberal party would be a national misfortune, because the carrying on of Constitutional Government required the existence of two great parties. Shortly before the last General Election, in consequence of the pressure brought to bear on the Government by Members of Parliament, a stop was put to the extension of the system of regimental canteens, which were most beneficial for the improvement of the soldiers, not only because they retailed brewers' beer instead of public-house beer, but because they afforded to the men a well-ordered house, and thus prevented them from going into low company. The hon. Member for Carlisle's reference to the Premier's Lancashire speeches showed the simplicity of the Liberal party, who could not distinguish between speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman when in opposition and those delivered by him while he was a responsible Minister of the Crown. Lancashire was not, however, quite so credulous. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms) no doubt brought great fairness and knowledge to bear upon this subject. He preferred a Regular Army Reserve to any Militia that ever existed. A foreign officer of European celebrity remarked to him (Sir Percy Herbert) last year at Aldershot—"Don't trust to your Militia." He replied—"That's all very well, but we have nothing else to trust to." The same answer might be given to the hon. Member for Hackney. No doubt, a Reserve such as the Prussian Army was able to bring into the field, composed, not of raw recruits and Militiamen trained only for a short period, but of men who had been three years in the ranks and who were from 24 to 27 years of age, constituted a very different body from anything we could turn out by means of our Militia. The Landwehr, too, were equally trained for the whole of their three years, and the oldest of these men were only 30 or 32 years of age. It was, indeed, a very discouraging thing to find that there were 57,000 men in our Army over 30 years old. The soldier who had a few years' experience of training and discipline, and had served through a couple of campaigns, 1656 was the most valuable old soldier that could be got. To carry out the objects which had been advocated so ably by the hon. Member for Hackney, it would be necessary to have a conscription; but as there was no prospect of this course being adopted by the Government, the only other alternative was a large increase of pay. Judging from the rapid rise of wages, an increase in the pay of the soldier was a question that must soon be faced. It was useless to compare the outlay on the British Army with that upon foreign armies, for in these the soldier was not paid a fair day's wages for a fair day's work, and men were taken from their families to serve whether they liked it or not. Universal liability to serve in the ranks was not compatible with our views at present; but it was possible that when we had undergone the misery of foreign conquest, we might come to look upon the conscription as necessary. Comparisons, again, with the Estimates of former years must always be fallacious, for the state of Europe and the strength and state of preparation of foreign armies did not remain the same. As regards the Navy, persons were never tired of saying that we ought to have a fleet capable at least of meeting the fleets of any two other nations in the world. But without an Army, of what use would our fleet be, unless it was to remain glued to our shores for the purposes of defence. He did not say that our Army should be large enough to meet two, or even one of the Continental armies; but it ought, at all events, to be large enough to meet any force it was likely to contend with. Invasion was not as impossible as it was sometimes deemed. With those who shut their eyes and went into a fool's paradise, argument was impossible; but those who discussed the matter with foreign officers, and persons who had studied the question, would see that surrounded as the prospect of a successful invasion might be with improbabilities, those would cease to be improbabilities if we went to sleep and neglected to take proper measures. Entirely as he agreed with his hon. Friend (Mr. Holms) as to the superiority of an Army Reserve, he did not see any such prospect of its being established as to lead him to throw away the substance of the Reserve which already existed in the Militia for the 1657 shadow of a mythical Army Reserve. The belief confessed by the hon. Member that he had voted for the abolition of purchase because he believed it would give the country an Army Reserve was another proof of the simplicity of the great Liberal party. And he warned them fairly that they would not have seen the end of last year's Bill when they had expended the sum of £8,000,000.
§ MR. O'REILLY
said, he heard with regret and with pain, which he could hardly express, such expressions on the part of hon. Members around him, as that this Bill would diminish the political power of the Liberal party. There was something higher than party ends or party advantages, and he thought it greatly to the honour of the Secretary of State for War that he was one of those who set the good of his country above the good of his party. The great objection to the present measure was, that it was a panic expenditure. Now, in his opinion it was the crowning and concluding measure of a comprehensive course of policy. The first step was laid down by the Recruiting Commission, when they recommended localisation, and step by step that policy had been pursued. The abolition of purchase as a necessary step in that direction was opposed by many hon. Gentlemen; but they did not object to the localisation of the Army and its connection with the Reserve forces. With respect to the remarks of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms), he was disposed to admit that it might be desirable to have an Army consisting of three years' service men, and numbering from 150,000 to 200,000; but what chance was there of obtaining such a Reserve? It was quite manifest that we could never obtain that large number of recruits for short service. There were one or two difficulties of detail to which he wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War with regard to the organization of depôt centres. They were to consist of depôt companies of the two line battalions connected with them. No doubt the officers placed over them would be men of a certain age and inactive habits; but it would be a great mistake if these depôt companies were allowed to settle into a sedentary service. Another point was this—that if the battalion regiments were to have a real connection with the counties, each 1658 should be quartered in the county with which it was connected. He supported the present Bill because it had been introduced for the purpose of completing a policy which had been growing up for the last 10 or 12 years, and which had been accepted by the country.
said, it was all very well to urge that Parliament ought not to go back upon its decisions; but he maintained that an expenditure of £15,000,000 upon the Army in time of peace was both unnecessary and unwarranted. Holding that opinion, he could not vote for a measure which would render necessary in the future what he almost felt called upon to describe as a profligate expenditure. In the Army itself there seemed to exist what was, to say the least of it, a considerable difference of opinion as to what was proceeding in the way of attempts to increase its efficiency. A great difference of opinion also existed as to the proposition for bringing the irregular and the Regular forces together—whether the irregular forces were to pull the Regular forces down, or whether the Regular forces were to lift up the irregular. When brandy and water were mixed together, the brandy became weaker, and the water sometimes only had just a taste of the brandy. He hoped that such would not be the effect of the present measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War in moving the second reading of this Bill endeavoured to console the House by proclaiming his moderation. He said the scheme was founded upon the Prussian system, but he had only taken a small portion of it, and that if he had adopted the whole system he should have had to ask not for £3,500,000, but for £12,000,000. He was afraid they had poor security against being called upon at some future time to pay the residue of the larger sum. [Mr. CARDWELL dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shook his head, and it was very likely that he would not be called upon to make the demand; but if the scheme as it now stood did not answer, it might be said that the larger expenditure was alone necessary to secure success. This scheme was said to have been based upon the Prussian system; but the circumstances of the two countries were entirely different. The Prussian Army was concentrated at home. Draughts from the 1659 English Army had to be constantly detached to the assistance of her dependencies. The present Government, to their shame be it spoken, had cast off the colonies of England; but if any of those colonies were attacked, no Government could stand which refused to render such assistance as was necessary. With respect to India, who could say that in the course of a few years 15,000 or 20,000 men might not be required? In such an event what would become of the present scheme, and what would become of those places from which they were taken. He could not support the present scheme, because he believed it was not necessary to incur such an enormously increasing expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman had tried to console the House by stating that a saving of £20,000 a-year would be effected with regard to the country. But the right hon. Gentleman did not pretend to relieve them from the debt which they were obliged to incur a few years ago for the provision of suitable buildings. And, besides, what security was there that the £3,500,000 would not be left a dead weight upon the country? Believing the scheme contained in the Bill would in a few years prove utterly worthless, he intended to vote against the second reading of the measure.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, he was one of those who agreed with the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, that a permanent peace establishment of £15,000,000 was greater than this country required. He accordingly moved an Amendment to reduce the number of men and the amount asked for; but having been defeated by a majority of four to one he felt bound to accept the decision as the opinion of the House upon the subject. The Bill under discussion had been brought in to complete the system then laid down, and in considering its provisions they had discussed the principle of great military establishments—amongst others, the Prussian system; but after all they must come back to the common-sense view of the question involved in the Bill—that of military forces localisation. He never knew an instance where the elements of discord were so combined together as in this discussion. The Reserve principle as adopted in Prussia was based upon conscription, and as so much had been said in its favour he would ask, were hon. 1660 Members ready to adopt it in this country? The men were registered at their births everywhere in Prussia, and when wanted for military service they must report themselves or produce a valid excuse. But if we had a body of Militia Reserve they would be living in all parts of the world, and when wanted on an emergency would it be so certain that they would be found? The Secretary of State for War had gone as far as he dared go in imitation of the Prussian system. His plan would bring about the working together of the various forces, and he asked whether that would be worth nothing? The best recruits would come from the Militia, and in the course of a few years the regiments would be more or less localised. The interest of the money required to carry out the scheme would amount to £118,000 a-year, and if the £70,000 now paid for the billeting system were deducted from that amount there would remain some £40,000 or £50,000 a-year to be raised by additional taxation. But he would be disappointed if ten times that amount could not be saved by the proper management of the depôts and the judicious execution of the various details of the scheme. He would not refer to the pretended demoralization that it was said the system would produce; for if they took any 133,000 young men in the prime of life, with time to enjoy themselves, he was afraid they would not find that they would act so wisely as it might be wished they should do; but if the House abolished the billeting system, would not that be a glorious gain in the path of morality? And then, again, the establishment of separate dormitories for married soldiers, would not that add to morality, decency, and honour, from their being treated as human beings? It was said that the country very much disliked the establishment of depôt centres; but he had heard nothing of the kind in his part of it. On the contrary, in certain localities the people had expressed their delight and satisfaction at the system. The new system as propounded would no doubt at first cause a considerable outlay; but believing that, on the whole, it would tend ultimately to a reduction of expenditure, and that it would work well, he should support the second reading of the Bill.
said, he regretted that the Bill had been brought in at so late a period of the Session as to preclude the possibility of the proposed scheme being fully considered and discussed. He deprecated the statement of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), that it must be looked upon as a scheme which must necessarily result in dividing the Liberal party. It was essential that every Member should vote in reference to it according to his conviction, otherwise the Army would be looked upon as a means for keeping the Liberal party in power. The Bill appeared to him to foster a dual state of affairs—that of making the Militia a Reserve for the Army, and, at the same time, forming another Reserve by men who had passed through the ranks of the Regular Army. Such a state of affairs as that could not be right. Either they must look for the defence of the country to the Militia, or to the Reserves that had passed through the Regular Army; but the Bill appeared to countenance the two, with the view of afterwards arranging our policy with regard to them. The system proposed failed in two important particulars. First, as to economy. The country must be thoroughly and efficiently protected, and the question was, what military organization would effect that object for the least amount of money? The Liberal party came into power pledged to economy; but there was not the least shadow of a statement that had recently been made by the Government upon which the country could base any hope of future economy in respect of the Army. The scheme before the House would not be efficient because it did not recognize the necessity of having the corps d'armée as the tactical unit comprising in itself all the various departments of the service; and it was not an unjust criticism on the Bill to state that it was more of a recruiting Bill than anything else, and in that sense it might or it might not be a good Bill. In reorganizing a system sound principles should be recognized. The view held by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms) was clear and distinct, and he was happy to see that it was gaining ground in the country. When he brought forward a Motion last year, that the Reserves should be formed of men who had passed through the Regular Army, he was met by the Secre- 1662 tary of State for War to the effect that the principle might be good, but that it was perfectly inapplicable to the country. It could not be said it was impossible to carry out the Prussian system without conscription, because the only difference between a free Army and conscription was a matter of pay—the price a country was prepared to give for its soldiers. If the pay of the Reserve were increased, the men could be more surely counted on, and the larger and better the Reserve the fewer need be the number of the Regular Army, so that a large well paid Reserve would certainly in the end be more economical than an underpaid Reserve and a large Regular Army. One defect of the scheme was the excessive number of depôt centres, which would detract from efficiency and yet increase the expense. A large tactical station in the North of England ought to be accompanied with a central Arsenal, and it could be established without an increased expenditure upon that head. The two ought to be considered together. The Bill was exceedingly crude, and showed that the details of the scheme had not received sufficient attention to warrant the outlay of a large sum of money. In conclusion, he expressed his determination to vote with the hon. Member for Hackney.
§ COLONEL C. LINDSAY
said, he, for one, was anxious that the Bill should pass without delay, and he said so for two or three reasons. In the first place, because it was a Bill which purposed to carry into effect a scheme for military reorganization, which was fully explained by the Secretary of State for War when he introduced the Army Estimates, and, if he mistook not, it found considerable favour on both sides of the House; also because the money which was asked for was for the purpose of putting the necessary machinery into motion in order to work out the various specifications which were contained in the schedule of the Bill; also because barrack accommodation and store-houses were obviously necessary for the purposes of localisation; and also because no hon. Member had been able to produce a counter-scheme, which was proved by the dead silence which had prevailed on the subject during the last four or five months, which was equivalent to consent, and consequently there should be no opposition or delay in passing the 1663 second reading. The question, therefore, resolved itself within a very limited though important compass, and that was the speedy establishment of depôt centres throughout the country. No doubt there were, and would be, conflicting opinions upon the judicious selection of those centres—opinions which were guided by various local interests and influences. But it appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman was sufficiently fortified by the opinions of his military advisers not to be defeated by any undue and unnecessary pressure that might be put upon him; and as the responsibility of this new scheme, which was consequent upon the abolition of purchase, rested upon the Government and the Liberal party, the sooner it was put into active operation the better. Under these circumstances, he was inclined rather to leave the details in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman, who, be it remembered, forced on a great military revolution last year in spite of the opinions of all the leading and most distinguished officers of the Army; and who had assumed the responsibility of managing the Army in his own peculiar way. He was inclined to saddle the responsibility upon him and the Liberal party, rather than throw obstacles in the way of a measure which was not only inevitable and pressing, but which had been so well considered, and decided to be the best means of carrying out the intentions of the scheme. Now, there was no doubt that an improved organization in the Army was much required before purchase was abolished. But since that event, the Army was, as it were, in a chrysalis state, and would be, and must be, more or less, until the new scheme was actually in operation. For goodness then let the trial be made without delay; and let the attempt to advance the present efficiency of the Army and Reserve forces be assisted to the fullest extent; and, above all, let no false economy be allowed to step in, as was so often the case on these occasions, and like too many cooks, spoil the broth. Now, no doubt the working out of this scheme would be surrounded by various difficulties, which would crop up at every turn, which was generally the case with any new undertaking; but he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would go forward in spite of them, and endeavour to realize without delay the great object 1664 which he had in view of drawing the whole of his forces—bar one—the right hon. Gentleman knew what he meant—into his magic circle of harmony, and when he had got them there, through the instrumentality of the depôt centres, let him prove that his scheme was feasible, and let him and his party bear the responsibility and discredit if it was not. For now that the Army had been deprived of its ancestral character, and was passing through a significant crisis, it was only natural to suppose that the future action of the Government would be of a practical nature, and therefore a step in the right direction. He was, therefore, inclined to assist the object in view, which the Government was bound in its own responsibilities to realize without delay; and he trusted the Secretary of State might succeed in realizing a better state of things than at present existed, which was neither one thing nor the other. It was a great mistake to bring on a Bill such as this at so late a period of the Session, and at so late an hour in the night, as was the case last Monday, for it irritated hon. Members and tended to prejudice its passage by unnecessary argument and consequent delay, especially as most of the argument would have been better discussed in Committee, which would probably be rechauffé when the Bill was in Committee. He did not think that the views which had been expressed the other night by the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) were likely to be endorsed by a majority in the House; for they simply came to this—that England would be demoralized if she became a military nation—that the Army was a hot-bed of everything that was vicious and abominable, consequent upon what he called "laborious idleness"—and that therefore for the sake of the morality of the country there ought to be no Army at all. He thought the best answer he could give him was—"Let those who live in glass houses beware lest they throw stones." And when he was on this subject, he hoped that the hon. Member for Merthyr, and those who agreed with him, had read the admirable and unanswerable letter which was addressed to The Times last week by an officer commanding a cavalry regiment, in reference to the remarks which that hon. Member had made against the soldiers of our Army. No doubt they had 1665 had the opportunity if they chose to take it; but as other Members might not have noticed it, he would, with the permission of the House, extract two or three sentences in defence of the British soldier whose moral character was so unjustly assailed, and in refutation of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Merthyr. That officer said, in reference to what was called laborious idleness—"My men, on an average, are at work, and hard work too, from 5.30 A.M. to 6.45 daily, and now we hear of laborious idleness." And in reference to the Contagious Diseases Acts, he said—Is it too much to require that, because we are anxious to preserve the lives of our soldiers from the deadly effect of disease, contracted among the civil population, the soldier should not be branded as an outcast from all society? They are unable to defend themselves, and, in their behalf, you must permit me to protest against the attacks which have been wantonly made on their good name.And he concluded—I unhesitatingly assert that the morality of the Army is infinitely higher than that of the civil population, and it is to me a matter of painful surprise, as doubtless it is to many others, that Mr. Richard should have been allowed, unchallenged, to so recklessly malign the character of the English Army.The adjournment of the debate between 1 and 2 o'clock in the morning, and not having commenced till past 11 o'clock at night, was ample reason, and he hoped would be satisfactory to the cavalry officer for not challenging the hon. Member for Merthyr there and then. He had taken the earliest opportunity since then, and he hoped that other hon. and gallant Members would do likewise. Now, with respect to this laborious idleness, as remarked upon by the hon. Member for Merthyr, he recommended him to read, mark, and digest the replies, which the Secretary of State for War gave to the hon. Member for the Montgomery Burghs (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) last Thursday, in reference to the industrial training of soldiers, when he told him that—Pioneers of the following trades—namely, carpenters, bricklayers, smiths, masons, painters and glaziers, plumbers, and gas-fitters—have been selected and appointed in each regiment at home. These men, assisted by others who had learnt trades prior to enlistment, have performed a portion of the barrack repairs, and have worked for the Royal Engineer Depart- 1666 ment. Regimental workshops have been established at some stations by the re-appropriation of accommodation where it could be spared. …. Endeavours will be made to utilize military labour as far as possible.He held in his hand the Army Military Labour Return on the Employment of Soldiers in Trades and Industry during the year ending the 31st day of March, 1871, which was issued that morning to hon. Members; and he thought the hon. Member for Merthyr would do well to analyze it, for it would show him how the system was working in every regiment on the Home station, also the working pay that was earned, and it contained remarks from every commanding officer, together with results, and it summarized the total saving to the public. Now, laborious idleness was a very plausible expression, and it was one which might tickle the ears of those who shut their eyes and opened their mouths like little children who were told to do so, and see what they would get. But to those who—unlike the hon. Member for Merthyr—did know something about the life and occupations of the British soldier, such a description was as worthless as it was contrary to fact, for he had yet to learn that the habits, and inclinations, and intrigues of the civil population of our provincial towns was less vicious and abominable and demoralizing than the habits of the soldier. No; for if the comparative test of morality was to be applied by the hon. Member for Merthyr to the civilian as well as the soldier, he would find there was little or no difference between the gauges. Had the hon. Member condescended to visit a soldier's barrack and acquaint himself with the daily routine of barrack life and its obligations? Not he, for if he had he would have found that the frequent and almost hourly calls which discipline and duty imposed upon the soldiers, must effectually break the monotony of a laborious idleness which might otherwise exist; and he would also have informed himself that there were other compulsory employments unseen, and therefore unknown to those who, like the hon. Member, were not familiar with the mysteries of barrack life, and which at once refuted such an ill-applied expression. The hon. Member for Merthyr had written a long letter that morning to The Times, in corroboration of the sentiments which he had expressed on 1667 a previous occasion, and he quoted his brother's (Sir James Lindsay's) evidence before a Royal Commission some years ago in reference to the monotony and idleness of the soldiers' life, and its bad effects, which was quite true at that time. But the hon. Member forgot that since that evidence was given the industrial training of the soldiers and the attention that had been paid to their recreation and reading occupations, which were now in full force, had become matters of fact, and that everything was done to give the soldier an interest in his time, when on duty or off. He could not agree with what fell from the hon. and gallant Member for Durham (Captain Beaumont) when he inferred that every town protested against the placing of a depôt centre into it, because, from what he could make out, the feeling was very much the reverse, in corroboration of which, he believed, he was correct in saying that deputation after deputation had waited on the Secretary of State in favour of these centres being established in particular localities other than those that had been decided upon; and he had yet to learn that the establishment of troops in various parts of the country was unpopular. His experience, on the contrary, told him that in former years, before Aldershot, Shorncliffe, and Colchester were constituted into camp and training centres, the quarters of troops in provincial towns was most popular, and an advantage in many ways, for it circulated a considerable amount of money in the localities, gave a tone and a spirit throughout the district, and made the Army popular, and consequently encouraged recruiting. But the hon. Member for Durham joined in the cry that there were too many soldiers in the country; so there were. But, he asked, who was it that supported the policy of withdrawing our regiments from the colonies? The party to which the hon. Members for Merthyr and Durham belonged. And, now that the colonial service had been concentrated, as it must be somewhere in the limited area of the British isles, there was a sort of panic for fear of the swarms of these essences of vice and abomination forming permanent settlements all over the country. He confessed that he was surprised at such a paltry feeling of alarm; but as our small Army could not be reduced, the majority of the electors 1668 of England, Scotland, and Ireland, whose feelings were so well represented in the present Parliament, must grin and bear it, as the result of the policy of their party. Now he thought that the following explanatory remarks which the Secretary of State made the other evening were such as to commend the principle of localization to the favourable judgment of the House of Commons and the country. He said—The scheme laid on the Table would enable every colonel in every district, when called upon by instructions from the central authority, to arm and equip all the Regular Forces, and to call together the Reserves and to place them under arms without any reference to the War Office, or to any depôt other than that which he commanded.Now, he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman upon this clear and businesslike explanation, as also upon the first blow that had really been struck at that detestable though hitherto unavoidable red tapeism of the War Office—a system that had always interfered with the responsibilities of those in command, and which had been such a drag-chain upon simultaneous action, which was one of the great attributes of organization. No doubt this scheme was far from perfect; but they must be grateful for any improvement, if it be so. Now, all must be agreed that the odious system of billeting for the Militia, when out for training, being abolished, was a step in advance; for it was distasteful both to the landlord and the tenant, and it was a decided interference with the liberty of the subject, and subversive of the maxim that every Englishman's house was his castle. It was a happy result of the new scheme of organization, and would, no doubt, be fully appreciated. It must be borne in mind, however, that the right of billeting, when absolutely necessary, still existed in order to provide for movements on emergency; but as far as the training of the Militia was concerned it was abolished. Now, before he went to another subject, he wished to know from the right hon. Gentleman what his intentions were with respect to the metropolitan training-ground for Volunteers—for instance, where he proposed it to be established in the town; and what would be the principle upon which it was to be used by all? It was a question of considerable importance to the Volunteers, but until he knew the right hon. Gentleman's 1669 views upon the subject he would not take up the time of the House by raising the question; but he wished to know for what purpose it was intended—was it for the Brigade of Guards, the Militia, or the Metropolitan Volunteers, or for all conjointly? He did not think it could be intended for the Guards, as they had their own training grounds already, nor for the Volunteers at the West-end of London as they had the entreé to the various barrack squares, by the kind permission of officers commanding, besides Hyde Park, Regent's Park, and Battersea Park, to all of which they repaired when convenient to themselves. He concluded, therefore, that this training ground must be chiefly intended for the Militia of the district; but as they were only out for so short a time it appeared to be throwing away money to make such a training ground, unless it was at all times available for the East-end Volunteer Corps, who had, he believed, no convenient ground at hand for training purposes. It would not suit the Volunteers of the West-end if the ground was in the East-end, or vice versâ. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would throw some light upon the subject. And now having said this much, he must, before he concluded, refer to one question, and one only—and it was rather an important one—and that was, whether the selection of the depôt centres had been made with a due regard to the health of those who were to inhabit them? He had no doubt they had been, but as a great responsibility and a considerable expense was involved in the matter, the House ought to be reassured of the fact. Now, he mentioned this in consequence of the reply which he received from the Secretary of State a few days ago, when he asked him if the depôt centre of the counties of Oxford and Bucks, which had been fixed for High Wycombe, was to be established in or about Oxford, and, if so, where would be the situation? He was not satisfied with the reply, because the right hon. Gentleman was either unable or unwilling to tell him. He said that if General MacDougal's Committee were to decide upon Oxford, inquiries would be made as to where the most eligible situation could be got at a moderate cost. He was not satisfied at not getting a simple answer to a simple question, considering that the Bill had been on 1670 the Paper for the second reading for many days. Far was it from him to imply that Oxford was not the best spot in the two counties for a depôt centre. He believed it was, in a military point of view, owing to its railway and other advantages; but as he did not know on what side of Oxford the establishment would be, and as he did not know that any eligible site could be obtained at a moderate cost, he felt it his duty to point out that a considerable portion of the neighbourhood of Oxford was by no means healthy. For instance, there was everything to be said against the selection of ground in the neighbourhood of Cripley and Portmeadows, inasmuch as those localities were about 18 inches under water for four or five months in the year, and the soil was composed of such a chronic description of soaked matter that no foundation could be made for building purposes under a very costly outlay. Now, in corroboration of what he said, he made it his business a few years ago to inquire into the sanitary condition of this particular locality, having undertaken to oppose the establishment of the Great Western Carriage Works, the directors having been tempted to go there owing to the liberal offer which the Corporation had made of the ground in question. He succeeded in preventing, at the last moment, the job which it was; and the reasons were because of the unhealthy locality, and the enormous outlay that the making foundations would entail before a single brick could be laid. With respect to the objection that had been made to the selection of Oxford on the part of the University, there was no doubt much to be said; but as there were other University towns in the kingdom which possessed their barracks and garrisons, and which got on very well together, he thought that military requirements and convenience, in reference to a great scheme such as this, should be equally consulted, whichever way it might be ultimately decided. Under those circumstances, and being in ignorance as to the intended site for the depôt centre in the neighbourhood of Oxford, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not accept any offer of ground in that locality without a medical assurance of its having a clean bill of health. He would be glad to hear what his intentions might be, bearing in mind that if a palace were 1671 built on the ground alluded to, with all the latest improvements in drainage and sewerage, and concrete foundation, nothing would be gained, for the surrounding country would still be impregnated with damp and malaria and effervescence of obnoxious vapour which would be most injurious. He hoped that the hon. Member would withdraw his Motion, but if he went to a division he should certainly vote against him.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
asked for some explanation as to the relative proportions of depôt centres in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that, since this was a measure which concerned the public business of the year, it could not conveniently be postponed; and he hoped he should be able in a few remarks to bring the discussion upon it to a close. ["No, no!"] Well, sometimes one succeeded beyond his hopes. In answer to his right hon. Friend opposite (Sir John Pakington), with regard to the second battalion, he might say that the plan laid down in the scheme was this. Every two battalions would be divided into three, and the third or depôt battalion, would be quartered in the locality. With reference to the other two, one would almost always be abroad, and the other must be at Aldershot or some other garrison. As to the data on which the various financial calculations had been made, as they appeared in the last page of the Report, he had taken the maximum sum; and if he were to state the precise sums in every case, that would of course tend to bring the expenditure up to that maximum, which he was desirous to avoid. Everyone of the calculations had been based on past experience and the estimates of the most competent officers. He was not quite aware of the exact proportion of Scotch and Irish soldiers in the Army, but proposed by adding nine regiments to make them up to sixteen, and that a sufficient number of the regiments would be sent to Ireland, so as to make them fully equivalent to the proportion of recruiting in Ireland.
§ In reply to Captain BEAUMONT,1672
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that provision was made for the building of barracks where none were now available. He believed that a Reserve composed of men who had passed through the Army was essential to the moral discipline of the Army and to the protection and safety of the country. He did not, at the same time, at all differ from the view of the Recruiting Commission, that it was to the Militia we must look for our great constitutional means of defence.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, he wished in a few words to state his objections to this measure. He objected to so large an expenditure of the public money under this Bill in the teeth of the economical professions on the part of the Government, and such uncertainty as to the ultimate cost, especially having regard to the present aspect of the labour market and the rising price of materials of all sorts. Another evil of the measure was, in his opinion, that it would lead to familiarizing the whole of the country with a military system, and what the Army would gain by being located in military depôts in various parts of the kingdom, the civilian population would lose. He cared very little for the military system; but he, nevertheless, claimed to be as good a patriot as the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Henry Hoare). The civilian population had, he believed, a great repugnance to the Bill, and there would, he felt sure, be a greater outcry against it when it was more generally understood. If even the measure were a good one—and great fault had been found with some of its provisions from a military point of view—there could be no harm in giving more time for its consideration. He was one of those who regretted that the Government had yielded to the panic of 1870, and he thought the Prime Minister must now regret that he had so yielded. It was said at one time that if we had only adequate fortifications we should be perfectly secure; then it was contended that we must have an iron Navy; and, again, our glorious Volunteers, it was supposed, would save the country from the risk of panic. The result of every step, however, had been to increase our difficulties in controlling the military power and expenditure of the country. There could, he was sure, be no more honourable or conscientious man than the Secretary of 1673 State for War; but he was, he believed, the victim in dealing with the subjects of a delusion. The great commercial towns who were so deeply interested in the question of our security, had no feeling of panic. At the time of the Crimean War those who opposed it were regarded as being unpatriotic, in the same way as the opponents of the present Bill were; but they had lived to see that war acknowledged to have been a blunder by the very men who were most strongly in its favour.
§ And it being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the Debate was adjourned till this day.
§ In answer to Lord EUSTACE CECIL,
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, the Bill would be proceeded with at the Evening Sitting, after the Intoxicating Liquor (Licensing) Bill had been disposed of.
§ SIR WILFRED LAWSON
asked what was the latest hour at which the right hon. Gentleman would proceed with it?
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, the Government were under a pledge to proceed with the Intoxicating Liquor (Licensing) Bill that evening first; and they would take the other Bill at any hour before half-past 12 o'clock.