HC Deb 29 July 1872 vol 213 cc90-104

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [23rd July], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was, 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 again proposed.

Debate resumed.


, in continuation, said he objected to the measure, because it proposed a large outlay in addition to the considerable military expenditure already sanctioned, and would enable a sum of three and a half millions of money to be raised over which Parliament would have no control. Moreover, even if the scheme embodied in it were a good one, it would lose nothing by being postponed until next Session, while the country would be able to form an opinion with respect to it during the Recess. A large portion of the expenses under the Bill would come from the pockets of the industrial classes, who had no apprehensions of danger and no wish to meddle with the affairs of our neighbours, and he therefore protested both against its being borne by them in such large proportion, and against such an expenditure, when taxation already pressed so heavily upon the industry of the country. If, therefore, this outlay were considered necessary, let it be paid by those who really wished for it. He objected also to the Bill for its intermixture of military with the civil population, feeling sure that the latter would thereby suffer. He did not pretend to be an authority on this subject, but his opinions had been gathered from Blue Books and official documents, which supported him in his strong repugnance to the measure. Barracks were, he believed, a nuisance wherever they were found. In our present relations with foreign Powers, was it necessary to foster our military system, and familiarize our population with it in the way now proposed? The calamity of the Continental States was their over-grown military system, and we should denounce that system instead of humbly copying it. Considering our well-nigh impregnable position and our Navy, and considering, also, the very subordinate position we should hereafter play in Continental quarrels, we should adopt a policy of non-intervention, and, while giving our advice, should preface it by stating candidly that we did not intend to fight. He could not understand how it was that a larger military expenditure was proposed by an economical Government than by a Government which made no such professions. No doubt, the Government hoped in the end to secure for us greater economy; but it was just possible they might be mistaken, and that their present proposals, like many other great schemes of military outlay, might prove a delusion and a snare. It was said that we should be ready to back up our opinions, if necessary, by physical force. That, however, should not be our rôle. Duelling was put down by a combination between a few wise and prudent men; and England, with its high civilization and great professions of Christianity should take the lead in putting down the duels of nations. He thought that with the successful example just about being carried out between ourselves and America, we should endeavour to make International Arbitration the rule, and not the exception, and he called on the Government, by postponing this Bill, to give the country further time for considering whether they would incur this large outlay. He was certain the interests of the country would not suffer from the delay.


said, the evil prophecies of some persons upon the subject under discussion had failed in any way to be realized. He thought the opponents of the Bill had failed to show any connection between it and the evils they deprecated; and he denied that the measure was inconsistent with economy, morality, or the establishment of a sound military system. The object desired by many of his hon. Friends around him was that the country should be defended with a small number of men under the colours, and with a large number of men in the Reserves; and in doing so they seemed to wish to have the best part of the Prussian system without a plan of conscription. That was the scheme he had advocated by letters in The Times in 1870. Men, however, could not be enlisted for the short period of three years with a prospect of returning to citizen life, as long as they were liable to be sent to an unhealthy climate like India for an indefinite period. The Government, moreover, were deterred from facing the difficulty involved in this matter by those who told them that it would be dangerous to have a permanent Indian army of occupation, because it might be turned into a Praetorian Guard. Their establishment was 192,000, and the usual number of recruits was 10 per cent on the establishment, or 19,000 per annum. That was on 12 years' service. Last year they got 22,000; but as the service was reduced to six years, instead of 10 per cent they required 15 percent, or 28,800 men. But if they adopted the scheme of the hon. Member for Hackney, they would require double their present number, and where were they to get them under the present system? The Commander-in-Chief had stated that the present system had yielded as much as could be expected. How then could the hon. Member for Hackney talk of doubling the number? There was only one remedy, and that was localisation. The Report of the Royal Commission on Recruiting stated that men would enlist more readily in corps which contained many of their own friends and acquaintances, than in any other, and that such a system ought to be encouraged. They said that much might be done in that direction by strengthening the relations which existed between particular regiments of the Line and Militia regiments. Now here was a Bill embodying the recommendations of that Commission, and the hon. Member for Hackney himself, at the beginning of the Session, stated that if the people of this country only knew the value of having an Army corps in each district, there would be no difficulty in procuring an efficient Army whenever it was required. Now, that was precisely what this Bill would give the country, and he was therefore at a loss to conceive how the hon. Member for Hackney could vote against it. Moreover, in his objection His Royal Highness the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief did not contemplate, in 1868, the possibility of such a complete change as had been brought about by the interest which the nation took in the Army since the War of 1870—an interest not altogether unhealthy. The hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) objected to the Bill on the ground of the vice and immorality that would be caused by it. But did his hon. Friend realize the difference between a barrack and a training centre? The barrack was a station containing old soldiers who had learned their drill, who were getting tired of their profescion, and who might, therefore, be too much prone to self-indulgence. But these training centres were schools of discipline, where young men were carefully watched by non-commissioned officers—married men, who had risen from the ranks by their steadiness and good conduct, and whose characters were as valuable to them as that of an accountant at Manchester was to him. But not only was the drill of these young men attended to, but every action of their lives was under strict supervision. A proof of the effect of military training upon young soldiers was afforded by the criterion of the relative mortality in civil life. More people died in civil life between the ages of 20 and 25 than in military life; but between 30 and 35 more died in military life. He would ask his hon. Friend, who last year voted £8,000,000 for the abolition of purchase, if he did not know that after that abolition took place, officers would be more zealous, industrious, and anxious to rise in their profession by skill and industry? Surely, therefore, young soldiers might be entrusted to the care of officers whose good services had been purchased for £8,000,000 sterling. So far from promoting immorality, he believed that the Bill would have the effect of checking it. Some years ago he witnessed the greatest enthusiasm amongst the peasantry for enlisting in the Army in Ireland, because many of their own relatives had enlisted. That, he repeated, was exactly what the present Bill would effect, by identifying regiments with particular localities, and introducing the ties of friendly association. Hon. Gentlemen in bringing these sweeping charges against the Army were acting unjustly towards the proceedings of the War Office for the last three years. In the first place, the temptation of bounty had been abolished, and men were induced to enter the Army on a higher principle. Then, instead of hauling a drunken man before a magistrate, and making the acceptance of a shilling an irrevocable enlistment, the magistrate was required carefully to examine the man, after a due distance of time, for the purpose of ascertaining whether he had entered Army with his eyes open, and he would be allowed to march to the depôt like a free citizen. Besides that, other honourable inducements had been held out, and men would no longer be kidnapped, as in many cases they had hitherto been. If, however, he had a right to complain of the course taken by his hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr, with a vigour out of proportion to his charge of immorality against the prospects of the Bill, he might be allowed to say something as to the manner in which the hon. Member for Carlisle had spoken of its extravagance. The hon. Member had stated that anyone who voted for the reduction of the Army at the beginning of the year would vote against the Bill. Now, he (Mr. Trevelyan) voted for the reduction, because he wanted fewer men; and he voted for the Bill because he believed it would procure more efficient men. What was the object of the Bill? The object of the Bill was to make the Militia more effective by bringing it into connection with the Regular Army and placing it under the control of officers of that Army. He could not doubt that when that was effected, that Militia regiments such as that commanded by his hon. Friend the Member for West Gloucestershire—and which several hon. Members knew very well—after being embodied for four or six months would be fit to stand in any line of battle whatever. This, too, was an economical measure, because it would supply them with Militiamen who would cost only £7 per head, whereas the men of the Regular Army cost £42 per head. The objection of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, so far as he could make out, was somehow mixed up with the withdrawal of troops from the colonies. He (Mr. Trevelyan) regarded that withdrawal as a well-considered measure, for in Canada the Force acted as a drag in time of peace, and in the event of war it would have been a prize which would have been very much esteemed by their enemy. As to New Zealand, the Force there only robbed them of their money, and robbed the colony of its self-reliance. Those troops having been withdrawn, they were in want of barrack room for 9,000 men. The Bill gave them that barrack room as a sort of incidental result of the reorganization of our Army. It was also an economical measure in this respect—it would save them from military expenditure occasioned by periodical panics, for an enormous mass of the people of this country, right or wrong, would not be satisfied unless they felt that the country was secured against invasion. Well, up to this time, whenever the public mind was excited, the only resort the Government had was to enlist 10,000 or 20,000 men, who were at once dismissed as soon as the public mind became quiet again. But if the system contemplated by this Bill were carried out, the Government, under every circumstance and at all times, would be able to refuse to listen to any cry for increased military expenditure, and the Secretary for War would be enabled to bring forward Military Estimates which would rival the Navy Estimates which were proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract. In conclusion, he would say that the result would be to provide them with 77 Line battalions and 70 Militia battalions, which would be able take the field at a cost at which, some years ago, they had 49 Line battalions, and a Militia which might be said to be no organized force at all. Besides that real security there was the moral security. All over the country the people would see that they had got their worth for their money, and these centres, instead of being centres of immorality, would be centres of public confidence. As long as they had a bad system it was impossible to economize, and for the first time in his experience of Parliament they had had within the last two years proposals as to the military expenditure by which, he must repeat, they would get their money's worth for their money.


said, that the policy of the Government had been approved of by the House and the country, and now that Her Majesty's Ministers were bringing forward a measure to work it out to a proper end, he thought that every man who was a soldier would do everything he could to support Her Majesty's Ministers. He thanked the hon. Member for the Border Burghs—with whom he did not often agree—for his able defence of the character of the soldier. The hon. Members for Knaresborough and Merthyr Tydvil had thought proper to cast most unfair and most untrue aspersions on the character of soldiers, but he (Colonel Hogg) knew, as one who had spent some of the best years of his life in the Army, that the assertions they had made in that House were unfounded. One hon. Gentleman had said that the civil population suffered because the Army was among them, but he very naturally added that he knew nothing about them. To those who knew the facts, that hon. Gentleman showed that he was utterly ignorant of what he was talking about. Those who had lived in the Army said that their morality was equal to that of the civil population. He did not agree at all with the principle of short service; he thought three years and even six years was too short; and that the right hon. Gentleman would find that out, when he came to put his scheme into practice. By a judicious mixture of men who had money and of men who had none, but who wanted to rise in their profession the Army would gain a great advantage. The Bill of the right hon. Gentleman was, under existing circumstances, one of the best that could be brought in. Anybody who had anything to do with soldiers and Militia knew that one of the worst things was to take a number of young raw soldiers and billet them about. He believed that the best economy was to be prepared for war. That, he believed, was the object of the Secretary of State for War, and the House ought to assist him in bringing the Army and its Reserves to the highest state of efficiency.


said, he had heard nothing from the hon. Member (Mr. Trevelyan) to make him desire to establish military centres throughout the country. As to the health of young soldiers being superior to that of the civil population, that was not surprising, considering that they were picked men, and that probably a third of the applicants for enlistment were rejected. The statement that barrack accommodation was deficient by 9,000 men was simply an argument for the diminution of a force greater than had been customary in time of peace; and he saw no prospect of preventing panics, which affected persons mostly of feeble intellect and of wealthy means, who felt alarm when people of sound judgment saw no ground for it. Whatever the object of the measure might be, it would tend to make us a military nation, though we had seen the calamities to which military ambition had led on the Continent. Far from complaining of the late introduction of the measure, he wished it had been still later, for the Government would then have been more easily induced to defer it till the nation had had time to consider it. It would be much pleasanter for him to support the Government, but he felt it his duty to oppose this Bill, and 18 months ago, when the London Press was endeavouring to excite the country to a war with Russia, a great meeting at Manchester pronounced emphatically for a peace policy. It might be questioned whether, as insisted on by the opponents of the Ballot Bill, any great legislative change ought to be made which was not sanctioned by the people at the last Election; but it was manifest that Parliament had no right to act contrary to the decision of the constituencies, unless circumstances made it imperative, and at the last Election they decided by an enormous majority in favour of the policy of economy then advocated by the Members of the present Government. No hon. Gentleman now on the Treasury Bench would then have ventured to foreshadow a scheme like this, and if the Bill did not pass, and an election happened at the end of the year neither the Government nor the Opposition would put forward such a policy. Nobody could affirm that the security of the country had been jeopardized, for Germany would hesitate to enter on another war, with Prance in her present temper, and a Member of the Government (Mr. Grant Duff), whose Continental information entitled him to much attention, had ridiculed a German invasion as more difficult than an English invasion of Germany. He had been educated by the present Government to think £3,500,000 a large sum. It would take the 100,000 male adults of Manchester 35 weeks to earn it at £1 per head. He acquiesced a year or two ago in the refusal of the Treasury to grant £50,000 or £100,000 for a centre of science and learning, first because he could not help it; and secondly, because he hoped the Government would co-operate with the economical Members of this House; but if they had £3,500,000 to spare they might reduce the National Debt, or reserve it for the bill probably coming to us from Geneva, for which the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) was considerably responsible; or taxes on articles of consumption might be reduced, seeing that the rise of wages was counterbalanced by the enchanced price of the necessaries of life, and that ignorant people were beginning to stone the butchers. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) had described these military centres as the centres of idleness and demoralization. Under the existing law a soldier who deserted his wife or abandoned his children, legitimate or illegitimate, could not be made responsible to the law, and, in his opinion, before soldiers were collected together in fresh places these exemptions from the consequences of their wrongful acts should be abolished. He had heard it said at the beginning of the Session that the Secretary for War had saved the Government. If the Government ever was in such a strait that it required to be saved, he could only regret that it had not been saved by some other means than such as entailed the introduction of this Bill. There was a large number of Members in the House who were interested, either directly or indirectly, in military matters, and the moment it became known that the Secretary for War intended to throw these millions into their lap, they discovered that the Government was the most patriotic that we had had in recent times. It appeared rather extraordinary to him that the first great Cabinet that had opened its doors to the Society of Friends should imitate so extensively the military policy of the Continent, which entailed such an immense amount of poverty and crime. Taking our insular position into account, we spent nearly ten times as much upon our Army, proportionately, as foreign nations did upon theirs. It had been said that whenever the two front benches went together something was being done that ought not to be done, and he did not believe that the present case was an exception to the rule. He regretted that there was not a better Opposition in that House than there was at present. The fact was that the Opposition had no policy whatever. The speeches of their Leader at Manchester and at the Crystal Palace had proved that they were completely bankrupt in politics. He regretted that the Opposition had not stood forward in this instance as the protector of the people against the exactions of the military class. Hon. Members would have to appear before their constituents in a few days, and, for his own part, he should be able to say that, while approving in the main the conduct of the Government, he had opposed to the utmost of his power the squandering of £3,500,000 for military purposes.


said, that the Bill was framed with the view of carrying into effect the objects that had received the sanction of Parliament last year. It, therefore, bore now an entirely different aspect from what it did when the matter was first brought forward, for since then entirely different issues had been raised. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) spoke the other evening about these great military training centres being centres of vice, and he quoted a speech of Colonel Dickson. The latter Gentleman, however, spoke of an entirely different state of things from that contemplated by the Bill. In 1862, the soldiers were collected in one, two, or three centres, where they were entirely cut off from communication with the civil population; they had no amusements provided for them, and nothing was done to prevent them from indulging in immorality, whereas the object of the present Bill was not to bring soldiers in great numbers to one or two military centres, where they were to be kept separate; but it was to spread the military force over the country, and to endeavour to do away with the hard-and-fast line that had hitherto existed between the civil and military populations, at the same time keeping them under proper control. The remarks that fell from his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) were too serious to regret, although his hon. Friend had substantial reason to be sorry to a considerable extent for the way in which his argument was treated. He (Mr. F. Stanley) would admit, however, that the argument was cogent enough to be brought before the House on any subject; and that whether it had met with the treatment it merited or not, it was at all events entitled to respect, for it was a complicated question, and his hon. Friend had expressed his opinion with great delicacy. In any view of the case, there was reason for circumspection, which faculty would no doubt be exercised by all concerned. Whatever might be said about the little notice given to the country of the Government plan, the details of it had really been made known since an early day in February. The scheme consisted of three parts—the abolition of purchase, the organization of the Army, and the localization of the military Forces; and the two latter parts met with general approval. The territorial designation of regiments was, for the first time, to be something more than a mere name. The Militia battalions were to be under canvas at the depôt centre, and though that arrangement had been somewhat modified by a subsequent Memorandum, he wished to know whether, in principle, it would be maintained, and whether measures would be taken to provide for the circumstance of their being embodied in winter, when the inclement season might render it impossible for them to remain under canvas? He trusted the right hon. Gentleman was not going to ask the House to incur a large expense for permanent barracks, when structures of a more temporary character might be adopted, especially as after a time it might be found requisite to move some of the depôt centres to other places; for he thought that localization applied merely to depôts would fail, unless military centres for our Reserve men were established all over the country, for otherwise there would be considerable difficulty in securing the services of Reserve men when they might be wanted at a future period. Unless the places for drilling were situated within a comparatively short distance of the places where the men worked, they would not come up to drill, and after a certain time the Reserve itself would fall off in numbers and efficiency. As to the proposal of the hon. Member for Hackney, it should be borne in mind that in this country, without a conscription, we must deal with things as they were rather than as we might wish them to be, and the Militia, after all, would be the source to which we must look for our Army recruits. Entertaining, therefore, a very strong wish for the efficiency of the Army, he should certainly support the Bill. In conclusion, he would say that he was not now expressing the opinion for the first time—he had long entertained it, that the 40th clause of the Mutiny Act—the right hon. Gentleman would know exactly to what he referred—was a disgrace to the Army, and he hoped the Government would direct their attention, with a view to the adoption of some measures to prevent so serious an evil, which often led to other crimes, obtaining still further extension by the establishment of these centres.


thought the Government had been hardly used by the opposition that had sprung up against this Bill at that late period of the Session. If the Government had brought in and pressed on the Bill at a considerably earlier date hon. Gentleman would have gone down to their constituents and have said—"The Government are not in earnest about the Ballot Bill; they evidently attach more importance to a measure for Army localization which they are pressing forward instead of the Ballot; and we request you by Petitions, and by all the pressure which you can bring to bear upon the Ministry to support the Ballot Bill, and let the other measure go." With regard to the effect which these military centres would have upon the people, he had seen something of the effect produced in garrison towns by having soldiers' barracks planted amongst them. If the barracks were properly situated—not right in the centre of a town, but sufficiently removed from it—they had no injurious effect at all. It was said that none of the large towns were in favour of the Bill; but most of those places were garrison towns at present, and they did not protest against the presence of military Forces in their midst. Certainly, if for nothing else, the Bill would do a great deal of good by preventing the billeting of the Militia in public-houses, which subjected them to degrading and debasing influences. The Militia, instead of being so billeted, would for the future be lodged in barracks, and thus be removed from injurious public-house influence. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) had stated that the Bill proposed to spend a great deal of money on a subject which had not been submitted to the opinion of the country. The country was not unwilling to meet Army expenditure, but objected to expenditure for an inefficient Army. It was because he believed that the destructive policy of last year and the organization scheme now before the House were necessary, and in the hope that next year they would have an economical policy, that he supported the Bill.


said, he had opposed the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, because he believed that it would be injurious to the Army, and he was not prepared to say now that he had changed his opinion; but as the House had decided otherwise, he felt that it was their duty to remove obstacles, and give every assistance in their power to the Government. The Report of the Royal Commission upon Recruiting had been referred to, and he would remind the House of two paragraphs in the Report which he had already read. The first of those paragraphs alleged that in future wars would be sudden in their commencement and short in their duration, and that woeful results would fall upon an unprepared country. In the last paragraph, the Commissioners dwelt on the necessity for incurring expenditure in order to obtain an efficient Army. After such warnings, no Government could face the country, unless it had prepared the country to meet emergencies, and therefore he should give the Government his hearty support.


, in moving the adjournment of the debate, said, he knew the Bill was popular in the House, but did not believe the same remark applied to the country generally. There were several hon. Members who wished to speak upon the Bill, and he therefore desired that they should have an opportunity of speaking at an hour when their opinions could become known to their constituents, instead of at a time when speeches never were nor could be reported.


rose to second the Motion.


reminded the hon. Member for Warrington that, having spoken once in the debate, he could take no further part in the discussion.


said, he had not spoken on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney.


said, that being so, the hon. Member was in Order.


then proceeded to say that if the House wished to divide then on the second reading, he would raise the question again on the Motion to go into Committee, and would appeal to the Prime Minister to fix the Committee for a time when he could have an opportunity of doing that.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Auberon Herbert.)


trusted that the Government would not enter into any engagement of the sort; for many hon. Members had attended that night to take part in the division, and it should be remembered that not only had the House once emphatically approved the proposition of the Secretary of State for War by a majority of 234 to 63, but the object of the Bill was merely to provide the expenses of a scheme which the House had already sanctioned. He considered that the Government were entitled, as no discussion had been raised on the Report of General MacDougal, which had been laid on the Table, to carry the measure, which had now been thoroughly discussed and was well understood by the country.


said, he could not accept the Motion for the adjournment.


, although as much opposed as anyone to the Bill, recommended the withdrawal of the Motion for the adjournment, but said he would oppose the progress of the Bill to the last.

Question put, and negatived.

Main Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 170; Noes 24: Majority 146.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow, at Two of the clock.