HC Deb 05 March 1888 vol 323 cc221-8

The explanations already given will enable the changes proposed in the Estimates for the present year to be more readily followed. Speaking generally, the form of the Votes (except Vote 12) remains unaltered. In accordance with a promise made last year, tables are published as a supplement to the Estimates, showing the true cost of each separate service and institution connected with the Army. This has prevented the necessity of entirely recasting the present form of the Estimates, which was adopted as the most convenient for accounting purposes; but I should, in any case, have been reluctant to have introduced—while a Committee of Inquiry was sitting—any such vital changes in form as would have made a fair comparison with previous years more difficult than before. The information thus given for the first time will enable the cost of each special institution to be minutely examined. All the Votes, as to which practical suggestions of economy have been made, have undergone special and detailed scrutiny during the past year. That this has not been without result is shown by the fact that, although the numbers on the establishment are slightly greater than last year, no less than 18 Votes out of 25 show a reduction of expenditure.

The changes in organization already described have necessitated a complete reconstruction of Vote 12 for warlike and other stores, which in its old form was certainly not very intelligible. In order to maintain full Parliamentary control over the manufacturing departments, a separate Vote is submitted for the Ordnance Factories. The principle on which it is framed is as follows:—

The price of the articles produced by the Ordnance Factories will no longer be based upon what has been technically known as Balance Sheet No 1, but will be, to all the departments to which they are furnished, the actual cost of manufacture and inspection, with the addition of a percentage for depreciation of buildings and machinery. The Army, the Navy, the Colonies, and India, will advance from time to time to the Ordnance Factories the sums required for the manufacture of the articles ordered by them; and the balance only, being the cost of new buildings properly chargeable to capital, will be included in this Vote.

The new Vote 12 omits the cost of naval armaments, and of the establishments of the Ordnance Factories, and presents in a simple form the actual cost of all the armaments and stores supplied to the Army, either by the Government Departments or by private contract, and of their inspection. The organization required for some form of inspection has always existed, but from the way in which the Vote has hitherto been framed, it has been impossible to trace the gross cost of the inspection and proof of stores and armaments. These now appear on the face of the Vote, and the contributions for this service paid by the Navy, the Colonies, and India, are treated as appropriations in aid. I have been compelled to make two additions to it. The object of the first is to carry out the pledge given last Session, that all weapons in the hands of the troops shall be passed by the military authorities before being issued for service, and afterwards periodically inspected. And, secondly, the Report of Sir J. F. Stephen's Commission, and more recently that of the Judge Advocate General, have pointed out great imperfections in the inspection of leather goods, to which I hope to apply an effective remedy. The Vote is also swollen by the transfer to it of the cost of certain inspectors who have hitherto appeared under Vote 9. Lastly, it is attempted to show, in the case of all ordnance stores, the amount required for annual maintenance as distinguished from equipment and reserves. The net increase in the Vote this year is £97,624, which is entirely accounted for by the largo amount taken for light armaments and ammunition at our principal ports.

The Works Vote (13) also is largely affected by the new scheme of organization. It shows a decrease of £122,312, but it must be remembered that the whole cost of buildings and repairs, for the manufacturing departments of the Army, has been transferred from this Vote to that for the Ordnance Factories; and also that the scheme now put forward for the improvements in the defences of our ports provides for the execution of all the works and buildings necessary for that; purpose, but which hitherto have been borne upon this Vote. In order, therefore, to make a fair comparison with previous years, we must deduct from the net amount of this Vote in 1887–8—viz., £862,300—

Cost of works at the manufacturing establishments, Parts I., II., and III. 96,688
Cost of works of defence and submarine mining buildings at coaling stations 77,200
Cost of submarine mining buildings at home 9,000
Total 182,888

Leaving a balance of £679,412, with which we have to compare the net amount taken in 1888–89 of £643,300. The true result, therefore, is a reduction, of £36,112.

The only Votes which show a substantial increase are Vote 1, (£44,175), which is raised in consequence of the reduction in the Egyptian contribution (£90,000), which, however, is compensated for by reduced expenditure on other Votes; Vote 7, which is swollen by the increased capitation grant to the Volunteers and by other concessions amounting in all to about £65,700; and Vote 11, for which, owing to the larger stock of materials available last year, we are now compelled to ask an increase of £15,600.

On the other hand there are decreases to record on many Votes.

I stated last year that the general improvement in the education of the country was beginning to tell upon the special charges for this purpose in the Army, and it was therefore necessary to consider whether some economy could not be effected in Vote 14. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State has examined the subject from all points of view with the assistance of a strong Committee, and has made recommendations which have been adopted.

For the regimental adult schools now existing, involving a schoolmaster on the establishment of every regiment, garrison schools have been substituted.

As regards adults, the compulsory system of education which, so far as the fourth-class certificate is concerned, has hitherto prevailed with very unsatisfactory results, has been abolished; every encouragement being given to soldiers to attend school voluntarily. The effect of this alteration in many cases already appears to exceed expectation. These changes will enable a reduction to be made in the number of Army schoolmasters and school assistants.

The elder children who have hitherto been taught by the regimental schoolmaster will in future attend the nearest garrison school, care being taken that they have not an inconvenient distance to walk. For the education of infants it is proposed to appoint the wives of non-commissioned officers as acting schoolmistresses at a reduced salary and without allowances or pension, instead of employing trained schoolmistresses to perform the very elementary work now required.

The Normal School at Chelsea has been abolished.

These, with other changes of less importance, have enabled a reduction to be made in the Vote for the present year, so far as Army schools is concerned, of £6,905; and it is expected that the ultimate saving will be very considerable.

I am also causing inquiry to be made into the administration of Sandhurst and Woolwich. The only decision which has hitherto been arrived at with respect to these institutions is that, on the occurrence of vacancies, the offices of Governor and Commandant will in both cases be amalgamated, effecting a saving of £2,900 a-year.

The cost of the Army Medical Department (Vote 4) has undergone careful examination; the rapid growth of the charge for non-effective services having called special attention to the present system. The scale of remuneration now in force was adopted on the Report of a Committee, which sat in 1878, to consider the grievances of the department, and the disinclination of the profession to enter its ranks. But it is obvious that a system which offers inducements to officers to retire upon a pension, after only 20 years' service, is expensive to the State, and not even acceptable to that large section of the profession who, while feeling themselves unfitted for further service abroad, are ready and anxious to continue their duties at home stations. It is proposed to utilize in this manner the services of a large number of retired Officers, and further not to allow any Medical Officer to retire on the pension attached to his rank until he has served in it for a reasonable period. By these means a large reduction will be effected in the pension list; while, by extending the term of foreign service by one year, and by other steps now under consideration, we hope to make a considerable reduction in the establishment. For the present, therefore, all admissions to the Service are suspended, and it is probable that by the end of the financial year 28 Officers will have been absorbed. The net result this year is a saving of £19,100; but the effect of these changes, especially upon the Non-Effective Votes, will be more marked in future years.

The Vote for the War Office (Vote 16), in spite of the increased cost of the Intelligence Department, caused by the seconding of the Officers employed in it—a step very strongly recommended before the recent Parliamentary Committee—and of the transfer to that Vote of the charge for the Inspector General of Remounts, shows a decrease of £1,200. Any attempt to effect an extensive re-organization of the clerical staff at the present time would add largely to the pension list, and cause a large temporary increase of expenditure. The position of this establishment is well described by the Royal Commission on Civil Departments, who, in objecting to the great multiplicity of classes of clerks at the War Office, point out that it has resulted partly from frequent re-organizations, and partly from the automatic growth of salaries and pensions resulting from the introduction of a large number of clerks at the time of the Crimean War. The retirements, however, which will necessarily take place in the course of the next few years will admit of the formation of an establishment, less costly and more suited to the special requirements of the War Office.

The reduction just alluded to has been arrived at by a careful redistribution of work, and the automatic growth of salaries has been compensated for by a decrease in the establishment, the places of four higher division clerks, which foil vacant during the year, not having been filled up. But the actual numbers on the establishment cannot be sensibly diminished while the work remains unaltered. Whether some of that work is really necessary, or whether the numerous checks imposed at every stage of each item of expenditure, and the complicated vouchers insisted on for the most trifling amounts might not be dispensed with, at a great saving of clerical labour, and with no disadvantage to the public service, are questions which deserve the most careful examination, but which rest to a great extent with the Treasury.

So far as it lies within, the power of the War Office, every effort will be made to reduce the amount of clerical labour required in the compilation of detailed accounts. For instance, it may be mentioned that by an alteration in the method of keeping the clothing accounts a great number of entries will be rendered unnecessary at a comparatively trifling loss to the State.

We hope also to be able to simplify very considerably the present system of accounts of Army Paymasters, by establishing a monthly account in the place of the present complicated half-yearly account, and by throwing some of the work hitherto done by Army Paymasters on the present Staff of the War Office.

The Vote for Military Law (Vote 3) shows a reduction of £3,600. The change in the office of Judge Advocate General will enable the separate establishment now maintained to be absorbed into the War Office. Economies have been effected in the management of the military prisons, two of which have been entirely closed.

It is satisfactory to be able to note a decrease of £61,000 on the Non-Effective Votes. This is partly due to the gradual decrease of purchase claims, and partly to the Warrant altering the age of retirement of Majors and Captains.

It is to be noted that considerable reductions in the Staff at Headquarters are taking place, some of which have already been alluded to. The offices of Surveyor General of Ordnance and Director of Supply and Transport have been abolished. The Assistant Director of Supply and Transport has become a Deputy Accountant General. We have found it possible to dispense with an Assistant Director of Military Education, a Deputy Judge Advocate, and a Deputy Surgeon General at Headquarters. A large number of minor Staff appointments have been reduced in various districts.

In conclusion it may be pointed out that, if there had been no increase in the Capitation Grant for Volunteers, and if the sum required for the defence of ports and coaling stations had not exceeded the normal amount of recent years, the present Estimates, though making provision for 276 more men, would have shown a decrease of about £300,000.


27th February 1888

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