§ (1.) £79,300, Half Pay.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I wish upon this Vote to call attention to a singular anomaly in our military administration. It would appear that an artillery officer may 427 go on manning the batteries, and drawing full pay, or they can retire on half pay, but the extraordinary part of the case is, that if an officer goes on half pay his promotion is more rapid than if he remains on full pay. He gets promoted over the heads of the men who remain with the batteries on full pay. It is certainly a singular anomaly that an officer should be promoted more rapidly if he elects to do nothing, than if he continues to go on with his work. I believe that the Secretary for War is not responsible for the initiation of this state of things, but simply for encouraging it by continuing to go on with it. I am afraid that by establishing a bad precedent of this kind we only succeed in introducing others equally bad in its train.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
On this Vote I have to put a question to the Secretary of State. Early this year the right hon. Gentleman promised us a statement on the subject of the reduction of the generals' list, and the appointment of generals for specific belligerent duties. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has undertaken this great reform with an earnest desire to carry it through, and that any delay that has taken place, or may take place hereafter, is not his fault; but I think the Committee would be greatly to blame if they allowed this opportunity to go by without some statement being made as to what has been done. I therefore beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can make such a statement?
§ SIR E. B. HAMLEY (Birkenhead)
I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War will see fit to make some statement as to the plan for the revision of the general officers' list.
§ * SIR W. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)
I join in the appeal made by the right hon. Baronet opposite, and my hon. and gallant Friend, and I think it would be to the interest not only of the Committee but of those who are about to enter the Service, and especially of those who are now in the Service, that we should have some definite and distinct statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of of State for War on this subject. There are many cases, and many known cases, in which men have been passed 428 over in favour of others, although the services have been equally great, if not greater, than those of the men who obtained the promotion. There is a desire in the Army to know on what principle the selection is to be made, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some information on this most important question.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE,) Lincolnshire, Horncastle
I am sorry to be obliged to answer the appeals which have been made to me in the sense in which I must answer them. I have done my best to put forward a scheme, but it is very full of details. If it were not full of details it would be quite impossible to do justice to the claims of the distinguished officers who will be affected by it. It has taken a very long time to prepare the documents in the matter, and I am sorry to say I have not yet obtained the approval of the Treasury. That being so, I should not be justified in stating the details to the House, because it would look like trying to force the hands of the Treasury. I must ask the House to wait a little longer, and I hope that I shall be able to make a statement on the scheme before the close of the Session. I think the House understands the general principle on which the scheme is to be founded—namely, that of making appointments to general officers' posts by means of selection. That is the main principle, and I regret that I cannot enter into further details.
§ GENERAL FRASER (Lambeth, N.)
I earnestly hope that this change will not be carried out by Warrant, and that an early opportunity will be given for a full discussion on this most important subject. Purchase in the Army was abolished by Warrant, not by Parliament. I was concerned to hear, some few weeks back, the short speech of the right hon. Baronet on the opposite Bench. I feel that there is a great want of knowledge of the true state of the case. The abolition of purchase in the Army has never been carried out—in so far that the country is to-day deeply in debt to the officers who entered under the old purchase system. An immense number of officers have large sums of money out in the hands of the Government, never to be touched again—some £4,500, some £3,000, and 429 other large sums—regulation money, which they were ordered to give formerly for their commissions; and now they are threatened with being passed over when the aim and object of their lives has been to do their duty, and, in time, to rise to the position which they have been promised. I will give but one instance, out of many, to prove the injustice of the present state of matters. Colonel Mussenden has served for 37 years. He was never absent from the Crimean Campaign; was present at the battles of Alma, Inkermann, Tokenaya; rode in the Light Cavalry charge at Balaclava (where he had his horse shot under him); the affair of Bulganar, Mackenzie's Farm, and Siege of Sebas-topol; also the Indian Mutiny, campaigning in the intense heat, being present at the capture of Kotal, and he returned to England and commanded his regiment, the 8th Hussars, making it most efficient—of which regiment I have the honour to be full colonel. Again, he went to India in command of his regiment—the Government having the purchase money which he had paid for his steps—on the march to the Afghanistan Campaign, when the newfangled four years' rule turned him out, so he did not obtain the C.B., which the officer who succeeded him obtained. He was appointed Inspector of Yeomanry in England, proving his efficiency, for five years; then he ran up to the top of the colonels list; but he has been passed over by a very charming gentleman from the Horse Guards—a guardsman, for the last 19 years mostly on the staff—Major General Lord W. F. Seymour—who has served for 35 years, and whose war services are the Baltic Expedition and the Egyptian Expedition of 1882.
§ * COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)
Under the old system there was an immense field of choice, whatever its faults were in other ways. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) introduced a system under which all general appointments at home were to be held by generals, thereby unintentionally greatly narrowing the field of choice. In making the change proposed, which I think is a right one for the rule, power should be given to the Commander-in-Chief to promote officers who, like Colonel 430 Mussingden, have served under the old system, and been engaged in some of the chief actions of the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny, without reference to particular appointments. My gallant Friend the Member for Lambeth spoke of Lord W. Seymour in rather a disparaging sense. He served in the Baltic as a boy, in Egypt, at Portsmouth, Aldershot, and I do not know where else, and he is, I know, a thoroughly good soldier.
§ * THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken has quite appreciated the force of my right hon. Friend's pledge, that he will make a statement to the House When he does so there will be opportunity for discussion, and perhaps it will not be wise to forestall that discussion by any partial statement on either side.
§ * MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, South)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will postpone this Vote until he can make his statement, so that we may have an opportunity of discussing that statement?
§ * MR. E. STANHOPE
If the Vote is taken, I will postpone the Report of it so as to keep open an opportunity for discussion.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £1,186,600, Retired Pay, &c.
§ * MR. CHILDERS
I conclude that the promise of the right hon. Gentleman will extend to this Vote also.
§ * SIR W. BARTTELOT, (Sussex, N. W.)
I have a case I wish to bring before the Committee, which I am sorry indeed to be obliged to do. It is the case of Lieutenant General Robert White, now honorary colonel of the 21st Hussars. He was one of the old purchase officers, and £4,500 of his money has been retained, as was always the case when an officer as Colonel was placed on half-pay. He was one of those who looked forward to becoming full Colonel of a cavalry regiment. 'The pay for the cavalry having been reduced from £1,300 to £1,000 to make it the same as the infantry, it was agreed that all these Colonels should receive that amount. You must remember that Lord Cardwell—then Mr. Cardwell, the Secretary for 431 War—distinctly stated that no man should be placed in a worse position in consequence of abolition of purchase. General White received from the Military Secretary at the Horse Guards a statement that he was 20th on the list, and at the same time my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lambeth (General Fraser) received a statement that he was 21st on the list. He accepted the new terms, but found out his mistake, and after a great deal of trouble has been placed on the old footing, and now receives his £1,000 a year. General officers wore offered under the new Warrant a certain amount of increased pay, the pay of a general officer at that time being £1 5s. a day if not employed. General White, having received this information from the Horse Guards, considered what would be the best course to pursue, and went as most military men would do, to the agents to inquire what chance he would have of getting promotion. They told him that he would have no chance of getting a regiment for 16 years if he was the 20th on the list. That being so, he thought he had better accept the proposals made to him. He was abroad at the time, but after he had accepted he made stringent inquiries, and then he found that the statement of the Military Secretary—through inadvertence, perhaps, though, certainly, it was a careless statement to make—was wrong. He found that eight out of the 19 preceding him on the list were not to be promoted. Four had already been passed over, and the other four were passed over subsequently. He was, therefore, really the 12th on the list, and instead of having to wait 16 years, he got a regiment in three and a half years. When a mistake of that kind is made, I am sure the only thing to do is to remedy it, in view, especially, of the gallant services of this distinguished officer. He led the squadron of direction of the 17th Lancers at Balaclava; he had a horse killed under him, and was himself wounded. He also served with distinction through the Indian Mutiny, and has done his duty wherever placed, and I think his claims deserve serious consideration. A letter from General White to his wife at the time when the offer was made shows that he would not have accepted that offer if he had not absolutely 432 believed the statement of the Military Secretary. The hon. and learned Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay), having been consulted on the point, expressed the opinion that, under the circumstances, General White would be entitled in any ordinary case of contract to rescind the contract on the ground that the facts had been misrepresented. I am sure that view of the case will commend itself to the Committee and to both my right hon. Friends. The Authorities at the War Office are of opinion that General White should obtain the £1,000 a year; and I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will see his way, under all the circumstances, to grant his request.
§ * MR. E. STANHOPE
I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend has thought it necessary to bring this case on for discussion to-day, and in particular because I am afraid I cannot accept the statement he has made to the Committee as being an accurate representation of the case of General White. At the same time, I do not consider it necessary to go into the matter, because the case is the subject of communication between the Treasury and myself, and I believe that the communications will come to a conclusion before long. Until they have done so, I shall not feel myself justified in making a statement on the subject.
§ GENERAL FRASER
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War says he is in communication with the Treasury, and cannot therefore answer; but I would point out that he has been for seven or eight years in communication with the Treasury.
§ MAJOR-GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State will be able to give these cases his benevolent consideration.
§ * MR. CAUSTON (Southwark, West)
I desire to draw the attention of the Committee to the case of the Quartermasters, who have a very great grievance with regard to their retired pay. They have, besides, many other grievances, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War that he should grant a Committee to consider the questions connected with the status and retirement of Army Quartermasters. The right hon. Gentleman knows, and his predecessors 433 know, that the Quartermaster has for years past had great grievances. I had my attention drawn to the subject when I first had the honour of representing Colchester in Parliament. When I ceased to represent that constituency the case of the Quartermasters was advocated by the late Colonel Duncan, whose loss is so much regretted in this House. They lost an able champion when Colonel Duncan died, and unfortunately, now, they think they have very few friends either in this House, among the senior officers, or at the War Office. In regard to the question of retired pay, their grievance is that when they are compelled to retire after the longest service £200 a year is the full amount of pension, whereas there are other officers who have also risen from the ranks and who become Coast brigade majors, who are allowed to retire on full pay. Then, again, the Quartermasters have a grievance in regard to their rank. At the time the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) was Secretary for War they were granted the rank of captain during service with the retired rank of major, but under the new Warrant that privilege has been taken away. I wish to point out that the question of rank affects the pensions of widows, and I want, if I can, to persuade the right hon. Gentleman to grant a Public Committee to inquire generally into the grievances of these officers. A similar Committee has been granted in the case of the Medical Department. It is desired that the Committee should not be a departmental one. Unfortunately, the Quartermasters think that there is a prejudice against them at the War Office, and they ask for a Public Committee, in order that their grievances may be thoroughly considered. I trust that they will receive a promise from the right hon. Gentleman that they will not be treated differently from other officers simply because they have risen from the ranks.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
The hon. Member has entered the House since the beginning of this Parliament, and I think he is not aware that the case of the Quartermasters was specially considered by the Leader of the House soon after the Government came into office. A Warrant was then issued 434 by which considerable advantages were given to Quartermasters, and that Warrant is only two-and-a-half years old now. Every one of the questions which the hon. Member has alluded to were carefully and closely considered. A long correspondence took place between the War Office and the Treasury, and the settlement was taken as fair and satisfactory. Under these circumstances, I hope the hon. Member will see that, even if there is some discontent, it is undesirable that we should re-try the matter. I think that the sort of appeal which the hon. Gentleman has made is not one that the Committee can listen to, having regard to the extensive concessions which were made so very short a time ago. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that both under the last Government and the present the case was carefully considered by the Military Authorities as well as the Authorities at the War Office.
§ MR. CAUSTON
I have no desire to raise any protracted debate, but I think it is right that I should correct the hon. Gentleman. I re-entered the House of Commons last year, and immediately after my return I had communications with Quartermasters in all parts of the Empire, who expressed their regret that their grievances had not been properly met. In 1887 Colonel Duncan, speaking in this House upon the matter, said—I am sorry to say that the Quartermasters have been treated differently from any other officers who have been promoted from the ranks, and that they have been placed at a great disadvantage.I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not speaking on behalf of an isolated quartermaster, but in the name, and at the request, of Quartermasters serving in all parts of the world—in India, Malta, and elsewhere. I think it would be most unfortunate if the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues were to be left under the impression that satisfaction exists among the Quartermasters at the concessions conferred by the Warrant. On the contrary, I believe that great dissatisfaction prevails.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
Not only are the Quartermasters a very deserving body of men, but the country gets very good value for the money expended upon them, and if it is desirable for the War Office to display any liberality at all it 435 ought to be in the case of these officers. At the same time, I wish to point out that this question of retired pay is a growing one. It amounts now to a sum of £1,186,000. I believe that something has been done to keep it down, but still more ought to be done, and every information ought to be given to the House of Commons. It is important, I think, that the average age of the officers retired ought to appear on the Estimates. Upon page 100 of the Votes the ages are entered, and I think there ought also to be a Return of the number retired compulsorily, together with the number retired voluntarily. Some persons are of opinion that to retire men at the age of 44 only makes a difference in the pay. That is an entire mistake, because they are immediately promoted to superior positions if they are practically efficient, and the result is that they receive a largely increased sum. £1,186,000 paid in the shape of retired pay is a very large sum, and will justify the constant attention and watchfulness of the House of Commons. The retired pay of the Medical Department is included in this Vote. I will give an instance of the way in which, in connection with that Department, the system of retired pay is worked. There was an officer who drew £450 a year as surgeon major-general, and for that he had certain duties to perform. He was 45 years of age, and the War Office retired him and gave him an extra pension for doing nothing. They gave him £500 a year, or an addition of £50 to retire and do absolutely nothing.
§ * MR. E. STANHOPE
I think that the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Causton) was fully justified in drawing the attention of the Committee to the case of the Quartermasters, but I can assure him that the matter has been gone into most carefully; and as to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, the question of medical officers is one to which I have paid special attention.
§ * MR. ROUND (Essex, N. E., Harwich)
I am aware that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Causton), when he represented Colchester, exerted himself on behalf of the Army Quartermasters, and those serving in the Eastern District fully appreciated his efforts. But during his temporary retirement from this House, 436 a Royal Warrant has been issued by the Government with the express view of remedying the grievances of this branch of the military profession. I believe the concessions made to their claims were appreciated by the Quartermasters, but I would submit that if, under this Vote, there is a further just claim to consideration—and I believe there is such—that it should not be lost sight of by the War Office. I venture to ask the Secretary of State for War to give his personal attention to the point; we recognise that the Quartermasters are a most deserving class, and I think that the House of Commons ought not to be satisfied till full justice has been done to them.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
The fault of the Vote is on the side of liberality, and I entirely agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) that the way in which men are retired and pensioned in the prime of life is most unsatisfactory, and I should like to know whether anything has been done to induce such officers to serve in the Militia and Volunteers. The existing system of commuting pensions is bad. When will the new rules, which have been promised, be issued? The retired pay of officers has increased largely this year, and it is likely to increase still more largely. If I thought that the country got anything from the services of the large number of officers retired in connection with the auxiliary forces, I would not grudge the money, but the only information we get from the Government is that they are doing all in their power to utilize their services. I should be glad to learn whether anything is being done to utilize the services of those officers who are retired in the prime of life. My own impression is that a large number of the officers who are retired in the prime of life would be glad to be kept in the service of the country. In regard to the commutation of pensions, I have always been of opinion that it is undesirable to allow pensions to be commuted for a lump sum. I do not think that it is fair to the State. We lose the services of capable and efficient men, and so far as they are concerned they in vest the money in joint stock companies and lose it. A complaint is then made that no provision has been made for them in their old age. I should like to 437 know what is being done in this respect.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
It is not correct to say that the commutation of pensions has ever been encouraged by the War Office, the scale of commutation offered being below the actuarial calculation, and arrangements have been made to prevent officers liable to be recalled to service from commuting the whole of their pensions. Attempts have been made to induce officers retired early to serve in the Militia and Volunteers; but no great success has been achieved. The full effect of the Warrant of 1887 has not yet been felt in the Army, but when it is the age of retiring will be considerably raised.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I wish to say nothing to anticipate the discussion which must take place when the Secretary of State makes his proposal, and the whole subject comes on for consideration. But the House may be interested in having the facts as to the early retirement of officers. In 1880, when I became Secretary of State for War, I found that under the regulations then in force just half the officers in the Army would be retired at 40 years of age. I attacked this abuse, immediately, and a new warrant was issued under which the normal charge for these pensions was reduced from £1,340,000 to £1,000,000 a year. The normal charge was again reduced in 1886 by the Warrant for which my right hon. Friend Mr. Campbell-Bannerman was really responsible, and I have no doubt that the Secretary of State for War in his new Warrant will again reduce it. The evil arises from the Royal Warrant which followed the Royal Commission which sat in 1875 or 1876. There are now very few officers retired at 40 years of age, though too many are retired between 40 and 46. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able still further to cure that evil.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to explain why it is that the retired pay has been increased in the present year by the large sum of £33,000? We have received no explanation of that fact, although it appears on the face of the Estimates.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I can explain it in a single word. The total amount of retired pay would have increased this year 438 about £80,000, but for the Warrant of 1881, which reduced the increase to £30,000. The normal, under the change of system of purchase, is not yet reached.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I am glad to hear that this runaway horse is likely to be pulled up. In regard to the commutation of pensions I am certainly surprised that there should be an excess this year over what it was the year before. I am sorry the Government are not able to tell us that these retired officers are not inclined to join the auxiliary forces of the country.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (3.) £129,700, Widows' Pensions, &c.
§ (4.) £12,900, Pensions for Wounds.
§ (5.) £31,000, Chelsea and Kilmainham Hospitals.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
I should like to know what is the principle on which men are admitted to these institutions, and how long the men are allowed to remain in them? I am afraid that matters have been allowed to run in a certain groove, and that although certain persons derive great benefit, some old soldiers have the greatest difficulty in obtaining admission.
§ * MR. BRODRICK
There are three classes of men eligible for admission—namely, men who have lost a limb, men wounded, or who have other disabilities due to service in the field; men incapable from other causes, but in receipt of permanent pensions; and men required for the service of the hospitals within certain limits. Every application is carefully considered by the Board of Governors in respect of length and value of service, and the best men are taken in.
§ MR. HANBURY
I think we have a right to complain that the whole of the expenditure is not properly stated upon the Vote. In the Admiralty Vote there is a distinct statement of what the whole expense is.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (6.) £1,377,400, Out-Pensions.
§ * MR. CHILDERS
I should like to know whether the maximum under this Vote has yet been reached. Of course in a few years it must steadily fall off.
§ MR. BRODRICK
It is believed that the Vote has reached its maximum this year, though it may yet go slightly 439 upwards in consequence of the very large number of discharges during the year. The position of the Vote has been very much influenced by the pensions to men who were broken down in health by the operations in Egypt. The number of men who are even now breaking down through their health being impaired by those operations is very considerable. The right hon. Gentleman will know that a large diminution in the Vote is anticipated in consequence of the operation of the short service system after the year 1890.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (7.) £177,600, Superannuation Allowances.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
May I ask if the Secretary for War is in a position to give any information as to the Report of the Committee upon these allowances?
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (8.) £43,200, Retired Allowances, &c., to Officers of the Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteer Forces.
§ MR. H. COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
When the Volunteer Force was first established we had an impression that it was to cost the country very little. I see, however, that the charge is growing every year. It is, therefore, incumbent on us to see what benefit we derive from the outlay. I am very doubtful whether we receive full value for our money.
§ * MR. E. STANHOPE
My opinion is that we certainly receive full value for the money expended. I am glad to be able to inform the hon. Member that the charges are greatly diminishing and are now at a maximum.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (9.) £100, Ordnance Factories.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
May I ask whether any way is being made at the Ordnance Factory in reference to the construction of the wire gun, of which we have heard such wonderful accounts? It is said to be capable of firing a shot 12½ miles, a performance truly wonder- 440 ful. Is the Factory at the present moment resting on its oars?
§ * MR. E. STANHOPE
I had a conversation with the Director of the Factory a short time ago, and he told me that he had great confidence in the manufacture of wire guns. Experiments are being made at the present moment.
§ Vote agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £258,800, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the Charge for the Salaries and Miscellaneous Charges of the War Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1890.
§ * MR. MONTAGU (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel)
I have given notice of my intention to move the reduction of this Vote, and my object in doing so is to ascertain from the Secretary for War if he can justify the action of the War Office in refusing to re-admit the public to the riverside promenade near to the Tower of London. Two years ago I presented a petition from about 5,000 of my constituents praying that the Tower Gardens and the promenade might be thrown open to the public. Access to the Tower Gardens was granted, and it has proved to be a very great boon to the inhabitants of the east of London. The Secretary of State for War has admitted that, although many thousands of people have frequented the gardens, no cases of disorder have been reported. I wish to know why the right hon. Gentleman could not go a step further and re-admit the people to the riverside promenade, which they had access to before the Crimean War. At the time of the war the promenade was used for landing stores, but I believe that very few barges ever approach the frontage now for that purpose, and if they did it would be easy to land their cargoes before 10 o'clock in the morning when the public could be admitted. I fear that the real reason why the public are kept away from the promenade is that a few privileged persons, in order that they may appropriate the promenade to their own enjoyment, desires to exclude the public. There is, however, every accommodation for the residents in the Tower in other parts of the grounds. I believe that already some 200 or 300 people who 441 know how to get permission have passes which enable them to go through the promenade, while the general public are excluded. No disadvantage would be experienced by extending the privilege already granted. The space covered by the Tower Gardens is about two acres, of which about two-thirds are absorbed for plants. The riverside promenade covers nearly an equal space, and as there are no flower-beds, the accommodation for the public is exceedingly good. I may say that the average number of people attending the Tower Gardens daily is about 3,000. The promenade is the very best place to view the new Tower Bridge which is now being erected, and it will prove a short cut for any one crossing the bridge for the purpose of going west.
§ MR. HANBURY
I should like to know what guarantee the Secretary of State for War has that the small arms in the hands of our troops are in an efficient condition and have been thoroughly tested. Only a day or two ago in the course of a military tournament in which some Yeomanry connected with the Middlesex and Warwickshire regiments were taking part two swords snapped in two, though they were being used by experienced swordsmen. They broke, I am informed, at the first cut, when slicing at the head. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, what guarantee he has that these small arms are in a satisfactory condition? It is a very important question, and I hope he will be able to give some information upon it. I also desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman what power he has under the Warrant of 1887 to reduce the forage allowance to officers? He has, no doubt, power to vary the allowance, but it is contended by officers who have communicated with me that he has no power to reduce it—any reduction in one species of forage being replaced by an increase in another. For instance, if 2 lbs. of oats are taken away, 4 lbs. of hay are substituted. The War Office have no power to vary the allowance in any other sense.
§ * MR. STANHOPE
I will answer first the question of the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Montagu). I have made inquiries with regard to the Tower Walk with a view of seeing whether it can be thrown open to the public, but Government stores are landed there, and 442 though it is true that certain persons who obtain permission are allowed to use it as a thoroughfare, that is very different to having women and children loitering about where they might be exposed to danger. Upon the whole, I find that the convenience of the public service will not allow of the views of the hon. Member for Whitechapel being accepted. With regard to the swords, what occurred at the military tournament was as the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) has stated in the case of Yeomanry swords. Of course these, like all others, ought to be thoroughly tested and sound, but the work of practically renewing all the arms of the Army has been such that it has not yet been possible to carry it out with regard to the Yeomanry. This, however, I trust, will before long be accomplished. As to the guarantee that the swords in the hands of the Army are satisfactory, I have placed the duty of thoroughly testing them upon the shoulders of the Commander-in-Chief and the military officers under his command, who are to satisfy themselves as to the soundness of the weapons. This, I think, is the most satisfactory guarantee that could be obtained, as military men themselves would be the first to suffer if their swords proved defective in an engagement. As to the officers' forage, the point raised by the hon. Member for Preston is a novel one, and I will look into it.
§ * MR. MONTAGU
I should like to explain to the right hon. Gentleman that the Authorities did object to the admission of the public to the Tower Gardens until it was found that they were orderly, and the permission was consequently continued. I believe that a similar course may be taken with regard to the riverside promenade with the same result. In the case of the Tower Gardens there was a deep moat, which it was said would be dangerous if women and children were allowed to go there, but all that has been necessary has been to put up a railing. The public were admitted to this promenade in former times and no accident occurred. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make further inquiry into the matter. There are very few open spaces in or near this neighbourhood. The people have to go to Victoria Park before they can find 443 any such open space, and the permission to use this promenade would be a great boon. So far as the Government stores are concerned they can be landed at a more convenient time. I shall certainly move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £100 by way of protest, unless I receive a more satisfactory assurance from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ * MR. E. STANHOPE
I can give no other assurance. With regard to the swords I may add that when I spoke of the swords of the Yeomanry I had no information as to what swords were used.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries, &c., be reduced by £100, part of the Salary of the Secretary of State for War."—(Mr. Montagu.)
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
I feel bound to snpport the appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for White-chapel for the opening of this riverside promenade to the people. I think the appeal ha has made is a very just one indeed. The space was at the service of the public until a comparatively recent period, and as far as I have heard, when the public had the free use of the promenade they never abused the privilege. I know of no part of London where every inch of open space that can possibly be made available can be more advantageously secured. It is a very congested district, and there are very few playgrounds for the children. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider his decision even now, and grant this much required boon.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
I think the hon. Member for Whitechapel is quite right in urging this matter, and I do not think the Secretary for War has given a satisfactory reason for refusing the appeal. The landing of stores is not on such a scale as to prevent the walk being thrown open to the public. The store arms which are landed there arrive in boxes. There are not many landed there now, as they have been superseded by other stores. I think it right, therefore, that pressure should be brought to bear upon the Government.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I must confirm what has been said by the hon. Member for Whitechapel as to the importance of rendering as many open spaces as possible, in such a neighbour-hood as that of the Tower, available to the public. I cannot help thinking that if the War Office would take a little trouble in this matter they would find no inconvenience in throwing this promenade open to the public. I have always had serious doubts whether really too much is not made of the Tower for military purposes, and whether it should not be handed over altogether for the use of the public. But apart from that, the need for an open space in this part of London is very much felt by the public, and I think the hon. Member for Whitechapel will be justified in pressing the question upon the attention of the House in the most practical form open to him.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 118; Noes 168.—(Div. List No. 148.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. HANBURY
I should like to ask for a little more information as to what is meant by transferring the testing of small arms to the Military Authorities. Under the old system we knew that the Civil Department were responsible, but now it seems there is some danger that we shall not know where the responsibility lies, whether with the Civil or Military Department. I understand that my right hon. Friend has forbidden the weapons to be tested in the regiments themselves, and that the officers who used to apply their own tests are not to be permitted to do so any longer. But I am told that the testing is still carried out by the Civil and not the Military Authorities. That being so I feel obliged to ask for further information. How is the duty of testing the swords vested in the Military Authorities?
§ * MR. STANHOPE
There is an inspector who has a staff, and their duty is to inspect all the swords at regular intervals. All the swords in the hands of the troops have to be inspected by this staff.
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER: (Wolverhampton)
I desire to call attention to the recent public action of the Adjutant General of the Forces. I want to do so in no Party spirit, but from a Parliamentary and Constitutional point of view. I think that both sides of the House will agree in accepting two principles which ought to be adhered to in the working of our Constitutional system. The first principle is that the permanent servants of the Crown, in whatever department they may be placed, should abstain absolutely from all interference in Party politics. I need not point out the wisdom of such a rule. We have had it discussed lately, and have heard it defended with great ability from the Treasury Bench One of the distinguishing characteristics of the English Service, and that which places it at the head of the Civil Services of the world, is its absolute severance from Party politics. We have a class of highly trained officials who serve both sides in politics with loyalty and who possess the confidence of the House, and I maintain that no greater calamity can arise than to introduce Party politics into that service. As an illustration, I would ask the House what would be the shock of surprise which would run through the House and the country generally if Sir Reginald Welby or Sir Algernon West were to go out on a political campaign and attack the principles or opinions of the Chancellors of the Exchequer under whom they have or might be called upon to serve under? It is almost an insult to those distinguished men to suppose for a moment that they could be capable of such conduct. The other principle is, that however strongly this rule should be enforced with reference to the ordinary permanent civil servants of the Crown, its enforcement is of even greater importance in the case of the military and naval servants of the Crown. We may differ in this House in Party politics in matters affecting expenditure and the administration of the Army and Navy, but hitherto the Army and Navy have possessed the fullest confidence of both sides. One reason for that is their absolute abstention from all interference in Party politics. I need hardly point out that the Queen's Regulations, so far as the Army is 446 concerned—I do not know whether there is a similar regulation in the Navy—absolutely prohibits any officer on service taking part in political demonstrations. I do not wish to insinuate that military or naval men, or civil servants, are to have no politics at all; but the point is, that so long as they are serving the Crown in the capacity of public servants one of the conditions of their appointment is that they shall abstain from Party politics. Of course they have the remedy in their own hands. Any distinguished officer or distinguished civil servant who wishes to take part in politics can, by sending in his resignation, restore to himself absolute freedom. The criticism I wish to make in regard to the Adjutant General is that he has violated these great principles which apply to him as one of the permanent heads of the Army just as much as to anyone else. I will only trouble the House with quotations from two speeches of Lord Wolseley. The speech to which I attach the most importance is a speech not appertaining at all to Party politics, but appertaining to Constitutional politics. The noble Lord is reported to have said at Birmingham, on 25th of January last—For the last 50 or 60 years we have gone about the world preaching that there was no Constitution like the British, and we have forced that Constitution and its Parliamentary system, very often against their will, upon the various Dependencies of the Crown. In many cases we have certainly done wrong.'I am not aware of any case in which the Government of thus country has forced responsible government upon any of our Colonies or any of our Dependencies against the wish of the inhabitants of those Colonies or Dependencies. I have always been under the impression that Downing Street has been rather deaf in the first instance to the demands of our Colonies and Dependencies for self-government, at all events in many cases. The noble Lord went on to say he hoped before we began to try to cram this Constitution down the throats of any Dependencies, we should at least go through the form of bringing its meaning home to some of the leading people of those Dependencies.Let them," he said, "spend some instructive evenings in the House of Commons. Let them choose specially one of those bright and breezy evenings when affairs are conducted in that gentlemanly manner for which the pro- 447 ceedings of this House have become so famous. If, after that, gentlemen from the Antipodes shall desire our Constitution, by all means let them have it, but do not let us go swaggering about the world telling everybody that our Constitution is by far the best.Now, I hold that the second in command of the British Army, a man occupying the responsible position of Adjutant General of the Forces, is bound to be loyal to the whole Constitutional Government of this country. He is bound to be loyal to the Sovereign as a Constitutional Monarch; and whether our system be right or wrong it is the system of the British Constitution, the system under which we all live, of which we are all so proud, that the power in this country rests with the Parliament, and that this Parliament and this House of Commons, which I may say is not spoken of with very great respect by the noble Lord, does control, and ought to control, and I hope ever will control, both the Civil and the Military Forces of the country. If these remarks had been made by an ordinary speaker or an ordinary civilian not much importance would have been attached to them; but remembering our whole Constitutional history, and what has been the outcome of all our struggles—the supremacy of the Civil over the Military power, a principle which is represented by the Secretary of State for War responsible to the House of Commons—I think we are bound to take some notice of this speech. The other point of the speech to which I desire to call attention is that in which the noble Lord referred to all the great nations of the world, certainly of Europe, having adopted a system of Universal military service which he said is bound to make their people stronger and healthier than they were before, and physically superior in every way to us. The noble Lord entered into an elaborate and careful defence of the system of conscription, and advocated the application of that system to this country. I am one of those who think that the present military conscription which prevails on the Continent of Europe is the curse of that Continent. I believe it is not the effect but the cause of those rumours of wars of which we hoar so much; and we can conceive no greater calamity happening to us as Englishmen—to the moral, social, commercial, and military life of this country—than the introduction into this country of the system 448 of universal conscription. Then I must give the House one citation from Lord Wolseley, which surpasses my understanding.Whenever in future you read an article describing the horrible and abominable system of universal military serviceI adopt the words. I believe the system is horrible and abominable—I trust you will not condemn it as merely a system invented to provide those great armies with men, but will look upon it as the very highest order of mental and physical education that has ever been devised by man.Now, I do not think there is a Minister or ex-Minister of Education present; but the statement that the system of military conscription in Europe is the "highest order of mental and physical education that has ever been devised by man," is one of the most extraordinary propositions any public man ever put before any public audience in this country; but when that proposition comes from the Adjutant General of the Forces, when it is stated in that broad unqualified manner in the very centre of a manufacturing and pining industry, to an audience of working people, we are entitled to ask whether that is a statement with which Her Majesty's Government have any sympathy, whether they approve of it, and whether the Adjutant General, in expressing this view of the system of universal conscription, has in the remotest degree the sanction of Her Majesty's present advisers in making such a recommendation to his countrymen? These are the two points upon which, on Constitutional and Parliamentary grounds, I have felt it necessary to deplore the public action of the Adjutant General. There is no mention of Party politics here, but merely a view expressed of our Parliamentary system of Government, and our system of a voluntary Army; but on a subsequent. occasion the Adjutant General boldly dashed into Party politics, and thought it consistent with his position and his duty to describe men who for many years were the trusted advisers of the Crown—men under whom he had held office, men on whose advice the Sovereign had conferred upon him honours and distinctions, men under whom hem may again be called upon to serve—asPolitical schemers longing for office, and who would willingly see the United Kingdom 449 torn into pieces, if only they could flourish again in Downing Street.These may be fair remarks from apolitical opponent in the House of Commons. If hon. or right hon. Gentleman chose to say that their opponents are political schemers influenced only by the most degraded personal motives, and that they have no political opinions that they consistently hold—all that is fair political fighting with which I find no fault. But it is a condition of holding the office of Adjutant General to the Forces that he, at least, should abstain from remarks of this description, that he should remember that his position forbids him from holding up to public reprobation—I will not mention Members of this House—statesmen like Lord Spencer, and Lord Granville, Lord Rosebery, and Lord Herschell. I say it is not right or proper, not to use any stronger word, that any civil or military servant of the State should indulge in Party attacks of a personal character. I will say no more upon that point. It is a regrettable incident. I am aware that the Secretary of State for War has made, on behalf of Lord Wolseley, a very singular form of apology, if apology it can be called. In these two speeches I humbly submit to the House the limits which properly confines the public action of any military or civil servant of the Crown have been transgressed. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War two questions. Whether Her Majesty's Government adhere to the principle which has been defined, I think, by themselves, and accepted on both sides, that permanent servants of the State should not enter into public Party controversies, and that the Queen's Regulations as to the abstention of officers from Party politics should be maintained? I would also ask whether the recommendation, the advocacy of this accursed system of military conscription, which Lord Wolseley put before the working classes in the Midlands, meets in any degree with the sanction or approval of Her Majesty's Government?
§ * COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)
I have myself heard Lord Wolseley say at a public meeting that he had no Party politics, and it may be that the form in which an unpractised speaker in an unprepared speech puts his remarks may lead his hearers to 450 suppose that which is said of a system is applied to individuals. I would ask hon. Members to read Cardinal Manning's Essay on Education, in which he shows that the Party system does not give the subject fair play, and I conceive that what Lord Wolseley wished to convey was the belief, which I think is shared by most military and naval officers, that the present system of Party does not give the subject fair play. I do not say we can do without it. I know the difficulties. While, undoubtedly, it is not right that a servant of the Crown should speak politically, it would be wrong for an Adjutant General of the Forces to allow the country to be under an entire misconception as to what he really thought with reference to military matters. I may remind the House of what occurred years ago. Reformers in the House used constantly to refer to 1834, when the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel were in the same Government, and when the Estimates wore kept low; and they maintained that when those two great men came together, then the Estimates were correct. But in 1847 there was published the celebrated letter from the Duke of Wellington to Sir John Burgoyne, in which he stated that the defence of the country was in a deplorable state, and that ho had never been allowed to get what ho wanted. Until that time the people believed that the Duke of Wellington had got all he wanted. What would have been said of him for keeping silent for so long if any accident had happened? Recent changes have placed more responsibility upon the Military Authorities at the War Office. I am not justifying political references; but undoubtedly the country ought to know the opinion of military officers on whom they rely on military matters. With regard to conscription, that is an academical subject, and likely to remain so in those islands. We shall never have conscription. The object of Lord Wolseley's speech was, I conceive, to express his military opinion; but it is to be deplored that his expressions were understood as being directed against any political Party.
§ MR. STANHOPE
I am rather surprised, after Lord Wolseley's letter and my own statements in the House, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite should have thought it his duty to 451 again call attention to this subject. But if he thinks it necessary to bring the matter forward of course I have no right to complain. He asks me, first, whether I agree with two propositions he puts forward. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the part an officer might take in Party politics, I think the right hon. Gentleman has gone a little beyond the justice of the case. It it were absolutely true that no officer could take any part in Party politics, it would then be impossible for any officer to have a seat in the House of Commons. That is not, I am sure, the intention of the right hon. Gentleman or the House. But I do think that the Queen's Regulations apply to both officers and men, and ought to be rigidly observed by all of whatever station. As regards the other proposition of the right hon. Gentleman—that permanent servants of the Crown, of whom the Adjutant General is one, ought to take no part whatever in Party politics. I give it entire assent. It is a clear and indisputed proposition and one it is desirable the House should accept unanimously; it lays down a rule of conduct for all permanent servants of the Crown. In the particular case to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in passages he did not think it necessary to quote. Lord Wolseley explained that he did not intend his remarks to have any personal application, and in using the language he did my noble Friend probably intended, and do what he has done on more than one occasion, and I regret it, rather to attack those in power whether from the one side or the other on the ground of what he called the Party system, which he contended had been injurious to the Army. But I am quite sure it was not my noble Friend's intention to make the personal attack of which he is accused, his remarks were intended to have a general character, as on other occasions. With regard to the second speech at Birmingham, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, that is clearly not of a Party character at all. There is no element of a Party character in it. As to the first passage in the first speech to which the right hon. Gentleman called attention, it seams to me to be rather innocent chaff against the House of Commons, as it is not an attack upon it as an abstract institution; chaff to 452 which we are sometimes liable in our mode of conducting business. In the second passage my noble Friend defended conscription in this country. Now, I confess I have always held the opinion that no permanent servant of the Crown should discuss in public questions relating to the Department with which he is connected. But in this case, I have no doubt my noble Friend thought he was putting forward a purely abstract proposition, which he might, therefore, with perfect innocence and fairness bring to the attention of the country. My noble Friend never mentioned to me or the Government his intention to mention that subject. Upon that question the opinion of the Government is exactly what it has always been, and he entirely adopted the language which the right hon. Gentleman has used in condemnation of a system which, I believe, has been a curse to foreign countries, and I hope it will never be adopted in ours.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Something was said at the commencement of the sitting about not going on beyond five, but it is now a quarter past. I do not know whether it is intended to keep to that. I have an important point to raise.
§ * MR. STANHOPE
I think it will be more convenient to finish the Vote before proceeding with any other business.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I am always ready to assist in the speedy disposition of business. As to the present discussion I have been rather amused at the two speeches which have just been made from the other side of the House.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS
If I may interrupt for a moment on a point of order, is there an intention to take the Post Office Sites Bill this afternoon?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of War has thrown over the conscription views of Lord Wolseley; and certainly any Ministry that adopts those views is not likely to retain a majority very long in this country. The hon. and gallant Member opposite told us that Lord Wolseley's speech was entirely unprepared. How does be know that? For my part I have only heard one speech of Lord Wolseley's, which was delivered 453 n the House of Lords, and that speech was read rather than spoken; and the speech of the same noble Lord which is now in question also appears to have been deliberately prepared. The Secretary of State for War said it was not a Party speech, but only a little mild chaff at the House of Commons. Lord Wolseley, however, is an arrant Conservative, and reserved his chaff for the Liberals in the House of Commons, and his speech is an outrageous attack on those who have devoted themselves to the interests of the country in this House. In fact, it was so deliberate and so impertinent, that the right hon. Gentleman himself threw Lord Wolseley over as a Jonah; and when a question was put in the House on that matter the right hon. Gentleman replied that he could not justify the noble Lord in what he had said. The right hon. Gentleman would have done better if he had stuck to that answer on the present occasion. And now, turning to my Amendment, I would say, in the first place, we have a Secretary of State for War who gets £5,000 a year. On previous occasions I have moved that any Minister who received £5,000 should have his salary reduced by £3,000. In Germany the Minister for War gets £1,800 a year, a house and forage for eight horses, he is a military man, and these military gentlemen seem to want to ride on eight horses. But the right hon. Gentleman is not military and does not require eight horses. Putting those eight horses at £500 a year that raises the German War Minister's salary to £2,300. I merely call attention to these facts to excuse myself for not moving a reduction of the right hon. Gentleman's salary, for I am afraid if I did not offer some explanation it might be supposed that I was actuated by personal motives in moving reductions in the salaries of the First Lord of the Treasury and others and not to that of the Secretary for War. My proposition on a former occasion was defeated, by all the Ministers and ex-Ministers rushing frantically into the Lobby in support of these high salaries; and, therefore, the principle has been recognized for this Session that certain Cabinet Ministers are to receive £3,000 a year more than some of their colleagues on the same bench. However, looking down the list I find the 454 salary of the Commander-in-Chief. I notice the hon. Member for Dundee has put down an Amendment to disallow the whole salary of the Commander-in-Chief; but the hon. Member is not in his place and probably does not intend to move his Amendment, and even if he did, I do not know that I should support it. The Duke of Cambridge is not a bad Commander-in-Chief. He is certainly a far better and safer Commander-in-Chief than Lord Wolseley could possibly be if he were to be promoted, owing to his attacks on the Liberals. But however excellent a Commander-in-Chief may be, he may be paid too highly. The maximum salary of the Commander-in-Chief ought to be £4,500. The present holder of the office is stated to receive £6,632 on account of his being a colonel of some regiment before that maximum was established; but he receives a large permanent allowance from the country, and ought to be satisfied with that £4,500. In Germany the Emperor is nominally Commander-in-Chief, but the Chief of the Staff is similar in position to our Commander-in Chief. The Duke of Cambridge is not a superior Commander-in-Chief to Field-Marshal von Moltke, Chief of the Staff in Germany, who receives £1,500 per annum, a house, and forage for six horses. Allowing £40 for each horse, that would make £240 a year in addition to the £1,500; therefore, our Commander in Chief gets more than double what is regarded as an adequate salary for Field-Marshal von Moltke, who is practically Commander-in Chief in Germany. Under those circumstances I think it is desirable that the Duke of Cambridge's salary should be reduced by £2,132. That would reduce his salary to the normal standard of £4,500, which has been laid down as adequate and fitting. All our Commanders have salaries much in excess of those given to German or French officers in equivalent positions. I beg, therefore, to move that Vote A be reduced by £2,132, being part of the salary of the Commander-in-Chief.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That Item A, Salaries, &c., be reduced by £2,132, part of the salary of the Commander-in-Chief.—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ * MR. STANHOPE
The hon. Gentleman must forgive me if I characterize 455 his proposal as a little ungenerous. The illustrious Duke has been Commander-in-Chief for many years; he has been in the service of his country for more than 52 years; and I must say it seems to me most ungenerous after this long career—not I hope yet approaching its close—that a proposal of this description should be brought forward. The hon. Member will not deny the important services which the Duke of Cambridge has rendered to the country; and as to the contrast that he has drawn between the salaries paid to the Commander-in-Chief in this and in other countries that is a legitimate criticism so far as it goes in regard to subsequent holders of the office, and one which has been recognised by the War Office in fixing the maximum amount in future. But the Duke of Cambridge still retains the salary given under the previous system, and I cannot help thinking that it would be an invidious and unjust thing now to cut down the salary of His Royal Highness in the way proposed by the hon. Member for Northampton.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 108; Noes 211. (Div. List, No. 149.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. HANBURY
Sir, I have a Motion on the Paper to reduce the salary of the Director of Contracts by the sum of £100. In moving it I have no personal motive whatever with regard to the Director of Contracts. I am not sure I would know him if I saw him. No doubt I will be told that it is the system which is at fault. In one sense I do attack the system, because I am strongly of opinion that we must have in future a great deal more of open competition in our public contracts than we have had in the past. It is the practice of every other foreign country that the Army contracts shall be put to open competition. But in this country we know nothing whatever as to those contracts. We have no return of how many are put to open competition and how many to limited competition, nor do we know anything of the prices, and whether the lowest or highest tender is accepted. The Auditor and Controller General has lately, on behalf of the public and on behalf of Parliament, tried to control to a certain extent the strange and remarkable way in which the War Office has been dealing with 456 these contracts. He has more than once mentioned cases where the Director of Contracts, having run a certain article at a high price, and having the next year obtained it at a lower price, the War Office has allowed it to go to the Contractor for the preceding year, who had made the contract at a much higher price. The Controller General complained of this over and over again, but he has been driven out of the field by the action of the War Office, and can have no guarantee whatever that the contracts are carried out in the way they ought to be. Then, again, persons who tender receive no information as to whether the accepted tender is lower or higher than their own. These are elementary facts—the A B C of the matter. The system of limited competition means putting a few favoured firms upon the Contractors' list, which is as bad a system as possibly can be. It acts in two ways. It puts immense powers into the hands of the Director of Contracts, and, if he is not purity itself, any one can see the opportunities for jobbery and bribery which are afforded by such a system. Not only does it act as a temptation to the Director of Contracts, but by having a limited number of firms you get a regular ring. Even though there is competition among them, they contrive to share the contracts between them. The reply of the War Office and Admiralty to all this was the old remedy of a Departmental inquiry, which only hushes the matter—which never lets us know anything of the evidence or the Report. But in these Departmental inquiries who do you think were the judges? Why the two men whose positions are attacked—the Director of Contracts in the War Office and the Director of Contracts in the Navy. These are the two men who made the inquiry. Of whom did they make the inquiry? Did they make inquiry of all kinds of firms—contracting and non-contracting—to ascertain their views as to the limited system? Nothing of the sort. They chose about 112 contractors—men who take contracts from the War Office at the present moment. Of course, what answer could they expect except that they objected to open competition. And such reasons as they gave are the most ridiculous ever submitted to a public Department. One reason was that 457 deterioration of the supplies must follow. Well, I do not think we could get worse under the open system than we have obtained under the limited system of competition, this hole-and-corner system. Then we are told there would be constant rejections. If the supplies were not good of course they would be rejected. Then we are told that it would lead to an increase of correspondence and litigation, though I do not see why there should be litigation because things are rejected which are bad. Then it is suggested that the request to publish information with reference to the contracts is merely to satisfy idle curiosity. The people of this country have a right to have their curiosity, idle or otherwise, satisfied in this matter. But there are people other than the 112 selected contractors who did give an opinion. The Trades' Council of Birmingham, in the interests of the work people, gave an opinion unanimously against the present system, and regarded open competition as absolutely necessary. The Association of Chambers of Commerce expressed themselves unanimously against the present system; and the Chambers of Commerce throughout the country, of which I find 44 were consulted, also declare against it. Of those 44, 20, in which the contractors were strongest, were against it, but with a small majority, while the other 24, belonging to large districts like Liverpool, Sheffield, and some other great provincial trading towns, declared without a single dissentient voice that the whole system ought to be open to competition, and that the hole-and-corner method ought to be done away with. Well, Sir, that is the first objection I put before the Committee. The next objection is that even if we were to have open competition in the future; if the Government persists in giving out the contracts on the enormous scale on which they are now offered, the result must necessarily be to shut out competition and to leave matters in the hands of a few millionaire contractors. We ought to have the contracts given out in such a way that the smaller tradesmen will be able to tender for them, and in that case they would be more taken up in the provinces of this country, as well as Scotland and Ireland, than is the case at the present moment. I will take one contract as a 458 specimen of what is happening—the contract for the disused clothing of the Army, and I will only deal with the transactions which take place under the Director of Contracts. We know that there is a large quantity of disused clothing from the British Army and the military prisons; and I put it to the Committee, will it be believed that the quantity is so enormous that there are as many as 350 different descriptions of articles, one of these alone—blue tweed trousers—including as many as 420,000 items? Under the terms of the contract, except in the case of great coats, no one can send in a tender except for the whole lot. Is it not monstrous that the disused clothing of the Army should be sold in this way? Even if the clothing were ready to hand it would be monstrous, but what happens is that these things are actually sold three years ahead. Last June, in spite of the protest which I made, a contract was entered into at the instance of the Director of Contracts for the sale of the disused clothing of the Army three years in advance—that is to say, that things which had not even been issued to the Army were sold in advance on speculation as disused articles. Well, we know what the result of such a state of things must be, especially where, as in this case, the tenders are not open to general competition. I am not quite sure what happened last year, although I am told there was then no open competition; but to be quite sure I will state what happened in 1885, when I know that the tenders for even this large contract were not issued publicly, only three firms being selected to send in tenders. If the Director of Contracts is only a man of ordinary common sense I cannot conceive how such a system can be allowed to continue. Well, then, what is the result? Why, we know what the result is, because certain things are used in the Army and also in the Navy, and in the Navy a totally different system prevails, the Admiralty adopting an entirely different method of disposing of the cast-off clothing, at least as far as the Marines are concerned, for I do not know what is done with regard to the sailors' things. The cast-off clothing of the Marines is sold by public auction at Deptford, and the result is, that while the disused trousers of the Army, sold three years in advance, only fetched under the con- 459 tract system 9d. each pair, the trousers sold by auction at Deptford fetched 6s. 6d.; the red Jersey tunics of the Army sold at 6½d., while those sold at Deptford fetched 1s. 2d. and 1s. 11d.; Army leggings fetched 3d. by contract, and at Deptford the price for similar articles was 8d. I know that these figures are founded on fact, because I put them in the shape of a question to my Friend the Financial Secretary last year, and he stated that my figures were correct; but the answer given to these charges is that it does not appear that the things sold at Deptford have been so much worn as those sold by contract from the Army. Very well, we will now see to what extent the things were worn. I have received a number of letters on the subject, and most of them have come from my own constituents, so that in what I am about to quote I shall not be going very far afield. I will not trouble the Committee with the whole of them, but will select some from those who know and write to me personally. One letter says:—In reference to sale of Army stores I enclose you a catalogue which you may not have seen. I went about a set of uniforms for a band in my parish. The conclusion that my churchwarden and I came to was that the clothes had never been used at all. A tunic of the very best Melton, such as one's tailor would certainly not supply for less than about four guineas, was had, with all the rest of the equipment, for about 10s. 6d., and the dealer, of course, got one half of that.From another correspondent I have a letter in which he says:—DEAR SIR,—The enclosed bill, if it could speak, would inform you that the 17 Lancer uniforms were made for a company subsequently ordered to Egypt or India (to be accurate I forget which). They were never so much as distributed to the men, but sold as old stores. When they arrived in Preston they had not a soil upon them, inside or out, but were, as the vendors had stated above, quite new and had never been on.Now, I have here the bill for these things. It has the heading "Bought of John Langdon and Sons, Army Contractors." The items are: "17 Lancer uniforms at 10s. 6d.; 1 pair of trousers at 4s.; 17 forage caps at 1s. 11d." It will thus be seen that I do not depend on the people who get these things from the contractor; I go to the contractor himself who bought these things under his contract with the Director of Contracts. Well, what else do I find? I 460 have a circular here from a firm at Norwich, "Messrs. Harmer and Co., Government Contractors." In this circular, speaking of the supply of disused overcoats of the British Army, they say:—"Out of the many thousands we receive some come to hand not much the worse for wear," and in their price list they have these figures:—Grey infantry coat 4s. 6d.; ditto, 5s. 6d.; ditto 7s. 6d.; ditto, with cape, 6s. 6d.; ditto, 8s.; blue artillery coats, 7s. 6d. ditto, 8s. 6d.; blue cavalry and artillery coats with sleeves (lined thick serge), large and full, 6s. 6d.; ditto, 7s. 6d.; ditto, 8s. 6d.Those are the prices for the clothing. Now, let us take the leggings. In Staffordshire a lot of these leggings were purchased for the volunteers at 9s. per dozen pairs from the contractor. I have here a letter from a man who sends me the advertisement with regard to the leggings. The writer says:—The enclosed is from last Saturday's Staffordshire Advertiser. Two years ago we thought of organizing a transport detachment. Captain Harper, since resigned and gone to Australia, attended a sale at Woolwich to buy waggons and harness. It happened that no waggons were sold, but plenty of harness was, and it was all secured by contractors owing to its being sold by weight at so much a ton.That is the way in which they sell these things.Captain H. afterwards purchased what was required from the contractor. Wooden water bottles were being sold in large quantities, and Captain H. was informed that they were cut up for firewood. There was something similar about cavalry saddles, which I do not exactly remember. A number of buff leather pouches were sold, of which Captain H. purchased one lot of 2,000 for about £4, or ½d. each; 1,600 of these are now being worn by our 800 men, and are perfectly good.It does not seem as if Mr. Nepean were quite an ideal Director of Contracts. Such is the way in which business is transacted in the War Office, and, mind you, at a time when we hear so much about Volunteer equipment. These things are being sold for a mere song, and the Volunteers are not allowed to tender for them. Again, tak the case of the sponge contract. In 1881, certain sponges for the Army were put up for competition, and they fetched 2s. 3d. and 9d. In 1882, sponges were put up without competition at all, and they fetched 11d. and 6d., and at the reduced price the contract was actually given for six years. Not only that, but last year we were 461 told that the contract had been renewed at the same price, I should like to know for how many years it has been renewed. Furthermore, if there is one rule which ought to be laid down in connection with these contracts, it is that we should buy from the manufacturers, and not from middlemen. I will show how the Director of Contracts carries out his own rule. Take the case of socks and comforters, and things of that kind. Will it be believed that everyone of these things is bought from middlemen? I want to know where the middleman gets his profit, and where anyone else does, because I know that quite recently the man who makes the socks, and I believe the comforters, sent in two offers, one to the War Office, and the other to the middleman. The prices in both cases were exactly the same. The War Office rejected the direct tender, and gave the contract to the middleman. Where is the middleman to get his profit? He gets it somewhere, perhaps we shall be told where. I am told how some of it, at all events, is made. My informant, who is prepared to give his name, says that for years past the socks have been notoriously adulterated by the addition of water to the extent of eight ounces to every 2lb. 12 oz. of heavy goods. Although Mr. Nepean's attention has been called to the fact, we cannot learn that any action has been taken in the matter. That, probably, is where the middleman's profit comes in. So little control does the Director of Contracts exercise in having the work done by the manufacturers, that he has been having some of the work done in French prisons. He did not know it, perhaps. Well, he ought to have known it, and ought to have taken steps to prevent it. It has come to the knowledge of the Sweating Committee that many of the accoutrements for the Army have been manufactured in French prisons, and the men who have got accoutrements thus made have since been given large orders by the War Office, and are making pelisses for the British Army at the present moment. If there is one crying evil in connection with the supply of accoutrements for the British Army, it is that it has been dependent BO largely upon the abominable sweating system. If anyone in the country ought to see that sweating is not encouraged it is the War Office and the Admiralty 462 and the Government Departments generally. It is true that now Mr. Nepean has laid down certain rules; but he ought to have laid them down years ago. He is not, however, very careful that these rules are always observed. One rule is that the workmen shall receive a fixed sum for the work done, but I should like to know whether the rule is being observed at the present time; how far Mr. Nepean really does exercise any check in the factories where work is being done. Another very proper direction is that the work shall be done in the factories and not given out to sub-contractors. But the rule is not universal. Mr. Nepean, strange to say, is not only Director of Contracts for the Army, but he has control of the contracts for the clothing of the police and Post Office servants, and in the eases of these contracts there is no stipulation that the goods should be manufactured in the factories and not given out to sub-contractors. Take another case. Finding that the sword and bayonet trade of this country had almost died out through a system of contracting which offered no encouragement to English manufacturers generally to compete, the Secretary of State for War did a very wise thing. The right hon. Gentleman was anxious that the trade should be revived, and very properly so, because if there are things which certainly ought to be manufactured in this country they are the swords and bayonets with which we will in case of war have to fight, and upon which the lives of our men will depend. The Secretary of State was even willing to pay a higher price for the goods in consideration of the fact that their manufacture remained in this country. But he had his sapient Director of Contracts at his back. One would have thought Mr. Nepean would have introduced a penalty in case any swords or bayonets were made out of England, but there was absolutely nothing of the sort, No precautions were taken to prevent the articles being made elsewhere, and there is evidence that if they were not actually finished in Germany one half of the work was done in that country. There is a good deal going on that the Director of Contracts says he does not know of, but which he ought to know of. Last year, a firm was struck off the list of 463 contractors pretty much at my instigation, for furnishing the British Army with accoutrements which, if we were now at war, might lead to a great disaster. You would have thought every possible precaution would have been taken that neither those men, nor anyone in any way connected with them, should tender for articles for the British Army for many years to come. But what has happened? Why, this very firm, under another name—and you have only to go to the Postal Directory to see that they are the same people—this firm, of Palmer and Ross, has received orders for the supply of Volunteer equipment. Surely one might have expected that the Volunteers would have been put on their guard. Then, again, I should like to know how many servants of Messrs. Ross and Company have been put on the list of Government contractors. A large contract has been given to a certain Colonel. I do not like these Colonel staking contracts, especially when they have no factories of their own. I can understand a Colonel who can fight, but not a manufacturing or a sweating Colonel. There was a contract given to a Colonel Slade for 1,000 valises. This patriotic Colonel—gallant and patriotic gentleman indeed!—directly risked the lives of our soldiers by putting the whole of this contract into the hands of this very firm of Ross and Company, and it is admitted it was carried out by this firm within a very few months after the time when they were struck off the list of Government contractors. That is a scandalous thing. Why did not Mr. Nepean insert in the contract a proviso that nothing of the sort should be done? It is said that Mr. Nepean did not know that the contract was put into the hands of this firm, but it was his duty to know. In putting out these contracts there should be a fair field and no favour. There ought to be fair competition, and it should not be possible even to suggest that the ideas of men who tender inventions to the War Office are borrowed or, rather, stolen by officials of the War Office. I am sorry to say, however, that in this case something very like that has happened. This Colonel Slade was not only a Colonel without a factory, but at the very time this contract was given him, he was in the War Office and a member of a most 464 important Committee, the Small Arms Committee. I say it is a scandalous thing that contracts should be given out without competition to people who have no factories of their own. But this charge, bad as it is, does not end there. I have heard from an officer in Canada, who writes to me that he submitted the very equipment for which Colonel Slade has obtained this contract some six years ago before the Equipment Committee. It was commended, and this officer offered it to the country as a free gift. I do not know whether at that actual time Colonel Slade was a member of the Equipment Committee, because when I asked the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for War, a question on the subject, I did not get the answer I expected. Within a short time after this patent equipment was submitted to the Equipment Committee, Colonel Slade was a member of that Committee and must have had an opportunity of seeing it.
§ * MR. E. STANHOPE
I have stated most distinctly and as plainly as I can, that Colonel Slade was not then a member of the Equipment Committee.
§ MR. HANBURY
The right hon. Gentleman knows that very shortly afterwards, and for a long time, Colonel Slade was on that Equipment Committee.
§ MR. HANBURY
According to this Canadian officer this patent equipment was submitted in 1882, and if Colonel Slade ceased to be a member of the Committee in 1886 then I am absolutely correct in my facts. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether it is not a fact that the man who was president of the Equipment Committee at the time that this valise equipment was submitted to it has since written to this officer to say that the patent of Colonel Slade's is practically a theft and is exactly the same as the equipment from Canada. Colonel Slade and Colonel Wallace are partners, and a contract for 1,000 valises has been given to the one and a contract for 16,000 to the other. Colonel Slade has admitted this in the Times in a letter replying to me, and I 465 have documents in my possession putting it beyond doubt that he was interested equally with Colonel Wallace in this large contract. How is this contract to be carried out by these Colonels? We are told they have a factory of their own. That, again, is a sham. How have they got it? In the first place even the wood benches were sent from Messrs. Ross; the leather and canvas were all brought from those discarded contractors; many of the workmen came from Messrs. Ross who were employed in making up those things; and the foreman who had charge of the whole came from Messrs. Ross. Indeed, a large portion of the work was actually done by Messrs. Ross until I called attention to the fact; and even the tools were borrowed from Messrs. Ross. The rejections which were sent from Woolwich were taken away in Messrs. Ross's carts; and these facts show what a farce it is for these two patriotic Colonels to take this contract. A man doing bonâ fide work does not jump from one district to another, but in the present case, within the past week Colonel Slade has changed his factory, going a little nearer to Messrs. Ross and Co. There is a further objection to the War Office being dodged and defeated by these officers. The great danger with all these accoutrements is that they will be passed into the Government stores in an ineffective condition. Bad things will be passed in as good. The articles made by Colonel Slade and Colonel Wallace, or rather by Messrs. Ross, are being sent to Woolwich, viewers are working there at the present time, who formerly were in the service of Messrs. Ross. What guarantee has the War Office, then, that bad articles will not be passed in—that rotten leather and hides will not be accepted? There has been no change in the system except this, that the men who deserve to be promoted have been kept down, and the men who have done the mischief been promoted. In connection with these valises I must say it is a marvellous thing that Mr. Nepean should have given the order to Colonel Slade at all. Here is the cartridge box supplied by him [exhibiting article to the Committee], which is about the most clumsy thing of the kind I ever had in my hand. It is made of buff 466 leather, and will, therefore, require pipe-claying. The soldier will be able to pipe-clay it in time of peace, but when he goes to war ho will be unable to procure pipe-clay, and the thing will dry and crack, and become useless. It is to enable the soldier to carry 70 rounds of ammunition, but it will be necessary for the soldier to go out of action six times in order to fire these 70 rounds. The cartridges are liable to fall out, and at least two will catch the rain. The Committee may be told that Colonel Slade and the other contractors get no money from the contract. That may be so, but the contracts are obtained for another reason. If they do not obtain money from the War Office they do from other sources, from the Volunteers, for instance; but even to be put on the list of contractors is a great advantage to these men. These are important matters of administration which I have thought it desirable to bring before the Committee; and I ask my right hon. Friend that in future, whatever may be the merits or the demerits of the present Director of Contracts, at any rate the House of Commons shall be afforded an opportunity of keeping a little stricter watch over these contracts than it has up to the present. In order to keep a check both on the contractors and the Director of Contracts in future, will the right hon. Gentleman do two things? Will he lay down as an imperative rule that the Director of Contracts shall not interfere with the viewing of the articles for which he has contracted? It is absolutely essential in the public interest that the man who gives out the contract shall not have the opportunity of favouring the contractor by superseding the viewers. One other remedy I would suggest. The Government has taken the wise step with regard to some of their Departments in punishing men who disclose public information. Will they next Session bring in a Bill to punish severely contractors who send in the viewers who let in the bad goods? If they are prepared to do this it will not be necessary to criticize the negligent, and worse than negligent system, which has prevailed in the past, nor to discuss the conduct of Mr. Nepean and the contractors. I hope I shall be saved the necessity of taking a Vote on this matter by receiving a full and complete explanation. Unless I receive that I 467 hall have to carry this reduction to a division.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries, &c., be reduced by £100, part of the Salary of the Director of Contracts."—(Mr. Hanbury.)
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
It is unnecessary on the part of my hon. Friend to deprecate the notion that he is making an attack on me personally or on the Director of Contracts. For the last two years all the scourings of the public offices, every "tout" in every factory, has been quoted or brought to the hon. Member for the purpose of making attacks on me. I do not complain of it so far as the public interest is concerned. If the hon. Member likes to make personal attacks, all I have to say is, that I have lived through a good many of them, and if I and my hon. Friend remain Members of the House in the years to come, I shall probably have to live through very many more such attacks. The hon Gentleman says that he will be exceedingly glad to furnish me with all the facts he has quoted in order that I may look into them, but he did not communicate one of them before he began his attack, so that I might look into the facts and give that explanation to the House which is desirable.
§ MR. HANBURY
Nearly every case I have referred to has arisen out of question and answer in the House.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
That is not the case. It is perfectly clear, however, that the main attack in this matter is made not so much on myself as on the Director of Contracts; and if I fail to give an explanation on every point of the attack made on that official, it must be understood that it is only because I am not able to carry in my head all the facts pertaining to every one of these contracts. Therefore, it must not be held that I am not able to give, had I the opportunity of looking into the facts, a complete answer to every point raised. Who is Mr. Nepean? He is one of the most able and devoted public servants in this country. What has been his position? Mr. Nepean has had his conduct inquired into by inquiry after inquiry. It has been investigated by Sir James Fitzstephen's inquiry, by Lord Morley's Committee, and by the Judge Advocate General. From every one of those inquiries, which 468 examined his conduct in minutest detail, Mr. Nepean has come without a single word being said against him. All those under whom he has served, who include right hon. Gentlemen opposite, myself, and every one who has of late years held the office of Secretary of State for War, agree that Mr. Nepean is thoroughly above any suspicion such as the hon. Member has ventured to cast upon him, and that the attack made by the hon. Member is one which merits the most complete condemnation that can be given to it. I hope the Committee will forgive me for speaking warmly about the matter; but we have just been speaking about the position of public servants. They cannot defend themselves, and the only place where they have a chance of being defended is in this House. The hon. Member has said he made no attack, but the charge he put forward was nothing more or less than one of corruption on the part of the contractors.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Well, what the hon. Gentleman has said is an attack upon the contractors as far as it goes, and simply amounts to neither more nor less than a charge of corruption. Under these circumstances, I think the Committee will understand that if I speak with some warmth on the subject it is because I have good grounds for so doing. I now come to the discussion of the details of the charges brought by the hon. Gentleman against Mr. Nepean and others. The hon. Member began by complaining that I had excluded the Comptroller and Auditor General from examining into certain matters; but I would ask, does the Committee really want the Comptroller and Auditor General to exercise any influence on the administration of a public department? The only matter which I prevented the Comptroller and Auditor General from examining into was when he attempted to interfere with the administration of the Department. For instance, the other day the Comptroller and Auditor General actually complained of the reserve of grain at Malta. If ever there was a matter on which a Government Department must take responsibility and exercise its own judgment in view of possible contingencies, surely it is such a question as the reserve of grain at Malta. The hon. Member also complained that the prices at which tenders were accepted 469 were not made public. There was a Committee to inquire into that, and the Department has consulted Chambers of Commerce and every one whose opinion is worth having, and the great preponderance of opinion has been conclusive that it would be very undesirable indeed that the prices should be made public. The hon. Member then contended that all competition should be open. That question was inquired into very closely by Lord Morley's Committee, and having examined the matter in full detail, the Committee reported—
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I am aware that the hon. and gallant Member expressed his individual dissent from that Report; but the majority of the Committee came to the conclusion, as any sensible man would have done—I beg the hon. and gallant Member's pardon, and withdraw that expression—as I thought most men who heard the evidence would have done, that it was impossible to proceed solely upon a system of open competition, but that the War Office must have in many instances limited competition. Sweating is one of the greatest difficulties the Government Departments have to contend against, and we must so allot our contracts as to take care that sweating shall not be promoted. That we have endeavoured to do to the utmost of our power, and I believe the securities we have taken will prevent any work from the War Office being put out on sweating contracts. Many of the articles we have to order are of a very special character, such as few firms in the country are capable of producing—for instance, big guns. We have to see also that there is a reasonable certainty that the things ordered will be delivered at the time and of the quality stipulated for. It is utterly impossible for us to accept without qualification the principle of open contract; but, so far as I myself am concerned, I shall endeavour to accept that principle to the utmost of my power. The disused clothes contract raises a question of very great difficulty. We had put that matter out to contract the other day, and we found there were hardly any persons who would tender for the work the contractor is expected to do. The contractor has to gather up from all the different barracks and stations throughout the world bits of 470 clothing and accoutrements which have been discarded by the troops. On the other hand, do the Committee think it would be desirable to break the contract up with regard to the different articles, and so have to deal with a host of contractors coming into different depôt and barrack towns to carry away the disused goods? In our opinion, we shall get just as much money and more advantage by putting it out to one contractor. I believe the present system of selling disused clothing is a most advantageous one to the country. The hon. Member has quoted to the Committee the case of a sponge contract obtained in 1881 and 1882, and then continued for six years. That was not for the sale but for the purchase of sponges. But what were the prices? The rates in 1881 were 2s. 3d., and in 1882 they were 11d. and 6d. The Department thought the latter terms so exceedingly favourable that they took a contract for six years. My hon. Friend has suggested that certain stocks were filled with water.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Well, my hon. Friend suggested that certain socks were increased in weight through being loaded with water. I altogether deny that. The hon. Member then dealt with the case of Messrs. Ross. But before the hon. Member brought forward his Motion, I had struck Messrs. Ross off the list of contractors for the War Office, and given notice to the other Departments that I had done so. Since then I have never in any way employed Messrs. Ross. The hon. Member said the Volunteers had gone to Messrs. Ross because I had not given the Volunteers notice that Messrs. Ross had been struck off the list of contractors. I should have thought that between my hon. Friend and myself every Volunteer in the country must have known that Messrs. Ross were no longer contractors to the War Office. I do not think either the hon. Member or the House understand the extraordinary difficulties that exist in the way of the War Office in getting valises. I have had very seriously to consider whether we should not ourselves have to manufacture those leather goods in manufactories of our own, although I hate increasing Government factories. I will now 471 deal with the last case put forward by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member has tried to transfer to this House the little quarrel he had with Colonel Slade in the columns of the Times. I have no desire to interfere in that very petty quarrel, as far as I am concerned. Colonel Slade ceased to be a member of the Equipment Committee long before the valises in question were submitted to it. The hon. Member complained that Colonel Slade was still a member of the Small Arms Committee, which had nothing whatever to do with the Equipment Committee. The hon. Member contended that because Colonel Slade had recommended a valise which the Military Authorities thought a very good one, therefore he was not to be allowed to serve afterwards in any public capacity. Now, Sir, Colonel Slade has written to the Times that he has not received any profit whatever for the supply of the valises.
§ MR. STANHOPE
For his own contract. The contract has now been authorized to Colonel Wallace through Colonel Slade. And I am bound to say that when we gave out these contracts there was very grave doubt whether we would be able to supply the Army at all with this very useful valise, which we desired to obtain at as early a date as possible. My hon. Friend, in concluding, urged that the Director of Contracts should not do any viewing; but no doubt he has sometimes to look and ascertain whether the goods supplied by the contractors are such as should enter the Service. The hon. Member also says that there should be means of punishing the contractors and viewers when necessary. I quite agree that contractors who behave in a fraudulent manner should be punished, and they are punished very severely indeed by being struck off the list of Government contractors, and losing all the trade that would come to them. There is a further punishment, which is very often inflicted on the contractor—namely, the return of all the goods upon his hands, and he has to get rid of them as best he can. I think I have dealt with all the points raised by the hon. Member, and I hope the House will now pass this Vote reserving any further questions, 472 after this protracted discussion, until Report.
§ MR. HANBURY
The sponges bought by competition were 11d. and 6d. Those bought in the next year, without competition, were 2s. 3d. and 9d.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
I do not think we should hurry through a Vote of this amount, much as we should like to meet the right hon. Gentleman. This Vote refers to contracts for clothing and accoutrements to a large amount, and I do not think the Secretary of State would be desirous that we should take the chance of dealing with these matters on Report. There is one point we must discuss—the system of putting contracts to open competition; and the Motion to reduce the salary of the Director of Contracts by £100 does not reflect upon him personally in the slightest degree, but is directed to the present system of giving contracts.
§ It being ten minutes to Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee also report Progress; to sit again this day.