§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
1. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £294,800, be granted to her Majesty, to defray the charge for the pay of medical establishments, and the cost of medicines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1891.
§ (12.20.) DR. FARQUHARSON Aberdeenshire, W.)
I do not think that any apology is needed from me in rising for the purpose of discussing this Vote. The army doctors, although very much scattered, and not allowed to combine for the purpose of bringing forward their grievances, are nevertheless able to bring strong aid to bear upon their professional views and feelings. We know that the British Medical Association supplies an important machinery for concentrating opinion upon medical questions, and enables the army surgeons to secure that attention to their opinions which they are not able to obtain formally and officially. Indeed, as a last resource, the Medical Profession and the Medical Schools really have the whip-hand of the situation. Their complaints have, at all events, been regarded by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War as worthy of inquiry, and he very wisely determined upon appointing a Departmental Committee, which, as is well known to hon. Members, reported favourably upon the demands of the Army Medical Department. An idea got abroad that the Combatant Officers were unfavourable to the claims of the Medical Officers, but having read the evidence before the Departmental Committee, I am bound to say that all the great Departmental Chiefs who gave evidence showed no animus at all. No doubt they expressed views which were occasionally hostile, but they were views which they had a right to hold, and were by no means hostile to the sister Department. I think it is a most unfortunate thing that the recommendations of the Committee were not accepted, and I do so on two grounds—first, on account of the expense; and, secondly, in deference to 368 the opinion of the medical advisers of the right hon. Gentleman. Under the present arrangement the period of foreign service is much longer than it used to be; formerly it was only five years, now it is six, and I need scarcely say that an additional year of foreign service means a good deal in the life of a man; it leads to premature decay, and takes a good deal out of him. The War Office fill up the appointments at home by half-pay men, although the officers who have served their time abroad naturally look to home service as a relief from the monotony of foreign service. It is a source of great disappointment to them to find, when they come home, that one half of the appointments have been filled up by other men. There is one thing in which the right hon. Gentleman has done well. He has abolished the examination from Surgeon-Major to Brigade Surgeon-Major. Formerly a certain number of men were passed over and superseded because they failed to pass the examination. If they wanted promotion in another way they found that 30, 40, or 50 officers had been passed over their heads, and that it was hopeless for them to expect promotion to the higher grades. I would suggest that it would only be an act of justice to reinstate these men in the position they would have occupied if they had passed. There is another point I should like to mention. I think it is only natural to provide that Medical Officers should, once in seven years, have three months for study. Last night the First Lord of the Admiralty, in reply to a question from the hon. Member for Mid-Cork (Dr. Tanner), promised to provide facilities, in future, for enabling the Medical Officers in the Navy to polish themselves up after the rust of foreign service. I think that is only a reasonable provision, and I can assure the Government that at this moment in the Army it is a cause of much complaint. If a Medical Officer had the opportunity of coming home once in seven years he would be able to polish himself up by attending the Medical Schools. A man who is serving abroad never knows what has been going on at home until he comes back. Then again there is the question of rank and title. It is a question that has been very hotly debated, and a great disappointment has been expressed in cones- 369 quence of the non-acceptance of the recommendations of the Committee. The Committee recommended that the intervening gap should be filled up, and that in addition to Surgeon-Major there should be Surgeon-Colonel, Surgeon-Lieutenant-Colonel, and Surgeon-General. Sir Donald Stewart, a distinguished officer, gave evidence on this point. He said—They have now got the rank of Surgeon-Major, and I see no reason why they should not also have that of Surgeon-Colonel and Surgeon-General. I do not object to any reasonable concession. I see no objection myself to the use of these titles, and I do not understand why objection should be made. I do not think the Combatant Officers in the Army are in the least degree jealous.Now that is an important point, and I believe the impression that these titles would be conceded has had a most satisfactory influence in inducing candidates for Army Medical Appointments to come forward. In 1889, there were only 15 candidates for 10 vacancies. The report of the Committee then appeared, with the result that in 1890, when there were again 10 vacancies, there were 45 candidates. It was, however, only under the impression that this concession was going to be made that this large number of men of a good class were induced to enter into the competition. It is said that the rank and title of a Medical Officer is one that is honourable enough, and one which every man ought to be proud to possess. In private life, a doctor does not wish to be called anything but doctor, and he would scorn any other title. In olden times, even in the Medical Service, the title of doctor was sufficient. In those days, the Army doctor was nothing more than a doctor. He had simply to attend the patients in the hospital and he had no military duties imposed upon him at all. Matters have changed now; they have become more complicated by the process of evolution, and the old regimental system has been done away with, so that the Army doctor is thrown much less socially among his military brethren, and has had new duties thrown upon him. I wish altogether to disabuse the Committee of the idea that the doctors want this rank for any purpose of social distinction or swagger, in order to give them additional weight and position. They ask for it only in connection with the actual ne- 370 cessities of their life and their position in the Service. What they require is some title which will be easily understood by military men and soldiers. The Medical Officers think that a definite and distinct rank enabling them to assert their proper rights will be not for their own personal interest only, but for the interests of those under their charge, and for whose welfare they are responsible. The doctor has now the command of the men in the Hospital Corps; he has to instruct them in drill, and, in addition, he has the responsibility of looking after their pay, clothing, arms, equipment supply, and stores in his own department. These functions are, in reality, elaborate military duties, which were quite unknown before, and which place the Medical Officer in an entirely new position. He therefore feels himself compelled to ask for some more definite military rank, in order that he may maintain his proper position and assert his proper rights. I am told that if we give this rank to the doctor we must also give similar rank to the Army Chaplain and the Veterinary Surgeon. Now they have no call for such rank at all; they are simply the Chaplain and the Veterinary Surgeon, and, like the Navy doctor, they live under different conditions, and do not require these titles any more than the Army Medical Officers did under the old regimental system. In the Navy the Medical Officer leads the same life as the officer in the old regimental system. He lives with the other officers in the Service, and has no duties except those connected with his profession allotted to him. He has no desire for the rank and title which the Army doctor thinks he is fairly entitled to. The old plan has been found to break down entirely on active service, but it is well known that the Medical Officers of the Army would be satisfied if the Secretary for War would frankly accept the recommendation of his own Departmental Committee. There is a growing feeling that the only permanent solution of the question will be to establish the medical department on the basis of a Royal corps something like the Royal Engineers. This was the view taken by the deputation which recently waited upon the right hon. Gentleman. A forcible speech was made by Sir Andrew Clarke, the President of 371 the Royal College of Physicians, in which he pointed out that some sort of arrangement of the same kind would suit the doctors very well, namely, that they should have a definite rank in their own corps, and a command purely limited to their own particular duties. If they had this position they feel that it would be of great value to them in the Service. Dr. Beattie, who gave evidence before the Departmental Committee, was employed in the Egyptian campaign, and he stated that he could not undertake to do again what he did in that campaign, without more definite rank. Dr. Parke, who served upon the Stanley Expedition, writes to the Medical Journal, and states that if Mr. Stanley had not granted military rank corresponding to that of other officers connected with the Expedition, he (Dr. Parke) would have been quite unable to hold his own and to perform his duties properly. This is a strong argument in favour of the proposal that Army Medical Officers should be made members of a Royal corps. It is not a novel proposition, but has been recommended by other Departmental Committees, and a very considerable number of Medical Officers have given it as their opinion that nothing less than a concession of this kind will provide a permanent solution of the question. Nearly all the younger Medical Officers who have seen anything of the modern conditions of warfare are strongly of opinion that this is the only way in which the question can be permanently settled. It is a plan which is working well in foreign countries; in America it works extremely well. Sir Andrew Clarke states that he has been in communication with the chief of the Army Medical Department of the United States, who says that no difficulty, either in theory or practice, has ever arisen there in consequence of the titles which have been conferred upon the Army Medical Officers. In Italy and in France the same system prevails, and there is no unpleasant distinction drawn between combatant and non-combatant officers. The right hon. Gentleman asked the other day why we have changed our opinion, and he pointed out that two years ago a deputation which waited upon him took a different view. That is quite possible; and even in this House we must admit that changes of 372 opinion in political matters are not altogether unknown. But since the deputation waited upon the right hon. Gentleman, I have had an enormous number of communications from medical men all over the world urging me to bring the question before the House and the Authorities, and see whether it is not possible to carry out this new idea of a Royal Staff Corps. I do not think it would make any material change in the present system; I do not think that the calling of a doctor a Colonel or a General can do any one the slightest harm. He would simply be Captain, Major, Colonel, or General in the Royal Staff Corps. If such an arrangement could be carried out, I think it would remove the feeling against granting this rank and title which is now entertained by the Military Authorities. I apologise to hon. Members for having detained them at such great length upon a point which is probably uninteresting to many of them. It has, however, been a burning question with the Medical Officers of the Army for many years, and I have felt it my duty to bring their complaints and grievances under the notice of the Committee. Some persons say that their position and pay are already too good. I do not think so. They have important work to do; dangerous work also, without the stimulus of excitement; and they are constantly exposed to the dangers of pestilence and infection which combatant military officers have not to contend with, and which carry off a good many of them. A great many of them die early, thoroughly broken down and unfit for anything after the hard service they have gone through. I am sure we are all agreed that as a matter of national and Imperial importance, the Army ought to have the best men who can be got. They will not come in under the present condition, and I think it is only wise to grant the concessions for which they ask and which will not cost anything. Their grievances may be looked upon as sentimental, but they are none the less deeply felt. The grumbling which is now going on is very acute and it may become chronic. The right hon. Gentleman has now a golden opportunity for conciliating the Medical Department once for all. I thank him for the reception he gave to the deputation and for the assurance he has given to the House, 373 that he will consider the statements which have been made to him. I hope he will do so in a friendly spirit. The Medical Department gladly accepted the recommendations of the Committee, and I think it is advisable at any rate to try them, and see whether they will not settle the whole question. There is a strong and growing feeling that the institution of a Royal Staff Corps will be the only means of bringing about a permanent settlement of this great question.
(12.50.) MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
I am sure that the Committee are very much indebted to my hon. Friend for the zeal and abililty with which he has brought forward the grievances of the Army Medical Department. Perhaps I may be able to speak as to the cause of those grievances with more impartiality than my hon. Friend, although, of course, he is influenced by a just and honorable desire, now that he is a Member of the House, to give a helping hand to persons of whom, in other days, he was a distinguished associate and member. Having listened to the grievances of these men, and having had communications from them, I am perfectly certain that they labour under substantial grievances which, if the House of Commons knew them, they would try to alleviate and remove. I claim for the officers of this Department that they should have at the very least equal rights and privileges with the combatant officers. In former times the doctor was one of the ordinary officers of the regiment, but since the Army Medical Department has been instituted, there has been a segregation of these officers, and the Medical Staff is no longer on the same footing as the Regimental Officers. That being so, I maintain that they ought to be placed on an equal footing with the Royal Engineers with special military rank and privileges. I am unable to understand the great desire that exists among these men to have military rank; but that desire undoubtedly exists. From a sort of plébiscite that was taken some time ago, it was found that out of 992 officers, 75 per cent, were of opinion that they ought to have military rank. In the army, obedience to the word of command is absolutely necessary, and in the hospital especially it is essential that the business should be carried out expe- 374 ditiously, and that the word of command should be promptly obeyed. I certainly cannot conceive why the medical officer should not be able to speak with the same authority on medical matters as the regimental officer on regimental matters. I find that there are no fewer than 459 Irish medical students in the Army. The men who go into the Army as a rule are persons in easy circumstances; but with the Medical Department it is the reverse. They go as professional men, and therefore every attempt should be made to make their position pleasant and to provide that they shall suffer no social humiliation. At the present moment they are subject to certain social slights and indignities which, however much we may feel inclined to laugh at them, are very galling to those who are subjected to them. Take the case of Sanitary Boards. No medical man can sit upon them or express his opinion in conference with other officers. He is simply ordered to attend, and in all these matters, whatever the rank or seniority of the medical man may be, he is always placed at the very bottom of the list. Again, until he has seen 20 years' service, he gets no Army rank at all, and even then he is only able to become a Surgeon-Major. Then, again, in regard to sick leave, the Medical Officers feel that they have a substantial grievance. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, in reply to a question which I put to him on the 18th of June in regard to the sick leave privileges enjoyed by an ordinary combatant officer over a Medical Officer, admitted that a Subaltern would be entitled to 12 months' leave of absence, whereas the highest Medical Officer in the Army is only entitled to 6 months' leave. What is the reason of that? The right hon. Gentlemen said it was the ground of expense. Now I am, personally, a rigid economist, but I think we may sometimes be penny wise and pound foolish. This is certainly a point into which the question of expense ought not to enter, as long as we have no less than 100 generals who are doing nothing for the public service, but who draw from the public revenues £62,000 a year. Would it not be infinitely better when you have a first-rate medical man, to give him 12 months' leave of absence, and allow him to come back reinvigorated and thoroughly fitted for the discharge 375 of his onerous and difficult duties? Then, again, take the question of foreign service. Up to a few years ago the period of service in line regiments was limited to five or six years, and a medical man had only to undergo a course of five years' service. An additional year has now been added to the continuous time during which he must serve, and that again on the ground of expense. It will then be seen that the very highest of the Army Medical Officers are placed in a position of inferiority, although they are in as great danger as any of the combatant officers. They go into the thick of the fight and attend to the wounded side by side with the men who are fighting. I need only mention the names of two of these officers—Surgeon-Major Reynolds, who was present at Rorke's Drift, and Surgeon-Major Cronin, who obtained the Victoria Cross for distinguished gallantry in the South African War. In his case courage is hereditary. He obtained the Victoria Cross, and his mother got a months' imprisonment for defending her homestead. The mortality among Medical Officers is twice as great as among the ordinary combatant officers. There is a constant strain upon their physical energy and a constant risk of infection. At the same time, by obtaining the services of the best possible men, we succeed in preserving the health of the troops. I have no doubt that the great experience which some of our most eminent medical men have acquired in relieving pain and suffering is entirely due to their early connection with the Army. Consequently, if these men are well paid and are given opportunities of practice, which enable them to bring out whatever knowledge and skill they have acquired in the Army, the public are benefited in the long run. They could not have a better school of study than the experience which they have derived from a long course of Army services. In regard to the mortality among officers on active service, the statistics of the last three campaigns in Burma, Egypt, and South Africa, show that the mortality among medical officers was 3.1, as against 5.4 among the ordinary combatant officers. I do not think we ought to be content with the assurance that the War Office would be able to get men to do the work of service at a reduced cost. The matter 376 ought not to be entirely regulated by strict questions of supply and demand; it should be regulated by a higher basis, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be induced to make better arrangements, both in regard to leave and pay as well as to relative rank. I know cases in which medical officers have been very badly treated in the Army. I will only mention one instance—that of a man who was taken prisoner in the Zulu War. He attended, not only his own men, but the Zulus. He was kept in captivity for two years, in constant danger of his life. When he was released and came home, in addition to the misery and anxiety he had undergone, he lost his sight; he is now going about blind, and, with the exception of his pension, he has never received either a decoration or a reward. He is a relative of my own, and I am very proud of him—Surgeon-Major Ward. My contention is that it is for the advantage of the service that these men should be liberally treated.
§ (1.10.) MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
As it was my privilege or misfortune to be a lay member of the Departmental Committee, which sat last year, I should like to say one or two words on this subject. I am quite sure that the country is anxious to pay liberally and generously for the services of the doctors, both in the Army and Navy, so that they may secure the services of the best men. That was the unanimous feeling of the Committee, but when we came to look into the details, we found that many difficulties arose. The hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire (Dr. Farquharson) said that the crux of the whole question was the matter of rank and title. Upon that point I can say very little as a layman, but it does seem to me extraordinary that men belonging to one of the noblest professions in the world should be craving after such military titles as Colonel and Captain. Surely the title of doctor is infinitely preferable to any sham and tinsel title. The hon. Member talks of the Committee having recommended these titles, but it must be remembered that the suggestion emanated from the younger Medical Officers; that the preponderance of evidence was against it, and that three out of eight members of the Committee were opposed to it. It did seem to be somewhat odd that men who had just joined the Service should be craving for 377 this change. The hon. Member says that it was very difficult before 1877 to get candidates to compete for Army medical appointments. That is true, but in 1877 great changes were made in the Service, and since then there has been no difficulty in obtaining candidates. In 1880, when the new regulations came in force down to 1887, when the last competition took place before the Committee sat, 885 qualified candidates presented themselves for 493 appointments. Last year there were 45 candidates for 10 vacancies. It is, therefore, clear that the younger members of the profession are willing to enter the Service on the basis on which it is now regulated. In my opinion the crux of the question is not title but pay and retirement. We went carefully into those questions, and I am afraid that I stood on the question of retirement in the unenviable position of a minority of one in my Report. Looking at it from the absolute view of finance, I thought that the pay was fairly liberal. It attracts a large number of candidates, and is more liberal than that of any other branch of the Army. I do not say that that ought not to be so. All I say is that it is so. The officers desire rapid promotion. That also is only reasonable and natural, but we, as taxpayers and guardians of the public purse, must look at the cost. The non-effective Vote is 57 per cent, of the entire Vote; but that is not all, for we had it upon actuarial calculation, that the system is so arranged that when it is completed the cost of the non-effective Force will be 70 per cent. I am quite sure that while the public are quite willing to pay liberally for the active Army Services, what they will not do is to have a non-effective Force costing as much as the effective Force. Under the present system there is no doubt that in a short time the non-effective or pensioned portion of the Army Medical Department will practically cost as much as the effective medical branch, and I am sure that is a state of affairs which the public will not allow. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire has said that the gentlemen who leave the Service become highly successful private practitioners.
§ MR. BARTLEY
As one of the public, I object to that; I think that we ought to buy these men's services and keep them for 378 their working lives. I object to a system by which we buy only the elementary period of a man's service so that he is able to retire when quite young and then start a private practice. There was a strong feeling in the Committee that in order to secure rapid promotion a system should be adopted of getting rid of an officer after five or 10 years' service, giving him, as an inducement to retire, £500 after five years, and £1,000 after 10 years. Now I must say that I objected to that proposal emphatically. It simply means this, that you get a young man of 24 who may know his theoretical work very well, but, as a rule, a doctor of 24 cannot have been trained in the practical work of his profession. No person in private life would employ a medical man who has just come from the hospital, but would prefer a man from 30 to 35 years of age. The result of the proposal would simply be to employ men while they are learning their practical duties, and after 10 years' service you would give them £1,000 to go, their place being taken by raw recruits. That seems to me to be a most unreasonable plan. We ought to have the most efficient men we can get, and when we have got them we should keep them as long as they are capable of doing good service. After 20 years' service, or when a man is about 44 years of age, he may, under present regulations, retire, whether ill or well, having the right to retire after that service upon a pension of £1 a day. I think that is a too liberal arrangement. My own opinion is that between 40 and 50 is the most efficient period of a doctor's service. What I am really afraid of is that if the retirement system is increased, the House of Commons will one day wake up to the fact that the non-effective Vote is as high as the effective Vote, and will set to work roughly to curtail it. It has been conclusively proved that we can get all the men we want under the existing arrangement. Most of the grievances of the Medical Officers are more sentimental than real, and the best way to avoid friction is to revert more than we do now to the regimental system, which there can be no doubt is infinitely preferable to the present system. All the officers, both combative and medical, would then, as they are now on board Her Majesty's ships, be much more bound together, 379 and the Medical Service would be much more efficient and free from continual dissatisfaction.
§ (1.20.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE, Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
It is only a few days ago that I received a deputation upon these subjects, composed of some of the most eminent members of the profession, and I heard their views fully expressed. The case has now been fully and ably stated by the two hon. Members opposite. I have nothing to complain of in the manner in which the discussion has been conducted, except in regard to one observation which fell from the hon. Gentleman who spoke first, to the effect that the medical profession have the whip-hand of the Government in the matter, and that they intended to make their power felt. That is not the way in which the question ought to be approached, and certainly no argument of that sort will have the smallest weight with me. I am satisfied that we shall in future, as in the past, be able to make proper provision for the exigencies of the public service. I am not, for obvious reasons, going to dwell at any length upon the subject which has been brought forward, but I should like to say a few words on the two main heads. It is perfectly clear that the recommendations of the Committee presided over by Lord Camperdown would, if adopted, have had the effect of increasing the cost of the Army Medical Department to £100,000 a year. On the other hand, there was Lord R. Churchill's Committee which also considered the question, and they expressed a strong opinion that the expense of the Department is already excessive, and that steps should be taken to decrease it. What my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) has just said, is quite true; that the non-effective charge for the Medical Department of the Army will speedily exceed the effective charge unless steps are taken to decrease it. The present Government have taken certain steps in that direction. An Army Medical Officer has a right to retire after 20 years' service upon £365 a year—a rate which I am bound to say is exceedingly liberal. The Government have bean desirous of making use of doctors with their own consent, after they retire into private life, retiring as they do in some cases, in 380 the prime of life. We found the doctors perfectly agreeable to enter into that arrangement, and we have employed them at certain stations in England, saving by that means a sum of nearly £30,000 a year. The second point brought forward, and the main one, is the question of title. I received a deputation upon that subject the other day, headed by Sir Andrew Clarke, and composed of some of the most eminent medical men in Great Britain and Ireland. They left me in no doubt as to what they were claiming. They want to be called distinctly—generals, colonels, majors, and captains. The hon. Member opposite spoke of titles easily understood. I should have thought that the title of doctor or surgeon, accompanied, if you like, by some additional title, would be easily understood, whereas the title of general, colonel, major or captain, applied to a medical officer is one that would not be easily understood. I have had representations placed before me on this matter by officers in the Army, and I am bound, I think, to respect, as far as I can, their strongly-expressed feeling. Therefore I told the deputation, and I now tell the Committee, that I am not prepared to come to a decision on the subject until I have consulted the Military Authorities whom, indeed, I am now consulting. When we have arrived at a decision it will be announced to the House. I trust that the Committee, after the discussion which has taken place, will now allow us to go on with other matters.
§ (1.30.) MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
There is one question affecting this Vote which ought, I think, to be submitted to the Committee. I refer to the question of the supply of medicine to the army, and the manner and terms on which it is obtained. In most of the Departments of the Public Service the system of contract is adopted. In the Medical Department of the Army that is not the case, and there are two bodies—one the Apothecaries' Hall, and the other Savory & Moore, a private firm, who have for about 35 years had practically the monopoly of supplying drugs to the Army. The amount charged in the present Vote is about £12,000 for the service. That is evidently more than need be paid, according to the admission of the Army Medical Department them- 381 selves. I shall therefore move the reduction of the Vote by 15 per cent., or £1,800. The ground on which I do so is this: The Army Medical Department is entirely dependent on Apothecaries' Hall and Messrs. Savory & Moore, not only for the supply of drugs but also for their quality. The Army Medical Authorities admit that they never test the quality of the drugs supplied, either at headquarters or wherever they may be used. Now it seems to me an extraordinary thing that this should be so, having regard to the fact that there is at Somerset House a Public Department for Analysis, under the superintendence of Mr. Bannister, a gentleman of very great capacity, who is constantly, under the Drugs Act, analysing all sorts of things for the Public Departments. His services are, of course, at the disposal of the Army as well as any other department, but they have never applied to him to have these drugs tested. Indeed, the representative of the Army Medical Department said that he was not aware of Mr. Bannister's existence, and the department has been going on for years simply accepting whatever Apothecaries' Hall and Messrs. Savory & Moore chose to send them. Messrs. Savory & Moore, I ought to mention, are simply a private retail firm, and not even wholesale manufacturers. The Public Accounts Committee put to the representative of the Army Medical Department a question as to why he did not go to the wholesale firms and invite contracts. The answer practically came to this—that the present system works very well, and that the Army Medical officers are satisfied. From one point of view that was a reasonable answer, medical men are concerned in the treatment of disease and the cure of wounds, which is very much more important than the drugs; but at the same time the quality of the drugs is of such importance that the Department ought to exercise extreme care in getting the best articles that can be obtained, and should have the quality tested by their own officers. That, however, is not done. It may be taken for granted that the drugs furnished by Apothecaries' Hall are the very best, but in regard to Messrs. Savory & Moore, the wholesale druggists can sup-play just the same drugs; and Messrs. Savory & Moore are dependent upon them. The Public Accounts Committee 382 had produced before them certain lists of prioes from wholesale firms. A comparison of the figures struck me as being rather extraordinary, and in consequence I waited upon the firm of Evans & Co in the City. I asked them, "Have you ever been invited to tender for Army Medical Stores or Drugs?" and their answer was "No. We had, a long time ago, some kind of communication with the Department, but it ended in nothing. We got little or no information." At another meeting of the Public Accounts Committee I asked the representative of the Department if he had communicated the conditions and terms of supply to any of the wholesale firms, and I found he had not, thus getting a corroboration of what I had learned from the City firm I have mentioned. He said, "We have never communicated the conditions of the supply, and we do not know that they would be willing to send, out small quantities, such as are sent out by Apothecaries' Hall and Messrs. Savory & Moore." I prosecuted my inquiry further, and I ascertained that the wholesale firms would be perfectly willing to supply drugs in the quantities issued by Apothecaries' Hall and Messrs, Savory & Moore. A second question was, whether any trade discount is allowed by Apothecaries' Hall or Messrs. Savory & Moore, and I was told that not only was it not allowed, but that it had never been applied for. The wholesale firms were prepared to supply as good drugs in the same quantities, under the same conditions, and to allow 15 per cent. discount. Further, as to the quality, they are prepared to supply any number of authorities with samples for testing—either Mr. Bannister at Somerset House, or any professor of materia medica at any of the hospitals. From other inquiries, I have discovered that Messrs. Savory & Moore are nothing but tradesmen, while among the wholesale firms there are men who are distinguished members of the Pharmaceutical Society. Therefore, I do not see why the public money should be to a large extent squandered and paid away when there is no necessity for it. I also fail to see why there should be this monopoly in the hands of these two particular bodies at the expense of the public. The Navy obtains its drugs, by contract, and it gets them in bulk 383 and distributes them. Under these circumstances, it appears to me that there is no necessity for the expenditure of £1,800 of this Vote, and I beg to move a reduction of the Vote to that amount.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item E, Cost of Medicines, be reduced by £1,800."—(Mr. Arthur O'Connor.)
§ (1.37.) THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR DEPARTMENT (Mr. BRODRICK, Surrey, Guildford)
I know that the hon. Member has taken great interest in this subject before the Public Accounts Committee, and I have no doubt that there is a difference in the practice of the War Office and the Admiralty in regard to the supply of medicines and drugs. The Admiralty receive them and place them on board ship, whereas in connection with the War Department there are a very great number of stations which have acquired great experience in the packing of small parcels, and it is impossible to receive the articles in the same way as the Admiralty, unless we were to set up a station at Woolwich, or somewhere else, for the purpose of dividing the medicines and distributing them to the different army stations. The hon. Gentleman has pointed out that the first thing to consider is that the high quality of the medicines shall be maintained. In times past, in the various campaigns which have occurred, there has been a considerable amount of criticism as to the quality of the drugs supplied, and the War Office, in taking certain particular firms and limiting the supply to them, have no doubt considered that it is more important to have an absolutely reliable supply than to secure the lowest price by competition. The Public Accounts Committee, in their Report, after taking evidence, admit that there would be great difficulty in introducing the Admiralty system into the War Office. They feel the great importance that is attached to the maintenance of the high quality of the medicines supplied to the Army, and they add that the experience of other departments ought to receive the attention of the War Office. I think the Report of the Public Accounts Committee shows, at all events, that they are not 384 prepared to take any steps in recommending the House of Commons to depart from the present practice. I quite agree with the hon. Member as to the advantages of competition, but with regard to prices in this case, they are constantly changing, and we take independent means of arriving at them. If we found that we were being charged anything beyond the market rate we should at once call for a fresh supply by competition, if necessary. But as long as we are satisfied that we are not paying beyond the usual market rate, I hope the Committee will not press us to abandon the present system, by means of which we have been able to place the supply in the hands of firms of the highest standing. We feel quite sure that the high quality of the medicines and drugs themselves will continue to be maintained.
§ (1.42.) MR. A. O'CONNOR
It is perfectly true that the conclusion arrived at by the Public Accounts Committee was most tame and impotent. The evidence before the Committee was of the strongest possible description. It was admitted that the trade discount was not paid or asked for, and that no practical or bonâ fide attempt had been made to ascertain whether other firms would supply equally good drugs at lower prices. The whole evidence was in favour of some practical inquiry at any rate being made by the authorities at the War Office. When the representative of the Army Medical Department was asked by myself whether he would cause some inquiry to be made, he said, "I should have to get the permission of the Secretary of State for War before I could do that." I now ask the Secretary of State if the Department has applied for permission. In answer to myself, the representative of the Department said he was not unwilling to make inquiry of independent firms as to their willingness to supply drugs on at least as good terms as those which are now obtained, and I received the same answer—that he would have to get the permission of the Secretary of State. I presume that the right hon. Gentleman has not been asked for permission.
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR
In the meantime, the country is put to an unnecessary expense, and the only plea put 385 forward in justification is that it is so important to get pure drugs. Everybody knows that, and is prepared to admit it; but I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to say upon what ground he pretends for a moment that Apothecaries' Hall or Messrs. Savory & Moore supply better drugs than some half-dozen manufacturing and wholesale chemists in the City of London. Why should he suggest that Messrs. Savory & Moore supply drugs that can be better depended upon than the wholesale maunfacturers? Under the present system the money of the country is being wasted, and I am sorry the Government have not undertaken to cause an inquiry into the matter. I have no doubt the quantities required could be obtained from other firms, and that other firms would be as capable of distributing the drugs, and as willing to distribute them as Messrs. Savory & Moore.
§ (1.46.) MR. E. STANHOPE
What the hon. Member has said as to the evidence given before the Committee by the Army Medical Department has impressed me, and I shall be perfectly willing to undertake an investigation to see whether we can get drugs equal in quantity and quality and at a cheaper rate elsewhere. I will undertake, before next Session, to look into the matter and see if we can with safety to the public service obtain what we want elsewhere.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
2. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,555,000 (including a supplementary sum of £180,000), be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge for the pay and allowances (exclusive of supplies, clothing, &c.) of the Militia (to a number not exceeding 136,448, including 30,000 Militia Reserve), the Yeomanry, and the Volunteers, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1891.
§ (1.47.) SIR W. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)
I should like to say a few words as to the present condition of the Militia. No one will deny the importance of the force, and I think the country will be glad to have some infor- 386 mation with regard to that force, because it desires that it should be kept in as efficient a condition as possible. I do not deny there are a large number of Militia regiments that are in a most excellent condition, where Colonels and officers do their duty, and do it thoroughly; but it is equally true there are other Militia regiments which do not come up to that high standard, and to whom, it is only right that the attention of the Secretary for War should be publicly directed, so that he may make further inquiries with regard to their condition. I am not going to deny the great interest my right hon. Friend has taken in this force, and the remedies he has sought to apply to it to increase its efficiency; but, still, it is the fact that the Militia is not in that condition which we should like to see it in. That force may, in certain circumstances, which we all hope will not arise, be called upon to play a most important part in the defence of the country, and schemes have frequently been proposed to make it still nearer a portion of the Army than it now is. I myself have advocated schemes by which every militiaman, by an increase of bounty, will be induced to enrol himself to serve in any part of the world for which he may be called upon. At present we know that 30,000 of the best men of the Militia are enrolled for the Militia Reserve, and the great fear of all Colonels of Militia is that, upon an emergency, they will lose these men, who are the backbone of their regiments, and will be left with nothing but mere boys and recruits. In the Peninsula, at Waterloo, and in the Crimea, I do not know what this country would have done without the Militia, and, therefore, my right hon. Friend will do well if he can make this force, not only in name but in reality, the third and fourth battalions of the first and second battalions which are now formed of the Regular Army. I believe that it would give a great impetus to the Militia and increase its efficiency, if retired officers, living in the county to which a regiment belongs, could be induced to join that regiment. The questions of the closer alliance with Line Regiments, as well as the efficiency of the officers, were most ably raised at the United Service Institution, and approved by many Military Officers. At the beginning of this year a Com- 387 mittee, presided over by Lord Harris, reported upon this Foree. It went into every detail and made certain recommendations, which my right hon. Friend has carried out to only a limited extent.
§ SIR W. BARTTELOT
That may be the case; but many of the recommendations have been cut short by my right hon. Friend, and thus they have been made less efficient. My right hon. Friend will agree with me, that one of the first things to engender in every Colonel of Militia, is a desire to visit the depôt barracks where his recruits are being trained and see each batch of recruits, and thus make himself acquainted with the men. Another matter to which I desire to direct the attention of my right hon. Friend is this, one officer is now allowed to go to the depôt if there are 40 recruits, and the Committee recommended that he should go when there are only 25 recruits. In some instances it might be very easy to get 40 recruits, but in others it would be difficult to get them, and I think it would be a benefit, not only to the officer, but to the recruits, if the number were reduced to 25. The Committee also recommended that further encouragement should be given to officers to make themselves efficient at the infantry schools. If subalterns go to these schools and obtain captains' certificates, they ought to have pay and allowances when they stay there, and the same with captains, if they obtain a field-officer's certificate they should also receive pay and allowances. It would be money well spent in the interests of the country. Opportunity ought to be given to officers to attend both Woolwich and Hythe, so that in each battalion there should be a proper qualified artillery or musketry instructor. Coming now to the very serious question of non-commissioned officers, there is only one way, so far as I can see, to improve this body, and that is, to give greater encouragement in the shape of money to the old line sergeants to go into the Militia. The ordinary sergeants are neither effective nor efficient, and many of them are not able to maintain their status after the annual training is over, and they lose the hold upon the men. I have been astonished to find that 388 many of these sergeants are afterward the servants of those who were privates in the Militia. This is a very serious question, because such men are almost bound to be lenient: and therefore too much cannot be done to encourage noncommissioned line officers to come into the Militia. Another serious question is the introduction of the musketry instruction recommended by the Committee. The Committe thought the Militia recruits should have 14 days' extra instruction, but only seven additional days have been granted, and, considering the efficiency of the force, and the issue of a new rifle, it is absolutely necessary that these men should understand most thoroughly what is required of them. Dealing with minor matters, I think that when the men go under canvas in bad weather, they should have tent-boards supplied to them. You take men out of their own comfortable cottages at all seasons of the year, and it is only right that you should take such precautions as can be adopted, without serious inconvenience, to save them from serious consequences to their health. Then, I think they should be supplied with helmets like the line regiments. At present they are sent out in their Glengarry caps, and many of them make this a source of complaint. These are all more or less serious questions which, to my mind, deserve the serious attention of my right hon. Friend. I would suggest, in addition to the other recommendations I have made, that a proper roster should be kept, so that each Militia regiment may in its turn be drilled with the Regular Army. If you go to Alder-shot, you will find there London regiments and Surrey regiments and Berkshire regiments, at Strensall regiments, only from neighbouring districts, but none from more distant parts of the country. Some of the Scotch and North Country regiments have not been brigaded with regular troops for 14 years. Though the cost of carrying out my suggestions, might be considerable, I say it would be cheerfully borne, because the people would know that in times of emergency they would have a force on which they could thoroughly rely. My right hon. Friend cannot do too much to encourage the Militia, because in times of war Militiamen have always been ready to fill up the gaps in the line.
§ (2.2.) COLONEL SANDYS (Bootle Division of Lancashire)
Having been connected with the Militia for 16 years, and having the honour at present to command a Militia battalion, I take this opportunity of bringing a few practical points under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War. I agree with much that has been said by the hon. and gallant Baronet who has just sat down, and I particularly concur in his remark that we should do our best to make the Militia force thoroughly efficient. I think the present system of training recruits is not the best that could be devised. In former days the Militiaman received 10s. as bounty on enlistment, and came up altogether some months later for their recruits-course of instruction drill; but in many cases, after receiving this bounty, they did not appear. Now, the alternative course adopted is, that the recruits should come up to be drilled as goon as they all enlist. This has certain advantages, but the men come up in twos and threes, and the Drill-Sergeants are all the year round ceaselessly engaged in drilling squads of only a few men, whom they never can bring up to a state of efficiency, because they were so few together. The hon. Baronet said a Militia officer might be appointed to attend with recruits' drill for every 50 or every 25 recruits present at instruction. I should like to see a squad of even 25 recruits, or even 15, in the regiment with which I am connected present at one time together in a squad. The remedy I would propose for the present disadvantages is to fix four dates during the year for the training of Militia recruits, and to let the men come up in batches, each set being taken through the entire course and made ready to join the ranks before the next batch is called up. At present, the time given for the training of recruits is 56 days. From this have to be deducted Sundays and half Saturdays and all days in hospital. Every man on joining the Army is compelled to be vaccinated, and after he has been vaccinated he is generally unable to shoulder a rifle for sir or seven days. The result of this and other loss of drilling time is that he comes out of the recruits' preliminary training knowing little about his work, in fact only half drilled. I would advocate that if the time of training is 390 fixed at 56 days it should be a clear 56 days working, and that there should be 14 days for musketry instruction in addition to this. The same thing is to be said about the 28 or rather 27 days' training for the Battalion. Let the 27 days' training be 27 working days—under the present system there are only 16 whole days and three half-days out of the 27 days for which a Militia Regiment is called up for training annually. The hon. and gallant Baronet spoke about the advisability of having good non-commissioned officers of Militia. I agree with him. We have two steady Line sergeants for a company, and I would suggest that they should never be allowed to fall below that number. The cook sergeant should, in my opinion, be a supernumerary. Militia sergeants are really of very little use in the training of battalions. The young officers frequently know nothing about their duties, and use their Militia training merely as a stepping-stone towards entering the Line, and I am sorry to say that many of them seem to think they come into the Militia in order merely to play lawn-tennis and amuse themselves. Another point to be considered is that of the powers of Militia officers Commanding. At present, if a non-commissioned officer misconducts himself he cannot be tried by Regimental Court Martial, and all that can be done is to reprimand him. To reprimand a Militia non-commissioned officer is, as the French say, pour rire. Then there is the question of the allowances of Militia officers on joining the Regiment for its annual training. Militia officers are all supposed to come from the county to which the regiment belongs, but, in point of fact, they do not do so. I know, however, one Lancashire regiment which has not one Lancashire officer in it, and I maintain that an officer ought to have his full railway fare from the place from which he proceeds to join his battalion, and his full fare from the place of training back to his home. At present it is only given from the limits of the county to which the regiment belongs. In the case of a mounted officer, his horse ought to be carried at the expense of the State. An officer has also to take a considerable quantity of baggage with him, and that should be conveyed by luggage-train at the expense of the 391 State. If this system were followed it would make a great difference to many Militia officers who have to look at every sovereign they spend, for the pay of a Militia officer does not nearly meet his expenditure out of pocket during the training. Allusion has been made to Infantry Schools of Instruction, and I wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether, instead of attendance at these, he will allow officers who wish for a certificate of proficiency in drill to put in the same time with a Line regiment, and get the same allowance as if they had attended a School of Instruction, obtaining a similar certificate if found competent at the end of their drill course with the Line regiment. I will not trouble the Committee further. I trust the suggestions I have made will be deemed worthy of consideration, as they are the result of practical experience in the working of a Militia regiment.
§ (2.15.) DR. FARQUHARSON
I have been strongly urged to bring before the House a matter in relation to the difficulty of obtaining recruits for a regiment in my native county, the Gordon Highlanders. This, which used to be a very strong regiment, seems to be in danger of melting away. Lieutenant-Colonel Man, an officer of distinction, who has served abroad, and who is thoroughly devoted to his work, represents that under present conditions, it is difficult to get recruits, and those he gets are not of the right sort. It was admitted by nearly all the colonels of country regiments who were called before the recent Committee that the old system, with its conditions of bounty and preliminary drill, worked far more satisfactorily in attracting desirable recruits than the new system. Under the old system of preliminary drill and ten shillings, countrymen from the agricultural districts were attracted to the Service in batches, and the money was an inducement to men long out of work. Under the old conditions, men were drilled together at the Militia Barracks, and the preliminary stages of service were more pleasant than now, when one, two, and three men are drilled in the presence of jeering regulars who sneer at the new recruits. I daresay the new plan is better for towns, but it is not so for the country districts, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, Is 392 it not possible to make the system more elastic, the towns and the country districts being permitted to act each in their own way in this matter? I believe that if the old system were revived, the Militia would soon regain its former popularity.
§ (2.18.) MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
Since leaving the Regular Army I have had considerable experience in this branch of the service, and I quite agree with the observations of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot). I recognise the importance of this Vote not only because of the largeness of the amount involved, but also because of the importance of maintaining the strength and efficiency of the Militia, upon which the Secretary of War must largely depend for the completion or filling up of the 2nd and 3rd Army Corps. The discipline and material of the force leave very much to be desired. I cannot understand why the Secretary for War cannot change the amateur character of the great mass of officers by leavening them with officers from the Line. I do not see why an officer, when he applies for leave to retire, should not have imposed upon him the condition of serving half-a-dozen years with a Militia battalion. Officers, as a rule, join the Militia with the idea of having an easy time, and, so far as my experience goes, they get it; and, as regards the men, I would suggest to the Secretary for War that he should send a certain number of regiments, say 20, every year to Aldershot, to be brigaded with regular troops, and drilled under such a general as Sir Evelyn Wood. Instead of that, under the present system only some half-a-dozen regiments are sent to drill with the regulars, while the outlying country regiments never get a chance of doing so. The inspection, as I know from considerable experience, is little better than a solemn farce. The inspecting officer, probably the General commanding the district, goes down, the regiment is paraded, there is a march past, the general congratulates the Colonel, the Colonel compliments the officers, the officers thank the men, and the whole thing is over. I happen to know one particular case, and I am prepared to lay it before the right hon. Gentleman, if he likes, in which there was a recent inspection of a battalion of Militia, and a flagrant breach of regula- 393 lations was going on the whole time, but the General Officer did not allude to it, perhaps did not observe it, and his speech was as complimentary as ever. As to the strength of the Militia, I think the right hon. Gentleman over-estimates it when he puts it at 96,000, because every one knows that under the system by which the men are called out for training at different periods, a certain number of men are counted half-a-dozen times over, and this cannot be prevented unless you call out a certain number of regiments in the same district at the same time. I think attention to these and a few other points would tend greatly to the improvement of the Militia in all respects.
§ (2.22.) MR. E. STANHOPE
Hon. Members do me no more than justice when they say I attach the highest importance to matters connected with the Militia Service. I can assure the Committee that the War Office has given, and is giving, close attention to the important question of the officering of the Militia, both in the commissioned and non-commissioned ranks. The Committee referred to, the majority of whom were Militia officers, made certain recommendations to me, and I have carried out the greater part of them at an increase of £49,000 in this year's Estimates, which is a substantial proof that I wish to do what is possible for the Force. I am not prepared, however, to yield to the numerous demands for a still further increase of expenditure until, at least, the new system has been very fully tried, and until I am fully satisfied that for what the country expects from the Militia a further increase of expenditure is required. It is a custom to depreciate the value of the Militia Force, but I may say this. I have had conversations with many distinguished officers on the subject, including Sir E. Wood, than whom there is no more capable officer in the country. Sir E. Wood spoke in the most favourable terms of the Militia regiments that had come under his notice as commanding officer at Aldershot, and said they were extremely efficient for the short training they have had. Among the recommendations made and carried out are seven days' extension of drilling, which involves a large cost; additional musketry training; further instruction of officers; and the attraction of non- 394 commissioned officers on their retirement from the Line to the Militia by a small grant and a promise that their pay should be raised to that of the permanent staff. Other improvements have been made, including the issue of tent-boards when the Militia are put under canvas, and of flannel instead of cotton shirting. An hon. Gentleman opposite had called attention to the desirability of introducing what he called a more elastic-system. I think there is a great deal in that, and so far as I am able, without injury to the public service, I shall be very glad to do so. The hon. Member for Essex spoke of the introduction of officers from the Line into the Militia. That, I think, is very desirable, but I would remind my hon. and gallant Friend that we have tried to effect this by offering exceptionally favourable terms to officers of the Line who consent to join—the Militia, but, so far, I cannot say from what cause, we have not met with any considerable success. I entirely agree that it would be an advantage to the Militia to have more opportunities of drilling with the Regular troops, and I should much like to carry out a plan of that sort, but there is considerable difficulty in the way, and considerable expense involved in moving battalions a long distance to Aldershot. Allusion has been made to the position of the Militia in the event of our being engaged in a foreign war. Of course, in such an event, the Militia would have to be called upon to a large extent to fill up the ranks of the regular Army; but if our forces had to be mobilized for home defence only, then the Militia Reserve would not be taken for the Line, but would remain with the Militia, and in that way a force nominally of 96,000 men would be held at disposal. As regards home defence, the country is, therefore, in a very much more favourable condition than has been put before the Committee. I hope that I have answered sufficiently the questions that have been put to me, and that I have shown that the War Office has given close attention to the various matters that have been raised.
§ (2.30.) MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
I take the opportunity this Vote offers to call attention to the appointment of Colonel Sewell to the 395 command of the Volunteer Battalion of the Essex Regiment. In 1882 this gentleman appears to have been engaged in organizing disturbances of political meetings, and to have reverted to the practice in 1883, of issuing forged tickets for a meeting.
§ MR PICKERSGILL
The charge has frequently been made against Colonel Sewell, and if he is innocent he would have appeared before the Select Committee to rebut the charge.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
He has taken every opportunity of denying these charges, and I do not think the hon. Member has a shadow of proof against him.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
As Colonel Sewell distinctly declined to appear before the Committee, which was the only occasion upon which his statements could be properly examined, I am justified in saying that there is the strongest possible case of suspicion against him with regard to this second offence. At the time the appointment to the command of this regiment became vacant Major Charles Ford was second in command. He is a very experienced officer, and had a reasonable claim to be appointed; but, unfortunately, he was a Liberal candidate for Devonport, and that fact appears to have prejudiced him. It will not be questioned that appointments to the Volunteer Force should not be governed by political partisan feeling, but in this case there is—not to place it too high—considerable ground for suspicion that the appointment was influenced by political considerations.
§ (2.33.) MR. E. STANHOPE
I had never heard of Colonel Sewell or Major Ford until yesterday, and I had no idea whether they were Conservatives or Liberals. The Military Authorities have exercised their choice in this matter without the smallest regard to political opinions, and they have always evinced a marked objection to such being brought forward. Colonel Sewell was selected on his merits and military qualifications, and I am satisfied he will make a very efficient Commanding Officer.
§ (2.35.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid.)
I have listened with great interest to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman on the Militia, but he did not mention what I have several times called attention to—the exceptional position of the Irish Militia. It is really ridiculous, the position they occupy in consequence of the way in which they are officered. It is a noteworthy fact, so far as Ireland is concerned, that year after year the police records show that hundreds of these Militiamen are tried and convicted for absenting themselves from the different trainings. We find also that the effect of the training they get is to make them mere useless members of society. I have had some experience of Poor Law administration, and I can say that a large proportion of the able-bodied male paupers in the South of Ireland belong to the Militia. The Vice-Guardians of the Cork Union will confirm me in this. These men leave the workhouse and take part in the annual drill, and afterwards return and become a burden on the ratepayers. Again, last year while I was the guest of the Chief Secretary in Irish Prisons, I had the opportunity of speaking to several Medical Officials, and they told me that a surprising number of Militiamen spend the major portion of their time in gaol. That is the state of the Irish Militia, and it is not such as the right hon. Gentleman has reason to be proud of. A great deal is due to the bad example of Militia officers. I have heard from many military friends expressions of indignant disgust at the mismanagement of the Irish Militia. Any one living in the North, South, East, or West of Ireland, who knows anything about Militia regiments, is perfectly well aware that the annual period of training is nothing more than a carousal, and that card play goes on from early morning until late at night. I have seen it myself over and over again. The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke about the inspections. To my mind they are nothing more nor less than a solemn farce. Regiments are put through a few evolutions, the Commanding Officers congratulate the Regimental Officers, the Regimental Officers congratulate the men, and the whole thing winds up with a banquet and a ball, which are 397 the principal items in the day's programme. I know that some of these Militia regiments are looked upon as a training ground for young officers who seek to enter the Service through the Militia. I maintain that they are bad schools for these young men, who get into the habit of gambling, and often, instead of being able to pass into the Army, become derelict and have to seek another means of gaining a livelihood. I know many instances in which young men have thus been ruined, and in which the facts have been hushed up by the Commanding Officer in order to save the credit of the regiment. I have seen disgraceful scenes in connection with these Militia regiments, and I only wish hon. Members would look into these matters for themselves. The hon. Member for South Tyrone says he wishes to promote temperance. Well, if he would only trouble himself to witness the scenes which occur when Militia regiments are disbanded on arriving at Bandon terminus, in the city of Cork, I think he would have his temperance principles strengthened. Now, I happened to live right opposite that particular station for many years, and I witnessed the disgraceful scenes which were going on. From an early hour in the morning until midnight the station was besieged by poor women and children awaiting the arrival of the train, and when the regiment reached the terminus, and the men were disbanded, they all adjourned to the nearest public-houses, and scenes of great disorder were continually occurring. I say positively that at this time the streets were never safe after an early hour in the evening. I do not think it is wise or right to disband all the men at once. I have seen the Adjutant of a Militia regiment actually beaten by the men, and the pickets driven back. Surely some steps could, and ought, to be taken to prevent such occurrences. May I suggest to the Government that they should commence the necessary reforms by first dealing with the officers, and making them real officers. Instead of letting them look upon the annual training as so many days' sport, let them look well after the men; let them try and promote true soldierly habits in the regiment; and if they do that, I think a different state of affairs would soon prevail. The 398 Secretary of State for War has I understand, approved some scheme for passing old pensioners into the Militia regiments. I think that is not a satisfactory arrangement, for it is calculated to cause a certain amount of friction between these pensioners and the permanent staff. I have on two or three occasions brought under the notice of the House some questions in connection with the Waterford Artillery Militia, who, I think, have not been treated in a proper and considerate way. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will look into this matter, and attempt to redress the grievances complained of. Then there comes the question of vaccination. During this short annual training a good deal of time is spent upon vaccination. Why could not that be avoided by only enlisting men who had been already vaccinated? I think there is a good deal of ridiculous humbug and bumkum about the Militia Force. The Militia Officers try to ape the officers of the Line, especially in the matter of their uniform, and if they would only give the attention devoted to this question to the real duties of officers I think it would be much better for the force, and we should get a marked improvement in it.
§ (3.0.) MR. BRODRICK
The hon. Member has made a very long speech about the Irish Militia, and it is impossible for me to deal with all the points that he has raised. He has had a good deal to say against the Force, and I can only reply that the reports which have reached my right hon. Friend, the Secretary for War, do not bear out the hon. Gentleman's view as to the condition of the Militia regiments. At the same time the hon. Gentleman will recollect that the Irish command is now about to be placed in the hands of Lord Wolseley, of whose military capacity the House entertains a very high opinion. We may rest assured that statements of the character made by the hon. Gentleman respecting the condition of the Militia force in Ireland will not escape the attention of Lord Wolseley. I think there could be no officer more determined that every regiment under his command shall be efficient, and he certainly will bring himself en rapport with all that is going on. The hon. Member has said some- 399 thing about the number of Militiamen who, when the training is not proceeding, live in workhouses. I think the number is not quite so large as he imagines, and it is not infrequently the case that men who have come from the workhouses to the training enlist into the Line at the end of the training.
§ (3.4.) DR. TANNER
I think if the hon. Gentleman will make an inquiry of the officials in Irish Workhouses he will find that what I have said in this respect is accurate. Now, I should like to say that I object to the system under which the men are trained at Spike Island. If you want to make these men thoroughly efficient it would be far better to put them in barracks with a good Line regiment. They would then have an example of military life which is certainly not afforded them at the present time, for now they have every opportunity of contracting bad habits.
§ (3.5.) MR. P. J. O'BRIEN (Tipperary, N.)
I wish to put a question, not for the first time, as to the conduct of officers in taking part in political agitation while they are engaged in active service, and in assisting in evictions of Irish tenants.
§ (3.6.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I have no personal knowledge of the condition of Militia regiments, but I must say I think the spirit in which my hon. Friend's remarks were met by the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench is not calculated to inspire us with much hope that there will be an improvement. I rise to bring under the notice of the Government the conduct of certain regiments. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the constitution of the Army to be able to say whether they were Militia or not, but it was a regiment on duty at Falcarragh when I was there last year, and the conduct of the men on that occasion certainly bore out the general description of their behaviour which my hon. Friend has given us today. There was great disorder and drunkenness going on every evening while the regiment was there. The few public-houses which exist there were always open and constantly filled with the men. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Tipperary was on one occasion assaulted by the men without the slightest provocation, and I do hope that the Government will take some steps to put an end to this misconduct.
§ (3.8.) MR. E. HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I have no personal acquaintance with the officers of the Kerry Militia Regiment; but I know that the men are a very excellently conducted body of men. The officers are puppies and cads drawn from various parts of the country. I must say that they have made for themselves a nice name by the nightly scenes of disorder in the streets of Tralee. This has been going on for twelve years, and I hope a stop will soon be put to it. A few of them amuse themselves by wrenching our door-knockers off. Some of my friends joined with me in putting a stop to that practice, and we were successful. The next act of these young officers was, when they had left the County Club one night, to go down a particular street and break every pane of glass which they could reach with their sticks. We hear great protests sometimes about cruelty to animals, yet these officers on one occasion took it into their heads to tar a goat, swamp it in oil, and then to set fire to it. These are the men who play at soldiers. I say that they are the merest ragtag and bobtail of landlordism. If they were wanted to fight for their country, they would either become Members of this House, or they would get some appointment which would relieve them of the necessity of endangering their precious lives. The officers mostly are young fellows whose fathers do not know what to do with them, and their rowdyism, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, causes extreme dissatisfaction among the inhabitants of the town of Tralee, which is one of the few places where the old-fashioned night-watchman is still in existence. Many of the officers are Justices of the Peace, or sons of Magistrates, and it is most interesting on some morning after these scenes to hear the moral lectures delivered by the occupants of the Bench. One night the officers broke into the house of a Sub-Sheriff of the County and committed an indecent disfigurement on his person. Those who did this belonged to the County Club clique. These people are a distinct class from the inhabitants generally, and they prove that they are gentlemen by acting in a most blackguardly manner. I do not know whether the Minister for War has any control over them, but in order to try and get some assurance from him, I beg 401 to move that you do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
, being of opinion that the Motion was an abuse of the Rules of the House, declined to propose the Question thereupon to the Committee.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
It is a legitimate grievance that the Minister at the head of the Department should not stay in the House while the Department for which he is responsible is being discussed. I regard this matter as one of real gravity——
§ MR. E. HARRINGTON
I have nothing further to say on that subject, but I would press on the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War that there ought to be greater care exercised in the control of the Militia. There was a time, last July, when there were some very disgraceful proceedings in connection with the Militia of Kerry. There is a certain individual who has a command in the Militia, and who has certainly managed to bring great disgrace upon the battalion with which he is connected. He goes there at the annual training, but he dares not show his face at any other part of the year, because he is so much in debt that nearly every bailiff in the county would be likely to take him in arrest. He can only show himself at such a time by reason of the protection afforded him by his uniform. I am sorry any attack has been made by my hon. Friend on the militiamen themselves, because, whether they come from the farms or from the workhouse, they are a much more decent body than their officers. Indeed, I do not know that there is a more contemptible set than the tag-rag and bob-tail of the officers of the Militia. I hope they will in future exercise a little more control over themselves, and that they will not avail themselves of a temporary opportunity during the training season of annoying and outraging the feelings of the people, as has hitherto too often been the case. There ought to be some control on the part of the Authorities, whereby they can be prevented from exercising the offensive functions they indulge; because the Irish people ought not to be wantonly, annoyed and insulted.
§ (3.18.) DR. TANNER
I had no intention to make any attack on the Militia. All I desired to do was to point out certain disgraceful scenes that have occurred at certain annual trainings; and I think the committee will have understood that what I referred to as the cause of all this trouble in the Militia was the conduct of certain persons, such as have been alluded to by my hon. Friend—men of the landlord or well-to-do class, who go into the Militia for the purpose of gaining a sort of spurious reputation, and of taking a false position in society. I pointed out that the drunken habits of these officers were a source of serious danger to the men, as I am sure must be obvious to every one who reflects upon the matter. There is another point in regard to which I think the Committee ought to have some explanation. It is not, in point of fact, an Irish question—I allude to the Yeomanry Corps. I do not know that we have many of these Yeomanry Cavalry in Ireland; but surely in this nineteenth century some attempt ought to be made to do away with the absurd system whereby that force is organised and carried on. I admit that the uniform is a very gorgeous one, and there are some splendid specimens of it at the Military Exhibition; but I should think that that uniform is far more costly than it should be in the case of men who do not belong to the wealthy class. At the present moment, the Yeomanry force is not an efficient force, and, in spite of its uniform, it is not even a showy force, because, as the men provide their own horses, they are badly mounted, at any rate as regards uniformity. On account of the shortness of the periods of service, they can never be completely trained, and, indeed, are, even at their best, but badly trained. What could any General—I do not care whether he be an officer possessing all the qualifications of General Roberts, Sir Evelyn Wood, and Lord Wolseley rolled into one—do with a body trained and mounted as this is? Why, Sir, they are mounted largely on cart-horses, and if you wanted them to gallop past they would tail off like a body of Irish mares in a three-mile drag hunt. Such a force is simply ridiculous, and the question of maintaining it ought to command the serious attention of the House. Moreover, the point as to the sabres served 403 out to these men deserves consideration. If you want to make the Yeomanry efficient, instead of letting them provide their own horses, as they now do, why should they not be furnished with mounts from some of the regular cavalry regiments, so that for the period of their training they would at any rate have proper steeds, so that when called on to trot or gallop past they might do so in decent formation instead of presenting the ridiculous scenes we constantly witness now. Besides this, it is not satisfactory that those men should, as at present, have to ride so many miles to parade, where at wet seasons they appear in a really filthy condition; with horses and uniforms splashed all over with the mud of dirty roads and lanes. Is that the sort of thing the authorities like to see? And does it tend in any way to increase the efficiency of the men? I have only seen the Yeomanry out on two or three occasions, and I have also seen some of their officers decorated in gorgeous uniforms, on the bench behind Her Majesty's Ministers when they have been called on to move or second the Address to the Throne. I think that if any inquiry is necessary in regard to the Yeomanry Force, the means might easily be afforded by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who are conversant with cavalry matters. This would be of some practical purpose, and would be much better than talking here more or less at random, as must be the case in continuing such a Debate as this. I now beg to move the reduction of this Vote by the sum of £1,000 in connection with the Yeomanry Cavalry, in order that we may be enabled to obtain the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War that some useful reforms are intended in regard to this force.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That Item H, Yeomanry, be reduced by £1,000,"—(Dr. Tanner,)—put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to. (3.30).
§ 3. £655,000, for Transport and Remounts.
§ (3.50) SIR W. BARTTELOT
I believe I may congratulate my right hon. Friend, but especially General Ravenhill, on having supplied the Army 404 with such an efficient lot of remounts, and also on having got as many as 16,000 horses registered which can be used in case of necessity. But there is a question that I wish to put to him, and it is this—whether there are not to be some Cavalry Manœuvres at Aldershot, and, if so, whether the Inspecting General of Cavalry is not to be in command of these troops. It is an important question, and I have no doubt that there is some very good reason why he should not be asked to command these troops on this particular occasion. Still as Inspecting General of Cavalry, he ought, on an occasion of that kind, to have the opportunity of being able to state whether these troops are or are not in good order and condition.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I have to say in reply to my hon. and gallant Friend that the manœuvres of this year are not general manœuvres; they are mainly to exercise the Cavalry Brigade at Aldershot under the command of Sir Baker Russell, and of course under the supervision of Sir Evelyn Wood, the General Officer who at this time is absolutely Chief General.
§ (3.53.) DR. TANNER
In the public Press recently there have been several complaints in connection with the purchase of horses. Certainly the horses of Ireland, if I am rightly informed, have been boycotted in this matter. Anybody who will take the trouble to inquire will find that the cream of the French cavalry horses, and a great number of German cavalry horses, are drawn from Ireland. If that is so, why are they not bought by the English Government? As good mounts are so difficult to obtain, notably in the present day, a satisfactory move might be made in this matter by the Home Secretary. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on what has just been said by the right hon. Baronet, that he has 16,000 horses. But what I should like to call attention to in this Vote is the payment for the conveyance of horses and men—charges which would be more conveniently shown in the Army Vote. I think it would be much more advisable to sub-divide the matter, and show what is for the Army and what for the Navy.
§ (3.55.) MR. E. STANHOPE
I have to say, in reply to the complaint about sea transport appearing in these Estimates, 405 that it is a system which has been adopted after careful consideration, with a view to truly showing what the Army costs. With regard to the purchase of horses, we have experienced no difficulty. I do not think the hon. Member desires us to buy horses in Canada when we can purchase them in the South of Ireland. I think it is best to let well alone.
§ (3.56.) DR. TANNER
I should not like to see any country boycotted, and I wish to see Canada fairly treated, especially after the farmers have spent such a large amount of money in stocking their farms. But I think there ought to be fairplay all round.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 4. £2,049,100, for Warlike and other Stores—Supply and Repair.
§ (4.0.) SIR W. BARTTELOT
I should like to make a few remarks upon this most important Vote. I must, however, first congratulate my right hon. Friend on the statement he made the other night that the manufacture of guns had now overtaken the demand, and that guns were now ready for every ship and every fort, and, I presume, he included all the coaling stations also. That is, indeed, a very great statement to be able to make. I should like, however, to ask this one question: Are these very large guns to be still manufactured? I do not think, so far as can be judged, that they have been a great success. In the case of war, if these enormous guns once got out of order, there would be a difficulty in dealing with them which I believe would prove insuperable, and in consequence they would be of little or no use. But, be that as it may, the question is a very important one, because the smaller guns are much more easy to make, much more easy to handle, and much more efficient in service. Then I come to another question—as to the new rifle. I am very anxious to hear from my right hon. Friend what is his own belief as to the new rifle. I have had a very large number of communications from various people with regard to it, and many of these people do not believe it to be the best arm that can be found. They may be prejudiced, but, at the same time, when we look at the enormous amount we have spent on this new arm, we 406 ought, at any rate, to know that we have got an efficient weapon—as efficient a one as can be found in the world. It is like going back to ancient history, I am afraid, to speak of the Martini-Henry rifle, but on its first introduction, when Mr. Cardwell, afterwards Lord Cardwell, was Secretary for War, I brought forward a Motion to have a Committee granted, which I much wish had been granted, because the alterations in the Martini-Henry were so great that it was almost a different weapon from the original one. I should like to know, therefore, what was the date on which the Select Committee was formed to inquire into this new magazine rifle, whether they altered the plans or not, how long they were in considering the plans, and whether the Committee consisted of the best and most practical persons to consider and judge the weapon. I should like to know on what date the pattern was sealed, because after the pattern was sealed I presume the making of the rifle was commenced, and I should like also a return, of the expense incurred up to the present time with respect to it; because there is no doubt the rifle has cost a great deal. I have always contended that it is an unwise thing to have a Committee to deal with these matters, instead of leaving it to the profession or trade to manufacture the articles in competition, and then giving a large order to the firm which has succeeded in perfecting the weapon. We should also know whether the pattern of the cartridge is finally decided upon, and whether the complete pattern has been sealed. I believe there has been some difficulty with regard to smokeless powder, and that very lately the sample had not been sealed. There are many opinions on the question of smokeless power, but I do not wish to go into them, and I am quite sure my right hon. Friend will give us all the information it is in his power to give, both as regard the weapon and the ammunition. He may say it is not desirable that foreigners should know the number of our arms, and that is a question I will not ask him; but I will ask how many of these rifles are being manufactured per week throughout the country, for both the Government factories and the trade are turning out large numbers. They are very costly weapons, and though if they are the 407 best there is nothing to be said, yet if they are not we ought to know the real state of the case. My right hon. Friend had, I know, to decide a very difficult question, but I have information from Bisley that this arm was withdrawn from the prize competition for which it had been entered. Whether that is correct or not I am not going now to inquire, but that and other damaging statements are being made by people who ought to know whether the arm is a good one or a bad one. I want to know, then, whether the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that the arm is the best that can be procured, whether he is prepared to supply it to all the troops, and whether it can be relied on with confidence by the soldier in time of war. It is a great advantage in the case of these weapons when the soldier can take them to pieces and put them together again without being compelled to have recourse to the armourer, should anything go wrong. This Vote in connection with the Navy Vote amounts to £3,512,000. That is an enormous sum, and we ought to take care that we expend it wisely and well. In conclusion, I would only observe, having sat upon the Royal Commission on Warlike Stores, that it is a matter for serious consideration whether there ought not to be an independent Ordnance Department to deal, not only with the Army, but also with the Navy. A grave responsibility would be taken from my right hon. Friend, and would be put into the hands of the highest Authorities you could find.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
My hon. Friend will observe that this question does not arise on this Vote, and I could not possibly answer him with regard to ordnance.
§ SIR W. BARTTELOT
No, it does not exactly, but yet it is closely connected with this Vote, for the Ordnance Department has to deal with every item in this Vote. The question is of such vital importance that it deserves the most serious consideration. There fore, I should like to know from my right hon. Friend what his intentions as to the future are.
§ (4.10.) MR. E. STANHOPE
In attempting to answer my hon. Friend before any further questions are asked, I cannot follow him with regard to the Ordnance Department, about which 408 he has put questions. As regards guns for the Army, we have only ordered one gun for the defence of any fort of above ten inches diameter, and most of the guns are of smaller calibre and capable of being worked by hand. The hon. Gentleman asked me a great number of questions with regard to the new rifle. He wants to know, first of all the manner in which the pattern was chosen, the date of the appointment of the Committee, and when the pattern was sealed. I suppose he is aware that whenever any new rifle is to be adopted, it is prudent to see whether it answers expectations, and, therefore, it was that when the Martini-Henry rifle was under consideration, a Committee sat a considerable time for the purpose of seeing of what the Martini-Henry rifle was-capable, before the pattern was sealed. It was not until 1887 that a Committee was specifically instructed to consider the Magazine rifle, and it was in my room, on November 1st, 1888, that the pattern of the rifle was sealed. The pattern was chosen by a Committee of experts, whose Report was given to the War Office, and at a meeting in my room everybody in any way connected with the War Office was called upon for a personal expression of his opinion about the manufacture, and one and all decided unanimously that the rifle was satisfactory. The manufacture of it was at once proceeded with. Then as to the expenses incurred in the manufacture of the Magazine rifle, I am unable to give the hon. Gentleman the information which he asks for. Nor am I prepared to admit anything about the sum which, is likely to be paid. Then my hon. Friend asks me about the numbers of the new rifles now being manufactured. He knows quite well that it is now being tried on a very large scale. It has been tried experimentally in Egypt; it has been tried in India, where a large number has been issued and where there has been full opportunity of testing it under the most useful conditions. The reports that come to me I think prove beyond any doubt that it is an excellent rifle, and that, even if some small improvements are necessary after an experience of a year and a half, it is believed to be one of the best, if not the best rifle in the hands of any Army in Europe. The other 409 day there was a remark in the papers with regard to the failure of this rifle at Bisley. I would like to tell the Committee what did happen. It is quite true that when a number of these rifles were fired on the 26th, five of them were rendered useless. But that was not due to any defect in the rifle. The rifles were perfect. What happened really was that the nickel case in which the bullet stood stripped off and remained in the chamber, making it difficult to subsequently load the rifle. We knew that existed in the first ammunition made for the rifle. Since then we have tried to remedy the nickel coating, and we have reason to believe that this difficulty, which has been experienced in all foreign countries, has been overcome. This question of ammunition for rifles has all along been a great difficulty both here and abroad. In foreign countries yon find millions of rounds have to be sacrificed as unsatisfactory. If we have found a difficulty in providing ammunition there need be no surprise. The difficulty about the composition of the bullet I hope we have surmounted. We are now issuing a black powder which does not charge under heat or cold, and is therefore satisfactory for this country and for India. We hope before long to be able to issue a smokeless powder, but this is still in the stage of experiment. We have such a powder, which we hope may be suitable for our purpose, but it is impossible to definitely approve it until it has been tested for a considerable time in all climates. We are applying these tests, and not until we find it stands these tests shall we be justified in relying upon this powder alone. Experience teaches us that many powders that have been submitted to us are unsuitable because they are susceptible to variations of climate. As to the supply of Magazine rifles, I may say that already there are large numbers in the hands of our troops; but when I am asked to say the rate of manufacture, that, I think, is information it is desirable to reserve; but I hope hon. Members will take it from me that, at the present moment, the rate of progress is extremely satisfactory, and private firms are providing machinery which will in time to come add considerably to their powers of supply. I think I have answered all the 410 questions put to me, but I shall be glad to supply any omissions I may have made. I am able to say that, having given full consideration to the subject, having taken the best opinions available, having read carefully the reports made, the new rifle is admirably adapted for our purposes, and likely to serve the wants of the Army in every respect.
§ (4.19.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman had a very difficult task, and I do not think he could go very far wrong, or make any very great mistake. I do not attach much importance to the soldier not being able to take his rifle to pieces. I have heard of sportsmen doing such things, and not being able to put the parts together again. It is better that the soldier should be content with cleaning his rifle, and not fiddle about with the mechanism. I think myself it is an extremely good rifle, but I confess I should like to hear a little more about the ammunition and the experiments made. There has sprung up at the War Office a policy not of avowed secresy but of partial seeresy, and the Suppression of returns that formerly used to be issued. This policy has its good side, of course, and there are matters upon which the War Office should be reticent; but it has its bad side, too; it greatly increases the responsibility of the Minister, and deprives him of open discussion which is often extremely valuable. As to this refusal to say how many rifles can be manufactured in a given time, why, I can recollect Secretaries for War giving us an estimate of how many could be produced annually or weekly, and there seemed to be Departmental returns issued, which latterly did not give us much information, but they did give us some, but now these have been suppressed, and the War Office has now taken upon itself the responsibility of working entirely in the dark so far as the engineering and public opinion of the country is concerned. There must be some secrets I know, but let them be as few as possible, because I think that more harm may be done by the suppression of free criticism than by information given to foreign nations. As regards, such matters as the Brennan torpedo, for instance, it is as well to preserve secrecy, for we paid much for it, and there is reasonable probability that for some 411 years no other country will get it. But, in the case of the rifle, I doubt whether the criticism of the outside world is not much more valuable than any advantage that can be gained by secrecy. Besides, I do not believe that there is the secrecy there is supposed to be, and I have known officers reproached by military attachés because they have not sent the latter information almost as soon as it has been before the War Office, and this was not done in a surreptitious manner, but under the sanction of the Secretary of State. There is no doubt most facts are communicated to foreign countries upon which our own engineers do not have an opportunity of expressing an opinion. There is no need, I think, for secrecy with reference to experiments with ammunition, tables of trajectories and elevations, for instance, as to which I made an inquiry a little time ago. We have not had that amount of use of the new rifle by the troops which will enable officers of the Army to form an opinion of its capabilities, and I think we ought to have from the right hon. Gentleman some more complete statement as to the black powder cartridges; he only tells us cheerily that he has got over his difficulty. I think we ought to have information that will give us a fair idea of what the new rifle will do, and I do not see there will be any advantage in keeping this information secret. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to publish the secret of the manufacture of the smokeless powder; but I think he might tell us, if not more about the smokeless powder, whether the black powder cartridges are available in sufficient quantities and adapted for the new rifle.
§ (4.24.) MR. E. STANHOPE
I am able to assure the hon. and gallant Member that we are keeping up a fair and reasonable supply of black powder cartridges, although, of course, in view of the issue of the new rifle to all the troops, it will be necessary to build up a very considerable reserve of ammunition. I do not think I can tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman anything about the smokeless powder, and under the circumstances I do not think it is unreasonable secrecy. As soon as we feel justified in doing so, we shall make the matter public.
§ (4.28.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)
I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can give us any information as to the progress of arrangements for defending the Firth of Forth? It is an important question—the defence of the most important estuary north of the Thames.
§ (4.29.) MR. BRODRICK
The defence of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth has been taken up very vigorously, and we are in hope shortly to be in possession of land on the Island of Inchkeith, upon which to mount heavy guns of long range, which will be provided from the funds at our disposal from the Imperial Defence Loan. I may mention in reference to this question of the defence of ports that do not occupy a strategical position, localities might come forward and help us by providing the land, if we provide guns, labour to mount them, and ammunition. I do not know whether the hon. Member can use any influence in that direction. Inchkeith is in the middle of the Forth, and there we hope we have secured land, but as to further land defences in that part of the country, land is not easy of acquisition, and any help from localities we should be grateful for.
§ (4.30.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
There is a very influential Local Defence Committee in the district, and the Secretary has represented to me that he has been in communication with the Fortifications Department, and inquired as to the manner in which the Committee might be of use in forwarding provision for armaments. There is every desire to assist, and if a statement is furnished to the Local Committee, showing exactly what is required, I will not vouch for the land being found, but I am sure the statement will receive full consideration.
§ (4.31.) MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
I do not think the War Office can expect that localities will contribute towards matters of Imperial defence. I do not think the War Office should delude itself with the hope of monetary or other contributions from 413 the community of Edinburgh in a matter which is of supreme Imperial importance for Great Britain, the protection of the Firth of Forth from attack by sea. Short of that, however, I am sure the Department will have every assistance from the Local Committee in the carrying out of the defensive policy of the Government.
§ (4.32.) SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
As representing the other side of the Forth, I am bound to say I think the present scheme of defence is totally inadequate. Kirkcaldy is outside the scheme for the protection of the Channel between Kinghorn and Inchkeith. Upon this subject of coast defence I cannot but be surprised that it has never occurred to the Government to organise a force from among the 30,000 Scotch fishermen, the finest men in the world, to man the new batteries when sufficient guns are provided——
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I should be trenching upon the rules of order if I were to carry out the suggestion in detail.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 5. £665,200, for Works, Buildings, and Repairs: Cost, including Superintending Staff.
§ 6. £104,800, for Miscellaneous Effective Services.
§ (4.38.) MAJOR RASCH
In connection with this Vote, may I mention the claims of the Association for the Assistance of Discharged Soldiers? It is an institution which is in receipt of Government support to the extent of £200 a year; the chairman is Sir Donald Stewart, and the manager Colonel Boyes; the head quarters are in London, with outlying quarters in other large towns. The Association has had very considerable success hitherto, and through its agency something like 5,000 men have been provided with occupation, and wages amounting to about £250,000 have been paid. At the present moment the Society is in want of support, which I think the War Office might readily give, monetary support and the assistance which would be afforded if officers or half-pay men desired to afford assistance in the management of outlying barracks of the Society in provincial districts.
§ MAJOR RASCH
I am referring to the item of £200 for the assistance of the Society for Assisting Discharged and Retired Soldiers included in the grants and certain institutions.
The particulars are given on page 80; but I do not find the particular Institution mentioned there.
§ MAJOR RASCH
It is not specifically named, but the item is included under that head. All I venture to urge upon the Government is that they might well increase the amount of monetary assistance, and also that they might get officers on half-pay, or who hold the position of adjutant in the Militia, Yeomanry, or Volunteers, in manufacturing districts, to take upon themselves the management of outlying offices of the Society. Also, I think the War Office might allow in the Department a desk or bureau for the promotion of the objects of the Society. I may mention that the Government contribute £200 towards the Society for Assisting Discharged Prisoners, and surely somewhat more help might be given in aid of discharged soldiers. When five years ago the Association was started the gentlemen who formed the Committee were informed by the First Lord of the Treasury that the Government Department would do their utmost to find employment for the men through the Society, but I believe there have been no applications of the kind. It seems to me that for an institution of this kind the Government should increase the amount of support if they think it is worthy their assistance at all. I need only mention the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting, and his remarks on the deterrent effect upon recruiting there is in the fact that discharged soldiers, unable to find employment, go to swell the crowd of tramps who wander all over the country. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will consider favourably the suggestions I have made.
§ (4.45.) COLONEL NOLAN
I think this is the proper opportunity to ask what the Government intend to do in reference to the premises of the Royal United Service Institution. The Government have given notice that the premises will be required, and the Institution has 415 been under this notice for the past five years. But meantime the buildings are being allowed to get into a state of disrepair, and the appearance brings a certain amount of discredit to a valuable institution. I understand that the Government have some hopes of providing another hall, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can give us some information. I do not in any way ask as representing the Institution, of which I am only an ordinary member.
§ (4.46.) MR. E. STANHOPE
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite right, this matter has been for a long time in suspense, and the Government are under some undertaking to endeavour, if possible, to provide a site. Both my noble Friend (Lord G. Hamilton) and I take great interest in the Institution, and for a long time we have been endeavouring to bring about an arrangement with the Treasury. Although I am unable to announce any decision, yet I hope to be able to do so at no distant date. As to the question of my hon. and gallant Friend behind me, I may say that I recognise the good object of the society he refers to, and it may well be considered whether we ought to be more liberal towards it. The War Office is quite ready to give all encouragement and assistance, and, as my hon. and gallant Friend is aware, our messengers at the War Office are selected from old soldiers. I wish that other Departments were ready to do as the Lord Chancellor has done in the case of the Royal Courts of Justice, and give preference in Public Departments to the claims of old soldiers who desire civil employment. The hon. Member does well to refer to the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting, and the remarks there have not escaped attention. I will see if anything can be done in further assistance of an object which has my strong sympathy.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 7. £1,562,900, for Retired Pay, Half-Pay, and other Non-Effective Charges for Officers, &c.
§ (4.56.) GENERAL FRASER (Lambeth, N.)
I desire to speak in the interests of the purchase officers of Her Majesty's Army, whose interests have been most deeply affected by ever-changing warrants promulgated by the War Department, in 416 consequence of which no officer can look forward to the position he may be placed in at any moment. This uncertainty—compulsory retirement, the loss of prospects of promotion, the retention of the purchase officer's money by the Government of the country—all combine to cause deep disappointment and dissatisfaction amongst the purchase officers. These officers, under the old purchase system, were obliged to invest large sums of money in their commissions, a system enforced as regards regulation money, and unavoidable and fully recognised as regards over-regulation money. They served virtually gratuitously—the amount of their purchase-money being in the hands of the Government—the actual pay they received being not more than the interest of the money invested. When purchase was abolished by warrant in 1871, the purchase officers continued to serve on the faith of warrants; they were told, authoritatively, that they would not suffer in purse or prospects; but new rules and warrants, enforced since that promise was made, have acted most injuriously upon the prospects and incomes of certain of them, and they now seek just compensation for that loss or injury. These officers—many highly distinguished—after their life-long gratuitous service, are now suddenly deprived from being appointed to be on the general officers' list. The reduction of the generals' list from 275, at which number it was fixed by Royal Commission, to the proposed number of 100, was a total reversal of the recommendation of that Royal Commission, which was appointed, chiefly, to report upon the best means of carrying out the promise made when purchase was abolished—That the flow of promotion should be kept at the same standard as it was before the abolition of purchase.I beg to call attention to the statement of the Commissioners in fixing that number—namely, that promotion to the rank of Major General was intended not only to provide a list from which officers fitted for command could be taken, but also as a reward for good and faithful service. High commands have always been given from the general's list by selection. If the State had, in 1871, paid down all purchase-money it might fairly enough have introduced new rules. Officers, 417 many of whom have large sums in the hands of the Government, such as £3,000 and £4,500 regulation money, do not argue whether these rules are necessary or not, but they contend that they should not have been, applied to purchase officers whose money was retained by the State. I hold in my hand the claims of two officers who have been compulsorily placed on temporary half-pay on the reduction of the depôt battalions, and were caught in this position on abolition of purchase, and consequently were most unjustly deprived of some £5,300 over-regulation money, on the pretext that the warrant prohibited the Purchase Commissioners from considering any claim of over-regulation for half-pay officers, the total value of these two officers' commissions amounting to £12,000; and also of 12 colonels who have been compulsorily retired from the Service, and whose money the public retains, amounting to £37,040; yet these officers were solemnly informed by succeeding Secretaries of War that their vested interests should in no case suffer. I merely mention these 12 as examples. Many of these officers would most undoubtedly have been promoted to Major General, and have received the retiring allowance of between £600 and £700 per annum, instead of £420, had not, subsequent to 1881, a system been introduced of selecting one-half of the colonels for promotion to Major General. This selection deprived these colonels of half the steps they would otherwise have been entitled to, consequently they have been caught by the age clause, and have each lost some £280 per annum for the remainder of their lives. Are these unfortunate officers not to receive the compensation which Mr. Childers solemnly declared, in 1881, should be awarded to any sufferer by the alterations in the warrant? I would further mention the case of an officer serving in India who was ordered by the authorities at the Horse Guards to send in his papers. He complied with the order, and some weeks afterwards he died; then the authorities refused to pay his relatives the over regulation value of his commission—£3,200—although they were fully entitled thereto by regulation. The regulation is that an officer who voluntarily 418 retires must live for six weeks after applying to retire, for his family to claim from Government his purchase-money. This officer did not voluntarily retire, and lived beyond the six weeks. Can anything further be wanting to prove the tyranny of the War Office? That any Government should take upon itself to wipe away warrants made by its predecessors—ignoring authoritative promises—and to retain the fortunes of officers whose lifelong services have been gratuitous; to debar them from the rank for which they have served to obtain, will surely be recognised by every Member of the House as unjustifiable. The Courts of Law in England do not recognise the claims or rights of officers; I therefore appeal to a Court of Honour—the House of Commons—and I urge that an immediate inquiry into the present unfortunate position of the purchase officers be made through a Royal Commission.
(5.5.) MR. BEADLAUGH (Northampton)
Last year the right hon. Gentleman undertook to look into the question of the rate of commutation of pensions to be allowed the men, and its unequal proportion as against the rates and facilities enjoyed by officers; perhaps now he can make some statement on the subject?
§ (5.5.) GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
I would support the appeal made by my hon. and gallant Friend (General Fraser). There can be no doubt whatever that the present regulations, affect very injuriously many of the old purchase officers. Personally, I am in favour of a reduction of the number of Generals, and do not think that individual claims should stand in the way of the good of the State, but, at the same time, when the State gains an advantage the individual claims should receive consideration. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give the matter his careful consideration. Here I may state my opinion that the action of the Secretary for War in the conduct of the affairs of the Army generally has been very beneficial and of great advantage to the country. Still, in the exercise of the great power of the prerogative there should be exercised the utmost consideration, in favour of individuals, and a straining of that power rather in 419 that direction than against individual interests.
§ (5.7.) MR. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
I desire to call attention to a point, not, perhaps, of very great importance to the country or to the Department, but of vital importance to certain individuals. I refer to the question which has been raised with regard to the right of officers who retire, but are eligible for employment, to commute portions of their pensions. The twofold underlying principle which regulates the commutation of pensions I believe to be a sound one, namely, that officers who are not usually experienced in matters of business and civil life should be discouraged from risking the whole of the sums they receive in commutation of their pensions in various speculations, while, on the other hand, the State should have some tangible security that it will be able to insure the services of those officers in cases of emergency. But this, I think, only applies to the right to commute the whole of a pension; it does not apply to the commutation of a small portion, say a sixth. Has the Secretary for War ever considered the position of an officer temporarily stranded for want of a little ready money? Take the case of an officer who leaves Her Majesty's Service, and finds himself face to face with all the realities of civil life, and obliged to make provision for all those matters to which he hitherto has not had to give a thought. I have in mind the case of an officer who was recently compelled to retire with the rank of Major and a pension of £300, but eligible for reemployment. His case in many respects was a singular one. He served as a purchase officer for some time in an infantry regiment, until for private reasons, for which he was not responsible, he sold out. He afterwards enlisted in a cavalry regiment, received a commission for the second time, and retired, as I say, with the rank of Major. I mention this case as that of an officer who had shown the utmost zeal and desire to advance in his profession. Meanwhile he had encumbered himself with a wife and the usual complement of children. The result is he finds himself now entirely dependent on his pension, and in very straitened circumstances, obliged to take his children 420 from school, and oppressed with the danger of bankruptcy proceedings. Now, in order to meet present needs he desires to commute a sixth of his pension; he requires a sum of £300 or £400 to place him in financial comfort, and then he has every reason to expect a colonial appointment. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider such cases of which this is an example, and, in the interests of common sense and humanity, to allow some relaxation of a regulation which presses with undue severity upon a very deserving class of officers.
§ (5.10.) MR. A. O'CONNOR
Some time ago, I called the attention of the Secretary for War to the case of an old soldier discharged 40 years ago, and now living at Perth, in Western Australia, in the tenth decade of his life. The decision arrived at after inquiry is that this man is to receive a pension of a shilling a day. By some extraordinary mistake, as I think it must be, this man has been directed to apply for payment to the paymaster at Ashton-under-Lyne. Why a centenarian in Western Australia should send to Ashton-under-Lyne I cannot understand. Perhaps if there is a mistake the right hon. Gentleman will have it rectified. At the same time, I would appeal for some better recognition of this man's claim than a shilling a day for the small remnant of his life, seeing that he has been deprived of his pension for nearly half a century.
§ (5.12.) SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
Several hon. Members have advocated in the interest of the Militia Service that officers retired from the Regular Army should serve with the Militia, and I, from the point of view of the ratepayers, would support that suggestion. By leaps and bounds the expenditure under this head is increasing, and surely it is not too much to ask that the officers to whom we make these liberal payments should render their assistance to the Auxiliary Forces. I was disappointed to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the inducements held out to retiring officers to join the Militia had not been successful in their object. But he did not indicate any remedy. May I suggest to him the desirability of making service with the Auxiliary Forces for a certain period a condition of retirement?
§ (5.13.) MR. BRODRICK
With regard to the last point, I may remind the hon. Gentleman that during the last few years retired regular officers have been largely employed in the Auxilary Forces, though not to the extent we could wish. As regards the position of purchase officers, 20 years have now elapsed since the abolition of purchase, and, though I do not say that is a length of time that should preclude consideration of any case of hardship, it must be recollected that whatever injury was thereby done to proposals of promotion, the Treasury are bound, by rules and regulations then laid down, to carry out the recommendations of the Commission. My right hon. Friend is desirous of looking at every case with the strongest wish to do justice to the officers; but, on the other hand, we are bound by rules and regulations on this extremely intricate subject. Touching on another point, namely, the loss of the prospect of promotion by colonels, such as has been felt owing to the recent proposed reduction in the general officers' list, I think that, in considering that reduction, my hon. and gallant Friend should in that connection also consider the improvement which was made in the position of the colonels. They are allowed to remain on full pay up to 57 years of age, two years additional, and every colonel employed as such, under the warrant which will come into operation on the 1st January next, will have his pay raised to £500 a year. We desire to do full justice to the claims of retired officers, and the reduction of the general officers' list is taking place by a most gradual process. Only one vacancy in three will at first be absorbed. Indeed, we have been subjected to a very great deal of attack from economists for creating a system which will come into such gradual operation, and because we shall not be able to reduce the list to its normal limits for many years to come. During 1889, 25 colonels were promoted 422 to the rank of major general, and during the present year the promotion has been even more rapid. Fourteen colonels during the first half of the present year have been promoted to the rank of major general. Considering the size of the British Army, I do not think it can be urged that that shows great stagnation of promotion. I think the whole matter should be looked at from the point of view very ably put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Hammersmith, when he said that the Secretary of State ought to see that no hardship is done to individuals, and that he should look at cases on their merits, and if it should be found that there is a very great stagnation of promotion after the warrant comes into operation, and that a number of purchase officers who have got very nearly to the top of the list lose by it, their case should be fairly considered and dealt with. An hon. and gallant Member has asked that we should not put an absolute bar to commutation of pensions. He put the case of an officer of the 3rd Dragoon Guards retiring on £300 a year, who, having married and got a family, might desire to commute a part of his pension. We must remember that an officer who has so retired is liable to serve again up to the age of 55, and the view which is held by the Treasury is that so long as an officer is liable to serve Her Majesty again, the retired pay is a retaining fee which he accepts for that purpose. It is impossible to commute his liability and let him go, as it were, absolutely free. It is obvious that it would be unwise that a man in the position of an officer with a wife and family, and who has only £300 a year, should be allowed to fritter away portions of his pension. The experience of the War Office was that officer after officer, under the old system, came forward and commuted one slice of his pension to pay a few debts, and then another slice, and so on, until the pension was entirely swept away. Only the other day an officer, who has won the Victoria Cross, and has a highly distinguished record, inquired whether there was any fund from which he could receive £5, £10, or £15 to keep him out of the workhouse. We must consider cases of that kind. After the age of 55 years we force every officer to keep 423 as much as £80, so that he may have 30s. a week to prevent him from starving. No further claim for commutation beyond that is entertained, that rule having been laid down after most careful consideration, and with a full desire to do the best for the officers in question. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lambeth will rest satisfied that everything we can do to mitigate the difficulties of purchase officers will be done, but we cannot go beyond the limit I have stated. I am sure the appointment of a Royal Commission would merely excite the falsest hopes and expectations. I do not think any Commission would be able to persuade the House of Commons to make the drastic changes the hon. and gallant Member proposes. With regard to the commutation of the pensions of the men, to which the hon. Member for Northampton has referred, I have pressed that matter very strenuously on the Treasury, and I trust that before Parliament meets again in November they will have arrived at a decision on the subject, and that I shall be able to inform the hon. Member exactly what are the number of years' commutation which can be allowed the private soldier. I regret extremely that the numerous calculations which have to be made render it difficult to arrive at a scale, based on past experience, which would be satisfactory, but I promise to do all in my power in the matter before we meet again.
§ (5.14.) COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)
I would urge on the War Office a re-consideration of the case of General White. All the facts are before the Department, and a letter written by General White when he made his election proves that he was misled—benevolently, no doubt, but still misled—by the Military Secretary's Department.
§ (5.24.) MR. BRODRICK
The case has been reviewed over and over again, and I can only say that we have every desire, if we could, to allow General White to make a fresh selection. There were two courses open to him, and he has, unfortunately, chosen the one which 424 has turned out not to be most to his advantage. The case was put before the Treasury, and was carefully considered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to allow the election to be made over again. I do not know that I can say anything more. My hon. and gallant Friend is aware that the Government have carefully considered the case, and have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to go back on the decision already arrived at.
§ (5.25.) MR. BROOKFIELD
I must express my disappointment at the statement the hon. Member has made. I am afraid he did not do me the compliment to follow my argument closely. I do not see the consistency of saying that the general policy of the War Office is to give attention to every individual case of hardship as it arises, and to deal with it on its merits, and at the same time to generalise when a specific case does come under his notice. The hon. Gentleman delivered a homily against the evil of allowing officers to fritter away all their pensions bit by bit. But I had expressed my own concurrence with that view, and only asked him in a specific case to sanction the commutation of one-sixth of the pension.
§ (5.26.) MR. BRODRICK
The hon. Member advocates the commutation in one instance of a sixth, but there would be no finality in sanctioning that or anything else. One officer informed me that one-sixth would be enough, but another said one-fourth is not too much, and another said that it should be one-half. If any limit which would be considered satisfactory could be adopted we should be glad to consider it.
§ (5.27.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
May I ask what is the youngest age at which an officer can voluntarily retire on a pension for life. Is it 48? I know there has been some attempt to put a restriction upon voluntary retirement. There was a great revolt against that attempt, and I do not know how the thing stands.
§ (5.28.) MR. BRODRICK
They can retire after 12 years' service, say, at 32 425 years of age, at 35, 38, and 40, but each scale is less valuable to the officers and more favourable to the State than if they remain until 48 years of age.
§ (5.29.) GENERAL FRASER
How is it that an officer, who has been wounded and who has been rewarded for meritorious conduct, can have that reward taken away? I can mention the case of a very distinguished General Officer who, in 1878, received a letter from the Adjutant General, saying that Her Majesty had been graciously pleased, on the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief, to nominate him as one of the officers to receive reward for distinguished service. In 1881 he received notice that under the Warrant that reward would be done away with.
§ (5.30.) MR. E. STANHOPE
I shall be very happy to look into the case if the hon. and gallant Member will give me the particulars.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 8. £10,000, for Ordnance Factories, &c.
§ (5.33.) MR. J. W. SIDEBOTHAM (Cheshire, Hyde)
I wish to call attention to the short lives of the boilers at Woolwich. They are made by a renowned Lancashire firm, but whilst, in other parts of the country, the average life of a boiler is 20 years, at Woolwich it is only six or seven years. There can be only one cause. The water must be bad. I should think a saving would be effected by laying down pipes and bringing good water from a distance.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for his suggestion. My attention has never been called to the matter, but I shall be very glad to look into it.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported.