HC Deb 27 February 1890 vol 341 cc1422-43

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(10.15.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE, Lincolnshire, Horncastle)

It will be agreeable to the House that at the earliest moment I should place the Committee in possession of the main facts in connection with the barracks scheme of the Government. The Bill is of a financial character, and it is therefore right that some explanation should be given at this stage. It will not surprise any Member of the Committee that a Bill of this description should be necessary. Up to this time there has never been an attempt to devise a general scheme for the distribution and arrangement of our camps and barracks, to apply to them generally the principles of modern sanitary science, or to adopt the barrack system to the altered circumstances of the country. I may remind the Committee that last year I placed the necessity of a large barrack scheme on three grounds. The first was that of economy. Our present haphazard system cannot be defended on the grounds of economy. The second ground was military efficiency. Nobody who looks into the matter can doubt that our military strength and the training of our troops is dribbled away by the way in which our troops are dispersed throughout the country. The third ground was the health and comfort of the men. Independently of other considerations I can, on sanitary grounds alone, make an overwhelming case in favour of dealing with this matter in a large and liberal spirit. First, I will refer to the great camps of the country. These camps originated mainly just after the Crimean War. There was then great want of accommodation for our troops. To meet pressing requirement huts were run up hurriedly of wood and other perishable material, and in spite of every effort these huts, intended only to last for a few years, are getting into a worse and worse condition. The huts at Aldershot are 35 years old, and in a very bad state. 1 will try to summarise the Reports which I have received from the General Officers Commanding, the medical officers and others. Those Reports state that the roofs of the huts, which are 35 years old, are flattening down, and the lower frames are rotten. More than 500 have had to be propped up. In addition to the state of the actual huts, the ground on which they stand is becoming so foul as to render them unfit for habitation; £7,000 a year are now being spent on repairs, the sum is annually increasing, and is quite insufficient to keep them in a sanitary condition.


Whose Report is that?


It cannot exactly be said to be any one's Report; I have summarised the facts from the reports of the General commanding at Aldershot; medical officers, and other people. I now come to Shorncliffe. The report is that the position of the huts in this camp is very exposed, and though in two of the lines a casing has been added, it is impossible under present conditions to keep the huts wind and water-tight, and some of the quarters are scarcely habitable at all. In the other lines where hardly any casing has been added the state is even worse. Again, the huts at the camp on Woolwich Common were built 30 years ago, and these also are in a most unsatisfactory condition. The wood-work is rotten, and the stables have to be propped up. Then to pass to the permanent barracks—the first place among them must, of course, be assigned to Dublin. A large expenditure is necessary at Dublin in order to put the barrack accommodation into proper condition. The defects are absolutely notorious, and I fear that to accommodate the present number of troops it will be absolutely necessary not only to spend a good deal more money than has been spent in the sanitary improvements we are making, but to spend a considerable sum of money in providing new barracks in the vicinity of Dublin for the troops. Then there are the Galway Barracks, which are also notorious through out the United Kingdom. I have two Reports on them. The first was made in 1859, and in that the Commission on Barrack and Hospital Improvement stated— We wish to express our decided opinion with, reference to the Shamble and the Castle Barracks and Hospital that they are amongst the very worsts pecimens of public establishments we have ever seen. The second sanitary Report, which I have recently called for from Galway, states that the Castle Barracks are all old, are in a cramped and confined space, and are very difficult to keep in proper condition. The Shamble Barracks are in much the same state. The rooms are old and unfit for the troops, and are only occupied by a headquarters on account of the limited accommodation in Galway. These two barracks have been repeatedly condemned. Then as to the barracks at Portsmouth, every one knows that one of the two barracks there has been evacuated altogether by troops and is being used for stores, while the other has been pulled down. These barracks have been condemned over and over again, and when they were pulled down the Reports of the medical officers and general officer were found to be amply and fully justified. I could go on giving similar instances, but I should only weary the House; I think I have established enough for my immediate purpose. I am not for a moment casting blame on those who are responsible for barracks—the Royal Engineers. I believe that the Royal Engineers have done the best with the money provided for them. The difficulty is that in times when there has been a cry for a reduction of the Estimates the inclination has been to cut down the expenses for those things which, though necessary to be done, it cannot be said must be done at any particular time. Therefore, over a long period of years the Royal Engineers have not had put into their hands more than enough money to keep the barracks going, and they have never had enough money to deal with them on a really large and effective scale. Indeed, for some years past it has been obvious that the great reconstruction required could not be carried out by means of the annual Estimates only. I hope the Committee will think that on sanitary grounds I have made out a fair and reasonable case for the Government's being absolutely bound, if they wish to consult the health and comfort of the soldier, to make better provision in many cases for the housing of the troops, and upon a reasonably large scale. After having come to the conclusion that the sanitary state of barracks necessitated action, the next step was to frame a general scheme, showing what would be an ideal distribution of the troops in the United Kingdom. Such a scheme has boon prepared by the Quartermaster General, and has undergone the most careful examination and consideration. In that scheme the endeavour has been to provide for all the objects for which an army is maintained in this country. There is the necessity for protecting fortresses and the capitals; the necessity for keeping a, certain number of troops within reach of large masses of population; the necessity for continuing to use the barracks which are sufficiently healthy at the present time; and the necessity for having troops, as far as possible, within reasonable reach of a good rifle range. I do not pretend to say that an ideal scheme drawn up with those objects could be attained, even with the considerable expenditure which the Government propose. It could not, because there exist barracks in various situations which, although inconvenient, could not be abandoned altogether at the present time. But the advantage is that everything now proposed for the accommodation of the troops can be considered in reference to the largest and most comprehensive scheme ever laid down. The main object to be gained in trying to approximate to the ideal standard is the concentration of the troops. I do not mean merely that sort of concentration which will bring together in a single barrack a whole battalion which is at present scattered in various quarters at great inconvenience and loss of efficiency; but I mean the bringing into a station more than one battalion, more than one regiment, more than one battery, or even more than one arm of the Service. The first concentration is that of the Royal Artillery; and that, I am glad to say, has to a great extent already been effected. I have been advised that it is of the highest importance to the efficiency of the Royal Artillery that it should, as far as possible, be grouped together in groups of three, or at any rate two, batteries, and that it would lead to considerable economy in the working of our system, and accordingly we have endeavoured to accomplish that object. At present the depots of all horse and field artillery are concentrated at Woolwich. We propose to make concentrations at Aldershot, Newcastle, Colchester, Sheffield, Hilsea, the Curragh, and other places. In several of these places the concentration has already been effected; but it has been done by taking over a part of certain infantry barracks, which has led to a demand for increased infantry accommodation. Some concentration will also take place with regard to the cavalry; but that arm of the Service must be mainly dealt with by bringing together scattered portions of the same regiment; and in putting cavalry in places where they can be more efficiently trained than is possible in the middle of a town. But the main concentration we have attempted is of infantry; and with regard to that it must be said that such concentration ought to be in camps. The time for placing troops in the middle of large towns has gone by. The conditions under which they were so placed have passed away to a large extent; but I do not for an instant suggest that the Government propose to move the troops from all the large towns where they are at present stationed; but, as far as possible, they should be placed in camps where they can be properly trained, and not in the middle of dense populations, for that is bad for the towns, and certain to impair the efficiency of the troops. Accordingly we look largely to extension of accommodation in camps where large bodies of troops can be exercised together, and the most careful consideration has been given to the place where such concentration can be best attained. Various places have been passed under review. The question whether Salisbury Plain is a suitable place to build barracks has been gone into. We considered also the claims of Cannock Chase, and we examined the suggestion made by great authorities, that it would be desirable to make a concentration to some extent in some place in the North of England, such as Strensall. But after careful consideration I have come to the conclusion, with the unanimous support of all my military advisers, that the great concentration ought to be at Aldershot. At Aldershot there is already a large quantity of land in the possession of the Government, and there exists a camp of great practical utility to the Army. Here, I am sure the Committee will forgive me if I venture to bear testimony to the great foresight and wisdom of the late Prince Consort. I believe it was largely due to him that the camp was established, and I am sure if he could now know the great advantage of the camp he would feel amply repaid. My belief is that it is both an economical and efficient system to establish our main camp at Aldershot and to extend the camp which now exists. There are at Aldershot at the present time three regiments of cavalry, eight batteries of the Royal Artillery, six companies of Royal Engineers, and nine battalions of infantry. The Government propose to add to these a battery of Royal Artillery and six battalions of infantry. To accomplish that object we shall have to re-construct a large portion of the existing camps, and we propose to continue the work now being carried on and complete the existing camps. If, however, the work is only carried on at the present rate I believe none of the Members of this Committee will live to see the completion of the work, and, of course, if we are going to add a large number of troops, very considerable additions to the camp will be required. The question then arises, whether we have sufficient land for our purpose. We believe that by a com- paratively small addition of land, which can be obtained at a reasonable rate, we can provide not only ample accommodation for all the troops I have mentioned, but also a splendid exercise ground, much better than that which exists at present. Mainly in order to obtain that land, but also for other minor purposes, we have inserted powers in the Bill enabling us to purchase land compulsorily. Here I may say we have also the opportunity by arrangement with the Home Secretary of acquiring Woking Prison; and we intend to take advantage of that opportunity, so that at a comparatively small cost we shall have a barrack at Woking which will accommodate an infantry battalion, near a railway station, and within easy reach of Aldershot. The whole of the work thus described at Aldershot cannot be effectively carried out at a cost of less than something like £1,500,000. With regard to Shorncliffe, the barracks will be adapted mainly for cavalry and Royal Artillery, but something will have to be expended in the repairing of huts; indeed, the camp would require almost complete re-construction. At Woolwich the huts will also have to be repaired to a considerable extent, and for that provision will be made. There is one other camp in England to which I must refer—namely, that at Colchester. I know the condition of that camp is not altogether what we desire; but, upon the whole, and comparing it with other camps, I think the necessity for permanent re-construction is not so strong as in the cases already described, and that what is absolutely necessary at Colchester can be done out of the annual Estimates. At Portsmouth, as we have abandoned one barrack and utilised it for stores and pulled down another, it is absolutely necessary to build a barracks for the Royal Artillery and also complete the existing infantry barracks to enable them to contain a full battalion. At Plymouth the main complaint is the dispersion of the troops in a number of small places, so that the battalion is not brought together and enabled to be got in a thoroughly efficient state. The object of what is to be done there is by re-construction at the Citadel to accommodate a full battalion of infantry, and by certain other small reconstructions to concentrate other troops. The cavalry barracks at Manchester, I am satisfied, ought not to be main- tained there. I have seen most of the places I have spoken of, and endeavoured with my own eyes to satisfy myself of the facts I am relating to the Committee. The Manchester cavalry barrack is surrounded by houses close up to the walls, and some of the houses in a low quarter of Manchester absolutely command the barrack windows. I believe the efficiency and certainly the health and comfort of the troops will be benefited by their removal to barracks in some place not too far from Lancashire—some place from which we can easily move them if they are required in any large centre of population. I am not able to pledge myself as to where that place will be. There has been a good deal said in favour of Lichfield. Upon the whole that seems a suitable site, especially as the War Office already possess land there; but on this matter I desire to maintain a free hand until further inquiries have been made. I need only mention one other place in England—London. There is, undoubtedly, a very considerable difficulty here with regard to married men's quarters, and we must provide additional married soldiers' quarters somewhere. The only London barracks I need mention are the Albany Barracks, and the main defect is not their insanitary condition as regards the men, but as regards the horses. It is, undoubtedly, in that respect a bad barrack, but after very careful examination we are satisfied that at a comparatively moderate sum we can provide much better accommodation for the horses. The Committee ought clearly to understand that in the scheme now put forward I am only dealing with large permanent improvements; smaller works of a sanitary character ought we feel to be provided for in the Estimates of the year. Now I come to the case of Ireland. I do not think the Committee will be surprised to hear that the force in Ireland is considerably in excess of what is required there, and if new provision is to be made for troops the Government hold that it should be done in England and not in Ireland. At the same time, there is a considerable body of troops to be maintained in Ireland, and for those troops adequate provision must be made, and especially with reference to cavalry, which has better opportunities for exercise, and can be maintained more cheaply in Ireland than in England. At the Curragh the huts are in a deplorable condition, and many of the other barracks are just as bad, or even worse. We must deal with the case of the Curragh, where it is proposed to concentrate the cavalry regiments scattered in different parts of Ireland, and also three batteries of artillery. The next place I would refer to is Dublin, which is a very convenient place for barracks, and it is connected by rail with all parts of Ireland. At the same time, it is also probably the most difficult case with which we have to deal. The sanitary condition of the Royal Barracks has occasioned mo almost as much anxiety as any question which I have had to consider. We have endeavoured to ascertain the cause of the defects, and have employed an entirely independent authority—Mr. Rogers Field—to report on the Dublin Barracks, and to suggest anything necessary for improving the sanitary condition of the troops there. We are carying out his recommendations, and we have spared neither pains nor money in endeavouring to put those barracks into perfect sanitary condition, although, no doubt, the state of Dublin drainage generally made it impossible to expect complete immunity from fever. At the same time, I admit that the Royal Barracks cannot be said to be up to the level of the general sanitary condition of Dublin, as is shown by the number of cases of enteric fever. I shall not rest satisfied until the Royal Barracks are in at least as good a sanitary condition as Dublin generally. If the hopes of the Government are realised, and they are able to put those barracks in a more satisfactory condition, we propose to set apart a portion of the barracks for the accommodation of stores, and, of course, naturally they would be convenient also for the men of the Army Service Corps, and that will enable as to get rid of the existing store houses, which are inconveniently situated. The changes proposed will also enable us to put into the barracks one infantry regiment. There are other barracks in Dublin with which we shall also have to deal. Several of them are not capable of containing a full battalion of infantry. Certain small additions have to be made for that purpose, and there are one or two demolitions that are absolutely necessary for the health of the troops. These, however, are compara- tively minor matters, as compared with the larger scheme I now have to mention. We are building a cavalry barrack at Grange Gorman, close to the Phœnix Park, Dublin, most conveniently situated for the training of the troops; but we shall also require barracks for a battalion of infantry, though I am not quite certain yet what is the best place to build them in. For the various works I have sketched out in Dublin I shall have to ask the House to allow the Government to expend the sum of £270,000. Then there is the case of Belfast, where an enormous cost is annually incurred by the hiring of temporary quarters; and though there is no doubt a barrack is wanted there on sanitary grounds, I should prefer to justify the proposed expenditure in Belfast more especially on the ground of the large economy that will be effected by getting rid of the hiring system. The same remark applies to Enniskillen, where it is desirable to find accommodation for a whole infantry battalion, instead of the small proportion of troops at present quartered in that place. I now pass from the United Kingdom to the colonies. I hesitated a long time before I determined to ask my Colleagues to deal now with the foreign stations, thinking that this was a subject deservig separate consideration; but, after all, the health and comfort of our troops abroad is just as important as of those in this country, and the conditions to which they are sometimes subjected make it a matter of even greater importance to make the places in which they are accommodated wholesome, satisfactory, and comfortable. There is then, first, the case of Malta. There the garrison has recently been largely increased, and the barrack accommodation is quite inadequate for the large number of troops now maintained there; and accordingly it is proposed to erect an infantry barrack in a situation convenient both for health and for the purposes of the defence of the island. At the Cape, again, one of the barracks has got into a bad state, and for many years past the general officer commanding has recommended that something should be done for the purpose of putting them in a better condition. There we shall have to spend a considerable sum. Two cases of a minor character are those of Gibraltar and Bermuda. The sanitary condition of the barracks at Gibraltar is certainly unsatisfactory, the death-rate is exceptionally high, and we think a moderate and reasonable sum ought to be expended upon them; and the same is necessary in the case of Bermuda, in order to prevent the outbreaks of enteric fever which have occurred at both those stations during the last few years. Coming to the last head on which I have to ask the Committee to approve further expenditure, I have to observe that at present the cost for lodging is enormous; and it would be a real economy that quarters should be built in certain cases for the accommodation of married soldiers and warrant officers, thus getting rid of the lodging allowances. The cost of the expenditure under this head I put at £290,000, which would save at least £15,000 a year. There will be several other savings effected by carrying out the whole scheme. This year alone we have reduced the Barrack Vote by £40,000, and when the scheme is completed it is believed there will be a permanent saving on this Vote of at least £60,000. There are other expenses incurred at present in respect of travelling allowances to ranges and for other purposes, which will be saved by the changes proposed; and there is, lastly, the money that will be realised by the sale of certain old barracks, such as the Manchester Cavalry Barracks, and the proceeds of those sales will be credited to the amount the Committee are now asked to allow the War Office to expend. The sum which the Government estimate they will require to carry out the very important and extensive works which they now propose will not exceed £4,100,000, which is the sum mentioned in the Resolution. The precise form in which we propose to raise the necessary sum it would be the province rather of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to show; but this determination we have formed, at any rate, and strongly adhere to; from past experience we are satisfied that a great scheme of re-construction if once accepted by the House if Commons should be carried out without delay and without hesitation until completed. We are not, therefore, prepared to leave it to the chance of annual Estimates, and our proposal will be embodied in a Bill which we shall ask the House to sanction as a whole, and that done, the War Office will be bound to proceed with the scheme, in the prosecution of which they can only he stopped if Parliament in its wisdom think fit to repeal the Act. There are two other points which will, I think, commend themselves to the Committee. In the first place, I shall no doubt be asked what guarantee we can give to the Committee that the Estimates presented are fair and reasonable; that the Government are not embarking on an extravagant system of building; and that this very large work will be properly supervised in all respects when it is undertaken. I will tell the Committee the steps which I have endeavoured to take. In the first place, these plans have been most carefully prepared by the authorities now in charge of our barracks and are based upon their past experience. But the Government have not been satisfied with that. I have had also the independent opinion of a eon-tractor who ranks high in his profession, and that gentleman has examined the plans very carefully, and has reported to me in strong terms with regard to them that he thinks the Government are getting full value for their money, and he expresses his approval of the plans, both with regard to material and as to construction. But we have not been satisfied even with that. We have, with the hearty assent of I he Royal Engineers, now called in the assistance of two outsiders completely unconnected with the War Office, namely, Mr. Creed, the surveyor to the Land Commission, and thoroughly acquainted with the subject in its rural aspect, and Mr. Pilkington, an architect of enormous experience in the planning of urban industrial buildings. I asked them to examine the plans, and tell me whether they could find anything in the proposed plans, either with regard to plan or material, which savoured in the slightest degree of extravagance, and also to make suggestions as to how the plans could in any way be improved so as to contribute more effectively to the object for which they are intended. Thus I had the fullest guarantee that the plans would be thoroughly examined by independent authorities, and might be confidently recommended to the House of Commons. The second point upon which the Committee will desire to have some assurance is that the sanitary arrangements of the new dwellings are satisfactory. It will, perhaps, naturally be felt that short- comings in the past require such a guarantee, and the Committee will want to be assured that the Government are really going to satisfy modern sanitary requirements in a reasonable degree. The Committee will recollect the extraordinary interest taken by the late Mr. Sidney Herbert, afterwards Lord Herbert of Lea, in this question. He was the pioneer, in co-operation with Miss Nightingale, of proper sanitary improvements in barracks, and established a system which did an enormous amount of good at that, time. Among other things Lord Herbert of Lea brought into existence a body known as the Sanitary Committee. It is now proposed to re-construct and revive Lord Herbert of Lea's Sanitary Committee. It will be composed of persons thoroughly qualified from different points of view to advise on the Sanitary construction of these buildings; and I also propose the appointment of one expert, who will be able at any time to go down and examine any place where the Government think it desirable that his opinion should be obtained. This Committee will entail no extra charge upon the Exchequer. Its functions will be, in the first place, to examine all the plans the Government propose for the barracks, and to recommend what alterations they propose in order to bring the buildings up to the modern requirements of sanitary science, and also in the future to examine the Sanitary Reports both from India and the United Kingdom, and report to the Secretary of State for War for the time being on the measures taken for keeping camps and barracks in proper order. The House, therefore, may rest assured as far as sanitary science can go e very thin gin reason will be done. I have now only to move the Resolution already in the hands of the Chairman. We believe that this measure will put all our barrack accommodation that specially requires attention upon a sound and decent footing. I am not going so far as to say that even at the present moment our barrack accommodation, compares very unfavourably with that of some foreign countries; but in this country it ought to be better than in foreign countries. In this country much has been done of late years in the way of seeing to the housing of our working-classes and the improvement of their dwellings both in town and country; our barrack accommodation has lagged behind in this and in other ways. That reproach the Government now hope to remove, and with that hope I ask the House to allow me to introduce a measure which will get rid of it at least for a long time to come.


In common with all hon. Members present, I listened with great interest to the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made with that lucidity which distinguishes all his utterances upon this important subject. Speaking for myself, I listened to that statement not only with interest, but with very considerable sympathy, because I am well aware that the housing of the troops of this country is in a most unsatisfactory state, and has been so for a long series of years. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken first of the unsatisfactory condition of the huts at Aldershot, the Curragh, and elsewhere, which are worn out and are almost unfit for habitation; and, for my own part, I should be glad if some reasonable scheme could be proposed for rendering those huts habitable and healthy without imposing too heavy a burden upon the taxpayers. In the second place, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the barracks, many of which, he stated, were in a more or less insanitary condition. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that many of those buildings are not only in an unsuitable locality, but are also in the worst part of that unsuitable locality, and that, therefore, it is desirable that the troops should be removed from such places altogether to places in which they would be accommodated under better conditions. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of a certain number of infantry battalions being concentrated at Aldershot and elsewhere, but he did not say whore they were to be taken from. My experience in past years has been that when we speak of taking away a battalion of infantry or a regiment of cavalry from any particular locality the authorities at the Home Office are apt to put in a word in favour of retaining the troops where they stand. I should like to know from what particular locality these troops are to be taken, and whether the right hon. Gentleman has made things straight with his colleagues at the Home Office as to the removal. We must presume that the troops were placed in their present position in the public interest, and I suppose we can be assured that their removal will cause no detriment to the Public Service. What I desire to say, however, is that this House, as far as I know, will grudge nothing that is necessary for securing the health of our troops or the sanitary condition of the barracks in which they are quartered. I, however, desire to make this proposal part of a much larger question. I wish to know whether, in point of fact, we require all the troops for whom this accommodation is asked. Last year we had a statement from the First Lord of the Admiralty when he brought forward a proposal for an expenditure of a large sum of money upon the Navy; and now we are asked by the right hon. Gentleman to sanction an expenditure of a sum of upwards of 4 millions sterling—very much "upwards,"I fear—for I hardly think we shall keep within the limits of what the right hon. Gentleman calls the net sum. We are invited to spend£4,000,000 upon barracks without any information being given as to whether we really need the large military force which we at present possess. If the Navy is being greatly strengthened the fewer troops should we require, and I think that the House of Commons is entitled to some further statement from Her Majesty's Government on the subject. I do not know whether Her Majesty's Government will be disposed to refer this Bill to a Select Committee, so that there might be a thorough inquiry into the whole scheme. I think that such an inquiry would tend to strengthen the hands of Her Majesty's Government, if they have a good case. The right hon. Gentleman has satisfied himself, or thinks he will be satisfied, as to the sanitary improvements to be made in the barracks. These are very important points, but the great point is as to the necessity of this expenditure, and the conditions under which it is to be made, and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, as well as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will admit that it is not an unreasonable suggestion that the House of Commons should have an opportunity, by means of a Committee, of inquiring into this subject, which really lies very much by itself, and is just the sort of subject which the Committee of this House could with advantage inquire into. I venture to say that such an inquiry, conducted by a Committee of the House, would be much more useful than those general fishing inquiries into the Army and Navy Estimates which we have seen, and of which I can speak with some confidence, having myself been Chairman of one of the Committees, and which really do not result, as I think experience has proved, in very much good; whereas a definite inquiry by a Committee into a subject such as this might at once enlighten the House and secure the interests of the public, and at the same time strengthen the hands of the Government, if they really have a good case for the proposals they now make. At this stage of the proceedings I do not think it is to be expected that we should pronounce an opinion either for or against the whole or any part of the scheme, but I thought it right to make these observations on the first blush of the matter, and I hope the Government will take them into their consideration.

(11.35.) SIR WALTER BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)

I quite agree with my right hon. Friend who has just sat down that no man could have given a more clear or more lucid statement than my right lion. Friend the Secretary of State for War. More than that, I go farther, and I say that he seems to have carefully considered the whole question, and to have taken, as far as he has been able, every pains that every particular and every detail of this great scheme should be brought under his especial notice. But I must say this one thing. We have had the gravest condemnation both from my right hon. Friend on this side of the House and from my right hon. Friend opposite upon the great neglect which Governments have shown in the past for the welfare of the troops. No man could have listened to what has been said on both sides of the House on this subject without coming to the conclusion that we have not done our duty in carrying out those sanitary precautions which make the life of a soldier bearable. But, Sir, there is something beyond this. It has been admitted on both sides of the House that successive Governments have been anxious to cut down the expenditure, and have cut it down, especially in those directions where outlay is necessary for the health and well-being of the troops. I will only venture to say. without going into detail, because it is absolutely out of place at this time, that the country itself will rejoice to hear that their troops are going to be placed in the same position, as regard health, as those unfortunate people are who are in workhouses or confined in prisons. We have looked after the health of everybody else, but we have absolutely and thoroughly neglected the Army in this respect. I recollect, years and years ago, being in barracks which were at that time considered to be absolutely unfit for habitation. Those barracks still exist. They have been temporarily patched up from time to time, but their condition is no better now than it then was, and they remain a scandal and disgrace to the country. My right hon. Friend who last addressed the House spoke very strongly about troops being taken away from the towns; but I thought one of the great objects of this scheme was to take the troops out of the towns, and to place them in some position close to railways, so that they can be conveniently conveyed into the towns in case of necessity. And I venture to believe that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, so long as he knows that troops are within easy distance of towns should their services be required, will not object to their removal from those towns to barracks more healthily situated. It has also been asked where the new troops to be concentrated at Aldershot are coming from, and my right hon. Friend especially stated that they ware coming from Ireland. I rejoice to hear that Ireland is in so satisfactory a condition that we are able at the present moment to look forward with satisfaction to the withdrawal of troops from the country. That speaks a great deal for the management of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. My right hon. Friend opposite went on to say he would like to know if the number of men in the Army could not be decreased. That, Sir, is a very serious question indeed. He has been Secretary for War, and he knows, and knows well, that in case of emergency we have not been able to put sufficient troops into the field without calling out the Army Reserves. He knows perfectly well that even now the regiments at home have to be depleted of their best men in order to fill up the regiments serving in India. Then how can we afford to reduce the number of troops? I think it would be a most unwise step to take at this particular time. Next, my right hon. Friend said let us have a Committee. He is like many other people who, when we have got a statement before us, when we have seen a scheme which is to be put forward by the Government, are anxious to shelve the whole question by referring it to a Committee. He does not mean to tell us the Committee will not: call for all sorts of evidence under the sun. He does not mean to tell us that we shall be able to proceed with this scheme as early as my right hon. Friend is anxious to commence. All he says is—let us have an inquiry. First, as to how many men we want; secondly, where the barracks ought to be placed; and thirdly, what the cost should be. And, in pissing, I would like to make one allusion to the sanitary question, and to point out that we have never yet found that sanitary men or experts have been able to build great buildings without some fault or defect being subsequently discovered in the sanitary arrangements. Look at oar great offices in Whitehall, and how they had to be altered. Surely, then, we Ought not to allow the difficulties of sanitation to further delay the carrying out of that most important scheme. And all I can say is that I hope my right hon. Friend will, before he allows any barrack to be commenced, see that the proper sanitary arrangements are made, which alone can be conducive to the health of the troops. My right hon. Friend has done good service to the country. He has not blinked the question, as he would have done had he asked for a very small sum; but he has been bold enough, and wise enough, and prudent enough, to ask for a large sum, a sum which, however, I will venture to say, the country will ungrudgingly grant if the necessity for it is proved to exist.

(11.45.) SIR W. CROSSMAN (Portsmouth)

I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War has taken this whole matter into his consideration and asked for a sum of money which will enable him to carry out the work properly. Am I to understand that the only concentration of troops will take place at Aldershot? The right hon. Gentleman said nothing about concentrations at large centres in the north. I should further like to ask what is to be done with the cavalry barracks at Leeds, which are in a disgracefully bad state. Also, are the barracks at Norwich and Brighton to be done away with? And finally, will there be a Schedule attached to the Bill showing where the new buildings are to be constructed, and how many men they will accommodate?

(11.46.) MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)

As the camp at Aldershot happens to be in that part of Hampshire which I have the honour of representing in this House, I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having made up his mind to spend a certain amount of money for permanent barracks, and I should also like to congratulate him on having induced the Chancellor of the Exchequer to advance the money. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the huts at Aldershot were built at the time of the Crimean War. They were built, I believe, to last 20 years, and they are constructed of weather boards and felt roofings. But they have already been in existence upwards of 30 years. At the present time, I believe it costs about £5 a year for the repairs necessary for each hut, and, therefore, I believe that the scheme for erecting permanent barracks will, in the long run, prove economical, because it will do away with the necessity for this large annual expenditure on repairs. But in addition to that, it will be all the better for the health of the troops. We make a great outcry about the housing of our labourers, but I venture to say that very few labourers are housed in such a manner as are our troops at Aldershot. Many of the huts there are not fit for men to live in. Now that we are to have a large camp, I hope that attention will be paid to the housing of our soldiers as well as of our labourers.

(11.47.) MR. E. STANHOPE

The right hon. Gentleman has asked me whether the proposal I have laid before the Committee has the assent of the Home Secretary. Of course it has. I spoke in the name of the Government. He also asked for a Committee to inquire as to what the strength of the Army ought to be. Well, I entirely repudiate any such idea. The strength of the Army must depend on the responsibility of the Government of the day, and we accept that responsibility in full. We are satisfied we are not going into any excess, but I doubt, if all our troops returned from abroad, whether even under this scheme the accommodation would be adequate. I am not prepared to adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman to appoint a Committee; we must keep the responsibility in our own hands. As to the camps in the North of England, we have no idea of abandoning them. On the contrary, we shall extend them. With regard to the barracks at Leeds, that has been a question fraught with great anxiety; and with the full concurrence of the Commander-in-Chief we have decided to retain them, although the surroundings are not altogether satisfactory. We do not propose to insert in a schedule the barracks we intend to retain, as the difficulty of carrying the Bill would be enormously aggravated. I am ready to give full information to the public, because I believe our scheme is amply justified.

(11.49.) MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)

I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the barracks at Preston which may easily be made suitable for cavalry. Till recently a battery of Artillery has been stationed there, but it has been removed to Woolwich. The barracks are in an excellent place outside the town, and they are well built, and are provided with a well appointed riding school and other appliances, and could, I believe, be easily made available for a cavalry regiment. In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to remove the rivalry from Manchester, I would suggest to him that Preston would be a more suitable place for locating them than Lichfield.


The Resolution, Sir, which you have read from the Chair appears to deal only with the question of barracks, but the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War told the House that his scheme extended beyond that, because it included the purchase of land. I do not know whether it will not be necessary to alter the Resolution, as a Bill is to be founded upon it. But I rise for the purpose of asking the Secretary for War whether he will afford the House information with regard to the mode in which the scheme will affect what was intended to be carried out under the mobilisation of the forces many years ago. In connection with that scheme a certain amount of barrack accommodation was erected in different parts of the country, and I think we ought to be informed whether the barracks then put up will be utilised. There is a reflection which occurs to my mind and which I suspect will occur to many other people to-morrow when they road the account of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. Here we have a War Minister coming down to ask a vote of between four and live millions, and in order to justify that expenditure he gives a most lamentable account of the present condition of the barracks in different parts of the country. Nothing could be more emphatic than this condemnation of the conduct of present and past Governments. How is it, and why is it, that with the hundreds and thousands of pounds, aye, the millions of pounds, which have been voted in the last two decades in connection with buildings and repairs, we are now told that the barrack accommodation at Aldershot and and at the principal stations in this country is simply scandalous and deplorable? Whose fault is it? It is not the fault of the House of Commons, for I never knew the House begrudge money for work of this description. The responsibility must rest with the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors. It appears to me that the right hon. Gentleman owes the House some kind of apology for the state of neglect and disrepair into which the barracks have fallen, and also for their insanitary condition. The country ought to have some explanation of how it is this has come about, and they ought to know upon whose shoulders rests the responsibility.


I must express my gratification that the worst barracks in the country—Galway Barracks—are going to be dealt with under this scheme. But there is one point to which I should like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, and that is to the accommodation at the depot centres. He will find, if he inquires into the matter, that the barracks at these places have not been erected on the most economical scale. They are too small for the number of troops that ought to be provided for, but the accommodation for the staff is unnecessarily large and out of proportion.

(11.54.) MR. STANHOPE

In reply to the Hon. Member, I may say that the depot centres will continue to be used hereafter, as at present, with possibly one exception.

(11.55.) MR. H. J. WILSON (York W.R., Holmfirth)

I think the right hon. Gentleman must have failed to catch a portion of the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for East Donegal, who asked how it is that the barracks have got into such a condition.


It is impossible at this hour to go into that question; but if hon. Members desire to pursue it at another time, I shall be happy to meet them. I accept my share of the responsibility; but I think I shall be able to satisfy the House that during the two or three years I have been in office, I have done something to remedy the defects at our military centres, although I may not have been able to apply an adequate remedy. Resolved, That it is expedient to authorise the payment out of the Consolidated Fund, and out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of sums for the purpose of building and enlarging barracks and camps in the United Kingdom, and in certain Colonies. Resolution to be reported To-morrow.