HC Deb 26 June 1890 vol 346 cc90-115

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 5.


On this clause I beg to move, in page 4, line 3, after the word "money," to insert the words— and such estimate shall be laid before Parliament as soon as possible: Provided, that in framing such estimates regard shall be had to the provision of local centres for the combined training of the Regular and Auxiliary Forces, and the renewal and improvement of existing barracks and camps, and not to the provision of permanent accommodation for additional forces at great central camps. I understand that the Secretary of State proposes under this Bill to establish a great central camp at Aldershot, but in doing this the right hon. Gentleman will be defeating the plan of localisation which has been sanctioned by successive Governments and the House. We know that this Bill was smuggled through the House unexpectedly at a late hour in the evening when there was not time properly to discuss it. For my part, I admit the necessity of providing new barracks; and on this subject I think we have hitherto greatly neglected our duty, the existing barracks being for the most part in anything but a wholesome or sanitary condition, and unfit for the purposes of localisation. In my belief we shall have to spend not only the £4,100,000 provided by this Bill, but a considerable sum beyond that. When in India my attention was called to discussions which took place with regard to the provision of barracks, and the enormous sums expended and the blunders made in regard to those buildings. My impression is that before we have done with the barracks of the United Kingdom and our colonies, if we really put them into an efficient state, we shall have to spend a much larger sum than is provided for by this measure. I have long been of opinion that it is not desirable to concentrate the Army, and that it is much more desirable to carry out a good localisation scheme. We want a National Army for defence not defiance, and for this purpose we must have efficient barracks at Aldershot and other places. I deplore the fact that up to the present moment a system of localisation has not been carried out. If a large body of troops is to be concentrated at Aldershot or in any other locality, the result will be to cause the divorce between the Regular and Auxiliary Forces, which I regard as one of the greatest evils of the day, to be greatly exaggerated. I am confident that I have justification for what I say, because, on the very day when the Report of the Second Reading of this Bill appeared, there was a letter published in the Times from a very distinguished General—General Adye, than whom there could not be a higher authority—giving expression to the very views I have ventured to submit to the Committee. Sir John Adye, writing to the Times on May 24, said— The Minister for War, in his statement of February last, did not by any means limit his proposal to the removal of defects. On the contrary, he specially said that our troops were dribbled away throughout the country, and that the main object was concentration. It will be observed, for instance, that no less s sum than £1,475,000 is put down for Alder-shot alone, and that in addition to the considerable force of infantry already there, it is contemplated to build barracks for the permanent location of six more battalions; and the same scheme, on a smaller scale, is to be carried out at other places. According to my judgment, the principle of permanently massing our regular troops at a few stations is a faulty one, and is in entire opposition to the policy pursued of late years. The localisation of the depots in the various counties, which was commenced by the late Lord Card-well, was with a view not only of bringing our soldiers more into touch with the civil population, but of more closely associating them with the Militia and Volunteers. So far as it has gone, that measure has been very successful in popularising the Service, in facilitating recruiting, and in improving the Auxiliary Forces. I do not wish to imply that the massing of our troops of all arms, and of Regulars, Militia, and Volunteers, for purposes of instruction at the military camps, is not in every way advantageous. Such a system should be carried out annually. But these should be temporary and not permanent arrangements; and the regiments coming from a distance should be encamped. Camp life of itself is instructive to young soldiers, and healthy at the same time. The permanent concentration of the Regular Troops at comparatively few stations at home, thus isolating them, as it were, from the civil population of the various counties, I hold to be a bad principle. It is also to be observed that the proposal, costly as it is, does not add a man or a gun to the strength of our Army, and looking at the numerous and constant requirements of the Empire—in various parts of the world for garrisons, armaments, and other preparations, it appears to me that careful inquiry should be made before the country is committed to a vast expenditure for arrangements, founded chiefly on a principle of a doubtful character. I think it will be admitted, after reading that extract, that I do not act without authority in bringing this subject before the House. I will only quote from another letter which appeared in the Times, dated May 26th, and signed "Major General." This Major General does not altogether agree with General Adye, but he agrees with him as to the localisation of the Forces. The Major General says— Sir John Adye, in his anxiety to throw stones at our Administration, with which he has never been connected, has contrived to draw attention to the scheme originating from Lord Cardwell in 1872, which one may fairly say has cost the country some millions of money, with the result now of entailing in patchwork a few millions more. This was the establishment of county depots, an excellent plan in theory, hut one which has been, is, and will be always, most costly in its practical uses. These barracks were built of a stiff uniform pattern, without reference to either the population or the military requirements of the district, to hold a staff of about 240 soldiers of each regimental depot, and without apparently any notice of the proper requirements of the Auxiliary Forces of the district. The consequence is that, with two or throe exceptions, like Lichfield, Warley, and Fleetwood, there is no accommodation for the Militia battalions of the county when out for training, and the Militia and Volunteer Permanent Staff have to be provided with extra quarters at a very large addition to the lodging list, and a corresponding swelling of the annual Army Estimates. As they now stand, they cost nearly £1,000,000 a year, with the result of an unsufficient training to the Line recruit, and the dissatisfaction of the officers commanding Militia battalions as to the training of their own recruits. Sir John Adye blames the concentration of troops at military stations, but he forgets that at isolated stations there are few facilities for training troops or for rifle ranges at the long distances now required by the now arm; and though he proposes that they should be massed temporarily for these purposes, he should know that in these days the training of both horse and foot must go on uninterruptedly, summer and winter, in the same manner as the Royal Artillery. Even in General Sir John Adye's muzzle-loading days, they were compelled to keep up the instruction which deservedly now places that arm of Her Majesty's Service in the van of all other military nations. No doubt the sum asked for by Mr. Stanhope is large, but it is the result of the parsimonious cutting down of barrack estimates that has characterised every Administration up to the present time. I do not think that there could be a stronger opinion than that. I think these are very strong authorities to justify me in saying that I think Her Majesty's Government ought to devote more of this money to increased localisation, and I think £1,000,000 a year might be saved if you only had proper barracks. I was very much struck by some words which fell from an eminent authority at the time of the Debate on the Channel Tunnel Bill. He said that we need not trouble ourselves about Channel tunnels, but should rely on our land defences. I have long urged that we are living in a fool's paradise. Our Army is dispersed all over the world, and we very much need a good and efficient land defence. An Army might be hurled upon us from the Continent, and the only efficient means of resistance is an effective combination of the Auxiliary and Regular Forces—in fact, a National Army. We have the Return obtained on the Motion of the hon. Member for Bradford showing that at this moment we are spending £38,000,000 on our defences, though I believe with what is to be spent on barracks the sum is nearly £40,000,000. Instead of listening to old women about the Channel Tunnel, I say it would be much better that we should look to our land defences. A first step to the real and efficient localisation of the forces is to provide barracks which the authorities I have quoted tell you are necessary. Take Switzerland, where every man is trained for the national defence, and where may be seen an example which we might very well imitate. But if you want to exercise men in large masses, you must bring them into camp and under canvas. That will teach the men to help themselves and fit them for real campaigning. Therefore, Sir, I very much protest against this huge centralisation, and against this distrust which Sir John Adye and others seem to have of localisation. The best way of securing-ourselves is to have a great National popular Army, and which, being popular, will not be aggressive. Now that there is a popular Army in France that country is the least inclined to aggression, and Ministers immediately become unpopular who invite danger to the nation. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.

Amendment proposed, In page 4, line 3, after the word "money" to insert the words "and such estimate shall be laid before Parliament as soon as possible, provided1 that in framing such estimates regard shall be had to the provision of local centres for the combined training of the Regular and Auxiliary Forces, and the renewal and improvement of existing barracks and camps, and not the pro vision of permanent accommodation for additional forces at great central camps."—{Sir G. Campbell.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

(7.20.) MR. HANBURY (Preston)

Mr. Courtney, there is a good deal, I confess, in the Amendment brought forward by the hon. Member, but I think we are entitled to a little more information from the Secretary for War as to the methods by which the barracks are to be kept up and the purposes for which the are going to be built. We have heard so much about the unsanitary dwellings of the troops and the danger to the life and health of many of them that we want to be sure that, in connection with the barracks that are going to be built, the money will not be wasted in the same way. On what system ire they going to be built—by contract or competition, and with the supervision of engineers? We have seen the rascally kind of buildings run up for the London School Board. I want to see that our troops, at any rate, are not housed in buildings of that kind. I want to know exactly what precautions my right hon. Friend has taken against dangers of that kind so far as our barracks are concerned. Not only have we had experience of the Board School buildings, but we have had experience of the barracks at Bedford, as to which a local Surveyor reported the other day. I should like to know who is going to be the person positively responsible for these buildings. We have had the responsibility shuffled, first on the doctors by the engineers, and then on the engineers by the doctors, in respect of the barracks to which I refer; and I think we ought to have some positive information, before we spend all this money, as to who is going to be responsible for the sanitary arrangements of the buildings. I do hope my right hon. Friend' will trust a little more to the men who are actually sent, and a little less to Surveyors and officials of that kind. Take the barracks at Dublin, for instance. Commissioner after Commissioner, and Surveyor after Surveyor reported that the houses were theoretically right. Then, at last, they sent a man who took up the floors, and found that everything was as bad as it possibly could be. I should like to know, also, over what period of time this work is to be extended. We know very well that, so far as many of the existing barracks are concerned, the matter is very pressing indeed. I think we ought to know something as to the scheme for the concentration of the troops. First one Minister, and then another, brings forward some proposal. Is this a newfangled scheme of my right hon. Friend, and does he intend to upset the localisation scheme? The localisation is beginning to work effectively for the first time, and, though the present system is not by any means perfect, it is working a great deal better than it did. If my right hon. Friend interferes with that system, I believe he will have very great difficulty with regard to recruiting, whether trade revives or not. If he draws men away from their localities, I am sure he will not get either so many or so good a class of recruits as in the past.

*THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOB WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE,) Lincolnshire, Horncastle

I do not interfere in any way with the scheme of localisation.


I am very glad my questions have brought out that fact. I wish to know whether my right hon. Friend is going to concentrate the First Army Corps at Aldershot or not. It is very important to know that. And what is he going to do with the Second Army Corps, which is not in existence yet? There is a feeling in the North that its home ought to be in the North. I think the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy is entirely met by the statement of my right hon. Friend, and I congratulate him upon having given so clear an enunciation of his views; at the same time, I must warn him against the danger that this scheme of his will be a mixture of two schemes—a scheme of compensation on the one hand, and of localisation on the other; and that he will not get the advantage of either scheme. That is a danger which certainly occurs to me. Although I agree, to a certain extent, with the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, I must say that my objections are largely removed by the statement of my right hon. Friend.

*(7.25.) SIR W. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N. W.)

I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that it was absolutely necessary that the various arms should be concentrated. I have always urged that the First Army Corps should be seen so that the country might know that it was effective and efficient. It is said that it is soon paper; but what we want is that we shall be able to see it in reality. We shall have an opportunity, no doubt, when these new barracks are built, of seeing the First Army Corps in all its abundance at Aldershot. There can be nothing more important than these proposals to improve the sanitary conditions of the dwellings of our troops. It may save discussion if my right hon. Friend tells us whether he is going to distribute troops in certain strategic positions where they can be available for the large towns at a moment's notice. I should like to know how that scheme is being carried out. As to the cavalry regiments, I understood him to say that all small detachments should be done away with and the regiments concentrated in one place; this would, indeed, be a great improvement. In Manchester, for instance, the cavalry regiment now quartered there are to have new barracks at some convenient station not far from Manchester, where they can have plenty of space to drill. These are questions which deserve careful consideration. We have got £4,000,000, a certain portion of which is to be spent every year. We should like to know that the money will be expended, notwithstanding changes of Ministers, on lines that will be approved by the House of Commons. These new arrangements, as described by my right hon. Friend, are, I am satisfied, in the best interests of the troops, and it is a pity they were not made long ago. I am quite sure that whatever sum of money is spent, if it is only applied in the interests of the Army and to the improvement of the health of our soldiers, the public will not grudge it.

*(7.29.) MR. E. STANHOPE

The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy based a large part of his speech on certain correspondence in the Times, especially that of Sir John Adye. I am not going to depreciate the authority of Sir John Adye, but I must say I prefer his practice to his theory. Sir John Adye's recommendation to the Secretary for War was that he should spend money, not on increasing accommodation at local centres, but on re-building the permanent camps. But if you look at the figures of Sir John Adye, you will find that the work he recommended to be carried out would, at the rate of progress then made, take, at least, 150 years to accomplish. With regard to the localisation of the Forces, I will say at once that the scheme before the House in no way interferes with that scheme. I believe the scheme is working well, and I have not the smallest desire to interfere with it in any way; but I will do all in my power to make it more effective. The present scheme is necessitated, in the first instance, by the lamentable condition of many of our camps and barracks. It is necessitated also by our desire, if we do build barracks, to concentrate our troops more than we have done before. We hope to concentrate to a very considerable extent batteries of Artillery, so that there shall be, wherever possible, at least two batteries together, and, when possible, three. With regard to cavalry, we hope to be able, in certain circumstances, to enlarge the barracks, so that each may hold one complete regiment. In the case of Manchester, we propose to build a completely new cavalry barrack at some distance from the town, and to get rid of the present barrack, which is in a very inconvenient position, and certainly is not suited for the purpose to which it is now devoted. A large sum would have to be spent in putting the present building into a good condition; and we think it better, on all grounds, to remove the troops to a point some little distance from Manchester, where they will be available on short notice for any service for which they may be required. We have not yet decided what that place shall be, but we hope before long we may be able to arrive at a decision.

MR. POWELL WILLIAMS (Birmingham, S.)

What does the right hon. Gentleman propose in relation to the cavalry in Birmingham?


We shall certainly not keep those cavalry barracks. We think there is every ground to justify us for removing the cavalry from Birmingham. I have also been asked questions with reference to concentrated camps. Our policy has been to try and concentrate infantry in great camps. This has been done at Aldershot and the Curragh, and in one or two smaller camps. This we believe to be an enormous advantage. We think our small army will be made much more efficient if our infantry can be concentrated with a small amount of cavalry and artillery, in order that they may practice manœuvres, as is done in other countries. It is very difficult in this country to find a space in which manœuvres can be carried out, but Aldershot seems to supply the best means for the purpose. We do not think we shall be able to get all the troops of the First Army Corps together at Aldershot, but we hope a large proportion of them will be concentrated there, and we are keeping the regiments first for service up to their full strength, in order that we may be able to meet any sudden demand for sending abroad a force of 8,000 or 10,000 men. I have been asked whether we intend to try the experiment of concentrating the First Army Corps. I assure my hon. Friend who put the question that I believe we could carry out that experiment with the greatest success, but we do not do it because of the enormous expense it would involve. The cost of a similar concentration in the South of France last year was enormous, and the same would be the case in this country. The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) asks how the new barracks are to be built. They are going to be built by contract. Plans are being prepared, and tenders will be called for.


Under what system of competition—a pretty general competition?


Yes; there will be very general competition. The hon. Member also asks who is responsible for the sanitary state of the new barracks. I have explained to the House that I think, on the whole, the safest and the best way of assuring that our new barracks are built on sound and sanitary principles is to re-constitute Lord Herbert's Sanitary Committee.


Who will pass the barracks?


There will be power in the Sanitary Committee to make an inspection of any barracks at any time, so as to see whether the plans they pass are carried out. I am perfectly satisfied that with this supervision we shall be able to provide new barracks on a thoroughly sound principle. My hon. Friend asks how long it will take to carry out the scheme. It must take some years; I do not myself entertain any hope that we can complete the whole of the scheme in less than seven years. We intend to deal first with those cases in which the sanitary requirements need the greatest attention. On the whole, we think that it is the best course. I hope we shall be able to complete the work in a shorter period than I have mentioned, but I should be deceiving the House if I held out confident expectations that we could complete the whole of the work not only in England but in the Colonies within a less time than I have mentioned. As to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), I have only to say that I am wholly unable to accept it, and I hope the hon. Member will not press it.

*(7.39.) MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)

The right hon. Gentleman very properly and clearly pointed out to the House the distinction between what we term the localisation of the Army and the distribution of the troops quartered at home The localisation of the Army is a term which has come to be well known, and implies a scheme by which recruits are obtained and perform the first part of their drill in this country. It has, however, nothing to do with the stationing or quartering of regiments. Without having any strong opinion on the subject myself, I think I may say, with some confidence, that the Military Authorities have the greatest objection to the idea of any regiment being necessarily quartered in any particular part of the country. All that was attempted to be done by the localisation scheme was to secure connection in recruiting between a certain district and a certain regiment, and to bring the Auxiliary and the Regular Forces as much as possible in harmony. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Horsham (Sir W. Barttelot) that there are too many Brigade Depots or depot centres, as they are sometimes called. They are too small, and in many respects are not as efficient as they might have been. This was brought about by the necessities of the time when the scheme came into existence, and was largely occasioned by the necessity of consulting the prejudices and jealousies of the different counties. But to attempt now to do away with some of these depôt centres, where the buildings have been erected, and to replace them with others would involve an enormous expense. The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War is a scheme for shifting to a certain extent the quarters where the troops serving at home are distributed, and generally putting the barracks throughout the kingdom in a more habitable condition. I am bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman appears to me to have approached a very difficult question with much courage as well as discretion. I think those who know most about it will probably be strongest in their opinion that it is most undesirable to keep small detachments of troops isolated in towns, and frequently in most unfavourable circumstances, both for health and discipline. Of course, the original object in scattering the forces in that way was that they might be more ready to assist in the preservation of the peace, but the whole railway system has been brought into being since that distribution was made. I know there has been a good deal said by distinguished officers, whose opinion I value very highly, against the concentration of troops in large camps. One distinguished officer has published the opinion that the troops should not be kept in barracks, but ought to live in their own homes. I cannot say I share the opinion that this is either desirable or possible at the present time, and I think there is great advantage in establishing at Aldershot and one or two other places in the country an aggregation of corps of the different arms, so as to enable them to receive thorough training. By this means I hope there will be avoided those frequent movements of troops, which are so costly to the country, and which occasion so much inconvenience to all concerned. As I have already remarked, a point on which the House of Commons has not received sufficient information is the most material one of whether the number of troops for which we are now providing improved accommodation is really required in this country at all. It may be so, but we have no reason to believe that this matter has been carefully gone into in view of the recent changes made in the military and naval defences of the country. Allusion has been made to the First Corps d'Arm°e, and a hope has been expressed that it may be brought together at Aldershot. I am in a very incredulous and sceptical frame of mind about the First and the Second Corps d'Arm°e. I know the right hon. Gentleman believes in them firmly. For my own part, although there may be some utility in having an organisation of this kind, as it may serve as a limit up to which to build, as it were, I never have been able to see why we should endeavour to form our troops at home, being, as they are, a reservoir for various foreign services, into an organisation which is more fit for Continental warfare than for any purpose to which they are ever likely to be devoted in this country. As to the sanitary question, I think it is rather too hard that we should always have the Royal Barracks in Dublin, and other barracks which are in an insanitary condition, brought forward as instances of what the new barracks are to be. The old barracks are insanitary because they are built on the old sites, and many of them on cesspools.


I distinctly alluded to the Bedford Barracks, which were built recently.


At all events I think the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. E. Stanhope) has taken what will be an effective course in re-appointing the Sanitary Commission. I hope my hon. Friend behind me will not press his Amendment, because the object at which it aims is really the same object as the right hon. Gentleman has in view as far as it is compatible with the conditions of our Service.

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

Allusion has been made to the popularity of the Army, and I am certain we shall never keep up the popularity of our Army until we keep our troops in good barracks. I wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether in the new barracks accommodation has been provided for married officers. At the present time a great many field officers are married men, and they either have barrack accommodation in the shape of a hut at Aldershot or a lodging allowance of £60 a year. I believe that under this scheme these officers are only to have two rooms, which, of course, is insufficient accommodation for a married man. I hope my right hon. Friend will give this question his attention.

*(7.52.) MR. ROUND (Essex, N. E., Harwich)

I am glad to hear what the Secretary of State for War has said, as to the further' concentration of our Military Forces under the provisions of this Bill; and I believe the Committee will approve of the reappointment of the old Sanitary Committee. I wish to ask my right hon. Friend for some information respecting the proposed alterations in the barracks at Colchester. A Parliamentary Return has been sent to Members showing the amounts proposed to be spent upon the different barracks, and I was surprised to find that there was a smaller sum allotted to Colchester out of the Vote for £4,000,000 than to any other camp. My right hon. Friend went down there the other day and inspected them, and no doubt he observed the unsatisfactory condition of the huts occupied by the Infantry. Those huts were built for the accommodation of the German legion nearly 40 years ago. And I think that if huts elsewhere are to be replaced by brick structures these should be included. I would press on the right hon. Gentleman the urgency and the necessity of thoroughly re-constructing the huts in the interests of our young soldiers.

(7.54.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)

I wish to add one word to what was said by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Jeffreys) in regard to the officers' quarters. There are some barracks which not only have no provision for married officers, but have none for single officers, and I would submit to the Secretary for War the expediency of providing accommodation for officers in the barracks of the brigade of Guards in London.

*(7.55.) SIR F. FITZWYGRAM (South Hams)

In the remarks I wish to make I am afraid I shall place myself somewhat in opposition to the views of many officers. I agree that the concentration of troops is absolutely necessary, but I think it should not take place in barracks. My idea is that we should have for the use of our troops two central canvas camps, and that the troops should be sent there for about six weeks' practice a year. The adoption of such a system would, I believe, be equally valuable to the officers in com- mand and to the men. There are, I think, only two uses in the concentration of troops. The first is to give practice to general officers, and the second to accustom troops to camp life. Six weeks' practice in tactics and manœuvres, so far as general officers and colonels of regiments are concerned, would be quite sufficient. If a man who has attained to the rank of a field officer cannot pick up the aptitude of handling bodies of troops in six weeks I do not think he is likely to do it at all. I have seen colonels come to Aldershot unable to handle troops, stay there for two years, and be unable to handle troops when they leave. I attach the greatest possible value to the training of senior officers. But I think the officer who gains-most from the system of concentration ought to be the commander-in-chief. He is, or ought to be, constantly over at Aldershot watching the manœuvres of the troops and ascertaining the capacity of the senior officers. Having gained a knowledge of their capacity he would be able on the outbreak of war to employ those officers whom he found best able to handle troops. The gain in concentration of troops is to the senior officers. Company officers learn absolutely nothing. It does not make the slightest difference to a company officer whether there are 10,000 or 100,000 men in the field, because he simply has to take the word of command from his senior officer, and the same as regards the rank and file. The gain to the soldiers is, or at least ought to be, knowledge of camp life. I want to see the soldiers trained to camp life. At present, as far as alt practical knowledge of camp life is concerned, men leave Aldershot just as ignorant as they go there. The men are on the Barrack Establishment. I should like to see them under canvas. I should like to see live oxen and sheep driven to Aldershot and killed and cooked there. I should like to see the bread ration abolished, and flour served up and bread baked in camp kitchens. Everyone who is acquainted with life in the field knows the privations from which men suffer, who are untrained to life under canvas. How, on the other hand, when they have got used to it, they make themselves perfectly comfortable and happy. Camp life, like other life, requires practice—it cannot all be learned in a day. Instead of building great barracks at Aldershot, York, and Curragh, I think the barracks should be built for the men in their county towns where their friends live. I am sure they would feel happier and better, and I believe more good would be done than by anything else to promote the recruiting of the Army. It may be said that commanding officers require to be under a general and brigadier to brush them up. I do not deny that a good many commanding officers are a great deal better for being under a general for a short time, but I deny that it is good training for a commanding officer to be constantly under the eye of a general, inasmuch as he ought to be ready to take responsibility upon himself. I look upon out-quarters as most valuable. If officers learn to act for themselves when they are young they become more fitted for taking higher commands. This is especially the case in regard to cavalry regiments, the officers of which, in time of war, have constantly to perform duties which require a good head and plenty of self-reliance. If they are always kept together at headquarters they will never have the opportunity of acting for themselves. I have seen a good many regiments at Aldershot which had been long quartered together, which were on arrival perfect in parade movements, but which were found to be very deficient, when they came to be knocked about in manœuvres. I utterly deny that there is any advantage to be gained by building large permanent barracks at York or Aldershot. To my mind it is merely the perpetuation of an evil system.

*(8.5.) MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)

I wish to draw attention to the question of the material to be used in the construction of the Irish barracks. I am willing to admit that a very considerable amount of this money is to be appropriated to works in Ireland. I would point out, however, that the designs for the new buildings are made in the War Office in London, and are based on the assumption that English building materials will be used. I would submit to the right hon. Gentleman that it is only reasonable the Department should make some effort to utilise as far as possible the materials to be found in Ireland. It would not involve any additional expense, but, on the contrary, would be attended by consider able economy. It is hardly reasonable or proper to carry stone from England to Ireland, where plenty of stone for building purposes is to be found, and still such things have been done, and I called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact about a year ago. I would also draw attention to the question of the designs for the barracks. Those designs do not appear to have improved with the improved ideas respecting buildings of other characters in this country in recent years. They seem to have in the War Office a stereotyped form, which they always stick to.

(8.9.) MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)

I would point out, with reference to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell) that, if carried, it would have the effect of reducing the Aldershot Division to about 3,000 or 4,000 men. The hon. Member suggested that canvas should be substituted for barracks. I do not think, if the hon. Gentleman were under canvas himself from now to Christmas, it would conduce to his morale or efficiency.


I did not suggest that they should live permanently under canvas, but that they should be under canvas for six weeks in the summer.


I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Member. With regard to the Aldershot huts, they are in an absolutely ruinous condition, and those at Colchester and Shorncliffe are very much the same. At Shorncliffe, when I was there, the men had to shift their cots round the huts whenever there was a change of wind, because the rain absolutely drifted through the walls. I would suggest that you are not likely to encourage recruiting to house a man in a sort of inferior cowshed. Allusion has been made to the opinion of Sir John Adye. He is, no doubt, a general of great experience, but I do not think his name carries great weight among some Members of this House. He is principally known to Members as being the Director General of Ordnance at the time when the 35,000 swords which bent and broke and gave such unsatisfactory results in the Soudan Campaign were obtained, and he is also known as being a distinguished advocate of the Channel Tunnel. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the depot centres should be improved. I think he is quite right, but we must remember that the present Secretary for War has done a great deal for the dep6t centres, and that it is owing to his energy and courage in the matter that nearly 90 per cent, of the Militia regiments that used to be in camps are now in barracks. The hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) is quite right in asking that due supervision shall be exercised with reference to the building of these new quarters. I think he is perfectly right. We do not want to see repeated the fiasco that occurred in Belfast some time ago when the plans got mixed, and a building, with verandahs and so on, intended for Hong Kong, was put up in Belfast, while the Belfast plans were sent to Hong Kong. I think the War Office officials are entitled to commendation for the way in which they have elaborated the present schemes.

*(8.13.) MR. E. STANHOPE

I have been asked to consider the question of officers' quarters. The plans for officers' quarters in our camps have been considered thoroughly satisfactory by the architects whose opinion has been taken upon them. With regard to Colchester, I admit a good deal remains to be done there, but the camp there is incomparably better than those at Aldershot and Shornclifie.


Does the right hon Gentleman think the huts are better?


Certainly I do. A good deal of money must be spent at Colchester, and I do not want to be tied down to £he precise sums given in our Estimate. I saw there were palpable and gross evils that ought to be remedied at Colchester. The hon. and gallant Member for Hampshire (Sir P. FitzWygram) has practically admitted that his views were not shared by the majority of officers in the Army, and in that he is quite right. Certainly, the officers I have consulted are absolutely unanimous in favour of the concentration of troops at Aldershot and elsewhere as best calculated to advance the interests of the Army. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) has asked me whether the present number of troops is required. That matter has been very carefully considered by the Government. I do not believe at all that we have too-many troops, looking to the fact of the increasing demands made upon us to supply increasing garrisons at our coaling stations. May I hope that now we may be allowed to proceed with the remaining portions of the Bill?

(8.17.) MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)

I should like to know whether it is proposed that anything should be done with the barracks at Dover? I have seen those barracks, the floors of which are absolutely reeking with moisture. Surely men ought not to be required to reside in such a place, at any rate when there is no actual war proceeding.


The barracks, at Dover will be dealt with in the course of the present year.


I thought I was going to be sat upon all round; but I think the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Hamphire (Sir P. FitzWygram) fully justifies me in taking the course I have adopted. That speech was the speech of a practical man. It seems, to me that Secretaries of State for War are morally coerced by the opinions of the military men by whom they are surrounded. These men wish to have a large Regular Army, and dislike to be muddled up with what they call second rate Auxiliaries. I am not entirely without knowledge of this matter. I have seen a great many troops, and I was particularly struck by what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said with regard to the accommodation of troops. It so happened that I was with the first column at Delhi in 1857. I was surprised at the extraordinary difference between the men who had been in camp! and those who came from England. Those who had been in camp were healthful and good in every way, but the new troops were utterly helpless. They could do nothing for themselves. Now so far from objecting to improve defective barracks, I have expressed the opinion that before you have done you will spend a great deal more than £4,000,000 on the work. It seems to me that the Secretary of State disposed of the question of localisation in a very light and airy way. He says the War Office do not intend to interfere with localisation in the least degree; but I do not find from the Schedule of the way in which this money is to be spent a single farthing is to be spent on localisation or local centres. I maintain that you are starving out the system of localisation. If localisation is not to be interfered with why are you bringing six more regiments to Aldershot? I confess the Secretary of State has thrown a new light on this matter. I have always supposed, and I think others have, that localisation meant localisation of the troops, but the right hon. Gentleman tells us, under the advice of the military gentlemen surrounding him, it means nothing of the kind, that localisation never contemplated the localisation of troops, but the localisation of recruiting districts. I do not think the country has understood that that is what is meant by localisation. But as both sides are against me I do not think it is well I should go to a Division. I will only ask the Secretary of State for War whether he has any objection to the first part of my Amendment, namely, "that such Estimates shall be laid before Parliament as soon as possible."


I am afraid I cannot undertake to adopt that.


Then I submit myself to the opinion of the Committee.

LORD H. BRUCE (Wilts, Chippenham)

was understood to say that it was proposed to do now what ought to have been done previously year by year.

(8.27.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

7 am anxious to receive some information 3 to the alterations at the Royal arracks, Dublin. I understand that a [...] large sum of money is to be spent on the Dublin Barracks; but I have heard from Royal Engineers and others competent to form an opinion, that instead of pulling down the barracks and building them again what ought to be done would be to do away with the old wood flooring which is promoting the disease in the barracks. The War Office find they can get this money very easily, and I suppose they mean to spend it easily. I would suggest that an independent inquiry should be instituted into the condition of the Royal Barracks, because I am convinced that what is needed could be done at a much less cost than is contemplated. Also, I should like to know what is going to be done at the Curragh, whether any portion of the money is going to be spent there? Not long ago we received very unsatisfactory replies from the right hon. Gentleman as to the sanitary condition of the permanent barracks there.


There will be at least £420,000 at the Curragh.


And at the Royal Barracks?


I cannot give the exact figure, but a considerable sum of money will be required to be expended there.


Then, is a great portion of the existing structure to be pulled down?


Only a portion, because the walls are not strong enough to support the stores we propose to place there. The main portion will not be pulled down.

(8.30.) Question put, and negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 6.

(9.7.) SIR G. CAMPBELL rose.


I beg, Mr. Courtney, to call your attention to the fact that there are not 40 Members present.


In the face of the fact of so large a number of Members having been recently in attendance it would be trifling with the House to count. Sir George Campbell.


I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.

(9.8.) DR. TANNER

Am I to understand, Sir, that I am not within my right—


Order, older!

(9.8.) DR. TANNER

Am I not within my right—seeing that half-an-hour has elapsed since there was the large attendance to which you have referred, and that there may not be the number of Members in the premises—in calling your attention to the state of the House?


Order, order! There is authority for my action, and I am acting upon that authority. Sir George Campbell.


I beg to move the omission of Clause 6, which gives power to the Treasury to borrow or raise money for [the purposes of the Act. I say, as I have said before, that I do not object to spending money upon barracks, provided that the money is raised in the right way; but I object to this un-Constitutional and unjustifiable method of borrowing money in a time of peace and of great prosperity, when there ought to be plenty of money in the Treasury. No doubt we are indebted to the head of the Foreign Office and the Ministry for the fact that at the present moment we have complete peace; but it is because we have that complete peace that I object to the extraordinary and preposterous proposal to borrow money for a necessary public purpose. Barracks are a necessary purpose. If we keep up an Army we must have barracks to house the men. The barracks we have are insufficient, and it seems to me that if we have spent too little on them in previous years we ought to take advantage of a good and prosperous year when we have a surplus, and make up for the insufficiency out of that surplus. I find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton raised the question on the measure for Naval Defence last year, and showed that the plan proposed by the Government was without precedent, and that, when spending money on a similar object, Lord Palmers-ton had only borrowed from year to year, taking Parliamentary sanction for what he did each year. I hold that this year there is no necessity for borrowing, seeing that there is plenty of money in the Exchequer, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made provision for paying away large sums for purposes which are absolutely unnecessary, and which are distasteful to the majority of the people of this country. According to the figures obtained by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) it seems that the cost of the defences of the country has reached an enormous amount, namely, £38,321,433. But that is not all, because we now have this expenditure on barracks. We are this year finding £300,000 out of the Budget surplus for barracks. I should like to know if that is all we are going to spend this year?

THE CHANCELLOR or THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN, St. George's, Hanover Square)



Then I think it ought not to be. To my mind a great deal more should be spent, if all we hear is true with regard to the Dublin Barracks and the Aldershot huts. The proposal of the Bill will give the Government power to borrow without coming to Parliament, and that I hold to be a very objectionable power, which should not be allowed. The Government proposal, moreover, seems to me very like the old evil practice which has been so strongly condemned in times past of granting enormous subventions in aid of local rates. No doubt the people who get the subventions—


Order, order!


My argument is that this money is given in a way that it ought not to be given, and that the barracks ought to be built out of the surplus, and not out of money borrowed for the purpose. The Government, it seems, are going to put off the construction of the barracks.


The hon. Member, I presume, does not wish to misrepresent my statement. I asked the Secretary of State for War what was the maximum amount he wished to spend this year, as I was prepared to find out of the Revenue of the year the sum required. I was assured that the amount stated in the Bill was the maximum which would be required for the present year. We take no power to borrow in future years.

(9.18.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I beg, Sir, to call your attention to the fact that there are not 40 Members present.


Order, order!


There are not 40 Members present, Sir.


The hon. Member cannot be aware of the circumstances under which I have just declined to take notice of a similar observation.


Are there 40 Members present?


Sir George Campbell.


The Government, I suppose, can borrow money in future years without coming to Parliament for sanction, and that is what I object to. It puts us in a very difficult position. We have heard from the Secretary for War that the condition of the Dublin barracks is extremely bad—that some of the officers have been dying—and it seems to me that the necessities are so great that there will be a remissness on our part if obtaining power to raise £4,100,000 we do not spend more than £300,000 in the present year. We are told on the highest authority that Lord Palmerston did not ask for authority to borrow money in future years, and that for the permanent defences of the country he only borrowed the money he required for the then current year. What are the Government doing by this clause? They say, "We do not want to borrow money during the present year, but we want to take this matter out of the hands of future Parliaments." That is to say, they want now, in a thin House, when almost everybody is away at dinner, and 40 Members are not present, to take power which will enable them to spend money in future years without coming to Parliament for power to do so. They want to escape from the control of Parliament, and to be able to snap their fingers at this House. The proposal is distinctly un-Constitutional, and on that and every other ground I am entitled, I think, to move that this clause be deleted.

Amendment moved, pages 4 and 5, to leave out Clause 6.—(Sir G. Camphell.)

Question proposed, "That Clause 6 stand part of the Bill."

(9.25.) DR. TANNER

I trust the Committee will have an opportunity of dividing on this clause. I would ask to be allowed to say that when I moved a count just now it was quite as much for the purpose of letting the Members know that yon, Sir, had taken the Chair as for any other purpose. I wished to give hon. Members an opportunity of being present in their places, and of assisting in the discussion of this question. I trust, Sir, that you will pardon my making this remark. When the messenger from the House goes down into the Lobby and says, "The Chairman is in the Chair," nine hon. Members out of ten do not hear him, and do not come and take their places. It was for the purpose of bringing them in that I called attention to the fact that there were not 40 Members present. I have called attention to the fact that a large number of these barracks are in a bad state. I will not refer to the matter any further now, but will leave it to the responsibility of the Government. I will only say that it appears to me extraordinary that at a time when they have a surplus of £3,500,000 the Government should come and ask us to pledge the country to the extent proposed in the Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had all the facts before him at the commencement of the Session. He knew this large amount of money was to be spent in fixing up the barracks in England, Ireland, and Scotland, and I think it would have been far wiser on his part to have devoted the money of his surplus to this purpose rather than to an attempt to enrich the publicans of the country. If he had done this it would have been far more in the interests of economy and he would have found himself in a far happier position than that which he now unfortunately occupies. However, it is never too late to mend, and I sincerely trust the right hon. Gentleman will accept the advice which has been tendered to him by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, and omit this portion of the Bill. If he does not do that, at any rate let him agree to pay this money out of the surplus that may accrue next year. I did not rise for the purpose of prolonging the Debate, as=I think it would be unwise to do so, but unless we receive some reply from a responsible Minister of the Crown we shall have to divide the Committee.

(9.29.) MR. GOSCHEN

I cannot complain of hon. Members like the Member for Kirkcaldy keeping an eye on the proposals of the Government, but I must say I think he has not quite appreciated those proposals. We have followed the precedent of 1872, save that during the present Session I have thought it right to pay the amount necessary this year out of the surplus. And in regard to the execution of great works, we have followed the course of not allowing the cost to fall on one particular year, and have taken power to borrow in future years. If we had borrowed no money during this year, the charge would fall on following years. In what we are doing we are really bearing our share.


I quite admit my mistake with regard to the present year, but I think the observations of the right hon. Gentleman enormously strengthen my position. The Government are going to borrow in future years, though they do not know whether the money will be wanted or not. We have the precedent set by Lord Palmerston in regard to very large defence works in borrowing money for the current year and not for future years. It does seem to me a very grave and serious consideration. How do we know what will be the state of finance next year? It is extremely probable that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not require to borrow next year. Why should he take away from a future Parliament the decision whether or not the money should be borrowed? I am convinced that this is a great Constitutional question, and I must go to a Division.

(9.35.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 134; Noes 79.—(Div. List, No. 160.)

Amendments made.


The object of the clause I am about to move is solely that when a question of compensation arises it shall be settled by an arbitrator instead of by a Jury.

New Clause— Where land is acquired under 'The Defence Act, 1842,' and the Acts amending the same, the compensation to be paid for the land may, if both parties agree, be settled by arbitration, instead of by reference to a Jury, and thereupon the provisions of the Lands Clauses Acts shall apply as in the case of an arbitration under those Acts, —brought up, and read first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the clause be now read a second time."—(Mr. E. Stanliope.)


I hope, Mr. Courtney, we may regard this clause as likely to be thoroughly effective in practice. I say that because I believe the question of the defences of the Forth has been retarded by the impossibility or difficulty of acquiring lands for the purpose.


I can only hope that the principle of the clause will be effective.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a second time, and added to the Bill.

Bill reported as amended, to be considered to-morrow.