HC Deb 12 May 1890 vol 344 cc688-9

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War what steps, if any, the Government propose to take to give practical effect to the Vote of this House of the 13th March last, declaring that the necessary equipment required to make the Volunteers effective for service, in case of emergency, should be provided at the public expense; and what expectations he can hold out of those steps being taken at an early date?


I have very carefully considered the best means of meeting the obligation under which we have come to provide certain necessary equipments for the Volunteer Force. I do net think it is necessary to make any provision for the equipment of the Metropolitan Volunteers, as the fund raised by the patriotic exertions of Sir James Whitehead has been sufficient to meet their case, and J put aside for separata treatment the case of the greatcoats. But as regards all the other articles of equipment mentioned in Class 1. of the Adjutant-General's Circular, and referred to in the Resolution adopted by this House, we propose to proceed as follows:—I think it would be exceedingly unfair to those corps who have actually equipped themselves completely, like that of Colonel Rocca, at Manchester, that their prudent administration of their funds should result in their getting no share of the grant. Accordingly, I propose to issue to all Infantry Volunteers outside the Metropolitan District either the necessary equipment, or else its estimated value, which is 12s. per man. To Artillery Volunteers, who do not require the whole equipment, the sum will only be 5s. In order to ensure the proper expenditure of these sums, a condition of the issue of the Capitation Grant will in future he that these stores must be found serviceable on inspection. The responsibility of maintaining them in an efficient state will rest absolutely with the Volunteers; but I shall be prepared to consider with the Treasury, before next year's Estimates, whether an additional annual grant of 1s. should not be made for this purpose. No other change will be made in the grant. But the whole future position of the Volunteer Force, in respect of equipment, has also been reconsidered; and the Government are prepared to bear the initial cost of all equipments, other than clothing, for any new corps or additional companies which may be formed. We hope in this way to settle the equipment question once for all. Greatcoats stand on a different footing, as a grant of 2s. is already paid for every greatcoat produced on inspection. And, in my opinion, there ought to have been, no substantial difficulty in obtaining them. But it must be remembered that the use of these greatcoats is in many corps not limited to Volunteer occasions, but they are constantly worn in civil life. Accordingly, we propose to adhere to the system of grants, except that to all corps not now possessing greatcoats we shall be ready to issue them, suspending, of course, the '2s. grant to those corps till their value is repaid. The matter is of such general interest that the House will forgive the length of this reply. May I add a word as to the funds which have been, in certain counties and boroughs, raised or promised for the purposes of Volunteer equipment. Admitting that every case must be decided on its own merits, I hope that in all cases where Volunteer corps are still in debt, or are incurring special expenses for ranges or for drill halls, intending subscribers will be patriotic enough to allow their subscriptions to be applied to the relief of the funds of their local corps, so as, whenever possible, to put them on a sound financial basis.