§ Resolutions [31st July] reported.
First fifteen Resolutions [see pages 945 to 1027] postponed.
16. "That a sum, not exceeding £5,354,932 (including a Supplementary sum of £131,250), be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1892, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Post Office Services, the Expenses of Post Office Savings Banks, and Government Annuities and Insurances, and the Collection of the Post Office Revenue.
§ (12.35.) MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
I hope that more latitude will be given upon the consideration of this Vote than is usually given to questions of this kind, on account of the understanding which was arrived at last night, that we should agree to allow this Vote to pass, and to take the discussion 1045 upon the Report. In the first place, I have to express my regret that during the last five or six years the Post Office Vote has been always made one of the last for consideration, and that it has invariably been brought on at such an hour as almost to preclude discussion. I think that, considering the importance of the Vote, the great interest taken in it by the public, and the effect which it has, it ought to be brought on earlier in the Session. I propose now to confine my remarks to two or three subjects which are of very great importance, and I will as briefly as possible refer to them. In the first place, I cannot help congratulating the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the fact that he has, during the last five years, obtained from the Post Office a revenue more by £1,200,000 than he had in 1886. Although I admit that a portion of the surplus has been devoted to the improvement of the Service generally, I still think that an attempt should be made to put a stop to this largely increasing surplus out of the postal revenue. More than £900,000 a year is now obtained than was obtained even four years ago. I wish now to call attention to what I consider to be one of the gravest scandals that has ever occurred in regard to the Post Office of this country; and I must claim the indulgence of the House while I enter fully into the matter. I shall observe your ruling, Sir, in connection with the question to which I propose to refer. The House is aware that there are mails to India, Australia, and the Best generally every week, and that these mails are carried from Calais to Brindisi to their respective destinations. Upon this service we expend every year about £100,000. We pay £100,000 to the French and Italian Governments for the service; but of that sum I have privately learned that the French and Italian Governments only pay £10,000 to the respective Railway Companies which do the work. A sum of £60,000 is, therefore, handed over to the French and Italian Governments for doing nothing. As far back as 1886 I called attention to this matter, and I also called attention to it before the Conference which was held in London, with a hope that some step would be taken to avert the continuance of the scandal. In 1888 two 1046 delegates were sent from the Post Office to France, who succeeded in getting a reduction which amounted to £20,000 a year. This, in my judgment, is a very small amount, considering the large sum obtained by the French and Italian Governments for the service. It was pointed out that it was impossible to secure an Imperial penny postage so long as we paid 1½d. to France and Italy. I attacked this high charge, and a Commission was sent out which secured a reduction of one-third of the charge—one halfpenny per letter being taken off by the French and Italian Governments. The mission which was undertaken by Mr. Forman and Mr. Forbes was so far successful, but I am bound to say that the Commissioners did not, with all their intelligence, secure all the desirable results which were to be expected from a mission from this country. We expected to ascertain what the real cost was to the French and Italian Governments for the conveyance of the mails from Calais to Brindisi, and what the amount was which was paid to France and Italy as compared with the amounts actually received by the Railway Companies. I have said that the result of the mission of Messrs. Buxton, Forman, and Forbes was to obtain a reduction of one halfpenny. Upon making a further inquiry, I found that on the 12th of October there was a despatch of 80 tons of letters and newspapers, for which the French and Italian Governments were paid £1,209, while the sum paid to the Railway Companies which carried the mails was only £312. A sum of £679 went to France and £218 to Italy for the service on that particular day; and, although the cost to England was £1,209, the actual cost of the work was only £312, the French and Italian Governments making a clear profit of nearly £900. Now, I do not see why these Governments should make such a large profit for conveying the mails across their countries. I am prepared to admit that, owing to the reduction of rates, there has been a largely increasing correspondence between India, Australia, and the East—not so large as I hope it will be—but every extra letter sent by the mail gives an increased profit to France and Italy. I have been glad to hear from the Postmaster General that steps are being taken to remedy the 1047 evil. I have now to call attention to a matter which I think affects the privileges of the House of Commons. I find that the whole of the sum paid for the conveyance of the mails from this country to India and the East to the French and Italian Governments is paid away by the Post Office without any direct authority. It is never submitted in the Estimates, nor have we ever had it submitted to us. Although the mails are conveyed by special contract in sealed bags, and for a fixed sum, Parliament has no control whatever over the matter. When the question was before a Select Committee I examined Sir Stephenson Arthur Blackwood upon the subject, and his answers were of a most extraordinary character. I pointed out that there was a payment of £67,000 to the French and Italian Governments, which was increased a few years later to £80,000, and Sir Arthur Blackwood told me that this item did not appear in the Estimates at all, but that it was deducted from the gross revenue just as other charges are deducted. This great contract, this large payment, has nothing to do with the exchange of correspondence between this country and France and Italy, and is certainly a service which ought to appear in the Estimates. Sir Arthur Blackwood says that not only is the charge never submitted to the House of Commons in the Estimates, but that the amounts payable to foreign countries are treated as a deduction from the gross revenue, and not as a payment. I want to know why we should not take action in so important a matter? Sir Arthur Blackwood told the Committee that the contracts are made by the Postmaster General and the permanent officials of the Treasury, and that a maximum is fixed for the service, but that statement is entirely wrong. In further examination Sir Arthur Blackwood stated that there is nothing whatever in the Votes to indicate that £100,000 is paid by special contract for the conveyance of the Indian and Eastern Mails. Twopence halfpenny is charged for every letter from this country to India and our dependencies, and the Post Office deducts 1d. from that sum in order to pay £100,000 to France and Italy. I do not know what course is open to hon. Members when scandals of this kind occur, but I should like to take the 1048 opinion of the House as to the character of this contract and the way in which it is carried out. Why is Parliament deprived of all control? The statement first made to me was that this money was paid in this manner because it was impossible to arrive at an exact amount. There are many other payments, in regard to which it is impossible to arrive at the exact amount that ought to be paid, but that is no reason why steps should not be taken to give Parliament a proper control over the expenditure. To show the extraordinary conduct of the Post Office officials in the matter I distinctly asked Sir Arthur Blackwood, "Have you any notion what the French and Italian Governments receive for this work?" and the answer was, that they never inquired, and the Commissioners who went to France said that they did not think it was a branch of the inquiry with which they had any concern. What would be thought of business men if they conducted their affairs in the same manner? I asked, "Are you aware that the French and Italian Railway Companies complain that they do not get their fair share of the money?" and Sir Arthur Blackwood's reply was, "I have no knowledge." The whole evidence before the Committee showed that the Special Commissioners who went to France were quite satisfied with having saved £20,000 without inquiring how the money that was paid was really expended, or who received it. What would be thought if the erection of a post office building were put up to contract, and the intermediate man were only asked what he would charge, without any attempt being made to get at the actual cost? Notwithstanding this loss, no public outcry has been made against the enormous expenditure—an expenditure which is altogether outside the control of Parliament. I hardly think the matter ought to rest here. I think it can be proved without question that the contract which has been entered into by our Government officials is unworthy of men holding a high position in the Public Service. I exonerate the Postmaster General from, all blame in the matter He has been kept in ignorance, and it was only after great pains and labour that I succeeded in obtaining information. Having ascertained what 1049 the character of the mails sent by way of Calais to Brindisi was on the 12th of October last, I went to Cook's tourist agency and ascertained that the cost of sending the same weight of traffic first-class across Franco and Italy would have been £400. Then, why should we be called upon to pay £1,200 for the Indian mails? Why should we lose £700 or £800 in running the mails one way? Of course, there is a corresponding loss on the other. I am informed that Australia is relieving herself of a part of the liability by sending some of her mails by another route. I trust that the House of Commons will, without delay, institute a thorough investigation into the matter, and that a new arrangement will be entered into.
§ *(12.58.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
It is one of the defects of a discussion occurring upon such an important Vote on the Report that the Minister is confined to one speech. It is therefore necessary that I should intervene between the speech of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Henniker Heaton) and the Postmaster General with some other topic. I trust that this course of taking the discussion on the Report will not be constituted into a precedent for the future. It is only the long duration of the Session that has induced the House to allow it upon the present occasion, and I would venture express a hope that the Government on another occasion will allow the Post Office Vote to be taken out of its ordinary course next Session so as to ensure a full discussion. I congratulate the Postmaster General upon the numerous and important changes which in the interests of the public he has effected within the last few weeks. These changes consist mainly of two classes—first, the improvements effected under the Post Office Act in the direction so often recommended by the hon. Member for Canterbury; and, secondly, the important changes which were agreed to at the Postal Conference in Vienna within the last few days, and which I presume were agreed to by the representatives of the Post Office of this country, and will receive the sanction of the Treasury before long. I believe the Postmaster General will agree in regarding them as most important changes. The changes effected have been late, but 1050 they are in the right direction. There is one of the changes recently made as to which I feel some little doubt; that is, the extension of the system of registration to parcels. It was carefully considered in 1884 when the regulations for the Parcels Post were decided upon, and the system of registration was not adopted—not on account of expense, for of course it will pay itself—but as a matter of policy. It was thought that all parcels should be handled and delivered with all reasonable security, and there was a fear that if greater security were given to registered parcels that would lead to less security being afforded to parcels not registered. I am afraid the Postmaster General has been induced to adopt registration because of the increasing number of parcels lost in transmission. I do not know whether that is the main reason for the pressure brought to bear upon him in respect to registration, but I am inclined to think it is one of the motives, and the difficulty of providing compensation. Within my own experience, I am sorry to say, I have heard increasing complaints of the loss of parcels and of the difficulty of getting compensation from the Postmaster General, and so I believe great pressure has been brought to bear on the Department in favour of a system of registration. With this exception, I approve of the changes recently made. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to effect considerable improvement in the position of postmen throughout the country, especially the unestablished postmen and the rural letter carriers. I sincerely hope this change will give satisfaction throughout the Service, for, after all, the main security for letters and efficiency of the Service depends upon the contentment of the men employed. It will be interesting to hear from the Postmaster General what will be the financial effect of all these recent changes. I have no doubt a considerable demand will be made upon the net revenues of the year, though many of the changes will be productive, and will ultimately tend to an increase of revenue, such has been the effect of many previous alterations. The hon. Member for Canterbury has referred to the increased Revenue the Treasury has derived from the Post Office in recent years, and I have more than once entered 1051 upon this subject. During the six years, beginning with 1880, according to a Return recently laid before the House of a valuable and interesting character, it appears that the net revenue of the Post Office varied to a very small extent during the whole of those years. The amount averaged, after paying all possible claims in respect to the Post Office in other Departments, the not sum of £2,800,000, and if I deduct that part of the expenditure—which may be considered capital expenditure—the expense of new post offices, the net revenue amounts to £3,000,000. Now we know that the late Mr. Fawcett, on taking office in 1880, arrived at an understanding with the head of the then Government, that he should have a free hand in reference to the excess of net revenue over the average of the three preceding years. This excess was devoted to improvements in the Service, and so the net Revenue remained almost stationary. But in 1886 a different policy was pursued. The Treasury got a stronger hold upon the Post Office, and until recently there was a constantly growing net revenue. In 1889–90 the net revenue derived from the Post Office was £3,446,000; while irrespective of any capital expenditure on sites or buildings, the income was £3,557,000, an excess of £640,000 over and above the average of the six years to which I have alluded. This is for the Post Office and Packet Service, not including the Telegraph Service. Last year, partly from the changes made in the Colonial and Indian postage, and partly from additions made to the salaries of some of the officers in the Department, there was some decrease in the net revenue of £3,291,000, but it was still £500,000 above the average of the six years I have alluded to. For the current year, if we take the Budget Estimate, and without taking into account the recent changes made by the Postmaster General, the net revenue will be about the same as last year, but the changes since made will involve a heavier charge upon the Department. On the other hand, I think the Budget Estimate of receipts for the Post Office was a low one. For the last few years the receipts have increased by £400,000 to £500,000 annually, and we are justified in assuming that this year the increase will be about the same, or £200,000 in excess 1052 of the Budget Estimate. If I am right we may assume that even after the considerable outlay involved in the changes to which I have adverted, the net postal revenue for the current year will not be very far short of last year's, and, therefore, some £400,000 or £500,000 in excess of the six years following 1880. The total, then, would be about £3,330,000 after taking all expenditure into account. I have called attention to this to show that there is a largo margin for improvements in the Postal Service, and I think it would be right to go back to the plan adopted at the time when Mr. Fawcett assumed office, allowing the Postmaster General a somewhat freer hand to free him to some extent, I would not say wholly, from that minute Treasury control which I have more than once called attention to, and of which the right hon. Gentleman has made not a few complaints on occasions when he has alluded to the positions of the Post Office and the Treasury. I think he has referred to the Treasury as the "Jorkins" in the partnership, checking his own good intentions. It is almost impossible for a Minister in the position of the Postmaster General to do his duty to the Service and respond to public demands unless he has more freedom. To illustrate what I mean, let me refer to what took place a few months ago in respect to the "Boy Messengers." I think I am justified in saying that for two or three years before the recent extension of that service was adopted by the Postmaster General there had been a growing feeling on the part of the public that something should be done in that direction, and I think I am justified in saying that the Postmaster General intended to adopt the change, but was controlled by the Treasury. In consequence of the delay, private agencies came in and undertook the service which should have been performed by the Post Office, and at last the time arrived when these agencies adopted the system of telegraphs in addition to the messengers. The Postmaster General was then advised that the monopoly of the Post Office was invaded. The matter was referred to the Treasury, but still considerable delay took place, from the unwillingness of the Treasury to allow the Post Office to take up the 1053 service. Meantime the agencies extended their business, and the public became accustomed to the system, and when at last the Post Office intervened in the interest of their monopoly and endeavoured to put an end to the agencies, and announced that the Department intended to work a system of boy messengers, public opinion would not permit the Government to put a stop to these agencies. The Government gave way, and so in the result we have competing systems, the Post Office and the private agencies. Now, I do not think that is a very satisfactory conclusion. If the Postmaster General had at an earlier date adopted the system of postal messengers he would not have incurred the competition that now exists, and would have had no difficulty in asserting his monopoly. I do not think it is for the interest of the public or the Service that there should be this competition, and I think if the Postmaster General had had a free baud it would not have grown up. Many improvements in the Postal Service are called for by public opinion. I heartily sympathise with the efforts made by the hon. Member for Canterbury to induce the Post Office to adopt a system of penny postage for the Colonies and India, which, I have no doubt, would ultimately result in the adoption of universal penny postage. The excess of revenue over the average, as laid down by Mr. Fawcett, would, I believe, admit of this and many other improvements, the Treasury having in the meantime secured an ample revenue. Such a rule would encourage improvements in the Department to the great advantage of the public. At this time of the Session, and in the present state of the House, I will not attempt to bring forward the many other matters that arise in connection with this Vote. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the changes he has effected, and I hope he will carry improvements still further.
§ (1.22.) MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
I take this opportunity to press upon the right hon. Gentleman's attention the importance of giving to the East End of London a late evening delivery of letters. Twenty years ago many districts in the East End of London, now covered with houses and factories, were fields, and now there 1054 are about 1,000,000 of population to whom this evening delivery, which obtains in other parts of London, would be a great benefit. There is every reason why the East End should have this evening delivery. Many important trades are carried on there, and the manufacturers are handicapped by the want of this convenience, allowed to other suburbs, such as Hampstead. Of course, the Postmaster General leaves inquiry on these matters to the permanent officials, but I do not think that these officials have appreciated the importance of the subject. I do not wish to take up time, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will favourably consider this request.
§ (1.26.) MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
Some considerable time ago I placed on the Notice Paper a Motion to reduce the salary of the Postmaster General, and I then had the intention of placing before the Committee the grievances of the postmen. Happily, about a fortnight ago, the right hon. Gentleman forestalled me by the announcement which he then made, and the observations I intended to make on that head are no longer necessary. I do not propose to gauge the precise advantages for these postmen contained in the right hon. Gentleman's announcement; I prefer to wait and see what the practical operation of the changes will be. The right hon. Gentleman claims that he has made the postmen a handsome concession. Now, demur somewhat to the use of the word "concession" in such a case, though I am not at all surprised that the Postmaster General makes use of it, because his views of the relation between employer and employed are rather the views which obtained in the eighteenth century than those which characterise the last years of the nineteenth century. But the announcement thus made is of extreme importance from another point of view. It is a distinct admission that when the trouble occurred in the Post Office last year the postmen had reasonable grounds for their complaint. I do not wish to review the circumstances of the trouble last year, the serious breach of discipline—for strike it can scarcely be called; it was a breach of discipline followed by a lock-out on the part of the authorities. I never defended the conduct of the 1055 men, it was indefensible, but as I pointed out then, and I now repeat it, the men were precipitated into their misconduct owing to the unconstitutional conduct of the right hon. Gentleman in interfering with their right of combination to protect their own interests. Some of the men were dismissed. A large number of these have emigrated and a considerable number are without any employment, or are only casually employed. On their behalf I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman for reinstatement in the Service, at all events when the opportunity presents itself. I ask also that those who have been punished by degradation, or otherwise, should be reinstated in their original positions. The House is aware that trouble also occurred at the beginning of the year in the Savings Bank Department—trouble which was undeniably caused by the language used by the right hon. Gentleman in this House. Sir Arthur Blackwood gave a pledge at the time that the members of the deputation should suffer no disadvantage then or subsequently; but, in spite of this assurance, one of the deputation has recently been removed to another Department of the Service under circumstances which constitute to him a disadvantage, and the general opinion is that he has suffered that disadvantage because of the prominent position he occupied on that deputation. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman whether he is not compromising the honour of Sir A. Blackwood by lending his ear to persons who have lately, I am afraid, become influential in his counsels with regard to Savings Bank affairs.
§ (1.35.) MAJOR RASCH (Essex, E.)
I desire to call attention to an anomaly and injustice which exists in connection with the employment of Army pensioners or Reserve men in the Post Office, owing to the amount of their pensions being deducted from their wages. This deduction is obviously unfair, because the soldier has won his pension by meritorious services. The practice has led manufacturers and capitalists employing labour to follow the same system, and to deduct the amount of pensions from the pay of Reservists whom they engage. The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General receives an insufficient salary from a grateful country for 1056 the work he performs, and I am sure he would think it unfair if the amount of his private income were deducted from that salary.
§ (1.37.) CAPTAIN PENTON (Finsbury, Central)
A few years ago an Act, called the Post Office Sites Act, was passed, and by it the London County Council were empowered within six months to make an offer for a portion of the site of Cold-bath Fields Prison, if they wanted to have it reserved as an open space. On the suggestion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir R. Temple), the Select Committee which considered the Bill inserted a proviso requiring the right hon. Gentleman in the event of the offer being refused, and of the site being used exclusively for Post Office purposes, to hand over to the County Council the sum of £10,000, wherewith they might in the same locality purchase land for an open space. The Treasury, I am informed, are quite willing to hand over the money, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consent, and not drive such a hard bargain with the County Council as to hold them to their offer for a site which is absolutely unsuitable as an open space. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to communicate to the House the nature of Mr. Smyth's letter to the County Council on the subject.
§ MR. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
The anomalous system of making deductions on account of pensions has spread from the Post Office to other branches of the Government Service, and has become a very fruitful source of sweating.
§ (1.43.) MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
I wish to ask, on what principle are the contracts for the carriage of mails always given to the large companies in places where there are competing lines of railways? There is an impression that the London and North Western Company obtains more Government patronage in regard to the mails than other companies, and I should like to know what guides the Government in giving the contracts. I have already drawn attention to the desirability of establishing a money order office in my own locality. The right hon. Gentleman says a guarantee must be given, but I hope he will not insist upon a guarantee. I wish to refer to the con- 1057 dition of affairs in the postal district of Kill, in my own constituency. If you want to receive a letter in the morning in some parts of the district yon have to send a messenger eight miles. Then I have to point out that the train from Kilkenny to Waterford sometimes leaves the junction before the train from Dublin viâ Carlow arrives, and this causes great inconvenience. If the Government were to take a small sum from the Great Southern and Western Company, and give it to the Waterford and Central Ireland Company, the trains would practically never be late. The right hon. Gentleman in a communication he sent to me on this subject, said such a proposal would dislocate the arrangements on the Waterford and Central Ireland line, and would not be desirable, but I think the right hon. Gentleman was misinformed. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to improve the service, and will prove by his action that he is desirous of meeting the wishes of the people.
(1.51.) MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)
I have two small points to bring forward. In the first place, I have to urge the importance of appointing in Welsh-speaking districts post office officials who speak the Welsh language, and, in the next place, I have to complain that in North Wales there is no post office in which female telegraphists are employed. There is no opportunity given to women in Wales to learn telegraphy, and I think a better chance should be given to women to enter the Telegraph Service.
§ (1.55.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
Several times in the course of the present Session I have had occasion to address to the right hon. Gentleman questions involving complaints by the officials employed in the post office at Belfast. I am glad, however, to be able to state that those complaints do not involve any reflection upon the Postmaster General. There exists what appears to be a well-grounded fear that the representations made by the staff of the Belfast Post Office have not been brought directly under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will undertake to give his personal attention to them.
§ MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
I have twice had to ask questions about 1058 the holidays granted by law to telegraphists in the Edinburgh Telegraph Office. The Postmaster General made a recommendation on the matter, but, as I understand, nothing has been done in pursuance of that recommendation. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to hold out some hope that the compensation, which I understand he has promised, will be forthcoming in due time.
§ (2.0.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I wish to raise a point which I have already put in questions as to the Cork and Mulkerry Light Railway Company and the Parcels Post. The right hon. Gentleman told me that he was not aware that the company had made any proper application. I wish to call his attention to the correspondence which I have, which shows that the company has been dealt with in a rather peculiar way. The letters to the Cork Company have been referred from the Post Office to the Railway Clearing House, and from the Railway Clearing House to the Post Office. I think now that some reasonable and definite reply should be given, and that a convenience should be granted which is desired by the people of Cork. Another point is the establishment of a permanent post office at Kilbarry. For the last 25 years the local schoolmaster has turned his house into a, post office, and performed postal services gratuitously, the average of parcels left at his house being about 100 per week. Repeated representations on the subject have been without success, and the local schoolmaster has thrown up this gratuitous post. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will consider the establishment of a permanent post office at Kilbarry. Another point to which I wish to draw attention has relation to the mail car route from Timoleague to Port MacSherry. There is a railway on one side of that route, and deep water on the other, and traffic, pedestrian or vehicular, is attended with considerable peril. It is desired that the Department should put up a fence as a protection, and in that request the local landlords have joined. The interests of everybody are concerned in this matter, and I sincerely hope the right hon Gentleman will give some attention to the subject.
§ *(2.8.) THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES, Cambridge University)
1059 Economists of former days would have been interested and surprised by the general tenor of the Debate to which we have just listened. The great point used to be, as I understand, to show a large balance of revenue to the State, and to make a defence against charges of extravagance in the past. But we have now arrived at a time when the opposite course is to be taken, and the only chance a Minister has of enjoying the confidence of this House is to point to a diminished balance of revenue and to a greater expenditure on the part of the Department. I rather hope, from the general course of what has been said here to-day, that I may make some claim to the confidence of the House. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, who is interested in this particular question, will like to hear the figures which I have got with regard to the increase of revenue and expenditure in this year as compared with last. The expenditure of the Postal Service for 1891–2 is estimated at £6,054,000, including the Supplementary Estimate. The expenditure on telegraphs is estimated at £2,466,000, including the Supplementary Estimate. The expenditure on the Packet Service is £708,000. The total expenditure on the Post Office is, therefore, estimated at £9,229,000. This expenditure, compared with last year, shows an increase on the Post Office Vote of £456,000, and of £172,000 on the Telegraph Service. The total amount of additional expenditure of the Department in the course of the current year is close upon £600,000. The Estimate which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer put forward in the Budget was that the revenue of the Post Office proper might be taken at £10,120,000, and that of the Telegraphs at £2,480,000, making a total revenue of £12,600,000. This, as compared with the revenue of the year, shows an estimated expansion of £340,000. The result is that our expenditure for the coming year is to be £600,000, against an increased revenue of £340,000.
§ *MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I stated that I thought the Budget Estimate, judging from three or four years of Post Office revenue, was under-estimated by £200,000.
§ *MR. RAIKES
That is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, but I am dealing with the figures as the Government have got them. I would point out that our expenditure for the year, as against the increased revenue, shows an increase of about 180 per cent. The reason of this is to be found in the very comprehensive measures which have been framed in the course of the last year for the improvement of the position of the staff. Within the last year and a-half almost every branch of the Service has received a substantial accession of privileges. I agree with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green in what he said, and I have declined to use the word "concessions." The improvements which have been effected relate to the sorting clerks, supervising officers, the London sorters, and the three Crown Offices of Dublin and Edinburgh (the sorting officers and telegraph branches), the entire staff of female clerks in London and several other minor branches. Although there are some small branches to be dealt with, I may say that the last year and a-half has witnessed a complete revision of the scales of pay and the terms of engagement on the part of the public servants, and I do believe that these very large additions to their comfort and emoluments have been highly appreciated by the great body of the postal clerks. During the last few days the hon. Member for Bethnal Green frankly admitted that it has been my good fortune to announce a very considerable addition to the advantages of the postmen. From the very first moment of my being in office I have always been anxious to improve the position of the rural postmen, who labour under the disadvantage, as compared with their brethren in towns, of having no ascending scale of pay. To my mind they should have that element of encouragement in the performance of their duties—the prospect of increased pay. I am anxious to show what is the real disposition of the Department when I state that care will be especially taken, in dealing with these matters, of the position of the rural postmen. Other postmen, I believe, are very well pleased. I know that great enthusiasm has been shown in Liverpool in favour of the changes that have been carried out, and I sincerely hope and believe that in other 1061 towns the same feeling will prevail. As far as the London postmen are concerned we have effected some changes, chiefly in reducing the number of zones or districts, which will simplify the arrangements and improve the position of the suburban postmen. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford was good enough to say something complimentary with regard to the improvements included in the Post Office Bill which has left this House. I believe that measure is likely to bring into effect some most salutary and most acceptable changes. One of them is the power given to the Treasury and the Post Office to frame now regulations for circulars, which will enable the various Friendly Societies to put a statement of accounts on their printed notices, and yet send it as a circular. This has been most earnestly pressed for years past, and I am very glad indeed that it has fallen to my lot to be able to carry it into effect. Another clause abolishes the charge for re-direction. Although it would be beneath the dignity of Members of this House to claim any special exemption, still it is a disadvantage from which they in common with the public have suffered considerably, and I have no doubt they will welcome the improvement with satisfaction. The next important part of the Bill refers to the punishment of persons, other than Post Office servants, who intercept letters. That is a matter which for long has required the attention of Parliament, and I am very glad that the Bill will authorise the Postmaster General to institute a prosecution in any flagrant and glaring case which may call for it. Another point in the Bill is the authority given to the Rural Sanitary Authorities to subscribe for guarantees which may be necessary in cases where money order, or savings bank, or telegraph office, or any of these facilities may be required. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford has spoken of the Member for Canterbury in connection with these points, but I am not aware that the hon. Gentleman has ever taken any active part with regard to them. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to what has been done at Vienna. I hope before Parliament rises that I may be in a position to inform the House as to more important matters than those of which I 1062 have been able to speak. I pass from that to the question of the registration of parcels. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is warranted in the expression that the new system is due to any great loss of parcels. It is rather, I think, a fair concession to public opinion that as we are carriers of parcels but are not liable to make good losses, registration will be a guarantee to the public that we will give ample protection to valuable parcels in their transit through the post. The concession is already popular, and I think will be useful. The right hon. Gentleman has frequently referred to the relations between the Treasury and the Post Office, and expressed the view that the Post Office might have been earlier authorised to undertake the work of the Boy Messenger Companies. I am not prepared to quarrel with his illustration, or with the view which the right hon. Gentleman adopts. I, perhaps, might say that any doubts which might have been raised, either with the Post Office or at the Treasury, as to the remunerative nature of this sort of enterprise have in some degree been justified by the fact that the pioneer Company is already in liquidation. And when the right hon. Gentleman entertains some slight misgiving as to the continued competition of these companies, I do not think he need fear that such competition will be very long-lived. The hon. Member for Stepney called attention to the question of the deliveries in the East End. I think he must have been misinformed as to the frequency of those deliveries. It is, of course, likely enough that in the remoter districts of London there may not be as many deliveries as there are in the E.C. or the S.W. districts, but, even as it is, I am inclined to think that the number of deliveries in every part of London are not only equal to, but rather ahead of, the demands of the people of London. I quite think that if I were to reduce the number of deliveries in the E.C. and S.W. by half, I should earn a great man blessings.
§ MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON
May I point out we cannot post a letter in the Lobby of the House of Commons after 6 p.m. if it is to be delivered the same night in the East End of London.
§ *MR. RAIKES
I believe that in East London, as in other parts of Loudon, the 1063 number of deliveries is more than sufficient to meet the wants of the population. In fact, I am not sure that if I were to reduce the number of postal deliveries, especially in the E.C. and S.W. districts, I should not, in the opinion of many, be making a blissful change. I am inclined to think that no very great complaints could be made. I have been pressed by the Member for Bethnal Green as to the reinstating of the dismissed postmen. As the hon. Member is aware, some of these men have been reinstated, and it entirely rests with them to recover the ground they have lost. I believe that that has been done in a great many cases already, and I should be exceedingly glad to advance all those who are fairly entitled to it. With regard to the few who are still anxious to be reinstated—and they are few—some have found their way into other employments; for some employment has been found in other districts, for I do not think it advisable that men who have misconducted themselves in the outrageous proceedings of last year should return to the public service in London. Reference has been made to the transference of a certain clerk to the office of the Receiver and Accountant General. That transfer has been made in the interests of the Service.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
The official was one of a deputation which waited on the right hon. Gentleman, and he is thus punished.
§ *MR. RAIKES
No one has suffered for the fact that they took part in the deputation. It would be unfair to punish one and not all, and I should be sorry to diminish the means of access to heads of Departments. This gentleman has been transferred for other reasons. The hon. Member for Finsbury has referred to the question of the land in connection with the Coldbath Fields Prison. I am sorry that any ground for complaint has arisen, but I cannot find it in my heart to take £10,000 from the general taxpayer and present it to any district in London. I was quite willing that the County Council should purchase it at a price. Then as to the conveyance of mails to different parts of Ireland, I assure hon. Members that their complaints shall receive attention.
§ *MR. RAIKES
I have called for a Report on that subject. As to Scotland, I wish to assure hon. Members that holidays will be given in Scotland as in England. The question of the reduction of the rates between Calais and Brindisi is a matter that has always been present to the mind of the Department, and on two occasions during my term of office successful efforts have been made to reduce the rate. I listened with very great regret to the remarks which the hon. Member permitted himself to make with regard to one of the best of public servants, Mr. Buxton Forman, who has succeeded on two occasions in obtaining a considerable reduction of this rate. Our representatives at the Vienna Postal Congress were instructed to take steps to introduce the subject with the view of securing a further reduction in the rate; but they speedily discovered that the Congress declined to entertain the subject, and our representatives were left to negotiate as well as they could with the representatives of France and Italy. The existing arrangement, is for a term of years, and terminates at the end of this year, and I hope it may be possible in the meantime to obtain a farther reduction. The hon. Member for Canterbury is mistaken as to the constitutional enormity he thinks he has discovered in the making of a payment which did not appear upon the Estimates. As a matter of fact, the payment appears in the finance account, and, since the Committee sat, in the Report of the Postmaster General. It would be impossible that a balance of account as between the contracting Powers could be voted annually by the House. It is impossible for the decision of the House to bind the contracting Powers who have arrangements by Treaty with Her Majesty's Government. The amount is one which a Minister is bound to take into consideration as the outcome of arrangements made by Treaty. When the Treaty is made it is competent for the House to eject the Minister who has made it; but it would be practically impossible to strike a balance and present it to the House as an Estimate. I think I have dwelt on all the points raised. I apologise to the House for the length of my speech, and have to express a sin- 1065 cere hope that the Resolution will now be taken.
Resolution agreed to. (2.40.)
Seventeenth Resolution (see p. 1033) agreed to.18. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,716,080 (including a Supplementary sum of £43,750) be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1892, for the Salaries and Working Expenses of the Post Office Telegraph Service.
§ *(3.7.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I wish to make one or two remarks on the figures which the Postmaster General has given, which include both the Post Office and the Telegraph Vote. The right hon. Gentleman's figures show that, taking into account the receipts from both Services, and taking the estimated expenditure within the current year, there is still a net surplus of £3,371,000. As I understand the figures, with the exception of £4,000, the whole of that comes from the Postal Service. Therefore, I think I am justified in saying that for the current year the estimated net revenue from the Post Office alone will be about £570,000 over and above the average of the six years beginning 1880. In my opinion, the Budget Estimate of the receipts for the current year is under-estimated both in respect of the Postal and Telegraphic Services, and the result of my observation is that for the last four or five years it has been underestimated in respect of the Post Office by nearly £200,000. The fact is, that for the last four or five years the Post Office revenue has been increasing by leaps and bounds, and the average increase in that time has been about £450,000. The Postmaster General has twitted us with a desire to increase Post Office expenditure, but I think there is a great distinction to be drawn between the Post Office and other Departments in this respect. So far as my experience goes, there has never been any improvement made in the Service at a considerable expense which has not ultimately led to an increase of the revenue at least equal to the cost. Therefore, I think we may advise an increase of the expenditure of the Post Office without that reluctance with which we might be disposed to deal with an increase in 1066 other Departments in which the money would be thrown away without any permanent results. I am glad to find from the statement of the Postmaster General that he does not expect any deficiency in the present year in the Telegraph Service, and that the receipts will be equal to the expenditure. If the right hon. Gentleman will take into account the capital expenditure during the current year upon laying down new telegraphs and also upon sites and new buildings, he will find there will be a considerable excess of revenue over payments, which, although not perhaps sufficient to pay interest on the amount expended in the purchase of the telegraphs, will, at all events, form a considerable item, and will show no deficiency. Though, on the whole, the result of the adoption of the 6d. telegram has been a considerable sacrifice, yet it has not led to a financial deficit, if we take into account the capital expenditure as well as the other expenditure.
§ (3.13.) MR. HENNIKER HEATON
I congratulate the Postmaster General upon having for the first time a surplus in connection with the Telegraph Service of this country. We are now, however, threatened with the same danger which we protested against in regard to the Post Office, namely, that of making a profit out of the Telegraph Service. As a means of preventing this trouble, I venture to ask the Postmaster General to carry out as early as possible a reform I know he is in sympathy with, namely, that of having an address not exceeding eight words sent free. That would be a concession which this country would very gratefully accept, and I should like to learn the views of the Postmaster General on the subject. I must also take this opportunity of complimenting the Postmaster General on the Circular he issued yesterday in regard to the Telegraph Service. Some time ago I called attention to the fact that while "can't" and "don't" are received as one word, such words as "shan't" are treated as two. The Postmaster General announces in his Circular that "shan't" will in future be regarded as one word. There are a large number of places in this country which have compound names. By a notice just issued by the Postmaster General "St. Leonards-on-Sea" is no longer to be 1067 charged for as three words, but will henceforth be regarded as one word. But "De Vere-gardens," for example, will still be charged as three words. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to make a bold move, and to issue an Order that all compound names of places should be regarded as one word.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN (Monaghan, N)
I wish to draw attention to the cases of two officers who were placed in the position of yard-overseers, but were not remunerated sufficiently for the important duties they had to discharge.
§ *(3.18.) MR. RAIKES
Although the hon. Member cannot call attention to the matter now, I will not omit to consider it. I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) into a discussion of the figures. I think it right, however, to point out that, although the estimated surplus of revenue over working expenses from the Telegraph Service last year was £101,000, yet there were deficiencies in the previous five years; and we are still £198,000 to the bad in dealing with the Telegraph Service as a whole. It is satisfactory to find that the telegraph revenue has recuperated in the way it has done, and I may mention that the recuperation exceeds the anticipations of those who were consulted upon the question. It is only five years since there was an actual loss of £145,000 in the working of the telegraphs in the course of the year, and we are now receiving a balance of £101,000. I am glad to notice the way in which the hon. Member (Mr. Henniker Heaton) has referred to the Order I recently issued. I think I exercised a rather arbitrary power in decreeing that "shan't" shall in future be charged as one word, because the basis on which these abbreviations have been hitherto charged is that they shall be abbreviations of one word; and while "cannot" is one word, "shall not" are two words. Again, as regards "St. Leonards-on-Sea," I have rather outstepped the rule which has hitherto governed this question. A compound word, when it is the name of a Post Office, is treated as one word. A telegram sent to "St. Leonards" would have been treated as one word. The words 1068 "on Sea" are surplusage, and are not required. The rule will not apply, however, to streets, because there the name is not that of a Post Office. I have always desired to see some relaxation of the existing rule with regard to addresses, but I could not allow eight words of each address to go free. I cannot hold out the smallest hope of making such a sweeping change, but I shall be glad if at some future time the Treasury can take steps towards putting addresses upon a rather more liberal footing than they are at present.
Resolution agreed to.19. "That a sum, not exceeding £631,700, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Transport and Remounts, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1892.
(3.23.) MR. LLOYD-GEORGE&c.) (Carnarvon,
I desire to call attention to the employment of military in North Wales to assist the police in the collection of tithes. The particular instance I have to bring forward relates to the employment of a troop of Hussars. I do not think the military should be at anytime called in unless there is every probability that it will be utterly impossible for the police to preserve order. In the case to which I allude there was not the slightest danger of any serious riot occurring. Before the Hussars were sent down there had been three previous tithe sales. An investigation has been made by the Police Committee into the circumstances under which the Hussars were called in. At the inquiry the police were represented by counsel, and so were the tithepayers. The first witness called by the police was Constable Evans, and he said that on the first occasion the crowd at its largest numbered from 130 to 150. Our estimate is that the crowd did not exceed 80. On the face of it, it appears to be against the public interest to call a troop of Hussars into a district to keep in order a crowd which even numbers 150. The constable was asked to describe the worst part of what was said to be a riot, and he said then; was considerable noise, but no assault; no one was hurt, but it was rather difficult for the officers to carry out their duty of collecting the tithe. A police officer in plain clothes said he was there to be called upon if necessary, but he was not called on, simply 1069 because it was not necessary. On the second occasion there were 11 policemen, but there was no baton-charge, no stone-throwing, and no assault. Evidence was given by the reporter of a Tory newspaper, a gentleman named Miller, who from time to time had attended several of these tithe sales, and he denied that there was anything in the nature of a serious riot. There was horn-blowing, beating of tins, shouting, and horse-play, but nothing likely to cause danger to life, limb, or property—nothing to call for the use of the military. In fact, there was no evidence to support the conduct of the authorities. One remark of the Chief Constable deserves attention. He, when asked the reason for calling in the aid of the military, said the cost of the military would be borne by the Imperial Revenue and not by the county taxpayers. That is a matter for this House to take note of, because if soldiers are to be called down whenever there is a tithe sale in Wales, the expense will be considerable. We shall probably have many more tithe sales in Wales, and a troop of Hussars on each occasion may make a considerable item in the Estimates. The Chief Constable convened a meeting of Magistrates to consider the question of sending for the military. These Magistrates were Conservatives, and certainly not prejudiced in favour of tithe rioters. The Chairman asked the Chief Constable if he had instituted any prosecutions for a breach of the peace, and he answered "No;" and when afterwards, to justify his conduct, he did institute proceedings, the result was the defendants were simply bound over to keep the peace. There was no case of assault—nothing in the evidence to show that a breach of the peace was apprehended. The observation I would like to make is this: The Government ought to exercise some discretion in sending the assistance of a military force. There is precedent for the exercise of such discretion in the history of proceedings in Ireland. An Irish landlord—Lord Clanricarde, I think it was—insisted against advice on proceeding to eviction for non-payment of rent. He was within his legal right, yet the Government of the day refused to back him up in the harsh exercise of his legal rights, refused to send soldiers to assist at the 1070 evictions on his estate. I think the judicious spirit thus displayed should be exercised towards these tithe sales in Wales. Here was a parish of 1,000 inhabitants, and the rector was in receipt of something like £500 for tithe. Practically, the whole of the inhabitants were Nonconformists, for on the Sunday following this incident the congregation in the church numbered only seven. Naturally, there would be a strong feeling of resentment against this payment, and I think the right hon. Gentleman, or whoever is responsible, should exercise some sort of discrimination in these cases, and not, by the use of military, embitter the feeling that exists. As a protest, I move a reduction by £600.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out "£631,700," in order to insert "£631,600."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)
§ Question proposed, "That '£631,700' stand part of the Resolution."
§ (3.37.) MR. DILLWYN (Swansea, Town)
I support my hon. Friend in making a protest against proceedings which have given great dissatisfaction in Wales. The Welsh people have conceived the idea that the military were called in not for the purpose of quelling a riot, but in order to get up a case for bringing in the Tithe Bill. The Welsh people are eminently a law-abiding people, lovers of order, who give very little trouble to the Government. It is well known that the Prime Minister set his heart on passing the Tithe Bill, and it is supposed that these proceedings were for the purpose of influencing public opinion in favour of this Bill.
§ (3.40.) MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I desire to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that it is a dangerous practice to adopt, this of sending troops to engage in social troubles. We have been told by the hon. Member that we have not heard the last of tithe sales in Wales; and if that be so, I desire to point out how the interposition of the military on such occasions may arouse ill-feeling, and make the Army unpopular. It is absolutely necessary, for recruiting purposes, that the Army should remain popular with the great body of the people. We have seen the evil effects of employing troops in social disturbances in Ireland. It is a fact that in Ireland 1071 the Army has always been popular, in contradistinction to the police. The Army has been freely recruited in Ireland, but now, I believe, recruiting in Ireland shows a decrease, and this I attribute largely to the fact that the troops on several occasions have been used against the people in these social disputes. I remember some two years ago being present for a week at evictions carried out on the Ponsonby Estate. Troops were engaged there in aiding the police in evicting the people from their homes. I grieved at the time that the Army should be engaged in such disreputable proceedings. When the day's work ended, and the men marched away with the band playing, I invariably called for "Three cheers for the Army," and the people always responded. This I did as a sort of check to the symptoms of a growing unpopularity of the Army, in consequence of the way in which they had been used in these eviction proceedings. I warn the Secretary of State for War not to repeat in Wales the evil practices that have taken place in Ireland.
§ (3.45.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE, Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
Whether the Magistrates and police were right or wrong on the occasion referred to is a question I have not myself investigated, and I desire to express no opinion upon it. But whether they were right or wrong, they were clearly entitled, if they thought it necessary, to call for the assistance of the military in aid of the civil power. Now, the only suggestion of the hon. Member that raises any doubt on the subject is the suggestion that the troops were called on in order to save expense to the county.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
All I have to say to that suggestion is that clearly that would be an illegitimate ground for invoking military assistance; but it is not possible for me to analyse the motives which actuate the Civil Authority in such a matter. I dissent, moreover, from the view that the War Office should exercise discretion, and should send troops or withhold them as they think fit. If the law is wrong, let it be altered; but while the law exists in 1072 the Statute Book, it is the duty of the Civil Authority to enforce it, and it is their right to call on the military authority to assist. That assistance I shall always give.
(3.47.) MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS
We do not say that there should be a discretion with the Military Authorities. We say the Government should exercise a discretion on a matter of general policy. Surely the right hon. Gentleman will not lay down the proposition that whenever the Civil Authorities send for military assistance without question, that assistance should be given. I am unable to acquit the Government of an intention to get up a case for the Tithe Bill of last year. I have no sort of doubt that the military would not have been called upon but for the fact that for three Sessions there had been attempts to pass the Tithe Bill, and it was necessary to get up some pressure of public opinion to force the Bill through. So this method was adopted for creating the impression that the proceedings at this sale reached the magnitude of a riot, necessitating the removal of a troop of Hussars from one end of the Kingdom to another to this rural district in Denbighshire. There was not the slightest necessity, there was no personal violence, and the sending of a troop of Hussars from Manchester was merely to create a sensation. It is natural that the Welsh nation and the Welsh Members should feel aggrieved by the fact that the Chief Constable allowed himself to be made a tool of by ecclesiastical dignitaries and Magistrates to force a political move. The military were brought into the diocese of St. Asaph, the Bishop of which has been most prominent in the endeavour to force the Tithe Bill through. My hon. Friend is justified in raising this protest to mark our sense of the proceeding.
§ (3.49.) MR. FLYNN (Cork, N)
I desire to support the protest of my hon. Friends from Wales. It would seem that the authorities in Wales have taken a leaf from the book of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. It does not appear that there was any justification for the employment of troops on the occasion in question. In view of all the circumstances, I think the War Office should be more reluctant to grant the use of an armed force to interfere in civil proceedings. There is 1073 another matter to which I desire to call attention. I am not aware whether the right hon. Gentleman was present when a question was asked in reference to the complaint of cesspayers in Cork, that they have been mulcted in £1,000 damages owing to the misconduct of Militiamen when called out for their annual training—
§ Question put, and agreed to.
Resolution agreed to.
20. "That a sum, not exceeding £2,605,000, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the Charge for Provisions, Forage, and other Supplies, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892.
(3.56.) COLONEL NOLAN
I observe some newspaper reports to the effect that there have been some complaints in reference to the quality of bread supplied. I do not say there is any truth in the reports, but can the right hon. Gentleman give us any information upon this matter?
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
Since the hon. and gallant Member put the question last night I have seen the Quartermaster General, and he tells me that not a single complaint has reached the War Office as to the quality of the bread. He tells me he made special inquiries with very favourable results.
§ Resolution agreed to.
Twenty - first Resolution (see page 1036), agreed to.
22. "That a sum, not exceeding £1,847,100, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Supply and Repair of Warlike and other Stores, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892.
§ *(3.57.) MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will be surprised if I take this opportunity of saying a few words in reference to the adoption of the new rifle. This Vote contains no less than £1,250,000 for small arms and ammunition. The question of ammunition is, of course, inseparable from that of small arms; they cannot be treated separately. Now, it is undeniable that the new rifle was adopted before the War Office had got the ammunition to suit 1074 the weapon or to test its capabilities. The rifle was intended to be used with a smokeless powder, giving a muzzle velocity of over 2,000 foot seconds, and with a bullet having a lead core with a hard metal casing. It has heretofore been used with a charge of compressed black powder, giving a velocity of only 1,830 foot seconds, and a bullet having a homogeneous core and casing has not yet been found. The complaints as to the stripping of the bullet have been loud and general. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will say that the War Office has practically arrived at a satisfactory powder at last, but that powder has been on trial at Bisley during the last fortnight, and it seems to me that the results do not show any improvement on those of black powder in the old Martini-Henry. The ammunition has been held to be responsible for the great proportion of the failures of the magazine rifle. Reports show that at least the shooting obtained by the Martini-Henry was as good as that obtained by the use of the now rifle. This is shown by the results of the shooting at Bisley, and at the Army competition meeting. It cannot be pretended that the shooting with the magazine rifle was a bit superior to what it was with the Martini-Henry in past years. Take the competitions of the Army rifle meeting under similar conditions with the Martini-Henry and the magazine rifle, and you will find the scores with the Martini-Henry are better than those with the new rifle, while in the competitions open to any military rifle you find competitors largely preferring the Martini-Henry to the new rifle. These facts are by many attributed to faults in the ammunition, and it would be satisfactory if the right hon. Gentleman would tell us if he expects shortly to have a remedy for the defects in powder and bullet. As to the rifle itself, I will not dwell on details with which I troubled the House on a former occasion. You have a rifle with two enormous advantages not to be over-estimated—hardly any recoil, and a low trajectory. But, on the other hand, you have the disadvantages of a rifle which is ugly, clumsy, heavy, complicated, delicate, and expensive. I think my case in that respect is proved by the fact that soon after the rifle was 1075 issued it was decided as early as December to bring out au improvement, "Mark II."
§ *MR. MARJORIBANKS
It was decided to try a new pattern, which pattern was again altered, and in March we had a new "Mark II.," a description of which has been given to the House. It is beside my point to say what the difference was, but there was occasion for the issue of a now pattern, which included many improvements on points which had been warmly attacked by those who had doubts about the new rifle. I admit that the proposed Mark II. will be a better weapon. I admit that as the Government had decided to go on with the issue of a large number of the rifles it is little use "crying over spilt milk," but still I would suggest one or two points to the right hon. Gentleman to which attention should be turned. First, I would urge that he should carefully consider whether it is possible to enlarge the diameter of the bolt in order to increase the size of the cavity holding the mainspring, which could then be made with larger coils, and would be less likely to break in the way that breakages have occurred. Then in the magazine an improved and stronger spring should be introduced to feed the cartridges up into the breech—the existing spring in Mark I. is worthy of a child's toy—and a greater and longer grip given on the cartridge in the lips or top of the magazine, for it is a frequent occurrence that the cartridge is not delivered into the chamber. Then, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the desirability of introducing some system of charging the magazine from clips at one motion. The earlier methods of loading from clips, when the clips went into the magazine and the magazine could not be re-charged till all the contents of that clip had been discharged and the clip had fallen out, were undoubtedly faulty; but in the newer patterns the clip does not enter the magazine at all, it is pushed aside by the bolt as it closes, and the magazine can be re-charged at any time, and either from a clip or with single cartridges at will. Then, I would suggest attention to a "locking bolt," by which the rifle may be made absolutely safe when loaded. 1076 The "half cock" arrangement is useless, and I find the Manual directs that it is not to be used when the rifle is loaded, and if that is so, what is the use of a "half cock" at all? A form of "locking bolt" should be substituted, rendering the rifle safe under all conditions. Another point has reference to the cleaning rod. It seems to me an extraordinary arrangement to have a cleaning rod less than the full length of the barrel, so that it cannot be used to drive out a bullet or other obstruction in the breech or barrel. I am told that this difficulty is to be got over by making the cleaning rod in two short divisions, connecting them by screw, and giving the portions with male and female screw alternately to the odd and even files, so that there would be one complete rod between every two men; but I do not think this arrangement will commend itself to practical men, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that to every rifle should be attached a cleaning rod sufficiently long to go the whole length of the barrel. I do not think the "pull through" arrangement at the butt end is sufficient, it is a finicking arrangement, it requires some ingenuity to get it into the hole at the butt end of the rifle, and I am quite sure it will often be lost. I would not mention these details but that I feel that they can be remedied, and if an accident occurs by some of these little arrangements being thrown out of gear, the weapon is useless for the time being. And now I desire to say a word as to the manner in which the rifle was chosen and adopted. In 1881 a Committee was first appointed to deal with the question of the new rifle. If I remember right, there was some alarm felt that the Russian rifle was better than ours, consequently a Committee was appointed to consider the question. The Committee sat until 1884, overlapping a new Committee which was appointed in 1883, and which. I think, for all practical purposes may be regarded as the Committee which finally reported on the rifle. As a matter of fact, it came to an end in 1885, and a now Committee was appointed in 1886, but the composition of that Committee was so much like the old one—having the same President—that the two may be considered identical. We have had no 1077 Report of the proceedings, and we do not know how they went to work, so that it is difficult to follow what their proceedings were. I can only gather it in a rough way from one or two things I know as to what their course was. In the first place, these Committees decided on a new single-loading rifle, to be called the En field-Martini, of 400 bore, of which 100,000 barrels were made. These were afterwards thrown aside altogether. This rifle was much lauded at the time, but I do not know whore the 100,000 barrels now are.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I have over and over again informed the House that they were converted into Martini-Henrys, having been re-bored.
§ *MR. MARJORIBANKS
At any rate, this rifle, which was very much praised, had to be thrown aside. Then the Committee tried a large number of rifles, and eventually selected three, which they placed in the following order:—first, the Owen Jones; secondly, the Lee-Burton; and, thirdly, the Lee. Mr. Owen Jones was asked to have manufactured 5,000 rifles of his patent. For one reason or another that fell through, and in the spring of 1886 an order was given for the manufacture of 2,500 Owen Jones rifles at Enfield, involving a large expenditure for new plant and machinery, and I have myself seen rifles manufactured at Enfield of that particular pattern in the spring of 1886. At the same time an order was given for the manufacture of 300 of the Lee-Burton pattern. In the following September, however, they reversed the order, and they placed the Lee, which had stood third on the list, first. Using that rifle as a foundation they evolved the present magazine rifle. This chopping and changing about on the part of the Committee certainly does not give rise to increased confidence in the wisdom of their selection, and that confidence, as far as it exists, is further shaken by the fact that two members of the Committee, when giving evidence this Session before a Committee of this House, differed altogether as to the range of the new rifle. One member (Colonel Slade) said that the extreme range of the Martini-Henry was from 3,400 to 3,500 yards; and of the magazine rifle, 3,700 to 3,800; while the other (Sir Henry Halford) said he believed the extreme range of the new 1078 rifle was 5,000 yards. It is certainly an extraordinary thing that two of the leading members of the Committee should take such widely different views as to the range capacity of the rifle. In view of this difference of opinion, I think I am justified in remarking that before completing their work the Committee should have carried out experiments which would have shown the extreme range of the new weapon. I am sorry that the Government adopted this rifle so quickly, and have made so largo an issue of Mark I. rifles. I am satisfied that if they had held the selection over for a time a much better and cheaper weapon might have been secured. In order to enter a protest against the action of the Government in this matter I move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £15,000.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out "£1,847,100," in order to insert "£1,832,100."—(Mr. Marjoribanks.)
§ Question proposed, "That £1,847,100, stand part of the Resolution."
(4.23.) COLONEL NOLAN
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is always opening up this question, and as it is one he has studied most profoundly. I hope the Secretary for War will pay the greatest attention to experiments on all these details concerning clips, the length of the loading rod, the place for the mainspring, and so on. These experiments could be made for £2 or £3—almost for a few shillings—and the mere fact that these defects have been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman, who is so well known in the rifle world, and who takes such a deep interest in all these subjects, renders it necessary that further experiments should be carried out. If experiments are carried out, in another year the Secretary for War will be able to tell us how the faults of the rifle are to be rectified, or whether the War Office intend to retain the rifle in its present form. But, after all, these points are not of great importance. The non-delivery of the cartridge from the magazine, of which the right hon. Gentleman complains, is undoubtedly a serious defect, but I think that may be due to an imperfection in the mechanism of the particular rifle that the right hon. Gentleman fired, because I have not 1079 found such a defect in the rifle I have used. I do not remember a single case of the cartridge failing to pass from the magazine, although I was rather clumsy in handling the weapon. Then, the right hon. Gentleman dwelt on some points which really are of the greatest importance. He said the men at Bisley did not do so well with the magazine rifle as with the Martini-Henry. The good qualities of the new rifle do not come out in a target match, though the fact that the magazine rifle does not make such good shooting as the Martini-Henry rifle may be due to the fact that the men are accustomed to the latter, but not to the former. The advantage of the low trajectory is not appreciably felt as compared with that of the Martini-Henry at target practice, and the absence of recoil does not tell very much. No doubt the bolt action is necessary, because it is almost impossible to have the block with a magazine. Then, if the shooting is bad, I should say that, generally speaking, it is the fault of the sighting of the weapon. And the right hon. Gentleman put one point to which, I think, the Secretary for War ought to give a reply. He spoke of the ammunition—a matter which is, to a certain extent, mixed up with the sighting. The rifle is, on the whole, a very good one, but I am not satisfied with the ammunition, for, whilst the sighting is up to 2,050 feet, the ammunition is only up to 1,860 feet. If the right hon. Gentleman has a good smokeless powder, I do not think it is necessary that he should seek to have it suited to all climates. It should rather be his object to have it suited to first-class warfare, such as is likely to occur in Europe. I think, however, he ought to be able to tell us that he has a reasonably good powder, which is fit in a general way for service. I had the honour of serving on the Range Committee, and I was surprised to hear the differences of opinion between Colonel Slade, Sir Henry Halford, and other witnesses as to the range at which the bullet would ricochet—the difference being as between 2,000 yards and 3,800 yards. This is a matter which affects the whole of the Volunteer ranges of the country, and it was one of the difficulties which the Committee had to consider. I hope the Secretary for War will be able to afford us some 1080 information on the point, with a view to settling the truth or falsity of the statement that the bullet will not ricochet after 2,000 yards. It is a matter which may save a good many lives, if it is properly and thoroughly stated. It is a point of great interest to Volunteers. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Marjoribanks) gave a description of the rifle, and commented upon its ugliness. That is all a matter of taste. It is possible that a committee of ladies might select a rifle which would not come up to aesthetic requirements. The question of the recoil, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, is undoubtedly mixed up with the question of weight. Altogether, I do not think there is any good reason to suppose that the rifle is not a very good one, based on a very good system. I do not believe there is any great difference between one magazine rifle and another. If you have them of one bore, with a good smokeless powder, I think it is one of the very best rifles, so far as long ranges go. I think the stripping of bullets is exaggerated, and that ordinary precautions, such as oiling the bore, would prevent it. The Secretary for War may have an opportunity of inquiring into the points that have been raised. With reference to the recent explosion of a 6-in. gun on board a vessel in Australian waters, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether any more guns of that pattern should be produced, or, at all events, will make such inquiry as will result in restoring public confidence in that particular class of gun. Then, it is said that the combustion of brown powder is quicker in hot climates, and that it deteriorates. That is a point worthy inquiry, with a view to the right hon. Gentleman definitely stating whether brown powder does deteriorate in hot climates, and is liable to go off suddenly.
§ *COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)
The question of this rifle was very carefully considered by a competent Committee, whose President, Major General M. P. Smith, a man of calm and judicial mind, and not likely to be carried away, had served on the Staff, commanded a battalion on service and a battalion at Aldershot; by Colonel Slade, who has served in many parts of the world, and was an old instructor and 1081 an old Cavalry officer; and by Sir Henry Halford, who is one of the best rifle shots in the Volunteers. I merely mention these names to show that the Committee, which was not selected by the present Government, was carefully constituted.
§ (4.37.) MR. E. STANHOPE
I think it is desirable that I should at once reply to some of the observations made on the magazine rifle. I will not attempt to follow the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Marjoribanks) into the details of the history of the magazine rifle, as everything I have to say on that point is to be found in a speech I made earlier in the Session. I will only remark that whereas people outside blame the Committee for not having approached the subject with an open mind, the account which the right hon. Gentleman has given proves that if anything the Committee had too open a mind. With regard to the ammunition, which I admit to be a matter of enormous importance, I have never disguised the fact that the provision of suitable ammunition is attended with great difficulty. No doubt for a long time the ammunition was not of that high character which it ought to have been. The manufacturers, probably from inexperience, were unable to supply compressed black powder of the same uniform quality as the previous ordinary black powder. At any rate, we have found considerable uncertainty in the black powder, and that to a great extent accounts for the fact that the shooting of the magazine rifle is not so superior to that of the Martini-Henry as was to be expected. But there is also the element that the troops are not yet accustomed to the weapon, and the further fact that the rifle to some extent has proved to be a puzzle, while the sighting is not like that of the rifles with which the troops have been familiar. I am, however, glad to say that we an; now obtaining much more uniform results with the compressed black powder now supplied, the shooting is infinitely better than it has previously been, and the ammunition we have recently been serving out has given results more satisfactory than in the earlier stages of the magazine rifle. I now come to the question of the smokeless powder. That is a question of great importance, and we 1082 think it important that we should have time to arrive at the manufacture of a powder which we may safely recommend for the use of the British Army without danger of deterioration in any climate. To find such a powder is an exceedingly difficult problem. I do not think there is any sort of powder in use at the present moment that will withstand the effects of all climates; but I am glad to say we have now got a powder, called "cordite," which is giving satisfactory results. Since it has been issued for experiments among different regiments the Reports as to its use after 1,000 rounds have been fired quickly are very satisfactory. We find that it did not lead to any stripping of bullets, and we have since issued a quantity of this powder to different regiments for practice. As to its keeping qualities, I am not yet able to speak with certainty. The Reports which have come in are from the hot climates only, but as far as they are concerned I am satisfied that the cordite powder is not dangerous in use or subject to deterioration in hot climates, and I am very well satisfied with the experiments which have been made. During the next season I hope we may have very large experience of its use in cold climates as well as hot. On the whole, we are very well satisfied with the result of the experiments made with this sort of powder. We have the means of manufacturing it on a large scale. Last year there were considerable, and just, complaints with regard to the stripping of the bullet. This difficulty, I am glad to say, has been substantially overcome. The Reports which have reached me lead me to that conclusion. The position of the Department is that they believed at first, and they believe now, that Mark I. is an excellent rifle, but they would have been very foolish indeed if they were not prepared to adopt any practical suggestions that were made, and try by experiment to arrive at still more satisfactory results. It was with a view to such experiments, and with that view only, that Mark II. was issued. Many of the improvements embodied in that rifle might have been adopted in Mark I. in the course of manufacture without changing its designation at all. I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving his practical experience of the rifle, and I can assure him that his suggestions will receive every con- 1083 sideration. The "pull-through" has been adopted, because it has been found that if a cleaning-rod is always used in a small-bore it is apt to deteriorate the rifling. The adoption of the "pull-through" has been received with great satisfaction in the Army. The adoption of a rifle which is a single-shooter usually and a magazine rifle when the occasion requires it is a deliberate act of policy on the part of those responsible for the choice of the weapon. I believe the experience of the next great war, which I hope is far distant, will show that the use of purely magazine rifles would lead to the exhaustion of the ammunition before the troops came into contact, and that the officers would be unable to control its expenditure. By the adoption of a single-shooter with a magazine in reserve for the last rush or the climax of the attack the officers would be better able to prevent useless or premature expenditure of ammunition. The fault which has been detected in the mainsprings has been remedied, and new springs have been substituted for those originally issued with Mark I. During the present year a large number of rifles with that improvement have been tried. Reports upon those rifles are gradually coming in, and so far as those Reports have been seen they are very satisfactory indeed. Practically, none of the rifles broke down. I will read extracts from two of the fullest Reports received upon 100 Mark II. rifles which have been issued for trial, namely, those from Hythe and the South Wales Borderers. Those Reports state that—The rifles were issued to non-commissioned officers and trained soldiers on March 26, and have been in continuous use since that date. The firing exercise has been carried out constantly on the barrack square. The rifles have been left out all night, with magazines loaded, for 15 nights in succession, and the bores have not been cleaned since receipt of arms. Sand has been scattered over the action and into the magazine, whilst firing was going on, and water has been freely poured over the action (the magazine being kept charged) whilst 150 rounds were fired. Arms were piled, and then thrown down on the shingle, and the rifle repeatedly dropped with force, magazine being charged. The rifle generally is satisfactory, and an improvement over Mark I.Rifles were exposed, without sight protectors, piled, and left in the rain all night, and fired next morning without cleaning. No difficulty was found in extraction or ejection of cartridges from rifles so exposed. On one day half the rifles were piled 1084 in the open, and as there was no rain water was splashed over them, and next day they were fired without cleaning. Only one was so stiff that it could not be worked without being oiled. The remaining eight were taken to the range clean. They were then placed in water, and fired at once. They all worked well, and showed no signs of jamming, although there was a high wind and lots of dust. Very little fouling was visible on inspecting rifles after 50 rounds of rapid fire. No perceptible débris. Dust in no way affected cartridges feeding up from magazine. Dust was put in breech for experiments.The general tenor of all the Reports is very satisfactory. I have detained the House at considerable length, but I have thought it right to refer at some length to points which were a good deal controverted. I can assure the House that we have perfectly open minds on the subject, and have carefully weighed all the suggestions which have been made, with a view to making the rifle as perfect as possible. With regard to the guns for the Navy, I may state that a good many of them have been issued to Her Majesty's ships. Since the late accident happened we have come to the conclusion that the defect which caused it was the quality of the steel. We do not desire to keep in the Service any gun which is calculated to cause any alarm whatever to those using it. All these old guns on which suspicion has been cast are to be withdrawn immediately from Her Majesty's ships and replaced by other 6-inch guns which are not open to suspicion.
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS
In asking leave to withdraw the Amendment I should like to say a word or two. I thoroughly recognise the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman to produce a perfect rifle, but I reserve my right to further criticism, as criticism has in the past been of great use to the Department.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (5.6.) SIR W. PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton, W.)
I am sure that the House feels very great interest in our armaments, and I, therefore, ask leave to say a few words with reference to the Artillery. The Controller General, in his last Report, has drawn special attention to the difficulty he has in dealing with the Ordnance account, owing to the lateness of the date at which he 1085 receives the production voucher. I do not know the cause of this delay.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I can assure the hon. Member that that has nothing to do with this Vote; it relates to the Ordnance Factory Vote.
§ SIR W. PLOWDEN
I understand we are on the question of armaments and stores, and I want particularly to draw attention to the condition of our Field Artillery. It is very difficult to get reliable information with regard to the armament of the Field Artillery, but the facts, so far as I can gather them, are that we have 31 batteries of Field Artillery in this country. For these the armament is complete. The batteries consist of 12-pouuder breech-loading guns, there being in all 228 guns, with 66 for the reserve. Now, taking our Force at 150,000 (as given in this year's Estimate) we have less than two guns per 1,000 men. Is that a satisfactory condition of affairs for our small Army? The smaller the Army the more efficient the Artillery ought to be. In foreign countries the percentage of guns is much higher, and seeing that we ought to take into consideration the Volunteer and Militia Forces, I contend that we should have many more guns to place our Artillery on an efficient footing. We certainly ought to have 1,000 guns. This is a matter of grave importance, and I hope the Government will give careful attention to it.
§ (5.10.) MR. E. STANHOPE
I admit that the number of guns which we now have is a subject of grave importance. It is one which has been considered very carefully, and we have got as many field batteries as, in the opinion of all military authorities who advise me, are required for the whole of the Regular Army. We do not want them for the Militia, who, in the event of the mobilisation of the Army, would garrison our forts, and the Volunteers will be supplied with Artillery of their own.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
No; but I can tell the hon. Member the number of batteries in this country, namely, 53.
Resolution agreed to.
23. "That a sum, not exceeding £112,500, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Establishments for Military Education,
which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892.
(5.15.) COLONEL NOLAN
Although I spoke on this subject last night, I did so rather with the idea of inducing the Financial Secretary to the War Office to make himself acquainted with the facts before the Report stage. My complaint is that the charge made for the education of cadets is extortionate. The fees amount to £150, and are a great deal too high. A cadet's maintenance cannot cost more than £60 or £70 a year. A certain number of military cadets, the sons of officers, are educated at a less charge than that made for the sons of civilians, and although it is a very proper thing that a certain number of cadets should be admitted at a low rate, I do not think the country should be generous at the expense of civilian fathers.
§ (5.20.) THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR DEPARTMENT (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman into the question whether or not these charges should be paid by the country. I should like to explain that the charge of £150 a year is made in accordance with the conclusions arrived at by Lord Harris's Committee, who examined into the subject exhaustively. In spite of the fact that these fees are paid by the cadets, there is still a heavy charge—something like £18,000 a year—borne by the public in connection with the Academy. If the cost of a cadet's education at Woolwich is compared with the cost of an education at a crammer's, or in any other high-class educational institution, I do not think that it will be considered unreasonably high.
Resolution agreed to.
24. "That a sum, not exceeding £160,900, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Sundry Miscellaneous Effective Services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892.
§ (5.23.) MAJOR RASCH
I should like to draw attention to the item of £200, which it is proposed to vote to the Association for the Employment of Discharged Soldiers. This is the only Institution in the country which has been established with the object of procuring employment for Reserve soldiers, and I confess I have been astonished at the manner in which the Secretary for 1087 War, with a light heart, proposed this small grant of £200 a year to its funds. That is a very meagre grant. Sir Donald Stewart is at the head of the Institution, which has found in the last few years employment for 7,000 men, with wages amounting to £500,000. In the course of every year 14,000 men leave the colours, going into the Reserve. Some, of course, find civil employment fairly soon, but others drift to the casual wards and the dock gates. This, we are told by the Inspector General of Recruiting, has a very deterrent effect on recruiting throughout the country. Employers are disinclined to engage Reserve men, fearing that they might have to leave work at a moment's notice at the bidding of the War Office. The Institution for which I am pleading does most useful and beneficent work, and the Government might well increase their contribution to £500. At present the Institution has only an income of £800 a year, and if its income were increased to £1,000 a year, the value of its operations would be enormously increased. I would suggest also that a Labour Bureau might be established at the War Office in the interest of the Reservists. We are, of course, much obliged to the Secretary for War for his sympathy, but we hope that in next year's Vote that sympathy will take the more practical form of increasing the grant.
§ (5.28.) CAPTAIN GRICE-HUTCHINSON (Aston Manor)
I wish to support my hon. Friend's appeal, for I think the Government ought to increase their contribution to the funds of the Institution to £1,000. Under the present conditions of service a man serves with the colours for seven years, and is then drafted into the Reserve, just when he is becoming a thoroughly efficient and useful soldier. Many of these Reserve men find nothing to do, and roam about the country ventilating their grievances and deterring youths from enlisting. I certainly think this Vote might be raised to £1,000. There is one other point I think the Government might consider. We hear very much of technical education. It is being given in the cities, towns, and country districts. Why is it not given in the Army? Why not at the great military centres establish some system by which men of the Army may be encouraged to keep up the trades they may have 1088 learnt? I will not say anything more, except that I recognise with gratitude all the Secretary of State for War has done for the Army. If he can only see his way to make the further concessions pressed upon him, one great cause of the unpopularity of the Army will decrease, recruits of a better quality than many of those we are now getting will join the colours, and the Army, which it is our duty to keep up, will be brought to its proper strength, instead of being about 6,000 under its strength as it is now.
§ (5.32.) MR. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM
I am sure the House recognises that when the hon. and gallant Member for Essex (Major Rasch) brings matters of this sort forward he does it with absolute sincerity. I consider it is a positive disgrace to any Government to allow men to fall into the unfortunate position that many discharged soldiers fall into. Although we may not agree with his ultimate conclusions, General Booth, in his book In Darkest England referred in many pages to the destitute and helpless condition of many men who have served the Queen in many countries and climates; at the end of their lives they are cast out upon the streets, or have to seek refuge in the workhouse. I hold that such a state of things is a reproach to the name of Great Britain. The hon. and gallant Member for Essex has made a very moderate request. I think the people are more sensible than to measure the capacity of a Minister by cheese-paring in his Department, and in certain questions, especially in questions like this, generosity commends itself more truly to the public than close economy. I am not concerned, and I do not think that any hon. Members need concern themselves, as to the popularity of the Army, or the keeping of the Army up to full strength, but what we have to concern ourselves about is the condition of the men who have bled for their country.
§ (5.35.) MR. BRODRICK
The hon. Member for Aston Manor (Captain Grice-Hutchinson) has suggested that we should raise this Vote from £200 to £1,000. The matter has been the subject of correspondence between the Treasury and the War Office, and the Treasury have pointed out that since the Government granted this sum of £200 a year to the Institution the subscriptions 1089 of the public have diminished by more than that amount. Consequently, we fear that if we were to give a larger sum the public would subscribe still less. With reference to the suggestion that a Labour Bureau should be opened at the War Office, I have to say that it is absolutely impossible for the Government to assume the responsibility of finding civil employment for all Reserve men, who, be it observed, join the colours of their own accord, and in many cases leave of their own accord at a time when they might extend their service if they wished. But the Government recognise that they ought to give what assistance they can, and Reserve men are employed in many Public Departments. There is a large number of them at Woolwich in the Ordnance Store Department, and many are employed as unskilled labourers in the Arsenal. Then they find employment in the Police Force and as messengers in the Public Offices. With regard to the number of soldiers found in workhouses, I am glad to say that the statistics show that the number is not nearly so large as is supposed, indeed, the percentage was only about one in 100 when we last inquired. The statements General Booth made were quite unsupported by figures. I assure hon. Gentlemen that we shall do all in our power to assist the Society as far as we can, and if they can claim increased outside support in connection with any branches they may start, we shall be prepared to give a further sum.
§ (5.40.) SIR H. HAVELOCK-ALLAN (Durham, S.E.)
I do not desire at this time to prolong the Debate, but I must say I agree almost entirely with what has been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite. There are one or two points in which those who feel an interest in the welfare of the Army would like to see a more sympathetic treatment on the part of the War Office.£1,000 would be too much to contribute to the Society, but I think it would be well if the War Office could see their way to graduate their contribution in proportion to the contributions of the general public. If the right hon. Gentleman would give us an assurance that he would adopt such a principle, he would soothe the feeling that our discharged soldiers are not met quite sympathetically. I understand that the Secretary of State for War has given most satis- 1090 factory assurances to my hon. Friend (Mr. E. Robertson) in regard to a matter which he raised some time ago. I trust that in the course of the coming recess some definite steps will be taken to meet the case of the old Crimean soldiers with more generous treatment.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
Perhaps I may be allowed to say that the arrangements which the right hon. Gentleman is understood to have made have, as far as I know, been received with great satisfaction. As I raised the question, I beg to thank him, in the name of the Crimean men, for what he has done.
Resolution agreed to.
25. "That a sum, not exceeding £257,900, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Salaries and Miscellaneous Charges of the War Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 13st day of March, 1892.
§ (5.45.) GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
I should be glad if the Secretary of State for War would tell us briefly what has been done in regard to the re-organisation of the Artillery. I also hope that during the recess the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give his attention to the condition of the retired purchase officers.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
I shall be very glad to give the Committee a short explanation of our proposals with regard to the Royal Artillery, which are just about to take effect. The Commander-in-Chief and I came to the conclusion some time ago that great necessity existed for strengthening the personnel of the Royal Artillery, who have to deal with coast defence. The great strides made in the science of coast defence of late years have not as yet been accompanied by corresponding changes in the organisation and training of the Garrison Artillery. The great improvements in, and the great variety of, the guns now used in coast defence, the introduction of complicated mountings, of range and position finders, of electricity and of hydraulic power for working guns, varying with the circumstances of each fortified place, and even with the interior arrangements of each fort, require not only greatly improved training, but also that the Artilleryman should have, in order to fight the guns to the best advantage, a complete knowledge of the battery he 1091 has to work. And this is specially important in our Service, because the Garrison Artillery has to be largely supplemented by Militia and Volunteers, who have few opportunities of practice with the guns they may have to serve. The Royal Regiment of Artillery does not, as at present organised, fulfil these requirements, and the organisation of that part of it which deals with garrison work has never been adapted to the modern system of defence. Moreover, the Garrison Artillery offers few attractions to officers or men. The proportion of foreign service is considerable. Much of the work is of a monotonous and solitary character. They have few opportunities of active service, and are hardly worked. The result is, that the best officers are always looking to appointments in the mounted branches, and do not readily settle down in what ought to be the most scientific branch of the Artillery. Moreover, the present mode of relieving a battery strips it of all of those possessing local knowledge, and renders the defence inefficient until the necessary knowledge is acquired. It is with the view of meeting these and other difficulties that we have now framed a scheme which, while avoiding any violent disturbance of existing arrangements, modifies them in accordance with all modern requirements. We do not propose, for the present at any rate, to destroy the existing regimental organisation of the Royal Artillery, but we separate the two main branches. While allowing some latitude for the first three years of an officer's career, the scheme will, after the three years, retain him in the same branch of Artillery until he attains the rank of lieutenant colonel—that is, a Garrison Artilleryman will remain a Garrison Artilleryman, subject to certain very limited exceptions which need not be described now. Service in the Horse and Mountain Artillery will, as now, be treated as special service. The non-commissioned officers and men of the Garrison Artillery will be divided into two large classes. One of these will be specially associated with the armaments and equipments, and will include first-class gunners and other specialists who have to deal with machinery and appliances, and also a number of senior and Staff officers conversant with the schemes of defence. 1092 The numbers quartered at each place have been carefully calculated on its exact requirements, and a system of relief by small parties will be adopted, so that no portion of the defences will be stripped at one time of all men of special local knowledge. The Coast Brigade will be absorbed into this class. The other class will consist of less highly trained men formed into companies, each under a major, which will move about in relief, as batteries do now. The specialist Staff officers and non-commissioned officers will receive certain special rates of pay, and all Garrison Artillery officers and first-class gunners will receive extra rates of pay. I further propose to develop the Schools of Instruction, and to give them a permanent organisation, and generally to raise the standard of scientific acquirements in the Garrison Artillery. I ought to add that we have carefully safeguarded the interests of existing officers by giving a long term of grace before the scheme comes into full operation, during which their cases will be considered upon their merits, and by facilitating transfers from the mounted to the unmounted branch. The long required separation between Meld and Garrison Artillery will thus be effected in the fairest manner, and the result of the re-organisation of the Garrison Artillery will, as I believe, be to adapt it to all modern requirements, and to provide a highly scientific force thoroughly able to cope with the complicated armaments and defences of the present day. It will come into operation at once. I have tried to describe the scheme as shortly as possible, so as to enable hon. Members, who will see the details published in the newspapers, to thoroughly grasp the object at which we aim.
(5.55.) COLONEL NOLAN
The subdivision of the two branches of the Artillery is a very important matter. It is very necessary it should take place at some time or other, and probably this is the time it should take place, as the scientific position of the Artillery has been much changed. The Garrison Artillery has been looked upon as the refuge of the destitute, and everything ought to be done to make it attractive. If you want the officer in the Garrison Artillery to be a good officer you must make his position as good as that of the officer in 1093 the Field Artillery, and you must take into consideration suck advantages as the Field Artillery officer always has in the free use of horses. I did not catch whether the scheme provides for power of exchange between the Garrison and Field Artillery. Some officers might prefer the Field Artillery, and others might like to enter the Garrison Artillery, and I would recommend the Secretary of State for War to consider the propriety of allowing officers to exchange.
§ *(5.57.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
At the request of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I did not last night move the reductions I had intended to do. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that I would have an opportunity to-day on Report, and he also offered that either he or the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would go through the Estimates with me privately. I shall probably keep the right hon. Gentleman to his promise, though I do not intend to deprive him of his holiday. Now, there are one or two joints I wish to raise on this Vote. I have scrupulously avoided making anything like an attack on the Government with regard to the private soldier; but outside the House there is a feeling that the private soldier is not in many matters treated so fairly or generously as the officer, and on this point I simply ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will, at any rate, consider the applications I have placed before him. So far as I am concerned, I should be glad if everything connected with war was done away with; until it is, we shall not have anything like a perfect world.
§ *MR. MORTON
I was going to refer to the office of Commander-in-Chief. In the Report of the Royal Commission it was strongly recommended that the office should be abolished. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that Report is kept in mind? The special matter to which I ask attention is that upon which I have given notice—that of gambling in the Army. Of course, I will not now go into the question of Army Regulations or necessarily move a reduction. I find in the Army Regulations that all gambling in garrisons, camps, and cantonments is forbidden, and commanding officers are 1094 enjoined to discountenance any disposition to gambling among their officers. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he has taken notice of this matter with the view of bringing the conduct of officers into accordance with the regulation? One matter I do not quite understand in regard to a question put to him. About the middle of the month of June the right hon. Gentleman brought from several officers an apology for having apparently broken the Regulations; but on June 22 he stated, in answer to a question, that the Order had not been broken, and, considering the apology tendered, I confess I cannot understand that answer. Now, there is a feeling that private soldiers and officers are not treated on the same footing, and a letter from a private soldier has been printed in the Daily Chronicle exemplifying this. To this I desire to call special attention. I do not desire to go back upon anything that has been done, but I would urge that there should be fair play alike to officers and men in the enforcement of the Regulations against gambling. I am induced to mention this also by reading an account of something that occurred recently in connection with a Middlesex Volunteer regiment. In an article, published by the Times, it is said—We are but expressing the universal feeling of the millions of Englishmen and Englishwomen whose wish is, in Lord Coleridge's words, 'to keep our institutions sacred and respectable.'Well, of course, we all desire to keep the Army as respectable as we can, but I do not see how any sacred character can attach to the military profession. A late Bishop of Manchester remarked that gambling, unlike other vices, showed no trace of any perverted virtue; it was wholly vicious; and I suppose this was the view of the framers of the Army Regulation. But in this respect we are really behind the morality of the Turk, whoso Koran forbids all games of chance—
§ MR. SPEAKER
For the second time I have to remind the hon. Member that his remarks are not relevant to the Vote.
§ *MR. MORTON
I thought I should be in order in illustrating my remarks by reference to the state of things in other countries, but I go no further now than to press upon the right hon. Gentle- 1095 man that he should enforce the Regulation against gambling among all ranks in the Army.
§ (6.10.) MR. BRODRICK
The hon. Gentleman has fallen into some little confusion in reference to the Regulations. The Regulations in regard to gambling have been, and will be, strictly enforced in the Army. The Regulation recently called in question was one concerning an officer who had not reported a certain occurrence to his commanding officer. In regard to gambling in the higher circles of the Army, the Regulations are strictly enforced.
Resolution agreed to.
26. "That a sum, not exceeding £221,100, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the Admiralty Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892.
§ (6.11.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I do not know whether I am strictly in order, but I desire to say that it is the intention of the Government that a certain contribution shall be made out of naval funds towards the entertainment of the French Fleet at Portsmouth. The Treasury Rules require that if any expenditure is incurred which is not provided for in the Estimates Parliament, if sitting, shall be notified of the fact. Accordingly, I now notify that a certain expenditure will be incurred which, we believe, will be met out of the surplus of other Votes. If not, a Supplementary Estimate will be proposed in the coming Session. I feel quite sure that the House and the country generally will be satisfied that a certain contribution should be made towards entertaining the French Fleet.
§ *MR. MORTON
I wish to move a reduction in regard to the first part of this Vote. The Naval Lords who are paid £1,500 also receive considerable sums as pensions, and I contend that while they are in receipt of a salary their pensions should cease. I also desire to include in my Motion a reduction of the salary of the Civil Lord of the Admiralty. This, so far as I can make out, is a sinecure office, and I must protest against the expenditure.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out "£221,100," in order to insert "£220,100."—(Mr. Morton.)1096
§ Question proposed, "That '£221,100' stand part of the Resolution."
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. FORWOOD, Lancashire, Ormskirk)
I can assure the hon. Member that the question he has raised in regard to the position and salaries of the Naval Lords has been duly considered. They receive half-pay for naval services in the past, and the salaries paid are not too high for the responsible duties they discharge. As regards the Civil Lord, it is quite clear, from the remark of the hon. Member, that he has little knowledge of the duties of the Admiralty Office. The duties of the Civil Lord include important supervision of many financial and administrative details.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
I appeal to the hon. Member not, at such a period and with such a House, to proceed to a Division. I associate with that an appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say what he proposes when the Government Business is disposed of.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
Arising out of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement in reference to the visit of the French Fleet to Portsmouth, may I ask if any provision will be made for Members of this House to attend the Naval Review? I know there exists among some hon. Members a desire to be present and to pay respect to the Fleet of France.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (6.15.) MR. GOSCHEN
If I am in order I would say, in reply to the question of the hon. Member (Mr. Cremer), that the suggestion he has made shall be communicated to the Admiralty.
§ GENERAL SIR F. FITZWYGRAM (Hants, S.)
There is just one question I wish to ask in reference to the allotments paid to sailors' wives at the dockyard, Portsmouth. There is considerable discontent because they are required to attend to receive their allotments at a fixed time, and wet or fine the sailors' wives have to come, sometimes considerable distances, for the purpose of receiving their allotments. What I wish to ask is whether some more con- 1097 venient arrangement might be made for payment through the Post Office?
§ MR. FORWOOD
I will make inquiries. The number of allotments has largely increased in the last 12 months. I quite sympathise with the hon. and gallant Member's object, and I will see if it can be carried out.
§ Resolution agreed to.
Postponed Resolutions 1, 2, and 3 (see pages 945 to 997) agreed to.
4. "That a sum, not exceeding £252,897 (including an additional sum of £5,040) be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892, for the Expenses of Her Majesty's Embassies and Missions Abroad, and of the Consular Establishments Abroad and other Expenditure chargeable on the Consular Vote.
§ *MR. MORTON
I wish to ask a question in reference to the appointment of our Representative in Roumania. The answer given by the right hon. Gentleman yesterday does not seem to be quite understood, and has been variously reported.
§ *(6.20.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir J. FERGUSSON,) Manchester, N.E.
I thought my statement was clear enough for anybody's comprehension. The head of the Legation at Bucharest will receive £3,500 a year, instead of £2,500, and it may be necessary to ask for a Supplementary Vote, but this may be set against the decrease of £1,400 in this year's Estimates.
§ *MR. MORTON
But is it possible for the Government to take money voted for one purpose and use it for something else?
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
Under certain regulations, savings under one head are transferred to another head of the same Vote.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ Resolutions 5 to 15 (see pages 1012 to 1027) agreed to.