HC Deb 11 March 1892 vol 2 cc657-81

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 154,073, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at Home and Abroad, excluding Her Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1893.


I understand that an agreement has been come to by which a discussion may be taken at some more convenient time on the subject of the Report of Lord Wantage's Committee, and I do not propose to deal with that at any length; but since this Debate began, we have received the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting, and I should like to touch on one or two of the material points in that Report. The conclusions come to by the Inspector General of Recruiting do not in any way conflict with the Report of Lord Wantage's Committee, as to the deplorable state of things which exists in the Army, with respect to the physical quality of the great mass of our recruits, who are brought into the Army by the system we are now pursuing. The result of this system is that our Army is physically diminishing and falling below the standard of nations. At present no means have been discovered for remedying the defect. What do we find from these Reports? In the last two years, of 67,000 men who have enlisted into the Army, no fewer than 21,000 go below the lowest standard that has hitherto been accepted as a sufficient physical force to bear arms in this country. Of 31,000 recruits in 1890 and 36,000 in 1891, no less a proportion than 21,000 are what are called "specials." A "special," I may explain, is a man who under no other circumstances would be allowed to bear arms, because he is under 5ft. 3 in. in height, under 33 inches chest measurement, and under 125 lbs. in weight. That is to say, he is about the size of a good-sized school boy, who has not got beyond the last form of the school. I consider that is a deplorable falling off in the condition of the British Army. All the leading military authorities have been compelled to admit that our system gives us an enormously large proportion of men who are totally incapable, under any circumstances, of carrying arms in the field outside these shores; according to Sir Evelyn Wood, a large proportion of them are unfit even for peace duty. I had an opportunity recently of observing for myself the condition of our men when I spent eight days with about 14 battalions of men. Speaking from the point of view of their physical power, the immaturity of these youths, their total incapacity to bear the burdens falling upon a soldier in the field, I say that no infusion whatever of reserve force would make some of the Line battalions fit to take their part with an army in the field; and, speaking from the military point of view, I should describe them as rubbish and nothing else. There is no denying that by unwisely overstraining the system in a particular direction you have got a body of men who are unfit to support the honour and the dignity of the Army to which they belong. I am speaking only from the physical point of view, for as regards spirit, cheerfulness, zeal, intrepidity, alacrity, and amenability to military discipline—in every quality save that of physique, in which they are deficient, these men are worthy successors of those who have maintained the repute of the Army in times past. Now, Sir, two remedies are proposed. One may be spoken of as financial, the other as administrative. There is no fact which comes out more strongly in the Report of the Committee than that the defects we all deplore are in no sense the result of short service alone, but arise from a departure from the rules established in 1872; and the remedy which I would press on the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War is, therefore, purely an administrative one. I do not agree with those who think that a large increase of pay will remedy the evil. The defects we complain of are not within the scope of a military inquiry alone; and, therefore, I regret that, instead of being sent to a Committee limited in its reference, this question, which is one of national importance, was not referred to a larger and wider tribunal of a Royal Commission. In 1888, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot) and I brought this matter forward, that was the suggestion we then made. We desired that a Royal Commissioner might be appointed to inquire into the recruiting and supply of men for the service of the Crown—not for the Regular Army only, but for the Militia, the Volunteers, and the Reserve Forces generally, and we also desired that the inquiry might extend to those industrial causes which every day are making keener the competition of the labour market with the Army. After a lapse of four years I regret more than ever that the question was not submitted to a Royal Commission, because, instead of the result being what it has been that questions of minor importance were dealt with, and its recommendations totally ignored, if the Royal Commission had been appointed at that time and allowed full scope, long before this a solution would have been arrived at to rescue us from our present position. Now, as to the financial remedy, a general increase of pay, I should be entirely in accord with it if I thought there was any possibility of its remedying the defects of which we complain. There is no portion of the Report of Sir Arthur Haliburton which deserves more attention than that in which it is set forth that each successive increase of pay unwisely given has only staved off our difficulties at equal intervals of six years, and in 1866, 1872, and 1878 landed us in successive difficulties. As to the suggestion to raise the pay of the men to what is known as the clear shilling, any increase which does not place the soldier on a level with the skilled labourer must, from the circumstances of our industrial position, be open to this objection: that it would not improve the matter, but would only lead to an addition to the ranks of a large number of small and totally unfit men. If an increase of pay is to be given it should be carefully graduated. What I would suggest would be that the pay of the soldier who reached the standard of physical maturity and acquired skill and proficiency in his profession should, on going on foreign service, be raised to one shilling per day; and that as regards the others, the immature men, the rate of pay should remain as at present. That is what is done in industrial life; it is the practice in the sister Service of the Navy. The Committee have, however, pointed out that there is a great difficulty in establishing different rates of pay in the Service; but the difficulty would be met by recruits going in at the present rate of pay and inducements held out to mature as compared with immature men, in the same way as in the Navy, where we do not pay boys at the same rate as we pay able-bodied seamen. Passing from pecuniary to administrative remedies, I think it is deplorable that successive administrations at the War Office have entirely overlooked some of the most vital recommendations which established short service in 1872. When the short service system was instituted it was contemplated that there should be equality between the number of battalions abroad and the number at home. The present Government are not solely responsible, because, in point of fact, since 1872 that rule has not been observed. At present, there are 76 battalions abroad and only 65 at home. Matters might, of course, be equalised by bringing some men home, but I think the best thing would be to raise five additional battalions at home for the Line and two for the Guards. If that were done, it would go far to relieve the strain on our Home Army. There is another matter which demands attention. Some years ago the rule was laid down that no soldier who was under 20 years of age should be sent out to India. The result is that all the immature men, men in their first, second, and third years of service, come upon the Home Army. Whilst I think that the 73,000 men in India should undoubtedly be maintained in the highest state of efficiency, I cannot say that I think that such a body of men, in the flower of their strength, and averaging five years' service, would be appreciably weakened if recruited by 10 per cent. of men sent out when they reached 19 years of age. That alteration would materially affect the condition of the men at home, and the matter is certainly deserving of consideration. Looking at the whole question, the attempt to keep up the number of men we require by direct competition with the labour market is played out. While retaining all the advantages of short service, we might consider whether we could not get rid of that difficulty. Now, Sir, the indirect means of securing that, in case of mobilisation, we should have a large number of good physique and mature age in the Army, to give it backbone, are three in number. The first is the possibility of in some way remodelling the Militia Force, so that it should be a great reserve and source of strength instead of weakness. The second is the possibility of maintaining a considerable Reserve of Volunteers under conditions likely to captivate the fancy and attract men to that force; and the third, and the more practical thing, is to prevent the running to waste of all those men who have completed twelve years of service with the Colours, and who are desirous of prolonging their service for another four years. The expenditure involved in this change would be very small indeed. Now, Sir, as to the Militia, they have not had the attention paid to them that they deserve. The present legal establishment of the Militia Reserve is 30,000. There are at present on the establishments of Great Britain and Ireland 128 battalions of Militia, and I would suggest that the Militia strength should be raised so as to bring the total number of men up to 50,000. The objections of Commanding Officers to the proposal might be removed if the men were allowed, through their Commanding Officers, of course, to offer for service in the field, getting £3 in respect of the campaign. In that case the Militia would become a real support and feeder to the Line, and its individuality would be preserved. If that plan was adopted, you would get from the Militia, ready for active service, 24 battalions en bloc, which would be equal to an addition to the Line of a whole Army Corps, which might take up our Mediterranean garrisons, and still leave some men available for service in the field. With regard to the Volunteers, while we have an increasing force, never less than 220,000 and sometimes rising to 240,000 men, they would most materially assist our force for defence abroad if the necessity arose. I would not desire to infringe upon that which is the essential element and the chief recommendation of the Volunteers—namely, their unpaid services to the Crown. At the same time, Sir, I still think that, without infringing that principle, a considerable Reserve of Volunteers, who are men of exceptional physique and excellent military training, might be obtained for active service. During the Egyptian Campaign some Volunteers, principally, I think, from the Middlesex regiments, volunteered for active service. Some of them in 1884 and 1885 rendered good service at Suakin and elsewhere, whilst their experience of service in the field with the Regular Army tended materially to increase their valuable qualities. It would be perfectly right and reasonable to give to every one of the men the sum of £6 as a retainer, and as an inducement to the Volunteer battalion to which he belongs a capitation grant of £3, making a total capitation grant of £9. I believe these experiments are well worth trying on the part of the War Office. But there is another source of supply recommended by Lord Wantage's Committee to which I cannot see any species of objection whatever; and that is that a certain number of the many thousands of men who are in the Reserve, if when medically inspected they should be found to be fit, might be allowed to continue in the Reserve until they had served from twelve to 16 years, increasing as the Committee recommended their Reserve pay by the paltry sum of 2d. a day, which I think so small compared with the advantages to be derived from it, that I cannot see why this source of supply has not been already used. Supposing these men had enlisted at 18, after having served twelve years, they would be the very best men it would be possible to get. They have had some experience of civil life also, and are supposed to be sober and steady citizens; why in the world should they not be allowed by an expenditure of this paltry sum to extend their service for four years more, when at the outside they would be only 34 years of age, which only a few years ago used to be considered the lowest minimum age of a soldier. I calculate that with the co-operation of the commanding officers, and I say, speaking from the long experience I had of these men, of their great and natural spirit of adventure, and of their great desire which they have always shown to take part in the operations of the Army in the field, I believe that if it were practically managed there could not be the slightest difficulty in getting an increase at least of 10,000 by that source; and once the principle was established it would go on and develope in progress till it became a great support to the Army. It appears to me that these three sources of supply are open to the Secretary for War, and they would require only trifling legislation. They are merely administrative, and have all been more or less calculated on by the Secretary for War in the year we are now entering upon. To my mind this question of the supply of men for the service of the Army in the field is so great and grave a one that I cannot but join, with all respect, in what some might consider the exaggerated terms of praise bestowed upon those administrative benefits which the right hon. Gentleman has nobly conferred on several branches of the Service by the measures which he has carried out during his tenure of Office for the last five years. I say this is a subject of so vital and paramount importance, and that in the gradually diminishing force of the Army as compared with the labour market, one being a rising tide and the other a falling tide, and no expectation of a remedy for this defect by any other means than have been suggested, all depends upon the labouring classes. Now that they have political power in their hands they will never submit to any conscription of any sort in any emergency that may arise. Looking at this fact, and seeing that the great and grave responsibility rests upon the right hon. Gentleman if he fails to take such means as are in his power for widening the field for procuring effective men, and of dealing now, in a time of peace, with the defects that exist. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will not think that I unduly press the result of a very long practical experience in this matter. I have been on every Commission almost, that sat on this subject for the last 20 years; and I beg and implore the right hon. Gentleman not to let his present tenure of Office expire without looking into these great sources of supply and developing them by every means in his power.

(5.37.) SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)

I must say that while I agree with many things my hon. and gallant Friend has said, I deeply regret that he has gone so closely into the Report of Lord Wantage's Committee, because, as I understand my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War and the Leader of the House, both have promised to give us a day when we shall discuss thoroughly that Report with the evidence before us. I venture to say that the proposals in that Report are so momentous, and the Report is of such importance to the country that we ought to be most careful in our proceedings in regard to that Report, in order that the House may have full time for its fair consideration. I also say this: that while we have a very difficult task to perform with regard to the safety and security of this country and carefully to consider the Army Estimates, we have had no time to consider or discuss these Estimates; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian—than whom there is no better judge—told us this afternoon that it is one of our most sacred duties to look after the money paid by the taxpayers of the country and see that it is properly spent. All I can say is, there is nothing more important than the Army Estimates, nothing that requires more careful consideration than the Army Estimates, and there is nothing which from force of circumstances we have less time to discuss than the Army Estimates. We are not blaming my right hon. Friend or those who have gone before him for what has been done; but we have a duty to perform with regard to the country, and if we had not the courage and pluck to proclaim what we believe to be absolutely necessary we should fail most lamentably in that duty which we have been sent here to, perform. My right hon. Friend made a most interesting speech; but I venture to say that, looking at that speech from beginning to end, I must say that there were portions of it which were of a roseate hue, and if ever there was a speech that laid blame on his predecessors it was that of the right hon. Gentleman. He stated most distinctly that never was there such a condition of things as when he went to the War Office. He has been able, he states, to remedy a large number of these things. It was his absolute and bounden duty, in the high position he occupies, and responsible to the country that the Army should be in an efficient and effective state, to carry out those reforms which he has so successfully carried out. I do not know what the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway will say; but one of the great reforms was the division of the Artillery. Many had talked of it, but none had attempted it until my right hon. Friend had the courage to carry it out. It stands to reason that what has been called scientific necessity as regards these big guns required special training, which made it necessary that the Garrison Artillery should be separated from the Horse Artillery and the Field Batteries and placed in a better position than they have hitherto occupied both as to their duties as well as their pay. Another thing that is greatly to my right hon. Friend's credit is that he has got 14,000 horses upon a list, and that he can call upon them in any time of necessity. My right hon. Friend has had the courage also to ask this House for £4,000,000 to place the barracks of the country in a proper and responsible position. He is now dealing, amongst other barracks, with the Royal Barracks in Dublin. When I was quartered in Dublin in 1844 the Palatine Square was then in a disgraceful condition; and I am quite sure he has earned the gratitude of all soldiers in having done that which he has done as regards these barracks. I only wish the right hon. Gentleman would have let us know exactly what he was going to do with regard to the money he has got, and where the barracks were to be repaired and where the new barracks were to be built. I have never got to the bottom of where the outlay is to be made. I wish to say one word about the huts at Woolwich occupied by the recruits. The state of these huts is absolutely discreditable. I shall only say that I hope my right hon. Friend, now that he has had his attention called to them, will not let the matter drop out of sight. My right hon. Friend has done a great deal for the Volunteers, and he is also going to do some little for the Militia in forming them into brigades. The brigading of the Militia is absolutely essential. One other question, the defence of the coaling stations—and for all he has done in that direction my right hon. Friend deserves the greatest credit. My right hon. Friend stated the other night that he had carried out many things with regard to the recommendations of the Committee over which the noble Lord the Member for Paddington sat as Chairman. I had hoped that my noble Friend would have been in his place, as he would have been able to state whether all the things which the Committee suggested and thought absolutely necessary have been carried out. There is another Royal Commission, which my right hon. Friend shelved in a very curious way. I mean Lord Hartington's, or the Duke of Devonshire's, Commission. I will only say with regard to that Commission that oftentimes in this House Royal Commissions are granted, and Committees are granted, and when these Commissions and Committees have been granted—to save the Government from perhaps a defeat—the Reports of those Commissions or Committees have not suited the Government, and these Reports have been absolutely shelved. The Commission on which I sat on Warlike Stores, Sir James FitzJames Stephen's Commission—and I thought we made a fair Report—nothing has been heard of it except that one of the many things we suggested, namely, the increasing the efficiency and strengthening of the Ordnance Department should have been carried out. I believe it will be found necessary to have a separate Ordnance Department which will supply not only the Army but the Navy, because we have stations all over the world, and if we do not have the same shot and shell in the various stations, in times of difficulty we may find ourselves in a very awkward position. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend this one question with regard to Vote 9. I know there is a Report which states what has been expended and what has been given to the trade in this country with regard to big guns; but I should like to know if we cannot get more accurately the number of guns made, both great and small, as well as rifles, the money paid, and how many firms supply the Government with those commodities, which are so absolutely necessary? In turning to the Home Army, I cannot for a moment overlook those reports which we have had in the papers, especially the letters written by Mr. Arnold Forster, which have been so much decried by some of the War Office authorities. These letters, which I have endeavoured to verify, are, in most instances, not over, but in many cases under-stated. He has endeavoured, as an honest man, to state, so far as he can, what he believes to be the deficiency of our Home Army. I am glad the country has awakened to a sense of its own responsibility, believing that there is nothing more necessary than that we should have an efficient Army, because we all know how much better it is to pay money for a good than for a bad article. There were other letters—clever, shrewd, intelligent letters—which did the writer, "Vetus," whoever he might be, exceedingly great credit. I hope they have been read, and carefully read, by my right hon. Friend, because they cannot fail to give him some information, although he may have been well informed on the subject before. What has been the main charge? What was the charge in 1888? It was the deficiency of the Navy and the inefficiency of the Army. The Navy have got their deficiency more or less filled up, but the inefficiency of the Army has remained ever since. I do not think there is any man can say—and I am putting it very broadly—but that you have got in our Home Army more than one-half of immature lads unfit to go abroad. And with that condition of affairs the Army cannot possibly be in an efficient state. Out of the 69 battalions of Infantry, I will venture to say there are not 35,000 seasoned men who could go abroad and do a hard day's work. I am certain I am not going beyond the mark. I have taken the trouble to verify the statements in Mr. Arnold Forster's letters with regard to various battalions. I have taken other battalions, and I have found that they are in quite as inefficient a state as those he has named in his letters. I will give you a statement as to six battalions in a garrison. I will not say where. Taking the first regiment at 720, it is 349 under strength, and half of the remainder are under age. They have only 26 recruits at the depôt. What is the state of efficiency of such a battalion? The next is 156 under strength. That has 63 recruits at the depot. Remember that these recruits have just joined, and remember also that each of these regiments have to find drafts from 160, 180, or 200 for battalions serving abroad. The third regiment is 129 under strength, with 104 recruits; the fourth is 197 under strength, with 49 recruits; the fifth 178 under strength, with 112 recruits. That regiment is in the First Army Corps. Look at the First Army Corps sending out its best men to India. I am not saying I object to that at all, except that the remainder of the men at home are not in an effective and efficient state. We know what the efficient strength ought to be in order to keep regiments on a footing that you can send them out at a moment's notice. The last regiment is 268 under strength, and the recruits at the depot are 333. That is out of a strength of 720, and half of the remainder of the regiment are under age. No doubt, my right hon. Friend will say he regrets this state of things, but it is for him now to make a great effort to counteract the evils which we say have grown up. There ought to be a Committee of the Cabinet to decide what should be done with the Army, as there was one to decide what should be done for the Navy. My right hon. Friend is very gallant and valiant. He says he will put 80,000 men into the field, and he will take all the Reserve except 31,000 men. The Reserve will be 78,000 in April or May, so that some 50,000 have to be taken to put into the regiments which are at home to make up the 80,000. Let me ask, are these men trained? Are the Reserve trained so that you can put your trust in them? Are they ever drilled? Not one of these regiments I have mentioned have got the new rifle. They have got the Martini-Henry. I hope my right hon. Friend will tell the Committee how many rifles he has got and what regiments have got them. That is a very important question. My right hon. Friend always objects to give information, because it will let the foreigners know.


I have told the Committee how many magazine rifles we had.


I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say he had manufactured 300,000 for India.


No; for India and this country.


But they are not served out. My right hon. Friend will no doubt say they have not got powder, and he has not got the rifle ranges where he can try them. If that is so, I can only say it is most unfortunate. What a mess we should be in should any difficulty occur with some of these rifles served out, and other regiments having a different class of rifle. Notwithstanding all their faults no Foreign Government would dare to put its Army into the field unless they were properly armed with the same rifle. I ask my right hon. Friend to look at the present condition of the Infantry and the Reserve; and he knows there are men in the Reserve for several years who have never been called out. I would ask the people of the country, its manufacturers, its merchants, and those who turn off soldiers because they may be called out, whether they are not satisfied with our voluntary enlistment, which prevents Conscription, and whether it is not worth more to the country than anything else we can name? It is the greatest blessing we have got, and we know perfectly well the condition on which these men are engaged. It was not now as in the olden time, when we had two, four, or even six months to prepare. War when it comes will come like a clap of thunder, and woe betide that nation which is not prepared! We look with the greatest regard to our Colonies. We know that even they will try to help us in time of need. But it is for us to set the example, and have at home troops, not only in name, but in reality, who are fit to do their duty. We owe a great debt of gratitude to those who have written about this question, and I am sure my right hon. Friend feels the necessity of what I have been saying. You cannot get rid of the feeling that our Home Army is inefficient and our Reserves are not properly drilled. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) that the Army is not a Party question. But what did the right hon. Gentleman say? That he was sure the House would not agree to vote the money asked for by Lord Wantage's Committee. Let me say a few words about the Artillery. We are most certainly short in our number of batteries, and when we remember that each battery has to send out to a battery in India some 60 men every year out of, say, 151 men—when we find that more than half the remainder are recruits and inefficient, I think we may well complain of the present state of the Artillery. Look at one case. My right hon. Friend disbanded four batteries of Horse Artillery. In India we have 11 batteries of Horse Artillery, and at home only 9 batteries to feed the 11 batteries in India. Some of our batteries at home have six guns, whilst others have only four. If the 80,000 men were sent abroad, in what position should we be with regard to the Artillery remaining at home? We should be almost in a defenceless position. Looking to the Artillery as a whole, I can only say we are short of men, short of horses, and short of guns; and the Artillery Reserve, from not being drilled, are absolutely inefficient for the purposes they are required. One word about the Cavalry. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Hampshire (Sir F. Fitz-Wygram) went so far as to say that all the Cavalry were inefficient. I certainly do not go so far as that, but I do say a great deal wants to be done for the Cavalry, though not, perhaps, in the direction my hon. and gallant Friend suggests. There is only one other question about which I wish to speak—that is the Militia. I will put the case as it is put by Mr. Arnold Forster. I will only say the case, as put by Mr. Arnold Forster, is certainly not overstated:—Militia Establishment, 135,722; short of Establishment, 22,259; absent with leave, 4,887; deserters, 8,648; Militia Reserve, 30,245; enlistment into the Line, 12,646; recruits untrained, 36,643; Army Reserve men and double enlistment, say, 2,000; not efficient at training, 18,394. This is a fair statement of the present position of the Militia. This year the absent with leave is higher; the deserters are considerably higher; the enlistment into the Line has also increased, so that we may safely take Mr. Forster's statement as a fair one. A. great question for my right hon. Friend to consider is whether he cannot increase the Militia Reserve? The Militia, as a whole, has not been encouraged half enough. The closer it is drawn to the Line, and the greater the encouragement that is given to it, the better it will be for the Service. I have only, in conclusion, to say that it is of the utmost importance we should speak our minds freely. I have called attention to those points which deserve earnest and serious consideration, and which should be attended to at once. I have given my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War credit for a number of things, and that credit he fully deserves. I hope he will take care that the fighting machine is in first-class order, for no country without a perfect fighting machine can ever defend its rights when occasion requires.

(6.10.) MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)

I would desire to call the attention of the House to a matter which is comparatively one of detail, but which concerns the condition of the soldier and the raising of his status—particularly the soldiers of my own country. It is a question, indeed, which has been brought by the Scotch Members before the War Office—namely, the unsatisfactory arrangements connected with the chaplain system, particularly in Scotland. There is authority, I believe, under the Regulations for the appointment of seven Presbyterian chaplains in the Army, but there are at present only six commissioned chaplains in the Army. They are stationed in London, Alder-shot, Dover, Dublin, the Curragh, and Edinburgh. With the exception of Edinburgh, all the other five are out of Scotland. I am not going to find fault for a moment with regard to the work which is done by those gentlemen. I believe the work done by them is excellent in every respect. But there is one point in regard to them—namely, that commissioned chaplains are limited to the Established Church. The Secretary of State is fairly entitled to reply that that is merely an ecclesiastical question, but I can show that is not the case. It is a grievance amongst the people in Scotland, and it is felt outside Scotland too. Practically, it is not a matter of principle at all, because the principle has already been conceded. Two of these six chaplains are not Established Churchmen at all; they are members of the Irish Presbyterian Church. The chaplains who do duty in Gibraltar and Malta are members, not of the Established Church, but of the Free Church of Scotland. Within Scotland itself the rule is rigidly applied, and there no duty connected with the Army is entrusted to any minister except a minister of the Established Church of Scotland. The people of Scotland are very much divided amongst religious bodies, and in the Highlands the vast majority of the population are members of the Free Church. In view of getting the best form of recruits, it is short-sighted policy on the part of the War Office not to secure the appointment of chaplains who belong to that form of belief to which the majority of recruits and men wishing to join the Army also belong. This we undoubtedly consider a grievance, in view of the fact that within the bounds of Scotland 2,400 or 2,500 Scottish recruits are obtained for the Army every year; it is a grievance that at the depôts of the Scottish regiments you do not entrust the spiritual welfare of those young soldiers to the ministers of the Churches to which they belong. In the scheme which has been submitted to the Secretary of State, and has also been in its outline suggested to the War Office on former occasions, there are other suggestions made as to the better working of the Presbyterian chaplain system in the British Army. What is proposed in that scheme is that the whole Service should be worked by a Committee of all the Presbyterian Churches, and that those who are appointed should be chosen from all the various Presbyterian denominations. It is proposed that at the live chief military centres in Scotland young ministers should be appointed, not in the position of commissioned chaplains, but of chaplains who should be told off to this duty, and have no other duty to perform. In Scotland, where you get these recruits at an early age, when they will be most amenable to the work of the chaplain, you have, only in the case of Edinburgh, a minister specially told off to look after their interests. If the chaplain is suited to the work he will go amongst the soldiers, become intimately acquainted with them and influence them for good more in the barrack room even than in the church. If you can get young ministers who will look upon that as their primary, chief, and exclusive work, then you are more likely to exercise a good influence amongst your recruits than by any other means. The proposal is that a joint committee of the Presbyterian Bodies should choose five young ministers to whom they would guarantee a minimum salary. It it not proposed or suggested that they should be made commissioned chaplains, but, that they should become men from whom commissioned chaplains should be selected. The better men amongst them would look forward undoubtedly to promotion in this direction, and, in that way, you would form a nucleus, an excellent body of men, to whom yon could look for service as Presbyterian chaplains outside Scotland. The other advantage is that you would have efficient Presbyterian chaplains in Scotland, that you would be able to get hold of recruits early and subject them to the particular influence of those chaplains. It would have this further advantage in time of war, that you would have amongst those five men, men whom you could send abroad in case of necessity. When on service in war time their places would be filled and their work done under the Joint Committee of the Churches, who would guarantee that no extra expense should fail on the Exchequer. I would earnestly press this matter on the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope he will not look upon it as a purely ecclesiastical question. It is a question which affects the condition of the soldier, and I should like to have some expression of favourable consideration from the right hon. Gentleman with regard to it. If inquiry were made in the matter, there would be a speedy notice of it taken by the other religious bodies in Scotland who, I am sure, would express their willingness and readiness to join in it.


I may say at once I fully recognise the importance of the subject which the hon. Member has brought before us. He knows that a scheme has been brought before me by the Free Church of Scotland, and I am desirous to ascertain how far that scheme commends itself to the other Churches. If I find that it does commend itself to them, I do not desire that any delay should intervene in carrying out the scheme. I can assure the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Buchanan) I fully recognise the importance of the subject. I desire to say a word or two as to what the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir W. Barttelot) said with regard to the magazine rifle. He is one of the last men in the House who should use the argument he did about the non-issue of the rifle, because he did his very best to stop the issue. The fact is we have a very large number issued, and the only reason why a still larger number has not yet been placed in the hands of the troops is that in certain places we have not been able to get ranges suitable to the rifle. That difficulty is being got over in most of the military districts, and I hope the time is not far distant when we shall be able to issue magazine rifles to every man in the Regular Army. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked for further information as to the number of heavy guns being made by private firms, and the names of the firms making them. My hon. and gallant Friend must, I think, be aware that I have on several occasions given the names of the firms, and in a Return which is to be produced very shortly he will find a detailed account of the number of large guns being manufactured, both by the Government and by private firms. The rest of the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend was composed mostly of a complaint against the War Office, about which I spoke the other night, that the Home battalions were not maintained at war strength, in order that they might be sent abroad at the shortest possible notice. That is not the policy of this country. Our policy has been to keep the Home battalions at moderate strength, and to rely on the Reserve to bring them up to full strength when they are sent abroad, as every other country does. That is the best and least expensive mode of meeting the difficulties which have to be faced. I want now, Sir, to make an appeal to the Committee. Owing to circumstances not under our control the Army Estimates have been delayed during this week, and it so happens that they must be concluded next week. We have still to take the Navy Estimates, the Vote on Account, and the Supplementary Civil Service Estimates; and, therefore, it will hardly be possible to give further time next week to the discussion of this first Vote in the Army Estimates. I make an appeal to the House—and I think it will recognise that I have a right under the circumstances to appeal to it—to bring the discussion on the Vote to a close to-night.


Something has been said of another opportunity being offered later in the Session for the discussion of these matters, when we shall be in possession of all the documents and have the advantage of the evidence given before Lord Wantage's Committee. If such opportunity will be afforded, perhaps, Mr. Courtney, on one of the other Votes, as has been somewhat irregularly done on previous occasions—though I know you do not look on it, Sir, with much favour, but it has been so often done, and this is so exceptional a case, that it might be done this year—if it were done I would strongly appeal to anyone who will be influenced by me to agree in the course suggested, and defer a general discussion of these matters till that opportunity.

(6.25.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)

These Estimates have not been criticised by a single gentleman who is not a supporter of the Government, and the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman shows remarkable coolness on his part. In that state of the case, to ask to get the Vote to-night is like asking to get the Vote without any discussion at all, and yet we have just heard from the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Sir W. Barttelot) that the Army Estimates require the closest scrutiny. I do not intend to be very long, but I shall be very astonished if hon. Members opposite do not make some little effort to sustain their right of discussion on this Vote. The Secretary of State took great credit because the arrangements for the defence of London are in a better condition owing to the efforts of the War Office. The fact is that not one shovelful of earth has been moved to provide for the defence of London during the past 20 years, and we are not in a position to resist the advance of a first-class Power. The next point for which the right hon. Gentleman took credit was the manufacture of magazine rifles, and there I take his part against the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir W. Barttelot), who did his very best to stop their manufacture. But the Secretary of State has stopped short in the manufacture when he has only a very inadequate supply. A first-class Power requires about 1,500,000 rifles, but the Government has stopped with 300,000.


We have not stopped.


The right hon. Gentleman says we have not stopped, but when the hon. Member for Enfield (Captain Bowles) addresses the House presently we shall hear that there is very little manufacture going on now. It is true that we have the Martini-Henry rifle, but although we can use two patterns of rifle in warfare, we must have one pattern of ammunition; at present we have two kinds in use. The hon. Member for Enfield will complain of the decrease in the manufacture of the magazine rifles at Enfield, but when Birmingham asked for some of the work I wondered how the Secretary of State would provide work for both places. It is a great pity that so many of the rifles are manufactured by private firms. You must give them a few to teach them how to manufacture the weapons, but the great bulk ought to be made at the Government factories. I think you are going on a false principle when you starve Enfield. Another point of the Secretary of State was the 80,000 men. But how do you get these 80,000? You are not even going to send the Reserve men into the regiments where they have served. You are going to send 45,000 men into the beleaguered towns, and they will not know their comrades, their officers, or non-commissioned officers, We have always tried to have a small Army, but an exceedingly good Army—I will not say English Army, because at the height of our glory a very large proportion of the men were Irish. But what makes the difference between disciplined troops and a set of savages is that the men know each other, and can depend upon each other. But now you are bringing them together in a chance manner, and they cannot get to know each other in less than three months. Now, I should like to call the attention of the House to the fact that all the recent great European wars have been decided in less time than it would take these men to know each other. I am not defending long service. On the contrary, I quite agree that we must have short service. When we see all the European nations pursuing a particular course of action, we should be foolish if we separated from it, because what all the nations are doing must be tolerably right. The great defect of the present system is the immense number of boys it brings into the Army, and I look upon that as most absurd, most dangerous, and most expensive. Hon. Members will remember the message that was sent home from the Crimea—"Send us no more boys." The necessity for reform is great; but when the two Front Benches agree upon a matter of military policy, I will not say they are necessarily wrong, but there is very little chance of reform. Now, when the Secretary for War has captured a boy, what does he do with him? He has to keep him about two years and a half before he is any good, and in this way he is most expensive. Sir A. Haliburton fixed the cost of a soldier at £53 a year, but I think it should be nearer £70, and in this way you will see that you spend about £160 or £170 upon a boy before he is any good to you. It would be far cheaper to offer a fair sum to a full-grown man. The hon. Member for South Durham (Sir H. Havelock-Allan) said he did not think much of the idea of competing with the labour market, but he did think that some direct inducement might be given to men in the Civil Departments. I agree with my hon. Friend that that would be a good thing, but there is much difficulty in obtaining that inducement. Fourteen or 15 years ago an hon. Member moved for a Committee to see if employment could be found for old soldiers in the Postmaster General's Department. But it was no good; nothing was done, and you will find the greatest possible difficulty in getting any other Department of the Government to offer you any assistance in dealing with your soldiers. You will have to change the whole system before you can do any good to the soldier. I should be disposed to agree with almost anything proposed by the hon. Gentleman in that respect, but I have not much faith in any efforts that may be made, because I have seen so many efforts. I think the only plan is to raise the pay, and to raise it sufficiently to appeal to the imagination of the population. If you raised the pay 6d., 2d. of that would be deferred pay; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer might spread that over a period of eight years. So that the increase would come really to 4d., and that would amount to something like £120,000. That, I admit, is a considerable sum, but you would save it in the long run. You would have men, and would be able to stop the rush of boys. I believe the labour market is like the ocean. They say you cannot overfish the ocean, and if you have enough money you cannot overfish the labour market, and if you are prepared to pay enough you will get any number of men in this country. The fact is that now you are only paying enough to pay for a boy. When you have captured him you make him serve on and pay him just the same. If an employer of labour were to do that he would be denounced as the greatest tyrant in the country, and if he could not be beaten in the Law Courts we should have to pass an Act of Parliament about him. The fact is the Army is underpaid, and there are very gigantic abuses in consequence. I do not say anything about our Indian Army. We have a splendid Army there, and that fact has been recognised by everyone, but the reason is that there the men are full grown, whereas at home they are boys.

(6.42.) CAPTAIN BOWLES (Middlesex, Enfield)

I do not at all underestimate the importance of the question which has been under discussion, but I wish to call attention to another matter, and that is the very important question of warlike stores and supplies. My constituency has of late been very much disturbed by the fact that this year a very much smaller number of arms are being manufactured than during the last two years; and, personally, one cannot help being a little surprised that, while the Army is being fitted out with a new weapon, so small a number of arms should be given out for manufacture. I can only say that the reason is not so much that this country is going without weapons as that those arms have been given to other people to produce. I have discovered that out of a total number of 300,000 arms manufactured, those turned out at Enfield only numbered 182,000. Enfield is the chief manufacturing department of the small arms of this country, and this is, therefore, a very serious question for us to consider. At first I could not help thinking that private traders and manufacturers were able to manufacture these weapons at a lower rate than they were produced at the Small Arms Factory, but that idea has been put out of my mind by the answers given by the Secretary of State for War. As far as I can make out—and it is very difficult to find out the exact state of the case with respect to any of these warlike stores from the way in which they are put into the Estimates—the first 100,000 rifles which have been manufactured, or are being manufactured, by the trade are to cost £5 10s., whereas the first 124,000 of these weapons which were made at Enfield were at a cost of £4 5s. each. These weapons can be manufactured now at Enfield at a cost of under £3 10s. It is not merely in the manufacture of rifles we compare favourably with the trade. According to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War himself, 8 per cent. is added to the cost of swords manufactured at Sheffield over those made in the Government factory. I have discovered also that the cost of the Nordenfeldt guns at Enfield is £135, and no less than £338 8s. is paid for the same article from the trade. I know I shall be told that the large divergence in price is due to what may be called the royalty paid to the inventors of the weapons; but when the difference is as between £135, and £338 I do feel that some new method should be arrived at for settling what royalties should be paid to inventors rather than by giving orders at such extraordinarily increased prices. I should like to point out to the Committee that even the manufacturers of these weapons are not satisfied with present prices, and we find from the letters of "Parlementaire" in the Times that even inventors are not satisfied with the way they are treated by the War Office. I feel, therefore, this is a question worthy the consideration of the Committee, and that it is my duty to bring the matter forward, though I should have liked to have acquiesced in the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman. The lock of the Maxim gun costs £20 in the trade—£6 at Enfield. I read of an order for carbines being sent from India and given by the War Office to the Henry Barrel Company; they are to cost 60s. each, and they could be produced at the small-arms factory at Enfield for 42s. I should like to point out to Members of the Committee that the machinery with which these carbines would have had to have been manufactured, if they were manufactured at Entield, has been sold to the Henry Barrel Company for £2,000. I do not know if I am mistaken—the Secretary for War will correct me if I am wrong—but I believe we have not at this moment the machinery at Enfield for the manufacture of old Martini-Henry carbines, the use of which the Indian Government have not given up entirely. A new rifle was put into the hands of the Army, and I think only one year's full work was sent to the Government factory at Enfield.

It being ten minutes before Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.