HC Deb 17 March 1893 vol 10 cc395-400

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

1. 154,442, Land Forces.

2 £5,876,400, Pay, &c., of the Army (General Staff Regiments, Reserve, and Departments).


said, the other evening the noble Lord the Member for South Edinburgh (Viscount Wolmer) aimed at very high game, as he aimed at the organisation, or reorganisation, or disorganisation, as the case might be, of the whole of the higher branches of the administration of the War Office. He (Captain Naylor-Leyland) merely desired to deal with those matters which affected the rank and file, leaving the higher branches of military administration to those who were better qualified to speak upon them. The first point to which he would address himself was one on which he had questioned the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War without receiving any satisfactory reply. He could inform the right hon. Gentleman that if he would display a little interest in the subject-matter of the questions that were addressed to him, and evince a desire to put right matters which he found to be wrong, he would save not only the time of the House but the time of the Government. For his part he fully intended to obtain an answer to the questions he had addressed to the right hon. Gentleman. If he did not obtain one now he should raise the subjects at considerable length hereafter in Committee of Supply. His first point was connected with the barrack accommodation of the country. Under the Barracks Act, passed in 1890, a sum of £4,100,000was set aside for the purpose of rebuilding camps and barracks. The late Secretary for War (Mr. E. Stanhope), however, stated in 1890 that it was intended to rebuild one camp out of the current Army Estimates.


I am sure I made no such statement.


said, he entirely accepted his right hon. Friend's statement. The fact remained, however, that some of the camps which were in the worst condition were excluded from the action of the Barrack Bill. Colchester Camp was an example of this. Colchester was one of the most important military centres in the country, being within a few miles of the town where Napoleon intended to land for the invasion of England. Any schoolboy who had studied the strategical defences of the country knew that East Anglia was one of the most vulnerable portions of the Kingdom. At the time of the Crimean War a few temporary wooden huts were put up at Colchester for the purpose of housing the drafts for the Crimea. It was stated at the time that the huts were to be pulled down or rebuilt directly after the war, but from that day to this these huts had remained, and they were now used as permanent barracks for the troops. They were practically uninhabitable, as they would not keep out wind, snow, or rain.


I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that the first Vote is passed, and that no general discussion can take place on this Vote.


said, in that case he would raise the point on Vote 7. He must, however, refer to a question connected with the welfare of the rank and file of the Army. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had issued a Memorandum for the information of Members. He could quite understand the right hon. Gentleman's position. The right hon. Gentleman said to himself, "I know there are some 30 reforms desired by the Army. I do not, however, propose to carry out any of those reforms, and I will issue a Memorandum instead." Of course, the Committee accepted the document as being a State document of an important kind, but he felt bound to say that if be had to choose between Army reforms on the one baud, and the Memorandum on the other, he should prefer the reforms. But he was glad to see that in this Memorandum the right hon. Gentleman stated he proposed to carry out one, at least, of the recommendations of Lord Wantage's Committee. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would make, not only a paper but a practical performance of the promise. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to allocate a sum of £20,000—£26,000 was the sum really required for the purpose—to increase the pay of lance-corporals, who complained very justly that they had to keep up the status of a non-commissioned officer on the pay of a trooper or private. That, however, was a grievance which the right hon. Gentleman would not remove, unless concomitantly with spending the money he issued a regulation preventing the promotion of lance-corporals in excess of the establishment. Officers were partial to promoting a great number of lance-corporals, and if the right hon. Gentleman spent a great deal of money in increasing the pay of non-commissioned officers, and at the same time allowed officers to promote men in excess of the establishment, then the grievance of non-commissioned officers discharging their duties on the pay of a private would still remain. All the recommendations of any reform in general might be properly divided into two classes—financial and non-financial proposals. He meant by financial proposals those proposals which would cost the State something to carry out, and non-financial proposals, those which would cost the State absolutely nothing at all. He was aware that if he urged on the right hon. Gentleman the financial proposals he would be met with the statement that the Treasury was in its normal condition of being extremely hard up, though he would confess that had always been a source of dilemma to him. For instance, the other day they had heard of £600,000 being spent on light railways in Ireland, and there was now before the House a Bill which proposed to endow Ireland with a still larger capital sum, and if they could afford to spend all that money on Ireland, surely they ought to afford to spend a little money at least on the British Army, on whom the defence of these realms depends. But there was only one of these financial proposals to which he would refer— it was included in the recommendations of Lord Wantage's Committee, and it referred to the pay and position of the soldier. It had been said by an hon. Member in the course of the Debate the previous night that new recruiting posters had been issued. He would be glad to hear that that statement was true, though he had not seen anything but old posters, and he believed the military authorities were using up the old posters. In the old posters the recruit was offered 1s. a day and free rations. Technically speaking, free rations meant three-quarters of a pound of meat and a pound of bread; but the ordinary man took "free rations" to mean free food. When the recruit joined he found that threepence a day was stopped out of his pay for food, and taking other deductions into account, if he had fourpence a day in his pocket be was an extremely lucky man. Two courses were open to the Secretary for War in this matter. One was to carry out the promise made to the recruit, which would cost £800,000 a year, and the other was to remove the false statement off the recruiting poster, though he himself would like to see the recommendation of Lord Wantage's Committee carried out. There were also one or two small matters to which he wished to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. The Cavalry had just been reorganised into squadrons, and a new noncommissioned officer, called a squadron sergeant-major, had been created. There were only four of these new non-commissioned officers in each Cavalry regiment, and 128 in the whole British Army. These important non - commissioned officers were likely to be passed over in promotion by juniors of not half their service. A non-combatant junior of six years' service, who, being fond of writing his name on paper, was taken into the Orderly Office to do clerical work, after three years' service was promoted over the heads of these combatant non-commissioned officers, with their fifteen years' service. These squadron sergeant-majors did not ask for anything wonderful. They did not ask for increase of pay; but they asked to be put on the same footing as the non-combatant juniors, that was to say, technically speaking, that after three years in Part 17 they should be promoted to Class 17. The Secretary for War had plumed himself over the satisfactory state of recruiting. He should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman on what did recruiting depend? Recruiting depended entirely on the cheapness of the labour market. When there was a cheap labour market recruits were to be had in any quantity, but when there was a dear labour market hardly any recruits at all were to be obtained. It was a significant thing that when the right hon. Gentleman's Government came into power there was usually a cheap labour market, trade was visually depressed, a large number of men were thrown out of employment, and therefore recruits were obtained. He trusted that when the right hon. Gentleman plumed himself on the satisfactory state of recruiting he would remember on what recruiting depended. If the right hon. Gentleman carried out some of the recommendations which had been laid before him he would at any rate signalise his tenure of office by a display of interest and zeal in the Public Service which would bring not only credit to himself but to the Government to which he had the honour to belong.


said, he wished to call attention to the practical abolition of the office of Judge Advocate General, one of the oldest offices in the Kingdom—an office which was much older than that of his right hon. Friend the Minister for War. His right hon. Friend had informed him, in reply to a question, that it had been determined in accordance with the recommendations of the Select Committee to appoint Sir Francis Jeune —a Judge for whom he (Sir G. Osborne Morgan) had the highest respect—to the office without salary. His right hon. Friend stated in the course of the same answer that there were only a few cases referred to the Judge Advocate General. His right hon. Friend must have been misinformed. He could assure him that was not the case during the five or six years which he (Sir G. Osborne Morgan) had held the office. On the contrary, every case that presented the slightest difficulty to the military authorities was referred to the Judge Advocate General's tribunal. He used to attend from 12 to 5 o'clock every day, and sometimes even after that hour, and as a matter of course there wore always three or four cases referred to him every day. It was natural that that should be so. The tribunals of Court Martial were right in 19 cases out of 20—indeed, he would say in 99 cases out of 100—but sometimes they happened to go wrong, and when they went wrong they went very wrong, often convicting a man on hearsay evidence, or because he was a bad character. In order to show that he was speaking by the book he would call attention to the number of cases in which the findings of Court Martial were set aside during the four years in which he had held office. In 1881 the number of men relieved from the consequences of unjust conviction was 246; in 1882, 154; in 1883, 116; in 1884, 100; making in the four years a total of 616 cases in which the findings of Courts Martial were reversed. But that was not the whole of the work which the Judge Advocate General was called upon to perform. Mr. O'Dowd, who had ably filled the office of Military Secretary, resigned, and he took it up, and in that

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