HC Deb 31 July 1894 vol 27 cc1394-5
MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether, notwithstanding the War Office certificate has been withdrawn from the Metropolitan rifle range at Staines, firing still continues at that range, both by Regulars and Volunteers; whether he is aware that the residents in the neighbourhood consider the firing at this range is a source of great danger; whether he is aware that the cattle and sheep have been shot in a field adjoining the butts and paid for by the Rifle Range Company; and if he will direct the range to be closed?


At the same time, I will ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware that the withdrawal of the certificate for the Staines Rifle Range still further reduces the inadequate range accommodation for the regular and auxiliary garrison of the Metropolis; what steps the Government propose to take to grapple with this difficulty, and to enable the defenders of the country to be trained in the use of the weapons with which they are armed; and if he will consider the increased difficulties which Metropolitan and Urban Volunteers have, owing to this want of ranges, in complying with the additional musketry requirements of the War Office as regards the capitation grant?


The Company to which this range belongs, having been deprived of their rights over some land at the extreme end of it, the War Office certificate authorising it as a safe range has been withdrawn, and the Commanding Officers of the Volunteer corps which have been using the range have been informed of the withdrawal. I presume that its use by them has ceased. It is not required for the Regulars, and they do not use it. I have not heard of any accidents having occurred such as are indicated, but I am aware that some of the neighbouring residents have objected to the shooting. The range belongs to a private Company, and the Secretary of State has no power to interfere further with the control of their property. Undoubtedly the withdrawal of the certificate from the range at Staines will, for a time, reduce the available accommodation for the Volunteers. The Government do not propose further to intervene in the matter, as existing Regulations empower Volunteer corps to combine for the provision of suitable ranges. The new Musketry Regulations in no way increase the difficulty of providing ranges; on the contrary, they rather simplify the question.


Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the enormous difficulties Volunteer corps experience in finding a range?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the present time the people of this district are in danger by reason of the use of this range?


I repeat that I have no control over the range so long as it is used for practice only. All I can do is to withdraw the certificate, allowing it to be used for ordinary prescribed firing. Obviously the Company who own it may allow or prevent anyone using it. As to the last paragraph of the question, and the purposes of the capitation grant, that is a large subject with which I should not like to deal in an answer.