§ £2,732,200, Provisions, Forage, and other Supplies.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, he wished to ask, on a point of Order, for an opinion from the Chair. A habit had grown up in recent years of introducing the Army Estimates and the Ordnance Factories Vote at a very late period, just at the end of the financial year when they had to be hurried through the House, and they were at these times informed by the Secretary of State for War that it was important in the interests of the Public Service that the Votes should be got. The result of that was that the Votes were passed with little or no discussion, but they were invariably promised by the Secretary of State for War that he would later on put down on a particular day a Vote of a general nature that would enable them to discuss every subject that could be raised on Vote 1. Sometimes they found that 994 the opinion of the Chairman of Commitees was not that of the Secretary of State for War, and therefore he would like to have the ruling of the Chair whether they might discuss the general questions upon this Vote, which had been put down, as he understood it, that they might discuss not only the subject-matter included in the Vote, but also even the Ordnance Factory Vote, which was not strictly an Army Vote.
I remember at that time I was asked the question whether the general discussion could be taken on a subsequent Vote. If I remember rightly the question put to me in regard to the Ordnance Factory was whether the question could be discussed on Vote 9 for Warlike Stores, and I stated I thought that it could. With regard to this Vote 7, I think it is competent under all the circumstances of the case—I do not for a moment suggest that this ought to be taken as a precedent, but under the circumstances of this case I think it is open to hon. Members to continue to discuss the general question.
§ MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
asked if, upon this Vote, it would be in Order for him to refer to the gymnastic training of the troops? If he might do so, he wished to allude very briefly to what was felt to be a great want in the Army generally, and that was the insufficient training in gymnastics and athletics.
I think, under the circumstances, that that would be open to discussion, as it could not be discussed upon any other Vote.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
One cannot discuss anything of a general question except on this Vote?
§ MR. JEFFREYS
said, that under the circumstances be might be permitted to say now what he had intended to say had not the discussion been restricted and abbreviated on Vote 1. The provision of gymnastic training was felt to be a great want amongst our troops. No doubt, in a general way, the whole system of training had been improved very much of late years. For recruits there was a system of gymnastic training, but after they returned to their regiments, a gymnastic course was not made necessary 995 as part of their training and drilling. What he wanted to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman was that this training should be still more encouraged. One had only to go to the gymnasium at Aldershot to see how immensely the men were improved in their physical and moral characters and in every possible way by going through this gymnastic course. In Aldershot and other camps, however, no proper facilities were given to the soldiers for going through this course of training. There was a large central gymnasium in Aldershot, and the Government paid for the building, but left it to private enterprise and generosity to provide the cricket and recreation grounds attached to that building. Surely that was not worthy a great country like this, and if they had built a gymnasium by public money they ought to have provided the cricket and recreation grounds. There was another point to which he should like to refer. Adjoining this gymnasium a club-house was built entirely for the soldiers, into which every soldier was allowed to go if he was in uniform and get certain articles of food and drink. It was exceedingly well managed, was of immense advantage to the soldiers, and yet it would hardly be believed that the club had to be kept up by private generosity and subscriptions, and had to pay a rent of £100 a year to the Government. He asked, was it not a parsimonious policy to charge these soldiers £100 a year for this clubhouse, which adjoined the gymnasium built entirely for the training of the soldiers, and which was an absolutely necessary adjunct to that gymnasium? He suggested that the right hon. Gentleman should remit the payment of £100 a year rent altogether. He hoped they should have some statement from the right hon. Gentleman to the effect—first, that this system of gymnastic and athletic training, which was of enormous importance, would be encouraged; and, second, that this rental of £100 a year now paid for the club-house which adjoined the gymnasium would be remitted. A further point to which he desired to advert was regarding the dress of the men. It was well known that in two or three favoured regiments warrant officers were allowed mufti when off duty. Why, he asked, should not other warrant officers in other 996 regiments be allowed similar privileges? If such a concession were made to them, they would appreciate it very highly. It was, for instance, very hard that a warrant officer, who was a very superior class of man, should have to go and work in his garden in uniform whilst officers of the same rank in certain other regiments were allowed to wear plain clothes when off duty. In the case of one regiment, the Household Cavalry, when it was stationed at Windsor, the men were allowed what seemed to him most special advantages in this way. When they went up the river for recreation they were allowed to wear shirts and tunics of white flannel and straw hats, whereas the ordinary soldier was obliged to go in his tightly buttoned uniform and never allowed to put it off from one year's end to another.
§ MR. JEFFREYS
said, that whatever dress he had to wear must be uniform, and, surely, if during recreation it had been found to be an advantage that the men of one regiment should wear plain clothes it would also be found to be an advantage to extend the same privileges to the other regiments. In a Civilian Army like theirs there should be some relaxation of this kind. He did not ask that plain clothes should be worn in a general way, but warrant officers were a superior class, and if allowed to wear plain clothes in one regiment the officers of the same rank in other regiments should be treated in like manner. There were large numbers of soldiers in his constituency who had asked him to press this matter upon the attention of the Government.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON
asked on what Vote the item in respect of the decorations for Volunteer non-commissioned officers would be taken?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,, &c.) Stirling
should think that it would come in the Volunteer Vote.
§ MR. DODD (Essex, Maldon)
desired to know what had been done with regard to the question of billeting soldiers in public-houses which was brought before the right hon. Gentleman some little time ago, when complaint was made that in many towns there was an excessive 997 amount of billeting? It was then stated that publicans were perfectly ready to do their share, and take part of the necessary consequences of having licences in having soldiers billeted upon them, but it was complained that this billeting had occurred so frequently that it became an enormous tax, and au appeal was made to the Secretary for War to endeavour to provide something by way of special allowances where there was excessive billeting. The answer given on behalf of the War Office was that the figures were regulated by Act of Parliament, and that when the Act was before the House of Commons any change could be made in the figures. Those who raised this question asked that there should not be excessive billeting in any one place, but that the routes should be mapped out so far as possible each year between the various towns. The sum allowed for the breakfast of a soldier by the Army (Annual) Act was 1½d., which to civilians seemed very startling. For providing 10 pounds of oats, 12 pounds of hay, and 8 pounds of straw per day for each horse the publicans received 1s. 9d., so that unless they were able to buy wholesale it was plain that they were losing for horses as well as for soldiers. They on that side were bound to see that the publican had, in these matters, fair play. Many of them thought that the licences ought to be under public control and that various other matters ought to be done; and because they so thought, they were more bound in these matters where they had control to see that the publicans were dealt with fairly and properly. He asked the right lion. Gentleman to state what had been done to prevent excessive billeting in various parts of the country.
SIR H. FLETCHER (Sussex, Lewes)
desired to refer to the question of rifle ranges, which, he said, was one of the most important matters the Military Authorities had to deal with. On the last occasion upon which the Army Estimates were before the House, the Secretary for War informed the Committee that improvements had been made in some of the ranges under his control, and he had since furnished him (Sir H. Fletcher) with a Return as to the ranges to which he made allusion. From this Return he found that there were only 47 998 rifle ranges in the United Kingdom available for use for the Lee-Metford rifle, with which nearly all our regiments were now armed. Practice with that rifle required a distance of 1,000 yards before the target, and at least 2,000 yards in the rear to render it safe. Considering the number of troops now in the United Kingdom, a much larger number of ranges than 47 ought to be provided. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he proposed to take further steps for acquiring a larger number of such ranges? At present, according to the Return he had mentioned, there were seven ranges available in the north-eastern military district, seven in the north-western district, including one in the Isle of Man, only two in the eastern district, and two in the western district. And now came a very important district indeed, which was most inadequately supplied, and that was the south-western district, Portsmouth being the headquarters. That was one of the largest military districts in England, and yet he found that the only range available in that district, which embraced several counties, including Hunts, Dorset, and Wiltshire, was at Browndown. Though that had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman to be one of the improved ranges, he believed that experts were of opinion that even at the present time, and with the improvements that had been made, Brown-down was not altogether satisfactory. In the Thames district there were no ranges at all for the Lee-Metford. In the southeastern district there were two ranges. One of these was at Hythe, and must necessarily be taken up by the School of Musketry, which continued nearly all the year round, so that very few targets were probably available for the regular troops practising there. There was another range not far from there in the County of Kent, but the number of targets was limited. The whole of the troops in Sussex and Kent would have to carry out their musketry practice most probably at Lee. In the home district there was a most unsatisfactory state of things. There were two ranges — at Hounslow and Guildford, but the former, he was told, was both unsatisfactory and unsafe. In the Woolwich district there were no ranges available so far. Aldershot, which was the great military 999 centre in England, had, he admitted, a very large, excellent modern range. But then they must recollect that the troops at Aldershot amounted to a very large number indeed, and the range was entirely occupied by the troops quartered there. They might go to Pyrbright in the immediate vicinity of Aldershot which might be available for others, but considering that the Household Brigade occupied the whole of these ranges during the time when musketry instruction was going on that was hardly likely. There was also a range at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. In Scotland there were a good many ranges and in Ireland also; County Cork had 11 ranges. But the most important military centre in Ireland, which was Dublin, was very inadequately supplied. There were ranges also at the Curragh, but he imagined they were simply for the troops quartered there. As the Lee-Metford was being supplied not only to the Regular troops, but to the Militia, and was promised to the Volunteers, he hoped that the Secretary for War would recognise the necessity of providing a larger number of ranges in different parts of the country. The Sussex Militia were trained at Chichester, and were served out with the Lee-Metford rifle, but as there was no range available for the weapon they were ordered to continue for this training with the old weapons. If there was no range available at Chichester in another year that regiment would have to be taken by some means or other to the ranges at Lee in the County of Kent, and as the distance was something like 80 miles the expense of transportation would be very great. With regard to the general statement of the right hon. Gentleman on the last occasion, he then said with regard to the Volunteers that brigade camps had largely increased in number, of which he approved, and he mentioned that the Volunteers who had received allowances for attending brigade camps in 1893 amounted to 68,000, or an increase of 22,850 as against 1892. He quite admitted that brigade camps were very useful, but he would impress upon the right hon. Gentleman that the attendance of Volunteers at these camps should not be required for too many years in succession. At a brigade camp a commanding officer of battalions had 1000 few, if any, opportunities of drilling his men in battalions. Again, there was hardly any opportunity for field exercise, and another important factor in connection with the brigade camps was that the expense of attending them was very considerable indeed to the Volunteers. These camps were of the greatest use and benefit, bringing officers and men together who might otherwise have but the opportunities of meeting so closely, but he hoped that too much pressure might not be put upon the Volunteers in forcing them to attend these brigade camps. With regard to the Musketry Returns, the Secretary for War on the occasion of the last Debate congratulated the Volunteer Force on their increasing efficiency in musketry. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was intended to adopt a new musketry course next year which would have the effect of making the condition of efficiency higher than it was at present. If a higher state of efficiency was to be obtained he did hope it would be done as easily and gently as possible. The Committee must recollect that Volunteers were simply civilians who gave up much time—which meant money—to make themselves efficient, and if higher conditions as regarded musketry were proposed he feared it would not have that beneficial effect which his right hon. Friend so confidently anticipated. He found from the Returns that 132,636 men had in 1893 been trained in musketry as compared with 128,258 in 1892. He was proud, as one of the oldest Volunteer officers now serving, to see that result, because it showed that Volunteers were using their best efforts to make themselves efficient in musketry, and to carry out the conditions which were at present enforced by the authorities. It appeared that 213 battalions fired in the musketry classes, and the Inspector General in his Report said that the shooting of 85 was very satisfactory, 107 satisfactory, and 18 moderate. He trusted that all connected with the Volunteers would induce their men to carry out this musketry training, which was one of the most important duties they had to undertake, and that on the other hand the Secretary for War would not impose such conditions upon them as would defeat the object in view and not enable the Volunteers to make themselves as 1001 thoroughly efficient as they were auxious to be. He hoped the right lion. Gentleman would consider the points which he had ventured to bring under his notice.
I was asked at an earlier stage of the proceedings if it was competent for those who wished to discuss the health of the Army to discuss it in general terms on this Vote. I thought at first that the Medical Vote would afford a more convenient opportunity for raising such a discussion. I have since looked at the Medical Vote, and I find that an item has been omitted which formerly appeared. I think, therefore, if it is the desire of the Committee to discuss that question on a general discussion, it will be open for them to do so.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
intimated that at a later stage he and the hon. Member for Basingstoke would call attention to the Contagious Diseases Act.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said, it would be in the recollection of the Committee that at the end of the last general discussion on Army affairs, he commenced to bring before the notice of the Secretary for War a grievance in connection with the Royal Artillery officers. He did not make any apology for again referring to this subject, although he was aware the right hon. Gentleman had already given him, in answer to a question, a decision which might be considered final. At the same time, he thought it undesirable that any body of men now serving the Queen in the Army should be allowed to sit down under a sense of wrong and grievance without having their case—however imperfectly—put before this House. He thought he could not do better than make one or two short extracts from a very able statement drawn up by the hon. Member for West Belfast, whose absence on this occasion he greatly regretted. Taking the consideration of the question from the period before purchase was abolished until now he wished to tell, the House very plainly the awkward position in which certain old members of this distinguished corps, who entered before purchase was abolished, were now placed in. He would just put the matter before the House in the words of the hon. Member for West Belfast, who said this: 1002 that the prospect of the Regulation of 1890 was destroyed by the issue in 1892 of a Circular signed by the Deputy Adjutant General of the Royal Artillery, in which the officers referred to were told that they might either retain their posts as regimental majors on active service, in which case they lost all Army promotion and were passed over by men in every other branch of the Service far junior to them, or they might accept the terms of the Warrant of 1890, and apply for the rank of lieutenant-colonel upon half-pay, subject, however, to the very serious condition that the moment they accepted the half-pay rank they thereby lost all claim to subsequent employment; in other words, their Army career was at an end. This seemed to him a hard and painful dilemma in which to place these officers. They were not very numerous in number; they had served from before the period of the abolition of purchase, and they were all in the most distinguished practical exercise of their profession, being in active command of batteries at Woolwich and elsewhere. The fact of the matter was, that by this last Regulation of the War Office they were actually penalised for doing good and active service. These were the very men who were the keenest, best educated, and most efficient, and who would be among the first to be called upon, if war broke out, to do the most active, useful, and dangerous service. These were the unfortunate men who were being penalised in this kind of way, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman might, when he replied, be able to give them some real bona fide reason why this strange condition of things should have taken place, and why these excellent officers should be penalised for their energy, keenness, and ability. If by pursuing such a course any advantage would be derived by the country, or there would be any increased efficiency in the Army from it, no doubt these gentlemen would waive their own claims in the interest of the good of the community; but they were satisfied such was not the case. They would like some public statement of the reasons that had induced the Military Authorities to place upon them this strange and invidious distinction. What they desired was that the old Warrant of 1882 should be restored, and 1003 that they should have the opportunity of obtaining the brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel, after seven years of service as major, on active service and full pay. If that were not possible, as these officers were limited in number, it might be possible for their individual cases of hardship to be taken into the consideration of the War Office. He hoped that they might have some reply which might be, at all events, to a certain degree, satisfactory to the officers in whose cause he was now pleading.
*MR. TOMLLNSON (Preston)
commented on the inadequacy of the existing rifle ranges and the necessity, in the interests of the efficiency of the Army, of increasing their number and rendering those already in existence as accessible as possible. The Volunteer Corps with which he was connected had formerly a range within six miles of Preston, and it was quite safe until the Martini-Henry rifle came in. It was then condemned for the Martini-Henry rifle, and it would be, of course, absolutely useless for the Lee-Metford rifle. They had an excellent range at Chipping within 11 or 12 miles, but the difficulty to the Volunteers was to get over the five miles between the railway and the range in time to get their shooting done before dark. He suggested that a light railway should be constructed from Longridge, where the railway ended, to Chipping, a distance of five miles; and such a light railway would not only serve the purposes of the Volunteers, but would prove of advantage in diminishing the present heavy expense of transport to the camp at Chipping. He also suggested the advantage of providing short ranges so that the recruits could be taught to fire with precision with light charges at small objects at a short distance before they were taught long-distance firing, contending that this would result in a saving of time and an increase of efficiency, whilst comparatively small ranges might be provided at little expense.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somerset, Wellington)
observed that the range accommodation in Ireland was absolutely inadequate for the proper training of the troops. He knew that something had been done at the Curragh with a view to effecting an improvement in this respect; but he wished to know had any steps 1004 been taken with a view to buying the land at the rear of the ranges at the Curragh? because until it was bought it would be impossible to carry out field firing on any large scale. There was nothing more important than that field firing by battalions should be carried out in Ireland, but he believed he was correct in saying there was not one single range in that country in which battalion field firing could be carried out, and even in England there were few ranges suitable. It was so absolutely essential that soldiers should be trained to shoot under similar circumstances to those they would meet with on active service that anything which would enable field firing to be carried out under more favourable conditions would be of advantage to the Army. He knew it was almost impossible to get tracts of land near garrison towns extensive enough to be used for field firing, but the accuracy of the Lee-Metford rifle was so great that ranges could be made of 200, 300, and 400 yards where target firing could be practised, and they could be so constructed that they would be no more dangerous to the public than an ordinary shooting gallery. Again, where large tracts of land were going out of cultivation, such as was unfortunately the case in Essex, large ranges might be made and the troops taken there to practise long-range and field firing. The subject was one of such great importance that he pressed it on the attention of the Government.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
agreed that more rifle ranges were necessary, but said that the Secretary for War must have extraordinary difficulty in acquiring land adapted for the present Lee-Metford rifle. He had a proposition to make which would place the right hon. Gentleman in the position of being a double benefactor both to the Army and to agricultural distress. There was no range available in the Eastern district for the Lee-Metford rifle. There was a large tract of land close to the railway, within easy distance of Colchester and Warleigh, which, he believed, might be readily purchased, and which would be available for both long-range and field firing for the whole of the troops in that district. Something should be done in the direction he had indicated, and if such a site for a 1005 range were acquired it would serve both for the Home District and the Eastern District.
§ MR. BILL (Staffordshire, Leek)
inquired whether anything had been done to provide a range for the Lee-Metford rifle at Cannock Chase, which was absolutely necessary for the Militia regiments which had their annual training there? He and the hon. Member for Lichfield had an interview with the Secretary for War on this subject, when they brought forward some pregnant facts with reference to the great case of transporting Militia and Line regiments to other places, because there was no adequate range at Cannock Chase.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, it would perhaps be convenient if he said a few words on the subject of rifle ranges now. He was not at all surprised that so many Members of the House had called attention to it, because it was no doubt one of the greatest difficulties, if not the greatest, which confronted the War Office. All he could say really was in very general terms. He was aware of all the necessity that existed, but he was also aware of the enormous difficulties that stood in the way in every direction. Perhaps the most salient case was that of the Dublin District. There was a range there which would be suitable for the purposes of the Dublin garrison, but the War Office were engaged in transactions with the owner, and in such cases they inverted the ordinary process of instruction in rifle shooting, and generally began at a long range, coming to close quarters afterwards. Some points of legal difficulty had been under consideration, and he earnestly hoped that they might be got over, and that the Government might finally be able to acquire the range to which he referred or some other suitable range. But the matter could not be hurried more than it had been, and in the meantime the authorities were fully alive to the great disadvantage under which the troops in that district would remain until a settlement of this sort was made. The hon. Member for Preston had suggested the construction of a light railway to facilitate access to the Chipping Camp. That was a matter which might be considered; but, on the whole, it was evident that not only the troops, but the 1006 Volunteers, would have to face the fact that they would have to go a greater distance for shooting than they had gone hitherto. They could not expect that ranges suitable for the new rifle could be found everywhere, and, in the case of the Volunteers, he hoped that they would in most cases be able to join their resources in obtaining ranges, so that one range might be available, with more or less convenience, to a good many different corps. With regard to the military districts, the same process, he was afraid, must be found inevitable, and the troops must be taken to the ranges at considerable expense to the public. His hon. Friend had said there was no range fit for the Lee-Metford rifle in the Eastern District. That was not so now, and he wished to state that the Landguard range had been completed and was now in working order. The sum of £20,000 a year was taken in the Estimates for the purpose of providing and improving ranges, and he did not think they could do bettor than go on feeling their way and expending this money He assured the Committee that the Military Authorities were fully alive to the necessity of moving forward in the matter, and they were constantly looking out for suitable sites. Cannock Chase had been visited, and the whole of the facts were pretty well ascertained. It was a question of money, and, unless the House of Commons were willing to indulge in some very large expenditure of money, he was not very sanguine of being able to do much on a large scale; but, within the limited resources for which the Government thought it right to ask, they were doing the best they could, and he hoped that gradually they would be able to meet the wants, not only of the Regular Forces, but of the Volunteers, which existed to a growing extent.
§ *MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)
asked the right hon. Gentleman to supplement this interesting statement with regard to the ranges by telling them to what extent the Volunteers had been able to use the Act of 1892, which empowered them to borrow money for ranges.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The extent to which those powers have been used I cannot exactly say, but it is recognised that they have power to buy land for this purpose.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
There have been applications, but I cannot at the moment give any definite information. I believe a Return on the subject is to be furnished to the Committee on the Volunteer Act to-morrow.
§ MR. BODKIN (Roscommon, N.)
wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a tolerably recent Regulation in regard to a most meritorious class of non-commissioned officer, and a Regulation which pressed very hardly upon them. Some time ago there was issued from the War Office a Rule to the effect that after that date non-commissioned officers should not be recommended for a commission after the age of 24 years. The result of this was that a certain number who had entered the Service on the faith of the existing Regulations, and who looked forward, by their good conduct and the exercise of their abilities, to pushing themselves into the position of commissioned officers, were shut out from the prospects which had, probably, induced them to enter the Service by the passing of this Rule. He suggested that it would only be just that the Rule should be made to apply only to the men who entered the Service after its issue, and leave it to those who had entered on the faith of the old conditions to attain, if they could, to a higher rank. He asked that this Rule might be deprived of its ex post facto effect, and might only apply to those who entered the Army after its issue, and therefore knew what was before them.
§ MAJOR DARWIN (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
supported the appeal of the hon. Member for Roscommon, and urged that to make this Rule retrospective was to impose a great hardship on soldiers who had entered the Army on the old conditions.
§ MR. MACDONA (Southwark, Rotherhithe)
desired to know if the Secretary for War could hold out any hope that the shooting on Wimbledon Common would be put a stop to? He noticed that the Duke of Cambridge had written a long letter to the Burial Board of Putney expressing his sympathy with the people there in their protest against this rifle range going on any further. Wimbledon was a very large and populous district, the Common there was used very exten- 1008 sively by the people of London for recreation on Saturday afternoon, the very day on which these rifle competitions were constantly going on. Not only had a poor gravedigger been shot, but many a golfer had been over and over again hit with splinters. He hoped the Secretary for War would put an end to this nuisance.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
observed that the question of Wimbledon was, as the hon. Member knew, in a very acute stage just now, owing to the melancholy occurrence which took place a short time ago. The difficulty about the matter was that certain Volunteer corps had a right to use the ranges. If the ranges were dangerous they must, of course, remain closed. On strong representations which had been made to him he had, however, authorised the re-opening of the short ranges up to 300 yards, and, pending further inquiries into the whole matter, the question of the longer ranges was in abeyance. The public must, of course, be protected, but the difficulty was that certain Metropolitan Volunteer corps possessed rights to use the ranges. They had no desire to put these corps to any unnecessary trouble or inconvenience, and all the circumstances would be duly considered. With reference to the question which had been raised by the hon. Member for Roscommon, he had to say that in regard to the age for promotion from the ranks, a comparatively low age had been fixed, because it had been found very inconvenient that one officer should differ greatly in age from his brother officers. No doubt the Order might have had the effect of cutting out certain candidates for promotion. The Military Authorities who exercised the power of selecting on the representation of the officers of the regiment had to choose from among those candidates, and it could hardly be said that, in such a state of things, a right was constituted on the part of the individual. If, in the exercise of their discretion, and with the interests of the Army in view, the Military Authorities thought it was not desirable that any men over 24 should be appointed, they had only to act accordingly. He had said this in order that the matter might not be misunderstood. It was not desirable to interfere with 1009 Rules which seemed to him salutary Rules in the interest of the Army.
§ MR. BODKIN
said, that those of the officers who were within a few weeks or a few days, as the case might he, of the limit appeared to him to have a grievance. The Rule did not exist when they entered the Service, and their chance of promotion should not be taken from them because of their being a week or two or a few days over 24 years of age. Men should not have their prospects in life destroyed by an arbitrary Rule of this kind.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, he thought the question brought forward by the hon. Member for Roscommon deserved more attention than the Secretary of State for War appeared to have devoted to it, as many men were likely to suffer hardships. The effect of limiting the age to 24 years was practically to prevent all save those who entered the Army as gentlemen from obtaining promotion. He was not going to define what was meant by the word "gentleman." In his view any man who entered the Army ought to have a chance of obtaining promotion. If a man joined the ranks at the age of 18, it might be impossible for him to work himself up in six years. He knew a man, the son of a Peer, who joined the ranks and was promoted to be sergeant. The Colonel called the other sergeants and said to them, "Have you any objection to this man being made sergeant-major?" The answer given was, "No; not if lie is to be cleared out and get his promotion soon." The promotion was given almost at once. Men who were promoted in this way often belonged to a family of officers; they were the smartest men in the regiment, not unfrequently with servants of their own. Gentlemen like this could obtain promotion, but it was practically impossible for the son of a blacksmith or a carpenter, even if fairly well educated, to rise to the position of sergeant-major and obtain a commission within six years. In the French Army a private very often in 8 or 10 years worked himself to the position of sous-lieutenant. With regard to the rifle ranges, the necessity for the troops being able to shoot well was generally recognised, but it was said that the)r should not practise at ranges with houses 1010 anywhere near them. But even if a range were started in the New Forest people who visited the Forest objected. Wimbledon was spoken of and the Commander-in-Chief was quoted; but the Duke of Cambridge did not pretend to interfere as Commander-in-Chief. He interfered merely as a large proprietor of villa residences in the neighbourhood. There must he ranges if the Regulars and Militia and the Volunteers were to be efficient with the rifle. There was, no doubt, great difficulty in regard to the ranges, and there must of necessity be a certain amount of risk; but if shooting was to be put a stop to because golfers "could not get into the ninth hole," he thought it would have been much better if the Leader of the Opposition had never taken to golf and thereby given it such an advertisement.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, it would be a fatal step to prevent men working up from the ranks or to give the soldier the idea that his career would close in the non-commissioned ranks. Some of the most admirable officers who had risen to the position of colonels and generals had originally been in the ranks. He thought that 24 years was a very early limit of age to fix, and he desired to back up the appeal which had been made to the Secretary of State on the subject. There were a certain number of outfit allowances given to men who received commissions from the ranks, but he was not sure that these had all been distributed. He had heard that where two candidates presented themselves for promotion, preference was given to the one who would not require the £100 or £120 for outfit. He did not know how far this statement was accurate, but if it were true the system should not he encouraged. Every advantage ought to be conferred on deserving men in the ranks. Clearly anything which would have the effect of stopping promotion at an early age would have a bad effect on recruiting, though he did not suppose that nowadays every private soldier supposed that he had a Field Marshal's batôn in his knapsack.
§ MAJOR DARWIN
said, the Regulation applied to all men except those who had performed specially meritorious service or distinguished themselves in the field. He understood that the object of 1011 the Regulation was to allow of promotion and prevent a back-door method of getting into the Army. He trusted that in cases where it was found to work hardly the Regulation would be carefully applied.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, he was very lukewarm with regard to back-door entrances into the Army, and did not think that there should be an undue proportion of promotions from the ranks. It was to the interests of the private soldier that they should look, and, of course, they could not forget that I he had other positions open to him which were not in the combatant ranks—that of quartermaster and ridingmaster, for instance. He believed that the Regulation would not have the effect anticipated. At least, he should be sorry if it had. Their object was to see the promotion of the proper men; at any rate, he would look into the matter. As to the outfit allowance, his impression was that there were a certain number of outfits provided for. A certain sum was set aside, and when that was exhausted, he imagined, only those were promoted who could do without the outfit allowance. So far as he had investigated the matter, he should not think the allowance was used in the injurious way suggested.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he should object even to the outfit allowance ceasing when the sum set aside for the purpose had been exhausted. His information was that the allowance had not been made for the past 10 years, and that there had been numerous cases where men had been promoted on the understanding that they would not ask for the outfit allowance. He wished to obtain an assurance that this sort of thing would not continue in the future. It ought to be at least made clear that so long as the outfit allowance was not exhausted it should be given to everyone indifferently. When the amount available was exhausted the Secretary for War could take money from other Army Votes for the purpose. He had a perfect right to do that. It would be useless to tell Members of the Public Accounts Committee that the Government when they desired to do so could not take money from one Vote and apply it to the purposes of another.
§ *SIR G. CHESNEY (Oxford)
said, it was well known by those familiar with the Army administration that even in peace time with their comparatively small establishment there was great difficulty experienced in keeping that establishment full. The official Reports might say that the recruits came up satisfactorily to the standard, but those behind the scenes knew very well that even in the piping times of peace the regulations for ensuring the physical efficiency of the soldier had to be more or less disregarded or dealt with with considerable latitude. This was not satisfactory, because if they could not be sure of maintaining the strength of the Army in peace time they might be certain that when an emergency arose they would not be able to procure the necessary augmentation. It came to this that if the Army was to be maintained, with the general rise of prices throughout the country and the general improvement of all classes, it would be necessary, sooner or later, to add some considerable inducement and attraction, and it was very desirable to do this, if possible, without adding materially to the charge on the taxpayer. The point he urged was that it should be made easier for a soldier after he retired to enter the ranks of civil life and obtain employment. The position of the soldier in this matter had been greatly altered of recent years owing to the introduction of the short-service system. When a man engaged for what was practically a lifetime he' became entitled to a pension and was independent when he left the ranks. Now, however, after five or six years, or perhaps even a shorter period, he returned to civil life and found himself out of gear with the line of civil employment with which he had formerly been familiar. He was, therefore, very much handicapped in his endeavour to obtain work. This was fully recognised by the Government of the day and the House some years ago when they appointed a Select Committee to consider what means could be adopted to facilitate the employment of the soldier on discharge. The Committee was a strong one, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the War 1013 Office being a member of it. A Report was presented in 1876 which pointed out that there were two things which should be done—the admission of soldiers into Government employment must be facilitated, and measures might be taken to assist towards their being more largely introduced into employment under private employers of labour. The Committee recognised the fact that under the present system of service, appointments to all the higher grades of the Civil Service were regulated by open competition. The Committee were very careful, therefore, to avoid trenching on the principle of competition, but they pointed out that there were a large number of lower appointments—such as those of messengers and junior clerks—for which discharged soldiers were well fitted. The Committee also took a great deal of valuable evidence from private employers of labour—especially managers of the great railways —to the effect that they found soldiers admirably fitted for many kinds of employment. Nothing could be more satisfactory, as showing the discipline of the Army, than the evidence of these witnesses. It was understood that the Report of the Committee would be acted on; but a very remarkable Paper was published about three years ago, showing how little had been done towards carrying out the recommendations. This Paper deserved the careful consideration of all those who had the interests of the Army and of the taxpayers at heart. It showed that less than one-fifth of the subordinate appointments such as messengers in the Public Offices were occupied by discharged soldiers, and that only 1 per cent, of the subordinate clerical appointments were filled by them. Knowing what admirable clerks were to be found in the Army, there could be no doubt, that the principle advocated by the Committee and generally accepted by the House had not been acted upon. The different Government Departments, possibly, were jealous of interference with their patronage, and he ventured to think that the time had arrived when a further inquiry should be made into the subject to find out what progress had been made and what were the difficulties in the way of the furtherance of this system. If there were objections to the employment of 1014 discharged soldiers let them be shown. He should not have believed if he had not heard a whisper to that effect that this proposal would have met with opposition from any quarter. Both sides of the House were equally interested in the efficiency of the Army and of saving the pockets of the taxpayers. He had heard it said that it would be unfair to persons engaged in civil employment to expose them to the competition of discharged soldiers. If such a contention were raised, it was easy to show how unfounded it was. Surely, if a man withdrew for a portion of his life from competition—and did so at the expense of the taxpayer—the labour party was to that extent a gainer, and could not complain if that man at the end of a few years once more entered the labour market. It must be admitted that a soldier coming back from his military career was under great disadvantage as compared with all other classes. For many years he was removed from civil life, and he returned to it a comparative stranger, heavily handicapped. The State having put him at the disadvantage ought, as far as possible, to restore him to the position he would otherwise have occupied. No expenditure was asked for to the amount of a penny; it was merely a question of appointments to small posts which required to be filled by reliable men. In every other country in the world a large proportion of the subordinate public offices were reserved for old soldiers; and if that were regarded as sound policy abroad, where thearmies were I recruited by conscription, still more in this country it should be adopted in order to induce men to join the ranks. Soldiers; had a strong claim to the gratitude of the nation. In certain quarters the notion was entertained that a soldier while in the service was a mere idler—a useless idler—giving no return for his maintenance. It would be hard to justify that belief. Soldiers, in their own way, worked just as hard as any other class of the community. Not only was their work hard, but it combined the element of danger. It was hardly necessary to say that the trade of England turned largely upon the maintenance of our colonies, and the soldier sent out in their defence was doing work at least as valuable as other men. It would not have been 1015 necessary to say a word on the matter but for the popular notion that men who went into the Army did no work. Soldiers serving in the colonies, or still more in India, liable to the consequences of duty in regions of pestilential jungles, were certainly not useless idlers. No class of the population was deserving of greater consideration from the State than retired soldiers. Formerly, no doubt, the Army was recruited in part from the most ignorant and lowest class, but nowadays the soldier was drawn from an admirable class, the sober and well-conducted working men, and fully represented their good qualities. Discipline further benefited him, and the soldier came back to civil life greatly improved by his military experience, and should have every chance of turning out a good citizen. Opposition, it was therefore to be hoped, would not be offered to the reasonable proposal now submitted to the House. The Government was not asked to expend money or to give any pledges; all that was asked that it should be ascertained what could be done by good organisation and care to provide extended employment for old soldiers on leaving the Service. He hoped it would not be necessary to move for a reduction of the Vote, and if the Secretary of State could give an assurance that attention would be given to this matter, great satisfaction would be felt by Members of the House, and by the public, who were interested in the welfare of the soldier.
*GENERAL FPTZWYGRAM (South Hants, Fareham)
said, he wished to urge upon the Secretary for War the claims of the senior non-commissioned officers in the Army to employment in Government Departments on their discharge from the Service after completing a term of 21 years. He fully admitted the claims to consideration of the ordinary Reserve men—those who had served 6 or 12 years only, but their claims were by no means so strong as those of the old non-commissioned officers, for they were younger men and better able to start a new life. But the men whose case he was pleading that day, although they had had an excellent training, found no counterpart in civil life. They had learnt the trade of soldiering and no other trade, and they were turned adrift at the age of 41 or 42, 1016 too late in life to begin learning a new trade and to make a new start. They consequently had very little chance of securing civil employment. The hon. Member for Battersea a few nights previously had stated that a soldier workman had no more claim to these appointments than a civilian workman, but he dissented from that view. A civilian took up his trade at the age of 18, and at 40 was at his best, earning the highest possible pay, and, if a steady man, able to continue doing so for many years. The case of senior non-commissioned officers discharged at the age of 40 was exactly the contrary. He hoped the Government would consider the claims of the senior non-commissioned officers—a body of men who had done good service, and whose character would bear every inspection—to employment when they left the Service.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, he did not know what the Secretary for War was going to do in reference to the Bill of his hon. and gallant Friend, but he feared that if it were intended to refer it to a Committee it would involve the shelving of the question for an indefinite period. This was a matter on which the Government ought already to have made up its mind, and he was afraid that it had done so, but in a wrong direction, because if they looked at the lists of messengers engaged in the various Public Departments they would see that the claims of these men for employment had practically been ignored. He was not sure that either the War Office or the Admiralty set a good example in this matter, for the latest Returns showed that they were as great sinners as the other Departments. He thought that the views of the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Burns) on this subject had been somewhat misunderstood. He had had many conversations with the hon. Member on the subject, and believed his objection was not that soldiers should be selected for posts which civilians might occupy, but that civilians were placed at a disadvantage in competing for these posts because the pensions of Reserve soldiers were taken into account in fixing the remuneration which was given. These men ought to receive their pensions in addition to the full pay which they could earn as messengers, and he fancied the system of deduction now in vogue was a 1017 relic of ancient days, when men left the Army with good pensions and in no way incapacitated for work, and then secured engagements in the Civil Service.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Preston, I should say that I regard the pay of Reserve men I rather as a retaining fee than as pension or pay in the ordinary sense, because they are under an obligation in case of necessity to serve in the defence of their country. To deduct that retaining fee from a man's pay as a messenger will, it seems to me, be unfair. I can assure the hon. Member for Preston that the War Office employ no men as messengers who have not served in the Army. But it is misleading to talk of these posts as if they can supply a career for all discharged men. There is only a handful of them, after all, and the number of vacancies during the course of a year is trifling. To come now to the main point, I see no reason why the Committe asked for by the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford should not be granted. In 1877 the subject was fully investigated by what was known as Mr. Childers' Committee, who made certain recommendations, and it is reasonable that after this interval of time another Committee should consider how far those recommendations have been carried out, and what the position of the matter is now. The Government, therefore, will offer no opposition to a proposal for appointing a Committee if my hon. Friend will put one down. I must say, however, that I think it would be dangerous and wrong to promulgate the idea that soldiers are to have a monopoly of employment in the Public Service, or that Railway Companies and other great employers of labour can be forced to employ soldiers. The Government cannot guarantee anything that can be called a career for the soldier after he leaves the colours, and nothing but mischief is done by using language encouraging impossible expectations. At the same time, I do not, of course, say that no effort should be made by the Government of the country to provide employment for these men, and I am always very glad to take part in any endeavour for that purpose. But we must always remember that there is a strong feeling among the civilian 1018 population that no undue privilege, where it can be avoided, should be given to the military man. There are other classes of the community, who have done equally profitable service to the State and the country, who ought not to be shut out from employment by the unfair competition, in any degree, of the old soldier. With the view of the subject being considered in all its aspects, I think there should be on the proposed Committee some representation of the more civilian feeling than is usually expressed by hon. Members who take a more direct military view of the question. I myself take the military view; but, at the same time, I think the very strong civilian view, of the matter that exists cannot be disregarded. Under the circumstances, I am glad to be able to announce that the Government will offer no opposition to any Motion by the hon. and gallant Member for the appointment of a Committee.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said, he was glad to be able to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having made during the past three months considerable progress in his views on this subject, and on having consented to the appointment of a Committee, lie gathered from investigations recently made by an hon. Member that the movement set on foot by the late Government for the employment of Reserve soldiers in the Post Office was not now being carried out to the same extent as under the late Government., and he feared the Postmaster General did not feel the same degree of interest in the matter as his predecessor. He was sorry the right hon. Gentleman was not in his place so that they might have his views on the point. The Secretary for War in his observations, too, had been much more guarded than they might have expected him to be in view of the nature of the report he signed 18 years ago. It had never been claimed that soldiers should have a monopoly of employment under Government, but they did contend that Reserve soldiers, by reason of their having been in the service of the State, had a greater right to employment in the Government offices than ordinary citizens, who probably had rendered the State no service at all. Large employers of labour felt some hesitation in engaging men who were 1019 liable to be suddenly called away for drill or service, and they were unwilling to take action in the matter unless the Government showed an example. Having regard to that fact, and to the fact also that the subject had stood still, even if it had not gone back, during the past two or three years, he was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman signify his intention not to oppose the appointment of the Committee, whose operations would, he hoped, prove of practical value and effect. Interest in this question was by no means confined to Members in that House. When he was himself at the War Office, he received letters from a large number of persons in the country urging that the Government should take further steps in the direction of employing Reserve soldiers.
§ MR. JEFFREYS
said, he had a few observations to make with regard to the health of the Army, and unpleasant as the task before him was, he felt it to be his duty to fulfil it, seeing that he represented in that House so very large a number of soldiers. Representations had been made to him as to the increase of contagious diseases among the troops—an increase formidable and terrible in its degree, not only in England, but in other parts of the world, and especially in India, and in the West Indies. A Return granted by the right hon. Gentleman at the beginning of the present year gave detailed information as to these diseases. It was called "The Army, average numbers at Home and Abroad," and he must ask the attention of hon. Members to it. The hon. and gallant Member for Oxford told them a few minutes previously that the soldier deserved the consideration and gratitude of this country; how could they better extend that to him than by keeping him in good health? The Return to which he had alluded showed that the health of our troops was getting worse in every part of the world, and that disease in its most terrible form was rapidly spreading among them, to the great danger of our future population. The right hon. Gentleman had said, since granting the Return, that it showed some irregular results, but if the Committee would turn to it they would find that it certainly showed a terrible regularity in the increase of the disease in recent years, though that in- 1020 crease was less in proportion at home than at foreign stations. He very much regretted having to refer to these disagreeable details, but the Return showed that the number of soldiers admitted to hospital for cases of secondary syphilis, which medical men had informed him was the worst form of the disease, was 21.2 per 1,000 in 1871, whereas during the last three years the figures had risen to 33, 35, and 37 per 1,000. If hon. Members turned to page 5 of the Report dealing with foreign stations, they would find that, while in 1879 the number of cases of secondary syphilis was 7.8 per 1,000, in 1892 it was 20.9 per 1,000. It had thus nearly trebled in the time. Taking the details it was shown that in Malta the percentage of cases in 1879 was 6 per 1,000, and in 1892 it was 18.6; in the West Indies 3.9 per 1,000 in 1880, and in 1892 48.3 per 1,000, a frightful increase; in South Africa 19.1 per 1,000 in 1879, and 68.5 in 1892; China, 11.2 per 1,000 in 1879, and 58.4 in 1892; in Bengal, 21.8 per 1,000 in 1881, and 55.1 in 1892; in Madras 25.3 per 1,000 in 1880, and 74 in 1892; and in Bombay 22.8 per 1,000 in 1880, and 50.4 in 1892. Now, he ventured to ask the Secretary for War what he was going to do in view of that appalling state of affairs? In presence of the great improvement in medical science during recent years this increase of disease was perfectly startling. An officer who brought home a detachment from India the other day told him that half his men were down with the disease, and some of them were so weak as to have to be carried on and off the ship. In the best interests of the country, as well as of the Army, the matter demanded serious consideration. It was a horrible thing that our soldiers should thus be wasted by disease, and it was a serious thing for the country; for if the Army, especially in India, were suddenly called upon for active service, it would be found that one-half of the men were incapacitated. He wished to know what action the War Office intended to take to provide some remedy to combat the evil? He thought it advisable that a Committee of medical men should be appointed to investigate the question, and, if possible, to suggest a remedy. If there was any necessity for a Committee to inquire into the question of finding occupation for 1021 discharged soldiers, surely there was a still greater necessity to inquire and see that the health of the troops was so maintained as to fit them to undergo military fatigue. When they had a Report like this, and looking through it saw that in almost every instance this terrible disease was increasing everywhere throughout the ranks of the Army, not only in this country but more especially upon foreign stations, then, he said, it demanded the attention of everybody who was interested in the welfare of the Army, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would be able to suggest some remedy. Unless a remedy was quickly found, he believed that the troops would not only be decimated, but that if it were found necessary to call them out it would be found that a half or one-third at least would be in hospital. It was upon these grounds that he asked the Secretary of State for War to turn his grave attention to this subject, and at all events assure them that he thought it worth while to appoint a Committee of experts to go into the matter.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
said, this was au extremely disagreeable question to approach in Committee, but it was one so important and vital to the health of the soldier and consequently to the nation at large that in his mind it would be unquestionably wrong if it were passed by, however unpleasant and even loathsome it night appear. Those of them sitting on both sides of the House who were old soldiers had never had but one opinion upon the very vexed question of the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts; and it was a curious fact that—although he was aware that a strong opinion to the contrary prevailed—if they took the Army at large there could not be discovered any person in authority who, if he had a free hand, did not acknowledge that consequences of a most fatal character had resulted from the repeal of those Acts. He was bound to make these representations to the Committee, because the matter was one of growing and urgent importance. His hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Jeffreys) had quoted figures, especially applying to stations abroad, which showed that there was an alarming increase of 1022 disease. The private soldier under any circumstances was an expensive article to the taxpayers of the United Kingdom, and it was only right, therefore, that they should do everything in their power, in the interests of the nation as well as in the interest of the soldier himself, to prevent disease, which not only incapacitated him from duty, but often entailed the most hideous and frightful sufferings upon his descendants. Now that this question had assumed such a burning aspect, he should suggest that the least that the Secretary of State for War could do was to appoint a Committee to inquire into the subject. The Return before them showed that there was a most appalling increase of disease amongst the soldiers stationed in India, and if they had regard alone to the serious condition of affairs there he thought the right hon. Gentleman ought to interfere to the extent of appointing a Committee to conduct an inquiry. He did not suppose that such a Committee could inquire into the question of the re-imposition of the Contagious Diseases Acts, because he knew that hon. Members opposite were, as a body, opposed to those Acts. At the same time, he might say that he would give anything to see that matter re-opened in the interests of the soldier, and especially in the interests of the young soldier, in India and other places abroad, who, having a good deal of time upon his hands, and not much to do, fell an easy prey to the opportunities for mischief which were presented to him. He thought a Committee might sit to inquire whether any remedy could be found for preventing the increase of disease, and although such a Committee could not go into so many matters as he could desire, he believed that they might be able to come to some conclusion which might enable them to preserve the soldier from the terrible scourge which now afflicted him.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,&c.) Stirling,
The two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken have, I must say, dealt with this delicate subject in a very proper manner. They have urged that this is a matter deserving immediate attention, and that there ought to be a radical change in the existing system. So far as the arguments may go for and 1023 against the system of repression by the Contagious Diseases Acts, I think I may say that this is not the proper time or place for discussion; and my hon. Friends have recognised that. For myself I approach the subject from a very neutral position, because I was never what may be called a fanatic in opposition to the Contagious Diseases Acts. I did not take the extreme view which was adopted by some of my hon. Friends with whom I customarily act in politics. I must, however, say that this point occurs to me: I was Secretary to the Admiralty at the time when there was a strong agitation for repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts, or, at all events, of the most objectionable portions of them, and I looked very carefully, with the assistance of some of the most eminent and competent medical anthorities of the Navy, into the statistics of the matter so far as they affected the Navy, and the conclusion to which I came—and the conclusion to which I think everyone else came who went into the subject—was that these Acts had no practical effect whatever in checking the progress of disease. My hon. Friends have alluded to the large number of men who are sick from this disease; and no doubt the number is distressing and even appalling. But, as a matter of fact, I find that the number of men at home who are affected has diminished. The total number of admissions to hospital on the average strength in 1880 was 245 per 1,000. In the following years the numbers were 245, 246, 260, 270, 275, 267, 252, 224, 212, 212, 197, 201 respectively, so that there has been a constant diminution. With regard to the constantly sick, the percentages are 16.77, 16.46, 18.54, 20.14, 19.34, 19.29, 19.10, 18.19, 16.96, 17.07, 15.34, and 16.46. There is nothing in these figures to warrant the belief that the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts has had the effect of increasing disease.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
I think the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the total cases of disease. If the more serious form of disease is taken a constant increase is shown.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The fact is, that the figures fluctuate in a most unaccountable way. Apart from that, I must say that in my opinion it is 1024 perfectly impossible in this country to go back to anything like the system which was in vogue under the Contagious Diseases Acts. Nor do I think it would be desirable to do so, because unless that system is applied to the whole population of the country it will never be effective in preventing disease. That is the conclusion to which the best-informed people have come. If you take the opinion of any medical authority well acquainted with the subject he will admit that there cannot be any success in the application of this system unless you apply it to the whole community. Everybody knows that you cannot apply it to the whole community in this country, and therefore it is idle to think of returning to it. I do think that more good could be done than is done at present by the Local Authorities to check vicious practices in the districts mainly concerned if they would only put into operation more stringently the powers they at present possess. I am afraid there is a disposition on the part of the Local Authorities in garrison and naval towns to look back at the time when the British taxpayer, with the aid of the Metropolitan Police, did for them what they ought to do for themselves, and they still regard the matter from that point of view. The Local Authorities have become so used to the system of control by the Central Police Authority that they undoubtedly expect its re-establishment. You must, first of all, get that idea out of their heads, and then you must induce them to exercise the powers they possess for checking this evil. If they think their powers are insufficient then they must come to Parliament to extend them. I had the privilege the other day of an interview with the chief Military Authorities, and certain gentlemen representing an Association in which leading members of the Church of England and other philanthropic people take a great interest, and the conclusion to which we all came was that it is to the Local Authorities that we must look for au improvement in the existing state of things. The only fault I have to find with my hon. Friends for bringing this matter forward to-day is that it may continue to foster in the minds of the Local Authorities the vain idea that, after all, we shall return to the state of things which this House and the general feeling of the 1025 country has condemned and will never revert to again. That, of course, does not affect the deplorable state of affairs with which we have to deal, and I may assure my hon. Friends that that state of affairs is being constantly considered by the medical authorities of the Army. With regard to India, where there has been a very remarkable and startling development of the disease, I will only say that the very best advice I can obtain goes to show me that the disease was not materially diminished when extreme restrictive practices and regulations were enforced, and that since these extremely rigorous regulations have been removed no material increase of disease has manifested itself. The Indian Government have under their consideration certain other ways of dealing with the question, which they have good reason to expect will have a marked effect in benefitting the health of the soldiers. So far as the home stations are concerned, I have high authority for saying that the matter is one that ought to be left to the Local Authorities. I speak particularly of towns like Portsmouth, and Plymouth, and Devonport, and Aldershot. The localities have the advantage of large numbers of men being stationed there, and I think it is not only their interest, but their business, to support us in maintaining the healthy condition of the troops. As I have said, if they do not consider that they have sufficient power they should come to Parliament for more.
§ *SIR G. CHESNEY (Oxford)
said, that as one who had long been connected with the India Army he must add his testimony to what had been said by his hon. Friends. Since the abolition of the contagious diseases restrictions in India the state of things had become positively appalling. He was not prepared to enter into the quest ion raised by the right hon. Gentleman, who had spoken as to restrictive measures in this country giving rise to an increase or decrease of disease; but he could say emphatically that there was no sort of ground in facts for the assumption that the increase of the disease and the abolition of the restrictions in India were not intimately connected. Immediately on the restrictions being removed an alarming spread of the disease had taken place. The two things were as connected as cause and 1026 effect—as two phenomena could be. And not only was there a large increase in the amount of disease, but there had been a terrible access of its virulence and intensity. In some parts of India an attack of (his disease was almost equivalent to a sentence of death. As regarded the efficiency of the Army in India, more than one man in every three passed into the hospitals, and not only should that be considered, but also the fact that those who were returned as cured were mostly quite unfit for the exposure of a campaign. They also had to consider that these young men came back to England tainted for life, and conveyed the disease to their posterity. It was said that there was no connection between the restrictions and the rise and fall of the disease. That might be the case in England, but in India there was no sort of doubt as to the connection. This terrible increase in the amount of disease had taken place in India because the Government had given way to a fanatical wave of hysterics. The Resolution was passed in the House without proper consideration, without perfect knowledge of the facts, and because the Government of the day had not sufficient courage to resist. They were responsible for all the calamity that followed. And how inconsistent was their action! If they were going to take a high moral tone and refuse to recognise restrictions—if vice was to bear the punishment of disease, why not be consistent and refuse medical treatment to the diseased person? If he had committed the sin, according to their contention he ought to bear the punishment. The women were allowed to ply their loathsome trade without any sort of control, and it was only when the young soldier, who was removed from all home influences, became a sufferer, that they attempted to help him. Surely, that was highly illogical. He did not know what measures the right hon. Gentleman had referred to as about to be taken, but when he was connected with the Government of India the opinion there was that there was no middle course between an abolition of the restrictions and their re-imposition. If persons of either sex chose openly to ply a dangerous trade, it was the duty of the Government to place restrictions on that trade. He had never heard a serious argument against that view, and was con- 1027 vinced that so long as the trade was carried on without restrictions, so long would the present state of things continue. The consequences be on the heads of those who allowed the traffic to continue without restrictions!
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
said that, having served in India, he considered that he should not be doing his duty if he did not tell the House how much more serious were the effects of this disease in India than in England. No one, whatever his views might be, and however hard-hearted, or however from religious grounds he might be opposed to the regulation of vice, could see the suffering which he (General Goldsworthy) had witnessed amongst young soldiers in India without having his heart melted. He had had as many as 300 sick men at a time under his charge, many of them suffering from this terrible malady. Numbers of them were sent home invalided, not cured, and carrying the disease broadcast through the civil population. People imagined that secondary disease affected only the people who had contracted it. Nothing of the sort. The most innocent people might suffer. It was very contagious, and in many cases even the hospital attendants, though they took every precaution, were often infected. When the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts was moved in the House he was a young Member of the House and unacquainted with the Rules of Parliament. It was imagined when he rose to intervene on another subject that his wish was to support the repeal of the Acts. It was nothing of the kind. If he had had more knowledge of the Forms of the House he should have urged the House to pause in what it was doing until it had inquired more fully into the subject. It was a pitiful thing to see humanity suffer, and to his mind it was a great crime not to do what they could to prevent humanity suffering. No doubt hon. Members who had agitated for the repeal of the Acts had acted in the House from a sense of duty, and that was one reason why the subject was now brought forward. In India different measures must be taken to those which were necessary in England. They must go further in India than in England. He was not pleading for immorality, but maintained that they did but encourage it by imposing restrictions in regard to 1028 diseases of this sort. What they ought to do was to bring up the people at home with higher notions than they had at present.
§ *MR. H. J. WILSON (York, W. R., Holmfirth)
said, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had spoken last but one had referred especially to India, and stated that there had been a rise in the ratio of these diseases from the time when the former Regulations were put an end to. He (Mr. Wilson) had been appointed by Lord Kimberley a member of the Departmental Committee which sat last year as to the system carried on in the Indian cantonments. That Committee reported that it was clearly proved that throughout all the cantonments in India that were inquired into the old system was pursued in practically the same way as before the time when it was pretended that the Regulations were altered. That was to say, although the form of the Regulations might have been altered, the old system had been practically kept up or restored, and the rise in the rate of disease which had been referred to took place while the old system had been practically, though not nominally, carried on. He had been very thankful to hear the emphatic statement made by the Secretary for War corroborating and confirming what those who had paid attention to this question had known for years and years. He (Mr. Wilson) was one of the fanatics who had been constantly referred to by gentlemen opposite, and he was not ashamed of the position he occupied, although he regarded the fanaticism as being entirely on the other side. The statement of the Secretary for War had shown once more that this system of regulating vice had proved a failure. He quite agreed with what his right hon. Friend (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) had said with regard to the Local Authorities using the powers they already possessed, and he thought that if his right hon. Friend would use his influence, and the officers of the Army of all ranks would set an example and use their influence with their men and try and induce them to respect the laws of morality and chastity, it would go a long way to put an end to the mischief.
§ MR. JEFFREYS
said, that gentlemen opposite seemed to think that he was of opinion that the remedy for this disease would be the restoration of the 1029 Contagious Diseases Acts. He had, however, particularly stated that he did not advocate that remedy. He refused to take upon himself the burden of stating the remedy at all. What he had done was to put before the Committee a startling disclosure as to the increase of the disease. He refused altogether to have the burden of suggesting a remedy thrown upon him. He advocated decency and morality quite as much as gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, and he did not wish for a moment to put forward any remedy of the kind suggested. He thought, however, it was the bounden duty of the War Office to try and find a remedy for the serious evil that prevailed.
§ MR. H. J. WILSON
said, in the remarks he had made he had not referred to the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, but to another gentleman.
§ *MR. W. S. CAINE (Bradford, E.)
said, that when the Contagious Diseases Acts were repealed he was Civil Lord of the Admiralty. The Admiralty had to consider what steps should be taken in the seaport towns to lessen the disease, inasmuch as the House of Commons had condemned the system formerly adopted. It fell to his lot to conduct the investigation and to report to the Board of Admiralty. If he had the Report with him he thought the House would admit that it fully justified him in saying that the inquiry conclusively showed that the Acts had failed in the very purpose for which they were designed, inasmuch as they did not diminish disease in the seaport towns. The Department, therefore, concurred at the time in the decision of the House of Commons that the Acts should be repealed. He was sure that every effort that was made to re-establish these infamous Acts was doomed to certain failure, as public opinion was dead against them. He had given some attention to the question during the three winters he had spent in India, and he was sure that the prevalence of the disease was due to the encouragement that was given to fornication by the Government of India in providing women for the use of the men and allowing such women to form part of the camp following of the Army. These women were almost as much a part of the Army as the—
§ An hon. MEMBER: Chaplains.1030
§ MR. CAINE
Yes, as the chaplains, and there was no doubt whatever that if the Military Authorities were to discourage altogether the provision of women for the use of the men, the disease would be found to diminish greatly. The class of women who were provided was the very worst that could be found. The way in which they were treated and the brutal life which was their unhappy fate prevented any woman but those who had been brought down to the very lowest dregs of this hideous profession from becoming an Army prostitute. What was wanted was a healthier moral tone amongst the officers of the Army in India, and the discouragement of prostitution altogether. There was an impression abroad amongst soldiers that sexual intercourse was an actual physical necessity. The men were encouraged in this belief by some of the officers, and the consequence was that they associated with these women and contracted diseases. The whole system would continue to go on unless some great change were made in the moral tone of those who were responsible for the morality of the Army in India. Last Session he put a question to the Secretary for War which elicited the fact that only one-tenth of the disease which existed in the British Army in India existed in the Native Army. One way by which the present terrible state of things might be reduced was by withdrawing 20,000 British troops from India and letting their places be taken by an equal number of Indian troops. He did not suppose that anyone would doubt for a moment the loyalty of our native troops, and he hoped to see the time when we should have in India a British Army of a very much smaller number, the members of which would be allowed to marry and settle in the country as a standing Army, so far as a standing Army was required, the main work of garrisoning India being left to the natives.
§ SIR T. ESMONDE () Kerry, W.
wished to draw the attention of the Secretary for War to another matter—namely, an accident which took place a few days ago at the artillery range at Glenbay. A local newspaper describing the occurrence stated that several batteries of artillery went to Glenbay every year to practise. Each evening when the firing ceased people went on to the 1031 beach in search of the lead, copper, and brass which formed the débris of the exploded shells in order to sell it to the authorities. A considerable number of persons of both sexes were searching near the target on Saturday last when they came upon a "live shell," as it was called. A young man named Michael Riordan set to work with a chisel and hammer to detach a piece of brass from the shell. The shell suddenly exploded, Riordan and his sister who was standing by him being killed, and three other persons receiving dreadful injuries. His object in drawing attention to the question was to endeavour if possible to get some compensation for these poor people. The Secretary for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) in reply to a question had said that the Military Authorities were under no legal responsibility in the matter, inasmuch as notices were posted up warning the people not to interfere with live shells. The injured people surely had some moral claim, however, against the War Office. Very often ignorant peasants did not know what live shells were, and even if they did, inasmuch as the authorities offered them money for the débris of the shells, they were under great temptation to risk their lives in order to obtain it. In England it was the custom, when cattle were injured by artillery or rifle practice, for the authorities to compensate the owners. A much stronger claim for compensation surely arose when people themselves were injured. This was a very sad case, Michael Riordan being the breadwinner of his family, and, as this was not a very old range, so that the people of the district were not well versed in the effect of artillery practice, he thought it only reasonable that some compensation should be given. In the district a subscription was being raised to compensate those persons who were injured, and he believed that the officer commanding the artillery at Glenbay had very generously subscribed towards the fund. He trusted that the Government would be able to give compensation, and that they would also take precautious against the recurrence of such accidents. It was not too much to ask that every day after the artillery practice some representative of the military should be sent round to see whether there were any 1032 dangerous projectiles lying about, and that the people should not be allowed to go into the range until that had been done.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I am sorry that my hon. Friend has brought this question forward before I am in possession of the full facts of the case. I understood that he was to bring it forward to-morrow, but at present I have not seen the report of the Coroner's inquest. As I stated the other day, such precautions have been taken as are found elsewhere to be sufficient, and I will see whether further precautions are necessary in order to prevent the recurrence of such a melancholy accident. I am not aware whether it is possible to give compensation, but if there be any fund from which compensation can be given it shall be awarded in this case. Certainly anything that would be done in England will be done in regard to this particular accident. I may take this opportunity of picking up one or two stitches dropped at a very early period of the Debate. The hon. Member for Basingstoke spoke about gymnastic training. I think he will admit that an immense amount has been done to develop gymnastics in the Army, and at this very time he can see at the Military Tournament in the Agricultural Hall some of the results of the efforts made in this direction. I will take a note of what he suggested, and will certainly inquire as to the rent of £100 which he has alluded to. The hon. Member also referred to the subject of warrant officers' uniforms. No doubt it is the case that those whose duties are of a civil character have a larger license with regard to uniform than those whose duties are of a military character, it being thought that warrant officers with military duties should be dressed in military uniform; but the enforcement of the rules on the subject is always left, as I understand, to the General Officer commanding the district. My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Dodd) raised the familiar question of billetting. As to the rates of payment of billets, that subject, I think, we had through our hands on the Army (Annual) Act, and I do not think I need add anything to what was said on that occasion. The great object we have in view is that of avoiding an excessive amount of this kind of burden being imposed upon a 1033 particular locality. The only place, I understand, in which a cure for excessive billetting has been found of a tangible kind is Exeter, where some land has been set apart as a camp of rest. As to other places, I think that great difficulty would be found in establishing anything of the kind, but every effort has been made to vary the routes, so as to spread the burden over a larger area. The matter will not be lost sight of, and the Military Authorities will endeavour as much as possible to make the burden press less heavily upon particular districts. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire (Dr. Farquharson) brought forward the rather intricate question in which the Member for Belfast (Mr. Arnold-Forster) is interested—that of artillery majors who had taken half-pay. No doubt, in some instances, majors who, having served several years with that rank and taken half-pay, and afterwards been called back to service in the regiment, have been placed in a position where their presence has produced supersession of the majors who have remained in the regiment, and have done very good service. There have been one or two cases of that sort, but, as the system was found to be inconvenient, the regulation was changed, and those who take half-pay, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, are now informed that they will not be called back to serve in the regiment. In fact, the system complained of may be said to be obsolete. We are asked, in order to remedy the supersession that has occurred in these few instances—and it is not a regimental but only an Army supersession—that those majors who have been affected by it should be given promotion so as to relieve them from the inequality under which they suffer. That, however, would cause other supersessions. It is difficult to keep the different branches of the Service on a level in these matters. I really believe that the grievance, although in certain cases it exists, is not one that will recur, and I do not see any good reason for going back upon it, and applying a cure which would establish other evils on a larger scale.
§ COLONEL COTTON-JODRELL (Cheshire, Wirral)
said, he understood from the right hon. Gentleman's statement that the grievance complained of would not recur, and that if majors in 1034 future took half-pay lieutenant-colonelcies they would not be called back into the Service.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
said, he was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the information he had just given, and, although he did not think the right hon. Gentleman had entirely met the grievance, it was evident that he was placed in a position of some difficulty. He (Mr. Arnold-Forster) wished to allude to the position of the Militia. He had before him figures taken from the Estimates as to what was the real condition of the Militia, and he thought it would astonish the Committee to learn that there had been a diminution in the number of men who were effective for actual service. The establishment of the Militia was 135,000; but if he deducted those numbers which ought reasonably and obviously to be deducted, no fewer than 104,000 would have to be taken off this number. The enrolled numbers were 124,000 odd, or about 10,000 short of the establishment. The Militia Reserve, which was of course a reserve of the Army, numbered 31,000, and there was no doubt that upon mobilization taking place the whole of the Militia Reserve would be required to fill up the line battalions to their proper strength. The number absent with leave from the last inspection was 5,500, or about 4 per cent, of the total. This was an exceedingly small probable percentage of absences with leave in the event of the enrolling of the force on the outbreak of war. There were 18,567 men absent without leave, of whom the majority were put down as deserters. Of course, some of these men might return in case of war, but still 18,000 was a very large number of men to be absent without leave. There was also a number of double enlistments. He estimated them, without having any particular statistics, at least 2,000, and if they added to that number the 14,000 men passing last year into the Line, and who were got to enter the Regular Forces by every inducement that could be held out to them, then they had a further reduction. Lastly, there was the number of untrained men. He had not now before him the number of untrained men at any particular date; but they might assume there was a period in the year when half of the 4,577 recruits 1035 who passed into the regiments last year were untrained and had not gone through the musketry course. He wanted the Committee to understand the drain these deductions made. In the Return made to the House, and in the Red Book, they had this Militia force figuring as a force of 134,000, whereas when they made the reasonable deductions it was reduced to a force of 30,000, and without any field artillery whatever. This appeared to be a serious state of affairs indeed, and one they ought not to shrink from considering. The question of guns brought him to a matter the right hon. Gentleman had been good enough to give information about on one or two previous occasions. As he had stated, the Militia had no field guns—
I think that these details would come better on the Militia Vote. This is the Vote for Provisions, Forage, and other Supplies, and what is allowed to take place on this Vote is a general discussion.
§ COLONEL NOLAN, (Galway, N.)
on a point of Order, said, he understood they were permitted to debate anything that could be raised on Vote 1, and, therefore, it would be in Order to speak about the number of the troops and the number of the guns. That had been the common understanding during the last few years.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
asked if they would have any opportunity of discussing the Vote at all if the general discussion went on; he meant the question of the provisions, because as yet they had never been anywhere near it?
As soon as the general discussion terminates the Vote itself can be discussed. I think that the general discussion should be limited.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, he must apologise to the Committee, as he had been rather led away from the general discussion. He held in his hand a promise made by the right hon. Gentleman at the end of last year, which was the renewal of a promise he was pleased to make with regard to the field artillery—the quick-firing gun. He (Mr. Arnold-Forster) had requested to know how soon the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared with the light 1036 field gun, and year after year they had received assurances about that gun.
That matter comes under the Vote for War Office Stores, and would not be in Order upon this Vote.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
On a point of Order, the hon. Gentleman's references to the Militia—
I have already pointed out that Vote 3 has yet to be taken, and that that deals with the whole subject of the Militia.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, he would entirely abandon the question of the Militia, though he should like to know if he was at liberty to refer generally to the question of artillery armament? There were several points he should like to know about. He should like to know when the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared with the light guns, and he should like to call attention to the extreme inadequacy of the general artillery arrangements. The 40-pounder guns were supposed to be the auxiliaries to-the Royal Artillery, and he had heard the order given to load with the shrapnel shell. This was found impracticable, and that brought him to the fact that we were the only nation that had armed the artillery with a gun that was utterly incapable of carrying the Service projectile.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
said, that under those circumstances he would not continue the discussion, but he should be glad to know whether they would have some further opportunity of raising the question?
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that as he understood it, the discussion to-day was the same as it would have been under Vote 1, upon which every question affecting the Army could be discussed, and he wished to know whether the Chairman was drawing a distinction between Vote 7 and Vote 1, because the promise given was that they should have the same general discussion upon Vote 7 that could have been taken under Vote 1?
For this purpose I draw no distinction between Vote 1 and Vote 7, and for that reason I have allowed the discussion to go on, but I 1037 would point out that it has been laid down, not only by my predecessors in the Chair, but also by myself, that while you may have a general discussion on Vote 1, you cannot go into details upon the other Votes.
§ *MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)
said, he wished to make one suggestion. The Chairman had limited the discussion as on Clause 1 to general topics as distinct from the items of the Votes, and as they had now had a general discussion, unless any hon. Member had some subject of importance to bring before the Committee, he would suggest that they might now be allowed to discuss the Vote itself. There was not very much time left, and it would be unfortunate if they were precluded from discussing the important matters contained in the Vote actually before them.
§ MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said, it was not his intention to occupy the time of the Committee for more than a few minutes, but he should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give him some information, and to redeem the pledge he gave in July last year, that the arms taken from the armoury of Stirling Castle should be returned. Stirling Castle was in the right hon. Gentleman's constituency, and therefore perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would be able to answer the question off-hand. At the same time, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would be able to say whether the carved stone work—
§ MAJOR DARWIN (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said, he should like to say a word on the subject of the employment of Reserve soldiers. The Motion on the Paper in the name of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Sir G. Chesney) applied only to the Civil Departments in the Public Service, and therefore employment by the Connty Councils did not come under the Reference to the Select Committee, and he would ask that the terms of the Reference should be extended so as to enable County Councils to find employment for these men.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, the words "private employers of labour," in the Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman would apply to all 1038 non-Government employment. He ventured to thank the hon. Gentleman opposite for the suggestion that they should get to the actual subject of the Vote. They had not much time before them, and if the Committee would allow them they would like to take Vote 10 as well as Vote 7, Vote 10 being most important, because the new works under the Vote could not be entered upon until the sanction of Parliament had been taken on the Vote.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
said, the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Arnold-Forster) in referring to the Militia said that it was not now as strong as it was formerly. As a matter of fact, it was stronger now than it had been for the last few years. The hon. Member also referred to the fact that there were a number of men, in the Militia Reserve who practically belonged to the Army Reserve, or the second branch of the Army Reserve. In regard to that he would only make this statement: that during the time of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Gladstone's) Government the Militia Reserve was called out when there were difficulties with regard to the Russian frontier or the Turkish War, and within 2 or 3 per cent, every man turned out, so that when difficulty arose the Militia Reserve was not found wanting. The hon. Member also, on looking through the statistics, referred to a number of the men as untrained, because they had not gone through their musketry instruction, and in that the hon. Member was wrong, A man could not learn everything at once, but in the two years' training a man went through his musketry instruction Speaking as a man who had had the honour of serving in the Militia for many years, he believed that the country had in this Force 100,000 men who would do their duty as capably as anyone when occasion required.
§ MR. JEFFREYS
said, he would now come to the discussion of the Vote itself, and he would like to ask the Secretary of State for War how much of this £2,700,000 was paid for forage and supplies produced in the United Kingdom? When they discussed this question last year the Financial Secretary to the War Office said that no less than 60 per cent, of the meat supplied was frozen meat—that was to say, that although 1039 the United Kingdom had to pay this vast sum for meat and supplies for our troops, yet more than half came from abroad. It was due to the taxpayers of this country, and would be interesting to all agriculturists in this country at the present time, when they had had a year of unexampled depression, to know how much of this meat was home produce. If bought at home in large quantities it was bought almost at as cheap a rate as the foreign meat. That was proved at Aldershot some few years ago, when the Commanding Officer sent some of the officers out to buy bullocks in the -market, and it was found that the meat so purchased was very little in excess of the cost of foreign meat, that it was much better for the troops, and that it went much further than the foreign meat. In the same way it was better for the taxpayers and for all agriculturists in this country, and he would therefore press the right hon. Gentleman for a decided answer, so that the taxpayers might know where the money went to, whether to the people of this country or into the pockets of the foreigner? Then with regard to forage he should like to know how much was home produce; what proportion of the oats, for instance, was home grown? He believed he was right in stating that almost the whole of the corn consumed by the cavalry came from abroad, and the taxpayers of this country paid for it, especially those who lived in the rural districts. This year, he believed, the Government even went abroad for their hay: instead of going to the neighbouring island of Ireland, they went to Canada and elsewhere to get an inferior class of hay. Of course, he knew the Financial Secretary had had great difficulties to deal with, and that the price of English hay was very high during the last year, but he wished to take this opportunity of impressing upon the War Office Authorities that whenever they could get home grown forage and meat at a reasonable price they ought to give the benefit to the English producer and taxpayer. No doubt the Secretary for War had to make two ends meet like other people, and was often obliged to buy in the cheapest markets, but at the same time he felt sure that hon. Members would agree with him that it would be far more satisfactory to vote a larger sum in future for these two items of expendi- 1040 ture if a guarantee were given them that the sum would be expended, as far as possible, in the purchase of English produce.
§ MR. HANBURY
thought his hon. Friend had raised two very important points, and everyone must agree that if within reasonable limits, they could get these provisions and this forage as cheaply at home they should encourage the home industry. With regard to this matter, he thought the War Office could not answer his hon. Friend's question, because if he recollected aright about a month or two months ago a question was asked on this subject as to what amount of forage was brought from abroad, and the War Office had to admit they had no information. He thought that before the War Office gave out contracts they ought to make a stipulation whether it was to be foreign or English produce; it certainly ought to be in their knowledge what they were buying. There was another point to which his hon. Friend indirectly alluded, and that was the question of direct purchase; and he was sure that a great deal of money was wasted by its passing through the hands of middlemen. His hon. Friend also mentioned the case of some officers at Aldershot purchasing in the market some live cattle, and he believed that this system of direct purchase there had been most satisfactory. Now that they were upon this Vote, he should like to say a few words on the first sub-head with regard to the rations of the troops, because, though he knew that at some stations the rations had wonderfully improved, from all he could hear the improvement had not been so marked at the smaller stations. He might even mention that at so important a station as Woolwich—according to the evidence of the medical officer, who had recently mentioned the fact in a lecture he delivered publicly—the position of the soldier and the rations supplied were very little better. After all the outcry, even in this year, they were little better than they were a few years ago. On the question of rations, he might say he thought they ought not to entice the soldier into the Army by any false description or misleading placards. He did not know what the larger posters might contain now, but he knew that about a year ago he had to complain to his right 1041 hon. Friend of the misleading descriptions that were advertised, particularly in the newspapers. These stated that the recruit would get good food, good clothes, good lodging, and plenty of money to spend. That might be all very well, but it required a great deal of explanation. With regard to the first item, good food, he thought it ought to be explained to every soldier that he did not get the whole of his food free, and that he had to buy a good deal of it himself. He therefore wished to know what means had been taken to provide that the soldier should not be misled by these announcements. Then with regard to the quantity of food a good deal of evidence had been given, and the evidence given before the Wantage Committee went to show that the allowance of ¾lb. of meat per head was sufficient for the soldier in an ordinary way. The evidence of such distinguished officers as the Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of Cambridge, and the Duke of Connaught, showed that during the first year of training, when the recruit was, in many instances, still a growing lad, an additional ¼lb. a day per head should be allowed. He believed every one would allow that foreign meat was not so good as English meat, and had the additional disadvantage of wasting from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, in the cooking. If that fact were taken into consideration he very much doubted whether the slight additional price that was given for English meat in the first instance made it in the end really cost more. In the summer only English meat was served out to the men, and as an average of 60 per cent, of foreign meat in the year was allowed, the soldiers feed almost entirely on foreign meat during the winter months. Another matter in connection with the feeding of the troops had been brought before his notice, and he was told that the reform was started, but in deference to the teetotal party, or for some other reason, was abandoned. The reform he referred to was that the soldier should be allowed to have his beer with his dinner. To deprive him of this seemed to him to be an absurd system, for what happened was that the soldier got his beer either immediately before or immediately after his meals when it did him no good. Undoubtedly 1042 the best time for the soldier was to have it with his meals. Then with regard to the further questions of the supplies, he admitted that the rigid inspection that took place ought to secure that the soldier should have this proper quantity and quality of meat issued to him. Undoubtedly, the price was very low indeed, the average price being about 4d. per pound, and that being so, it was obvious that a very close system of supervision would have to be maintained, or an extremely inferior quality would be supplied. He would also like to know what steps were taken to see that the meat supplied to the hospitals was everything that it should be. When he asked a question on the subject a few months ago he was told that the meat supplied to the hospital was by no means up to the mark, and an inquiry was promised. He would like to know the result of the investigation. He understood that the Army Service Corps did not serve out in India, and he was informed that, as a consequence, the rations of the troops in India were by no means what they ought to be. So far as he could gather, in the large military stations throughout the United Kingdom, which had men of the Army Service Corps, the supply of meat was very good indeed; in the smaller stations the food was not so good, bat in the small stations, where men of the Army Service Corps were not regularly stationed, the meat supply was by no means up to the mark. There was the further difficulty in those small stations, where the local supply of meat was very limited, that in order to keep the troops from starving they had to take from the contractor meat which they would otherwise reject. In some places a supply of preserved meat was kept to meet such an emergency, and in those places they were not obliged to take bad meat from the contractor. He should like to know what authority the medical officers had in this matter of meat supply. The medical officers, equally with other officers, felt a keen interest in this matter, but he was told that, in the first place, they had no opportunity of attending the classes that were held for instruction in food inspection, and, in the second place, they were not allowed to sit on any Board in connection with rations. In fact, unless they were consulted by a commanding officer or one of these 1043 Boards, they could not interfere in the matter. He thought the War Office had taken a very wise step in sending Army Service Corps men to pay surprise visits at the various stations to look after the food supplies, but it should be distinctly understood that that in no way diminished the responsibility of the executive officers. From what he heard, the action of the War Office in instituting those surprise visits had produced in some officers the notion that all responsibility in the matter had been taken off their shoulders. He would like to have a distinct statement that the responsibility of the officers was in no way diminished, and that it was their duty to interest themselves in this matter which affected the health and comfort of their men.
§ SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
said, that some months ago he put a question as to the amount of foreign meat given to the troops in garrison in London, and he was informed that a certain amount of frozen meat and a certain amount of fresh meat were served out. He would like to know whether it was true that the greater part of the fresh meat supplied to the garrison in London was Dutch, and that therefore the troops in London during the winter season got no English meat at all? As to the question of forage, everybody knew that it was impossible for the Government to buy English hay last year; but there was plenty of hay in Scotland and Ireland. Good hay could have been had in Ireland at £2 10s., which was certainly equal to Canadian hay costing £6. Canadian hay was not at all suitable for young horses, of which there were a great many in the Army. He had the authority of some of the most experienced horse dealers in saying that English hay was the best; but that Irish hay was equal to, and often superior to, Canadian hay, and that Canadian hay, if given to young horses, ought to be chopped up, whereas there was a Regulation in the Army against given chopped-up hay to horses. It was a great injustice to British and Irish farmers for the Government to get hay for the Army from abroad. Whenever there was any intention on the part of the Government to give a contract for the supply of manufactured articles, hon. Members representing manufacturing towns were able to upset the arrangement; and he 1044 thought that agricultural Members should insist on the same consideration being given to farmers. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would therefore see his way in future to give the British farmers some share in feeding the Army.
§ MR. FREEMAN-MITFORD (Warwick, Stratford)
said, he agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Wellington that no horse breeder would give Canadian hay to young horses, which hay was most injurious to the constitution of the young horse, and prevented his proper development. With regard to the purchase of meat, a great deal might be done to help English farmers in the present crisis by recruiting sergeants with some knowledge of the purchase of cattle being posted in country towns, and purchasing stock direct from the farmers. Those recruiting sergeants would serve in a double capacity. They would carry on recruiting under the most favourable conditions, and at the same time purchase good food for the Army without the expenses of the middleman.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
said, that everyone who knew anything of the Army knew that in the matter of feeding the English soldier was not treated well. He agreed that in face of the Report of the Wantage Committee the whole Army could not have more than fib. of meat a day, but in the case of recruits that amount was not sufficient. There was no doubt that the men increased in weight, but he had often noticed that when a recruit joined the Army, and underwent a sudden and complete change in his mode of life, the ¾lb. of meat daily was not at all sufficient for his wants. There was no doubt that the more the men had to eat the less was the drink bill of the Army. If the Secretary for War knew of the amount of damage done to the fresh soldier by drink he would consider the removal of the damage cheaply purchased at the cost of an additional quarter of a pound of meat per day. In the Army Service Corps, where the men had more money to spend on food, the drink bill had been considerably decreased. He wished strongly to urge on the Secretary for War the advisability of continuing the system begun by Sir Evelyn Wood, who made large purchases of oats in England. It would be well if 1045 oats, hay, and straw were purchased in regimental localities from the farmers and stored for future use. This would render the Army more popular, and would indirectly have a good effect in connection with recruiting, which was carried on at present under adverse circumstances. He also wished to see a better supply of baths and of warm water for the men in barracks. It might be said that there was too great a desire to coddle the soldiers. But he believed the better they treated the soldier, the more they made a good soldier of him, and by inculcating habits of personal cleanliness they also made him a good member of society. He could not see why there should not be a proper supply of baths in every barracks, and an adequate supply of warm water at the disposal of the private soldier every time he desired to have a bath.
§ *SIR F. FITZWYGRAM
thought a smaller quantity of hay and a larger quantity of oats ought to be provided for cavalry regiments. It had been the custom in the past to give the largest possible quantity of hay, because hay was cheaper than oats; but as this year the price of hay was, owing to the scarcity of hay, considerably in excess of the price of oats, the forage ought to be altered. If they gave 14 lbs. of oats and 8 lbs. of hay, instead of 12 lbs. of hay and 10 lbs. of oats, it would be a great deal better for the horses. In advocating this change he was sure that he would be supported by the Inspector General of Cavalry and the Principal Veterinary Surgeon. It had been said that there was an objection in the Service to chopped-up hay. He had served a good many years, and had never heard of it; but, on the contrary, was aware that some barracks were supplied with machines for chopping-up the hay. As to Canadian hay, he thought it very good feeding stuff, and saw no objection to it as forage. He was anxious to see a School of Frauds set up at Alder-shot in which officers should be taught how to detect all the frauds that could be committed in connection with supplies and provender. Fraud was carried on in every barracks in the United Kingdom, for there were very few articles out of which a dishonest person could not make an illegitimate profit, especially in regard to weight.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he thought it would be a difficult thing to acquire a knowledge of all the frauds that purveyors could commit, but such knowledge would be very useful. He was strongly of opinion that a great deal of unnecessary trouble had been taken by the authorities in getting hay from Canada. Choice hay might have been obtained last year from Ireland from 35s. to £2 10s. per ton; and he could not see why it was not purchased. The principle on which the War Office seemed to act was to give a preference to other countries, when they ought to give the preference to agriculturists at home. With regard to the use of frozen meat, it was a fact that there was considerable waste—something like 25 per cent.—during the process of cooking, and he wished to know whether that waste was compensated for sufficiently? He understood that the authorities allowed 12 per cent, for waste, and if that were so there was still a loss of 13 per cent, to the soldier. The men used to get ¾lb. of English meat; but they now got ¾lb. of frozen meat, less the 13 per cent, lost in cooking.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that he had received many complaints with reference to the use of straw beds. These beds were no longer used in hospitals, for it was found they greatly retarded the recovery of the sick, and they had been done away with at Aldershot, Portsmouth, and in India. Soldiers ought all to have hair or coir beds. The sheets and blankets with which they were provided were often not as good and clean as they ought to be. The sheets were much worse than the sheets supplied to workhouses. He had seen some specimens of them, and found that they were made from the roughest possible canvas. The consequence was that in four cases out of six the soldiers would not sleep in them; but slept instead between the blankets, which were washed only once a year. He also thought there should be an adequate supply of baths and warm water in all barracks. He understood that owing to the absence of warm water the men were not properly washed from the 15th of November to the 15th of March.
§ *THE FINANCIAL SECRETAEY TO THE WAR OFFICE (MR. WOODALL,) Hanley
said, that a great number of subjects of special importance and interest had been brought forward, but as the time at his disposal was limited he must ask hon. Members' indulgence if his replies to some of their questions were not as full as they might wish. He was, however, glad to be able to give information with regard to the several points raised, which he believed would be considered satisfactory by the critics of the War Office. On the subject of the contracts for the supply of meat to the Army reference had been made to a condition which allowed a maximum proportion of 60 per cent, of frozen or refrigerated meat. It should be remembered that that was a maximum, and, as a matter of fact, over a great part of the country—in a majority, he thought, of the home stations—this foreign meat was not used. In very few of the outlying and inland stations was any frozen meat consumed. The proportion of such meat consumed, taking the country generally, would, he was told, probably be from 20 to 25 per cent., the rest being, of course, homegrown meat. The hon. Member for Preston, who usually had a large amount of independent information on these questions, seemed to be under the impression that the War Office were able to contract for meat supplies to the Army at so low a figure as 4d. per pound. The average current price was 5.43d. The increased importation of meat from abroad had no doubt brought down the market price during the past three years, In 1890 and 1891 the price was just a fraction under 6d., and in 1893 it fell to 5½d. The expediency of making contracts direct with producers, rather than through the agency of middlemen, was recognised and the practice was pursued at Alder-shot. The responsibility of making contracts was thrown upon general officers commanding, and in many cases they obtained their supplies from the farmer direct. A great deal had been said about the relative percentage of loss in weight by cooking in regard to frozen meat as compared with fresh home meat, but he was bound to say that the information he had received on the matter was contrary to the statements made in the course of the Debate. The 1048 point was one of considerable importance, and he would have special experiments made with regard to it. He was glad to say that much more attention was now being paid to the work of inspection of the meat supply and of its cooking. The classes which had been formed for instructing responsible officers in the methods of judging the meat supply, and for showing how much might be done in the way of skilful cooking, had proved very satisfactory. The question of the amount of rations served to the soldier daily had always been a vexed question. There was no doubt that the young growing recruit who entered the Army with a feeble appetite and a low physical condition generally developed in the course of training an extraordinary and almost insatiable appetite, so that he seemed to be always hungry. It was found that those young men spent a portion of their pay to supplement their allowance of meals by such agreeable varieties as fried fish and other such commodities, which were supplied by the regimental organisations. He would now refer to the important question of forage. The trouble of last year arose from the widely prevalent drought, following upon a bad year in 1892. The consequence was that the stores of home-grown hay were largely depleted, and it was steadily found as the year went on that the contractors were in such difficulty that it was necessary to obtain the sanction of the Treasury to further payments to save them from breaking down. It was an error to suppose that there had been any neglect to obtain hay from Ireland, or from any other part of the United Kingdom. The whole of Scotland and Ireland was exempt from the trouble that so impoverished the southern counties of England, and the War Office Authorities were able, through their contractors, to obtain good hay from those countries. But they had not relied solely on their contractors in the matter, for they had employed experts—paying them a commission for their services—to buy hay direct from the farmers in Scotland, and had sent an officer over to Ireland to make inquiries. Notwithstanding all this, they would have been at a loss but for the circumstance that Canada was able to send over a considerable quantity 1049 of hay that proved to be of excellent quality. In 1893 the quantity imported from Canada and other places amounted to 263,000 tons, whereas in previous years the quantity had not quite reached 9,000 tons.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
asked whether the hon. Gentleman could state what was the difference between the price of hay obtained from Canada and that obtained from Ireland and Scotland?
§ *MR. WOODALL
said, he could not give the precise figures, but everybody must know that the cost of freight from Canada was so large that it brought up the market price of the best hay from that colony to a figure nearly approaching that at which the English farmers were willing to sell. With regard to the complaint of an hon. Member that recruits might be misled by the character of the advertisements issued, he might say that the form of the advertisements had recently been revised and altered in such a manner that it would now be impossible for any intelligent person to be misled. As to the quality of food supplied to hospitals, the hon. Member for Preston was right in saying that in times past it had not been up to the mark; but now the system of inspection was so rigid that no contractor could attempt to slip in inferior supplies without being detected. It would, moreover, be observed that the unsatisfactory character of the meat supplied to Netley, of which notice had been taken, had been detected by the method of surprise visits upon which they relied for ensuring an efficient discharge of the duties of inspection. Then as to the bedding, he had not the exact figures at hand, but year by year a considerable amount was being expended in the provision of fibre for bedding, the superior character of which, as compared with straw, was now generally recognised. In regard to such matters as oats, hay, meat, and all other supplies, the War Office desired, as far as they could, to promote British agriculture, which commanded all their sympathy. In regard to bread, they had been able to maintain an excellent quality at very low prices. Indeed, the 4lb. loaf was procured at a lower price than had been ever known in modern history, owing to the large importation 1050 of foreign flour, upon which the country was now dependent for three-fourths of its consumption.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
said, the hon. Gentleman had made no reference to the question of baths for the soldiers. He would also like to learn from the hon. Gentleman why it was—if fibre was to replace straw as bedding—there was a Vote asked for straw?
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that unless he had a distinct promise that straw beds would be done away with he should have to divide the House against the Vote.
§ MR. WOODALL
said, he distinctly gave that promise. With regard to the baths, he was informed that hot-water baths could be obtained by the men in most of the newly-constructed barracks on payment of a small sum.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that the Government had got themselves into a difficulty by putting off Supply till late in the Session, and now they come forward at short notice with the old cry, "Oh, we must have certain Votes." He was not so sure that it was absolutely necessary that the Government should get Vote 10. It dealt with a very large subject; and it was a Vote on which he was sure the Minister for War would not think of moving the Closure. It was unreasonable to expect that that large Vote for barracks should be got through after ten minutes' discussion. If the Committee chose to do their duty and discuss the Vote the right hon. Gentleman could not possibly get it before half-past 5. He made this offer, however, to the Government—that, in consideration of their being allowed to get the two Votes to-night, the Secretary of State for War should undertake to bring on the other Army Votes before the end of the month, or during the first week of July, otherwise he would not allow the Vote to go through.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I do not want to say anything that would ruffle the feelings of the hon. Gentleman, but I do not admire his logic. He said the Vote would not pass if the Committee did their duty. But part of the duty of the Committee is to pass the Vote. In response to the offer of the hon. Member, however, I undertake to say that the 1051 other Army Votes shall be brought on before that period of the Session when they sometimes are brought forward—that is to say, before the end of July. In the absence of the Leader of the House, I cannot pledge myself to a particular day.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £832,600, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Royal Engineer Superintending Staff, and Expenditure for Royal Engineer Works, Buildings, and Repairs, at Home and Abroad (including Purchases), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1895.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (interposing)
I appeal to the hon. Member to let the Vote go through. I am as anxious as he is to bring the Votes on as early as possible; but in the absence of the Leader of the House I cannot do more than promise to bring on the other Army Votes at as early a period in July as I can manage.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I desire to support the appeal of the Secretary of State to my hon. Friends. The right hon. Gentleman has gone as far as he possibly can be expected to go, and, moreover, it is most important to get the different works included in the Works Vote started.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, he could not listen to the appeal of his hon. Friend, nor to any appeal coming from the Treasury Bench. He protested against the way in which not only the Army Votes but all the Estimates were brought forward. If the matter was so important, why could not this Vote be put down for to-morrow? The right hon. Gentleman said he could give no definite promise with regard to bringing on the other Army Votes in the absence of the Leader of the House. Why was the Leader of the House absent? Surely the right hon. Gentleman ought to be present on such an important occasion to 1052 answer questions with which he alone could deal. The Vote with regard to public buildings was a highly important Vote, raising many points bearing on the health of the private soldier.
It being half-past Five of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Friday.