§ [Sir J. GOLDSMID in the Chair.]
1. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a number of Land Forces, not exceeding 155,347, all ranks, be maintained for the Service of the United Kingdom of treat Britain and Ireland, at Home and Abroad, excluding Her Majesty's Indian Possessions, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1895.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Sir, I cannot proceed to the duty of submitting these Estimates to the Committee without referring to one sad subject. We all look instinctively to the vacant place on the other side of this Table, which on the last occasion when military questions were under discussion was occupied by one who for several years had taken a prominent part in these Debates. I will not attempt to renew the panegyrics which at the moment of our loss were so truly and worthily passed upon Mr. Stanhope, but no one has better reason than I, who succeeded him in Office, to appreciate the amount of abiding advantage which the Military Service of our country gained from his intelligent administration and from his untiring zeal and devotion. The year which has passed since J last discharged this duty has been comparatively uneventful, and I am fully aware that these Estimates present few features calculated to draw attention to, or to excite a lively interest in, military administration. I remember that on the corresponding occasion last year I openly disclaimed for myself any intention of being an active innovator. I said that the Army had within the last 20 years passed through a great series of alterations, reforms, and now developments, and that, in my opinion, we, having arrived at something like a fixed system, 522 and a system which in its main lines commended itself to the best and most experienced men, so far as I am aware, it was now better to leave that system in the main to its natural working, while, of course, taking care to watch for every opportunity of amending it in its minor details, if the necessity could be shown to exist. Having been strongly in favour of the changes of the last 20 years, and believing in the newer Army system, I am sure that the best way of securing its success is to follow the course of confirming and consolidating it rather than to initiate at present any new departure. But I can readily believe that there is one feature in these Estimates which may seem to require some explanation. I mean the evidence which they display of growing expenditure. It may be asked why the Committee should be invited to vote tin addition to an expenditure already so great, and whether it would not have been possible to meet, by some modification of these demands, a part of the great increase in the cost of the naval strength which the circumstances of the day are generally considered to require. The first consideration which presents itself in that matter is, how far does the one branch of expenditure take the place of the other, and, secondly, does our land force in itself admit of a reduction? It is not the case that by increasing the Navy you necessarily diminish the necessity for Army Estimates. In fact, in many respects, it is the reverse, because the larger the fleet and the wider the ditties it has to undertake in the protection of trade, the heavier in some respects becomes the charge upon the Army Estimates for the protection of harbours and coaling stations, both in men and in works, as well as in armaments for their protection. In this respect one is not in the least an alternative of the other, but rather its necessary complement. But if the naval expenditure was a mere absolute addition to our defensive strength, has it been carried so far as to supersede the necessity of any part of our land force? Our land force is no longer undetermined in the way it was 10 or 20 years ago. I remember the time when practically we went by rule of thumb in these matters. There was no fixed principle as to the purposes for which or the mode in which the 523 strength of our military establishments should be settled, and, accordingly, when any financial pressure occurred such as that which has recently presented itself, it was deemed the easiest thing in the world to take £500,000 or £ 1,000,000 from the Army Estimates and to reduce the Army by 10,000 or 20,000 men. There was no fixed actual standard, and therefore, in a light-hearted way, a reduction was made. The establishments were reduced one year and raised another; the reserves of stores were freely drawn upon, and, as all the figures were arbitrary, this was a very easy process. But a swift Nemesis followed upon every such occasion, and Vote of Credit after Vote of Credit showed the result of this mode of treating the Estimates. I am happy to say that that arbitrary and happy-go-lucky system has been discarded. Military science has advanced immensely of late years, but there is no science which has advanced more than that of Army organisation. We know now exactly what we have got to do and what we require, and those of us who are able to look back 20 years will recognise that that of itself is an immense stride. Now, what is it we have to do? We have to defend these Islands, we have to garrison India, we have to garrison the colonial fortresses, and we have to provide for the small wars which we have periodically to undertake. The three great purposes are the defence of these Islands, the defence of India, and the defence of the Colonies; and the question has often been raised whether for these purposes we should have three Armies or one. I am strongly in favour, of having one Army for all purposes, because the variety of its service gives if experience and efficiency which it would soon lose under other conditions. We have had Committee after Committee and Commission after Commission to determine how this one Army is to be constituted, and with reference to the organisation of Infantry this one principle has at all events been laid down, that the great thing to bear in mind is that our establishments at homo should be equal and continuous. By close inquiry and calculation we have found what force is required in this country to maintain drafts in order to keep our foreign Army in a state of efficiency, and we have arrived at the knowledge of the particular 524 proportion which the unit at home ought to bear to the drafts which have to be sent out annually to support the unit abroad. Then, considering the strength at home, I think that I may state, as the conclusion of the most competent authorities, that it is desirable to maintain in this country a movable force of about 80,000 men, or two Army Corps, for the purpose not only of making invasion impossible, but of making the very idea of invasion impossible. I think the Committee will agree with me that, although it may be a very good thing to be able to defeat an invasion when it is attempted, it is better still to maintain such a force that no one would think of attempting to invade the country, and that is, as I understand, the available force which is supposed to be necessary to accomplish that object. I mean, of course, a force of regular troops apart from the Militia and Volunteers, who would be largely used, as is known, for fortresses. I do not think that that is an unreasonable force, and our system is to make this force, so maintained, available for contributing to the foreign force, and to rely upon a moderately short service for a reserve to fill its ranks with seasoned men. That is our system, and it does not admit of that haphazard treatment which was possible in the days when we had no fixed system at all, and when everything was dealt with as occasion arose. This same policy has been followed with regard to stores. Each fighting unit has its fixed complement of stores, which are, or ought to be, ready for use at the proper places. 1, of course, do not refer to the large quantity of stores that are easily improvised, but the others ought to be ready for use at their proper places, and storehouses have been provided for the purpose. This process, however, has not yet been completed, but towards its completion we are steadily moving. I have been asked what is to be done in case of mobilisation, and, as I have said, we are moving towards a more complete system. Mobilisation has not been confined entirely to paper; it has been tested for the first time this year. In May last the greater part of a division of the field army was brought together under the commanding officer for the South-Eastern District. The Reservists, however, were not called out, for the obvious 525 reason that there is no legal power to call them out in such circumstances. The Regular troops were on a peace footing, but their equipment was mustered, if not issued. The operation was not complete mobilisation, because neither in personnel nor in matériel was it on a complete war footing, but it is a beginning, and a fairly satisfactory beginning. I mention this because it is at least something to have tried the system, and how different it is from anything we were accustomed to in former years. I ask myself, therefore, are we justified, because of financial pressure, in undoing this scientific system and reproducing the undetermined provision of some years ago? If all this force is on too large a scale, if the best authorities were to say that it is unnecessary, if the Navy, for' instance, were increased and were to guarantee absolute immunity from invasion, then we might dispense with what is superfluous. But we have no such assurance, and we have no such belief: and I know too much of the subject to propose any off-hand reduction, which, because it is not based on any fixed principle, can only lead in a short time to waste and inefficiency. I hope that anyone in my place will always lie ready to watch for any opportunity for economy, but it is because I honestly believe that inconsiderate reduction would merely lead to greater expenditure shortly afterwards that I have been forced to ask the House to furnish me this year' with so large a provision, a provision greater than that of last year, in consequence of some circumstances which we hope may be temporary in their nature. I regret to say that when I speak of the fixed and reasonable system on which the Army is organised, I cannot present it to the Committee as approaching perfection. I am well aware that it is far from perfect, especially in one particular, to which I referred last year, and which, I am sorry to say, remains as great a defect now as then. I refer to the unequal distribution of battalions between home and abroad. I expressed a hope last year that in the course of the year I should manage to equalise the battalions here and abroad, but unfortunately we have not been able to bring from Egypt the additional force which we thought was only temporarily sent there in the beginning of the year. If this state of things were to remain permanent we should be forced to con- 526 sider the costly cure of increasing the number of battalions at home, of adding battalions to the Army; but, having regard to the natural tendency of expenditure, as exemplified this year, to swell and develop, I hope we may not be driven to so extravagant a remedy. The total net amount in the Estimates is £ 18,080,900, showing a net increase of £278,100, and the increase over last year in the number of men is 905. Let me show how this is made up. There is an increase in Infantry of 539, which has been rendered necessary by the larger depots maintained to supply more men for service with the colours with the additional force in Egypt. In the Artillery there is an increase of 100 men, caused by the dividing of the companies of garrison artillery into a smaller unit; they were doubled with a view to efficiency and economy, and the companies were adapted to particular stations with more or fewer officers as was found necessary. For the sake of convenience, in reliefs especially, it is found better to have smaller companies. There is an increase of about 100 men in the Royal Engineers, the greater part of which is for an extra company for the Ordnance Survey in order to carry on more quickly the work of the survey in England. The money effect is shown on page I of the Estimates. There is an increase in regimental pay and provisions of £56,000. The Vote for the Army Reserve, which has been steadily increasing, accounts for £5 4,900. There is a sum of £2,400 taken for the drilling and training of the Army Reserve, which will so far satisfy my hon. and gallant Friend; although a modest sum, it. is in the right direction. The Militia, which has been exceedingly flourishing, accounts for £40,000 additional. The Volunteers, who, especially during the fine summer of last year, went into camp in large numbers, are estimated this year to cost £ 18,000 more than they did last year. The rise in the price of forage and coal accounts for £88,000. There is an additional annuity for the repayment of loans under the Barracks Act of £43,000. I must call attention to the fact that these annuities will go on increasing until the year 1910, when, if any of us remain, we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that this liability is liquidated. There is a decrease on small arms principally of 527 £20,400, and on the non-effective service of £30,000. The real cause of the total increase may be said to be full establishments and some advance in prices. I have said in my Memorandum that recruiting is satisfactory—that is to say, we obtain all the men we require. The number of men recruited in 1892 was 29,238, and last year 25,788, a number which fully met our requirements. In the earlier part of the year, as has been stated, we absolutely did away with special enlisting, but afterwards it had to be allowed, although it was laid down that there should be a reference to headquarters before recruits were passed into the Army. We have achieved something in the reduction of the number of special enlistments—that is, enlistment of men under the standard. The percentage of these to the total number of recruits, which was 30.6 in 1892, was reduced to 22.3 in the year just ended. As for the result of the recruiting, there are two passages in the Report of General Fielding which may be quoted with satisfaction. In paragraph 19 he said—It is gratifying to find that, in spite of the experiments made, in reference to the raising of the standards of age for the cavalry regiments serving in India, the standards of height for the Brigade of Guards and for the gunners and drivers of the Royal Artillery, and the restrictions on the enlistment of recruits under standard, the numbers of the rank and file were, on the 6th of September, the day previous to the departure of the first drafts for India, practically up to the number voted for the British establishment; in other words, the Army was as full as it could be.And in paragraph 27 he said—Although there were 6,464 fewer recruits passed into the Service in 1893 than in the previous year, the ranks were fuller by 1,580 men on the 1st of January, 1894, than they were on the same date in 1893. This, combined with the very huge diminution in the proportion of men enlisted under standard, and the fact of the British establishments having been practically complete on the day of the departure of the first drafts for India, shows that the numbers of recruits obtained were sufficient for the purposes of the Army.These passages show that we owe a great deal to General Fielding's energy and activity. By his personal inspection of the recruiting centres, by his institution of lectures on the British Army, and by other methods he has given a great impetus to recruiting. One satisfactory incident deserves mention—namely, the march of a Welsh regiment through Wales. Not 528 only had the march a good effect on recruiting, but the regiment was received in a genial and kindly way by all classes of the community, and thus a feeling was aroused which is likely to be beneficial to the Army in the district. But the best advertisement of the Army, after all, is contentment on the part of the soldier; and we are doing all we can steadily and generally to increase that. There is some evidence that we have been successful in the fact that the discharges by purchase have considerably diminished, falling from 3,133 in 1892 to 2,617 last year. Of course, the state of trade is partly the cause of increase in enlistments and reduction in the number of discharges; but the figures are also a sign of increasing contentment. The Army Reserve has reached the figures of 80,849 men, having increased in two years by 12,000 men. As already stated, it is provided that each man is to receive three days' training or 12 drills, those who are brought out for that purpose being men in the tenth year of their service. By this time the Reserve will have been trained to the use of the Lee-Metford rifle. Another question occurs which is often asked in connection with the Reserves, and that is —Are they to be found when wanted? Here are some figures which I think ought to be satisfactory. The absentees are diminishing rapidly. In 1889 the percentage of absentees was 27; in 1890 it was 23; in 1891 it was 21; in 1892 it was 19; and last year it was 17, so that the Committee will see it is steadily diminishing. As to the health of the Army, most satisfactory reports come of it, showing that there is nothing to be apprehended on that score. The admissions to hospital and the death-rate remain about the same. A good deal has been done for the health of the soldiers of late years, and more particularly under the initiative of my friend Mr. Stanhope. The new barracks which have been provided in themselves would account for a great difference in the health of the soldiers, and I should like that hon. Members who take an interest in this subject should pay a visit to Aldershot, because I see within the range of my vision an hon. Member of the House who did go to Aldershot last year, and knowing Aldershot in the old days, and returning to it after a considerable 529 absence, he expressed himself as not only satisfied but astonished with all that had been done for the increased comfort of the soldier, and also at the evident effect of these changes upon the conduct and well-being of the soldier himself. Before I pass from the subject of the health of the Army let me say that a scheme for the practical training this summer of the Medical Staff and the Medical Staff Corps at Aldershot and the Curragh in (he duties which they will have to perform in war has been elaborated and will be duly carried into effect. Much more is done for the soldier now than formerly, not only with regard to new barracks, but in developing better cooking and better management of canteens, which are being more carefully attended to, and with a very good double result. In the first place, there is a better quality of article for the soldier, and also there is a profit made which is expended for his advantage. On this subject I might mention that the new arrangement for the issue, of clothing which I referred to last night, and which was recommended by Lord Wantage's Committee, we found was not capable of being applied until the 1st of January of this year, but since then it has been in operation. I mean the arrangement according to which personal clothing will become the soldier's property, and by which it is issued and renewed on the anniversary of his enlistment, and not as formerly at a fixed time of the year. Another step which I am glad to mention is that provision in these Estimates is made for a contribution of £500 towards the organisation in this country of the Army Temperance Association—an Institution which has been established in India and maintained with the zealous co-operation, among others, of Lord Roberts. In view of its marvellous effects in the Army in India in promoting temperate habits and more comfortable conditions of life among the soldiers, we have thought it right to exhibit by this grant our sympathy with the object, and our sense of the practical and tangible addition such a Society as this would make to the actual strength and real efficiency of the Army at home. Turning from the Army to the Militia the increased number enrolled on December 31, 1893, over the number enrolled on Junel, 1893, was 5,042. In the previous 530 year the increase was 6,256. In 1891 the increase was only 212, and in the two years previous to that there had been an actual falling off. This indicates a steady improvement and increase in the popularity of the Militia. The actual increase in the training was 7,096, and the total increase in the year would have been greater—and here I must cry peccavi to the Committee—but in the end of the year I found the Militia was increasing to such an extent, and the money available at my disposal was diminishing so rapidly, that I directed several checks to be put on recruiting for the Militia, which I thought, in the circumstances, were justified. We raised the standard to 64 inches for. Infantry and to 66 inches for the Artillery, and we stopped the enlistment of growing lads between 17 and 18. I regretted having to do it, but the ranks being so full, fuller than they have ever been by 6,000 or 7,000 or 8,000 men, I thought, in the circumstances, with a, very startling condition of the exchequer, that I was justified inputting a little check upon enlistment, but it has now been entirely taken off. Of the Yeomanry, all I can say is that the new organisation is being worked apparently with success and certainly with great loyalty by the officers. Turning to the Volunteers, I have to say that their increasing desire for efficiency is shown by the spirit in which they undergo the training, especially in camps, which they are now encouraged to undergo. The numbers have increased. Although the establishment has been lower by about 500 men, 2,000 more men have made themselves efficient. The deficiency in officers, which is so often referred to, remains almost at the identical figure if was last year. The number of Volunteers who received allowances for attending brigade camps in 1893—and I think these figures will be regarded as extremely satisfactory by the Committee—the number was 68,562. In 1892 it was 15,712, thus showing an increase of 22,850 men. One hundred and thirty-two battalions attended in 1893 as against 95 in 1892. In connection with brigade camps, I can state some facts which are well worth notice. The first brigade camp was held in 1889, but the system cannot be considered to have been in full working order until the 531 following year. From the time of the new musketry regulations for Volunteers in 1887 down to 1890 there had been a steady decrease in the efficient strength of the Volunteers. From 1890 until now there has been a steady increase. The Returns show that from 1887 to 1890 the Volunteer force lost 10,034 higher-grant efficients—that is to say, men who could shoot; and, on the other hand, it had in its ranks an increased number of 836 of the lower-grant efficients, whom I may describe as men who cannot shoot —at all events, not so well. But between 1890 and the end of 1893 the force has gained 8,319 higher-grant efficients and 1,022 lower-grant efficients, so that the improvement has been quite astonishing. Brigade camps have not Been the only cause of this remarkable change, hut they have, no doubt, had a good deal to do with it. In addition to the increase in the brigade camps, 7,486 Volunteers attended camps with Regulars in 1893, as against 4,986 in 1892. In the regimental camps, on the other hand, which are perhaps the least valuable form of camp, there was a falling-off in the numbers, there being 48,100 in 1893 as compared with 56,277 in 1892. These facts are most satisfactory, I think, as showing the healthy vitality of the Volunteer Force. It is intended, lot me add, to adopt a new musketry course next year, which will have the effect of making the condition of efficiency higher than at present. I have a word or two to say now about the long-service decorations; which were announced some months ago, and which Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to consent to confer upon non-commissioned officers. I much regret the delay that has occurred; hut I have been most anxious to gather the views of experienced persons before taking any definite steps in the matter. I originally proposed that the decorations should be confined to non-commissioned officers, and that privates should not be eligible, as I thought at that time that there were good reasons for my taking that course. Since then, however, I have received a strong representation to the effect that there were many excellent, zealous, and efficient Volunteers of long standing, who, for some good reason, could not undertake the duties of a non-commissioned officer, but who had rendered most 532 useful and praiseworthy service in the ranks. I have been led to the conclusion that such men cannot fairly be denied this honourable distinction, and I propose, therefore, that it should be conferred on all men of good character, who, on or since January 1, 1893, have completed 20 years of efficient service as enrolled Volunteers. It has been impressed on me that it should be confined to men who have really rendered exceptional service, and I look very favourably on the idea; but I am obliged to regard it as being practically out of the question, because it has been found already, in the case of officers, that commanding officers will hardly take it upon themselves to refuse this honour to one of their corps who, although not very distinguished, was at least a deserving and well-conducted man. I have, therefore, been reluctantly obliged to abandon the idea. I propose to move for a Select Committee in the course of a few days to inquire into the working of the Volunteer Acts and the legal status and obligations of Volunteers. Coming to the question of materials, there is to be remarked a growing demand for two classes of stores —namely, tent equipment and barrack equipment; there being an increase under the one head of £15,490 and under the other of £44,970. For the last few years the number of soldiers trained in camps of instruction, and of Volunteers who go into camp, have been steadily increasing, and with a voluntary service such as ours, where soldiers undergo this most desirable training, money is well spent which adds to their comfort and secures their health. I should add that such exercises are not confined to places best known to the public, but small sums are allotted to our most distant Possessions in order that the garrisons may practise in peace the war duties for which they are maintained. The barrack stores, again, are necessary for the equipment of the new barracks at Aldershot and elsewhere. Among other improvements the issue of coir fibre bedding in place of straw bedding—a change greatly to the comfort of the soldier. The change necessitates an increased charge at first, although probably it will cause a considerable saving eventually to the Department. Regarding warlike stores, I would mention that a new 12-pounder gun equipment for 533 Horse Artillery carrying 126 rounds per sub-division, against 108 as at present, has been adopted; the weight behind teams being 30 cwt., in place of 36 cwt. The pole draught has been approved for Field Artillery, and will be carried out gradually. A 15-pound shell will be shortly adopted for held batteries, in place of the 12½-pound projectile. The Lee-Metford rifle—of which, either in the hands of the troops or in stores, we have sufficient for all the Regulars and Militia—continues to be most favourably reported on. I may mention as a proof of the penetration of this rifle that experiments show that there is no safety behind a 9-inch brick wall up to a distance of 500 yards. With regard to cordite ammunition, as to the merits of which we bad a long discussion in this House last Autumn, I am happy to be able to slate that it continues to give universal satisfaction, and we see no reason whatever to doubt its stability under all circumstances. Small-arm ammunition in future will be made up entirely with the cordite. At present, for ecomomical reasons, it is desirable that the ammunition already in store, made up with black powder, should be expended before the cordite ammunition is used for practice. In one or two districts cordite is used in order that any defects may be brought to light; but up to the present time no complaints of any consequence have been made. Field gun cartridges will in future be tilled with cordite, the existing stock of black powder cartridges being used up as in the previous case, so long as they remain in stock. Light field ammunition for all guns up to 6-inch inclusive will be made up with cordite patterns, for this class of ammunition has been already determined on, and charges for heavy guns are being worked out for new guns. This is not such a difficult problem, as the chamber, rifling, and other equipments can be modified to meet the altered conditions. But there is more difficulty with the old guns, and considerable alteration may have to be made in many of them. As to erosion, in the smaller natures of guns— i.e., the to 6 inches—it has not been found excessive or appreciably greater than with black powder. In the rifle the wear (not erosion) is considerably greater than with black powder, being due to the absence of fouling and the consequent 534 unchecked friction between the hard envelope of the bullet, and the barrel. We are in hopes that this may be reduced by suitable means as we get to know more exactly all the causes to which erosion may be due; but it must be remembered that, with cordite a muzzle velocity is obtained much greater than with black powder, and in any ease the rifle can fire effectively between 4,000 and 5,000 rounds before the shooting is seriously affected, and this is calculated as equal to the life of the rifle from other causes. I think that is not an unsatisfactory account of our experience at the War Office of cordite. This brings me to the question of the administration of the factories; and the principal event, of course, in regard to them is the alteration of the hours of labour, which, so far as it has gone, has been met by the men employed in a spirit of alacrity and faithfulness which promises the best results. We, and the officers immediately in connection with the Department, are confident there will be no loss to the public from the adoption of the shorter hours. In undertaking to make this change we were greatly indebted to the Member for Gorton and the Member for Gateshead for their admirable advice and the relation of their experience. Since that change has been in operation I can state confidently to the Committee now that there has been no loss to the public. At first, of course, there may be a little inconvenience in adapting ourselves to the new conditions, but the Superintendents and the Director General have no complaints, so far as I have heard, from the men, in speaking of this matter it is only right that I should pay a well-deserved tribute to the Superintendents and to the Director General of the Factories, Dr. Anderson, in reference to the changes they have introduced. Dr. Anderson, as the Committee knows, is a man of the highest scientific attainments, and of great business capacity, and he is also able to maintain the best relations with the workmen under his charge. Short hours have also been introduced at the Clothing Factory under the auspices of the new Director of Clothing. Waltham has been made an exception. The conditions of labour there are so exceptional that it is impos- 535 sible to deal with that establishment in i the same way as we have dealt with the others. I expect in a short time to have the Report of the Committee appointed to ascertain whether proper precautions are taken against accidents, and especially into the cause of the recent melancholy explosion there. That Committee includes Lord Sandhurst (chairman), Sir Frederick Abel, and Colonel Majendie. We have thought it desirable, by very wide terms of Reference, to make that inquiry a thorough one in order to ensure the adoption of all reasonable precautions in the factories and for the safety of surrounding buildings. Turning to the Works Note, I can say that it has been limited to the most modest demands that can be made. Under the head of Fortifications we provide for commencing or continuing certain new works at important strategic points, for the improvement of artillery ranges, and the maintenance and adaptation— always a large cost of existing works. Three large and important ordnance store establishments—at Dover, Burscough, near Liverpool, and Stirling, will be completed, which will not only make the store arrangements more satisfactory for the respective; districts, but will promote economy and efficiency in the better preservation of stores and centralisation of charge. The buildings necessary at Barry Links will be got on with. For barracks the sum devoted to maintenance is large, and our policy has been to keep it large. I do not think money can be better spent than in the proper maintenance of existing barracks; and not only is this a good policy, but we are obliged to spend more because the new barracks have many more rooms and accessories, and in every respect necessitate a larger outlay than the older type of barracks. The work under the Barracks Act is progressing satisfactorily. The cost of building has risen since the Act was passed, and, in consequence, some stations and services which wore originally included have been struck out of the scheme, but not to a very great extent.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I do not know exactly. Then, as to rifle ranges, these have been improved 536 or extended at various places during 1893, so as to meet the requirements, in this respect, of the 303 rifle. The most prominent of the ranges thus improved are:—Home stations: Barry Links (Scotland), Landguard (Harwich), Browndown (Gosport), and Aldershot.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
There is great difficulty in obtaining a range for the Dublin district, but I cannot tell the right hon. Gentleman precisely how that matter stands. Under the Imperial Defence Act, £350,000 was obtained for building barracks to accommodate the increase of the coaling station garrisons. As far as it would go, works were undertaken and have been completed at Sierra Leone, the Cape, Ceylon, and the Mauritius, or will be shortly completed. At Jamaica and St. Lucia, the work will be completed in a few months' time, and at Hong Kong in about a year's time. There is but one remaining subject to which I shall seek to direct the attention of the Committee, and that is the education of officers. With us, even in greater degree than in other countries, there is demanded of our officers, on account of the varied service of our Army, a high standard of professional knowledge and accomplishment; and while I am anxious to raise that standard, I have a strong desire to secure that no undue advantage should be derived from wealth or social station. Brain and nerve are what we require, and we should attract and encourage them by appointing their possessors, in whomsoever they are found. I hold it, therefore, to be of great importance to check extravagance of living, and to see that proper opportunities of instruction are afforded, and that examinations and appointments are such as to give a fair chance to all. The question of the entrance examination I have referred to a Committee, which will soon present its Report; and I have to express my obligation to several Members of the House who have served upon it. The Reports of the Visitors upon the Royal Military Academy and the Royal Military College have been carefully considered, and their principal recommendations have been adopted—some of them, in fact, had been determined upon before 537 the inquiry look place. One great purpose of all these changes is to diminish the causes of expense to cadets. I need not give details, but the Committee will understand that as much as possible is being done in that direction. The Artillery College, graduates from which are eligible for appointments in the manufacturing departments, has been, as I promised last year, opened to other than Artillery officers, and though the number competing this year is not large on account of the short notice, it is hoped when this is known that a considerable number will compete. I have now presented to the Committee the present condition of the Army. I began by stating that I had no startling circumstances or intentions to disclose. The Committee will, however, agree with me that the gradual development and improvement in all branches of the Service is, on the whole, eminently satisfactory. It represents much patient, but earnest, labour, much self-sacrifice, much intelligent effort on the part of all ranks, from the highest to the lowest, and all that I have had to state proves at least that our military forces fully deserve the confidence and the gratitude of the country for whoso service they are maintained.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, the very kind allusion made by the right hon. Gentleman to the late Mr. Stanhope, who lately occupied his position, was, he felt sure, fully endorsed by the Committee, whose sympathetic cheers could not furnish a greater tribute to the work done by his late right hon. Friend than the speech just delivered and the evidence afforded by the right hon. Gentleman in continuing his policy that he appreciated that work. The right hon. Gentleman had adopted man of the features of the administration of his predecessors, some of which had not always been received with general consent by the House at the time they were first initiated. The right hon. Gentleman had certainly had considerable experience in carrying out reforms in Army administration: and though the Estimates showed an increase of £278,090, it was a gratification to find that in no quarter of the Committee I had that increase been challenged. He did not think that after the speech of the Secretary of State his friends on that side of the House would consider 538 there was anything in these Estimates which was not judicious and which was not indeed absolutely necessary, and the Commitee should congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon his courage in increasing his Estimates in a year which had not by any means produced a financial plethora. Three or four years ago the Secretary of State expressed in a speech he then delivered considerable doubt whether the; number of men we maintained was absolutely necessary; but this year he had added 900 men to the regimental establishments, most of them to strengthen our force in Egypt, at a special time. He approved of the increase of 990 men, which, no doubt, would be appreciated by the Member for Northampton, who was followed into the Lobby by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary in support of a Motion for the evacuation of Egypt. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Hear, hear.] He had no doubt they would now have the support of the hon. Member. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: No, no.] Well, he had hoped that they would have had it on this occasion. But they might take credit for this: During several years strong representations were made to the War Office; the Committee which had been appointed to investigate the matter had reported, and in almost every instance their Report had been acted upon, while economy had been practised wherever it was possible. It was most satisfactory that they had these proposals from the most Radical Government of modern times for increasing the numbers of men, horses, and arms in a year which was not too prosperous. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had told the Committee nothing about the new magazine rifle, with which they had hoped we should be able to meet any foe. Every regiment of the Line, he believed, had it, but very few of the Militia regiments; and unfortunately they were given to understand that, instead of the military carbine being adapted to the 303 bore, as was done in the case of the rifles, at a very moderate cost, the course had been adopted of simply cutting down the Martini-Henry carbine and so maintaining for a considerable time two kinds of ammunition. He noticed that there was a considerable reduction in the supply of small-arm ammunition compared with 539 previous years, and he would be glad to receive an assurance from the Secretary of State that he was satisfied with the present reserve, which seemed very small, being only about 4,000,000 rounds. He also hoped that the annual maintenance had been maintained without any poaching on former reserves. There was always a great temptation to poach upon reserves when large reductions were made. The late Secretary of State proposed to do that without tapping the reserves, but no such assurance had now been given by the right hon. Gentleman either in this or in other respects. The Committee would allow him, in conclusion, to congratulate the Secretary of State upon the satisfactory statement which he had laid before the Committee, and he hoped they would not grudge either the small increase in the number of men or the considerable and inevitable increase in the Estimates.
asked for an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that there was sufficient clothing in store in case of immediate mobilisation; and also desired to know whether the houses for the reception of stores, which he had mentioned in his speech, were really ready and properly equipped The right hon. Gentleman said he was doing everything in his power to cut down the cadets' expenses, and upon the subject of expenditure he would refer to the dearth of cavalry officers. The number of cavalry officers was barely equal to the requirements of the Service, on account of the enormous expenses which they had to incur in addition to their pay. There were very few parents who in these days could pay what practically amounted to a fine of £500 a year for the privilege of keeping their sons in cavalry regiments, and he was of opinion that the whole tenour of life in those regiments would have to be changed if they were to obtain and keep a, proper supply of cavalry officers. It was difficult to point to particular items of expenditure, but his broad premiss was that so long as cavalry officers were allowed or compelled to spend £500 or £600 a year while their pay was but £100, the supply would be short.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, that extra expenses for cavalry officers, like the cost of saddles and everything 540 else, were an inevitable accompaniment of the Service. But there were much more important subjects of comment. The Secretary of State had said he had no startling announcements or disclosures to make. They had, however, made one startling discovery from his speech. From what they had been given to understand there was not sufficient machinery in case of war for the manufacture of small-arm ammunition, and this point, he thought, required very careful consideration. The Secretary of State said positively that the factories had been working up to their full power and only got annual maintenance. Again, the Secretary of State was very reticent on the subject of magazine rifles. He saw by the papers that the War Department were giving up the manufacture of magazine rifles, and that they considered there were sufficient of them at the present time. He believed the number of rifles was absolutely insignificant for a great country. When he asked a question on this subject the only answer he got was that there were enough for the Regular Army, the Militia, and the Reserve. In foreign countries two rifles were allowed to every man in the active Army: but, allowing a 20 per cent. reserve, we had barely a reasonable supply for the Regular Army and the Militia. This was a matter of the most vital consequence. It was allowed that Napoleon in 1814 failed quite as much for want f muskets as for want of men, and it was a very common thing indeed for a country to find itself hampered for the want of arms. It was the position of the Confederate Army at the close of the war. In this country there was absolutely no reserve for arming the younger men who would be called in. The Volunteers were to have the Martini-Henry, while everybody on the Continent had 3-bore rifles and the fast bullet, and with this difference in their arms, whenever the Volunteers came into the field, 5,000 of them would only be as good as 3,000 of the enemy, merely on the question of the rifle, and leaving everything else out of consideration. They were leaving the Army with a very small number of odd rifles, and if the country was by any possibility invaded they would not have proper arms to arm them with, and the men would be demoralised through 541 having inferior arms. There were several possible reasons for this state of things. The authorities might be experimenting with a still better rifle. With the bore reduced to .20 they could get a better ride, but nobody would pledge their word to .20, though they would to .25. He thought they were putting themselves into a very serious difficulty by stopping the manufacture of rifles when every other country was going in for having 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 of these small-bore rifles. The number of rifles in the country was a matter of first-class consequence. England had been generally considered as a very hard shell with a soft inside, and they were making the shell very much softer by not having a sufficient number of rifles in the country to arm the population.
§ SIR A. HAYTER (Walsall)
said, he was anxious to add his congratulations o the Secretary of Stale for War on his able; speech, and on the satisfactory conditions which enabled him to make that speech. It seemed to him the golden age of the Army. We had an increase in the number of recruits, the ranks were full, and everything seemed to be going on in a, flourishing condition. As the conditions in regard to the men were so satisfactory, the small increase that there was in the Estimates was very easily accounted for. The right hon. Gentleman, however, rather failed to explain a point which he said in his speech last year was of the utmost and most vital importance for the better organisation of the Army. He understood from him that of all the recommendations of the Wantage Commission all the points on which the Army could be improved in its organisation none could equal that of equalising the battalions at home and abroad, and calling home a sufficient number of battalions to make the efficiency of those at home! compare favourably with those abroad. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to four different modes by which this equalisation might be carried out. By the Memorandum issued with the Army Estimates he saw that one of those had fallen through. Owing to circumstances over which he had no control, it was impossible to reduce the strength of the garrison in Egypt. But there was, in addition to that, a proposal that one of 542 the battalions might be withdrawn from the garrison at Gibraltar. They had there 5,700 men, and it appeared to him to be not only very large for the necessities of the garrison, but they could be very easily replaced in case of emergency. Then, the right hon. Gentleman had said he would put himself into communication with the Indian Government, and see whether they, too, would agree to withdraw one of the battalions from India, provided they had increased establishments to make up for the withdrawal. There was one other proposal, which was to replace a battalion of the Line to act in Egypt with a battalion of Guards. The battalion of Guards going-out, of course, would not be included in the territorial arrangements, and by withdrawing another battalion in Egypt they would benefit the equalisation of battalions, he did not know whether the Secretary for War still entertained that proposal. There was no point in these Estimates which he regarded with greater satisfaction than the initial step which had been taken of drilling the Reserves. For 10 years he had been urging this upon the attention of the War Office, and he was quite certain that if what he had done with a very small portion of the Reserves were adopted all through the Reserves they would have a more satisfactory arrangement. The Reserves now swelled to 80,000 men, and he understood that only a very small proportion of them were to be drilled at all, but still it was a step in the right direction. These men received 6d. a day, and some of them had only done three years' service in the ranks, and had been receiving their 6d. a day for doing absolutely nothing. Lord Wolseley, he believed, said these men would be absolutely required in ease of invasion, and it had been shown conclusively by the Member for Oxford that they would be called upon to go abroad; and he maintained that it was absolutely impossible to regard these men as an efficient Reserve to send abroad unless some steps were taken to find out whether they were in existence, and to have them regularly drilled. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take courage and would increase the number of Reserves. He was extremely glad to see that since the new commandant arrived at Sandhurst 543 there had been great and important changes made. He was sure everyone interested in the education of young officers would be glad to know that one hour a day had been added to the small modicum of training which they had, in the entrance examination for the Army there were no fewer than 2,000 marks given for French and German. That was a very excellent thing, because there could be no doubt that it was most important that officers should be able to speak those languages, but he regretted that additional marks were not given for other languages.
§ SIR S. NORTHCOTE (Exeter)
thought it would be a great satisfaction to the Committee if the right hon. Gentleman were able to say whether the reserve stores of guns, ammunition, rifles, and clothing were not being drawn upon unduly, and if the reserve were being maintained in somewhat the same condition, or in even better condition, than when he acceded to Office. If for any reason the War Office were anxious to effect economy, one of the easiest ways to do so would be to draw upon the reserve they found existing when they came into Office, he ventured to suggest whether it might not be possible in future Statements by the Secretary of State to say whether it would be found desirable either to augment or to reduce such stores.
§ * MR. WOODALL
said, the question of from time to time making Returns of the actual state of the stores in hand had been very seriously considered. But no one knew better than the hon. Baronet who had just spoken how much inconvenience such a practice would involve. The Government was confident that no such proposals as he apprehended for depleting stores could be resorted to by anyone worthy of the confidence of that House. With regard to the question of uniformity' in the bore of small arms, that was an important consideration, but the authorities had not yet come to a definite conclusion on the matter. But, at any rate, the Martini-Henry rifle, which was still in the hands of Volunteers and of a considerable number of our troops, and the machine guns which were in the different garrisons and ports throughout the country had the same bore, .45. But they were steadily bringing into the Service 544 the new Lee-Motford with its smaller bore, .303. Attention had been called to the importance of having a sufficient number of the new weapons for all possible services liable to be requisitioned. It would be highly inconvenient to give the precise figure, but he had before him the total number of Regular troops at home, abroad, and reserve, and he had also a statement of the number of Lee-Metford rifles in the hands of the troops at home and abroad and in store. He could assure the Committee that there was a satisfactory margin in regard to any possible reserve that might be called upon in the emergencies of actual service. They were also considering various proposals for adopting the Martini-Henry so as to carry the .303 ammunition, and they were sanguine of success. The cost would depend upon the pattern. He could not give details, because he did not know the exact process to be followed, but it would be an economical one, and a novel and ingenious one. The Committee, no doubt, would desire to know how far the War Office were ensuring for the service of the country a sufficient store of Service ammunition. The subject was one which from time to time caused a great deal of concern to those who were charged with the administration of the War Department. With every change of ammunition they seemed to come to a sort of ebb. The trade, upon which the War Office had to rely to a considerable extent, was tardy in coming forward with the new service, and they had to rely on their own Government factories; but when the trade did accommodate itself to their wants the capacity of the supply was enormous, and it was difficult to find orders to satisfy if. This was the case with cordite, which was satisfying the general requirements not merely of the small-arm ammunition, but of the large and quick-firing guns.
§ * MR. WOODALL
They were using up their store of ammunition which would shortly become obsolete, but they were not able to obtain anything like the quantity of cordite for which they had a demand. They were steadily increasing their production at Waltham, and from 400 tons 545 they hoped to increase it up to 600, and they were now assured that under pressure the quantity could he increased to more than 800 tons a year from their own factories. Of course, they had had to await the decision of the Law Courts, which they had desired to regard in the light of a friendly arbitration, and although he could not say what might be the future course of litigation, it was permissible for him to hope that the present result would be to bring the private trader to their relief, so that they could put into practical use the large quantity of cordite required.
§ * Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, he wanted to say one word in apology and answer to his hon. and gallant Friend opposite, he had omitted to answer his question as to the mobilisation of the Reserve and the clothing depot in Pimlico. He himself had little doubt that the depot at Pimlico could clothe the Reserve men in ample time for the mobilisation. Having considered the matter very closely he did not think that what was called the centralisation at Pimlico was as serious a matter as was sometimes supposed.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The Report I receive is that there is enough clothing for the Reserve. As to the question put by my hon. Friend, the proposal to send a battalion of the Guards to Egypt was only part of the scheme for equalising the battalions. If I had seen my way to any scheme for accomplishing that result the battalion of the Guards would have gone to Egypt; but when that became hopeless, there was no need to depart from the ordinary practice.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
pointed out that nothing had been done to improve the ranges in Lancashire, and said it was a question not merely of providing fresh ranges but of making the existing ones accessible.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton),
having congratulated the Secretary for War upon his administrative ability and upon the lucidity of the explanation he had given, said the increase of the Army by 905 was stated to be in great part due to the requirements of Egypt. 546 It appeared that there were more British soldiers there now than there were a year or two since.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
There are not more than there were last year at this time: but the Estimates of last year were framed before the despatch of these men, and therefore the presence of the men in Egypt was not indicated in them.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said that, at all events, there were more men in Egypt now than there were during the whole of the period in which the Conservative Government was in Office. It had been pointed out that during the Conservative Administration he (Mr. Labouchere) moved the reduction of the Army by the total number of soldiers who were in Egypt. When he did that it was to show that lie wanted the withdrawal of the British troops from Egypt, and almost every gentleman now on the Treasury Bench went into the Lobby with him. If he remembered rightly, the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Morley) not only voted but spoke in favour of his proposition. He was not astonished, under the circumstances, that the Liberal Party were sometimes charged with being more factious than patriotic, and he was bound to admit that the charge almost seemed true when the Liberal Party, after having voted for the reduction of the Army by the number of men who were in Egypt, increased the number of soldiers in that country almost as soon as they came into Office. Last year a particular reason was given for the increase. Something or other had happened in Egypt, and, with that respectful deference which he always showed for his Leaders, he refrained from moving any Resolution. He said to himself, however, that on the following year he should have the pleasure of thinking that his Leaders remembered the Resolution he moved, and they supported, two or three years ago, and he expected an announcement in the Queen's Speech that they contemplated at once withdrawing from Egypt. He had not given notice to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Sir E. Grey) that he intended to bring the matter forward, and, therefore, he thought it hardly fair to bring it forward except in a cursory manner, all 547 the more as he would probably find several opportunities during the Session of treating it in detail. The hon. Gentleman opposite had challenged him to say whether he was as faithless to his opinions as the Government were. He did not accept that mode of putting it; but he felt bound to say that, as far as he was concerned, men might come and men might go on the Treasury Bench; but he stood to his opinions, and he should be ashamed of himself if he were to alter (hem merely because this man or that man, or this Party or that Party, occupied the Treasury Bench. He had always been opposed to the occupation of Egypt, and his right hon. Friend who had just entered the House (Mr. J. Morley) had always been with him. He remembered some excellent remarks his right hon. Friend made in Newcastle. They delighted his heart at the time. He said to himself, "I shall always have my right hon. Friend with me in this matter of Egypt." But, alas! he was afraid he had lost his right hon. Friend's support in this matter, for he was one of the Ministers who were asking, not that we should diminish our force in Egypt, hut that we should increase it by 905 men. He had intended to move the reduction of the Vote by the 905 men as a protest against the occupation of Egypt, but the hour was very late, and he thought he should be able to make the protest on a better occasion. One reason for objecting to the increase was that the Navy was about to be enormously increased. His right hon. Friend the Secretary for War had pointed out that, as a necessary consequence of increasing the Navy, they must increase the Army, as there would be more coaling stations and harbous to protect abroad, he (Mr. Labouchere) wanted the Committee to remember that for every ship by which the Navy was increased soldiers would have to be found to defend the ports it would have to enter. This was a very serious matter, considering the enormous burdens under which they were groaning owing to the vastly increased expenditure on the Army and Navy.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
My hon. Friend has misapprehended what I said. I pointed out that to a certain extent an increase had occurred, but it does not always follow that an 548 increase in the Army will follow an increase in the Navy. I thank my hon. Friend for his leniency in sparing us in this Army Debate a discussion on the affairs of Egypt. As I understand, my hon. Friend wishes to point out our misconduct, or at all events our strange conduct, in having followed him into the Lobby some two years ago on the question of Egypt, and in now showing a disposition to adopt another policy. I have noticed that there are occasions on which hon. Members follow my hon. Friend into the Lobby, and afterwards rather regret having done so. We are, therefore, not altogether singular if that is the state of mind in which we find ourselves. As far as I am personally concerned, I am not sure that I did follow my hon. Friend, and J certainly never shared his views on the general question of Egypt. The fact of a small addition being made to the troops in Egypt does not alter in the least the policy of the Government in regard to that country. I rose, however, really for the purpose of thanking my hon. Friend for his kindness and leniency in lotting us off so easily, and I hope we may now be allowed to take the Vote.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway,N.)
asked whether it, was intended to convert a large number of Martini-Henry rifles into the 3–10ths bore weapons?
§ * MR. WOODALL
said, experiments were being made, and he thought it very likely indeed that they would result in having a very useful weapon made out of the existing Martini-Henry. He was not in a position to say how many would be converted. If the operation was successful there was no reason why it should not be carried out on a large scale.
* SIR F.FITZWYGKAM (South Hants, Fareham)
wished to bring under the notice of the House a very great injustice that was done to the largo and most valuable body of officers who had commanded regiments by the almost total reservation of all Staff appointments to those who had passed the Staff College. He knew that some former commanders had been admitted to such appointments, but the number was so small that it scarcely affected the question. He did 549 not wish to say a word against the Staff College, but merely to protest against the system of excluding former regimental commanding officers from Staff appointments. Those who had commanded regiments formed a most valuable body. The position of a regimental commander required a great deal of tact, training, and nerve, and it should be the object of the Secretary for War to give the utmost encouragement to good commanders. There were 250 battalions, and, such as the commanding officers were, such would be the battalions, and, such as the battalions, such would be the Army. If the regiments were good, as they would be if their commanding officers were good, we should have success in war, although we had a very untrained Staff. Regiments had been known to fight out a battle to a, successful issue in spite of mistakes made by the Generals. If, however, our regiments were not properly trained, the best Generals in the world would not prevent us having reverses. As matters stood at present, a Colonel might do the best he possibly could and might turn a bad regiment into a good one, but there was no reward and no future for him. He wished to ask the Secretary for War if he would re-consider the request made to him a short time ago with regard to Chelsea Hospital pensions? It was no! a good thing for the Army that about 80,000 men should go about saying that they had been deprived of their just rights. All he wanted was a, Select Committee or a small Commission to inquire into the claims that were put forward.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W)
asked whether there would be an opportunity on a future Vote of discussing general questions relating to the Army?
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Yes, Sir; it is quite understood that there will be a, discussion on the next occasion when the Army Estimates are taken.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ 2. £5,981,000, Pay, &c. of the Army (General Staff, Regiments, Reserve, and Departments), agreed to.550
§ 3. £100, Ordnance Factories.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
It seems absurd to ask for £100, but it has been the practice to have such a Vote in order to bring the operations of the Ordnance Factory within the cognisance of the House of Commons. It is merely to show the way in which the money voted on the Army Estimates is expended at the Ordnance Factories.
MR. JESSE COLLING'S (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, the Vote very much interested his constituents. There were two small arms factories, one being at Enfield and the other at Sparkbrook. In the current year the Wages Vote for Enfield had been reduced only 25 per cent., while that for Sparkbrook had been reduced no less than 42 per cent. The amount was formerly £60,000 for Sparkbrook, but during the current year it had been reduced to £35,000. When the Estimates for 1894–5 were issued it was seen that the £35,000 had been practically reduced to £14,000, for although the amount stood at £36,000 a sum of £22,000 was to be expended in repairing the shops. The proposed reduction amounted to a practical extinction of the small arms factory at Sparkbrook, which was described as one of the best equipped factories in the world. In the interests of the Public Service his hon. Friends and himself thought it inadvisable to practically destroy a factory of that kind. They were therefore glad to find that the Secretary for War had somewhat modified the Estimates by consenting to produce at Sparkbrook the rifles that would be required for the Navy during the coming year. They thanked him very much for this concession, which would, of course, keep the factory going during the coming year. At Enfield, so far from there having been any reduction, the wages bill had been increased by £78,000, making a total for the coming year of £198,000. He thought he would best consult the convenience of the Committee if he did not on that occasion deal with the general question as between Sparkbrook and Enfield, especially as there would be an opportunity of going 551 into the question at a later period of the Session. Hon. Members must, however, know that a factory placed in the centre of the Kingdom in the midst of an unlimited supply of men and material of the very best quality and at a place where the railway facilities to all parts of the country were excellent was in the best possible place. Sparkbrook was, undoubtedly, the best place, especially in the case of emergency. He was aware that Enfield was the pet so far as official influence was concerned, and it was time that the question should be brought before the House as a practical one, so that that official influence might not be allowed much longer to spend such enormous sums year after year on what could only be termed an exotic. They had never raised any question about Enfield until they were in a measure challenged by the extraordinary way in which it had become the pet not of successive Governments, but, he believed, of the officials connected with this branch of the Public Service. He would therefore conclude with again thanking his right hon. Friend for the kind manner in which he had received the representations placed before him, and for having gone so far, at any rate, as to allow this factory to be continued as a going concern instead of being dismantled and being practically reduced to a position of uselessness.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
Perhaps I may be allowed to intervene for a short time. The Vote raises, or might raise, a question of the very greatest importance, which I hope may some time be brought to the attention of the Committee, and that is the continual growth of Government establishments for the manufacture of arms. That is not a question as between two rival Government establishments, but as between Government establishments and private firms. Now, I entertain the opinion which, I believe, was entertained by those who originally created the Government establishments at Enfield, that such a manufactory ought to be in the nature of an experimental factory, that it ought to be created and maintained for the purpose' of making experiments, for the purpose of testing inventions, and for the purpose of controlling prices, so that prices might not be left entirely to what might 552 become a ring of private manufacturers to the disadvantage of the public. But it is not in accordance with the original idea under which the factories were created, and it is not in the public interest that they should have grown to their present enormous extent. The effect of creating great Government establishments of the kind is to discourage private manufacturers, and in a great war it is upon private manufacturers that you have to depend. You will then find that they have been very largely discouraged and prevented from taking their proper rank, owing to the growth of these Government establishments. That matter, however, must be postponed to another occasion. To-night the only question raised is the question of the way in which the Government has dealt with the two Government establishments at Birmingham and at Enfield. I am quite certain that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has regarded this matter with absolute impartiality, and that it is his desire and intention to do perfect justice as between the two establishments, but neither my right hon. Friend nor any Secretary of State is absolutely his own master in a matter of this kind. He has to deal with an old official vested interest which has grown up at Enfield, and which is, I am afraid, too strong for almost any temporary head of the War Department. I think that that is proved by the way in which the Estimates are prepared on the present occasion. The very fact that the moment these Estimates were brought to the knowledge of my right hon. Friend he endeavoured to make some kind of satisfactory arrangement shows that he himself must have been astonished by the Estimates which were prepared for him by his official advisers. What is the state of the case? Here at a time when the Government thought themselves unable to continue the manufacture of arms, and when accordingly they withdrew all their orders from the two Government establishments, we actually find one of those establishments—the greater, the more powerful, the one with the more established vested interest—is able to come to Parliament actually with an increase of £78,000 upon its wages, whereas there is a reduction of something like 60 per cent. in the 553 wages of the other factory. As I say, the contrast has boon to a considerable extent redressed by the action of the Secretary of State, and it would be ungracious in us not to accept very gratefully his intervention in the matter. There is only one other question I want to put, and that is, whether, under these circumstances—which involve the continuous employment of, as I understand, at any rate the greater part of the Spark-brook establishment at full time during the year—it is desirable to proceed with the intention announced by my right hon. Friend of dismantling a portion of the machinery at Sparkbrook in order to make room for the manufacturing establishment at Bagot Street. I believe that if this proceeding is carried out there will be a very serious additional and unnecessary expenditure involved, because what will happen will be this: The machinery will be dismantled at a great cost, and if, hereafter, there be a demand for that machinery, it will have to be replaced, also at great cost. I am convinced that the cost of dismantling it and replacing it would more than pay for an addition in the shape of temporary or other sheds which might be added to the existing establishment at Sparkbrook. The only cost would be the building of a shed, which would not, I am convinced, cost more than the expense of removing and again replacing the machinery. I still hope that my right hon. Friend, in view of the altered circumstances, may be willing to reconsider or even to postpone his determination: but whatever is decided, I desire to thank him for his reconsideration of the Vote on the present occasion.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,
who was indistinctly heard, said: I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend and to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley for the kindly way in which they have spoken of my action in this matter. I have done no more than my duty in listening carefully to and inquiring most minutely into the view of the question which they have put so moderately and so reasonably before me. With regard to the question of maintaining Bagot Street, or transferring it, as my right hon. Friend has just suggested, to some temporary building, leaving the Sparkbrook factory intact, 554 I have looked carefully into the matter, and the conclusion I am driven to is that there would be great economy and great increased efficiency in having a repairing establishment under the same management as Sparkbrook, and, therefore, it is proposed to discontinue Bagot Street. There would be great additional expense in the erection of additional buildings to Sparkbrook, and I am informed by those who have gone carefully into the matter that the removal of the machinery would not be so costly as my right hon. Friend seems to anticipate. Into the general question regarding the rivalry of Enfield and Birmingham I am not disposed to enter at present. I have, on more than one occasion, expressed my views on that subject. I can assure my right hon. Friend that there is with us no favouritism for one over the other; on the contrary, we are most anxious to encourage the manufacture of rifles in that which is the natural seat of manufacture—namely, Birmingham; and as a proof of our desire to do that, I may say that we have just made an arrangement which will practically imply a considerable extension of eiders from the private trade in Birmingham for another year than that which is immediately before us. My right hon. Friends have pointed out that the Estimate as it stands shows a great increase at Enfield and a, diminution at Spark-brook for the coming year. But the Estimate is arranged on the understanding that the two factories are to be worked as parts of our Government establishment, and, therefore, there will be no difficulty in removing from one to the other any part of the work, and, accordingly, within the last two or three days I have been able to arrange that an order for new rifles, which we expect to receive from the Admiralty within a short time, shall be transferred to the Sparkbrook account from the Enfield account, and that will keep the establishment going. I have tried to meet the reasonable anxiety of my right hon. Friends in this matter, and I hope that, after all, there may not be so much, as they imagine there is, of a desire on the part of the officials of the Department to favour Enfield. It must be remembered that at Enfield the machinery is capable of manu- 555 facturing a large number of weapons of different kinds which are not manufactured at Sparkbrook. The machinery at Sparkbrook is applicable to the manufacture of the Lee-Metford rifle, but Maxim guns and machine guns and a large number of weapons of different descriptions cannot be manufactured thereat all. I am very glad, however, that my right hon. Friends are so far satisfied, and I can only say that we have done no more than our duty in making the arrangements we have made.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
My right hon. Friend has made a statement which is of very great interest to the private trade. Can he give us any further information as to that matter? Are orders to be given which will employ the private trade next year as well as the present year?
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I mentioned it to show the desire we have to encourage and keep going the private trade in Birmingham.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
If prices are satisfactory to my right hon. Friend there will be work to give employment for another year?
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, that in previous years orders had been given at Birmingham for Maxim guns and other kinds, which he believed were executed in a satisfactory manner and at somewhat lower prices than elsewhere.
§ MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)
said, some of his hon. Friends desired to raise certain questions in regard to eight hours, wages, and other matters, and he wanted to know whether the Chairman would consider such discussion allowable on the Stores Vote proposed to betaken in April or May?
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.