HC Deb 16 March 1894 vol 22 cc507-19

said, that in drawing attention to the Notice of Motion standing in his name he felt that he ought to apologise for calling their attention to rather an old worn subject; but as it was of such vital importance to the Army, he thought he had right on his side in doing so. He thought it was as important to find the men for the Army as to elaborate schemes such as the one they had just heard for dealing with the men when they got them into the Army. And he was the more inclined to do so because the present Secretary of State for War had shown a benevolent sympathy towards them when they had earned the right, as Reserve men and discharged soldiers, to obtain employment. If the right hon. Gentleman were in his place he should have been glad to have congratulated him on the recruiting Return that had just been issued, because he believed the condition of the recruits and the satisfactory state of the recruiting department was largely due to the right hon. Gentleman, who had greatly improved the condition of the private soldier in barracks, in regard to his clothing, his sea kit, and comfort generally, and by so doing had caused recruiting to look better this year than for a considerable time past. The question to which he desired to call the attention of the House was not one of sentiment, but purely one of business. The War Department had got to find 40,000 recruits every year; it had got to get them from somewhere, because, unlike the Continental countries, ours was a volunteer and not a conscript Army, and the result was, that in order to get recruits, they had to prepare a trap. A good deal of that sort of thing had been done during past times; but whilst the right hon. Gentleman had been in Office matters had considerably altered, for which the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to the thanks of the Army. But one thing, and that one of the most important, had been practically omitted from the consideration of the War Office in this matter, and that was the employment of the Reserve and discharged men, which was a matter insisted upon by every Inspector General of Recruiting, from Lord Cameron down to General Fielding, who was now Inspector General of Recruiting at the War Office, and the matter had been alluded to by every man on Lord Wantage's Committee, about which they had heard so much two years ago. It was a patriotic necessity, and would have to be done sooner or later. The condition of things appeared to be that practically about 30,000, more or less, took their discharge annually; of these about 17,000 went into the Army Reserve. These figures were approximately correct, for 600,000 men during the last 20 years had been discharged from the Army. The question that presented itself to some of them was what had become of all those men. If they believed the statements of General Booth, which did not gain universal credence, they found that something like 10 per cent. of them formed the corner men in the streets, but certainly every man who kept his eyes open could see that, a very great proportion of the men on tramp and those taking refuge in the casual wards were Reserve and discharged soldiers. The condition of these men was most miserable; they could not get employment owing to the fear that employers entertained of their being called out; they could not emigrate, as that would render a Reserve man liable to prosecution, and therefore they were allowed to starve on 6d. a day, as it was not, enough to keep than in a decent condition or to get them proper food. A manufacturer, as a rule, would not take on Reserve men because they were liable to be called out on service, and there was another feeling that, if the Government would not do anything to find places for these men there was no reason why manufacturers should put themselves out of the way for that purpose. There were, however, some notable exceptions: some of the railways largely employed Reserve men, amongst them the London and North Western, and the London, Chatham, and Dover, and some large manufacturers in London. One large firm of manufacturers in the Midland Counties, represented in this House by a gentleman sitting on the other side, was honourably distinguished in its employment of Reserve and discharged soldiers. He would ask how it was possible to carry on recruiting under favourable conditions while thousands of discharged soldiers were going about the country decrying the Army and advising their friends not to enlist? An old soldier— and nowadays a man was an old soldier at the age of about 25—went amongst his people and said, "I enlisted; I was promised a free kit and rations, and got neither. When I took my discharge I was unable to obtain employment; I am nobody's child; I am a wanderer on the face of the earth, and I would advise you not to take the Queen's shilling." They did not ask that the Government should find a berth for all these men as Directors or at the Bank of England; but they might do something, and he would point out what he thought they might do without expense, and afterwards what they might do in another way that would cause a little extra expense. They might find more work than they did for these men at Enfield and Woolwich. Something like 12,000 workmen were employed at Enfield and Woolwich, of whom about 4,000 were labourers, and these places could lie very well taken by Reserve and discharged soldiers. They all knew that a Return was recently issued—one he moved for himself—showing the number of Government Offices which might be filled by old soldiers, but which was not filled by them, these posts being occupied by the nominees of gentlemen who had no connection with the Army. There were various berths that might be filled by old soldiers at Kew Gardens, the National Gallery, and the British Museum. During the late Government the right hon. Gentleman who was in charge of the Post Office, the Member for Manchester (Sir J. Fergusson), took a step which was cordially approved by men connected with the Service. The right hon. Gentleman gave employment in the Post Office to Reserve and discharged men. But after the retirement of the right hon. Gentleman that arrangement was allowed to lapse, and he knew he was light in saying that during the last three months only some 5 per cent. of the Reservists had found berths in the Post Office. He believed very many of the, Postmasters wished to put their sons into the telegraph messenger service, and then promote them to postmen, but that was not the intention of the late Government and the Postmaster General at that time. He would venture to point out what he thought the Government should do. They ought to establish a central bureau at the War Office, having branch offices at all the depôt centres, where a list, should be kept of the names of these men, so that they could thus obtain work when they wanted it. It would not, cost much to have these offices all over the country, and the Government might also strengthen the hands of existing Associations that found employment for Reserve and discharged soldiers. Except for a small grant, from the Government, these Associations were supported by voluntary contributions; they had found employment for 4,000 of these men last year, and they had found employment for 12,000 soldiers during the six years they bad been established, and had enabled them to earn an aggregate of wages amounting to something like £750,000. He thought these Associations were worthy of more support than they got from Her Majesty's Government, and he failed to see why the Government should not support them more than they did by an extra grant. In foreign countries they found that, every non-commissioned officer, after 15 years' service, was entitled to a berth under the Government, and in Germany there were 70,000 berths which soldiers could obtain under the Government. In Austria-Hungary something like 15,000 soldiers were employed on the railways, and he could not understand why the Government should not adopt some system of the kind in this country. he could not understand how it, was that the House could vote large sums of money with a light heart for objects not so important as this. Only last night the House voted £60,000 for the ranges at Shoeburyness when they ought not to require a tenth of that sum. Though the Secretary for War had done much, he thought he might do more. The right hon. Gentleman was the first War Minister who ever advised the Treasury to give a grant to an Association for finding employment for discharged soldiers, and when he came into Office again six years afterwards he increased the grant; and if the right hon. Gentleman would only use the great influence he possessed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would he able to still further increase the sum. By so doing he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would not only earn the gratitude of soldiers and the men who represented them in this House, but would be giving the greatest support to recruiting all over the country, and earn the gratitude of the British soldier all over the world. At this time of the day he did not wish to detain the House further, and would simply move the Motion standing in his name.

SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somerset, Wellington)

said, he agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend as to the want of employment for Reserve and discharged soldiers, and the deplorable effect the want of employment must have on the recruiting. In walking through London he was frequently appealed to by men who bad served with the Colours to get them employment—men who bore excellent characters. There was also another matter closely connected with this subject, and that was the great number of men who were employed in fatigues in their garrison towns and largo camps—men who were serving with the Colours. He did not think any hon. Member could go to Aldershot or any garrison town without finding a large number of men employed in fatigues; not military fatigues, hut in weeding gardens, looking after the wash house, and other duties that were not military but civilian, and women's duties. It was with great regret that he saw men employed in that way and taken from their military work. How was it to be expected that a commanding officer could get his men ready for inspection and field days when half his men were taken away for these duties? They did not clothe men in the Queen's uniform for these domestic purposes, but to make soldiers of them, and to train them for that purpose. It bad struck him, and he made this suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, that many of these unemployed men in the Reserve could he used in their large camps and garrison towns to carry out what he might call civilian fatigues. At the present moment they were paying: men in the Army Reserve 3d. a day for practically doing nothing. A man left the Guards after three years and served nine years in the Reserves; in the Line he served five years in the Reserves: to call out all of them would take 40 years, so that it was obvious they would never all be called out; therefore, it came to this—that we were paying 6d. a day for the problematical chance of requiring their services in the event of war. He would therefore suggest that they should pay them a little more and make them do some of these ordinary garrison and camp fatigues. The advantage of that would-be that they would have the whole of the men serving with the Colours available for drill, musketry, and military duties, so that the commanding officers would be capable of turning out a proper fighting machine: and, secondly, a great number of Army men would not be travelling about the country contracting bad habits and advising people not to enlist, but who would be in touch with military life, and who could be trained in the use of the new rifle. In this way they would not have on field days and at inspection a number of what he might call amateur gardeners having in their hands a rifle of which they knew nothing. Another advantage would be that it would greatly relieve the labour market in London and our large towns. They heard a great deal about the unemployed, and these were made up in great part by Army Reserve men; therefore, if they found employment for these men in fatigue duties, they would to a large extent relieve the labour market. He begged to second the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, This House deplores the want of employment among discharged and Reserve men, and calls on the Government to remedy the evil by strengthening the existing voluntary institutions or forming a bureau at the War Office for that purpose,"—(Major Rasch,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

CAPTAIN BAGOT (Westmoreland, Kendal)

thought that in this matter what they required was more than general sympathy. Last year the inquiries of British attachés at Berlin and Paris and in Austria and Italy showed that the Continental system worked exceedingly well. In Continental countries they had a, regular system under Government for giving employment to well-behaved old soldiers and sailors after a service of a certain number of years with the colours; and if they in this country were to do anything to popularise the Army and to induce a better class of recruit to join the Service it would be by adopting the Continental system. But he found that out of 7,860 places which the Government could fill with messengers and clerks only 417, or about 5 per cent., were filled by old soldiers or sailors of good character. In 1877 Mr. Childers's Committee recommended strongly in favour of some alteration in the existing state of affairs with regard to the employment of old soldiers and sailors, but, so far as he saw, nothing had been done to carry out its recommendations. As an example of some places that might be filled by the Government with such men, he would mention that at the British Museum since 1887 30 messengers had been appointed by the Government. In this and any other Public Department an old soldier or sailor would be well fitted for the position of messenger, but out of the 30 so appointed not a single one was either an old soldier or sailor. It might perhaps be said that the majority of the attachés, to whom he had referred, were soldiers, and might be supposed to be one-sided in favour of those who belonged to their was profession; but the Minister at Be the, Sir E. Malet, was not a soldier, and in a letter accompanying his Report he wrote that if such employment were assured in the United Kingdom to soldiers of good conduct, the general public would gain largely through the increased efficiency of the Departments, as old soldiers of good character worked exceedingly well. That was the testimony of a civilian as to the advantage the Public Departments would gain by the appointment of these men. On the Continent there was conscription, but the British forces were entirely voluntary, and if they wished to obtain good recruits they must offer them some inducement; and if the men knew that by good character they would obtain a situation when they left the Army, it would be an inducement to them to be have well while in the Army, as well as an inducement to enter it. He therefore hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give them an assurance or something more definite than mere general sympathy.


I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend who brought forward this Motion that I am able most sincerely to repeat my expression of sympathy that seems to be thought of so little value—not by him, as he was much too kind in the way he spoke of something I was able to do, and gives me credit for a good deal more than I have been able to do. At all events, I am extremely glad to be associated with him in obtaining employment for Reserve and discharged men in the Army. I have great sympathy with all that is said as to the desirableness of employing old and discharged soldiers, but I would caution hon. Members not to press it too far. I do not think it possible to give an absolute pledge of employment; I do not believe it would be possible, and it might he dangerous to convey the idea that such a pledge had been given. It must be remembered that old soldiers—and I say it as one sincerely their friend—do not monopolise all the claims to the charitable and benevolent consideration of the public!; there are many others in the community who have to be considered. We have gone as far as we can in the way of employment under Government Departments. Some of the instances mentioned, where it is thought more might be done, do not relate to Government Departments at all. I imagine that those persons employed at the British Museum are employed by the Trustees of the Museum. Then we are shown the example of Germany and other foreign countries who provide huge numbers of places for old soldiers. Yes, but there the whole of the railway system and many other large public sources of employment are in the hands of the State, and they can employ whom they like, whereas in this country there is only a limited number of posts to which old soldiers can be appointed in the Public Departments. Allusion has been made to the Post Office and what was done by my right hon. Friend opposite, the late Postmaster General. There has been no going back from anything that has been done, and from what I have heard on inquiry not many weeks ago I am satisfied there is just the same proportion of Reserve men and old soldiers being employed in the Post Office as was the case a few years ago. One thing I confess I have an objection to—namely, that in order to encourage recruiting in the Army, Post Office messengers or boys should be promised further employment in the Department if they went into the Army and served their time there as soldiers. I do not think that is in accordance with the voluntary system of service which we have been accustomed to in this country. Though not quite a kind of conscription the practice forms really a species of practical compulsion of service, and I do not think that is a good or proper arrangement. We should remember that oven in the Post Office when a vacancy occurs for a messenger or in any other capacity the Department has to consider the claims of their own servants as well as the claims of old soldiers. From all the inquiries I have made I am satisfied that a full chance is given for employment of old soldiers in the Post Office at the present time just as existed a year or two ago. Then as to what we can do for Societies in this matter. The War Office gives a contribution towards the Society which undertakes the business connected with outside employment; but from the best advice we can get from those who are best acquainted with the matter, we are opposed to going further, and establishing a bureau at the War Office. It is thought that a bureau at the War Office would be an isolated office—that there would be very little practical acquaintance with the circumstances of each case, and that you can better employ the agencies of a private institution which would offer a chance of employment on the spot to old soldiers who sought it. I have been somewhat struck with some figures I have received on the subject. To begin with, let me quote this from a very strong advocate of the employment of old soldiers. General Feilding says that from reliable sources of information it is believed there are no large numbers of soldiers who have been discharged from the Army with good characters and of sober habits who have not been able to obtain employment of some kind after their discharge. That is a very strong opinion coming from a General Officer who is as intimately acquainted with the subject as any one I could mention. And the figures he quotes are these. There were registered in the local registers of the Association within the year 6,775 men for employment; of those 3,824 were offered employment, and 2,914 accepted it, while 847 declined. It does not appear from that that want of employment arises from a lack of opportunity of getting it. The War Office gives a contribution towards the Society which undertakes this business connected with outside employment, and on a very wholesome plan. We give to it half the amount that the public have subscribed to it in the previous year. I think that is a very good test of the healthiness of the Society we are supporting, for it must receive considerable public support before we grant anything. That is the foundation on which we have gone and will continue our contribution. We will do all we can, and personally I will do all I can in the way of finding employment in other Departments, but we must not be too sanguine of results on a great scale. I am sure the wish of every one in the House is to see full justice done to these old soldiers. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite suggests that they should be employed in connection with the camps. But that would only be for a short time in the year, and would not afford any very large amount of employment. The Government will keep their eyes and ears open, and if in any way assistance can be rendered I shall be only too ready to help. But hon. Members must dismiss from their minds the idea that in this country we can ever possess such a power as is possessed by the Governments of other countries—the power of finding places for all the men who have served their country in the ranks of the Army.

MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)

said, it was evident there was a strong feeling—which he knew that the right hon. Gentleman shared—that if any step could be taken for the employment of old soldiers either in the Reserve or only partially employed, it would be of great service to the Army and to the public. No doubt it was extremely difficult to make progress in this matter. The employment of old soldiers in the Public Offices remained practically where it was four or five years ago: and he thought the right hon. Gentleman would admit that, looking at the subject as a whole, practically no progress had been made during the last few years. At the same time, he must urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that there was room for taking up this subject in a more active manner. My right hon. Friend had given some particulars in this matter, but whether with regard to his own administration or that of his predecessors certainly the policy was the same. As the Select Committee of 1877 had been alluded to, he would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite this question. Since that Committee reported 17 years had passed: and though efforts had been made by himself, as by his predecessors, to get employment for old soldiers and sailors, they had not been quite so successful as could be wished. They did not object on that side of the House to a Select Committee being appointed by this House, not to inquire into the whole question, but to inquire how far the suggestions of the Committee of 1877 had been carried out, what remained to be done by the Government which had not been done at the present time, and what had been done by private enterprise in this matter; and also to inquire into the question of the establishment of a Labour Bureau, either in connection with the War Office or in connection with the depots. He did not wish for a moment to press his right hon. Friend or to force his band. He knew the right hon. Gentleman had the subject fully at heart. He knew also that this was but one among a number of Public Departments, and that they could not control others; but a point had been reached when some further inquiry of a limited scope, which need not occupy a very long time or involve the examination of any great number of witnesses, would be advantageous to the Army. Such a step would take away from private employers great responsibilities, while enabling them to carry out a great duty, and would give an assurance to the public that employment would be found for old soldiers. Every patriotic English- man ought to do his best in furtherance of such an object.


I can only say, in the first, place, that I will turn the suggestion over in my mind, but I scarcely think the matter is pressing enough to justify such a step. Perhaps I may add that one of my colleagues has informed me that a messenger-ship having become vacant in his Office, he has declined to present an old butler, and has decided to recommend a retired soldier, and he has written to the War Office for that purpose.

* COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

said, this was a question of great importance to the large towns throughout the country, and the Government Departments ought to set a much better example. In a great many large towns labour bureaux had been formed for enabling retired soldiers to obtain employment, and everything possible had been done to render them assistance. Although the right hon. Gentleman had done a great deal in this matter by doubling the official subscription to the head Society, it was hoped he would see his way to do more still. Between 1887 and 1893, out of 945 Government messengers appointed, only 324 were retired soldiers and sailors; and out of 6,915 clerks only 93 were formerly in the Army, Navy, or Royal Marines. That was a very small proportion indeed. It was not only in the War Office, Admiralty, and Treasury Departments that such appointments might be made, but the messengers about the House might also be selected from deserving non-commissioned officers and those who had retired from the Army and the Navy. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman during the period that he remained Secretary of State for War would find himself able to do a little more than he had done in the past, and confer thereby great advantages upon the country and the Services. Every man who obtained employment on leaving the Services was an advertisement and an encouragement to recruiting. Seeing that good berths were obtained through the good offices of Government Departments other young men were induced to join the Army and Navy by being told by the retired men that after passing a pleasant time in the Service, and having done their duty to their country, if their con- duct had been good the Government would take care of them.


agreed that to further this object would be good for recruiting and for the good of the Army in general. How often it happened that the soldier realised that his years of service had been wasted, and that on leaving the Army he found himself without resources of livelihood. It was absolutely for the well-being of the Army that some steps should be taken in the matter, but he would suggest that there should be some alteration made in the system of deferred pay of the soldier in order to induce him to remain in the colours, instead of bribing him to go out of the Army. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would take this into consideration, for he felt that any alteration made in that respect would be for the benefit of the Services.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question again proposed.

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