HC Deb 19 March 1896 vol 38 cc1389-413

On the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill,—

MR. H. C. F. LUTTRELL (Devon, Tavistock)

said, he did not contend that this Bill might not be useful in giving opportunities for the gaining of greater experience and in testing the capacities of officers, but he did object to the Bill because he looked upon it as a dangerous Bill—a Bill dangerous to private and public rights. He said, further, that it was an innovation inconsistent with constitutional principles. They had had manœuvres before, and how had they been conducted? There was always some special arrangement made beforehand. If manœuvres were on a small scale, voluntary arrangements were made with the different farmers, landowners, and commoners and others. If the manœuvres were on a large scale, it had been found necessary to have an Act passed for the purpose of acquiring land, giving compensation, and seeing that local opinion was listened to. This Bill proposed to make a complete change. It proposed that by an Order in Council land to any extent and for any period could be proscribed, and this land would be a sort of no-man's-land, but only soldiers' land. The remedy against this seizure was to be an address of that House to the Sovereign, and they all knew that an Address could only come on after midnight, and that it was an extremely difficult thing to carry. They were placing great difficulties in the way of the localities. They were removing the burden from one shoulder to another. At present the burden was on the Government of the day to show the necessity of taking land for military purposes. It was now proposed to move the burden from the shoulders of the Government on to the shoulders of others who would find it far more difficult to carry these proposals than the Government would. They had hitherto kept a careful hand on the military, and both sides agreed that they could not show too great care in preventing the military spirit gaining power over the civil institutions of the country. They had seen in other countries the danger of military ascendancy, but here, the ascendancy had been hitherto kept in check. He would turn to the details of the Bill to show what was the dangerous character of this Bill if made permanent. Of whom would the Consultative Commission be composed? They were to have the Lord Lieutenant of the county and two of his deputies, two local representatives who would be local County Councillors, and any number of men whom the Secretary of State for War might be pleased to put upon it, besides the General in command of the forces. In fact, the Commission would be a military Commission. He pointed out that all common and meadow lands might be taken by the Order in Council, and on these common lands trenches could be dug and earthworks thrown up, greatly interfering with common rights. Besides the consultative Commission would have the power of taking other land, not even excepting cultivated land or land with standing crops. There were certain exceptions, however; he noticed that the preserves of the rich man were regarded with greater care. By this Bill the rich man's park was not to be touched, but it allowed the military authorities to go upon the commons, which were the parks of the people. He could picture to himself many large private parks which would be quite as suitable for a camp of soldiers as a common, and he did not think the difference ought to be made between the one and the other. This Consultative Commission also had power to take water, to decide what roads should be taken, and to take part in the arbitration for compensation. The Commission was not sufficiently representative of the civilian element in the country, and the compensation would not, under the Bill, be adequate. Under the old Bills which had been proposed heretofore, the military forces were not allowed to go upon land which was under cultivation, or which was growing standing crops or had root crops in it; but under this Bill they would be able to go upon any farm land. The special magistrates would have tremendous powers; they had had, he knew, the same powers before, but two wrongs did not make a right. It was proposed under this Bill to make a new law of trespass. A man might be brought before the magistrate for walking about his own neighbourhood, say, to see another farmer. The magistrate would practically be both judge and jury, and if he had seen the man commit the offence, he could convict him without any sworn evidence whatever, and punish him. That was, he thought, very dangerous. The old proposals, moreover, were temporary, whereas this would be permanent. He urged the Government to proceed either by means of a special Bill, or by a Provisional Order, as this would not be so great a change, and the opinions of the localities would then, to a great extent, be taken into consideration. He believed that an Act of 1873, which was passed for the purpose of allowing manœuvres on Dartmoor by a special clause, protected the rights of the people in the locality; but if the present Bill were adopted, these special clauses could not be inserted. He did not object to further facilities being given for the exercise of troops, but he looked upon the present proposal as one likely to restrict the control over these matters which Parliament should exercise, and to endanger the interests of the localities. He concluded by moving:— That any such exceptional interference with the rights of property and the liberty of the subject as is contemplated by the Military Manœuvres Bill should, so far as it may be found to be necessary in the public interests, he allowed only alter the sanction of Parliament has been obtained in each case by means of a special Act or confirmed provisional Order.


seconded the Motion. He said the case for the agricultural interests concerned had been ably put by his hon. Friend; but he himself would speak on behalf of a different interest. Besides interfering with the privileges of those who lived in the localities, he thought the Bill would also interfere in no inconsiderable degree with the privileges of town and industrial communities, who took advantage of these common lands for purposes of health and recreation. He thought that considerable discontent would thus be caused. His hon. Friend had pointed out that the Consultative Commission would be practically composed of the land-owning and military interests. The two gentlemen nominated by the County Council would naturally be in a minority, and yet they might represent the popular feeling of the district. He did not see under what circumstances the Commission could be composed of less than five persons, and therefore they must always be in a minority. He ventured to say that it was absolutely essential that there should be some opportunity other than that provided in this Bill for revising the proposals of the War Office in regard to military manœuvres. He was bound to say that his experience of Lord Lieutenants did not lead him to believe that they were the champions of the popular rights of the localities in which they resided. He would suppose that a considerable tract of land was proscribed in Surrey, where the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill was a resident, and had a very considerable interest. Let them assume that the property consisted of two kinds, one part being common land, and the other part of agricultural land held by a number of small tenants. How were the latter to obtain compensation for the loss they might sustain by their land being used for the purposes of the manœuvres. Unless the Amendments of the hon. Mover of the Amendment were introduced into the Bill, it would give rise to considerable discontent in the future, and the right hon. Gentleman himself would be the first to deplore that he had not adopted the suggestions that were now made to him.


said that he did not rise for the purpose of supporting the Amendment, which appeared to him to be an altogether impracticable one. He greatly regretted that the Mover of the Amendment had tacked the Amendment on to his remarks, many of which were well worthy of the attention of the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. In his opinion, the Amendment was not only impracticable, but, if carried, it would entirely destroy the whole value of the Measure, but nevertheless he hoped that attention would be given to the points that had been raised by the hon. Gentleman who moved it. For his own part, he was more interested in the preservation of our large commons than in maintaining the rights of private owners who could easily defend themselves. Under the Bill as it stood the "prescribed limits" were to be laid down by the Commanding Officer in conjunction with the Consultative Commission. Clause 2 of the Bill proposed to enact that— Within the prescribed limits and during the prescribed period the forces as defined by this Act may:—(a) with their arms, munitions of war and stores, pass over and execute military munœuvres on any unenclosed and any authorised enclosed land, whether public or private; and (b) encamp on any unenclosed or authorised enclosed land; and (c) dig trenches and throw up temporary field works on any unenclosed or authorised enclosed land for the purpose of any encampment or for military exercises. Under those provisions the whole of Dartmoor might be practically destroyed by having field works erected on or trenches dug in it, and places of interest to antiquarians might be entirely ruined, without any regard to common rights or to the preservation of ancient monuments and local beauties and characteristics. In his opinion, when this Bill went into Committee, some clauses ought to be introduced into it that would give protection, in the cases he indicated. Of course, he might be told that serious dangers were never to be apprehended, and he did not for one moment suppose that trenches would be dug or temporary fortifications erected round Stonehenge. He hoped, however, that the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would be prepared to adopt the suggestion he had made, and would propose, some provisions which would protect localities of an interesting character.


said, that when this Bill was originally introduced he had been afraid that it might interfere with the proposed scheme for the purchase of large tracts of land by the Government to be used for the training of our troops. He presumed, however, that notwithstanding the passing of this Bill, that scheme would in all probability be considered within a short time, and therefore he need not fear the passing of this Measure in some form or another. He looked upon the Bill as being of the utmost value to the permanent training of our troops, and therefore he felt it to be his duty to oppose the Amendment that had been moved by the hon. Member for Tavistock. The hon. Member had contended that this Bill was going to be permanent. He had understood the hon. Member, however, to admit that the principle of the Measure was exceedingly valuable, and that in fact it was absolutely necessary for the efficient training of our Army. The hon. Gentleman opposed the Bill because he regarded it as being constitutionally dangerous, and as being an innovation. The hon. Member said that he was afraid that it would encourage the growth of a military spirit in the country, which might render the Army a menace to our liberties. The hon. Gentleman appeared to forget that the country must be defended, and that our Army was absolutely necessary to enable us to exist. In his view there need be no fear that this country would ever again be placed under such a military despotism as we had in the 17th century. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think it possible that a Government might come into office which might use the powers conferred by this Bill to oppress certain parts of the country which were opposed to them. Seeing, however, that a Tory Government represented the landlord interest, the hon. Gentleman might rest assured that they would do nothing to oppress the country. The hon. Gentleman must therefore use his influence with his own side of the House to prevent such a serious result from following the passing of this Bill. He thought, however, that the House might safely-trust any Government not to use these powers unfairly. The hon. Member had said that it was wrong to make use of the commons for this purpose, but commons would be much more useful for carrying out the objects of the Bill than enclosed grounds would be. If they used the farms the claim for compensation would be very large. The hon. Seconder of the Amendment had said that if the commons were used for the purposes of the Bill, a great deal of the enjoyment of the people would be taken away, but his experience led him to believe that the people were very pleased to visit a camp and set up stalls for gingerbread and lemonade there like a fair. The hon. Member for Tavistock had objected to fields in cultivation being taken, but he could assure the hon. Member that nothing so much interfered with the success of military manœuvres as isolated fields of that character, which, if exempted from the operation of the Bill would render all military plans futile. We ought rather to follow the example of the German nation, and pay generously for any damage that resulted to the crops from being trampled upon by the troops. The result was that the compensation, being generous and liberal, the presence of the troops was not unpopular, and he believed that would be the case in this country under the same circumstances. He trusted, therefore, that the compensation given under the Bill would be liberal, and that a return would not be made to the system which had obtained since this Acts which had been referred to were passed. That system had been what he might call a system of amateur manœuvres. Officers had had to go down and make more or less private arrangements with the landlords and farmers to permit troops to manœuvre over their land. This amateur plan was a very bad one. The result of it had been to try and save money on the amount granted by Parliament, and very considerable friction had been caused by the amount of the compensation being cut down. This Bill would remedy that, and he hoped that hon. Members would see their way to support it for the good of the Army, seeing that under the conditions of modern warfare these large massings of the three arms of the Service together were absolutely necessary for the defence of the Empire.

On the return of Mr. Speaker after the usual interval,


said, he did not oppose the Bill as a whole, because he knew that it was necessary that our troops should be exercised in the way provided by it. He was not one of those who was ready to agree with his hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock that the Bill was objectionable, because he saw that there were many reasons why Provisional Orders might be troublesome if the War Office came year after year to Parliament in order to obtain its consent. Not only would this be troublesome to the War Office, but it was worthy of consideration whether it was not possible to relieve the House of additional business being brought before the House which was unnecessary. At the same time he did not agree with many of the details of the Bill. In fact, he thought that if the Bill was to become a permanent Measure, it was necessary that it should be recast in a very drastic manner in the interests of the occupiers of land and houses, whose interests seemed to be prejudiced under it. He would be the last to deny that it was necessary for farmers as well as for others to make any sacrifice necessary for the public good, and it was certainly necessary that our troops should be manœuvred, and every facility given towards that end. He thought, however, that the farmers and occupiers were entitled to ample and generous compensation. The Bill was drawn in a military sense in the interests of the War Office. It could not, be said to sufficiently protect the interests of the farmer from an agricultural point of view. Practically a kind of military despotism was to be set up, because from the constitution of the Consultative Commission and the power given to it to appoint a Board of Arbitration, the whole machinery of the Bill, including compensation, was in the hands of Government Departments. The Compensation Officer was appointed, not by any public body in the district, such as the County Council, which would be an impartial body and likely to give general satisfaction. The officer was to be appointed by the Board of Agriculture. This was a Government Department, and although the interests of the agriculturists might now be safe under the President of the Board of Agriculture, yet as the Bill was to be a permanent Measure, there might be occasions when those in authority might not be so much in sympathy, or have so much practical knowledge, as the present occupant of the office. Those who represented agricultural interests, therefore, should look at this subject from an agricultural point of view, and see that the Government did not rush through a Measure which might be prejudicial to that interest. Clause 5 provided that the officer and the Consultative Commission, which was practically the War Office, should have power to make orders and regulations with respect to cattle and sheep, that was to say, power was possessed by a military body to order a tenant farmer to close his dairy, and shut up his live stock. This might be, most inconvenient, and might mean a great deal of loss to the farmer. A subsection of the same clause provided that an order might be made by public notice for the protection of cattle and sheep, and anyone neglecting this should not be entitled to claim compensation—that was to say, if a farmer dared to let out his cattle in the fields from the farmyard to water them he would be liable to fall under the condemnation of the Consultative Commission, who might deprive him of compensation. It might be said that that would not be put into force, but he took it that farmers did not wish to have an Act of Parliament passed which would give power to such a body to harass them. Then there was another provision, which, to his mind, was one of the most objectionable in the Bill as regarded the tenant farmer, though it applied also to the occupier of houses as well as of lands. That provision was contained in Clause 6, which laid down that immediately after a force had ceased to occupy or passed over the land, the claim was to be sent in at once, or, at the very latest, within one week. It was perfectly obvious that there might be many cases in which it would be impossible for a farmer to make his claim within one week.


Will the hon. Gentleman say in what class of cases it would not be possible?


said, he was surprised at the interruption. He should have thought that the hon. Gentleman as one interested in agriculture, or at any rate in land, would know that there would be such cases as this, for example. Say a herd of dairy cows in a field, which, for some reason or another, had not been shut up. They might be frightened and disturbed; they might be hunted all over the country. They might suffer from that, either by slipping their calves, or, by getting heated and by getting chilled, the results of which might not appear for a considerable time. It was within his own knowledge that such a thing had happened in the case of young cattle who had been hunted about. He did not think that the Under Secretary would tell him that in such a case as that it would be possible for a farmer to make his claim for compensation within one week. Then, again, there was the question of the Court of Arbitration, which was a body of very large powers indeed. If the compensation officer made an award which the occupier of land or of a house objected to, it was necessary for him to make an appeal to the Court of Arbitration. That court had power not only to decide as regarded matters of fact, but also points of law. That might be right, but it certainly was an innovation to set up a court of laymen and give them the power of interpreting points of law, from which there was to be no appeal. He was aware that the object was to prevent expense and to make the procedure easy. But an appeal on any point of law might be made easy and cheap by giving an appeal for instance to a County Court Judge. The expense could not be great, and the appeal would be optional on the part of the tenant or man who was injured. If he appealed and made it expensive for no good reason whatever, the liability would rest upon him. On the other hand, there would be full protection for the claimant that he would not have his case, from the legal point, misunderstood and misjudged by laymen. He could not help thinking that his suggestion was worthy of the consideration of the Government. There was another section to which he might make reference now, as it was really connected with this point—namely, that which said that the Court of Arbitration should not be bound to hear counsel or solicitors. Of course it might be right that the War Office should not have the power of sending down the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General, but he could not understand why the Under Secretary should wish to deprive a tenant-farmer, who might not be able to argue his own case, or who might wish to have a solicitor to argue it for him, of the right to do so. It seemed to him very unfair and unjust to give the Court of Arbitration the power to refuse to hear solicitors. There was also another provision which said that the Court of Arbitration "may" in addition to compensation for damage, grant further compensation for costs reasonably incurred in substantiating a claim, or might refuse such costs, wholly or partially, or reduce the amount of compensation to a person claiming who refused an offer from the compensation officer. That seemed very unfair, and put the unfortunate claimant entirely in the hands of the Court of Arbitration. Every clause, every provision of this Bill was entirely in the interests of the war Office. It was quite clear that the framers of the Bill had not taken the trouble to see that this court should give the fullest and the most ample compensation in every respect, and that they should not be given this enormous discretionary power.


I think the hon. Member has not quite appreciated the fact that the compensating officer has nothing whatever to do with the Court of Arbitration.


said, he was appointed by the Board of Agriculture, and that was his argument, that they were appealing from one Government Department to another Government Department. If the Government were prepared to say they would, as regarded the questions affecting compensation and a constitutional tribunal, meet those agriculturists who objected to them, he had no objection to the Bill in any other respect, and he would not vote against it. But if, on the other hand, the Under Secretary said their objections were nonsense, and that they must trust the Government to do everything that was right in the matter, then it would be necessary for him to go into the Lobby against the Bill. He suggested that the hon. Member might consider whether he could not meet those interested in this matter by looking at it a little from an agricultural point of view, and modifying the provisions of the Bill and altering the means by which compensation would be adjudged and assessed.

COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)

urged that it was necessary there should be manœuvres every year, and that the House should not have annually to discuss matters of this kind. The system of compensation to farmers should be recognised here as it was in Prussia. There, even before a good harvest, the wish of the farmer was to have some manœuvres on his land. There should be manœuvres every year—each district in turn—and he believed that if the Alder-shot force took part, and every Reserve man was allowed to come up if he would, they would show what could be done under our present Army system, because more could be done than was generally believed in the country. It would be the best answer to those who believed our military system to be lamentably deficient. He should certainly support this Bill, because he firmly believed it would be to the advantage of the country.

MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S. W.)

said, he desired to call attention to the extraordinary criminal jurisdiction this Bill set up. He understood that the answer of the Under Secretary for War was that these provisions to which he referred, and to which he most strongly objected, were imported into this Bill from some other Acts. He regretted to find this was so. At the same time it could not fairly be contended that the Acts to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and this Bill, were upon all fours. There was a great difference. Those Acts—and he believed the latest was not more recent than 1882—were restricted in point of time and area. He believed it was the local character of those Bills which enabled them to slip through the House without securing the attention they ought to have received. At all events, he trusted for the honour of the House that those provisions which were repeated in this Bill were enacted by the House per incuriam. He regretted that the learned Attorney-General had lent the sanction of his great name to these provisions. The Bill enabled Her Majesty, by Order in Council, to prescribe an area of country of any size, to be used for any period for military manœuvres. Provisions were also made for licensing camp followers, and apparently it was contemplated that two or more counties might be involved. Considerable tracts of country might come under the operation of the Bill. Within those tracts of country the Bill enacted special offences. The provisions of the Bill created new offences of trespass. These new offences would require careful definition and investigation in Committee, and he suggested that by way of compromise this Bill should be referred to the Standing Committee on Law. The Bill also set up special criminal tribunals. What would be the jurisdiction of the new tribunals? Of course, they would have jurisdiction to try any new offences created by the Bill. But not only that, jurisdiction was given them to try and punish any offence whatever punishable by summary jurisdiction if committed by a stranger. In other words, it was proposed to give to these extraordinary tribunals power to sentence a man to six months' imprisonment with hard labour. This jurisdiction was limited to strangers, and it was necessary to inquire what a stranger was under the Bill. He was ''a person not the subject of military law, and accompanying a force for trading, amusement, or any other purpose whatever." It was clear from this that the term stranger would include gentlemen of the Press. He hoped the Press would take notice that its representatives would be liable to six months imprisonment with hard labour at the hands of this special tribunal. Now, as to the power of the tribunal and its freedom from restrictions. In the first place, no information in writing is required on which to found criminal proceedings. It was true that the summary Jurisdiction Acts did not, in express terms, require as a rule that there should be a written information as the foundation for criminal proceedings. But he believed he was right in saying that outside the Metropolis it was invariably the practice to require a written information. Whether it was or not, there was something more. There were many offences punishable summarily, in respect of which the law had specially prescribed that no criminal proceedings should be taken unless founded on a written information. The law had thought right that that special safeguard should exist in those cases, but this Bill came along, and, so far as gentlemen of the Press were concerned, and other strangers, this safeguard of the law was cut away. This was the first extraordinary proceeding. The next was, that a military tribunal was to be empowered to convict and punish upon its own view, without any evidence whatever. That was a most mischievous provision. It was obvious that a person might be well qualified to judge of the effect of evidence who was not an accurate observer of what passed under his own eyes. But this was not all. A person charged with a criminal offence has a right—that was the theory of the law—to cross-examine his accuser in the presence of a third and impartial person—namely, the judge. Here the accuser was himself the judge, and thus justice was defeated. He did not envy the fate of journalists who might be brought before some peppery military J.P., who saw, or fancied that he saw, them committing an offence. Under the ordinary law the jurisdiction of an "occasional Court" was limited to a fine of 20s. or 14 days' imprisonment, but under this Bill a couple of justices, sitting on a drain or a rail, would be empowered to sentence an offender to six months' hard labour. "Thus bad begins, but worse remains behind." Another clause provided that what was done by these special magistrates should not be impeached on the ground of any defect, formal or substantial, so that it was rendered impossible for any accused person afterwards to take exception to the jurisdiction. This was not to make law, but to set up a tyranny. Lastly, these magistrates were to be appointed by the Secretary for War, and he submitted that the method of appointment would be grossly unconstitutional, because the Secretary for War, being interested in the manœuvres, would not look impartially upon personal liberty or personal property as affected by the manœuvres. The alternative to this unconstitutional method of appointment was for the justices of a county or of counties combined to form a panel of magistrates specially qualified to exercise jurisdiction, and from the panel to draw up a rota of attendance. Unless satisfactory assurances were given, he should feel it his duty to divide against these odious and dangerous provisions.


desired, from the soldiers' point of view, to congratulate the military authorities on having brought forward this Bill. In past manœuvres the great difficulties had been encountered from the boundary restrictions placed upon commanders, so that the troops were deprived of the mobility and the officers of experience in the exercise of initiative. In warfare the only certainty was the unforeseen, whereas in the manœuvres there could be little that was not foreseen. Two armies were within a small area, and each knew that the other could not move a yard beyond a certain boundary. Therefore there could be no real manœuvres with the object of carrying out a strategic idea. A clause ought to be added to the Bill to enable troops to be detrained at any point, whether there was a station or not. This would often save time, and prevent needless marching of long distances; but railway companies could not, under existing regulations, detrain troops elsewhere than at station platforms, unless they were freed from the risk of actions for damages should accidents occur.


wished the Government could see their way to extend the provisions and advantages of this Bill to Scotland. If some of the provisions were such as had just been pointed out, he hoped they would be modified. It was true there were not many troops in Scotland, where they were not required to keep order, but more might be concentrated where they could be exercised together. If there was a deficiency of troops, there was a large number of the best volunteers in the island, and they would willingly dispense with some regimental and brigade camps among themselves if they had the chance, every two or three years, of being trained and exercised side by side, and under the same conditions as the regular forces. In the centre of Scotland, accessible by railway, there were tracts admirably suited for manœuvres on a large scale; and, instead of sending Scotch volunteers to Aldershot, it would be easy to give the regulation flavour to a larger body exercised in Scotland under conditions which would be popular, and would be bene- ficial to both volunteers and regulars. He could fully sympathise with the alarms expressed in regard to the Bill by his hon. friends behind him. Several Bills of this nature had been passed dealing with prospective manœuvres in a particular locality in a particular year. His hon. friends had looked into those Measures, and he was afraid that if they had pursued their archæological investigations further they would find his name on the back of the Bills. [Laughter] The provisions of those Bills when read in cold blood were of the most hair raising and blood-curdling character—[laughter]—but when put into effect they had not given rise, so far as he could recollect, to a single case of local grievance. ["Hear, hear!"] All questions of damages had been satisfactorily arranged; and no better proof of the popularity of the manœuvres could be had than the fact that the inhabitants of every locality in which they were held clamoured that they might be held there again. [Laughter and "Hear, hear."] His right hon. friend the Member for Monmouthshire (Sir W. Harcourt) told him that the inhabitants of the New Forest had last year viewed with apprehension the approaching manœuvres in the locality. But the troops had not been long there when it was discovered that it was the best thing that had ever happened to the locality; so much so, indeed, that the people were sorry when the forces left, and would be delighted to see them back again. But, of course, those manœuvres had not been held under the stringent provisions of the Bill now before the House. ["Hear, hear!''] He saw the force of a great deal that had been said against those provisions, and he thought the Government would find that passing a Bill for all time and for a whole country was a very different thing from passing a Bill for a locality and for a fixed time. ["Hear, hear!"] He would also point out that since 1882 not only the House of Commons, but public opinion outside, had become a good deal more sensitive and jealous in those matters. The Government, therefore, could not expect that the Bill would go through the House of Commons without very considerable discussion of its provisions, and it was extremely desirable that they should show every disposition, by accepting amendments and modifications, to meet what might be the popular view of the question. ["Hear, hear!"] But it must be remembered that the great object of those provisions, which seemed so strict, was to make it possible for the manœuvres to be carried out effectively. ["Hear, hear!"] Those provisions were directed, not against the inhabitants—not against the land occupier or the land owner—but against the tourists, the trippers, and the onlookers, who, if they were allowed to roam over the place at their own sweet will, would entirely frustrate the whole object of the manœuvres ["Hear, hear!"]; and, besides, as the provisions were only to be applied to a particular locality for a few hours, perhaps, of one day, they were not so big a thing as they seemed when looked at in the House of Commons. At the same time, he admitted that the Bill did give extraordinary powers, and did interfere in an extraordinary way with the ordinary liberties and rights of Her Majesty's subjects; and as it was to be a permanent law, irrespective of time and place, the House would only be doing its duty in giving serious attention to the details of the Bill, and, perhaps, seriously modifying them. The Amendment before the House was directly addressed to a point which he thought worthy of consideration. He could not support the Amendment in so far as it suggested that the proceeding should be by Bill, because the principle of the Bill before the House was to avoid the necessity of having a Bill in each case; but the suggestion that the proceeding should be by Provisional Order was, he thought, worthy of the serious attention of the Govern- ment. Under the Bill every proceeding was by Order in Council, which was to lie for 40 days and 40 nights upon the Table of the House; and if no one during that time moved an Address to the Crown, it became law. They all knew that sort of proceeding well. It meant a discussion between 12 and 2 o'clock in the morning. It afforded a small chance of the objections of a locality being properly considered; for a Member interested in the locality would find it difficult to get his friends to remain to support him at the sacrifice of staying out of bed till such an hour. On the other hand, if the proceeding-were by Provisional Order, although a Bill would be required, that Bill would come on at the time of private business, at the opening of a Sitting, when nothing else was to be done, and, therefore, while it would not interfere with the other business of the House, it would give a reasonable chance of modifications being adopted to meet the wishes of the locality. He did not, however, speak confidently on that point. He only put the suggestion tentatively before the Government; but he urged fin the Government, in the interest of the Army, in the interest of the manœuvres—in order to keep one and the other popular—to yield as much as they could to the popular feeling of localities affected by the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"]


said, the Government had no reason to complain of the spirit in which the Bill had been met, and, least of all, of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling Burghs. He could assure the House that there was nothing further from the desire of the Government than in any way to show themselves unwilling to meet objections that were honestly entertained. During the last few days he had met several gentlemen who pointed out provisions of the Bill in which they thought amendment desirable; and he had been able, without exception, to satisfy them all. There were, however, few points raised during the Debate which the Government could not entertain. Some hon. Members opposite had taken a very sinister view of the Bill, and of the object of the Government in introducing it. [Cries of "No, no!"] He was glad to hear that disclaimer, for undoubtedly the Member for Somerset had spoken as if the idea of the Government had been to put the localities under the heel of a Government Department. It was urged that if the Government wished to take ground for manœuvres they ought to come to the House for powers every year, and that the burden of proof should rest with the Government rather than the burden of disproof with those who objected to the proposals. The principle of manœuvres was generally accepted, and if the principle were accepted the House should be prepared for some sacrifice in order to carry it out. All the Government asked was that, while every protection was given to local interests and susceptibilities, there should not be the necessity every two or three years of imposing on Parliament the burden of passing a Bill and considering along with legitimate interests the views of all those who wished to make themselves popular by claiming for their own district what they would not think of claiming for any other. He was not alluding to any particular person, because no one knew—he himself did not know—where the manœuvres were to be held. It had been suggested that the Government should proceed by provisional orders; but they were not applicable to this Measure. The object of provisional orders was to enable all persons interested, where laud was to be taken permanently, to state their objections at a local Inquiry. Now a local inquiry was foreign to the object of the Bill. If the opinions of every person interested in every field to be taken were to be heard, there would have to be not one but 20 local Inquiries. And what would be the Parliamentary procedure necessary? First, this Bill would have to be passed; then a Provisional Order must be framed, then local inquiries must be held, then a fresh Bill must be presented to Parliament and carried through Parliament. That would encourage, as nobody desired to do, every person concerned to stand out for the utmost compensation at every point, and it would give such persons the power of threatening to get the Bill blocked and involved in endless discussion. The principle of Provisional Order would prove in this case to be a principle of blackmail. The House would retain effective control by means of Order in Council. If an Order in Council were published, any single individual might petition against it, and then it must lie on the Table of both Houses for 30 days. A discussion on the Order would be raised in either House; but that was not all. It was impossible to hold manœuvres without something connected with them appearing in almost every one of the Army Votes, and on each of those Votes the question could be raised so that hon. Members would have ample opportunity of discussing the grievance of any particular locality.


The Votes may be Closured.


said, that on every question about which the minority showed a strong feeling, there was always ample opportunity given for discussion. It was absolutely foreign to the principle of the Bill to suppose that the Secretary of State was going to act as a tyrant. His object must be to meet the views of all concerned. He would have the difficulty of getting his Votes; he would have the risk of making his office unpopular; and, if interests were injured, compensation would be on so prodigious a scale that he would have difficulty in inducing the Chancellor of the Exchequer to find the money for the manœuvres in another year. The purpose of putting representatives of the Secretary of State on the Consultative Commission was not to swell the number of Government officials, but simply to give representation, to interests which might otherwise be unrepresented—such, for instance, as commoners or the public trustees of large properties. The desire was that the Commission should be purely local. As to the compensation not being adequate, he did not believe that a tribunal had ever been set up in this country so favourable to fair compensation as that which the Bill proposed. It was a purely agricultural tribunal. The complaint was made that counsel was not to be heard before it. That provision was simply to prevent long legal investigations in which a Government must always come off best. As to the suggestion that an appeal on questions of law should be given to the petitioner, but not to the Government, he did not believe there was any precedent for such a course. If past experience could show no cases of complaint arising from manœuvres held under Bills of this kind, that was the best reason for believing that the course proposed would meet all difficulties without an appeal to a higher tribunal. The object of the clauses referred to by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green was not to protect the Government, but to protect the occupiers of the land. The Government, no doubt, might require the use of some land that might be under crop, for it had been pointed out that in previous years the manœuvres had been practically rendered futile, in consequence of the restrictions as to space and conditions under which the military authorities had had to act. But provision had been made in the Bill for the payment of full compensation for damage to crops or to commons, and he had undertaken, in deference to representations made to him, to insert provision for further protection against damage and any disturbance of rights. ["Hear, hear!"] As the right hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs had pointed out, some of the provisions looked somewhat drastic and severe at first sight, but they would not prove so in operation. They would, moreover, apply to localities often for only a few hours, and were necessary in order to enable the actual operations contemplated to be carried out. With regard to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite that Scotland should be included in the Bill, he might say that the Government had no desire to keep Scotland outside its scope, if it was the general wish of the Scotch Members that [that part of the United Kingdom should be included in it. He was, therefore, quite prepared to introduce a clause ex-tending the Bill to Scotland, on the understanding that it was not to be insisted upon in opposition, to the wishes of the Scotch representatives. In respect to Ireland, he had had some communication with the Irish Members, and he understood that they were satisfied with the popular representation proposed, only that they preferred that, instead of the Chairman of the Board of Guardians representing the County Council on the Commission, a selected Member of the Board should be put on it; and that he proposed to do in Committee. ["Hear, hear!"] He asked hon. Members to look at the Bill fairly and as a whole; to consider the difficulties and delays which would necessarily attend the other courses suggested; and to look also at the position in which the Government were placed in the matter, and he was confident that if they did so they would come to the conclusion that the Government had adopted the best and speediest means of attaining the object in view. ["Hear, hear!"]. It must be recollected that the right hon. Member for Stirling, whose name had been on the back of two similar Bills, and who had twice been Secretary of State since 1882, when the last Bill was passed, had never found himself in a position to undertake a provision for manœuvres. If they added to the money difficulty an acute Parliamentary difficulty, they were seriously handicapping our forces as opposed to those of foreign nations. The Government had taken care that in the Bill every consideration should be given to local interests. They had provided for a local Commission which they believed, on the highest legal authority, would prove effective and satisfactory, and they had provided compensation for every interest that might be affected by the manœuvres. They were disposed, moreover, to consider all points, or suggestions, or amendments that might be fairly urged in respect to the Bill, and he could assure the House that the Government would not fail to profit by the discussion that had taken place. ["Hear, hear!"] Under those circumstances he hoped the House would now consent to the Second Reading of the Bill. [Cheers.]

MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)

said, the two most important points in the Bill were the regulations by which the manœuvres were to be carried out and the question of compensation. He had listened to the right hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs with some satisfaction, but the right hon. Gentleman had not altogether allayed his fears as to the character and possible effect of some of the more drastic provisions of the Bill. (Hear, hear.) In regard to the regulations to be made, it was possible that they might be made to assume a very serious character in their effect on the locality concerned, such, for instance, as a decision to dam up running water. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not think the proposd Consultative Committee, or Commission, composed of the Lord Lieutenant of the county, two persons nominated by him, and two persons nominated by the County Council, would be representative of local opinion, and in order to make it so to any extent he would suggest that two more members, appointed by the Parish Council of the parishes affected by the manœuvres, should be added to the Committee. As to the point of compensation, it seemed to him that the proposed Court of Arbitration was open to the same objection as the Consultative Committee. It was not thoroughly representative of local opinion, and he would suggest that another member, selected by the County Council of the county affected, should be added to the Court. ["Hear, hear!"] Finally, he thought it would be necessary in Committee to define more completely what was meant by "damage," in order to safeguard the interests of tenants in counties which would be affected by the Bill.

MR. WALTER THORBURN (Selkirk and Peebles)

supported the suggestion that the Bill should apply to Scotland. He could not imagine any part of the United Kingdom where the configuration of the country would afford better opportunities for military exercises, and one and all of the Scotch Members to whom he had spoken had concurred in the suggestion which he ventured to press on the Government. He had great pleasure in supporting the Bill.


hoped the Government would consider what the hon. Member for Haggerston urged, and abandon the unconstitutional provisions referred to. He was afraid, too, the Bill as drawn made no provision whatever for adequate compensation being given to County Councils where very considerable damage might be done to main roads, as, for example, by the passage of heavy artillery. Provision ought to be made for that.


Attention, will be given to that point.


expressed his acknowledgments, and assured the hon. Gentleman that he did not bring forward the point without very considerable authority. The damage which might be caused to water supply was another point which was not specifically mentioned in the Bill.


I shall put in words which shall make that also perfectly clear.


wished further to add that the clause which gave the non-representative members a majority upon the Committee would be strenuously opposed.

MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)

had no objection to the Bill applying to Ireland, but he thought that some representation ought to be given on the Consultative Committee to the chairman of Town Commissioners.


said, he represented a county in which there was a large extent of unenclosed sheep-walks, and he wished to call attention to the fact that it would be impossible to collect together thousands of mountain sheep.


Provision shall be made for the protection of those flocks.


was glad to hear that, and would say no more.

The House divided:—Ayes, 182; Noes, 50.—(Division List, No. 61.)

Main Question put, and agreed to; Bill read 2a, and committed for Monday next.