§ 1. £553,000, Militia, Pay, Extra Pay, Bounty, &c.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)
asked if any arrangements had been made to supply the Militia with caps as well as helmets of the same pattern as those supplied to the regular troops. Another question to which he should like an answer had relation to the spending of £30,000 on the Militia Reserve. They 793 had the Reserve twice over. The Militia themselves were all Reserves, and whenever there had been a European war of any sort the Militia had been called upon to serve not only in England but in the Mediterranean. This £30,000 was given to certain men to join the regular Army in case of war. If the Militia were only enlisted for foreign service, instead of 117,000 men there would be 147,000, and an expenditure of £30,000 a year would probably be saved. The 30,000 men would be added to the ordinary strength of 117,000, and would not be counted twice over as they were now. Another point he wished to urge had reference to the training of the Militia. He quite recognised the advisability of the Militia being sent among the regular troops in, large camps periodically, say once every five years, but the system of sending them out of their own county when the ordinary training took place was absurd, and seriously interfered with the recruiting for this branch, of the service. The Militia ought to be trained as far as possible in their own county, and a considerable expense would be saved which was now incurred in moving the troops.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
observed that while the Estimate seemed to have increased by about £5,000, the actual number of men for whom provision was made was rather less than last year. He should like some explanation as to why this was the case. Again, although the men were not so numerous there was an increase of £10,000 in regimental pay. There was a decrease in regimental allowances of £1,100, and a decrease of £3,000 in bounty and enlistment expenses. There was also an item for money which had been paid by men who wanted to obtain their discharge. He should like to know why they were so anxious to leave the service. Then he saw the heading "Fines." Could not the system of fines, which was being abolished in so many other directions, also be abolished in the Militia? There was an increase of £2,500 under the heading of the Colonial Militia. Who were the Colonial Militia, and what was the cause of this increase?
§ SIR EDWARD GOURLEY (Sunderland)
inquired what steps the Government intended to adopt to bring the Militia up to the required strength.
§ MR. CHARLES COLSTON (Gloucester, Thornbury)
thanked the Government for their action last year with regard to the Militia bounty. Owing to the unfortunate outbreak of smallpox in the city of Gloucester the two county Militia battalions were unable to train, though the men were anxious and willing to come out. He had ventured to represent to the Secretary for War the hardship and loss the men would be subjected to from this circumstance, and Lord Lansdowne, acting within his discretion, allowed them their usual bounty, which had been very thankfully received.
§ COLONEL WYNDHAM MURRAY (Bath)
remarked that the Under Secretary for War stated in introducing the Army Estimates that "it was under consideration to utilise the services of officers who had retired from the Army by joining the Militia." But, besides the officers of the Reserve forces, they had a. very largo number of men also of the Army Reserve who had no annual training whatever. They drew pay but did nothing for it. Many thousands of those men could never even have seen a magazine rifle, much less handled one, and they should have a training every year, as was done in the German army with the Landwehr, to keep up discipline and training. There might be difficulty at first regarding their employment, but the Militia also had their employments. Most of the men were engaged in agricultural or business pursuits, and yet their employers, from a sense of patriotism, or perhaps appreciation of the advantages gained to the men and to themselves from habits of discipline, gave them a certain period during which they could go through their training. He thought in the case of the Army Reserve men, seeing the national necessity for this training, employers would make the small necessary sacrifice and would arrange that their employees should have leave for the annual training. They should be called out with the Militia of their Territorial Districts, and would be under command of the officers under whom they served in the Army. It would bind together the territorial connection between Regulars and Militia, and would have a satisfactory result all round. He hoped the Secretary of State for War would seriously consider some system of this 795 kind. At present there was no system of training for our Reserve forces, and an annual training of this kind would enable them to take their place in the Line in case of emergency without any delay.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
regarded the Militia as a valuable force which in conceivable circumstances might be of inestimable value to the country for national defence, amenable to military discipline, with continuous service, and having thorough territorial attachment. It was unsatisfactory it should be 700 officers and 19,000 men short of the establishment, and every effort should be made to keep the Militia up to its proper strength. The Government might well consider whether some means might not be devised to remove any small cause of unpopularity and render the service more attractive. It was not prudent to bring out battalions of Militia to take part in, manœuvres in very wet weather when they were so insufficiently supplied with clothing and especially with boots. In the manœuvres of last autumn, in which the Militia took a distinguished part, real sufferings were endured by them by reason of the insufficiency of their clothing. Militiamen, unlike the regular soldier, had only one pair of boots, so that after many hours of service in rainy weather it was impossible for them to dry the boots before they were required for use again. The men should have means of changing their boots, and not endure hardships which might sow the seeds of disease. The fines imposed on the men were small considering the size of the Force. The Militia, as a body, had much improved since he himself first entered the Army, and now formed a considerable addition to the Army Reserve. Whilst the Volunteers were most valuable, it would be a great pity if the Militia, which had been found a valuable adjunct to our Regular Army, were neglected.
§ *COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
said he always found that Militia Lieutenant-colonels disliked the idea of drilling Militia, Reserve men, who on an, emergency might leave. He suggested that if Militia regiments could bring forward enough men to make a half battalion of Militia Reserve they should be allowed to do so, and that half battalion should be sent on active service with the Line battalion, receiving their supplies in an 796 offensive war from the quartermasters' stores of the Line battalion, and serving with the Line battalion as a sub-brigade under the commanding officer of the Line battalion.
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
said the question of the Militia Reserve had frequently been discussed in the House. The War Office recognised its importance. But to extend it beyond 30,000 men would reduce the Militia battalions to skeletons, and it was desired to preserve them as an integral portion of our national defence. It had been asked why £10,000 more was wanted for regimental pay. The War Office was extending the system of training the Militia with the Regulars. It was most important military training. Certain brigades of artillery would have 41 days' training and others 34 instead of the 27 days previously. The extra efficiency obtained had far more than compensated the House for the amount voted. The work done by the Militia at Aldershot last year was highly satisfactory. It evoked the warm commendations of the Commander in Chief. The men marched extremely well and the regiments played their parts exceptionally well in the manœuvres, and cheerfully bore considerable hardships incidental to the bad weather. As regards boots, for the training of 34 days each man was provided with a pair of boots and a pair of canvas shoes, which became his own at the end of the time. So he did not think that the Militia did badly as regarded footwear compared with other forces. After the training a large number of recruits made up their minds to enter the Line, so that the Militia were a great feeder of the Regular Army. The desire to improve the condition of the Militia had been much in the minds of the Commander in Chief and the Secretary for War. The military authorities fully appreciated the value of the Force, and no consideration of the popularity of the Volunteers and the good service they were doing would operate with the War Office to prevent full consideration being given to the Militia. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
said there were about 700 officers wanted for the Militia, and he asked why sufficient officers for the Force 797 could not be obtained. Were the inducements not sufficient or was it that Militia officers were regarded as not on the same footing as officers in the regular Army?
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid.)
remarked that attention had been called to the dearth of Militia officers for the past eleven years. In Ireland, to serve as an officer in the Militia was regarded as a huge and gigantic joke. [Laughter.] During the 27 days' training—it used to be 21—the main thing was to play cards at night, get a cold douche in the morning, then, if possible, go on parade, and eke out the day's miserable existence until the cards began again. [Laughter.] He was not treating the matter as a joke, because it was past a joke. ["Hear, hear!"] He remembered a colonel of a distinguished regiment, upon making his third mistake in the manual exercises—which gallant Gentlemen opposite in distinguished commands would regard as the A R C of military education—and being called on the second time, striking the pommel of his saddle and exclaiming, "Euchred again!" [Laughter.] The fact that they were short of officers was due to the present anomalous position, the soldiers being only soldiers in name and not in earnest. As to the officers wearing silver lace, the result was that in a ball room you could hardly distinguish between officers of the Militia and of the Line, and more officers joined the Militia in consequence of the hallucination. He believed that until they dealt with the Militia, on the German plan, and tried to get into the Militia officers who had passed through Her Majesty's service, they would always have the present difficulty. He would like to have some explanation of the county and enlistment expenses.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
said his hon. Friend's experience of Irish regiments was very different from his own experience of English regiments, in which there was very little card playing. In comparison with the old Militia there were some regiments very short of officers, but the deficiency was not very large when the whole Militia was taken into consideration, and that deficiency moreover was being gradually lessened. He thought it was quite impossible to shoot properly with the black powder out of 798 the new rifle, and he hoped they would have some assurance that, it should be given in future to the officers to shoot matches with, instead of to the men to be taught with. As to the question of bounty, he thought, it would be more popular to give 5s. all round rather than to give a. pound to certain privileged men. With regard to the non-commissioned officers it sometimes happened that the Line drafted their non-commissioned officers that they wanted to get rid of into a Militia regiment. The result was that the non-commissioned officers in the Militia were not always quite up to the standard. There was one case he would like to refer to, where a gentleman had been made a colonel of a. regiment—the Royal Anglesea Engineers Militia—by being promoted over the heads of 12 captains of very old standing. It seemed rather a strong order to promote an officer who had left his own regiment, as was the case in this instance, over men who had been in the regiment for years.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
thought the hon. Member had done good service in calling attention to the great disability under which a number of Militia battalions suffered last year by having to tire with black powder out of the new rifles. The new rifle was sighted for the cordite powder, and if the black powder was used a certain allowance had to be made in sighting in order to hit the target in the centre. This might be possible in the case of well-trained men, but it was extremely difficult to explain to the Militia the necessary allowance which had to be made, and it detracted from their proficiency in musketry. Of course he knew it was a temporary arrangement, and he was sure it would not occur again. It was sometimes suggested that, for ranges said to be not suitable to the Lee-Metford rifle, the charge of that rifle should be reduced. He earnestly hoped the War Office would set their face against any such expedient. Firing with a reduced charge meant firing with a sighting which was wrong according to the regulations, and it was a thousand pities that the short time spent, by the Militia in training should be wasted in this way. He believed permission used to be given to advance bounty for the first year as a stimulus to recruiting, and by this means men could be recruited in the winter months. He was informed that in 799 certain battalions the men so recruited took the bounty and never appeared again, but that was not by any means the case in all battalions, and he would ask his right hon. Friend to make a distinction between the bad and the good, and to allow that method, by which the recruiting was very much improved, to be pursued in the case of battalions which were careful to prevent any such fraud.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
asked whether the War Office were satisfied with the effect of the method of transferring officers from the Militia to the Line, which had been considerably extended in recent years. He had heard that it had a bad effect on the officering of the Militia.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said he did not think the officering of the Militia had been badly affected by the transferring of men from the Militia to the Line. The real difficulty in regard to the officering of the Militia was that the landed proprietors were now less able than they had been to send their sons into the Militia. It was noticed that in districts where rents had fallen there was a difficulty in obtaining officers for the Militia; but in districts like the Homo Counties, where new residents had come in and taken the places of the old landed proprietors, there was little trouble in filling up the vacancies for officers in the battalions. At the same time, the War Office recognised that the officering of the Militia was a serious matter. They hoped to improve the present condition of things by increasing the inducements to officers of the Line on half-pay or retired pay, to serve in the Militia. They also looked to a movement that had recently been begun in the public schools to improve the officering of both the Volunteers and the Militia. A committee had been appointed recently by the masters of the public schools. One of the objects aimed at was, in the case of boys at any of the public schools who took an interest in the Volunteers, to endeavour, when they left their respective schools, to find out whether they were prepared to serve in either the Volunteers or Militia; and then to communicate with the local battalions in order that these boys might at least have the offer of any vacancies. The War Office therefore hoped, with the assistance of the masters of public schools, to show progress during 800 the next year in the matter of the officering of the Militia. With regard to the filling up of the vacancy in the Royal Anglesey Engineers, about which he had been asked, he had to say that the War Office had considerable difficulties in regard to that matter, and that the appointment had been made after full consideration of the interests of the regiment and on the recommendation of the general officer commanding. His hon. Friend the Member of Bath had asked him about training the Reservists and the Militia together. If the War Office had the power of training the Reservists compulsorily, and could do so without endangering the employment of the Reservists, they would be glad to take that course. But it was doubtful whether they would be able to get the Reservists to come up voluntarily. Complaints had also been made that only a few noncommissioned officers came into the Militia from the Line. The War Office would undoubtedly be glad to have more of the Line non-commissioned officers in the Militia; and they thought it probable that by keeping a register at the Depôt they would succeed in getting more. His noble Friend the Member for Rochester had said he would like to see bounties given in the case of certain Militia battalions, as an inducement for recruits to come in. The experience of the War Office was, that if bounties were a stimulus to recruiting they were also a great stimulus to deserting. [Laughter.] His noble Friend said that there were battalions and battalions, and suggested that a distinction should be drawn between moral battalions and immoral battalions. He was sure that if a battalion had a leader of the Church Party as its colonel it should be regarded as a model battalion—[Laughter]—but even in that case, though bounties were given, he was afraid there would be the same difficulty in the matter of recruiting. On the whole, he thought it would be impossible to draw a distinction between battalions; and he was therefore afraid that he could hold out no hope to his noble Friend that he would be able to increase his battalion by means of bounties.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
asked, in regard to the proposed new system of inducing officers from the half-pay Line to serve as officers in the Militia, whether it was to be made compulsory?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I was not speaking at the moment of compulsorily doing so. That would be a difficult operation.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
said he had never known of a case of a. man being raised from the ranks to be an officer in the Militia. It seemed strange to him that, while they complained of not having sufficient commissioned officers in the Militia, they never thought of promoting men from the ranks, while in the Line it was done frequently. He thought that by doing this they would get for the Militia a class of recruits which they did not get now. In the North of Ireland none of the Presbyterians who formed the middle class were in the Militia, and he supposed it was the same with the Nonconformists in England. It could not be said that this class did not afford good military material, for in the case of Cromwell's pupils they made the best of soldiers. The Under Secretary for War had implied that the natural officers of the Militia were landed proprietors or members of the Church Party—[Laughter]—and he thought that class idea would have to be given up if they hoped to better the officering of the Militia.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. The War Office do not restrict appointments in the Militia to any class. Appointments to the Militia are made by the War Office without distinction of class.
§ MR. KNOX
said he would like to know, then, why it was that there was hardly a case of a non-commissioned officer being-promoted to an officer in the Militia. He would also ask the War Office to consider whether better arrangements could not be made to attract the middle classes to the Militia. As to the question of powder, every economist must commend the action of the War Office. He understood that a rifle were out more rapidly with cordite than with ordinary black powder. [Cries of "No!"] Then, as a large amount of black powder remained in stock, it was an interesting question how long the troops were to practice with the powder which they would not use in the case of war.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said that the reason why non-commissioned officers were not appointed to officers in the Militia was that the Militia service, being only for one month in the year, was expensive as 802 compared with the Line. If non-commissioned officers in the Militia were appointed to be officers they would not be able to afford the attendant expenses, considering that the Militia was only called out for training one month in the year. With regard to black powder, there were 7,000,000 of rounds at the beginning of last year; and he believed that nearly the whole of the stock had been consumed by the practice of last year. After all the black powder in stock had been used up no more would be ordered.
§ DR. TANNER
said there were a certain number of good men among the non-commissioned officers in the Militia, and he thought the inducement to promotion should be held out to them as it was held out to non-commissioned officers in the Line. He would suggest that the Militia should have medals for long service as well as the Volunteers. If the Government instituted a Militia long-service medal it might be that they would do a very good thing. It was sad that the number of Militia officers was diminishing owing to the landed gentry not being able to afford to take commissions. That might be so, or it might not be so; but why should not encouragement be given to non-commissioned officers in the same direct way as it was given in the Line and in the armies of other countries, by allowing them to pass from the position of noncommissioned officers, which was unfortunately not always looked upon as absolutely the position of a gentleman, into the position of an officer and a gentleman? They should be allowed to become commissioned officers and not merely quartermasters. He hoped this matter would be treated on its merits.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said that after the very kind but very unsatisfactory reply of his right hon. Friend, he hardly liked to press him on another point. He understood that the number of rounds of black powder cartridges in store was not very large, and he would suggest that it was absurd to issue them to the Militia. If black powder was used in the Lee Met-ford rifle, owing to the diminished velocity, the rifle had to be pointed quite a foot on one side of the bull's eye in order to hit it, and that caused immense additional difficulty in rifle shooting. He would like to impress on his right hon. 803 Friend that the amount of loss to the public that would be entailed in the suppression of these inadequately charged cartridges would not be very great, and he hoped he would consider the possibility of suppressing their issue.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said that a Committee had been appointed to consider the question of the head-dress of the whole Army, and they had not yet come to a decision.
§ Vote agreed to.
2. Motion made, and Question proposed:—
That a sum, not exceeding £76,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Pay and Miscellaneous Charges of the Yeomanry Cavalry, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898.
§ MR. HERMON-HODGE (Oxfordshire, Henley)
said that up till the other day any Yeomanry officer who desired to obtain a commission was obliged to qualify by going for a month's instruction at the school at Aldershot. Yeomanry officers were now required to join regular cavalry regiments for instruction, and the responsibility for their instruction would in future rest with the commanding officers of those regiments. He was told that it took something like two years to teach a subaltern in this way to command a squadron in the field, and he was sure that any subaltern, if he was a man of ordinary intelligence, who attended the school at Aldershot and stuck to his work, would be perfectly qualified to take the command of a squadron in the field. He would very much like to know why this change had been made. Up till now Yeomanry officers had been very popular with Cavalry officers, but he was very much afraid that if these extra duties were thrown upon commanding officers and their adjutants, they would not be so popular as they had been. Hitherto Yeomanry officers had been able to join Cavalry regiments at their own expense, but he was afraid if this Regulation were maintained, they would not get that welcome they were accustomed to. He knew that inspecting officers had found 804 that a certain percentage of Yeomanry officers were not as well up in their duties as they ought to be, but he contended that that was not the fault of the system but the fault of the individual officer who had not made himself efficient. It was possible that his right hon. Friend had consulted Yeomanry Colonels as to this change, and some of them might have thought there was no objection to it; but a large number of Yeomanry commanding officers had never been at the Aldershot school, and were therefore, he thought he might say, ignorant of the immense value that school had been to the officers under their command. He would respectfully ask his right hon. Friend to give the Committee some information as to this change of system.
§ MR. W. F. D. SMITH (Strand, Westminster)
was not sure that he could agree with his hon. Friend who had just spoken when he said that after a month's instruction at the Aldershot school the Yeomanry subaltern was ready to take the command of a squadron in the field; but he agreed that in that time he learned a great deal about the elements of drill, and if he was allowed to have a voluntary course with a regular regiment after his course at the school, he would reap great benefit thereby. He had asked some regular officers about this change, and the answers he had received had not been favourable to it. He was glad his hon. Friend had raised this question, and hoped that he would receive a satisfactory explanation.
§ MR. KNOX
said that in Ireland there were practically no Yeomanry, and as to the Yeomanry in England he had never met anyone who contended seriously that it was a valuable military force. Other reasons were assigned for its maintenance; it was said that it was useful socially because it brought together the sons of the landlords and the sons of the fanners, and also that it encouraged the breeding of horses. If those were really the reasons of maintaining the Yeomanry, he thought he might contend that an equivalent grant ought to be made for the support of the Ward Union, the Galway Blazers, and other Irish hunts which served the same purposes. If the maintenance of Yeomanry was to be defended on military grounds he would be glad to hear something about the military qualifications of the force. One hon. Member 805 had told them that it took two years to make an officer fit to command a squadron of Cavalry. He should like to know how many officers in the Yeomanry—excluding those who had come from the Regular Cavalry—had performed duty for 24 months. The number, he should fancy, was comparatively small. If that was the case, what justification was there for making the taxpayers pay a considerable sum every year for the support of a force which could not be even moderately efficient? The sum now asked for was £76,000, showing an increase of £3,000 this year. But that was not the whole Bill, because there was a further sum for equipment, etc., which brought the total sum up to £115,000. The number of men who turned out to train was small and about stationary. Speaking roughly, the number was 8,500, and the average cost to the country was £13 10s. per man. So the cost of the Yeomanry was very little less than the cost of the Militia per man, and the Militia was a much more efficient force. He admitted that Militiamen did not spend so much money out of their own pockets as the officers and men of the Yeomanry did; but he could not overlook the fact that the keeping of horses was largely a. matter of amusement, and the Yeomanry probably got a good deal of pleasure out of the pastime of riding. Unless the force was of serious military value, the mere fact that the Yeomanry spent a considerable sum out of their own pockets could be no justification for keeping this vote upon the Estimates. If this force, which appeared to be a luxury, was to be maintained, it ought to be paid for by Englishmen. He concluded by moving the reduction of the Vote by £7,000, which he calculated to be the amount which Ireland contributed to this expenditure.
§ DR. TANNER
said that this question was one of the "hardy annuals." If Ireland was tranquil and satisfied as right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite averred, why should there not be Volunteer cavalry in Ireland as well as in England? They had all of them seen hon. Members of that House, when moving or seconding the Address, in Yeomanry uniforms, and very gorgeous they were. [Laughter.] Sonic of them, however, would doubtless recollect John Leech's striking picture of a member of the Yeomanry who were a large medal on parade, 806 and who replied, upon its being suggested that he had been to the wars, "No, I got it (the medal) from the old hog." [Laughter.] Every man in that House knew that the Yeomanry as a body were absolutely useless. An efficient cavalry officer had told him, after he had performed a period of service with Yeomanry, that if he were to perform it ten times over he would be unable to get his men to wheel properly. The whole thing was a sham and a fraud. If, however, it was good for Great Britain it was good for Ireland. He appealed to hon. and gallant Members opposite whether it was just and honest that this money should be voted simply because the existence of Yeomanry suited certain gentlemen who happened to be landed proprietors. The argument that the force was of use in connection with the breeding of horses was a palpable sham, because most of the horses which the men rode were imported from the cavalry depôts. [Cries of "No!"] Yes, it was a fact that a great number of the Yeomanry were mounted upon cavalry dismounts. The Committee were asked to vote £76,000 for a useless purpose. This was a fraud, but why not share the fraud with Ireland? [Laughter.] Irishmen always declaimed against grabbers, and he said to hon. Gentlemen, "Do not be grabbers if you know that what you are doing is wrong." He hoped that before long serious attention would be paid to this question of Yeomanry, and that his hon. Friend would divide the Committee against this iniquitous and useless expenditure of public money.
*THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. POWELL-WILLIAMS,) Birmingham, S.
said that the reason for the increase was that one squadron had been added to each of the Yorkshire and East Kent Corps, raising their strength to four and two squadrons. It appeared that the hon. Members opposite desired to see re-established in Ireland a corps of Yeomanry. He should have thought, looking at the experience of Ireland in 1798, that it might not be a desirable state of affairs to return to. He submitted that this question should be dealt with as a whole, and when they looked at the number of troops of the Regular Army and Militia maintained in Ireland, judged with reference to the total forces of those branches of the service, he thought that Ireland was certainly in a position, so to speak, of 807 very great indulgence, and it compared favourably with the rest of the United Kingdom. The amount of money annually expended in respect of the Regular Forces and the Militia in Ireland constituted very nearly one-seventh of the whole cost of those forces. [Dr. TANNER: "We do not thank you for it.!"] He presumed that the hon. Gentleman would desire the amount spent in, Ireland on those troops should be reduced to the true proportion according to their estimate of the relative taxable capacity of England and Ireland. [Mr. KNOX: "Certainly, if you reduce the taxation!"] It was the fact that a short time ago the number of Yeomanry cavalry was higher than it was now; and it diminished through the natural operation of bad times in agriculture. But this cause had to some extent passed away, and the force appeared likely to return to near its former strength. This was the reason why the estimate of this year was larger than that of last year, and it was possible that next year they might ask the House to grant a further sum. A question was asked as to the persons who were consulted by the War Office in respect of the training of Yeomanry officers. They had consulted first of all the commanding officers of the Yeomanry forces, and the majority of these officers were strongly in favour of the change that was proposed to be made. Before coming to any determination in the matter, however, the distinguished officers in the War Office had been consulted, and they were unanimously of opinion that the change proposed to be made was desirable in the interests of the force. The change was simply to abolish the tuition which the officers had formerly received at Alder-shot, and to allow men to be trained with the Regular cavalry. By this means a great deal would be gained. This was essentially a military question, and when it was found that there was a strong consensus of military opinion upon it no other course was open, it seemed to him, but for the Secretary of State to adopt the suggestions.
§ MR. HENRY LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said it appeared to him that every year a greater demand was being made in every department of the Army for more expenditure. The hon. Gentleman had stated that the additional money for the Yeomanry this year was to be followed next year by a still greater demand. 808 He asked military Members opposite whether, if we had not a Yeomanry force at present, they would think of establishing such a force? The Yeomanry were called out for 14 days' training, and to call this force cavalry was an absurdity. Was it not a fact also that as a rule the Yeomanry hired their horses for the time? ["No, no!"] Well, a great many of the Yeomanry did. It required a certain time even to teach a cavalry horse, and the task could not be accomplished in 14 days with a horse which was engaged the rest of the year doing other work. We kept up the Yeomanry simply because they happened to be established already; but they were useless as cavalry. The Committee must look at the question of military expenditure in a practical way; and Army expenditure ought not to increase year after year without, an attempt, being made to get rid of things which were not absolutely necessary.
GENERAL SIR FREDERICK FITZWY-GRAM (Hants,) Fareham
opposed the reduction. He asserted that what would be required of our cavalry in England in war time would be simply scout duty, to watch the whole coasts, and that duty he believed the Yeomanry regiments would be able to perform very fairly and efficiently. In this respect they were well worth the money the country paid.
§ LORD ALWYNE COMPTON (Beds, Biggleswade)
, as one who had been a Cavalry officer, bore testimony to the usefulness of the Yeomanry as a part of the military forces of the country. If anyone would spend a fortnight in observing some of these Yeomanry regiments he would be astonished to see how exceedingly well they formed. Personally he had often been surprised as a Cavalry officer at the efficient way in which they performed their drills when called upon to do so. He paid a tribute to the value of the work done by the Yeomanry School at Aldershot, so far as it went, and expressed his deep regret that it should be abolished.
§ GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
claimed that for a considerable amount of the work that would be required, if the country were invaded, the Yeomanry would be more useful than the Regular Cavalry. (An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Why? Because they knew the localities, the habits of the people 809 they would be brought in contact with, and for escort duty, patrol duty, for obtaining supplies, they would be more valuable than the soldier, however highly trained, who had never seen the particular country before, and did not know the people. They had been told that the Yeomanry should not receive long-service medals—that in fact they should not be encouraged to serve 20 years, like Volunteers. That was exactly what the Yeomanry should be encouraged to do. He had had the pleasure of serving with men exactly like our own in Canada, both during the Fenian invasion and half-breed rebellion. There they had Canadian Cavalry exactly like the British Yeomanry, and for escort duty and patrol work, for all the duties required of Cavalry other than that of working in mass, they did their work thoroughly well. He should have been recreant in his duty as a soldier and to his old comrades if he had not risen to repudiate the charge which had been made against the Yeomanry.
§ MR. T. P. WHITTAKER (York, W. R., Spen Valley)
was opposed to the Yeomanry, believing it would be practically a useless force. Got up in gorgeous garb, they might be very interesting figures at social functions, but he had a strong opinion that for genuine work they were not of much use. He noticed that only two-thirds of the total number enrolled turned up for training. And how many appearances at training counted? He thought this was one of the directions in which the money devoted to the Army was not wisely expended.
§ COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
declared that if the Yeomanry were blotted out it would be a matter for serious consideration what force should be put in its place. The Yeomanry might not be fit to meet a strong force of Regular Cavalry, but they were none the less the eyes and the ears of the Army. No doubt many of the chargers were hired; but the men themselves were trained riders, who understood horses, and in their fourteen days' training they would learn cohesion. Perhaps it would be better to devote more time to outpost and other detached duties; but it could not De doubted that the experience of the men as riders, and their knowledge of the locality and the people, made them a very valuable force. 810 We had a large Volunteer force for the defence of the country. Was it to take the field blindly? Where would it get its intelligence from if not for the Yeomanry? No bicycle corps could do the work of the Yeomanry in this way. He should like to see the Yeomanry in Ireland, because Irishmen were born horsemen. He deprecated any proposal to abolish the Yeomanry, and he regretted that it was proposed to abolish the Yeomanry Training School at Aldershot. The young officer attached for a time to a Regular cavalry regiment did not learn what he could learn at this school, and he did not get the same technical training.
§ MR. PRYCE-JONES (Montgomery Boroughs)
said that he had had 15 years' experience of the Yeomanry, and, though he did not pretend that they were perfect, he was sure that with proper encouragement and some privileges they would be of great value. A few years ago, when the Denbighshire Yeomanry were training at Wrexham, the colonel of the Montgomeryshire Yeomanry determined, on very short notice, to call out his men and parade them with the Denbighshire Yeomanry. No fewer than 60 per cent. of the men on the roll responded to the call and marched to Brecon. This showed that the Yeomanry were ready when called on. It was said that the bulk of the Yeomanry chargers were hired; but, at any rate, they were all hired in the county to which the Yeomanry belonged.
§ DR. TANNER
said that an hon. Gentleman had said that the Yeomanry were the eyes and ears of the Army, and that the Volunteers would be nothing without them. Let that go to the country. Everyone knew that while the Volunteers were a reality, the Yeomanry were a sham. Their local knowledge was insisted on. Yes, but imagine a Uhlan whose usefulness was limited to a parish! This Vote was a fraud, a. delusion, and a sham, and if that night's Vote did not end the Yeomanry, their end would come before many years. If they were to exist at all, why not mount the men on motor cars?
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
regretted that the Motion was going to be pressed to a division. He thought the Yeomanry were of use, and would be absolutely necessary to a large Volunteer force. 811 Enormous losses were suffered by the French in the Franco-German war from the want of cavalry. Much of the animus of the Debate would be removed if the Government would undertake that a Yeomanry force should be raised in Ireland.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX
said that he was glad to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place. The Financial Secretary to the War Office had made an offer to the Irish Members that the expenditure on military purposes in Ireland should be reduced to the taxable capacity of the country, and that taxation should be reduced in the same proportion.
I must really correct the hon. Gentleman. I said that in Ireland the question of the expenditure upon the Army ought to be looked at from the point of view that one-seventh of the whole expenditure was made in Ireland. I added that I supposed the hon. Gentleman would not be willing to accept that as the proportion of the contribution of Ireland.
§ MR. KNOX
was sorry if he misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, because personally he should be very glad to see the taxation of Ireland reduced, and the military expenditure reduced also; the sooner that was done the better. He protested against the theory that the whole of the military expenditure in Ireland was a solely Irish benefit. The Yeomanry was a local force. The regular Army and even the Militia were not local forces in the same sense as the Yeomanry were. No one would ever suggest the using of the Yeomanry far outside their own county. He understood that even enthusiasts on behalf of the Yeomanry did not contend they were useful as ordinary Cavalry, but only that they might be useful for scouting duties owing to their knowledge of the locality. That advantage they would lose, of course, if they went outside their county. He could not see why an expenditure of this kind should be confined to one portion of the United Kingdom, and for that reason he must persist in going to a division.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £69,000, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided:—Aves, 46; Noes, 182.—(Division List, No. 35.)812
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
sad he had intended to rise to oppose the Vote as a whole when his hon. Friend moved his Amendment. He had always been of opinion that the Yeomanry were of very little use, and he could not say that the statement he had heard to-night had gone far to alter that opinion. It appeared to him that this Vote really was very little more than a Vote for an annual picnic for the squire. Especially in view of the facts that last year Parliament agreed to pay half the squire's rates, and were this year spending an enormous sum upon the Army, he thought this little sum of £76,000 might be paid by the squirearchy.
§ Original Question put. The Committee divided:—Ayes, 180; Noes, 38.—(Division List, No. 36.)
3. Motion made, and Question proposed:—
That a sum, not exceeding £627,200, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Capitation Grants and Miscellaneous Charges of Volunteer Corps, including Pay, &c., of the Permanent Staff, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said he wished to ask the Under Secretary for War for further information in regard especially to one portion of the Vote—that portion which the right hon. Gentleman had called the Volunteer Field Artillery. The right hon. Gentleman had stated on two occasions this Session that, in addition to the 204 guns of position in connection with the Volunteer Artillery, the Volunteer force were in possession of 188 guns of field artillery. Now the criticisms of those who had for many years past sought to draw attention to the great importance of not diminishing—as we had been doing—the field artillery of the country, would be greatly affected if they could be assured that the Volunteer Field Artillery was an efficient force. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped, therefore, the Government would give the Committee all the information they could with regard to the nature and condition of those volunteer field batteries. An impression was entertained that a certain number of the batteries were merely show batteries, and were maintained by 813 the subscriptions and the efforts of the officers. He had no doubt that some of the batteries were efficient, but he very much doubted whether any very largo proportion of the force could be regarded as efficient in the ordinary sense of the word, and constituted an effective field artillery force. The whole question of what the Volunteers were for in their scheme of defence was raised and was affected by this question of Volunteer field artillery. If they counted the very large and increasing force of Volunteers as efficient troops, they had in this country an enormous number of men who, unless the Volunteer artillery were efficient, were unprovided with that field artillery which was necessary to make an Army at all. They were told that a great portion of these Volunteers were to be mobilised in time of war on positions around London, and were to be utilised, in the first place, for the defence of those positions. General Hamley, whose authority had been quoted for this use of the Volunteers, always proposed that they should be trained in the positions in which they were to be mobilised in time of war. That was an essential part of General Hamley's scheme; but, except in very rare instances, that had never been done. As to the guns of position in the hands of the Volunteers, he did not himself believe that they would be of serious use, though he knew there was a weighty opinion the other way. As to the 188 guns of field artillery which were said to be in the hands of the Volunteers, he should like to know to what type they belonged, and what was, generally speaking, the nature of the force. He had always thought it would be better for the Government to face and to regularise the position which had been attained to in practice by some of those corps. He did not believe that they could rely upon Volunteers in the ordinary sense of the word maintaining an effective field artillery. If the Government held a different view, as by their language about the 188 guns they seemed to do, he thought they ought to tell them what was the nature of the experiment being tried, how far they had been successful up to the present time, and to what extent the House of Commons could rely on the Volunteers being in possession of guns of field artillery which could really be counted upon for service.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
expressed a hope that the point raised by the right hon. Baronet would receive a satisfactory answer from the Under Secretary. There were one or two other points to which he wished to call attention. The first one was the often mooted one of the deficiency of officers. He was glad to think that this deficiency was a little less than it was, but still it was very serious indeed, and he thought it wanted grappling with in a rather more serious manner than had yet been attempted. He was glad to hear from the Under Secretary that some effort would be made to utilise the services of public school boys who passed from the Cadet Corps, but he did not think that was sufficient. He should be very glad to see some inducement offered to young men to join the commissioned ranks of the Volunteers by giving them a chance, and by that means, of entering the regular Army. The real difficulty was not as regarded senior officers, but as regarded subalterns. He recognised that the equipment grant of £20 by the Government was some little inducement to officers to join, but he was sorry to say that that grant had not been allowed in the case of quartermasters and of medical officers. He thought the War Office ought to be generous in this matter, and allow the grant to those two classes of officers. He also wanted, in this connection, to call attention to the recent Order promulgated for the compulsory retirement of officers at 67 years of age. He did not say for a single moment that 67 was not an extreme limit of age, but at the same time he thought the Regulation should be enforced gradually and carefully. An officer should not be told suddenly that he must retire forthwith, because they sent him into the country amongst the public discontented. A case had recently occurred within his own knowledge of an officer who had served for 38 years, and who had contributed four sons to the same regiment, being suddenly, and without a moment's warning, informed that he must retire instantly. A little bit of consideration should be given, more especially as in the case he had mentioned, the officer had previously received permission to serve until the end of the Volunteer year of 1897. That was not the way to obtain officers for the force. 815 He recognised the courtesy of the Secretary and Under Secretary of State, and also of the Commander-in-Chief in these matters, but he did urge them to be very careful in the way in which they enforced Regulations of that kind. As regarded sergeant-majors, he understood that the Under Secretary thought there was some pecuniary difficulty in the way, but he thought that it might be easily arranged, without any additional expense, that sergeant-majors in Volunteer corps, who had a most responsible and difficult position to fill, requiring great judgment, experience, and tact, should be real and not merely acting rank. He did not think they ought to be inferior to their brethren in the Militia. One word as to the training of the Volunteers. Everybody must recognise that the training had improved enormously in recent years. The brigade system had been thoroughly carried out, but one great difficulty that brigades found was where to go to. He thought many Volunteer brigades were too large. If they were not quite so large, he thought they might find it more easy to obtain manœuvring grounds. He believed there was nothing more advantageous than for a Volunteer corps to go to Aldershot and manœuvre with the regular forces whenever it was possible to do so. In recent years it had been more and more difficult to obtain accommodation, and the question whether the Volunteers would be allowed to go to Aldershot in August or not had not been settled until late in the summer. That made it extremely difficult for Volunteers in the metropolis to make their arrangements. It was very important indeed that they should know as early as possible. He would impress upon the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary the desirableness of seeing that steps were taken to see that accommodation was avilable at Aldershot—they only wanted tents—for any number of Volunteers who went down there. The cost to the country would be merely nominal, and it would be amply repaid by the experience gained. One other matter he desired to mention was in reference to the Reserve men and the Volunteers. He quite recognised that payment must not be made twice over, that men drawing sixpence a day for the Reserve should not be allowed to draw the Capitation Grant, but Reserve men were 816 called out very seldom, and it would be well if they were encouraged to do drill with the Volunteers. At present, they could not do so; such drills did not count, and the men could not wear the uniform. But surely the authorities might recoup a regiment for the cost of uniforms supplied to these men? Of course, without uniform they could not attend the drills, and the grant could not be drawn upon for the purpose. The presence of the Reserve men would be good as an example for the Volunteers, they could show the Volunteers how things were done in the Army, and in camp their experience would be most useful. Another point was the enforcement of agreements, and the recovery of the Capitation Grant if a man failed to make himself efficient. Several very contrary decisions had been given by Courts of summary jurisdiction on this matter, some magistrates would convict and others would not. It was uncertain whether the Volunteer Act of 1863 gave power to recover the cost to the corps of uniforms supplied and for the enforcement of the civil agreement. In some Courts in London, judgments could always be obtained, but in other Courts it was not so, so that it was mere accident according to the sitting magistrate, and his reading of the Act. There was a case rejected a few days ago, and application was made to the War Office for pecuniary assistance in order that a case might be stated for a higher court, but the authorities were not willing to do that, as they intended to bring in an amending Bill to make the point clear. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give the Committee some assurance on this point, which was vital to the efficiency of many Volunteer corps, for they calculated all their arrangements on the understanding that every Volunteer would either entitle the corps to draw the capitation for him or, failing that, to return the grant and indemnify the corps for his laches during the year. As regarded ranges, he was glad to find that Volunteers were to be put in a better position. In the great towns, and now they had the new rifle, this was a matter of vital importance to Volunteers. Ranges were condemned on the slightest excuse, they were open one week and closed the next, and the uncertainty entailed the greatest inconvenience on the corps. He 817 urged the right hon. Gentleman to grapple with this difficulty while there was time, for the longer it was postponed the more the cost to the country would be.
§ *MR. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
agreed with most of the observations of his hon. and gallant Friend, but he must dissociate himself from the attempt to enlist the sympathies of the Committee with the meritorious old officer of 67, for he thought that was an ago when it was quite time an officer should retire. Doubtless it would be a great wrench to him to be suddeldy removed, but he should take the hints that were conveyed to him. Nothing would be more likely to attract a better class of officers to Volunteer regiments than an occasional offer of a commission in the Regular Army. It was not necessary that it should be a general system running through all ranks as in the Militia, but an occasional offer of the kind would do much to stimulate a better class of men. The grant of £20 for outfit had, so far as his experience went, had an important effect in increasing the number of officers already, and incidentally it had had another effect, that in order to qualify for the grant, young officers had taken to getting attached to Line regiments, especially to the territorial Line regiment to which they belonged, and with the best results. With regard to quartermasters, he confessed he was not aware that they did not receive the grant in question. This should be remedied, for in every well-regulated battalion there was very much for the quartermaster to do he should, in fact, be the busiest man in the battalion, and no encouragement in reason should be refused him. It was not generally realised that Volunteer battalions did not possess sergeant-majors, and that it was only a colour sergeant who acted as sergeant-major, but was not treated as a warrant officer as regards pay and retirement, and if he went back to his battalion became a sergeant again. This was not the way to encourage these noncommissioned officers. He trusted that due attention would be paid to what had fallen from his right hon. Friend (Sir C. Dilke) on the subject of guns. He had often heard of these 188 field artillery guns, but did not really know what guns were referred to. Some of them did, it was true, make their 818 appearance on special occasions, and it was to be hoped would appear on the most critical occasion of all, but they were horsed and manned on an artificial system which was absurd. It was within his knowledge that there were two or three batteries of Volunteer artillery which did take the field, went into camp, and picketed their horses after a day's march, but generally the horses were hired for the day, and were clumsy cart horses, frightened at the sound of firing, or livery stable horses, not heavy enough for the work, and often with four, instead of six, horses in the team, moving at a dangerously slow pace, and they would break down with the strain of prolonged exercise. Of course a smart Volunteer battery elicited the cheers of the multitude, but the people who cheered did not know that the smart gunners were often Regular soldiers or Reserve men dressed up for the occasion. In connection with this question of artillery for Volunteers, a satisfactory step would be taken if the Volunteers were encouraged to exercise themselves in the use of lighter field guns. What had been spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman were, he presumed, the sixteen pounders, which might be said to be obsolete. He would like to see them provided with a light field gun, which they might be taught to drag about with ropes as the blue-jackets did when they had field guns on shore. That would be better than giving them guns that could not be depended upon in warfare. The least Government could do now that the Volunteers had so important a share in the defence of the country would be to equip them with the proper proportion of machine guns, all the more necessary when they were so short of field guns. At present the price was prohibitive, but he should have thought, with all the wars going on all over the world, in which machine guns played an important part, the Government might provide the Volunteers with a cheap but useful weapon of that kind. This was not the time to trouble the Committee with an essay on all the weak points of the Volunteers, but the chief defect, of course, continued to be the absence of compulsion, and of any declaration of their status on critical occasions. Absolute ignorance prevailed throughout the force as to their position in 819 connection with the Mutiny Act and the Army Act when they were brigaded with the Regular troops, and as these occasions increased year by year serious anomalies and complications might arise.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
, replying to the various points which had been raised, observed that the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean was anxious for an assurance with regard to the artillery. It was well known that there were three classes of artillery now in the possession of the Volunteers—namely, 156 40-pounders, 12 20-pounders, and 188 16-pounder guns, which were formerly field artillery guns. He could not accept the statement of his hon. and gallant Friend that these latter were to be regarded as obsolete. On the contrary, the 16-pounder was an admirable gun of its type, and in placing it in the hands of the Volunteers the Government hoped they were greatly increasing the efficiency of that force. ["Hear, hear!"] Varied opinions had been given as to what the value of this artillery was. Although he did not pretend that these batteries bore comparison with the Royal Artillery, he could only say that the information supplied to the War Office was that the Artillery was not merely useful and capable of being enormously improved with a. very little practice, but that the batteries were capable of manœuvring. They were all thoroughly mobile and horsed in such a way as to be able to take up any position they might be called upon to assume. These guns which had been placed in the hands of the Volunteers were a really valuable and useful addition to their defences. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. and gallant Member for Sheffield suggested that they should send as many Volunteers to Aldershot as possible, and that they should give them timely notice. Last year there were difficulties about giving this notice, due not to the War Office, but to the House of Commons. It had been hoped that there would be manœuvres on a. large scale, but that hope was frustrated by a series of afternoons, which would otherwise have been devoted to the Military Manœuvres Bill, being taken by other measures which stood before it. In those circumstances the Government were forced to give up the contemplated manœuvres and to mass a considerable number of Militia battalions at Aldershot 820 who would not have gone there if the plan conceived could have been carried out. That, no doubt, created the difficulty which was responsible for the shortness of the notice they were able to give to Volunteers, and which he hoped would be avoided in the present year, timely notification being conveyed to all. The Government fully recognised the great desirability of brigading the Volunteers with the Regulars wherever possible, and especially at Aldershot. As to the suggestion that they should include the Reservists in the Volunteer force, the Government were not favourable to it. If they were to so include the Reservists and provide them with uniforms they would be paying them twice over. If they were to be members of the Volunteers and they were to rely upon them for the drill of battalions they would take them from their own battalions the moment they most needed them—namely, on the outbreak of war, when they should go to their right battalions. As to the position of sergeant-major, the War Office fully recognised the importance of this question. But when the hon. and gallant Gentleman urged them to give a sergeant-major or honorary sergeant-major in a Volunteer regiment the rank of a sergeant-major, he would point out that that would involve increased pay and pensions. For instance, they were urged to give a man honorary rank and position higher than he held. That was conceded. Then a year or two afterwards, with equal force it was said it was hard to give a man merely honorary rank, but that if actual rank was conceded, no point of pay would ever be raised. Then, later on, it was again urged that a. man who had the rank should have the pay which accompanied it. [Laughter.] This question involved, not only the Volunteers, but the Militia, who had not got sergeant-majors, and also some non-commissioned officers at the depôts as well, so that the increase to pay and pensions that would be entailed by such a change would add very considerably to the Estimates. He confessed that the military authorities were right in being jealous of adding to the expenses of the staff when it could be avoided. The complaint now very often was that, compared with foreign armies, the expenses of our staff were enormous, and additions of this kind, unless proved to be necessary by the real interests of 821 efficiency, could not be made. ["Hear, hear!"] With regard to legal decisions with respect to the recovery of fines from Volunteers, the Government would be very glad to deal with that subject, and if time permitted—to use a. well-known phrase—they hoped to introduce a short Bill during the present Session. On the question of ranges his noble Friend had made a statement in the House of Lords, and the Committee would see that this matter had been grappled with. If the House would pass the Military Works Bill, they should then be in a position to set up central ranges in various parts of London where they were most needed. They had got a Military Lands Bill in operartion, which enabled the council of a borough or a Volunteer corps to borrow money from the Public Works Loan Commissioners with which to buy ranges; but that Bill would not enable them to equip a range when bought. Without equipping it it was perfectly useless to buy it; but it was perfectly impossible for the same Volunteer force to go to the Public Works Loan Commissioners and borrow money for the range and then go to another authority and borrow money for the equipment of the range. The great city of Manchester was waiting for all its ranges for the passing of this amending Bill; and he thought it was highly desirable that those who had an interest in Volunteers being able to shoot should use their influence with two or three hon. Members of that House who desired to stop the Bill from passing. ["Hear, hear!"] The Government were doing their utmost in this matter of ranges, and they hoped that before the close of this year they should succeed in putting themselves in a better position, not merely in regard to the Regulars, but also the Volunteers in this respect. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. HARRY SAMUEL (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)
urged the desirability of affording increased facilities to the Volunteer Engineers to acquire a full knowledge of their work. They were most anxious to make themselves efficient, but they could not obtain lands which would be available for them to practise on. This was a matter to which the Government might well direct their attention. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)
alluded to the question of adjutants' 822 uniforms, and pointed out the hardship which some of those belonging to the Rifle battalions felt in being required to provide themselves with silver lace uniforms, whereas in the Artillery they were allowed to keep their gold lace uniforms. There might be some difficulty where the Volunteer battalions were a different coloured uniform from that of the Line battalion to which they were attached, but in many eases the colour was the same, and the only difference was in the lace. The hon. Member then referred to the question of honorary rank, and suggested that when a captain got the honorary rank of a field officer he might fairly be asked to pass the qualifying examination for field rank. He supported the suggestion that quartermasters and medical officers should be allowed the £20 towards their uniform, saying that his experience was that quartermasters were socially the equal of the combatant officers. He wished that camps could be arranged in which artillery and rifles could act together, and with regard to ranges he urged that more use might be made of existing safe ranges if short lines of communication were made between them and centres of population.
§ MR. KNOX
moved to reduce the Vote by the sum of £57,000 as a protest against the non-establishment of a Volunteer force in Ireland. He complained that the Vote was misleading, as it did not include the whole cost of the Volunteer force for the year. It was not the first time this had occurred. It had become an established practice. There was no financial reason why the whole year's expenditure on the Volunteers should not be included in the Estimates for the year. The figures in the Vote were misleading, unless read with a footnote, which showed that the annual cost of the Volunteer force included, in addition to £627,000 and £400,000 for equipment, a sum of £250,000, which would have to be paid during the financial year, making the total not far short of £1,200,000. The Volunteer movement afforded valuable physical education to the young men of Great Britain, and he would say nothing against the expenditure on the Volunteers. But why was there not a similar expenditure on the young men of Ireland? The area of the expenditure should be equal to the area of charge. In 1877, when a Conservative Government 823 was in office, a Bill passed the House to establish a Volunteer force in Ireland, and was only rejected in the House of Lords by a small majority. "Twenty years of resolute government," he contended, had fitted young men in Ireland for the enjoyment of this valuable means of physical training. If Ireland had a Volunteer force the question of the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland would be settled much quicker than it was now likely to be. A hundred years ago or rather more a Volunteer force in Ireland was found to be a most valuable means of securing justice from Great Britain, and he was not sure it might not be again. He protested against this large portion of the military expenditure of the country being confined to Great Britain alone, and he therefore moved his Amendment.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £570,200, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 9; Noes, 131.—(Division List, No. 37.)
§ DR. TANNER
complained that Irish horses were allowed to be bought up by foreign agents who came over from Austria. England at present had enemies all over the world.
§ DR. TANNER
spoke of the neglect of such horse breeding counties as Tipperary, Meath, and Cork, and, while he should not care one jot whether they were beaten or not, they should take care to have good horses.
§ COLONEL MURRAY
asked whether the Admiralty and War Office had come to any decision as to the trooping to India. He thought it would be a mistake to give up troopers altogether and rely on hired transport.
§ COLONEL WELBY
asked why it was that the Inspector General of Remounts appeared on the War Office Vote, while the 824 Inspector General of Cavalry, who was a much more important man, appeared only on the General Staff. He would also ask whether there was any intention of having a genuine reserve of horses. At the present time he did not believe we had got anything at all for reserve of horses. Moreover, in these Estimates the young horses were always shown as efficient horses, and he would like to know whether it would not be possible to show how many effective and how many young horses there were, so that they might know exactly what the state of the Army was. The ten per cent. rule in regard to wear and tear of horseflesh was, he thought, too rigid. No difference was made whether a regiment was in Ireland, or was at Aldershot, or taking part in drill and autumn manœuvres where the wear and tear of horseflesh was enormous. It would be far more just to give regiments which took part in such manœuvres 15 per cent., and if necessary to reduce the percentage of the others. Would the right hon. Gentleman clearly make evident how the horses were going to be provided for this new cavalry scheme. He understood the right hon. Gentleman the other night to say that each regiment of the three squadrons was to have one squadron in reserve, and chat those three squadrons were to be kept up to their real strength of efficient horse. He did not know whether the young horses were going to be kept really in the depôts, or whether it was intended to keep the old horses in the depôts. His experience was that horses of 16 years old were fit for plenty of work in the riding school for training recruits, and could not some scheme be devised by which such horses could be drafted into the depôt squadron so as to keep the three squadrons really up to their proper strength. He would press these questions on the right hon. Gentleman because he thought it was very necessary at the present time, in view of this great scheme of cavalry reorganisation, that they should see how it was going to affect the horsing of the Army. Would it not be better, instead of having these 14,000 horses nominally, to increase the capitation grant?
§ MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said there could be no question that in the past some of the very best cavalry horses were bought in the various fairs and markets of Ireland. It was now, however, the 825 practice of the military authorities, as far as possible, to boycott the Irish fairs, and to go to other parts of the world for the supply of horses. The Army buyers no longer went to Ireland as in former years, with the result that there was very great loss to Irish farmers and horse breeders, and to the country at large. If he might venture on a paradox, economy might be purchased at too great cost. With apparent economy there might be a very serious loss of efficiency in the cavalry troops. With regard to the messing of the troops, the question had time after time been brought forward of the large extent to which foreign meat was being purchased for the troops in Ireland.
*THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said it would be obviously undesirable to raise the same question in two Votes. The natural place to raise the question would be on the next Vote.
§ MR. FLYNN
said that at any rate the grievance remained. With regard to the question of remounts, he complained that the War Department purchased the horses abroad and in the colonies instead of in Ireland, where the most suitable animals were to be found. This was very hard upon a struggling agricultural industry. ["Hear!"]
said that he had to say, in answer to the complaint of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, that the War Department purchased their horses in the best and cheapest market. Some years ago, before he was in office, the experiment was tried of buying horses for the cavalry in Canada, but that course did not turn out satisfactory, and had been discontinued. In certain special cases where horses were required to stand an exceptional climate, like that of Egypt, they were compelled to buy their horses abroad, because neither English nor Irish horses were fitted for working in that country. Large numbers of horses, however, were obtained from Ireland. In answer to the observations that had fallen from an hon. and gallant Member he had to say 826 that one result of the reorganisation of our cavalry would be, that a larger number of young horses would be required than had hitherto been the case. The sum asked for in the Estimates under the head of Land Transport was required in connection with the annual manœuvres. A sum of £13,000 had been saved under this head, owing to the Quartermaster General having made satisfactory arrangements with various railway companies. ["Hear, hear!"] A perfectly satisfactory agreement had been arrived at between the War Department and the Admiralty in connection with hired transports.
§ MR. KNOX
asked whether the hired transports were cargo boats which, in consequence of their having no cargo on board, rolled to a fearful extent. He had heard of the case of a lady whose leg was broken in consequence of the rolling of the vessel in which she was being conveyed, and it was impossible to set it, owing to the violent motion of the ship, until she was put ashore at Malta.
said that he had said that they went to the best and cheapest market, not that they bought inferior animals because they were low in price.
§ MR. FLYNN
said that it was well known that many of the cavalry horses were of a very weedy character. If we starved out the Irish industry of horse breeding in time of peace, from whence should we get our horses in time of war, when it would be impossible to procure them from abroad or from Canada? He thought that the Department were being led away by a spirit of false economy.
*MR. POWELL - WILLIAMS
said that as he had already explained, the War Office bought no horses abroad except those that were required for special service, such as in Egypt, and could not be obtained at home. When speaking of buying horses in the cheapest market, he had in his mind the cheapest home market. It was impossible to give to 827 Ireland, in the matter of buying horses, a preference over any other part of the United Kingdom when the horses to be obtained elsewhere were equally good.
§ MR. J. LOWLES (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
said the hon. Member for Londonderry was quite wrong in suggesting that cargo boats were used for transport service. He recently made a voyage to Australia in a fine passenger steamship which, he was told, was employed in the transport service. He warmly approved of the policy of the War Office in employing those hired transports rather than building vessels specially for that service. The effect of that policy was that a large number of steamships were kept in commission and were available for service when required. ["Hear, hear!"]
On the return of the CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS after the usual interval,
§ MR. FLYNN
asked whether the War Office would prepare a Return showing the number of cavalry horses bought in Great Britain, Ireland, and in foreign countries respectively? The Financial Secretary to the War Office had told them that horses required for service in hot climates—in the Soudan, for example—must be purchased in foreign countries. The Committee had not been told, however, in what qualities these foreign horses were superior to British horses. He had been informed that at one of the greatest fairs in Ireland military buyers had practically discontinued their attendance. It was but right to say, however, that the prices for horses at that fair ranged rather high. But there were other and smaller fairs, and what he would like to know was that if Ireland was not to get a preference, at any rate she should get fair play.
said he would consider whether the Return asked for could be given or not. He reminded the hon. Member that his claim on behalf of Ireland was that she should have a preference in this matter. But there was such a country as England, and England bred horses. The country, therefore, had claims which the War Department was not disposed to ignore. He gave a contradiction to the statement that in this matter Ireland was boycotted. The War Office must always go to Ireland for horses, and she would have fair treatment and every consideration. Ireland 828 had always enjoyed this consideration, and she would always continue to receive it.
§ Vote agreed to.
5. Motion made, and Question proposed:—
That a sum, not exceeding £2,553,400, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Provisions, Forage, and other Supplies, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898.
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
asked to what extent any change had taken place in the purchase of provisions and forage so far as foreign countries were concerned, since the present Administration came into power. At the last General Election he had seen huge posters in constituencies asking the electors to vote for the Conservative candidate and British goods in our Army and our Navy. As the Government had enjoyed the opportunity of carrying out some of the election pledges which got them support at the General Election, they should now give a statement of the changes as to the purchase of provisions and forage.
SIR R. PENROSE FITZGERALD (Cambridge)
called attention to the supply of forage and meat to the training camp near Fermoy, in Ireland. A large tract of country near Fermoy was occupied for military purposes, and yet the wants and the necessities of the people in the district had been ignored by the War Department. A great amount of discontent had been caused owing to the Government importing beef, hay and oats from abroad, instead of buying the beef and forage, which can be so readily procured, in the locality.
§ MR. FLYNN
said this question had been pressed over and over again by the Irish Members on the attention of the Government, but the War Office had always said that the matter was under consideration. They had always been put off with the same vague and unsatisfactory reply. Fully twelve months ago, when this question was raised, a vague hope was held out that everything would be right. More recently questions were put to the Financial Secretary, and they were told that somewhere about June next new contracts would be given out, and the matter attended to. He did not 829 trust those answers, and he was driven to the unpalatable conclusion that until Irishmen filled the Benches in serried battalions, the change he demanded would be relegated to the Greek Kalends. He understood that 60 per cent. of the beef supplied to the soldiers was foreign, and 40 per cent. home grown. That was a monstrous state of things; and it came very badly from hon. Gentlemen representing a Conservative Government, who used it as an electioneering cry that home produce should get a preference. He suspected there was a system of distributing palm-oil at work under which contractors could get any quantity of inferior stuff into the barracks. It was a strange anomaly that in a country where they kept 28,000 or 30,000 soldiers, and in places which were essentially beef and mutton growing districts, 60 per cent. of the beef should be foreign, which, though infinitesimally cheaper, was not really so cheap from the point of view of real value. He protested against this cheeseparing and pettifogging policy on the part of the War Office.
§ MR. ARTHUR JEFFREYS (Hants,) Basingstoke
said he had not often the pleasure of agreeing with hon. Gentlemen opposite, but he agreed with them in this matter. Only a few years ago he raised this question and divided the House against it. He hoped the percentage of frozen mutton and beef had been reduced, and he thought it ought to be reduced considering the low price of home-grown meat at the present time. He believed there was a limit to the amount of foreign meat which was allowed to be given to the troops, and the officers on duty did go down and examine the meat before it was served out, but were they trained in any way to discriminate between homegrown and foreign beef and mutton? With regard to the forage served out to the cavalry troops at Aldershot he was glad to acknowledge that a great deal of it was bought from the neighbouring farmers, and he thanked his right hon. Friend for having brought that about. Home grown hay was a great deal better than the coarse foreign stuff, but an enormous quantity of foreign oats were still consumed. He hoped that by continually pressing the Government the quanities of foreign meat and forage supplied to the Army would become less and less.
*MR. POWELL - WILLIAMS
pointed out that the statement that of the meat supplied to the troops 60 per cent. was foreign and 40 per cent. home-grown rather conveyed a misapprehension. The 60 per cent. was the utmost limit of refrigerated beef or frozen mutton which the contractor was allowed to deliver. In point of fact, the proportions which he actually delivered were quite different and far more favourable to the home producer. As to the question whether the officers were able to discriminate between the classes of beef supplied, he was able to give an answer in the affirmative. But there was an insuperable difficulty in ascertaining whether fresh meat in good condition was of home production. With respect to the supplies of the canteens, the Secretary of State did not interfere. The canteen was to all intents a club for the benefit of private soldiers, and those who managed it were absolutely unfettered in the choice of markets for their supplies.
said that that was perfectly within the right of the persons who gave the orders. He supposed the supplies were bought from a central association existing for the purpose of supplying canteens. But what had been accomplished in this matter? Since he had been at the War Office he had acted upon the principle of giving the home producer the preference. [Cheers.] Such a course vas justified by the fact that otherwise there was no power to carry out the fair wages Resolution of the House of Commons. The conditions under which the contract was performed could not be followed if the contract was in the hands of a foreign producer. To all military centres instructions had been issued that, where possible, supplies should be obtained within the district from the local producers. ["Hear, hear!"] At the present time the whole supplies of meat at the Curragh were obtained from the neighbourhood. [An HON. MEMBER: "Since when?"] For the last twelve months at least. The Government would be very glad to see similar conditions established all over the country; but there were very great difficulties in the 831 way, as the hon. Member for the St. Patrick's Division of Dublin, who had been referred to in the matter, very well knew. During the latter part of last year he himself had made a very complete inquiry into the question, and found it so surrounded with technical and departmental difficulties that he was not sure whether anything could be done. But the authority of the Secretary of State had been obtained for appointing one of the senior clerks of the War Office and one of the principal officers of the Quartermaster General's department to make special inquiries in every detail at every centre throughout the kingdom. He could not say what the result would be; but it appeared that in some cases the importance of the question had been overstated. For example, the city of Dublin exported 5,000 live pigs per week, and the number that would be required for the troops in Dublin would only be 50; so that the change would be unimportant in effect. As to Aldershot, instructions to purchase in the neighbourhood everything required for feeding the troops and horses had been in operation for some time. But there was a financial side to this question. The War Office had been asked to reverse the present proportions of frozen and fresh meat served to the troops, those proportions being as 60 to 40. Inquiry showed that, at present prices, that step would have added no less than £40,000 to the Estimates. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: "Put it on."] Yes, but would Ireland pay its proportion? [Laughter.] But he believed that there was much force in what had been said as to the relative quality of frozen and home-grown meat; and the subject was being investigated by one of the first agricultural authorities and chemists in the country. If it were true that 1¼1b. of frozen meat was no better than 11b. of fresh meat, then nothing was gained by buying the cheaper food, and there would be no objection to paying the extra £40,000 for the home-grown meat. ["Hear, hear!"] To the ordinary soldier meat was meat as long as it was fresh and good, and it was doubtful whether if they supplied a higher-class article they would be able to diminish the weight of the ration. The subject was receiving the most careful inquiry, and before long some decision must be arrived at. He and his right hon. Friend sincerely trusted that the decision 832 would be in the direction desired by hon. Members.
§ MR. J. GILHOOLY (Cork Co., W.)
said the hon. Gentleman told them, in the first place, that this matter was hedged round with technicalities and difficulties, and then he let the cat out of the bag by stating that it was a question of economy, that it was a matter of £40,000 a year. The hon. Gentleman asked if Ireland was willing to pay her proportionate share. At present Ireland paid more than her proportionate share of the taxation of the United Kingdom. The question remained that although good beef was to be obtained in Ireland, the Department refused to purchase it. He trusted that the Department would be coerced to recognise the principle of giving home industries a fair chance in these matters.
§ MR. LOWLES
could not let the challenge of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy go without response. He agreed with the hon. Member that the money raised from the British taxpayer should be spent as far as possible in the United Kingdom, but he could not follow the hon. Gentleman into the Lobby, because he regarded it as illogical to advocate an increased expenditure and then move a reduction of the Vote.
§ MR. DENIS KILBRIDE (Galway, N.)
said he was glad there was going to be an inquiry as to the relative nutritive properties of home-grown and foreign or refrigerated beef. He was also glad that the hon. Gentleman had given a pledge that if it should turn out that 11b. of home-grown beef contained 25 per cent. more nutriment than 11b. of foreign meat the former class of meat should be purchased. He feared that the real question was not so much the relative quality of foreign and home-grown meat but the cost per year. Why were contractors not at liberty to supply foreign meat if, in the opinion of the Department, it was as nutritive as home-grown? It struck him that the reason the Department had introduced the question of the relative value of home and foreign meat was that they themselves knew that the foreign article was not as nutritive as the home-grown article. The hon. Gentleman said that for quite 12 months home-grown forage had been supplied at Newbridge.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
was glad to know that at the Curragh and Newbridge, homegrown meat was supplied to the troops. Why were they so supplied? Was it not plain that in the opinion of the hon. Gentleman and the Department the Irish meat was infinitely superior to the foreign stuff?
§ MR. KILBRIDE
said there could be no doubt that an opportunity given for the inspection of live animals prevented the contractor from supplying inferior meat to the troops, and he asked why the practice could not be carried out at all the large centres. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House who represented rural constituencies, had been urging the Government to do something for the regimental interest. It was well known that agriculture was in a depressed condition in England and Ireland, and he put it to the right hon. Gentleman whether he—as a member of the Ministry, who were mainly supported by agricultural Members—[cries of "Oh!" and laughter]—was going to allow the paltry sum of £40,000 to stand in the way of doing justice to that interest. The question at stake was not so much one of money as of principle—the principle involved being that as much as possible of the money spent for the support of the Army and Navy should be spent among those who were taxed to provide the forces. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman had said that instructions had been given to several contractors to the effect that they should as far as possible supply home-grown produce to the troops. Were those instructions anything more than pious opinions? Because if a contractor found that by the terms of his contract he could make more money by sending in 60 per cent. of foreign meat, he would do so. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. KILBRIDE
said he accepted the correction of the hon. Gentleman, but he understood that all the large centres in both England and Ireland were supplied by contractors.
said that what he stated was that instructions had been given to commanding officers of districts to obtain, as far as possible, their 834 supplies from the locality. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. KILBRIDE
could not see that any benefit was to be derived from that. ["Hear, hear!"] Were those instructions outside the contracts or not? If the condition was not laid down in express terms, the contractor would not be affected by any number of instructions given to the commanding officer. He would include a proportion of foreign, meat in his supply if he could gain by doing so, perhaps, as he had said, to the extent of 60 per cent. ["Hear, hear!"] No doubt if the supplies for the district were obtained direct through the commanding officer of the district, the case would be different, and the instructions of the War Office would have some effect. The hon. Member for Cambridge had referred to the fact that last year a good deal of the forage, especially hay, obtained in Fermoy and in other parts of Cork, was of foreign production, although the troops were in a forage-producing district. Moreover, the hon. Member for Cavan and himself drew the attention of the Government last year to the fact that a great deal of the hay supplied to the troops in Newbridge and elsewhere was not only foreign hay, but heated hay, and they pointed out the injurious effects of this to the Service. He hoped this point would not be overlooked. ["Hear, hear!"] He would press upon the Government, moreover, to extend their Inquiry into the relative nutritive qualities of home and foreign meat, and to the oats supplied to the Service. He reminded the right hon. Gentleman that several of his colleagues had been declaring for two or three years past that they intended to kill Home Rule by kindness. Well, here was an opportunity for the Government to make a practical effort to do so at a cost of only £40,000 a year. [Laughter.] It might be a small way for the Government to begin the experiment, but there must always be a beginning to every work, and no one could tell how an experiment might turn out until it was tried. [Laughter.] At any rate, here was a chance of beginning the work of killing by kindness. [Laughter.] He appealed seriously to the Government on this matter. The question was simply whether for the comparatively small sum of £40,000 a year the troops should be 835 supplied wholly with home-grown produce or not, and under the circumstances he claimed that the national purse-strings should be so far extended.
§ *MR. WHITTAKER
said he did not wonder that this matter of buying Irish meat and Irish oats had been brought up against the present Government, after the posters which were to be seen about the country during the last election—" Support Home Industries," and "Buy English Goods." He was not in favour of a Protective policy. He believed it was a mistake, and that the policy which would keep out of this country an article not because it was inferior but because it was cheap, was an unsound policy, and one they ought not to follow. He hoped the Government would continue to buy where they could get what they wanted the cheapest; and by the cheapest he meant the best article for the money, and get it wherever they could and wherever it was produced. It had been practically admitted in that Debate that the foreign meat frequently was quite as good as English. One hon. Member put it very pointedly to the Government when he asked did the officers examine this meat, and were they trained to do it, and if they did examine it and were trained to do it, could they tell the difference? The putting of that question implied that it was recognised that it was very difficult indeed to tell the difference. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then if it was not difficult, how was it hon. Members opposite wanted the foreign meat marking? And then, if the beasts were killed at the port of entry, how could they tell whether it was foreign or English, because it would not have been frozen at all, and they would have no means of telling. If this foreign meat was not good why did they have any of it? Why did they have 60 per cent. of it if it was not good and economical, and if it was good and economical why did they forbid the contractor sending it all in foreign meat. Reference was made to the purchase of beer. He did not pose as an authority on beer—["hear, hear!"and laughter]—but when they were told that it was English beer that was bad and Irish beer that was good, he could not help remembering that a contractor who was beaten in his price always alleged that he had been beaten by an inferior article. Reference had been made to the "fair wages" Resolution. They could 836 not carry out that Resolution. It was an impracticable Resolution. How were they going to carry it out with regard to sugar? Were they going to insist that the War Office should only buy English sugar? Then, again, were they going to insist that the War Office should buy only English hams; that they should buy only Scotch oils and not American? The policy could not be followed out. It had not been followed out, and it would not be followed out. If the policy was sound, they should always buy in their own, locality. If it was sound between this country and foreign nations it was sound between this country and other parts of the Kingdom, and if it was sound as between nations it was sound as between towns. He ventured to hope that the War Office would continue to conduct its purchases on sound business principles, the same as any private individual or any private trader might do, for directly they got led off into these protectionists they made a great mistake, and would add seriously to the cost of the Army. The next idea might be to have all soldiers' clothing made from English wool, and quite as good an argument could be made for that as for English meat. Hon. Members did not, however, attempt to carry out that policy with their own tailors for their own clothes, and the country was not prepared for any such policy of protection.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
said he was anxious that the food supplies should, as far as possible, be purchased in the United Kingdom, and where it could be done in the localities where the troops were quartered, not, of course, at an extravagant price, nor should it be an invariable rule, because that would be to send up prices. He hoped the Government would, as far as possible, give preference to home produce. From the soldiers' point of view he thought it would be well if the men were instructed in killing beasts and preparing the carcasses as they would have to do if they were on active service. The more an Army was put under such conditions as would obtain in active service, the better for the men when the time came for active operations.
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM (Cork Co., N.E.)
said he did not complain of the tone of the Financial Secretary, but when last this subject was brought forward the same statement was made. An inquiry 837 was going on of a difficult and technical character, but he would like to know when that inquiry was likely to terminate? So long as they went on in this way the position was not improved, and they did not advance the question they had at heart. He was glad to hear that at the Curragh Camp home-grown meat was supplied. He represented a constituency which included the large military district of Fermoy, and he did not see why the same system should not apply there as at the Curragh. There was a large station at Kilworth, near Mitchelstown, and the same facilities for killing cattle for the troops as at the Curragh. It was far better that the living animals should be inspected. The investigation into the merits of foreign and home meat was no doubt most scientific and technical, but whatever chemists and others might report on the comparative merits of the food, it was certain that pound for pound there was no comparison between the foreign and home grown meat, and even if it were found necessary on the question of cost to provide less of the home grown meat it certainly was more nutritious than the foreign meat. He had received from his constituents a most extraordinary statement as to the conduct of the Board of Officers who inspected the meat supplied by contractors; be was informed that these officers had frequently rejected meat because it was home grown. ["No, no!"] He had been told so on evidence he could not refuse to believe, that the Board of Officers had rejected meat because it was home grown, and preferred the foreign supplies. That was intolerable. The whole policy of the War Office had been changed from what it formerly was. In former times there was an endeavour to make the troops popular in Ireland, and supplies were drawn from the neighbourhood of the barracks, but now the principle acted upon was to get food supplies from extraneous sources, precisely as if the troops were occupying a foreign country, in every garrison town in Ireland. Again, in supplying canteens there was a similar system. In the town of Fermoy there were traders who would like to tender for the supply of the canteen there, but they could not because the contract was made to include the whole of the Cork military district, including the whole of Munster and a great part of Leinster. Such a large contract 838 as this the traders of Fermoy, which was a small town, could not undertake. This was hard upon traders in small Irish towns, where trade was bad enough, Heaven knows, with decreasing populations, and the greatest difficulty in making ends meet. With 2,000 or 3,000 troops quartered in the district it would not be unreasonable to expect that they would help the trade. But no, the new regulations of the War Office, made some eighteen months ago, diverted all the trade on this account into the hands of large outside contractors. He hoped the favourable reply of the Financial Secretary would be translated into action, and that the inquiry spoken of would soon be brought to a conclusion.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
gave an emphatic denial to the statement of the hon. Member. There never had been a case where a. Board of Officers on behalf of the War Office had rejected meat because it was home grown. There was no foundation for such a statement, and no evidence had been put forward in support of it. The whole policy of the War Office had been, for years past, to take home grown meat in preference to foreign wherever it could be obtained. As had already been explained by his hon. Friend, the canteens were not controlled by the War Office, but were carried on for the benefit of the private soldier and so as to enable him to get his provisions as cheaply as possible. The War Office were anxious to give every encouragement to local traders for the supply of home as opposed to foreign articles; they had done what they could with that object in view, and no amount of pressure from the Committee could drive them further in the direction in which they had already gone some way. The supplies for the Curragh were now obtained locally, and the desire of the Government was identical with that of most hon. Members who had taken part in that discussion. ["Hear, hear!"] They should get supplies locally, as far as it was possible, and just now they were endeavouring, by means of expert advice, to ascertain whether there was in the case of home grown meat, as compared with frozen meat, anything which, without involving a great expense, would justify them in increasing the process already set on foot by his hon. Friend. He hoped that the Vote would now be allowed to pass, he giving the Committee 839 the strongest assurance that this action on the part of the War Office which had been going on consecutively should be continued with the object of supplying the largest number of stations they could with home-grown meat. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. DALZIEL
, while recognising the courtesy of the reply which the hon. Gentleman opposite had given with regard to the Amendment, desired to point out that its object was not to raise a general Debate on the merits, so much as to give the Government an opportunity of stating how much had been done in the direction of taking home as opposed to foreign articles. He was greatly surprised from that point of view at the statement of the Government. Could anyone who had listened to the Debate help contrasting the change of attitude of the Government that night with that of two years ago when they sat on the Opposition side of the House? Two years ago the cry of hon. Gentlemen opposite was all for home produce. That was one of their great cries at the General Election, and that was the prominent feature of nearly every placard with which they posted all the constituencies. It was only reasonable to demand, now that the Government had been in office two years, to know how far those pledges had been redeemed. Their reply was that they had done nothing, but were pursuing an inquiry by experts. They did not require an inquiry by experts to tell them two years ago that there were difficulties in the way. He would specially ask those hon. Members who made this home produce question the principal cry at their elections, how were they going to vote? The Financial Secretary had given no information whatever as to how much less was the amount of forage which had been obtained from abroad by the present Government, as compared with the period when the late Government were in office. There was practically no reply, because there had been no change. In regard to meat the whole matter came to this, that nothing had been done, and the Government asked for time to pursue an Inquiry by experts. The Division on this Vote was a protest against the attitude of the Government in first making this one of their great Party cries at the General Election, and then after two years in office, being unable to supply any evidence that, when the two things were equal, they had shown any preference or 840 given any advantage to home productions. For these reasons he should press the Amendment to a division.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
, in supporting the Amendment, denied that there was anything whatever about it savouring of protection, and pointed out that the question involved here was one of importance to agriculture. As to how far home produce was superior to foreign, anyone knew that home meat was far more palatable and digestible than foreign, and, therefore, had naturally a higher dietetic and nutritive value. The Committee which considered the subject of the dieting of the soldier, laid it down that frozen meat lost a large proportion of its strength in the process of cooking, and that was a strong argument against its use in soldiers' rations in preference to the native meat.
§ Question put, "That item A (Cost of Provisions), be reduced by £1,000."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 18; Noes, 131.—(Division List, No. 38.)
§ MR. FLYNN
asked for a further explanation of the cost of the canteen system. What they had heard, he submitted was not sufficient; perhaps Ireland could not brew such good ale as England, but in what is known as black porter, Ireland is quite equal to England. Under the present system the contract is not for one canteen but for a whole military district.
§ DR. TANNER
urged that there should be further discussion, as a little extra light would do good in all these matters.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum not exceeding £894,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Clothing Establishments and Services, which will come in the course of payment during the year ending on 31st day of March 1898.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
said there were 99 men in the Store Department under this Vote 841 and 17 men in the Factory Department under the Vote getting less than 20s. a week, or 116 in all, but he believed there was an inquiry going on.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said perhaps it would be more convenient if this Vote was taken on a subsequent day when the Ordnance Factories Vote might perhaps be taken at the same time, and the whole question might then be discussed.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £2,069,200, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Supply and Repair of Warlike and other Stores, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6. £1,016,400, Works, Buildings, and Repairs: Cost, including Superintending Staff.
§ MAJOR WYNDHAM-QUIN (Glamorgan, S.)
said he thought proper steps should be taken to render the coal ports of the Bristol Channel safe against the attack of an enemy in case of war. He did not think this Question had been brought before the House of Commons before, although deputations had waited on different Secretaries of State for War on the subject, including the right hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs when he was in office. No satisfactory reply however, had been given them. The principal ports on the Bristol Channel were Cardiff, Barry, Penarth, Swansea, and Newport, and no less than 15 million tons of coal were last year exported from these ports. The best coal for naval purposes was alone obtained in the county of Monmouth, and the valleys of the county of Glamorgan, and nearly the whole of our coal supply for the Navy was sent from that district. It was not likely in time of war that battle ships would go up the Bristol Channel for the purpose of stopping our coal supply, but a fast cruiser might try to do so. He was quite aware that, in the opinion of our naval men, we ought to trust entirely to our Navy for our defence, and that, therefore, they deemed every other sort of defence superfluous. Still, he thought that the Government were right in the course they had taken in providing 842 other means of defence, instead of trusting solely to the Navy. Those general officers who were in command of particular districts which included our coaling ports were of opinion that raids upon those ports in time of war by enemies' cruisers were not only possible, but probable; and that therefore such ports ought to be protected from surprise by means of land defences of a. sufficient strength to render it impossible that a cruiser or two would have them at their mercy. What were the existing defences in the Bristol Channel? Some 40 or 50 years ago certain forts were erected at various points, and they were armed with guns which were now altogether of an obsolete character, and would be quite ineffective if opposed to modern artillery, and would be unable to stop enemies' ships from coming up the Channel. Moreover, since those forts were built, the trade of Cardiff and other of the coaling ports along the coast had advanced by leaps and bounds, and they were now the largest coaling ports in the world. He had no desire that the right hon. Gentleman should pledge himself to any special scheme, but merely that he should undertake to give this subject his best consideration. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)
said that it was evident that some of the items in this Vote overlapped the provisions of the Bill which they had been discussing last night. They were now debating whether certain sums should be applied for the purposes of barracks, which were proposed to be dealt with under the Bill. It had been suggested, and the suggestion had been accepted by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War, that where money was expended on permanent works, which took several years to execute, it should be regarded as an expenditure on capital account, and should be provided for by Bill, but that mere annual expenditure should be provided for in the Votes from year to year. Looking through the various items included in this Vote, he found that the great majority of them were in respect of small works, and therefore were properly included in the Vote; but that one or two of them were in respect of works that were anything but small, and therefore he should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War 843 whether he intended to abide by the opinion he had expressed last night in reference to this question. For instance, he saw that the Vote included £10,000 as a first instalment of a total sum of £155,000 for the erection of new infantry barracks at Aldershot. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman should make some definite statement to the Committee in regard to the line which the War Office intended to adopt in connection with this subject. [" Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. WARNER
asked whether it was possible to get repairs to barracks done more expeditiously and more satisfactorily than was the case at present. He knew of an instance of a defective drain pipe at the barracks at Windsor which, after great difficulty, was patched up every six months, because a new pipe could not be obtained.
§ COLONEL WELBY
called attention to the fact that nearly all the money for works was intended to be spent on Infantry barracks. His experience was that Cavalry barracks were much more in need of improvements and enlargements. He welcomed with all his heart the new scheme of Cavalry reorganisation. It was, undoubtedly, a step in the right direction. But he would impress upon the right hon. Gentleman that it was absolutely necessary to the success of the scheme that the Cavalry barracks should be enlarged. Anybody who knew anything of the inner working of a Cavalry regiment, knew the great responsibility that was thrown on the Quartermaster-Sergeant, and if the right hon. Gentleman meant to make this proposed scheme a genuine reorganisation of the Cavalry, he must provide proper accommodation for those who had to manage a squadron. If the House would not vote sufficient money to carry out all the works, he would suggest that instead of building so many new barracks in different parts of the country, it would be a far better plan to improve the existing Cavalry barracks.
§ MR. PHILIP STANHOPE (Burnley)
said that the Commander-in-Chief had recently made a tour of the recruiting depôts, with a view to transferring and even suppressing some of them. He trusted that the depôt at Burnley, which was one of the best recruiting centres in the country, was not going, especially as the Commander-in-Chief, who had expressed 844 great satisfaction with the condition of things he saw there, was altogether against that course.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said he desired to call attention to an incident which showed the absence of business principles in the carrying out of the painting of barracks. He happened to be passing the Cavalry barracks at Cahir, in the County of Tipperary, during very wet weather last autumn. He was surprised to see the men under canvas in a slop of wet. He inquired what had happened, and as the account he received was very confusing, he went into the barracks to make inquiries. 1896 was the year, according to routine, for painting the barracks. In the middle of June a letter reached the regiment requesting the Colonel to make arrangements to vacate the barracks in order that the work might be carried out. The Colonel informed the authorities that the regiment was going to the Curragh in July, and would not be back till the middle of August, and that it would be a great convenience to everybody concerned if the barracks were painted during that time. At the beginning of July the regiment went to the Curragh, and cleared everything out of the barracks to facilitate the painting. About the middle of July a contractor arrived with his materials and mixed his paints, when down came an official and said he must send samples to be analysed, and that the contractor must not go on with the work meanwhile. The regiment carne back about the middle of August and found affairs in that condition. A few days after, the contractor got an official intimation that the samples of paint were all right, and then, in the desperate weather of last September, the regiment had to turn out in batches of 60 and go under canvas in the barrack yard. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to give his attention to that particular matter and to look into it. It was a state of affairs that ought not to be tolerated. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said he would certainly look into the matter his hon. Friend had called attention to, as well as the other matters which had been mentioned by the hon. Member for Burnley and others. As to the question raised by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, the reason for the state of things 845 to which he referred was that the barracks at Portsmouth, which were required by the Admiralty for the Marines, were given up to them by the War Office, and the sum taken would enable the War Office to build barracks elsewhere. Therefore it was simply a. case of exchange. The hon. Member for Glamorganshire had asked him a question with reference to the Bristol Channel. That question had been carefully considered. The Bristol Channel was one of those harbours which had been considered by past and present Governments, and it was proposed to make considerable expenditure in its defences. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke had spoken about lockers for individual soldiers. That was no doubt an admirable suggestion. The late Mr. Stanhope, when at the War Office, arranged for putting up cupboards in barrack rooms in which the soldiers could store whatever was carried on by them from one meal to another. It was very desirable that the soldiers should have lockers, and he would look into the question to see whether the accommodation could be given.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
said the hon. Member for Glamorganshire mentioned that he was a member of the last deputation that came to him some years ago on the subject of the defences of the Severn
§ MAJOR. WYNDHAM-QUIN
said that what he stated was that a deputation had waited on the right hon. Gentleman from the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce. He did not say that he was a member of it or connected with it.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said that he remembered receiving an influential deputation upon the subject of the defence of the Severn, and he had had other comunications with hon. Members interested in the subject. It was from no want of respect for the views of that deputation on the part of the War Office that any delay that had occurred could be ascribed. On these questions of the fortification of commercial ports the Secretary of State for the time being must obviously rely upon the advice he obtained from the Joint Naval and Military Defence Committee as to the particular places where defences were most urgently required. That Committee decided that other parts of the island were 846 more exposed to danger, and therefore had a prior claim to attention from the Government. The money that could be expended was limited in amount, and the War Office therefore could not undertake to complete the defences of the whole coast of the country all at the same time. Whilst not in the least depreciating the importance of the defence of the Severn, he had acted when at the War Office—and he presumed his successor had done the same—upon the advice of the Naval and Military Defence Committee, who were supreme in these matters. He hoped, however, that the delay that had occurred would not now be very much prolonged.
§ MR. KNOX
said that the Vote included an item of £38,000 for work at the torpedo factory at Chatham. He understood that the work was to be done under the Naval Works Act, and it was difficult to understand why the item should appear in the Army Estimates if the work was to be paid for out of the Naval Works Fund. He also called attention to the item for work at Carrickfergus Castle, one of the finest Norman castles in the kingdom. The military authorities had already disfigured it horribly by what had been done to it, and he trusted that there was no intention of disfiguring it further.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
asked under whom the work at the Brennan Torpedo Factory was being continued?
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 7.£118,600, Establishments fur Military Education—Agreed to.
8. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £54,800, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Sundry Miscellaneous Effective Services, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898.
§ DR. TANNER
Where are they made? ["Order, order!"] The hon. Member proceeded to make some discursive re-marks, and was frequently called to order by the CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, who finally called the attention of the Committee to his conduct in persisting in irrelevance and tedious repetition, and directed him to discontinue his speech.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 120; Noes, 8.—(Division List, No. 39.)
§ And, it being after Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.