HC Deb 08 July 1897 vol 50 cc1367-9

, in asking leave to introduce a Bill to facilitate military manœuvres, said the Bill had been brought forward at this period of the Session in consequence of the very strong encouragement which the Government received from various quarters of the House. There had been, as was well known, complete unanimity among military authorities inside and outside the House with regard to this question, and there had been indications from almost every quarter that there was a desire that Parliament should give our troops the same opportunities for manœuvres as were given to Foreign armies. Last year a Bill was introduced which was based almost word for word on Measures which had passed the House on previous occasions and which had worked without friction. They had believed that such a course would have given satisfaction, but they found that that view was erroneous and that when the Measure was to be made permanent there was a desire that its provisions should contain, not the maximum that might be necessary, but the minimum that would be necessary in order to carry out the manœuvres. The short Measure they were now introducing would give to the military authorities that minimum, and he hoped it would meet nearly all the criticisms which were passed on the Measure of last Session. The scope of the Bill was that an Order in Council should be made authorising the holding of manœuvres, that local commissions would then be appointed by local bodies, to which the Secretary of State would be allowed to add local gentlemen, owners, or occupiers of land, who would, however, be in a minority on the commission. The Measure would extend to Scotland and to Ireland in deference to the wishes expressed last year. All lands would be placed on the same footing with the exception of appurtenances of dwelling-houses and enclosed woods. Common lands and private lands would be treated alike in that respect. In deference to the fear expressed lest the same land should be too often taken they had put a proviso into the Bill that the same limits should not be specified for the manœuvres more than once in five years. In a similar spirit they had dealt with compensation on the lines urged upon them last year, and compensation would be given by the Government for any damage to person or property, or for interference with rights caused by the manœuvres, or any operations incidental thereto. They believed those words would cover the whole of the claims made upon them last year. Then, also in deference to the strongly expressed desire on the other side of the House that manœuvres should not take place without the actual authority of the House being invoked, they now proposed that a Resolution should be passed in Parliament in each year authorising the holding of the manœuvres if they were to be held. Penalties had been reduced to the lowest possible amount. There would be a penalty of 40s. for wilful obstruction to the manœuvres or for entering without authority into a camp, and a penalty of £5 for wilful damage to telegraph wires, flags, or distinguishing marks, and those penalties would be enforced by the ordinary law and not by any extraordinary tribunal. It might possibly be urged that that House had already given them this year a large tract of country on which to manœuvre, but he had explained at the time that, although that tract was absolutely necessary in order to enable cavalry to be properly trained, no tract which the Government could supply would enable our Generals and transport officers to get the experience which was necessary. They asked the House to pass the Bill this Session, because unless that was done they would be placed in the same position as they were in last year, when the money provided for the manœuvres had to be returned to the Exchequer. The Bill was regarded by the military authorities as being absolutely necessary in order to prevent our troops from being at a disadvantage as compared with those of foreign countries. He begged to move that leave be given to bring in the Bill. (Cheers.)


said there could be no doubt whatever as to the very great importance of the object which the Government had in view in introducing this Measure—he would even use so strong a word as supreme importance—in the interests of the efficiency of the Army. Perhaps the higher officers in an even greater degree than the other branches of the service recognised the extreme importance of some better means than we had now of exercising the troops. He trusted from what the right hon. Gentleman had said that he had been able to meet in many respects the objections that were brought against the previous Measure, and, if so, he thought he would have very little difficulty in passing the Bill through the House that Session. Speaking for inns-self, he should be glad to do all he could to assist in passing it into law, and trusted it would meet with the general approbation of the House. ["Hear, hear!"]

Question put, "That leave be given to to bring in a Bill to facilitate Military Manœuvres."

The house divided:—Ayes, 215; Noes, 39.—(Division List, No. 280.)

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Brodriek, Mr. Powell-Williams, and the First Lord of the Treasury; presented accordingly, and Read the First time; to be Read a Second time upon Monday next, and to be printed.—[Bill 306.]