§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK, Surrey, Guildford)
moved "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ MR. H. C. STEPHENS (Middlesex, Hornsey)
moved to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months." He said he could assure the House that he was in no way opposed to military manœuvres —[a laugh]—on the contrary, he greatly desired that they should become a settled branch of military training, but in his opinion nothing would tend more to make military manœuvres unpopular and impair their prospects than to pass a Bill with unsuitable machinery to be worked under impossible conditions. He had put down the Motion with great diffidence; but there was great danger that the Bill would not receive in Committee the patient and careful consideration it required, and as it was an Act that would be constantly at work—at least he hoped so—[laughter, and "Hear, hear!"]—it was all the more desirable that it should be made a good and workable Bill. Confining himself to what, in his point of view, were Second Reading objections, he wished to touch upon the quality of the administrative machinery, the nature of their powers, and the provisions for compensation. The administrative powers, which were serious and extensive, were centred in the Military Manœuvres Commission. That Commission would prove to be not as fair as it appeared to be. The members appointed by the War Department were not to exceed one-half of the whole Commission; but in actual working, seeing that the representative Members were to be appointed by the county and borough councils, it was certain that these members would not act except when the district they represented was affected, so that the military members would always be in a large majority. The Bill was thus open to this objection—that in appearance it was very different from what it would amount to in action. The Military Manœuvres Commission was to be intrusted with very important powers. It would be for the Commission to decide what land, roads, and water supplies were to be used by the forces. Critical questions might arise and some machinery ought to be provided for an appeal from the Commission's decision. The Commission was to determine what persons ought to receive compensation, but as it often happened that many persons had a common interest in the same 605 land, he doubted whether that tribunal would be competent to dispose of the complicated points that would inevitably present themselves. If the claims of any member of a group of persons who were entitled to compensation should be ignored by the Commission there was no machinery provided in the Bill to enable such a person to have the omission rectified. Claims for compensation for destruction of game and loss of sporting rights would practically be frequently made, but the Bill was so drawn that it was doubtful whether they could be entertained. That was a point which ought not to be left ambiguous. If the Government would give ample time for the consideration of the Bill he thought that it might be put in good working order, but should it be rushed through in its present imperfect state the rights of individuals would be endangered, and the popularity of military manœuvres would be seriously jeopardised. He concluded by moving the Amendment standing in his name.
MR. HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
seconded the Amendment. He said that anyone who read this Bill and compared it with the Bill of last year must admit that the present was the better Measure. The opposition to the Bill of 1896 had thus been justified by the transformation of the Measure. He doubted, however, whether it was wise to provide that manœuvres were not to be held in the same area more than once in five years, because there could be no doubt that certain areas were peculiarly adapted to manœuvres. The Bill provided that three months' notice of intended manœuvres should be given to local authorities. That, in his opinion, was too short a time seeing that county councils only met once a quarter. With regard to the composition of the Commission he urged that district councils in areas affected by the Bill ought to be represented upon it. They thought it very desirable that the majority, not the minority, of the Commission should be elected. If not, the Secretary of State, through his nominees, would have practically a majority upon the Commission. He objected to the extraordinary powers given by this Bill to the Commission; it was proposed that they should be enabled to make regulations in reference to the procedure, and the time limit, and the 606 mode of compensation. He suggested that the House of Commons should have the opportunity of criticising such regulations as were made. He recognised the change which had been made as to this Bill, and hoped the right hen. Gentleman would accept his suggestion.
§ On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval,
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S)
spoke in opposition to the Bill, every line of which, he said, infringed every principle that was dear to the Constitution and to popular liberties. It was an absolute infraction of the Bill of Rights, and contrary to all the ideas of liberty in England for soldiers in time of peace, and when not under martial law, to be simply drafted into any locality, to be put on private property, occupying fields and farms, thus disturbing not only the ordinary operations of husbandry but of trade. Surely Members could not know the contents of the Bill to which they were assenting. It was a Bill, as he had said, opposed to constitutional right, its tendency was to substitute military power for popular rights, to make the War Office master of the people. There were ten clauses in the Bill, every one of them a glorification of illegality, and most insidiously did the draftsman accomplish his purpose. No preamble set out the object of the Bill, though an inkling of what was intended appeared in the statement on the back. In that it was stated that the Bill was to facilitate military manœuvres, its effect would be to suppress popular right. One of the worst features was the pretence of guarantees and protection against illegalities, mere paper guarantees, for the War Office would be master of the situation. There was a series of carefully constructed clauses, purporting to show that all the rights of the people were to be considered, and that it would be for the people themselves to receive or not the army proposed to be placed in their midst; but the real gist of it was that the War Office, without in the slightest degree really consulting the people, regard a certain locality as a sort of Naboth's vineyard, and, coverting it, would get it, no matter which way the wishes of the people went. But all things were to be 607 done "decently and in order," and there was a display of paper safeguards. There was to be an Order by the Queen in Council, but before that Order was made, before the Queen and Council had anything to do with it, a draft Order would be prepared by some ambitious War Office clerk, and this was to be submitted to the County Council for the locality, and this draft Order, when submitted to the County Council, was to be laid before the Houses of Parliament for 30 days, and would be acted upon unless both Houses presented addresses against it. A beautiful appearance this had, but it was all an impudent pretence. Though the draft Order was objected to, it could still be enacted by Order in Council, and this would still be valid, though in its initial stages it were opposed by every member of the County Council. Against the will of the War Office there would be no power of the county to modify it in any particular. So much for the first safeguard. As to the laying before Parliament, that was a mere soporific to satisfy the popular idea. He had never known such a draft Order objected to, nor did he know that it would be effective. The Queen in Council of course was a relic of the old established Privy Council, but there were certain statutory powers given to the Queen in Council, and this was a mere pretence. Having got the Order, the military authorities would proceed to declare a. state of martial law over the rights of property in a locality, and martial law, as lawyers said, was no law at all. Every right of property would be assailed. On lands and fields the authorities would have power to construct works and execute military manœuvres, the military could supply themselves with water from any authorised supply, they could dam up running streams, and stopping mill power could temporarily destroy the whole industry of the country side, by this precious Act of a Constitutional Government. Other provisions indicated the high-handed character of this proposal. The rights of way on roads and footpaths could be interfered with. With a maximum of cunning and a minimum of skill the draftsman had constructed the clauses apparently with a copy of the Irish Coercion Act before him. At their own sweet will two Justices of the Peace, on the application of a commissioned 608 officer were to give authority to stop a public right of way. These two magistrates might be selected from any part of the county; they might be men whose character might be under investigation by the Lord Lieutenant, and, like the Irish removables, their continuance in office might depend on their willingness to accommodate the military authorities. Then there was the Military Commission, to which reference had been made in an apologetic tone. The Commission would have the power of saying whether these great powers placed in the possession of the War Office should be exercised in a locality, and whether certain rights of objection should be allowed. It would be a sham Commission—the actual authority through its nominees, would be with the War Office. The Government had had many Commissions, and Lord Salisbury's remarks upon Commissioners he would not repeat. They applied in this instance. It might be that not a man on the Commission had close connection with the district where the manœuvres were to take place. These manœuvres might take place over three or four shires, but the Bill did not show from what County Councils the representatives were to be elected. And even if they were the very best men, their election was a mere sham, because they were overwhelmed in the voting by the official agents of the War Office. Every line of the Bill invaded some general principle, and they saw here the absolute disingenuousness of the thing; for of the men to whom this power was arrogated to hear claims, three formed a quorum, and the whole of the three by the nominees of the War Office who might decide everything before the representatives of popular rights could put in an appearance. Having shown the constitution he then came to this blasphemy of anything like judicial procedure. This Committee could make the various rules for determining what lands and roads are in the meaning of the Act, and it had to hold at least one public meeting to hear the claims of any person who was affected. If a man went to the Committee and represented that he would be subjected to such and such loss, they would answer that that might be true, and that they were very sorry for him, but they could not help it. If the man said he would appeal, then he would be 609 told that there was no appeal. Rights of property, rights affecting a man's comfort, a man's life, a man's prosperity, were all to be swept off by a Committee which might consist of only three, and those three War Office officials who might happen to reside in the neighbourhood. He said this was a monstrous This Bill not only destroyed the rights of property, not only made the power of the individual as nothing, not only ruined and annihilated the old English axiom that a man's house was his castle, but, when a man wished to defend his rights, it punished him for doing so by two wretched removable magistrates. It invaded popular rights; it was a distinct subversion of all the principles which they generally held dear in the constitution, and it contained a series of regulations which were mere paper regulations made with the intention of deceiving—a clumsy and impudent intention because there was not the least probability of its success. He had dealt with the Bill as it affected England, but it also applied to Ireland.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said there was no difficulty about that, if the hon. Member did not wish it to apply to Ireland. It was entirely for the Trish Members to decide.
§ MR. MACNEILL
said he would consider the Bill as it was, and would show the good intention of the Government in regard to it towards Ireland. This was a most insidious and most impudent piece of draftsmanship. In the application of this Act to Ireland it laid down, Poor-Law Guardians were to stand in the place of the County Councils in England, and thus the Poor Law Guardians were to represent the elective element in reference to these manœuvres which would be represented in England by the County Councils. Who were the Poor Law Guardians? A considerable number of them were not elected at all, so that they might have these manœuvres in Ireland under the influence of the squireen and the out-of-elbow landlords. The Bill showed that the Government were really inaccessible to any sense of constitutional feeling, and that they thought that, with their mechanical majority, they could carry anything. He should support the Motion for the rejection of the Bill.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said he did not know how far the hon. Gentleman who had 610 just spoken represented the views of the Irish Party in the House, but the strength' with which he had spoken about the Bill, and the evidence which his speech afforded that he had not regarded it either from the point of view of those who proposed it or Of the actual words as they stood on the Paper, made it necessary for him to point out that if his objection were taken from the point of view of those whom he represented, the Government would have no special object to gain by pressing upon Ireland provisions which it would be more to her advantage than disadvantage to accept. ["Hear, hear!"] Last year, when the Manœuvres Bill was before- Parliament, it was intimated to him in the ordinary manner, that it was desired both by Ireland and Scotland that it should extend to those countries, and, accordingly, provisions to that effect were introduced into the Bill of this year. But it must be clearly understood that the Government were not prepared either to sacrifice the Bill, or the advantages which could be got by holding manoeuvres in Great Britain, by pressing upon the Trish representatives advantages in respect to the quartering of troops in that country which might not be desired by those representatives. [Cheer.] It should he remembered that of all things—and he spoke from some experience—nothing was more difficult than to remove from any part of Ireland a body of troops which had been quartered there—["Hear, hear!"]—and he might say also, that there was no part of the Kingdom in which manœuvres were known to be so popular as they were in Ireland. Only recently he had had a communication from the Field-Marshal commanding the troops in Ireland (Lord Roberts) in which he informed him of the very handsome way in which he had been met, not merely by the owners but by the occupiers of land, in the small summer drills which had been carried out there. Though, of course, it was always open to any one man, whether he was an owner or occupier, who might prove recalcitrant to do away with a good deal of the advantages of the manœuvres, he must say that in Ireland there had been a disposition to show that, when they came, the troops were welcome. ["Hear, hear!"] It would be quite impossible to carry on manœuvres on a scale as large as they desired to do if there had to 611 be separate agreements, which would amount to many thousands, to enable the troops to go over their lands, but at the same time it would always be possible for the Government, though they would do it with reluctance after what occurred last year, to make a concession to the Irish representatives in this matter and to confine these large manœuvres to Great Britain. ["Hear, hear!"] Both his hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and the hon. Member for Denbighshire spoke in no sense in a hostile spirit to the Bill. On the contrary, they welcomed the Bill, though they found fault with some of the provisions, which they thought, in sonic cases, were not sufficiently stringent. There was, however, one note which was common to his hon. Friend behind him and to the hon. Member for Donegal, and as to which he wanted to say a word. They both assumed that the Military Manœuvres Commission would be more or less under the control of the War Office. That was not only not the case, but it was absolutely the reverse of the case. In the Bill of last year—a Bill which was founded exactly on the Bill which passed that House three times mid which was worked without any friction whatever in 1871, 1872, and 1876—power was given to the Secretary of State to appoint what representatives he chose to serve on the Military Manœuvres Commission. Some exception was taken to that, and they had met that objection entirely in the present Bill. They had provided that all the representatives should be local. Some were members of the county council, who were nominated by the local people themselves, and the remainder, who could not be the majority, were to be nominated by the Secretary of State if he chose to nominate that number, which he was very unlikely to do. It was not at all certain that the local representatives, who might be gentlemen of great experience in some things, would be all occupiers of land in the district in which the manœuvres were to be held, and the object in securing to the Secretary of State this power of nominating sonic members to act with these local gentlemen was to give him the opportunity of putting on local men who were occupiers of land and who would be willing to co-operate with them and take 612 some interest in these proceedings. The hon. Member for Donegal spoke of the Members of Boards of Guardians in Ireland as being necessarily nominated members. Boards of Guardians had fixed upon these boards because they understood that they would be the persons to whom the Trish Party would look with more satisfaction than to others.
§ MR. MACNEILL
explained that he meant to contrast, boards of guardians with elected councils. He wished to show that boards of guardians were not wholly representative.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said the Government could only use the organisations at hand. If any better organisation were set up, and he hoped that next Session one would be formed, it would be used for the purpose of military manœuvres. The desire of the Government was to get the best representation of the district they could without imposing on the district a special election for the purpose. They believed that in Ireland the manœuvres would be popular. They were not in the least desirous that the War Office should dictate their own terms in Ireland, or in England, or in Scotland either; all they desired was to see that the interests of every one affected were really guarded by the Bill. His hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey was anxious there should be an appeal from the proceedings of the Commission. It would be most undesirable under all the circumstances to set up any Court of Appeal on a subject of this kind. Then his hon. Friend was desirous that they should have some consideration with regard to compensation. The clause had been drawn in the widest possible manner. They had not limited themselves to any description of right. They had taken on their shoulders the responsibility for any damage done by the troops and by those who accompanied the troops, whether under their control or not. All rights, whether sporting, common, or of any other character, were provided for by the Bill. They did not anticipate very heavy charges under the clause. Previous Acts had been worked without very excessive compensation, and the best proof that they had been worked fairly and equitably was that there were no appeals, and that at the end of all no grievances 613 existed—[cheers]—but the troops received invitations from every district to return. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Devonshire asked that the Commission should include representatives of district councils. Some district councils represented as few as 200 inhabitants, while others represented as many as 100,000 people, and therefore any general law which gave representation to district councils would lead to enormous representation in some districts and very small representation in other districts. The intention was that the Commission should not be a Parliament, but a business-like body who would meet a few times, draw up necessary rules, hear appeals and settle matters to the satisfaction of all parties. He thought that in practice it would be found that the three months' notice provided for by the Bill would be fair and equitable, and, in conclusion, he said that what the Government asked for was the mininum of sacrifice on the part of private individuals in order that a great public service might be rendered. The House annually voted £18,000,000 for the maintenance and the training of our troops. Probably the cost of manœuvres in a single year would not amount to more than £1 in every £180 or £150 voted. He thought it would commend itself to every man in the House that the training which every nation in Europe found it necessary to give its troops ought not to be denied to our troops for such a fractional sum, to be asked for, not every year, but perhaps once in three or five years, and over which Parliament would have absolute control. [Cheers.]
§ MR. H. C. F. LUTTRELL (Devon, Tavistock)
said this Bill was very different from the Bill of last year. He therefore did not look upon this Bill as he looked upon the former Bill. If the Government attached importance to this Bill, why did not they introduce the Bill at a more seasonable time? ["Hear, hear!"] The principal similarity between this Bill and the Bill of last year was in the name. It was a very had name. [Cries of "Oh!"] He was very glad that he and others opposed the Bill of last year. It was because of their opposition that they had not got the Bill of last year. They had now got a Bill totally different to that of last year. If last year's Bill had been 614 a good one, they could not have defeated it. But he took the present Bill to be a successor of the old Bill. He so far congratulated the Under Secretary for War that this Bill did not require the opposition given to the Bill of last year. The hon. Member had climbed down to another branch, and on this lower branch he was more secure. This would not be opposed as the Bill of last, year was opposed, but there were details winch would require careful consideration, if they had sufficient time. He would remind the Government that the Bill must not be rushed through, they must have sufficient opportunities of examining into it. There were a good many clauses of the Bill which required serious consideration, they were not going to put forward objections simply as obstruction, and he hoped the Government would not use the clause in order to prevent these objections being considered. ["Hear, hear!"] Why did they object to the Bill of last year? It was because they looked upon it as an unconstitutional Measure. This Bill was not an unconstitutional Measure, therefore he dill not feel the same objection to this Bill that he felt to the Bill of last year. He specially referred to Clause 4, and expressed his pleasure that the Government had seen their way to draw the Lord Lieutenant from the Commission. He still thought there was room for improvement, particularly in Sub-section (c). The punitive clauses in this Bill were far better than those in last year's Bill; but he thought there was still room for improvement in Subsection (3) Clause 7, which spoke of any person who entered or remained in any camp.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
To discuss the question whether the word should be "enter" or "enter and remain," is a most unusual course in a Debate on the Second Reading a Bill. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. LUTTRELL
said he hoped the Government would see their way to amend the punitive clauses. He took the Bill as it now stood as one which could in Committee be turned into a harmless Bill, though he could not call it a useful one, and he should not feel it necessary to object to it in principle. He hoped, however, that the Government would give consideration to the 615 Amendments which came from the Opposition side of the House, and that both sides of the House would approach it with a desire to improve it where necessary.
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E)
said that his objection to the Measure was that it embodied a policy which would tend to increase the spirit of militarism in this country. The Under Secretary for War made an eloquent appeal to the House to pass the Second Reading, because the Government were only endeavouring to follow the example of the great military Powers of the Continent, whose troops sooner or later we should have to meet in the field. He utterly objected to following that example. There was a section of people in this country, a growing and increasing section led on by some of the most distinguished military officers, who had advocated for years the doctrine that if Great Britain was to be safe from invasion, it could only be rendered safe by following to the full the example of the great military Powers of the continent. The leader of the army had over and over again advocated the adoption of the principle of conscription by this country. He regretted the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary as an indication of the growth of that spirit; for what did the right hon. Gentleman say? He based his appeal to the House, on the necessity of following the example set by the military authorities of the Continent.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I did not say anything of the kind—I said we had no right to deny to our troops the same training that continental powers gave to their troops, having regard to the fact that they might at some time have to meet them in the field. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Mr. DILLON
urged that once the right hon. Gentleman began to argue on the principle that the troops of Great Britain might have to meet the troops of Continental Powers in the field, he would be carried by the irresistible force of logic to the adoption of the principle of conscription. The right hon. Gentleman, replying to criticisms advanced from his own side of the House, said that this Bill was not introduced in the earlier part of the Session, because the First Lord of the Treasury had purposely delayed its introduction until he was certain that he could give adequate time for its discussion. 616 But Irish Members had been told that there was not an hour to discuss absolutely essential Irish subjects. He could propose to the right hon. Gentleman three or four subjects to which he could more usefully devote his time. It was an outrage that when useful Irish legislation was waiting for time to be given to it, the First Lord of the Treasury should declare that he had time for an unnecessary and mischevious Measure like this. The Under Secretary for War, in criticising some observations of his hon. Friend the Member for South Donegal, said that in Ireland the troops were not unpopular. The right hon. Gentleman also said that when it was proposed to remove the troops from any town a great outcry was raised by the traders. He admitted that as a rule the troops in Ireland were not unpopular, because they were kept apart as a rule from party complication and from attacks upon the people. In regard to the other point, it was only natural that when the Irish people contributed their fair share, and, indeed, more than their fair share, it was not unreasonable that there should be a general desire among the traders in country towns, where trade was stagnant and poverty deepening every year, to obtain some benefit in the expenditure in connection with bodies of troops. He did not himself believe that troops by being stationed in a town brought any real prosperity to that town, but when they found large cities like Manchester and other towns in Lancashire struggling for regiments to be quartered in them on account of expenditure, it was not surprising that poor, poverty-stricken Irish towns should wish for troops being quartered in them. He would make a fair offer to the right hon. Gentleman. If the Government would consent to transfer to some useful expenditure in Ireland the present cost of garrisons there, then he would advise the withdrawal of all the troops from Ireland, and would wish them God speed, and for his own part he would never wish to see a soldier again in Ireland. But, of course, it stood to reason that so long as the taxpayers of Ireland had to pay more than their fair share to the Exchequer of the country they should be 617 entitled to their fair share of the expenditure on the Army and Navy, if they did not get the money in some more useful shape. Everyone knew that in the case of the Army, Ireland, owing to political reasons, got a reasonable portion and, indeed, more than a reasonable portion of the expenditure on the Army. But in the ease of the Navy, Ireland did not get one-tenth of what she was entitled to. Therefore the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman in answer to the Irish objection to the Bill was outside the mark. He also objected to the Bill because he objected to any increase in the spirit of militarism, and to proposals which tended to bring about conflict with the armies and bloated armaments of Continental Powers. But apart from the spirit of the Bill, the Debates were extremely objectionable. He admitted, however, that the Under Secretary had introduced into it a great many Amendments which, from the Irish point of view, modified the Bill, so that it was not at all so dangerous or extreme as the Bill of last year. It was, for instance, on the suggestion of the Irish Members that the right hon. Gentleman had introduced representation of Boards of Guardians. In regard to the compensation clauses it appeared that if a farmer failed to come to an agreement with the Arbitration Commission as to compensation, he was entitled to go to law to recover his compensation, and such a provision would mean that the poor Mall who required compensation would have to do without it. Then, again, a small majority of inhabitants of a district might, against the wishes of large minority, be the means of bringing into that district an immense military force, and encamping them upon the properties of that minority. For a party like the Tory Party, so extremely jealous of the rights of property, that was a large order, and he hoped it would be altered in Committee. He had heard hon. Gentlemen opposite exclaim violently against proposals of a much milder character from the Radical Party.
618 To turn a body of soldiers loose in a district for two or three months, without asking leave or paying regard to the objections, was about as extreme an invasion of the rights of property as could be imagined. Such a Bill ought to be carefully and jealously scrutinised before it was passed by the House.
§ MR. SCOTT-MONTAGU (Hampshire, New Forest)
said that his constituents regarded this Bill with much more favour than that of last year. There were, however, one or two Amendments which he wished to move in Committee. If the Leader of the Opposition were in the House he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that manœuvres in the New Forest district, under adequate restrictions, would be welcomed anion!, the inhabitants by all true lovers of common law and forest rights, as well as by those interested in the Army. He should cordially support the Bill.
§ MR T. P. WHITTAKER (York, W.R., Spen Valley)
objected to such a controversial Measure being introduced so late in the Session. Truly the Government had learned much since last year, for they had cut down the Bill of last year by two-thirds. The opposition to last year's Bill was therefore justified by the present one; for if the former were necessary, the latter must be insufficient; and if the present Bill were sufficient, that of last year must have been far more than was necessary. The Bill was extremely specious, for it seemed to yield a. great deal to popular representation and influence, while really there was no protection even for majorities. There was no power given to any of all the Councils before which the proposals were to be laid to stop them. The roads could even be stopped for 48 hours, with the sanction of two justices of the peace. There might be twenty justices opposed to the stopping of the roads, but that would make no difference. And there was no provision that the two consenting justices should be local they might be two of the officers.
619 Then as to the Manœuvres Commission, the War Office was to appoint half the members. Two were to be appointed by the Council of each county, and one by the Council of each county borough. How were the county boroughs concerned? Parliamentary and municipal boroughs were to have no representation in England. But in Scotland, Royal boroughs, Parliamentary boroughs, and Police boroughs—some of which were no bigger than villages in England—were to have representatives. There would be considerable difficulty in securing the attendance of all these representatives, but the War Office would take care that their representatives attended, and so the War Office would always be in a majority on the Commission. The Commission might act, too, by three of its members. There was nothing to prevent three representatives of the War Office being appointed to act for the Commission; and practically, therefore, the manœuvres would be in the hands of the War Office. It was provided that a public meeting was to be held, but the decision of the meeting mattered nothing, even if it was a unanimous vote against the whole thing. It was a most specious Bill. It gave the people an opportunity of expressing their opinions, but only an opportunity; it gave them no power whatever. All the powers were extremely arbitrary and the punishments were somewhat heavy. In order to get a compensation a farmer might have to bring a lawsuit, and was a wrong to the farmer. Then, or the general principle, he was not at all in favour of flooding districts of the country with tens of thousands of military men. The planting of soldiers in a district was a great social and moral curse. [Cheers.] They were a nuisance to the whole district. ["No!"] Yes, turn up the Parliamentary returns that exhibit the morality of the towns of this country, and it would be seen that the lowest by far, in point of morality, were the military towns. [Cheers and counter cheers.] He also objected to the Bill that 620 it was only one other phase of growing militarism. The military expenditure was growing, and the influence of the military was growing, and he regarded it as a serious danger. The War Office was continually grasping at more power. Then it appeared that if the representatives front Ireland did not like the Bill the Government would give it up for Ireland, but he understood that the justification for the Bill was that it was required for the training of the troops. Then did not the troops in Ireland require training? [Cheers.] If the Irish Members were to have this power, why not give the power to the county councils in England and Scotland to say whether they wished to have manœuvres in their area or not? If that power were given, the greater part of his objections to the Bill would be removed.
§ *DR. TANNER (Cork, Co., Mid)
said he agreed that the Bill was a material improvement upon the Bill of last Session, but Irish Members did not care for the flaunting of military manœuvres in the face of their country. Even the poor people who eke out a precarious livelihood on the barren hill-sides were not to be bought in order that an English Army might exercise manœuvres over their lands. If the Government wanted those manœuvres let them hold them in localities where the military interest might predominate, among the shoneens, the little magistrates, the little people who had daughters to be married, and who wanted manœuvres in the hope of getting one of their great flock off their hands. [Laughter.] These people knew perfectly well what these manœuvres meant. [A laugh.] There would be manœuvres, but there would also be matrimonial manœuvres. He thought that when the discussion on this Bill was read in Ireland the question asked by the people would be, "Were the Irish Members right or not in opposing the Measure?" He believed that from Cork to Derry the people of Ireland would reply "Yes," and that they were 621 right in offering an uncompromising opposition to a Bill which only tended to bring increased degradation to their beloved country.
§ *MR. WEIR
could not understand why a Bill of this importance had been brought forward at so late a. period of the Session. He could not refrain from thinking that there was at the War Office a craze for military display. But the Government should not forget that the country depended for its defence in the first instance on our Navy, and that we could not possibly compete with the great armies of Russia, Germany, and France. If our Navy should be shattered we should be in a sorry plight indeed. He could understand the proposal if it were intended to send our troops to vast tracts of unoccupied land in the North of Scotland; or, say, to the Island of Lewis—[laughter]—where the cost would be small, and where the soldiers would interfere with no one, instead of quartering them amid a thick and busy population in districts in England. This he considered not only to he a costly proceeding, but almost a crime. The Bill gave the Commission power to encamp soldiers and to construct military works in any district. The hon. Member for Hornsey referred to the power to dam up any stream and take water. Now this was a most important matter, for many industries depended on water supply, and if the water supply was cut off it would be extremely serious—it would mean a large number of persons thrown out of employment, and the British taxpayer would have to bear their losses. Then, again, cottagers would be affected by the right of stopping up roads within a specified limit. Children would not be able to attend school—[laughter]—their fathers would not be able to go to their work unless they stole across the fields, when they would be liable to arrest for trespass—[laughter]—and if a doctor was required to attend a case of illness, they would be unable to get at him without giving 48 hours' 622 notice to the military authorities. [Laughter.] He would not occupy the time of the House further at that late hour—["hear, hear!"]—but he must protest strongly against the Bill in its present form, and he trusted the Government would he prepared to accept such Amendments as would make the Bill a better and a fairer Bill.
§ MR. DALY
was sure the right hon. Gentleman must be proud of the compliments paid him on account of the improved state of the Bill this Session as compared with last, and since it had improved so much in 12 months, he thought after postponement for another year it would be a wonder in Ireland. [Laughter.] It reminded him of good whisky that Improved with age. [Laughter.] The best thing the right hon. Gentleman could do with the Bill would be to quietly allow it to die a natural death, mid let them hear no more of it this Session. The reason why he objected to the Bill was that it was brought on at the fag end of the Session. It was said to be a small affair, but a Bill of ten clauses, introduced within a fortnight of the House rising was not a small Measure to get through all its stages this Session. The right hon. Gentleman must see that there was a very fair share of opposition to the Bill. As far as he was concerned, he did not oppose the Bill in the way that some of his hon. Friends had opposed it. He was opposed to the Bill on the line that it was one of those Measures which ostensibly applied to Ireland as well as to England, and when it came to the scratch, Ireland got none of the money, and it was all spent in England. He also objected on another ground—viz., that this had been a barren Session as regarded Ireland. If the tune the Bill would occupy was given them to review the conduct of the Government and the way in which they had treated Ireland, it would be much better spent. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman, after consultation with his colleagues, would consider it desirable to withdraw this Military Manœuvres Bill, 623 as Irish Members on both sides all felt that it was necessary to discuss the way in which the Government had treated Ireland. Not a single Bill for the benefit of Ireland had been passed through the House this year. [Cries of "Order!"] As to the damming up of water, why, the officer in charge of these military manœuvres might order a large river to be dammed up, with the result that the whole country might be flooded and crops destroyed. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but it was only the other day that they heard a great deal of mourning on account of something happening in a neighbouring county, where a flood occurred and a wonderful amount of damage was done to the farms in the district. They had no proof that under this Bill an officer might not dam up any river in this country or in Ireland—[laughter]—and flood the whole of the crops in the neighbourhood. It was a very serious consideration, and on the Second Reading of the Bill precautions should be taken to prevent any such thing occurring. It was far better to have these matters discussed now than after the Bill had passed into law. Clause 3 placed a great deal of power in the hands of the magistrates. Any person going through Ireland would know what great hardship it would be to the people that on 12 hours' notice one of the principal roads of a district might be blocked. It would paralyse trade. Further, the heavy traffic would throw serious burdens on the cess-payers of the locality. Taken altogether, the Bill as it stood would be a most injurious one. Perhaps, with further modifications, it might be made a good Bill, and if allowed to stand over for another 12 months it would no doubt become a perfect model. It did not from any point of view deserve the support of Irish Members, and he cordially supported the Motion for its rejection.
§ MR. EUGENE CREAN (Queen's Co., Ossory)
thought the Government would do well to be more careful about the 624 feelings of the people than about the wishes of the military. This Bill Contained very obnoxious clauses. He wished to know whether military officers would be permitted to dam up a stream upon which a village depended for its water supply. Interference with the water supply would in many places in Ireland dislocate industry, as it would prevent the mills from working, such a thing ought to be prevented, and safeguards ought to be introduced into the Bill. The elected Poor Law Guardians, as distinguished front the ex officio Guardians who would favour the views of the military, ought to be represented on the Military Manoeuvres Commission. The ex officio Guardians did not represent the people.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I must ask the hon. Member to adhere to the question before the House, and also to refrain from repetition of arguments that have been used many times.
§ MR. STEPHENS
said that as the right hon. Gentleman had stated that he would be willing to consider Amendments in Committee, he should ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. MACNEILL
and other Irish Members objected.
Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Quest ion."
The House divided: —Ayes, 170; Noes, 26.—(Division List, No. 314.)
Main Question put, and agreed to; Bill read a Second time.
§ MR. DILLON
said that this was an eminently contentious Measure, and when it had been proposed to refer Irish Bills 625 to a Standing Committee the First Lord of the Treasury laid it down that no contentious Bill should be referred to a Standing Committee. He appealed to hint to be consistent.
THE FIRST LORD OF TIE TREASURY
replied that some of the strongest declarations in favour of the Bill had been made by the Leader of the Opposition, the former Secretary for War, and the right hon. Member for the Forest, of Dean, as well as by Members on the Ministerial side. Such a Bill could hardly be called contentious.
§ MR. WHITTAKER
submitted that a contentious Bill like this should not be taken out of the hands of the House.
§ DR. TANNER
urged the Government to let the Bill pass through Committee of the whole House. This would save time.
MR CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)
joined in the protest against the reference of this Bill to the Standing Committee on Law or any Committee. He did so on general grounds. This Bill seriously affected the liberty of the subject and contained novel proposals. It appeared to him that it the Bill passed certain portions of the country would from time to time, be as much in military occupation as if they wore visited by an invading army. ["Hear, hear!"] Again, he thought that very little time would be gained by referring the Bill to the Standing Committee as it would inevitably have to come back to the House for further discussion.
*SIR, C. DILKE
remarked that the last speaker had said that the proposals of the Bill were destructive of the liberty of the subject and novel. The Bill of last year, to which very strong objection was taken, was copied word for word in all these points from the Act passed by Mr. Gladstone's Government in 1871. [Cheers.] He was a resident in a district to which that Act applied, he was present at the manœuvres which were held under it; there never was a hitch throughout the whole proceedings, and not one of those difficulties which were apprehended last year really occurred. ["Hear, hear!"]" It was admitted by all who opposed the Bill of last year that almost all their objections had been met in the Bill of this year, and yet they were now told that this was a gross violation of the liberty of the subject, and that the proposals were novel! [Cheers.]
§ MR. EDWARD STRACHEY (Somerset, S.)
as one of those who supported the Government in the Second Reading of this Bill ventured to appeal to the First Lord of the Treasury, and to ask him whether it would not be possible and desirable to refer this Bill to the Standing Committee on Trade instead of to the Committee upon Law. It seemed to hint that the Bill could be much better dealt with by the Committee upon Trade, because upon it, agriculturists who were certainly to a large extent interested in the Bill were represented, whilst the other was a legal Committee. The Bill, he would observe, did not bristle with points of law.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
admitted there wits something to be said for the contention of the hon. Gentleman, but on the, whole the difficulties were more legal than agricultural difficulties. Both Standing Committees contained a large number of gentlemen interested in agriculture, and it would be open for them to appoint 15 others specially competent to deal with this subject. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. SCOTT-MONTAGU
, as representing farming interests that would be concerned by this Bill, expressed the opinion that the Committee of the whole House would he the proper Committee to deal with it, rather than a Committee upstairs. Very serious interests with regard to commons would arise, and he did not think the Committee on Law would be as good a tribunal for considering such questions as a Committee of the whole House. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
contended that the only possible way of dealing with the work of Parliament was by devolution of this kind, and having a Bill like the present sent to the Committee upstairs.
§ MR. MACNEILL
hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consider the appeal made to him from his own side of the House. Of course the reference of the Bill to the Law Committee would be a pleasant short cut for the Government, and the Irish Members would he got rid 627 of; but this would destroy the whole value of the machinery of Grand Committees, making the Committee no longer a tribunal for special investigation, but utilising the machinery for Party purposes. These Grand Committees were constituted for the purpose of bringing together Members particularly interested in certain subjects, and having technical knowledge thereon. To refer such a Bill as this to the Law Committee would be an abuse of power. He did not know that in the long run, and looking at this from a party point of view, he should very much object, for the right hon. Gentleman and his friends would not always occupy their present position, and they were raising a precedent that might in the future be used against them with great effect. On a matter dealing with law, in which. Irish Members were interested, the right hon. Gentleman refused the reference to the Law Committee, because he said the Bill had large bearings. How, then, could he justify the reference of this Bill to such a Committee, there being no legal technicalities in it? He could not do so; he was simply making use of the Committee as a machine to carry through a Measure to which very earnest opposition Was offered.
The House divided: Ayes, 169; Noes, 36.—(Division List, No. 315.)
Bill committed to the Standing Committee on Law, Etc.