§ (Considered in Committee.)
§ [Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith), Chairman of Ways and Means, in the Chair.]
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
In looking through these Estimates I regret very much to find that there is no provision made for the reconstruction of those important barracks at Winchester which were unfortunately burned down a few years ago, which were considered a royal palace by the soldiers, and were the headquarters of the Rifle Brigade.
*THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. W. ST. JOHN BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
The reconstruction of the Winchester Barracks is already being proceeded with, and has been provided for.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
I am very glad to hear that these barracks have been provided for, and are being proceeded with. With regard to another part of this Vote, I find that a small portion is allocated to the building of stores in Hong Kong. With regard to that point, I think it is very desirable to have efficient stores in that distant Colony, but then we understand that the general defences of Hong Kong are not in a satisfactory condition, and it does seem out of place to put more stores there,, unless we can adequately defend those stores. Of course, I only speak from small experience of this matter, but I speak with the authority of military officers when I say that that Colony can be rendered absolutely and completely impregnable with a very reasonable outlay, and, before we go in for spending more on storehouses in Hong Kong, we should determine, in this country, whether it is not advisable to proceed to put that important Colony to which we send some £8,000,000 a year of British trade, or, rather, £6,000,000 directly to Hong Kong and £2,000,000 to China, to determine to put that Colony in a proper state of efficiency as regards its defences. At the present time the whole expenditure made for the defences of Hong Kong is not met by the people, I believe, of this country—indeed, we sent out a vast number of guns between 1868 and 1892—but at the same time we were told that it had received the greatest consideration in this respect. The Colony is not very strongly fortified now, and I think, before we go in for the building of other storehouses and vote this money, we should look into the greater and very important question of the defences of the Colony. I notice there is an item of £2,000 and another of £1,300 to be paid back to the War Office by this Colony. We were told by the noble Lord the Member for York that there was a certain amount of friction between the military governing 931 bodies in Hong Kong, but I cannot believe there can be any large amount of friction, for my experience of military authorities there has proved that matters brought before them receive every attention. I had a case myself when I was over there, and I know they met me in a very kind and generous spirit. I will now touch on another point. I notice that in these public works there is a vast number of the barracks which require new drainage. Well now, that is a very important matter, and I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question or two. I find an item of £15,000 spent in this respect, and I should like to know when these barracks were last drained. We seem always to be having sums of £3,000 for these barracks, and £1,500 for those. We know, of course that engineers sometimes make mistakes. I believe there is a case in point where the engineers forgot in certain barracks to put in a staircase, and after they had been built they had to put the staircase outside. We have had an instance, too, of plans going astray sometimes. The plans for the new-barracks for Belfast were sent to the Far East, and the consequence was that our soldiers in the Far Fast did no: receive adequate and complete accommodation. Of course, the plans fur the barracks in th Far East were sent to Belfast with a similar result. One other point is that no doubt there is a very great danger of fire in these barracks, where a vast, number of men are quartered, and I trust that in the rebuilding of these barracks, either at home or abroad, that we should go in for the most non-inflammable material as we possibly can get. I am told that the most secure way of building barracks is to have steel beams with cement floors, and, if this is done in our barracks, probably we shall not have to deplore great losses by fire of a vast amount of public property, as was the case with the Winchester Barracks. I do not want to make any further remarks on this subject, except to say that it is in the interests of the Service that the barracks provided should be well ventilated, commodious, and constructed upon the latest sanitary principles.
§ *GENERAL F. S. RUSSELL (Cheltenham)
I see in the Estimates a sum for a swimming bath, which was recommended last year for the Royal Military College, and I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman upon it, early last Session. The total Estimate is £2,000, whereas only £1,000 is to be spent this year. Well, Sir, as far as I can gather, the Royal Military College has not yet had this money this year, as I see that the visitors to the College have again renewed their recommendation. Another point I wish to call attention to, is the system carried on at the War Office if doing things piece-meal. They provide one-half of the expense in one Estimate and one-half in another—it is a very deceptive way of doing it—in order to avoid the charge going into one year's Estimates. The result is that the work drags on from year to year. I wish to call attention to one particular case, that of Hounslow Barracks, and it is the same with many other barracks, for Government contractors always appear to be the last men in the world for completing their contracts in time. To my own knowledge the drains in the instance I allude to were dug up last spring, and they are still not completed. It is a great inconvenience to the regiment quartered there, because a portion of it has to be at Woolwich. I visited these barracks last summer, and although the drains were up, there was no work going on. Frequently these contracts are put off to a more convenient season in order to be done more cheaply. I do not think they should be carried out like I his. The regiment now quartered there has suffered in efficiency through, the delay in this work, and it is not done yet. This happens very frequently in Government contracts in connection with the drainage. There is another point to which the right hon. Gentleman might direct his attention. On page 73 there is a Vote for £47,000 for Army and Navy barracks in Egypt. Well, Sir, I want to ask whether this sum should not be borne by the Egyptian Government. Apparently, we are only lodgers in Egypt, we are supposed to be there temporarily; and, therefore, the cost of our Army there should be borne 933 by the Egyptian Government, and I do mot see why we should spend this money. The Egyptian Government has a large surplus in hand, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give an explanation about this matter. I do not think I have much more to say, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider the manner in which the construction of barracks is carried out in this country. The hon. Member who has just spoken remarked as to some mistakes of the engineers, and though I am very much in favour, when possible, of military officers being employed in connection with military works, I confess that I do not think the present system of building is successful. In Germany it is carried on much more efficiently, and at much less expense, compared with the work which is done. There are always glaring cases of mismanagement in this country. The hon. Member for St. Pancras said this was the case with the officers' quarters at Belfast, the plans for which were sent to Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong plans were sent to Belfast. I have been in these barracks. They are built to keep out the sun as much as possible, because the plans were originally drawn to suit the climate of Hong Kong, while the barracks at Hong Kong are made to admit as much sun as possible. A short time since there were built in Dublin some Cavalry barracks. We all know that with Cavalry regiments it is necessary to have an exercising ground for horses, where they can be exercised without injury. Now the engineers took up a grass field, and spent about £1,200 in making an enormous parade ground. The military officers were not consulted, and when the barracks were finished they were handed over to the military authorities. Then it was discovered that this enormous parade ground was useless, and an application has been made that it may be removed. The parade ground is there still, and it will cost another £12,000 to remove it and to make it suitable for the purposes required. I hope this question for the construction of barracks will be considered with greater care in the future.
§ *MR. WILLIAM WOODALL (Hanley)
I desire to make a few remarks with regard to the figures in the Estimates for improving the condition of barrack accommodation in Egypt. During the period of the English occupation of Egypt a great deal of work of this kind has had to be carried out, and, in some cases, we have been able to get contributions from the Egyptian Government towards the expenditure so incurred. Of course, we know that the sanitary conditions and general accommodation for native troops is quite unsuited for the requirements of English soldiers, but when one bears in mind the prosperous condition of the Egyptian finances, and the large demands made upon the Imperial Exchequer, I hope we may hear that something has been done in this direction, and that further pressure will be brought to bear by the War Office through the Foreign Office on the Egyptian Government to contribute towards this expenditure. I was rather struck with the observation of the hon. Member for Cheltenham, who told us that the cost of the Army in the occupation of Egypt was borne by the Egyptian Government. As a matter of fact, it is only the extra charge of maintaining the soldiers in Egypt that is contributed from the Egyptian funds, and we have to bear the same cost per man in Egypt as it would cost at home. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some further information.
§ *SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
With regard to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, there is urgently needed more decent accommodation for the soldiers and servants employed in that establishment. Two years ago I asked the Government if they would not do something to provide some decent place of recreation for these soldiers and servants. There are about 100 servants employed in the College, and a considerable number of soldiers for the riding school, and so on. But the want of accommodation is so great that the canteen has been hitherto the only place these people can go into, except the public- 935 house, and that is a miserable old hovel. Last year, when we were promised that there should be a new canteen built, I proposed that there should be a place provided for recreation, for which there is no accommodation at all, except this miserable hovel. We were promised a canteen, but there was some difference of opinion about it. The Financial Secretary of the War Office said there was a recreation room, but it turned out to be the officers' theatre, built at their own expense. I was told that that theatre could be bought by the War Office for recreation purposes; but I find, on reading the Report, that even the canteen has not yet been commenced. I could not catch what the right hon. Gentleman said in answer to my question the other night, but that which I have stated now appears in the Visitors' Report. When I asked about providing for this recreation room they said it had not been considered. It is a year ago since we were told that the officers' theatre was going to be bought for this purpose. I do think it is desirable that the servants and cadets should have the means of keeping themselves respectable, and that soldiers there should have accommodation similar to that which they are accustomed to in other barracks. I cannot conceive what difficulty there should be in providing for one or the other. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will tell us why nothing has been dime in this direction, in spite of the promises made last year.
§ MR. THOMAS R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire. E.)
There is one item in this Vote upon which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some information. It is a matter to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cheltenham alluded, and that is the general mode of barrack construction, which has been adopted by the War Office. These barracks are erected, not merely out of this Vote, but also under the Military Works Act. It would be very desirable that the Committee should be informed as to the progress of works now in course of construction under both the Military Works Act and the Barracks Act. One or two items 936 of considerable magnitude appear in the Vote for the first time. One, which has been alluded to by the hon. Member for Cheltenham, is a sum of £40,000 in works at the barracks at Cairo. I must say I agree that in the view that, if this is a permanent improvement for the benefit of the military force in Egypt, a larger share than one-sixth of the amount should be borne by the Egyptian Treasury, which is now in a very flourishing condition. There is another item about which information is wanted—namely, £77,000 for the construction of new barracks in Natal. This is a new item. It did not appear in last year's Estimates, but £62,000 were voted for it in the Supplementary Estimates, which were passed a fortnight ago. We were then informed that the Treasury had given their sanction, during the course of the year now expiring, for the commencement of these works during the current year. We should be informed at what time this consent was given, when the works were commenced, if commenced at all, and whether there is any likelihood of a large amount of that money being spent during the present year? It is hardly possible, in my opinion, that such an amount should be spent, and works erected, in so short a space of time. A further matter of importance is this: has the Colony of Natal made any contribution towards the construction of these new barracks? We have heard of a permanent improvement in the military organisation of this Colony, partly at the expense of the British Treasury. Surely we ought to get from a Colony like Natal some contribution towards the expense of these barracks. Another item about which some information is needed is the increase from £23,000 last year to £74,000 this year in connection with the sale and exchange of land. There is also a new item in the Estimates of £42,000 for the accommodation of Foot Guards in London, about which some information should be given. Altogether a very large increase of work appears in this Vote, and it is desirable that the Committee should have particulars as to the matters for which the money is wanted.
§ CAPTAIN JOHN SINCLAIR (Forfarshire)
I desire to know if attention has been given to the water supply of the Royal Military College; and also I wish to ask for some explanation of the large expense in connection with the Aldershot sewage farm.
§ MR. T. C. T. WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)
I believe in decentralising the organisation of the Army as far as possible, and it is very important that this particular Department should be decentralised. Some years ago a case happened which illustrates the necessity of decentralisation. A drain pipe was broken in a barracks, and before it could be mended it had to be reported to the War Office, and inspectors were sent down with their men to do the work, amounting to three or four shillings, which ought to have been given into the hands of the people on the spot. This is a subject that needs looking into. I wish also to point out that considerable alterations will have to be made for housing the increased number of troops in different barracks throughout the country. Is there in the Estimates any provision for housing the new battalions and altering the depôts in the way necessary?
§ COLONEL WELBY (Taunton)
One of the great difficulties with regard to the reorganisation of the Army is the want of barrack accommodation in the North of England and Scotland. I notice that in this Vote only about £11,000 is provided for the North-Eastern, North-Western, and Scottish districts. Would it not be wise, when this money is being spent on new buildings, to bear in mind the want of accommodation I have mentioned, so that when reorganisation takes place there will be the accommodation that is needed?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
In reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Taunton, who has asked about the arrangements of barracks, I would point out that his question raises a very much wider issue than I can discuss upon this Vote. There is no doubt that, while a great many troops are raised in the 938 North of England, it is essential, to a large extent, for mobilisation and training purposes, to keep these troops in the South of England. To divide the country into army corps districts is a very large question, and all I can say is that, in building new barracks, this question will be considered, and to a much larger extent than has probably been the case in the past. My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield asked a question regarding the housing of the extra battalions that are being raised, but I would point out that the reason why these extra battalions are required is that we have fewer battalions at this moment in the country than we ought to have. These battalions will be, to some extent, provided for in the present barracks, but it will be necessary to obtain further accommodation, and the sites of these new barracks are being carefully considered by the authorities at the present moment. Two questions of interest have been raised with regard to foreign stations. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire asked about the progress of military works and barracks generally, and upon that point I may say that certain statements that will be furnished to Parliament will show fully the expenditure on the different services up to date. The hon. Member also asked a question about the barracks in Natal. These barracks are required in consequence of the extra force which left for South Africa last year. That was an extraordinary force, and it was not thought necessary to ask for barracks for a force which might not be there for more than two or three months. But it is not possible, unfortunately, to withdraw the force just now, and it is necessary to house them, and for that purpose money is to be asked in the Supplemental Estimates. These troops were sent for an Imperial purpose, and it would not be fair for the Government to ask the colony of Natal to maintain the troops or pay for the cost of the barracks. With regard to the question about Egypt, I would remind the Committee that a bargain was made as to the amount to be raised by Egypt as an annual contribution for the maintenance of troops. But we maintain these barracks because it stands to reason that if the troops had been in England during the whole of this period we should have had to provide 939 barracks for them. The position now is, that we have had troops in Egypt for 16 years, and this expenditure has become necessary. It must also be remembered that the Egyptian Government makes a contribution of £87,000 to the British Government, and something is allowed out of that sum for barrack accommodation. Generally speaking, the arrangements made for dealing with the troops in Egypt have been economical, and I do not think there is anything to complain of in the Vote now asked for. We come now to Hong Kong, and I would remind the hon. Member for East Aberdeen that, 12 years ago, in the Imperial Defence Loan, a sum was allowed for building and arming the various coaling stations abroad, and works then considered necessary were carried out at Hone Kong. I think when the hon. Member speaks of the unprepared state of Hong Kong he perhaps overstates the case, because what is probably true is that certain statements have appeared to the effect that Hong Kong was—
§ MR. BUCHANAN
I said Hong Kong could be made absolutely impregnable. It is very good at present, but it could be made much stronger.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
No doubt there are one or two positions in the neighbourhood which might add in some degree to its security. That has been carefully considered by the War Office, and up to the present we have carried out fully the advice of those who are responsible for making provision for the defence of Hong Kong. As regards the delays that are alleged to have taken place in carrying out the military works at Hong Kong, a great deal might be done by putting more responsibility for works, when once they are ordered to be undertaken, on the general officers commanding the districts. That was the tenour of the Report of the Committee which recently sat at the War Office. One of the things to which we attach very great importance and which we believe will have a far greater effect than anything else is to make the officers on the spot responsible for carrying out the work so as to render unnecessary such frequent references to headquarters. 940 One of the points picked out by my hon. Friend behind me, to illustrate the defects of the present system, had reference to Hounslow barracks. The hon. Member for St. Pancras said we spent too much money on draining our barracks, and he was followed by another hon. Member who thought we spent too little upon them. Well, with regard to Hounslow, it appeared when the drains were taken up that more required to be done than was at first expected, especially in communication with the local authorities, and this has caused increased expenditure. All I can say is that we have taken this year all the money which we consider can be properly spent in the year. My hon. Friend behind me spoke of the canteens and also of the recreation room at the Royal Military College, and the hon. Member opposite spoke of the water supply. Well, the water supply has been closely investigated, and the local company are only waiting to get the necessary powers to provide a proper supply. With regard to the canteens, it was considered unnecessary to include them in the present Estimates, as I was informed that the money required for last year's service would be completed by 31st March. With regard to all this expenditure of money, I may say that if anything has stood over from previous years it is because the Works Vote was not passed by this House in sufficient time, for it is obvious that if it is not passed until August it is not in time, and as this year we have brought it forward in exceptionally good time I hope the House will be good enough to vote it.
§ *MR. WOODALL
Mr. Lowther, I do not want to say one word of objection to the policy of decentralisation, which, I think, has been wisely adopted by the War Office; but with regard to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman as to giving larger powers to general officers commanding districts, in respect to small and trivial works like those referred to by my hon. Friend in this discussion, I would only like to recall to his mind the misadventure, which amounted to a scandal, with regard to a certain important work in Ireland arising from the want 941 of central control and too large a power being given to the local staff. But I rise, Sir, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, to press still further the question of our equitable claim upon the Egyptian Government for some assistance, some definite assistance, towards these important expenditures for putting the barracks at Cairo and elsewhere into a sanitary and healthy condition. Now, I am able to fortify myself by reference to what occurred on a similar occasion during the time of the late Government, when an Estimate of expenditure was forced upon us to put the barracks at Alexandria into a sanitary condition, and when, as I know, representations were made to the Egyptian Government, and recognised as reasonable, so that a very considerable contribution was obtained from the Egyptian Government towards the expenses incurred in the case of those barracks.
§ MR. A. F. JEFFREYS (North Hants)
I should like to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether he can give the House any information as to the amount of £3,300 proposed to be spent on a sewage farm at Aldershot. The drainage of Aldershot is a very important matter, and I have heard that many complaints have been made to the War Office. I can understand why, under the old system, such a large sum as £3,300 should be expended upon it; but I understand also that the present sewage farm is condemned by the sanitary authorities. Well, Mr. Lowther, of course, I do not want to go into that, and I do know that the sewage question at Aldershot may be a difficult matter to manage, but if they are going to make a new sewage farm altogether it will be useless to spend £3,300 upon the present farm. I have heard from some of my constituents at Aldershot that the present sewage farm is going to be turned into a dairy farm, and that proposal has caused a considerable amount of astonishment at Aldershot. I ought, perhaps, to beg my right hon. Friend's pardon for not having told him I was going to raise this question, but I only heard about it yesterday, and I had no 942 idea that this money was to be spent on the farm, which I understood had been already condemned. I will not go more into the subject, which I know is a difficult one, but at the same time, if the farm has been condemned, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend why he is going to spend this money upon it?
§ DR. R. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what are the prospects of a speedy removal of St. George's barracks from their present site and the removal of a danger from fire which undoubtedly exists in consequence of their close proximity to the National Gallery? We have had official promises year after year, but nothing has been done, and hope deferred has a specific effect upon the human constitution. Until the promises that these barracks should be speedily removed are fulfilled everybody admits that there is great danger to the national pictures which are in such close proximity to the barracks. Now we have had lately a very important Report about the great danger of fire at the South Kensington Museum because of the inflammable material close to the national collection, and the Government, with great promptitude, immediately took action and removed a building, so that they have now put that magnificent collection into a condition of perfect safety. I have no doubt my right hon. Friend is perfectly familiar with the position of the St. George's barracks. I have made myself familiar with the locality, and I find that the fact is that the canteen of the barracks, which, presumably, contains inflammable material, is placed not more than 18 inches away from the Turner Room containing pictures which may be described as being of inestimable value—I should think, worth several millions of money. There is, I believe, a party wall running up between the two, but it is quite plain that if a fire took place in the barracks and the wind happened to blow in the direction of the Turner Room you might then find this inestimable collection going up into the air, and nothing left of it but mere burnt fragments hanging on to the wall. I should like to see something done quickly. I asked a 943 question the other day as to whether the Government have any Report or Return from experts as to the position in which these pictures actually stand, and I was told, and I believe, the answer was satisfactory, that it was not necessary to have such a Return because enough was already known. I am sorry to see that the trustees, in view of the result of Ministerial promises, have ceased to make their annual recommendation that something should be done. The, trustees of the National Gallery have directed attention every year in their Report to the great danger in which these pictures are placed, but I suppose they have now ceased to make those recommendations; but I am in hopes that my right hon. Friend will be able to give us an assurance to-night that the work will be undertaken speedily, the barracks removed, and the pictures placed out of danger. Of course, we know that there is a recruiting officer stationed there, and anyone who has seen how recruiting is carried on there will, I think, see a very good reason why recruiting is not more popular than it is. Nobody could conceive anything more calculated to dash the hopes and destroy the illusions of the recruiting service than to go into that miserable room for examination under the rigid conditions under which it is now conducted. I should think you might inscribe over that room, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here," and the would-be recruit's desire would be to get out as quickly as possible. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some assurance that this evil will be soon removed.
§ *MR. E. J. STRACHEY (Somerset, S.)
Sir, I want to get away from the question of barracks to a subject which appears to me to be an important one. As hon. and gallant Gentlemen on the other side have said, and my right hon. Friend the late Financial Secretary for War has said, it is a serious matter that this House should be called upon to vote money for the purpose of permanent works in Egypt, especially in view of the fact that the policy of Her Majesty's Government has 944 been constantly stated to be one of only temporary occupation. Of course, if the Government had declared that the occupation of Egypt was to be a permanent one, and not a mere temporary one, we should be ready to pay for whatever work was necessary to be done; but I venture to think that the taxpayers of this country ought not to be continually called upon to vote money for public works in Egypt, which we say we are going to leave behind us, and for which we should get no compensation. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War has told us of an agreement with the Egyptian Government, but that agreement, I understood him to say, was made 16 years ago. If that is the case it ought to be revised, for it is quite certain that we are spending in Egypt much more money than was contemplated 16 years ago. In order to bring the Committee to the consideration of the point at issue I beg to move to reduce by £100 the amount of the grant which the Government asks for.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
Sir, I do not think the hon. Gentleman who has moved the reduction of the Vote is justified in his assumption that, under the agreement made with the Egyptian Government 16 years ago we are spending a great deal more money than that agreement contemplated, and that we are now incurring additional expense on the actual cost of the occupation. That really is not so. The amount paid by the Egyptian Government for the force in Egypt has been most carefully reconsidered from time to time, and very great pressure has been put upon us to reduce the amount. But the hon. Gentleman will see that where a normal garrison is maintained of about 3,000 or 4,000 men, accommodation in the form of barracks must be provided, and £87,000, the amount paid for extra expense of keeping men in Egypt, is more than £30 expenditure per head, which leaves some margin for barracks. That is regarded by the Egyptian Government as being too large a contribution, and they protest against 945 it, but we have made good our position after most careful investigation. And, therefore, it is by no means the fact that we have been incurring expenditure for which the Egyptian Government have not been made accountable. In this particular instance we are incurring expenditure for barracks, as I have pointed out, after many years' occupation, and where additional expenditure has been incurred for barracks, no doubt if we came to hand them over, we should have an opportunity of putting in a claim for any money we had expended on them. I assure the hon. Member that, so far from there being a lax system as between this Government and the Egyptian Government, the accounts have been most carefully investigated, and the Foreign Office have supplied the Egyptian Government with most careful estimates of the costs, in order to keep up the contribution to the necessary amount.
§ MR. WARNER
I think, Sir, we should have regard in considering this matter to the system pursued in the case of barracks in India. Fresh regiments have been sent out to Egypt for the Egyptian Government, and not for ourselves. We are not going to take the Soudan as a British possession, and if that work is being done by English troops sent out there we are surely entitled to have the expense of their barrack and housing accommodation at least provided by the Egyptian Government.
§ *GENERAL RUSSELL
The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War has given us a satisfactory explanation with regard to some of these items, but there is a very large sum for Cairo, and I hope he will be able to tell us how much the Egyptian Government has contributed.
§ Question put, and the Committee divided as follows:—For the reduction, 95; against 176.—(See Division List No. 52.)946
§ On the Vote for the Ordnance Factories—
*THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. J. POWELL-WILLIAMS,) Birmingham, S.
I think that it may perhaps be desirable, and that the Committee may expect, that I should make a statement in reference to certain recent changes which have taken place in the administration of the Ordnance factories, and which have formed the subject of many questions which have been put to me. In dealing with this matter it is necessary to advert to the recommendations of Lord Morley's Committee of 1887, and to the opinion which that Committee more or less unanimously adopted. That Committee found that there were existing at Woolwich three departments under the central authority of a military officer who was at that time called the Director of Artillery, and who is now the Inspector General of Ordnance. These three departments were the gun factory, the gun carriage factory, and the laboratory, each controlled by a superintendent, and each acting independently of the others, and the Committee commented adversely upon what it called the "want of connection and co-operation between them." The Committee recommended the appointment of a chief mechanical engineer, who should be a civilian, and who should have charge of manufactures in all its branches, and who should bring under one management the three hitherto separate departments I have referred to. Over this officer, for purposes of general control, they recommended the appointment of a Superintendent of Ordnance Factories, and the majority of the Committee advised that that superintendent should be a military man. Mr. Stanhope, however, the Secretary of State for War in a former Conservative Administration, took the view of the minority of the Committee, and for reasons which he subsequently stated to the House, and which were accepted at the time, decided not to limit his field of choice for the post to military men, but to appoint the most useful person, military or civil, whom he could discover. In the first instance he appointed a military man, but on a vacancy 947 occurring his choice fell upon Dr. Anderson, and I say, unhesitatingly, that the second appointment proved in every way a better one than the first. Now Mr. Stanhope appears to have followed the view expressed in paragraph 76 of the Report of that Committee, which reads thus—Military experience is, doubtless, of the greatest value in designing munitions of war, and in inspecting them when completed, but it is not required in manufacturing articles to conform to a given pattern and to stand defined tests. In these operations other qualities, such as capacity for organisation, knowledge of manufacturing processes and materials, are more important, and there can be little doubt but that these qualities are more generally acquired in civil than in military life. Assuming that the military element will always be present in the inspecting and designing branches, we are of opinion that the officials having charge of the factories should hold civilian appointments.The selection of Dr. Anderson was admittedly a departure from the first recommendation of the Committee, but the appointment of Mr. Donaldson is strictly in conformity with the second recommendation. I will give Mr. Donaldson's credentials directly, but I should wish to state what, in my opinion, as one having some experience of factories, are the qualifications we should look for in order to secure the successful and economic management of a great manufacturing undertaking. The chief manager of a factory should, in the first instance, know by how many and by what processes any given article of manufacture can best, and at least cost, be produced. He should be thoroughly competent to judge as to the prices paid to piecework operatives for any and every article which they are called upon to make, because it is obvious that where articles are made in vast numbers too high a price means a considerable waste of money: he should be able intelligently to check every statement made and every demand made by the foremen under his control; he should be well versed in expedients for saving labour—a most important matter, in the neglect of which there is probably more waste of money than in any other direction; he should be able to judge whether the rate of work at which piecework men proceed is fair and reasonable, and whether the machines are 948 being run and fed at a proper speed; he should be able to co-ordinate a workshop so that the various processes carried on in it are accomplished with the least possible waste of material, machine power, and labour; and, finally, he should possess the personal qualities which go to make a man a successful controller of a great body of operatives. The question then arises, are these qualities more likely to be found in a military man than in a civilian? I think that the answer to this question is well given in an article which appeared in one of the engineering journals—The War Office, in inviting candidature for the new post, rightly lay much stress on a knowledge of rates of pay of piecework, etc. That is a matter of a very intricate character, which the average military officer is never likely to acquire, but which is at the root of administrative efficiency, at any rate from the taxpayers' point of view.Now, a, statement of that kind is not in any degree a derogatory one to military officers, any more than I should consider it a reflection upon myself if someone were to say that I could not command a regiment. The management of a factory is not the calling of a soldier. It is a profession of itself. A military officer knows everything, I think, about a gun, for instance, except how to make it. It was this consideration which led Lord Morley's Committee to recommend that the manufactures carried on in the Ordnance factories should be in charge of civilians, and it was this which induced Mr. Stanhope to appoint Dr. Anderson, and to lay down the theory of "commercial management," so often referred to. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean adopts the same views when he says in "Imperial Defence"—As to the production of weapons, in winch almost every important improvement has been due to civil industry, the professional soldier is a competent judge of the merits of various weapons. He has no qualification enabling him to compete with the mechanic in their design or manufacture. In the supply of weapons, therefore, two functions should be distinguished: the choice of the weapon to be adopted, which should be left to the Army; and design and manufacture, with which the Army should have nothing to do.This, I think, carries it too far, as I consider that soldiers certainly ought to have a voice and part in design. It has 949 been stated, I know, that military officers are employed by the great firms who manufacture munitions of war, and I have seen a list of officers connected with these firms, including a gentleman resident in London, now in the service of the Hotchkiss Company, who have no manufactory in this country at all. It will be found on inquiry that, with the exception possibly of the late Colonel Dyer and of Lieutenant Dawson, none of these officers have any immediate duties at the manufactories of the firms with which they serve except—which I allow to be an important exception—in relation to the design branches, which each of these great firms maintains, and which it is proposed, following once more the view of Lord Morley's Committee, to establish at Woolwich. The great companies to which I allude have to sell their manufactures to foreign countries, and to deal with military representatives of those countries, and they find it to their interest to engage military officers, not as works managers, but as gentlemen who are best qualified to negotiate with those who come as the representatives of foreign Powers to make purchases of guns and other warlike stores in England. Their knowledge is also made available for purposes of test and inspection. I venture to say, therefore, that in placing Ordance factories more under civilian management the Secretary of State is not only following the advice of Lord Morley's Committee, but is acting in conformity with the example of our competitors in the private trade. And there is this consideration to bear in mind: if we want to compare our cost with that of the trade, and to check the prices charged by the trade, we must be sure that our cost is legitimate, and we must conduct our operations on trade methods. In the matter of manufacture what the trade finds it prudent and economical to do we must do also, and the trade invariably (or nearly so), as I believe, employ civilian trained engineers in the management of their works. They know what, indeed, every business man knows, that the difference in cost between efficient and inefficient, between skilled and unskilled management, may easily be 20 per cent. In this connection I may refer again to the recommendation of Lord Morley's Committee 950 for the amalgamation under one head of the three branches of the factory. This will be accomplished under the Deputy Director General of Ordnance Factories, and I have every reason to believe that the saving secured by the measure will amount to between £5,000 and £6,000 a year. We have now about four foundries when one would suffice, three drawing offices instead of one, and there is a multiplication, of supervising officers, and a general waste of expense, such as, for example, two foundries running at the same time, neither having as much work as it could cope with. This leads me to another recommendation of Lord Morley's Committee—namely, that a central design branch should be created, the separate design branches in the several departments being abolished. This recommendation Lord Lansdowne proposes to carry out. The heads of the design branch will be military and naval officers, who will be in close touch with the head of the manufacturing department. This proposal follows the example of the great Elswick works and of the works of Messrs. Vickers. The design branch in the latter case, I understand, is in London, and the very able naval officer who controls it resides there. It is proposed to establish a central design branch, instead of three existing design branches. The heads of it will be military and naval officers. I do not agree that such officers should have nothing to do with design. Though it is true that almost all the important inventions of warlike appliances in recent times have been due to civilians, it is, I think, equally true that they have availed themselves of the judgment and knowledge of military and naval men. Naval and military men know the effects to be sought after, the conditions of service with which weapons must comply, and the possibility of using, or not using, a particular appliance or design. The design branch will be in close touch with the manufacturing department, and each will assist the other in perfecting any design which may be submitted for the approval of the Inspector General of Ordnance, or of the Ordnance Committee, and the gun, the carriage, and the projectile will be dealt with together, instead of independently. I come now to the question of the appointment of Mr. 951 Donaldson as Deputy Director General. I should state, perhaps, at the outset, that until he applied for the appointment he was absolutely unknown to any of those by whose recommendation the selection to the vacancy would be influenced. Neither the Secretary of State nor my right hon. Friend nor I knew of his existence. He received, however, very high testimonials, and I believe he is known to, and highly, thought of, by several Members of this House. We received no private solicitation whatever on his behalf, but the private inquiries which were made by Sir William Anderson strongly confirmed the statements contained in his testimonials, and the inspection of the works under his charge showed that he possessed the knowledge and experience which were needed at Woolwich. The Committee will understand me when I say that fresh blood was required in the Government factories. We wanted the services of a man who was not only a highly-trained mechanical engineer, but who had got his training in an undertaking where economic methods have to be adopted, and where profit is not entirely ignored. We wanted a man who can organise on modern lines, and who can govern a great manufacturing undertaking, and Mr. Donaldson fulfils those conditions. Our experience of him so far justifies our choice. It is said that he has no experience of gun-making. But there are no mechanical operations connected with gun-making which are not familiar to a thoroughly trained mechanic. On this point Sir William Anderson writes—With respect to the manufacture of guns it is the easiest work we have to do. The design in every detail is approved by the Ordnance Committee, and all we have to do is to follow a usual routine in manufacture which almost anyone can pick up.It is, perhaps, fortunate that this is so, because the gun factory until recently was in charge of an officer who had no experience of a factory or of gun-making, and was not a mechanic. The appointment of Mr. Donaldson, therefore, cannot obviously, as far as this particular branch of the work is concerned, be said to be a retrograde step. The Secretary of State, in appointing Mr. Donaldson, had no desire to slight or pass over military officers, but we needed other qualifica- 952 tions, in this instance, than their training gives, and we sought them where Lord Morley's Committee pointed. The military, subject to the final authority of the Secretary of State, become the customers of the Ordnance factories. By means of the Ordnance Committee and of the design branch, it is for them to determine what they want, and of what design and material. Having determined this, the functions of the manufacturer begin. The two functions are distinct, their successful performance calls for distinct qualities, and qualities which will answer very well in the one case will if applied to the other only produce confusion and waste.
§ *SIR J. BEVAN EDWARDS (Hythe)
It is somewhat unusual that so lengthy a Statement should be made before any discussion takes place upon the subject. I wish to say with regard to the appointment of Mr. Donaldson, upon which the hon. Gentleman has dwelt so much, that I have not the least objection to the appointment of that gentleman, who, from what I gather, is a very excellent man, and probably suited for the post. Neither have I any special predilection in favour of soldiers or military men being appointed to the Ordnance factories, but I am prepared to defend a system which has been in existence for more, than 100 years, and which up to a recent period has always been found satisfactory. I congratulate the Financial Secretary in bringing in these Estimates at a time when they can be discussed, instead of, as in former years, bringing them in so late that discussion was hopeless, but I cannot congratulate him upon the form in which they are presented. They tell us practically nothing of the details of the cost of the work of those factories. Now, in other Departments of the War Office, and also in the Admiralty, you will find almost every detail set forth, but in this Estimate you have a sum of nearly £3,000,000 with no details whatever. I understood that this Session they were to be presented in a more detailed form, and my hon. Friend the late Member for South East Durham told me just before he left this country that he understood 953 from the Financial Secretary that that would be the case. Now, I should like to know, with regard to the administrations of these Ordnance factories, who is responsible for them. We know that up to 10 years ago the Director General of Artillery, now called the Inspector General of Ordnance, was the officer who was directly responsible for them, because, I suppose, he happened to be the only officer in the War Office who had the slightest knowledge of Ordnance factories. He is, however, now set aside, and I quite understand that the Financial Secretary is now responsible to the House, but I want to know who is behind him. Is it the Accountant General, or Deputy Accountant General, or a Committee of Clerks of the War Office? Who is it that looks after the Ordnance factories? The present system was established in 1888. All we know is that this system was never recommended by any Committee, but was carried out by Order of Council. The result of it has been that excessive centralisation has been set up, and a central establishment has been created at great cost. In the War Office it is proposed to carry out decentralisation, but while that is to be tried at the War Office you have been establishing in these factories centralisation, in the greatest possible manner. Now, in these Estimates a sum of £28,000 has been put down for the central office. I should like to ask the present Financial Secretary whether that represents the whole of the cost of the central office?
I do not know whether my hon. and gallant Friend wishes me to answer now. There are published accounts in which he will see all these things stated in detail. I may say that the cost of the central office is not £28,000. It is nearly double that amount.
§ *SIR BEVAN EDWARDS
I am glad to hear it; but in these Estimates for 1898–9 the amount put down is £28,000. Sir William Anderson, the Director General, lately stated that the cost of the central office is £68,000 a year. Now, I should like to ask the Financial Secretary—he has not given the reason in his statement—why did he leave the Small Arms Fac- 954 tory at Enfield two years without a head? After it had been 18 months without a head, the Financial Secretary inserted an advertisement in the Times for a mechanical expert to take charge of this factory, and also to act as Deputy Director General. Now, I must say that these great national factories are fallen somewhat low when it is necessary to advertise in a newspaper for an appointment of this nature. The Financial Secretary has alluded to the appointment of Mr. Donaldson as Deputy Director of the Ordnance factories. With reference to that appointment. I asked him a question on the 15th February. My point was, why was Mr. Donaldson put over distinguished officers who have held posts in the Arsenal for many years, and who are fully qualified to undertake the duties? It is quite true, as the Financial Secretary stated, that Mr. Donaldson was appointed in consequence of the recommendations from Lord Morley's Committee, but this Committee also recommended that the Superintendent of the Arsenal should be a military officer. What Lord Morley's Committee recommended was that the Superintendent or Director General of the Ordnance factories should be a military officer, under the Director of Artillery, and that he should be assisted by a mechanical engineer. In reply to my question the Financial Secretary further stated that it was not understood how it could be said that officers of the Army had been passed over, inasmuch as Army service did not qualify officers for the direction of arsenals. I do not know who said that, but what I do say is that in the ranks of the Army there are men of special ability who are fully qualified to do the work of Deputy Director General, and who would undertake it at a much lower salary than that required by a civilian of equal ability. With regard to the qualifications of Mr. Donaldson, the Financial Secretary said that in his former appointment as chief engineer of the London and India Docks he had under his control more than 500 skilled mechanics of exactly the same description as those employed by the Government. I have since made inquiries, and I cannot ascertain that there are more than 50 mechanics in the London Docks. However, let us pass away from 955 Mr. Donaldson. Now, I should like to know why the Royal Gun Factory has been left three months without a head. How does the Financial Secretary intend to fill the vacancy? Does he intend to advertise in the Times? If he would take a suggestion from me, I would advise him to go to the Inspector General of Ordnance, in the next room to his own at the War Office, who will furnish him with the names of several officers quite able to undertake this duty. I should like, if I am not wearying the Committee, to quote the views of two or three members of the Hartington Commission on the subject of Ordnance factories. Admiral Sir F. Richards, the present First Naval Lord of the Admiralty, said—The recent changes in the organisation of the War Department as affecting the Ordnance are as follows:—'The office of Surveyor General has been abolished. The Ordnance factories have been removed from the control of the Director of Artillery, and the Director of the Ordnance Factories has been placed under the Financial Secretary as a civil officer charged with working and administering the establishments on a commercial basis.'Admiral Richards goes on to say—Thus what was formerly (when war material was of a very simple kind and subject to but little change) an independent Department for the supply of the Navy and Army with warlike stores (a Department with an exceptionally long and good record for efficient administration), having first become absorbed into the War Office, may now, at a period when war material has become one of the most complicated and biggest problems with which the Services have to deal, be said to have ceased to be a Department at all.And again—The changes introduced into the War Office administration as regards the Ordnance was in direct opposition as well to these proposals as to the Report of the Royal Commission, and in most essential particulars to the recommendations of the Committee on the Organisation of the Manufacturing Departments also. The arrangement entails an absolute separation of stocks at all depôts, all stores being marked 'Naval' or 'Land Service,' stores appropriated for the Navy not being available for issue to the Army, and vice versâ. Loss of uniformity and consequent loss of interchangeability must be the result of a continuance of the system, and the necessity will inevitably arise for duplicate storehouses and storekeeping and accountant staffs all over the Empire.956 Again, Admiral Richards says—All over the world money is thrown away wholesale without any advantage to either Navy or Army.And further—Enough, and more than enough, is, however, to be found to show not only that the Ordnance Department is in its constitution defective, but that it is altogether too big a business to be worked as a weak division of War Office administration, and that there is no remedy applicable to the case short of the re-establishment of the Ordnance as an independent Department of State on a scale commensurate with its importance and under a separate roof.Another authority, Major-General Sir H. Brackenbury, now head of the Ordnance Committee, and who has lately held the responsible position of administering the Indian Army, says—I consider it essential that the Ordnance factories should be placed under the Director of Artillery.Perhaps on this subject there is no man whose opinion is more valuable than Mr. T. H. Ismay, the proprietor of the White Star Line. He was also a member of the Commission, and he says—It has been pointed out that under present circumstances the Director of Artillery has no control whatever over any of the Army factories, and that he is unable to give any orders to them, to arrange for the precedence of different Services, or to compel adherence to fixed dates for supply. I do not think that the attempt to place these factories on the same basis as those of civil contractors can possibly succeed, or that it is consistent with the interests of the country.… I consider, therefore, that in any reorganisation of the Department the control of the Government factories should be placed under the professional head of the Ordnance Department. The Government factories are the national workshops, and the system under which they are now administered might, in my opinion, lead to disaster in the event of war.This was the opinion of a civilian of the greatest ability and the widest experience in civil affairs. I have given the Committee these three opinions—two from officers, the other from a civilian, all well qualified to speak on this subject—and I leave them with the statement already made by the Financial Secretary. I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the incompatibility of the Financial Secretary, who is supposed to criticise War Office expenditure, being at 957 the head of a great administrative department. It seems to me a system which is not known in any other part of the world, and certainly not one that recommends itself to my judgment, nor, I think, to the judgment of Members of this House. The result of the transference of the Ordnance factories from the military to the civil side of the War Office is the gradual divorce of these factories from the Army. They are being gradually placed entirely in the hands of civilians, and taken away from the military. In the meantime, many private firms are securing the services of officers. Sir Andrew Noble has been mentioned in this House as having been educated in these factories. Another officer's name has also been mentioned. I refer to Colonel Dyer, and I am sure the Committee will pardon me if I say what a loss he has been, not only because of the able manner in which he conducted the late struggle, which was, unhappily, brought on in this country, and which, through his influence, did not assume a much worse form than it did. [Sir C. DILKE: Oh, oh!] Even his enemies admit that. [Sir C. DILKE: Oh, oh!] I am sorry to hear the right hon. Baronet dispute that. I think he is alone in his opinion. There are many other officers employed by private firms in this country in the most responsible positions. I need not run through the names. First of all, let me say that the contention of the Financial Secretary is that these officers are appointed as directors of companies. That is not the case. Many of them are managers of extensive works, who have been appointed on account of their mechanical knowledge. Take the case of Colonel Davis, general superintendent of the Bolckow-Vaughan Works, employing something like 13,000 men; Colonel English, connected with Palmer's Shipbuilding Company for many years; Captain Tresidder, at present connected with John Brown and Company's works at Sheffield; and Lieutenant Dawson, R.N., now employed by Messrs. Vickers, Sons, and Company. This young naval officer was employed in a very subordinate capacity at Woolwich, receiving a salary of £300 or £400 a year, when he was not even allowed to sign his name or assume any responsibility; but a private firm found out his 958 value, and he is now directing the gun and carriage department of their great works with very marked success. I say he is an officer of great value. Why do you turn him out and send him to private companies?
My hon. and gallant Friend's statement that Lieutenant Dawson is a director at Messrs. Vickers' works is not entirely accurate. He may be making designs there, but he has nothing, or very little, to do, so I am informed, with the management. If Lieutenant Dawson had been willing to accept an appointment I should have been only too glad to recommend the Secretary of State to appoint him.
§ *SIR BEVAN EDWARDS
I am very glad to hear that. What I am given to understand is that he is directing the gun and carriage works of Vickers and Company, and that he has given the greatest possible satisfaction. Now, one of the contentions of the Financial Secretary is that, practically, military men are of very little use in these Ordnance factories, but I say that amongst the Army and Navy you find here and there officers who are both capable administrators and experts. If not, why do private firms take them freely from the Army? A sum of nearly £10,000 is spent each year on the Artillery College at Woolwich, a college specially created for the purpose of educating officers for service in the Ordnance factories—officers who, in the existing state of things, find employment instead with private firms, and not in the Ordnance factories. Well, the Financial Secretary has alluded to officers and their capability of managing works, and I should like to say two or three words in regard to the way in which the railway has been constructed in the past few months in the Soudan. I know that work has been carried on by young officers — some of them I know myself — and I venture to say that amongst them there are one or two, at all events, quite capable of undertaking duties in connection with the Ordnance factories, and at a very much lower salary than you would have to give to civilians. The Financial Secretary says that soldiers have no experience in the management of large 959 bodies of men. I should like to know who more than soldiers and sailors have experience in the management of men? At all events, every Department of State—the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the Board of Trade, the Local Government Board Offices—employ naval and military men, and it remains for the Ordnance factories to refuse practically to employ them. The result of all this system is that after the State has educated these officers you send the best brains of the Army into private firms to make armaments for foreign countries. There are one or two more questions I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary. First, about the foremen. Why are not these foremen on the establishment? In the Royal dockyards foremen are on the establishment, but foremen in the Arsenal at Woolwich, men who are carrying out most important duties, are not on the establishment, and I believe there is considerable discontent amongst them. In 1891 they petitioned the War Office; but up to this day they have had no answer to their petition. Perhaps the Financial Secretary can tell us why no answer was ever given. And there are also a certain number of managers and assistant managers and mechanical assistants. Why are not these men on the establishment? They are the life and soul of the factories, and are treated, practically, as day labourers, liable to be got rid of at any moment. I do not think the Estimates have given us all the information we have a right to expect. It is practically impossible to discover what the expenditure at these different factories has been, and I think the Financial Secretary might have seen that these Estimates were presented in a very different form than they are now. Perhaps next Session he will see his way to make some improvement in that respect. Well, Sir, in conclusion, I would ask, why destroy the system of administration which has worked so well in these factories for such a great number of years, and why destroy the esprit de corps which exists, and which may prove of the greatest possible utility in the time of national emergency? And if you once lose this esprit de corps it can never be restored. I think that if these factories are ever to be re-established on a satisfactory footing you should revert to the system that has existed so long, and 960 restore them to the charge of the Inspector General of Ordnance.
§ *MR. WOODALL
AS one of the surviving members—I am afraid one of the few surviving members—of Lord Morley's Committee, I would just like to say a few words by way of general acceptance and confirmation of the statement made by the Financial Secretary. Mr. Lowther, I think the hon. and gallant Member for Hythe, and the other advocates of decentralisation, would have found an almost ideal condition of things in the administration of the Ordnance Factory at the time Lord Morley's Committee commenced its inquiry. It is stated in the Reports, as has, indeed, been stated by the Financial Secretary, that so independent was the management of the three great factories at Woolwich that there was no means of communicating between the gun factory and the carriage factory except through the Director of Artillery at Pall Mall. Cases were brought under our notice where, alterations having been made in a gun, no communications were made respecting the necessary alterations in the carriage, and both works went on until the time came that they were required for service, and were found to be unsuitable. But it was so not merely in regard to the three great factories at Woolwich; reference was also made to the factory where are produced rifles and machine guns at Enfield, and to another factory at Birmingham, which has now disappeared, as well as the works at Sparkbrook, since remodelled. Nor was this complete and disorganised independence all. There were also some other points which, in our judgment, affected the successful administration of these factories, and required change. In regard to the important department of the inspection of material supplied by contractors and the inspection of work manufactured in the different factories, that inspection was undertaken by those who were responsible for the manufacture. One of the important changes which were recommended, and which I have seen most satisfactorily carried out, was the system of independent inspection; and soldiers in this House and elsewhere will be gratified to know that the chief duty 961 of inspection has been carried out, if I mistake not, by military men. [Mr. POWELL-WILLIAMS: Entirely.] Entirely, my hon. Friend tells me; and carried out with very great success. Now, Sir, on this question of who was the man most desirable to take the high position of Inspector General of all these Ordnance factories, there was, at the time, a considerable amount of difference of opinion, but there was finally an agreement, in which I concurred, which was embodied in the Report, and was signed by nearly every member of the Committee—I think by all but two members. Now, Sir, it was felt that it was, on the whole, desirable that the supreme direction of the Ordnance factories should be confided to a military engineer, and it was thought that in such a man the Government would find a disciplinarian, a man familiar with designs, and with the service that would be required; and, as we have learnt before, it is not difficult for such a man to acquire a large amount of mechanical knowledge. But we also recommended that the general direction of the manufactory should be dependent upon the most highly-skilled mechanical engineer that could be found, and very large figures indeed were suggested to the Committee from the information we gained in other parts of the country as to the price which such mechanical engineers were worth. Now, the Committee must bear in mind some very important and essential considerations in this question of the choice between a civil and military engineer. A military engineer is appointed for a period of five years. Upon commencing his duties he necessarily has to place himself under the tuition of managers and others who are subordinate to him. We know, and I am very glad indeed to bear testimony from such official experience as I have, how very great is the proficiency acquired by many of these distinguished military engineers. But by the time they have acquired by experience, by practical study, the expertness necessary for the conduct of manufacturing, their term is over; and, although we were told the five years' system was very good providing it was not strictly followed, it requires a very strong reason indeed to justify detaining for a longer period than five years a military man away from his military service. Hence in the actual 962 process of manufacture reliance has to be placed chiefly upon the civilians employed in subordinate, though very important, positions, and I cannot help feeling that the value of the managers who serve so efficiently in the Ordnance factories has not always been appreciated or estimated as highly as it deserves; and, in passing, I would commend to the Financial Secretary the consideration of the status of managers, and foremen also, which I think might very well be improved in a general way. I have spoken of the importance attached by Lord Morley's Committee to independent and efficient inspection. We were also strongly of opinion that the designing and the drawing staff, and all the officers employed in connection with them, should be consolidated, and should be available for all the different Departments, at any rate of gun manufacture. It was to me personally a matter of great disappointment that the time did not appear to be ripe for carrying out that part of the recommendation of Lord Morley's Committee, and I offer most sincerely my congratulations to the Government for having determined upon that change. I hope that the Government will long enjoy—for the full term, at any rate, for which he can be employed—the very valuable services of Sir William Anderson. With all that has been said of him, not only as an experienced mechanical engineer, but as a conciliatory and efficient administrator, I heartily concur. Of Mr. Donaldson I know absolutely nothing personally, but from the description which has been given to the House by the Financial Secretary I have no hesitation in saying that he satisfies the conditions to which Lord Morley's Committee attached importance. His experience and his training, and what we may take to be his ability, are such as would fit him for the post which we had in our minds when we suggested the appointment of a chief mechanical engineer to serve under the Director General. The Ordnance factories to-day exist under somewhat different conditions than of old. They no longer form a department of the War Office. They now comprise a separate manufacturing department, looking for its orders, just like Elswick, or Whitworth, or any other great manufacturing establishment does, to the Army on the 963 one hand, to the Navy on the other, to India, and to the Colonies. It is required to be self-supporting in competition with outside factories; and, therefore, I was rather struck by an observation which appeared to me to be calculated to mislead, when the Financial Secretary spoke of it as being unlike those factories with whom a question of profit was not absolutely lost sight of. The cost of construction at the Ordnance factories has been less than the price paid to outsiders, and the cost of management, as I understand, for the last year has been proportionately small. It is a fortunate thing that, with regard to everything produced at the Ordnance factories, there is that advantage of being able, to compare the efficiency of the work, the construction, and the cost of construction with what is done outside. Since the adoption of that system there seems to be very little room for faultfinding with regard to the general organisation of the factories. Something has been done, and it appears to me that something more might be done, to associate the Admiralty with the actual administration of the Ordnance factories; but, at any rate, I hope we may have an assurance, with regard to the distribution of the obtaining of guns for the Navy, that they are really ordered from the Government factories, which are as much naval as they are military. I would only just press for information with regard to the appointment to the two vacant superintendentships at the factories. Mr. Donaldson is to be a Deputy, but he is also to have the supervision of the two factories where the superintendentship has fallen vacant. The system of separate superintendence, working under the control and direction of the Director General, has hitherto worked satisfactorily. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has any further suggestion to make; but there are some points on which I hope, before the Vote is taken, he will give the House some information. I am not quite sure, for instance, whether the provisions for Divine Service at Woolwich are satisfactory, or whether it is worth while keeping up the chapels and chaplains at Enfield and Woolwich, and perhaps I may press for some information with regard to the condition of things at Waltham 964 Abbey. We remember with great regret the disastrous accident that occurred at the cordite factory at Waltham Abbey, and that, in order to have that process carried out beyond all range of possible danger that might befall a new factory was erected. If I am correctly informed that factory has not yet been employed, although the amount of cordite turned out last year far exceeded the amount that was estimated as necessary. These are two points on which I should like to have information, but upon the general system of administration I will not hark back upon the question. My impression is that under the present system of maintaining the independence of the Ordnance factories, keeping constantly in view the commercial character of the undertakings, and consolidating them on the lines of Lord Morley's Committee, we may rely on an efficient service in those important establishments.
§ *MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
I rise to draw attention to one point at which the administration of this Vote touches the general commercial interests of the country, and the interests of the working classes, in other places than at gun factories. I find certain items amounting to about £7,400 for new expenditure at the Royal gun factory, which points to an apparent increase of the plant there. I believe, from such information as I have been able to get, that this new expenditure points rather towards a change in the shape and design than to an increase in size of the guns that are there manufactured. The House knows the significance of the point I am raising. It is well known to some of us that it has been arranged, in past years, that Woolwich should not undertake to manufacture the forgings for guns beyond a certain size, which may be described generally as medium size—at all events, not a large size—and that the production of those great masses of metal which are necessary to make great guns should be left to private firms. I wish to have an assurance which will be as satisfactory as before, that there is no now departure in policy indicated by the increase to which I have called attention, but that, 965 on the contrary, the policy of the gun factory is now, as it has been in the past, to give encouragement to private trade by leaving to it these great operations, which can alone be successfully coped with by the plant found in private establishments.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
I am not able to agree either with the Government or with those who have criticised the policy of the Government. I should let either a civilian or a soldier be employed, whoever was thought best qualified for the service of the country; I cannot give an opinion either one way or another upon the particular question now before the Committee. I only rise to say that I think it unfortunate that we should be called upon to discuss this Vote in the absence of the annual accounts. It has not happened before that the Ordnance Vote has been discussed without the Ordnance accounts before us. They have never been so late as in the present year.
§ MAJOR F. C. RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
I do not quite agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hanley in his appreciation of the statement made by the Financial Secretary. I have always been a little suspicious of the way in which the two Front Benches agree with the sentiments expressed by each other. I do not know whether I heard the hon. Member for Hanley aright, but I thought he said the soldiers took five years to learn their trade in a Government Department. ["No, no!"] Well, I understood him to say so. I presume it is rather phenomenal that civilians, when they go to the War Office, learn their trade in five months.
§ *MR. WOODALL
Nothing was further from my intention. I say nothing in disparagement of military men coming into the factories, but they have no previous experience of actual manufacture; they have to be indebted for a course of training to the practical manager. I acknowledge the great skill they possess, for which their theoretical and technical 966 training has fitted them, and you cannot desire further evidence than the way in which they are sought for, and engaged by, private manufacturing establishments throughout the country at very high figures.
§ MAJOR RASCH
I think the experience throughout the country quite bears out the hon. Gentleman's statement. I hope the Committee will hear half a dozen words upon this Vote which, after all, is a Vote that affects two and a half millions of money and employs 15,000 men. Some years ago, in 1888, Major-General Maitland was Director General of Ordnance factories, and he was no doubt an expert at the business he undertook at Enfield. Mr. William Anderson, as he then was, was appointed to the post by the right hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs about five or six years ago. Mr. Anderson was by trade a hydraulic engineer, and he had a large interest in a firm that did a considerable trade with the Royal Ordnance factories. That was an exceptional circumstance in the appointment of the Director General of these factories. After his appointment the expenses of the central offices went up very largely, and there was a phenomenal increase in the number of the staff. Three assistants were soon afterwards appointed and one Deputy Director General, which very largely increased the expenses of the office. Then came the régime of Mr. Rigby, a gunmaker pure and simple, who was appointed superintendent of the small arms factory at Enfield Lock. When he was appointed, a good many of us thought it would not be a success, and, as it turned out, it was not a success; before many years Mr. Rigby was superannuated. The happy thought then appears to have occurred to the War Office that, instead of putting a civilian or expert over the factory at Enfield Lock, they would employ a civilian Ordnance clerk, and that is the gentleman employed in the manufacture of Lee-Metford rifles by the Government. Then came the appointment of Mr. Donaldson, who was what is called a dock engineer. He had also had considerable experience in the locomotive works of the London and North Western Railway at Crewe. There was another 967 circumstance which probably induced the Financial Secretary to give him the position, and that was that Mr. Donaldson appears to have been an expert in the matter of frozen meat, and we all know the leaning of the Financial Secretary in that direction. The contention was, that Mr. Donaldson was the best man to direct the Ordnance works because of his services at the London and North Western Company's works at Crewe. I fail to see that that has anything to do with it. The hon. Gentleman might as well say that because I was ten years a dragoon I am therefore fitted to be an archdeacon! That is not the system pursued in other countries. If you go across the water to the great works of Krupp's, at Essen, in Germany, you will find that, though of course the principal management centres in a civilian, the whole of those enormous works are officered by soldiers, and that, there, officers in the Prussian Army are allowed to work in these factories as superintendents, receiving at the same time their full pay, and their promotion goes on just the same. There are other works which have been alluded to; there are the works of Vickers and Co., where there have been appointed two superintendents, one an officer in the Royal Artillery, and the other an officer in the Royal Navy. If Lord Armstrong at Elswick wants a superintendent, does he ask a stockbroker to do it? He takes a man who is competent for the work he is going to do. That has not been done in reference to the Ordnance works at Enfield. I hope the Financial Secretary will give us some more satisfactory explanation of these appointments before the Vote is taken. I personally do not wish to trouble the right hon. Gentleman. I have the greatest possible respect for the grasp of the situation he has shown since he has been at the War Office—though I am bound to say I do not agree with him that horses fed upon French hay are best for the British Army, or that chunks of Argentine cow instead of British beef is best food for the British soldier—and I think he might give us a further explanation than he has done.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
rose to protest against the Vote being taken while the Members had not the accounts in reference to the expenditure of the Ordnance Department.
§ MR. H. O. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
I must say I am not very much impressed by the unanimity between the two Front Benches.
§ *MR. WOODALL
May I be allowed to explain that I simply spoke of the recommendations of the Committee?
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
Yes; as I was saying, the fact does not carry conviction to my mind that Gentlemen on the Front. Benches are agreed. I think it is only fair to my hon. and gallant Friend, who has been twitted with his ignorance of the fact that the accounts were not presented, that I should say that, on applying to the Vote office, I find that, as a matter of fact, the accounts are not yet ready for circulation. As to the whole question it seems to me there is a vast amount of misconception, and I think it is only reasonable that this should be removed. The whole speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hanley (Mr. Woodall), and also of the Financial Secretary (Mr. Powell-Williams), would seem to lead to the conclusion that something has been done in pursuance of the wise recommendations of the several Committees, and that the appointment of Mr. Donaldson is strictly in pursuance of these recommendations. Now the exact opposite of all this has taken place. The facts, as they exist, are diametrically opposite to the recommendation of the War Office Committee. The other day I asked the Financial Secretary why Mr. Donaldson had been appointed, and in his reply he said that the gentleman was appointed in pursuance of the recommendation of Lord Morley's Committee. [Mr. POWELL-WILLIAMS: Hear, hear!] Well, Sir, for the moment I was impressed by the statement, and I proceeded to ask when the Committee sat. I was informed that it was ten years age. Then, when time served, I refreshed my memory by reference to the recommendation of that Committee. The hon. Gentleman said that it was true that the majority of the Committee had suggested that the head of the Department should be a military man, and that the second in command should be one also. I think the House would infer from that statement that there had been a sub- 969 stantial minority on the other side. Now, Sir, there were 13 members of that Committee, and only one of them was an active soldier or a military man, and, therefore, it cannot be said that their recommendations were influenced by an undue amount of military bias. Twelve of the 13 members concurred in recommending a course diametrically opposed to that which has been taken by the Government, and the 13th member did not dissent, though he declined to commit himself to the statement of the others, he thinking that the War Office should be free to take the best man they could find, no matter whether he was a military man or a civilian. Now, what has been the result? We shall see that what it amounts to is something that is altogether opposed to what Lord Morley's Committee did, in fact, recommend. That Committee recommended—
Well, now, that is the report of the Committee, and what is the state of things now? The Director of Artillery has been displaced, and, instead, there is a very competent man, no doubt, but not a military man—namely, the Financial Secretary himself. The Superintendent General has been displaced—the office does not now exist—but in place of that office there is the Director General, and he is a civil engineer, presumably a man with no knowledge of military requirements. Then, finally, we get at the last link in the chain, the mechanical engineer; and he, certainly, I quite admit, does fulfil the recommendation of the Committee; but I think we want more reason given us for this absolute transformation of all the other special recommendations of the Committee. This change was made without the consent of the House. I think it 970 was effected under Mr. Stanhope by an Order in Council, and it was made against every conceivable authority that could be brought to bear upon the other side. [Mr. WILLIAMS: No, no!] I will let the Committee judge for themselves. There were three gentlemen who sat on a Commission known as the Hartington Commission, appointed within a year of the time I have referred to. They were three representative gentlemen. They represented, we may say, three great branches of society. First of all, we have, I suppose, the most justly respected sailor in Her Majesty's naval service, Admiral Richards, and he said—
- "1. That a Superintendent of Ordnance Factories should be appointed, holding office under the Director of Artillery and Stores. He should be an officer of the Army and should reside at Woolwich. He should be the sole channel of communication between the War Office and the Manufacturing Departments. In addition to the general superintendence of the factories he should be head of the Designing and Drawing Office.
- "2. That, subject to the control of this officer, there should be a chief mechanical engineer holding a civilian appointment, who should be in charge of, and responsible for, manufacture in all its branches. His subordinates, also civilians, should take charge of the various departments."The changes introduced into the War Office administration as regards the Ordnance were in direct opposition as well to these proposals as to the Report of the Royal Commission, and in most essential particulars to the recommendations of the Committee on the organisation of the Manufacturing Departments also.And he goes on to say—From all this it seems to be clear that a change in the present system is a pressing necessity.Well, so much for the naval branch of the service. Then we have the opinion of one who has very few equals, and no superiors, among soldiers, as an authority on the Service matters we are now discussing—General Brackenbury—and he also agreed with his naval colleague—I consider it essential," he said, "that if the other proposals of the Commission are adopted the Ordnance factories should be placed under the Director of Artillery.Lastly, we have a civilian who is fully qualified to speak on such a subject—we have the authority of Mr. Thomas Ismay, who said—I do not think that the attempt to place these factories on the same basis as those of civil contractors can possibly succeed, or that it is consistent with the interests of the country.There you have three of the most distinguished and competent members of the Committee expressing opinions diametrically opposite to the policy which has been adopted. Now, an inquiry took place in April, 1888, into the working of the system. I trust it will produce economy, but it does not seem 971 to have done so yet. The Report, given as early as April, 1888, was as follows—It would appear from the estimates that the creation of this new Department (that of the Director-General of O.F.) has involved an increased charge of £3,228, and four new appointments.It seems to have led, since that time, to the establishment of other offices, and to an increased expenditure of £6,000 amongst these new offices. I do not, therefore, think that on the ground of authority or economy this policy, which has found so much commendation on both sides, can be sustained. We ought to remember that, after all, these are our fighting services, and it is by no means an extraordinary thing to have, at the head of them, a naval or a military man. Just imagine what opposition would be excited should a similar proposal be suggested for the naval service! Imagine the First Lord of the Admiralty, without consulting Parliament, going directly counter to the recommendations of the Commission, and taking away the control of the dockyards from the Naval Lords and from the Controller, and putting them under the control of a civilian; and imagine, after that, the smaller dockyards falling vacant and being placed under a clerk taken from the Admiralty; and, finally, imagine the whole of the dockyards being transferred to the absolute control of the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty! That would be something equivalent to what has been done in the Ordnance Department. I confess I could not follow the reasoning of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Powell-Williams) when he said that military men were disqualified for this post, nor do I think that anyone of experience would confirm him in his conclusion. I certainly am familiar with a large number of cases where naval and military men, tempted by high salaries and great opportunities, have, with great success, discharged the duties of heads of great civil works. For a moment I put aside the question of the appointment of Mr. Donaldson. I think there is ample evidence that there are a large number of sailors and soldiers who, with great difficulty, have discharged such duties as these; and I could mention, for instance, the control of the dockyards by the Admiral-Superintendents; while, if we look at the Continent, we 972 there see a great many manufacturing works that are run almost entirely by military heads, and therefore we cannot accept the proposition that soldiers are not fully qualified to head such a department as this. And here let me refer to the case of Lieutenant Dawson, whom the hon. Gentleman says he would have appointed to Mr. Donaldson's post if he would have accepted the salary. Lieutenant Dawson was a young officer in the Navy receiving £400 a year in the Arsenal, possessing, I suppose, all the disqualifications attributed by the hon. Member to naval and military men, one of those who, we are told, would take five years to learn his business, and who would be unaccustomed to the management of men; and yet, as I am glad to learn, the Financial Secretary would have appointed him. Surely the admission is a very significant one, and cuts the ground from under the hon. Gentleman's feet. Now, Sir, perhaps hon. Members may ask why I occupy their time so long to-night upon this matter. It is for this reason: this matter cannot, of course, be judged finally now. It is an experiment, but it has its serious side. The hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary is, as he has shown, an exceedingly competent official; but I do honestly think that the combination of the offices, which I do not say that he has assumed, but which have been thrust upon him, is rather too important for anyone to undertake, and is one which ought not to be undertaken by any one person. The hon. Gentleman, at the present moment, has charge of the alteration of contracts, the administration of all the Army factories, and he is also the financial critic of all the operations which arise in connection with the allocation of contracts and the management of the factories. That, I say, is a very remarkable state of things, and I believe there is no parallel for it in the history of our civil and military administration. It seems to me, almost on the face of it, that these duties ought to be entirely divorced. But, apart from that, there is another question: Why should we take away these prizes from our soldiers and sailors? We do not pay our soldiers and sailors very highly. We get very excellent service out of them. I suppose there are soldiers and sailors who have failed from time to time, but no one would get up in this House and say that 973 taking them all round, our soldiers and sailors are not competent to perform the work they are called upon to do. And, having shown themselves competent for work, it seems unfair to shut them out from those prizes which have hitherto been the legitimate rewards of their profession. Now, Sir, with regard to the personal element, I can only desire to say one word. The Financial Secretary has said that Mr. Donaldson is unknown to the Secretary of State for War. The fact that he is unknown to the Secretary of State for War is not remarkable. Indeed, I believe he is unknown to almost everybody else. Very well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman says nothing, but I will take the opinion of this profession and ask whether he can bring any testimony at all, outside an exceedingly limited circle, of the name and fame of this gentleman, and his peculiar fitness for the office of deputy inspector general. I do not know how these applications came in. I venture to think that when the advertisement appeared Mr. Donaldson was one of the first to respond to the advertisement, and made, I suppose, immediate application. [Mr. POWELL - WILLIAMS: No. no. He was the last.] I thought I should get that information. I should like to know whether anyone suggested to Mr. Donaldson that he might with advantage fill this post? Of course Mr. Donaldson saw the terms of the advertisement. I think the terms were that he was to have a great knowledge of piecework prices, and a large experience in dealing with machinery. I cannot say that Mr. Donaldson had any particular experience of piece-work prices, or as engineer of the docks he had any great experience of repairing machinery. I believe, that the machinery, as a matter of fact, at the docks was mostly contracted for and largely prepared by Messrs. Easton and Anderson, and it is quite possible that the knowledge they have of Mr. Donaldson's qualifications may have enabled them to speak with great confidence of his abilities, but that knowledge was not common property, and in justice to the Army and Navy and the engineering profession, we ought to have fuller explanation of the appointment of Mr. Donaldson. The main points, however, in reference to this question, 974 which was well worthy of consideration, was whether we were acting rightly in entirely divorcing the control of these great war services from the great Military and Naval Departments of the Army and Navy, for so far as the Army and Navy are concerned they are absolutely divorced from any such control. I hope I have said enough to make the House feel that there is sufficient matter in doubt to make it worthy of an explanation.
§ *MR. CHARLES E. TRITTON (Lambeth, Norwood)
May I for a very few moments ask the indulgence of the House? I am in an entirely different position to other hon. Members who have spoken. I have had the pleasure and privilege of knowing Mr. Donaldson most intimately for more than 20 years. I have watched his career with the greatest possible interest, and have formed a very high opinion of his abilities; some few years ago I took the opportunity of backing my opinion by being one of those who recommended him very strongly for the vacant post of chief engineer to the East and West India Dock Company. He obtained that appointment, and the admirable way in which he has discharged his duties whilst there, to the complete satisfaction of the directors, amply justified the recommendations of his friends to that post. I cannot attempt to go fully into the question of whether it is desirable or not to appoint a civilian or a soldier to this post, but this I can say, from intimate knowledge of Mr. Donaldson, that I congratulate the Secretary of State upon having secured such an excellent official, and that I believe he will prove to be a most useful public servant. In conclusion, I should like to assure the Committee, with all due respect, to the hon. and gallant Member for Hythe, and other hon. and gallant Members who have spoken, that it will take a very smart, soldier to beat Mr. Donaldson, either in point of ability or for absolute devotion to duty.
§ *MR. W. ALLAN (Gateshead)
There is always one essential difficulty in the appointment of managers to positions of this description, and that is, that the post 975 requires a man with a thorough knowledge of the business which he is going to undertake. I had occasion to put a supplementary question to the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary relative to the appointment of Mr. Donaldson. Now I want to look at the thing from a business and practical point of view, and not through nepotistical spectacles at all. If the work of the factories is to be done efficiently and well, the man who conducts it must know the business. Now I ask the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary, what experience has Mr. Donaldson had in gun manufacture? I question if Mr. Donaldson knows the mechanical phraseology of gun manufacturing, because it is so totally different to that of locomotive manufacture, or even the superintendence of docks, to which Mr. Donaldson has been accustomed. If that is the case, where is he to get his information from? How is he to make his drawings? I do not believe he ever made a drawing for a gun in his life, and yet he has been pitched into this job in a manner which I hold calls for elucidation, and should be cleared up. We are told Mr. Donaldson was the last applicant for the situation. Now, I want to ask the Financial Secretary for the War Office, who save him the hint to apply for the job? [Mr. POWELL-WILLIAMS: I do not know. I did not.] Then who is responsible for this application? [Mr. POWELL - WILLIAMS: I do not know.] That is just coming to my point. There has been a bit of backstairs business in the whole appointment. It was not done openly, and nobody was more surprised than Mr. Donaldson himself that he got the appointment. I am saying nothing about him as an engineer. He may be a very good locomotive engineer, but he is not a gunmaker. It is a difficult matter to get guns manufactured efficiently and well when you put a man into a job who knows nothing about it. I want, therefore, to know at whose instigation did Mr. Donaldson get this appointment over the heads of a great many other applicants who have been accustomed to gunmaking. I am not alluding to military men at all. I am looking at it as a purely engineering and mechanical question. There is another point I would ask my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary for War. Why 976 cannot the Government in their Woolwich Arsenal train up efficient men to be their Director General of Ordnance to manage our gun factories? Why cannot you do everything for yourselves? You give great encouragement to young gentlemen going to learn gunmaking, who are highly educated and thoroughly up in theory and science, and yet you will not promote those young men, but you pass them over in these appointments and go outside for them. Well, that is not giving encouragement to those young engineers. Why, there is hardly an engine manufactory anywhere but what you find the head foreman or the deputy-manager is a man who has been brought up to do that particular work. There are some gentlemen sitting in this House who know the necessity for this. Why don't you give encouragement in the works you control? I will tell you why. Simply for this reason, that there is far too much nepotism and back-stairs influence at work, and too many friends wanting jobs. [An HON. MEMBER: Oh, oh!] It is all very well to say "Oh, oh!" but answer me why Mr. Donaldson was told to apply for that job.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
He was not told. He was never told by anybody to apply for that job. He was unknown to everybody, and I repudiate the insinuation which the right hon. Gentleman has made for the third time.
§ MR. ALLAN
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, but I desire to point out that it is a patent fact that Mr. Donaldson was the last to apply for this position. I am given to understand that he was told to do so, and that nobody was more astonished than himself that he got the job. All I have to say is that such is not the way to carry on the business of this country, whether in a gun factory or in any other factory, and you will never get efficient work by such a system as that, and I protest strongly against that system being carried out in any of the Government Departments.
§ *SIR A. HICKMAN (Wolverhampton, W.)
Reference has been made in this Debate to the Report of the Morley Committee and to the Minority Report. As I was the author of the Minority Report of 977 Lord Morley's Committee I should like to say a few words upon the subject. There was a sufficient amount of matter and information laid before the Committee. There were three great departments at Woolwich, managed by three separate governors, and it was given in evidence that it not unfrequently happened that a gun had to be made in one department, and the carriage had to be made in another, and the projectile in a third department. Well, after the order was given for a certain gun some little alteration was made in the gun, but, somehow or other, nobody was responsible for altering the carriage, and the result was that the carriage was made to the original design without any alteration, and when the two had to be put together they did not fit. Upon that state of things the Committee recommended in their Report that instead of having three distinct and separate heads for each department, there should be two heads only, and that one should be a military man and the other an engineer, the Army man being responsible for discipline, and the engineer for manufacture, so that the staff was to be employed by one man and governed by another. Well, Sir, in my very humble opinion I suggested that that would make confusion worse confounded, and what I stated in my Report was this: I ventured to recommend that there should be one head, and that I would make the appointment perfectly open, and that the appointment should not be given to a soldier if a better man could be found, but not excluding a soldier if he appeared to be the most suitable man, and I mentioned the names of Captain Noble, Colonel Dyer, and General Maitland, the latter of whom was actually appointed. This is the principle which the Government have adopted, and they have not chosen a man because he was a soldier, for it does not follow that a man who knows how to use a gun necessarily knows how to make one. Why, Sir, would anyone propose to make an admiral the chief constructor of the Navy? The thing is monstrous. I think the suggestion of the hon. Member for Gateshead, who is an expert in these matters, that persons should be trained up in the factories to take these positions, is an admirable one, and no doubt that is the desire of those 978 who have made this appointment; but if the fact is that nobody has been trained for the post, and if there is no fit person available, it would be a monstrous thing to limit the choice of the Government in any way for a responsible post like this. Reference has been made to the prizes for the Army. That is very desirable, but this position is of too much importance to give it by way of a prize. It is too big a thing, and it is absolutely necessary—and I desire to support the Government in their effort—to choose the best man independent altogether of whether he is a soldier, civilian, or engineer, or whatever he may be. That is the principle upon which the Government has acted, and which I, for my part, can cordially support.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
The question before the House has been debated now for a considerable period, and I do not regret in any way that this Debate has taken place, because if there exists in the mind of any Member of this House any opinions such as those that have been expressed by two of my hon. Friends below the Gangway, and by the hon. Member for Gateshead—who I regret to see has now left the House—the sooner those questions are brought into the open and openly discussed the better, and certainly no one can desire it more earnestly than myself. I cannot help saying a word upon the attitude taken by the hon. Member for Gateshead, who has insinuated in the broadest fashion that the appointment of Mr. Donaldson was nothing less than a job to satisfy somebody whom he does not name, or for the purpose of giving employment to a man simply that he might enjoy the emoluments of an office for which he is entirely unfitted. Well, Sir, I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman heard the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hythe. My hon. and gallant Friend complains that we advertised the office publicly. Now what is the system? This was a novel appointment, and if you desire to make a fair appointment in such a case what do you do? Why, you must advertise. If you do not you only confine your selection to the few gentlemen who happen to know of the vacancy, and you may be certainly tempted to select a man, not because he was the best man 979 who could be found, but because he was the most efficient of those who applied, although more efficient men might have applied if it had been known the appointment was going to be made. In my opinion my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary took the only correct course when he urged the Secretary of State to advertise the appointment publicly. I think 12 gentlemen made applications, and sent in their qualifications in answer to the advertisement. They were carefully gone through and weeded down to four, and in the case of all those four special inquiries were made about them, and it transpired from all those inquiries that the best man in the opinion of those who had to make the appointment was Mr. Donaldson, whom none of them had heard of or seen before. Under these circumstances I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gateshead, who usually speaks with so much fairness and knowledge to the House, ought to have been more careful before making the grave charge he has made, and I, in the name of the Government, entirely repudiate the suggestion that was made with regard to this appointment. The real gist of this discussion has been the question whether a military man ought not to have been appointed to this post instead of a civilian, and my right hon. Friend who has just sat down put it in terms as forcible as anybody could do—the desirability that the Government should not limit itself either to civilian or military men in making this appointment. I know something of the Ordnance factories under the old system, but I dare say there are many Members of this House who know a good deal more. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hythe spoke of the old system on which the Ordnance factories, he said, were for more than a hundred years conducted. Well, it may have been so, but the last record of that system was not a very encouraging one, and it was a system which was continually under censure in this House and continually under inquiry. You take a distinguished artilleryman who may have a very good record in the field, and a man whom the whole Service may look up to; he is very likely verging on 60 years of age, How, I ask, can you expect that man, with all the 980 numerous calls upon him which will take up his time, to attend to five or six factories, or 20,000 workmen, when perhaps he has never put in any similar service before? I stand in this House and defy any Member to contradict it when I say that 12 years ago there was never a Debate on this subject but what there was an error pointed out as to the unreliability of some of the weapons supplied under the system by which soldiers had to design them, to manufacture them, and then to pass them into the Service. We now have the pattern chosen by a soldier, and the manufacture controlled by a civilian, while the soldiers have a special branch at Woolwich now to test weapons before they are received into the Service, and they reject them if they are not good. Under this system it is manifest that, whether soldiers or civilians are responsible, it is one which enables this House to judge on whom the responsibility lies if inferior weapons are improperly passed into the Service. I stand by that, and if we once go back to the old effete and exploded system of allowing the same man to choose the weapons who is responsible for the manufacturing of them, and the same man to pass what he has manufactured, we shall go back to the system under which there was no weapon in the British Army which was not brought before the House at some time or other and criticised and condemned. Well, now we have gained something by the change. I have been asked about putting the whole of these factories under the charge of the Financial Secretary to the War Office, who possibly may have no knowledge of the subject. It was suggested that I instituted the change from an excessive love of work. This is the exact opposite of the fact. I was informed one day ten years ago by the Secretary of State that it was the wish of the Cabinet that I should undertake the control of the Ordnance factories as part of the duties of Financial Secretary to the War Office. I knew that it would entail an incalculable amount of work upon the Financial Secretary, and I put in the strongest manner my desire to be relieved of it. The Financial Secretary is selected because he has a seat in the House, and is responsible to the House. All expert 981 questions have to be decided, and are decided, by experts. The questions of wages, the number of men who should be employed, how much overtime should be worked, what should be the conditions, whether on the establishment or on daily wages, are questions in which this House expects to have a say, and with regard to which an officer must be appointed to act who is responsible to the House. That is the reason why the Financial Secretary to the War Office is responsible for the organisation of the Department. I would ask hon. Gentlemen to bear with me while I show that there is more to be said than some hon. Members appear to think for having civilians in the Ordnance factory, and not to make all these appointments from the military or engineering services. I am the last, man to desire, in connection with the Army, that, civilians should do any work which should be done by a soldier. I have a great desire to see soldiers fill every post which they can possibly fill, but what kind of officers can you expect to get if you put all these Ordnance factories under their control? First of all, officers who are getting on very well in their own profession will not always leave it. Then the best officers have often been taken from us by private firms, who offer them much larger sums than this House is prepared to give any official in the Ordnance factories. The difficulty of selecting men of sufficient experience and knowledge is complicated by circumstances into which, I am sure, hon. Members will not desire me to enter fully. I have been connected with these Ordnance factories for 12 years, and I know the ins and outs of the working. I do not say that all civilians are above reproach as administrators, and I readily admit that on the question of corruption, alluded to by one hon. Member, we know nothing to impeach the honour of our officers, but I do say that the number of heads of departments who have had to be removed from their appointments within the last 12 years has been excessive. There have been brilliant exceptions, but, if I were forced to speak—and I trust the Committee will not force me—I should have to give the names of several officers who have absolutely failed, and for reasons which I should be sorry to bring before the 982 Committee. When officers get these posts they do so in competition with the best civilians we can get. The first Director General, appointed in 1887, was a military man, but subsequently Mr. Stanhope appointed Sir William Anderson, whose term of office has been a great success. I am sorry I cannot give the hon. Member for Belfast all the figures and details he asks for, but I may say there has been enormous saving, amounting in a year in one department alone to £12,000. By bringing the railways and under services under a central head we have saved far more than the whole central office costs in a single year. Centralisation of responsibility has been, perhaps, the greatest change at the Arsenal, and why I ask the Committee for their confidence in this matter is that we express no preference for one man over another. The present system under which the manufactory is entirely separated from the choice of workmen has proved a complete success in 12 years. Instead of the Ordnance factories being blamed for delay, extravagance, and unreliability, they have become cheaper, more expeditious, and more reliable sources of manufacture. That is, I think, a very considerable thing to be said for the Arsenal. As to the appointments, I can assure the Committee that we cannot accept the idea that they are to be merely the prizes for successful military service. That is impossible. These appointments must be made on a system which will enable us to manage these great factories with economy, efficiency, and success. The present appointment has been made with that object in view. The one desire of Lord Lansdowne is to secure the best men that can be got, whether from the Army or among civilians.
§ MAJOR HENRY F. BOWLES (Middlesex, Enfield)
There is one point omitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and that is that the men who seek these appointments must sever themselves from their batteries or regiments, and, therefore, we do not get the ablest men. If we could get the men my hon. Friend below the Gangway spoke of, able men like Captain Noble, of Sir William 983 Armstrong's firm, or other well-known men, who have shown great ability in the management of large factories, then let us have military men instead of civilians; but my experience for a great many years has been that we have not had the best men the Army can give us as superintendents of these factories. There is another point which was put before the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for War when he stated that it was for the Army to declare their wants, to say what kind of weapon they desired to have manufactured, how many they wanted, and with what speed they desired them to be manufactured; and it would then rest with the War Office to determine whether these requirements were right. In times past the question was raised in the House as to whether private manufacturers were treated properly, but at the present day the Government manufactories are under the management of civilians, and these civilians have to send to military experts the whole of the weapons they turn out, and these weapons are subjected to exactly the same tests as the weapons bought from private manufacturers. Under this system excellent results are obtained, and I must say I regret that my hon. Friend who sits below me should have suggested such a sweeping reform as he does in the management of our factories. Another point has been raised by the hon. Member for Hythe, which I think is a very important one, and ought not to be omitted. The hon. Member for Gateshead suggested that we ought to build up men in our own factories capable of filling these appointments. That is one result which, if we have military men in these appointments, we shall never get. What we want is that all the steps in our Ordnance factories should be graduated, and that men who show ability and capacity for work should have opportunities for rising, which they have not at present. The way in which the Ordnance factories treat their foremen is a scandal. They were treated no better than day labourers, and, although they got a better rate of pay, they had, after giving their best service to the country, to retire, when too old for work, without a pension. If the War Office wish to improve the status of their foremen, they must do something which will enable 984 them to look forward to enjoying their old age.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
I desire to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that we have had no explanation why the accounts of the Ordnance factories were not placed before us before this Vote was taken.
The accounts to which the hon. Member refers are accounts up to 31st March last year. These accounts have no reference to the Estimates we are now discussing, which are Estimates for the forthcoming year.
The delay arose from the fact that the accounts have to be examined by the Controller and Auditor General, and also by the Committee of Public Accounts, who have to report to the Treasury whether or not they have any criticism or objections to make. At present the War Office have not got these accounts back from the Public Accounts Committee, and it is impossible to lay them upon the Table of the House.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
Last year they were circulated on 18th March, and I maintain that the explanation of the present delay is by no means satisfactory.
The hon. Member should put a case of this kind to himself. Supposing the Controller and Auditor General, after examining, as he does, the Ordnance factory accounts, raises any question, that question has to be submitted to the Public Accounts Committee for their report, upon which the Treasury has afterwards to fonts its opinion. And, therefore, these accounts do go under investigation by the Public Accounts Committee.
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR
It is perfectly true that the Controller and Auditor General has to report upon the appropriation of public money in years that have gone by, and that his report is 985 considered by the Public Accounts Committee. But it often is the fact that the Public Accounts Committee are not able to consider the report of the Controller and Auditor General until the month of May or June or July, and for the hon. Gentleman to suggest that it is necessary that the Public Accounts Committee should report to this House upon the accounts of the year which are 18 months gone by is ridiculous. There is no connection whatsoever between the Controller and Auditor General's Report and the Report of the Public Accounts Committee, and the Estimates presented to this House.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
It is for that reason, Sir, that I move that this Vote should be postponed until after that Report has been received.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
Well, I hope the hon. Gentleman will not suggest that we are not endeavouring to carry out the views of the Public Accounts Committee. I am not certain that it would be possible to present the accounts so early in the year that the Controller and Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee could report upon them to this House by the 31st March, and it would not be reasonable to postpone this Vote in order that they might consider last year's Vote.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
In all previous years this Vote has been generally taken towards the close of the Session, in July or at the beginning of August.
§ MAJOR BOWLES
I must strongly protest against this Vote being taken so late, because the Controller and Auditor General has distinctly laid it down that this Vote ought to be taken early. This Vote for £100 was only presented in order that this question might, be discussed before the end of the financial year, and if it is not to be taken until July we might as well do away with the Vote altogether.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
I think the object of the Vote being limited to £100 was to bring it under the cognisance of the House, while the entire Vote would amount to something like £2,000,000.
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR
The accounts for the year ending the 31st March, 1897, have absolutely nothing whatever to do with the Estimate for the coming year.
That a sum not exceeding £100 be granted to Her Majesty to defray the charge for Ordnance Factories.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 112; Noes 43.—(See Division List No. 53.)
§ On the Vote for £295,800 for Medical Establishments and Medicines,
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
Mr. Lowther, I do not think it necessary for me at this stage to detain the Committee very long, because my hon. Friend who is in charge of this Vote has promised to make a declaration of the policy of the Government with regard to the Army Medical Department. I understand that a Departmental Committee is sitting at the War Office to consider this important question, and I hope my hon. Friend will be able to give such an assurance to the House to-night as will enable the flow of candidates to be re-established. Of course, we must all admit that the present condition of things in the Army Medical Department is extremely unsatisfactory. There are few candidates for appointments in the Department, competition has entirely ceased, the quantity is bad and the quality still poorer, and in the Army Medical Department we have almost reached a crisis. Now I think it must be quite evident to anyone who considers this question how very important it is that the very best men should be invited to join the Army Medical Department in view of the enormous responsibilities placed upon them both in time of war and in time of peace. The more complicated are the operations of war the more responsibility is thrown upon those men who have to operate, perhaps, under great difficulties in the field. When we consider also under what conditions surgical operations have to be carried out, and how these men have to fight against fever and pestilence, we shall, I think, see that very great and unusual demands are 987 made upon their special skill. The Service is almost entirely boycotted, and few men are coming in. But I should like to explain to my hon. Friend that its being boycotted is not the result of any action on the part of the teachers and professors of the medical schools. So far as I can make out, it is a purely spontaneous movement on the part of the young men. They do not like the present conditions of the Army Medical Department, and are determined that until they get better conditions they will stand aloof, and not join the Department. Now I am not going to weary the House by going into the reasons for this unpopularity of the Department. No doubt they are numerous, and I often think the Army doctor was happier in the old days, when he had social advantages, which compensated him in some degree for the disadvantages of his position. But I understand there is no chance of a return to the regimental system. I am here to state, so far as I can with such little medical authority as I may possess, one of the conditions which medical students demand, and without which I do not think they will come forward in the old free way. To use a cant phrase, "They won't be happy till they get it." As my hon. Friend knows, I had the honour of introducing a deputation to Lord Lansdowne consisting of the Parliamentary Bills Committee of the British Medical Association, reinforced by some of the most eminent medical professors and teachers from Scotch, Irish, and English centres of professional learning and science. The demand we made, and which I am bound to say was most courteously and sympathetically met by the Minister of war, was that we should have here, as they have in foreign countries, a Royal Corps, within which medical officers should have distinctive rank. The late Mr. Stanhope, of whose memory I wish to speak with the highest respect, invented a compound title, and I trust that the medical officers will get, by a contrary process of evolution, the full fruition of their hopes. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to give us an assurance that this demand will be met; and if he gives us that assurance, I think I can give him, and my hon. Friend who represents the University of Edinburgh, and who will probably take part in this 988 Debate, will also give an assurance that, if this request is granted, we shall get once more a good flow of candidates, and prosperity and happiness will be once more restored to the Army Medical Department.
I have received, Mr. Lowther, with the greatest possible pleasure the assurance with which the hon. Gentleman opposite closed the observations he has made. Nothing is more desirable, and the Secretary of State desires nothing more, than that there should be a complete understanding between the War Office and the medical profession, and that the flow of candidates into the medical branch of the Service should cease to be interrupted as it has been. And, Sir, the Secretary of State for War, in order to bring that happy condition of things to pass, will not stint in meeting the demands or the request which the medical profession has placed before him by means of one or two deputations. Sir, the claims of medical men connected with the Army have extended over a considerable number of items, some of lesser importance and some of the highest importance; but I think I do not misrepresent the profession when I say that the two claims upon which they lay the greatest stress are that the compound title should be exchanged for a simple title, representing rank in the Army or in a corps, and that the medical branch of the Service should be united into one corps. My hon. Friend has prefixed to the word "corps" the word "Royal," but I do not suppose he attaches the greatest importance to that, and I may inform him that that is a title which can only be given by special grant of Her Majesty. Therefore the Secretary of State can make no promise upon that point; but with regard to the desire of the medical branch of the Service to be united into one corps, I am happy to be able to state that the Secretary of State is perfectly willing to give effect to that request; and hereafter, as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made, the medical branch of the Army will be united into what may be called the Army Medical Corps. 989 Of course the present titles were conferred upon medical men by the late Secretary of State, with the hope and desire that those titles would meet the wishes of the medical profession; but I am bound to say that, when you come to look at it, that does not appear to have been done. The Secretary of State saw no more reason why he should call a surgeon a surgeon-major than he saw reason why he should call a, chaplain a chaplain-major, and the consequence is that he is perfectly willing to abolish the compound titles and to allow the medical branch of the Service to call themselves by the same titles as are applicable to officers and other branches of the Service, so that, in future, according to the rank of the medical officer, he may be called colonel, major, captain, or lieutenant of the Army Medical Corps. Some questions, however, present themselves in regard to further titles. Hitherto some of the medical men have enjoyed the honorary rank of major-general, but there is great difficulty in conferring that rank upon what will be the Army Medical Corps, just as there is a similar difficulty in relation to other corps in the Service. The rank of major-general by Army rule implies a general command: but Army medical men do not ask for a general command, they only ask for command within their corps, and if you give them the title of major-general it will be rather confusing matters. This is a subject upon which the Secretary of State has not finally given his decision, but I may tell the hon. Member that Army medical men will be given rank up to the title of colonel, and will stand in the Army List in accordance with the rank and seniority which their titles give. Under these circumstances I sincerely trust that these concessions will be deemed satisfactory. I am very glad to have an assurance to that effect from my hon. Friend, and we shall hail with satisfaction a return of that cordiality between the Army and the medical men which formerly existed.
§ *SIR W. O. PRIESTLEY (Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary for War on being the means of announcing these concessions. There 990 has been very great dissatisfaction in the Army Medical Department for many years past. I may claim to say a word upon this subject because so many of the medical officers in the Army are, or have been, members of my constituency in the two Scottish universities, and I have received a great number of letters upon this subject. There can be no doubt that there exists the most profound dissatisfaction throughout the whole ranks of the Army Medical Department. In proof of this statement I may point out that, although the medical profession is overcrowded, there have been so few applications for the post of assistant surgeon that it may be said to be absolutely unsought for. In 1896 there were 35 vacancies and only 28 candidates, and in 1897 there were 36 vacancies and only 22 candidates. It may be taken for granted that all these men were not competent to pass the examination, and consequently there must have been a very small number of men to enter the service, and the result has been not only great detriment to the service and the Army itself, but there has been a great strain on the medical officers already in the Army. Great difficulty has been experienced in getting help. Now I believe that this dissatisfaction amongst medical officers has been of long standing, and various suggestions have been made by way of remedy. I feel quite certain that, whatever the causes may have been, they have been greatly accentuated since the medical officers were divorced from the regiment. There cannot be the least doubt about this. I have almost universal authority from officers in all parts of the Service for saying so. The Duke of Cambridge has assured me more than once that this was the cause of the dissatisfaction, and if it was due to economic reasons—which I understand it was—I can only characterise it as most unwise economy. I do not know whether it will be possible to revert to the old system or not. It would be very desirable to have one senior medical officer attached to a regiment, but it is much more important for the junior medical, officers constantly to be associated with the combatant officers, and if they are only associated in some way, particularly with the 991 regiment, I am quite sure that a great deal of dissatisfaction would be done away with. In olden times the senior medical officer was the friend of all the officers of the regiment; he was appealed to on all occasions of difficulty and distress, and it does seem to me to have been a very unwise economy to have effected a change in all this. There is no such dissatisfaction amongst the medical officers in the Navy, because they are associated with and constantly meet their compeers. I am sure that the House will agree with me in the necessity for maintaining a high standard in the ranks of the medical officers of the Army. The practice of surgery has been revolutionised in our time since the introduction of the antiseptic system by my noble friend Lord Lister, and with reference to sanitary science changes of method have been so great that medical men consider they have a most important influence on all movements occurring in the Army. Indeed, the success of a campaign may depend on the efficiency of the medical service.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN, after the usual interval—
§ *SIR W. PRIESTLEY
said: I was about to remark that the best men the medical profession can offer will not enter the Army, though in former times the very best men did join. Small wonder at it, for they are tabooed, as it were, by the combatant officers; they are not received by them on the same social footing, and they are bound to associate with people below them in social position. That has been complained of in more than one case. What is it that they are complaining of? They do not complain of their pay, and they are not ashamed of their profession. They disclaim all wish to command outside their own department. What they have been complaining about is their want of status in the Army—their want of substantive rank. It is difficult for a civilian to understand the difference between substantive and relative rank. As I understand the question, they wish to be regarded as an integral part of the Army, and not merely as camp 992 followers—as they have been regarded by those antagonistic to them. Hitherto they have been scarcely fairly treated. They have been constantly exposed to certain humiliations. Despite their position as medical officers in the Army they have to suffer social disadvantages. Although they are part of the Army, they have been left out of social functions; when lists have been asked for of the officers of a regiment the medical officers have been left out, and the result is they have felt themselves excluded from that caste which, I believe, is so exclusive among combatant officers. This exclusion has not been due to individual objection, but because of the difference of status—because they were not part of the regiment. They have felt themselves no longer brothers-in-arms. They claim to be received by gentlemen as gentlemen, and not to be treated less respectfully than the officers of other scientific corps, such as the Engineers and the Artillery, and certainly not less respectfully than the Commissariat and the Army Service Corps. They complain of other things besides their social disadvantages. Let me give an illustration, to which I will call the attention of my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary for War. A surgeon-captain of a few months' standing, being invalided home, and having exhausted his resources, sought a free passage, but was refused as lieutenants only were entitled. Then he sought an advance for passage-money, to be repaid later on as captains are entitled to, on the medical certificate, but was refused on the ground that the regulation applied to captains and not to surgeon-captains. I trust that the proposals of to-night will remedy such a grievance, which is a substantial one. Medical officers have told me again and again that they have been treated with contumely by the combatant officers. I believe that a combatant officer in high command once said that a medical officer had no more right to be called a captain or a colonel, or to be included among the officers of the Army, than he had to be called the Archbishop of Canterbury. All who know the Archbishop of Canterbury know that he has courage for any emergency, but we also know that medical officers have to dress wounds under fire, and to expose themselves to 993 all the dangers of war, while the Archbishop of Canterbury's courage is displayed in quite another sphere. I know that from frequent communications to me, that the language used by a speaker before Lord Camperdown's Committee rankles in their minds—language so strong that I believe the Chairman of the Committee objected to it — language copiously adorned with expletives that might have been suitable to the days of "Peregrine Pickle," but which is scarcely permissible in polite society nowadays. I may point out that medical officers are quite as well educated as combatant officers. They have a more extended curriculum of study; they have to undergo a more stringent examination; many of the men are University graduates; and I have known again and again two brothers going into the Army, one into the combatant service and the other into the medical service, and the latter being refused admission to the officers' club and kept outside, their social circle. This is very much to be regretted. The medical officer claims an equality with the combatant officer for one especial reason — he is equally exposed to danger in the field, and the mortality among medical officers is greater in proportion to that among combatant officers, and certainly a great deal more so than among the Commissariat and the Army Service Corps. I have no doubt my right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that at this moment there are 40 medical officers, who have won the Victoria Cross either in service now or retired. It is not quite a new grievance that there is a disparity of feeling between the combatant and the medical officers. I will point this out to the Committee by reading an extract from the statement of the Marquess of Dalhousie, before Lord Herbert of Lea's Commission in 1857—I respectfully submit that such inequalities are founded on no sound grounds of justice, expediency, or policy; no vaid reason has been, or can be, alleged for maintaining them. Their effect is to depress the spirit of the medical officer, to depreciate a profession and class of service which ought to be held in the utmost respect, and supported equally from motives of prudence and gratitude. The absurdity of regarding a, medical officer as a non-combatant is, I believe, abandoned. The medical officer comes constantly under fire like other men. 994 Every campaign which is fought exhibits the name's of medical officers in the lists of killed and wounded, and the returns invariably show that they still more often fall victims to their own exertions on behalf of their suffering comrades.Then in the body of the Report I find this—Our attention has been called to other and minor points in which the Army medical officers consider themselves aggrieved as regards rank and precedence. We are aware that these matters may appear trivial to many who consider that the respect in which the medical profession is held places it above the necessity of seeking or accepting the adventitious aid which mere patents of precedence can afford. But in the military service rank is everything; there exists no authority without it; and a Civil Department, which by its connection with the Army has acquired a semi-military character, cannot maintain its position while debarred from the rights and privileges appertaining to it. Small, therefore, as these matters may appear, still they are taken as indications of the degree of respect with which the Government regards the Medical Department, and of the estimation in which it is intended by them that its officers should be regarded by others. We recommend that the relative rank of the Army medical officers be revised, and that such rank carry with it the same advantages as to quarters, allowances, precedence, etc., as substantive rank, and that, except in the case of the presidency of a court-martial, medical officers shall sit on courts and mixed Boards, according to their relative rank and the dates of their commissions.Now, Sir, these recommendations have never been carried out up till now. It has been said again and again that this is a sentimental grievance, but in the Army sentiment is everything, especially when there is danger. I suppose it was sentiment that made the gallant Gordon Highlanders face that hail of bullets at the Pass of Dargai; it was sentiment that made Surgeon-Captain Betys carry his wounded brother officer in his arms on a like occasion. This extract I take from the Lancet of 13th November, 1897—Major-General Yeatman Biggs has brought to the notice of the military authorities of India the gallantry of several medical officers in the action of Uhlan Pass, on August 27 last. Among them Surgeon-Captain Betys was singled out for special mention for his heroic conduct. After attending to the wounded under a heavy fire, Betys, regardless of consequences to himself, carried Lieutenant North, who had been wounded, down a hill track, too steep for a dhoolie, thus saving the life of the young officer, who had become faint and powerless from loss of blood.995 I am told that Surgeon-Captain Betys kept his thumb compressing the artery of his wounded brother officer, with great fatigue to himself, during the whole time he carried him down the face of the hill. Well, Sir, in conclusion, let me hope that the present proposals of the Government, made to the House tonight, will tend to settle this controversy. I trust that they will in a great measure smooth the difficulty. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that the smooth working of this new arrangement must depend in a large measure on the wisdom and tact of the superior officers or those in authority. Unless we have this tact exercised, the mere concessions granted to the medical officers, at their own asking, will simply increase the friction and make things worse than they were before. The whole Medical Department is just now smarting from a sense of unfair treatment in connection with the Ashantee War. The officers who returned from that expedition were honourably received by the authorities, who turned the cold official shoulder upon the medical officer. That was really a doctor's campaign, in which the danger was not so much from the bullets of the enemy as from the disease and pestilence of the march, for the lives of the soldiers were saved by the advice and the skill of the medical officer. I feel that the House will agree with me when I say that no prejudice and no unwise economy should prevent the Army being supplied with competent medical officers, and the conditions should be such as to preclude discontent.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON
I only wish to add to what the hon. Member has said one cordial word of congratulation for the clear and conciliatory way in which the case has been put, and for the very large concessions which have been made. I should like, through my right hon. Friend, to congratulate the Minister of War for having had the pluck to withstand the obstructive tactics of the military advisers of the War Office, who have, up to this moment, prevented these concessions being made. If for nothing else, the administration of my noble Friend will be 996 made memorable by the fact that he has, I hope, succeeded in bringing back peace and contentment to the Army Medical Department. The only feeling of regret that I have now is that we, from our side of the House, had not the pluck to do what he has done, and will get credit for. I desire to state that the Army medical officers wish for no general command; they only want to have command within their own general department. It is felt that he wants, and must have, his definite rank. That has been conceded by the wise tactics of the War Office, and I look very hopefully to the future.
§ CAPTAIN NORTON
I am glad, like my hon. Friend who has sat down, to find by the speech of the Financial Secretary to the War Office that there is an evident desire on the part of the War Office to do something at last for the Medical Department. The discontent which exists in the Medical Department has been put before the Committee by one well competent to judge of it. I think I am justified in saying that it is not the only question which affects the Army Medical Department. The question of leave has already been discussed. I brought to the notice of the House the case of a medical officer who, owing to the dearth of men, was constantly moved about from station to station, and who was denied the privilege of leave to which he was entitled, unless he was able to provide a substitute, thereby incurring very heavy expense. I am glad the Under Secretary of War put that matter right. I understand there are great complaints in connection with this question of leave. The main point is the tenure of office of the Director General of the Army Medical Department. On the 6th June, 1896, I asked a question of the right hon. Gentleman, and he stated that the tenure of office was seven years, as against five years in all other staff appointments, and that was because it had been recommended by Lord Herbert's Commission, and the authorities saw no reason for altering it. At the time I confess I was altogether ignorant of this Commission, but on informing myself I found that this 997 Commission sat in the year 1858—some 40 years ago—and that almost every recommendation of that Commission had been set aside by the War Office, with, perhaps, this one exception. I maintain that if five years is sufficiently long for the Commander-in-Chief, for the Adjutant General, for the Quartermaster General, and for general officers commanding divisions in districts, it ought to be long enough for the chief medical officer. I find by Article 69 of the Royal Warrant of 1896 that it is distinctly laid down that the return of tenure appointments shall not exceed five years, unless extended under special conditions. The Medical Department complain of this, because their promotion is slow. There are few prizes in the Army Medical Department—perhaps the only valuable one is that of the Director General—and a large number of the senior officers are shut out from obtaining that office. Furthermore, why should the head of the Army Medical Department be placed on a superior footing to all the other staff officers throughout the Service? All the Departmental officers are in favour of this change, because at the present moment few of them hope to arrive at the directorial chair. For years past almost every man who has arrived at the position of Director General has not been in perfect health or vigorous both mentally and physically. It is well known that the present holder of the office was nearly 60 years of age when he obtained that appointment, and that his two predecessors were constantly obliged to leave owing to ill-health. Consider what has taken place in the Veterinary Department. The late Colonel Lambert, as chief of the Veterinary Department, obtained that position when he was in the prime of health and mental vigour, and he raised his Department to a position it never held before. In regard to the question of the supply of horses in time of war, we have never been in such an excellent position as at the present moment. That is plainly due to the fact that we had a first-rate man in the position of head of the Veterinary Medical Department, where he was in a position to do justice to his office. It would give the greatest satisfaction throughout the Army Medical Department to reduce the term of office from seven to five years, thus 998 giving the senior officers an opportunity of rising to the head of their Department. I feel the importance of making this change, which, after all, is a very small one.
§ *MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I should like to thank the noble Lord the Secretary of State for War for the concessions he has made to the Army Medical Department. Some time ago I received a deputation of medical men, in connection with Queen's College, Belfast, on the grievances that medical men complained of, and forwarded a memorial to the Secretary of State for War. He promised to give the matter his best consideration, as I am sure he will always be prepared to do when any complaints are made.
§ *SERJEANT HEMPHILL (Tyrone, N.)
I shall not detain the House for more than two or three minutes, but, coming from Ireland, which has been famous for two or three centuries for its medical school, I wish to endorse every word that has, fallen from the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Edinburgh. I cannot speak with the same authority as he can, for he is an eminent member of this most noble profession; but I am aware from mixing for many years past with the medical profession in Dublin, where I reside, that there has been the greatest possible discontent with the position of medical men in the Army under existing regulations. I myself had the honour about two years ago of introducing a deputation, consisting of some of the most eminent surgeons and medical men in Dublin, to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the War Department, and on that occasion the President of the College of Surgeons laid before his Lordship the grievances they laboured under, not only with regard to the rank and position of medical men in the various battalions, but also with regard to the constitution of the Board of Examiners for the Army, so far as related to Ireland. On that occasion the noble Lord did not, of course, make any definite promise, but I understood from the position which he took that he acknowledged favourably the representations of the deputation. Now I confess, as far as has come to my knowledge, there has lately been a great reluctance on the part of that most honourable 999 body of men—the young medical men and the young surgeons of Ireland—to enter into the military service. I believe there is great difficulty in getting competent men for the Army Medical Service, and I say this on the authority of some of the most eminent physicians and surgeons in Dublin. The reason is that the medical men feel themselves in an inferior position to the combatant officers. There is no reason why that should be so. By birth and position they are their equals; and, as has been clearly pointed out by the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Edinburgh, they are always in the front in time of danger, and in every respect they reflect credit on any corps to which they are attached. I am very glad indeed that the Ministry see their way to ameliorate this condition of things. Henceforth, I trust the difficulty of getting this class of able and eminent men to join will be removed, and that the medical men of Ireland will again, as they have been on the many great occasions on which they have shed lustre on their country—at Waterloo, Sebastopol, and other famous battlefields—be in the foremost ranks and receive the praises they have always done.
§ *COLONEL H. B. H. BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)
I believe that the relations between the medical officers and the combatant officers will never be satisfactory until every medical officer is attached to a particular regiment for a period of time on joining. In Egypt in 1884–5 I noticed that there was a strong prejudice on the part of the medical officers in high position, while those in immediate contact with the troops got on famously. I strongly urge that each medical officer should be attached to a regiment for a period.
§ CAPTAIN SINCLAIR
I hope the scheme of the War Office will be successful, but I do not think it would be truthful to say that there are not grave misgivings as to whether their efforts will really succeed in solving the difficulty. There is no doubt whatever that we have had bad luck with regard to the supply of medical officers for the Army. As my hon. and learned Friend 1000 has said, we have now got to amend all imperfections in such a way that the supply shall not be so restricted in future. I am sure the heads of the medical profession are animated by the desire to do their best, not only for the profession, but for the Army, and the suggestions put forward on behalf of the military profession are entirely guided by such sentiments as these. Under these circumstances one cannot be at all surprised that the Secretary of State for War has endeavoured to do everything in his power to take the advice of those responsible, and to give expression to the wishes and aspirations of those authorities; but at the same time one must remember that it is the advice of the heads of the profession. It is not the first time that this advice has been followed by suggestions to meet difficulties which have arisen in late years in this respect. I cannot help feeling myself that even from this Debate, upon the hint which has been dropped by the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down, we may come to a different conclusion, and we may regard with considerable doubt whether this plan is likely to be successful or not. Reference has been made to the old days in which medical officers were actually living with the regiment, practically as regimental officers. Reference has also been made to medical officers in the Navy, and there, I understand, they have no real grievance. These considerations tend to show, as far as I can see, that relief from our present condition is to be found, not by expedients to make medical officers look more like combatant officers, but rather by returning to the system of the old days, when a medical officer attached to the regiment was looked upon, as has been said in the Debate, as the friend of the regiment, and looked upon par excellence as the medical officer. That has been recognised, and there were no complaints such as there are at the present time of medical men not being given due consideration. That is the difficulty we have to meet at the present time, and I cannot help thinking, after all, that we may have to go a step further than that. As a matter of fact, the total inducements to the medical profession to enter the medical Service are in some way 1001 insufficient. Whether it is these bad precedents, whether it is the pay, or whatever it may be, the total sum of the inducements to enter the Army Medical Service at the present time are insufficient. I am not sufficiently of an expert to be able to lay before the House the figures which I have, which compare the prospects of a young medical officer practising in a provincial town to his prospects in the Army, but that seems to me the real difficulty we have to face. I venture to express this opinion to the House because I am sure there will be nothing but general congratulations at the steps which have been taken by the Government in this direction, and I join most heartily in the sincere wish that the steps the Government have now taken may succeed in solving the difficulty, although I cannot help expressing a certain amount of misgiving on the point as to its ultimate success.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I think the Government have every reason to be gratified at the reception which these proposals for the improvement of the Army Medical Department have met with from both sides of the House. It is natural that when one concession has been made others should be asked for, and consequently I am not in the least surprised to hear my hon. and gallant Friend suggest that we should follow up these concessions by restoring medical officers to the regiments. There is, however, great objection to the adoption of that suggestion, on the ground that it is a very expensive system, and we cannot adopt it suddenly. Now, in order to carry out my hon. and gallant Friend's plan we should have to attach at the very least 60 medical officers to the Medical Department, and I am quite sure that if the War Office were to set up such an addition to the establishment—which was not absolutely needed in order to preserve the health of the Army—we should very soon have a Motion made in this House to cut down the Estimate. One suggestion was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Newington that the term of office of the Director General of the Army Medical Department should be reduced from seven to five years, which is the period for all other Army staff appointments. I know of one appointment for five years 1002 which was extended by the right hon. Gentleman opposite to seven. At the same time, there may be something to be said for uniformity in this respect, and the suggestion that the Director General should no longer be appointed for seven years, but for five years, is one which I shall be pleased to bring before the Secretary of State for War for his consideration.
That a sum not exceeding £295,800 be granted to Her Majesty to defray the charge for medical establishments and medicines to come in course of payment during the year ending the 31st March, 1899.
§ Vote agreed to without a Division.
§ On the Vote of £553,000 for the Militia,
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (Yorks, E.R., Holderness)
There is now in the country a growing consensus of opinion that the Militia is not the efficient force which we expect it to be. I also think there is a consensus of opinion that there is a vast amount of valuable material which might be used if the Militia were brought up to a higher state of efficiency than it is now in. Especially, I notice that there is a feeling that the Militia is not as it ought to be. I am very well aware that there is a great deal of difficulty about this question, and I am certainly not prepared to solve the problem myself. It is not my business to do so, nor my aim, but I very much doubt, and I should like to ask my right hon. Friend, if the efforts of the War Office have really been directed to the solving of this question of the Militia. Each year we augment our military forces, every year almost more people declare we ought to look towards the Reserve for the ultimate defence of the Realm. I must say that I think there must be the very strongest grounds for the view that has been taken by those gentlemen. Now I think it is almost certain, from all we can read and see ourselves, that the Militia and Reserve forces generally are not very favourite forces at the War Office. I think we may almost say with certainty that, whether in the Army or in the Navy, it is perfectly true that in the active service the officers upon the active list in the Army, or in the Navy, do not, I think, view with complete favour the other 1003 military forces which form part of the defences of the Empire. Well, Sir, there is that feeling, and there has been that feeling, and the War Office ought to make some great effort to overcome it. I am sure they do not make the efforts they might do to overcome the difficulties which present themselves in the case of finding officers for the Militia. I feel quite confident that some solution, at any rate, for that difficulty may be found, and that the country may be able to feel that they do somewhat rely on the Militia as a sound and well-equipped force, ready at a short notice to take the field in the event of the necessity arising, or even for the purpose of making up the ranks of the active Army in the event of war. Of course, I know some steps have been taken in that direction. I do not direct my observations to any point of detail. I confess myself that I hope these proposals will receive the assent of the House; but, talk as you will about officials, you will find in a much greater degree evidence which seems to indicate that there is a keener interest taken in Army matters; but, nevertheless, there is considerable opinion that the Reserve forces, especially the Militia, furnish a vast amount of material for the Army, and that it does not receive the encouragement and attention, and it does not receive the equipments, which are desirable in order to place it in the highest state of efficiency. Well, Sir, I take this opportunity upon this Vote of inviting my right hon. Friend to say whether he will express the views of the War Office upon this really very great question—a question which is great this year, which will be greater next year, and greater the year after that, because everyone feels that that enormous amount of strength available for the defences of the country, which is of the greatest assistance not only to the Army, but the Navy also, should receive every encouragement. We cannot expect much larger forces than we have at present, and we shall have to rely more and more in the future upon the secondary forces for the safety of the Realm. I hope, therefore, my right hon. Friend will give these points his consideration.
§ MR. WARNER
With regard to this Vote, the first point I wish to draw attention to is, how far short the 1004 Militia actually falls of the trainings of the Militia establishments. On page 42 you will see that the establishment is 139,998; in the ranks, including those collected together in all forms, they only number 104,889. That shows a great deficiency, and this deficiency is, to a great extent, due to the treatment, or rather to the neglect of treatment, that the Militia have had to undergo in past times. The people who give military advice to the War Office are generally members of the regular forces, and the only force strong enough in the country to bring outside pressure to bear on the War Office is the Volunteer force. The Militia force has no assistance, in point of fact, by pressure from the country at large. That is, of course, why it has not been sufficiently supported, and it must be remembered that it is a most important force, and that whenever it has been tried and required the Militia has done great things, much more even than is usually expected of it. You can go back to Waterloo, and you will find it was partly fought by Militiamen in the Militia uniform. Take the Crimea; the Militia regiments were reduced to mere skeletons after the war had been going on because the Militia joined the Line very extensively. The Militia garrisoned Gibraltar, Malta, and other places, and when they are talked about as being inefficient I may say that when taken out in manœuvres two years ago it was the general opinion of the commanding officers that the Militia had done very much better than they had been expected to do. There are certain things that will militate very strongly against keeping up the numbers of the Militia in the future. In the first place, a large number of Militiamen now are recruiting because they have not either got chest measurement enough, or are not quite the age, or not quite tall enough, or some slight deficiency which prevents them going into the Army direct, and no doubt some of them joined the Militia for the sake of getting the extra 10s. which they secured by joining the Militia first, instead of going directly into the Army. Now, to a large extent, the Militia is being recruited from men who are going into the Army, or intend to go into the Army. You make the attraction to the Army somewhat greater by giving them 1005 an extra penny, and also giving them deferred pay every day instead of keeping it to the end of their service, and the recruits are naturally more anxious to go into the Army at once in order to get those benefits if they are the age and height required. This will greatly militate against men joining the Militia merely to try and get the extra 10s., because the extra penny or twopence will draw them into the Army. There are other things that also militate against recruiting into the Militia, and I do not know why it is, but of late years, within the last two or three years, there has been much more difficulty in getting Militia recruits. Taking the regiment I have belonged to for 20 years, we have always sent twice as many recruits for the past two or three years as we took out to the training. It seems a rather curious statement to make that such an enormous proportion of men should go through the Militia to the Army. Another regiment has sent 700 men into the Army, and it has not got quite 200 recruits for the Militia. The Militia is used as a recruiting ground for the Army, and it is quite right that it should be so, but there ought to be an allowance made for that, and larger numbers ought to be put in the battalion, so that the numbers may be, as far as possible, kept up. I have got several things that I think are very important that ought to be done for the Militia. One of the first of these is the great want of non-commissioned officers. There is an enormous difficulty in getting these officers, but there are several ways in which they might be encouraged. I would suggest that something should be done towards remedying this defect by the appointment of an increased number on the permanent staff, and that non-commissioned officers from the Reserve should be allowed to go out for Militia training. Though a non-commissioned officer may be put in a superior position during training, he is probably working under his men as a workman in private life. Therefore you have to depend on the permanent staff. I would suggest, as another source to draw from, that non-commissioned officers from the Reserve should be allowed to go out for Militia training. By that means we should get some good non-commissioned officers to help in training Militia regi- 1006 ments and to fill up vacancies. It has been suggested that this would involve extra expense, but all improved machinery means extra expense. There is, however, one piece of machinery which is absurd and of no use. I refer to the £1 a year which is given to Reserve Militiamen, which might be better employed if given for re-engagements, or for the encouragement of non-commissioned officers, for, indeed, the Militia force is a Reserve. Every man in the Militia is a Reserve man, and will be used in case of war. I think that is quite clear from the Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman. Then comes, of course, the very great deficiency of officers. I am not able to give any advice or recommend any alteration with reference to this subject, because I do not know any regiment intimately where the officers are scarce, and I do not know the reasons which prevent regiments getting a sufficient number of officers; but there is one question—the question of uniforms—on which we have a right to claim something from the Government. It is 15 years ago, I think, since the Government stated their intention of clothing Militiamen in the same clothes as Linesmen, the only distinction being that Militiamen should have the letter "M" on their shoulders. We have been waiting 15 years for that reform, and the emergency is greater now, I think, than it was then. There is another thing about the uniform of the Militia which is absurd, and that is the headdress. Some regiments have had no helmets served up to them. Some of them, it is true, do not object to this, so long as they are not going among Regular troops. Some regiments, however, have asked for helmets, but have been unable to get them. In the case of Rifle regiments, they have a headdress, but not the Rifle headdress. There was one regiment at the Jubilee Review in Rifle uniform with white helmets; that is to say, they had dark coats with white helmets. I think something might be done towards giving them full-dress headdress. The Glengarry cap is obsolete in the Army, but these caps are still being served out to Militia regiments, and we are unable to extract a promise from the right hon. Gentleman that they will be done away with. I think this matter is important. I heard the story that one regiment applied to the War Office to 1007 have the Glengarry cap done away with as it was "branding them as Militiamen," and the answer they got from, the War Office was that they were to withdraw the word "branding," as it was not a proper expression to use with regard to the Militia. If it is not "branding" them, it is, at any rate, marking them as Militiamen. There is no doubt that working men who join the Militia want to look like soldiers, and it is not good to give them a headdress which is totally different to that of the ordinary Linesmen. It would improve recruiting if the Militia were not so readily distinguished from Line regiments. I hope to get a satisfactory answer from the right hon. Gentleman. If I do not I shall have to move a reduction in the Vote.
*MR. A. S. T. GRIFFITH BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
I should like to make a few remarks on this Vote. Although it is true, as several hon. Members have said, the War Office have neglected the Militia in the past, I do not think that can be said of the present year. I think there is nothing which has given greater satisfaction in the country than the fact that this year something is to be done for the Militia. I believe the people of this country are of opinion that the Militia is a most valuable force, upon which the country would have to rely should the exigencies of war require the sending of the Regular Army on foreign service. Therefore, I think it is foolish policy on the part of the War Office to neglect the Militia, and we are very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman that something is at last being done to improve the efficiency of that force. Well, now, Sir, there are two difficulties in the Militia, which, I think, are acknowledged by all—one is the deficiency in men, and the other the deficiency in officers. The Government came forward this year with proposals to attempt to remedy both these defects. So far as the deficiency in men is concerned, I believe the idea is that by assimilating them more to the Line, and by allowing them to volunteer for general service abroad, they will attract more men into the Militia, and probably make up the present deficiency in numbers. I venture to think that is a good proposal, so far as it goes, and that it will tend to encourage recruiting. I would like to make one 1008 suggestion. I think the Militia has suffered in the past very largely from the fact that they have been trained too much out of their districts. It is a fact that nearly every Militiaman likes to be seen in his own district, yet year after year they have been trained out of their districts. Of course, I know the difficulties. For example, you must occasionally send the Militia to take part in extensive manœuvres some distance off, and take them to places where there are convenient ranges; but I would suggest that, if it could be managed, Militia battalions should be trained more often in their own districts, and if this were done you would get more recruits from those districts. I would ask the Committee to look for one moment at the other difficulty—the deficiency in the number of officers. Well, now, the deficiency in the number of officers takes two forms. Firstly, there is the great deficiency in the number of subalterns, and, secondly, there is the great deficiency in senior officers, especially among captains, which is due to different causes. The deficiency in the case of subalterns is because the War Office follows no distinct plan in allotting the number of commissions which are given each year to the Militia. In some years, for example, the Department gives 200 commissions to the Militia, in other years 150, and in some years not more than 100. The result is that now and again more commissions are given than the Militia are able to supply, which has caused the great extra deficiency in subalterns that has been mentioned. I would suggest that these commissions should be given more on a fixed plan, and that due notice should be given two or three years beforehand, so that more young men might be attracted into the Militia. I think that in many respects the more serious deficiency in the Militia is the deficiency of senior officers. [An HON. MEMBER: Not senior officers.] Yes, I say there is a great deficiency of senior officers, and if my hon. Friend will look through the list he will find that there are a great many battalions under their strength in regard to captains. That is due largely to the fact that commissions are given to the Militia, with the result that as soon as a subaltern has been two or three years in his regiment, and is fit to be promoted, he 1009 leaves the Militia and goes into the Army. That certainly has happened in the Militia battalion in which I have the honour to serve. The Militia is, therefore, only left with those subalterns who are not fit to pass into the Army. The result is you have to bring in captains from outside—from Line battalions, or from some other force. The right hon. Gentleman has announced, in his opening speech, that the Government has a plan, which I think is a good plan, of supplying the senior ranks in the Militia by making it more or less compulsory for men who retire from the Regulars with less than 20 years' service to go into the Militia, or lose a certain part of their pension. I only wish that plan had been adopted before. It has the double result that you not only get officers, but you get competent, trained officers. But I would venture to point out to my right hon. Friend one defect in this plan. I am sure he will admit, and the Committee will admit, that it is most important in the Militia that your officers should be as far as possible connected with the county to which the regiment belongs. Recruiting must depend to some extent on the territorial influence of the officers. The War Office takes pains with reference to the Line battalions to carry out the territorial system with regard to the men, but it does not do so with regard to officers, with the result that the great bulk of the officers are not county men, and so, if you afterwards attract them into the Militia, you attract into the Militia men who are good officers in the Line, but men who are not connected with the county. The suggestion I want to make is that the War Office, in appointing officers to regiments, should pay greater attention to appointing to a particular regiment men who come from the county to which that regiment belongs. That, I believe, is not done at the present moment at all. The other day a friend of mine, who lives in Cheshire, passed through Sandhurst. He had no special wish to join any particular regiment; but, though he was a Cheshire man, the War Office put him into a Devonshire regiment; and, at the same time, a Derbyshire man, who made no special application, was put into a Cheshire regiment. Now, I want to know whether the War Office could not exercise a little more care and trouble in 1010 ascertaining the home from which officers come, and put them into their county regiments. And this would re-act upon the Militia when they came to go back into their Militia battalion, for which you would have not only good officers, but county men. Well, Sir, these are all the remarks I wish to make on this subject, and I will end as I began, by thanking my right hon. Friend and the War Office for considering the Militia this year, and expressing a hope that they will succeed in making the Militia better and stronger than it has been in the past.
§ *SIR C. DILKE
I should like to ask again the question I asked on the night when the right hon. Gentleman made his statement on the Army Estimates, whether the class of officers to whom allusion has just been made, officers from whom some further services are to be expected if attached to Militia regiments, will include those officers among the class now existing who desire to be so attached. I think the right hon. Gentleman will understand my question.
*MR. E. H. LLEWELYN (Somerset, N.)
I do not intend to say anything upon the subject of the scarcity of officers for the Militia, but I am satisfied, from very long experience, that certain events which took place some years ago are, to a great extent, answerable for the present great dearth, particularly with regard to the fault raised by my hon. Friend below me, who spoke of Militia officers not belonging to the counties from which the regiments come. It appears to my mind that the fault has been, to a great extent, with the Lords-Lieutenant of the different counties. Some years ago there was hardly a case in which an application for the establishment of a new corps was not acceded to at once, and the result is that there are in some counties too many corps of different descriptions to be officered by men of the county. I will take my own county of Somerset, by way of illustration. There are two Line battalions, two Militia battalions, two regiments of Yeomanry, three battalions of Volunteers, as well as Artillery Volunteers, Engineer Volunteers, and Marine Volunteers, and it is perfectly impossible that in that county men can be found to officer the whole of those battalions. It is very desirable that the officers should be, as far as possible, men from the counties to 1011 which the regiments belong; and I am glad to think that, to some extent, an improvement is being made in that direction now. In the Somerset regiment, in which I hold a commission, we have many officers who have been subalterns, and have come back as captains to Militia battalions. This is what I am sure the House and the country would like to see, for it is a most satisfactory link between the Line battalions and the Militia battalions. But, Sir, what I should like to call the attention of the Committee to is a matter which I venture to think is even of greater importance than any question of gold lace or buttons, and it is the question of musketry training. Some years ago I had an opportunity of calling the attention of the Committee to this difficult and somewhat peculiar question, but still the years have gone by, and nothing has been done. The new rifle has been served out, and musketry is a greater art than ever it was, and still there is absolutely no training for the Militia recruit worth calling a training. At present the whole training time is taken up by a scramble between musketry instructor and adjutant, whether on parade or at the ranges; and there is an additional difficulty with regard to the ranges now that men have to be taken great distances to them at great loss of time, to say nothing of the cost. And you must remember that of the 28 days during which the regiment is up something like 11 days have to be taken off. For instance, there are three Sundays, the day of assembling and the day of leaving, two days for inspection, and a day for giving in arms. In addition to that, there may possibly be two or three wet days, leaving nothing but 17 days for the men to do their musketry. Now, it is absolutely impossible to get officers to take a practical interest in the men when they know from experience that it is perfectly impossible to work a company in shape in that very short time. Officers may do their best, as they do, and the men do their best too, but it is perfectly impossible that anything like efficient musketry instruction can be given under these circumstances. I will venture to make a suggestion, for I still conceive that there is a practical way out of the difficulty. As soon as the men have completed their preliminary course of training, they ought to be tested at 1012 once as to which men are likely to be made into efficient soldiers, so far as musketry is concerned. There must be, I believe, a considerable number of the men who are not, and cannot be, worth their keep on account of their being perfectly unfit to go through a course of practical musketry. What is the use of keeping such men? What is the use of shutting your eyes, as the authorities must do, to the fact that we are paying, clothing, and feeding, year after year, a number of men who in the field would be practically useless. It may be said that you must have a certain number of men for other duties, and it does not much matter whether they hit the target with accuracy at all, but that it is not so unless you have plenty of men for all those duties, and at the same time men who can shoot. Now, Sir, my suggestion is, that the recruits, as soon as they have passed through their preliminary training, should go to some camp of musketry, either at Dartmoor or elsewhere in the West of England, and there be tested, once for all, as to whether they are capable of being turned into useful soldiers or not. I do not think the country understands how many men there are who are absolutely useless with the rifle. Some of them come up with a little knowledge of shooting rabbits and so forth, and at the first, being without much fear of the rifle, they manage to hit the target. That is my experience in over 30 years. But as soon as they get into the instructor's hands they lose that confidence and lose their heads, so that it is perfectly impossible for them to be of any use with this beautiful new weapon which has now been served out to them. These musketry camps could be held on Dartmoor, and in other places, and I believe the country would get more value for its money. With regard to the officers, I do claim for them some consideration. Year after year they take the greatest interest in their men, and, if time permitted, would be able to find out who would make the best and most efficient shots, but after this ridiculously short time of mere scramble, the men leave without a practical knowledge of their work, and the result is loss of time, loss of energy, and loss of heart, both on the part, of the officers and of the men themselves.
§ *MR. C. BILL (Staffordshire, Leek)
Having had the pleasure of serving in 1013 the Militia for over 30 years, and having been, for the last five years, Colonel of my regiment, I should like to say a few words on this subject, although I came down to the House unprepared to deal with it. First, I should like to say, with regard to what has fallen from the hon. Member for Somerset with regard to the shooting of the Militia, that in my opinion the improvement both in the shooting of the recruits and the shooting of the Militia battalions generally has been most extraordinary in the last few years. That is due partly to the increased interest which has been taken by the officers in the shooting of the men of their companies, and partly to the pressure which has been brought to bear on Militia Colonels and officers generally for an improvement in the shooting. I am quite sure that in the last ten years the improvement in shooting in the Militia has been far in excess of what it has been in the Line. And now I should just like to say a word or two with regard to the officering of the Militia. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War, in bringing in the Army Estimates, alluded to certain alterations and reforms with regard to the Militia. Well, with the principle of those reforms I entirely agree, and I feel sure that other hon. Members who are Militia officers will also agree. But it all depends on how the details are going to be worked out, and I should like to ask what really are the intentions of the Government with regard to officering the Militia in the future. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that young officers intending to go into the Line were, to a larger extent than in the past, to pass through the Militia. That is all very well. And he also told us that officers in the Line who have not served 20 years were to finish their service in the Militia. It all depends on how practically that is going to be carried out. I cannot conceive anything worse for a Militia regiment than for it to have a lot of young fellows who are going on into the Line, and not taking, of course, as they cannot take, very much interest in the Militia regiment to which they for the moment belong. That, certainly, would not tend to promote the efficiency of the Militia. Then if you take the upper ranks, you have Line captains coming into the Militia, and that, certainly, would not tend to the efficiency of the Militia 1014 altogether in the upper ranks, for what is to become of the country gentlemen, who, to a considerable extent, I am glad to think, still belong to their Militia county regiment, and go into it with a view of some time reaching their majority, and also of commanding the regiment. If the county men, who join the Militia in the hope of succeeding to the Coloneley some time or other, find they are to be crowded out by men from the Line being put over their heads, that will at once stop the county gentlemen from joining the Militia at all. Yet, if it is done with discretion, if the Linesmen are put into Militia regiments as occasion requires, and after consultation with the commanding officers of the regiments, then I think a great deal of good may be done under the new régime which is to be inaugurated by the right hon. Gentleman. But I do trust that nothing will be done to discourage gentlemen from entering into the Militia regiments of their own counties, because nothing worse could be done for the Militia than to prevent its being largely recruited from the ranks of the county gentlemen. With regard to the men, the hon. Gentleman opposite has alluded to the deficiency in their numbers. Well, what he suggests may be the case in the county to which he belongs, but in Staffordshire we have no difficulty at all. So far as our Militia regiments are concerned, they are, if not fully up to the strength, nearly so. We send a good many men into the Line, and keep up our numbers as fully as can be expected. Believing as I do, with most of the hon. Members of this House, in the great efficiency at which the Militia may be able to arrive, I do trust that all the Government can do will be done to keep up that efficiency.
§ *SIR J. FERGUSSON
I should like to say a few words upon this subject, because I have always taken a great interest in the Militia. After I left the Army I served 15 years as a commandant of Militia, and with all the enthusiasm of youth I tried to make my battalion as good as I could. In those days there were not the advantages that there are now in the way of instruction of the officers and the training of the men; nevertheless, it was much easier to get men then than now, and there must be 1015 some cause, not incapable of solution, which keeps the Militia so much below its proper strength. I had no difficulty in keeping up a battalion of over 1,000 men, but they have since that time been obliged to reduce it by two companies. At the same time, the battalion, in regard to every soldierly quality, is much better than I could get it. The question of the efficiency of the Militia seems to me a matter of great national importance, and I do not think that a Debate upon this subject should degenerate into a discussion of buttons and Glengarry caps. The question to be considered is what state the country would be in if, unfortunately, war broke out with a great Power, and how far the people of this country would feel that they were in a state of military safety, so that any suggestion of successful invasion would be out of the question. With the Army we maintain, it must be recognised that a strong force must remain at home, so that the country might be safe, and that its credit, stability, and confidence might be retained. Without a large and reliable force that condition cannot be maintained. That is not a thing which can be attempted in times of emergency. We must have a regular system by which the Militia is matured in times of peace, so that in times of war it would make up what was wanted. Are we in such a position now? It is evident that if our Army is required, it will be wanted in all parts of the world, and with the Militia 30,000 below its proper strength, is it possible to retain battalions at even the small nominal figure set down in the Estimates? When we have regard to what the country is able to furnish, it is a very unfortunate thing that we are not able to keep up the Militia to its normal strength. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken referred to a county the Militia of which has always been famous. The 2nd Staffordshire Militia sent 500 men to one battalion of Guards at Waterloo, where some of them fought in Militia uniforms, but it seems to me that the Militia is being bled at both ends. While I think the Militia ought to be a feeder to the Line—and at the time of the French War my own regiment gave three times its full strength of volunteers for the Line—still, it is hardly fair that Militiamen should be pressed to change their enlistment for that of the Line. If you want a good 1016 Militia you must not deplete one regiment to make up another. I think another cause of the present deficiency is the training of the recruits at the depôts instead of with their regiments. They are drilled at the depôts, where they have a lot of annoying fatigues, and while there they are pressed to join the Line, and they are told that by so doing they will get rid of those fatigues. I do not think that we ought to complain either of a certain proportion of the Militia drawing Reserve pay. My own impression is that the men who get the bounties are the best men in the regiments, and are examples to the rest, and that they stiffen the ranks; and that when the emergency arises, the Militia ought to be proud to send these men to represent the battalions. I have no doubt that in time of war plenty of men would be attracted to the ranks. No Government at the present time can compel the people to fulfil the first duty of citizenship, but the time may come when the country will very much regret that the old law of the land has not been put into force. When we think of the Swiss Militia, and compare it with our own, we may regret we do not stand in similar circumstances. In Switzerland, every man at the age of 20 years must join the Militia, and belong to it for 25 years, and they attain a state of efficiency which makes them capable of being placed in the line with any army of Europe. But in Switzerland they recognise that the whole of the State ought to be used for home defence. The school-boys are drilled and learn to shoot in the tir nationale, so when they join the army are already drilled and shoot, and, after a service of three or four months, are soldiers in every sense of the word. Contrast that state of things with those of this country, and consider how numerous are our interests and the immense advantage it would be to us to have a fully-drilled Militia. Short of obligatory Militia service, I think every measure should be taken to make the Militia popular and attract men to it, and not make it, as it is at present, a mere recruiting machine for the Line. Something has been done of late years to make the men more comfortable. Something was done last year, but not very much; but what was done has given great satisfaction, and I do think by studying the comfort of the 1017 officers and men a little more you might do a great deal. Everything should be done to bring the Militia up to a state of efficiency, so as to have behind the Line a force to which in time of war you may look for the defence of this country.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
My right hon. Friend, in the course of this Debate, has placed the matter on a very much broader platform than those who preceded him; he has approched the subject of the Militia forces from a very broad standpoint, but, whatever views we hold, I hope we shall not enter into or discuss the question of compulsory service to-night. It is a subject of such great importance that I think it ought to come before the House with full notice and a larger attendance in the House than we are able to see to-night. Many of us who are present to-night on this side of the House are military men who are willing to indicate the line by which the Militia may be strengthened, but, in the meantime, looking at the number of adults who at the age of 18 have joined one service or another in the force, and the proportion they bear to the whole of those who attain the age of 18, we have succeeded remarkably well under the voluntary system. I think the reforms the Government have made will have a considerable effect upon the enlistments. With regard to officers, I fully recognise that although commissions have been given to a considerable extent to young officers who have joined the Militia with a view of entering the Line, the full advantage has not been reaped, because the number of commissions which have been given is so uncertain. It has been impossible for the War Office always to foresee what number of commissions should be offered. The general demand is regulated by things over which the War Office has no control whatever—voluntary resignations, compulsory retirements, and deaths. Hitherto there has been from 100 to 150 commissions in the Line offered to Militia officers, and we now propose to offer a minimum of 200 commissions to the Militia per year. I think that in itself will have a considerable effect in increasing the numbers in the lower ranks of the Militia. There will be two classes of Militia officers. There will be the junior officers passing through the Line, and there will be the senior officers 1018 who have come back after service in the Line. You will also have, in addition, the old county element who will probably till some of the intermediate and some of the higher ranks, and they will form the nucleus of the regiment. So far as it was possible, the Department considered the territorial question in the appointment of officers; but, as a rule, officers applied for particular regiments, and, naturally, the War Office endeavoured to meet their wishes as far as they could. Something has been said with regard to non-commissioned officers. The hon. Gentleman suggested that Reserve noncommissioned officers might be encouraged to serve in the Militia. The Militia ought not to depend too much upon Reserve non-commissioned officers, as, in the event of war, a bad effect would be produced when they were withdrawn. The question of training the Reserve with the Militia is under consideration by Lord Lansdowne at this moment. With regard to the assimilation of the uniform of the Militia to that of the Line, I know there is the greatest possible desire in some quarters that the Militia shall wear everything worn by the Line. I have the strongest respect for regimental sentiment, and I have the greatest desire to preserve it; but the War Office are anxious not to adopt headgear where it has not already been worn for two reasons: first, that these changes cannot be made without expense, and secondly, that there is no doubt that some headgears, however becoming, are not particularly adapted for campaigning. The feather bonnet is a magnificent article of headgear, but I do not know that anybody would adopt it for service if it did not exist; and it is a very expensive article to give to the Militia, which would mean a very considerable increase in the expenditure. Considering the large amount of the Estimates the War Office is endeavouring to save money where they can, and we can only give these expensive costumes in the face of the advice of every soldier who advised Lord Lansdowne. With regard to the question of musketry, we have carried the principle of taking Militia battalions to great centres for training, as far as we can, but we are not able to press it too far. The truth is we must deal very gently with the Militia. I am sure that anyone who saw the Militia battalions march past at the 1019 Jubilee Review will bear me out in saying that some of them made as good a show as any regiment of the Line. That reflects the greatest credit on the officers. The Department will do their best to work the Militia and the Line together, for I believe that giving the Militia a short term of service with the Line will be of enormous advantage, and will show Militia officers that the country fully appreciates the sacrifices they are making. I think it is the intention of all officers at headquarters that attention should be largely directed to the Militia, and we hope that by this time next year we shall be able to report a considerable improvement.
§ MR. A. K. LOYD (Berks, Abingdon)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say what the War Office believes to be the cause of the falling off in the numbers, and also tell us whether that falling off is more noticeable in some sorts of counties—for example, the agricultural—than in others?
§ *MR. BRODRICK
Well, Sir, the falling off in numbers is not very serious, and it is easy to understand that where experiments have been tried, and the training conducted at some distance from their homes, there might be some slight falling off in numbers.
§ MR. A. WYLIE (Dumbartonshire)
I wish to make a remark with regard to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman about the Militia battalions of some of the Highland regiments. I quite agree with the remarks as to the necessity of maintaining the efficiency of the Militia. I think that the uniform of the Militia regiments has a great deal to do with their efficiency. The neglect those regiments have received and the parsimony with which they have been treated by the War Office have had their effect upon the Militia forces in the county I have the honour to represent. They form a battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The right hon. Gentleman said that the expense of the feather bonnet is so great that he could not think of giving it to the Militia regiments. The Militia do not want the feather bonnet, but they are somewhat impatient to wear the dress of their country-they wish to wear the kilt. He has pointed out that it would be very expensive to put these Militia regiments into the full dress of the Line regiments, but I may remind him that the Militia 1020 detachments attached to the Gordon and Cameron Highlanders are in the dress of the Line battalions, with the exception of the feather bonnet. It is proposed to brigade some of these Militia regiments along with the Line regiments. We can imagine with what pride the Militiaman will march side by side with his comrades of the Line if he wears the same dress, and the disgust with which he will do so if he is compelled to wear the wretched dress now adopted. After all, the right hon. Gentleman cannot afford to neglect this question of buttons and bonnets. It is not, perhaps, a question of the first importance, but it is still one that is felt as a grievance, and as such it demands the attention of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ *GENERAL RUSSELL
Before this Vote is agreed to I should like to ask whether the Government intend to take any steps with regard to the increasing number of Militiamen absent from training? No less than 7,931 men were absent during the last training without leave, while the total deficiency is about 35,000 men. This is a very serious state of things; it might easily lead to a serious calamity in the event of our being at war, and I think it would be well if the right hon. Gentleman would inform the Committee what he proposes to do to remedy this condition of things.
§ MR. WARNER
We do not desire that the discussion of this important Vote should degenerate into a Debate on the question of buttons and caps, as the right hon. Member for North East Manchester put it. We know that the War Office has many large and important things to consider, and we do not expect the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War to devote his energies to small matters of dress; but this is a not unimportant detail, in which it is possible to remedy what is felt as, at any rate, a sentimental grievance, and if only from that point of view we are justified in pressing it upon the right hon. Gentleman. I trust we may receive an assurance that the Army Service cap will be served out to the Militia instead of the Glengarry, which has been obsolete in the Army for some years. It is a small matter, but, in order that we may receive the assurance I ask, I shall be prepared to move the reduction of the Vote by £100.
Motion made and Question proposed—
That a sum not exceeding £552,900 be granted for the said Service.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
AS I said earlier in the evening, we are perfectly ready to consider the matter to which the hon. Gentleman has referred as to the discontinuance of the Glengarry cap. We are not inclined to shut our ears to the demands of any branch of the Service. We will look into this matter, and see whether we can do anything in the direction the hon. Member desires. We are anxious not to keep the Militia in Glengarries longer than can be avoided. With regard to the question of the number of Militiamen absent from training without leave, we have had that matter under consideration. We propose to endeavour to reduce the number of men absent from training by requiring the members of different battalions to report themselves on the same day. I do not know whether it will be found convenient to make the experiment this year, but if not we hope to do it in the coming year. Then the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire raised the question as to the assimilation of the dress of the Militia battalions of the Highland regiments to the dress of the Line regiments. There are many difficulties in dealing with that question. In the first place, a large number of the Militiamen in those battalions are not Scotchmen.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
I think a great many of them prefer the trews. However, as I say, there are so many practical difficulties that I cannot promise that the suggestion of the hon. Member will be carried out.
§ *MR. WOODALL
I would suggest that my hon. Friend should not move the reduction he contemplated. He can raise the question in the Clothing Vote.
§ MR. J. BURNS (Battersea)
I am not interested in either the general or the technical questions that have been discussed by hon. Members on both sides of the House; but I look at this from the industrial point of view, and I venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War whether the decrease in the numbers of the Militia could not be arrested if the time of train- 1022 ing were fixed for the slack period of the industrial year. For instance, take the trade of brick making. There are a considerable number of men of very excellent physique who are engaged alternately in brick making and gas-coking. I do not see why, in a district where you have a considerable number of men who are slack for two or three months out of every twelve, the Militia regiment of that particular locality should not select the slack period of the industrial year for calling out the men. That would not only check the diminution that now goes on; it would give you a number of men of extraordinary physique whom you do not now get. Then, take the stevedores and the dock labourers of London—and, what-ever military Members of this House may say, recruiting sergeants will tell you that some of the best men you can get are to be found among our dock labourers. Now, the wool season is on in the very months when the Autumn Manœuvres are fixed. If, instead of calling out the men at that time, you chose the period when there is a lull in riverside work you would get a large number of men whom you now fail to get. The same sort of thing applies to Liverpool and Glasgow. I suppose the slackest part of the year, taking the country right through, may be said to be January, February, and March. I admit that for the convenience of officers January, February, and March are very bad months for the manœuvres; but the personal convenience of officers ought not always to be considered in connection with a national question like this of the Militia.
§ COLONEL WELBY
I do not intend to delay the Committee many moments, and I am not going to touch upon small questions of detail. I think, in the speeches to which I have listened this evening, and which I have often heard in this House, and in the questions which are put in this House, too much attention is paid to numbers in all our forces rather than to their efficiency. That applies not only to the Militia, but to the regular forces. I think, if we want to have more efficiency, we must be prepared to see the numbers fall far below what they are at present. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War has mentioned the way in which the Militia has been attempted to be made more efficient by 1023 prolonging the period of training. It has been shown that the result of that has been to diminish the numbers. I think it is the duty of the House to support in every way the efficiency of the force, even at the expense of numbers. I believe it would be far better to have half the number we have now if they were more efficient in training and better organised. The outcome of all this craving after numbers in this House is that the War Office reflects the feeling of this House, and they care very little if only they have sufficient numbers. The result is, you have small, immature men, utterly unfit in point of physique to be soldiers. It would be far better to look upon the Militia as a constitutional force, and insist that every man who joins should have something of a character, that he should belong to the district, and be a man that could be relied on. I would urge on the Committee that, in regard to the Regulars, as well as the Militia, we should look rather to efficiency than to the numbers that are actually returned.
§ MR. WARNER
After the discussion we have had, I will adopt the suggestion of my hon. Friend. I will not press the reduction now, but will leave the matter to be dealt with on the Clothing Vote. But I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that we have been pressing this matter of the dress of the Militia for two years; we have always had very civil answers from the right hon. Gentleman, but we "get no forrader;" and the reason why I urged the matter again tonight is that I think it is about time that the right hon. Gentleman did something. I hope he will give attention to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Battersea. The question of the time of the manœuvres is, as a general rule, left to the commanding officers, but in certain cases, where it is known that a different time of the year would be more convenient for the men, and better for recruiting in a particular district, I think the time might be altered, even if that involved overruling the views of the commanding officers.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Vote agreed to.1024
§ On the Vote of £75,000 for Yeomanry Cavalry, pay and allowances,
§ MAJOR RASCH
I do not want to delay or impede this Vote for a moment, but I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can tell us what is the use of this force, for which the Committee is asked to vote £75,000. I myself have never been able to find that out. Of course, I know that there are some Yeomanry regiments which are effective, such as the Gloucestershire Hussars and the Worcestershire Regiment, and any regiment in which hon. and gallant Members of this House have commissions would no doubt be made effective by them; but the truth is, that a good many of these Yeomanry corps are absolutely not worth their salt. Some time ago I had something to do with a Yeomanry regiment; it was absolutely a burlesque, and it was very properly disbanded after a short time. If I had my way with reference to the Yeomanry, I would lay down a regulation by which no regiment should be maintained which turned out less than 200 men on parade, or in which three out of four men did not provide their own horses. If you want to make the Yeomanry fairly efficient, you must put them in barracks, instead of leaving them in pothouses; you ought to brigade them with regular troops, and you ought not to allow them to consider that the ten days' drill they get now in the course of the year is a sort of picnic. There are only two courses open to the right hon. Gentleman—he must either reform the Yeomanry or disband them altogether. A great many people think the latter is the best alternative. I do not go so far as that. I presume the Yeomanry force cannot have been formed and maintained for nothing; they must have some use; and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to say to what use he proposes to put them.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
The Yeomanry are a body of between 8,000 and 9,000 men, who, at all events, form the nucleus of an auxiliary cavalry. This country, in case of invasion, will have a large area to defend, and the Yeomanry would form a very good screen, and save our regular cavalry, and in that capacity would prove extremely useful. I do not pretend for a moment that in a cavalry charge, in the shock of battle, you could use them as cavalry 1025 against regular cavalry, but undoubtedly it is extremely desirable that we should have an auxiliary cavalry, so that we could keep a large proportion of our regular cavalry for service against an enemy's regular cavalry, and this Yeomanry force forms an excellent nucleus of such an auxiliary cavalry.
§ Vote agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £614,200, be granted to Her Majesty to defray the charge for Capitation Grants and miscellaneous charges of Volunteer Corps, including pay, etc., of the permanent staff, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1899.
§ COLONEL A. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
I do not think that my right hon. Friend will complain of our being desirous of discussing the question of the Volunteers and their efficiency when he remembers that he omitted in his original statement of the policy of the Government any reference to this force, or its capabilities or efficiency. I am inclined to agree with him that if the Volunteer force is intended to be a useful force it is desirable to discuss its management in time of war, or in time of peace either, but I disagree with him in thinking that it is right to vote the very large sum of money we do for a force which it is never intended to employ in any emergency. I must trouble my right hon. Friend with another question of a still more, important nature than that which was asked him by the hon. and gallant Member for South-East Sussex with regard to the Yeomanry. I would ask him, not for the first time in this House, what the Volunteers are for, because I believe there is a very simple answer to the question. I believe they are intended to lull the public into the belief that some great military force exists as a Reserve. Those who know the inner life of the Volunteers, and what they are really good for—without flattery, on the one hand, or undue blame on the other—are aware that they do constitute an efficient Reserve for certain military purposes; but what I complain of is that those purposes are not laid down; that no Volunteer really knows what use is to be made of him in time of war, or whenever the country is passing through a critical period. The Volunteer force is, rather unfairly, in- 1026 cluded in the calculations made as to our military forces. A short time ago my right hon. Friend spoke of "the large number of young men who joined one branch of the Service or the other," and it is quite conceivable that the Commander-in-Chief also had in view the Volunteers when he spoke of the number of Army Corps that were available in time of emergency. I agree entirely with my hon. and gallant Friend behind me, in the principle he laid down, that less stress should be laid upon numbers and more stress laid upon efficiency. That remark applies with even greater force to the Volunteers than to any other force in the country. The Volunteers have been allowed to grow into their present unwieldy size without the faintest reference to the uses to which they are likely ever to be put. Corps have been formed without the faintest reference to the physical condition of the country from the point of view of defence, or from the point of view of the military requirements of the neighbourhood from a strategic standpoint. We have here an extremely anomalous force. They contain the germs of so much good military material that I think it is a thousand pities to go on wasting large sums of money without exacting a great deal more from, them in return than we at present have. The Volunteers have got two sets of enemies, and I do not know which does them the most harm. There is the old-fashioned style of military critic, who thinks them entirely beneath contempt, and there is, the gushing critic, who tells them that they are infinitely better than they themselves know they are. Both flattery and blame of that kind are very injurious to the Volunteers. I should like to see them levelled up to the calibre of useful local Militia. If, in doing so, the Government would at least double the amount of obligations and discipline required of the volunteers, without spending any more upon them, and at the same time letting their numbers be very considerably reduced, I believe they would very much add to the efficiency of the Force. On the subject of discipline of the Volunteers, I had hoped to have found an opportunity of interesting the House at rather considerable length, but I am afraid that some of the older-fashioned commanding officers of Volunteers confuse what I call discipline and what they call good conduct, which are not at all 1027 the same thing. Most of the Volunteer battalions that I have had the pleasure of falling in with are very well conducted men. That is to say, they behave themselves very well; but that is a very different thing from being well disciplined—that is, possessing that virtue of obedience under all circumstances which will bear the strain and stress of war, or a condition of things approaching to war. Year after year I cannot fail to recognise on the part of the authorities a natural desire to stereotype this state of things. I never see any sincerity in the assurances that we extract from the military authorities, or even from the right hon. Gentleman, that they intend to amend the present state of things. A glance at the Volunteer Regulations will convince the most impartial person of the hopeless status that they at present occupy. At the time that force came into existence, under a patriotic impulse, it was no doubt very undesirable to attempt to tighten the reins of discipline too much, but the regulations which are still to be found in the book are really inapplicable at this period. There is one regulation which I have pointed out nearly every year to the right hon. Gentleman, or to his predecessors, which still remains a ridiculous blot on the Volunteer Regulalations. I mean the regulation in the first place requiring that "corps," as they are called—a meaningless term in that relation—shall be governed by certain rules to be approved by Her Majesty, and, worse than all, that these rules shall be adopted at a meeting of the corps—that is, a meeting of all ranks. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I have some experience in these matters. I can assure him upon my honour that, as the Commander-in-Chief said the other day, this Regulation is fatal to discipline. There is no justification whatever for retaining any longer this ridiculous Regulation, which requires the commanding officer to submit a resolution to a meeting of all ranks in his corps, and that it shall be passed or rejected by acclamation. Can anybody imagine anything more foolish than that an officer, having any elementary notion of discipline should be compelled to submit a resolution at a general meeting of some 700 or 800 men under his command. I really think this is a matter which the right hon. Gentleman should at once turn his attention to. Another very important point is this: 1028 The Volunteers are now brought, very frequently by themselves, under the Army Act, but the Regulations by which this is brought about are most childish and ridiculous. If a large force of Volunteers, say, 20,000, were to meet together on Salisbury Plain by themselves, they would not be under the Army Act; if you were to add to that force two solitary Militiamen, the whole force would come under the Army Act. ["No."] The words are, "Regular troops or Militiamen." At all events, if anybody under the Army Act is with the force, that is sufficient to put the whole of the Volunteers also under the Act. Now, can it be contended that their status is entirely altered simply because half-a-dozen Army Service men or Militiamen, or whoever they may be, happen to be present in the camp? Yet, merely because of that, you give the officers power to try these men by court martial, and I believe I am right in saying that you give the officers power to sentence them to long terms of imprisonment; not that it is ever done, because everybody knows that the whole thing is a farce. But if you are approaching, as many of us believe you are, very troublous times, when the whole policy of the country will have to be sifted to the bottom, and when you will have to utilise every sort of thing that you can call a soldier, then you may find—and I hope you will not find it too late—that this matter of the military status of the Volunteer—what you can tell him to do and what you cannot tell him to do—will have to be sifted to the bottom. We have had this evening several propositions for increasing the efficiency of the Militia. It is not because I once served in the Militia myself that I feel a sympathy with those proposals, but I have long held that, from a broad standpoint, the Militia is capable of doing military service, and I thoroughly sympathise with the suggestions made for increasing the efficiency of the Militia. But I would also say to my right hon. Friend that the difficulty of obtaining officers is very serious in the Volunteers, and that, whether the authorities sympathise with us or not in our efforts to make ourselves efficient, they ought, as long as we maintain our present footing, to do what they can to encourage us in obtaining officers, and officers of good standing. I heard one hon. Gentleman just now, the hon. Mem- 1029 ber for North Somerset, point out the number of different military units in his county that drain off the supply from which officers might be expected to be drawn. I really do not believe that that can be the case. I think, instead of devising plans for inducing officers to come forward, we should recognise the fact that young men in the country at the present day are selfish to the very last degree, and wanting in public spirit, and that that is the real explanation of our ranks not being tilled. In many counties, where there is a smart Yeomanry regiment—or what passes in their estimation for the same thing, a Yeomanry regiment wearing a smart dress—there is no difficulty in getting idle young men to come in; but where the only method of serving that is offered to them is the rather prosaic one of the Militia, or the still less fashionable one of joining the Volunteers, we find this same deplorable class of young men not coming forward, and not willing to come forward. The young men of the present day do not take any part in hunting, as they used to do, or in any thing which they consider dangerous; they seem only capable of smoking a pipe and sitting staring at a cricket match. The most manly sport you can ever get them to indulge in is, perhaps, shooting, on the Continental method, where the birds are practically tame and at very close quarters. I should certainly like to bundle any man of that class into the Militia, and make a man of him when he gets there. I think it can be done, and my right hon. Friend has made a man of still less promising materials in his day, I am sure. In speaking of the difficulties of finding officers for the Volunteers, the right hon. Gentleman will, sooner or later, have to face the difficulty of offering a few commissions in the Line to Volunteer officers. I am not in the habit of using exaggerated language in regard to matters of this kind, but, to adopt the usual penny-a-liner's expression, I think it is a slur on the Volunteer Force that commissions in the Line are never offered to them. I say, without exaggeration, that, although I may not have a very high opinion of the general body of officers who at present serve in the Volunteers, I certainly have come across some who, in actual military qualities, and in zeal as well as in their social and intellectual gifts, would be a 1030 credit to any Regular regiment in the Service, and when those men are qualified by age, and able to pass the necessary examination, I think it is a slur that they should not have the opportunity of entering the Line. I hope my hon. Friend will at least consent to consider the possibilities of revising the Regulations on that head. There is only one other point in connection with the Volunteers with which I would venture to trouble the Committee. It is in connection, with the subject of the instructor, or rather, the sergeant-major. Of course the right hon. Gentleman knows, but I doubt if the right hon. Gentleman, or the officials at the War Office, always realise what is the position of a sergeant-major of Volunteers. It is a most unfair position. There is no man in a well-regulated Volunteer battalion who works so hard, or who has so much real military and clerical work to perform, as the Regimental sergeant-major, and yet he is not only not given warrant rank, but he is not even called a sergeant-major except by courtesy, and for all purposes, as regards his pay and pension, he simply ranks from his Army engagement as a colour-sergeant. I am aware that I have been rather indulging on the patience of the House, and therefore hon. Members will, perhaps, not expect me to trouble them with questions as to the difference of pay, and so forth; but, without doing that, I would simply remind the Committee that a sergeant-major of the Line with the rank of a warrant officer, which is very much valued and esteemed at the present moment—a comparatively new rank—receives as his daily pay 5s., and a maximum pension of 5s. a day. A sergeant-major of Militia, who, for some reason or other, ranks as quartermaster sergeant in the Army, gets 4s. 6d. per day while he is serving, and a maximum pension of 3s. 6d. per day. A sergeant-major of Volunteers, who only ranks as a colour-sergeant, only draws 3s. 6d. per day, and can only retire on that as a maximum pension. It also comes rather hard on him if he has any chance of obtaining the rather coveted position of barrack warden, to which many non-commissioned officers look forward as a legitimate aim and ambition. The sergeant-major of the Line is eligible as a first-class barrack warden; the sergeant-major of Militia only as a second-class barrack warden; and the colour- 1031 sergeant or sergeant-major of Volunteers is only eligible as a third-class barrack warden. Everyone knows that these three men probably belong to the same calibre of efficiency and smartness, and it may be only accident that explains their different positions. Now, Sir, I must not trespass longer on the indulgence of the Committee, but I would earnestly ask my right hon. Friend to pay attention to some of the points that I have raised—to define more accurately the status and duties of Volunteers; to think more of tightening up the discipline of the force; to remove the stupid blots that remain on the Volunteer Regulations from the old ideas of 1859; and also seriously to consider the desirability of attracting more officers to the corps, and doing more for the sergeant-majors to whom you owe so much.
SIR H. FLETCHER (Sussex, Lewes)
I am not going to trespass upon the time of the Committee at any length, but there is one point that I wish to bring forward. It is one which for many years I have brought forward on this Vote, but nothing has been done in connection with it. I wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether any steps are about to be taken with regard to providing transport for the Volunteer force? It is a subject that has been debated in this House several times, and I believe I am right in saying that a Committee was appointed by the War Office, some two years ago. Whether that Committee has reported or not I am unaware, but it is a most important matter, when we consider that, without proper transport, the force is unable to be mobilised, and I think the Under Secretary should inform us whether the Committee has reported, and whether it is in any way favourable, and whether it is the intention of the Department to do anything to meet the difficulty which I have been urging upon them for so many years.
§ COLONEL SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I must confess that I cannot agree with the strictures that have been passed on the discipline of the Volunteer force. I have been for a long time connected with that force, and my belief is that the discipline very largely depends on the man at the head of the regiment. If a regiment is defective in discipline, I think the colonel of that 1032 regiment ought to be removed as an incapable officer. I agree with the hon. Member who spoke about the unwieldy size of many portions of the force. I heartily recognise that in the last 10 years an immense deal has been done for the improvement of the Volunteer force; a great deal of extra money has been voted by this House for the increase of their efficiency and equipment; but I do hope that the Government are not going to stop there. There was very great disappointment felt that the matter received no attention at the hands of the right hon. Gentleman in introducing the Army Estimates. I recognise that a great deal of progress has been made, but it is absolutely incontestable that a great many brigades are of excessive size, absolutely unwieldy, and so large that it is impossible for those at the head of them, to give proper instruction and supervision over all the details of their command. Again, there is another difficulty arising from the enormous size of the brigades—namely, the impossibility of finding suitable places for training and manœuvring; this gives rise to an enormous waste of time and to insufficient instruction. Many of the brigades in Loudon are 12,000 strong. It is quite impossible to find any place where any portion of those brigades can be manœuvred properly, and when they go into camp the brigadiers are, for months beforehand, going to all sorts of places in the locality determined upon to endeavour to find accommodation. In the case of some brigades going out for the Easter manœuvres, some of the regiments are 10 or 12 miles apart, and it is quite impossible, of course, for the brigadier to make provision for adequate instruction when the individual members of the brigade have to travel such long distances. Then there is another point which has been already dwelt upon, and that is the enormous number of regiments which have been allowed to be formed in one locality. I think a great deal might be done in the way of the amalgamation of weak and under-officered regiments. I know of one district, covering only five square miles, in which there are nine regiments. If they were amalgamated, and half that number of regiments formed, and properly officered, it would be much better. I recognise that some improvement has been made in the way of giving an equipment allowance, but I do say that it is 1033 most unfair that this clothing allowance should not be given to medical officers and quartermasters. Quartermasters are very often promoted from the ranks; they render very useful and valuable services indeed, and their post is not by any means as attractive as some would think. I say it is only just that they should have the clothing allowance of £20. In the same way with the medical officers; it is by no means easy to get medical officers, who are now required to do a great deal of work in inspecting the troops in some localities, and I do earnestly press upon the right hon. Gentleman that he should take this matter into consideration. I am not going to detain the Committee at any great length, although there are many matters that I should have liked to call attention to, but I do earnestly press on the attention of the right hon. Gentleman that it is quite impossible to increase the efficiency of the Volunteers as regards musketry and shooting, unless the Government tackles the question of rifle ranges in real earnest. It is no use playing with this matter; it is absolutely essential for my right hon. Friend to come down here with a properly considered scheme, which shall provide for the proper training, both in shooting and in drill, of the whole of the forces available for the defence of the United Kingdom. I will not further detain the Committee, except to mention this one point. Here we have an enormous force of Infantry with scarcely any guns, a few batteries of position, and scarcely any field artillery whatever. We heard the other day that if we had two Army Corps abroad there would only be 16 field batteries left in the country. It is preposterous to have this enormous force of Infantry in the country without any artillery to support them at a time when, as we know, artillery is playing a greater rôle than ever in modern warfare. I know this is a very difficult subject to tackle, but it is one that is vital to the defence of the country, and it must be considered by my hon. Friend and the Government. I regret that I have had rather to hurry and condense my remarks in order to save the time of the Committee, but I earnestly hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give serious attention to the points that I have raised. There was one other matter that was mentioned by the hon. Member for the 1034 Rye Division of Sussex—namely, the unfair treatment of that excellent class of officers, the sergeant-majors of Volunteers. It is most unfair that they should be put in an inferior position, either as to pay or pension, to that of sergeant-majors of Militia. I have drawn the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this before. When he considers how much the efficiency of a Volunteer corps depends on the principal non-commissioned officer—that is, the sergeant-major—I think he ought to recognise, as does every officer who has served in the force, that it is unfair and improper that they should be in an inferior position to their comrades in the Militia.
§ COLONEL R. WILLIAMS (Dorset, W.)
I only rise to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the extreme importance of providing rifle ranges, especially from the point of view of country corps. I think it is the fact that in the case of the bulk of country corps the men are not able to get to the central ranges, and it is essential to the shooting of the different units that ranges should be provided within reach of the men. Unless the right hon. Gentleman can see his way to assist by aid of a grant in providing for proper ranges I am afraid the shooting efficiency of the force will continue to be seriously hampered.
§ *SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
I trust we shall have some assurance from my right hon. Friend that this question of the Volunteer force will be looked at by the War Office from a broad point of view. The origin of the force dates back to the time when the country was really mystified as to what principles of defence were to be adopted, and it has been assumed for many years that we are liable to a tremendous invasion from a great force coming from somewhere. My view is this—I have always maintained it, and I shall maintain it to the last—that you must look at the position of the Volunteers in defence of this country from a broader point of view than merely considering the particular force about which you are entering into detail. In my humble opinion the War Office ought to look at this question from the broader point of view of requirements. Given the supremacy of the sea, what you have to look at is the possibility of 1035 small raids—raids according to particular localities where attack can be delivered. In my opinion, and I submit it as a reason why the War Office should look at this matter from a wider point of view, it is a question whether we are right in maintaining such a very large Volunteer force. What you ought to do is to adapt the Volunteer force to the probable necessities of the country, and then to make them efficient to meet those necessities. When we consider that corps have been raised in districts where it is very difficult to maintain an efficient force, I think the question requires more consideration than it has received as a question of policy, and I would ask from the Government some assurance that the matter will be looked at from the broader point of view of adapting the Volunteers to the real necessities of the defence of the country, assuming that Naval supremacy is to be maintained.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
We have rather departed, I think, from the immediate subject covered by the Vote, but a number of interesting and important questions have been raised. Those questions would probably be better dealt with on the War Office Vote. I do not know whether the Committee will not consider whether this Vote may now be taken, on the understanding that the various points that have been raised will be dealt with on the War Office Vote.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
I must protest against unduly cutting short the discussion on this very important Vote. We have established a system by which Supply is taken every Friday during the Session, and the object of that was to give hon. Members on both sides of the House the opportunity of discussing questions that they consider of importance without the discussion being unduly cut short.
§ It being Midnight, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next.
§ Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.