§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AVAR (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
It may be convenient that I should premise our consideration of the Second Reading of this Bill by a short explanation. The Bill comes down from another place, and since the House of Commons reserves to itself the exclusive right of initiating any proposals which may throw a charge even on local ratepayers, I need not deal with a great portion, at any rate, of the first three sections of the Bill until the Committee stage is reached. The object of the Bill is to amend the Military Lands Act of 1892. That Act, I should like the House to bear in mind, was a consolidating Act and nothing more. It was introduced as such by the late Mr. Stanhope, then Secretary of State for War, and welcomed as such by Mr. Shaw-Lefevre. Governments are too often pressed to introduce Acts to consolidate legislation of this kind, and when they do so they some times incur a certain risk, either for themselves or for their successors. The date of the Act is often mistaken for the date of the policy embodied in the Act, and when defects are revealed in the Act we are told that the policy is comparatively novel and experimental, and that any extension is to be deprecated pending longer experience. I cannot too strongly insist that the Act of 1892 was. a consolidation Act which simply codified previous attempts to achieve certain objects by certain methods. The object of previous legislation was to facilitate the acquisition by Volunteer corps of sites for rifle ranges, and these Acts authorised co-operation between local bodies and Volunteer corps for the purpose of financing the transaction. They also authorised the Secretary of State to draw up bye-laws to ensure that shooting was carried on with safety. The Volunteer Act of 1863, for example, specifically laid down that corporations of various descriptions might transfer land to Volunteer corps for a period of twenty-one years, and authorised the Secretary of State to make bye-laws. It is true that that Act only dealt with the acquisition of sites for rifle ranges, and limited 891 the area to be acquired to four acres; but these limitations disappeared in subsequent enactments. The whole matter, as far as the principle is concerned, is in a nutshell. By the Regulation of the Forces Act, 1871, the power given by the Act of 1863 was extended to the acquisition of land for drill-sheds and any military purpose sanctioned by the Secretary of State, and the provisions of the Act of 1863 were extended to the Yeomanry and the Militia. I need not, however, trouble the House with the Militia, as that force dropped out of all this legislation under the Militia Act, 1882. The House is aware that larger powers have constantly accrued by a series of Acts to popularly elected local bodies as they advanced in importance, and as they advanced also towards their present democratic basis. The whole of this series of Acts giving additional powers to popularly elected local bodies as they advanced in importance was accompanied by another series of Acts authorising local bodies to use these new powers for the very same objects and by the very same methods which were sanctioned by the Act of 1863. That is to say, they might use their new powers in order to facilitate the acquisition of land for Volunteer rifle ranges, drill-sheds, and other purposes. All this legislation was consolidated in the Act of 1892. In the course of the eight years during which that Act has been in operation, one can hardly be surprised to find, as is usual in such cases, that certain defects have been revealed and certain extensions have been suggested, and unless we now remedy those defects and grant those extensions, we shall defeat the purpose and impair the usefulness of the Act of 1892, or rather of the previous Acts embodied in that statute. In the opinion of the Government, never was it more important than now to grant facilities for rifle practice for Volunteers. If we postpone this legislation, or if we fail to pass it, we shall be taking a very great responsibility on ourselves, and we shall also, I think, be showing great mistrust in the use to which popularly-elected bodies may put the fuller powers they now enjoy. I have indicated, and I think I can prove, that the objects and methods of this Bill are in respect to nine-tenths of it precisely the objects and methods sanctioned by previous legislation, and as regards the 892 remaining tenth I might almost say its provisions are obvious. Of course, I am willing to concede that it is not enough to show in this House that a policy is an old one. It is also necessary, when we are asking for further powers, to show that it is a good one, because there are precedents for reversing a policy instead of confirming or extending it. I ask, is it or is it not a good case to say that local bodies shall co-operate financially in order to assist the Volunteer force? I think it is not difficult to prove that it is. It is sometimes urged—I believe it was urged by the hon. Member for Mid Lanark in 1897—that the whole force of anything and everything which tends towards the additional efficiency of the Volunteers ought to borne by the national taxpayer, and that no part of that burden ought to fall, even for a time or with the consent of the ratepayers, on the local body, or on the funds of the corps. That is a very sweeping proposition, and if we entertain it we shall destroy the legislation of the last thirty-seven years. But I submit it is also a very unreasonable proposition. All the Acts and the present amending Bill are based on two principles, which I think give them a very secure and sound foundation. In the first place experience bass down that the local bodies and the Volunteer corps by joining hands can secure all they want in these matters much more cheaply and effectively than the central Government could if we undertook to carry out the operations for them. In some cases it is a question not of purchasing a large fee simple or a large tract of land, but of purchasing some easement over land, and in a case of that kind the local body can approach the occupier with a much greater chance of success than could some officer sent down from the War Office, whose more arrival is the signal for a rise in ground values within a measurable area. There are other cases in which the fee-simple must be purchased, and it sometimes happens that the local body practically control the whole of the available area. In some towns you cannot purchase the site for a drill-hall without the co-operation of the town council. On these grounds of principle, convenience, and economy I claim that the experience we have had under the past Acts amply shows that much better results are obtained by allowing the local body to lend its credit under the Public 893 Works Loans Act. The Volunteer corps cannot, merely by the capitation grant which ic earns, compass some of these operations, but it can very well enter into a bargain with the local body, which may really, in the long run, impose no burden whatever on the rates; for the local body, with its power of borrowing from the Public Works Loan Commissioners, can effect a transaction so cheaply that the corps out of its capitation grant is often able to pay both principal and interest. There is another principle on which all this legislation is based. I waive altogether the fact that the councils of many boroughs have come forward and made offers of the most advantageous character to the Volunteer corps. But we believe it is the duty of every district in this country, since we have no conscription weighing upon this land, to take upon itself a fair share of the burden of national defence. It may be said that the county councils are now being carried away by a mere emotion which will evaporate, and that they are embarking on ventures which, when viewed in a cold fit, will no longer be smiled upon by their constituents. I put all that on one side, and I say that the second principle on which this Bill is based is one which has always been accepted—namely, that persons and bodies ought to pay for considerations received. If a town council, j as representative of a town, or a county J council, as representative of a county, benefits by the construction of a range in a particular locality, then it is only fair they should contribute some portion of the cost. I do not disguise for a moment that the taxpayer has an interest in the provision of ranges and drill-sheds for the use of every efficient Volunteer, but his interest by no means coincides exactly with the interest of the Volunteer or of the town council. The Government in this matter is the trustee for the national taxpayer, and before providing ranges for every Volunteer force, wherever it may be raised, it is bound by the prior claims of the Regulars and the Militia, in the provision of rifle ranges. Owing to the generosity of this House and the patriotic view it has taken of its duty, large sums of public money have been authorised for the construction of ranges for the War Department, and if we deduct from the sum authorised in the Military Works Act, 1897, the amount spent in the acquisition of land on Salisbury Plain, it 894 will be found that £500,000 has been allocated for the construction of ranges. But it is not fair to deduct altogether the sum expended on Salisbury Plain, because there we have erected sixteen rifle ranges, so that half a million of money has been spent or allocated for the provision of rifle ranges, and sixteen additional ranges have been constructed on Salisbury Plain. Until recent times this Government and its predecessors have always maintained that it was not possible or proper for the War Department to directly supply ranges to the Volunteers. We made a departure from that in the Military Works Act of 1899, under which £40,000 was specifically taken in order to provide ranges for the Volunteers, and I may tell the House that it is within the policy of the Government to provide a further sum of £130,000 for the provision of such ranges. But this total expenditure of £170,000 will not enable us to give a range to every Volunteer corps in the country, at its own door or within measurable distance, and if it is to be argued in this House that it is the duty of the national taxpayer to give every Volunteer corps a range within a short distance of its own locality, the burden placed on the country would be out of all proportion to the benefit derived. A great part of the benefit would be derived by individual members of corps and by particular towns, and if the Government is to supply ranges, not only adequate in number, but also in the most convenient places, why then the corollary of that would be that we should have to consider the composition of the Volunteers, the proportion of artillery to infantry, and the distribution of Volunteers all over the country. It would be necessary to make the Volunteers fit the range system, instead of allowing the Volunteers as now to co-operate with the local body in order to arrange a system to suit their own convenience. No Government would make itself responsible for a cut-and-dried constitution of the Volunteer force. They give us the very best available substitute for conscription. Conscription abroad gives a certain amount of military training to every male subject who is mentally and physically fit. Therefore it is not sound policy to say, "We want so many riflemen and so many garrison artillery, and no more." We are bound, if in a certain town a number of artisans come forward and wish to form 895 an artillery battery, almost to allow the formation of that battery; or, again, if in a certain district the population wished to form a rifle battalion the Department is bound to allow it. But if the argument urged by some is to be accepted, that this having once been done it becomes the immediate duty of the Government, in behalf of the taxpayers, to put a rifle range close beside that battery or battalion, the charge put on the taxpayers would be so monstrous that no one would entertain such a policy for a moment. What would happen? The corps is raised, and then comes the demand from the local body that the corps should go into camp close by the local town. Having raised the corps in this patriotic manner they wish to see their friends exercise quite near them, and to take some part of the indirect emoluments, the pleasure parties, and the trade which are derived from a camp and accruing to the benefit of the locality which has raised the corps. But if this benefit accrues to the locality, then I say it does obtain a consideration, and is bound to contribute a certain amount of the cost. Keeping in view the question of pounds, shillings, and pence, the policy and the proposals of the Bill are very reasonable. It would not suit local bodies if the Government were to say that every corps should have a range, say, within fifty miles, and that they must take their chance as to which corps was to have use of it in turn. It is better that the Government on behalf of the taxpayer, the local corps, and the local body on behalf of the ratepayers should be allowed, as they have been allowed in the past, to come to an arrangement which is for the benefit of all three. That was the object of previous legislation, and that is the object we seek to attain by this Bill. It will give a certain amount of elasticity which is found necessary in the objects contemplated -and sanctioned by Parliament. It will be found that the only extension proposed in the first section of the Bill is to authorise local popularly-elected bodies to give and purchase land, and to use the public credit to borrow from the Public Works Loan Commissioners to purchase land for the benefit of the Volunteer force. All that is added by the section is that having done this they may achieve the object they have in view by also lending their credit in order that 896 land may be used for the purpose for which it is bestowed. Unless this is done some of the operations which have been actually entered upon are defeated and rendered of no avail. In 1897 the town council of Hanley gave a site for a Volunteer drill shed. The corps began to build a drill shed on the site, but it was found that the town council could not under the legislation as it now stands transfer to the corps such a title as would enable the corps to use the borrowing powers it enjoys in order to erect a building. There was an absolute impasse; the town council had created a perpetual trust on behalf of the corps, which brought none of the benefits to the corps which they intended to give, and the corps is saddled with the useless burden of a site for a drill shed. It was the intention of the consolidating Act of 1892 that such transactions should be carried through successfully to an object which would redound to the benefit of all. That is why we introduce the words "or may contribute." It is a phrase well known to the law. It is used in cases in which local bodies are allowed to assist certain institutions. If local bodies are allowed by the law to assist local corps to get ranges and drill grounds and sheds, then it is only reasonable that we should frame the Act in such a way as to secure the accomplishment of those objects. I intend in Committee to move an Amendment at the end of line 5, inserting the words "at the request and for the benefit of a Volunteer corps." I do not think that they are quite necessary, but as it stands the section may be misunderstood by hon. Members. They may think that the words "for military purposes" cover intentions which do not exist. All the previous legislation and the consolidating Act of 1892 contemplate such assistance being given only to Volunteer corps and Yeomanry corps. Yeomanry corps for the purpose of this legislation come in as they ought to come in as Volunteer corps, all the more since it is evident that the Yeomanry are becoming largely mounted infantry, and | not cavalry, and that the rifle will be their arm, and not the lance. In passing the legislation of this amending Bill, all we contemplate is the assistance of local Volunteer or Yeomanry corps by popularly elected bodies. As a matter of fact, they did exist in the earlier draft of the 897 Bill, but they were omitted under the idea that it might be possible to bring in rifle clubs under the scope of this legislation. That might be a desirable thing, but since there is no provision for rifle clubs in the earlier Acts to provide for the purchase of sites, it is not clear that we can graft them on in this amending Bill, and it will be necessary at a later date to introduce some special enactment for their benefit. Section 2 extends to urban districts the powers which are conferred on county councils and borough councils. Why not? Urban districts of the size of such places as Aston Manor, with a population of 69,000, or Rhondda Valley, with a population of 88,350, electing their own local bodies, should be allowed, if they please, to use the powers conferred upon them by Parliament for the object which Parliament has sanctioned over and over again during thirty-seven years. Section 4 re-enacts a section of the Artillery Rifle Ranges Act. It gives to the First Lord of the Admiralty the powers which were possessed under the previous legislation, and which will be possessed under this Bill by the Secretary of State. Section 5 is also a drafting section, and Section G avoids the necessity of passing a special enactment for each Provisional Order passed under the Military Lands Act, 1892, a necessity which has arisen from some obscurity in the drafting of the Act. Section 7 applies the Act to Scotland, and Section 8 provides that the measure is to be construed as part of the consolidating Act of 1892. The House will see that the measure, therefore, is strictly an amending Act to the consolidating Act of 1892. I think the House will feel that facilities ought to be given for the acquisition of rifle ranges, and that it is our duty to remedy defects, to grant the extensions which are necessary, if the objects contemplated in previous statutes are to be effectively attained.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Wyndham.)
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)
I will not follow the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary through the previous legislation. I take my stand wholly upon the Military Lands Act of 1892, which, as he says, was a consolidating statute, and which is the existing law. A great deal of what the Under Secretary has said in 898 regard to the powers granted by previous Acts is not embraced within the Act of 1892. He has told us that nine-tenths of the powers asked for under this Bill are embraced in older Acts. If that is so, there is no need for these nine-tenths, but only for the remaining tenth. I would point out that there is nothing whatever in the Act of 1892 that gives the slightest countenance to the things proposed in this Bill. The Act of 1892 was a consolidating statute passed through this House at the end of a session, and, indeed, within a very few days of the prorogation. There was no discussion on it, and the only two Amendments made in Committee were moved on behalf of the Government—one formal, and the other to omit "etc." The legislation of 1892 was therefore the production of the Unionist Government itself, so that whatever praise or blame attaches to that Act attaches to Her Majesty's Government. If the Act has been faulty, that faulty legislation must be laid at the door of Her Majesty's Government. The Military Lands Act of 1892 only dealt with the acquisition of land for military purposes; and the Act defines what military purposes are. They include rifle and artillery ranges, the erection of butts, targets, batteries, and accommodation for the storing of arms for military drill, and other purposes connected with military matters approved by the Secretary of State for War. It is, however, important to note that the Act did not, and does not, authorise the acquisition of land by local authorities for butts, targets, batteries, drill-halls, or other permanent works. The parties who are authorised by that Act to acquire land for military purposes are, first, the Secretary of State for War, who, however, can always acquire all the land for military purposes that he requires. That power is unlimited, and there is no intention on the part of the opponents of this Bill to limit in any measure the power of the Secretary of State for War to erect what- ever works he considers necessary. The second body authorised to acquire land are Volunteer corps, with the consent of the Secretary of State; and the third, the council of a county or a borough, which may, at the request of one or more Volunteer corps, purchase and hold land in behalf of these Volunteer corps for military purposes. Now in the case of purchase by the Secretary of State the money is, of course, provided by Parlia- 899 ment, but in the case of purchase by Volunteer corps, the corps may raise the money by way of loan from the Public Works Loan Commission on the security of the land so acquired, and secondly on that of the grant to the corps provided by Parliament. Now the loans by the Public Works Loan Commissioners are to be repayable within a period of fifty years, and the interest is not to be more than 3½ percent., subject to Clause 1 of the Public Loans Act. There is no question as to my facts.
§ MR. CALDWELL
Then as far as regards land acquired by the Secretary of State, no matter whether the land is acquired for military purposes or not, it is under the control of the Secretary of State, and he can make bye-laws for the protection of the public, etc., and, in short, have full control. Now when a Volunteer corps is disbanded, what is to become of the butts, and building, and the land? You find that when a Volunteer corps is disbanded, if they have acquired land for military purposes and put buildings upon the land, they have no interest whatever in those buildings or the land; the whole goes to the Secretary of State. So that you are asking a Volunteer corps to contribute money for a purpose for which they have the privilege of paying; but when the purpose is served and the land is sold they are to have no right to the money which they have advanced either for the purpose of acquiring the and or for erecting buildings upon it. Where land has been acquired by a Volunteer corps by means of a loan through the borough council, and the Volunteer corps is disbanded before the borough council can appropriate or sell the land, it must be offered to the original owner at a sum to be fixed by arbitration. And we all know perfectly well that on a price to be fixed by arbitration butts and embankments and other military objects which have ceased to be used will not be said to be of any value, but, on the contrary, will be said to depreciate the value of the land. The Act contemplates, of course, use by the public of the land when it is not required for military purposes, so that it will also form an open space, and there is always eventual value 900 in such a property when it ceases to be used for military purposes. Those are reasonable considerations why a local authority should embark in the process of purchasing land in a locality where the land would eventually be valuable to the locality, but butts, rifle ranges, embankments, and drill sheds for military purposes are of no use when they cease to be required for military purposes. There is not much risk to run in acquiring land for military purposes by an easy method of payment extending over fifty years; but it is quite a different thing to-do what this Bill proposes to do, to ask a Volunteer corps, on the faith of a local authority, to expend money in all these things, which, when they are no longer used, only depreciate the land, and not repay them the money they have advanced. There is one subject which the Under Secretary in his résumé did not deal with. He did not deal with the Bill of 1897. If he had looked at that Bill and the state in which it passed he might have seen something to call his attention to the reason why opposition to this Bill was likely to take place. As the Volunteers Act limited the Volunteers and borough councils to acquiring land, the present Government brought in a Bill which was practically word for word Clause 1 of this Bill. It was said that the only object of that Bill was to make plain the Act of 1892, which was meant to give powers to build as well as to acquire land. But the Bill of 1892 did not do that. Now what became of the Bill of 1897? It came up early in the session of 1897 and was opposed, and eventually, in order to get it through, the Government had to submit to a compromise which I had some little hand in carrying through, and the effect of that compromise was that they had to eliminate everything with regard to the councils that would place a penny of expense on the local rates. In that modified form the Government consented to take the Bill, and it passed through the House and it received the Royal Assent early in the session. That being the result of the Bill of 1897 brought in by the Government, can it be supposed that the people who strenuously opposed that Bill would not oppose this, which not only proposes to do everything that the Bill of 1897 did, but proceeds still further in the same direction? Clause 1 of this Bill not only reopens the whole of the questions in the 901 Bill of 1897, but Clauses 2, 3, and 4 introduce new matter of a highly controversial nature. I admire the courage of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War, but if the right hon. Gentleman the present Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, then Under Secretary for War, felt bound to abandon an attempt to burden the local rates in this manner, how does the present Under Secretary for War hope to carry through this Bill this session? The Volunteer corps, who may have contributed three-fourths or nine-tenths, are to have no share or interest whatever in the buildings the moment the corps is disbanded, or after the buildings have ceased to be used for military purposes. Will the Under Secretary of State for War tell us where the Volunteers get the funds for the erection of these buildings and butts? I think they will understand at the War Office, from the Estimates, what money is given for the purpose of erecting butts and targets for Volunteers. That is quite a distinct purpose, and if money is given for that purpose Parliament should give it directly. Let the land be in the name of the Secretary of State for War; let it be subject to his control, and let him be responsible. Supposing you do not get a shilling from a local authority or a Volunteer corps, what is to hinder you from coming to this House and getting every penny you require for the erection of butts, targets, or anything else for military purposes? That is the proper course, and one advantage of it is that you can take it with the most perfect confidence, without having to consult any local authority or without being influenced by any local authority in the matter. You can act in this matter quite independently, because you do not require to consider whether, as regards the site of a rifle range, a certain local body is willing to contribute so much money. Your duty is to consider, in the interest of the Volunteer corps, where the most suitable place would be for a rifle range or the other works for military purposes. I cannot understand where a Volunteer corps is to get the money. Is it to come out of their own money? I have heard complaints that the Volunteers got too little money and require more. I have never voted against any proposal to increase the Vote to the Volunteers; and it appears to me strange that we should have appeals for more money to the Volunteers, and at the same time attempt 902 to pass this Bill, the object of which is to impose on Volunteers the burden of providing rifle ranges and all these other things. There is also this to be said, that a Volunteer corps may hypothecate and pledge in security of their loan from the Public Works Loan Commissioners the Government grant-in-aid which is given for other purposes. Where can be the morality of a transaction of this sort? It puts me in mind of what was done in the case of Ireland, when grants-in-aid to local authorities for the poor and the insane were pledged in security of the payment of certain advances under the Land Purchase Act. That was always considered on this side of the House a most immoral thing to do. I venture to say that no grants are given to the Volunteers or anybody else except for necessary purposes. I find it is proposed that these grants may be pledged for a purpose altogether foreign to those for which the money was specially granted. Observe why this burden is placed on the Volunteers. Simply because it so happens that a certain community are very patriotic and loyal and raise one or more Volunteer corps. Because, forsooth, they happen to do that they are to be called upon to contribute more for military purposes, whilst other districts with an equal or greater population are not to be asked to contribute a single shilling of these expenses. The principle is utterly unsound. Then we come to the power to be conferred on the council of any county or borough. The principle is not a whit more defensible, where it is proposed that the council of any county or borough —May maintain and adapt for use, by the erection of buildings or otherwise, or may contribute towards the maintenance or adaptation for use of, any land held for military purposes, and for this purpose may borrow, [and the Public Works Loan Commissioners may lend] in like manner as they may [respectively] borrow [and lend] for the purpose of acquiring land under the Military Lands Act, 1892.The land is not vested in the county or borough council at all, and it might eventually fall into the hands of the Secretary of State for War. Then they are to borrow the money on the security of the county rate or the borough rate. The purposes for which the money is to be applied are essentially military in their character. There is nothing local as regards its uses. It is rather strange to find this proposal to saddle local autho- 903 rities with the upkeep of things which are essentially for Imperial military purposes, when these local authorities receive out of the Imperial funds grants to mitigate the burden of the local rates. The people who stand in need of assistance for local purposes are to have handed over to them by this Bill a burden for works which are essentially of a military character. They are to be asked to bear this expense because they happen to be exceptionally loyal and patriotic in the way of raising Volunteer corps. They require rifle ranges for the purpose of making themselves efficient. The ranges are only useful to the Volunteers in training for the national defence. Are not the men giving their time and their leisure for the purpose of making themselves efficient? Yet you would say to them, "Oh, these things are being done for your benefit, and therefore you should pay part of the expense." There is one essential! thing with regard to all methods of local rating, and that is that the control of the purpose for which the rates are levied should remain with the local authority. That is why I called attention to the fact at an earlier part of my remarks that this land would be entirely under the control and at the mercy of the Secretary of State for War, and not under local control in any shape or form. You are asking the local authority to tax the ratepayers, while another body outside and independent of them will have the whole power over the expenditure of the money. The local authority will have no say. That is contrary to the principle of local government, which is that everything should be under the control of the representatives of the people in the local council. Clause 2 goes a great deal further than was proposed in 1897. It provides—The powers exerciseable by a borough council under the Military Lands Act, 1892, and this Act may he exercised by the council of any urban district, and any expenses incurred by the council of an urban district other than a borough in the execution of those powers shall be defrayed as part of their general expenses incurred in the execution of the Public Health Acts, and any money borrowed by the council for the execution of those powers shall be borrowed in accordance with the provisions of those Acts, and may be lent by the Public Works Loan Commissioners.This power of the urban district council is open to all the objections I have stated with regard to the granting of similar powers to the council of a county or borough. But there is this further ob- 904 jection, that in the case of the urban district council the expenses are to be defrayed as public health expenses. I daresay the Under Secretary for War is aware of what the effect of that would be. All the moneys which may be borrowed for military purposes will be computed as part of the borrowings under the Public Health Act, with the result that the amount of the borrowing power, which is limited, under that Act to two years of the annual value of the property, may be eaten up for these military purposes, and nothing may be left for the necessary public health purposes. That shows that you will even put the military purposes before the necessary public health purposes. This Bill makes no provision whatever for consulting the parishioners on the question of the expenditure of the money. You put no limit to the borrowing powers, and in this case there is no limit to the extent to which a locality may be rated. The local rating has quite a different incidence of taxation from Imperial rating. In the case of local rating, under the present system you have to make land the assessable commodity, and, in England particularly, the rates are paid wholly by the occupier. There is therefore this curious result in the Bill, that in the case of an urban district council in England the rates will be paid wholly by the occupier, while in the case of Scotland the rates will be paid half by the owner and half by the occupier. If the country is being invaded, who gets the benefit of the defence against that invasion? Surely the owners of landed property and property of all kinds, as well as the occupiers, will got the benefit, and why should the burden of making provision for national defence be placed upon the occupiers only in the case of England? I take it that by giving this power to local authorities there is no intention of having anything done which is not necessary. We may therefore assume that these buildings are all necessary for military purposes. That being so, I ask on what principle the occupier only, the shopkeeper who pays an inordinate share of local rates, should be assessed in this way, while another man, who may have a large income, but only a small rateable value, pays a very small amount? National defence ought to be paid for out of the Imperial purse, in regard to which the contributions are 905 fixed upon the nation as a whole according to what Parliament in its wisdom thinks a proper division, without reference to local considerations. Obviously, the Imperial system of taxation is the best and fairest. Volunteer corps are having these ranges for the purpose of practising for the defence not of particular localities, but of the country as a whole, and there is not a single element of local needs in the matter. Clause 3 introduces a still more objectionable system, namely, that of hiring land—an altogether novel system—for military purposes. The land is to be hired under Sections 9 and 10 of the Local Government Act, 1894.
§ MR. CALDWELL
That certainly does away with that objection. In Clause 4 you introduce a principle which is somewhat novel in its character, and if a novel principle is introduced we expect that that principle should be introduced when there is ample opportunity for its discussion, and not at the tail end of a session. Some parts are, of course, quite unobjectionable. There is no objection to the Navy having the same powers of making bye-laws for lard acquired for naval purposes as the military authorities have, but you touch a most delicate matter when you begin to apply to the sea the same elements of power that you have upon land. If you interfere with any private right, it comes under the Lands Clauses Act; you take care that the landed proprietor shall get his full pound of flesh in such an event; but observe what is done when you deal with public rights. I venture to say the Under Secretary gave us no authority whatever for this mode of dealing with public rights on the sea. In Sub-section 4 "public right" is described as—the right of navigation, grounding, anchoring, fishing, bathing, walking, or recreation.Fishing, for example, I think is most important.
§ MR. CALDWELL
At any rate, under this Bill you claim rights of a most exten- 906 sive character as regards the sea. You do not limit yourselves to the three-mile limit; and you take powers to dispense with those permanent marks which are necessary under the military clause. The powers here sought may seriously affect fishermen, and it must be remembered that this Act applies not only to Scotland and England, but also to Ireland. How are the public rights of fishing and anchoring disposed of here? In the case of a man with a value of £50 at stake, he will get compensation under the Lands Clauses Act, but in the case of a public right of this kind, the whole thing will be given away by the approval of the Board of Trade. One Government Department is to sit in judgment on another Government Department; they may adjudicate upon and sign away the public interest to-morrow, as far as this Bill is concerned. Moreover, there is no redress. If ever there was a case for having a Provisional Order which should come before the House, this would be that case. It is not a case of emergency; it is a matter in which there is plenty of time to make your arrangements and to know your policy; you cannot acquire lands and erect buildings all in a day. It is altogether unreasonable to expect that the Board of Trade should have the right to interfere in this way with the sea and the use of the sea. All I have to say with regard to this Bill is this: that the Under Secretary of State for War seemed to think that if we refuse the powers asked for in this Bill, we will in some way impair the national defence. There never was a grosser mistake than that. The contention here is that if these military works are necessary they ought not to be provided at the expense of the local authority. If they are really necessary, then let the Government make their arrangements and come down to this House and ask for whatever they require for military purposes. The Government would then get the money without being hampered by any local authority, and it is absurd to say that if we reject this Bill we shall prevent the carrying out of any of these military requirements. My suggestion gives you the biggest purse, and we do not ask you to be hampered by the parsimony of any local authority in providing a rifle-butt which is not sufficient, but which is, perhaps, as much as their means will allow. Instead of relying upon the local authority, who ought not to contribute out of the rates, we ask you to 907 come to the Imperial purse and get any money you require. I move that the Bill be read a second time this day three months.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
I rise to second this motion, for the purpose of getting a reply from the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary to the important points made by my hon. friend. Previous legislation of this kind has dealt only with land, but this Bill deals not only with land but also with the buildings on the land and other things which do not necessarily belong to the land. Such things ought to come within the purview of the Imperial Government, and should not be put upon local authorities. I entirely agree with my hon. friend when he says that he has not the least desire to minimise or prevent these facilities being given to local rifle corps. The object he has in view is that Imperial funds shall be applied for Imperial purposes, and that no demand should be made upon the local rates for objects which ought to be paid for out of the Imperial purse. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that the House has made a most generous provision at all times whenever it has been called upon by the present Government for military purposes. I have heard that acknowledged over and over again. I have never opposed any provision whatever which has been made for the Volunteers, My own opinion is that the Government have done too little rather than too much for this very useful force. It is not in the faintest degree any opposition to the interests of the Volunteers that has actuated our opposition to this Bill; but, on the other hand, it is a desire that the Volunteer force shall not be crippled in any respect, because one cannot expect that local authorities will pay the same attention to Volunteer regiments as the Imperial authority is able to do. There is another point which my hon. friend raised, which I think deserves the attention of the House. For purposes of this kind we should have complete equality of taxation as between county and county and district and district. This duty is one which lies upon all, irrespective altogether of the place in which they live, and in cases of this kind it is only right that the common purse should be used. Another very important point made by my hon. friend was that the land would remain under the control of the Secretary 908 of State, and not in any way under the control of the local authority; and, moreover, if it ceased to be necessary to use the property, the council would only be able to obtain the unpaid instalments due upon it. There is another point which has also been very properly raised, and it is that money for these purposes will be raised under the Public Health Act, and as the borrowing powers of a council are limited under this Act, and as the purposes for which money is needed under this Act are continually increasing, it would unduly limit the borrowing capacity of an urban or county council if it was found necessary to borrow for military purposes under the Public Health Act. The hon. Member opposite hinted that we had a jealous mistrust of popularly elected bodies exercising these new powers. I should like to know where any jealous mistrust exists on this side of the House of the way in which popularly elected bodies use their powers? We have tried over and over again to obtain further powers for popularly elected bodies, and when the Local Government Act of 1888 was passing the House, attempt after attempt was made to enlarge the powers of local authorities by hon. Members on this side of the House. Therefore it is not from this side of the House that any jealous mistrust of that kind comes, but we do mistrust any raid upon the pockets of the local ratepayers for purposes of this kind. It was certainly not from this side of the House that any opposition came to place the whole of the police entirely under the control of local authorities. We do not jealously mistrust these local authorities, but what we say is that it is not the business of these local authorities to spend money for this particular purpose. We say, moreover, that there are certain powers now exorcised by the local authorities which ought to be taken over by the Imperial authority. For instance, there is the work of port sanitary authorities, which really does not belong to the local authorities at all, but belongs more properly to the Imperial Government. We consider that local authorities stand in such need of assistance that we give thorn £12,000,000 or £13,000,000 a year by way of aiding the local rates. The policy now proposed is inconsistent, and for military purposes strictly Imperial in their character the local purse ought not to be drawn upon. There is one other matter to which I 909 should like to draw the attention of the House for one moment. I was glad that the hon. Gentleman stated that the Bill is to refer only to Volunteers, and for these particular purposes. The position we take up with regard to this Bill is simply that the demand which the Government now make upon the House is to enable local authorities to do work which ought to be done by the Imperial Parliament out of the Imperial Treasury. It is neither just nor fair to call upon local authorities to do this work. At times of great and patriotic excitement there is nobody who wishes to refuse anything that is asked for in this House, and it is the duty of the Imperial Government to carry out this work. We are willing to do all you ask us in order to make the Volunteer force more efficient, and you are not likely, so far as I am concerned, to meet with the slightest difficulty in that direction. I think you might do a great deal more for the Volunteer force to make it effective, but I venture to say that such a proposal as this is not the right way to go about it. Work of this kind should not be put upon local authorities, and matters of Imperial concern ought to be dealt with by the Imperial Parliament.
To leave out the word ' now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words ' upon this day three months.'"—(Mr. Caldwell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ * MR. MONK (Gloucester)
I rise for the purpose of expressing my great satisfaction with the Government for bringing in this Bill, and I hope it is their intention to carry it into law. I have listened for a good hour to the speech of the hon. Member for Mid Lanark, and I confess that I was greatly surprised at his line of argument. The hon. Member who has just seconded the motion took a similar line of argument, which is to the effect that the Government ought to provide for everything which is required for the Volunteer corps. For years past the Volunteers throughout the country have been asking the Government for assistance in providing rifle ranges, and two years ago a little flutter was caused when the Government brought in and passed an Act in which provision was made for acquiring rifle ranges in different parts of the country. When, however, the Volunteers 910 asked for a portion of the money allotted for them they were met with this answer—namely, that the whole of that sum would have to be expended in providing rifle ranges for the use of the regular forces. In many parts of the country, and in the county of Gloucester especially, the rifle ranges are far too distant from the head quarters of the Volunteer corps. I heard with great satisfaction from my hon. friend this afternoon that a further sum of £130,000 is to be applied for the purpose of providing rifle ranges for Volunteers. In the case of the rifle corps in my own county, the corporation of the city I have the honour to represent expressed their desire to co-operate with the Government as far as possible in providing these rifle ranges, and I was astonished to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite expressing reluctance to authorise the local authorities to assist in providing ranges. They seem to overlook the fact that the local authorities are under no obligation to take action under this Bill, but I cannot understand on what ground hon. Gentlemen opposite refuse to grant to the elected representatives of district urban councils and town councils permission, under the authority of Parliament, to assist in providing these ranges. I only desire to express the hope that the Government will pass this Bill, for I am sure that the step they have taken is one which will be greatly appreciated by the Volunteers throughout the country.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I do not rise to take part in this debate because I feel the smallest interest in the subject of the Volunteer force, or the rifle ranges with which they are to be provided. The Government are afraid to permit Volunteers being established in Ireland, and accordingly, so far as this Bill deals with Volunteers, it has not the smallest interest for me. The reason I take part in this debate is that on a former occasion when this House took an opportunity of dealing with this subject of rifle ranges for Volunteers the War Office played what I can only describe as a very despicable trick on the public of the three kingdoms, and especially of the country to which I belong. I am not in the habit of using excessive language, but I think when the House hears what was done on that occasion it will not be astonished that I have characterised it as I have. In 1891 one of the most im- 911 portant of these Acts was passed. It was called "An Act to facilitate the acquisition of ranges by Volunteer corps and others," and any Irish Member reading that title, and knowing as we all know that Volunteers are impossible in Ireland, might well have assumed that the Bill had no application to Ireland, and also that it only dealt with the subject of rifle ranges and nothing else. What are the facts? Under that Act the War Office, in breach of the rules of this House, and in breach of the confidence which should exist between Members of the House and the Government, introduced a section depriving the public of these kingdoms for the first time of having the compensation, to which they were entitled when their property was taken away from them by the Crown, fixed by a jury. Until that Act was passed, when the Crown interfered with private property and took it over for rifle ranges or for any other purpose of military defence, it was the right of the subject) to have the compensation to which he was entitled assessed by a jury of his countrymen, but into this Bill facilitating the acquisition of ranges for Volunteer corps a clause was introduced not limited to rifle ranges, but enabling the War Department, whenever they took property in any part of the United Kingdom for any purpose, to have the compensation assessed, not by a jury, but in another mode, and that section was applied to Ireland. When the War Office had to take a large tract of land in the county of Cork from the statutory tenant, who, under the Land Act, has practically a fee-simple subject to a rent, they proposed to have the amount of compensation assessed by two paid removable magistrates, paid employees of the Government, who might be dismissed at a moment's notice.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
That is the! point. It was repealed save the one clause to which I have been referring, and which was foisted into a Bill with which it had nothing to do, thereby practising a fraud 912 on the House and the country. I say respectfully that these Military Land Bills are becoming a public nuisance and a public danger. We never seem to be done with them. They began to be passed in 1842, and I will not venture to say how many of them have been passed since then. But it now appears to be the practice that we are to have a Military Lands Bill every session, just as we have an Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. When are we to be done with them? Very few people are acquainted with them. The average Member of Parliament cannot be supposed to understand them, and neither can the average lawyer, because they do not come within the scope of his ordinary practice, and when one of these Military Land Bills is introduced no one except a member of the Government has any cognisance of what it may contain. It is that which enables the War Department to practise its deceit on the House of Commons and the country, as was perpetrated in the Act of 1891. I think we are entitled to ask that the last word should some time or other be said on the subject of taking land from private owners in a compulsory manner for the purposes of military defence. About thirty of these Acts have been passed, and the unfortunate lawyer who is concerned with the subject has to wade through them all. It is not a subject that is treated in the ordinary textbooks, and the lawyer who has to deal with a case has perhaps to read twenty or thirty of these Acts before he knows how the rights of his client may be affected. Why do we not have one single Act, compressed into a reasonable compass and in an accessible form, showing the powers of the Government on the subject? It is a matter in which we in Ireland are very deeply interested. I asked the Financial Secretary of the War Office a question about a project for taking some four miles of territory in the heart of the county Cork for an addition to the Kilworth rifle range. We did not object to these ranges being set up in Cork, although they involved a considerable displacement of the people, but surely there must be some limitation. As I understood the hon. Gentleman, the original proposal would bring about the eviction of about thirty to forty families. That may be very well in England, because when a farmer is turned out of his land he gets compensation, and he can invest his money in a way that will bring him his living. But in Ireland, when a 913 man is turned out of his holding, he has nothing to do but go to America. When I asked the hon. Gentleman a question on the subject he first contradicted me flatly, and if I had not had some acquaintance with the matter, I would have been deceived by his denial, although I am sure he did not intend that.
* THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. J. POWELL-WILLIAMS,) Birmingham, S.
The hon. Gentleman is referring to an answer I gave him a little while ago, and I then informed him that it was never intended to permanently purchase for the purpose of a rifle range the land near Kilworth to which he refers.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
My complaint is that the answer of the hon. Gentleman would have had the effect of deceiving me if I had not been acquainted with the subject, and I venture to say that when Members of this House ask questions they ought to expect answers giving full information, and not answers which amount to a deceit upon them, though of course the hon. Gentleman did not intend that result. There ought to be no hugger-mugger about taking four miles of land for military purposes, and when questions are asked they ought to be answered frankly, and we should not be put off with an answer such as that given to me by the hon. Gentleman at first. He gave me further information when he saw I had it already, but if I had not had it I would have been deceived by the flat denial he gave mo. I am sure it was a truthful answer, but it was an answer which had the effect of an untruth, and that is not the sort of answer I desire to get. That illustrates in a remarkable way the difficulties which are involved in these Bills. I will give another illustration of the hardship under which the subject is placed by these Military Land Bills. When the Crown proceeds to take land, litigation is in effect set up between the subject and the Government. The Government can command the best legal advice, whereas the unfortunate occupant whose property is being taken away may be very poor, and even absolutely destitute. That man is placed in a position of being a litigant against the Crown. In a particular case I have in my mind, one of the litigants against the Crown succeeded in establishing in the Queen's Bench in Ireland that 914 the procedure set on foot by the Crown was wholly wrong, and that the Crown were not entitled to do what they were attempting. If an ordinary litigant proceeds against me, and I succeed, I am entitled to get my costs; but when I am a litigant against the Crown the Crown is fighting on velvet, and even if I succeed I cannot get any costs, but if the Crown wins it gets its costs against the subject. I intend for my part to take every opportunity which this Bill will afford to endeavour to effect some reform in this branch of the law. It is quite time some check were put on the extraordinary powers now exercised by the War Office. They are able to fight with all the resources of the Treasury at their back, and when an ordinary litigant gets the advantage of them, and is proved to be right, he nevertheless has to pay his own costs.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I desire to say one word as regards this Bill, not only as a Volunteer —in which capacity I support it in the strongest possible manner—but also as one of the Members representing a great corporation. My right hon. friend the Member for the Ecclesall Division, and myself, have been requested by the Corporation of Sheffield to do all we can to obtain all possible facilities for supporting and encouraging the Volunteers. The Corporation of Nottingham and other corporations have also recognised that it is their duty, if they possibly can, to give facilities for the drill exercise and rifle shooting of Volunteers within their districts. Many of the residents in the great towns are now anxious to follow that example, and to do away with the scandal of having a great force in this country without adequate provision for drill, and without convenient rifle ranges, at a time when so much depends on the accuracy of rifle shooting. The rifle ranges are now removed too far from the Volunteers, and are difficult of access. They do not afford sufficient scope for the use of modern arms, and there is not sufficient space behind the targets. I think landowners are now anxious to fall in with public sentiment, and much must be done in this direction if we are to amend our position. There is something to be said for the suggestion of the hon. Member for Cork that the Government ought to incorporate all these Acts in one compre- 915 hensive measure. We are grateful to the Government for having recognised what has been so often impressed on them—that facilities should be given for the training and exorcise of Volunteer corps, and that no impediment should be placed in the way of any of the great corporations of the country advancing money for such a desirable, useful, and patriotic purpose. I beg to thank the hon. Gentleman who has introduced this Bill. I trust the Government will persevere with it and that on no account will they consent to any modification in any essential particular.
§ * MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
I should like to say a few words on this Bill, as I have repeatedly drawn attention to the necessity for making provision for the rifle practice of the Volunteers. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken speaks on behalf of a very wealthy corporation, and a corporation which has a direct interest in the Volunteer movement. I do not wish to reflect in any way on the patriotism of Sheffield, but it is perfectly obvious that in that corporation there may be rather a strong feeling in favour of the expenditure of public money on the Volunteer movement.
§ * MR. CHANNING
Perhaps I may have stretched that argument further than it is worth, but hon. Gentlemen will see that possibly a corporation like Sheffield may have a motive in aiding the Volunteers which may not exist in other parts of the country. It seems to me that we ought to consider other parts of the country, and reflect what would be the result, or rather the failure to produce any result, of a Bill like this. I imagine in many agricultural districts there will be great reluctance to call upon the rates for these purposes, and also in many of the heavily rated towns throughout the country. What I have already said will show the Under Secretary for War that I am not out of sympathy with the proposals of the Bill, so far as they go towards extending the power of the local authorities. But it seems to me that the proper form in which to pass a Bill of this nature would be to introduce amendments enabling the Exchequer to make 916 such advances as may be necessary to facilitate the provision of ranges wherever they may be needed. I do not think this Bill will be worth the paper on which it is printed in a great many parts of the country if there is no Imperial subvention to it. I admit we may do this as a matter of local duty to a certain extent, but surely the main argument we have to consider is the extension of the Volunteer movement as an effective instrument for the defence of the country. I therefore say that my hon. friend the Member for Mid Lanark was amply justified in urging the necessity of providing out of public funds for this purpose. Owing to the continuous increase in land values it is impossible for Volunteers to provide these ranges for themselves, and even local authorities may find it difficult, owing to the rapidly increasing value of land. The upshot therefore will probably be that where there are no rich corporations like Sheffield, nothing will be done in the matter, and it seems to me that it is an Imperial duty to do what we can to assist the Volunteer movement. I have always fought against the idea of treating the Volunteer movement as merely a means of providing a certain number of men who may be turned into useful recruits for the regular Army. The Volunteers ought to be treated as an integral part of our system of defence, and developed on those lines. Having regard to these facts, the plain duty of the Government is to introduce a clause providing that the Exchequer shall aid the local authorities in these matters. So far as I am aware, in the provision made last year, nothing was done beyond making an additional allowance to enable Volunteers to attend rifle ranges, and, in the emergency scheme of February last, aid was to be given as to transport and new guns, but not as to ranges.
§ * COLONEL PILKINGTON (Lancashire, Newton)
I hope the Government will pass this Bill. As regards Sheffield and other districts we must remember that the bulk of the Volunteer force is recruited from such large centres of population. This Bill is really to enable local bodies to provide, or assist in providing, rifle ranges, drill halls, and drill grounds. Very often corporations or local authorities have the means, without any or with hardly any expense to themselves, to assist in providing these. I know one place, with which I am intimately con- 917 nected, where something like twenty acres have been provided, the use of which is to be given for drilling the Volunteers at such times and hours as may be convenient to the corporation. There is another direction in which the Volunteer force may be assisted. If an individual, endowed with public spirit, may assist his country by providing rifle ranges and drill halls, why should not the community be allowed, if they feel the same spirit, to grant that encouragement to the Volunteers? It is thought that the rifle meeting at Bisley this year has not been what it should be because the rifle ranges throughout the country have not been equal to the requirements of the force. It seems to me that this is a practical enabling measure, and I trust that it will be unanimously and quickly passed through the House.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I am not surprised that my hon. friend behind me should have made an elaborate onslaught on this Bill. In the first place, the Bill is of a somewhat confused character, and it shares the charm of a good deal of the legislation to which we are accustomed nowadays, in that it embodies so much reference to one statute and another. There is so much cryptographic matter in the whole of our legislation that it is very difficult for plain men to understand what it all means; and I am bound to say, even after the hon. Gentleman's speech, that I do not altogether understand this Bill. At the same time my hon. friend was very naturally led to point to one result of this kind of legislation—namely, that it tends to place a portion of national defence in a somewhat undue degree on certain shoulders while securing immunity for others. Sheffield may be taken as an example. Sheffield is very patriotic, enterprising, and enthusiastic, and it is willing to spend money on the Volunteers. In doing this the town voluntarily, and in a, praiseworthy spirit, makes a contribution to the defence of these islands which is greater in proportion than it ought to be called upon to pay. The expenses of the Volunteers ought to be a national and Imperial cost, as far as it falls upon the public at all, and not a local cost. I have always thought that it was rather a shabby thing to say to localities, when they were claiming to be defended by forts and fixed defences, that they should subscribe or show that they were willing 918 to bear a part of the cost of the defence works. I know that that argument was used to the city of Edinburgh, and I have always thought, although I have used it myself, that it was an extraordinary argument to employ. Probably the same thing might be said of my hon. friend's indictment of this Bill. But at the same time I hope that my hon. friend will not divide the House against the Bill. I would press upon him this fact, that the action taken by the municipalities and public bodies is entirely voluntary; if they do not choose to take part in this public service to the Volunteers they need not do so. That takes away the greater part of the sting of his attack. There may be defects in the Bill which can be cured or modified, but in the main I think that the House generally will sympathise with the general object of the Bill. It is somewhat singular to find that in 1897 this identical proposal was put forward by the Government, and at the very hey-day of the session they were obliged to drop it owing to the strong feeling against it. This feeling does not appear to be so strong in the present dog days. My attitude towards the Bill I must confesses is that I think this is not the time for the House to deal with a comparatively small matter; that the War Office would be much better employed with the heavy duties connected with actual warfare, and that the Department might very well leave these legislative proposals to be dealt with in quieter times. That is my view, and it applies to this Bill as well as to others. But the Bill, owing to its purely voluntary character, is not likely to cause any great injustice in any part of the kingdom. If it does anything to facilitate the training and increase the efficiency of the Volunteers, then I think that these are objects which the House as a whole will be ready to further and aid.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I feel I must express my obligations to the right hon. Gentleman for having given me practically his support in the passage of this measure. I know that he includes this in a certain category of Bills, which he tells us we ought not to have undertaken at this time. He says these are small measures, and they should be postponed till after the war is over, and until we can address ourselves to the task of making the British Army adequate to any calls that can be made upon it. I do 919 not think that argument ought to weigh much. It reminds me of a practice which I myself often indulge in—namely, of putting off writing letters on Monday because I have to prepare a speech for; Tuesday. The best way of placing the Government in a proper position to deal with the grave questions to be faced, is to pass amending Bills to ensure perfect legislation of the character which has been described. It is true that the Bill contains a great deal of legislation by reference. It refers back to the Military Lands Act of 1892, and that refers to the Lands Clauses Compensation Act and various others. I admit that I have often denounced legislation by reference, but I have become somewhat converted to the practice, and I think that there is a great deal to be said for it. After all, the powers of purchasing and borrowing possessed by the local bodies are familiar to them; they know the provisions in the Act under which they exercise these powers, and it is far more simple to refer the authorities back to the Acts than to recite the same powers over again. If you recite them over again you sometimes raise a doubt. In law, as in. travel, the shortest way is the way you know. If I am to meet the objections urged by the hon. Member for Mid Lanark I would only repeat the arguments which I ventured to submit earlier in the afternoon. I do not think that as things are it can be fairly urged that the whole cost of the efficiency of the Volunteers should necessarily be borne by the taxpayers, and that no part should be borne by the ratepayers. Certainly the Government, as representing the taxpayer, ought to see that every corps should have reasonable access to a range; but many corps and many councils wish for more than that. They wish the annual camp, perhaps, to be in the park near the town, and they wish to have a range near that park; and the mayor and corporation come to the Government and say: "We are quite prepared to spend a certain amount of money in providing a range if you will allow the Volunters and the Yeomanry to come out and camp in the park." There is the consideration for both parties, and why should not each party pay for such consideration as it asks for? I am authorised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that £70,000 of the taxpayers' money will be found for the scheme, and local authorities will contribute the other £70,000 920 for advantages received. That is my defence of the principle which underlies the Bill, and I must adhere to my opinion.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
I observe the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War has sat down without making a single observation in regard to the charges of oppression made under the Consolidating Military Lands Act in Ireland. It is all very fine for you to bring in a Bill dealing with your own country, and with your own affairs, and it is all very fine for you to be patriotic, but why should you rob us? That is precisely what the Military Lands Act has done ever since it was first passed. It is a remarkable fact that this is a Bill which nobody can understand. Certainly it is the first time I have known you, Mr. Speaker, to have arrived at a ruling that a, Bill was so badly drawn that the Speaker could not understand it. That is what has happened in the course of this debate, and the Under Secretary for War should give up the system of legislation by reference. I ask the hon. Gentleman why is it that in all the operations connected with these Acts in Ireland a desire is evinced to plunder the people of the whole of the lands taken for military purposes, while in England you are prepared to give forty to forty-five years purchase for lands similarly acquired. In Ireland the state of the law is that you provide two removable magistrates to assess the price of the land to be taken from the tenants. You might as well, if a railway company is to take land in England, appoint two railway porters at random to fix the price of the land compulsorily taken for the railway. Why should we tolerate the extension of this system in Ireland? Not long ago foursquare miles were taken from the Curragh of Kildare. That was an act of public plunder, and the people who had had for centuries the; rights of grazing on the Curragh were not paid a single shilling of compensation. I suppose that can be defended on the grounds of public policy! The meanness of the procedure was also exhibited in the case of the compulsory acquisition of one of the most beautiful spots in Wicklow, belonging to Mr. Stuart Moore. I asked twenty questions in this House on the subject before Mr. Moore, although he is a Unionist, could get the compensation to which he was entitled. Then there was the case of Bere Island, taken by the 921 Admiralty. The right of the tenants to compensation was to be decided by two removable magistrates, but it was actually subsequently laid down in a superior court that the Government were wrong in that particular procedure, although no costs were given against the Crown. Is it to be supposed that we in Ireland should agree to pass a measure of this kind, which has a different operation in Ireland from what it has in this country? One of the principal clauses of the Act was drawn in consequence of an Irish decision. I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman, does he understand Clause 6?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The hon. Gentleman does understand it! Well, I should, like to read it to the House—Notwithstanding anything in Section 2 of the Military Lands Act, 1892, the period of three years mentioned in Section 123 of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, shall be calculated from the passing of the Act confirming any Provisional Order under the Military Land's Act, 1892, and not from the passing of the Military Lands Act, 1892.And the right hon. Gentleman understands that? Well, I congratulate him. To a certain extent I understand it myself, because it was drawn in consequence of a decision upon a point raised in Ireland in respect to the taking of land, but I do not believe that any person, except a specialist like the hon. Gentleman upon this point, could understand that section. One would gather from the Bill that it docs not apply to Ireland, because it begins by saying, "In the application to Scotland the following provision shall have effect." There is not a word about Ireland. It deals entirely with Volunteers, and as there are no Volunteers in Ireland one would naturally assume that it did not apply to Ireland. But the proposition I would make is this. Give us back trial by jury when you take our land for military purposes. We do not want our lands to be taken at all, but if you do take them do not take them at twenty years purchase as you have done in the past, take them at thirty-five years purchase. Let us have the benefit of English arbitration with its 10 per cent. Give us back the old right we had ten years ago, when land was taken under the Lands Clauses Act—the power to traverse before a jury. I notice that whenever the Lands Clauses Act is referred to in this case it is the English 922 Lands Clauses Act and not the Irish Lands Clauses Act at all. Is it a fact that you are not going to take three square miles of land at Glenbeigh such as you stated you would take from the county council because, if it is, why do you not write a letter to the county council saying that the land is no longer necessary, and ease the minds of these poor people who are expecting to be evicted? Have you done so? It was not done up to Saturday. You have not had the courtesy to do that. No doubt, in this House, Ministers can be courteous when they think their whole time will be taken up; but go down to Glenbeigh when they are beginning gun practice and laying their big guns—there we get scant courtesy. No human being is allowed to show his nose in the whole of that magnificent glen, which has been taken from us. The offers made upon which you take the land of Ireland do not show the consideration which you show in England. You select any part of the country which pleases you; you do not care a button for the people or their struggling sons, or whether it is a pleasure ground like the Curragh, which you took. If it pleases you, you take it. I can quite understand that if you occasionally purchased as much as a pocket-handkerchief for your troops in Ireland, the objection would not be so great; but you do not. The whole of your military system is supplied from this country; of the £50,000,000 you have spent for South Africa, not a farthing has been spent in Ireland; you have not bought so much as a biscuit. Then why should you buy Irish land so cheap? Give us back our trial by jury. Give us the privilege which the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself enjoyed, of selling land at thirty-five years purchase. We shall move to this Bill Amendments restoring the procedure of the Lands Clauses Act, and endeavour to give the people of Ireland some of the protection which it is desired to give. It is of no consequence to us what Government is in power in Ireland. If Ireland was invaded by the Chinese or the Turks it could not be governed in a worse manner than it is by the system which you have forced upon us, and which has been a curse to us from the first day you landed on our shores.
§ MR. JASPER MORE (Shropshire, Ludlow)
said that the owners of the land at Kilworth, taken for military purposes, 923 were perfectly satisfied with the price paid by the Government.
§ SIR JAMES JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
confessed his inability to fully comprehend all the clauses of the Bill, but to the object of it he gave his general support. The company with which he was associated had always taken a very great interest in the Volunteer movement, and they had a great many in their employ who were Volunteers, and they found that owing to the habits of discipline which they acquired they made the best workmen. It was a scandal that the burden of supporting such a magnificent institution should be allowed to fall upon individuals, and he was not satisfied with the Bill as it stood, and
§ it was possible that he would support some of the Amendments which would be moved in the course of the Committee stage, as he was somewhat alarmed at the idea of the local authorities having the power to take any land they might consider suitable for rifle ranges. There was a considerable element of danger in rifle ranges, and he thought some safeguards ought to be introduced in the Bill to insure that any land that might be taken for rifle ranges would be taken in such places as would reduce the element of danger to the public as much as possible.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 186; Noes, 47. (Division List No. 230.)925
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lowe, Francis William|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Donkin, Richard Sim||Lowles, John|
|Atkinson, Right Hon. John||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lowther, Rt. Hon. J. (Kent)|
|Baillie, James E. B.(Inverness||Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart||Lucas-Shadwell, William|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r)||Elliot. Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Macartney, W. G. Ellison|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds)||Evans, Sir Francis H. (South'ton)||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Maclure, Sir John William|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Finch, George H.||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)|
|Barry, Rt. Hn. A. H. Smith-(Hunts)||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||M'Ewan, William|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Firbank, Joseph Thomas||M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir. M. H.(Bristol)||Fisher, William Hayes||Malcolm, Ian|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Maple, Sir John Blundell|
|Bethell, Commander||Fitz Wygram, General Sir F.||Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)|
|Bill, Charles||Flower, Ernest||Mendl, Sigismunde Ferdinand|
|Billson, Alfred||Garlit, William||Middlemore, J. Throgmorton|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Monckton, Edward Philip|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Eldon||Monk, Charles James|
|Bonsor, Henry Cosmo Orme||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Montagu, Sir Samuel (Whitec'l)|
|Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex)||Goulding, Edward Alfred||More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn)||Gunter, Colonel||Morgan, Hn. Fred.(Monm'thsh)|
|Brassey, Albert||Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord George||Morrison, James A. (Wilts, S.)|
|Butcher, John George||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Haslett, Sir James Horner||Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)|
|Cavendish, V.C. W.(Derbysh.)||Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale-||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Hedderwick, Thomas Chas. H.||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)||Hehler, Augustus||Myers, William Henry|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Henderson, Alexander||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Bir.)||Hermon-Hodge, K. Trotter||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Holland, William Henry||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Hornby, Sir William Henry||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Horniman, Frederick John||Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham)|
|Charrington, Spencer||Houldsworth, Sir William H.||Pease, Herbert P. (Darlington)|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Howell, William Tudor||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Coddington, Sir William||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Jones, David Brynmor (Sw'ns'a)||Pilkington, R. (Lancs. Newton)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Keswick, William||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Kimber, Henry||Plunkett, Rt. Hon. H. Curzon|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Lafone, Alfred||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Cooke, C. W. Radcliffe (Heref'd)||Lawrence, Sir E. Durning-(Corn)||Purvis, Robert|
|Cornwallis, Fiennes Stanley W||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)||Pym, C. Guy|
|Cox, Irwin Edw. Bainbridge||Lecky, Rt. Hon. Wm. Edw. H.||Rankin, Sir James|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Cross, H. Shepherd (Bolton)||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Swans'a)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Curzon, Viscount||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A.R.||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.|
|Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. Thomson.|
|Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.||Welby, Sir C. G. E. (Notts.)|
|Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)||Stone, Sir Benjamin||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)||Strachey, Edward||Whiteley, H.(Ashton-under-L.)|
|Sandys, Lieut.-Col. T. Myles||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Uni.)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Savory, Sir Joseph||Tennant, Harold John||Williams, Joseph P.- (Birm.)|
|Sharpe, William Edward T.||Thornton, Percy M.||Willoughy de Eresby, Lord|
|Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Simeon, Sir Barrington||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Wodehouse, Rt. Hon. E. R.(Bath)|
|Smith, James Parker (Lanarks)||Tritton, Charles Ernest||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Vincent, Col. Sir C E H (Sheffield)||Wylie, Alexander|
|Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Wallace, Robert||Wyndham, George|
|Spencer, Ernest||Walton, John Lawson (Leeds S.)||Young, Gommander (Berks, E.)|
|Stanley, Sir Henry M. (Lambeth)||Warde, Lieut.-Col. C. K.(Kent)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Steadman, William Charles||Warr, Augustus Frederick||Sir William Walrond and|
|Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart||Welby, Lt. Col. A. C. E (Taunt'n)||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Reid, Sir Robert Threshie|
|Allison, Robert Andrew||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Joicey, Sir James||Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)|
|Blake, Edward||Tones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland)||Spicer, Albert|
|Burns, John||Lewis, John Herbert||Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Lough, Thomas||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Caldwell, James||Macaleese, Daniel||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Cameron, Robert (Durham)||MacDonnell, Dr. M. A. (Qn'sC.)||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||M'Dermott, Patrick||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Crombie, John William||M'Ghee, Richard||Wilson, Charles Henry (Hull)|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Leod, John||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Maddison, Fred.||Yoxail, James Henry|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Hammond, John (Carlow)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Mr. T. M. Healy and|
|Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Mr. Patrick O'Brien.|
Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.