HC Deb 15 March 1901 vol 91 cc187-96

2. "That a Supplementary Sum, not exceeding £100, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Ordnance Factories (the cost of the Productions of which will be charged to the Army, Navy, and Indian and Colonial Governments), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1901."

Resolutions read a second time.

First Resolution:—

Motion made, and Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)

said he objected to this Report being rushed through without some explanation from the noble. Lord who represented the War Office. Looking through the figures during the last three or four years he saw that £8,000,000 had been wasted on horses in South Africa. When the Vote was under discussion in Committee it was indicated that stud farms were to be established in Canada and in Australia. He came from a horse-breeding county in Ireland, and they should have some explanation as to what would be done in regard to Irish horses. The Government, he believed, required 6,000 horses every year. The present system was to buy the horses from dealers at £40 apiece, and the dealers went to the farmers and bought them for £18 apiece. The Government should deal direct with the farmers. At present only horses five years old were bought, but if they wanted to encourage horse-breeding for cavalry purposes the horses should be bought from the farmers at three years old, when they were just fit to be trained to carry a man.

MR. O'MARA (Kilkenny, S.)

said that one reason for the great wear and tear of the horses in South Africa, was that the horses in the gun-teams were too few in number. The Boers used a great many more horses in their gun-teams. The present method of buying horses was bad. The Government employed dealers, and there were often two or three middlemen between the Government and the horse breeder. He knew of a case where a dealer who had an order from the War Office came to a town in Ireland and bought old, weedy, and broken-down animals at £18 each, and sent them over to the War Office, who accepted them at £35 each. He was told of one dealer who, had bought 250 horses in one day, and netted a profit out of the Government of £5,000. This was sheer waste of the taxpayers' money. The system of the War Office was unbusinesslike, and would bring any shopkeeper into bankruptcy. Ho could not understand why it was allowed to continue, and he hoped an assurance would be given that that state of matters would be remedied. Another point he had not an opportunity of bringing before the House in Committee was the system of buying horses under martial law in Cape Colony. Under the autocratic rule of martial law farmers were, he believed, forced to make sales of their horses, and he thought the House should exercise its power of insisting that these sales were made on a fair basis. The principle of compulsory sale, which they in Ireland wanted to apply to land, was applied to horses in Capo Colony, and for the honour of the House and of the country they ought to be careful how the prices of these horses were arranged. The House should carefully examine the enormous amounts asked for as Supplementary Estimates, and he trusted some further details would be given as to how the money had been spent.

MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

protested against the way in which the Estimates wore put forward. It was almost impossible to discover which Vote was to be discussed, and without an actuarial training it was practically hopeless to attempt to arrive at a fair estimate of the amount of the excess asked for from the Papers supplied. The original Estimate of £61,499,000 had now swollen to the enormous total of £91,999,000. Such figures wore staggering, and the House had no guarantee that before the end of the financial year further Supplementary Estimates would not be brought forward. The Government had frequently been pressed for particulars as to the prices paid for horses and forage. All descriptions of horses were lumped together, so that it could not be shown how small at number of Irish horses had been bought. While orders were given that Ireland should be treated very charily in the matter, Continental countries were being scoured from end to end for horses. When the quality and condition of the Argentine horses were borne in mind, it was no wonder there had been so much delay and disaster in connection with the transport service in South Africa. The matter as regarded Ireland was even more serious in the question of forage. It seemed inconceivable that the Government should be sending to all parts of the world for forage and yet pass over the almost unlimited supplies of sweet meadow hay which could be obtained in Ireland. With regard to meat for the troops it was the same. Enormous quantities of foreign meat were purchased for the Army by the War Office, the quality of which was decidedly inferior to either Irish or Scotch meat and all for a trifling saving which did not amount to more than a halfpenny or three-farthings in the pound. The War Office had, wherever they could, given a preference to foreign meat. It was well known that good Scotch or Irish meat was in the end cheaper, because it was more nutritious, and a certain quantity of it went much farther than foreign meat.

SIR E. ASHMEAD-BAKTLETT (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

called attention to the great expenditure on horses. This was a most remarkable lesson taught by the history of this war. He believed that over £8,000,000 had been spent on horses going to the war. What did that mean? It meant that if £500,000 had been spent in the earlier stages of the, war, or before the war began, this vast expenditure would not have been necessary.


in replying to the questions with respect to the purchase of horses said that, in addition to being officially interested, he was very much personally interested in this matter. As far as possible he wished to see not only in Ireland, but in England and Scotland, the War Office buyers brought more in con-tact with private breeders. At the same time hon. Members would understand that it was very difficult for any buyer to go about the various districts to see one or two horses. That was almost impossible. He hoped that some scheme might be arranged whereby the vendors might be brought together. If that could be done, he would endeavour to get the War Office buyers to go to them. How that was to be done was still under consideration, but he hoped they would come to some satisfactory conclusion. He was afraid that, personally, he could not agree with the hon. Member who asked about the three-year-old horses, He knew that it would be much better for a seller to get the price of a five-year-old for a three-year-old. With regard to the horses bought under martial law, instructions had been given to pay the fair market value for the horses. The remark had been made that there had been corruption. It was easy to make the suggestion of corruption, but it was very difficult to prove it. [An HON. MEMBER: How many actions are pending for fraud?] He could not answer that question, but if the hon. Member would bring before him any ease in which he had satisfied himself that there had been fraud, he would be only too glad to take any action that lay in his power. With regard to the question of home-fed meat, which had been brought up by the hon. Member for North Cork, he could not give any facts at the present moment The whole tiling was being considered, not with the view of going against the hon. Member's wish but in order, as far as possible, to meet the views of gentlemen on both sides of the House, that we should buy the meat of our own producers, instead of that of foreign producers.

*MR. FIELD (Dublin. St. Patrick)

said he found from the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General that on 27th October, 1899. a contract was entered into with the South African Cold Storage Company to supply fresh meat for the troops at 11d. per pound, but two-thirds of the supply was frozen meat. The hon. Member could say as an expert that 11d. per pound for frozen meat was a famine price. In consequence of this infraction of contract, it appeared from the War Office Papers that the sum of £27,000 was to be refunded by the Company. He wanted to know if that money had been refunded to the War Office. Here was a company which had fraudulently appropriated that money, and when he called attention to the matter on a former occasion he did not receive any definite assurance as to the money. Frozen meat was supplied by the same firm to the troops in Gape Town at 5¾d. per pound, while 11d. was paid for the same class of meat to feed the English troops in the field. The Irish Cattle Trades and Stockowners Association, of which he was president, had been in communication with the War Office on this subject for many years, and it was only very lately that a supply of live cattle had been given in the Curragh. There was this extraordinary state of things, that Ireland was a meat-producing and exporting country, and yet in almost every barracks in the land frozen meat was supplied to the men. This was really a matter of vast importance, and in the stand he was taking he was representing not only the tenant farmers but also the landlords. Moreover, the larger portion of the forage for the horses in Ireland consisted of foreign hay and Russian oats, and it was nothing less than a scandal that such a system should be perpetuated in an agricultural country like Ireland. The Government, through the War Office, was absolutely boycotting the Irish producer, and the question undoubtedly demanded the serious consideration of all who had the welfare of the community at heart.

MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)

considered the frozen meat contract to which reference had been made was an instance of the extraordinary business methods of the War Office, and he asked the noble Lord whether be was satisfied that, under the circumstances, the deduction of two pence in the pound was adequate. The contract was undoubtedly a live meat contract, expressly providing for drovers and butchers to accompany the animals with the troops, and yet three-fourths of the meat supplied was refrigerated meat. Under the circumstances he thought the War Office had a right to a considerably larger deduction. He further asked to what extent the Army Veterinary Department had been improved. The enormous wastage of horses in South Africa had been largely due to the undermanning of the Veterinary De- partment. The matter had been treated too much from the £ s. d. point of view. Important as might be that standpoint, there was another the House should bear in mind—namely, the horrible sufferings endured by the wretched animals. No one with a, grain of sympathy for animals could have read the heartrending accounts of the terrible treatment—proble; ably unavoidable under the circumstances —to which animals had been subjected in South Africa without feeling a great amount of regret that it had not been possible to avoid or minimise it to a greater extent. Another point was that hitherto when horses had been landed at Cape Town they had been at once hurried up in droves to the front instead of being given an interval for exercise and so on after the voyage to get them into fit condition for their work. Had that mistaken policy now been changed A further question was with regard to the purchase of horses and the prices at which the animals had been bought. He remembered riding out a considerable distance with some friends in the Argentine, and he was told that the value of the horses they rode was about 75s. His informant was a German, and he thought perhaps he was imposing upon his credulity, but he afterwards made inquiries and found that the statement was perfectly correct. One of those horses had been ridden by the President of the I Argentine Republic himself. He mentioned these facts to show that the price of horses in the Argentine was extremely low. He knew that the quality was poor, but suggestions had been made that a, higher price had been paid than ought to have been paid. In the Argentine you could buy as good a horse as anyone needed to ride for £10, and he trusted the noble Lord would give them a satisfactory reply in regard to the prices paid for the horses purchased in the Argentine Republic.


said he could not understand what the object of the Government was in hiding the prices paid for those horses. He was glad to hear that the noble Lord opposite was anxious that the producer should get the profit which had hitherto been taken by the dealer. The horse fairs in Ireland were remarkably good, and the War Office ought to be supplied with a list of them and arrange for their buyers to attend.

MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)

wished to have some information from the noble Lord with regard to the corn contracts. The corn produced in Great Britain and Ireland was heavier than the foreign corn, and if his information was correct the War Office bad laid down a standard weight of 35 pounds to the bushel, but a corn weighing 38 pounds or 39 pounds could not be supplied at the same price, He wished to know whether the corn was tendered for at so much per quarter or so much per 100 pounds. He wished the Irish producer in this matter to be Placed on an equal footing with the foreigner. For the last two years the War Office had been absolutely blind to their own interest in refusing to give this information. They not only gave the preference to the foreigner, but they were also giving him an unfair advantage over the English and the Irish producers.

MR. O'SHEE (Waterford, W.)

said he understood that the average price the dealers had been paying for horses in Ireland was £27, and the average price the dealer received was £35. He did not sec why the Government should pursue such a system. He understood from a statement made by the noble Lord that the number of horses purchased direct from the producer was about 200, while the number? purchased from dealers was 5,300. It was an extraordinary thing that, although they had many fairs in Ireland, the Government had not been able to purchase directly more than 200 horses. There was really no excuse for not going direct to the farmers of Ireland to purchase these horses and give them, something like the price which had been paid to the dealers. He considered that two millions was a vary extravagant sum to ask for remounts. Something like 100,000 horses and mules had been sent to South Africa, and money had been wasted in the Argentine Republic and other places which ought now to be available for remounts.

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W(Leeds
Arkwright, John Stanhope Bain, Col. James Robert Banbury, Frederick (George
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J.(Man.) Bathurst, Hon. Allen B.

said that the War Office would endeavour to bring buyers and breeders of horses together. As to the 2d. per pound on the foreign meat contract, mentioned by the hon. Member for the St. Patrick Division of Dublin, that would be deducted at once. Regarding the question of the tax on incoming stock, that had never been placed on the contract. It was not imposed in the case referred to, nor in any other case, but he confessed the whole matter was unsatisfactory, and he would look into it.


asked if the noble Lord would give a guarantee as to the supply of Canadian moat.


said he could not give a guarantee, but he would do his best in the matter.


asked if the noble Lord could say anything about the corn question.


said he could not answer that at present, but he would endeavour as far as possible to meet the views of the hon. Member.


Will the noble Lord send me an answer by letter?


Yes, Sir.

MR. DUFFY (Galway, S.)

said he desired to ask the noble Lord a question which affected the constituency he had the honour to represent, it being a horse-breeding district. He wished to know if it was the intention of the Government to establish studs for the breeding of horses in Ireland.


That question cannot be discussed on this Vote.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 135; Noes, 43. (Division List No. 67.)

Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Bignold, Arthur Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.) Pretyman, Ernest George
Bond, Edward Hope, J. F (Sheffield, Brightside Priestley, Arthur
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Howard, Cape J. (Faversham) Purvis, Robert
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Johnston, William (Belfast) Pym, C. Guy
Bullard, Sir Harry Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex) Ratcliffe, R. F.
Caldwell, James Kenyon, Hn. Geo. T. (Denbigh) Reckitt, Harold James
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbys. Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W (Salop Reid, James (Greenock)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Keswick, William Remnant, James Farquharson
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm. Rentoul, James Alexander
Chamberlain, J Austen (Worc'r Lawrence, William F. Renwick, George
Chapman, Edward Lawson, John Grant Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge
Churchill, Winston Spencer Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Ritchie, Rt Hon. Chas. T.
Cellings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Ropner, Colonel Robert
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Leveson- Gower, Frederick N. S. Royds, Clement Molyneux
Dalkeith, Earl of Levy, Maurice Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-
Dickson, Charles Scott Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R. Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Doxford, Sir William Theodore Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale) Smith, Abel H.(Hertford, East)
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Loyd, Archie Kirkman Smith, James Parker(Lanarks.
Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton Lucas, Col. Francis(Lowestoft) Spear, John Ward
Faber, George Denison Lucas, Reginald, J. (Portsmouth Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. Macartney, Rt. Hn. W. G. E. Stmt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Finch, George H. Macdona, John Cumming Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Maconochie, A. W. Talbot, Rt Hn. J G. (Oxf'dUniv.
Fisher, William Hayes M'Arthur, Chas. (Liverpool) Thomson, F. W.(York, W. R)
Fletcher, Sir Henry Malcolm, Ian Thornton, Percy M.
Fuller, J. M. F. Manners, Lord Cecil Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans) Melville, Beresford Valentine Tufnell, Col. Edward
Godson, Sir Augustus Fred Milner, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick G. Valentin, Viscount
Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn Molesworth, Sir Lewis Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney
Gore, Hon. F. S. Ormsby- Moore, William (Antrim, N.) Webb, Colonel William Geo.
Goschen, Hn. George Joachim More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire) Weir, James Galloway
Graham, Henry Robert Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow) Welby, Lt.-Col. ACE (Taunton
Grenfell, William Henry Morrell, George Herbert White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Gretton, John Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F. Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)
Greville, Hon. Ronald Morrison, James Archibald Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Ld. G. (Midx Morton, E. J. C. (Devonport) Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Hamilton Marq. of (L'nd'nderry Mount, William Arthur
Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm. Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Hare, Thomas Leigh Murray, Rt Hn A Graham (Bute
Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th. Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)
Haslett, Sir James Horner Nicol, Donald Ninian
Hay, Hon. Claude George Rainier, Walter (Salisbury)
Abraham, William (Cork, N. E. Hayden, John Patrick O'Kelly, James (Roscommon N.
Ambrose, Robert Healy, Timothy Michael O'Malley, William
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Jordan, Jeremiah O'Mara, James
Poland, John Joyce, Michael O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Kennedy, Patrick James O'Shee, James John
Clancy, John Joseph Leamy, Edmund Reddy, M.
Condon, Thomas Joseph Lundon, W. Redmond, William (Clare)
Crean, Eugene Mooney, John J. Roche, John
Delany, William Murphy, J. Sullivan, Donal
Doogan, P. C. Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N. Thompson, E. C. (Monaghan, N.
Duffy, William J. Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South) Tully, Jasper
Ffrench, Peter O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)
Field, William O'Brien, Kendal (Tipper'y Mid. TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Captain Donclan and Mr. Patrick O'Brien.
Flavin, Michael Joseph O'Dornnell, John (Mayo's.)
Flynn, James Christopher O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)
Hammond, John O'Dowd, John

Second Resolution agreed to.

Adjourned at half alter One of the clock till Monday next.