HC Deb 21 July 1903 vol 125 cc1390-9

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. JEFFREYS (Hampshire, N.) in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That it is expedient to make further provisions for defraying the expenses of certain Military Works and other Military Services, and to authorise the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of such sums, not exceeding £5,000,000, as may be required for those purposes, and to make provision for raising, in the manner provided by Section 2 of The Military Works Act, 1897, the sums so issued by terminable Annuities for a period not exceeding thirty years from the date of borrowing."—(Mr. Secretary Brodrick.)

MR. O'MARA (Kilkenny, S.)

said that last year he and his hon. friend the Member for East Mayo strongly opposed this method of providing for expenditure, which went on increasing in amount; and he thought the Committee ought to be given some explanation of the increases which were being constantly asked for. The Secretary of State for War ought to inform the Committee what precisely he was asking them to commit themselves to. When the last Bill was passed, he thought they were approaching the end of such measures. He was aware that part of the money was to be employed on permanent works, but he could not feel justified in permitting that stage to pass without entering a protest. If they passed the Bill now they would be committing themselves to an expenditure of £5,000,000; and there would be no opportunity of again criticising it once the Bill was passed. This method of raising money was first introduced at the time of Lord Palmerston. Mr. Gladstone was, however, thoroughly opposed to it. It was not until after he had retired that the system was reintroduced; and since then between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000 had been spent on works of a semipermanent character. Indeed, in many cases the payments would continue long after the works themselves had ceased to be of any use. No such measure had ever been introduced without a protest from the Irish Members, and he, therefore, would protest against it.


said that this Resolution was a proper opportunity for criticising the financial aspect of the proposals of the Government as distinct from questions of policy. When the Resolution was once embodied in the Bill they would be somewhat severely restricted in their discussions. There were three financial points to which the attention of the Committee ought to be drawn before the Resolution was passed. The first was the method of proceeding by loan. They were getting pretty far advanced in this series of naval and military works loans, which were introduced every alternate year; and it certainly looked as if it were now to be considered an established practice that large sums, amounting to many millions of money, should be raised by loan instead of being put on the ordinary Estimates. As things went on now, it was pretty clear that when one of these loans was up in thirty years, they would still have to continue to introduce Bills of this nature, and to pile up debt in this manner. For several years Parliament had been asked to vote sums of between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000 in this way; but it would be much more satisfactory if these items were taken out of the revenues for the year instead of being raised by loan. By this method the taxpayer was asked to pay the amount twice over, because the interest for thirty years, apart from the sinking fund, would represent the original amount. In this connection they ought to examine most carefully the nature of the works for which the money was to be borrowed. They were told that a considerable part of it would be spent for building huts for the troops in South Africa. The Secretary of State did not indicate the nature of the huts; but he took it that they were to be tin and timber structures, such as they were well acquainted with in South Africa. He thought, if they were to be substantial buildings, that the right hon. Gentleman would not have used the word "huts" to describe them. At home the Local Government Board refused to allow municipal authorities to borrow money for putting up such buildings. They had to be paid for out of revenue. That being so, it was rather remarkable that the Government should ask the Committee to include buildings of this nature in a Bill which was to run for a period of thirty years. The Secretary of State said that certain huts which had been built in the Crimea during the war were still in existence; but he doubted whether the right hon. Gentleman would claim them as a national asset. The purpose for which they were erected had disappeared; and to represent them as a national asset would be an absurd idea. Another question arose in connection with these huts in South Africa. They were given to understand that at the earliest possible moment self-government would be given to the new colonies. Supposing in five years the colonies were given self-government, how would the Home Government then stand, having borrowed money on a thirty years term, and spent it on huts which would be handed over to the new Colonial Governments. It appeared to him that such, an item ought not to be included in a Bill of this kind at all. It ought to be paid for out of revenue and not out of capital Further, the right hon. Gentleman did not state the amount which was to be devoted to this purpose. These were matters on which the Committee should have accurate information before they passed the Resolution; and if it were correct that the huts were to be of a tin and timber character, he thought the amount which that item represented should be struck out.

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

said he understood that the right hon. Gentleman had given the Committee an assurance that they would be able to discuss this question fully, probably on Friday, when the Bill would be put down as first order. If that were so, it would be a mistake to prolong the discussion now; but before the Resolution was passed he would ask how much of this money was to be annexed for Africa. He supposed the right hon. Gentleman could state exactly what was the African proportion of the expenditure.

MR. GRETTON (Derbyshire, S.)

said that the right hon. Gentleman stated that a certain portion of this money was to be spent on defensive works. That opened up very large and important questions, which in the past occasioned a considerable amount of friction. He wished to know what proportion of this Vote was to be devoted to the purposes of defensive works.

MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)

said he wished to support the request of his hon. friend for some information as to the proportion of this Vote to be spent in South Africa. It was a very serious matter the way in which the expenditure of the country was growing by means of these extraordinary measures. They were quite a new development. When he first came to the House he did not think there were any Bills of this character; but now they were following the example of Germany and raising by loan money which really ought to be part of the current expenditure of the year. By that means they were deluding people into the belief that the expenditure of the country was not what it was. If his hon. friends would follow the Naval and Military Works Bills they would find they were practically in the nature of national expenditure, though they resolved themselves in this way into an addition to the capital expenditure of the country. These Bills were expedients which had been adopted also in France and Germany, in order to hide the real character of military expenditure from the people; and they would grow until the amount involved would assume very large proportions. Last year, another Bill was brought in called an appropriation in aid, a sort of financial jugglery to hide from the country what had been spent. Very few people had any idea of how much was being spent on the Army and Navy. Part of this expenditure was for the colonies; and when this country was called upon to spend £5,000,000 this year, £7,000,000 last year, and similar sums, he thought it was about time that the colonies contributed towards such expenditure.


said he would answer the one or two specific questions which had been put to him. His hon. friend asked him a question as to defensive works. The defensive works were a continuation of the works already sanctioned by Parliament, such as the provision of guns for coaling stations and commercial ports. With regard to the huts to be erected in South Africa, of the £3,575,000 to be taken for barracks, £2,250,000 would be spent on huts in South Africa; but from that there must be deducted the sale of certain barracks to which he had alluded. He could not state the exact amount of the expenditure; but, roughly speaking it would be under £2,000,000, and it was anticipated that that would provide the complete accommodation necessary for the troops which it was proposed to retain in South Africa. The troops in South Africa had to have a roof over their heads. If it was proposed to reduce the force to be retained in South Africa from 30,000 men to 15,000, then no doubt this expenditure could be avoided; but if it was intended to keep the troops at their present strength in South Africa, even, for the sake of argument, for a year or two, it would be necessary to put a roof over their heads. They could not keep troops under canvas for five years together.


asked were the huts to be timber buildings.


said that the buildings were to be of iron and timber, of the kind used in South Africa by the civil population.


asked to whom they were to belong.


To the English Government.


said that the Committee must have heard with surprise the large amount of the Vote which was to be set aside for South Africa. No one supposed it would be so large; and no case had been made out for it. As a protest he begged to move the reduction of the Vote by £1,000,000.

Amendment proposed— To leave out '£5,000,000,' and insert '£4,000,1100."'—(Mr. Dalziel.)

Question proposed, "That '£5,000,000' stand part of the Question."

MR. BUCHANAN (Perthshire, E.)

said he thought his hon. friend was fully justified in the action he had taken. It had now become practically part of their regular financial procedure that large sums of money were to be borrowed year by year for expenditure, which in past years was invariably borne on the Estimates. In connection with the expenditure for barrack accommodation in South Africa it should be remembered that there was a very large increase put on the Estimates for barrack accommodation to meet the requirements of the garrison sent to South Africa. He certainly should support his hon. friend. In the Military Works Act of 1901 there was a sub-head "Barracks for foreign stations," but the total amount asked for was only £500,000, whereas now the Committee were to be asked to vote no less than £2,000,000 for the barrack accommodation and the hutting of this permanent force in South Africa. It was one of the incidental charges of the new policy of the Government, and he should certainly oppose the proposal permanently to station 25,000 men in South Africa. The right hon. Gentleman had given no explanation whatever of why, having in March last estimated 15,000 as the proper number for the permanent garrison, he had now altered the number to 25,000. Until adequate reasons had been given he should strongly oppose the new policy.


said that on Thursday last he carefully stated the grounds on which these proposals were made. There was no question in the mind of the War Office of having more than 15,000 men as the permanent force in South Africa until the Defence Committee recommended, for the benefit of India, that a certain force should be kept permanently in South Africa for the reinforcement of India, a duty which had been admitted by successive Governments in India, but for which provision could only have been made hitherto in this country under difficulties which in certain eventualities might have proved insuperable. That was a strong reason for this addition to the force. Moreover, it would be unfair to charge the force in South Africa with the increased expenditure laid before the Committee for huts. Troops, if they existed at all, must be housed. The hon. Member seemed to have forgotten that during the last six years an addition of nearly 60,000 men had been made to the establishment of the Army, and that it would have been impossible to provide in previous Bills for the barrack accommodation of those men in this country. The works could not be carried out within the time for which the Bills were intended to run. The hon. Member might rest assured that nothing would be spent in South Africa on works which would be duplicated here. The Committee would recollect that under great pressure from Parliament, and from a sense of our inferiority in the matter of artillery, sixty or seventy batteries were added during the war, and, up to the present, accommodation for those batteries had been made only on Salisbury Plain by huts there erected. It was absolutely necessary, whether in this country or in South Africa, that provision for the accommodation of those batteries should be made, and huts could be erected in South Africa at a more reasonable cost than the permanent accommodation in this country.

MR. FULLER (Wiltshire, Westbury)

asked whether he understood correctly that so far as money was spent on huts in South Africa so far there would be a reduction in the amount spent on Salisbury Plain and elsewhere in this country.


said that was so. The hon. Member would easily understand that if the War Office attempted to build for 50,000 troops in this country eight or ten years would be necessary for the work, and a much larger sum would have to be asked for for its completion. A portion of the charge was asked for South Africa, and proportionately the charge in this country was reduced.


desired to say a word in strong support of the Amendment. It was necessary that the House of Commons should put its foot down on such an occasion as a protest against the rate at which military expenditure was growing. The right hon. Gentleman no doubt could advance very plausible reasons for this great expenditure; but the country saw, and it ought to be the duty of the House of Commons to see, that a stop must be put to the growth of military expenditure. The revenue would be unequal to the burden if this expenditure was not cheeked, and the House of Commons must show by its action and vote that it was in earnest, even if that involved a reduction of the number of men. That really was at the bottom of the whole question, and the country must be left in no doubt as to the determination of Parliament in this respect.

*SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)

submitted that this was not the time for the House of Commons to put its foot

down. He felt as strongly as anybody the necessity for the reduction of wasteful expenditure, but the question must be approached in a business-like spirit. Whatever was proved to be necessary he was prepared to vote for, but he was not prepared to support expenditure of which no explanation or justification was given. This question ought to be discussed when the Committee had the full facts before it; when that time came he would be prepared impartially to consider the matter, but in the meantime he thought the present stage was hardly the opportunity for the discussion of details.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 118; Noes, 68. (Division list No 176.)

Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Galloway, William Johnson Reid, James (Greenock)
Auson, Sir William Reynell Garfit, William Reshaw, Sir Charles Bine
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick Renwick, George
Arrol, Sir William Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elginand Nairn Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Atkinson, Right Hon. John Gore, Hn. G. R. C. Ormsby- (Salop Robertson, H. (Hackney)
Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H. Goulding Edward Alfred Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Bain, Colonel James Robert Greene, Hy. D. (Shrewsbury) Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert
Baird, John George Alexander Gretton, John Rutherford, John (Lancashire
Balcarres, Lord Groves, James Grimble Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Heath, James (Staffs, N. W.) Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Bignold, Arthur Helder, Augustus Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Bigwood, James Hudson, George Bickersteth Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight
Blundell, Colonel Henry Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse Seton-Karr, Sir Henry
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith Johnstone, Heywood Sharpe, William Edward T.)
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Kenyon, Hon. G. T. (Denbigh Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew
Brotherton, Edward Allen Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Bull, William James Kerr, John Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) King, Sir Henry Seymour Spear, John Ward
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.) Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Lawson, John Grant (Yorks, N. R. Stirling-Maxwell, Sir Jn. M.
Charrington, Spencer Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S. Stone, Sir Benjamin
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Llewellyn, Evan Henry Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Taylor, Austin (East Toxeth
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasg.) Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S. Thorburn, Sir Walter
Cox, Irwin Edwd. Bainbridge Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth) Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.
Crean, Eugene M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh W. Valentia, Viscount
Cross, Alexander (Glasgow) M'Killop, Jas. (Stirlingshire) Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.
Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Webb, Colonel William George
Denny, Colonel Maxwell, Rt. Hn. Sir H. E. (Wigt'n Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E. (Taunt'n
Dewar, Sir T. R. (Tower Hamlets Milvain, Thomas Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u.-Lyne)
Dickson, Charles Scott Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow) Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.
Doughty, George Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C. Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Ed. Myers, William Henry Worsley-Taylor, Hry, Wilson
Finch, Rt. Hon. George H. Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay Wylie, Alexander
Fitzroy, Hon. Edw. Algernon Percy, Earl
Flannery, Sir Fortescue Platt-Higgins, Frederick TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Flower, Ernest Pretyman, Ernest George Sir Alexander Acland-
Forster, Henry William Purvis, Robert Hood and Mr. Anstruther.
Foster, Philip S. (Warwick, S. W. Rattigan, Sir William Henry
Allen, Chas. P. (Glouc, Stroud Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Brigg, John
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbt. Hy. Black, Alexander William Broadhurst, Henry
Barran, Rowland Hirst Bolton, Thomas Dolling Brown, George M. (Edinburgh)
Burt, Thomas Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C. Soares, Ernest J.
Caldwell, James Joicey, Sir James Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H. Jones, William (Carnarvonshire Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.
Causton, Richard Knight Kearley, Hudson E. Tomkinson, James
Channing, Francis Allston Lambert, George Toulmin, George
Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall) Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Cremer, William Randal Layland-Barratt, Francis Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Crombie, John William Leese, Sir Jos. F. (Accrington) Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.
Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) Levy, Maurice Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Lundon, W. Weir, James Galloway
Dunn, Sir William M'Kenna, Reginald White, George (Norfolk)
Emmott, Alfred Markham, Arthur Basil Whiteley, G. (York, W. R.)
Fenwick, Charles Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) Norman, Henry Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Fuller, J. M. F. Priestley, Arthur Williams, O. (Merioneth)
Grant, Corrie Rickett, J. Compton Wilson, H. J. (York, W. R.)
Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton Rigg, Richard Wilson, John (Durham Mid)
Harmsworth, R. Leicester Runciman, Walter
Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale- Shackleton, David James TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Hope, John Deans (Fife, West Shipman, Dr. John G. Mr. Dalziel and Mr.
Horniman, Frederick John Sinclair, John (Forfarshire) Buchanan.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.