HC Deb 30 June 1904 vol 137 cc181-209

"That a sum, not exceeding £2,839,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Supply and Repair of Warlike and other Stores, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1905."

Resolution read a second time.

SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

moved to reduce the sum by £10,000 in respect of artillery. The re-armament of the artillery with quick-firing guns was a matter which had been already discussed this session. A very large sum of money would be required for the re-armament, of which none was asked for in the present year, and one complaint was that the whole of the cost of the present year was being thrown on the Indian Estimates. It appeared that the Government were now retubing the existing guns and the amount by which he asked that the Vote should be reduced was the minimum cost of the process. The Vote in the Estimates for guns and carriages this year showed a reduction of £500,000 and that for field artillery had also been considerably reduced. This country was to pay a certain proportion of the cost of re-armament next year, but it appeared that the heaviest portion of the cost was to be thrown on the Estimates two years hence. Looking to the fact that this re-armament had been expected for many years, that it had been most actively demanded by the House since 1899, that it had been far too long postponed, and that credit had been taken by the Prime Minister for a rearmament which never, as a fact, took place, it did seem monstrous that the main charge for the re-armament of the artillery should be thrown on the Army Estimates two years hence. It was a most improper proceeding. He noted also that the question of supplying field guns to the Volunteer and Militia artillery was untouched. It had been constantly pointed out to the House that we were behind other Powers in the matter of re-armament of the artillery with quick-firing guns. In the present war between Russia and Japan quick-firing guns had played a most important part, and it had been clearly demonstrated that any army which took the field with guns such as we now had would be lost. Although they were told the manufacturers were to have carte blanche, yet the guns would not be ready for two years. Both Japan and Russia, however, had turned them out with much greater speed, and it seemed to him incredible that this country could not do as well. The sum he moved was intended to cover a large proportion of the cost of the retubing which was going on in this country, which was an attempt to make fit for service guns which were altogether superannuated—guns which no other Power in the world would put into the field.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the sum of '£2,839,000,' and to insert the sum of '£2,829,000.'"—(Sir Charles Dilke.)

Question proposed, "That'£2,839,000' stand part of the said Resolution."


said he was quite unable to understand the grave nature of the right hon. Gentleman's charge in regard to the expenditure on new guns. It was perfectly true that it was decided by him, in consultation with his right hon. friend the Secretary of State for India, that the expenditure on the new guns this year should, in the main, fall upon India. What was there to criticise in that arrangement? They could only manufacture during the first year a certain number of guns, and where were those guns more likely to be wanted than in India? He had ascertained the output capacity of the firms engaged in the manufacture of guns, and had also taken into account the amount of money available for the purchase of the guns in the current year. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the British Army was in some way worse off because the first guns were to go to India.


said his point that day was that they had put off the main supply until two years hence.


said they had now sealed the patterns of the horse and field guns, and they had ascertained the number which could be manufactured during the current year; that would amount to twenty-one horse and field batteries. A very considerable amount of work, to the extent of over £100,000, which would contribute towards the completion of the guns in the next year to be appropriated to the Army at home, would also be done. He could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that they had put off the bulk of the expenditure on these guns till 1907. The right hon. Gentleman had suggested that in other countries the guns were manufactured with greater speed. He had taken great pains to ascertain what had been the exact process of re-armament in every other country which had re-armed, and he did not find that, in proportion to the Army they had to supply, we were acting in any way differently from any other country. They were proposing, and he hoped they would be able, to spend £1,300,000 on these guns during next year. They believed that the rate of manufacture would enable them to turn out a battery a week. He did not regard that as a low rate of manufacture, though he believed that, if they abandoned all their other work, and concentrated entirely on the manufacture of guns, it would be possible to slightly accelerate the out-put. But the question of how they should apportion their work was one which the responsible Department must be allowed to deal with. If they manufactured at the rate of a battery a week during next year, he thought they would be doing a great deal towards accomplishing the end they had in view. Even in the current year the manufacture of the component parts of the guns would be proceeded with. He did not know if the right hon. Gentleman was aware of what an elaborate process preceded the actual manufacture of guns. After the sealed pattern had been received, patterns had to be made not only for the Royal Gun Factories but also for private manufacturers. He was anxious that the guns manufactured this year should proceed as fast as they could, but he did not for a moment anticipate that they would to any extent be in advance of the estimate they had formed. They had made a very strenuous effort to do their duty in this matter. They were arranging for the re-armament of the whole of the horse and field artillery of this country, and the limit of time was far shorter than had ever been the case for such a purpose in the history of the country. He could conceive that a national emergency might arise which would make it desirable that we should be armed more quickly, and perhaps in that event progress might be accelerated. If the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean could get his Party, who had been greatly in favour of a reduction of our military expenditure, to allow him to expend during the coming year more than £1,300,000, he should certainly thank him for the assistance he had given and would expend the money. He would remind hon. Members how this money had been found in other countries; in France, he believed, the money for re-arming the artillery was found almost exclusively from the sale of the fortifications of Paris. Well, London was not a fortified city and we had not got the happy opportunity of selling our fortifications and turning them into guns; the money in our case had to come solidly out of the Army Estimates. They were doing all that could reasonably be undertaken in the present year, and in future years they were contemplating the performance of as much as the House would allow.

With regard to another matter raised by the right hon. Gentleman, the armament of the Volunteer field artillery batteries with the new gun, there was, of course, a great divergence of opinion as to the desirability of furnishing the Auxiliary Forces with field guns. The right hon. Gentleman and he were rather in agreement on this matter, that we should utilise a portion of our Auxiliary Forces in the manipulation of the field gun. But he was bound to say that that was not the prevailing military opinion, and he thought it was not altogether unreasonable, as they had to curtail their expenditure as much as they could, not to expand too rapidly in the direction of adding to the Militia and Volunteer artillery. Already a partial experiment, however, had been made. A Volunteer heavy battery had been given the opportunity of using the field gun, and it was a perfectly fair question to ask whether they could develop this dedication of field guns to the Auxiliary Forces. But he would remind the House, at the same time, that we were in a much better position with regard to the artillery than we had ever been in before. We had actually doubled in the last few years the number of horse and field batteries, and if it should become necessary to diminish, rather than to increase, the number of the available infantry in this country, we should come much nearer to the European computation of the proportion between the field guns and the infantry which the right hon. Gentleman opposite desired we should attain. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman not to accept from him the view that this was a closed question; he did not think it was; he thought they would yet have to consider the question of how far they should entrust the field gun to the Auxiliary Forces.

SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)

said the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of turning out the new guns this year. He would like to ask him whether, when speaking of this year, he meant the financial year.


said the financial year. They hoped in the current financial year to manufacture twenty-one batteries, and to prepare for the completion of a number of additional batteries in the next year.


Can you give an approximate date when you will be in a position to begin turning them out?


said he supposed it would be towards the end of this year, when the manufacturing firms and the Ordnance Factories would be in possession of the necessary plant and machinery. Obviously the manufacturers would not be in full swing until they had been carrying on the business for some time.


feared there was a lack of perspective in what was proposed He conceived it was the duty of the House to grant the Government all the money necessary, whatever the amount, to enable it to proceed with all reasonable expedition with the re-armament of the artillery, and he hoped that nothing would induce the Government to cut down a single shilling of the expenditure that was necessary for the purpose. So far as the Volunteer and Militia artillery was concerned he was not in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean. He did not believe in supplying the Auxiliary Forces with field guns if they were only liable to serve in the United Kingdom.

SIR HOWAED VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

joined with the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth in insisting on the importance of proceeding rapidly with the re-armament of the artillery. He said the lesson, as far as they could gather it, of the war between Russia and Japan was that the superiority of the Japanese artillery had been the determining factor in every engagement. It would be false economy not to provide the very best weapon that could be got, and neglect of that duty meant serious danger to the country. It might be expensive, for guns soon got out of date, but still we were bound to supply our forces in the field with the best available armaments. As to the arming of the Volunteers with artillery, it was scandalous that that question should have been put off time after time. He wanted to point out the importance of supplying field guns to the Volunteer artillery.

COLONEL LEGGE (St. George's, Hanover Square)

said that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean had made a charge against the War Office in connection with the delay in arming the artillery with new quick-firing guns. The Memorandum presented to the House at the commencement of the session by the Secretary of State for War set forth that the manufacture of the quick-firing guns and equipment was about to commence. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War now told the House that the manufacture of these guns had commenced and would be completed in three years time. That was exactly the time mentioned by his right hon. friend which it took the Japanese Government to reconstruct their artillery armaments; and if, at the end of three years, our artillery was as good and as well served as that of the Japanese, he did not think we would have much cause to complain. He wished to draw attention to the question of the lance—


said that he had only spoken specifically in respect of Item B.


said that it would be more convenient if the hon. and gallant Member were to make his observations on the main question rather than on this particular Amendment.

MR. J. F. HOPE (Sheffield, Brightside)

said he sympathised greatly with the object of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean in proposing this reduction; because, on the face of it, he did not see why the manufacture of the whole of the artillery should not have been taken in hand at once, at any cost. They were, of course, cribbed, cabined, and confined in this matter by financial necessities, because they, too, had to draw their finances from a limited number of sources of taxation. He did not wish to go further into the question; but he wanted to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office exactly how the matter stood in regard to the orders for these guns. He thought that the hon. Gentleman, in answer to a Question put some time ago, stated that the orders for guns for the Indian Army would be given out as quickly as possible, and that they would be allocated in the proportion of two-thirds to the trade, and one-third to the Government arsenals. Had the orders been given out in these proportions? The private firms had two claims on the Government; first, because they had been specifically asked in former tines to increase their means of production. But these means of production could not be made available in times of stress unless they were employed in times of peace. A distinct and plain pledge was given in that regard by the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, by the Secretary for India, and confirmed by the now Secretary of State for War. It had recently been the fashion to talk of the distress caused by the dismissal of Government servants at the Government arsenals, but there were other places in the kingdom, such as Sheffield, where there had been no less distress on account of the lack of Government orders.


said that the right hon. Member had asked for some specific information as to the manufacture of quick-firing guns. He said that the manufacture of the whole of these guns should be taken in hand at once without reference to cost. The hon. Gentleman below the gangway said that the right policy was for the Government to come to Parliament and ask for any money needful to provide the guns necessary for the service of the Army with all reasonable expedition.


said that what he had stated was that that was an ideal policy.


said he quite agreed, everybody agreed, and he hoped the House of Commons would agree, that whatever it might be necessary for the War Office to ask the House for this purpose should be given. We should see, however, how that would be next year. He did not quite understand the object of the question raised by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean. The right hon. Baronet talked about throwing the expenditure on the year after next.


said that he based himself on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War on the Estimates, and on the answer to a Question that day when he asked the right hon. Gentlemen to specify what was the amount of the charge in the next financial year and in the year after that, because the armament was announced to be completed by the 31st March, 1907.


said that during the present year, 1904–5, no batteries were to be made for this country. The batteries to be made this year were to be made for India. Next year the batteries were to be made for home, and the year after that, 1906–7, under present arrangements the whole programme would be completed.


said that what he had asserted was that the bulk of the money would be spent in the year after next.


said the fact was that practically one-half of it would be spent next year, and there was an extra £550,000 which would be spent the year after next. He thought it was hardly fair, in respect of a total expenditure of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, to say that the bulk of the expenditure had been put on the year after next.


said that the bulk of the expenditure in the year after next would fall on this country.


said that as a matter of fact next year the expenditure would be £1,300,000, and beyond that there would be an extra sum of £550,000 although the guns would not have been completed and the year after there would also be an expenditure of £1,300,000. That was the programme at the present time, and he did not think it was quite accurate to say that the bulk of the money would be spent in the year after next or that there was any deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to postpone asking for what money was necessary to arm the artillery. His hon. friend the Member for Bright-side had raised a very interesting and difficult question, which, however, he thought it would be rather inconvenient to discuss at the present moment. What he could say was that the allocation of the orders for guns would be made according to accepted principles, which were, as he had said, that the trade reserves should be taken advantage of as well as the reserves of the Government factories. But he thought that his hon. friend rather overstated the case when he said that the private firms had a claim on the Government. It was true that the Government had encouraged these firms to lay out very large sums of money in the provision of plant and machinery as a reserve power of supply of armaments. The Government had regarded the existence of that plant and machinery as a reserve power of supply and that, unless that power of supply were there, it would be absolutely necessary for the Government to provide that reserve power of supply. In other words, the reserve at present existing in the plant and machinery at Woolwich would have to be very much larger.


asked if any orders had yet been given out to private firms.


said that no orders had yet been given.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 213; Noes, 151. (Division List No. 185.)

Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Fardell, Sir T. George Mitchell, Edw. (Fermanagh, N.)
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r Mitchell, William (Burnley)
Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Molesworth, Sir Lewis
Anson, Sir William Reynell Finch, Rt. Hon. George H. Montagu, G. Huntingdon)
Arkwright, John Stanhope Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Moon, Edward Robert Pacy
Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. Hugh O. Fisher, William Hayes Morpeth, Viscount
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Fison, Frederick William Morrell, George Herbert
Bagot, Capt. Josceline Fitz Roy Fitz Gerald, Sir Robert Penrose Morrison, James Archibald
Bailey, James (Walworth) Forster, Henry William Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer
Bain, Colonel James Robert Foster, Philip S.(Warwick, S. W. Mount, William Arthur
Baird, John George Alexander Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn) Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute
Balcarres, Lord Gordon, Maj. Evans-(T'rH'mlets Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)
Baldwin, Alfred Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J.(Manch'r Goulding, Edward Alfred Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.)
Balfour, Rt. HnGerald W. (Leeds Graham, Henry Robert O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens
Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch. Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Parker, Sir Gilbert
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Greene, Sir E. W. (B'rySEdm'nds Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington
Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor) Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury Peel, Hn. Wm. Robert Wellesley
Bartley, Sir George C. T. Gunter, Sir Robert Pemberton, John S. G.
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Hain, Edward Percy, Earl
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F. Pierpoint, Robert
Bignold, Arthur Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford Pilkington, Colonel Richard
Bigwood, James Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th) Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Blundell, Colonel Henry Harris, Dr. Fredk. R. (Dulwich Plummer, Walter R.
Bond, Edward Hay, Hon. Claude George Pretyman, Ernest George
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith Helder, Augustus Pryce-Jones, 'Lt.-Col. Edward
Bowles, T. Gibson( King's Lynn Hogg, Lindsay Pym, C. Guy
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside Rankin, Sir James
Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Glasgow Hornby, Sir William Henry Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Horner, Frederick William Rateliff, R. F.
Cautley, Henry Strother Hoult, Joseph Reid, James (Greenock)
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham) Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine
Cayzer, Sir Charles William Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil Renwick, George
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Hudson, George Bickersteth Richards, Henry Charles
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Hunt, Rowland Ridley, S. Forde (BethnalGreen
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Wore. Jameson, Major J. Eustace Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse Robinson, Brooke
Chapman, Edward Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex) Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Clive, Captain Percy A. Kimber, Henry Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert
Coates, Edward Feetham Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm. Rutherford, John (Lancashire)
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow) Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Coddington, Sir William Lawson, John Grant (Yorks, N. R. Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford
Coghill, Douglas Harry Lee, Arthur H.(Hants., Fareham Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander
Colomb, Rt. Hon Sir John C. R. Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead) Samuel, Sir Harry S. (Limehouse
Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. Edw. J.
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Llewellyn, Evan Henry Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S. Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln
Cross, Alexander (Glasgow) Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham Sinclair, Louis (Romford)
Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S) Sloan, Thomas Henry
Cust, Henry John C. Lowe, Francis William Smith, Abel H.(Hertford, East)
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft) Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.)
Davenport, William Bromley Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth) Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)
Denny, Colonel Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich)
Dickinson, Robert Edmond Macdona, John Cumming Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk
Dickson, Charles Scott Maclver, David (Liverpool) Stanley, Edward Jas. (Somerset)
Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph Maconochie, A. W. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lanes.
Dorington, Rt. Hon. Sir John E. Majendie, James A. H. Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Manners, Lord Cecil Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Doxford, Sir William Theodore Martin, Richard Biddulph Stone, Sir Benjamin
Duke, Henry Edward Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F. Stroyan, John
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Maxwell, Rt. Hn. Sir H. E. (Wigt'n Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart Melville, Beresford Valentine Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)
Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Middlemore, John Throgmorton Thorburn, Sir Walter
Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.) Milner, Rt. Hon Sir Frederick G. Tollemache, Henry James
Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M. Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E. (Taunton Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Tuff, Charles Whiteley, H. (Ashton und. Lyne Wyndham-Quin, Col. W. H.
Tuffnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward Wills, Sir Frederick Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong
Valentia, Viscount Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H. (Sheffield Wilson-Todd, Sir W. H. (Yorks. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir
Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H. Wodehouse, Lt. Hn. E. R. (Bath) Alexander Acland-Hood and
Wanklyn, James Leslie Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm Mr.Ailwyn Fellowes.
Warde, Colonel C. E. Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart
Webb, Colonel William George Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.) Harcourt, Rt. Hn Sir W. (Monm'th O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.
Abraham, William (Rhondda) Harmsworth, R. Leicester O'Malley, William
Ainsworth, John Stirling Hayden, John Patrick O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Atherley-Jones, L. Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D. Parrott, William
Barlow, John Emmott Helme, Norval Watson Paulton, James Mellor
Barran, Rowland Hirst Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H. Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Holland, Sir William Henry Philipps, John Wynford
Blake, Edward Hope, John Deans (Fife, West) Pirie, Duncan V.
Boland, John Horniman, Frederick John Power, Patrick Joseph
Brigg, John Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk. Price, Robert John
Broadhurst, Henry Johnson, John (Gateshead) Rea, Russell
Brown, George M. (Edinburgh) Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea) Reddy, M.
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Jones, William(Carnarvonshire Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Jordan, Jeremiah Rigg, Richard
Burke, E. Haviland Joyce, Michael Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)
Caldwell, James Kearley, Hudson E. Roche, John
Cameron, Robert Kennedy, Vincent P. (Cavan, W. Roe, Sir Thomas
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Kilbride, Denis Runciman, Walter
Causton, Richard Knight Labouchere, Henry Russell, T. W.
Cawley, Frederick Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.) Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)
Churchill, Winston Spencer Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall) Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Layland-Barratt, Francis Schwann, Charles E.
Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark) Leng, Sir John Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Islcof Wight
Crean, Eugene Lewis, John Herbert Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Crombie, John William Lough, Thomas Sheehan, Daniel Daniel
Cullinan, J. Lundon, W. Sheehy, David
Dalziel, James Henry Lyell, Charles Henry Shipman, Dr. John G.
Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
Delany, William MacVeagh, Jeremiah Soares, Ernest J.
Devlin, Charles Ramsay (Galway M'Arthur, William (Cornwall) Stanhope, Hon. Philip James
Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny N.) M'Fadden, Edward Sullivan, Donal
Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh. M'Hugh, Patrick Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles M'Kenna, Reginald Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)
Dobbie, Joseph M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)
Donelan, Captain A. M'Laren, Sir Charles Benjamin Thomas, D. Alfred (Merthyr)
Doogan, P. C. Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe Toulmin, George
Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Mooney, John J. Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Duncan, J. Hastings Moss, Samuel Wallace, Robert
Dunn, Sir William Moulton, John Fletcher Wason, Jn. Cathcart (Orkney)
Elibank, Master of Murphy, John White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Ellice, Capt. E. C. (S. Andrw's Bghs Nannetti, Joseph P. Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)
Ellis, John Edward (Notts.) Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South) Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Emmott, Alfred Norman, Henry Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Esmonde, Sir Thomas Nussey, Thomas Willans Wilson, Chas. Henry (Hull, N.)
Farrell, James Patrick O'Brien, James, F. X. (Cork) Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
Flavin, Michael Joseph O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid.) Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Huddersf d
Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Young, Samuel
Fuller, J. M. F. O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)
Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.
Goddard, Daniel Ford O'Doherty, William Warner and Capt. Norton.
Grant, Corrie O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)
Harcourt, Lewis V.(Rossendale O'Dowd, John

Original Question put, and agreed to.


said he would again urge on the Secretary of State for War not to lose sight of the question of lances and pistols for the cavalry. They were abolished without due consideration; and he hoped the question would be reconsidered. All European cavalry had retained the lance. It was stated in the Press that the Russian Lancers had recently overwhelmed the Japanese cavalry; and that was about the only success which the Russians had achieved during the present war. He hoped his right hon. friend would give the matter his best consideration.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

said he wished to ask a question as to the financial aspect of the manner in which the War Office conducted its business. At present, the infantry and cavalry were being re-armed with new rifles; and he should like to know the ratio, not only in money but also in rifles, between the Government factories and private contractors. It had been stated that rifles could be produced at the Government arsenals at about £3 a piece, whereas private firms charged £4. It had been suggested that interest on buildings and capital and depreciation should be taken into consideration. The one item not allowed for was the cost of the land on which the factory stood, but as that would not have been very expensive at the time the factory was built a penny per rifle would probably more than cover it, so that that would not account for the difference. It was said to be necessary that private factories should be kept going in order that in time of war there should be room for expansion in the supply. But that argument cut both ways. The larger the Small Arms Factory, the easier it would be to increase it. The Government factory would be able much more easily than a private firm to increase its machinery. It would be all very well to keep outside firms going if they produced the rifles at anything like the cost in the Government factories; but the paying of 25 per cent, more should be deferred until the emergency arose, especially as a great deal of distress at present existed in consequence of the shortage of work at the Small Arms Factory. He regarded it as a monstrous piece of War Office mismanagement that this waste of money should go on. Every possible economy in War Office administration ought to be effected, but if millions of money were to be wasted in this fashion there would be no hope of securing an efficient Army at a smaller cost. The efficiency of the Army depended upon the artillery more than anything else, but our guns fired only one shot to the foreigner's three, so that in the event of war we should be at a terrible disadvantage in the one arm upon which every victory in the present struggle in the East had depended.


desired to repeat his protest against the placing on the Army Estimates of the charge for submarine mines and Brennan torpedoes. The capital expenditure on the Brennan torpedo, which was introduced ten or twelve years ago, had been nearly half a million of money; it had cost something like £32,000 a year, and the charge under this particular item was £12,500. For submarine mines a sum of £61,000 was asked for. He protested altogether against these methods of defence being charged on the Army Estimates. Looking at the question broadly, ought we not to learn a lesson from the present position of Port Arthur with regard to submarine mines? He did not want to run the risk of having mines loose at the mouth of the Thames. He objected to the policy altogether. The maritime defence of this country would have to be active; it could not be passive, nor could it be handed over to the Army. He did not ask the Secretary of State to make any statement on the subject, he simply desired to repeat the protest he had often made. A big principle was involved, and in the new Army scheme, which he hoped would be carefully considered before it was produced, attention would have to be paid to the question of how far it was right to devote money voted for Army purposes to these aquatic arrangements, which he believed to be altogether bad in principle and absolutely m the wrong hands.

CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)

said the present Secretary of State for War was exonerated to some extent from the blame for the gross mismanagement which had taken place in connection with the supplying of the Army with a suitable rifle. On March 7th it was stated that a new rifle had been in course of manufacture for some time; therefore the Government had had ample time to deal with the question in a manner other than that they had adopted. The fact that £700,000 was to fall on the finances of India went to show that much of the expenditure which ought really to be borne upon the Votes this year was being cast forward to subsequent years. The rifle with which we fought the South African War, the old Lee-Enfield, was defective in sighting. That defect was well known to the manufacturers, but the rifles went through the ordinary inspection, and it was nobody's duty to call the attention of the Government to the fact that we had rifles with defective sights. The effect of that was that thousands of men sacrificed their lives in South Africa because they had not a weapon that would shoot, and the widows of these men were now endeavouring to keep their children out of the workhouse. He contended that if there had been effective inspection those lives would not have been sacrificed. The guilt of this lay at the door of the Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member. But what were the Government doing now? The cost of the Lee-Enfield was about 52s., yet the Government were throwing away the country's money by tinkering up these rifles and issuing them to the troops as converted weapons. They required in the first place new barrels and new sights, a new charger to simplify the drop of the cartridge into the magazine, and the extension of the magazine to such an extent as to hold ten cartridges. Then the body required to be altered and the stock; and although these stocks had been knocked about in the South African War, and in some cases had had pieces of wood let in, these weapons were to be issued as converted to the troops. The original cost was only 52s. and this, as he understood, was a matter of economy. What he wanted to know was how much this conversion was going to cost, because his contention was that these rifles were not worth converting.

If the Government were guilty of wasting public money with regard to the conversion of these old rifles, they were much more so in connection with the new rifle, because what took place with regard to the new rifle was that, although they had been in the course of construction for some time, at the present moment there were not more than 15,000 or 16,000 in existence. Owing to its terrible defects it was most unreliable. One of the great defects of he new rifle was its terrible recoil, which was so great that he had seen large numbers of men afraid to shoot with it To obviate the recoil the Government had had the barrels enlarged at the muzzle with the result that no shooting power could be got out of it. The shooting had become irregular. If India was to be supplied with seventy-one thousand stands of arms, there ought to be 60,000 of these rifles now ready, but owing to the initial mistakes and the consequent experiments there were only 15,000 or 16,000. The right hon. Gentleman was, of course, anxious to give a fair share of, this work to private firms, but he ventured to assert that if those firms followed the specifications given to them the result would be the production of a rifle which would not shoot. The result of all the investigations that had taken place was that they had come back to the old parallel barrel with progression in the rifling only. If he were asked how this should be obviated and how the viewing should be done, his answer would be that the manufacturers should be made responsible for the barrel and that the viewing should be done by their foremen who were competent for the work. But what was the position with regard to the Small Arms Factories at Enfield? There they had some 2,500 men who had been experimenting for more than a year and no rifles had been issued, and if the House took into consideration the high pay these men got, the cost of these rifles came out not at £4 but at £15 or £16 each.

Then, with regard to the machine guns, he would like to know how many Maxims, how many Nordenfeldts, and how many Gardiner guns we had, and what each gun cost the country when obtained from the manufacturers as against what they cost when manufactured in our Small Arms Factories. He would also like to know what orders had been given for these various guns and to whom they had been given, because his contention was that the country's money had been wasted, first by experimental processes, and secondly by an unfair proportion of orders being given to private firms. At the present time the Small Arms Factory at Enfield was doing one-third of the work it usually did, and he contended the orders should not be given out until the Government factories were working at higher pressure. What had occurred? During the war the Enfield factory was only working at an average of ten hours a day whilst private firms were working three eight-hour shifts. It was clear, therefore, that at that time advantage was not taken of the Government arsenals. In some departments of the Enfield factory there was from 50 to 70 per cent, of the plant lying idle whilst large orders were going to Birmingham and other places; not that he had any objection to orders going anywhere, but he had a special interest in seeing that the Government factories did their fair share of work. He disclaimed any intention to cast any slur on the heads of the factory at Enfield, who always did their best, but it was not, in his opinion, possible for any official to carry out the work satisfactorily if he were compelled to keep an experienced staff at a high price which he could not utilise. In this year, when we were not at war, they were turning out at Enfield only half the work which they turned out in the years when the Lee-Enfield was being manufactured. They had heard recently a great deal about the importance of artillery fire. What won battles was not artillery but rifle fire, and this was of the greatest importance in the class of country in which the British Army was usually called upon to operate. Notwithstanding this they found the Government shirking their duty by not turning out the maximum number of rifles at Enfield and elsewhere, and they were not arming our force with the best weapon that could be produced.

MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)

said that some people held that it did not matter much whether the rifle was very accurate or not, but that was not his opinion. He thought if the new rifle did not shoot accurately it would be a great pity to have a large number made before the rifle had been thoroughly tested. The great idea of the War Office nowadays of teaching recruits to shoot appeared to be to keep them snapping at their inspector's eye. Probably the recruits got bored by this process. It struck him that if they wanted to teach men to shoot they should begin early and shoot with miniature rifles, if not, even an air-gun was better than the snapping business. He hoped that before this question was finally settled the rifle would be thoroughly tested by the Auxiliary as well as the Regular Forces, because, if, as reported, the rifle kicked considerably, it would be a fatal objection to its use, especially by the Auxiliary Forces. They had now brought the sights nearer together and consequently shooting had been rendered more difficult. He did not think that there was the slightest advantage in having the rifle shortened for infantry and mounted infantry, and in his opinion a long rifle was much easier to shoot with than a short one.

MAJOR SEELY (Isle of Wight)

urged the Secretary for War to pause before proceeding with the manufacture of the new rifle. It was getting more and more difficult in this country to obtain suitable practice with the rifle owing to the crowded nature of these islands, and they had been obliged to shoot with reduced charges both in the Regular Army, the Auxiliaries, and in the rifle clubs as a means of getting out of the difficulty. All this shooting was of great and substantial value so long as the difference between firing with reduced ammunition and a full charge was very slight. If they had a new rifle in which the recoil was greater the value of this kind of shooting practice would be enormously reduced. He took a deep interest in rifle clubs and he was loth to see a weapon adopted which would render the practice now being carried out in his part of the country of less value than it was at the present time, and he urged the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it would not be advisable to see that the new rifle should have as little recoil as possible. It might be that the new model would give a less recoil, and if he could be assured on that point it would be a great relief not only to himself but also to all those who took an interest in amateur rifle shooting.

His principal reason for rising was to call attention to the extraordinary position in which the nation stood in regard to the re-arming of the artillery. It was perfectly true that battles were won to a great extent by the rifle, but it was no less true that they were also won to a great extent by artillery; and although it was a matter of controversy as to whether the new rifle or the old one was the best, there was no doubt the artillery of the British Army was the worst used by any civilised nation of any importance in the world. The position was so extraordinary that he ventured to ask the House to consider it. If they were asked to name the greatest military curiosity the reply would be that the richest nation in the world had the worst artillery. The difference between the artillery this country possessed and that possessed by the great countries with whom they might possibly be at war was not a difference of degree but of kind. There was a great difference in the velocity of the shot, in the first place; in the second place there was a difference in the fact that the ammunition was fixed in one piece; and thirdly, there was the difference that recoil in the new gun was worked by a mechanical arrangement on the carriage. The consequence was that whereas the old gun with which our Army was armed—with the solitary exception of a few batteries—could only fire from one to two shots per minute, the gun which they might have had and which had been adopted by other countries fired between twelve and eighteen shots per minute. The Financial Secretary knew from his own experience in the field of war how fatal it was to be possessed of a gun of which a battery was of less value than one gun possessed by the enemy. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give them a more satisfactory assurance upon this subject than he had given up to the present as to what efforts were being made to remedy this extraordinary state of affaire. On the 7th of March they were assured that the gun had been chosen, that it had been tested, and that it had shown results of a startling nature. All the artillery experts and others who saw the trials, they were informed, were wholly and entirely convinced that the danger they ran in not adopting this quick-firing gun was very great. On the 7th March they were told that the manufacture of this gun would begin within a month of that date. Some three and a half months had since elapsed, and not only had the manufacture of this gun not commenced but no orders for it had been given. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman was determined that they must have a good gun, but they had been stopped by considerations of economy so misplaced as to be absolutely deplorable. He was perfectly certain that if the right hon. Gentleman could say that the matter would receive immediate attention, and would ask the Opposition to permit a sum to be voted to re-arm the Army in this country and in India with a quick-firing gun, the Government would receive the unanimous consent of the House and the country. The men in the artillery felt the inferiority in which this wealthy country was placed in this respect. In South Africa our Army was in the strange position of being, not only out-ranged but outnumbered owing to the enemy possessing quick-firing guns. They were told the other day that the Gatling guns out-ranged our own. They were told also tha the guns used by the Boers in South Africa, and those used by the Chinese out-ranged our own. He submitted that the country and the Army did not wish to be any longer trifled with in this matter. They were assured that the re-armament of the Army would be commenced when the gun was chosen. The gun was chosen ten months ago and no order had yet been given. The gun was tried, and the late Commander-in-Chief decided that no substantial improvement could be made.


said he saw this gun only a few weeks ago. It had only then been decided which of the competing guns should be adopted. The delay was due to the further investigation of the merits of the weapons by the committee who had been dealing with it.


said he knew that no blame attached to the right hon. Gentleman, but the fact was that whereas this gun was decided upon, in substance, ten months ago, constant delay, had occurred in regard to the matter of breech arrangements. The matter had been delayed and delayed, and he challenged denial when he said that the real reason for this had been that £3,250,000 was an inconvenient sum to spend. He knew that was not the view o the Secretary of State for War. It had been the view in the past, and he thought both sides of the House were with him when he asked that an absolute assurance should be given that this vital matter would be no longer delayed.

SIR A. HAYTER (Walsall)

said he wished to ask the Financial Secretary one or two Questions. On page 61 of the Estimates, Vote 9, under heading "G. Equipment Stores,"harness and saddlery for 1904–5 showed a decrease of £37,000, accoutrements a decrease of £90,000, and transport vehicles a decrease of £75,000, as compared with the amounts in the preceding year. Was there such a surplus of these articles at the close of the war as to warrant these reductions, or was it the intention to permanently diminish the quantities kept in store? The Public Accounts Committee had before them evidence that there was a great lack of saddles during the latter part of the war. The saddles sent out for the Yeomanry were described as unfit for any man to sit on, and others were bought up on the veldt almost, or anywhere in South Africa. The saddles which were sold had fetched almost ridiculous prices. He assumed from the amount of the appropriation-in-aid, which was very little different from that of last year, that the sales of stores in South Africa were very nearly concluded. That made him all the more anxious to know what was the cause of the diminutions in the amounts taken this year for the stores to which he had referred.


said he was astonished that the Secretary of State for War had denied that the new rifle had more recoil than the old one. It was the "kick" that the men felt, and many a man would not shoot, if he could possibly avoid doing so, on account of the "kick" It seemed to him to be a physical impossibility not to increase the recoil of the rifle if, with a lighter barrel, the same class of powder were used. He wished to have an explanation of that. The new rifle might even be very much worse in some respects than the old one. His experience had been that weapons were very nearly always enhanced in value as the length of the barrel was increased. There was greater distance between the sights of the weapon, and, therefore, it was easier to aim. On the other hand, when the length of the barrel was decreased that advantage was correspondingly lessened. The figures which had lately been published on the subject were against the theory of the Secretary of State for War that the "kick" was not greater. He believed that what had been done was to put six or eight years modern improvements into the new rifle, but they might make away with these improvements by taking five inches off the length of the rifle. The latest model of any rifle ought to be the best, but that did not always happen, because sometimes people were foolish. In this case it was possible that the shortening of the rifle might do away with the good effects of the improvements. Lord Roberts was entitled to his opinion, but for his own part he would sooner have the opinion of people who had experimented with the weapon than the opinion of the greatest general, even that of Napoleon or Wellington, as to the class of arms best suited for the service. He had the greatest distrust of the shortening of the rifle. It seemed to him a very extraordinary thing if the War Department was without the best type of quick-firing artillery. It was, however, a very hard thing to get. He differed from the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight, who said that quick-firing depended partly on loading and partly on the recoil. The loading had very little to do with it. Any gun could be loaded quickly. It was entirely a question of checking the recoil. It was no use spending all this money if they were not to get a really good rifle. He thought that 5,000 of the new rifles should be distributed not only in the Army, but among the Militia and Volunteers, so that the weapon could be thoroughly tested by impartial men.

COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)

said that as to the length of the barrel, when he was in the Rifle Brigade they were always told that the rifle with a long barrel was the best for aiming at long distances. He hoped the Secretary of State for War would not sacrifice efficiency in the new weapon in order to get a rifle which was convenient to be carried on horseback by cavalry and mounted infantry.


said, in regard to the Question put by the right hon. Member for Walsall, that there was no intention permanently to reduce the equipment stores. Hon. Gentlemen had drawn attention to the new guns and the new rifles. He was not qualified to speak of the new guns, but he thought that everybody admitted that there was a deficiency in the quick-firing guns.


The only deficiency in the new guns is that they are not there.


said that with reference to the new rifle, it must at once be admitted that the shortening of the barrel would probably increase the recoil. But he did not think that ought to cover the whole question, because it was equally obvious that there were compensating advantages, such as the lightness and handiness of the rifle. Experiments had been made in shooting, and in another place the figures had been given. At 500 yards the long rifle—i.e.,the old rifle, beat the short rifle by 05 per foot; at 600 yards the short rifle beat the long by 09 per foot; at 1,000 yards the long rifle beat the short by 17 per foot; at 1,500 yards the short rifle beat the long by 68 per foot; and at 1,700 yards the short rifle beat the long by 09 per foot. The firing was from the shoulder. He would put it no higher than this, that the shooting of the rifles appeared to be equal, and when to that was added the compensating advantages of the short rifle, he thought there was no doubt that the new rifle would be a very great improvement. The cost of the conversion of the old rifle was £2 5s. the cost of the new rifle being £3 10s. and the converted rifle was not inferior to the new rifle.

A question of principle had been raised in regard to the employment of the trade for the manufacture of rifles. It seemed that that was alleged sometimes as a labour, and sometimes as an economical, grievance. It was not a labour grievance at all, however, for it did not make the slightest difference to the body of British working men whether the wages paid for work done were paid in Enfield, Sheffield, Newcastle, or elsewhere. It made a difference, of course, to the workmen at Woolwich or Enfield; that, however, was not a labour grievance but a local grievance. Trouble had be- fallen that particular branch of labour with the reduction of employment that came at the end of the great inflation which prevailed during the South African War. It was not only at Enfield that there had been distress. He was told that at the present time there were 10,000 men fewer employed upon Government work in private firms than during the war. It was fair that these facts should be considered, when it was suggested that an injustice had been done to the locality at Enfield or at Woolwich, because the Government bad pursued a policy not of its own creation, but approved by its predecessors for many years past. It was not the case that in regard to rifles an undue proportion of the work had been given to private firms; on the contrary, the general principle had been departed from in favour of the factories. He was convinced that it was right and proper as a general principle that the Government should make use of private establishments which had spent large sums in laying down plant and machinery in reserve for emergencies and crises whenever they might arise. If the Government plant was to be kept fully employed by taking away from the trade their proportion of the work, then private firms would certainly reduce their plant to the level of their own requirements. But there must be a reserve, and in that case the Government would be forced to have an enormously increased reserve at Enfield and at Woolwich. He was not in a position to say exactly what proportion of rifles were given to private firms and what proportion were made in Government factories, but he thought it was about half and half. He had figure which showed that there had been a great reduction in the number of men engaged on Government work by private firms. One firm which employed 4,602 men on Government work during the war now only employed 3,209; another firm which had been employing 1,400 men now only employed 700; in a third there was a decrease from 2,700 men to 400 men. He had expressly indicated that this question could not be confined to rifles only. It was a question of policy and principle. Altogether, he was informed that 10,000 fewer men were now engaged in Government work than were employed during the war. It was fair that the fact should be considered when hon. Members suggested that an injustice was being done to certain localities because the Government had pursued a policy which had been approved by their predecessors.


said he accepted the policy as a whole; but, in his opinion, an undue proportion of rifle work had been given to private contractors.


said he was glad to know that the hon. Gentleman accepted the policy. The reduction of the men employed by private firms in Government work showed that the general principle had not been departed from. He was laying down a general principle, which he was convinced was sound, namely, that it was right and proper that the Government should make use of private contractors who had laid out very large sums in providing plant and machinery in order that they might be a reserve in periods of crises. It was suggested that it was an injustice to the localities that the Government should keep plant and machinery lying idle, while they gave orders to private firms. Let him press that contention to its logical conclusion. If the Government factories were to be fully employed, the private firms would reduce their machinery, and the Government would be, as a consequence, obliged to put in at Enfield and Woolwich an enormous reserve of plant and machinery and that would be a perpetuation of the evil.


asked what was the ratio of rifle work in money and rifles as between Government factories and private firms.


said he could not state that at the moment; but he thought he was right in saying that it was half and half.


asked if that was money or rifles.


said it was the value of the production.

COLONEL BOWLES (Middlesex, Enfield)

said that that was a very important question, because the rifle produced in the Government factories cost £3 10s. 6d., whereas the rifle produced by private firms cost £4 10s., which meant some 30 per cent. more.


said he did not mean money in that sense at all. He thought the hon. Member was calling attention to the conversion of the old rifles, not to new rifles.


asked if the conditions as to the time allowed were the same.


said the contract for the rifles would terminate at the end of 1905.


said that the hon. Gentleman had not answered the question put by his hon. friend the Member for the Isle of Wight in regard to the delay in providing the guns.


said that the Financial Secretary to the War Office suggested that the Government did not include rent or interest on money in the price of the rifle manufactured by the Government. It was not quite fair to put it in that way, because in all those accounts a certain amount had been allowed for all such charges. In considering this matter, the House, in order to be perfectly fair as between the Government factories and private firms, should understand what the cost of the rifles really was. He thought that the price now given to the trade was excessive. He agreed that a large proportion of the work should be given to the trade, as it both stimulated the Government factories and the trade; but it was right that the country should have some guidance as to the price that was being paid; and he hoped that the Government factories would be given an opportunity of producing their figures as well as private firms.

SIR CARNE RASCH (Essex, Chelmsford)

said that, as an old musketry instructor, he did not think that there was much fault to be found with the new rifle. It was better balanced, was easier to handle, and had a lower trajectory.

He did not understand the objection of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean to the retubing of the old guns. That was really a matter of economy. He should like to refer to the weight of the cavalry saddles, bridles, and swords. He could not conceive any worse or more useless weapon than the cavalry sword. It was badly balanced; it was heavy where it should be light, and light where it should be heavy. He would prefer to fight a man with a broomstick rather than with such a weapon. He could not understand why the saddles and bridles were made so enormously and ridiculously heavy. They were, it was true, better than they used to be; but that was not saying much. The bridles had pounds of steel which were quite unnecessary; and that also applied to the saddles. It was said that the heavier they were the longer they would last. That was perfectly true; but if it were carried to its logical conclusion, they might be made heavier and heavier until they would last forever, but then an elephant would be required to carry them. That was really no argument at all. Although the weight had been considerably reduced, yet, at present, a dragoon rode at eighteen stone, and a hussar, who was supposed to be a light cavalry man, at fourteen stone. There was an immense amount of hide-bound red tape which prevented the weight being reduced. The obvious thing was that the kit and the cooking tins should not be carried on the horse. They should be carried on squadron carts. If that were done the cavalry would be infinitely more mobile; and he ventured to suggest to the mind of the intelligent Secretary of State for War that that would make the cavalry more useful.