- 2. "That a sum, not exceeding £4,060,000, be granted to His Majesty,
639 to defray the Charge for Supplies and Clothing, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1908."
- (3)"That a sum, not exceeding £1,671,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge for Armaments and Engineer Stores, including Technical Committees, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1908."
- (4)"That a sum, not exceeding £2,436,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge for Barrack Construction, for Purchases of Land, and for.Works, Buildings, and Repairs at Home and Abroad (including Staff in connection therewith), which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1908."
§ First Resolution read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ MR. BOWLES (Lambeth, Norwood)
moved that the debate upon the Motion be adjourned. He said that they had had only five or six hours notice that this very important matter was to be brought on. The subject, in which a great many hon. Members in all quarters of the House took a great interest, was a matter of much perplexity, and it seemed to him an altogether unwarrantable proceeding that the Government, practically without notice, should bring forward at the last moment so important a Vote. He could not conceive why the House of Commons should have been so treated; he was certain there were a great many Members who desired to speak upon the subject but who, ignorant of the fact that it was to be the first Order of the day, were not present.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned." — (MR. Bowles.)
THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Sir H. CAMPBELL-BAN HERMAN, Stirling Burghs)
replied that the hon. Gentleman had not 640 perhaps been informed, but he saw no particular reason why he should be. It was impossible for the House to expect that they could communicate such minute details to every Member of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition had been told two days previously that this Vote would be the first to be taken that day unless it could be arranged for it to be taken the previous night, so that the Colonial Vote could be the first Order.
§ Sir A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somersetshire, Wellington)
said that the first notice he had of the matter was given him at 11 o'clock on Wednesday night by the Junior Lord of the Treasury, and obviously it was impossible for him to inform his friends that it was coming on as the first Order that day. He quite understood why the Government had brought it, forward; they wanted the money and were bound to get it somehow. No doubt his friends had asked for the Colonial Vote for some time past, as they were anxious to discuss important matters connected with it, and it was very hard that it should be put off in favour of such questions as Woolwich Arsenal, which might occupy the greater part of the afternoon. It was impossible to deal with important subjects like this at a moment's notice.
§ *MR. J. A. PEASE (Essex, Saffron Walden)
reminded the right hon. Gentleman that two days ago he had suggested to him in his room that an arrangement might be made that the Colonial Vote should be taken first on Thursday by allowing the report of these Votes to be got through on Wednesday. The suggestion was that the Third Reading of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill should be concluded in time to enable the two Report Stages to be taken on the Wednesday evening, and thus enable the Colonial Vote to be considered first on the Thursday. The Opposition had therefore ample notice that the Report Stages were intended to be taken to-day, and the right hon. Member undertook to consider the suggestion.
§ Sir A. ACLAND-HOOD
said that it was true that the hon. Gentleman came to him. The Whips frequently came to him about one of two matters —either 641 that they should rise early and go home to dinner, or that they should bring on contentious business after eleven o'clock at night. He always refused to have anything to do with the requests in his official capacity, saying that he always referred such questions to his leader. He was sure that the hon. Gentleman
§ would agree with him that he gave no pledge on the subject under discussion, but said he would refer the matter to his leader.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes, 62; Noes, 239. (Division List No. 247.)643
|Acland-Hood.Rt Hn.Sir Alex F.||Craig.Captain James(Down,E.)||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Craik, Sir Henry||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Dalrymple, Viscount||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
|Balfour,Rt HnA.J(City Lond.)||Duncan, Robert(Lanark,Govan||Parker.Sir Gilbert(Gravesend)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fell, Arthur||Pease,Herbert Pike( Darlington|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Fletcher, J. S.||Percy, Earl|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Forster, Henry William||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Gretton, John||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Hamilton, Marquess of||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Smith,Abel H.(Hertford,East)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Heaton, John Henniker||Starkey, John R.|
|Cavendish, Rt.Hon.Victor CW.||Helmsley, Viscount||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hervey,F.W.F(Bury S.Edm'ds||Thomson, W. Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury)||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Chamberlain,RtHn.J.A.(Worc.||Hills, J. W.||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Kenyon-Slaney,Rt.Hon. Col.W||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid.)|
|Clark,George Smith(Belfast,N.||Kimber, Sir Henry||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Lee,Arthur H(Hants.,Fareham||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart.|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Lockwood,Rt.Hn.Lt.-Col.A.R.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, N.)||Long,Rt.Hn Walter(Dublin,S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —Mr. Bowles and Viscount Turnour.|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Craig,Charles Curtis(Antrim,S.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Agnew, George William||Causton.Rt Hn. RichardKnight||Freeman-Thomas, Freeman|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Gill, A. H.|
|Ambrose, Robert||Cheetham, John Frederick||Ginnell, L.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Gladstone,Rt. Hn.HerberJohn|
|Asquith,Rt.Hn Herbert Henry||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Goddard, Daniel Ford|
|Baker,Joseph A.(Finsbury,E.)||Cleland, J. W.||Gooch, George Peabody|
|Baring.Godfrey( Isle of Wight)||Clough, William||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)|
|Barker, John||Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Gulland, John W.|
|Beale, W. P.||Cooper, G. J.||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton|
|Beauchamp, E.||Corbett,CH(Sussex,E Grinst'd||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.|
|Bell, Richard||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Cox, Harold||Hart-Davies, T.|
|Belloc, Hilaire JosephPeter R.||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)|
|Benn,W.(T'w'r Hamlets.S.Geo.||Crombie, John William||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Bennett, E N.||Crooks, William||Helme, Norval Watson|
|Billson, Alfred||Crosfield, A. H.||Henderson, Arthur Durham)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Herbert Colonel Ivor(Mon.,S.)|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)|
|Brace, William||Delany, William||Higham, John Sharp|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Hobart, Sir Robert|
|Branch, James||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.|
|Brigg, John||Dickinson,W.H.(St. Pancras,N||Hodge, John|
|Bright, J. A.||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Hogan, Michael|
|Brooke, Stopford||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Brunner,J. F. L. (Lanes.,Leigh)||Duncan, C.(Barrow-in-Furness)||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Edwards, Frank (Radnor)||Idris, T. H. W.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Elibank, Master of||Illingworth, Percy H.|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Erskine, David C.||Jacoby, Sir James Alfred|
|Buxton, Rt. Hn.Sydney Charles||Everett, R. Lacey||Jardine, Sir J.|
|Byles, William Pollard||Fenwick, Charles||Johnson, John (Gateshead)|
|Cameron, Robert||Ferguson, R. C. Munro||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Findlay, Alexander||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor(Swansea|
|Jones, William(Carnarvonshire||Nuttall, Harry||Stanley.Hn. A.Lyulph(Chesh)|
|Jowett, F. W.||O'Connor,James(Wicklow, W.)||Steadman, W. C.|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Kelly,James( Roscommon, N||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Kearley, Hudson E.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Stuart, James (Sunderland)|
|Laidlaw, Robert||Paulton, James Mellor||Summerbell, T.|
|Lamont, Norman||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Sutherland!, J. E.|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Lea, Hugh Cecil(St.Pancras,E.||Pirie, Duncan V.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Leese, SirJosephF.(Accrington)||Price, C.E.(Edinburgh,Central)||Taylor, Theodore C.(Radcliffe)|
|Lehmann, R. C.||Price,Robert John(Norfolk,E.)||Tennant,Sir Edward(Salisbury|
|Lever,A. Levy (Essex, Harwich||Priestley,W;E.B.(Bradford, E.)||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Pullar, Sir Robert||Thomas, Sir A.(Glamorgan,E.)|
|Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Radford, G. H.||Thomas, David Alfred(Merthyr|
|Lough, Thomas||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Thorne, William|
|Lundon, W.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'||Toulmin, George|
|Lupton, Arnold||Rees, J. D.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lynch, H. B.||Rendall, Athelstan||Verney, F. W.|
|Mackarness, Frederic C.||Renton, Major Leslie||Vivian, Henry|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Richards, Thomas(W.Monm'th||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|Macpherson, J. T.||Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n||Walters, John Tudor|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.||Richardson, A.||Walton, Sir John L.(Leeds,S.)|
|MacVeigh,Charles(Donegal, E.)||Ridsdale, E. A.||Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent|
|M'Callum, John M.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Wardle, George J.|
|M'Crae, George||Robertson,Rt. Hn. E. (Dundee)||Waring, Walter|
|M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Robertson,Sir G Scott (Bradf'rd')||Wason, Eugene(Clackmannan)|
|M'Killop, W.||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Wason,John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Roe, Sir Thomas||Watt, Henry A.|
|M'Micking, Major G.||Rose, Charles Day||Weir, James Galloway|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Rowlands, J.||Whitbread, Howard|
|Marnham, F. J.||Runciman, Walter||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Russell, T. W.||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Massie, J.||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||White, Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Masterman, C. F. G.||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Meagher, Michael||Scott,A.H.(Ashton under Lyne||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Menzies, Walter||Sears, J. E.||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Seddon, J.||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Mooney, J. J.||Seely, Major J. B.||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Shackleton, David James||Williamson, A.|
|Morse, L. L.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Murray, James||Shipman, Dr. John G.||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Nicholls, George||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John||Winfrey, R.|
|Nicholson, Charles N.(Doncast'r||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Nolan, Joseph||Snowden, P.|
|Norman, Sir Henry||Soames, Arthur Wellesley||TELLERS FOR THE NOES —Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Soaress, Ernest J.|
|Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Spicer, Sir Albert|
Third Resolution read a second time.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Sir F. BANBURY (City of London)
said the right hon. Gentleman would remember that some weeks ago he put a question to him in regard to contracts for beer supplied to the Royal Navy, and the right hon. Gentleman informed him that the contract had been given to the lowest tenderers, viz., Messrs. Meux & Co. He then asked if the First Lord of the Admiralty was interested in Messrs. Meux & Co.'s undertaking, and the right hon. Gentleman said that that was not a proper question to put. As he was not perfectly certain on the matter he asked no further Question, but since then he had ascertained that the noble Lord was really interested in this -firm, and that the Question he 644 put to the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly justified. He did not want to raise any question of bad faith, but he would ask whether the right hon. Gentleman thought it wise that a firm in which the head of the Admiralty was interested should be allowed to tender for Admiralty contracts.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY (MR. Edmund Robertson, Dundee)
was understood to say that he did not know that the First Lord of the Admiralty was a shareholder in this particular company. It was a small matter in proportion to the Vote, but he would answer the question at once.
§ [Cries of: "We cannot hear a word."645
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I am sorry I have not made myself heard, but I will do my best. I accept the statement that my noble friend Lord Tweed-mouth is interested as a shareholder in that particular company, and that company has been successful in obtaining the contract, for the supply of beer. I do not see any reason why, if the First Lord in a shareholder in the company, it should preclude the company from receiving the contract. The First Lord has nothing to do with the contracts; the responsibility for them rests with one of the heads of the Department. At this point I may be allowed to say that, having replied to the question of the hon. Baronet, this does notarise upon the Vote at all. There is no item for beer in the Vote at all, and it is wholly out of order, though I have given this explanation in answer to the question of the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
I take some interest in the question which has been raised by the hon. Baronet, because in 1900 I well remember that a long and bitter attack was directed especially against a right hon. relative of my own, and against myself, in connection with companies in which we were shareholders. On that occasion a Motion was made which received the support of not absolutely the whole, but nearly all the then Opposition, including the Secretary of State for War, who not merely voted but spoke in favour of it, and who laid down that it was the duty of a Minister of the Crown, who was in any way interested in a company contracting with the Government, to declare his interest to the Crown before accepting office. Now that the then Opposition have had an opportunity of putting their principles into practice, have they exacted the declaration which they then demanded, and, if that declaration has been exacted, how is it that the Financial Member of the Board of Admiralty, who is personally responsible for this contract, has not the information which, in the opinion of his Government, as declared in their Opposition days, is material to the decision upon a contract? I had no knowledge that this question would be raised, or I would have had ready to my hand the speech which the 646 Secretary for War made upon that occasion, and which I am not likely to forget. The Secretary for War went beyond the Resolution, and declared that it was improper for any Minister to be interested, not merely as a director, but as a shareholder, in a contract with a Government Department. I thought the Secretary of State's doctrine absurd at the time, and I thought it was used as a weapon against political opponents — a weapon which any gentleman ought to be. ashamed to employ. I know that now they are responsible they have cast aside the views which they then expressed, and gone back to the principle which they then denounced, and which, I think, is not open to the animadversions they then passed upon it. For my part, I think it would be absurd to exclude this company from this contract merely because the First Lord, from a long family connection I believe, or at any rate for many years, has had some interest in the company, and I need not assert that nothing I have said is to be treated as in any way impugning the conduct of either the First Lord or the right hon. Gentleman opposite or his advisers at the Admiralty. I believe them all to be above suspicion, but I call attention to the fact that now right hon. Gentlemen opposite have the opportunity of carrying out the principles which for the purpose of attacking their political opponents they have professed in the past, they do not do so, but that, having served the dirty purpose for which it was needed at that time, the principle is now laid on the shelf.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. HALDANE, Haddington)
The recollection of past emotions has caused the right hon. Gentleman wholly to forget the real point which was raised at that time, and wholly to overlook the fact that there is not one penny for beer in the whole of this Vote, so that a discussion on the general principle becomes quite irrelevant. On the point that has been raised, let me remind the House what was the doctrine we laid down at that time, or which we tried to lay down, and what I think is a very right and proper doctrine to lay down. It was not, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, that anybody who is a shareholder. 647 in a company would by that fact be precluded from holding office if that company contracted with the Government. Obviously a person may hold preference shares in the London and North Western Railway Company as a trustee, or in some other capacity, and know nothing of what is going on. What we did lay down is a doctrine very different from that.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Allow me to read the words which the Secretary for War used in 1900—The criticism we make is that these things produce unrest and uneasiness in the public mind, and they afford a bad example. [An HON. MEMBER: What things?] The things are the holding of shares, or being indirectly interested in the shares of companies which contract with the Government, "†
§ MR. HALDANE
Will the right hon. Gentleman look at the context and see what the companies were? They were small private companies, which for purposes of convenience had been turned from private partnerships into, not public companies, but private companies. [An HON. MEMBER: Meux's is a private company.] The shares in Meux's are issued to the public. ["No, no!"]
§ SIR F. BANBURY
I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman is in error. The ordinary shares in Meux's were never issued to the public; all that was issued to the public were the debentures.
§ MR. HALDANE
I only speak from the most vague knowledge. The private ordinary shares in Meux's are far behind the enormous mass of shares issued to the public, and I believe that Meux's ordinary shares have not paid any profit for many years past. I believe that Meux's have not paid a farthing on ordinary shares for years and years past. [An HON. MEMBER: "What difference does that make?"] That makes all the difference. A private partnership may for purposes of convenience be turned into a joint stock company. Nobody has at any time laid down that the mere fact of somebody happening to hold shares in the London & North Western Railway Company, for instance, prevents† See (4) Debates, lxxxviii, 453648 his contracting for the conveyance of troops. Dealing with these private companies which had taken over private partnerships, what I did say was that the connection of a Minister with one of these companies was likely to create unrest and uneasiness in the public mind. To that I still adhere.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I have no wish to continue this controversy, but with the leave of the House, I would like to show that what the right hon. Gentleman states was not the question raised. One of the companies might come under his description, but I should not admit its accuracy even in that case. But none of the other companies in which our interest was challenged, even my holding shares as a trustee for others without any personal benefit, in Kynoch's for instance, have the smallest resemblance to the imaginary picture which the right hon. Gentleman has drawn, nor are they compatible with the words I have quoted.
§ VISCOUNT TURNOUR (Sussex, Horsham)
asked why the Secretary to the Admiralty was not acquainted with the facts connected with the contract in question. The right hon. Gentleman had said he was unaware that the First Lord held shares in the company, and though it was three weeks since the incident was first brought to notice the Secretary to the Admiralty was still without knowledge on the point. He would not comment upon the speech of the Secretary for War, but he was bound to say that that was a red-letter day in the history of His Majesty's Government. More unfortunate speeches than those of the Secretary for War and the Secretary to the Admiralty had never been made in that House, and they would rest in the memory of the public, who, in future, would be able to estimate at their proper value the speeches which those right hon. Gentlemen made in Opposition, in which position they would be again very shortly.
§ MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
said the Secretary for War had informed them that what differentiated the case now under discussion from the cases 649 referred to by the right hon. Member for East Worcestershire, was that the latter were practically private companies which, for purposes of convenience, had been turned from private partnerships into limited liability companies. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out that in the case of Meux's the ordinary shares had not made a penny for a considerable number of years. He pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House that the contract in question was a fairly large one, and it was quite conceivable that it might make all the difference between a dividend and no dividend on the ordinary shares of the company. No one accused the First Lord of the Admiralty of knowing anything about the matter but the principle was exactly the same as in the cases referred to by the right hon. Member for East Worcestershire.
§ LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
said that if they were to have a defence he trusted they would have something more logical and satisfactory than the observations which the Secretary for War had thought it right to make. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the attack was made in the last Parliament on the right hon. Member for East Worcestershire because they were private companies, and that that made the whole difference. What difference did it make? The only difference was this: if it could be shown that a very large interest was held in those companies, then it might be said that those in Ministerial positions who held it might be under some kind of suspicion, because their pecuniary interest in the company was so large. The question whether the company was originally a private partnership did not appear to him to have any bearing at all. The whole question was what was the amount of their interest. He did not make any attack on the First Lord in connection with the matter. He had not the slightest wish to join in any hue and cry against him. But they must take facts as they were. Here was a company of which, he was informed, the shares had never been issued to the public, and he was told that the noble Lord himself —he might be wrong —held half the ordinary shares of the company — 2,500 out of 5,000. He could scarcely 650 conceive a greater pecuniary interest in a transaction between the Government and a company of that kind. He could not see the least difference, from that point of view, between that and a private company. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say —"Oh, yes; it makes a great difference; this company has paid no dividend on the ordinary shares." He could not see what difference that made, except that the shareholders might be even keener to get a profitable contract. He expressly declined to make any attack on the noble Lord; he was quite sure that he had not used his position to influence the Government to make a contract with this company rather than any other; but the incident was an illustration of the reckless way in which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite used their privileges as Members of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman had said —The standard of the previous Government was a very different standard from that of this Government. I know a case in which a Minister on accepting office sold out investments at great sacrifice.Had that really been followed up by the present Government?
§ Lord R. CECIL
said that that statement showed the confusion of thought in the minds of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The Members of the late Government who were attacked did not hold directorships either.
§ MR. HALDANE
I do not wish to revive old controversies, but I would point out that it is a question of the controlling interest in private companies, an interest which in the eyes of the public may probably be held to give those who possess the interest a certain amount of control.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said that that did not seem to him in any way material; it might or might not be so, but the only objection which could be 651 raised to members of the Government holding an interest or a directorship in a company was that their pecuniary interest might be set in opposition to their public duty. That was the whole point; there was nothing else in it. Which was the greater —the pecuniary interest of a director who held a qualifying interest in a company, or the interest of a gentleman who held half the ordinary shares? If it were objectionable for a director to hold office in a Government, it was far more objectionable if the gentleman held half the ordinary shares and occupied an office in the Government which made contracts with the company. He ventured to think that the matter, by reason of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, had become very serious and was one which the House ought carefully to consider.
§ MR. FORSTER (Kent, Sevenoaks)
said the right hon. Gentleman had stated that the question at issue in the last Parliament was whether or not Ministers of the Crown should hold a controlling interest in private companies, and that that was condemned. He would like to read to him the subject matter of the debate. The following was the Resolution moved as an Amendment to the Address by the right hon. Gentleman who was now President of the Board of Trade: —We humbly beg to represent to your Majesty that Ministers of the Crown and Members of either House of Parliament holding subordinate offices in any public department ought to have no interest direct or indirect in any firm or company competing for contracts with the Crown, unless the nature and extent of such interest be first declared, or your Majesty shall have sanctioned the maintenance thereof, and when necessary shall have directed such precautions to be taken as may adequately prevent any influence or favouritism in the allocation of such contracts.That was what the Resolution said. He would also remind the right hon. Gentleman of what he had said in addition to the passages quoted by the right hon. Member for East Worcestershire: —The criticism we make is that these things produce unrest and uneasiness in the public mind, and are, therefore, a bad example. The things are the holding of shares or being indirectly interested in the shares of a company which contracts with the Government. …What is the real interest of the public in the matter? It is that the Ministry should by 652 their conduct be free from all misconception or suspicion in the public mind." †That was the question at issue, and he maintained that at any rate the attitude of the members of His Majesty's Government now was strangely inconsistent with their attitude at the time they were in Opposition.
§ *MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)
said he would like to point out to the Secretary of State for War an inaccuracy in his statement. He saw by the Stock Exchange Intelligencer that Meux's ordinary shares paid interest in 1903. As to the voting power it was as follows: — One vote for every ordinary share and one for every ten Preference Shares. There were 5,000 ordinary shares of £100 each, and 50,000 Preference shares of £10 each; so that the ordinary shares, which he believed were held by two persons, one. of them the First Lord of the Admiralty, had equal voting and controlling power with all the rest of the shareholders put together. He believed that entirely disproved the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's statement as to the First Lord of the Admiralty not having a voting or controlling power.
§ MR. ARTHUR LEE (Hampshire, Fareham)
said he wished to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty a direct question. His hon. friend had read the Resolution which had been endorsed and supported by the Members of the present Front Bench; and he would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether in this specific instance Lord Tweedmouth did make to him or to the other officials concerned in considering the contract before the contract was accepted such a declaration as was referred to in the Resolution, and, if so, what were the precautions taken by the right hon. Gentleman in the discharge of his duties. An answer to that question would clear up the point which was in doubt; and, in putting it, he wished to emphasise what had been said by his hon. friend behind him that he had not the slightest desire to impute to Lord Tweedmouth any impropriety in the matter. He thought the right hon. Gentleman must† See (4) Debates., lxxxviii, 454.653 admit that they on that side of the House were thoroughly justified in pressing this matter on the attention of the Government, because the subject was certainly burnt into his mind from the fact that on the very first day he entered the House he had the opportunity of hearing these attacks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, and brought home to him that afternoon. He thought that on this occasion the chicken had come home to roost.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I will answer the specific question as to whether the First Lord of the Admiralty made any declaration to me. ["To the Crown."] A declaration to me, I think that was the question. No declaration as far as I can remember, in fact no declaration, was made to me. I had no knowledge of Lord Tweedmouth's connection with this company at all, any more than Lord Tweedmouth had knowledge that this particular company was competing for the contract. I want to make it clear now that this company tendered in the ordinary way for the Army contract —it has nothing to do with the Navy at all —and the lowest tender was accepted in the usual way. Meux's was the lowest tender. The connection of Lord Tweed-mouth with Meux's was then unknown to me. No declaration was made to me, and I am pretty safe in saying that no declaration was made to the Crown.
§ MR. HALDANE
The right hon. Gentleman opposite has referred to what I said on a former occasion. I have nothing to retract from what I said then. The company referred to in the previous debate was a private company in which a Minister had an interest. I said then, and I say now, that nobody in the House suggested that the Minister concerned was acting from any improper motive.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The, right hon. Gentleman professes to make a statement of fact as to what took place in the previous debate. He must read the debate again, as his recollection is inadequate. The only company concerned in the former debate was a company in which I was a shareholder and my right. hon. relative was not, but the debate was not confined to that company. Every in- 654 vestment which I held, and which could be traced, was brought in. It is not correct to say that the gravamen of the charge then turned upon the fact that the particular company was a private company. The attacks were just as strong in regard to companies which were not private companies, and where there was not the shadow of a pretence of our having a controlling interest. As a matter of fact, neither my right hon. relative nor I had a controlling interest in the companies mentioned, or anything like the interest which the First Lord of the Admiralty has in Meux's brewery.
§ MR. LEVERTON HARRIS (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
After the opinions expressed by right hon. Gentlemen when in Opposition, may I ask whether in future this declaration will be insisted upon?
§ MR. SUMMERBELL (Sunderland)
said a large number of employees had complained of the bad ventilation of the. clothing factory at Pimlico. He wished to know whether the attention of the Secretary of State for War had been drawn to that matter, and, if so, whether any steps would be taken to improve the ventilation. There was also some dissatisfaction felt in regard to the wages paid. The employees were piece-workers, and their grievance was one which it was difficult to deal with on the floor of the House. The right hon. Gentleman had kindly promised to receive a deputation from the employees in order to have the matter discussed. Could the right hon. Gentleman state when the deputation would be received?
§ MR. HALDANE
said there was no doubt that the percentage of carbon in the air of the factory was not satisfactory, and the matter was receiving attention. As to the question of wages, that would be a subject of representation. No doubt the hon. Member would bring his views on the matter before the War Office.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
thought there 655 should be a certain amount of freedom of access on the part of the employees to the political heads of departments, or some one delegated by them, in regard to complaints. In this case there was a suspicion that the military heads did not understand trade union matters. On previous occasions happy results had been obtained by Lord Stanley and Mr. Brodrick through meeting the representatives of the employees.
§ MR. JOYCE (Limerick)
said that when the question of inviting tenders for clothing was being discussed the right of tender should be granted by the War Office to any company who could comply with the conditions. He reminded the Secretary of State that a shirt factory had been started at Limerick by a company whose object was more philanthropic than financial. They had no desire to make any profit out of the factory; they had gone to a good deal of expense, and they were trying to provide work for poor girls who would otherwise be idle. He thought it was not too much to ask that a portion of the money expended by the War Office should be given for work done at such factories. He did not. care where they were. Good work was turned out at the Limerick factory, the sanitary conditions of the place were of the best kind, and there was no chance of infectious disease being spread through the clothing made there as might be the case when clothing was made in the sweating dens of the poor. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it was possible to give the Limerick factory a contract.
§ MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider the propriety of buying not only in Ireland, but also in Wales. Excellent flannels, tweeds, and blankets were made in Montgomeryshire, and it would be a good thing. for the locality if purchases for the Army could be made by the War Office of the articles manufactured there. He could not understand way the obligation to buy in Wales should be less than the obligation to buy in England, Scotland, and Ireland.
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
said that under the new Army 656 scheme a walking out-dress was to be supplied by the Government at such an extraordinarily small cost that either the quality of the material must be bad, or the conditions under which the dress was produced must be undesirable. He did not know precisely the cost of the dress, but it was to be something like 30s. It that was to be the cost, it raised a question as to the conditions under which the work would be done.
§ MR. HALDANE
said it was the business of the associations to provide the clothing, and they were allowed considerable latitude in the matter. He did not know where the clothing was got. The fears expressed by the noble Lord were not well founded, because the Pimlico scale was on the whole rather high. With regard to the appeals of the hon. Members for Limerick and the Montgomery Boroughs, he could only say that the War Office had the most benevolent intentions towards Ireland and Wales.
§ *MR. McCRAE (Edinburgh, E.)
said that in case there should be some misapprehension in regard to the cost of the walking-out dress he wished to state that having made specific inquiry, he found that in Scotland the estimated cost of a Highland doublet, trews, and Glengarry bonnet was £1 12s. 3½d.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE
said that the Secretary for State of War had told them that an inquiry was being made as to some of the properties which were desirable in a rifle. What he wanted to know was whether that inquiry was limited or all-embracing. He had put an unstarred Question to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the weakness of the breach action of our rifle since the Martini-Henry rifle had been discarded from use in the Regular Army, and his Answer was an 657 admission that its strength was weaker than that of the French and German rifles. He did not want to make an unduly strong case. Formerly the Swiss rifle was much simpler and cheaper than our own, and had some of the qualities in which our rifles were wanting. The Swiss had now a more complicated and a dearer rifle. He had asked a high authority in Switzerland how that change had come about, and his answer was that it was owing to target-shooting. They were prevented for a time from having the best military rifle because of the desire of the Swiss forces to make bull's eyes at target practice. Was not that so in this country? The German Government had now got a new rifle which had a much flatter trajectory and a much higher muzzle velocity. They had a breach action which stood a very high explosive force, and were able to use a point-blank sight up to 800 metres, which was of overwhelming importance in a military rifle. Another factor which militated against the adoption of the improved rifle was that we were frequently engaged in war with savages and we were apt to adopt a rifle which would be of less use against continental armies. What added to our inferiority was that we had adopted the short rifle for all arms.
§ *MR. BELLAIRS (Lynn Regis)
said, in reference to the question of the service rifle, that the War Office had adopted the short rifle, and in order to get a high velocity they must have a high pressure. If they attempted to use a low pressure the barrel was not long enough. With a slow-burning powder with that short barrel the powder would not all be consumed in the barrel, and even now they had a brilliant flash when firing the short rifle, a flash which at dusk revealed the position of the firing party. They would therefore be driven to adopt a high pressure, but their bolt action would not stand more than from seventeen to twenty tons of pressure. With the German rifle the pressure ran up to twenty-three tons, which achieved a very high muzzle velocity of 2,800 feet per second, whereas our muzzle velocity was only 2,060 feet per second. 658 The result was that the German Army could use a fixed sight up to nearly 900 yards. That was the case with all other continental armies except Russia, while we could only use fixed sights up to 500 yards. Even Portugal was far ahead of us. The German rifle had also a much greater penetrating power against gun shields because the bullets were lighter. He noticed that the Russians attributed the Japanese victories to the fact that the Japanese had the advantage of 300 feet of velocity in their rifles over the Russian rifles. Our troops were very few, as everybody knew, and it was, therefore, incumbent on the Government to give them the very best weapons that money could buy. Unfortunately in this House the temper in favour of economy was very strong, and Ministers might be unduly influenced by considerations of economy. He wanted some explanation in regard to the reported failure of the lyddite shells which had been rejected from Woolwich, and in regard to the cartridge cases which were very much at fault and had produced "blow-backs" in the rifles. Then there was the point, to which the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean had referred, as to the bullet adopted on account of the wars we were engaged in with savage people. There had been an undue tendency on the part of the Committee which adopted the copper bullet to stick to the old-fashioned bullet which the Germans had discarded for a long time. The steel envelope bullet which the German Army used owing to the velocity was able to penetrate gun shields, but we could not adopt high velocity owing to the metallic stripping in the barrel.; He ventured to forecast that we should be driven to adopt a light bullet with a steel envelope. He understood that new sights had been adopted graduated for a; muzzle velocity of 2,000 feet a second. That was unfortunately a retrograde step. He thought that the War Office would be bound to adopt a higher muzzle velocity as other nations had done long ago. He had noticed in that day's newspapers that the field-gun sights were giving trouble, and that the glass tubes of the clinometer sights broke immediately the gun was fired. All these 659 things meant a considerable increase of expenditure to remedy. As he had pointed out on the cordite debate, the combined reduction in the Army and Navy on the Vote for projectiles and ammunition amounted to £ 651,000, or 31 per cent. of the Vote for the previous year, which in itself marked a large falling off from 1905–6. As to cordite the Secretary of State had been unduly optimistic. The right hon. Gentleman stated very emphatically that —Mercuric chloride did not in any way affect cordite. It did not make it more dangerous. What it did do was to mask the use of the, heat test.But the evidence that he had was that mercuric chloride might lead to deterioration of the cordite if it were stored for a long time. Then the right hon. Gentleman stated that he had got hold of a test which would allay all anxiety as to the presence of mercuric chloride in the cordite, and that that test was to be applied everywhere where cordite was to be found. He asked if that was the case where officers of the Army and Navy did their work in magazines abroad both afloat and ashore. His information was that there was no such extension of the heat test as would get over the presence of mercuric chloride. The efficacy of the silver cup test, which was the latest idea, could only be proved after lengthy investigation, and even so it could not be applied wherever the cordite was stored. It took too long and required much skill and accessories. It might be applied at Woolwich, but it could not be applied on the spot — say, either on land at Hong Kong or on board ship at sea. In that case there was a great deal of anxiety because there were tons of untested cordite both ashore and afloat. The right hon. Gentleman had said that tests were being carried out wherever there was cordite. The Committee was thus misled, and only twenty-five showed dissatisfaction in the division lobbies. There was a considerable danger of being too optimistic on the question. He found in the text-book on ammunition published in 1904 that it was laid down that —After ten years use cordite has proved itself a thoroughly stable explosive both chemically and ballistically, in all climates and under 660 all conditions of service. …The experience of some years has proved that these powders can stand severe climatic conditions without showing signs of deterioration and without their ballistic qualities being impaired.A report of that kind showed that officers and experts in the Army could be unduly optimistic, and he was not sure that if they had not held those optimistic views and had carried out the test more frequently they would not have avoided the explosions which had occurred in our land magazines and on our ships. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give them a reassuring statement and not exaggerate what could be done.
§ *MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)
wished to say a word or two about the rifles used by the Volunteer Force, and also to refer to what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean on the subject of the German rifle. The German rifle, it was true, fired a very light bullet, but he believed he was right in saying that in spite of its extreme lightness that bullet had a greater stopping power than the heavier and more solid bullet which we used. Ho believed the advantage was brought about more by the shape than by anything else. He would like to point out one further defect of the short rifle, and that was the extreme weakness of the clip loading outrigger, which was of such a nature that it would never stand active service. He had handled a rifle with one of these attachments for a very short time, and with great care, but the outrigger had even under such conditions become loose, and from his experience he was sure the troops would not be able to get the full use of them. It had been suggested that high scoring at target practice had a good deal to do with the selection of the present rifle, but our short rifle was so inaccurate directly one got beyond 500 yards that it was a general matter of complaint. He made inquiries at Bisley last year of experts who had been in the; habit of using the short rifle, and he remarked that they were not using it. They said they did not do so because it was not accurate enough for them. They said it would be useful for this or that purpose, but it was of no use for accurate target firing. He thought that was a very strong argument against the shortness of the rifle. 661 Dealing with the question of the conversion of the long Lee-Enfield rifle for the use of the Volunteers, in reply to Questions the right hon. Gentleman had said that the converted rifle would not be adjusted with a back sight with a screw adjustment for elevation and wind gauge. He thought that was a great mistake. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman once more to give the best possible back sight on the rifles of the Volunteers. He did not think the question of economy should enter into the matter, because he gathered that in any case the War Office were going to put on a new back sight before the issue of rifles to the Volunteers. What he said was: "Let it be a good one." In January, 1900, a Committee was appointed to inquire into matters connected with small arms, and that Committee ordered an experiment to be made with a thousand of the short rifles which were to be issued to the troops; 500 had the old-fashioned slide and 500 the screw adjustment. The test was an absolute one after a long trial, and the decision come to by the experts was that the back sight which could be fixed to the short rifles with a screw adjustment was a better sight than the long Lee-Enfield sight, it being stronger. The old sight was therefore rejected and the new one accepted. The conclusion come to was that the back sight could be fixed on the short rifles with a screw attachment and was a better sight than that attached to the long Lee-Enfield. Yet in spite of that the rifles to be supplied to the Volunteer Force were to have applied to them the old-fashioned sight without this screw adjustment. He earnestly appealed on behalf of the Auxiliary Forces to the right hon. Gentleman to consider this matter before it was too late. The fact that the matter was still under the consideration of the War Office showed that it was not too late to make a change in the right direction. He also wished to call the attention of the Secretary for War to another serious matter. He had heard rumours from Germany, where they seemed to know all about it, as to the effect of the high explosives we used upon our rifles. He had also heard rumours as to the depletion of the stores of ammunition in this country. He hoped the right hon. 662 Gentleman would take an opportunity of reassuring the country upon these questions or of taking the House into his confidence. It was of grave consequence that they should not be kept in ignorance of matters about which these rumours reached them from foreign countries who seemed to have more accurate information than we had ourselves.
§ *MR. LEVERTON HARRIS (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)
called attention to certain discharges at Woolwich. He knew that he was not permitted on this Vote to call attention to the whole of the Woolwich discharges about which they felt very strongly., The men whose cases he wished to bring forward on this Vote were carpenters, and were discharged when they had nearly reached the period at which they would become entitled to a bonus on being discharged. There were also other cases, some of whom were within a few weeks of the seven years, and if they had not been prematurely discharged they would have received a bonus of one week's salary for each year's service, amounting in some eases to eight or ten pounds. The cases had created in the neighbourhood an unfortunate misconception that the authorities at Woolwich had a particular object in discharging the men who would have earned their bonus in a few weeks if they had gone on. The idea, which of course he knew was erroneous, was that they were got rid of in order to save the payment of the bonus. That placed His Majesty's Government in an unfortunate position, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to remove that misconception and remedy the injustice done to men who after working very hard for seven years were discharged without receiving the bonus to which they would otherwise have been entitled.
§ MR. HALDANE
said the question just raised was not only engaging his attention, but they were making every effort to lighten the hardships inevitable to the cutting down of the establishments. They went on the principle of beginning with the men who had done shortest service, and they tried to keep on men who were getting near the bonus period. He was aware that there were cases of 663 hardship, but they were inevitable, and in what they had done they had gone far beyond the most benevolent private firms.
§ *MR. LEVERTON HARRIS
asked if it would not be possible to give some small part of the bonus to the men who had almost reached the time for its payment.
§ MR. HALDANE
said that that would not be possible. It would vary the terms of service, and would lead to innumerable difficulties. The question of lyddite shells referred to by the hon. Member for King's Lynn was under investigation. A certain number of shells had been found defective, and had been rejected. Repeating his former assurances regarding cordite, he said they were sending out to foreign stations and testing it wherever they could. They were getting it home as quickly as possible. With regard to the rifle, it was true that target practice could not be regarded as the sole determinant. War purposes must be considered, and the general military opinion was that the short rifle was for these purposes the most effective. Inquiry had shown that the short rifle's power to consume its charge of cordite within its length was complete or nearly so. A much more serious question raised by the right hon. Baronet for the Forest of Dean concerned the new bullet adopted by Germany and France. The bullet of our service rifle was a cone with a thick end, which, like a certain form of cigar, had a thick end and a body of comparatively parallel sides. The new bullet which was being adopted in Germany and France was a much lighter bullet, and was rather in the form of the other kind of cigar, which was a sharp cone and ended at a point. The charge was considerably greater than ours, but the calculation of the German exports was that they got no more recoil, because the lightness of the bullet balanced the magnitude of the explosion, and in that way they got a tremendous muzzle velocity. The effects were very striking, as he had observed from photographs. At a short distance, 200 or 300 yards, it made a tremendous hole. It did not penetrate; it smashed through. Its stopping power was enormous. It had really much the same effect as the ex- 664 plosive bullet might have. Per contra, at distances of about 1,000 yards the velocity of the bullet was no greater than the velocity of ours, and at 1,100 yards it was considerably less. Our bullet was therefore much more effective for long distances. It had to be considered whether in our kind of war, which was mostly under different conditions from those of Continental nations, this new bullet was the best. Nevertheless, the question was serious, and the War Office were closely investigating it. The result might be that they would have to alter their rifle or adopt a longer one. What he was most anxious to do was not to move too quickly. They would like to see it used on a large experimental scale. There had been a long series of experiments going on for months past with the view of determining what was best to be done. With a large charge they might have to modify the breech mechanism of the present rifle. It remained to be seen whether such pressure was consistent with accuracy. As regarded the conversion of the Volunteer rifle, they were adopting new sights. They would not in all respects be what the hon. Member wished, but they would be able to make very considerable improvement upon what at present existed, and the matter was receiving attention. As for the charges, they were not wrong, but the fault was with the bullet head. That part had been rather weak, but it was being attended to and improvements were being made which would meet the difficulty to which reference had been made.
§ MR. HALDANE
We went very carefully into that, but we find that it does not kick more than the other.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
asked how the right hon. Gentleman could settle down to the view that it did not kick more if it did.
§ MR. HALDANE
replied that the recoil was not substantially greater. People were now getting rid of the subjective convictions and were settling down to the view that it did not kick more.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said he wished to ask a question about the decrease of £267,000 under Subhead K. He did not want to go into the question of cordite again, but he wished to know whether this large decrease was due to keeping an insufficient stock of gun ammunition. The cordite stock, he understood, had to be continually renewed, and they had always to keep a certain amount of it in stock, because it took about a year to mature. If the stock now being provided for was sufficient, would the right hon. Gentleman explain why it was necessary to have a so much larger stock last year and why he was able to reduce it to such a large extent this year?
§ MR. COCHRANE (Ayreshire, N.)
said the bullet used in the German rifle gave a much higher velocity. In Germany and France they had adopted an ammunition not only with a steel case bullet longer than ours, but also one that gave a greater velocity. The same ammunition had recently been adopted in the United States of America. That ammunition had obviously many advantages if they were able to have a fixed sight at 800 yards which would allow the soldier to aim point blank instead of setting up sights. Had the right hon. Gentleman considered the advisability of adopting a similar system? This was a matter of enormous importance, because it would increase the effective range of the troops and enable them to make a more effective use of their weapon.
§ MR. HALDANE
said it was not the character of the ammunition. Cordite had more energy of action than the nitro-cellulose used in the United States. The difference was not in the character of the ammunition but in the fact that they used a much larger charge than we do. It remained to be. seen whether the twenty-three-ton pressure would prove to be an effective pressure. They certainly could increase their charge on the present breech-block, and they were now experimenting to that end.
§ MR. BRIGHT (Oldham)
asked whether it was intended that they should adopt in the British Army the German bullet, 666 the effects of which were as great as those of the explosive bullet. Were they going in for a bullet which caused such a tremendous blow as to destroy the greater part of the body? The dumdum bullet having been condemned, it seemed to him that they ought to be ruling out the new bullet instead of adopting it.
§ LORD BALCARRES (Lancashire, Chorley)
said during the present financial year only one-sixth of the rifles with which the Territorial Army were to be armed would be converted, so that it would be six years before the whole force had one uniform weapon, and six years was more than the ordinary lifetime of small arms. He therefore hoped that this was only intended to be initial expenditure, and that during the forthcoming financial year the Secretary for War really meant to have an adequate number —say three-sixths of the remaining five-sixths —of these rifles properly converted. That, however, was to his mind less serious than the very slow manner in which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to convert the guns. During this financial year he only allotted £10,000 for the conversion of the fifteen.-pounders. That represented nine batteries of four guns each, or only one-twelfth of the big guns with which the Territorial Force was to be armed. That, again, was utterly inadequate. As in the case of the rifle, the experimental stage had long passed, and there could be no excuse for delaying matters on the ground that a small sum only ought to be allowed during the first year. It seemed to him to be utterly wrong to proceed with the conversion of these rifles at the rate of only one-sixth of the total per annum, and of the big guns at the rate of only one-fifteenth. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give them a guarantee that next year he intended to deal with the matter more effectively.
§ MR. HALDANE
said the Government were just completing the programme for the field guns upon which up to now their energies had been concentrated. When that had been finished they would be in a position to go on more quickly with the conversion of the short rifle. It might seem terrible that these more effective engines of destruction should come into 667 existence, but if Continental armies were going to use them this country could not stand by to be shot down, and they must have as good a weapon as foreign nations had got. The only check was by combined action of the nations at the Geneva Conference.
§ CAPTAIN CRAIG (Down, E.)
said that as it would be six years before the Territorial Army would be armed with the new rifle he would like to know why the Secretary for War could not set up machinery at Woolwich to convert the rifle instead of discharging the men there. Surely by rearranging the machinery at Woolwich the skilled men who were being discharged could carry out the conversion of these rifles. Many of the men were going abroad and they might be engaged by foreign Powers in doing this very work. He also asked whether this Vote provided for the cost of the machinery which would be necessary in future for the protection of cordite. Did it cover the new refrigerating machinery or merely the stock of cordite? He thought the House ought to know whether the War Office was going in for the same system as that which had been adopted by the Navy.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member is not in order in discussing that question upon this Vote.
§ CAPTAIN CRAIG
said he noticed that there was nothing in the Estimates for Brennan torpedoes, and in order to get some explanation he moved to reduce the Vote by £100.
§ *MAJOR ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
said he wished to put a question with regard to the bayonets and swords. In reply to numerous questions they had always received the stereotyped answer that the matter was still under consideration. He had the advantage of having served on the Small Arms Committee and he knew something of the difficulties they had to meet. The delay upon the question seemed interminable. He thought a period extending over eighteen months was quite long enough to issue for trial a bayonet and a sword. In his opinion two or three days would be enough to see whether they were all right or not. and he. 668 hoped they would receive on this occasion a more satisfactory reply.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (MR. BUCHANAN, Perthshire, E.)
said questions had been put to him in regard to the delay in issuing bayonets and swords and in reference to the possibility of having the conversion of the rifle more rapidly carried out at Woolwich. With regard to the first question, the swords and bayonets were being considered when the present Government took office, and they had ever since been constantly under investigation. Trials were going on still, and it was impossible at present to come to a final decision. The hon. and gallant Member complained that he had always received the same answer. Surely a certain amount of delay was sure to take place in a matter of that kind. As for carrying on the conversion of the rifles at Woolwich, that would entail setting up the necessary machinery there. At the present time they had machinery at Enfield which did all the work they required, and it would be needless expenditure to fix up machinery at Woolwich for the purpose.
§ VISCOUNT TURNOUR
said he could not understand what the reason was for all the delay. The Financial Secretary said the matter was being investigated, but they were entitled to a better explanation than that. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman was going to rearm the Yeomanry with swords. Did he think that the investigations of the Committee in regard to swords and bayonets would be finished by the time the Territorial Forces Bill came into operation? They were entitled to know what were the reasons for the delay. Why could the results of the investigations not be made known in a week?
§ MR. CLAUDE HAY (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said it was pretty clear from the debate not only that had there been delay in regard to these investigations on the part of the present Government, but that there was also delay for which the late Government were responsible. As this question had been a subject of inquiry during the term of office of the late Government and during eighteen 669 months of the present administration, surely it was time some definite decision should have been arrived at. The cavalier way in which the Financial Secretary had dismissed the whole affair showed that there, was no serious intention on the part of the Government to do anything to provide an adequate number of swords and bayonets for the Army, It was clear that if there was the will on the part of the Government a way could be found to provide employment for a considerable number of the expert men. who had recently been dismissed at Woolwich by giving them work in connection with the conversion of rifles
§ for the Army. He hoped the Members of the Opposition would vote against the. Resolution in order that they might place it upon record that the Government, although they had been shown a way by which they could give employment to the men at Woolwich, had chosen a policy which must lead to the dismissal of more men and a great deal more suffering.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes, 240; Noes, 60. (Division List No. 248.)671
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Corbett,C.H.(Sussex,EGrinst'd||Higham, John Sharp|
|Agnew, George William||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Hobart, Sir Robert|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Cox, Harold||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Crombie, John William||Hodge, John|
|Asquith, Rt. HonHerbertHenry||Crooks, William||Hogan, Michael|
|Astbury, John Meir||Crosfield, A. H.||Holden, E. Hopkinson|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Crossley, William J.||Holland, Sir William Henry|
|Baker,Joseph A.(Finsbury, E.)||Davies, M.Vaughan-(Cardigan||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Horniman, Emslie John|
|Baring, Godfrey(Isle of Wight)||Dewar, Arthur( Edinburgh, S.)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Barker, John||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Idris, T. H. W.|
|Barlow, John Emmott(Somerset||Duncan, C.(Barrow-in-Furness||Illingworth, Percy H.|
|Barnard, E. B.||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Jacoby, Sir James Alfred|
|Barry, RedmondJ.(Tyrone,N.)||Dunne,MajorE.Martin (Walsall||Johnson, John (Gateshead)|
|Beale, W. P.||Edwards, Frank (Radnor)||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Erskine, David C.||Jones, William(Carnarvonshire|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Essex, R. W.||Jowett, F. W.|
|Bell, Richard||Evans, Samuel T.||Joyce, Michael|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Everett, R. Lacey||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Benn,Sir J. Williams(Devonprt||Faber, G. H. (Boston)||King,Alfred John(Knutsford)|
|Benn,W.(T'w'r Hamlets.S.Geo.||Fenwick, Charles||Laidlaw, Robert|
|Bennett, E. N.||Ferens, T. R.||Lamont, Norman|
|Bethell.Sir J.H.(Essex, Romfrd||Findlay, Alexander||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)|
|Billson, Alfred||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lehmann, R. C.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Freeman-Thomas, Freeman||Lever,A Levy( Essex,Harwich)|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Fuller, John Michael F.||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Brace, William||Fullerton, Hugh||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David|
|Branch, James||Gardner.Col. Alan(Hereford, S.||Lough, Thomas|
|Brigg, John||Gill, A. H.||Lundon, W,|
|Bright, J. A.||Ginnell, L.||Lupton, Arnold|
|Brooke, Stopford||Gladstone.Rt.Hn. HerbertJohn||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes|
|Brunner,J. F. L.(Lanes., Leigh)||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Lynch, H. B.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Gooch, George Peabody||Macdonald,J.M.(Falkirk B'ghs|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Mackarness, Frederic C.|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Maclean, Donald|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Gulland, John W.||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hn.SydneyCharles||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down,S.)|
|Byles, William Pollard||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||MacVeigh, Charles(Donegal, E.|
|Cameron, Robert||Halpin, J.||M'Crae, George|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis||M'Kenna, Rt. Bon. Reginald|
|Causton, Rt. Hn. RichardKnight||Harmsworth, Cecil B.(Worc'r)||Manfield, Harry (Northants)|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick||Hart-Davies, T.||Marnham, F. J.|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Harwood, George||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Massie, J.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Haworth, Arthur A.||Meagher, Michael|
|Cleland, J. W.||Helme, Norval Watson||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Clough, William||Hemmerde, Edward George||Mond, A.|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth),||Herbert,Colonel Ivor(Mon., S.)||Montgomery, H. G.|
|Mooney, J.,T.||Ridsdale, E. A.||Thorne, William|
|Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Toulmin, George|
|Morley, Rt. Hon. John||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Verney, F. W.|
|Morrell, Philip||Robertson.SirGScott (Bradf'rd||Vivian, Henry|
|Morse, L. L.||Robinson, S.||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Walters, John Tudor|
|Nicholls, George||Roe, Sir Thomas||Ward, John (Stoke upon Trent|
|Nicholson,CharlesN.(Doncast'r||Rowlands, J.||Waring, Walter|
|Nolan, Joseph||Runciman, Walter||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Russell, T. W.||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Watt, Henry A.|
|Nuttall, Harry||Samuel,Herbert L.( Cleveland)||Weir, James Galloway|
|O'Brien,Kendal(TipperaryMid)||Scott,A.H.(Ashton under Lyne||White, George (Norfolk)|
|O'Connor,James (Wicklow,W.)||Sears, J. E.||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire;|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Seaverns, J. H.||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Paulton, James Mellor||Seely, Major J. B.||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax;|
|Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Shackleton, David James||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Philipps, Owen.C. (Pembroke)||Shaw, Rt. Hn. T. (Hawick B.)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Pirie, Duncan V.||Shipman, Dr. John G.||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh.Central)||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Price,RobertJohn(Norfolk,E.)||Snowden, P.||Williams, Osmond (i)|
|Priestley, W.E.B.(Bradford,E.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Williamson, A.|
|Pullar, Sir Robert||Soares, Ernest J.||Wilson.HenryJ.(York.W.R.)|
|Radford. G. H.||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph(Chesh.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Raphael, Herbert H.||Strachey, Sir Edward||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras.S.)|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'||Summer bell, T.||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Recs, J. D.||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Randall, Athelstan||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —MR. Whiteley and MR. J. A. Pease.|
|Renton, Major Leslie||Taylor,Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Richards, Thomas(W.Monm'th||Thomas,Sir A. (Glamorgan.E.)|
|Richards,T. K.( Wolverh'mpt'n||Thomas,David Alfred(Merthyr|
|Richardson, A.||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Faber, GeorgeDenison (York)||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Arnold-Forster,Rt.Hn.HughO.||Fell, Arthur||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Balfour.RtHn A.J.(City Lond.)||Forster, Henry William||Rawlinson, John FrederickPeel|
|Banbury, SirFrederick George||Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Hamilton, Marquess of||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Sheffield,SirBerkeleyGeorge D.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Stanley.Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hervey,F.W.F.(Bury S.Edm's||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury)||Thomson,W.Mitchell-(Lanark)|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hills, J. W.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Cavendish,Rt.Hn.Victor C. W.||Houston, Robert Paterson||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Kennaway,Rt.Hon.SirJohn H.||Turnour, Viscount|
|Cecil,LordR. (Marylebone.E.)||Kenyon-Slaney,Rt. Hon.Col. W.||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Chamberlain,RtHn.J.A.(Worc.||Kimber, Sir Henry||Williams. Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Wortley,Rt. HonC. B. Stuart-|
|Clark,George Smith(Belfast,N.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||M'Calmont, Colonel James|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES — Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Lord Balcarres.|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim,S.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Craig,Captain James(Down,E.)||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Parker,SirGilbert (Gravesend)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A., Akers-||Pease,HerbertPike(Darlington)|
Fourth Resolution read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ VISCOUNT TURNOUR
said he desired to call attention to the scandalous neglect; of barrack repairs and construction during the past year. The Financial Secretary admitted in answer to a question 672 in July last year that the barracks at Piershill, Edinburgh, were not in a proper state for the accommodation of troops. His recollection was that the hon. Gentleman stated that the matter was under investigation. There was no mention in the Vote of any provision for the repair of those barracks. He wanted to know whether the hon. Gentleman could now state what was to be done in the matter. Would they be 673 made sufficiently good for the accommodation of a cavalry regiment? On one side of the barracks there was a railway, on another side a sewage farm, and on a third side there was a very insanitary portion of the town. He had the best reasons for stating that owing to the insanitary state of the barracks there had been a considerable amount of diphtheria among the troops stationed there. He wished to know also what was to be done in regard to the Brighton Barracks. The medical report stated that those barracks had for years been in a bad state. The cavalry regiment stationed there was removed in consequence. Having regard to the fact that there was no finer station in the United Kingdom for the training of cavalry, he asked whether it would not have been in the interest of the Army for the Government to have expended on those barracks the comparatively small sum needed to make them fit for cavalry to remain there. He; considered that the War Office in this matter was open to a charge of something approaching gross negligence. Last year it was admitted that the barracks were in an insanitary condition, but nothing had been done to make them a proper station for cavalry.
§ MAJOR ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
asked what steps had been taken by the War Office towards getting cavalry barracks in Scotland. The hope had been held out that two cavalry regiments were to be quartered in Scotland. As three regiments of cavalry formed a brigade, he hoped that three regiments would be sent there. It was a healthy country, and the people would be glad to see them. Had the right hon. Gentleman ever considered that in the case of riot it was necessary to have cavalry? The squadrons could be trotted up and down the streets, and they could prevent the mob from congregating in a way the artillery could not. He thought it was high time something was done in regard to the stationing of cavalry in Scotland, and the right hon. Gentleman should give a full and frank statement of what he was going to do. All this putting off was very unsatisfactory. The money spent at Tidworth on barracks ought to have boon spent to 674 advantage in Scotland. Barracks should not be placed right away on the downs far from the towns. We did not want our soldiers to be bored to death; if they were they took to drink. He trusted the hon. Gentleman would tell the House whether he was really going to do something to fulfil the hope foreshadowed by the Secretary of State for War in regard to quartering two or three cavalry regiments in Scotland.
§ MR. PIRIE (Aberdeen, N.)
said that what they wanted to know was whether the Government were going to fulfil their pledges that something would be done to provide cavalry barracks in Scotland, or not. There was a very strong feeling in Scotland in regard to the matter. He looked with great suspicion on the excuses they had heard as to the removal of cavalry from Piershill, Edinburgh. His own opinion was that the excuses were entirely unsatisfactory. The Secretary of State for War was a past-master in the use of language, but when his words came to be analysed closely all the argument was against him. The entire Scottish Press was against the right hon. Gentleman. An hon. Member had alluded to the danger in which the large population of the city of Glasgow would be placed in case of a serious disturbance without the presence of a regiment of cavalry. He had formerly drawn the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to that fact, but with his usual mastery of language, the right hon. Gentleman had turned the laugh against him by saying that Scotland was the most pacific nation in the world. He, however, would direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that there was a very large alien mining population in the immediate neighbourhood of Glasgow. He remembered the time when he himself, in conjunction with the hon. Gentleman who was now in charge of this Vote, made an attack upon a former Government for neglect in repairing the dilapidations of the barracks at Piershill. He wanted to know why the present Government could not remedy that state of affairs. He hoped, if a division was taken, that Ministerialists would not blindly follow the Government Whips on this occasion.
§ MR. MITCHELL THOMSON (Lanarkshire, N.W.)
asked whether or not it 675 was the view of the War Office that the barracks at Piershill were insanitary. If they were insanitary why were any troops quartered there at all? He was certain that the Secretary for War, when he made the proposal to remove the Greys from Scotland, little knew of the storm which he would excite; and that storm was not growing less. The demand was made in Scotland, "Give us back the Greys." He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the question was in Scotland entirely removed from Party feeling; and the Scottish Members had a right to demand from the Government a full and specific answer as to the reason why all cavalry were to be taken away from Scotland.
§ *MR. McCRAE
said he agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Member opposite in regard to the state of feeling in Scotland; but he wished to correct him in regard to the subject of retaining the Greys in Scotland. There had been a good deal of misunderstanding in regard to the matter. Anyone who understood the movements of troops knew that the Greys did not come to Scotland once in a blue moon. What was wanted was that there should be one or two regiments, of cavalry stationed in Scotland. He never could understand why Piershill barracks had been condemned just at this particular moment. They had never been proved to be insanitary. The right hon. Gentleman had said that they were not capable of accommodating the number of men and horses of which a cavalry regiment consisted. He did not know what provision the Government had made for the Greys in the place to which they were going. Was it to be any better than where they were now stationed? He understood that considerable difficulty was found in obtaining accommodation for the married contingent. He pressed the Financial Secretary to the War Office to dispel what he believed to be the illusion that there was any very definite decision on the part of the Government to deprive Scotland of cavalry. So far as he had been able to gather from his right hon. friend the Secretary for War, and from letters which he had written, his intention was to provide for more than one regiment of cavalry in Scotland. It was said by those who took an interest in military affairs that there must now be concen- 676 tration of cavalry in brigades; but there were seven isolated regiments of cavalry in England, and why should the one regiment be taken away from Scotland? The Secretary for War, as advised by his military experts, agreed to the general principle of the concentration of cavalry, but where was it going to lead him? There was no part of the British Islands where there was better manœuvring grounds for cavalry than in Scotland. He wanted the right hon. Gentleman to give an assurance that Scotland was not going to be denuded altogether of cavalry. He was delighted to find so much enthusiasm on the other side of the House for the claims of Scotland—an enthusiasm, by the way, which was absent from them during the long years they were in office. He understood that two regiments of cavalry were necessary to provide for efficient cavalry training. [An HON. MEMBER: "Three regiments."] They had most excellent Yeomanry cavalry in Scotland, so that a proper training could be effectively provided. He hoped that the Financial Secretary to the War Office would state that a sufficient sum would be provided to accommodate one if not two cavalry regiments in Scotland, and for the improvement of the barracks there.
§ *MR. BUCHANAN
said that in the course of the debate the demand for cavalry in Scotland had been in the ascending scale. It was first said that it was absolutely necessary to have one cavalry regiment in Scotland. Then the demand increased to two, and lastly to three regiments. He hoped it would not be considered that he was second to anyone in his desire to do what was within his power and duty for the country of his birth. An hon. Member had argued that it was necessary to have a regiment of cavalry in Glasgow in case of disturbance. He did not think that the reputation of the city was such that for that purpose there was any urgent necessity for cavalry there. He could at once reassure the hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State for War never intended to take away permanently or for any length of time a cavalry regiment from Scotland. The Greys were still there. As his hon. friend the Member for East Edinburgh had pointed out, the Greys went from 677 Scotland only in the ordinary course and the next cavalry regiment stationed there would not be that regiment. But it was a stable determination in the mind of his right hon. friend the Secretary of State that there should be a cavalry regiment in Scotland, and he know that in considering cavalry reorganisation he had had in his mind the possibility of having in that country two cavalry regiments. The continuance of the cavalry barracks at Brighton also depended upon the reorganisation of cavalry. In carrying out the reorganisation of that arm of the service in brigades the War Office would naturally withdraw cavalry from most of the isolated stations. The medical committee that was sent down to inquire into the condition of Piershill Barracks reported that it could not be condemned as insanitary; but still it was an inferior barracks, and everybody who knew anything about Edinburgh or Piershill knew that the latter was not a satisfactory barracks and was near a sewage farm. The death rate was not a high one, but there was a good deal of sickness in the barracks from time to time. The situation generally was not a good one, but it was by no means a barracks in which it was dangerous in any degree to keep troops, and they intended to keep troops there. But it was the intention of the Government, as soon as the Greys were moved out, to have a further investigation, and all the works that were necessary to make it a proper place to keep troops in would be carried out. During the ten years the Party opposite were in power the condition of Piershill Barracks was often brought to their notice; but, though they had an overflowing Exchequer, they considered there were other services of a more urgent character. The present Government were endeavouring, with their much more limited resources for barrack construction, to deal with the more urgent cases, and, moreover, they regarded the building of cavalry barracks of a proper class in Scotland as one of the most prominent needs of our military requirements in the future.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
said he would like to ask the hon. Gentleman a Question. The hon. Gentleman in the first place began by telling them that Piershill Barracks were not insanitary, but that they were bad 678 barracks for troops, and he said they were near a sewage farm. If these were reasons for not keeping cavalry there they were equally reasons for not keeping artillery there. The Government ought to make up their minds whether, if these barracks were unfit for cavalry they were not also unfit for artillery. The hon. Gentleman said they were not insanitary, but they were not healthy.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said that the word "insanitary" had a technical meaning, and he was referring to the finding of a Committee which they sent down last year to find out whether the barracks were "insanitary" or not, and they found that they were not "insanitary."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said he gathered then that Piershill Barracks were not "insanitary" technically, but that practically they were unhealthy. The Latin word was rejected, but the Anglo-Saxon word had much more meaning, and if these barracks were "unhealthy," though not "insanitary," be wanted to know why the Government were satisfied that they were safe, not only for cavalry, but for all branches of the Service. He thought the difficulty in regard to the provision of proper barrack accommodation in Scotland was due to the rigid financial purity of the present Goverment. Assuming, for the sake of argument, it was true that the policy of building works on loans was carried to excess by the late Government, was that a sufficient reason why the present Government should never resort to a loan even to provide buildings which were urgently needed? He might point out, moreover, that a Government which talked about economy very often left works to their successors to carry out, and then accused them of extravagance for doing so. The present Government, having laid down the principle that under no circumstances even the most permanent works were to be built except out of revenue, now found themselves face to face with the situation that they must either expand their Estimates, which they were unwilling to do, or allow troops to live in barracks that were admittedly unhealthy, if not insanitary. The reason was that the Government had not got the money to spend out of revenue, and by their own self denying ordinance they had made it impossible to raise it by taxation. 679 That was a very unhappy and lamentable conclusion in the interest of the health and efficiency of His Majesty's Forces. The victims of this policy were not hon. Gentlemen sitting in this House, but His Majesty's troops, and he was sorry that the Government with this practical illustration before them of the evils which might result from the rigid rules which they had chosen to lay down, should at whatever cost to the health of those who were serving their country insist on keeping them in barracks which, according to their own admission, were not of a nature in which they would wish them to be. He could not have a better illustration of the policy of the Government, and he hoped the Financial Secretary would consider the moral to be drawn from that state of things and communicate it to the Secretary for War, who was not present, and urge upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he might depart from the rigid financial rule which he had adopted and relax it in the interest of those who were engaged in His Majesty's Service.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
What I said in regard to Piershill Barracks was that as soon as the Greys left, not only will there be an investigation as to the sanitary condition of the barracks, but the works necessary to put them into a sanitary condition are immediately to be taken in hand.
§ *MR. C. E. PRICE (Edinburgh, Central)
thought the Secretary to the Treasury had scarcely given a full explanation of the inquiries which had taken place in regard to these barracks. As he understood, there first was an inquiry by the Government, and the barracks were condemned. Another inquiry was then held by the local authority of Edinburgh and the barracks were found to be in a sanitary condition. A second Government inquiry was held. Now they were told the Greys were to be removed from Edinburgh and another inquiry was to be held. They in Scotland thought the Government had moved in this matter in a very unsatisfactory way, and it was difficult to discover why the right hon. Gentleman who had very early and possibly pleasant associations with the district should have treated Edinburgh in this way.
§ MR. CLAUDE HAY
called attention to the condition of Perth Barracks, 680 which he said was nothing loss than a scandal. After repeated complaints from the authorities, and infinite delay, it was promised that a bath should be provided in those barracks, but although some time had elapsed no bath had yet been provided. The buildings were very old and absolutely out of date from the point of view of modern sanitation and comfort. They were buildings which no good employer would tolerate his employees sleeping in for a moment. In the time of the late Government some attempt was made to remove some of the worst of the evils, but since the present members of the Treasury Bench had been responsible nothing whatever had been done. Although the question had been raised by many hon. Gentlemen neither the Secretary of State nor the Financial Secretary had offered a word of explanation on the matter. He could only imagine that that was because neither had given a thought to the subject.
§ *MR. GULLAND (Dumfries Burghs)
entirely agreed with his colleagues from Scotland in the desire that the Government should give a full complement of cavalry to Scotland, and he believed that that was what the Government intended to do. With regard to the Piershill Barracks there were some irrigation meadows adjacent which might have affected those barracks, and the Corporation of Edinburgh had come to the decision to remove the irrigation works. He, however, desired to point out that if the Piershill Barracks were unhealthy, they had not become unhealthy all at once, and that years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman opposite was in office, they were as unhealthy as they were to-day, and that the right hon. Gentleman could not then spare anything for Scotland. It was, therefore, scarcely for him to blame the Secretary of State for not having put them in a proper condition. It seemed to him that the reason why artillery might be put there was that there would be fewer men and horses, and the unhealthiness or the nuisance would not be so great as it might, be with cavalry. It was clear there must be a further inquiry, but it must be followed by action. The Scottish Members were only voicing the views of Scotland when they said there should be cavalry in Scotland.
§ MR. J. F. MASON (Windsor)
said he desired to obtain some information upon a subject of great interest in his constituency. He had, some time ago, asked the Secretary of State for War when he intended to rebuild the Victoria Barracks at Windsor, and the answer he received was that the work would be commenced forthwith. Nothing, however, had yet been done. It was a matter of urgent importance to the borough, because eighty-four houses were demolished to make room for the now barracks, and the empty space caused thereby entailed a great loss in rates, for the reason that the Government gave no contribution to the rates until the building was put up. He would like to know when it was proposed to build those new barracks.
§ MR. WATT (Glasgow, College)
protested against Scotland being deprived of a cavalry regiment. The insanitary condition of the Piershill Barracks had been assigned as the cause of removal; but as had been pointed out, an artillery regiment was still to remain, so the statement that the barracks were insanitary must be taken with a grain of salt. Furthermore, in the district to which he belonged there was a barracks waiting for a cavalry regiment. Although the right hon. Gentleman had indicated that he had been in the neighbourhood of the barracks it did not appear to have entered into his consideration, or he had forgotten that there was accommodation for a cavalry regiment there. They all knew that once Scotland was deprived of anything she never got it back. It was not for reasons of economy that money was not spent in this direction, because, so far as prisons were concerned the Government were most extravagant. They were building prisons in Scotland which were entirely unnecessary, and he thought that money might be better employed in building barracks.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said the Leader of the Opposition had pointed out that the Government had laid it down as a principle by which they must be bound, that under no circumstances would they borrow for the purpose of erecting semi permanent works. In that his right hon. friend was quite right, but the principles and the practice of the 682 Government were two different things; Even now the Government proposed to borrow £6,000,000 for telegraphic works repayable in the same way, by means of a sinking fund, as money was borrowed and repaid under the Works Acts. What then was the difference in borrowing money for telegraphic works and borrowing for building barracks.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that if the hon. Gentleman went through the telegraphic accounts he would find that telegraphs had never paid.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said they were necessary no doubt, but not more necessary than barracks. Whatever might be the principles of the Government in theory, in practice they were very elastic. They had found it not inconsistent with their principles, or at any rate they considered it proper, to borrow money for telegraphic construction, yet they would not take the money to house the troops in barracks which were not insanitary and unhealthy.
§ MR. BELLAIRS
asked whether the Financial Secretary was aware that there was an item of £500,000 in the Military Works Bill supposed to be realised from the sale of old barracks. Probably they would realise about £50,000, and what he wished to point out was that most of the barracks were built under the Works Bill introduced by the late Government.
§ *MR. GEORGE FABER (York)
said he had heard with surprise that this Government of efficiency were going to do nothing at all in the matter of Piers-hill Barracks, and the interjection which was made by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh seemed to him to be a most extraordinary one. The Government had never when in Opposition favoured the issue of loans for works of any kind. They all had to be done out of income. That was excellent in theory, but unfortunately theory and practice were entirely different things. In practice it was found necessary sometimes to spend money out of capital account by way of a sinking fund 683 spread over a term of years. His right hon. friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had pointed out that the Government themselves were doing, in the matter of the telegraphs, that very thing which they reprobated so strongly when they were in Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh, who had interjected that the expenditure in telegraph works was remunerative, that they had lost a million last year. That was point number one. Point number two was that this Government of efficiency was actually not going to take into consideration the re-building of the barracks, which were in an insanitary condition, because such a work would not be remunerative. They had hoard all sorts of cries about the better housing of the working classes, and had been told that we could not have a great race of men unless we housed them properly. Yet here, in this leading case of the proper housing of their soldiers, the hon. Gentleman said they must do nothing —they must not have any capital expenditure at all, because it would not be remunerative. The Government, in the celebrated phrase of the Prime Minister, uttered the other day in quite a different connection, were too good. They must not be too good. A little bit of vice to set off their goodness would suit them admirably. As regarded finance, at any rate, ho advised them not to be too good. Let them try and forget all the wild things they said in Opposition, and practice the rules of common sense. If their barracks were in an insanitary condition let them in heaven's name put them right, and not, merely because in Opposition they preached false economy here, there, and everywhere, take up so extraordinary an attitude in this matter. If these Edinburgh barracks were in an insanitary condition it was the bounden duty of the Government, either out of the Estimates of the year, or by moans of a loan, to provide proper funds to put them in an adequate sanitary state.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Croydon.)
said this was a more important matter than perhaps the House realized. Large sums would have to be spent on barracks. The Financial Secretary had made a very curious declaration of policy, for he had told them the Cavalry in future were to 684 be concentrated in certain solitary places. All he could say, that was not the policy of two years ago or of five years ago. At that time it was thought that the policy of concentrating regiments in melancholy places such as Salisbury Plain was a bad thing for the troops; and, indeed, the staffs, who knew the feeling of the troops, received with dismay the announcement that the Cavalry were to be taken away from the towns and other places, and placed in the middle of Salisbury Plain or at military centres of that description. When the new Militia Force was called into being and required accommodation, he would undertake to say that if the right hon. Gentleman went round the barracks now in existence he would find that a great many required to be put into proper order. An entirely new plan of barrack had been adopted, and funds had been set aside for building on that plan, and the work had been going forward. He had always believed that the barrack at Piershill ought to be transferred to another regiment, as the site was not sanitary at all for a Cavalry regiment. If, as the Leader of the Opposition had told them, what was being done was due to the unwillingness of the Government to spend money on loan, then all he could say was that something very serious would occur. They knew very well that the Dublin barracks were bad, and in fact a part of them was entirely rebuilt; but those who knew the circumstances would remember that at Dublin barracks a serious epidemic broke out and brought misery to many families connected with the regiments. The problem would have to be taken in hand. He did not know what distinction the hon. Member drew between unhealthy and insanitary. The whole of the operations at Norwich had been stopped, and up to the present nothing had been done. He had heard that they were going to put up a great building somewhere near Swinden. If that were done, and the great expense incurred, he ventured to say that they would be doing a very unwise thing. Norwich for many years had been a centre of regimental life for the Cavalry, and it been a favourable field for recruiting, while the military feeling in the county was excellent, because of the long association of the soldiers with the. civil population. He regretted that the Secretary of State was not present to deal with the matter, though, of course, 685 he did not blame him, for he could not have known that this matter was going to be raised. Still, it would have been far bettor had he been present, as the subject was one of great importance. There was the question of the Cavalry in Scotland, to which the Scottish Members attached importance, but an even wider question had been raised on which they desired a reply.
§ MR. PIRIE
asked whether it would not be possible, as an earnest of the intention of the Government in regard to the Cavalry in Scotland, to put down a certain sum, 20,000 or 50,000 on account, or ear-marked, against the time when they came to a decision as to where to place the barracks in Scotland.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said his hon. friend the Member for York had thought it necessary to urge the Government to forget what they had said in Opposition. Ho would have thought that that was what they were doing, and that they did not require any urging from the hon. Gentleman. But it was not to enforce that point that he had risen. He wished to ask what the Secretary of State had done with the forts for the defence of London in the neighbourhood of Dorking. They were, he understood, very eligible sites for the summer season, which might be very suitable for bungalows and things of that sort. As this session was likely to be prolonged, they might be useful at the week-ends to hon. Members. Perhaps a definite statement would be made on the subject, and also as regarded the forts in the neighbourhood of Portsmouth which had likewise been abandoned. Those forts were erected at great expense. Ho had seen the remark in the papers, ho did not know how true it was, that an American or French syndicate had offered to take over those forts. Had the Government | entered into any contract with any foreign power in respect of them. At any rate, the House was entitled to know what was proposed to be done with them I Had they been dismantled of guns, and had they been sold as seaside residences? Since the elaborate statement of the Secretary for War eighteen months ago as to the great economy which he expected to effect by the abandonment of the forts for the defence 686 of London, they had hoard nothing on the subject, and he thought they were entitled to a more definite statement. There was another matter upon which the right hon. Gentleman would give them information, and that was the furnishing of the officers' quarters. That was a subject in which for many years he had taken great interest, and he had urged that instead of the enormous expense incurred in carrying about the officers' effects, the quarters should be furnished. Ho would like to have an authoritative statement on that question.
§ MR. MOND (Chester)
protested against the Scottish Members attempting to make a corner in Cavalry regiments, and asked the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether he would say what the War Office intended to do about Cavalry barracks at Chester. When the right hon. Member for Croydon was at the War Office, the question of building Cavalry barracks at Chester was raised, and one of the points then brought to the notice of the Chester Corporation was that if they would find a site, and present it free to the War Office, the barracks would be built. The corporation went to considerable trouble and found several admirable sites, but they had never been able to get any further assurance or answer as to whether or not the War Office intended to proceed with the barracks. He thought it would be preferable to build new barracks at Chester rather than repair old barracks in Scotland. He hoped he would be told if the War Office were to go on with the matter. He was horrified to find that the late Administration left the barracks in such a shocking condition. Now the Opposition came and solemnly asked the Government to spend money out of loans for repairing barracks. That seemed to him to be the most amazing financial proposition he had over heard. If the late Government had carried on the business on a sound basis they would have kept the barracks in decent repair out of revenue. They could not have become insanitary in twelve months; it must have been going on for years. Surely no one, not even the oldest financier, would suggest that the barracks should be repaired out of loans.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If the hon. Member is referring to me, I never 687 suggested that the repairing of barracks should be paid for out of loans.
§ MR. MOND
said that that was much the same thing. It is a euphemism for repairing. Further, it was a curious thing to find an ex-Postmaster-General informing them that the telegraph service was not a revenue producing service, because it did not pay. They should make it pay. He quite agreed that the soldiers ought to be well housed, and for that reason he thought very few Members would object to money being spent. But he hoped the Government would not be guided by gentlemen who. had set them a reckless example by leaving the barracks in such a deplorable condition.
§ MR. COCHRANE
said that upon this question he found himself in cordial agreement with his brother Scots on the other side of the House. He thought it was desirable that they should have at least two cavalry regiments in Scotland. It was well known that Scotsmen made excellent cavalrymen. That point ought to be considered in connection with the Yeomanry and Volunteers, because it was desirable that they should have an opportunity of going to a convenient centre to witness how professional soldiers carried out their duties. The hon. Member for St. Andrews Burghs had suggested that a cavalry regiment should be kept at Glasgow, and the Financial Secretary replied that it was not necessary because Scotsmen were such peaceable persons. It was evident from that reply that the hon. Member had not been a member of the Scottish Grand Committee, or he would have observed that Scotsmen, when in a majority, were a very warlike race. At Edinburgh they had always been in the habit of having a cavalry regiment, with a detachment at Glasgow, and to deprive them of those regiments would be considered a national loss. They would like the Scots Greys at Edinburgh, but they 688 did not press for any special regiment there, and there ought to be one or two more regiments stationed in other parts of Scotland. The hon. Member opposite had told them that Piershill Barracks were not insanitary, although they were too unhealthy for a cavalry regiment. If they were unhealthy, why was it proposed to keep an artillery battery there? That point ought to be explained. There was nothing in the constitution of an artilleryman which enabled him to withstand unhealthy surroundings more than a cavalryman. If this was a new method of reducing the superabundant artillerymen it was very undesirable, because it was only killing them off by degrees. He did not think the Financial Secretary appreciated how strong feeling was upon this question in Scotland. Ho hoped those Scottish Members who thought that in this matter Scotland had been grossly neglected would take an opportunity in the division lobby of expressing their feelings.
§ SIR F. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
said he was afraid the hon. Member who had just spoken could hardly have heard the debate, or he would never have accused the Financial Secretary of neglecting Scotland in this matter. Scottish opinion upon it had been abundantly voiced in the House, and the point which had been raised about Piers-hill Barracks was easy of explanation. Those barracks, it was true, had been declared to be unhealthy, but the causes of that unhealthiness were being remedied. He understood that the sewage farm in the neighbourhood was going to be given up. The premises, as soon as the Scots Greys had left, were to be overhauled and put into a thoroughly healthy condition, and then they were going to quarter the artillery there. There were not so many men in artillery as in cavalry regiments, and although it might not be salubrious to have too many cavalry there, it would be quite right for artillery when the place had been overhauled and the sewage farm taken away. The Government had practically promised that there should be two cavalry regiments kept in Scotland, and what more the Opposition desired he could not understand.
MR. STANLEY WILSON (Yorkshire, E.R., Holderness)
felt sure that the Financial Secretary must have been touched. 689 by the appeals which had been made to him from both sides of the House. The Government appeared to have been overcome with a fit of economy towards Scotland. They were depriving Scotland of a cavalry regiment in order to fulfil their election pledges, but he hoped that they would listen to the appeal now made to allow Scotland to keep her cavalry regiment. He trusted that the hon. Member would be able to announce that he had reconsidered the question, and that he would give a pledge to the House that he would see that the barracks were placed in a proper sanitary condition.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
urged that the main question to consider in the placing of troops was not the interest of Scotland or any other locality, but how best cavalry could obtain training as a part of our national Army. He was tired to death of hearing the complaints of Scottish Members who desired to get these regiments placed in their constituencies. He hoped all such matters would be decided from the point of view of the national Army and national efficiency, All this cadging ought to be put on one side. Was the hon. Member aware that when this lamentable exodus took place from Edinburgh and the Scots Greys were sent to another barracks the condition of the barracks they were sent to was so utterly hopeless and bad that they were condemned and, orders were issued to that effect, and the troops were not able to be stationed there? If that was the case, it required attention, not from the point of view of England or Scotland, but from the point of view of the proper housing of the, Army. He took an interest, like the hon. and gallant Member for Central Sheffield, in the settlement of the question with regard to the furnishing of the officers' quarters and mess rooms at the various barracks. He had heard that the charge made to the officers to recoup the Government was rather high, but he did not know that of his own knowledge.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
It is not in order to refer to the general question of the furnishing of barracks. If the hon. Member will name a particular item, I daresay he will be in order,
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY
I was following the speech you allowed my hon. friend the Member for Central Sheffield to make.
§ MR. T. L. CORBETT (Down, N.)
said he sympathised with the claims put forward by the Scottish Members and suggested that they should put aside Party feeling in this matter and vote against the Government. He appealed to the Government to do something to improve the accommodation at Holy wood barracks in county Down. There was much more difficulty in recruiting in Ireland than in any other part of the United Kingdom and, therefore, it was most important to make the barracks in Ireland as attractive as possible.
§ SIR F. BANBURY
said that very little progress seemed to have been made in regard to Kingston barracks. He wished to know whether that was in the interest of economy. If so, it was false economy because, the work having been begun, it would be better to get it finished. As long as they dawdled over it the capital which had been expended was useless. He joined in the protest against the absence during the debate of the Secretary of State for War. It was said that the right hon. Gentleman did not know that the matter was coming on, but he must have known because there were only three Votes in Supply set down for consideration on Report. It was not respectful to the House of Commons that the Minister at the head of the Department concerned should not be present when a really important Vote was being discussed.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said the items referred to in this Vote had received careful consideration. All the proposals now made were absolutely necessary. The Vote was for what the best military authorities considered most urgent in the interest of the Service. An effort was being made to dispose of the land at Dorking, but up to the present he did not think that any of it had been disposed of.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said he did not agree with the hon. Gentleman that the forts surrounding London, which were now obsolete, must have been erected through lack of proper consideration in the past. He had no doubt that money was being spent this year which the development of strategy would render equally obsolete after an interval of twenty-five years. An hon. Member, referring to the claim made for the repair of Piershill barracks, had said that he objected to the Scottish Members cadging for cavalry. They were not cadging for cavalry; they were cadging for decent arrangements. A perusal of the Reports showed that as compared with the health of those at other barracks, the health of the troops at Piershill was such that the sanitation must be extremely bad. The hon. Gentleman said that an inquiry was to be held. Why could not an inquiry be held forthwith? The fact was that the Government was pursuing a dilatory course in regard to these barracks purely from the point of view of finance. Would the hon. Member tell the Committee what sum was allotted out of this Vote for structural repairs to the barracks in Scotland? Of course, these structural repairs ought to be carried out by way of loan. The fact that a huge Loan Bill was to be brought forward the next day for a purely unremunerative service showed that the Government were not sincere in regard to the expenditure on the structure of barracks. Until the Government made up its mind to meet that expenditure by way of loan nothing would be done for the improvement of the barracks. Question after question had been asked of the Financial Secretary to the War Office as to the cavalry at Maryhill barracks, and the only reply the hon. Gentleman gave was that he himself had been born in the city of Glasgow, that the Glasgow people were very law-abiding, and did not require the presence of cavalry amongst them. But the hon. Gentleman forgot that within a few miles of Glasgow there was a very large population of aliens, including Poles, and in Glasgow itself there were hundreds or thousands of people of foreign birth. He did not think that the presence of a detachment of cavalry in Maryhill barracks would be amiss. The hon. Gentleman had stated that the Secretary for War hoped that there would be two regiments 692 instead of the one stationed in Scotland. Could not they have something more definite than hopes? He knew very well that the policy of putting all capital expenditure on the Votes would seriously delay the erection of new barracks. The hon. Member for King's Lynn had east in their teeth that the late Government did not erect new barracks where they were required.
§ *MR. BELLAIRS
said that what ho had pointed out was that the late Government had erected many new barracks which were now for sale.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said that the late Government had laid down a particular line of policy which was not carried out by the present Government. If the Secretary of State for War determined to quarter no troops in places where the barracks were erected, the blame for the sale of those barracks must to shared by the present Government.
§ *MR. BELLAIRS
said his answer to that was that the sum of £500,000 appeared in the Works Bill of 1905, introduced by the last Government, as the amount to be realised from the sale of the barracks, and he asserted that some of these barracks had been erected by the same Government under previous Works Bills.
§ LORD BALCARRES
said he understood that the Greys were to go to Salisbury Plain in the course of the next few weeks, and that the married establishment of the regiment would be placed at a very considerable distance from the barracks. That would be a very inconvenient and tiresome state of things for the wives. The barracks were five miles by foot walk, often impassable in bad weather, from the married quarters, nine miles by the high road, and twenty-two miles by the railway. Such a stale of things was indefensible, and so long as the Government, from a false sense of economy, or from financial purism, charged all structural alterations or new works to revenue rather than to loan, the result would be the discouragement of enlistment of men in particular regiments. As to the money to to spent to effect improvements according to modern requirements at Colonial stations, there were some inconsistencies in the statements 693 made by different members of the Government. They had been told by the Prime Minister and by the Financial Secretary to the War Office that Gibraltar, Malta, Hong Kong, Cape Town, and the Island of St. Lucia were not involved. An hon. Member had asked on what Colonial and foreign stations it was proposed to spend the £10,000 on the Votes; and the Financial Secretary to the War Office refused to answer, on the ground that it would be against the interests of the public to give the information. He would remind the hon. Gentleman that they had already had the names of the places on which the sums were to be spent. The public knew what the "Dreadnought" cost, and everybody know that there was no strategic secret as to the amount of money which was to be spent on foreign and Colonial stations. He did not know whether this was one of the cases where money voted for one purpose was to be spent upon another. He also wished to protest against the injury which was being done by the War Office, to Eltham Common. In the month of March they were told that the works which were being proceeded with on that Common were for the object of erecting buildings detailed in Vote 10. Since then there had been a change of policy, and the Government was adapting this particular piece of land to what was called "facilitating military drill." He wanted to know for what purpose the money was to be spent. The trees had been cut down on the Common, and its natural charm was being destroyed, while thousands of tons of earth were being removed. He denied that the War Office had any right to deal with Eltham Common at all. That was the attitude taken by the borough of Woolwich. The Common was a very small one, less in size than St. James's Park. The Government told them that they were in favour of preserving rights of way and open spaces and commons; but in this case they were acting in the teeth of their own declaration. He did not believe that this particular common was the sole appanage of the district in which it was situated, but that it belonged to the public generally; and he confessed that it would be a satisfaction to many Members of the House, and still more to people outside, if they had some assurance that this work of destruction on the Common would cease.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said that the War Office were the Lords of the Manor at Eltham Common and the alterations were being made to facilitate artillery training. Every care was taken to preserve the best of the trees.
And, it being a quarter-past Eight of the clock and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.