HL Deb 26 March 1858 vol 149 cc789-809

In rising to move for the Returns of which I have given notice, I shall make no apology for occupying your Lordships' time for a very few minutes on a subject to which I feel sure that none of your Lordships are indifferent— I mean the social condition of the soldier, with respect to which it is desirable that some explanation should be offered both to this House and to the public out of doors. This question seems to me to be very much misunderstood, to judge from all that is spoken and written upon it. Any one who formed his opinion from the statements made in the public press and elsewhere would imagine that the comfort of the soldier had been grossly neglected, and that no pains whatever had been taken to improve his social condition. Now, my Lords, I must say that that is a very great mistake, and I think that I shall be able to prove to your Lordships that there is no class of Her Majesty's subjects which has had its interest more carefully attended to, or more diligently looked into than that very class which successive Governments have been accused of treating with neglect—a class which, I must say, has proved itself worthy of all the care bestowed upon it. I am most anxious to make this statement at the present moment, because I think that the statements which have gone abroad upon this subject may tend to check the aspiration of the young men of this country to join the military profession, and may thus cast difficulties in the way of obtaining recruits. Before I touch upon the question of barracks, I am very anxious to draw your Lordships' attention to the changes which have been made during the last twenty-five years in the moral and physical condition of the soldier. I do not mean to say that all has been done to improve the condition of the soldier which can be done; on the contrary, much still remains before the army is placed in that condition which I have always considered that the military profession ought to occupy. It is a profession which ought to be made attractive to the youth of this country, and I hope to see the day—although I fear it may be somewhat distant—when the dismissal of a man from the service of the country, whether from the army or the navy, will be considered as great a disgrace by the man, as it is at present by the officer. I think that it would be very desirable to attain that end, but it will take some time, and will require a considerable expenditure of money before the army can be brought to the condition in which I should wish to see it. The present state of the army, as compared with its condition when I joined it, affords me ground for congratulation. I will not go so far back, but I would wish to point out to your Lordships the changes which have been introduced by those distinguished individuals who have been at the head of the War Department during the last five-and-twenty years. I find that when Lord Grey was Secretary at War, the first thing which he did in order to improve the condition of the soldier was to amend the routine as regarded foreign reliefs, which up to that time had never been very definitely settled. At the time when Lord Grey took the matter in hand, there were regiments which had been out of the country for upwards of twenty years; but Lord Grey so arranged the circle of relief with the approval of the military authorities of the day, that no soldier need expect, except in cases of emergency, even when serving so far away as the East Indies, to be kept away from this country for a longer period than fifteen years—the ordinary term being ten years. Now, that was a change most beneficial to the soldier, and it has been adhered to as closely as possible, though it has caused an increased expenditure, for the multiplicity of reliefs entail a proportionate expense, to which Parliament most readily and most cheerfully submitted. Now, what was the next Act of Lord Grey? Why, my Lords, he established the system of good-conduct pay; and a greater been was never bestowed upon the army, or a greater benefit conferred upon the public service, because it has gradually, to a considerable extent, superseded the necessity of punishment. That step again caused a large demand upon the finances of the country. Lord Grey also introduced, although he did not remain in office long enough to carry it into effect, the principle of savings banks in the army; and that principle was subsequently most effectually carried out by my noble Friend the late Lord Hardinge, who had the satisfaction of introducing a savings bank into every regiment. Now, my Lords, that was a great step in the way of improving the condition of the soldier. The establishment of such institutions induces the good soldier to lay by a portion of his pay, which otherwise would be wasted in frivolous amusements or perhaps in something worse. Another Act of Lord Hardinge's was to take care of the interest of old soldiers. Before his time, when persons left the army upon a pension, they never were looked after, and instead of an old soldier being regarded as a good member of society, I am sorry to say that he was generally looked upon as very much the contrary. Under the old system frauds were numerous. Lord Hardinge put an end to those frauds by so arranging that the pensioner should draw his pension sometimes weekly and sometimes quarterly, but always in advance instead of in arrear; and thus he made the pensioners a well-cared for and well-conducted body of men; and it is at present a body consisting of from 14,000 to 18,000 armed men, who would be effective for the defence of the country, and who have on more than one occasion done good service in time of domestic disturbance. I now come to the administration of the War Department of my right hon. Friend Mr. Sidney Herbert, who again bestowed a great benefit upon the army by establishing a system of military and regimental education; and I had the satisfaction during the time when I was in office of extending that system of education and placing it upon an efficient footing. At the same time, in order to enable me to do so, I was obliged to come to Parliament and appeal to its generosity, year by year, for large sums of money to meet the exigencies of the case. I had also, my Lords, the satisfaction of introducing libraries into the barracks, both regimental and garrison, which will, I think, improve to a great extent the mental cultivation of the soldier. I did not succeed in establishing an educational test for promotion to the position of a noncommissioned officer, but I am happy to think that the illustrious Duke at the head of the army is inclined to carry out that principle as far as possible, although it is impossible to fix upon any absolute educational standard for promotion. Then, again, my Lords, up to the year 1847 or 1848 there was a custom existing of selling spirits in barracks at the canteens, and young men were encouraged by the example of older soldiers to indulge in a habit most injurious to them; while Government, by taking rent for those canteens, actually encouraged that state of things. There were men able to drink an enormous quantity of spirits without much effect upon themselves, but who, by their example, produced a very bad effect upon their younger comrades. Well, my Lords, by the consent of Parliament, and with the countenance of the Commander in Chief, the practice of selling spirits in canteens in barracks has been entirely done away with, though to the loss of the Ordnance, under the article of rent, of £20,000 a year, and the result—and I may appeal to the illustrious Duke near me (the Duke of Cambridge) for confirmation—has been that there does not now exist in the army that description of man, technically called "a sponge," which formerly existed, who could take any quantity of spirits apparently without effect. I think, my Lords, that the abolition of the sale of spirits in the canteens was one of the greatest blessings ever conferred upon the British army; and at present canteens are so regulated that the soldier can obtain all that he requires at reasonable prices. Formerly a soldier could not retire with a pension, after, however long a period of service, unless he were worn out or had passed through a hospital. At present every soldier knows that at the end of a certain period he can retire with a pension of 8d a day. Then, again, with reference to the rations of the soldier, Parliament stepped in, and with a liberality which cannot be too much praised, sacrificed a revenue of no less than £73,000 a year to equalize and diminish the stoppages which were put upon the soldier for his rations. So, also, with respect to the spiritual instruction of the soldier. When I first became Secretary at War we had six or seven chaplains for the whole army. We have now twenty-two chaplains and thirty-five assistant chaplains, in addition to expending £35,000 a year in affording spiritual instruction generally to the whole army. Then, again, as to bounty—in former years it was never paid to the soldier at all—it was eked out in one tiling or another, and the soldier got nothing. Now, instead of charging the soldier for his kit and other articles, which swallowed up the bounty, we provide him with a free kit, and give him £2 2s. out of the £5 5s. bounty, and £3 3s. out of the £6 6s.; and every man knows when he enlists that he will receive that sum in ready money, and that the remainder of the bounty will be given him in necessaries. Again, it was only lately that it was my good fortune to be enabled, with the consent of the Treasury and with the approbation of the Commander in Chief, to make compensation to non-commissioned officers for the loss of that good-conduct pay which they had acquired when privates, and which they could not carry with them when they were made non-commissioned officers. We raised the pay of the sergeants 2d. a day in order to compensate them for that loss. Now, I must say, that all these things taken together, with many other improvements in the condition of the soldier which I will not now stop to enumerate, ought to prove to your Lordships and to the country that the assertions which have been made that the condition of the British soldier has been neglected by the Government for the last twenty-five years is totally unfounded. The real fact is, that everything has been done quietly and without any display or boasting; the changes have been made; the estimates have been increased to meet those various changes; and because all has been done unostentatiously the public have taken no notice of it, and are quite in ignorance of the vast improvements which have taken place in the condition of the soldier. These are some of the improvements in the physical condition of the soldier which I have thought it necessary to dilate upon. I now come to the question of barrack accommodation. It has been stated that the barracks are so bad that it is worse than cruelty to compel soldiers to live in them; that no sanitary science whatever has been applied to them, and that the soldiers, in- stead of being properly accommodated, are. put into buildings as if merely for the purpose of throwing them into bad health. That is a great mistake, because into all the barracks which have been built for some years past sanitary improvements have been introduced—drainage, ventilation, lavatories, supply of water—all these matters have been diligently attended to, and where they have not existed in old barracks they have, to some extent, also been supplied. But those barracks were built at a time when no man gave heed to sanitary improvements. It was sufficient in those days if you simply lodged the soldier and gave him a covering from the weather. I recollect the system of tiers of berths in the barrack-room, three in a tier, and when a room which is now held to be too crowded if twenty-five men are placed in it, would, without any compunction, have been set apart for fifty or sixty. All these thing have been amended. Every soldier has now a separate bed, and if you go into even an old-fashioned barracks in the daytime—I cannot answer as to the night—you will find everything neat, clean, and in good order. I admit that the ventilation and drainage may in some cases yet he deficient; but in many places it is utterly impossible to provide those sanitary improvements for which the public now so loudly call. If the Government are to he enabled to carry out in barracks, to its full extent, the sanitary system which is advocated by the Commissioners, I warn your Lordships that it will require a very large sum of money indeed. I am quite ready to take upon myself my full share of blame—if blame there be—for not having asked from Parliament a larger sum to be applied in that direction; and I shall throw no blame whatever upon the present Government if they should find it as difficult as I did to meet the public expectations with regard to the improvements in barracks, which are now, I think, raised to a very high and somewhat unnecessary pitch. In looking at the Report of the Commission which has lately been issued to inquire into the state of barracks, I cannot help referring to one part, which bears upon the barracks of the Household troops. It appears from the statistical returns published by that Commission that the mortality in the Guards is larger than that in any other portion of Her Majesty's army; and that high rate of mortality has been attributed to the present state of their barracks. I do not admit that; and I think that a very unfair advantage has been taken of the fact of the high rate of mortality to visit upon the heads of the Colonels of the Guards the results which have been elicited. We might just as well visit upon the heads of the Colonels of any other regiments the faults which have been found to exist in other barracks of the kingdom as hold the Colonels of the Guards accountable for any deficiencies which may be observable in their barracks. If the reports of the Colonels of the Guards could have been attended to I admit that the Guards would have been much better lodged than in some instances they are at present; but the House must remember that the cost of barracks in the neighbourhood of London is something enormous. Including the purchase of a site, the erection of barracks in the immediate vicinity of London for the accommodation of 1,000 Guards would not cost less than from £150,000 to £200,000. These are very serious matters, and, when we take the whole question into consideration, we must weigh well what is required for the other military services of the country before we make up our minds to expend all our money upon barracks. But I deny that the mortality among the Guards is attributable to the manner in which they are lodged. There are curious facts connected with barracks as with other things. Those which one would think to be the most healthy often turn out to be not nearly so healthy as the oldest, and, to all appearance, dirtiest barracks. I believe, for example, that the Wellington Barracks are not nearly so healthy as the Portman Street Barracks. These latter are surrounded on all sides by houses; they have been, comparatively, unattended to for a long time; they are rented only from year to year, and yet they are, I believe, more healthy than any other barracks in which the Guards are placed, on which hundreds and thousands of pounds have been expended. But I do not attribute the mortality among the Guards to their lodging. Go to Chatham and look at the condition of the Engineers. They are more hardly worked than the Guards; they are employed for a greater number of hours; they work above ground and under ground, in mud and in water; their barrack accommodation is so limited, that those who come off duty sleep in the beds of those who relieve them; yet notwithstanding all that, and notwithstanding that the amount of cubic air which they breathe in barracks is much smaller than that which the Guards enjoy, the Engineers at Chatham are far more healthy than the Guards. Why is this? I think it is not on account of the lodging, but the night duty, to which subject my illustrious Friend the Commander in Chief has for some time past paid attention. I think there are many sentries in this metropolis that could be well dispensed with by the aid of the police. That subject deserves the attention of the Government. From time to time during the last twenty-five years, the Government has considered in what manner the evils of the present system could be remedied. Every Government has shown itself most anxious to improve the accommodation of the army, and has been successful in making progress in that direction. But the sanitary condition of the soldiers is not the only thing for which provision has to be made in the Army Estimates. Those Estimates for the last two years have been upwards of £11,500,000 per annum. Of that sum £660,000 has been devoted to barracks, and of the latter sum £220,000 has been required to repair the existing barracks; so vast is the extent of barrack accommodation of this country, and the wear and tear to which the barracks are subject. New barracks have been built at Portsmouth and elsewhere, whereby the army has been greatly benefited. But we cannot overlook the state of our military coast defences, and the vast sums required to maintain them in a proper condition. It is just as necessary to pay attention to our great dockyards and the arsenals on our coasts, as to provide barrack accommodation for our soldiers. Great improvements are being made at Portsmouth and other parts of the country to which I will not now particularly allude, but I am quite certain that the attention of the noble Earl at the head of the Government will be turned in that direction. We have great military stations abroad, and they, too, require great attention. We must endeavour to dispense the money voted for military objects generally, and not confine the expenditure to one particular point. I am quite willing that the Government should effect every reasonable improvement of the sanitary condition of our soldiers, and I am quite certain that they will do so; but we must remember that while the House of Commons is quite ready to vote for increased barrack accommodation, it is not very willing to provide the Ways and Means necessary for that purpose. I therefore hope that the public press and Members of Parliament will urge upon the public, that, if they think increased accommodation should be given to the army, they must instruct their representatives in Parliament to vote the necessary Ways and Means, in conclusion, I beg to say I thought this matter required some elucidation, and I have endeavoured, though imperfectly, to afford it. The noble Lord concluded by moving— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, for Return of the Sums of Money proposed in the Army Estimates of 1856–7, and 1858–9, to be expended on Barracks, showing, 1st. The sums required for the Erection of New Barracks, and stating the different Localities in which they are to be erected, and whether they are intended to replace old Barracks. 2nd. The Sums required for supplying Water, improving Drainage, or for ventilating existing Barracks. 3rd. The Sums required generally for sanitary Purposes connected with Barracks or Hospitals, and for the Provision of Quarters for married Non-Commissioned Officers and Soldiers. Also, Return of the Number of Officers and Men for whom Quarters were to be provided by the new Barracks, for which Votes were proposed in the Estimates for the Three Years 1850–7, 1857–8, and 1858–9. Of the Total Amount expended on new Barracks within the United Kingdom in the Twenty Years ending April, 1856, and of the Number of Officers and Men such Barracks were calculated to contain. And also, Copies of any Correspondence within the last Ten Years between the Horse Guards and other Departments of the Government with respect to proposed Additions to or Improvements of Importance in the Barracks of the United Kingdom, which have been recommended for the Health of the Troops, hut refused on the Ground of Expense.


My Lords, I rise at once, in consequence of the speech of my noble Friend who has just sat down, to address a few observations to your Lordships; and I am extremely glad that he has given me an opportunity of stating as publicly as I can, that it was with the greatest regret I found that some observations of mine on a recent occasion were supposed to throw some blame either upon the noble Baron or the Government with which he was connected. I felt it my duty to make such a statement as I thought the public would understand, to show that no peculiar blame ought to attach to myself as the head of the army, or to the other members of it, with respect to the barrack accommodation in this country; but nothing could be further from my intention than to make any attack upon my noble Friend, or upon the heads of any one of the departments connected with the army. So far from that, I have always thought that the noble Baron has done a great deal towards ameliorating the condition of our soldiers. He is the first Secretary of State with whom I have had any personal dealings in public matters; but I believe I am not wrong in stating, without any disrespect to his predecessors, or to any of those who have conducted the Ordnance Department, that nobody could have been more anxious or zealous than he to improve the accommodation of the army. I believe it will be found that during the period he was at the head of the War Department more money was expended in barrack and other improvements than during the administration of any of his predecessors. I repeat, I throw no blame on any of his predecessors. We are only progressing in military matters with the spirit of the age, and the probability is that every year fresh demands will be made by the public upon the Secretary for War to improve the condition of the army; and I agree with the noble Baron that the great difficulty to be surmounted is the finding the ways and means to meet these demands. Having stated so much, I trust I may be permitted to follow the noble Baron in his other statements, and to express the satisfaction which I felt on hearing them. I cordially concur with the noble Baron in all that has fallen from him in respect to the improved condition of the soldier. I think, however, it would be very wrong for us to conclude, because the present accommodation is not all we could desire, that our ancestors had neglected the condition of the soldier. The truth is this, that our soldiers arc thought much more of at the present time than heretofore. Everything has progressed in civil life; every class of society has advanced in its ideas of comfort and accommodation; it would therefore be monstrous to suppose that the soldier alone should be left in the state in which he formerly was. This fact has produced the present fooling that exists abroad—namely, that the accommodation afforded to our army is defective. It was my intention to have stated to your Lordships that I felt it necessary the public should understand that in either of the two capacities in which I have the honour to be placed, I have not been neglectful of my duty. I have not been neglectful of my duty either as colonel of the regiment of Guards, or in my official position as head of the army. The noble Baron, however, has relieved me of the necessity of making any defence of my-character as colonel of the Guards; for he has truly stated that the colonels of the Guards have no power whatever, beyond any other colonels of regiments, to alter the condition of the barracks, or to make any alterations in respect to them; and I say this, that it would be most improper to allow the colonels of the Guards greater power than that possessed by the other colonels, I conceive that the position of a colonel of the Guards—a most honourable one, no doubt—is essentially the same, in regard to power, as that of any other colonel in the army. I think it would he a great misfortune indeed that an impression should be made upon the army generally that the colonels of the Guards had greater power in ameliorating the condition of the soldier than that of any other colonel. I was, therefore, very glad to hear the observations that fell from the noble Baron on the subject. I may also observe that in the course of the communications that have taken place between the noble Baron and myself, we both fully concurred in the necessity of effecting various improvements in the service; and that in order to carry out such improvements it would be necessary to introduce some additional items in our army estimates. The noble Baron, however, felt that we should be placing the Government in a false position if we insisted at that time upon these improvements, knowing that they would involve them in much difficulty as regarded the ways and means. It is easy to point out improvements that might be made in the condition of our troops; but it is a matter of considerable difficulty to find the ways and means of carrying them out. The one thing is a simple process—namely, to resolve upon the desirability of effecting certain improvements; but when we consider the immense expenditure which those improvements would involve, the difficulty then becomes exceedingly great of persuading the country into bearing an increased amount of taxation, without which those improvements cannot be carried out. I rejoice, however, that the subject has attracted so much of public notice, for I am persuaded that the agitation of it is the only mode by which the expenditure can be effected; because I am persuaded that until the public feel that the only mode of ameliorating the condition of the soldier is by their consenting to their representatives in Parliament voting additional expenditure it will be impossible for the Government to introduce into the army those changes which the public voice has lately demanded. I hope I may be permitted to allude now to one point in particular—namely, the barracks of the Guards, the accommodation in which has been so much commented upon. My noble Friend (Lord Panmure) was of opinion that it was most desirable that another barrack should be built; but at the eleventh hour, when we came to discuss the point, and considered that it would involve an outlay of a very large amount of money, we were of opinion that the time had not then arrived for making such a call upon the country, and that alone induced us to give up that project. Another difficulty arising from the erection of further barrack accommodation is the enormous expense of the land that would be required for a site for the same, and the obstacles in the way of finding a suitable locality. The expense of the building of the barracks itself is nothing to be compared to the outlay required for the ground. One thing which has been alluded to by my noble Friend connected with the comfort of the soldier is also a subject of grave consideration—namely, the propriety of providing libraries, reading-rooms, washing, &c. rooms, which have been from time to time introduced into several of our military establishments. Now, the introduction of those accessories appears at first sight very simple, and may be thought to affect but little the question of barrack accommodation; but I contend that it has a great deal to do with it. I think it is essentially necessary, in every barrack in the country, to provide libraries, washing-rooms, and reading-rooms; and, where these improvements have been introduced, you were obliged to have them taken out of the space which entered into the general accommodation of the barracks. I am ready to admit that where it was possible, in barracks that have been erected of late years, these conveniences have been introduced without, to any considerable extent, encroaching on the ordinary accommodation; but still, for a considerable period, as I had opportunities of knowing when I was in Ireland, and even to this day in many towns in England, it will be found that barrack accommodation has been decreased in order to obtain those advantages for soldiers which are so essentially necessary. My Lords, there is another point worthy of consideration. If you introduce an improvement into one barrack, you must introduce it into all; because, if the soldier once finds the advantage of such an improvement—which he certainly soon does—he will be greatly dissatisfied if, on being removed to a different part of the country, he has to experience the want of it in his new quarters. I repeat, therefore, my Lords, that if you introduce an improvement into one barrack, you will be obliged to introduce it into another. Again, my Lords, you must bear in mind that we are speaking not alone of the United Kingdom, but of the Colonies also, and that these things cannot be done without an enormous outlay. It is, however, the business, as well as the policy of the Government, to extend the expenditure over a certain number of years. These progressive improvements, however, are going on, and the fact of their not being yet everywhere introduced is no proof that they have not been thought of, or that the proper authorities are at all indifferent to the importance of the subject. I am not aware whether the noble Baron intends to move for all the documents enumerated in the notice paper—not alone those stated in connection with his own name, but also those in connection with that of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) whom I do not now see in his place. All I can say is, that I should like to see the third Return indicated in the Motion of my noble Friend (Lord Panmure) made a little more general and extensive than he appears to wish it to be. I should like that Return to contain a statement which I think is more valuable than any other in connection with this question, and in which I, as a military man, have an especial concern; and that is the annual approximate estimate for the general barrack accommodation of the country on which the Estimates of the Secretary of State—and formerly those of the Master General of the Ordnance—are based. That Estimate was formerly sent directly to the Ordnance Office, and did not pass through the hands of the Commander in Chief at all. Since the change as to the Secretary of State has been introduced, an arrangement has been made by my noble Friend (Lord Panmure), by which that Estimate shall first come to the Commander in Chief, and, after he has inspected it, shall be passed on to the Secretary of State, who shall then decide on the items to be retained and those to be struck out. It gives the local wants of the army more fully than any other public document; and it is those portions of it that are passed by the Secretary of State, and those that are struck out by the Secretary of State, which will prove the mode in which the relative items are valued and the necessity for each is considered. I contend that the military authorities have attended, and do attend, most conscientiously to the wants of the army. I do not impute any blame to the Secretary of State for the manner in which the items in the Estimate are reduced; but still the fact is, the actual expenditure is not decided upon by the military authorities alone, but by the military authorities in conjunction with the Secretary of State. My Lords, in consequence of the erroneous statements that have gone forth to the country in reference to this subject, I have ventured to make this statement; and I can only say I cordially approve these Returns being called for, convinced as I am that they will prove a benefit to the service, and that it will be found that my noble Friend has not done amiss in the mode in which he has disposed of the resources of the country in this department of the public service.

The Earl of CARDIGAN

said, he was able, on his own experience, to corroborate the statements made by the noble Baron opposite (Lord Panmure) and the illustrious Duke as to the misapprehension and misunderstanding which existed in the public mind on the subject of the alleged extreme inconvenience and discomfort of the Barrack accommodation of the United Kingdom. Having the honour of commanding one of Her Majesty's regiments, and holding besides the position which he now did (Inspector General of Cavalry) he had peculiar opportunities of knowing the facts connected with a large number of barracks in various parts of the country, and he must say the statements which had gone forth to the public of the discomfort experienced by the soldiers had been very much exaggerated. Of late years many arrangements had been made in the barracks with the view to the convenience and comfort of the soldiers. He would particularly instance that by which married men and their families had been removed from the rooms in which single men lived. The rooms were belter ventilated than formerly, and were not overcrowded, and the soldiers had in many instances comforts as far as it was possible to provide them. There was one point on which great misapprehension prevailed. It was said the private soldiers in the army were fed entirely on boiled beef. There never was so great a mistake. It was undoubtedly true that the barracks did not afford convenience for roasting meat; but there was scarcely a regiment in the ser- vice in which the men had not three or four times a week good baked meat and potatoes. That might not be quite as good as roast meat; but it was an absurd idea to go forth to the country that the army was entirely fed on boiled beef. It had also been imputed to the military authorities that the soldiers were allowed to go almost at any hour in the day, but at all events, at an early hour in the morning, to the canteens, where they were supplied with spirits. Now, in every well-regulated regiment in the service, there was either a sergeant or some other non-commissioned officer, or sentry, posted near each canteen from an early hour in the morning, and no man was allowed to drink spirits until after the dinner hour. If an attempt were made to prevent the men from taking spirits in the canteens in the afternoon the men would assuredly go elsewhere for drink, and to the vice of intemperance they would probably add the military offence of being absent without leave. Another point to which the public attention had been called was that there should be some amelioration of the life of the soldier with regard to night duty. It was impossible to say that where there were so many sentries from the battalion of Guards some few might not be displaced; but surely if the health of soldiers, who were enlisted to perform all military duties, and above all the duty of sentries—which was the first duty both of cavalry and infantry —suffered, they would not run the risk of injuring the health of the civil police by making them perform a duty which ought especially to be performed by soldiers, and was performed by the soldiers of every army in the world.


said, the public had felt very strongly the disclosures in the Report of the Sanitary Commissioners—how the soldier, after all that he had suffered abroad, was brought home to have his life exposed in the manner which the Commissioners represented; and he thought that if the Government looked into the question they would find that something might be done by which the condition of the soldier might be very much improved without any great expense. In the time of the former war the troops were concentrated upon the coast for fear of invasion, and during the long peace which succeeded they were scattered through the manufacturing towns and put about in all sorts of places. It was now held that the troops ought not to be scattered, and that they ought to be brought more together, for the purpose of military training. The Government knew how many men should be located in certain districts, and they ought to consider how they could accommodate the remainder in such places as were best adapted for military discipline. Large sums of money were annually spent upon matters less pressing than the wants of the army. The public might, for instance, look to that House, and they would find that nearly £2,000,000 of money had been spent on the Houses of Parliament, and yet Parliament could not afford anything for the soldier. Their Lordships were in that building only for a few hours a day, and a thousand things were done by way of ornament which they would very slightly miss. It was only the other day that they showed in Westminster Hall that they were going to build palaces for all the public offices. Space in London was said to be expensive, but it did not seem so by the plans there exhibited, which showed a grand scheme for expending £1,500,000 or £2,000,000 at the very least. Before they lodged the public clerks so splendidly let them do something for the soldiers. It would be better economy and a refutation of that which was in everybody's mouth, because the people had seen the plans in Westminster Hall, "that the Government would spend money on palaces for Ministers to receive people in, but would not build rooms for soldiers to occupy by night and by day." That was the feeling of the public; and he hoped that the Government would deal with the subject in a proper and enlarged spirit. The Wellington Barracks were model barracks. When he was at the office of Works some business took him there, and he said he would go over them. It was between two and three o'clock in the afternoon, when the rooms ought to have been tolerably fresh; but when he went down stairs he found the room so foul and disgusting that he said he was sure it was not a fit place for people to sleep in. The soldiers said, "It is very bad now, Sir, but you can have no idea how bad it is unless you came in the morning." It struck him so forcibly that something ought to be done that although it was no immediate business of his, he went at once to the Ordnance and made a representation upon the subject. He hoped the Government would take the matter into their serious consideration, and postpone some other expenditure; and if it could not be effected otherwise, apply to Parliament for money to do what was necessary for the soldier.


My Lords, I have listened with much attention to the speeches made by the noble Baron and the illustrious Duke sitting upon the cross benches. It is very well that the country should know, as it will know by the satisfactory statements just made, that the sanitary as well as the moral and social condition of the soldier has been by no means such a matter of indifference to any of the successive Governments of Her Majesty, as it has been by some persons falsely and rashly assumed. As there is no subject upon which the public take a deeper interest than the well-being, comfort, and improvement of the soldier, so there is no subject upon which successive Governments have better represented the public feeling. But, as the noble Baron has truly said, all those improvements demanded of late years have proceeded from the increased expectations of the people. The enlarged ideas of comforts and luxury now entertained by civilians generally have naturally extended to the military, and these lead, and will continue to lead, to great and constantly accumulating demands for further amelioration. With regard to the sanitary condition of our army, it is a gratifying fact that the statements made out of doors are greatly exaggerated. If any noble Lord will only look back to what amount of accommodation in an ordinary private gentleman's country-house was satisfactory thirty or forty years ago, and how utterly insufficient it is deemed now, he will have some means of estimating the necessarily increased expense arising out of the improvements required in the enormous military establishments of this country. It is not that the Government has neglected to provide increased comforts, but that the increased comforts do not come up to the different scale of comfort calculated by all classes of society. My Lords, there is a most earnest determination on the part of Her Majesty's Government to look carefully into this important subject, especially as it bears upon the sanitary condition of the army. But your Lordships must recollect—what has been very truly said by the noble Baron opposite—that all those sanitary improvements require an enormous expenditure of the public money, therefore they cannot be curried out all at once. Although, then, their progress may be slow, it is gradual. Although we cannot do at once all we desire, we must rest satisfied that we are advancing as fast as it is possible under the circumstances. We must at the same time keep our minds upon the necessity of further improvements, with a full determination of carrying them out as soon as we have the means of doing so. The noble Baron has omitted to state one thing, to which, I think, it right to call his attention. The Report of the Sanitary Commission has greatly excited the public feeling, and created some alarm as regards the condition of the army. Much indignation has been expressed at the indifference which, it is alleged, the authorities have manifested in respect to the subject. This is a very erroneous view. The Commission has fully reported on the case, and the noble Baron has omitted to allude to one circumstance connected with the matter, and which, I think, ought to be mentioned —namely, that almost the last step in his official capacity was the appointment of four Sub-committees, at the head of which was the right hon. Sidney Herbert, a gentleman to whom the army was already much indebted for the attention which he has given to the subject. Those Subcommittees were requested to take into their consideration the recommendations of the Sanitary Commission, and to represent to the Government such of them as they thought could be carried out. Those Subcommittees have not as yet reported. The Government are anxiously awaiting this Report. I believe that they were authorized by the noble Baron to lay out a considerable sum of money in mitigating the most gross and crying defects. Now, although in order to give effect to these intentions it will probably be necessary to call on Parliament for an increase in the votes, we shall not hesitate in the discharge of our duty to examine carefully the recommendations of the Sanitary Commission, and to take steps gradually to carry into effect such of them as we may approve of. It must be done gradually, but we will not shrink from making the necessary application to Parliament to enable us to carry out those objects of paramount importance connected with sanitary improvements. My Lords, I heard, with considerable regret, the tone in which the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) has addressed the House. I am certainly not prepared to vindicate all the exaggerated expenditure that has been made, or is supposed to be in contemplation, on our public buildings. But I regret that the noble Duke's language should be such as is calculated to produce an im- pression on the public mind that Parliament and the Government were wasting enormous sums of money upon buildings, and by so doing were depriving themselves of the means of giving more healthful and more necessary accommodation to the soldier. I think it would be most unfortunate were the three classes, the Parliament, the people and the army, to be placed in invidious contrast. I am sure that the noble Duke did not intend to say that the Parliament and the Government were regardless of the sanitary condition of our army, and had been only attentive upon the expenditure of an enormous sum of money upon public buildings. His language, however, is certainly calculated to convey such an opinion, although the main reason why nothing has been done, is the enormous expense suggested by the plans which have been offered, nevertheless I am afraid that very large sums are absolutely necessary to be expended upon public offices which are in a state of absolute decay and dilapidation. The Foreign Office has for years been in a dangerous state. When I had the honour of serving the Crown in 1852, the Foreign Office was admittedly in a most dilapidated and dangerous situation. From that time up to the present, nothing has been done to it. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) may congratulate himself from having escaped from the danger; but I am sure he will bear testimony to the fact, that he has never walked into it without an apprehension that something serious might happen from the ruinous state of the building. With regard to the papers moved for, I am not prepared upon the part of the Government to offer any objection to their production; but I confess that I have some doubt respecting the expediency of producing the last one, with reference to the communication between different departments of the State, for so long a period as ten years. I had rather that paper had not been moved for, more especially as the manner in which the Motion was worded seemed to make an invidious distinction, and to lead to the inference that something absolutely necessary for the comfort of the soldiers had been disregarded on the sole ground of expense. No doubt there are many things which it might be desirable to do; but which cannot be carried out with due attention to the strict rules of economy; and therefore, it will be better not to raise questions which might put different departments of the State into invidious positions. It is desirable enough to carry out improvements if you can do so without raising financial difficulties; but where they exist, we must look to the financial department to afford the means of carrying them out as soon as financial pressure ceases. In the meanwhile, we must abandon some improvements that are desirable, and adopt those only that are absolutely necessary. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baron will consent to withdraw the last portion of his Motion, although, of course, as far as the present Government are concerned, there could be no objection to call upon the different Departments for the production of these papers. But a correspondence which was to a great extent of a private and unofficial character might expose to unjust reflections, persons who may be no longer connected with their departments, or who may have ceased to exist. Perhaps if the noble Baron feels the force of the objection, he will not press this portion of the Motion, and thus avoid the inconvenience which might result from the production of the whole correspondence.


said, he had heard with great satisfaction the opinions which had been drawn forth by the discussion, and more especially was he pleased at the candid manner in which the illustrious Duke at the head of the army had expressed himself on this question. With respect to the observations of the noble Earl, the Inspector General of Cavalry (the Earl of Cardigan) as to canteens, he must say that he believed that vast improvement had resulted from the improved regulations which had been issued respecting them; it would however, be necessary to carry out the regulations with the utmost stringency. It was, however, quite an error to suppose that the late Government contemplated spending anything like a million and a half in the erection of public offices; but he thought the fact that there was, year by year, a very large sum of money expended in the actual hire of rooms for the transaction of the public business, was a sufficient justification for the demand which had been made with respect to the erection of proper public offices, and he was glad to see that the views of the noble Earl with respect to carying out necessary improvements were so much in accordance with his own. One evil which he was glad to see removed was, the practice of the married soldiers and their wives sleeping in the same rooms with the unmarried soldiers; and he thought that the £40,000 voted by the House of Commons for the purpose of providing separate accommodation for those persons, had been the means of introducing a great improvement in the social condition of the men. The only reason why he had moved for the last paper alluded to, was that he had been requested by his noble Friend (Earl Grey), in a note, to do so; and he was the more inclined to do so, because he understood that the Government had no objection to its production. He was, however, fully impressed with the importance of the remarks made by the noble Earl at the head of the Government, and under these circumstances, he would move for the two first returns upon the paper; but would leave it to his noble Friend to take his own course hereafter with respect to the other.


thought that great improvements were required in the guardrooms in almost all the barracks, so as to make them more airy. The condition of the guard-rooms was now extremely bad, and they were very imperfectly ventilated. If they were what they ought to be, a great improvement would take place in the health of the soldiers, and he thought it might be done at very little expense.


thought that it was necessary, above all things, to make some provision for increased barrack accommodation. The Report of the Commissioners on the Sanitary Condition of the Army proved beyond a doubt that great mortality existed in consequence of the present insufficient barrack accommodation, combined with other causes; and their Lordships would remember that, whilst they deliberated, the mortality was still going on. Unless Parliament lent their aid in the matter, the regulations issued by the Commander in Chief would never be able to afford a sufficient remedy to this evil.

Motion, except as to the last Paper, agreed to.