HL Deb 12 June 1890 vol 345 cc678-81

, in rising to ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in the new barracks about to be erected, care will be taken to provide proper accommodation for baths for the soldiers, said: My Lords, if I had any reason to suppose that Her Majesty's Government were likely to give a negative reply to the Question I am about to put, I might perhaps detain your Lordships at some little length in pointing out how necessary it is that proper accommodation should be given as regards baths for maintaining Her Majesty's Forces in health. As I have reason to believe that the answer which will be given on behalf of the Government will be thoroughly satisfactory, I see no reason for detaining your Lordships on the subject, except to observe that when the somewhat large outlay for providing accommodation for Her Majesty's Forces which has been too long delayed is carried out, we have reason to hope that every precaution will be taken for their construction, according to the best scientific rules which have been laid down. I beg leave to ask the noble Earl the question which stands in my name.


Before my noble Friend the Under Secretary for War gives an answer, I should like to call attention to two paragraphs in the Report to the War Office of the architects who were employed to report upon these new barracks. The architects say that provision should be made for ventilation and for small larders with air openings attached to the living rooms in each, of the quarters. I think none of your Lordships, in building a new cottage, would think of building a pantry without ventilation to the open air, where the residents might keep their meat, milk, and butter. Architects are very often, I am afraid, apt to think more of the appearance of rooms in the way of decoration than of the substantial advantages derived from sanitary arrangements, and I think, my Lords, it would be a very good thing if provisions of this kind were made. We are building these barracks and providing rooms for the accommodation of sergeants and corporals, respectable men on whom the maintenance of discipline in the Army mainly depends. Those who understand the difficulty of recruiting and keeping men in the Army in these times know that it is not easy to keep soldiers with the colours as long as we could wish for the advantage of the Service. I hope, therefore, the Secretary for War will not think it is an extravagant matter to provide a small larder for each quarter. There is another paragraph in which I do not concur in which they say there is no occasion for providing a separate scullery for each quarter. I think that to give to two families only one scullery is a very good receipt for breeding quarrels between neighbours. To have two families washing their crockery and clothes in one scullery at the same time, must, I think, lead to considerable confusion and conflict, and I think that with two families of children running about the same scullery, the destruction of each other's crockery would be very considerable. Therefore, I hope that the allowance of accommodation in that respect will not be curtailed. There is another question which the noble Earl has put, with regard to baths. In all large towns baths and washhouses are comprised in the same establishment; and in the large camps, such as Shorncliffe, Aldershot, or Colchester, and in those large sets of barracks which it is in contemplation to put up under this Act for one or two regiments, I think it would be a matter worth the consideration of the Secretary of State for War whether it might not be advantageous and economical to build public wash-houses for the soldiers. In London the poorer people find that it is more economical to pay 1d. an hour, or whatever the charge is, for the use of the wash-houses than to consume their own fuel and have the inconvenience of the heat and steam from the hot water in their own apartments; and I think it would prove to be the same thing in these barracks where there are enough soldiers collected together to make full use of a common wash-house. I think, also, it would be found that a small payment, which would go towards providing the coals, would be a very great comfort and convenience. I do not ask that this should be done without consideration, but I merely suggest that it might be worth the attention of the Secretary of State for War and that the matter might be gone into and considered.


My Lords, in reply to the question of the noble Earl, I can assure the House that the War Department are fully alive to the advantages of giving every facility for ablution to the soldiers, and it is proposed to provide baths in the new barracks. The baths will be made of slate, that having been found to be the best material for the purpose, as it is clean, durable, and cheap. It is intended that these baths should be each in a separate room; and, further, where there are opportunities for it, it is proposed to give every facility for open-air bathing during the summer months. It is now under consideration whether it would be practicable or desirable in the new barracks to introduce steam for heating purposes. I cannot say at this, moment whether that can be carried out. The question of expense may raise a difficulty in the way of its introduction. But if it can be done, the steam raised will be made available for purposes of heating water for washing. With regard to the points raised by Lord Powis, if I had known that the noble Earl intended to raise them, I should have been very glad to have inquired into the matter, so that I might have been able to go into the question with him. But they are rather questions of small detail in a large matter; that is to say, the provision of married soldiers' quarters. The difficulty with those quarters is that some men have large families and some have small ones, and it is very difficult to construct quarters that are suitable for families of all sizes. I can, however, assure the noble Earl that I shall be very glad to go carefully into the points which he has spoken of this evening with the view to making the soldiers and their wives as comfortable as possible in their new married quarters.

House adjourned at Twenty minutes past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.