HL Deb 28 June 1900 vol 84 cc1285-97

Amendments reported (according to Order).

LORD HENEAGE moved to omit from Clause 1, the words "or the council of any county or borough," his object being to make the cost of sites for Volunteer rifle ranges a charge upon the State, and not upon the rates. Those of their Lordships who were present on the occasion of

On Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause,"

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 67; Not-Contents, 27.

Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.) Romney, E. Colville of Culross, L.
Devonshire, D. (L. President.) Rosse, E. Crofton, L.
Cross. V. (L. Privy Seal.) Temple, E. De Mauley, L.
Waldegrave, E. [Teller] Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)
Argyll, D. Glenesk. L.
Clancarty, V.(E. Clancarty.) Harris L.
Ailesbury, M. Hardinge, V. Hood of Avalon, L.
Lansdowne, M. Llandaff, V. James, L.
Winchester, M. Sidmouth, V. Lawrence, L.
Frankfort de Montmorency, V. Lindley, L.
Carlisle, E. Ludlow, L.
Cawdor, E. Gloucester, L. Bp. Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)
Coventry, E. Mostyn, L.
Dartmouth, E. Alverstone, L. Napier, L.
Dartrey, E. Avebury, L. Norton, L.
de Montalt, E. Bagot, L. Penrhyn, L.
Denbigh, E. Belper, L. Robertson, L.
Egerton, E. Blythswood, L. Sherborne, L.
Haddington, E. Brampton, L. Sinclair L.
Harewood, E. Calthorpe, L. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Lichfield, E. Chaworth L. (E. Meath.)
Lindsey, E. Churchill, L. [Teller] Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)
Mar, E. Clifford of Chudleigh. L. Suffield, L.
Mayo, E. Clonbrock, L. Wimborne, L.
Onslow, E. Colchester, L.
Grafton, D, Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) Monkswell, L. [Teller]
Sutherland, D. Ribblesdale, L. [Teller.]
Burghclere, L. Sandhurst, L.
Ripon, M. Davey, L. Saye and Sele, L.
Hawkesbury, L. Thring, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Heneage, L. Tweedmouth, L.
Camperdown, E. Herries, L. Wandsworth, L.
Carrington, E. Kinnaird, L. Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Kimberley, E. Leigh, L. Wolverton, L.
Morley, E. Manners of Haddon, L. (M. Granby.)
Spencer, E.

the Second Reading* would recollect that the Earl of Northbrook adverted to this question and quoted the opinion of the County Councils Association. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War intervened, and stated that he was going to make a statement with regard to it at a further stage, upon which Lord Northbrook said he would reserve what he had to say until he had heard that statement. Unfortunately, Lord Northbrook was unable to be present when the Bill passed through Committee, and no statement was made. Consequently he (Lord Heneage) now brought the question forward. A * See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxxiii., page 1433. resolution was passed unanimously by the County Councils Association to the effect that no charge for providing or equipping rifle ranges should fall upon the rates, but that it should be paid out of the general revenues of the country. The association were quite willing, however, that county councils should bear the cost of the necessary inquiries and preliminary negotiations; but they felt that this was a national matter, and that any cost incurred in purchasing and equipping ranges should be a national charge. He might be met by the argument that this was, after all, only a permissive Bill. In his opinion, this very considerably strengthened his position. As there was no actual obligation on county councils to provide the cost, if they declined, a rifle corps might be left without the range, and the Government had no responsibility in the matter, though it was an Imperial, not a local question.

Amendment moved— In Clause 1, page 1, line 5, to leave out 'or the council of any county or borough.'"—(Lord Heneage.)


My Lords: I must express my regret that I disappointed my noble friend of an explanation which he evidently expected. On the occasion to which he refers I think he and I must have been in the position of Lord Chatham and Sir Richard Strachan—each was waiting on the other, and the result was nothing was said. There are, of course, two classes of ranges which we have to consider. There are the great central ranges created mainly in the interest of the regular forces, but to which we have contemplated that Volunteers should have facilities of access when necessary. Volunteers require such access for the purpose of practising at the longer distances, and also for collective firing, which they are very often unable to practise owing to the insufficient width of their own corps ranges. But Volunteers can earn the Capitation Grant without firing at any distance greater than 600 yards. Therefore, they are to a great extent sufficiently provided for by ranges of a less length than that which we provide at Salisbury Plain and other places. Upon these great central ranges we have lately spent £320,000, in addition to a large sum included in the purchase money of land on Salisbury Plain, where we are laying out a number of these ranges; and when the work is finished I am in hopes that every Volunteer corps will have a central range within reasonable distance. I do not mean to suggest that they will not have to travel by rail to any of them, but their travelling expenses will be paid. Then I pass to the other class of ranges—the local or corps ranges. There is no doubt that the original intention was that those ranges should be provided by the Volunteers themselves, assistance being given by the Government in the form of a capitation grant; but I readily admit that things have altered a great deal since that arrangement was first made—rifles carry further, the difficulty of obtaining sites is greater, and I have no doubt that inspection has become more strict. Therefore, it seems to us reasonable that we should at all events assist Volunteers in providing local corps ranges. We took last year in our Military Works Loans Act the sum of £40,000 to be spent for the purpose of assisting Volunteers in this way, and nearly the whole of that sum has been allocated. We have, generally speaking, given to corps a third or nearly a half of the sum of which they stood in need. But besides this £40,000, I have lately obtained from Her Majesty's Government consent to spend a further sum of £100,000 on local ranges, and we are now engaged in considering how that sum should be distributed. A Committee known as the Ranges Committee has been sitting for some time, and is in constant communication with the General Officers in command of districts. I am able to tell your Lordships that when this expenditure is completed, we shall have travelled a considerable distance towards supplying the Volunteer corps throughout the United Kingdom with range accommodation within easy reach of their own headquarters. If I may be permitted, I will read a paragraph from a recent Report of the Committee, which will explain the matter very clearly. The Committee say— Apart from the London corps, the expenditure now proposed. … will complete the process of providing the Volunteer force with suitable range accommodation, in the past two or three years the Volunteers have spent large sums on ranges, and the fact that last year not a single Volunteer was excused firing his class for want of accommodation, is evidence that the difficulties experienced on the introduction of the new rifle have been met to a considerable extent. It has, however, been necessary for the men in many corps to travel long distances and incur some expense, but with the provision of the ranges now in question this will be reduced to a minimum, and there should in future be no corps without suitable ranges within easy reach, not only of their headquarters, but even of detached companies. I ought not to omit to explain that in the distribution of funds now going on we propose to include subventions to some corps who have already provided ranges at their own expense, but who have done so under circumstances which seem to us to justify us in to some extent recouping them for the sacrifices they have made. I now come to the question which the noble Lord desires to raise by his Amendment—the question of assistance from the rates. Your Lordships will have observed, from what I have already said, that we admit that the central ranges concern us wholly, and local or corps ranges only partially. If, in regard to the local ranges, we are to adopt this principle of co-operation, the question arises, by whom is the remainder of the money, of which the Government finds a part, to be provided? There are throe sources from which, conceivably, it might be found. There are the funds of the corps, there are private benefactions and subscriptions, and, lastly, there are the rates. I frankly confess to your Lordships that our Bill is drawn in such a manner as not to preclude the possibility of assistance from the rates. That, I gather, is the point of difference between my noble friend and myself. I am not quite sure whether his Amendment effects his purpose, but he evidently desires to put it out of the power of local authorities to make any contribution from the pockets of the ratepayers for these military purposes. I should be very sorry to see the Amendment adopted. The matter, of course, does not rest with us; it rests entirely with these local bodies, and if under certain circumstances they should think proper to give some assistance from the rates towards these objects, I do not see why we should, by Act of Parliament, prevent them from doing so. It is already the case that some of these local authorities are, of their own free will, finding money for the purpose of providing rifle ranges. I am aware that the local authority of Nottingham has provided a rifle range, for which, I believe, some rent is paid by the corps which have the use of it. Norwich and Warwick are desirous of giving assistance, and Yarmouth has done so, and, I believe, is in hopes of attracting large numbers of Volunteers into camp in the vicinity of the town, no doubt with the thought, of the advantage which may possibly thereby accrue to the neighbourhood. My noble friend referred to Lord Northbrook's action in this matter, and I may perhaps be allowed to say one word as to the circumstances under which this clause found its way into the Bill. Early in the spring Lord Northbrook was good enough to communicate with me on the subject, and. he sent me a memorandum in which it was set out that the County Councils Association had been acting in concert with a body which, I believe, is known as the County Volunteers Development Association. A Committee had been appointed, and Lord Northbrook sent me a copy of the Report of the Committee, to which his signature was attached, and of which he expressed himself, I understood, entirely in favour. The sixth paragraph of that Report runs thus— The Committee suggest that power should be given to local authorities to spend money upon the erection of buildings upon lands held for military purposes, and to borrow money for that purpose. They believe that local authorities may be willing, in some cases, to charge this expenditure upon the rates. It was upon the strength of that that we drafted our Bill, and we certainly thought we were on very firm ground. It is perfectly true that at a later stage we became aware of the resolution passed by the County Councils Association. It stated that— The Association is of opinion that the expense of the provision and equipment of ranges for Volunteers should be provided by Parliament and not by the rates. But the Committee expressed itself entirely favourable to the provisions of the Bill as drafted, and I certainly took the resolution of the association as merely indicating their decided opinion that this was a matter in which the Government was very distinctly concerned, and that they did not want to have the whole of the financial burden thrown upon the shoulders of the ratepayers. That was my interpretation of the resolution, and I cannot help thinking it was not an, unreasonable one. The Amendment of my noble friend does not entirely effect his purpose because he leaves in the Bill the second clause, under which urban councils will have the power of borrowing money for the purchase of land for military purposes, and county councils already have, and have had for some time, this power. The main question is whether your Lordships should leave the Bill as it stands, or put into it words which would absolutely preclude these local bodies, some of whom, we believe, for excellent reasons, desire to assist rifle ranges out of the rates, from doing so. I would ask your Lordships to adhere to the Bill in its present form.


agreed in the view that, this being a national and not a local question, funds for the provision of rifle ranges should be provided by the nation, and not by the localities. On behalf of the private donor, he hoped no more would be left to his patriotism, because he was almost squeezed dry. Perhaps the Secretary for War would lay down the conditions under which the grant of £100,000 would be allocated.


So far as I have been able to ascertain, there is a very important consideration which militates against my noble friend's Amendment; it is that this power is now possessed and has been exercised by certain county councils. If that be so, of course the principle has been admitted. I dare say the noble Marquess, who is no doubt perfectly acquainted with the matter, will be kind enough to tell us what is the extent of the power of local authorities to contribute towards the provision of rifle ranges. My objection was merely a general one. My feeling was that it was highly undesirable to put any new charges on the rates. That is a very old question, and I am certainly not going to enter into a full discussion on so knotty a point. We have been promised a reform of local taxation, not only by this Government, but by many Governments, but the promise has never been fulfilled. What I am afraid of is that in the meantime charges on local rates will be heaped up more and more. This is not equitable to the payer of rates. The wealth of the country does not now consist, as it largely did formerly, of real property. The value of real property has fallen very much, whereas the wealth of the country has increased enormously, and everyone must see that those who are not liable to pay rates on real property have as much interest in the defence of the country as those who are liable. I deprecate altogether the laying of one burden after another, not only for this purpose but for other national purposes, on local rates, when those burdens should be borne by the imperial Exchequer.


said the question of providing rifle ranges for London Volunteers in the neighbourhood of London was most important and pressing on account of the density of the population, the immense number of Volunteers in London, and the condition of many London Volunteer corps, which were not drawn from one part of London only, but scattered over the whole of London, and therefore found difficulty in getting to their ranges. The question of providing them with ranges near London was under the consideration of a committee of the London County Council. He hoped the Secretary for War would assure the House that the matter was seriously under the consideration of the War Office, and would give some idea what steps the Government intended to take.


said that as chairman of the county council of his county in Scotland he heard with pleasure the observations that fell from the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition. He agreed that the provision of rifle ranges should not be thrown on the rates. The British ratepayer was a long-suffering, asinine person, and often submitted to burdens "when he might kick up his heels and stop the whole thing."


I will first answer the question of my noble friend Lord Dartmouth, who asked whether I was in a position to toll him anything with regard to the conditions upon which this further grant is likely to be distributed. One of the conditions is that we must be satisfied as to the title, and I think it possible we may also stipulate in some cases that corps of Yeomanry, if within easy reach, might be allowed facilities for using the range. But I am afraid it is impossible to state in detail the conditions insisted upon in each case, because our instructions to the Ranges Committee are to deal with each case on its merits. The noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition asked whether I could enlighten him as to the powers already possessed by local authorities to acquire or hire lands for military purposes. I do not know whether I can give him an exhaustive statement on the matter, but I am able to tell him this much, that county councils have power to purchase land for military purposes under Clause 69 of the Local Government Act. Borough councils were given similar powers under the Military Lands Act of 1892, and the object of Clause 2 of this Bill is to extend the powers now exercisable by a borough council to the council of an urban district. With regard to the powers dealt with by Clause 1 the case is as follows. Although county and borough councils have the power to acquire land, they have no power to adapt it to military purposes, and in order to give them that power Clause 1 has been introduced into the Bill. Lord Tweedmouth may be assured that the case of the metropolitan Volunteers is not being lost sight of. We attach the greatest importance to providing them with suitable range accommodation. Although I would rather not, for reasons which he can easily imagine, enter into details, I am able to say that the matter is receiving attention at this moment, and we earnestly hope and believe that a well-conceived project will be devised, under which the metropolitan Volunteers will have facilities for rifle practice within reasonable distance of their headquarters. Great difficulties have to be encountered not only in the case of London, but also in the case of all largo towns in Great Britain, but I trust we may be able gradually to surmount them.

Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.


asked permission to move an Amendment which provided that, subject to the control of the Secretary of State for War, the members of cadet corps should be permitted to use, free of charge, lands provided out of the public purse for military purposes. He said this Amendment was a very humble one, and would not add to the expense of either the ratepayers or taxpayers. It was because he did not wish to see militarism introduced into this country that he desired to see the free citizens of England capable of bearing arms trained to arms in their youth. An evidence of the necessity of imparting military instruction to the youth of this country was given in a lecture the previous evening by Dr. Warre, whose whole life had been spent in the education of the young, and whose reputation as an educationist was of the highest. Dr. Warre said— I can honestly say that I have never seen any of those effects produced which the bogey of militarism would fain have us think to be the natural results of such training. I have never seen any even of the keenest Volunteers made worse scholars, or worse boys, by submitting to the instruction and the discipline of the corps. I believe, on the contrary, that all boys who go through that discipline and instruction are the better for it, gaining by it an increase in the power of self-control, and still further, in the power of being useful to their country in their afterlife. On the other hand. I believe that the salvation of the country as regards national defence depends upon the right and timely training of its youth with reference to this special national need. He hoped the noble Marquess would not lose the present opportunity, but would introduce a Bill before the end of the session dealing with the subject. It had been said that the training of our lads would not add one effective soldier to the battalions. That was quite true in one sense, but we had to look to the future, when these lads might prove of great service.


My Lords, I will not say a word that could be interpreted as denoting any want of sympathy with the noble Earl's desire that the youth of this country should receive a reasonable amount of military education. I am well aware how great an interest he has taken in the question of cadet corps, and I wish him all possible success in the excellent work in which he interests himself. But I am afraid that it is quite impossible for me to accept this Amendment, a copy of which he handed to me just before the House met. I cannot help thinking that he has drawn his Amendment under a misconception of the scope and objects of the Bill. This is a Bill the object of which is to facilitate the acquisition of land for military purposes by certain local authorities, while the object of the Amendment is to secure that cadet corps shall have the free use of ranges acquired under the Military Lands Act of 1892 or under this Bill. That is really a question which does not arise at all on this occasion. This Bill does not raise the question of the conditions under which the different corps are to have the use of ranges, and I must say that I should hesitate, even if the clause really were germane to the Bill, to accept a proposal that these particular corps should be given a preferential use of ranges free of charge.


Not a preferential use.


Preferential in the sense that they would use the ranges free of charge.


This Amendment is not on the Paper, and as your Lordships have not had an opportunity of reading and considering it, I do not think it should be put.


pointed out that a Cadet corps would be able to obtain all the advantages desired by becoming attached to a Volunteer corps.


Unless I am very much mistaken, cadet corps are affiliated and attached to Volunteer corps.


I understood the noble Marquess to undertake, in the Grand Committee, that if I would draw up a schedule setting out the procedure of the Bill, he would accept it. I spent the whole of yesterday afternoon drawing up a schedule, which is admitted by the War Office to be correct. I wish to know whether the noble Marquess will not bring it forward himself and allow it to pass.


Considerable trouble has been taken in order to meet, if possible, the wishes which have been expressed by the noble Lord who has just spoken and the noble Lord who sits behind him for some clear statement of the procedure which will be followed under this Bill in cases of the compulsory acquisition of land. The noble and learned Lord has been good enough to draft a schedule, which I have considered, and I must put it to the House whether it really will be for the public convenience that we should incorporate that schedule in the Bill. Several courses have been suggested to us with the object of explaining to the public what this procedure is to be. It was suggested, I think at first by Lord Monkswell, that we might print in the schedule of the Bill the different clauses to which reference is made in the Bill itself. It was found that that was virtually impossible owing to the number and length of the clauses. I am afraid, therefore, that that alternative has to be dismissed. Then we come to the noble and learned Lord's proposal that the schedule which he has been good enough to send to me should be printed as part of the Bill. It gives a full description of the procedure to be adapted under the Lands Clauses Acts, under the Allotments Act of 1887, and under the Local Government Act of 1894. It is a somewhat lengthy paper, and there is this to be remembered, that if we were to insert it in the Bill it would not be a full and complete account of the new procedure, because there would still be in the background the adaptation which the Local Government Board is empowered to make in applying the clauses under which allotments may be purchased to the purchase of land for rifle ranges. Moreover, I doubt whether it is convenient to insert a statement which professes to be a complete account of other statutes, but which is worded in terms different from those used in the statutes. I think such a procedure is open to grave objection. I would venture to suggest to the noble and learned Lord and to your Lordships that we may fairly meet the objections that have been raised by the procedure contemplated by the Bill—namely, that the Local Government Board should, in the usual way, make the Adapting Order under this Bill, which Adapting Order will be published. I am told that in this case the Adapting Order will be published during the coming autumn. If this is not considered sufficient I should be willing to have a concise statement of the procedure printed and published, but I prefer not to have it in the Bill. I trust the alternative I have proposed will be acceptable to the noble and learned Lord and to the House.


The noble Marquess has, I think, endeavoured to meet the noble and learned Lord to a certain extent, but I confess that the more I hear of it the more unsatisfactory the arrangement seems to be. In point of fact the matter appears to be so complicated that it is impossible to draw up any statement sufficiently clear to be put into the Bill. If that is so, is it not rather hard that people whose property is to be taken against their will should not know the procedure under which that is to be done? Although I think it is quite right that there should be power to take land compulsorily under this Bill, that power ought only to be exercised under plain, distinct, and statutory regulations. There is a very elastic power lodged in the Local Government Board, and I must say that I am jealous of the Executive having any power to deal peremptorily with the property of other people. The power should be fenced round and distinctly set out, so that no one can feel that he has any ground for complaint as to the manner in which it has been exercised.


said that his noble and learned friend Lord Thring was very much exercised in his mind as to the word "adaptation," which he considered very vague and not at all desirable.


said that in his opinion the wording of Section 2 of Clause 3 was anything but satisfactory. The section stated that the provisions of Sections 9 and 10 of the Local Government Act, 1894, and of the enactments thereby incorporated, should, as far as they were applicable, and subject to such adaptations as the Local Government Board might by order prescribe, apply in the case of hiring land compulsorily for military purposes as they applied in the case of hiring land compulsorily for allotments. He suggested that the noble Marquess should state definitely in the Bill how many of the provisions of Sections 9 and 10 of the Local Government Act, 1894, were applicable, and that the "adaptations" of the Local Government Board should be abolished.

Bill to be read 3a to-morrow.