HC Deb 15 July 1859 vol 154 cc1320-2

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for War if he will place the Report of the Militia Commission in the hands of Members before he states the extent to which the Government will adopt the recommendations of that Commission.


said, that in reply to the last question he would take care that the Report of the Commissioners should be in the hands of Members some time before the Militia Estimates were proposed. With respect to the subject which the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. D. Griffith) had referred to, he (Mr. S. Herbert) had not had his attention called to it before, but no doubt accidents would sometimes happen in publichouse rows, in which almost anything could be used as a weapon, even if the soldiers were deprived of their belts. In answer to the question of the noble Lord (Lord W. Graham) he had to say that he found the soldier had formerly taken the oath of allegiance and also swore to the questions put to him by the magistrate. It appeared that the soldier was not liable to be tried for perjury by court-martial in respect of the oath. At present the soldier took the oath of allegiance and answered the questions of the magistrate by a declaration. He thought the more the practice of taking oaths could be modified the better, as their repetition made them regarded as mere matters of form. Before the next Mutiny Bill was brought in he would see how far the present system might be modified. With regard to the Military Asylum at Chelsea, it was natural that the gallant General should wish to extend the benefits conferred on the army by that institution. It was an error, however, to suppose that the establishment of the normal school had led to a diminution in the number of the children educated in the Asylum. At one time there was at Southampton a large school for girls in connection with it. That was given up, not from motives of economy, but because the objects for which it had been established were not attained. The boys' school, however, had been frequently reduced, and stood at its minimum in 1854 or 1855. In 1856 the normal school was founded, and a portion of the asylum was devoted to that purpose. Subsequently a very large addition of buildings was made for the normal school alone, and it was now one of the most valuable institutions they possessed; teachers received there the requisite training, and great benefit had thereby resulted to the army. Since the establishment of this school the number of boys at Chelsea had been increased. The gallant General asked why the number was not increased still further. He (Mr. S. Herbert) should be glad to do so, but at the present moment he was so anxious to devote all the money that could be spared in strengthening our national defences, that he did not like to look at these questions. The pressure of this and other matters was so great that he could not undertake now to give any pledge to increase the number of children in the asylum, though he should be glad to do so if it were in his power.


said, he had given notice of a Motion to submit the present Army Estimates to a Committee, but in consequence of the late period of the Session he did not expect that the House would entertain the question, although he was still strongly of opinion that they would never have any reduction of the Army and Navy Estimates until they were brought under the consideration of a Select Committee. The present Army Estimates amounted to the largest sum which had ever been asked of the House in a time of peace during the last forty years. When there was this large expenditure it would naturally be expected that the defences of the country were in a perfect state, but on that subject they had various opinions. Some people of a nervous character were never satisfied whatever amount of money was expended on the army and navy, and hon. Members connected with the army and navy were always very anxious to increase the amount expended. Now, he found that though the Army Estimates this year showed a decrease of 7,480 men compared with last year, there had been a considerable increase in the staff of the army. The Estimates for Army and Navy this year amounted to £13,800,000 more than in 1811, and £10,500,000 more than in 1852–3, the year before the Russian war. It was stated, however, the other night by an hon. and gallant Member that if the £12,859,000 voted for the army, independently of the militia, only £3,500,000 were expended on the real strength of the army, the fighting men. The home staff was £112,967 last year, and this year £131,900, being an increase of £19,000, although the number of men had been reduced by 7,480. A very large item in these Estimates was for the expense of inspectors-general to inspect the infantry. He thought with the number of able and gallant generals we bad commanding districts there was a sufficient number of officers capable of performing this service, and that this item of expenditure ought not to be allowed. Again, a very serious item in those Estimates was for the expense of staffs in the Colonies. He found the staff expenses alone in Australia were set down at £17,300, as against £6,200 charged for the same service in the year 1853. That was a very large increase, and one that he really could not understand. Surely the Colonies were able to pay this outlay themselves if it were requisite, which indeed he greatly doubted. In Canada, the expenditure for the staff was £18,178, and in Hong Kong £7,041. These were items that were going on increasing year after year, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would turn his serious attention to them, with a view of bringing them within reasonable limits. He would also call attention to the enormous expenditure on bar-racks. In these Estimates there was upwards of a million of money required for the repair and erection of barracks. If those barracks were in a state to protect the health and comfort of the men there would be some reason in this; but it was in evidence, on good and high authority, that the barracks in this country were in a most inefficient state. he would not press the Motion of which he had given notice, but he hoped he had said sufficient to cause the right hon. Gentleman to give his serious attention to these subjects.

Motion agreed to.