§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. H. R. FARQUHARSON (Dorset, W.)
said, the Bill of which he had to move the Second Reading was a non-contentious measure. Its object was to regulate and restrict the wearing of uniforms, in view of the practice, objectionable to both officers and men of both Services, that had grown up of clothing sandwich-men in uniforms or colourable imitations of uniforms. Uniforms were also used for fraudulent purposes. In a breach of promise case which he read the other day the defendant, a clerk, knowing the effect a military uniform had on the fair sex, approached the lady in an officer's uniform. He was accepted and broke his promise, and then came the action. Again, in the Chamber of Horrors there was an effigy of the murderer Deeming dressed in the uniform of an Indian cavalry regiment. When soldiers saw that sort of thing they were naturally disgusted. He could not help thinking, considering the splendid services rendered both by the Army and the Navy, that the honour of the uniform should be very jealously guarded. Why should tradesmen, for the purposes of advertisement, be allowed to go into the back streets to collect men to dress in Her Majesty's uniform: did that, not destroy the honour of wearing a soldier's 700 uniform? He believed that in all other countries it was illegal to wear colourable imitations of uniforms. In this country, beyond all others, the honour of the Queen's uniform ought to be most strictly guarded, because the Military Service was entirely voluntary. Even the War Office Authorities depended to a certain extent on the smartness of the military uniform, for did they not send their smartest men in uniform to Trafalgar Square to get recruits? Yet it was possible that those recruits, after seeing the recruiting sergeant, came face to face in the next street with some unfortunate sandwich-man dressed in uniform, but presenting a miserable spectacle. It was not only civilians who were deceived. It sometimes happened that officers themselves were taken in. An impostor in a purchased uniform had actually been entertained as an officer at a regimental mess. The object of this Bill was to prevent occurrences of that kind, and generally to maintain the dignity of Her Majesty's Service. He begged to move the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ COLONEL BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
, in seconding the Motion, said, that he was anxious that the House should not think that this was a measure claimed by soldiers and sailors who sought to have conferred on them some exceptional privilege. It was, in fact, promoted to relieve these men of a serious injustice, and to rid the country of a scandal which was not tolerated in any other part of the world. The scandal with which the Bill dealt was the wearing of the national uniforms without any sort of authority and with every circumstance of derision and degradation, mainly in the streets of London and the large towns by sandwich-men for advertising purposes, and also by vagrants and mountebanks of every degree. His hon. Friend (Mr. Farquhar-son) had cited some very extraordinary examples of the laxity of the existing law. He would especially call the attention of the House and of the Secretary of State for War to the commonest prevailing form of this evil—that of street advertisement. Not long ago a man distributed advertisements in the streets dressed in the full uniform of a Staff officer. Personally, he felt less sympathy for the Staff officers than for any other persons in the Army, as it was the bad example of the Head Quarters Staff 701 of the Army in matters of uniform which had had so much to do with the fact that officers throughout the Army evaded wearing their own uniforms whenever they could do so. Still, the Staff officer was entitled to redress in a matter of this sort. Another case look place last year, when, for purposes of advertisement, there was a long string of men attired as bluejackets, and commanded or marshalled—to make the thing complete—by an individual dressed as a naval officer, this individual carrying a sword and wearing a cocked hat. Naval men had no redress against tin's evil. This year, opposite Charing Cross Railway Station, was to be seen a procession of men dressed as Royal Marine Light Infantry, with the pith helmet. He called the attention of the Secretary to the Admiralty to the matter, and that right hon. Gentleman acted with more promptitude than he had ever secured from any other branch of the Services. The right hon. Gentleman succeeded, by moral pressure of some kind, in having this particular scandal immediately abated. The last case of the sort which he would cite showed that even Volunteers had a great deal to complain of in this matter. Last year a number of sandwich-men were dressed in the uniform of a corps of which everyone had heard favourably—the Artists' Rifles. The Adjutant of the corps remonstrated. The contractor heard him with the greatest good temper and urbanity, and, in answer to his representations, clothed all his men in the uniform of another battalion. Of course, he could add to these examples indefinitely. In the country districts the commonest form of this abuse was for bands of musicians to appear adorned in military garb; their appearance, he believed, excited great enthusiasm in the villages. There could be no objection to bands wearing proper uniforms—proper prescribed uniforms, in the way they did in every other part of the world; but there was no reason why they should be allowed to wear the honourable and distinctive uniforms of particular regiments, and even badges which were supposed to have been conferred on those regiments as an exclusive privilege to reward gallant services which had been performed. He understood that some hon. Members thought that this question of the bands constituted a difficulty in regard to the Bill. 702 But he could assure them most earnestly that they need not so regard the matter. Certainly, if there was a difficulty it could easily be removed. His hon. Friend was quite willing that they should insert in the saving clause of the Bill in Committee any word which would make the clause more distinct than it now was. It was true that a certain word was omitted from the saving clause—the word "jacket." It would, however, be quite possible to include that word, and thus the objection would be met. In country villages the evil had greatly increased in the last few years and was likely to increase there owing to the present War Office Regulations. The village shop now nearly always had a supply of these picturesque dresses for any purchaser who liked to wear them, and it was quite a, common thing to find persons employed as waggoners or otherwise, or not employed at all, swaggering about in the costume of the Royal Artillery, Hussars, Dragoons, or other regiment. Stablemen might even be seen wearing two or three good-conduct-badges which had been purchased at the local store. It frequently happened that a lad who wished to buy one of those military tunics stipulated that it should have a sergeant's chevron or two or three good-conduct badges. He was sure that the House would wish to remedy an evil of this kind. As to the method which they should adopt—it was a curious fact that whenever the authorities hitherto had tried to deal with the matter they had appeared to do so in the most disingenuous manner possible. Instead of accepting the principle that this Bill sought to establish that it was dishonest for unauthorised persons to wear a uniform prescribed for a certain class of the community and for no other, the line which they had tried to take was simply to make it difficult to buy or to sell the uniforms. But, as a matter of fact, the latest Regulations made it more easy than ever for uniforms to be bought and sold. In 1875 the Public Stores Act was passed. If it had actually been the policy of the authorities to deal with the matter in the indirect and, as he called it, disingenuous manner, they missed a good opportunity then of doing so with comparative success. The Act was extremely rigid in its Regulations about the other articles with which the soldier was supplied. It prescribed that marking 703 stores improperly with the broad arrow or other badge of the same kind, should constitute a misdemeanour which might be punished by imprisonment for two years. The offence of obliterating the Government mark was made a felony, with a possible punishment of seven years' penal servitude. In Clause 13 necessaries which might be supplied to soldiers, Militiamen, and Volunteers were expressly exempted from the operation of the Act. To show that this method of dealing with the evil was ineffectual, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that it did not deal with the case of condemned uniforms. Some time ago he purchased from a shop-window two uniforms—one of the Royal Marine Artillery and the other of the Royal Marine Light Infantry—paying for them 3s. 6d. each. The vendor said that he had a large supply of other patterns inside if he liked to look at them. He sent the two tunics to be examined at headquarters, and was informed that they bore the condemned mark, and that therefore no offence had been committed. It was evident, therefore, that this way of dealing with the question did not suffice. He might remind the right hon. Gentleman of a scarlet jacket of the Inniskillen Dragoons which he handed to him, and which proved after long investigation to be made by a private tailor, or at any rate never to have been issued by the proper authorities. It was clear that the present was not the method of meeting the difficulty. They naturally turned to the example of other countries. No other great Military Power, or, he would say, warlike Power, if hon. Gentlemen preferred the expression, tolerated this evil for a moment. It was recognised as having a most serious effect upon recruiting—upon the legitimate prestige of the Army. How could General Officers in high authority or the Secretary of State for War address the troops or the public on the subject of the honour of wearing Her Majesty's uniform when it was made to be no honour at all? With what consistency could they put in The Gazette that such and such an officer had the right on retirement to retain his rank and wear his uniform when he could give himself permission if he liked to appear to do both under any circumstances without consulting anyone or being subject to any punishment. In 704 France, the offence with which the Bill dealt was punished with six months to two years' imprisonment, without the option of a fine. In Germany, the punishment was six weeks' imprisonment, or a fine of £7 10s. In Austria-Hungary and Italy there was a heavy fine, which went as high in the case of Italy as £40. He turned to the example afforded in the distant parts of the British Empire. By the Indian Penal Code, Clause 7, Section 140, it was provided that whoever, not being a soldier in the Military or Naval Service of the Queen, wore any garb, or carried any token resembling any garb or token used by such soldier, should be punished with imprisonment by the Administration for a term which might extend to three months, or by a fine which might extend to 500 rupees, or by both. But the framers of the Bill had not relied on Continental models, nor even copied the drastic but useful enactment of the Indian Government. The main enactment in the Bill now before the House was taken from a recent statute of the Colony of Victoria. And he must be allowed to remind any hon. Gentleman who thought that in this modest Bill some serious injury was meditated against the liberties of the people—of the Civil population—that that was not likely to be the case when the main enactment had proved acceptable to the wisdom of the Victorian Legislature. The Act to which he referred was called the Discipline and Defence Act, Victoria. Before sitting down he would appeal to the House to show a little extra indulgence to the soldiers and sailors, owing to the fact that they did not possess any votes. [Cries of "No !"] Well, of course there were exceptions, but the great mass of the soldiers and sailors had not that influence on the House that other sections of the community possessed. He thought that it would be a sad thing if the bands of musicians, who, he believed, were asking some hon. Members not to accept the Bill—these bands, who were wearing uniforms intended for the Army or the Navy, were to be able to exercise such pressure on the Members of that House by the authority of their votes as to over-ride the claims for redress of honest soldiers and sailors who did not possess political influence. He trusted that the House in its wisdom would accept the Second Reading of the Bill, and so do an im- 705 portant act of justice to the soldiers and the sailors in the Services.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. H. R. Farquharson.)
§ CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)
said, that as one of the comparatively limited number of Members on that side of the House who had been connected with the Military Service he wished to make his position in regard to the Bill quite clear. He allowed his name to be placed on the back of the Bill, because he was led to believe that its provisions would by no possibility give rise to controversial discussion. He himself was well known to hold strong views in favour of submitting national disputes to arbitration rather than settling them by war. He deplored the fact that in the present state of civilisation, and owing, moreover, to the fact that humanity is what it is, great defensive armaments had still to be maintained at tremendous expense, but under those circumstances it was their duty as custodians of the nation's purse to see that her Forces were maintained in a state of efficiency. He could place history under contribution to prove that the success of an Army was not due altogether to the power of its armament, or to the genius of its General, but in a great measure it was attributable to its morals and to the discipline which prevailed among the troops. This was more than ever the case by reason of recent changes in tactics. What should be the first, step of the Military Authorities when they took a man from the plough-tail? As a, strong Radical, he of course sincerely wished that the landlords of this country were in such a state that it would be impossible to induce men to leave the plough-tail, but, inasmuch as men were tempted to enter the Army everything should be done by the State to make a man who enlisted feel that when he put on the Queen's uniform he at once rose to a position superior to that of his late comrades at the plough. That sense of superiority which had been fostered during his service, perhaps in foreign countries and under great hardships, would be entirely dispelled, however, if on his return to his native village he saw some unkempt, round-shouldered man with shambling gait, masquerading about the town in the uniform which he had 706 been taught to look at with respect. Hon. Members around him would doubtless regard all that as mere military sentiment, but, he remembered reading a speech by Macaulay in which he described how a Captain Elliott when he found a certain number of his fellow-countrymen overwhelmed with disaster and despair raised their spirits by hoisting the British flag, which reminded them that they belonged to a nation unaccustomed to defeat or submission, and assured them that although they might be separated from home by great oceans and big continents, not a hair of their heads would be injured with impunity. It was such a sentiment as that which the British soldier felt for his uniform, and he could only say that if he saw anyone masquerading in his uniform he should regard that as une mauvaise plaisanterie. Every Member of that House had a right to affix two letters after his name, and he believed most of them guarded that right jealously, as a mark that, in the opinion of their constituents, they were fitting persons to be their Representatives in the Legislative Council of the nation, and that they would feel justly aggrieved if the distinctiveness of the mark were lost sight of. For these reasons, and because he desired to prevent military uniforms being degraded, he should most certainly support the Bill.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
said, he had listened with great pleasure to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for West Newington, and especially to his references to the power of the British flag, which he would like to see more freely displayed in Ireland. But be was inclined to oppose the Bill, because it would bear harshly upon the members of certain bands of the Orange Societies. He did not think that the loyal men who belonged to bands of this sort should be subject to penalties because they put on uniforms, and in that way expressed their desire to maintain the honour of the Crown and the integrity of the Empire. No one for a moment would say that the honour of the Army and Navy was not dear to Irish loyalists, and he hoped the House would pause before placing a limit on the liberty of these loyal men to wear colourable imitations of military uniforms.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)
said, his object in supporting the Bill was that the wearing of uniforms unworthily by 707 unworthy persons acted us a direct bar and deterrent to the recruiting of respectable young men whom we were inviting to enter the ranks of the Army. He quite recognised the utility of bands, especially at Parliamentary elections, but in this matter of uniform he thought the House should consider the desire of the whole British Army, and not study the wishes of a few Members who looked to these bands for solace in the hour of defeat, moral or practical. He had never understood the dislike of officers and non-commissioned officers of the Army to wearing their uniforms when not on duty; but it might be due to some extent to the fact that advertising scarecrows in the streets could wear uniforms or portions of uniforms and thus bring them into ridicule. Certain it was that the feeling against uniforms pervaded the Army, and it also weighed with civilians. The other day a subaltern committed a breach of military discipline which eventually had to be reported to the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief; and the Duke of Cambridge, by way of expressing his displeasure with the offence which the officer had committed, ordered that he was to wear his uniform for a specified time. Consider the absurdity of ordering a man to wear as a badge of disgrace and as a mark of the displeasure of the Commander-in-Chief the uniform which he ought to consider it an honour and a pleasure to wear. He would relate a circumstance which happened not long ago which would show how the wearing of the military uniform was looked on by civilians. A non-commissioned officer had to travel from Kingstown to Holyhead, and the officers of the London and North Western Railway considered that in his uniform he was not fit to travel by one of their mail steamers, and so they ordered him off the passenger steamer and made him travel by a cargo-boat. ["Oh !"] Now, this officer was necessarily a man of education and character, a worthy man and a good soldier. He was as respectable and as good a man as any Member of the House. As he had occasionally informed the House, he was an agricultural Member, and from his knowledge of agricultural districts he was able to say that military uniforms were often to be seen waving in the breeze to scare the birds away. What was of importance was that the improper wearing of uniforms Was a distinct bar 708 and deterrent to recruiting. When a young fellow from the County of Essex went to Trafalgar Square where recruiting sergeants congregated, having made up his mind to take the shilling, and there saw a procession of men clothed in parts of military uniforms and carrying advertisements of somebody's soap or somebody's pills, one was not so desirous of wearing the uniform himself. He hoped the Secretary for War might be induced to take a favourable view of the Bill.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN, Stirling, &c.)
The short discussion to which we have listened comes upon us, I am sure, with a refreshing influence in the middle of an and waste of political Debate. We have had placed before us an interesting subject in itself, and we have listened to a number of anecdotes and incidents which cannot fail to have moved and interested the House. On the general question which is raised by the Bill there cannot be two opinious within the walls of the House. We are all concerned in preventing any public scandal or abuse such as in some cases has been proved to have occurred; we are all concerned in maintaining the dignity of Her Majesty's uniform and in preventing anything that would tend to degrade it. I confess that I do not take the extreme view which has been adopted by some of my hon. and gallant Friends who have spoken. I have been so unfortunate, perhaps, as never to have met these rows of sandwich-men in the street. [Cries of "Oh !"] Well, I have not had the advantage of the hon. Gentleman opposite who says "Oh !" I can only say most sincerely that I have not seen them, and, therefore, although I have no doubt they exist, they are not as ubiquitous as is supposed. If I were disposed to offer myself as a recruit, I should not be deterred by the vision of these sandwich-men. I object to seeing sandwich-men attired in any preposterous dress. I hold it to be a public scandal that it should be allowed by the police that rows of men should be compelled, in order to earn their bread, to parade the streets in dresses which degrade them and in dresses which are likely to bring ridicule upon certain classes of Her Majesty's subjects. I will quote to the House a very extreme instance. I remember that some years ago there were sandwich men who went 709 about in the dress of convicts—I think with chains and with all sorts of horrors attached to them. Well, convicts are not a class of the community who are altogether deserving of our pious respect, but still it is most improper and, in fact, most horrible that anything should be done to degrade them still further than is necessary for the punishment they have to undergo. I take that as an extreme case. If they were all dressed as clergymen or in any other distinctive dross I should think it equally improper and revolting to the sense of public decency. I should have thought that exhibitions of that kind might have been met by Police Regulations, which would have prevented the necessity of legislation on the subject. As to an occasional Field Marshal or Staff officer being seen in some masquerading Guy Fawkes procession, I do not attach very much importance to that, improper and indecent as it is. But, when we are told that the wearing of uniforms by persons who are not entitled to wear them is prohibited in other countries, and that we should take those countries as our model, we must remember what the state of the law is in those countries. According to the Penal Codes of France and Germany, not only is it against the law for a man to wear a uniform he is not entitled to wear, but it is illegal for a citizen to change his name or in any way to interfere with what in France they call Vétat civile. That is a state of the law which does not exist in this country, and I believe that if we introduced anything of the kind it would be an entire innovation in the law of this country. In our Dependency of India a distinction is made, as it is with reference to police constables in this country, to this extent—that heavy penalties are imposed where a man assumes a uniform of any kind for the purpose of passing himself off as having a right to wear it. The mere wearing of a uniform at a fancy dress ball or at private theatricals or upon any occasion of that kind surely comes within a different category. If a burglar dresses himself as a constable or as a post office official for the purpose of obtaining entrance to a house under false pretences he commits another sort of offence altogether. This Bill as it stands would, as I have already stated, introduce an entire innovation into the law, not merely in 710 reference to this particular point, which is, after all, a small one, but with regard to the whole attitude of the law towards private individuals. It has been put to mo as strongly as this: that there is nothing in the English law to prevent any person—let the House imagine the enormity of this conduct—going out to dinner in the official dross of a Cabinet Minister, or wearing the insignia of the Bath; there is nothing in the law to prevent any person from placing a ducal coronet on his carriage, or on his wheelbarrow, and there is no express enactment prohibiting a crossing-sweeper from plying his avocation in full episcopal costume, although if by doing so he caused a great public scandal or caused an obstruction in the streets he would probably find himself amenable to the Common Law.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Really if the hon. Gentleman asks me to state who is the particular lawyer who supplies me with the information I use in the course of my speech he might as well ask who supplied me with the arguments I am using or the opinions I express. The grossest case is that of men who are employed by way of advertisement in the street; and there comes in the point of public scandal. I cannot help thinking that much less ambitious means might be adopted than those of an Act of Parliament for the purpose of preventing such an abuse. We get into very vague quarters when we deal with "uniforms," and especially when we come to speak of "colourable imitations." My hon. Friend opposite, in the interests of Ulster—where, I suppose, they are very fond of colours and uniforms, and bands and noise generally—has pleaded that bands should be allowed to go about in his country. That point was alluded to by another of the Members opposite, who pointed out that bands go about in England, and Scotland also. If bands are to be allowed to dress themselves in some sort of gay uniform, but are to be prohibited from using any uniform which can be said to be a colourable imitation of any uniform in the Service, those who know how diverse those uniforms are will see how difficult it will be for them to carry out the prohibition. There is a further point 711 which I would urge. This Bill applies to the Navy as well as to the Army. There is a very great risk that by a sweeping enactment of this kind you will do very much more than you really intend to. There is to be no colourable imitation of the naval uniform. How, then, are the officers and stewards and men on board all our great passenger ships to be treated? There is not one of them who would not come within the category of those who wear colourable imitations of the naval uniform. Well, having the great desire to assist hon. Members who are endeavouring to prevent any such scandalous degradation of the uniform as has been referred to, and sympathising with them in their objects, I cannot help thinking that the Bill appears to be too strong for the object it seeks to accomplish, and I, therefore, shall hardly be disposed to support it actively—at all events, in its present condition. At the same time, I do think that the matter requires looking into, and it is precisely one of those semi-military and semi-civilian questions which deal with a territory in which the civil and military populations and their views, prejudices, and interests overlap, and one of those questions which the House of Commons is better able than any other body to deal with. Therefore, what I should suggest to the hon. Member in charge of the Bill is that either the Second Reading should be allowed to be taken pro formâ, or that the Bill should be withdrawn with a view to our having an inquiry by a Select Committee. I should raise no objection to the reference of the Bill to a Select Committee, but perhaps it would be better to have a Select Committee on the subject without referring the Bill to it. I think that a well-constituted Committee might be able to guard the House against the dangers which I have ventured to point out, and at the same time to arrive at some way of dealing with a scandal which gives offence not only to many soldiers and sailors, but also to many civilians. I am not one of those who take an extreme view of the case. I do not believe that, after all, there is any great injurious effect created by the clothing worn by sandwich-men. I am not aware that in any other parts of the country than the West of London sandwich-men go about in military uniform; and when the hon. Gentleman opposite suggests that the reason why 712 officers do not like to wear their uniform except when on duty, is that they see these men wearing it about the streets, I think that only shows how far a natural feeling on the subject may lead a man of a somewhat enthusiastic turn of mind. As to the wearing of the uniform, I repeat now what I have already said, that I should be glad to take any step in my power to further impose the obligation upon officers to wear their uniform. But certainly what is before us now does not concern the uniform of the officers as much as the uniform of the private soldier, and I think that the best way of accomplishing the object my hon. Friend has in view would be to have a Select Committee.
§ SIR G. CHESNEY (Oxford)
said, that all who were interested in the proposal embodied in the Bill would recognise the sympathetic way in which it had been mot by the right hon. Gentleman, but it was for the House to consider whether the arguments the right hon. Gentleman had adduced were sufficient to lead the House to refuse to read the Bill a second time. The right hon. Gentleman, having expressed full sympathy with the object of the Bill, had gone out of his way to suggest various difficulties which appeared to him to arise out of a very simple and small measure. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Bill would apparently strike at a very harmless institution of private theatricals or at fancy balls where the uniform might be worn. In those cases, however, the object of wearing the uniform was not to discredit it, and, generally speaking, a person who wore a uniform at a theatrical entertainment was the first or second hero of the piece. To the extent to which the practice of wearing the uniform for advertising purposes was carried, it would be hard to deny that it must have an injurious effect, and, if so, why not, in the interests of the Army, stop it? The point at issue was a small one. The Army was not sufficiently attractive as it stood. Whatever was said about the satisfactory state of recruiting, year by year the Government had the greatest possible difficulty in obtaining a full supply of thoroughly efficient recruits. Almost every second year the standard had to be reduced, or some other measure had to be adopted in order to obtain a full supply of recruits. 713 That being so, it was surely important to do everything that could be done, without spending money needlessly, to make the Army attractive, and to put a stop to anything that would make it unattractive. If the Bill were passed it would be possible, the right hon. Gentleman said, to proceed against almost every steward on an Atlantic liner for wearing a colourable imitation of Her Majesty's uniform. The object of the Bill, however, was to stop this inappropriate way of advertising, and no one could seriously suppose that, in consequence of its passage, anyone would ever take proceedings against the stewards of the Mercantile Marine. If the Bill wore read a second time a Select Committee could make any alterations necessary to remove from it anything that appeared to be objectionable, although he must say that, in his opinion, a more harmless and unobjectionable Bill was never brought forward. No one could suppose that if this Bill were passed the civil status of the population would be interfered with in the smallest possible way. The right hon. Gentleman had said that in other countries, where trifling with uniforms would not be allowed, the status of the citizen was guarded in a variety of other ways. But what had that to do with the question? The fact that a man in France could not change his name without the permission of the Legal Authorities surely had nothing to do with the question whether sandwich-men should be allowed to go about the streets wearing, not "colourable imitations" of the uniform, but the real uniform which had absolutely been worn by men in Her Majesty's Army. Something was being done every year to raise the status of the soldier. The Army now represented as respectable, well-conducted, and honourable a body of citizens as could be found anywhere in the country, and its moral qualities were improving and advancing from day to day. If it were the case that this practice of throwing ridicule on the uniform did any damage whatever to the cause of recruiting and to the character of the Army, he would strongly appeal to hon. Gentlemen to express their opinion in the matter by going to a Second Reading. If the right hon. Gentleman would allow the Bill to go to a Select Committee no doubt it could be modified under 714 his guidance, and it would then have the effect of putting a stop to what was really a nuisance. The right hon. Gentleman thought it desirable that officers should wear their uniform. Well, they had not the slightest objection provided they got a uniform they could really wear. But so long as the officers' full dress was so constructed by Regulation that there was not even room to stow away a cigarette or a pocket-handkerchief, they would be averse to pursuing their avocations in that guise, however splendid and becoming it might be. The remedy was in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman himself.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, he hoped the House would accept the offer of the Secretary for War and send the Bill after its Second Reading to a Select Committee, where, he believed, many of the objections that had been put forward would be removed. The rejection of the Second Reading would be an encouragement to those who now employed these sandwich-men, while the affirmation of its principle, even if the Bill did not proceed further this Session, would give these men a first warning of which they would probably take considerable notice, and it would have a great moral effect.
MR. STUART-WORTLTEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said, he wished the Secretary for War to know that the matter could not be dealt with solely and entirely by Police Regulation. In the first place, if it were so dealt with, the Government, he thought, could not act directly except with the Metropolis alone; and even in London legislation would be required. When he was at the Home Office the case arose of a number of sandwich-men being sent out dressed in the uniform of the Old Guard of Napoleon. It was thought desirable to stop this, and it was stopped by private representations; but there was no legal power to make the employer of these sandwich-men desist from the objectionable form of advertisement. He would advise his hon. Friend to take the Second Reading now that he could get it, though he thought the Secretary of State for War had argued the question too much from a civil point of view and too little on the ground that the Bill was designed in the interests of the Army.
§ CAPTAIN BAGOT (Westmoreland, Kendal)
said, that if this was a matter which could really be altered by Police 715 Regulations, the argument of the Secretary for War that it brought about a great innovation of the law seemed to be rather unreasonable. But if the argument was a reasonable one, the best means of altering the present state of the case would evidently be by Act of Parliament rather than by suggestions made to the police. Since short service had come into operation it had been generally accepted by both the Military and the Civil Authorities that everything should be done to popularise the Army, and to make the wearing of the Queen's uniform dignified and free from any suspicion of contempt, in the same way as it was in France, Germany, Italy, and other countries. For his own part, he did not think the argument as to sandwich-men and others would have any actual influence on recruiting. They constantly heard complaints of the soldier in uniform being refused admission into music halls and restaurants. There had been a great outcry on the subject, and the Secretary for War invariably sympathised with the complaints, but, at the same time, nothing was done. This Bill simply attempted to carry out the idea that Her Majesty's uniform should be a dress which the soldier should be brought up to consider an honour to wear, and that he ought never to have to undergo the indignity of its being brought into disrepute in the streets or in other places. There was certainly a strong feeling among officers of the Army on this subject, and he hoped the reasons which had been given in favour of the Bill would be acknowledged, and the measure adopted. There was another point which had not yet been alluded to. Up to about a year ago the British soldier had to return his worn-out uniform into stores, but new Regulations had been issued under which the soldier was permitted to sell his old uniform or to dispose of it in any way he liked under certain conditions. The consequence was that, under the new Regulations, there would be more old uniforms at the disposal of private soldiers, and a greater temptation to sell them to the first comer. In these circumstances, he thought it was very desirable that some measure should be taken—either by Act of Parliament, or by some new Police Regulations, if the Secretary for War saw fit—to prevent the scandal and disgrace to which the uniform had been 716 subjected for so many years. He certainly hoped the Bill would obtain a Second Reading, and that the Secretary for War would take the necessary steps in the matter.
§ MR. BENNETT (Lincolnshire, Gainsborough)
said that, when he put down his Amendment to oppose the Bill, he took a strong view that the measure was one which would tend to a serious interference with the liberty of the subject; and he therefore felt it his duty to place his Amendment on the Paper. He was very glad that the Secretary for War had put the matter so ably and satisfactorily before the House; and when the right hon. Gentleman suggested that the matter should be referred to a Select Committee, he (Mr. Bennett) confessed that his mind was very largely satisfied, and in view of the preciousness of the time of this House, he should decline now to move his Amendment, and leave the matter as it now was before them.
§ MR. H. R. FARQUHARSON
thanked the hon. Member for Gainsborough for abstaining from moving his Amendment.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.