§ Considered in Committee:
§ (in the Committee.)
§ Civil Services and Revenue Departments, 1895–6 (Third Vote on Account).
1. Motion made, and Question proposed:
That a further sum, not exceeding £3,525,100, be granter to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the charges
for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1896.
§ DR. CLARK
said, that he had a grievance against the Board of Trade. Some three years ago the Northern Lights Commissioners agreed to erect certain fog-signals and lights, but for some reason the work had not yet been carried out, and only within the past few weeks a large steamer had run ashore for want of fog-signals and lights on the coast. He wished to ask the new Government who was responsible for work that was absolutely necessary.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
said, he could not give any answer to the question of the hon. Member, but, from his previous experience at the Board of Trade, he might tell the hon. Member that considerable difficulties had been found in the past in carrying out works of the kind referred to. Whether this particular work was postponed in favour of others which were thought more pressing at the time, or whether there was a question as to what was to be done, he could not say. But, he would undertake to bring the matter under the notice of the President of the Board of Trade; and if the hon. Member put a question on the Paper, no doubt he would receive a satisfactory answer.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
asked the Secretary to the Treasury what would be the effect of the Resolution recently passed by the House of Commons in connection with the rooms occupied by Black Rod?
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, that he understood the position to be this. When by the retirement of Black Rod the opportunity of apportioning these rooms occurred, they were to be given to the Clerk of Parliaments with the object of placing him in exactly the same position as the Clerk of this House, and a corresponding reduction would take place in his salary. The result would be a saving of £1,000. But Black Rod being still in office, the cutting down of the Vote in Class I. could really have but little effect on this specific item until that official retired.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, that if the right hon. Gentleman thought the object of the Resolution was merely to reduce the 96 Vote he would find himself mistaken. The object was that the rooms at present occupied by Black Rod should be placed at the disposal of the officials of the House of Commons.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, that he believed the intention of the late Government was to give the rooms to the Clerk of Parliaments, who was an official of the House of Lords.
§ * SIR JOHN HIBBERT (Oldham)
said, that the right hon. Gentleman was in error. The intention was that the distribution of the rooms should be left for future consideration by the Office of Works. He understood that the object of the Vote was to acquire the rooms for the House of Commons as well as the House of Lords. There was no doubt, however, that the rooms could not be touched until Black Rod retired.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said he understood that the Vote would cover the month of August. The right hon. Gentleman would recollect that the two Votes on Account, which had already been taken for Civil Services and Revenue Departments were for two months each; and this further Vote was for about one month.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
asked whether it was the intention of the Government to go through the Estimates during the month of September. It would be more reasonable to take the Vote on Account for a little longer, because there would be a fuller opportunity of discussing Supply a little later in the year. Immediately after a General Election, everyone required a rest, and the House could discuss Supply much more calmly and extensively in October than in September.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said that he was very pleased to hear that the hon. Member for Northampton felt such complete confidence in the result of the coming election. [Laughter]. The hon. Member evidently took it for granted that Her Majesty's Government would obtain a decisive vote in their favaur. [Laughter]. But he would put to the hon. Member the supposition that the reverse of what he anticipated were the case. Would he not then desire—as 97 the House of Commons would have a right to desire—that the Government should meet Parliament as soon as possible? ["Hear, Hear!"]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, that of course, it was impossible to break down constitutional precedents for personal convenience; and it was quite plain that a Vote on Account under the present circumstances ought only to be taken for a short time, so that after the General Election, Parliament might have the opportunity of pronouncing on the result of that election. It was so in 1892, when it was arranged that after the election, the then Government should call Parliament together.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that he only took account of the accomplished facts; and he supposed that until the present Ministry were turned out they would stop where they were. He had not supposed that Parliament would not meet immediately after the election in order to constitute itself; but there were many hon. Members who were anxious to discuss these Estimates thoroughly, and they knew that if the discussion took place in September it would be very perfunctory. The House might meet just to constitute itself, and then, if the majority were against the Government, a new Government could be formed, and if it were in favour of the Government, the House could adjourn till the end of October or the beginning of November.
§ Vote agreed to.
That a sum, not exceeding £1,000,000, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for the following Navy Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1896.
On the Motion—
That a sum, not exceeding £4,000,000, be granted to Her Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for the following Army Services for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1896,
THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. BRODRICK Surrey,) Guildford
said, that the period 98 for which this Vote would last would be something between two and three months. The Army Estimates differed from the other Estimates in this respect—that the money already voted lasted for a shorter period than the money voted for the other services.
§ MR. DALZIEL
asked whether the Government intended to offer any kind of explanation to the House of the view which they now took on the question of small arm ammunition. The House, by the Vote on which the late Government was defeated, expressed the opinion that there was reason for great anxiety on the question of the ammunition reserve. This would be an appropriate time for the now Government to say whether it was their intention to ask for a Supplementary Estimate to provide a sufficient quantity of reserve ammunition. He was surprised that the Government had not themselves offered this explanation to the House. Did the Government hold still to the opinion which they expressed in Opposition; and, if so, what steps were they now going to take?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
It would be impossible to give a detailed answer to the right hon. Gentleman so soon after our taking Office. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has scarcely time to turn round in his Department just now, and I cannot speak on his behalf. But, in general terms, I may say that the Government will propose some increase of the Estimate over that of the late Government; and we do not see any reason to depart from the view which we took when in a less responsible position.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said, that the matter could not be left where the right hon. Gentleman left it. On a former occasion he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman when he declared that the concealment which had been observed in regard to small-arm ammunition was undesirable now, and that the time had come when the Government ought to say what was the quantity of small-arm ammunition. Undoubtedly there had been a great deal of unnecessary concealment with regard to the question by successive Governments. It was, however, quite notorious how much ammunition there was in the country at the present time. These facts were known to every Power 99 in the world, and there was no reason why they should not be made known to the House of Commons. He should have thought the Leader of the House, who yesterday had an opportunity of examining into the matter with the Secretary of State for War, would have been able to inform the House what was the amount of reserve ammunition in the country at the present time. This matter was one of the highest possible importance, and it was left in a most unsatisfactory position in the Debate on last Friday week. The case of India was not cleared up in that Debate. In India we have a large force armed with the Lee-Metford rifle, but the House were never told what reserve of ammunition we have in India, or what is the number of cartridges in existence, either in India or in this country. They were told that factories had been set up which would be able to turn out a sufficient amount of ammunition, but the latest information they had with regard to the latest war, with the exception of that between Japan and China, was that the most perfect manufacturing establishment proved to be entirely insufficient to meet the strain of war—that was the Servian war. In the case of that war both sides thought they were in possession of a sufficient supply of ammunition for their new rifles, but in the end one side hopelessly collapsed because they had not a sufficient supply of ammunition. The Servians had two rifles, and they began, the war not only with what they called an ample supply of ammunition for the new rifle, but with the finest establishment for the manufacture of small-bore cartridges which existed in the whole world, taking, of course, into consideration the size of the country and the size of the army. In addition to that they had two months to prepare, and they placed large contracts in all parts of the world. Owing to a lack of ammunition they hopelessly broke down, and had to make a shameful and humiliating peace. The first engagement was on November 14, and before the end of November they had no cartridges left. An Austrian Colonel, who had written a most perfect military history of the war, showed that on November 19, the sixth day of operations, the Servians, although at the commencement they had actually in the field, 100 besides what they thought a sufficient reserve at home, 220 rounds per man, had only 140 rounds per man, and by November 26 they had only 18 rounds per man in the whole country. On the night of November 27 the greater portion of their troops were entirely without ammunition, and the total amount in the country was 12 rounds per man. Then they made peace, as well they might. That was a startling example of the enormous importance of the question, and he was bound to say he thought the present Government ought at least to tell them when they intended to put before the country a complete statement as to the stock of ammunition which the country possessed.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I am not prepared to join with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Sir Charles Dilke) in pressing the Government in this matter, or in inducing them to break through a rule which has hitherto been maintained; but if, in the exercise of their discretion, they think it right to break through that rule and to publish figures, I, personally, shall have no objection. ["Hear, hear!"] I, in this matter, remain exactly in the position I occupied 10 days ago. Very strong statements have been made by the right hon. Baronet who has just sat down, and by others, as to the necessity of maintaining a very large store of small arms ammunition. In the course of that Debate it was stated by the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State for the Colonies that the Japanese entered the recent war with a provision of 700,000,000 cartridges.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,) Birmingham, W.
No; I did not state it on my authority. I said I had read it. [Opposition cries of "Oh, oh!"]
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Precisely; but that was the figure quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, and I, having heard of that figure before, had made, inquiries about it, and was informed that in the best-informed military circles it was regarded as the purest fable ["hear, hear!"]; that there was not any information which tended to support it; and that it was extremely unlikely, in the nature of the case, that any such quantity of ammunition existed 101 in the possession of the Japanese, or of any other foreign Power. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean also says that it is perfectly notorious that we are deficient in our supply of small arm ammunition. But with whom is it perfectly notorious? ["Hear, hear!"] It is above all things that we can deal with a matter to be determined on the responsibility of the military authorities of the day. ["Hear, hear!"] The Committee is well aware we are at present in a state of transition with regard to almost all munitions of war. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Gentleman who cheers surely does not object that we should advance with the times, and adopt new forms of ammunition and new types of weapons. We have been, and are, changing our small arms, our artillery guns, our quick-firing gun, our powder; almost everything connected with munitions of war is in a state of transition. In the matter of powder, we are passing from the old-fashioned black powder to the new powder. We are passing in the arming of our Forces from the Martini-Henry rifle to the small bore. So long as a large part of our Forces is armed with the Martini-Henry rifle, which is the case with the Volunteers, we, of course, have to provide the black powder, or the old cartridge, for them; and having a considerable stock of that species of ammunition in our possession, we cannot disregard that as furnishing a very considerable provision for the troops who may possibly be engaged in any possible invasion. But the question as to the quantity of the new ammunition which is to be maintained side by side with that, and in consideration of the immensely developed means of production which have appeared in this country, is eminently one to be determined by the expert opinion of the advisers of the Minister, and not either by the Minister himself or by the House of Commons, who are not so capable of judging in the matter. We are, as I say, passing from one powder to another. The new powder, the smokeless powder—whatever kind it may be—has properties which have not yet been fully ascertained. It is necessarily still in an experimental stage, and it is absolutely necessary on that account, if on no other, that we should be more 102 than usually careful not to provide ourselves with an exaggerated supply ["hear, hear!"] of material, remembering always that with the smokeless powder, even in a much larger degree than with the old powder, freshness of manufacture is a great advantage, and that there may be some deterioration when the powder is kept. In view of that we have dealt with the matter in what I believe to be a common-sense and a practical way, and we have gradually and steadily increased the supply and the stock of cordite ammunition. This very year, when the Estimates were first under consideration, a proposal was made by the military authorities for a certain amount of cordite ammunition to be provided during the year, and that proposal was the subject of much discussion. Well, the result of the discussion in this case was the discovery that we were able to do with less of other articles and save money on other items, and we then actually increased the provision of cordite ammunition by 75 per cent, over and above that which was originally proposed by the military authorities themselves. [Cheers.] So much for the supply of the year. As I began by saying, I stand now on exactly the same ground as I did some 10 days ago; I lean upon the professional military advisers of the Secretary of State—and let it be observed by the Committee that the whole tendency of the improvements in the administration of the Army have been in the direction of throwing greater weight of responsibility, and, at the same time, greater power upon the military and technical advisers of the Minister. I remember the old days perfectly well, when it was very much in the hands of the Minister by a stroke of his pen to reduce this or raise that item in the Estimates, especially in the matter of stores. Those days, I am thankful to say, are gone, because now, largely through the re-arrangement of business made by my predecessor at the War Office, the whole of this business has been handed over to the Military Department from the Civil Department, and the Military Department, knowing that they are much more consulted and have a much larger say in the matter than formerly, feel that with them lies the 103 responsibility and that they must not avoid it when placed upon them. When this Vote was being approached some 10 days ago I consulted the Adjutant-General on the matter, showing him the paper with the figures, and I asked him whether he still maintained his position of being satisfied with the existing state of things. He replied that he was, and he has since confirmed that reply both by letter, which I have in my pocket, and still more recently by word of mouth. [Cheers.] He said to me, not only had I said what was right, but that every word I said was exactly as he would have had it said. I see it sometimes alleged that these are mere official assurances. I have seen it also said that I was offended ten days ago because my word was not taken. I never raised the question of my own word. I was grieved and disappointed to find that when I quoted, not some haphazard obiter dictum of my advisers, but the definite and solemn assurance given to me for the purposes of being communicated to the House by my principal military adviser, that that assurance was not accepted, and it seemed to me to be a direct infringement of the proper constitutional method of treating this matter. I see it sometimes said, "Oh, of course, the military officers will say this, but they are kept down in the Estimates; they are satisfied that this is all they can get, but they would like to have a great deal more if they could." I do not know any commodity from men downwards that the military officers would not like to see increased both in number and in cost if there was nothing to be said on the other side. ["Hear, hear!"] But I have always found them most reasonable and not over grasping, and I may at once say that any such allegation as that cannot be made this year. The only restriction in fixing the Estimates that I placed upon the sum involved was this—I said to my military advisers, knowing as I did that a very large increase was to be made in the Navy expenditure and 104 that a large loan was to be proposed for naval works, that I did not think this was a year—and I am prepared to take the opinion of the Committee on this point—in which it would be reasonable to demand from the Chancellor of the Exchequer any large expenditure of money for Army purposes, and that if I could persuade him to allow us the same amount as we had last year we might very well be content. My military advisers perfectly agreed to that, acknowledged it to be a reasonable course, and said in view of the great expenditure on the Navy it would be ridiculous to expect a large increase to be made in the Army Estimates as well. That is the only limit I placed upon the Army expenditure. Within that limit my military advisers might have advised me to spend in one direction, more than in another throughout the whole line of the Estimates, and I should willingly have listened to their advice. With regard to this particular item, we increased their demand rather than diminished it. But do not let the Committee run away with the idea that I am putting undue responsibility upon, or am behaving unfairly towards, my advisers. I believe the ground I take on this matter is the true constitutional ground, because, if they are not to have responsibility for the advice they give, then I am afraid they must lose some of that power which has been largely conferred upon them during recent years. I believe it is very much to the public advantage that they should have this increased power, and that the Secretary of State should lean upon them and take their advice as I have done in the three years during which I have been Secretary for War, but they must exercise their great power and influential position subject to responsibility to the Secretary of State, and through him to Parliament—a responsibility which they are perfectly willing to undertake. The Adjutant-General, I believe, takes this view of the case. He says that he did 105 not profess, nor do I profess, that the store of small-arm ammunition is what may be called full and ample. Well, neither is the store of anything else full and ample in the abstract. We should be very glad from a military point of view to have more of almost everything, and that is the sense in which I say that the store of ammunition is not full and overflowing. But the Adjutant-General says, and I also believe, that it is amply sufficient to equip the whole of the defensive forces which we can mobilise in this country, and we have abundant ammunition—loads is the expression used to me by the Adjutant-General—for any force that we could possibly send abroad, while all foreign stations are full up. The Committee must remember it is now the duty of the Secretary of State and his advisers to hold the balance between stock and supply. What is the supply we have? Why our Government factories can turn out small arm ammunition at a rate and to an extent that was not contemplated two or three years ago. We have, besides, firms who have undertaken to supply us and to increase that supply, while behind them we have others who have not received any contract from us, especially the great firm of Nobel and Company, at Ardeer, in Scotland, with at its head probably the most distinguished authority on this question in the world, and with enormous and practically inexhaustible powers of immediate supply or supply on very short notice. One of the advantages of cordite is that it is exceedingly easily manufactured, and does not require any very elaborate apparatus or preparation. The reports I received from my technical advisers show that we have such ample opportunity of obtaining ready made the supply we want that it is wholly undesirable to maintain a single cartridge more in stock than is absolutely necessary for the purpose of our immediate wants. There is an idea expressed sometimes that this sort of munition of war is like the old-fashioned 106 round bullet, or some simple thing of that kind, of which you can keep any quantity in stock, and which can remain in stock for years without deteriorating. But that is not the case, and it is a great part of our duty to strike a balance year by year as production develops, and as expenditure can be gauged, to discover how much ought to be kept in stock and how far we can trust to any immediate supply, and in those circumstances, although it would be most culpable to fall short of the necessary supply, yet it would be hardly less culpable to keep an exaggerated supply at the risk of considerable loss and disappointment afterwards. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean spoke of the breakdown in Servia, but the story he told us begs the whole question. It is quite possible for an army to break down for want of ammunition; but the question is—Servia had had our reserve and our means of rapid production, if they had had all the advantages we have, would they have broken down? The answer, I believe, is that they would not have qroken down, and they would have been perfectly justified in the position they occupied. ["Hear, hear!"] I admit, of course, all these are technical matters, upon which personally, except from my official experience, my authority is but small; but such is the case also with most Members of the House. It is a highly technical question, and upon this technical question I trust my technical advisers and my military advisers exercising such common sense as I am gifted with on their advice, and I am quite prepared to justify every word I have said. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
(who was loudly cheered on rising) said: So far as I am concerned, I would gladly not have added anything to the very brief statement I made to the House a few minutes ago. I have no desire to revive the controversy, and if I now add something material to what 107 I have already told the House, it is because the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down gives me no choice in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman's speech may be divided into two parts, or, rather, his arguments may be described as of two classes, one class of arguments being upon the merits of the question, and the other class of arguments being an appeal to the military advisers with whom the right hon. Gentleman acted at the War Office. I will deal with these first. I mean the view, the novel and, I think, dangerous view put forward by the right hon. Gentleman as to the position of responsibility in which he and his military advisors respectively stood. The right hon. Gentleman laid down as an admittedly novel, yet still a sound, principle of Parliamentary Government, that the gentlemen who are really responsible to this House are not the Minister for War, but the permanent officials at the War Office.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
No, I did not say that. I did not lay down the doctrine as novel, and it is an old and sound one that on technical points upon which he cannot give any positive opinion to the House, the Minister is wise if he leans on the opinion of his technical advisers, and I pointed out that Parliament has accepted this principle and has increased rather than diminished of late years the direct power and responsibility of professional advisers.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The last statement of the right hon. Gentleman contains one of the reasons that made me say there was a certain novelty in the principle he laid down. He tells us distinctly—he has now repeated it—his view, which I do not share, that Parliament has deliberately thrown responsibility upon the technical advisers of the Secretary for War beyond the responsibility they had in old times. Now, let us look at this for a moment. It is a dangerous thing to appeal to the authority of a man who 108 cannot be here to reply, and it is particularly dangerous to appeal to the authority of this man on a matter in which he has not and cannot have complete control. The Commander-in-Chief or the Adjutant-General may give a technical opinion as to what side of a river a fortification should be, and that, undoubtedly, is a technical opinion from which a Secretary for War would be a fool to differ—it is purely a military question which a military authority alone is competent to decide. But, Sir, when you bring in, as you must in this case, the financial question, then the military authority, then the technical advisers are hampered at every turn, and have to work, as it were, with a hand tied behind their back. The right hon. Gentleman himself admitted he gave away his own case. He acknowledges he treated his technical advisers as such are not usually treated. He took them into his confidence as politicians. ["Hear, hear!"] He said in effect to them:—Do you think it reasonable, while one of my colleagues is applying to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for an increased vote for the Navy, do you think it reasonable I should make a large demand on behalf the Army?Well, they answered as they could hardly help answering. Having been taken into confidence on a political issue, they naturally agreed with the political head of their Department, and they did the best they could with the money given them. I do not think it fair or right to appeal to the authority of the technical advisers of the War Office unless ample money is given to those advisers to carry out any scheme they may think best. I have no doubt that what actually occurred was this. The right hon. Gentleman informed the War Office authorities, directly or by implication, that they would have a certain amount of money to spend and no more, and the War Office advisers no doubt did their very best to see that the money was spent in the most judicious way, and no doubt if the money was given them in Supply and they thought 109 they could use it better for other purposes than bringing up the Supply of Ammunition to what is admitted to be the ordinary standard of rounds per rifle. I am far from blaming the advisers of the right hon. Gentleman for the action they took, but it is not fair to quote them in this House in the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman has done, or to shield the late Government behind the opinion expressed by the military advisers whose assistance they had. ["Hear!"] I have dealt with the argument from authority upon which the right, hon. Gentleman dwelt so long, and now I turn to his arguments on the merits of the question. Here, I am bound to say, it seems to me he has entirely broken down in his defence. His first argument is that our sources of Supply are such that reserves that might be necessary under ordinary circumstances are not necessary now. Now, what are the boasted facilities for manufacturing our Supply? They amount to the supply of of 2,500,000 cartridges a week if the Government Departments work day and night continuously and at high pressure. Well, they have never done this; 2,500,000 have never yet been turned out by the the Government factories.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Quite so; it has never yet been done. This number of 2,500,000 cartridges is the calculation of what the machinery could do if kept at high pressure. But experience has shown conclusively that you cannot expect with confidence that men or machinery will run at the highest possible pressure for a lengthened period, or indeed for a brief period, without grave chances of breakdown, and if there is a breakdown then there will not be 2,500,000 cartridges a week at your disposal. ["Hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman has also pointed not very definitely to large sources of supply by private 110 manufacture, and they may some day come into operation; but I gather that they are not in operation at the present moment, and if necessity arose—if we went to war, say, in six months—I do not believe any Government could count on any large amount of assistance or subvention from manufacturers who have undertaken to supply cartridges.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
It is matter of experience more or less well founded, and not as yet have very large quantities been turned out by private firms. ["Hear!"] So much for these reserves, which may be described as manufacturing reserves—reserves which do not exist in the form of cartridges, but in the form of staff and machinery capable of turning them out. Before I leave this subject I may say that I think the observations of the right hon. gentleman (Sir C. Dilke) with reference to the breakdown of Servia, are well worthy of consideration by the responsible authorities of the War Office. Now I go on to the next point, the general desirability of keeping a large stock of completed ammunition. Here I notice an extraordinary discrepancy between the statement of the right hon. gentleman and that of the hon. gentleman who sits near him, and who was in the position of Financial Secretary to the War Office. In previous debates he described cordite not as a transitional improvement in war material still in an experimental stage, of which we heard from the late Secretary for War—he described it as an explosive which had been submitted to every species of test, and which might be trusted to last.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
That it would endure. Then I do not see the danger of keeping it in stock. If cordite is all that he says it is—and I am far from casting doubt on that statement—then I cannot conceive the objection to having a large stock of 111 it. The practice of the Government in India supports my view. The climate of India is, I suppose, in regard to cordite as to other stores, particularly trying, and I find that in India they do keep a very large supply of small-arms ammunition—a good deal over the 600 cartridges per rifle for the new rifle—and in addition there is a large central supply which may be called up in case of need. If, then, a large supply is kept up in India, I am utterly unable to see on what ground it is impossible to keep a large supply in England. Then the right hon. gentleman says—We were doing our best; we were still increasing the amount of our stock which we kept in reserve. The Financial Secretary for War tells me that the actual amount of increase per annum by the late Government was ten million cartridges. In other words, at the full rate at which the Government factories could turn it out, it amounted to four weeks' output. I do not think that a very large increase, nothing to boast of, nothing which pointed to the consciousness that there was a deficiency at present existing, a deficiency which the right hon. Gentleman sometimes seems to acknowledge and sometimes seems to deny. [Cheers.] From most of his speech you would gather that the present condition of things left nothing to be desired, that we had all the ammunition that we could possibly want, and that he and his military advisers were absolutely at one upon the question. That is what he told us the other day. The phrase he used on June 21 was that "our position is perfectly sound." Now he says, "We do not pretend that our supply of small-arm ammunition is full or ample." [Cheers.] And I have heard the doubts he expressed this afternoon as to the inadequacy of the supply are only a repetition of the doubts which he entertained a year ago when he said he did not profess to regard the supply of our ammunition as adequate or satisfactory. That is what he said a year ago; that is what he says to-day; but there was an optimistic interval on June 21, when he told us that oar present position was perfectly sound. [Cheers and laughter.] Having dealt with the manufacturing capacity, with the propriety of keeping ammunition in stock, 112 and with the allegation of the increase in the amount of stock which the late Government boasts of, let me point out that the number of rifles to be provided for is also on the increase. Those who have followed Army Estimates are perfectly aware that the Government are actively engaged in converting the Martini-Henry rifle into the Lee-Metford rifle, and I believe the amount of such conversion which is to take place in the course of the present year is 60,000 rifles. I believe the War Office has come to no determination as to how many of these 60,000 rifles are to be issued; but, if the process of conversion is to go on, I understand that at least 30,000 must be issued, so that you must add to the number of rifles for which this ammunition has to be provided these 30,000 converted Martini-Henry rifles. That does not appear to have entered into the calculation of the War Office at all, when they were making their estimate of the amount of ammunition required. But, after all, it appears to me that there is a very plain and simple test to be applied to the contention of the right hon. Gentleman. The amount of rounds which ought to be in existence per rifle is not an abstruse question of military technicalities. [Cheers]. It is a matter which has been long ago determined, within certain limits at all events, by competent military men. It is a very easy calculation to find out the number of men with rifles in England and to find out how many cartridges per man are in existence. I myself believe there would be no objection to giving the actual figures; but I do not think it is necessary to do so when I repeat to the House that in India we keep over 600 rounds per man, that in the colonies and in our foreign fortresses, our foreign places of arms, we have somewhere between 500 and 800 rounds per rifle and in each case a central reserve, while at home we have no central reserve and we have nothing like that number of cartridges per man. The right hon. Gentleman made a calculation the other night, in which he said that for his Army Corps, the men he intended to mobilise, he could provide the number of cartridges in accordance with the regulations. If he did that he would, as far as I can make out, leave about 113 100,000 rifles in England without a single cartridge at all. [Cheers] I think that fact alone is enough to show that there is some deficiency to be repaired, and to make the House understand that it is simply from a sense of public duty that I have announced the policy of the Government to attempt to minimise that deficiency and to reduce it to the smallest possible proportions. There is only one other point which, if this discussion is to go further, should be kept in mind. It must be remembered that, in calculating the number of cartridges now available for the Lee-Metford rifle, we include, not merely cartridges loaded with cordite, but cartridges loaded with black powder, and, although I am not going the length of saying that cartridges loaded with black powder could not be used in time of war, it must be remembered that the rifle is sighted for cartridges loaded with cordite. I do not think it necessary to say anything more upon this matter. I hope I have convinced hon. Gentlemen opposite, whether they agree with me or not, that we have something of a case, and that some better motive than mere party faction may have induced us to give the Vote we gave the other night and to adopt the policy on which we have determined. I would gladly have been absolved from the necessity of making even this statement, but everybody who heard what fell from the right hon. Gentleman would feel that I had no choice before me but to take the course which I have just taken. [Cheers.]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I only desire to say, with reference to the observations which the right hon. Gentleman has made on the financial part of the question, that the matter of finance has never affected this question of cartridges at all. That is perfectly apparent from the statement of my right hon. Friend. What he has stated is this, that certain proposals were made to him by his official adviser in the matter—the Director General of Ordnance—and that taking the whole matter into consideration the Secretary of State increased by 75 per cent. the proposals made to him by the Director General of Ordnance. [Cheers] Therefore, whatever may be the views of right hon. Gentlemen opposite with reference to the increase of the Army Estimates 114 generally, whether there should be more men, more guns, and generally more military equipment, the question of finance has not affected the question of ammunition. The proposals were not made by the Secretary of State; they were made originally by his military adviser on this matter, and, so far from being cut down or limited, they were, as my right hon. Friend has said, increased by 75 per cent. upon the responsible recommendation. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, the right hon. Gentleman had dealt very exhaustively with several of the points brought forward, but his speech contained one important omission. The late Government were attacked because they treated the question of our reserve of ammunition as one of secrecy and refused to give the exact figures. Now the right hon. Gentleman was in Office and was fully aware of our exact reserve. He had made a statement to the House and the country on the whole question, and he had sat down without stating what was the amount of the reserve.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
On the question of secrecy I said that I did not wish to press the Government to give without consideration facts which I admitted it might be unwise to publish.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, that a little further on the right hon. Gentleman said he had never thought there was any great advantage in maintaining secrecy in this matter. He therefore thought the House was entitled to some explanation as to why they were not told at the present time exactly what the amount of the reserve was. He did not treat this as a party question at all. He was prepared almost up to the last moment to have voted with the right hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to this question. But when the late Secretary for War treated the question as one of secrecy, he was bound to say that he agreed with him. He did not think it would be wise to declare officially the extent of our reserve, and thus put every foreign nation in possession of the knowledge. But that was not the case of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He had defeated the Government because the Government said it was not advisable to give the facts. [Cries of"No, no!"] If the right hon. Gentleman had stated 115 the figures the House might have been unanimous that the reserve was satisfactory. [Cries of "No, no!"] He wished to ask a question. The right hon. Gentleman said we had 600 rounds of reserve as far as India was concerned. He understood that the regulations provided for 400 rounds, and Lord Wolseley stated that for a proper reserve it was essential that there should be 485 rounds. His question was, Had we a reserve equal to the regulations?
§ MR. DALZIEL
Then I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to state exactly what the reserve is. He thought that now there should be no more mystery about the reserve.
§ Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has forgotten the position as it was the other day, and does not seem to see the great distinction there is between our position and the position of the late Government in regard to this question. The position of the late Government was the position of men who asserted that the supply was sufficient; we admit that it is insufficient, and we say we shall take the very earliest opportunity to make it sufficient. In the circumstances in which the late Government were placed it was natural that we should have acted on information which led us to believe at that time that the supply was insufficient—information which has been confirmed by the knowledge we have gained since. When we were assured by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War that the position was perfectly satisfactory, although we did not for a moment doubt his word as far as the information was supplied to him, we did doubt the fact, and it was entirely contradictory to the information we had then. Therefore we said that unless he could give us the figures and convince us that the supply was not merely satisfactory in his opinion, but as a matter of fact and according to the regulations, we could not accept it as a sufficient declaration. That is the position, and I think we are amply justified by the facts brought now to the knowledge of the Committee by my right hon Friend. I need not go further; the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for War himself does not pretend that the supply was full and ample, that is 116 sufficient for the fact. Our position is this—we have frankly told the House that in our opinion the supply is insufficient and that we propose to make it sufficient, and under those circumstances it is quite unnecessary to state to the House the exact amount by which it is insufficient.
§ * Mr. WOODALL
said, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had told them they had arrived at the conclusion that the supply of ammunition was insufficient; he would venture to ask upon what authority, and by what means, they had arrived at that conclusion. ["Hear, hear!"] He reminded right hon. Gentlemen opposite of the changes brought about by Mr. Stanhope, and the Government of which he was a Member, in 1887. Surely there was some irony in the present situation when they found right hon. Gentlemen, who had created a new authority responsible for these matters, ignoring the discretion and disregarding the advice of that authority. The leader of the House had gone a long way towards fulfilling the opinion he expressed the other night in regard to giving the precise figures, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman might go further, and tell them what were the reserves of ammunition at home and abroad on the 31st March, 1893, for which provision was made by the right hon. Gentleman himself, and to compare with that the quantity they had estimated would be in store at the completion of the present year. He might very well also tell them the quantity of small-arm ammunition which they could now turn out in a week of 48 hours. He had been perfectly justified in giving the House the assurance which they had received with regard to the suitability and trustworthiness of cordite, but they were not responsible for the introduction of cordite. They all knew that, even with the very greatest care and stringent inspection, powders had been found to deteriorate, and it was only prudent not to go beyond the actual, proper necessities of production, and to avoid producing an undue quantity of cordite. By improvements in machinery, independently altogether of the supply of nitro-glycerine, the stores of the Government showed that they had actually turned out this cordite at the rate of 1,200 tons a year, although the maximum 117 fixed by right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in office before was only 600 tons. With regard to the capability of certain contractors to supply cordite, he had stated in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham that the works of Messrs. Kynoch had undertaken to deliver 200 tons of cordite per annum, and he had stated that they were only one of two firms who had contracted for a similar amount. He did not state that the firm of Messrs. Kynoch were prepared to deliver that amount from their works at the present time, but that a rival firm which had works in Cornwall were only now waiting for processes of inspection to deliver cordite to them at once. They had only just lately been able to trust to the trade for the manufacture of cordite ammunition, because a very few months ago they had been engaged in a legal contest of great delicacy and importance. Immediately upon the termination of that contest they invited tenders from the trade. They knew perfectly well that the trade could produce their fair share of small-arm ammunition for the services, and, while their own factories were capable of turning out enough to meet the requirements, they had the satisfaction of knowing that a very large reserve supply could thus be called upon if at any time the Government thought it necessary. He asked the Government if they meant to relinquish the position taken up by the late Mr. Stanhope, and to act upon their own amateur discretion rather than upon that of the responsible advisers to whom they had delegated these large powers.
§ MR. A. B. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said, that three or four years ago he presided over a Departmental Committee which had been deputed to inquire into the reserve of ammunition. In the course of that Inquiry they found a very serious error in the accounts in dealing with the reserve. Instead of counting for the reserve the actual number of rounds in store, the authorities recorded and took credit immediately, as for stores available, for all orders as they were given out. Thus, whenever an order was given to a contractor—whether for a gun which might take two or three years to make, or for powder which might take months—the authorities regarded 118 these orders in the course of execution as so much additional reserve actually available in case of war. As far as the Navy was concerned, steps were taken to put an end to this state of affairs, the Navy taking into their own charge the purchase and order of their own ammunition. He should like to know whether, in regard to the reserve of small-arm ammunition, the old system had been followed and the authorities had taken credit, as reserve, for all orders that were in course of execution. He rather thought, when he turned to the Report of the Public Accounts Committee, that the War Office had not yet got out of the old way. It appeared from that Report that, in answer to the hon. Member for Peterborough, one of the War Office authorities said:—The difficulty in connection with the expenditure on stores is very great indeed. We find that, whomever we make contracts with, they very frequently fail to deliver the stores at the time they are expected to be delivered. … Taking cordite, for instance, I know that this year (1894) the contractors did not deliver anything at all.He would answer the challenge of the hon. Member for Hanley as to the expenditure on Army services. In 1885–6, the Estimates for Army purposes and ordnance stores amounted to £,1377,000, and those for Naval purposes amounted to £850,000—a total of £2,227,000. The like expenditure for 1890–1 was £4,400,000,
§ MR. BRODRICK
said that he rose simply to answer the question which had been addressed to him. The hon. Member for Hanley asked what the reserve of ammunition was on March 31, 1893—the last year for which Lord Salisbury's Government were responsible—as compared with the reserve in the closing period of the late Administration. He had not the exact figures, but if he had he did not think the Committee would be much wiser for them. The contention of the present Government was not that there ever had been an ample reserve, but that it was now absolutely insufficient. The last Government of Lord Salisbury was in a period of transition, and the public accounts bore out their contention. In 1891–2 the Government took £375,000 for the small-arm ammunition, but though they trebled the work of the 119 small-arms arsenals they spent £52,000 short of the amount taken. At the beginning of 1892–3 the Government took the largest sum they had a chance of getting, and by March 31 they spent £372,000, or £9,000 more than the sum asked for. The last Conservative Government, therefore had done everything they could to increase the reserve by giving out orders in every direction and by greatly increasing the production of the arsenals. No doubt, as the Leader of the House had indicated, the right hon. Gentleman opposite had increased the reserve, but he had not increased it sufficiently. Then the hon. Member for Hanley asked why, if the last Unionist Government gave extended powers to the responsible officials in 1887, the Government was now ready to ignore their discretion and disregard their advice in order to substitute the Government's own "amateur decisions." The hon. Member was really stretching a little the licence which was allowed even to a gentleman in his position. The Leader of the House had pointed out that in treating of the discretion and advice of military advisers it was necessary first to consider whether there were not limits within which they were to tender advice and exercise discretion. The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for War stated that he informed his military advisers that they could not exceed the Estimates of the previous year.
§ MR. BRODRICK
agreed. But nine-tenths of the Estimates were absolutely settled without any discretion or advice on the part of the military advisers. The result of the decision of the late Secretary of State to confine the military expenditure within the estimate of the preceding year was shown in the present Estimates. In the Estimates for works and buildings, where it was almost impossible to make heavy reductions—because works begun must be carried on and buildings must be kept up—there was an increase of £153,000; and in order to keep within the total it was necessary to make definite economies. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, with the assent of his military advisers, therefore, took £80,000 off the vote for stores, which was the Vote in question at this 120 moment. That was the answer to what had been said as to the discretion of the military advisers. The hon. Member asked whether the Government differed from the decision of the late Secretary of State. The hon. Member asked whether the Government differed from the decision of the late Secretary of State. There was no question that not merely the figures which the present Government found at the War Office, but the speech of the hon. Member for Hanley made on June 1, referred not only to the ammunition which was in store, but also that which was in process of manufacture. The hon. Member was including in the Estimate of what we should have for an Army Corps to shoot during the year the orders which would be delivered before the end of March next year. That was the cardinal point of difference between the present Government and the late Government. There was also the other difference—that by the system of computation of the right hon. Gentleman opposite there would have been 100,000 men left without a cartridge to fire in case of invasion. Then the right hon. Gentleman made no provision for the exchange of rifle which was to take place, or which was contemplated in the Volunteers. That involved of necessity a larger production of cordite ammunition. The hon. Member for Hanley, in his recent speech outside the House, said that the charge brought against the late War Office administration was not honestly made. He could assure the right hon. Gentlemen and his friends that the steps taken in this matter were honestly taken. He could assure him that they had no intention of impeaching the personal honour of the late Secretary for War in any degree ["Hear, hear!"] and that their sole difference was a difference of opinion and calculation whether they should take into account stores not yet in their possession. While giving the right hon. Gentlemen and his friends full credit for that, he hoped the Committee would allow him to say for himself and those who acted with him that they were actually of the same honest and sincere motives. ["Hear, hear!"] They wished to see an increase in the reserves and to induce the Government to take that step.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said, he could not tell what report of his 121 remarks the hon. Member had seen, but he could not have been properly reported if what appeared was open to the impression that he thought any imputation was cast upon their personal honour. [Cheers.] He wished to add one remark with regard to the taking into account stores which came in in the course of the year. They were dealing with estimates. They did not think of their position on this the second day of July. They dealt with the position the estimates would place them in at the end of the year.
§ * MR. WOODALL
said, his argument would be equally good if the stores were actually measured on March 31 last. His right hon. friend assured them that they had steadily increased the reserves year by year, so that the state of affairs on March 31 was better than it was in the previous year. He was glad of the assurance which the hon. Member had given them.
§ * SIR C. DILKE
said it was clear, from the admissions of both sides, that they never had proper stores. He felt bound to say that the great majority of the House would feel that there was ground for raising this question. [Ministerial Cheers.] He referred to the case of Servia, where, in a short time, the reserves were run through.
§ Vote agreed to; Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.