§ GENERAL RUSSELL (Cheltenham)
rose to call attention to the great national danger resulting from the inadequacy of our military forces to supply the wants and requirements of the Empire, and also to the poor return which the British taxpayer received for the £19,000,000 which he paid for military armament. [Opposition cheers.] It had been shown that at present we had 530,000 armed men in this country, and of this number the 55,000 which were bound to go abroad were quite incapable to take the field. The infantry of the line was organised on the linked battalion system, the result being that while our foreign Army was largely made up of seasoned and well-trained men, the home Army was largely composed of boys and immature men, a great many of them untrained, and wholly incapable of going on a campaign. While our Empire had increased year by year, the Army had not kept pace with that increase. At present there were 13 battalions abroad in excess of those at home, and the result was that drafts of efficient men to supply those battalions were taken from our resources at home. This year the Government had foreshadowed no plan whereby to supply the want except to send the Guards to Gibraltar. This condition of affairs was bad enough, lat it was rendered worse by 935 the fact that we were now reinforcing our garrisons in South Africa where appearances seemed to indicate that the reinforcement was not likely to be a temporary one. The condition of the artillery was even worse than that of our home battalions. Formerly it was the custom to have depôts at Woolwich in order to supply drafts for the artillery abroad. Lately it was announced that the artillery should be increased and should have more field batteries. The depots at Woolwich have been abolished and the batteries abroad had in consequence to be fed by the batteries at home to render them efficient. But if they sent untrained artillerymen into action they made disaster an absolute certainty. Many complaints had been heard among artillery officers as to the number, youth, immaturity, and physical condition of the men. There was the greatest possible difficulty in getting drivers who were not mere immature lads. The other day the right hon. Gentleman said that recruiting was brisk. But lately he was at Aldershot, and as to one infantry brigade, first for foreign service, he was assured that it was 400 men under its strength. As to the training of both officers and men, he believed that the British Army was better now than it ever was, and would compare favourably with the best of any foreign army. The only deficiencies were numbers, stamina, and age. They could not, as in the case of Germany and other countries where conscription existed, wait until a man reached the age of 20 or its physical equivalent. They were obliged to get such boys as they could. That being so, he was amazed at the improvement which had taken place in the British Army of late years. Formerly it was said truly that British infantry could not march. A few years ago, when a regiment undertook a fatiguing march, its ambulances and wagons would be filled. The other day a regiment marched into Aldershot, having done 17 miles in the heat of the day, and instead of the boys being at all exhausted they immediately started playing football. [Cheers.] There could not be a better proof for the benefit of the British Army had derived from its recent training in marching—["hear, hear!"]—and it was only due to the House and the country that they should be reminded of the great 936 debt they owed to the present Commander-in-Chief who had worked so earnestly and with such untiring energy to improve the condition of the Army, both officers and men. ["Hear, hear!"] He contended that it was an element of danger that they should have to rely to so large an extent on reserve men when it became necessary to fill up a regiment to war strength. They had an example at Majuba of what was likely to occur under a system which on a sudden emergency arising resulted in this—that perhaps two men in the ranks had never seen their officers and were comparatively untrained. It was a great danger, and a danger to which they had no right to expose either the men, their officers, or the country. Besides, there were many occasions when it would be impossible and unfair to call the Reserves out. The Reserves were only to be called out in times of great national emergency and danger. But they could conceive of occasions when it might be desirable to increase the foreign garrisons—not because war was imminent, but as a precautionary measure and to prevent war. They might find it necessary to send five, ten, or twenty thousand to the frontier in India as a precautionary measure; but they could not call out the Reserves for that purpose, and it would be unfair to do so if they could. So in South Africa. The Transvaal Government had been arming largely; so much so, that the colonists on the frontier believed only recently that they were very much at the mercy of a Boer raid. That could not be allowed, and they might have to reinforce their garrisons in that part of the world. The same thing applied to Canada. If the United States Government, on some quarrel arising, were to mass forces on the Canadian frontier, the Canadians, in order to keep the peace, would have to follow suit, and they would, of course, look to us to help them. It was all very well having the Colonial Premiers over here, making them Privy Councillors, and giving them Jubilee medals. [Laughter.] Our colonies would look for material assistance in time of need—assistance which, he was very much afraid, in the present condition of our Army, we should be unable to give. The occupants of the Front Treasury Bench might ask, "What would you do to remedy this?" It was not their 937 business to propose remedies. He should not consider it his duty to give an inefficient cook a remedy for his bad dinners. [Laughter.] It was sufficient to point out what was wrong; it was for the Treasury Bench to devise a remedy. He complained of the difficulty of getting information that was in the possession of the Government. He was the other day actually refused a return that was lying on the Table, and he afterwards got the information he wanted from the ''Statesman's Year Book." [Laughter.] He did not wish to revolutionise our military system. He was not one of those—of whom there were many in the House—who thought the present system a mistake. If it was a mistake, they had got it and had to make the hest of it. He thought it could be utilised and made a great deal inure efficient. The right hon. Baronet sitting behind him had explained what he considered a most valuable scheme for utilising the present system; but be would nut go into it now. The first thing the Government was hound to do was to come forward and say they would equalise the battalions at home and abroad. That would be much better than sending a few thousand men of the Brigade of Guards to Gibraltar. If they wanted 13 or 14 battalions more let them say so, and let them have them. ["Hear, hear!"] In the next place, they should establish' depots for the regiments first on the list for foreign service. They ought always to be in a position, at a moment's notice, to put 10,000 or 20,000 men into the field or to reinforce garrisons, and that could only be done by having depôts for all the regiments on the list for foreign service. He asked for information as to the proportion of Artillery ready to support the Volunteer infantry if they had to take the field in case of invasion. An eminent authority had estimated that there ought to he at least 800 guns to support the 200,000 Volunteer infantry. Had the right lion. Gentleman got 400 guns ready? Had he 200 or 100? It was useless to make positions around London and tell off Volunteer brigades to occupy them if there was no Artillery to support them. He regretted the abolition of the Heavy Cavalry. No man who was 5 ft. 9½ in or 5 ft. 10 in. could now enlist in the ordinary Cavalry. The change that had 938 been introduced had caused the greatest heartburning in the Scots Greys and the Royals. Surely we could afford to have two Heavy Cavalry regiments. If it was found difficult to obtain sufficient mounts in this country for heavy riders the difficulty could be easily overcome by importing "whalers," which were far stronger than many of the horses at Aldershot at the present moment. He hoped the change would be reconsidered. He believed that in no previous years had private Members of both Parties addressed a solemn warning against a great material danger to the First Minister of the Crown. That warning was addressed to the Ministry after full inquiry and great deliberation, and was inspired by feelings of patriotism only. If that should be disregarded great would he the responsibility on the heads of the Government if a national disaster should overtake us. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR FREDERICK FITZWYGRAM (Hants, Fareham)
said that most people would agree that the present state of the Army was very unsatisfactory. This unhappy state of things was rather due to defective organisation than to any want of liberality on the part of the House of Commons. If the money voted by the House were utilised in the best way we should have a better Army. The case of the Infantry was worse than that of any other branch of the Service; its case was simply deplorable. The Infantry was divided into foreign battalions and home battalions. The strength of the foreign battalions—900—was not sufficient for war purposes, but only for peace. The state of the home battalions was even worse. They were 800 and odd strong and had not enough men for their own purposes, and certainly not enough to furnish drafts for service abroad. There were 14 battalions abroad without supporting battalions at home. In his opinion we had too many battalions, and the endeavour should be, not to increase their number, but to increase the strength' of each existing battalion. The creation of three more battalions of Guards was a mistake. A better course would have been to increase the strength of t he present battalions. Where was a remedy to be found for the present unsatisfactory state of things? The present strength of the infantry of the line was 137,000. We had 72 dual 939 regiments, or 144 battalions, one single-battalion regiment, and eight battalions of rifles, making in all 153. If they divided the number of men—namely, 137,000—by the number of battalions they would find that the average strength of each battalion was 888. To raise all the 153 battalions to effective strength—namely, 1,100 abroad and 1,400 at home—an increase of about 52,000 would be required. Such an increase would no doubt produce an effective army, but he did not think that the House or the country would be likely to sanction it, and therefore he dismissed that expedient. The remedy which suggested itself to him was, simply, not to maintain more battalions than could be kept efficient, having regard to the number of men. The present establishment, as he had stated, was about 153 battalions. He suggested that there should be a reduction, and that there should be 110 battalions only, 55 on foreign service and 55 at home. Fifty-five foreign battalions, each 1,100 strong, and 55 home battalions, 1,400 strong, would together reach a total of 137,600 men, or exactly the present number of men. To have an effective Army, every battalion ought to be strong enough to stand the strain of war. For that purpose the strength of a foreign battalion ought to be 1,100, and of a home battalion 1,400. There was, he knew, in that House a very strong feeling against any reduction of the number of regiments. He declared as a soldier that it was the bounden duty of the service Members to recommend to the House such a scheme as would make the Army efficient. He preferred the welfare of the Army to any question of expense. It was objected that weak battalions were very valuable in case of war, because they could be increased more rapidly than new ones could be created. In his opinion there was no value whatever in them. In old days, when a war lasted 15 or 16 years, or even as much as 30, they might have been some use; but in the present day, under the conditions of modern warfare, he believed it was impossible to increase weak battalions and put them in the field before the war was over. Then, it would probably be suggested that our barracks were not suited for the purpose of such a scheme as he had put forward; but he did not think much of that objection. 940 It must be remembered that in the case of war there would be a considerably less number of headquarters required than were required now. Then, it had been suggested that a system of three battalion regiments should be tried, but it had been tried in the case of the Rifles, and had not proved successful. The objection to it was that it would be necessary to break up too many regiments, and he thought that if it could be done the Army should be made effective with as little breaking up as possible. He dared say his views would not be very acceptable, but he hoped he had carried some with him. He felt himself that they were sound and essential to the best interests of the Army and the nation. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said that hon. Members were not in the position of having to prove the breakdown, because it was admitted by the Government. We spent on the land forces of the Empire between £36,000,000 and £37,000,000 last year to the £24,000,000 spent on the Navy. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman who with so much ability represented the War Office was less frank than its former representatives, but he could not say that his answers to questions addressed to him as to the cavalry and artillery had been so absolutely frank as they might have been. ["Hear, hear!"] Sir John Briggs, writing in 1892, used these words:—We do not tell the truth to the English people. The Prime Minister himself cannot get at it.Sir John Briggs was for some time Chief Clerk of the Admiralty, and he kept up his interest in these matters till his death. Probably no one outside the Admiralty ever heard of him till he was dead, but his book was of extraordinary value in the study of these matters. Lord Lansdowne last autumn made an able speech, in which he said that certain Bills were necessary to put the Army in a better position than he found it in, and one of those Bills was a Reserve Bill. That Bill passed through the House of Lords last year, but, with one exception, it was condemned by the service Members of the House of Commons, and was not proceeded with. Still, Lord Lansdowne had 941 committed himself to the Bill, and yet the Government had hesitated to introduce it., either in its original or a modified form, in either House this Session. The temporary changes the Government had made and the failure to introduce the Bill were admissions of the breakdown of the system under which the Army existed. The cavalry and artillery were, of course, the most costly branches of the Service, and when there was a large expenditure on armies, and efforts were made to economise, it was very often on the cavalry and artillery that the screwing took place. ["Hear, hear!"] But in our case we could not afford to have a small field artillery. ["Hear, hear!"] Governments had clung to the belief that it was possible to some extent to supplement the Regular field artillery front the Volunteer force. He did not believe that was possible. ["Hear, hear"] Whatever might come in the future of any suggestion of that kind, or of any attempt to imitate the Militia field artillery of Switzerland, the Volunteers were not now in anything like a position to supplement the field artillery. What was the position of the field artillery? Mr. Stanhope reduced the horse artillery without increasing the field artillery. The late Secretary for War began the second half of one of his speeches by saying that he was going to increase it, but his increase took the form of withdrawing the depôt batteries at Woolwich and recreating them in another form. The present Government turned out their predecessors on a question of military efficiency, and when they came in they announced their intention of increasing the artillery. The increase, however, was based on some pedantic plan of increasing the force by one battery. He admitted that in times of peace no artillery in the world was kept up to war strength, but the difference between peace strength and the strength required for war was vastly greater in our case than in that of any other army in the world. We had 44 batteries of field artillery at home, but when recently three batteries were sent to South Africa horses and men had to be drawn from nearly all the other Batteries. At the beginning of the Session the Under Secretary told him that seine of the various sets of batteries 942 were fully equipped in every respect. That undoubtedly led people outside to imagine that the batteries were ready to proceed to war, or would be with the addition of a few men and horses. Of the horses in the three batteries sent out to South Africa 46 per cent. were found to be unfit to go on foreign service. If that proportion prevailed throughout the whole of the batteries we had not only to increase the number of horses when the batteries were sent on service up to the standard laid down by the War Office, hut we had to supply the deficiency of 46 per cent. beyond that to take the place of horses that were not fit for war There was no such proportion between the number of horses supposed to be fit for service and the number that were fit for service in any other army in the world. Taking the state of the three batteries sent to South Africa as a criterion of that of the remainder of the batteries, there were in the whole of the 44 batteries only 1,328 field artillery horses that were fit to go on service, and we really needed 4,438. Our 44 batteries, therefore, were sham batteries. ["Hear, hear!] There had been some improvement in the cavalry, but during the last 20 years in the service as a whole there had been a diminution in the number of trained horses lit for war. Under all the circumstances he was of opinion that everything that had been said during the last two years deprecatory of the Army administration was justified up to the hilt. [Cheers.]
§ SIR H. HAVELOCK-ALLAN (Durham, S.E.)
said he had a notice on the Paper to reduce the right hon. Gentleman's salary by £100, but he was sure he need not say that he had nothing but the most entire confidence in the way the right hon. Gentleman administered the army and treated every question brought to his notice. There was, however, at the present time a rather remarkable unanimity of opinion upon army matters. The election of 1895 brought into the House of Commons a body of military opinion larger in number by a great many than there had ever been before. There were no less than 55 Members who had at various times served in the army or navy. Amongst them there were no less than six Generals who had held high commands, many officers 943 who had commanded battalions or batteries, and the rest, having recently served with some portion of the troops, were intimately in touch with the feelings of the army. Their opinion, therefore, was of such weight and importance that it could not be disregarded by any Government, however strong. The service Members recently expressed their views upon the condition of the Army in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister. He did not desire to see the whole of the present system undone. For good or bad, the short service and linked battalion system had been in force for 21 years, and his belief was that with certain alterations it could be made to answer all purposes of the country and to work smoothly. The short service system must be credited with having had one great result—it had given us an efficient Army in India and the Colonies. There was no question that the 73,000 men in India and the 26,000 men in the Colonies were as efficient as any troops in the world. In addition the present system had given us a reserve of 78,000 men. It was true that for economical reasons the reserve was never called up, but he believed that whenever they were they would soon recover all their old soldierly habits and efficiency. He maintained, however, that the present home Arm was inefficient. What that Army was required to do was to garrison India and the Colonies, to garrison England against invasion, and to supply those expeditionary forces required from time to time. Judged from that point of view, the Army was totally and absolutely inefficient, and he would impress upon the Government the necessity of not allowing the opportunity of the Recess to pass without doing something to remedy those defects. He should not like to press the matter to a Division if the Under Secretary for War gave even a moderate assurance that the defects to which attention had been called would receive adequate attention before the House met next year. He had spoken every year for 23 years on the Army Estimates, and he had come to the conclusion that when once the Army Estimates were framed, it was impossible to get any change made in them. When once a Minister had prepared his Estimates, talking to that Minister was just 944 like talking to the wind—no attention was paid to one's complaints. Now was the time to have the defects to which he had called attention remedied, and he would be wanting in his duty to the country if he did not press the matter to a Division unless he had some moderate assurance from the Under Secretary that the questions he had raised would be attended to. What really were the defects in the present Army system? The greatest defect of all, as was admitted by every military authority, was that we had in our linked battalion system 13 battalions abroad for which there was no link at all at home. When the short service system was first instituted the idea was that if it happened that there were more battalions abroad than at home, that for the purpose of supplying men for the battalions abroad, a depôt of 400 men should be formed for each battalion. That had not been done, and the result was that the regiments of infantry at home were depleted to fill up the gaps in the battalions abroad. Those 13 battalions to which he had referred required at their depots 3,000 men to fill up vacancies, but the whole of the depôts did not amount to 600 men. Was it possible to have a more flagrant breach of the system than that? Another defect arose in connection with the rule in regard to India—that no man was to be sent to India unless he had attained the age of 20. He knew one regiment of 700 men, 300 of whom were over 20 years of age. That battalion had to supply 250 men for the battalion abroad, so that it was left only 50 men who were over 20 years of age and had one year's service. The consequence was that while the men abroad were good men, fit for soldiers, the battalions at home were reduced more or less to a mere school of boys. The remedy was that there should be established for every battalion in the first Army corps a depôt of 400 men which could feed the battalions abroad. The third defect was the artillery, which, as the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had showed, was in a deplorable condition. But there was one defect upon which the right hon. Gentleman did not touch. It was one of recent creation, and it could be remedied by reverting to the old system. At the beginning of 1896 there was at Woolwich 945 two large depôts, one for the Horse Artillery and one for the Field Artillery, from which the whole of the batteries were supplied. That was done away with, and now the battery at home had to feed the battery abroad, and there was no depôt. The result was that small batteries at home, having an establishment of not more than 125 men, were required every year to furnish from 40 to 45 men to feed the battery abroad. Anything worse than that it was impossible to conceive. He hoped that these three blots would be taken into consideration during the Recess, and be remedied when the Army Estimates of next year came to be framed. In regard to the larger question, he agreed with Lord Wolseley that we ought to get much larger and better results for the twenty millions of money we spent yearly on the Army. We had two Army Corps to be sent abroad in case of emergency, but one was so inefficient that it would have to be supplied from the Reserve before it could be embarked at all. Now the object of the Reserve was to supply casualties in war, but our Reserve was always in the first line. Indeed, without the aid of the Reserve, there could be no first line. If the military administrators of this country were aiming at such a poor and insignificant result as two army corps and three brigades of cavalry, then the greater part of our expenditure of 20 millions was thrown away. ["Hear, hear!"] Such a force would never answer the requirements of the country. If we were involved in the east of Europe and in India, the two army corps would cease to exist, for two-thirds of it would, on the authority of Lord Roberts and Lord Wolseley, be required to reinforce the army in India. He was convinced that by employing the means at our disposal—by making more use of the Volunteers and our splendid Militia—[cheers]—we could get a much better result for our expenditure. At Aldershot, the other day, there were Militia regiments quite equal in physique and strength to the battalions of the Line; and at the present moment in Durham there were two Militia battalions out for training, numbering 2,200 men, and equal to four battalions of the Line. ["Hear, hear!"] Why should not this splendid force be moulded into one system? The Government were paying more 946 attention to the Volunteer forces, and anything in that direction would be a sensible addition to the forces of the country. If we contented ourselves with less than four army corps, or 120,000 men available for service abroad, we were not getting a proper return for our enormous expenditure. ["Hear, hear!]
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said that there was no disposition on the part of the Govern merit to underrate the importance of the memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister by the Military Committee of the House of Commons. But in regard to those suggestions it was necessary to clear the ground by saying that the system on which the Army was being worked—the system of short service and linked battalions—was established and must be taken as the basis of discussion. He must remind the Committee of what an enormous advance the Army had made since the abolition of long service. There was always in the House a certain amount of opinion in favour of returning to the long service system. But it was forgotten that under long service great difficulty was found between Great Britain and India in keeping up the Army of 160,000 men. When the men came home from India, there was very often not one man for three to send back from the depot, and not a single man in the reserve to call up in case of war. Now we had something like 207,000 with the colours in Great Britain and India. If from that number were deducted all those soldiers in the first year of service, there remained, together with the reserve, from which 10 per cent. at the outside might be deducted for those who did not respond to the call, a body of 254,000 men on whom the War Office could lay their hands to-morrow. No doubt this force was maintained at a costly rate compared with that of foreign countries; but if it were replaced by men on long-service engagements, with the pensions which would be necessary, the cost would be £7,000,000 more than the present Estimates. What we had at this moment was, perhaps, the most wonderful development of the voluntary system ever known in the world. Again, as to the position of the Indian Army. In old days there was great difficulty in sending 5,000 or 6,000 men a year to India, and of these men 2,000 generally were under 947 20 years of age. Last year over 9,000 men were sent to India and of those not a single man was under 20, or of less than one year's service. These facts ought to be taken into consideration by those who only saw the worst of the short service system. It was said that the battalions at home were perfectly inefficient, and not even a nucleus for the introduction of reserve men. The hon. and gallant Member for South-East Durham said that we used our reserve differently from foreign countries by putting it in the first line. He would compare our practice with that of Germany and France; and to be perfectly fair against the British case, he would deduct from the British battalion not merely men of one year's service—for that would only bring the age to 19—but every man under 20 years of age. From the foreign battalions he would deduct only the men of one year's service. In Germany there were 335 men with the colours in each battalion of over one year's service, and 696 men from the reserve made up the battalion. In France there were 303 men in each battalion of over one year's service, and 698 men were added from the Reserve. In Great Britain there were with the colours 476 men over 20 years of age and one year's service in each home battalion, and 591 men were taken from the Reserve to make up the battalion. Therefore the number was larger in this country than in France or Germany, and we certainly took men of a higher standard both as to height and chest measurement.
§ SIR H. HAVELOCK-ALLAN
said that he did not dispute the accuracy of the figures. His contention was that when we put our reserve into the first line it ceased to exist, while foreign countries had only begun to draw upon theirs.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said that with men at the depot and the Militia Reserve, we had still a considerable number to draw upon in case of war. As to the age of recruits, it was assumed that they were younger and worse now than ever before. That had been the complaint ever since the records of the British Army bad existed. As long as 90 years ago Mr. Wyndham, in introducing a recruiting Fill, said that the Government had been compelled to enlist mere boys. In 1861 the Royal Commission reported that the 948 recruiting sergeants had induced recruits to say they were 18 when they were often only 15 or even 14. In 1866 the then Adjutant-General reported that half of the men enlisted who reported themselves as 18 were really not above 16. Every single officer now agreed that the men we got were physically as good as any we had ever got, and were morally and intellectually of a better class, and that, although we got them too young, after the first year's service they trained into most excellent soldiers. Every civilian who had brothers or relations in the Army naturally heard how disheartening it was for an officer to be always working up this raw material in order to dispatch our troops abroad. The men abroad, who were kept in the finest state of efficiency, must be taken into consideration. As so much had been said with regard to the opinions of the present chiefs of the Army, he would say this—that if there were any three men who had been losers by this system they were Lord Wolseley, Sir Redvers Buller, and Sir Evelyn Wood, not one of whom had ever held high command in India or had had the advantage of having sent out to him ready trained these splendid regiments. Having spent their lives in superintending the nursery, and working up raw material, as it were, of these troops, they were the three officers who stood most staunchly to the system, and who said that it was not only the best but the only system which would do for this country. There were defects in the working of our system, but we ought none the less to hold firmly to the principle of short service and linked battalions. With regard to the present position, since February recruiting had been affected by good trade and by the Jubilee. It had also been seriously affected in this way—a larger number of men happened to go out of the Army into the Reserve during the last winter than in any previous year, and on the top of that they had to further dislocate our system by sending extra troops to the Cape. These circumstances had caused an excessive strain, both on the infantry and on the artillery. But, taking the position as it was, the cavalry, the Army Service Corps, and the Departmental Corps were complete. With regard to the Line, the Line always 949 went down during the winter when the drafts were coming home from India, because when the troops coming home from India were discharged others had to be sent out. At the end of last year we were about 2,000 men short, and we had not yet made that up. In the first six months of 1895 we took 8,769 men; in the first six months of 1896, 8,401 men; and in the first six months of the present year, 9,626 men. The fact that the standard had been reduced had not been the only operating fact. The measures which had been taken enabled them to go a long way towards overtaking the deficiency. A more serious attack had been made with regard to the condition of the artillery. The artillery was in a peculiar position. In the first place they were trying to add largely to the garrison artillery; and they were nearly 1,000 short, although recruiting had been very good during the last few weeks. The horse artillery was above strength, but the field artillery had been below strength since December. In addition to the drafts sent to India they had had to send some to South Africa, which had been a serious strain on the batteries at home. With regard to the question of depots Lord Lansdowne had been advised that the strongest feeling existed that the men trained in batteries were better than those trained at depots, and the artillery view was that it was preferable to give to the batteries the men who previously were assigned to the depots. That did not suit the views of the officers so well, because, of course, the officer in command did not like to lose some of his best men. As regarded the difference of opinion which existed, those at the head of the Army were entitled to judge. He would undertake that the question of the efficiency of the artillery and its establishment of horses would be carefully considered by Lord Lansdowne. ["Hear, hear!"] More than that it would be impossible to say at the present time; but he fully recognised that, if there was a permanently larger number of batteries abroad, there must be an increased establishment at home. As to the number of battalions there were two weak points—the dislocation of the system. by having extra battalions abroad and our inability to meet the strain of small wars. Undoubtedly the 950 system had been overstrained by having 64 battalions at home and 78 abroad. The Secretary of State fully admitted that the position was not satisfactory, and if it were continued permanently every officer and man in the line would have to servo abroad 15 out of 24 months. They thought that was considerably more than was right to require. The excess of the battalions abroad was too much, even when reduced to eight, by the sending of the Guards abroad, unless the conditions were temporary. It would be the duty of the War Office during the autumn to review the whole situation carefully, and to consider whether the difficulty could be met by arranging large depôts, or if not to consider what measures were necessary in order to deal with the matter. It was fully recognised that the present strain was excessive, and the House might rest assured that measures would be taken to prevent its continuance. He would say a few words with regard to small wars. The proposal to increase the liability of Reservists for one year to serve in the case of small wars had been met by various objections. It involved the mingling of all descriptions of infantry in the regiments first called up for service; it was held likely by some critics to prevent reservists getting employment in the first year, and it would not have come into operation for seven years. But they proposed early next Session to introduce a Measure which they hoped would attain the required result by a voluntary system. The men at present got 6d. a day on going into the Reserve, with the liability to serve in a great war; they would propose to offer to a limit of 5,000 men, whose service they desired on their leaving the colours, the extra sum of 2d. a day if they would undertake the extra liability in the first year of Reserve service of being called out in the case of a small war. They had every reason to believe that that offer would be readily taken up. Such a Bill would avoid many of the difficulties which were anticipated when the previous Bill was brought forward. There was the further advantage that instead of having to wait for years this would come into operation at once. They could only proceed by Bill, but they believed that a scheme which would give them 5,000 men who might be called 951 upon for any small war would enable the War Office to fill up the battalions for any small war without any of the strain at present felt, without calling on other battalions to provide drafts, or making up composite battalions, and generally without any dislocation of the system. It was impossible to go in for heroic measures. No one in, the world would be better pleased to see the Army larger than it was, because all the difficulties at present felt would then pass away. It was not at all clear that they could get the men on present terms. To add to the present rate of pay was an easy thing to talk about, but it, was doubtful whether any small addition would get the men, while it was quite certain that a considerable increase of rate would mean a very large additional charge. An increase of 1d. a, day would mean £310,000 a, year, and it was by no means certain that even 3d. a day extra would secure a better or more numerous class of men, while £930,000 would represent the total cost of 16 battalions at the present rates. With regard to the employment of Reservists, he undertook last year that that subject would be considered by the Cabinet, and he was allowed to say that the Cabinet had considered what could be done in regard to Government service. The chief element of that was the Post Office service. The Postmaster General was most anxious to do what he could, although from a Departmental point of view the Post, Office held that, it was better business to promote their own employés, and was prepared to assign places to retired soldiers to the extent of one-half of the whole vacancies in rural and urban post-offices—that was to say, one-half of the places would go to those who had already a claim to them, while the other half would go absolutely among retired soldiers. The plan must conic into force gradually, but the full number of vacancies would be between 800 and 1,000 every year. The Treasury had instituted inquiries into the behaviour of public offices other than the Post Office in this particular, and it appeared that last year of suitable posts 294 fell vacant in, the offices from which replies had been received. To those 162 ex-soldiers were appointed, so that in point of fact the public offices were now giving something more than 50 per cent. of their places to 952 retired soldiers. In some offices, it also appeared, soldiers were well looked upon, but not in others. The Education Department, for example, were ready to appoint them liberally, while the Charity Commissioners did not approve of them. They were found excellent messengers in the National Gallery; but the reverse in the National Portrait Gallery. The House of Lords thought no men were more suitable as messengers, but the House of Commons said they were unfit and were subject to temptations in the House of Commons which made it a little difficult to appoint them. [Laughter.] The War Office had always appointed as messengers retired soldiers, and Lord Lansdowne proposed to appoint to the Ordnance Store Department entirely from among retired soldiers. Now that the Government was about to do its part he thought they would be able to appeal with greater confidence to private employers throughout the counties to give them a fair share of their places.
§ MR. W. WOODALL (Hanley)
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman had considered the practicability of handing over the reserve money to which the retired soldier was entitled to the Department which employed him, so that it might be distributed to him along with his wages.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
thought the suggestion an important one and deserving of consideration. In conclusion, he would ask the Committee to be good enough to put a little confidence in the Government in regard to these subjects. By the employment of Reservists, in particular, they had taken an enormous step in advance towards making recruiting more popular. There never was a time when all the military and civil authorities at the War Office were more alive to the responsibilities which lay upon them and more anxious to fulfil them to the satisfaction of the House and the country.
§ [After the usual interval, Mr. GRANT LAWSON took the Chair.]
§ *COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
said he was glad to be able to congratulate the Under Secretary on attempting to do something to put, the home battalions in a better state for small wars. As they were at present constituted, they were not fit to be sent 953 for service for a war. They would have to be filled up with reservists or with volunteers from other battalions, great or small, to such an extent that they would be mere provisional, scratch battalions with none of that homogeneity which characterised German battalions and which was so necessary to the success of these bodies of men as a fighting machine in war. He would strongly urge upon the Under Secretary that the remedy for the present state of things was that the strength of each home battalion should be gradually raised, so that they need never put into it more than one-fourth or one-fifth of its strength. With regard to the guards, he thought it would be far better if they could send each battalion to Gibraltar as a battalion was now sent to Dublin, with all its own men, without robbing the other battalions. However excellent the Cardwell scheme may have been for the time it was adopted; the growth of the empire, and its constantly changing necessities required that the system should be revised and adapted to these needs and circumstances.
§ *MR. JOHN WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
moved to reduce the Vote by £90, in order to call attention to the extremely unfair, ungenerous, and severe treatment meted out by the War Office to the 5th Volunteer Battalion Scottish Rifles, whose headquarters were at Airdrie, without public inquiry, and without, in the opinion of many, sufficient cause. He wished also to call attention to the extremely unfair and ridiculous misrepresentations, he must call them, of the Under Secretary for War when this subject was last before the House in March of this year, and when he (Mr. Wilson) moved the adjournment of the House on the subject. He could now prove that many of these statements were exaggerated, and many of them absolutely untrue. Any irregularities which did exist in the corps were not of sufficient consequence to justify the disbandment. There was one very ridiculous statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. If it had been true the offence would not have been a great one, but it was not true. Yet the statement of it had convulsed the House with laughter, and after that not an argument could be heard in support of 954 his contention. The right hon. Gentleman told the House that at the inspection a private was wearing a pair of slippers. The right hon. Gentleman might as well have said that he was wearing only a night shirt. As a matter of fact the man was wearing a pair of stout lacing shoes, such as were commonly worn in that part of the country. On the other hand, the inspecting officer appeared on a full parade wearing a tweed suit. Was that the proper apparel for an officer who was well paid, and who ought to have been an example to the private? The fault of the private—if it was a fault—was extremely trivial, but the fault of the officer was worse, and one that ought not to have been overlooked by the War Office. The right hon. Gentleman had also spoken in a very contemptuous way of the social status of many of the officers of the battalion. He sneered at one as a plumber—
§ *MR. BRODRICK
The hon. Member is in error. I simply stated that in connection with certain work he did for the corps that his vocation was that of a plumber.
§ *MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
accepted the right hon. Gentleman's apology. [Laughter] That plumber who had either done the work in question at his own cost or for less than any other tradesman would have done it, had been a major for 30 years in that force and had nut been absent from six drills. The senior major had scarcely been absent from a single battalion drill. The War Office could not find any fault with them. An architect who was a captain in the force was reported to have done work for the battalion, but the work was done gratuitously. Another statement made by the right hon. Gentleman that was not in accordance with the facts was that out of the whole of that regiment there was only one clean rifle in 700.
§ *MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
said he should read what the right hon. Gentleman said. ["Hear; hear!"] He said:—If Colonel Lynch were examined he would say that at the last inspection (20th June 1896) the whole of the rifles in the regiment were dirty and only one clean.955 His contention was that such a statement was not true. If the right hon. Gentleman had only accepted what he thought was the good advice given him, he would have pressed upon the Secretary of State for War the desirability of instituting an inquiry into the whole of the facts before condemning that force. The idea that among 700 men there were to be found 700 dirty rifles was really too overpowering. There was, as a matter of fact, only one dirty rifle, and that could be proved on oath. Then there was a great deal made out of the fact that those men, after being on parade four hours on a pouring wet day, on coming home had fired off some blank ammunition. The right hon. Gentleman made it out that they fired a feu de joie all along the streets. That was not true. Some of the members of the corps did fire their rifles. That was admitted. But were there never any irregularities in the regular Army? Did they never hear of Her Majesty's Household Cavalry cutting up their saddles? What was done with the men in that case except to dismiss them from the force? That was clone immediately in this case. A court-martial was held, and the men who were proved guilty of firing off their rifles in the street were dismissed from, the corps. What more could they do? ["Hear, hear!"] The most special point raised by the right hon. Gentleman against this force was the fact that the officers sold the spare ammunition to a. rifle corps (as he called it), as if that "rifle club" were not com posed of members of the battalion. He did not know whether or not it was the right hon. Gentleman's idea, but he certainly conveyed the idea that these officers were swindling. Many persons had asked him, "How could you defend such officers when they actually sold the ammunition away?" He (the hon. Member) interrupted the right ham Gentleman when he was making that statement, and asked him, "Do you not know that it is a matter of common practice, among Volunteers?" The right hon. Gentleman turned and said, "It is not."
§ *MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
The right hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear." Was it still his opinion?
§ *MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
remarked that perhaps officers under the 956 right hon. Gentleman were better aware of the facts. Perhaps he knew there, was an officer called the Commandant of the School of Musketry. That officer in his report of the shooting of the Volunteers for the year 1896 showed that the sale of ammunition was a. matter of common practice among Volunteers. It was a very concise report, and he would simply read the paragraph which referred to this special subject of disposing of the surplus ammunition:—Another very important matter to mention is the expenditure of the ammunition grant allowed by Government for each Volunteer. It is understood that some commanding officers of Volunteers are under the impression that they have not sufficient ammunition to carry out extra sectional practice and field firing. In considering this subject the amount of ammunition allowed to be drawn for a Volunteer must first be noted. A commanding officer may draw at the rate of 75 rounds per man, and an additional 15 rounds per man per annum for all men who only fired 35 rounds in class firing the previous year, on the sole condition that these additional rounds are fired in some sectional practice. Therefore it may be said that a commanding officer should be able to draw some 90 rounds per head.What becomes of the ammunition thus drawn? A volunteer is only bound, under the present regulations, to fire 21 rounds in order to become ' efficient,' provided he passes out of the third class. It is a fact, but a matter for regret, that a very small percentage of men take the trouble, or sufficient interest in their work, to fire more than the minimum number of rounds required. The consequence is that there is an enormous amount of ammunition at the disposal of commanding officers, which they might expend in sectional practice; but a reference to the Ammunition Returns, which accompany the annual Musketry Returns of the Volunteers, shows that vast amounts of ammunition are expended in prize competitions and private practice. The first thing to be done to remedy the present state of affairs is for every commanding officer, assisted by his adjutant, to take into his own hands this matter of the expenditure of ammunition. At present very many corps leave this in the hands of a shooting, committee, who look on the surplus ammunition as theirs to dispose of as they think best, and who grudge it being taken from them for field practice.Would the Under Secretary for War still say that he was not aware that what the officers of the Airdrie Volunteers did was only a matter of quite general practice and winked at by the War Office? He thought sufficient had been said to show that the Under Secretary for War had made statements in this House which could not be substantiated, and which ought never to have been made; and that 957 the War Office in disbanding without any inquiry, and relying on the ex parte statements of biassed officials, had acted in a most arbitrary and despotic manner, and that it was high time that, this House should assert its privilege and not allow a body of respectable working men to be condemned without being heard. He thought sufficient had been said to show that the step taken by the War Office was a step they would have great reason to regret. The right hon. Gentleman intimated that he was not of that opinion, but possibly if he represented the constituency which he represented and which he knew intimately, he would be of a very different opinion. The disbanded corps was composed of first-class working men, who would not be in their present disgraceful position of being disbanded without just and sufficient reason had their adjutant done his duty. He begged to move.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
regretted that his hon. Friend had thought it necessary to move the reduction of the Vote. He should not have thought it desirable to go into this question again, and he did so with great reluctance, because he knew that his hon. Friend spoke from the strongest conviction that his own constituents had been wronged in this matter, and that he really believed that military efficiency could be maintained under certain conditions, which to the War Office did not appear to be possible. His hon. Friend used very strong expressions about misrepresentation, saying that statements made on the previous occasion when this matter was discussed were utterly untrue, unfair, contemptuous, and the like. His hon. Friend, speaking on behalf of the officers and men, had taken their account of what occurred. He had left out all the points which told against the corps, and he had taken up certain other points, as to which he proposed to follow him if the House would allow him. The matter had been already discussed this year, and he would therefore meet in the briefest possible way the questions which had been brought forward. Taking first of all the point he had mentioned last—the statement made by the officer with regard to selling ammunition. His hon. Friend alleged that he had stated that the ammunition was sold by the colonel, and it was thought by some of the officers 958 that he insinuated that the money went into Colonel Forrest's private account. Of course he never did anything of the kind. What he took exception to was that the Commanding Officer should have first of all sold the ammunition which, according to the regulations, he was not entitled to sell, and then, having done that, he signed a statement that he had not sold any ammunition. ["Hear, hear!"] And then, when his adjutant called his attention to this, and said he really could not pass such a statement knowing that it was not true, he received from the Colonel a variety of abusive letters, couched in vigorous and overbearing terms such as no gentleman would think of writing to another with whom he had to serve, and who had to serve under him. The War Office acted towards the Commanding Officer with the utmost consideration, and seeing that the two men could not work together any longer, they removed the adjutant to his regiment, and having explained to the Colonel that this could not be allowed to go on, they sent him a fresh one. In doing that the War Office showed from the first that they were determined that as far as the battalion was concerned they would give them the best chance in their power. There was no fault in the adjutant whatever. His hon. Friend did not attempt to deal with these difficulties. What he said was that a good deal of what was said to make the corps ridiculous in the eyes of the House of Commons was untrue. He did not like to occupy the time of the House by taking up all the points one by one, but perhaps he ought to do so in order to justify what was said on the former occasion. In the first place the hon. Gentleman attributed to him the statement that all the rifles were dirty on the occasion of the inspection. He did not state anything of the kind. The hon. Gentleman stated that Colonel Lynch said all the rifles with one exception were clean. He (the right hon. Gentleman) said that was not the nature of Colonel Lynch's report, and that if he were examined his report would be in the direction of saying that the rifles generally were dirty. As to saying that only one rifle in 700 was clean, it was an expression he should never have thought of using. He complained that some of the officers were spoken of contemptuously. He did not 959 in the least degree intend to convey any contempt. What he said was that it was unfortunate that so many of the officers had pecuniary relations with the corps, and that certain officers who were hotel-keepers had not proper control of their men because the men were customers at the hotels belonging to them. He took care not to say a word against the char ratter of these officers. He said that as hotel-keepers they had an admirable reputation, but, he said, they had not retained in the Army the reputation they had won at the bar. [Much laughter.] That they might be admirable hotel-keepers, but that they really had no control over their men. ["Hear, hear!"] His hon. Friend had brought up the question of the immortal private who was found on parade in slippers. [Laughter.] His hon. Friend said the articles he had on his feet had laces in them. [Laughter.]
§ *MR. BRODRICK
My hon. Friend calls them shoes; the inspecting officer calls them slippers; and the only point of contest between the two seems to be that they had laces. [Laughter.] He would not contest the point for a moment, but he was certain that those who had framed this particular statement did not feel themselves on very sound ground, because they pursued the average and ordinary course of people who were not on sound ground, namely, to attack the enemy, so they said:—After all, if the private did come on parade in slippers, the Adjutant came on parade in a suit of tweeds.[Laughter.] If his hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Sir F. Lockwood) was present, he would coin-mend to him the spectacle the corps presented, the adjutant wearing tweeds, and all the other incongruities of this immortal battalion as a subject for one of his humorous sketches. Could the hon. Member dispute the main points? The battalion had not got a colonel, and could not get one for many months; there was an absence of discipline, there were acts of insubordination. He had received a letter written by an officer of the batter lion at the time which said there was a "continual fusillade in the train—"
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said he would rather not give the name, but he was in the train and knew all about the matter; he said that between certain stations there was a continual fusillade. Yet the offenders were not identified, he was informed that only one had been identified, and he was discovered only because he had been arrested by the civil power. He quite appreciated the hon. Member's desire to make the best of the matter for the battalion in which he was so much interested, and he could assure the hon. Gentleman that it was only after the most careful consideration that the War Office acted in the way they ought to have acted on the official report sent in by the General Officer Commanding, and if further corroboration was wanted, he might say he had received letters from persons in various parts of Scotland, and had had personal interviews, from which he learned that the battalion was well known throughout Scotland as a battalion that could not be regarded as of any use in the Volunteer Service. It was well known that the officers were incapable, and that the men were not fit to take their place in line with other excellent battalions in Scotland. Nothing was further from his desire than to depreciate any battalion of Volunteers. It was not his desire that this should have been intruded on the notice of the House, he hoped it would have passed with as little attention, drawn to it as possible. He assured the hon. Member that the military authorities having waited some 16 months to get a colonel, and having tried two successive adjutants, if they had seen among the officers any man likely to be able to take a strong hand and turn the battalion to good account they would gladly have taken advantage of the opportunity, but it was impossible for Lord Lansdowne, having a report that the battalion was unfit to stand in line with other battalions, that it was undisciplined and unfit for service, to ask Parliament to vote the money for the corps.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said he was always disposed to support administrative authority, and particularly that of the War Office, but he confessed, although he did not depart from that attitude, that there were surrounding circumstances by which he was reminded 961 of the old adage, Nemo repente fuit turpissimus. This dreadful battalion which was not fit to stand in line with any other portion of the Volunteer force had been most favourably reported upon year after year by the very colonel who now condemned it, and they had been unfortunate in their adjutant. He had never been in the locality, and knew nothing of the circumstances of the case, but falling back upon his adage again, he could hardly believe that by stepping into this constituency out of all other parts of Scotland one could find oneself in such a nest of horrors as had been represented to the Committee. He thought the right hon. Gentleman, seeing, the comic elements in the story, had been unable to resist the temptation to bring them before the House, and the House was much indebted to him, but at the same time he thought there might have been according to the nature and regulations of the Service strong measures taken with some of the officers. He doubted if the War Office, military or civil, had fully realised what a tremendous blow it was, what an indignity it was to put upon a locality, to disband the local Volunteer force provided for the public service. He could not believe that such a large number of his countrymen were so utterly unworthy as these men had been held to be. A special inquiry and examination into the case might have shown that the fault was due to this or that officer, and possibly to all the officers, but surely the men did nothing, to justify such a severe measure. He knew all that could be said on the side of discipline, and he did not dispute the necessity that lay with responsible military authorities to do even extremely harsh things in the interest of discipline, but he regretted with a regret that he thought would be shared by his countrymen that this particular battalion should have been treated—he would not say with so little consideration, because he knew plenty of consideration had been given to it—but with such insufficient regard to the effect of the action on others not only in the force but in the locality, which had shown no indisposition to undertake its share in military service. Having said so much on this particular incident he wished to hark back to the wider discussion, but did not know if that would be in order?
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. GRANT LAWSON)
said if the hon. Member persisted in his Motion for the reduction of the Vote the discussion must be confined to the subject to which the Motion related.
§ *MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
said he adhered to his Motion. He understood that other Members had something to say on the subject, and he desired to make a reply.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON
said that, considering how short was the time at the disposal of the Committee, the enormous interest of the general discussion, and the extreme importance of the speech of the Under Secretary it would be ludicrous to spend the rest of the evening in discussing the circumstances in relation to this one battalion of Volunteers. He hoped, having regard to time and public interests, the Committee would pass on to the main question. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. WEIR
was surprised at this intervention of the right hon. Baronet. The Chairman would regulate the conduct of business. He was amazed that a Scotchman should not appreciate the importance of a subject in which was involved the disgrace and degradation of 700 of his countrymen. The Under Secretary for War had treated this matter with a levity with which the Scotch Members had no sympathy. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling had said, if the officers were in fault, why should 700 Scotchmen be treated in this manner? He quoted from the appendix statements made by the Inspecting Officer as to the condition in which he found this 5th. Battalion of Lanark Volunteers. At the close of the inspection in 1892 Colonel Lynch expressed himself as extremely well pleased with what he had seen, and with the steadiness of the men in drill and on parade. In 1893 he found a marked improvement since the last inspection, and said the men would make a good figure among other battalions. In 1894 Colonel Lynch said the inspection hail turned out most satisfactory, and complimented Colonel Forrest on his command. After the inspection of 1896 Colonel Lynch said that he had been very pleased—
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said that every word the hon. Member was going to read was absolutely denied by Colonel Lynch, who 963 declared that he did not use the words of commendation attributed to him, and whose denial was supported by the Adjutant. It was well known that the words attributed to Colonel Lynch were dictated to the reporters. It would be impossible for the War Office to reopen this case, which had been decided after full and careful investigation. For the hon. Member to read a statement which Colonel Lynch had given his word he had not made would be to waste the time of the House. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. WEIR
said that the statements which he held in his hand were from the officers of the regiment, and he was entitled to consider that. Scottish gentlemen were as truthful as any officials of the War Office. Why had there not been a. public inquiry into this question? He believed that the whole difficulty had arisen from sonic bad feeling between Colonel Lynch on the one side and Colonel Forrest and the Adjutant on the other. The hon. Member was proceeding to refer to documents, when
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. GRANT LAWSON)
asked whether the hon. Member was proposing to read from documents referring to the speech delivered by the Under Secretary for War when this subject was last. before the House?
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. GRANT LAWSON)
Were those statements made in answer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman?
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. GRANT LAWSON)
I must call the hon. Member's attention to the Rule which prohibits any Member from reading extracts from newspapers or other documents referring to Debates in the House during the same Session. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ *MR. WEIR
concluded by saying that he did not believe that a member of this regiment appeared on parade in slippers. They were strong lacing shoes, and the wearer was probably unable to afford boots. Why did not the Government adopt the suggestion of a well-known military man who had recommended that Volunteers should be supplied with regulation boots?
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
remarked that he was not a great admirer of the 964 ways of the War Office, which the late Sir E. Hamley once described as "the epitome of concentration run mad," but he should certainly always remember the good deed the Department had done in disbanding the 5th Lanarkshire. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ [The CHAIRMAN Of WAYS and MEANS resumed the Chair.]
§ MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
observed that it was strange that Colonel Lynch did not repudiate the statements ascribed to him in the local Press at the time of their publication. No question had excited so much interest in the locality as this, and there was a feeling that the battalion had not been fairly treated, for, after spending their money and giving their time week after week for years, the War Office, without any notice whatever, absolutely put them out of existence. There was, in his opinion, a case for inquiry, in view of the conflict of reports. What the officers had to complain of was that, until they got notice that they were disbanded, they had no information whatever of the reports sent to the War Office. The lesson to be learned from this case was that if men failed to come up to the standard of discipline required of them, they should, before they were actually disbanded, have some notice from the War Office of the points of complaint made by the Department.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said there was no doubt a conflict of evidence as between the report in the newspaper and that furnished to the War Office. They had traced the report as far as they could, and had found that the report was sent in by a gentleman who was not present at the moment when Colonel Lynch's speech to the regiment was made. The newspaper reporter, getting it from a partial person, did undoubtedly send it to two newspapers circulating in the district, and put into the mouth of Colonel Lynch a statement which he declares was absolutely the opposite to what he did say. The statement of Colonel Lynch was that he marched the officers to a corner of the field in order that the men should not hear the censure which it was his misfortune to have to mete out to them. He stated to them what he reported to the War Office immediately after, namely, that the battalion turned 965 out on parade dirty and unsteady, that the majority of the officers took no interest in their companies, and that the arms were very dirty. They had no reason to doubt the word of Colonel Lynch, who was a man of the highest honour. They did know that there was a very strong desire expressed at the inspection that what had been complained of should not be brought to light. It was not customary for military officers to write to the papers to make comments on what he was officially reported to have said, but Colonel Lynch had told him himself, on his word of honour, that he never, and could not have, used the expressions he was reported to have used. The Committee would see, therefore, that a very serious warning was given to the battalion by the Inspecting Officer of what would occur if such a state of things was found to exist in the future. He could only say himself that so far from this matter having been regarded lightly, it had been given the most earnest thought and the most careful consideration, not merely by the officers immediately concerned, but by the Adjutant-General himself and the Commander-in-Chief. It was discussed by them with the Secretary of State in all its bearings. They quite realised, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling put it, what a very serious thing it was that any battalion should be disbanded, and as a matter of fact the cases in which the disbandment either of a battalion or a company had taken place were very few. They approached the matter from that point of view. The suggestion that some sort of warning should be given was one that every one would desire to act upon, and in this particular case, if they had seen any chance of getting from this battalion the service that every man should desire to give, they would not, for one moment have countenanced their removal. They recognised that, dealing as they were with Volunteers, they required careful consideration in all these matters, and he could assure the Committee that that was the spirit which animated all the high officials at the War Office.
§ MAJOR RASCH
claimed to move "That the Question be now put," but the Chairman of Ways and Means withheld his 966 assent, and declined then to put that Question. Debate resumed.
§ MR. CALDWELL
remarked upon the unreasonable character of the Motion which had just been made by the hon. and gallant Member opposite, and said the whole Vote would have been passed hours ago if it had depended upon his attendance. The complexion which the Under Secretary for War put on this case now was altogether different to what he put on when the matter was before the House on a former occasion. On that occasion he made reference to the social condition of these men and mentioned the fact of their being miners as a sort of disparagement. What was his object in referring to the social condition of these men? It had nothing whatever to do with their efficiency as Volunteers. That reference was felt in the whole district to be insulting to the men. Then he spoke of the officers being hotel-keepers and the like. Why should he introduce that consideration into a matter of this kind, for it had nothing to do with the question they had to consider. Then he said that one man came on parade in slippers. Why did he use the word slippers? Now they were told they were strong shoes he had on. The story should be told in its naked truth, and they should not use the word slippers if it was a case of strong shoes. That produced an unfair impression in the House which was not worthy of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said that showed that the men who reported to the right hon. Gentleman were not men he could rely on. Did not that make out a case for an impartial inquiry? It was all very well to say the matter was over. It was so far as the disbandment of the Corps went, but it was not over so far as the character of the men were concerned. Then it was said that only one rifle was clean. That was what was reported in ''Hansard," and that was what was reported in the district, whereas the fact was that all the rifles were clean except one. There was no use in using exaggerated language of that sort. Then it was said that Colonel Forrest not only sold the ammunition, but made an entry to the War Office that 967 he did not; but that took place a year or eighteen months before the disbandment. Surely that could have nothing whatever to do with the subsequent disbandment of the corps. Then with regard to the firing, of course if volunteers did that there was a means of punishing them, and the individuals should be punished at the time. Surely that again was a very simple, isolated act, and it was most unjust that because a few who did it their act should be seized on as a ground for disbanding the corps. There was not a single solid ground for disbandment. Everything was exaggerated. It was quite evident that the speech of the Under Secretary cast a considerable slur on the corps, and it was keenly felt as an insult to the whole community, and it was commented on by the whole press of the east and west of Scotland and all shades of politics. Whilst they did not ask for the reinstatement of the battalion, they ought at any rate to insist that a complete case was made out for an impartial inquiry. He thought, therefore, the proper course would be to issue a special inquiry on this subject, and to give to all parties an opportunity of clearing their characters.
§ MR. J. WILSON (Falkirk Burghs)
said that he wished to reply to one or two statements made by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of War. The right hon. Gentleman said that in making his remarks he took very good care to state his case as favourably as possible, and to miss some of the points. He submitted that that was the universal practice on the Government Bench. He submitted to those hon. Members who were present in March last that he proved his case then. The right hon. Gentleman said he missed the most particular point in the whole question, namely, that the battalion was unable to get a colonel. That was not correct. A colonel was appointed on March 19th, 1896, yet on April 1st, 1897—a very suitable day—[laughter]—the battalion was disbanded. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling Burghs said it was surely a very remarkable fact that this battalion should have had an unbroken record for 40 years. There was not a more loyal district nor a district that had furnished more gallant soldiers to the regular army than the district of Airdrie. 968 Was it credible that a battalion which for 40 years had earned the capitation grant and which had had no complaint made against it until last year should be disbanded? The right hon. Gentleman had said there were no reporters present when Colonel Lynch made a favourable report to the officers and an unfavourable report to the War Office. Last year reporters were present, and they had made a statement on oath to that effect. That was another reason why there should be a public inquiry. The regiment could not be restored, but by a public inquiry justice might be done to 700 respectable working men with whom no fault had been found.
§ Question put. The Committee divided:—Ayes, 36; Noes, 130.—(Division List, No. 330.)
§ MR. HUDSON KEARLEY (Devonport)
called attention to the administration of the Royal Patriotic Fund. This fund, which was made up of the proceeds of the sale of dead soldiers' effects and unpaid bounties, had been since 1884 handed over by the War Office for administration to the Royal Patriotic Commissioners for the relief of the widows and orphans of soldiers killed in campaigns, or by exposure to hardships in the service of the Crown in 1884 the fund amounted to £44,000. In 1886 it was increased to £66,000, in 1888 to £81,000, in 1890 to £93,000, in 1892 to £114,900, and in 1895 to £135,000 by further advances of money obtained from the same sources by the War Office. He contended that the fund was mal-administered. In 1886 there were 99 widows and 213 orphans on the fund; hut in 1895 the numbers had diminished to 64 widows and 91 orphans, in spite of the fact that in the interval the fund had been largely augmented. The War Office ought never to have parted with this money, which was soldiers' money, or, having parted with it, they ought to have looked carefully after its administration. But, as a matter of fact, the War Office had lost all touch with the fund; practically their only connection with it was to hand over contributions to it to the Patriotic Commissioners every year. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether 969 the War Department had—after the investigation of the committee which had been appointed to inquire into the fund—taken any steps to see that the money handed over by them year after year was properly administered by the Patriotic Commissioners?
thanked the First Lord of the Treasury for the sympathetic way in which he had alluded, in rather trying circumstances, to the Militia Reserve and discharged soldiers. The House was accustomed to the engaging optimism of successive Secretaries of State for War, which ended in nothing. But every soldier would be grateful for the assurance of the First Lord that the matter should receive attention.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
said that, in bringing the Committee back to the larger question which was under discussion earlier in the evening, he must remind the Committee of one thing—that in dealing with the Army they were dealing with an instrument, and not with a thing which was an object in itself. Our military establishments depended on our policy, and the question was, What was our policy? When the present system of linked battalions was adopted it was founded on a calculation of the number of battalions required at home and abroad. Decade after decade we had gone on the supposition that the disproportion of those battalions was a passing incident which would ultimately disappear. But it was necessary to face the fact that there had been a great development of the public policy of the country. [Cheers.] The effect was that 30,000 men had been added to the army in the last 20 years. In India we had abandoned the old Lawrentian policy, and had the inestimable advantage of a scientific frontier, a concomitant circumstance of which was that we had now to maintain a much larger army in India than ever before. Then we had adopted the practice of occupying the remote valleys of the ' mountains on the frontier, which was a constant drain on our resources. Our occupation of Egypt was a new item; and in the present year we had sent two battalions to the Cape. He mentioned these things merely to point out that it was they which caused the disruption of our system. That system may have been adapted for another set of circumstances, but now it was necessary, if the present 970 circumstances were permanent, to pay the price for the policy. [Cheers.] The Army must be adopted to the circumstances, for the circumstances could not be adapted to the Army. The hon. and gallant Member for Durham had very large ideas, and to proceed on that scale our establishments must be revised altogether. Undoubtedly there were two great blots on our system at present. One was the want of ability to fill up the ranks of a small force sent to engage in a small war. He was very glad that the Secretary of State saw his way to meet that emergency, which had been pressing for many years. There had always been a delicacy about meddling with the Reserve men; but now it was proposed to give the Reserve men a little increase of pay for one year on condition of their accepting this larger liability. If that could be done for a moderate sum, he thought it would he as great an element of strength to the Army as anything that could be enforced, and he earnestly hoped the right hon. Gentleman might be able next year to bring in a satisfactory Bill for such a purpose. He himself was not so thin-skinned as many people, and he should have been quite prepared to accept the Bill of last year. As to the standing difficulty of the disproportion of the battalions of infantry at home and abroad many proposals had been made. The present Government had proposed an arrangement with regard to the Guards, but he could not help thinking that something more than that might be done. ["Hear, hear!"] Perhaps the units might be fewer and larger in size, or it might be possible to have larger depôts and fewer of them; but it was one of the foremost duties of the Government to deal with the present state of things in some way. Of course, they were naturally averse to any large increase of the burdens on the people, but if any additional expense was involved which increased the efficiency of the Army and made our system more effective, he was sure in most quarters there would be no disposition to oppose it.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
said the increase in the battalions abroad was due to the increased demands of the naval bases. Since Lord Card-well's army reform scheme we had totally changed our policy with regard to over-sea positions, and the necessities, or supposed necessities, of the Navy had led 971 to what he thought was an exaggerated scale of work abroad. Sufficient regard had not been had to the garrisons of India. He had heard the statement of the Under Secretary with the greatest possible satisfaction, and he thought it showed that the War Office was beginning to consider these matters in a broader spirit. He would have liked, however, to have heard something more explicit with regard to the horses of the Field Artillery. The sacrifice we had made in order to send three batteries suddenly to the Cape was not sufficiently understood. In order to make those three batteries efficient we had had actually to unhorse about 12 of the batteries which remained in the United Kingdom. The garrisoning of the minor naval bases was a subject which should engage the earnest attention of the War Office. It was a serious matter that such a large military force should be locked up at those minor bases abroad, and it was a question whether the Army at all should be responsible for them.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
wished to know whether the War Office authorities, when they issued invitations to young Irishmen to enlist in the Army, would state for their information that they were liable to be insulted for wearing national emblems. [Cries of "Oh!"] Much of the heartburning which now existed in connection with this grievance would be swept away if a simple arrangement were made whereby the wearing of the shamrock by the soldiers would be regulated by some central authority at the Horse Guards instead of being left to the whim and caprice of some inexperienced and ill-conditioned young officer. It was a curious fact that no sooner did a Conservative Government come into power and two Irish landlords preside at the War Office than immediately these questions cropped up—["Oh!"]—and he instanced a case where an Irish soldier named Grindle, stationed at Aldershot, was ordered by a young officer on St. Patrick's Day last "to take that dirty bit of green stuff" out of his cap. The soldier was put into confinement and received the brutal punishment of seven (lays' hard labour. This was for doing what other Irishmen—officers and men—were doing on the same day. It might be said that the offending soldier should have obeyed his officer. But the officer should not have 972 been miscreant enough to order the man in an insolent tone to remove his shamrock. He regretted to say that the officer was an Irishman of the anti-Irish type; and there were no worse specimens of humanity than Irishmen like these. There was another case in 1892, when a soldier named O'Grady was ordered by Captain Tyndall — probably he was Colonel Tyndall now, for there was no surer means of promotion in the Army than to insult Irish soldiers—["No, no!" and "Hear, hear!"] — to remove his shamrock; and, for refusing to do so, he was sentenced to 48 hours' imprisonment. The First Lord of the Treasury made the excuse for Captain Tyndall that he did not know it was St. Patrick's Day, the inference being that, if he had known, it would have been his duty to have taken no notice of the wearing of the shamrock. There were 27,000 Irish soldiers in the British Army, but the number had declined by 5,000. The Irish Members of the House intended to protect the Irish national emblem and soldiers who wore it from being insulted. The shamrock—the national emblem of Ireland, was the only emblem that any one in the Army had ever been punished for wearing. As to how other national emblems were worn, he pointed out that on St. George's Day the Northumberland Fusiliers had to wear two roses, and the Welsh regiments on St. David's Day had to wear a leek. He mentioned that on St. Patrick's Day on one occasion he saw the late Duke of Clarence in a cathedral wearing the shamrock, and in Dublin Castle the commander of the forces, and the officers and soldiers wore a shamrock. All he asked was that the Department should make bad and ill-conditioned officers do what other officers of good and gentlemanly instincts permitted, and that they should not be allowed to insult Irish soldiers. Some regulation should be framed at headquarters which would prevent this constant recurrence of outrage. It was easy to say that the soldier disobeyed his orders. He admitted this, and he should think very little of the soldier if he had not disobeyed the order, no matter what the punishment was. He hoped that the 27,000 Irish soldiers would put the matter next time to the test, and find out what the martinets would do. He hoped also that the subject would be talked over in every 973 soldier's quarters, and that Trish soldiers in the army would have the manhood, if this regulation was not made, to disobey the order.
§ *MR. BRODRICK
regretted that the hon. Member hail thought it right, to bring this subject inward after full explanations bad been given. But, considering the language used by the hon. Member with regard to an officer who had merely done his duty, he would tell the story to the House, and leave it to judge. The law as to the wearing of emblems on the uniform was that no soldier might wear anything except by direction of his commanding officer. In certain regiments there was a custom, which had been preserved for many years, of wearing emblems on certain conditions. In the case of wearing emblems, Mr. Stanhope some seven years ago desired experimentally to see whether the difficulty which was occasionally raised in connection with the question could not be got over, and he made a provision that any soldier who wished on St. Patrick's Day to wear the shamrock should be allowed to go to his captain for the necessary permission, which was at once granted if there was no danger of its causing disorder in the regiment. Since then, among 220,000 soldiers the question had only arisen two or three times. One of these instances was this ease at Aldershot. A young soldier appeared on parade wearing a shamrock, he not having previously asked for permission to do so. He was twice told by the lieutenant in command to remove it, and he refused to do so. The soldier was brought before the commanding officer, not for wearing the shamrock, but for having before his comrades on parade twice disobeyed an order lawfully given, and for this he was sentenced to seven days' hard labour. The general officer commanding, solely from desire to save him from the consequences of this foolish conduct, wiped out the sentence from the soldier's record, so that it might not interfere with his future career. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member had no case. The soldier knew perfectly well that he had to ask for authority before wearing the shamrock, but he did not do so, although if he had he would at once have received that permission. [Cheers.] If any discipline was to be maintained in the Army men on parade must obey orders 974 —[cheers]—and this was what the soldier in question had declined to do. To select a case of this kind to bring before the House of Commons, and to use language like that with which the hon. Member had closed his speech, and in which he incited every Trish soldier to insubordination and disobedience, could only have one result, and that was that the privilege which was given permissively could no longer be conceded. [Cheers.] His desire and that of the War Office had always been to deal with this matter with the utmost leniency and consideration, and by bringing forward and accentuating a case like this, and describing an officer who had merely done his duty as a miscreant, the hon. Gentleman was placing difficulties in the way of that good feeling and discipline which ought to exist in every regiment, and was defeating the end he had in view. [Cheers.] As regarded his personal share in the matter, he disclaimed all intention of any discourtesy towards the hon. Member, but he could not undertake, as he was requested to do at almost a few minutes' notice, to make indefinite inquiries about matters on the faith of anonymous newspaper paragraphs. Given names and particulars he was willing to obtain any information that was requisite. [Cheers.]
MR.JOHN DTLLON (Mayo, E.)
contended that, despite the cheers of the military Members, the representatives of the War Office knew they were making a mistake in punishing a soldier for doing what Lord Wolseley did openly every St. Patrick's Day. The regulation in the Army making it an offence to wear a shamrock on that particular day was one which it was impossible to maintain, and the War Office would in the long run be compelled to yield. The War Office were making themselves ridiculous. The Secretary of State for War had complained of the language and tone assumed by his hon. Friend. The blame altogether rested on the War Office, because by maintaining an absurd, ridiculous and offensive order they had raised what ought to be a trifling matter into a matter of some importance, calculated to create trouble in the Army. The settlement of this question would be extremely simple, A general order, or whatever the usual form of regulation might be, might be issued making it permissible for any soldier belonging to 975 any one of the four nationalities comprising the British Army to wear the national emblems on the national anniversaries. ["Hear, hear!"] Was it not a strange fact, and one that, excited a terrible suspicion, that no Welshman, no Scotchman, no Englishman in the British Army had ever been punished for wearing the national emblems? ["Hear, hear!" and a laugh.] It was all very well for the hon. Gentleman to laugh; but it was a fact. And when the right hon. Gentleman—whose courtesy they were all willing to acknowledge—took up the position, that the case of this poor Irish soldier, whose only offence was that he appeared on parade with a shamrock in his cap.
§ MR. DILLON
said he was coming to that in a moment. He knew that the contention was that he was punished for disobeying orders. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes, but the first offence, the original offence was the wearing of the shamrock—[VOICES: "Disobeying orders!"]—and when the right hon. Gentleman complained of the hurry and the language of his hon. Friend, he forgot that this poor man was at that moment in prison and that his hon. Friend was anxious to get his release. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. gentleman based his defence on the argument that this man disobeyed orders and that discipline must be maintained in the Army. ["Hear, hear!"] He admitted that they must punish a soldier for disobeying orders even if those orders were entirely unreasonable and ought never to have been given. But when they had done that, he held that it was the duty of every intelligent administrator at the head of the War Office to see that such orders were not repeated. [Cheers.] Because the offence had been the creation of the officer who gave the unreasonable order, and while, as he had said, it might be necessary for the maintenance of discipline to insist on obedience even to unreasonable orders, care should be taken that these unreasonable orders were not issued again. That was the whole philosophy of the case; and if the right hon. gentleman wanted to prevent the constant recurrence of cases of this character, he should see that a regulation was issued that it should be no offence in future for an Irish soldier to do what he was perfectly certain Lord Roberts did every St. Patrick's Day, and that he 976 should have perfect liberty to wear the shamrock if he pleased. They might say that the Irish soldier should come and ask leave. ["Hear, hear!"] Why should he do that. [Cries of "Oh!"] Yes, he repeated, why should he do that when perhaps he knew that he would he received by a gentleman like this officer who gave that order and used the disgusting expression, "Take that dirty piece of green stuff out of your cap!"—language that was most offensive and most unnecessary. [Cheers.] Why should they compel the Irish soldier to go and ask permission to do what was done by many Generals, including the Commander - in - Chief of the British Army? They did not forbid Lord Wolseley, Lord Roberts, and the Irish officers generally to wear the shamrock; they were at liberty to do so if they pleased, and the Irish soldiers knew they were not. He said emphatically that it was childish and provocative of complaints like this, which were, he admitted, a very unfortunate subject of discussion in the British House of Commons. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes, they were provoked by the conduct of hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Irish cheers.] He said it was childish and absurd for the War Office to attempt to make that a crime in the common soldier which was no crime in the officer and in the General in chief command over the British Army. Under these circumstances, he must tell the Secretary for War that, so long as Irish soldiers were treated in this way, in a different way from Scotch, Welsh, and English. ["No, no!" from the Ministerialists.] Yes, he said they were treated differently. [Irish cheers.] Would any commanding officer in that House—there were plenty of officers on the other side—get up and state of his own knowledge one case in which a Scotchman, a Welshman, or an Englishman had been punished for wearing a national emblem? [Voices: "Because they do not do it."] What proof was there that they did not do it? He believed that they did do it. [Laughter and cheers.] They had no proof whatever that they did not. On the contrary, they knew that in several regiments it was done. ["No, no!'] Yes, it had been admitted by the Secretary of State for War himself, that one whole regiment wore the leek on St. David's Day—[Irishcheers]—and he repeated that 977 it was a most suspicious circumstance that Irish soldiers had been punished and that no soldiers of any other nationality had been punished for this kind of thing. The whole thing was childish' and absurd. [Loud cries of "Hear, hear," from the Ministerial Benches and Cheers front the Irish Members.] He repeated that the whole thing was childish and absurd. To make it a cr iminal offence for an Irish soldier to put a bit of shamrock into his cap on St Patrick's Day—["No, no!"]—was childish and monstrous. He repeated that it was made a criminal offence in the British Army ["Hear, hear!"] and it was an absurdity and a childish piece of red-tapeism on the part of the War Office. It was the easiest possible thing for them to put an end to these scenes, which would recur as long as they kept up this absurd regulation. Because the House might rest assured that they (the Irish Members) would take up these cases as often as they occurred. They only had to say, "Let the Irish soldier wear the shamrock on St. Patrick's Day if he likes," and there would be no more row; nobody would be the worse, the British Army would still preserve its discipline, and there would be an end to this kind of thing. [Irish cheers.]
§ *MR. BRODRICK
said he did not rise to follow the discussion, but to reply to the Question of the hon. Member for Devonport in reference to the Soldiers' Death Fund. As the hon. Member was aware, the Committee recommended last year the enlargement of the powers of the Commissioners to deal with the Fund, and the influence of the War Office was used in that direction. They were anxious that the widows should receive their pensions. If the hon. Member would wait until he could sec the Report of the Commissioners, he would see how the matter stood.
§ *MAJOR BOWLES (Middlesex, Enfield)
desired to bring to the notice of the Financial Secretary to the War Office a small matter of administration in which his constituents were concerned. Complying with all the regulations, the workmen in the Government establishment at Woolwich and Enfield sent in a memorial to the Department early in 1895, and the 978 Treasury sent an answer to the War Office in June the same year, but from that day to this no answer had been returned. Could the hon. Gentleman explain how this delay had occurred?
*THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Mr. POWELLWILLIAMS,) Birmingham, S.
said the memorial referred to was what might be called a remanent from the late Government, and he found shortly after he came into office that, in dealing with it, references to several other Departments were involved. As the result of carefully looking into the matter, the Secretary of State came to the conclusion that it was impossible for him to deal with it alone, and that it must be dealt with hr consultation with other Departments, and he appointed a Departmental Committee of officers of the War Office and other Departments, and for some months they wore occupied with the rather complicated questions. Only within the last 24 hours had he been in possession of the draft Report, and as the Report had not been finally settled, he had not been able to take the opinion of the Secretary of State, but he could promise an answer to the memorialists within a fortnight front the present time.
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN (Cork, E.)
thought every military Member must admit the force of the argument of the hon. Member for Mayo to the effect that the same treatment as to wearing the shamrock should be meted out to officers and men. He could not help thinking that the military authorities took a somewhat too light view of the matter, it must have a deterrent effect on recruiting in Ireland when such cases arose as had been brought under notice by his hon. Friend. The Under Secretary said this soldier was punished not so much for wearing the shamrock as for disobeying orders, but some regard should be had to whether the order was reasonable or not. It must be admitted that the young officer through inexperience or ignorance—he did not like to say stupidity—acted very unadvisedly, and he thought the officer commanding showed a want of discretion. He sentenced the soldier to the severest punishment it was in his power to give—168 days cells. He yielded to no one in his appreciation of discipline, without which our Army 979 would be a mob. But no action more likely to lead to a breach of discipline could be conceived than the action taken in this case, because a soldier greatly resented any disrespect to his national emblem. No one could compare thistles, roses, or leeks with the shamrock—[laughter]—which refused to grow in any soil except Irish soil. All this question might be derided as sentimental, but such sentiment was very healthy and ought to be encouraged in the Army, for it led to a healthy rivalry.
Several Members rose to continue the discussion, whereupon
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
claimed to move "That the Question be now put." [Loud Nationalist cries "Oh!" and Dr. TANNER: "Shame!"]
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The hon. Member for Mid Cork is well aware that that is not a proper expression to use. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 143; Noes, 39.—(Division List, No. 331.)
§ Original question put accordingly:—
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 162; Noes, 21.—(Division List, No. 332.)
§ 2. £894,000, Clothing Establishments and Services.
THE FIRST LORD OF TIE TREASURY
I had hoped—the hope of the Leader of the House is often disappointed in these matters—that we should be able to get Vote 8, on which a statement will have to be made on the subject of certain important questions that have arisen in connection with manufactures, but I think it is rather late to initiate such a discussion now. ["Hear, hear!] Though, of course, the amount of time still remaining for Supply is strictly limited, I think, perhaps, the most convenient course, if the Committee will consent, will be to defer that Vote—["hear, hear!"]—to put it first on Tuesday on the general understanding that the discussion will be a comparatively brief one, and that we should be allowed to 980 get the Vote for the construction for the Navy at a comparatively early hour. I think, therefore, we might take to-night Vote 9, for Warlike Stores and some of the non-effective Votes. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. WOODALL
said there were some important questions to be raised on Vote 9; and he suggested that the statement of the Financial Secretary should be made on that Vote on Tuesday.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
My object is to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I am quite willing to take that course.
§ DR. TANNER
said that in those arrangements every Member was anxious to have his own little point; his own little ewe lamb put first; with the result that the business of the country was being misconstructed, misconsidered and undone. (Laughter.)
§ The HON. MEMBER was continuing his remarks, when
§ DR. TANNER
said that, seeing the indecent bidding which had been made for sundry fads, he hoped the Leader of the House would try to bring about a better method of procedure.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffford, Lichfield)
called attention to the insufficient clothing of soldiers sent home from India. They brought back nothing but their light khakee clothing, and he suggested that a thick flannel shirt should be given to them, in order that they might not suffer from the sudden change to a colder climate.
§ Vote agreed to.
3. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, nut exceeding £1,528,800, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Retired Pay, Half-Pay, and. other Non-Effective Charges for Officers and. others, which will conic in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898.
§ DR. TANNER
said this question of retired pay and allowances had often been debated in the House. It was extremely difficult to get anything done for these non who had served their country, and he would like to hear something from the right hon. Gentleman upon the subject.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
withheld his assent, and declined then to put the Question. Debate resumed.
§ Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,528,300 be granted for the said Service," put, and negatived
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ 4. £1,352,600, Pensions and other Non-Effective Charges for Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Men, and others.
§ CAPTAIN JESSEL (St. Pancras, S.)
called attention to the case of a man called Ward who enlisted in the Royal Marine Artillery in 1874, served 9 years and then purchased his discharge, afterwards re-enlisted in the 2nd Dragoon Guards when he was informed that his Marine Artillery service would count towards his pension. He served altogether 21 years, and fought in the Nile campaigns of 1882 and 1884–5 and finally left the Army with an exemplary character. Ward was informed at the War Office that the time he had served in the Marine Artillery would not be allowed to count towards his army service. A technicality in the rules had been taken advantage of to deprive the soldier of his pension. He had not only lost his pension for life, but a gratuity of £5 and the medal for good conduct and long service. The case should be looked at from a broader point of view than it had been at the War Office, to see whether a technical rule could not be relaxed in this case. He hoped the Under Secretary for War would consider the matter and see his way to give the soldier his pension.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
said the technicality by which the War Office appeared to have refused Ward his pension was that when he bought himself out of the Marines that was tantamount to his discharge. The matter had not before been regarded in this light. The man had been treated with manifest injustice. If when he enlisted in the Dragoons he was told that his time in the Marines would count for a pension, the pension ought not to be withheld from him.
said that various practices had obtained; certain rules prevailed at one time and others at another, but there had been no uniform system. He had the authority of the Secretary for War to say that the whole matter would be reconsidered by him.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
called attention to the method of pensioning old soldiers, especially those who had served in the Crimean War. It seemed to him that in connection with the regulations of the War Office there was a greater disposition shown to find out reasons why pensions should be withheld, instead of trying to grant the pensions to men. The time had come when the State should set a better example and be as liberal as other employers were now being compelled by the State to be.
§ MR. F. A. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
asked the Government to give some better consideration to this question, about which repeated representations had been addressed to him, especially when they considered the fact that the majority of the pensioners would only in the natural order of things enjoy their pensions for a few years. He suggested that the regulations should be relaxed this year, so as to enable a larger number to participate in the pensions. He admitted that the Financial Secretary to the War Office had shown him, when he raised this question last year, that it was a larger matter than it appeared merely on the surface. He thought however, that more liberal treatment might be meted out to these men.
replying to Mr. BARTLEY, said that every single one of the cases the hon. Member had mentioned came under his notice personally, 983 and investigation showed that each of the applicants was ineligible under the regulations. He might state in reply to the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Channing) that since he brought this question forward, the Treasury had made certain relaxations of the rule, the effect of which had been to bring a larger number of pensions under its operation than had been the case formerly.
§ MR. FLYNN
complained that the Vote was not drawn up in such a way as to show the various heads under which the expenses were incurrred. In Ireland they had many pensioners in the workhouses who were continually asking hon. Members to make claims in their behalf to the War Office, but as regarded these pensions there seemed to be no set of regulations which had been agreed to. If the right hon. Gentleman only knew the difficulty which conscientious Members of his Party had in staving off these claims, he would understand him better. He had sent in a few claims to the right hon. Gentleman, but his difficulty was this. Any man could of course frame a letter and send it to the War Office, and give them any amount of trouble. But he thought that was not quite fair to a public Department. His difficulty was that there were no published regulations, or, if there were, the public were not aware of it. He remembered sending the right hon. Gentleman a short time ago the case of a man who was discharged as long ago as 1853. Of course he did not persevere with that case. But he had had scores of cases of men who were in this and that workhouse. He need not tell the right hon. Gentleman that they could write the most eloquent letters, for he must have had much greater experience. What he complained of was that apparently there was no system of regulations. One ought to be able to go to a responsible office in a garrison town and see under what conditions his man was entitled to claim or not to claim. No Member wished to get a reputation for shirking his duty; but when a poor old soldier who had done good service to the Crown became reduced to poverty and complained that he had been unfairly treated, the ordinary Member of Parliament was not able to go into the case properly—he was not able to differentiate between the deserving and the undeserving; he was 984 obliged to take the cases to the Treasury or the War Office, taking the undeserving as well as the deserving. Now he did think that on a large Vote of this kind, it would be most desirable on all grounds that the responsible Minister in charge of his under-study should explain the Vote, and that some code of regulations should be drawn up by which Members of Parliament and others in different parts of the Kingdom could be made to understand. The right hon. Gentleman referred to what he called the published regulations, but which we preferred to call unpublished—at any rate, to the general public. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he had received scores of applications, written in the most pathetic language, not one per cent. of which had he forwarded to the War Office, for the simple reason that on carefully going into the cases he had come to the conclusion that they would not bear investigation by the War Office. But he thought that was a responsibility that ought not to be thrown upon individual Members; and if the War Office could find it possible to issue some kind of definite information as to the class of men who were entitled to these pensions it would be of great service. There were compassionate allowances made under certain circumstances, and the very class of answer they had received from the War Office confirmed him in his view. Because the ordinary class of answer was not of a definite character, which said,—"Your application has been received, and under such and such a regulation you cannot apply"; but it had often been that "under such circumstances, in view of the amount available at the War Office, we regret we cannot entertain your application." Now this was altogether vague and unsatisfactory to Members like the hon. and gallant Friend on the opposite side and other subscribers who brought forward what they considered to be deserving cases. He did not think it was beyond the ability of the War Office to lay down certain rules and regulations and to make them understanded of the people.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
reminded the hon. Member that he was repeating what he had said over and over again.
said he should have great pleasure in sending the hon. Member a copy of the regulations, and he would then be able to see exactly how they were worded.
§ MR. DALY
was pleased to hear the statement of the hon. Gentleman that the rules of the War Office were relaxed to meet deserving cases. There were some very deserving cases in his constituency which he had brought under the notice of the hon. Gentleman, and the rules had not been relaxed to meet those cases. He should, however, keep knocking at the door of the hon. Gentleman's department until he succeeded in getting something for these deserving old pensioners.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 5. £175,300, Superannuation and other Allowances and Gratuities. Agreed to.