§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE WAR OFFICE (Lord STANLEY, Lancashire, Westhoughton)
, in moving the Second Reading of the Military Works Bill, said he thought that, in the circumstances in which he was placed, it would be best to reserve anything he had to say until he had heard the criticisms which might be made upon the measure. He might, however, take that opportunity of answering a question addressed to him some little time ago by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean and say that the whole of the money taken under this Bill in respect of defence works was for the defence of those stations which, in the opinion of the Army and Navy, it was to their interest to defend, and was not taken for the defence of the country presuming that an actual invasion had taken place.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ SIR ARTHUR HAYTER (Walsall)
said it would be somewhat of a reflection on their vigilance if they did not ask for some explanation of a Bill of that importance introduced at so late a period of the session. The House were asked to vote six millions of money—a sum very similar to that involved in the Bill which had just been read a second time. He was bound to express his great regret that the Bill was not introduced at the same time as the Army Estimates, because they would then have known earlier in the session what was the total amount of military expenditure to which the House was committed for the present year. It had been stated by one of the highest financial authorities of the country—Lord Welby—that the expenditure contemplated under this Bill was military expenditure in every sense of the word, and that consequently they ought to add on to the amount already voted on the Army Estimates the sum involved in this Bill. He would like to remind the House that, irrespective of the £58,000,000 voted for the purposes of the war in South Africa and China, they had passed Army Estimates for £29,685,000. This Bill involved an expenditure of £6,352,500, so that the total military expenditure to 797 which this country was committed for the present year for peace Estimates alone was £36,037,500. This was the third of these Military Works Bills which had been brought in of late years. The first was in 1897, and made provision for military works to the extent of £5,458,000; in 1899 another four millions were voted, and the aggregate total under those two Acts and the present Bill was £15,810,000. In addition to this enormous sum, there had been spent the sum of £4,100,000 under the Barracks Act. So that, in the five years, since 1897, they had spent £4,000,000 a year upon these military works. He wished to ask a question which he thought was very relevant to the Bill. He could not understand why, looking as the unexpended balances, they should be asked for any money at all. According to the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General laid before the Committee of which he had the honour to be chairman, there was an unexpended balance of £7,646,000 in regard to military expenditure, and, if that were so, he desired to ask why this Bill was necessary at all. What had become of these seven millions, and why were they not used for the purposes of the present Bill? He desired to ask, too, for an explanation of the item of £460,000 for the provision of barracks on Salisbury Plain, in view of the statement of the Secretary of State for War that there was not the least intention of creating a second Aldershot there or of erecting a great number of permanent barracks on the Plain. What, then, was the meaning of this enormous sum for barracks? He thought they were also entitled to some explanation of the astonishing item of £80,000 for barracks at Windsor. He recollected perfectly well when both the barracks there were rebuilt, and surely they could not now be in such a state as to require an expenditure of £80,000 on them now. Even if it were so he would ask the House to consider was it probable that so much would be spent in the current year on one military station. It was extremely improbable, and the House was entitled to know, therefore, why such a large sum was now asked for. One other point he would like to raise. Had the Financial Secretary included in the Estimate 798 any provision for cubicles for soldiers? He quite recognised the wish to get a better class of recruits, which could probably be done if their sleeping accommodation were improved. He therefore sincerely hoped that some portion of the projected enormous outlay would go to provide cubicles.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said be had known for some time that Salisbury Plain was to be converted into a big camp like Aldershot, but be would like to know why many other places were to be treated in a similar manner. Wooden huts were being put up at Aldershot, Kildare, Lichfield, Salisbury, and Shorncliffe, and he submitted that that was not a convenient method of housing the troops. The huts put up in the days of the Crimean War had proved productive of the greatest possible discomfort to the troops, and he believed that we had already far more of them than could be occupied. He remembered in connection with some erected at Shorncliffe Camp that the men occupying them last winter were up to their knees in mud and water because the site was not properly drained, and he trusted that the authorities would at least take care that a similar state of things should not recur. He rose mainly to ask what was being done in regard to the provision of ranges. He was told the other day, in answer to a question, that five new ranges had been opened this year and only one or two closed. He thought that, considering the feeling throughout the country, and the unanimous agreement as to the necessity for more ranges, the War Office had during the last three years been most lax in its efforts in the direction of providing ranges in all the districts where there was a large number of troops. It was a mistake to give our attention to defensive works and neglect the training of our people in shooting. Until we provided ranges, however, our people could not learn to shoot. He might instance the case of Lichfield. There was a large military depot there, and a considerable number of troops, Regulars and Volunteers, in the district yet they had to be sent a long distance by train for shooting practice every year, 799 the money expended on their fares being far more than sufficient to provide the interest of the capital sum that would be required for the acquirement of a range on the spot. He hoped the War Office would make an effort to obtain more ranges all over the country. He blamed the Government for bringing in this Bill, affecting £6,000,000 of new works, at so late a period of the session, when half the Members had started for their holidays.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB
agreed with the last speaker as to the undesirableness of bringing in such an important Bill at so late a period of the session, but he did not think the War Office was altogether responsible for that. The difficulty of discussing a measure like that was very great indeed, but he would not keep the House very long, as he did not think it possible to discuss the policy underlying the Bill. Let him take the first item for defence works. The figures for these totalled £2,870,000. A million of that was voted under the Works Act of 1899. A principle was thereby established, against which he wished once more to protest. A new departure was made then when the House was asked to provide a million of money blindfold for defensive works. In the course of the debate he was told the money was required for works and not for armaments, and he wished now to say that there was no record in the parliamentary history of this country for voting large sums of money for defence works in this way. This year another three-quarters of a million was to be added. He wished to ask his noble friend whether he would give the House any information as to how and where this money was to be spent.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB
said his opinion was that the Government had opened the door in a manner detrimental to the interests of the House and to its safety. This question of defence works could only be determined by the main principles of our policy of defence. Perhaps his 800 hon. friend would give an assurance that no part of the million already voted, and of the £750,000 now proposed, would be expended upon anything but sea faces at great ports.
§ LORD STANLEY
said he had already stated that the money for defence purposes was voted simply and solely for the defence of those harbours which, in the opinion of the naval and military authorities, it was absolutely necessary to defend.
§ *SIR JOHN COLOMB
said he was very sorry he was not in the House when the statement was made. This was done, it seemed, by the joint action of the naval and military authorities. Was it the naval authorities who demanded, for naval reasons, that more money should be spent on the sea faces of the different ports? He knew exactly what the procedure was. A particular department of the War Office had to deal solely with the question of fortifications and works; it was its duty to make plans, and then imagine all possibilities of attack, and it therefore demanded the construction of works to meet such possibilities; but nothing had occurred to increase the probabilities of ships attacking ports. The tendency of modern times and modern artillery was more and more reducing the probability of attack by ships upon fixed positions. He was glad to hear that this money would only be spent on works for sea faces, but he thought the House were really entitled to more information, as they were increasing the Army Vote in a way which could not be justified on any principle. Passing to the question of barrack expenditure, he said that since the last great army reform we had spent under this head a total of over seventeen millions. In 1872 the House approved a loan of £3,500,000 for the purpose of building barracks at certain points to meet the exigencies of the mobilisation scheme then existing. He did not know whether the whole of that sum had yet been expended. But our army system had since been completely changed. In 1890 a Barracks Act was passed sanctioning an outlay of £4,100,000, and in 1897 801 there was a further Vote of £2,989,000; and in 1899 £2,770,000 was granted, thus giving a total, including the sum of £4,207,000 now asked for, of £17,566,000. Many of the barracks were not now occupied. Rates and taxes were being paid, and it would be far cheaper to sell them, and thus provide money for the new ones now required, He objected to the course which was being followed in this matter, as indicating a policy of military defence against invasion. The War Office had got into a panic about many hundred thousand foreign troops marching about England, and they unnecessarily exaggerated the dangers, He was sorry to note the tendency to create permanent barracks at our great camps of instruction. He believed in distributing the troops over the country. It was not only an expensive policy, but an unwise policy, for the popularity of the army would be affected if the opportunities for seeing it were diminished. The people, in fact, liked to see the soldiers. Finally, he wished to protest against the pursuance of a policy which the House had never had an opportunity of fully discussing.
§ SIR JOHN COLOMB
No, there are items in the Bill which I approve, and I cannot, therefore, vote against it.
§ MR. LOUGH
said the position of the hon. and gallant Member was perfectly logical, but he would like to point out that he also approved some of the items in the Bill, but he held it to be the duty of the legitimate opposition to vote against a Bill which it was contended was based on wrong principles. He did not propose to occupy much time in moving the rejection of the Bill, because many of the arguments on which he relied had already been submitted to the House, and it was not necessary for him to repeat them. With regard to the Naval Works Bill which had just been disposed of, he wished to say he was not entirely against it; he only divided against it on principle, 802 because he thought it contained extravagant proposals. He desired now to point out to the House the difficulty of the position in which they were placed. The Naval Works Bill asked for a sum of £0,100,000, and many of his hon. friends objected to criticism on naval expenditure, although they held that military outlay stood on a different footing. This Military Works Bill asked for £6,350,000, and it was a noteworthy fact that immediately money was voted for the Navy, the military authorities followed suit and asked for even more money for the Army. It was a great pity they were asked for this money at so late a period of the session. He would submit one point to his right hon. friend the Member for East Wolverhampton as a great financial expert. As had been pointed out by the hon. and gallant Member who last spoke, the great fault of the Bill was that it asked for a large sum of money for the building of barracks when two-thirds of the amount voted for the same purpose years ago were still unexpended In 1890 £4,400,000 were voted for the building of barracks, and that amount had not yet been completely expended. In 1897 and 1899 £5,759,000 were voted for the same purpose, of which only £1,900,000 had been expended. The War Office had, therefore, in hand £4,000,000 for barracks over and above what was asked for that purpose in this Bill. That day the Government were asking for a further £4,207,000. Surely they might well pause before sanctioning such an expenditure as that. Barracks were constantly becoming unsuitable; and it was desirable, therefore, that they should not go too far in advance of the requirements of the country in this respect. They ought to hesitate before sanctioning any further expenditure. Some of the proposed items of outlay were undoubtedly very questionable. Egypt appeared in the Bill for the first time, and £164,000 was asked for for barracks there. Why should we spend money there? We got nothing out of that country, and if Egypt benefited by the services of our skilful financial administrators, surely the least she could do was to make the necessary provision for the housing of our troops. The hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth had condemned the tendency to build big barracks in certain centres instead of distributing 803 the troops in isolated districts. But the policy of concentration apparently was being departed from in that Bill. Barracks were to be built at several places in Ireland—at Cavan, Belturbet, and Enniskillen, for instance. He did not believe in the clamours for the expenditure of public money in Ireland. It was not always productive of benefit to the people. Again, barracks were being built in the West Indies. A good deal was being said about the new proposal, but he would like to obtain some information as to what had happened with regard to the old proposals for the erection of barracks, and also what had become of the seven millions odd still unexpended. The second portion of the Bill dealt with defence works. Here, again, there was a large amount of money unexpended, and in this matter hon. Members were in an extraordinary position. The works were kept a profound secret. In 1897–8 £2,150,000 was voted, and of that £620,000 remained unspent. Surely the House ought to inquire what had been done with the money already voted before they went on to vote more money. What, for instance, had been done in the direction of providing for the defence of London? Was any money now being asked for that purpose?
§ MR. LOUGH
said they ought to have been told what had been done with the money already voted. The only reasonable demand in the Bill seemed to him to be that for rifle ranges. More money was wanted for that purpose. Why, then, was not a small Bill passed dealing with that matter alone? Nothing good had been said about the Bill, and for the reasons he had given he begged to move that it be read a second time that day three months.
'"To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months.'"—(Mr. Lough.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."804
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
thought there was a good deal of truth in some of the complaints made by his hon. friend. The Government seemed to have gone out of their way to put those who were desirous to support them on matters of this kind in a very difficult position. He was always loth to refuse to vote money which the responsible Government of the day declared was necessary for the support of the policy of the country, and accordingly he voted for the Naval Works Bill, although he was not satisfied with everything in it. In regard to this Bill, however, he was in a still more difficult position. He did not like to refuse money demanded for the military policy of the Government. He would, however, be glad to know what were the reasons for the excessive want of information from which the House suffered. It could not be for the sake of secrecy, because it was notorious that every foreign Government knew what was being done in matters of this sort a very short time after they had been put in hand. There was the question of policy to be considered, whether money was being wasted which might be employed more profitably in other ways. He quite recognised the difficulties of the position in which the Government were placed. It might be that by their misfortune—he would not say their fault—the Government had had to bring forward this Bill at a time when it could hardly be discussed, but it was unfortunate that they could not give the House information as to the nature and objects of the expenditure. He thought that those who systematically voted with the Government of the day in these matters whenever they could had been placed in a very difficult position. He found it very difficult to differ from the Government when they said they required a large sum for the military defence of the country, but he thought they ought to have selected for making their proposals some time of the year when there would have been an opportunity of discussing them. He thought they were entitled to a more complete statement than they had had from His Majesty's Ministers on the present occasion.
§ MR. STRACHEY (Somersetshire, E.)
asked for information on the subject of rifle ranges. The head "Rifle Ranges" was divided into three subheads, artillery and rifle ranges, training grounds, and half a million for mobilisation and store rooms. Now several hon. Members would be glad to know what money had already been expended under the Military Works Act, 1899. A sum of £40,000 was voted for ranges—how much of that remained unexpended? He hoped that the noble Lord would see that the money now asked for was spread fairly all over the country and not laid out in one particular district, and he would like to point out that the absence of good ranges had a very bad effect on recruiting for the rifle Volunteers.
§ ME. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
challenged the doctrine that they ought not lightly to accept the serious responsibility of narrowly criticising and rejecting the Estimates made by experts. If the House agreed to spend money whenever an expert came and demanded a million for this, and another million for that, the result would be—and indeed was in this case—alarming. He challenged the previous Bill brought before the House two years ago, and compared the amount asked for then with the money spent for the same purposes by other great military Powers. Since that time this country had added something like thirty millions to the annual expenditure on the Navy and Army. There had been already voted for the Navy thirty-seven millions, and for the Army very nearly thirty millions. Now the House was asked to vote another six and a half millions. Taking the money which had been spent on the Army in India, that meant that our military forces would cost this year, apart from the war, £90,500,000. That was an alarming state of things. There were experts in every walk of life, and whenever they were called in they always advised the spending of more money in some shape or form. We were now annally leaving the thing in the hands of experts. The result was that we were increasing our military expenditure to a perilous extent, even to a wealthy country like this. The total 806 military expnditure this year, including this Bill and the war, was 160 millions. Was it not time that the problem was faced? Some time or other this expenditure must be stopped. No country could stand it. In France they were spending forty millions on the Army and the Navy, and their army was vastly superior to ours, though, of course, their navy was inferior. But their expenditure had been stationary for the last few years, whereas our own had leaped up from forty to ninety millions. The voluntary system did not make all the difference, for the pay only meant about ten millions. How was it that the great military Powers of Europe were able to turn out much more effective military machines for something like half the price we paid for a less effective machine? At the present moment, when our military experts had failed so disastrously in all their estimates in regard to South Africa, it was quite time the ordinary layman should apply his common sense to the problem.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
The military and naval expenditure for the year has been voted by Parliament, and is embodied in the Appropriation Bill, and can be discussed when that Bill comes before the House. By the Bill now before the House we are not voting money in one sense, but are authorising the borrowing of money. The money which was voted out of the Estimates is raised for the services of the year and expended in the year. By this Bill we are not voting £6,000,000 to be spent this year. I do not quarrel with the principle of the Bill. I think it would be unfair and improvident to construct buildings, such as barracks, which will last for forty or fifty years, and to charge one year with the whole of the capital expenditure. The policy deliberately adopted some years ago was that the sum required for these permanent works should be borrowed, and that the repayment of that sum should be spread over a limited period of years in the shape of terminable annuities. There have been two developments of this policy. By the Act of 1890 the House practically authorised a loan of £4,100,000 for barracks, and 807 up to 31st March in the present year that sum has been spent within £100,000. The expenditure for the present year is £70,000, and the expenditure for the year 1901–2 is £45,000. That absorbs the whole of the £4,100,000. It is this year proposed to raise for barracks alone £4,200,000, and in the Estimate which was circulated with the Bill that sum was increased to £5,759,000. I suppose that in that item is included the completion of the large camps. At all events, whether we have £5,000,000 or between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 for barracks in this Bill, the sum which is proposed to be spent this year was £850,000; and I wish to know why the Government want to borrow five and three-quarter millions to provide for an expenditure which is only estimated at something like a million. Then we have the statement of the Auditor and Controller General, which shows that there is in respect of these works a balance of upwards of £7,000,000 of unexpended money. Therefore there is a large sum yet unexpended, which would provide for these works without authorising any money to be raised at all. I do not agree with what the hon. Member who has just sat down said about experts. The expenditure of this country is not regulated by experts. This sum is fixed, not by experts, but by the responsible Government of the country. A great many demands are ruthlessly rejected, and then there is a court of appeal—the Treasury—which deals with these matters.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I was simply alluding to a statement previously made in regard to the opinion of experts.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
The expenditure of the country is not regulated by experts. The responsible Government of the day come down to this House and request a certain sum of money for a certain purpose, and that money is voted in a Bill. But this Bill differentiates itself from former Bills, because large sums of money which have been voted have not been spent, and evidently the Government do not intend to spend the amount set forth in the Bill. I do not wish to prolong the debate, but 808 I desire the noble Lord to give some explanation why he is raising this large sum of money when he does not contemplate spending more than a million, or less, this year. I wish also to protest against such a Bill being brought in at this period of the session. Moreover, I do think that the House of Commons ought to have the items set forth in the Schedule.
§ LORD STANLEY
I will endeavour to answer as far as I can the questions which the right hon. Gentleman has put to me. He first mentioned the Loan of 1890; but I ought to have stated that that loan was practically entirely expended. With regard to the loans of 1897 and 1899, the total of which came roughly to £9,500,000, when the War Office asks for a loan and specifies the objects for which it is required we are bound to take the full amount of money which will be required for these objects. It would be hardly justifiable for us to ask to be allowed to undertake certain work without letting the House and the country know the full amount for which they would be liable if they sanctioned it.
§ LORD STANLEY
We ask for a loan, but we do not draw the money until it is required. We state that in the lapse of so much time the total amount will have to be asked for to complete the work sanctioned. When a tender is accepted and a contract entered into, although the money is not actually paid away, there is an obligation to the contractor for its payment. The expenditure authorised, to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded, will be in excess of what appeared on the Paper. Out of the £9,489,000 about £5,800,000 has actually been allotted to the contractors—that is, for contracts which have been entered into and for which the War Office is liable to that amount. That leaves a large sum over, which will be allocated in a short time. The money expended in the next financial year will be greater than appears on the Paper, 809 but before many months are over, the War Office will have bound themselves down by contract to an expenditure nearly, if not quite, equal to the loans authorised in 1897 and 1899. The War Department is now asking for a fresh loan for fresh works, and the amount asked for is the amount considered necessary to complete them. We have asked for such money as we expected to allocate by contract before it is necessary to come to the House again. The defence works at certain ports and coaling stations, which the hon. Member for Yarmouth opposed, are not the idea of one man, but were undertaken on the advice of naval and military experts. The War Office are bound to accept their judgment, and for the safety of the Fleet, as our first line of defence, the defence of our coaling stations is of vital importance. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth that any yachtsman could find out what our defences are to be. But if the amount to be spent on a particular port or coaling station were specified, it would be easy to guess the amount of armament that would be put in. I do not think foreign Powers, much less persons less anxious to find out the details are really conversant with the strength of the defence works at our ports and coaling stations. I do not think this is a time to go into specific cases, but the House having voted a certain number of men it is the business of the War Office to see that these men are completely and properly housed. The barracks of 1872 have been talked about, but nobody could say that in 1901 any class in the population is satisfied with such comfort as was provided thirty years ago. The whole way of living has improved, and I am perfectly certain that the House and the country are not unwilling that our soldiers should share in the advantages modern science provides. If there are barracks that are unused, as is alleged by the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth, I quite agree that they should be got rid of, but I do not know of such and will be quite ready to go into that question with him later. It would be seen there was an item in the Bill of £230,000 for rifle ranges. For this purpose the Department have expended, or allotted for expenditure, every penny received up to 810 now, and this amount of £230,000 will be expended upon new ranges. I do not think the House would wish for details as to the position of these ranges The instant it becomes known that land for the purpose is required, that land goes up to a fictitious value. Owing to the long range of rifles some ranges had to be closed, others have been found, and others are still under arrangement, the purchases not being complete. The sum mentioned I hope will be expended satisfactorily for the Regular and Auxiliary services; and with a desire to meet the wishes of Volunteers, I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading, undertaking to give any information desired upon any item in the schedule at a later stage.
§ MR. DILLON
said that the noble Lord might be correct in his statement of the system under which these amounts were raised, but it was wholly different to that which was followed in the Naval Works Act. The noble Lord said that for military works the Government took power to borrow, in every instance, all the money for the completion of the works in the schedule, and the result was an accumulation of unspent balances. In relation to naval works the system of finance was totally different and more correct. It was true that when a Bill was introduced, although the total estimated liability in respect to, the new works to be undertaken was stated, only such borrowing powers were asked for as would cover the sum likely to be spent in the interval before the introduction of another Bill, which, in no instance, was to be less than two years. Some explanation should be given of this difference of system, and also why for military works there was not the information given which would be found in connection with the naval proposals. In the Military Works Bill there were columns in blank—so different from the Naval Works Bill. What was the meaning of keeping these columns in blank? The information ought to be given in every instance, just as fully as in the schedule of the Naval Works Bill. There was no reason for not doing so except the slip-shod, slapdash methods of the War Office. He 811 had always opposed this method of obtaining money for naval and military works, and in a speech recently delivered by the highest authority on finance, a speech so remarkable that the Prime Minister requested him to get it published in full, Lord Welby dwelt strongly on the great evils and dangers arising from this system of getting large sums of money for military and naval works by Acts instead of through the Estimates. The Secretary of State for War had stated that when money was voted in the Estimates, unexpended balances had to be surrendered at the end of the financial year. That, to his mind, was one of the strongest reasons why money should be voted on the Estimates and not by Bill; and the fact that the War Office now asked for six millions to carry on military works, when they had unexpended balances amounting to nearly £7,000,000, was an illustration of the wisdom of the old system of procedure that unexpended balances should be surrendered. Therefore, he thought that argument recoiled on the person using it. He had never heard a single argument from a financial point of view in justification of these Bills. They were forced on Ministers by the permanent officials. When he argued the question in 1899 the then Under Secretary of State for War said that the reason why those Bills were necessary was that they found year after year by long experience that their Estimates were ruthlessly cut down through fear of the Committee of Supply, and that they were obliged to take refuge in that system of Bills. The natural inference from that statement was that the object of those Bills was to enable the War Office and the Admiralty to frame their Estimates on a more extravagant scale. He was of opinion that the relaxation of the wholesome fear of Committee of Supply was resulting in a monstrous increase in the Estimates. Money was now flowing like a river for those Military and Naval Works Bills. They commenced a few years ago with five or six millions, and now they amounted to £27,000,000 for the Navy and £13,000,000 or £14,000,000 for the Army. The rate was increasing, and they had every reason to anticipate that the country would be landed in greater and ever-increasing liabilities. He was 812 confirmed in his opinion that that method of getting money was entirely vicious. One other argument was used by the, Secretary of State for War. He stated that one reason why it was necessary to make those Acts extend over a long period of years was that it was necessary to make fresh contracts in connection with those great works; and that it sometimes happened that, just as they were ready to make a contract, the House of Commons was not conveniently placed for voting the money. The right hon. Gentleman said that no contract would be entered into unless the House voted the money; but that was a dictum which, it appeared, now belonged to the last century. They had had cases recently in which they were told that contracts had been signed and delivered and the works commenced before the House of Commons heard of the Vote at all. That showed how rapid progress could be when once a step in a particular direction was taken. Progress was also rapid in another direction. To his mind one of the chief objections to the Bill was the period at which it was introduced. That was little short of a scandal, but the House of Commons was getting accustomed to measures which two or three years ago no Minister would dare to propose. No Minister until the present session would have dreamt of submitting a Military or a Naval Works Bill concerning a large sum of money at the end of the session. The last Bill but one was introduced on 21st January, 1897, but the resolution on which the present Bill was based was introduced at two o'clock in the morning only a few days ago. When they challenged it they were told it was a purely formal resolution, and that the proper time to debate it was on the Second Beading of the Bill. He ventured to challenge that statement, for on no previous occasion had Army or Naval Works Bills been introduced on resolutions without a long detailed statement being given by the Minister in charge. In 1897 and in 1899 the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, then Under Secretary for War, in introducing the resolutions on which the Bills of those years were founded, made a long detailed statement, and the present was the first occasion on which such a Bill had been introduced into the 813 House of Commons without a full explanation.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I admit that I am speaking from memory, but I think the hon. Gentleman will find that, although his statement may be accurate as regards Military Works Bills, it is not accurate as regards Naval Works Bills.
§ MR. DILLON
said it was absurd for the right hon. Gentleman to contend that a mere formal statement was sufficient when long and detailed statements were made and debated on the two previous Bills. What he attached importance to was that the Bill of 1897 was introduced on the 21st January and passed early in March. The Government insisted that it should be passed before the end of the financial year, and should be treated as part of the finances of the year. The Bill of 1899 was introduced on the 22nd June, and the resolution was debated at considerable length. The Second Reading was taken early in July, and the Bill was passed through all its stages at a comparatively early period of the session. The present Bill was brought down to the level of the Indian Budget, and although they were called upon to vote £12,000,000 it was treated almost as a matter of course. The Bill was dumped down on the Wednesday after the Appropriation Bill had been introduced, when anything like real discussion was absolutely impossible. If anything were needed to justify and enforce the warning of Lord Welby those facts would justify it. He regarded the system as most vicious, and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer went about the country appealing to all and sundry to come to his aid to support a policy of economy he would suggest to him that, as a first step in that direction, the system of piling enormous burdens of debt on the country by means of loans should be abandoned, and that the old practice should be resumed—namely, that money required should be voted in Committee of Supply. The noble Lord stated that nothing had been spent from the last Works Bill on the defences of London. They voted large sums of money, in spite of repeated protests, two or three years 814 ago for the defences of London. A more preposterous or absurd proposal never emanated from the brain of even an expert, and that was saying a great deal. The then Secretary of State for War quoted Napoleon as an unanswerable authority that the defences of London were most urgent, and that if London were not hedged round by a chain of fortified posts it would be in great danger. The noble Lord now said that no money had been expended on the defences of London. He wished to know how much money had been wasted in that mad project altogether. Was London at that moment surrounded by a chain of fortified posts? One of the precedents quoted for that expenditure was the Defence Bill introduced by Lord Palmerston, but it was now admitted that every penny spent under that Bill was absolutely wasted, that the forts were the laughing-stock of the world, and that they were absolutely worthless. He ventured to say that many years would not have elapsed before experts showed that £4 out of every £5 spent in military defence works had been wasted. Because he thought that a great deal of the money would be absolutely wasted, because they had been denied information, and because the system involved was thoroughly vicious he was strongly opposed to the Bill.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE (Bristol, E.)
said he would like to be informed before he cast his vote what contracts had been entered into in regard to this expenditure. It was merely blinding the House to say, as the noble Lord did, that no building would be undertaken unless it could be completed within the sum of money limited in the Act, and he thought there was good ground for complaint at the failure of the Financial Secretary to the War Office to fulfil now the promise he made when he brought in the resolution on which the Bill was founded to afford the House an opportunity of discussing the details. They had no information on which to base such a discussion. The excuse put forward was that it was not desirable to allow foreign Governments to learn what was being done in the matter of defence works. But when he was in garrison at Gibraltar it was a common 815 joke that the only persons to whom information was inaccessible as to the objects with which the War Office were planning the fortifications at the top of the rock were the officers of the garrison. Any common loafer who chose to take service as a mule-driver or other humble labourer might wander all over the works, and all the information was accessible to him unchallenged, but an officer was immediately stopped by the sentry. The consequence was that any foreign Government could introduce any of their emissaries to take stock of the works, provided only he assumed the garb of a workman, and he had no doubt this had been done hundreds of times. The only persons in ignorance of the plans of the Government were the officers of the British Army and the Members of the House of Commons, and it was perfectly absurd to suggest that foreign Governments could not get the information if they so desired. This Bill certainly contained a little more information than some of the previous Bills. The noble Lord had told them that no money was to be spent in connection with these works which would provide accommodation for the troops to be raised under the scheme of the Secretary for War. But he found that under Sub-head F a sum of £697,000 was taken for barracks for additional troops. Were these not the new troops to be raised under the Army scheme?
§ LORD STANLEY
No; they are the troops voted in 1899, for whom no barrack accommodation was provided.
§ LORD STANLEY
The accommodation is to be provided by building new barracks and altering old ones. It surely is a matter of indifference, so far
§ as the taxpayer is concerned, where the works are to be carried out.
§ MR. CHARLES HOBHOUSE
said the provision for new married quarters at sundry stations seemed to point that the new garrison battalions were to be a source of serious expense to the country. He confessed that in view of the increasing permanent expenditure imposed upon the nation by these two Bills—neither of which had they been able adequately to discuss—he should feel it his duty to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, which contained proposals that appeared to him both unnecessary and undesirable.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
denied the suggestion of the noble Lord that it was a matter of indifference to the taxpayers where the money was spent. What would Ireland get out of the Bill? It was said that hitherto she had got value for her taxes. Now, the total proposed expenditure was £6,352,000 and the whole Irish Expenditure was £286,000. Scotland got £380,000, but, still more astonishing, Bermuda, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Mauritius, Singapore, and other places abroad got half a million of money. For a gentleman in the position of the noble Lord to tell Irish Members and the country which had given the Empire their best soldiers that it was immaterial where their money was spent was the most astonishing doctrine he ever heard. If it was a matter of indifference to the taxpayers where the money was spent, then he should suggest that as the total expenditure of the country was £100,000,000, the whole of it should be spent in his own constituency.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 162; Noes, 83. (Division List No. 474.)817
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Bignod, Arthur|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Bigwood, James|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Balfour, Rt. Hn Gerald W. (Leeds)||Blundell, Colonel Henry|
|Arnold Forster, Hugh O.||Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.)||Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Brassey, Albert|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. Hicks||Bull, William James|
|Balcarres, Lord||Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Bullard, Sir Harry|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Helme, Norval Watson||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
|Caldwell, James||Henderson, Alexander||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Higginbottom, S. W.||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire)||Hoare. Edw. B. (Hampstead)||Penn, John|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Holland, William Henry||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm.||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Chamberlain, J Austen (Worc'r||Horniman, Frederick John||Purvis, Robert|
|Chapman, Edward||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Randles, John S.|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Hoult, Joseph||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Houston, Robert Paterson||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Collings, Rt. Hn. Jesse||Howard, J. (Kent, Faversham||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Jones, David B. (Swansea)||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Keswick, William||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lambton. Hon. Frederick W.||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Crombie, John William||Law, Andrew Bonar||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Lawson, John Grant||Rutherford, John|
|Davies, Sir Horatio D. (Chatham||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. Edw. J.|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Leveson-Gower, Fred. N. S.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Seely, Capt. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Loder, Gerald W. Erskine||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S.)||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.)|
|Elibank, Master of||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Spear, John Ward|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Manc'r||Lucas, Reginald' J. (Portsmouth||Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Macartney, Rt. Hn. W. G. Ellison||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Macdona, John Cumming||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Fisher, William Hayes||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Maconochie, A. W.||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ|
|Foster, Philip S. (Warwick, S. W.||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn||Majendie, James A. H.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Gordon, J. (Londonderry, South||Malcolm, Ian||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby- (Linc.)||Maxwell, Rt. Hn. Sir HE (Wigt'n||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Middlemore, John T.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Colliding, Edward Alfred||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)||Moore, William (Antrim, N)||Williams, Rt. Hon. J. P.- (Birm.)|
|Greene, H. D. (Shrewsbury)||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York. E. R.)|
|Greene, W. Raymond- (Cambs.)||Morgan, David (Walthamstow||Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk, Mid)|
|Guthrie, Walter Murray||Morris, Hn. Martin Henry F.||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Hain, Edward||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hn Lord G (Midd'x||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Haslett, Sir James Horner||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.)||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Abraham, William (Cork. N. E.)||Dillon, John||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Glouc., Stroud||Donelan, Captain A.||M'Fadden, Edward|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Doogan, P. C.||M'Govern, T.|
|Bell, Richard||Field, William||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarth'n|
|Boland, John||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Moss, Samuel|
|Boyle, James||Flynn, James Christopher||Murnaghan, George|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Gilhooly, James||Murphy, John|
|Brown, G. M. (Edinburgh)||Grant, Corrie||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Hammond, John||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.)|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Cawley, Frederick||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary, Mid|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Cogan, Denis J.||Healy, Timothy Michael||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)|
|Colville, John||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Joyce, Michael||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Crean, Eugene||Leamy, Edmund||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)|
|Cremer, William Randal||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)|
|Cullinan, J.||Leigh, Sir Joseph||O'Dowd, John|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Levy, Maurice||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Delany, William||Lundon, W.||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.|
|O'Malley, William||Roche, John||Ure, Alexander|
|O'Mara, James||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Power, Patrick Joseph||Spencer, Rt. Hn C. R. (Northants||Wilson, Henry J. (Yorks., W. R.)|
|Reddy, M.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Taylor, Theodore Cooke||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Lough and Mr. Herbert Lewis.|
|Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Thomas, J A (Glamorgan, Gower|
|Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)||Tully, Jasper|
Bill read a second time and committed for to-morrow.