HC Deb 03 June 1808 vol 11 cc824-8

Lord Castlereagh moved the order of the day, for the further consideration of the report on the English Local Militia bill, after which the bill was ordered to be recommitted, so far as related to the two clauses reserved on a former night. On the clause for requiring persons who claim exemptions in consequence of having paid the fine under the act, to sign a declaration that they had not paid by means of any insurance or otherwise than with their own property, being read,

Mr. Bankes

objected to it, on the ground that it would make the measure bear heavily upon the lower classes, whilst it would operate lightly on the higher classes. If personal service was enforced in every instance, the measure would not operate so unequally. But as substitution was not allowed, he thought that the lower classes should be permitted to relieve themselves from the pressure of the fine by insurance, as otherwise the measure would be odious in the country.

The Secretary at War

was surprised at the opposition made to this clause, because it would go to the whole of the bill. This clause was absolutely necessary to render the bill operative, as, if insurance was allowed, the bill could never take effect. The burthen of the service could not be heavy, or the number of volunteers who offered themselves to serve as local militia, would not be so great as the fact proved it to be.

Mr. Windham

thought this clause most highly objectionable, because it imposed a heavy partial burthen upon individuals of the lower class, without allowing them to secure themselves against it by insurance. The measure ought either to enforce in every instance personal service, or insurance should be allowed, because in every case the lesser evil would be preferred. In the lower classes the fine would be a greater evil than personal service, and they of course must serve, whilst with the higher classes the fine would be the lesser evil, and they of course would pay it, and not submit to their personal service. The service would be ruin to many persons in business, who must serve, and if the service would be ruin, the fine which went to compel it must be equally ruinous. No option therefore was given, as was stated by the noble lord, because either alternative must be ruin to the industrious classes, whom it would be most desirable to protect.

Lord Castlereagh

stated that there were only two ways of mitigating the severity of conscription by ballot; mitigation by fine, or mitigation by substitution. He preferred the mitigation by fine, and was not surprised at the opposition of the right hon. gent. because he was most animated in resisting every principle that was borrowed from himself; the fine being the principle of his Training bill, which did not admit of substitution. The insurance he looked upon as injurious to the military service. In the case of insurance offices, the office keeper endeavoured, as was natural, to obtain the men on the cheapest terms, and so far interfered with the recruiting for the army. The same effect was produced by the insurance clubs, and by the assistance afforded by the parishes to individuals of a particular description. The insurance, if allowed in this instance, would have the effect of withdrawing the men from the service. The service under this bill was different from that under the permanent militia establishment; for whilst persons could not enter into the latter, without destruction to all their domestic habits and prospects in life, the service under the former would not be attended by that ruin which the right hon. gent, apprehended. The permission of insurance would have the effect of throwing the whole burthen of service upon the poorer classes, by withdrawing all those whose means enabled them, by insurance, to cover themselves from the personal service. He was convinced, that insurance was at complete variance with the principle of the measure, and therefore he could not consent to allow it under any circumstances to interfere with the operation of this bill.

Mr. Davies Giddy

thought that the clause, as worded, appeared to be too severe; because it would seem that in every instance the fine was to be the property of the person paying it, whereas he was of opinion that parents should be allowed to pay for their sons, and masters for their apprentices or servants.

Mr. Babington

did not approve of permitting persons to insure, and thought 10l. a very proper sum to be paid in the way of fine. For if the fine was very low, and insurance was permitted, the consequence would be that every person would insure, and the fine would be paid by the insurance offices.

Lord H. Petty

contended, that by insurance they who insured would not do it to: withdraw themselves from the service of the country, but to enable them to meet an option held out to them by the legislature. He insisted also that it was the middle class of industrious persons that would, by the prohibition of insurance be ruined, either by the fine, or by personal service, to the utter destruction of their business or professions. He entirely disapproved of the clause.

Lord Castlereagh

acceded to the principle suggested by Mr. D. Giddy, and had no doubt that a proviso might be prepared to allow fathers to pay the fine for their sons, and masters for their apprentices or servants, without interfering with the general operation of the bill.—A division then took place, when the numbers were, For the Clause, 106; Against it, 16.—Majority, 90.

The other clause was then agreed to, and the house having resumed, the report was brought up, when the Speaker informed the house, that the whole report was now before the house, and that the question would be that the amendments of the committee be agreed to, which passed in the affirmative.—The amendments having been gone through, lord Castlereagh proposed Wednesday next for the third reading of the bill.

Mr. Windham

expressed his surprise that the noble lord should be so anxious to precipitate the last stage of the bill, the more so, as it had this night been allowed to proceed two stages.

Lord Castlereagh

felt no less surprised at the surprise of the right hon. gent., for surely no hurry had taken place in the progress of the bill; on Wednesday last the bill was in a committee, and then the only clauses to which the right hon. gent. had objected, were again under consideration. There was now to occur an interruption of business for three or four days, and during that period, the right hon. gent, would surely be able to make up his mind with respect to any further objections which it might be his intention to offer against the principle or the provisions of the bill.

Mr. W. Wynne, Mr. Tierney, and Mr. Calcraft, were exceedingly anxious the third leading of the bill might not be pressed for Wednesday next, especially if the Curates' bill was to take precedence of it. The bill was unquestionably of more importance than any of those which were said to stand in the way. It was therefore their wish that the bill should take the precedence of any other, if not on Wednesday next, at least on Thursday or Friday. Lord Castlereagh and the Chancellor of the Exchequer observed, that the business which stood for those days could not possi- bly be postponed. The second reading of the Curates' bill was to have come on immediately after the recess; and the Dublin police bill was with universal consent fixed for Thursday, it being utterly inconvenient for many Irish members to attend after that day. Mr. Windham and Mr. Calcraft still pressed their objections to Wednesday, when the question whether the bill be read a third time on Wednesday, before the discussion on the Curates' bill, was put, and

the house divided: Ayes, 56; Noes, 7.