HC Deb 22 May 1823 vol 9 cc442-4
General Gascoyne

, in rising to submit a motion "for an Address to his Majesty, praying that he would direct that the warrant of the 6th of March last, be reconsidered, and that payment to Half-pay officers resident in Ireland be paid in British currency," said, he was aware that to induce the Crown to exert its interference in this case, very strong grounds must be laid for such an address. He begged to assure his noble fried (Lord Palmerston), that by this motion he meant not to impute anything to him Which might seem to derogate from his well-known ability and zeal in the discharge of his official duties. As the regulation at present existed, residence in Ireland alone constituted the ground of distinction made between officers on half-pay in Ireland, and half-pay officers in any other country. So far from officers in Ireland being paid in an inferior currency, they ought rather to have a bounty given them for expending their half-pay among their own countrymen. Suppose the case of two officers in the same regiment, and each having the misfortune to lose a limb: he who retired to Ireland was, in fact, to receive the less allowance, because he chose to reside in Ireland. Could anything be more unjust, than that a sort of penalty should attach to him who retired to his native home? The saving to be effected by. this arrangement was very small: he understood it amounted to 7,800l. in the whole; but when the chancellor of the exchequer had so recently given up taxes to the amount of hundreds of thousands of pounds, in order to induce and encourage residence in Ireland, surely this arrangement was most impolitic. The case was one of greater severity, when it was considered, that while officers on our half-pay, who entered into the service of any of the foreign powers—and perhaps those who were allied against the rising liberties of Spain—were paid in British currency, Ireland alone was the invidious exception, which subjected them to the loss arising from a depreciated currency. If the regulation was meant to be defended on the ground, that the superior cheapness of provisions in Ireland was to be considered, the principle ought to be carried further, and extended to those who lived in Wales, or in any other part of the empire where the necessaries of life were sold at a reasonable rate. He would move, "That an humble address be presented to his majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to direct that the warrant of the 6th of March last be re-considered; and that payment to Half-pay officers of the army and marines resident in Ireland (together with pensions and allowances) be continued to be paid in British currency, as heretofore."

Lord Palmerston

said, that the House ought to take care not to be led away by individual cases, and to neutralize in de- tail those measures of economy which they were constantly insisting upon in principle. He recollected well, that the gallant officer had, on one occasion, voted in support of an augmentation of the pay of the army, and on a subsequent occasion had said, that he thought the liberality of parliament had exceeded the bounds of discretion. With respect to the particular case before the House, the principle on which officers on half-pay were paid (whether in Irish or British currency) was founded on the accident of the regiment being in England or in Ireland at the time that the officer retired. The same rule was observed with respect to the private soldier. It appeared to him that there was no sense whatever in the practice; but the question was, how was it to be altered? It might be proper to destroy the distinction of currency—it might be well to pay all half-pay officers and privates in the same currency; but it appeared to him to follow as the inevitable consequence, that the full pay should be paid in the same currency also. Now the difference of expence would amount to 127,000l., and in time of war to 237,000l. The principle on which the regulation of March had been founded was established in the year 1815. That principle placed all officers on half-pay, residing in Ireland, on the same footing, and entitled them to their half-pay in Irish currency only. He could not, under all the circumstances, consent to alter that regulation; because, if the half-pay were to be paid in British currency, the full pay, in his opinion, would be clearly entitled to British currency also. He would, however, so far acquiesce in the object of his hon. friend, as to exempt all the officers resident in Ireland, who had formerly received their half-pay in British currency. He was willing to consent that they should be allowed in future to receive their half-pay in the same currency. The inconvenience to officers' widows was excessive, as they had to remove, for the receipt of their pensions, according to the destination of the regiment, with which they might no longer have any connexion.

After a short conversation, general Gascoyne consented to withdraw his motion.