HC Deb 07 February 1834 vol 21 cc165-7
Mr. Hume

called the attention of the House to the immense sums expended since the peace, in keeping up the establishment of the militia. A Committee on the subject had sat up-stairs, and doubts were there entertained whether the whole charge might not be saved; it was therefore recommended in the Report, that a committee should be named expressly to inquire into that subject. He wished now to be informed whether Ministers intended to appoint such a committee? The present cost of the militia, in time of peace, was as great as that of ten marching regiments. He would read to the House an abstract of the militia expenditure from 1817 inclusive, to April 1, 1834. It appeared, by the Parliamentary Return, 427, of 1830, that

The total amount, as stated, from 1817 to 1528, both inclusive, (13 years) £4,448,066
In 1829, for Great Britain 247,393 330,018
Ireland 82,713
In 1830, for the United Kingdom 264,057
In 1830, for the United Kingdom 351,300
1832 to 31st March; 1832 £26,539
to 1st April 1833 107,943
Ireland—three mouths 13,472 202,483
for one year 54,527
1833 to 1st April 1834—Great Britain 187,534 243,550
Ireland 56,015
Total for Militia in 16¼ years (1817–1833) Expenditure for Volunteers from the year 1816 £5,839,535
to 1833, both inclusive 2,306,238
Total in 17 years £8,145,773
or 479,163l. yearly on the average of the seventeen years. The excuse for incurring this expense was, that it was necessary to keep up the establishment lest occasion should arise for calling out the militia; but every officer knew, and if there were one present in the House he would confirm the statement, that, upon the new system, the old militia Serjeants and corporals would be incompetent to drill the men, and that the corporals and Serjeants of the line must be resorted to. Therefore, the staff was only maintained for the sake of the places and pensions it enabled persons in power to bestow, and it was a matter of importance to ascertain whether, not only the expense, but the abuses were to be preserved. After again putting it to the Secretary at War, whether it was intended to appoint a Committee to inquire into the whole subject, the hon. Member moved for "An abstract of the sums voted, and the sums actually expended, in each year, for the yeomanry and volunteer corps in England, Scotland, and Ireland, from 1st January, 1816, to 1st January, 1834, so as to exhibit the expense of every kind in each year for these corps, and the total expense actually incurred in these years. Abstract of the sums voted, and the amount actually expended, for the militia of the United Kingdom, distinguishing Great Britain from Ireland, in each year, from the 1st of January, 1816, to the 1st of January, 1834, including expense for ballot, allowance to lieutenancy clerks, surgeons, and for every other account, so as to exhibit the total expense of the militia, and its pensioners, in each year, and in each kingdom; stating also, what corps have been called out in aid of the civil powers in each of these years, and the amount of expense specially incurred for such service; also, the aggregate amount of expense in these years."

Mr. Ellice

observed, that the merits of the question brought forward by the hon. member for Middlesex had been discussed before with a much better chance of arriving at a result. Much money had been thrown away, but the hon. Member was in error when he supposed that it fell within the province of the Committee to which he alluded to make any alterations in the amount of the military force without the consent of the House. It was for that assembly to make such reductions in, or additions to, the number of men employed in military service, as it might think proper. The duty of that Committee was to prepare the estimates for the support of that force. In his own department he could not alone interfere with a matter of that nature, but he might state that the Government had called for returns of the number of men employed in the militia and yeomanry forces, of the services performed by individuals belonging to the respective corps, and for other information connected with the subject, that, upon a clear view of the facts, they might be enabled to determine whether any amount of compensation ought to be bestowed upon retirement; and whether the force should be maintained at its present complement, or be subjected to a greater or less reduction in its amount. He hoped he should soon have the satisfaction of communicating to the House the intentions of his Majesty's Government with regard to this question, and he trusted that their views would meet with the sanction of the House, though perhaps they would not be fully in accordance with those entertained by the hon. Member.

Sir John Wrottesley

concurred in what had fallen from the hon. member for Middlesex. Whatever might be thought of the propriety of maintaining a militia, the mode in which they were kept up was exceedingly expensive and extremely inefficient. The field discipline of the militia had not been altered for the last fifteen or sixteen years; but within that period the greatest improvement had been effected in the army, particularly in the manœuvres that were employed. He recollected, that, at the commencement of the war, there was hardly a man in the militia who was acquainted with the manual exercise; and, in a particular instance, a body of militia was obliged to be drilled by the officers of the regiment to which he had then the honour of belonging. There was a great number of men who had served in the colonies who were now receiving pensions of from 1s. to 2s. per day. He thought, certainly, that the country was bound to give them something for their former services, but he begged to suggest that these men, if formed into a body under the same regulations as the militia, would not be so expensive to the country, and far more efficient.

Return ordered.

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