HC Deb 12 March 1838 vol 41 cc786-96
Viscount Howick

said, that in rising to bring forward the army estimates for the current year, he thought he should best consult the convenience of the Committee by adverting as briefly as the case would admit of, to those points in which they differed from those of last year. He would first call the attention of the Committee to the vote respecting the number of men which it was proposed to grant. The Committee would perceive in this vote an apparent increase of 8,000 men, but he need not inform those Gentlemen who had paid attention to this subject that this increase was only apparent and not real, the actual increase being much less than the figures implied. It had been the practice for some years past to keep up all the regiments in the estimates to the full extent of their establishments, though in actual practice they kept a certain number of men short. For the last two or three years this actual reduction had been made to the extent of eight men in each company of infantry, and five men in each troop of cavalry. It was not proposed that the whole of these reductions should for the present be supplied; all that had hitherto been directed was, that the number of the cavalry should be completed, which would cause an actual increase of 580 men as compared with the estimates of last year; and that all the infantry regiments likewise which furnished the military force in the North American provinces, or which were ordered out on that station, should be recruited up to the full complement of their respective establishments. In other words they had deducted a smaller number of non-effective men this year than on previous occasions; so that whereas the deductions last year were equivalent to a diminution of expenditure to the extent of 181,000l., at the present year they were only to the extent of 110,000l., thereby giving an actual increase of 71,000l. There was also an increase of rather more than 9,000l. on account of officers who had been sent out to Canada on the first breaking out of the revolt, in order to assist the volunteer corps of those provinces. These additions had in part been met in the present estimates by a saving in respect to 2,500l. on account of the staff corps, which had been transferred from the army to the ordnance estimates, in accordance with an Act of Parliament passed last year. The result of this deduction was, that the net regimental charges of the present year showed an increased expenditure of 77,322l. over that of last year. Of this sum 48,000l. was on account of provisions, forage, &c. This was only the third year in which this charge had been included in the army estimates; they were formerly voted in what was termed the army extra-ordinaries, but in 1835 an arrangement was made by which these charges should be included in the regular estimates of the army. The expenses of the staff would likewise incur an increase, notwithstanding the apparent diminution by reason of the transfer of 2,500l. from the army to the ordnance estimates. This increase in the expenditure of the staff was caused in a great measure by the increased demands of our colonial service, particularly Canada, where two new major-generals had been added, and in New South Wales, where a major-general had been appointed, in order to relieve the governor from his military duties, which, in connexion with his civil functions, were found to be too onerous a charge in that important and extensive colony. On the other hand, there was a diminution in the yeomanry corps to the extent of 25,127l. The civil department and the military asylum were subject to no change. The total increase in the estimates for the effective service, after deducting an increased charge of 5,500l. defrayed by the East India Company, was 144,996l., which sum, however, was further reduced by an increase of 31,364l. of appropriations in aid—being an actual increase to be voted of 113,632l. There would be, however, a reduction in the estimates for the non-effective service, of 10,000l. of the army, pay of general officers, 20,000l. of half-pay and military allowance, 15,000l. on account of pensioners of Chelsea and Kilmainham, and other items, amounting in the whole to 65,599l, which would leave a total increase of amount to be provided on account of these estimates, as compared with those of last year, of 48,833l. There was also the supplemental estimate voted for some years for auxiliary forces at the Cape of Good Hope for the repression of the Caffres, which was this year reduced by 30,000l., being only 10,000l.; and he had every reason to hope that by next year this estimate might altogether be included in the regular amount. This reduction of 30,000l. however, again re- duced the increase on these estimates to 18,000l. only. At the same time, however, whilst he stated these facts, he felt it to be his duty to caution the House that although it had been found possible by the present arrangement to send a very considerable force to North America without interfering with the regulations relative to the reliefs of forces on foreign stations, yet, if this increased force had to be kept up for any lengthened period, this could not be accomplished without a very much larger increase in the military establishments of the country. As the case stood at present, he believed, that the existing force was perfectly adequate to the necessities of the public service; and he hoped before long to be able again to bring clown the number of troops in the Canadas. If, however, he should be disappointed in this expectation, there would he no course left to him but to appeal to the liberality of the House for an increased vote in order to afford those reliefs to the troops on foreign stations which they were so fairly entitled to expect. It was proper that he should state, also, that in these estimates no allowance had been made for the (he feared it would be found) large increase which had been incurred in the expenses of the service in Canada in putting down the revolt in that province. Although the Government had as yet received no data as to these expenses, or any calculations of what the circumstances required, he had no doubt that, from the number of volunteers who were taken into pay on that occasion, a very considerable further demand would be required. Whenever the necessary information on this subject was received from the colonial authorities, he should be prepared to lay a supplemental vote before the House, as had been the case in respect to auxiliary troops at the Cape of Good Hope. Having stated the e few particulars, the noble Lord concluded by stating that he should not trouble the House with further observations, but move the first resolution for raising 89,305 men for the services of her Majesty's land forces.

Mr. Hume

had expected, after what had been stated on a former occasion by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, that these estimates would have exhibited a very considerable reduction from those of last year. The noble Lord last year stated that the state of Ireland was such that he expected that two or three regiments might be recalled without any inconvenience or danger to the public. If such had been the case, what had been done with these regiments? where were they gone? It was quite evident that there was no other part of the world to which they could have gone but to Canada; and yet the noble Lord, the Secretary at War had stated the particulars of the number of troops which he proposed sending thither. This increase of troops was made by the Government with the greatest alacrity, although they proclaimed that the insurrection of the Canadas was of such a very trifling nature that, at the time they were sending over resolutions enough to drive the people to madness, there was no occasion to accompany them with a single additional troop. If that was the case at the outbreak of the revolt, what was the case now? The provinces were reported to be perfectly quiet. Then where was now the occasion for a reinforcement of troops? The present vote was very similar to that of last year, but the House would recollect, that, at the time, he warned the noble Lord that the amount was much heavier than was necessary; and he still thought that the noble Lord had not made out his case for the amount of the estimate of last year, much less for the increase which he now proposed. He lamented to see that the Government were every year increasing the army of the country. We had 20,000 men more than when the Duke of Wellington was in power. He attempted last year to obtain a reduction of 3,000 men, but the House, which always liked to encourage Ministers in any proposition of extravagance, was against him; and he really believed that if the Government were to propose an increase of 150,000 men, it would be granted them. On the present occasion, however, he should certainly propose a reduction of 10,000 men, which if the Government were consistent and correct in all they had said about the peaceful situation of Ireland, could easily be taken from that country. He admitted, that if, by any cause, a great number of workmen were thrown out of employment in this country, there might be some danger of disturbance; but if the noble Lord were to look at the causes which were stated year after year as the grounds for demanding former estimates, he would find, that not one of them existed at the present moment. Our navy was the largest ever maintained, and our military forces were also increased. When there was nothing of disturbance or confusion either at home or abroad, upon what ground was this increase asked? He would recommend the noble Lord, the Secretary at War, to consult the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who, in his evidence before the Finance Committee in 1817, recommended, that large corps should be appointed, consisting of 900 men. By such a change the noble Lord urged, that there would be a large saving as to the staff, and that the same force could be sustained fo 200,000l. which it formerly took 300,000l. to maintain. Why, then, did not the noble Lord, the Secretary of War, now propose the reduction of twelve regiments, keeping up, if he thought fit, the same number of men, but effecting a reduction in the staff? No man could say that there was not a larger proportion of officers to men in our service than in any other. He trusted, that the Commission which had been appointed would prove, that it was impossible to do justice without reviewing the whole establishment, and apply to every regiment an uniform rule. If it were not for the expense of the Guards, he should have no objection to allow the aristocracy to use this corps as a means of obtaining a station, the chief use of which appeared to be for the purposes of ornament and amusement; but it was, in his opinion, extremely hard that a body unaccustomed to the toils of war should be favoured to an extent far beyond those regiments which served in all our colonies. If they looked to Austria, they would find, that the Guards there took their turn on active service. Being persuaded that the army expenses could only be reduced by cutting down the number of men, and reducing the officers and staff, it only remained for him to inquire upon what pretence such a large military force was kept up in England and Ireland? He left the colonies out of the question, though he did not believe that in those where any thing like good government prevailed, there was any necessity for keeping up the large force which was asked. If they meant to keep the colonies as conquered provinces, let them say so; but if they intended to secure the allegiance of the people by their affections, then he was convinced that a very small force would be sufficient to prevent hostile aggressions on their territory, because the people of those colonies were willing and able to keep the peace, provided they were (as they had a right to be) treated in the same manner as the inhabitants of this country. Troops should be no longer placed in these colonies to overawe the people, and to prevent those reforms and improvements which they demanded. When the people were pressed down by heavy taxes of the most galling character, it was incumbent on those who wished to lighten their burden to effect a reduction in the outlay of our present establishments, particularly when they recollected that, in addition to our large military force, there were 34,000 men required for the navy, and between 8,000 and 9,000 more for the artillery. Then again there was a force which partook of a military character in Ireland, where 16,000 policemen, rank and file, were stationed. Could they, then, tell him that the country was at peace, or that the people were satisfied, when such a formidable military array was deemed essential to the preservation of tranquillity? Up to the French war in 1792 there were never more than 8,000 or 9,000 men required in Ireland. It appeared to him that their present establishment argued a distrust of the people of Ireland, or a disbelief that peace and contentment existed in that country. He should propose that 10,000 men should be taken from the number which was proposed. The hon. Member concluded by moving, that 79,305 men be the number for the ensuing year.

Captain Wood

maintained that the Sovereign must be surrounded by some troops; and it was far better to have a corps of guards, than to make a selection from regiments, which must lead to favouritism. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had asked, where were troops necessary? He should answer by telling him that if 2,000 men had been stationed in Canada at the proper time, we should not now be under the necessity of sending out 10,000 men.

Lord John Russell

said, that with regard to the re-inforcement which it was proposed to send to Canada, he did not wish to revive the debates which had already taken place in connection with that subject. He did not hear in the course of those debates any objection strongly urged to the proposition for sending out a considerable force to Canada. Indeed, that re olution stood on such obvious grounds of policy, that he did not think it necessary to refer to it at any greater length. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had said, that he (Lord John Russell) had last year stated, that two regiments of infantry and one of cavalry might be safely removed from Ireland. The hon. Member's allegation was quite correct, and he believed, that the removal of troops from Ireland would be found to be far greater than he had anticipated. He thought if he were to say, that there were 5,000 men less in Ireland than were hitherto stationed there he should be understating the reality. He would only say on this point, that if there had unfortunately prevailed in that country such disaffection as to call for an increase rather than a diminution of men, the vote which his noble Friend would have had to propose would be much larger than that now submitted. The hon. Gentleman had asked where were troops required? Why there were frequently demands for troops in various parts of the country; and when, last year, troops were required in Scotland, he did not think it proper to take troops from the north of England for the purpose of putting down the disturbance in the former country, but considered it right to supply them from other stations. The hon. Gentleman had asserted that they had gone on increasing the army from year to year, and that the present establishment was larger by 20,000 men than when the Duke of Wellington was in office. This was a representation at which he should not have been much surprised if it had been made on some vague rumours out of doors, but coming from an hon. Gentleman who continually attended to the estimates, and made them his peculiar study, it did seem to him to be a singular assertion. The fact was, that the year the Duke of Wellington quitted office, a considerable reduction was made in the army to the amount of 7,684 men. This was replaced by Lord Grey in 1831, but in 1834 a reduction was made exactly to the same amount as in the former year, although now an increase was made not to the standard of 1831, because it fell under 7,000 men, and of course considerably below the statement of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman proposed various modes of reduction, one of which was to abolish ten or twelve regiments. He did not think such a change wise, or justified by the exigencies of the present time. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the number of cavalry regiments. He could inform him that in consequence of the necessity of sending troops to Canada, it was necessary to make a large increase to our military force, and by enlarging the number of men to each regiment, this was done in a much less expensive manner than by adding five regiments of cavalry. The hon. Member had complained that the Guards were kept in personal service on the Sovereign, and had undue favour shown them. He did not think, that the history of the Guards and the services which they had rendered warranted this reproach. And if ever there was a time when it was most inopportune it was now, when a portion of this corps was about to sail for Canada, and were ready to be employed in the service of their country like any other regiment of the line. With regard to the proposal by the Government for the expenses of the army, he should not now enter into that subject, but he certainly did not think the vote proposed at all extravagant.

Mr. Gillon

observed, that he was in Lanarkshire when the disturbance referred to by the noble Lord had taken place. It was caused by a strike of the colliers, and one regiment of infantry was sufficient to put it down. When a party vote such as that for the reprimand of the hon. and learned Member was to be decided, the benches were crowded, and some came down to that House who seemed scarcely able to crawl; but when six millions of the people's money were voted, the House was comparatively thin.

Sir H. Verney

contended, that the absence of Members might be easily accounted for, on the ground that this subject had been debated over and over again, and from the general impression that if they wished to retain their colonial possessions it was necessary to keep up a large military force no diminution could be expected. The service of no other army was so severe as that of the British. At all events he thought it would be good policy to send a large force to Canada during the period of the suspension of the constitution.

Viscount Howick

felt called upon to trouble the Committee with one or two observations in answer to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Kilkenny. The hon. Member had asked why they should not reduce the number of regiments, and had then gone on to assert that a large number of those regiments was kept up for the mere purpose of patronage and promotion, and further, that there was a larger proportion of officers in the British service than in any other. He had not before him any returns showing what the proportion in other services might be, but he firmly believed, that the hon. Member was mistaken in the fact. But compared to the year 1792—that year which the hon. Member so continually referred to, as the fitting standard in all matters of army financial policy—compared to 1792, how stood the case? He had before him a table showing the proportion of officers to men in the army in the year 1792, and he found that that proportion was as one to twelve, while in the present year it was rather more than as one to eighteen and a half. With respect to the proposition of the hon. Member, he should only say, that he thought the House would act most unwisely in sanctioning it. Before the Committee of 1833, the hon. Member had made the same proposition, and it had then been clearly demonstrated, indeed, as well as he recollected, the hon. Member himself had expressed himself satisfied with the statement, that reduction, if made in the manner he proposed, would lead to a very great increase of expenditure. The present system had the especial recommendation that, with very little trouble and at very little expense, it could be reduced or increased as the urgency of the case required. The experience of 1821–22, when a reduction of 21,000 men was suddenly made, ought to render the House cautious how it assented to the proposition of the hon. Member.

Sir E. Knatchbull

meant to vote in support of the motion of the noble Viscount. He rose solely in consequence of a remark of the noble Viscount to the effect that it might be necessary to submit to Parliament a supplementary vote with reference to the recent events in Canada. He (Sir E. Knatchbull) should much regret the realization of such a necessity. Should such a vote be proposed, Parliament would find itself placed in a somewhat novel situation—that of being called upon to pass a vote for services rendered, and respecting which they could exercise no sort of control whatever. This was a line of proceeding which he thought could not be too strongly condemned; nor was this to be the only instance of such a practice. In the early part of the evening the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Horne Department, had informed the House that no estimate of the expense of Lord Durham's mission to Canada was to be made before his departure from this country, and in fact that that personage was to be unlimited in regard to expense. Here, again, the House would be called on to vote for services previously rendered, and for expenses over which they would have no control. He thought her Majesty's Government would act most unwisely were they to give Lord Durham a carte blanche in regard to his expenditure, and that before he left the country some kind of restraint should be laid on him.

Lord J. Russell

did not anticipate that the mission of Lord Durham would prove more expensive, if so much so, than any other mission of a similar nature in past times. Lord Durham was going out as a special envoy, and the sums now paid to the governors of the two provinces of Canada would go a great way towards the expense of his mission. The Government in deciding, that no estimate of the expense should be made out, and that Lord Durham should proceed to fulfil the duties of his important office unlimited on this head, had but followed the precedents of Lord Cowley's special mission to Spain during the war, and Lord Stuart de Rothesay's to Lisbon about the same period.

Sir G. Sinclair

thought, that all who had supported her Majesty's Government during the progress of the Canada bill, were bound to vote in favour of the present proposition.

Mr. Hume

, in allusion to the statement just made by the noble Viscount (Lord Howick) as to the proportion of officers to men in the army in 1792, begged to observe that if a comparison were made of the army expenditure in the year 1792 and 1833, that of the latter year would be found the greater.

Viscount Palmerston

begged to trouble the Committee with one word before they proceeded to a division. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had stated, that in his (Lord Palmerston's) examination before the Committee in 1828, he had endeavoured to show, that it would be a more economical arrangement to convert the then and now existing battalions of 740 to battalions of 1,000 strong. Not wishing to trust to his memory, he had referred to the minutes of his evidence upon the occasion alluded to. He found there, as indeed he had, from the moment he heard the hon. Member's assertion, anticipated he would find, that so far from having made the statement attributed to him, his evidence was, that to convert eighty-three battalions of 740 men to sixty-one battalions of 1,000 men, instead of being a saving, would add 8,720l. a-year to the army expenditure, and cost the country, during the first year, an additional sum of 81,000l. So much for the accuracy of the hon. Member's statement.

The Committee divided on the Amendment:—Ayes 11; Noes 121:—Majority 110.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, Major Rundle, J.
Blewitt, R. J. Wakley, T.
Brotherton, J. Warburton, H.
Dennistoun, J. Williams, W.
Fielden, J. TELLERS.
Grote, G. Hume, J.
Marsland, H. Gillon, W. D.
List of the NOES.
Anson, hon. Colonel Hayes, Sir E.
Archbold, R. Hayter, W. G.
Baring, F. T. Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.
Barry, G. S. Hobhouse, T. B.
Beamish, F. B. Hodges, T. L.
Berkeley, hon. H. Hodgson, R.
Bewes, T. Hotham, Lord
Blackburne, I. Howick, Viscount
Blair, J. Hurt, F.
Briscoe, J. I. Hutton, R.
Brodie, W. B. James, W.
Busfield, W. Jephson, C. D. O.
Chalmers, P. Kemble, H.
Childers, J. W. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Codrington, C. W. Knatchbull, hon. Sir E.
Compton, H. C. Lefevre, C. S.
Conolly, E. Lennox, Lord G.
Courtenay, P. Lister, E. C.
Craig, W. G. Lushington, C.
Cripps, J. Lygon, hon. General
Curry, W. Lynch, A. H.
Damer, hon. D. Macleod, R.
Darby, G. Master, T. W. C.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Maule, hon. F.
Dundas, C. W. D. Mildmay, P. St. J.
Dunlop, J. Miles, P. W. S.
Egerton, W. T. Morpeth, Viscount
Elliot, hon. J. E. Murray, rt. hon. J. A.
Ellice, R. O'Brien, C.
Evans, W. O'Brien, W. S.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Fergusson, rt. hon. C. Paget, Lord A.
Filmer, Sir E. Paget, F.
Fitzsimon, N. Palmer, C. F.
Fleetwood, P. H. Palmer, G.
Forester, hon. G. Palmerston, Viscount
Fremantle, Sir T. Parker, J.
Gibson, T. Parker, R. T.
Grattan, J. Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.
Grey, Sir G. Perceval, Colonel
Grimsditch, T. Plumptre, J. P.
Ponsonby, C. F. A. C. Stuart, V.
Power, J. Style, Sir C.
Rice, E. R. Tancred, H. W.
Rice, rt. hon. T. S. Teignmouth, Lord
Rich, H. Thomson, rt. hon. C. P.
Richards, R. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Bickford, W. Vere, Sir C. B.
Roche, W. Verney, Sir H.
Roche, D. Vivian, rt. hon. Sir H.
Rolfe, Sir R. M. White, A.
Round, C. G. White, S.
Rushout, G. Wilbraham, G.
Russell, Lord J. Williams, W. A.
Salwey, Colonel Wilshere, W.
Scarlett, hon. J. Y. Winnington, T. E.
Seymour, Lord Wood, C.
Sharpe, General Wood, G. W.
Shirley, E. J. Wood, T.
Sinclair, Sir G.
Spencer, Hon. F. TELLERS.
Stanley, E. J. Dalmeny, Lord
Stansfield, W. R. C. Steuart, R.