HC Deb 19 March 1846 vol 84 cc1267-8

House in Committee on the Mutiny Bill.


moved the adoption of the following Clause:— And whereas certain soldiers, who have heretofore been duly enlisted, and who have voluntarily taken the Oath of Allegiance and fidelity, and are now receiving Her Majesty's pay, have been sworn and attested; but doubts have arisen whether the justices before whom the said soldiers have been so sworn and attested were duly qualified to administer to such soldiers the oaths prescribed by the several Acts passed for the punishing mutiny and desertion, and for the better payment of the army and their quarters: be it enacted, that in every case where any such soldier, having been duly enlisted, shall have been so attested and sworn, and shall not have claimed to be discharged on or before the 17th day of March, 1846, he shall not be entitled to his discharge by reason of such informality, but shall be liable to all the provisions of this Act, and of the Act passed during the last Session of Parliament, for the punishing mutiny and desertion, and for the better payment of the army and their quarters, where in force, and shall be entitled to the full benefit of his past service, and to all pay and pension in respect thereof, to all intents and purposes, and in like manner as if he had been duly attested and sworn. The right hon. Gentleman remarked, that it was very difficult to say to what extent the flaw in the Act to which this clause referred applied to the army; but there was no doubt it was very considerable. He understood that a great proportion of those who had claimed their discharge from the Grenadier Guards had expressed a wish to re-enlist; but he found that there were flaws of the same description in the Artillery and Cavalry. He had also reason to believe that there were a great number who had not claimed their discharge who would have it in their power at any future time on being ordered to foreign service to obtain their discharge, unless some such clause as this were adopted. This informality in the attesting of recruits, there was every reason to believe, had indeed been very general—the practice having been handed down from sergeant to sergeant; he therefore hoped, that under these circumstances the House would see the necessity of adopting the clause now proposed. He begged to add that there was no intention, but the reverse, on the part of the Horse Guards, to take any advantage of the flaw in the attestations to deprive any soldier of his pension.


had no objection to the principle of the clause, as he believed that it merely carried out the object of the Enlistment Act. He did not, however, like clauses which had a retrospective effect; and he would suggest, therefore, that the clause should only take effect from and after the passing of the Act.


observed, that if the alteration were postponed till the Act passed, it would be an advertisement to the troops to examine their attestations, and see if they could find any flaw in them. There was also an alteration introduced into the ceremony of attestation. Were it to be left to sergeants, there would be an endless succession of such informalities as had lately occurred. Believing, however, that attestation was a necessary precaution, he proposed to continue it; but to provide that the magistrate signing the attestation should certify that the recruit had enlisted in the district over which he had jurisdiction.

Clauses brought up and agreed to, and the Bill passed through Committee.