HC Deb 25 May 1849 vol 105 cc996-1007

The House then went into Committee of Supply; Mr. Bernal in the chair.

The first vote proposed was, a sum not exceeding 1,855,588l., for defraying the charge of Her Majesty's Land Forces in the United Kingdom and in Stations abroad, being part of a sum of 3,655,588l., of which 1,800,000l. had already been granted on account.


said, it was not very encouraging, in so thin a House, for any hon. Member to enter into the discussion of questions affecting the expenditure of the country, because it appeared that, whenever that which, more than anything else fell within the peculiar business and province of the House, had to come on for consideration, hon. Gentlemen, and even the financial reformers themselves, deserted their posts, and left but a beggarly account of empty benches for any diligent advocate of economy and retrenchment to address his remarks to. The financial reformers of that House seemed to have sunk down to the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln, and the hon. Member for Warwickshire. He therefore did not propose at present to go into any lengthened details; but he must say he felt convinced, from the condition in which the Army was kept, and the enormous establishments chiefly connected with the civil department, that great reductions could easily be effected, and the Army maintained in increased efficiency, by being managed with greater simplicity. The British Army was classed under three different heads. First, there was the infantry and cavalry under the Horse Guards; then the ordnance corps, under a separate board; and, lastly, the commissariat, which was a separate branch, under the management of the Treasury. Now, he maintained that in no other country in the world was there such an arrangement of the three different branches of the Army under three separate heads. The management of the Horse Guards cost 94,199l.; that of the Ordnance, 91,136l; and that of the Commissariat, which was said to be the cheapest managed of all, being under the Treasury, 316,009l. Now, if they were all placed under a Minister of War, having a seat in Parliament, as was the case in other countries, instead of being managed in the present cumbrous and costly manner, the country would gain considerably in point of economy and simplicity. This was not a new idea of his. In the year 1837, a Commission was appointed, of which Lord Howick (now Earl Grey), Lord J. Russell, Lord Palmerston, and Sir J. C. Hobhouse, were Members, which recommended that certain powers, now divided among several functionaries, should be vested in the Secretary at War, as Minister of War, and a Member of the Cabinet; that he should be the Minister by whom all matters relating to the military establishments should be laid before the King; and that the Ordnance department should be consolidated with the Horse Guards. However, from that day to this, and although they had a Committee sitting upstairs, no stops had yet been taken to carry out the report of the Commissioners. It was plain a very considerable saving in this manner might be made. Why not abolish the office of Master General of the Ordnance, by which they might save 9,000l. a year? The same might be said of the Secretary at War's office, upon which they might save 5,000l.; and by abolishing the office of Judge Advocate—whoso excellent deputy, Mr. Rogers, did all the work, and had a salary of 800l.—2,500l. more might be saved. Then 36,836l. was the charge in this country for agency, although there was no agency required fur the Indian army, and he could not therefore understand why it should be necessary for the troops at home. Altogether, he was persuaded about 56,000l. a year might be saved in these departments. He must also call attention to the great disproportion of generals to the number of men in our Army as compared with the armies of other countries. In 1783, about the time of the American war, we had 824 general and field officers; in 1799, about the time of the French war, the number was 1,863; and in the year 1848, at a time of peace, they were increased to 2,106. We had a staff and a number of officers greater than was required for the whole French army of 400,000, and which also supplied the national guard. We had 9 field-marshals, 58 generals, 67 lieutenant-generals, 174 major-generals; and yet the whole strength of our Army was only 138,000 men. Eight or ten thousand a year, too, might be saved by doing away with brevets. Were the House not so empty, he might pursue the question further; but he was sure he would be able to show a Committee that a material saving might be effected as regarded the staff of officers, and that a much better arrangement might be made with respect to the retired and half-pay list. Then, as regarded the clothing of the regiments, there could not be a worse system than leaving it in the hands of the colonels. He believed that if the Government took the clothing into its own hands, and adequately remunerated the colonels, as they did in the case of the artillery, giving them sufficient pay, instead of leaving them to eke it out by a profit on the clothing of their men, the men would be better clothed, greater satisfaction would be given, and a saving would be effected to the country of about 14,000l. a year. He found that, in the year 1847, the clothing of the French army, including the expense of tents and encampments in Algiers, was only about 464,000l. for 370,125 men; or an average of 11. 13s. 2d. per head. Then again in Prussia, the average cost of clothing in the Prussian army was only 1l. 15s. 10d. per head; but in England, in the year 1847, the cost of clothing an Army of 132,199 men was 402,142l., or more than 3l. per man. How it was that the French and the Prussians clothed their soldiers better and cheaper than we, who were considered to be the best manufacturers in the world, could do, he would leave it for the Manchester manufacturers themselves to say; but he hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government would use his influence with the Horse Guards to alter the whole system of clothing, which, besides its other evils, exposed the colonels to invidious remarks, which, as a class of men, he was sure they did not deserve. Instead of receiving their present allowance upon the clothing of their regiments, to make up their insufficient pay, why not give them a salary of 1,000l. a year, and save 35,000l. to the country? Then the proportion of officers to the number of men was excessive. There was one officer to every nineteen men in the Army. In the Horse Guards, there was one officer to eleven men, and one non-commissioned officer to every six of the men. The proportion of officers to men was much greater than in the armies of Franco or Prussia; and under this head of the subject a great reduction might be made in the Army by cutting off the second majors in the infantry—a class of officers that enjoyed as complete sinecures as that of the Judge Advocate himself in that House. He would reduce them all, and thereby save the country about 45,000l. a year. The cavalry force, exclusive of household cavalry, equalled twenty-two regiments. Five of them were under the East India Company; but the remaining seventeen ought to he condensed into twelve regiments, which would reduce the staff, and lead to economy. A saving could also be effected by filling up the places of assistants in the various offices of the different departments of the Army from the retired or half-pay list. A clerk in the Commander in Chief's office retired, after forty years' service, I upon 700l. a year; whereas the retiring pay of a general was only 400l. a year. In these various methods, they might go on reducing item after item, until they effected an aggregate saving, he would venture to say, little short of half a million a year. Our whole colonial system must also be remodelled; and in this way alone could they reduce their estimates, that were so excessive.


, having so fully entered into the whole subject of these estimates on a former occasion, did not consider it necessary to trouble the Committee with any further observations at present. He would, however, just say a few words in answer to the remarks of his hon. and gallant Friend who had last spoken. He (Mr. Fox Maule) could not agree with all that had fallen from his hon. and gallant Friend; but the whole subject was still under the consideration of the Committee upstairs, where he had no doubt every practicable and consistent measure of economy would meet with unanimous support. With regard to the question of agency in the Army, referred to by his hon. and gallant Friend, he (Mr. Fox Maule) was convinced that the Committee, when it came to consider that subject, would be unanimously agreed that nothing could be so economical to the country, or convenient to the men in the Army, as the system of agency which had just been attacked. As regarded the present system of clothing, he had no feeling to express further than what he had derived from the investigations of former Committees. The Committee of 1833, on this subject, after hearing the amplest evidence, came to the unanimous decision that in point of economy or of efficiency they were satisfied that a better system of clothing the Army than the system already existing, could not be adopted. But still he was perfectly sure that the Committee upstairs would give every attention to this question when it came again before them, and if it could be proved to them that a better and more economical system under the Government, the same as the clothing of the Ordnance, could be substituted, he was satisfied the Committee would be quite ready to adopt it. Instead of following his hon. and gallant Friend through all his details, he thought it better to wait till they were brought before the Committee, where, he had no doubt, the whole would be fully sifted. But his hon. and gallant Friend had suggested the employment of the half-pay officers as clerks in the civil and military departments. Now, it was quite possible that such a course might he advantageously pursued in certain cases; but it should be remembered that the clerks in question had to he trained from boyhood for these situations, and if they were to he filled up from the half-pay list of the Army, he was sure the public service would suffer materially in point of efficiency.


said, that the House having voted the number of men before Easter, it would not be either consistent or logical to refuse the money necessary to clothe and pay them. He rose merely for the purpose of making a few observations on the manner in which the reduction of 10,000 men had been made. He found a reduction to that amount in the number of men; but, on turning to the number of officers, he found no corresponding reduction. Last year there were 4,862 officers; this year there were 4,759, being a reduction of 103 officers to 10,000 men; or, in other words, 10 per cent of the men were reduced, and not more than 2 per cent of the officers. He did not think this a very economical mode of making retrenchment. Instead of having 10,000 men drafted out of the regiments and paid off, he should like to see 10 or 12 regiments reduced. That was the proper mode of reduction, if they really meant to make a bonâ fide and permanent one. But if this reduction was only a temporary concession to what some regarded as but a temporary clamour in the public mind for a reduction of the public expenditure, which, as soon as it ceased, was to be raised to its old standard, then they were quite right in retaining the skeletons of regiments. But, if they meant to make a permanent reduction of 10,000 men, he saw no reason why they should not reduce 10 or 12 regiments, and reduce the officers in proportion to the number of men. He did not consider cither the officers or the men in the Army and Navy too well paid: they received much less than those engaged in the American service, and he would like to see them paid as well. His real complaint was, that more persons were employed in both services than were wanted, and he wished to see the number reduced. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Middlesex, that in order to reduce the Army a total change must be made in the colonial system, under which, in its present state, the duties of the Army were almost as arduous as in time of war. There were in Now Zealand about 2,000 soldiers, although the white population did not exceed 20,000. It surely was not necessary for the interests of the colonics that a soldier should be maintained for two families. Soldiers who wished to settle in New Zealand might be disbanded for that purpose. That was the course which had been pursued by the Americans with respect to soldiers in their army who desired to settle in Mexico. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had stated the other evening a fact which made a deep impression on his (Mr. Cobden's) mind, in connexion with the recent outrages in Canada. The loyalist party, as they were called in that colony, had burnt their own Parliament House, because a majority of the House of Representatives had given a vote of which they did not approve; and he could not miss that opportunity of stating I his belief that the incendiary body who had committed that act would find no sympathy either in this country or in the United States. But what did the noble Lord say with regard to that subject? Why, he declared that there were only two constables in Montreal. Why was this? It was because the English Government had hitherto treated the colonists as children, finding soldiers to take care of them, instead of leaving them to their own resources. As regarded the Committee, of which he was a member, he must observe that the Ordnance estimates would form work enough for its members during the present Session, and the Army Department would not he finished probably before the end of the next; but the House ought not, on any such ground, to abstain from making at once any practicable reductions.


wished to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of War, with respect to the shell jacket now worn by some of the officers of Her Majesty's forces. Probably the right hon. Gentleman had not seen the unfortunate objects who were them, and who, in fact, were in the position of scarecrows. If he only saw some of the old officers who were put into this shell jacket, and saw the ridiculous objects it made of them, he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would agree in opinion with him on the subject. He conceived that the whole Army should be clothed alike, and that the same principle should be applied in London to the household brigade and to the regiments of the line. Why should the officers of the household brigade be allowed to go about in handsome blue frocks, while the officers of the line were clothed in an ugly red jacket? And he was not even allowed to wear it in the only place where it could effect a saving for him—at mess; while the officers of dragoons, generally belonging to a richer class, were allowed to mess in their stable jackets. He also wished to make an observation with respect to the bearskin caps, worn by the household troops. Having taken those caps from the Fusilier regiments, why keep them in the household brigade? If they wanted to make their Army frightful to their enemies, why not apply the same rule to the household brigade as to other regiments? Why not compel the hon. and gallant Member for 3Wigan to go about the metropolis in a shell jacket, as well as the officers in the country? When they took away this bearskin cap from the Fusiliers, they should not retain it in the Guards.


believed the question with regard to the shell jackets had made more noise in the House than in the Army. He had heard no complaints that it had been adopted in the Army. It was adopted simply for this reason, because it was thought necessary that the officers, when employed in line, should be clothed in the same dress as the men.


understood that the reason they did away with their bearskin cap was, that the price of bears had risen.

Vote agreed to.

A sum of 87,376l., being part of a sum of 173,376l., of which 86,000l. had been granted on account, to defray the charge of General Staff officers, and officers of the hospitals, serving with Her Majesty's forces at home and abroad, and of Her Majesty's garrison of the Tower of London, from 1st April, 1849, to 31st March, 1850, was next proposed to be voted.


objected to the sum proposed to be voted for the expenses of the staff at Malta. He regretted to say there was not a single military man in the kingdom who would defend the propriety of having a civil governor in Malta. No man could say that a military post should be governed by a civil officer, or that the division which had taken place of the offices of the governor and commander of the forces should have been made. He wished to test the opinions of hon. Gentlemen, for the purpose of ascertaining who would favour a job, and who would not favour a job; and he would, therefore, move that the staff allowance of the lieutenant-general should be stopped after the 1st of September.


The hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to state some sum.


said, the sum he proposed to take off was the staff pay of the lieutenant-general for six months, 779l.


thought that the hon. Gentleman, without understanding much of the subject on which he had spoken, had characterised the transaction in a manner that was utterly unjust and unjustifiable, if he meant to call the arrangement that had been made for the government of Malta a job. He did not know anything which the people of Malta had longer called for than the appointment of a civil governor of that island, and he did not know an appointment ever made more successful or more conducive to the welfare of that island. When his noble Friend the Colonial Secretary felt called upon to appoint a civil governor of that island, he took into account that there would be an increase of expense, and he had reduced the salary of the governor by deducting 500l. a year from it to meet that expense. From the island there had been no complaint—no remonstrance. [Mr. OSBORNE: They do not pay the expense.] From the island no complaint was heard; on the contrary, that appointment had called forth the strongest expressions of approbation and satisfaction. They could not appoint a civil governor of Malta without increasing the expense. The former governor (Sir Patrick Stuart) was a military officer, and united in himself the offices of the governor and commander of the troops, and therefore when they separated the offices the expense was increased. What had been done by Mr. More O'Ferrall since his appointment? He (Mr. Hawes) did not wish to speak disparagingly of the preceding administration of the island. Sir Patrick Stuart was a gentleman of ability, and administered the government to the satisfaction at least of previous Secretaries of State; but when Mr. More O'Ferrall went to the island, there was great popular discontent and dissatisfaction. That feeling was allayed by the satisfaction which Mr. More O'Ferrall had given, and the reforms introduced by him were far greater than the total expenditure incurred. It was quite true that the additional expenditure falls upon the Imperial Government; but were they not to regard the interests of the people of Malta when they called for a civil government? Complaints previously were made, and petitions were sent from Malta. Since Mr. More O'Ferrall was appointed, no complaint had been made, and trade had increased. He had inquired into and reformed the various institutions of the island; and he (Mr. Hawes) did not know an instance in the whole range of colonial government to which he could refer in terms of stronger justification than to the appointment of a civil governor in Malta.


As the trade of the population of Malta has increased under Mr. More O'Ferrall's management, I don't see why they should not pay for the civil governor themselves.


begged to say that he did not mean to cast any reflection on Mr. More O'Ferrall, but he was determined to press his Amendment to a division.

Motion made and question put, that the sum of 86,597l. be granted.

The Committee divided;—Ayes 17; Noes 50: Majority 33.

List of the AYES.
Christy, S. Pilkington, J.
Cobden, R. Pryse, P.
Colvile, C. R. Sibthorp, Col.
Dick, O,. Smith, J. B.
Fergus, J. Tenison, E. K.
Fox, W. J. Thompson, G.
Hardcastle, J. A. Wawn, J. T.
Lindsay, hon. Col. TELLERS.
Muntz, G. F. Lockhart, W.
Osborne, R. Spooner, R.
List of the NOES.
Adair, R. A. S. Magan, W. H.
Anson, hon. Col. Maitland, T.
Baines, M. T. Matheson, A.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T. Matheson, Col.
Bellew, R. M. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Paget, Lord C.
Brockman, E. D. Parker, J.
Brotherton, J. Perfect, R.
Busfeild, W. Power, Dr.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Power, N.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Pusey, P.
Craig, W. G. Raphael, A.
Dundas, Adm. Reynolds, J.
Ebrington, Visct. Rich, H.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Romilly, Sir J.
French, F. Slaney, R. A.
Harris, R. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Hastie, A. Thompson, Col.
Hawes, B. Vane, Lord H.
Hay, Lord J. Wellesley, Lord C.
Hayter, rt. hon. W. G. Willyams, H.
Hobhouse, T. B. Williamson, Sir H.
Howard, Lord E. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Keppell, hon. G. T.
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Tufnell, H.
Lewis, G. C. Hill, Lord M.

Vote agreed to.


complained that the estimates were generally brought on in the Epsom week—on the night of a ball or a rout, or whenever some other flummery was going on. He did not see any of the First Ministers in their places, but he supposed they were busy elsewhere making up their books.


could not allow the vote respecting the volunteer corps or yeomanry to pass without observing that a new regulation had recently been adopted, which was likely to reduce the efficiency of the corps. To keep up proper discipline it was absolutely necessary that the yeomanry of the country should be called out annually to do regimental duty, and be inspected by a military officer; but under the existing regulation the colonel had the option of either assembling the whole of his corps, as a regiment, or in detachments on the voluntary system.


said, the regulation was only to apply to the present year. Last year, all the yeomanry regiments were inspected by military officers, and the result proved highly creditable to the men and officers; so creditable, indeed, that it was thought, for the convenience of some of the regiments, that the inspection might be dispensed with this year. Such a course, it was found, would save the country 15,000l.; and for these two reasons the permanent duty had been dispensed with for this year.

The following votes were agreed to without discussion: 47,199l. Public Military Departments. 9,408l. Royal Military College. 10,298l. Royal Military Asylum, 33,286l. Volunteer Corps. 8,120l. Rewards for Distinguished Services. 39,908l., Pay of General Officers. 28,000l. Full Pay for Reduced and Retired Officers. 200,000l. Half Pay and Military Allowances. 22,156l. Foreign Half Pay. 64,778l. Widows' Pensions. 47,500l. Compassionate List.

On the vote for 18,541l., being part of 35,441l. of which 17,000l. had already been granted to defray the charge of Chelsea and Kilmainham Hospitals, having been proposed,


remarked that some time ago it was recommended that the Civil Board of Chelsea Hospital should be abolished, and its duties transferred to the Horse Guards, but nevertheless he found it was still charged for in this estimate. Colonel Alderson, who held an office under the Railway Commission, and retained his pay as a lieutenant-colonel of engineers, appeared to be in the receipt of 700l. as secretary to this board. He wished to have this explained, and to know how it was that Mr. Neave, the former secretary, was allowed to retain possession of his house, putting the public to the expense of furnishing another house for the present secretary?


replied, that as the office of assistant secretary had been abolished, it was necessary to continue the secretaryship so long as the board remained in existence. With regard to the second question, Mr. Neave had previously held the office of secretary for many, many years; he was failing in life, and it was thought somewhat hard to remove him from the dwelling he had occupied so long.

Vote agreed to.

On the vote for 624,053l, being part of 1,224,853l., of which part had already been granted for defraying the charge of the Outpensioners of Chelsea Hospital; of pensions granted to discharged Negro soldiers; of pensioners from Hanoverian Corps which served with the British Army in 1793, 1794, and 1795; and of the military organisation of Outpensioners in the united kingdom, having been proposed.


thought this was the proper time to ask a question relative to an item of 60,000l. which had hitherto been paid by the East India Company, on account of the non-effective service of the Army. The question he wished to ask was, whether Government had taken at all into their consideration the increasing proportion of the Army which now served in India. This sum of 60,000l. seemed to him to be very disproportionate, considering the number of effective officers constantly serving in India.


was not quite sure that it was not an inadequate sum; but certainly when the arrangement was made between the East India Company and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was considered quite inadequate. Taking into consideration the receipts of the East India Company, and the circumstances under which the sum was paid, he was by no means inclined to think that it was disproportionate to the non-effective branch of our military force that had been employed in India.


protested against any additional burdens being thrown upon the impoverished people of India.

Vote agreed to; as was the following vote for 19,000l., being part of 38,000l., of which 19,000l. had already been paid for defraying the charge of allowances, compensations, and emoluments in the nature of Superannuation, or Retired Allowances, to persons formerly belonging to several public departments.

The Resolutions to be reported on Thursday next.

Committee to sit again on Thursday next.

The House adjourned at half-after Nice o'clock till Thursday next.