HC Deb 18 June 1852 vol 122 cc924-8

Order for Committee read.


said, he had to complain that no allowance for forage for officers' horses was made in the Bill. He found there were upwards of 200 officers, colonels, and lieutenant colonels, who would be necessarily mounted, to be embodied under the new Militia Bill, and he considered that a proper allowance for forage ought to be made. Now he wished to know whether the clause in this Bill applied to the proposed new embodiment of the militia, or only to the old system, as he distinctly understood the right hon. Secretary at War to say it did not apply to the new enrolment?


said, he had been misunderstood by the hon. and gallant Member with respect to the operation of the Bill. He was now willing to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman the information he sought. With respect to the application for allowance for forage, the omission was not accidental. The Estimates had been framed with a strict regard to economy, and it had been decided after due consideration that it was not necessary to increase those Estimates by an allowance to officers for forage. Every one who knew anything of military affairs knew that it would not be at all necessary to mount field officers during the first year, because, as the men could only be drilled in squads and companies for twenty-one days, the officers could inspect them just as well on foot. With respect to the efficiency of this particular branch of the service, he agreed with the hon. and gallant Member that everything ought to be done to ensure the efficiency of the militia, and especially to establish a good feeling between officers and men. He could assure the House that the Estimates had been framed on the advice of competent military authorities, and that, without impairing the efficiency of the militia, the Estimates had been materially reduced. He was glad to be able to state, that instead of 450,000l., which it was thought would be necessary, the charge would be reduced to 283,000l.


said, it was a mockery to talk of amendment in the Militia Bill without due consideration, which it could not have at this period of the Session and in the present state of the House. He protested against the mode of legislation at the morning sittings, and after midnight, when the majority of Members had retired. He protested against this mode of legislation. He stayed in the House on the previous night until he could no longer bear the fatigue, having sat in the House from 12 o'clock in the day till 12 o'clock at night; and now he found that after that hour, and when many Members beside himself were absent from the same cause, many important Bills had been forced on and disposed of, some of them being thrown out owing entirely to the state of the House. This was not doing justice to the character of the House. He had objected—not factiously—from the first against the gradual but heavy increase which had now been going on for several years in our naval and military expenditure, and especially against the, as he contended it to be, perfectly needless expense to be incurred under the Militia Bill. He much regretted to find this country running in the same course as several Continental nations, and he much feared the same result of financial embarrassment would follow. Look at France. At this moment, in consequence of the enormous expense of her military force, she found herself compelled to resort to that class of taxation which we were abandoning. So it was with Austria; and yet we were actually galloping in the same direction. He believed it would be found in all countries that the great cause of revolutions had been financial pressure. They were keeping to the utmost tension that tax which had enabled Sir Robert Peel to carry those commercial changes which had proved of so much advantage to the country. The amount produced by the Income and Property Tax, about 5,500,000l., was more than absorbed by the increased naval and military establishments. Therefore, he was surprised at the course now being pursued by a Government which professed anxiety to lessen the burden of taxation. The right hon. Secretary at War congratulated the House upon the expense being only 283,000l., instead of 450,000l.; hut, instead of regarding it as any saving at all, he looked upon the whole of that large sum as wasted. Under the Government of the Duke of Wellington, the expense of the national defences was 6,000,000l. or 7,000,000l. less than at present. He repeated that he must protest against the mode in which the House was legislating on important subjects affecting the well-being of the country at this period of the Session, when one-half the Members were attending to their elections, and the other half were engaged upon Committees upstairs. Yesterday thirty-five Orders stood on the paper, most of them referring to subjects of great public importance, and the way in which some of them were hurried through after midnight, was by no means creditable to the House. There was a time when he should have felt it his duty to take some effectual step to put a a stop to such a mode of proceeding, but now he could do no more than protest against it. He was ready to admit that the Government were acting under special circumstances, and he was not one to do anything to increase their difficulties; but he felt bound to point out the danger of allowing the course now pursued to form a precedent for future Sessions. He hoped previous to the next Parliament that Ministers would consider the means of reducing not merely our heavy expenditure, but the heavy amount of taxation which weighed upon the people. The amount levied upon the industry of this country in the shape of taxes was not less than 57,000,000l. annually, and taking into account municipal and county charges, it was upwards of 65,000,000l. a year. This was a burden which, considering the great reduction which had taken place, and was still going on, in the profits on capital employed in all departments of industry, could not long be borne. It was well known that at this moment many men of 150l. a year were more free from debt than others of 15,000l. a year. He warned the Government against the dangers which might arise from future commercial depression, under which it would be found difficult to maintain order, should the taxation continue at its present amount. There was, he really believed, no country where taxes were paid with less discontent than in England; but there was a limit to public forbearance; and as Her Majesty's Ministers had severally taken an oath that they would endeavour to promote the interests of the country, and to maintain the stability of the Throne, he hoped that during the recess they would prepare a plan for revising the whole system of taxation, more especially as, without such a revision, the Income Tax, which was renewed only for one year, could not possibly be continued. These were matters of deep importance, and unless the difficulties of the case were fairly grappled with, many of the younger Members of that House might live to regret that remedial measures had not been adopted in time.


said, he could exculpate the Government from any blame with regard to the late sitting of the previous evening; the Government did not press any Bill which was objected to, after the New Zealand Bill; and the loss of those Bills, which had been referred to, and which he regretted as much as the hon. Member for Montrose, was owing to the pertinacity of Members on their (the Opposition) side of the House.

House in Committee.


said, there was no House [alluding to forty Members not being present], and therefore this Bill must rest upon the sole responsibility of the Ministers of the Crown.


said, of course the Ministers were responsible for every measure they brought before Parliament; but he thought the reason of there being a thin House upon that Bill was, that the principle of it, giving Government power to raise 80,000 men, and of further increasing the force to 120,000 men, had been established by the decisions of that House, and would in all probability be affirmed by the other House in the course of a few days. This Bill was merely the means of paying the expenses of another measure, which would not have been pass- ed without repeated and most thorough discussion in both Houses of Parliament.

Bill passed through Committee.

House resumed. Bill reported.

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