HC Deb 22 June 1852 vol 122 cc1178-80

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third Time."


said, he had supported the Militia Bill because he believed the enrolment of the militia was necessary for the proper defence of the country, but he was very much disappointed at the manner in which this important measure was proposed to be carried out. The right hon. Secretary at War had issued a circular with regard to the Chelsea Pensioners and the militia which, in his opinion, was highly objectionable. The militia, if he understood the circular rightly, were to be drilled by pensioners, and not in battalions by field officers, but in squads; and he had no hesitation in stating that if that arrangement were carried out, the militia would be found to be a very inefficient body. The experiment, he was convinced, would disappoint the country, and he had therefore felt it to be his duty to warn the Government of the error they were falling into.


said, he begged to ask what was the intention of the Government with regard to the policy of allowing the formation of voluntary rifle corps? The time had arrived when the public ought to know what were the reasons why the Government refused to accept the offers which had been made for the voluntary formation of such corps. An opinion had been thrown out, that as the persons making the offer belonged to the middle orders of society, the Government did not like to trust arms in their hands; but that he did not for a moment believe. He would take that opportunity of putting a question to the right hon. the Secretary at War. It appeared to be the intention to attach a portion of the militia force to the artillery. He hoped, in that case, means would be adopted to give the men a more able tuition than was usually given. Though he did not approve of the Militia Bill, still, as the country was to have it, he was anxious that the force should be made as efficient as possible. With regard to the accoutrements and arms of the men, he hoped such alterations would be made in them as the experience of medical and scientific men had of late years suggested and recommended.


said, that this was not exactly the time for making the observations which the hon. and gallant Member had offered to the House, as the Bill now before the House was merely the Annual Bill for the payment of the staff for the militia, and quite distinct from the Militia Bill. But he should be sorry, however, to pass by in silence the points adverted to by the hon. and gallant Member. It was quite true that it was proposed to take 3,000 of the men to be raised under the Militia Act to be trained to artillery practice, and these would have a trifle extra pay for their services. This portion of the force would be sent to the artillery to be instructed with them and by their officers by which the expense of drilling by separate officers would be saved. He expected that in a very short time, under such instructions, the men would be so far efficient as to be able to perform the secondary duties of artillerymen. With regard to the clothing of the men, the Master General of the Ordnance would provide it. Patterns had already been considered. With regard to the arms, should the militia be embodied, the Government would endeavour to give them a better description of musket than was formerly used.


said, in reply to the question respecting the acceptance of the offers made to form rifle corps, he could assure the hon. and gallant Member (Sir De L. Evans) it was not from any feeling of distrust of the middle classes that the Government had declined those offers. On the contrary, if any necessity for such volunteer corps arose, the Government would not only not refuse any such offers, but would accept them with gratitude. As to the question whether the Government was now prepared to sanction the voluntary system, it should be remembered that the Government had to get the militia in the first instance by voluntary enlistment, and, should that fail them, they would have to resort to the compulsory method of the ballot. Now, what would be the effect of having a voluntary enlisting militia in the first instance, and also accepting the services of voluntary corps, if, after all, you should be obliged to have recourse to the ballot? It must be quite obvious that you would be taking away many men who would be liable to the ballot; and in that case you would be making the ballot operate with greater severity upon the remaining portion of the community who would be liable to that compulsory proceeding. It was therefore as a matter of prudence and precaution that the Government were not willing to sanction the formation of these volunteer corps at the present moment, when there was no immediate necessity for them.

Bill read 3°, and passed.

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