HC Deb 25 February 1853 vol 124 cc668-70

said, he now would beg, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the House to the quality of the bread that was supplied to Her Majesty's forces in Great Britain, under the existing contracts. In the union workhouses, in the county gaols, and in their convict establishments, the most unexceptionable quality of bread was supplied, and when it was found that the bread supplied to the troops was not of a good quality, it was natural that it should excite discontent amongst them. Representations had been made at various periods with regard to this evil; and the mode in which it was attempted to be redressed was felt to be ten times more mischievous than the evil itself. Permission had been most unwisely given that the troops should pay the difference to the contractor, to be furnished with a better description of bread than he was bound by the contract to furnish. In his opinion that led to serious evils, and tended to make the contractor furnish a worse description of bread than he would otherwise have been able to do, even under the contract. It might have the effect of inducing him to take the contract at an extremely low rate, by which he might be a loser, hoping to be able to pay himself by what he might receive in addition from the soldiers. The household troops were differently supplied. They were allowed through their colonel to make monthly contracts for their bread. The consequence was, that the burden which had fallen on the line, was totally avoided by the household troops, and no charge was made to them for receiving sufficiently good bread. He thought it was not too much to expect that a wholesome kind of household bread should constantly be in use among all classes of troops in the service. In the event of a bad harvest, which would, of course, considerably increase the price of bread, the most serious inconvenience might ensue to the service. It was on these grounds that he had felt it his duty to bring these subjects under the consideration of the Government; and he could now only beg that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War would give the matter his serious consideration.


said, the subject of the mode of supplying the soldiers with bread came before a Committee on the Army and Ordnance department, which sat two or three years ago; and in consequence of the recommendations of that Committee, which were drawn up by Lord Hardinge, Sir Willoughby Gordon, and Sir Randolph Routh, it was decided that for the future the quality of the bread which was called "seconds" should be used among the soldiers. It was further decided, on the evidence given before that Committee, that, upon the whole, what was called the regimental system of contract appeared to give the most satisfaction to the troops. The system in Ireland was by means of the commissariat, in England by the ordnance contract system, and in the Guards the system of regimental con- tracts were in practice. The commissariat was the most expensive; and the regimental that which gave most satisfaction to the men individually; hut there was this disadvantage in it, that in case of disturbance or war that system of contract would break down; for they would then require an organisation for which they had no preparation. There was also this difficulty: where a whole regiment was together in one place, the contract would be made very cheap; but where companies of the regiment were stationed in different countries, they were supplied with bread at a very exorbitant rate It was not, perhaps, just to describe the bread in use among the troops as bad, seeing that the same kind of bread was frequently used by the aristocratic classes on account of its exceedingly wholesome and nutritious quality, and generally by the labouring and all other classes who were accustomed to use bread as a principal article of food.

Main Question put, and agreed to.