HC Deb 27 July 1854 vol 135 cc821-7

Order for Committee read.


said, he wished to call the attention of the Government to the hardship inflicted on counties by the new principle adopted, whereby, instead of merely having to find conveniences for keeping militia stores, the county rates were burdened with the expense of erecting militia barracks, which put the county he had the honour to represent to a cost of from 12,000l. to 14,000l. The ordinary military barracks were paid for out of the general funds of the nation, and he saw no reason why that course should not be adopted with respect to this description of barracks, especially considering the heavy charges to which the county rates were already subject, He hoped some hon. Gentlemen who represented counties would take the matter up, as, he assured them, it was well deserving of attention.


said, his constituents felt very strongly the burden that was about to be imposed on county rates, and on their behalf he most strongly objected to the Bill. He thought they had a good right to complain of the way in which the Bill had been introduced and pushed forward, with clauses and alterations that were not known to hon. Members generally.


said, he could assure the noble Lord the Home Secretary that a very strong feeling existed in the counties with regard to the additional charges thrown upon the county rates by the Bill introduced by the noble Lord at the end of the last Session, and adopted by the House. That measure had compelled the counties, not merely to establish storehouses for the militia, but also something like barracks upon a small scale. On a former occasion the expense of pro- viding storehouses in the two divisions of the county he represented did not exceed 50l. a year, but now the county of Lincoln was called upon to provide parade grounds in the neighbourhood of Lincoln and Grantham, and he believed that the expense thrown upon the two divisions of the county for making these arrangements would amount to not less than 20,000l. He thought, if the Government intended to have expensive storehouses erected, that the better course would be to place the whole control of such matters under the Board of Ordnance, by whom the public service would be more efficiently carried out, instead of saddling the counties with the heavy charges proposed to be thrown upon them. He hoped the noble Lord would consent to throw the whole, or at least a portion, of those charges upon the Consolidated Fund.


said, he must appeal to hon. Members, whether this was not anticipating a discussion which would arise more properly in Committee on the clauses, and he, therefore, would submit to hon. Members that it would be better to allow Mr. Speaker to leave the Chair.


said, he thought it was more convenient to discuss such matters before Mr. Speaker left the Chair. The noble Lord the Home Secretary brought in a Bill at the end of the last Session, without any previous notice, to defray the charges for the pay, clothing, and other contingent expenses of the disembodied militia; and from the title of that measure no one could have supposed that the Government were about to throw upon the counties an entirely new and onerous charge for the building of barracks. The power of calling upon the counties to pay these expenses rested, not with the county magistrates, but with the deputy lieutenants, who were not now necessarily landed proprietors, and who, therefore, might have little, if any, interest in the amount of rates with which the counties were burdened. If these changes were made year by year, they would put the counties to so much expense that the counties, he apprehended, in self-defence, would refuse to do anything, and would leave Government to its remedy by mandamus.


said, he also thought it a grievance on the counties that they should be compelled to endure a burden which ought, on every principle of justice, to fall on the country at large.


said, there was a new principle involved in the Bill, totally different to that which occurred in former times of war. The Bill last year was got through the House in a way not very creditable to the legislation of that House. To show how the Bill worked in his county, he would state the cost the county of Kent was formerly put to, and the cost they would be put to by the Bill. The cost was, previous to this Bill, about 80l., and the cost now was estimated to be not less than first to lay out 10,000l. for two regiments, and then they would have to provide for a third regiment of marine artillery, besides being exposed to the demands made by the Ordnance, which must be the cause of further expense. Then there were repairs, fuel, keeping up of barracks, &c., and these alone would cost more than the whole of the charge in previous years. He could only look upon this as the introduction of a new principle, and although quite ready to say that counties ought to bear their fair share of expense, he must call upon the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) to consider what he was doing, and the great dissatisfaction he was causing in counties by this enormous increase of expenditure. He thought it was no answer to say that the expenditure would be spread over a series of years, for he deemed it most objectionable that the counties should run into debt instead of paying as they went on.


said, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) intimated that no one could have inferred from the title of the Act what its contents were; but he thought a reference to the clause and the circumstances would show that the opinion was not correct. He had no wish to add to the expenses, and would willingly take the words of the clause of last year. There was no intention to bring in under cover of this Act subjects which were not strictly connected with the objects of that Act. The Bill in question did not pass without discussion, as it was discussed at the time. With regard also to the complaint made by the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire, one of the clauses relating to store rooms, adopted in the Act of last Session, had formed a regular portion of every Militia Act passed.


said, fraud was not imputed; it was only charged that matters were introduced in the Bill which the House was not prepared for. The complaint was that Government took ad- vantage of thin Houses to get these expenses sanctioned.


said, he must protest against the principle of the Bill, which was to make that a local charge which ought to be a national charge.


hoped that if any relief were granted to English counties, it would also be extended to Scotch counties.

House in Committee.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Place for Militia Storehouse to be provided).


moved to leave out "deputy lieutenant of such county, at any general meeting convened for that purpose," and insert "the justices of the peace for such county at the general quarter sessions next ensuing assembled." The magistrates were the proper guardians of the county expenditure, and not the deputy lieutenants, who were not now required to have property qualifications.


said, he concurred with the hon. Gentleman, that it was more fitting that justices of the peace should be intrusted with these arrangements than that they should be left to the deputy lieutenants, and had, therefore, no objection to the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.


moved that, after the words "providing that the premises obtained under the clause shall contain an orderly and guard room," the words "cells and magazines" be inserted.


said, he must oppose the Amendment on the ground that it was unnecessary to incur a large expenditure for providing cells and magazines, which would, in all probability, be required in many cases for a very limited period.


said, he considered that the erection of cells in connection with the storehouses for the confinement of men who were guilty of breaches of military discipline would entail an unnecessary expense. With regard to magazines also, it was not probable that any amount of ammunition would be required for the use of the militia, for which a place of deposit might not be found without difficulty. A supply of thirty rounds of ball cartridge per man, for a regiment comprising 1,000 men, might be deposited in a very small space, even in a closet or cupboard, and he, therefore, thought that the erection of expensive magazines was altogether unnecessary.


said, he differed in opinion from the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) on the subject of magazines, and considered it absolutely necessary that they should be provided. He might mention, with reference to the regiment he had the honour to command, that very recently a quantity of ammunition, consisting of rounds of blank cartridge, was obtained for the use of the corps, and, as there was no safe place in which it could be kept, it was deposited under the adjutant's bed.

Amendment postponed.


moved to omit from the clause all the words after the words "militia stores," with the view of relieving the counties from the expense of barracks, and providing for such barrack accommodation as was required out of the Consolidated Fund. His object was to raise the question as to what portion of the expense incurred under this Bill should fairly be borne by the counties. He considered that, if the militia were made a national force, the funds necessary for its maintenance ought to be derived from the national resources. He thought that the portion of the expenditure for the maintenance of the militia, to be borne respectively by the counties and by the nation, ought to be clearly and distinctly defined.


said, he believed that, if the Government would consent that the necessary expenditure should be defrayed in equal proportions from the county rates and the Consolidated Fund, such an arrangement would be satisfactory to all parties.


said, he thought that the proposition of the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Colonel Gilpin) was a very fair one, and would recommend its adoption by the Government.


said, he considered it unnecessary to erect extensive barracks for militia regiments, which were seldom out for a longer period than twenty-eight days during the year. He hoped that hon. Members who represented boroughs would resist the attempt to throw the charge for this purpose upon the Consolidated Fund.


said, he apprehended that the object of the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Sotheron) was to limit the expense to which counties were subjected to the building of stores, and to leave the Government to provide any other buildings and to meet any other expenses which were requisite for the maintenance of the force necessary to ensure the security of the ammunition, arms, and stores, in houses which would probably not afford many advantages for defence, and which might be situated in the midst of a large population. The effect of omitting the proviso, however, would be to render the clause almost valueless.


said, it was his intention to support the Amendment, unless some assurance were given by the Government that they were prepared to charge a fair proportion of the expense to be incurred under this clause upon the Consolidated Fund.


said, this Bill was not new in principle, but simply defined that which was left vague in the existing law. During the late war the militiamen carried their arms on their shoulders, and wore their coats upon their backs. In such a state of things there was no occasion for the erection of storehouses. That necessity arose for the period during which the militia regiments were disembodied or not assembled for military purposes. It was quite a fair question, no doubt, whether the expenses should be borne wholly by the counties or partly by the country at large. But that question did not arise on the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for North Wiltshire, which only went to prevent those buildings from being as perfect and secure as was desirable, by whomsoever built, whether by the Government alone or by the counties alone, or by the Government and the counties conjointly. He would seriously urge upon the Committee this consideration, that if the proviso should be struck out, there would be no security that these structures would be sufficient for the purposes intended. The passing of the Amendment and the leaving out of the proviso would effectually interfere to prevent the attainment of the object in view, and hon. Gentlemen by supporting the Amendment would only defeat their own intentions. He considered that the best course would be, first to determine that adequate storehouses should be constructed, and then to decide by whom the cost of their construction should be borne.


said, that considering the object of the Amendment was to raise the question whether it was fair to call upon the counties to bear all the expenses to be incurred under the clause, he would give his vote in favour of the Amendment.


said, he conceived that the question which this Amendment was intended to raise would more properly come before the Committee upon the 4th clause, but at the same time he thought there was nothing to prevent the noble Lord opposite (Lord Palmerston) from now making a statement which might be satisfactory, and might prevent the necessity of pressing the Amendment.


said, he must complain that this clause would throw an unfair proportion of the expense upon the counties, and, unless the Government would consent to place a portion of that expense on the Consolidated Fund, he should support the Amendment.


said, he would suggest that, as the war could not last for ever, and as it was to be hoped the arrangements contemplated by the clause would be only of a temporary character, the Government might be enabled to hire buildings which would afford all the accommodation that was required.

Question put, "That the words 'Provided always' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 94; Noes 65: Majority 29.