HC Deb 29 June 1855 vol 139 cc305-7

said, he wished to inquire of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War, what measures were being adopted to remove the complaints made of the oppressive practice of billeting the militia in Scotland?


said, he could cite instances which had come within his own knowledge of the hardship and inconvenience to which many families in the towns of Scotland were put, by billeting soldiers upon them, in cases where they had no kind of accommodation for them.


said, he had, upon the part of his constituents, been for some months past in communication with the War Department upon the subject, and had received various replies from different officials—all, however, very unsatisfactory. At first it was said that the subject was under consideration; then, that it rested with the Ordnance; next, with the Minister for war; and, at last, Lord Panmure declared that instructions had been sent to the officers of militia, which it turned out afterwards had not been sent, and so the nuisance continued. It was a most serious nuisance; as an instance of which he mentioned that a married couple had militiamen sleeping in the same room with them for weeks together.


said, it might be inferred, from the many communications which had been made to himself on the subject, that the present was not the first time he had heard complaints from Scotland arising out of the inconvenience which the inhabitants of those towns which had been selected as head quarters experienced in consequence of having the militia billeted upon them. But they all knew that, whatever the grievance might be, it was one of those inconveniences which a state of war rendered necessary to be borne, and it was no more in the power of the Government to remove a grievance of that sort than it was for them to obviate any other grievance incident to a war so long as that war continued. No doubt, the matter complained of by the people of those towns in Scotland which had been referred to was a hardship, but he must deny that it was one for which the Government was responsible. The Bill regulating the billeting of the militia in Scotland was only passed last Session. It was by that Bill enacted that the militia should be billeted in Scotland in the same way as were Her Majesty's forces, and that way was according to the custom which prevailed in that country at the time of the Union. All that the Government could do was to apportion the burden as equitably as possible, and to reduce it as far as was practicable, which they had done. The evil was only one-half of what it might be, for the quota of Scotland for the militia was 10,000 men, while the whole number under arms did not exceed 5,000. A considerable number had been placed in barracks, and it was desirable to do the same with regard to all; but the fact was, the barrack accommodation in Scotland was very limited in extent; and, moreover, several of the barracks were occupied by the depôts of Highland regiments which were serving in the Crimea, and those depôts, for recruiting purposes, it was desirable to retain there. Every effort had been made to lodge the militia in barracks, and, he believed, about 2,000 were so accommodated. The remaining 3,000 must be billeted upon the towns, or the Government must either hire buildings or go to the expense of erecting hut accommodation for them. It was true that the Board of Ordnance had been directed to hire suitable buildings, but it was found impossible to do so; and, as to forming encampments in Scotland, as was being done in this country and in Ireland, he thought, until the arrangements respecting the Scotch militia were quite determined on, it would be unwise to incur the expense of several thousand of pounds for each regiment. At the same time, the Government were desirous to lessen the inconvenience complained of, and would use every effort to do so.