HC Deb 29 March 1855 vol 137 cc1296-7

said, he desired to ask an explanation of an answer given the other evening by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Peel) the Under Secretary at War, as to the alleged refusal of Lord Methuen, the colonel of the Wilts Militia, to embark his men on board a certain transport ship which had been provided by the Government. The hon. Gentleman had most unaccountably stated that the reason of the refusal of the noble Lord was that the ship was not a steamer but a sailing vessel. He desired to know if the hon. Gentleman meant to convey to the House that this was really the only reason why the noble Lord had objected to embark his men? If so, then he desired the hon. Gentleman to be so good as to explain the sense in which he used the word "object." [Order, order.] If it were intended to prevent his putting such questions as might elicit an explanation of this extraordinary statement on the part of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of War, he (Colonel North) would most assuredly move the adjournment of the House in order to enable himself to speak upon the subject strictly within its technical rules, for the statement of the hon. Gentleman had caused the greatest concern throughout the officers of the army and militia, as this was the first time in the history of the army that any officer had objected to go on board a Government ship simply because it was not a steamer. It must be known that the only reason which could possibly justify a commanding officer in refusing to allow his men to embark on board a vessel must be a conviction that she was in such a state as to resider their conveyance in her unsafe. For the sake, then, not merely of the character of Lord Methuen—who would have embarked in a collier if necessary—but for the sake of the discipline and credit of the army at large, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would explain the sense in which he had stated that Lord Methuen had objected to allow his men to embark on board the transport because she was a sailing ship.


The hon. Member has forgotten to move the adjournment of the House.


then moved that "the House do now adjourn."


I put it to the House whether this kind of proceeding is not exceedingly irregular? First, I object to the practice of putting speeches in the form of questions; and then the hon. and gallant Gentleman, by way of curing that irregularity, fell into another; for I appeal to Mr. Speaker whether, on moving the adjournment, a Member ought not to confine himself to the reasons for the adjournment. Now, Sir, as to the questions put by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I believe the real fact to have been this: that there was no want of zeal on the part of Lord Methuen, nor any indisposition to do the best that could be done for the service; but it appeared, on an examination of the ship, that she had not the accommodation for all the persons who were to embark on board, and which would be fitting for such a voyage.


The House, Sir, ought to recollect that the irregularity of which the noble Lord has complained originated in a correct answer not having been given by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary at War to a question of an important character, which was, why the commanding officer of a body of militia had declined to allow his men to embark on board a Government transport. The answer of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary at War, on the part of the Government, was, I must say, eminently unsatisfactory. And not only was it unsatisfactory, but it was calculated to lead to serious misconceptions in the public mind as to the state of discipline in the army. This was a matter which it was clear must be brought before the House; and I should have imagined that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary at War, would have availed himself of this opportunity to explain his extraordinary statement.


said, that Lord Methuen had heard that the Lancashire regiment of Militia had been sent out in a steamer, and had naturally asked for what reason the Wiltshire regiment of Militia was to be sent in a sailing ship.

Motion withdrawn.