§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Speaker do now leave the Chair."
MR. COWAN rose to move the Motion of which he had given notice, namely—
That in the opinion of this House the practice of billeting soldiers of the Militia and of the Line, in Scotland, upon private families, is injurious to the comfort and discipline of the men, as well as oppressive to the people; and that it is the duty of the Government to take means permanently to abolish the grievance.
The hon. Member said that in bringing this subject under the notice of the House it was necessary that, in the first place, he should state what was the existing practice in this matter. In the Mutiny Act of England and Ireland victualling houses were distinctly specified as those alone on which officers and soldiers could be legally billeted. By the Mutiny Act of scotland, however, it was provided that billeting should take place "according to the law of Scotland as it existed before the Union." Now, even if the practice which prevailed was perfectly legal at the time of the Union, it was equally clear that in the altered state of the country it should not be allowed to prevail any longer. The law on the subject, as it existed before the Union, was vague and uncertain, and he very much doubted even the legality of continuing the state of things which obtained at that period down to the present day. At that period Scotland might be considered to have been a semi-barbarous country; it had long been engaged in
bloody strife with England, and scarcely any taxes were paid—the services of the subject to the Crown being chiefly of a personal nature. But even if it were held to be strictly legal—which he did not, for he denied that there was anything in the Scotch Acts about billeting upon private families, especially in the Act of 1689—he (Mr. Cowan) maintained that it was quite unconstitutional, and on that ground he claimed the sympathy of the House for the complaints of the people of Scotland on the subject. There was the greatest variety in the modes of billeting in the several towns of Scotland; in some of these towns—Glasgow, for instance—houses of £3 rental were liable to receive one or two soldiers, while in other towns, houses of £5 only were liable. Those who distributed the billets had no check imposed on them, and the people of Scotland were, therefore, under a despotism in the matter. In fact, the amount of favouritism, and, in some cases, of oppression, created the greatest possible irritation. In Paisley, for example, 50,000 persons inhabiting houses of a certain class were exempt from the obligation of receiving billets; while the whole burden fell upon 10,000 people inhabiting other houses—a small minority of the population. He had presented a petition this day from two persons, named Pinkerton and Stewart, complaining of hardship and of partiality in regard to the billeting system, who, though they had sought redress, had not found it. The costs of these persons was in one case £24, and the only consolation they got was from an official of the court of quarter sessions, to which they had appealed—namely, the information that "they were victimised in order that other people should submit quietly." He (Mr. Cowan) was enabled to state that the billeting system was a grievous infliction upon private families. In Dalkeith he had been informed the soldiers, in some cases, had brought disease and filth into families on which they had been billeted, and their language in the presence of females was foul and gross beyond expression. Every family would be glad to get rid of the liability to billeting, except, perhaps, the very poorest in the community, to whom the miserable pittance of l½d. a night allowed for the soldier's lodging might be an object, to enable them to pay their rents. There had been cases of billeting upon a family who had but one room, when the four
children of the man and wife were obliged to leave their cot and sleep on the floor that the soldier might have a bed. There were various families who had only two or three rooms, one of which they had been obliged to give up to the use of the military. The hon. Member read several communications, to show that small families were much inconvenienced by the practice of having to billet the military. He felt much for the humbler classes; but if any good was derived by the soldier, something might be said in favour of the system. But the system was equally disadvantageous to the soldier. The billets were almost universally unwholesome and otherwise objectionable. Was there, therefore, any good reason why such a system should be maintained in Scotland? It was impossible that the military could present the same soldier-like appearance on coming out of these billets as they would do were they maintained in barracks. The mischief also extended to the higher ranks, many of whom had performed their duty so nobly to their country. He referred to the Lord Lieutenants, and particularly to a noble Duke (the Duke of Buccleuch), whose large possessions gave him almost the power of an autocrat in his district. He was aware this noble Duke had been most unjustly made the victim of much obloquy and odium arising from the system of billeting. For these reasons he thought the Government would do well to take up the case immediately with a view to an immediate remedy. It was of the highest importance that a good understanding should prevail between civilians and their gallant defenders, but the billeting system seriously endangered that good understanding. An Englishman's house was considered to be his castle; he demanded for Scotland the same right, and, if not conceded, he hoped a little gentle compulsion would be brought to bear upon Government. £2,000,000 had a few days since been voted for barracks, and yet not one farthing was allowed to Scotland for that purpose. He would therefore move the Amendment of which he had given notice.
§ SIR ANDREW AGNEW
, in seconding the Amendment, mentioned a glaring instance which had occurred in the small town of Newtonstewart, in Wigtoushire, a place of 3,000 inhabitants, where the militia of two counties, ever since its embodiment, for a period of nearly fourteen months, had been continually billeted. He 569 thought some compensation was due to the inhabitants of that place, especially since the Government had expressed an intention to expend a considerable sum in building suitable barracks there, which had not been done. A very small part of the sum which Government had been willing to devote to that purpose would be a great boon to the inhabitants divided amongst them.
Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—
In the opinion of this House, the practice of billeting Soldiers of the Militia and of the Line in Scotland upon private families is injurious to the comfort and discipline of the men, as well as oppressive to the people; and that it is the duty of the Government to take means to abolish the grievance," instead thereof.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, that one of the burghs which he represented was now paying at the rate of £600 a year for the quartering of only the depot of the Forfar and Kincardineshire Artillery. Before the removal of the principal portion of the regiment to Fort George, the inhabitants paid a tax much greater in amount. Since peace had been concluded the Government might not feel disposed to continue the embodiment of the militia; but, if they should, some other plan must be devised for housing the men. The present system was utterly destructive of all military discipline, and inflicted a burden too grievous to be borne upon a small section of the community, for purposes which were national. He did not think that the rural population of Scotland would longer submit to have the sanctity of their homes violated by men who were often chosen from the dregs of society, when no necessity could be shown for it, and when a remedy might easily he adopted.
§ MR. FREDERICK PEEL
said, that the termination of the war, it was evident, would put an end to all that could be considered as of real consequence in this matter. Undoubtedly the system of billeting had been felt to be attended with pressure, but this was owing to the militia being embodied, and the Government being under the necessity of placing them in the principal towns of their respective counties, whilst arrangements were making for the formation of those large encampments in different parts of the country, to which they were to be removed. Now, if the pressure of the system of billeting had been entirely owing to the embodiment of 570 the militia, it must follow that on the conclusion of peace the grievance would practically cease to exist; because, although it did not necessarily result that by the war coming to an end the militia would be ipso facto disembodied, and although the Crown was competent to maintain the militia still in an embodied condition, notwithstanding the termination of the war, there could be no doubt that the militia would not be kept up in an embodied state when the circumstances of the country should have rendered its maintenance no longer necessary. Therefore the grievance, whatever it might have been in the last two years, had ceased to have any practical existence at the present moment. But he must say that the Government had not omitted to make exertions to reduce the amount of this grievance. He believed the quota of the embodied militia, whom the Government might billet in Scotland, was upwards of 10,000 men; yet at the present time there were certainly not 2,000 men of the militia in billet throughout the whole of Scotland. It was impossible, therefore, that the billeting of so small a number should bear very oppressively on the people of Scotland. But the hon. Gentleman's Motion was not limited to the militia, but applied to the regular forces as well. It was true that the barracks were generally sufficient to accommodate the regular forces; but in Great Britain they were to be found only in particular points along the coast, or in the centre of military districts, and not as in Ireland, scattered over the whole country; and when the Government had occasion to move the troops from one part of the country to another, then, unless they could be taken in one day direct from one barrack to another, they must be accommodated with quarters at the place where they might be obliged to stop at nightfall on their journey; and on such occasions, if the Government were not to be allowed to make use of any buildings which were not their own property, they would be deprived of any resources or means of accommodating the troops. It was impossible, therefore, for the Government to dispense with billets in moving the regular forces throughout the country. The recruiting parties also must necessarily be dispersed throughout the country, and not confined to barracks; and the recruits, when they came in, billeted until they could be brought to headquarters. Again, it should be remembered that the militia 571 was a county force, which the Government had the power to call together in the event of war impending, or of any disturbances in the country; but that force would be of no value whatever if the Government had no power to place it in billets. It could not be recommended that the Government should provide, in every county, permanent barracks merely to meet the contingency of its being necessary, upon some particular occasion, to call the county force together; and it was therefore indispensable that the Government should retain the power of placing them in billets when necessary. No doubt there was a distinction between the system which prevailed in this country and the system in Scotland. In this country the troops were quartered exclusively on the innkeepers and stable-keepers, but in Scotland they were quartered on private families generally, excepting certain specified classes. But this difference was owing to a provision of the Act of Union, which prescribed that the system of billeting then in force in Scotland should continue, and by which therefore the Government was prevented from assimilating the law of Scotland to that of England. But he (Mr. F. Peel) must say that if he were asked whether, in the abstract, the system of this country or that of Scotland were the juster one, he should be rather inclined to give the preference to the system of Scotland; because it did appear to be somewhat unjust that a national burden should be placed on a particular class of Her Majesty's subjects, when there was no reason why it should not bear equally on all. Perhaps, therefore, in the abstract, the law of Scotland would appear to be more just; but he admitted that in practice the system in Scotland was attended with grievances which it would be desirable to get rid of, if Government had the means of doing so. But when the hon. Gentleman recommended that the liability should in Scotland be transferred from the community generally to one particular class, he ought to be prepared to show that if such a change took place, the Government would still have the means of accommodating the troops; whereas he (Mr. F. Peel) imagined that it would be found, if any particular class were marked out in Scotland for the liability to have troops billeted on them, that such a class was, in that country, not sufficiently numerous to accommodate the required number of soldiers. He could not, therefore, agree to the hon. Gentleman's Motion.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
observed, that petitions against this grievance had been repeatedly presented, and that the complaints of it had been silenced during the war by appeals to the patriotism of the Scotch people; but now the war was over, they were told that the militia was about to be disbanded, and that the nuisance, therefore, would no longer exist. Scotch Members were, therefore, right to press the subject now, although the war was at an end, in order to prevent Scotland, if the war should unfortunately again occur, from being placed in the same unfortunate position in which she was at present. The hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary for War, had urged, also, that the number of the militia billeted in Scotland was only 2,000. The fact was that the militia regiments in Scotland were not up to half their strength, and, consequently, the grievance was only one-half what it might be. The circumstances in which the Act of Union was passed were very different from the present. Scotland was then in a very disturbed state, a great part of the inhabitants of the country being hostile to the existing Government, and therefore it was absolutely necessary at that period for the Government to have power to quarter troops in private houses, so as to have the means of suppressing any riot or insurrection anywhere. But there was no reason why such a system, which was established a hundred and fifty years ago, should continue to exist now. Although, as the hon. Under Secretary stated, the militia would be disembodied at present, it was probable they would be called out for twenty-eight days' training every year, when the families of the humbler class would be subjected to having those men quartered upon them. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member for Edinburgh would not withdraw his Motion, unless a distinct pledge were given by the Government to provide barracks in Scotland, when the public finances should admit of it, so that this grievance might no longer be inflicted on the people.
§ MR. W. EWART
said, he was aware that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War had received many memorials on the subject now under consideration, and that the grievance had been strongly represented to him by the Scotch Members, and he therefore had hoped to have heard him both acknowledge the existence of that grievance, and propose 573 the remedy for it. But in the course of a rather long speech the hon. Gentleman had evaded the entire question, and it was not until he came to the close of that speech that he had at all touched upon it. Now, what was complained of was, that there should be one law to regulate billeting in England and Ireland, and another in Scotland. The poorest person in Scotland was liable to have soldiers forced upon him and his family, contrary to all notions of morality, while in England and Ireland no such thing existed. As it seemed that no hope of a remedy for such a state of things was to be expected from the hon. Gentleman, he would turn to the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, and he hoped that his appeal would not be in vain, as the grievance complained of was one contrary to the principles of morality and justice. Sheriff Barclay, who had written a digest of the laws of Scotland, expressly laid it down that the present law required alteration, and should not be allowed to exist; and he hoped to hear the Lord Advocate similarly express himself, for it was not only a grievance to private families, but also a grievance to the army itself, which could not well be prepared for war while lodged in private houses, instead of being quartered in barracks and encampments.
§ MR. JOHN MACGREGOR
regretted that any allusion should have been made to the Treaty of Union of Scotland with England. Since that period two rebellions had occurred in Scotland, but the memory of which the loyalty of the people had subsequently effaced. During, however, such a period it became necessary to adopt a different system in Scotland from that which prevailed in England and Ireland. But at the present time nothing was more obnoxious to the people of Scotland than the billeting system in that country. Although he could not expect the system to be immediately altered, yet he did hope that it would be ultimately changed, and assimilated to that which was pursued in England and Ireland.
said, he was quite aware of the pressure of this grievance on Scotland; but the House should consider how any attempt to remedy it would affect England, and how it would affect the public purse of the United Kingdom. In this country, if barracks were built for the militia, the expense would fall upon the counties; but it would be no such 574 easy matter to provide barracks, so far as the militia were concerned, unless Scotland were prepared to take the matter upon herself. But the grievance, such as it was, was, as the Under Secretary for War had justly stated, at present nearly at an end. There had been a great pressure during the last year, from the sudden emergency which had come upon the country. That emergency had now ceased to exist, and the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cowan) might therefore wait with patience until the Government should come forward and state the general principles on which they designed to maintain the military force in time of peace. The House had voted enormous sums of money during the last year for barracks in England or Ireland, and no account of that expenditure had yet been laid before them, nor any definite plan for the accommodation of the military force. In Ireland, most extensive buildings were being erected on the Curragh, including, as he was informed, two churches; and the same thing was going on at Aldershot. The House should be careful, then, how they encouraged any proposition to incur large expenditure to remedy every little grievance of this kind, until they were informed by the Government, as no doubt they would be as soon as the ratifications of the peace were exchanged, of the principles of the system to be established permanently for lodging the military forces of the country. This very Session, in the anticipation of the war continuing, large sums of money for such purposes had already been voted. He trusted, therefore, that the Government would be in no hurry to give assurances that they would build more barracks in particular situations throughout the country, in order to relieve the inconvenience that might still be felt from billeting soldiers while on their march from one place to another. There could no longer be any necessity for the permanent billeting of the militia, as he supposed it would be soon disembodied and put on the peace establishment. He had thought it necessary to put the House upon its guard with reference to this Motion.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, that the question which had been brought under the consideration of the House was one of large application, and that it was not only a question of policy, but one involving a consideration of the feelings and of the morality of a large portion of the community. He was quite ready to admit 575 that it was undesirable, both in consideration of the effect on the troops themselves and in reference to the feelings and morality of the public, that the system of billeting should be maintained, or that soldiers should at any time be quartered otherwise than in barracks. But, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice) had just stated, barracks could not be constructed on a scale commensurate with the requirements of the service otherwise than at a great expense. The work would have to be done gradually, and great consideration should be bestowed on the selection of the localities in which such buildings should be erected. There was no denying that it was most essential, with a view to the efficiency of the service both in war and peace, that the barrack accommodation should be considerably extended in England, Ireland, and Scotland. The particular liability to which householders in Scotland were exposed of receiving troops on billet, dated, he believed, from before the Union. At all events it was not a new arrangement. Let the grievance be what it might, it was not a novelty; it was one of long standing, and, as it could only be removed by an alteration in the Mutiny Bill of next year, no good result could follow from pressing the present Motion to a Division. No doubt the operation of the billeting system was felt with peculiar severity in time of war; but, as peace had happily been now concluded, the militia would of course be disembodied, and the number of soldiers, of whatever description, quartered in Scotland, considerably diminished. Nor was he without hope that, as regarded that portion of the troops which would be permanently maintained in that country, some effective means would be devised to quarter them in a manner that would not occasion annoyance to the householders. It would be for the Government to determine how the militia might be disposed of during the twenty-eight days of their training so as to cause the least inconvenience to the householders. It would, perhaps, be advantageous to their discipline that they should be encamped. At all events, there were barracks and forts in Scotland, and it was important to consider whether it might not be possible by means of them to make such arrangements as would materially diminish the inconvenience and annoyance of the billeting system. He 576 would suggest that the question should be left in the hands of the Government, who had an earnest desire to mitigate the grievance to as great an extent as might be consistent with the interests of the public service. It would be the duty of the Government, now that there was a prospect of peace, to consider what change could be made in the matter; and of course, when any arrangement had been determined on, it would be communicated to the House. He did not deny the existence of the grievance—on the contrary, he was sorry to be obliged to admit it. He regretted that the special service of the war had rendered it necessary, but it had been endured with patriotic equanimity by the householders of Scotland. With the reduction of our military establishments it would gradually disappear, and he hoped that means would ere long be discovered to effect its complete abolition.
said, he had expected that some hopes of an alteration of the system would have been held out by the Under Secretary for war. The grievance was one of forty years' standing; and even in Dundee, where there was ample barrack accommodation, and while there was a barrack master whom they paid for doing nothing, the militia were billeted through the town. He thought it was a great and spreading evil, not only disgraceful to the Government, but hurtful to the morals of the people. He hoped the hon. Member for Edinburgh would take the sense of the House on the question.
§ MR. BLACKBURN
said, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice) that the English counties did not bear the expense of erecting the barracks required by the militia, and had only to provide barrack stores, a burden which was equally shared by Scotland; Scotland had, in addition, the billeting system in its most odious and intolerable form. He hoped that the hon. Member for Edinburgh would divide the House on his Motion, and show thereby the unanimity of the Scotch Members on this question; for, although the noble Lord had given them some slight hopes of an alteration, yet the language of the War Department was to the contrary, insomuch as the Under Secretary for War had argued that the billeting on private families was no grievance at all, but worked well, thereby leaving the House to infer that it might be advantageously extended to England. He therefore warned the 577 English Members to make common cause with the Scotch Members—if they did not, they might, at no distant day, be united to them in a community of injustice.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, he was far from denying that the practice of billeting on private families was destructive of the comfort of these families, and he believed it was injurious to the discipline of the troops—nay, more, he would admit that it was prejudicial to public morality and the peace of the neighbourhood; but still it was a totally different matter to say, as this Resolution said, "that it was the duty of Government to take means permanently to abolish the grievance" unless those means were pointed out. It did not appear to him that the House would make much progress in the matter by an abstract Resolution of this kind. They were all agreed that the practice of billeting on private houses was an evil, and the question was, what was the proper remedy. He did not think that an assimilation of the law of Scotland regarding billets to that of England would meet the case. No doubt in England the burden was borne by a class, and that in Scotland the evil was borne by the community in general; but if they removed tins burden from the community to a class they would make it neither just nor sufficient. He thought the class might fairly complain, and he doubted whether in a country like Scotland they would find that the English system would work. If the war had continued, he had every reason to think that by providing, he would not say permanent, but temporary quarters, this evil might, to a certain extent, have been remedied. He believed that accommodation might be found for 3,000 of these men, if unfortunately another war should take place. He thought, therefore, the better course would be to withdraw the present Motion, and rest satisfied with the assurance of the Government, that they were sincerely desirous to make such an adjustment of the billeting system as would prevent real grievance to any class. He hoped hon. Gentlemen would be satisfied with having given expression to their feelings, and that they would now allow the House to go into Committee.
§ MR. LAING
said, he should support the Motion, and hoped the hon. Member would press the House to a division upon it. The grievance to which licensed victuallers in England were subject might be a very oppressive one, but it had this extenuating quality, that they were a class 578 whose occupation it was to receive strangers, and, therefore, it was a wrong that could be measured by pecuniary considerations. and remedied accordingly; whereas morality, comfort, domestic enjoyment were all alike prejudiced by the practice that prevailed in Scotland of billeting soldiers upon private families. These were outrages which no money could compensate.
§ MR. CRAUFURD
said, he hoped the House would not be led away by the statements that had been made that, as the pressure of the war had been removed, the grievance complained of was remedied. All admitted that this was a grievance, and, now that the pressure of war had ceased, it was the proper time to turn their attention towards its remedy. He hoped the mover of the Resolution would not be led away by the statements of the Members of the Government, but that he would divide the House on it.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, that if he had had any doubts before on this question, the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War would have removed them, and have induced him to vote for the Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman had not endeavoured to palliate or excuse the working of that system, which all appeared to condemn, but said that of the two systems, that adopted in England and that followed in Scotland, the latter was to be preferred. All the other Members of the Government had admitted that the Scotch billeting system was injurious to the discipline of the army, and infringed the comfort and happiness of private families, and, had they promised the House that the question should shortly be considered with a view to a remedy, he should have suggested the withdrawal of the Resolution; but as that had not been done, ho hoped the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Resolution would divide the House on it.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
said, that believing that the speech of the noble Lord at the head of the Government justified a hope that this grievance would be practically put an end to, he could not vote for the Motion before the House. He also strongly urged the necessity of providing adequate barrack accommodation, with proper sanitary arrangements, to secure the health of the troops.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that this question was one that required serious, and calm, and careful consideration, and he asked the House if they were ready, 579 without any consideration of the question, to pledge themselves to a foregone conclusion? This had been admitted to be a great grievance in Scotland which did not exist in England, and the noble Lord at the head of the Government had stated that he would consider it between that time and next Session when the Mutiny Bill came under the consideration of the House, and by an alteration in which alone could the system be abolished. He submitted whether, after the strong expression of opinion that had fallen from the Scotch Members, it would not be better for the House to wait, and give the Government an opportunity of considering the question, and of providing the necessary accommodation for troops, which would involve a large outlay of money; and not support this Resolution, which would prevent the House from going into a Committee of Supply. He thought this should have been brought forward as a substantive Resolution, rather than as an abstract one, which, if adopted, would pledge the House to no particular course.
wished to know the distinct issue on which the division was to be taken. No man in his senses would call for the total abolition of the billeting system; but the peculiar mode in which it was carried out in Scotland undoubtedly required alteration.
§ MR. ALEXANDER HASTIE
said, that the chief object of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Cowan) was to pledge the House that the grievance should be remedied. If the noble Lord had given a promise that it would be remedied no division would have been called for; but, unless he gave such an assurance, he recommended the hon. Member for Edinburgh to take the sense of the House on the Resolution. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) was in office, he (Mr. Hastie) had placed notices on the paper to abolish the present grievance; but the right hon. Gentleman said that the business of the Government was not to be stopped by matters of that kind, and so he was put down. He must say a more injudicious speech, or one more calculated to irritate the people of Scotland, than that of the Under Secretary for War, he had never heard. The Government ought to give assurance that this oppressive system should undergo revision.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought the House would see that 580 this resolved itself, to a great extent, into a question of finance. It had been admitted by all the Members of the Government who had spoken, that the system of billeting in Scotland was inconvenient to the persons upon whom soldiers were billeted, that it interfered with their comforts, and that it was, to some extent, injurious to morality; but the question was, whether the House was prepared to adopt the only means which would suffice to remove the grievance by granting additional Votes in Committee of Supply. No one had suggested any effectual remedy for the grievance without resorting to additional expenditure. The Lord Advocate had expressed his doubts whether, if the law of Scotland with respect to billeting were assimilated to the law of England, adequate accommodation could be provided for troops in the former country. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was not able to express a very decided opinion on the subject; but he thought, looking at the number of inns and public houses in Scotland, that there was great doubt whether they would afford sufficient accommodation for troops. If that were the case, the only resource in the event of abandoning the present system of billeting would be to increase the barrack accommodation, or to provide temporary quarters. The subject, therefore, practically resolved itself into a question of finance. The hon. Member for Edinburgh asked the House to pledge itself irrevocably, and without any inquiry, to abolish the grievance; but he trusted, after the explanation which had been given, and after the assurance of the noble Lord at the head of the Government that the subject should receive full consideration, that hon. Gentlemen would not give their support to the Motion, but would allow the House to go into Committee of Supply.
§ MR. CUMMING BRUCE
said, the right hon. Gentleman admitted the existence of a grievance which affected the social happiness and the morality of the people of Scotland, as well as the discipline of the troops; but he looked upon these evils as a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence, to be put into the scale against a small increase in the public Votes. He thought there would have been much more reason for the jealousy of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the interests of the Exchequer, when the other night large Votes were passed for improving some of the parks of London. It had been said that this was a small grievance, but he 581 denied that it was so; it was a serious and an exceptional grievance, and the duty of the Government was to provide a remedy. He, therefore, hoped that the hon. Member for Edinburgh would persevere in pressing his Motion.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
explained, that he had not intended to express any opinion against the grant of public money for the removal of this grievance; but what he meant to say was, that as the question resolved itself into one of additional expenditure, it was for the House to consider how far it would go in furnishing the Government with additional funds for the purpose of providing a remedy.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he could not agree with the suggestion which had been made by a Member of the Government, that the hon. Member for Edinburgh ought to have brought forward this question in the shape of a substantive Motion. That hon. Member had called attention to a national grievance, and he thought the hon. Gentleman had fairly chosen the opportunity of bringing it under the consideration of the House when they were on the point of going into Committee of Supply. If they were still to maintain the principle that the proper time for bringing grievances under the attention of the representatives of the people was when they were about granting supplies, he did not think the practical application of that principle could be better justified than on the present occasion. There seemed to him to be considerable inconsistency in the objections which were urged against this Motion on the part of the Government. The Secretary of State (Sir G. Grey) said this was a mere abstract Resolution and could produce no effect; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer told them it was far from being merely an abstract Resolution, that it was essentially practical, for that it assumed the shape of a financial vote. He (Mr. Disraeli) could not agree that if this Motion were adopted by the House of Commons it would be a mere abstract Resolution barren of results, for by it the House would counsel the Government to remove the grievance, and would leave it to them to pursue the best course by which such a result could be attained. He, therefore, felt persuaded that if the House adopted the Resolution it would not be barren of results, and he confessed that he did not see that there was much chance that the grievance would be remedied unless the House expressed an opinion on 582 the subject. If the Resolution went so far as to say that an end should be put to billeting, he would not support it; but he could not ascribe to it the sense which had been attached to it by some of its opponents. It appeared to him that the representatives of Scotland had brought under the notice of the House what was in fact a serious grievance affecting the people of that country. They had the voluntary admission of the Minister who was peculiarly connected with the administration of the affairs of Scotland (the Lord Advocate) that the existing system was injurious to the discipline of the troops and interfered materially with the comfort of private families, and all the House was asked to do was to adopt a Resolution declaring that it was the duty of the Government to adopt means for remedying the evil. If he had entertained any doubt as to the course he ought, as an English Member, to take on this subject, the observations of the Under Secretary for War would have led him to the conclusion that it was advisable the House should come to a vote upon the question. He could not agree with the reasoning of that hon. Gentleman who made no distinction between billeting upon private families and upon innkeepers. The hon. Gentleman treated innkeepers as a particular class, and said that according to abstract principles of reasoning the system of billeting in England ought to be extended to every other class. But he (Mr. Disraeli) had always understood that the principle upon which billeting was confined in this country to a particular class—keepers of taverns and inns—was a very clear one, substantiating the justice and propriety of this Resolution. The principle was this, that by billeting soldiers upon tavern-keepers the sanctity of private homes was not violated, no social outrage was committed, and respect was paid to those feelings which were specially reverenced in England. Therefore the argument of the Under Secretary for War was not only fallacious but pregnant with dangerous consequences to this country. The grievance being complained of by all the representatives of Scotland, and acknowledged by the Government, in terms almost as strong as those of the Resolution itself, he did not see how the House could take any other course than to give its assent to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Edinburgh. That Resolution, if adopted, would not interfere with the barrack accommodation of our soldiers, 583 nor did it pronounce any opinion as to whether the system of billeting should or should not be altogether and at once abolished—it did not pledge the Executive to anything but that which it was its duty to do—namely, to devise some remedy for the grievance; but which called upon the House, in a manner not to be mistaken, to express its opinion that the people of Scotland should be relieved of the burden imposed upon them by the existing system of billeting.
MR. VERNON SMITH
thought the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had mistaken the tendency of the argument which had been used by his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. His right hon. Friend had not stated that the hon. Member for Edinburgh had not a perfect right to move his Amendment; but he had observed, that the hon. Member, in asserting the existence of a grievance, had proposed no remedy; and that his Resolution ought to have been brought forward in the shape of a substantive Motion, when the House would be enabled to deal more effectively with the subject to which it related. The right hon. Gentleman had remarked, that if the House were to adopt the Resolution they would thereby have pledged themselves to no particular measure; but in his opinion they would, in taking that course, be binding themselves to the abolition of the grievance complained of—or, in other words, to the abolition of the system of billeting in Scotland. Nor had the right hon. Gentleman dealt quite fairly with his hon. Friend the Under Secretary for War. The right hon. Gentleman said that the system was essentially different from the system which prevailed in England. Granted. But what his hon. Friend the Under Secretary for War wished to show was that billeting was regarded as a grievance south as well as north of the Tweed; and he (Mr. V. Smith) might add, in corroboration of the justice of that view, that petitions had been presented over and over again from tavern-keepers in England against the system as established in this country. If, therefore, they were to put an end to billeting in Scotland, he did not see how they could avoid taking, with reference to England, a similar course. The House, in fact, in voting for the Amendment, would be recording it as their opinion that the English system should be put an end to [" No, no!"]. Yes; that would be the practical effect of the concluding words of the Resolution; 584 and although the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been severely attacked for stating that it resolved itself into a question of finance, if they agreed to those words they would be obliged to consider the question as to whether it would not be absolutely necessary to build barracks all over the kingdom. The existence of a. grievance, so far as Scotland was concerned, being admitted by the Government and the noble Lord at the head of it having stated his intention to consider how it might best be remedied, he hoped hon. Members would not prevent the House from going into Committee of Supply, and thus proceeding with the public business. He trusted that the English and Irish Members at all events—though the Scotch representatives might be banded together for a particular purpose—would not, by voting for the Resolution, pledge themselves to a course which they might afterwards regret.
§ MR. ELLIOT
said, that what had really prevented the House from going into Committee of Supply was the speech of the Under Secretary for War. Scotch Members were really very quiet people, and he (Mr. Elliot) considered himself the most quiet of them all; but even his cold blood had been moved by the manner in which the hon. Gentleman had dealt with the Motion. The people of Scotland had complained of this grievance over and over again; and the hon. Gentleman, instead of treating their representations with the consideration they were entitled to expect, had met them with something very like contempt. Now Scotchmen did not like to be treated with contempt; and they would rise as one man against such a mode of disposing of questions in which they took an interest. He (Mr. Elliot) was generally a good supporter of the Government; but he must on this occasion vote against them—he was very sorry for them, but he really could not help himself. It was not that the people of Scotland wished to do away with billeting—they would not object to its being continued even on its present footing, in the case of a regiment marching through a town, or wishing to stay there for a few days; but what they did object to was, the system of permanently billeting soldiers upon them, and they would not rest until this grievance was redressed.
§ MR. JAMES MACGREGOR
, referring to the observations which had fallen from the right hon. President of the Board of 585 Control, said he could not see the justice of opposing the redress of a grievance admitted to exist in Scotland, upon the ground that it would be necessary to extend the remedy to a similar grievance prevailing in England.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had misunderstood, and had therefore misrepresented the remarks that had fallen from him at an earlier period of the evening. What he stated was, that he admitted the existence of a grievance in Scotland in connection with the liability of private families to have soldiers quartered upon them, while in England that liability was confined to the keepers of taverns. He had proceeded to state that that state of things could not be altered until the Mutiny Act came under consideration next year; and that if the liability complained of were dispensed with it would become the duty of the Government to take into consideration the means necessary to be adopted in providing for the accommodation of soldiers under new circumstances. He was not aware that any objection existed to the assimilation of the English and Scotch law upon the subject of billeting, and in the mean time, he was perfectly ready upon the part of the Government to consider favourably any measures which might have the effect of relieving the Scotch householders from a grievance of which they very naturally complained.
§ MR. THORNELY
suggested that advantage should be taken of the existing barracks in Scotland to the full extent of their capabilities. It had been stated that some of them were comparatively empty.
§ MR. MACKIE
said, that if the noble Lord at the head of the Government would pledge himself to assimilate the law of Scotland to that of England, he would advise the hon. Member for Edinburgh to withdraw his Motion.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
As at present advised I see no reason to object to such assimilation; and unless there should be some objection to it with which I am not now acquainted, I should be prepared to propose the assimilation of the law of the two countries in this respect.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 116; Noes 139: Majority 23.
§ Words added.586
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
That, in the opinion of this House, the practice of billeting Soldiers of the Militia and of the Line in Scotland upon private families is injurious to the comfort and discipline of the men, as well as oppressive to the people; and that it is the duty of the Government to take means permanently to abolish the grievance.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acton, J.||Hutchins, E. J.|
|Bailey, C.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Ball, J.||Kirk, W.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Baring, rt. hon Sir F.T.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|Bellew, T. A.||Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C.|
|Berkeley, G. C. L.||Lowe, rt. hon. R.|
|Bethell, Sir R.||Martin, J.|
|Bond, J. W. M'G.||Martin, P. W.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Massey, W. N.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Monck, Visct.|
|Bowyer, G.||Moncreiff, J.|
|Brand, hon. H.||Monsell, rt. hon. W.|
|Brotherton, J.||Morgan, O.|
|Brown, W.||Morris, D.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Buckley, Gen.||O'Brien, J.|
|Burke, Sir T. J.||Oliveira, B.|
|Butler, C. S.||Osborne, R.|
|Castlerose, Visct.||Otway, A. J.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Clive, hon. R. W.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.||Patten, Col. W.|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Peel, F.|
|Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.||Pellatt, A.|
|Cubitt, Mr. Ald.||Perry, Sir T. E.|
|Denison, J. E.||Pinney, Col.|
|De Vere, S. E.||Portman, hon. W. H. B.|
|Divett, E.||Power, N.|
|Drumlanrig, Visct.||Price, Sir R.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Pritchard, J.|
|Dungarvan, Visct.||Pugh, D.|
|Dunne, M.||Ricardo, O.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Ricardo, S.|
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.||Rice, E. R.|
|FitzRoy, rt. hon. H.||Richardson, J. J.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Ridley, G.|
|Forster, Sir G.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Forster, J.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Freestun, Col.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|French, F.||Starkie, L. G. N.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Steel, J.|
|Gifford, Earl of||Stracey, Sir H. J.|
|Gilpin, Col.||Thornely, T.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Waterpark, Lord|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Greene, T.||Whatman, J.|
|Gregson, S.||Whitbread, S.|
|Grenfell, C. W.||Wickham, H. W.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Wilkinson, W. A.|
|Grey, R. W.||Williams, W.|
|Haddo, Lord||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Hall, rt. hon. Sir B.||Wilson, J.|
|Headlam, T. E.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Heathcote, hon. G. H.|
|Herbert, H. A.||TELLERS.|
|Higgins, Col. O.||Hayter, W.|
|Horsman, rt. hon. E.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
|List of the NOES.|
|Anderson, Sir J.||Laslett, W.|
|Annesley, Earl of||Lee, W.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Ball, E.||Liddell, hon. H. G.|
|Barnes, T.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Lockhart, W.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Macartney, G.|
|Bell, J.||Mackie, J.|
|Biggs, W.||MacGregor, Jas.|
|Black, A.||MacGregor, John|
|Blackburn, P.||M'Mahon, P.|
|Bland, L. H.||McTaggart, Sir J.|
|Brady, J.||Maguire, J. F.|
|Bramley-Moore, J.||Malins, R.|
|Bruce, Major C.||Masterman, J.|
|Byng, hon. G. H. C.||Matheson, Alex.|
|Cairns, H. M'C.||Matheson, Sir J.|
|Campbell, Sir A. I.||Meagher, T.|
|Chambers, M.||Miall, E.|
|Chelsea, Visct.||Michcll, W.|
|Christy, S.||Milligan, R.|
|Cobden, R.||Montgomery, H. L.|
|Cole, hon. H. A.||Montgomery, Sir G.|
|Coles, H. B.||Mowbray, J. R.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Mundy, W.|
|Crossley, F.||Murrough. J. P.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Naas, Lord|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Napler, rt. hon. J.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Newark, Visct.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||North, Col.|
|Duncan, G.||North, F.|
|Dunlop, A. M.||Oakes, J. H. P.|
|East, Sir J. B.||Ossulston, Lord|
|Elcho, Lord||Paxton, Sir J.|
|Ellice, E.||Phillimore, J. G.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Pollard-Urquhart, W.|
|Elmley, Visct.||Raynham, Visct.|
|Ewart, W.||Rushout, G.|
|Ewart, J. C.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Fellowes, E.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Fergus, J.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Fergusson, Sir J.||Shelley, Sir J. V.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Smith, J. B.|
|Floyer, J.||Smith, A.|
|Fuller, A. E.||Spooner, R.|
|George, J.||Stafford, A.|
|Graham, Lord M. W.||Stanhope, J. B.|
|Grogan, E.||Stanley, Lord|
|Guinness, R. S.||Stirling, W.|
|Gurney, J. H.||Stuart, Capt.|
|Hadfield, G.||Thompson, G.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Vance, J.|
|Hanbury, hon. C. S. B.||Vernon, G. E. H.|
|Hankey, T.||Vernon, L. V.|
|Harcourt, Col.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Hardy, G.||Waddington, D.|
|Hastie, Alex.||Walcott, Adm.|
|Hastie, Arch.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Herbert, Sir T.||Warner, E.|
|Heyworth, L.||Watson, W. H.|
|Holford, R. S.||Wells, W.|
|Horsfall, T. B.||Whitmore, H.|
|Hutt, W.||Wise, J. A.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.|
|Jolliffe, H. H.||Wyndham, Gen.|
|Kendall, N.||Wynne, rt. hon. J.|
|Kerrison, Sir E. C.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Kinnaird, hon. A. F.||TELLERS.|
|Laing, S.||Cowan, C.|
|Langton, H. G.||Agnew, Sir A.|
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I understand, Sir, that it would not be at variance with precedent that I should now move, notwithstanding that the Amendment has been carried—that this House should immediately resolve itself into Committee of Supply. I therefore beg to make a Motion to that effect.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I do not rise to oppose the Motion; and I am glad to find that the public business is now likely to proceed. But I am totally at a loss, I confess, how to account for the reiterated expressions of Her Majesty's Ministers to the effect that if this House were to arrive at a very just and a very politic conclusion, we should thereby be precluded from going into a Committee of Supply, and I congratulate the House upon the discovery that, having done an act of great justice, we are not incapacitated thereby from dealing with the business of the country. I must express my regret, however, that they who are responsible for the conduct of public business, and for guiding the proceedings of this House, should have been so profoundly ignorant of their position—for they cannot have condescended to misrepresentation—or should, at all events, have shown so little foresight in this matter as they certainly have displayed; and I trust that this night will be memorable, not only as having witnessed the defeat of the Government in their opposition to a wise and just Resolution, but as having enabled us to arrive at an accurate result with respect to the mode of conducting the business of the nation—satisfactory to the House, and highly satisfactory, no doubt, to Her Majesty's Ministers.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
assured the House that the Members of the Government were fully under the impression—which he believed was shared by many Members opposite—that the rules of the House were such that, when an Amendment to the Motion for going into a Committee of Supply was carried, the Motion itself was lost, and that it was not competent to proceed with the Committee the same night. However, during the division, by the diligence of the Clerk at the Table, a discovery was made very opportunely that a precedent did exist which would enable the Government to proceed with the Motion for the Committee of Supply. He trusted, therefore, that the Motion now made by Her Majesty's Government for going into a Committee of Supply would not be opposed, and that it 589 would not be for a moment supposed that the Government had resorted to the unworthy and dishonourable course of inducing the House to suppose that they could not go into a Committee of Supply if the Motion on a division should be lost, while at the same time they knew there existed a precedent which would enable them to do so.
§ MR. CUMMING BRUCE
said, the right hon. Gentleman had informed the House that, during the division, a precedent had been found to exist for the course now taken by the Government. He (Mr. C. Bruce) had not the slightest objection to that course, but it would be a satisfaction to the House if the right hon. Gentleman would state what the precedent was.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the precedent occurred on the 8th of April, 1850, on a Motion for going into a Committee of Supply. An Amendment was moved by Captain Boldero on the subject of assistant-surgeons in the navy, when, on a division being called for, the Question was put that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question. The House divided, when the numbers were—Ayes, 40; Noes, 48. The Question, "That the proposed words be added" was put and agreed to; the main Question, as amended, was put and agreed to; and the Question being then put, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair," that Motion was agreed to, and the House went into Committee of Supply.
§ MR. SPEAKER
There is nothing in the Amendment to negative the Motion for the House going into a Committee of Supply.
§ MR. CUMMING BRUCE
did not for a single moment question the propriety of the decision given by the Speaker, but he had asked the question for the satisfaction of those who had not a perfect knowledge of the practice of the House.
§ Resolved—That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.