HC Deb 18 July 1856 vol 143 cc1035-7

VISCOUNT PALMERSTON moved that the House at its rising should adjourn until Monday.


said, he would avail himself of the opportunity which the Motion afforded of calling attention to the long time the Foreign Legion had been kept in this country. At the time the Foreign Enlistment Bill was passed, it was distinctly understood that the men enlisted under it would only be brought here for the purpose of being trained, and the second clause of the Bill contained an enactment to that effect; and yet how stood the fact? Why, a short while ago a portion of the German Legion was sent to perform duty in Plymouth garrison. He should have thought that the Government would have seized the earliest opportunity to disband these troops, and to apply their horses to the use of our cavalry regiments, who so much wanted them. It was quite humiliating to see those foreigners well mounted and our own troopers absolutely marching before their Sovereign without horses. The matter was one of so much importance that he was sure he should be excused for asking the hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary for War, what really were the intentions of the Government with respect to the foreign troops?


said, he would also take the opportunity of asking the hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Peel) whether there was any truth in the report that officers who had not served in the army three years and were about to be reduced would only receive a gratuity, instead of half-pay. He admitted that under the warrant of October, 1854, the War Office had power to make such an arrangement, but he would submit that the services of those young officers, among whom there were forty or fifty captains, had been such as fully to entitle them to their half-pay.


said, he rose to inquire what requital was intended to be made by Her Majesty's Government for the services of the chaplains in the army? He would likewise take that opportunity of expressing his opinion that some information should be given as to what was to be done with the Foreign Legion. It was originally promised that those troops should remain in England only to be trained for warlike operations. Some months had now elapsed since the conclusion of the war, but no preparations appeared to have been made to fulfil this promise by disbanding the legion. No estimate of the probable or the actual expense of the foreign troops had as yet been laid before the House, but he had himself made some calculations on the subject, from which it was to be inferred that these 14,000 or 15,000 foreigners would cost the country between £800,000 and £900,000 more than British troops. True, the House had granted to the Government the means of raising about 50,000 militia which were not embodied, and 40,000 troops of the line, which, though they were much needed the Government had not had the ingenuity to raise, and it was possible that the money voted for such purposes might now be available for the payment of those foreigners; but he considered that some statement ought to be made upon the subject before the termination of the Session, He begged to ask the First Minister of the Crown what were the intentions of the Government as to the retaining or disbanding of these troops?


Sir, I must, in the first place, respectfully enter my protest against the practice that has been growing up of late in this House of hon. Members getting up and asking the Government what is their intention upon this, that, and the other matter. No doubt there may be subjects of sufficient importance to justify prospective inquiry, but I apprehend that, speaking generally, the position of the responsible advisers of the Crown in Parliament is to be responsible for what they do, and that they are not called upon to take this House into their counsels in regard to what they are going to do on every small matter. In reply therefore to the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster, I beg to observe that what we are going to do with respect to the disposal of the German Legion, will, I trust, when done, be found perfectly consistent with law and propriety. More than this I am not prepared to say.


I beg, Sir, to call the attention of the noble Lord to this significant fact, that when we ask what the Government are about to do we are met with the objection that we are too early, and when we venture to inquire what they have done we are told that we are too late.

Subject dropped.