HC Deb 18 August 1857 vol 147 cc1816-9

said, he would beg to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government when he intended to take the next stage of the Militia Bill? He might state that in a private conversation yesterday, the noble Lord told him that the Militia Bill would not be proceeded with last night. The conclusion he drew was, that the Government meant to make some other alterations in the Bill. What was his surprise to find that after he had left the House the Bill was passed through that stage at which he had given notice to the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary for War of his intention to make some remarks upon certain points connected with our military arrangements. Now he thought the noble Lord had been guilty of some- thing like sharp practice. (Cries of "Order.") Very well, he would move, to put himself in order, that the House do now adjourn. He had given notice to the Under Secretary for war that at the next stage of the Militia Bill he would not oppose the Bill or put himself in a hostile attitude towards the Government, but only ask certain questions with respect, to our military preparations, which he thought ought to be answered, and which, if answered, might remove an erroneous impression created in the public mind by; Ministerial statements. Perhaps the noble Lord at the head of the Government would state to the House why, after what he stated in private conversation yesterday, he had advanced the Bill a stage at a time when nobody expected it to come on, and also whether during the short period that remained of the Session—if he might presume that the Session was near its close after the additional entanglement and increased confusion which the debate of that morning had brought upon the Divorce Bill—he would give hon. Members an opportunity of eliciting from the Government some explanations with respect to our preparations for the war in the East. Several hon. and gallant Members, who were entitled to be heard, wished to address the House upon that subject, while he himself desired to call attention to the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De L. Evans) that there were difficulties in the way of recruiting. Now he was prepared to combat that statement, and to concur with the noble Lord at the head of the Government in saying, that after the gathering in of the crops men would be got without difficulty. The conduct of the Government with regard to the pensions they had given to our Crimean heroes, coupled with their assurances that every attention would be paid to the comfort of the troops, and with the known disposition of the noble Viscount to deal justly and kindly with the private soldier, could not fail to induce landed proprietors and other gentlemen of influence in the agricultural districts to promote enlistment by every means in their power, and thereby further the purposes of Government. He ventured to submit, however, that if the price of a soldier landed in Calcutta was a matter of great importance—if, as the noble Lord the Secretary for War stated the other day in the House of Lords, the pick of our army had been sent to India to be exposed not merely to the attacks of an enemy, but to the trials of an unhealthy climate, the organ of the War Office in that House should take some opportunity—and no better opportunity could be afforded than the next stage of the Militia Bill—of stating authoritatively and definitely what arrangements had been made for securing the comfort of our troops, what improvements had been suggested by our fatal experience in the Crimea, and what modifications and changes had been introduced into the medical department of the army. What he now wished to ask; the noble Lord was, why he had advanced the Militia Bill a stage at a time when he promised not to proceed with it, and whether he would give hon. Members an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon the various points which he had just indicated?


said, he had no desire to go into the discussion upon the Militia Bill at that moment. He simply rose to testify that last night he received a private intimation from the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Ramsden) in reply to a question from him (Lord A. Vane-Tempest), that the Bill could not be proceeded with as yet. What was his astonishment, however, to find that at five minutes to four o'clock at the morning sitting, the Bill was "reported," at a moment when there was no one in the House but the hon. Baronet. He would submit whether it was in accordance with the proper mode of conducting their proceedings of advance so important a Bill under such circumstances?


said, he was sorry to dispel the illusion which appeared to prevail in the mind of the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire that he was in order when he moved the adjournment of the House, and thereupon made a speech about the Militia. According to the strict forms of the House, which the hon. Gentleman was so anxious should be adhered to, he ought to have confined his observations to giving reasons for the adjournment of the House. Quitting that point, however, he (Viscount Palmerston) would say that he regretted that the hon. Gentleman had been deprived, through a misconception or inadvertence, of an opportunity of stating his opinion upon military matters in general upon that particular stage of the Militia Bill. The hon. Gentleman had asked him last night whether the Militia Bill would be taken that evening, to which he replied that it would not, as there was one point connected with it which he wished to examine. He was not sure whether or not he gave the hon. Gentleman to understand that the Report would be taken in the morning or the evening, but it was down on the Orders of that morning, as every one could have seen. The Report was brought up in the usual manner of unopposed business after the discussion upon the Divorce Bill had been suspended, at a quarter to four o'clock. However, as the hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord had appeared to desire an opportunity of addressing the House at large upon matters connected with our military affairs, he would take care that the Third Rending of the Bill should be fixed for a time when that opportunity could be afforded.


On what day will the Third Reading come on?


I should think Thursday.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.