HC Deb 17 March 1857 vol 144 cc2409-11

On the Order of the Day for the consideration of the Amendments in this Bill,


said it appeared to him that the system adopted for the billeting of soldiers in Scotland was the very worst that could have been selected. He was quite convinced that the Government, if they pleased, could effect their object in a much more satisfactory manner, and in a way that would be more convenient to all parties. When the noble Lord the Secretary of State for War was lately in Scotland, he (Mr. Duncan) had the honour of an interview with him, and pointed out to him the hardships of the present system in that part of the United Kingdom. The public-houses in Scotland were a different class of buildings to those belonging to the licensed victuallers of England. The borough which he had the honour to represent, would be greatly oppressed by this system, inasmuch as the public-houses there were comparatively few in number, and would have to bear the whole burden of this billeting system in that town. Generally speaking, public-houses were the very worst lodging-houses that could be selected for soldiers. He hoped that the noble Lord would re-consider this question, and consent to empower the authorities to order the troops to be billeted in other places than public-houses, if there were such accommodation to be found in the town.


wished to confirm all that had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Dundee. The borough which he (Mr. Kinnaird) represented was in precisely the same situation. There were unoccupied barracks there which could be much better employed in lodging the soldiers than the public-houses.


confirmed what had been said by the two hon. Members who had preceded him. Although the borough which he represented had no barracks in it, there were large storehouses which might be made available for the purpose. He was speaking as much for the good of the soldier as for the convenience of the people generally. The soldiers, he thought, ought to be kept as much as possible from coming into close contact with the population, as the communication had a demoralising tendency.


asked if the power of billeting were to be done away, how were the troops to be marched? The men must be fed and lodged. He considered it would be impossible to move troops unless some such power as that of billeting were maintained.


—I think what has passed on this subject is an illustration of the maxim—"give an inch, and they will take an ell." Last year we were told—and I confess with somewhat of justice—that Scotland suffered from a great grievance, inasmuch as in that country the troops were quartered in private houses, while in England such houses were exempted from the burden. Well, we admitted the evil, and promised to redress the grievance. This year we introduced an Amendment into the Bill by which that evil was altogether remedied, and Scotland was placed in the same position in regard to this subject as England. Now the hon. Members representing Scotland urge upon us the hardship of subjecting the innkeepers and proprietors of public-houses to this burden of accommodating soldiers occasionally, which is borne by the same description of houses in England. As my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir W. Codrington) has observed, how is the public service to be provided for if this billeting system were to be given up? As I understood, my hon. Friend proposes that there should be a clause in the Mutiny Bill to provide that the troops, instead of being quartered in public-houses, should be afforded barrack accommodation in all towns where such accommodation is available. Well, that arrangement appears to be a proper one to be adopted on certain occasions. But that is a matter to be arranged by the military and the parties themselves, and not one for legislative interference. In towns were there are barracks no doubt it would be advantageous to locate troops when they are on the march in such quarters; but, in respect to small recruiting parties, the circumstances of the case would be different. It would be very difficult to make all the necessary arrangements in large barracks for only three or four men, unless a much larger expense than was actually necessary for so few men were resorted to. Now it may be a fair matter for consideration whether in England as well as in Scotland the allowances made for the accommodation of soldiers ought not to be increased. But that is a question for the Estimates. I quite agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. Ewart) that it would be far better for the troops, as well as for the community generally, that the soldiers should be placed in barracks, when it is possible or convenient to do so. Their discipline would obviously be much better preserved, and the convenience of the public would be much better consulted. Our feeling is so much in accordance with that expressed by my hon. Friend that we have been most anxious to increase the barrack accommodation all over the kingdom. This year, however, we have been obliged to postpone those barrack arrangements, in order that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be able to make both ends meet. I, however, can assure the hon. Gentleman that I quite agree with him in principle. If there are places in which there are barracks without any troops being quartered in them, I am quite sure that my noble Friend at the head of the War Department would have no objection to make arrangements for the placing of the troops in those barracks; but, as I have observed, I do not think that they can be applied to the wants of small recruiting parties.

Bill, as amended, considered; to be read 3° to-morrow.

The House adjourned at a quarter before Six o'clock.