HC Deb 28 May 1857 vol 145 cc999-1000

On the Report of Supply being brought up,


said, he did not wish at that late hour to trespass on the attention of the House, but he felt it his duty to refer briefly to the gross injustice and inconvenience sustained by innkeepers in consequence of the present system of billeting soldiers. The allowance to an innkeeper for a soldier was only 10d. a day, and for this each soldier was entitled to one pound and a quarter of meat, one pound of bread, and one pound of vegetables, besides beer, lodging, fire and candles. Now, it was perfectly impossible that an innkeeper could do this for 10d., as any one taking the trouble to add up the several items might readily discover. Why, under present prices, it could not be done for less than 15d. or 16d. He saw no just grounds for imposing this tax on publicans. If the system of billeting were necessary for the maintenance and support of the army when on the march, the burden should not he imposed on any particular class. The fairest way would be to have those charges defrayed out of the Consolidated Fund or by a general tax. This tax was unfair towards the whole of the innkeepers throughout the kingdom, and unequal, as it fell only on the publicans situated on the line of march through which the troops passed, and with a similar inequality in the towns in which the troops were located. Take any town within twenty or thirty miles of London, and what was the effect of the existing system? Why, the officers who had money to spend occupied the larger hotels, where they enjoyed every luxury, and their expenditure compensated the proprietors for any loss they might sustain by the private soldiers billeted on them; but the small innkeeper, while he was obliged at a loss to maintain the private soldier, had none of the advantages derivable from the custom of the officer. Besides, the small innkeeper who happened to have a stable was obliged to find hay and straw for the soldier's horse for 9d. a day. This allowance was also quite inadequate. This unjust system provoked ill-will and discontent in a large class of her Majesty's subjects towards those who were devoted to the public service. It was impossible to justify a system at once so oppressive and unjust. He had mentioned this grievance now, in the hope that the attention of Her Majesty's Government would be directed to the subject, and that when the next Mutiny Bill came before the House, the class of persons to whom he referred, would be relieved from this injustice.

Resolutions agreed to.

House adjourned at half-after Twelve o'clock.