HC Deb 31 May 1860 vol 158 cc1862-9

House in Committee.

Mr. MASSEY in the Chair.

(1.) 1,907 Men, a further number of Land Forces.


said, at that hour (half-past eleven) he would state the differences between the first and the present revised Estimate as shortly as possible. There was a difference in the first Vote of 1,907 additional men, which arose from the fact that six battalions of infantry and a regiment of cavalry were coming home from India. In Vote No. 2 there was a corresponding addition in consequence of those regiments coming home. In Vote No. 3 there was a diminution of £54,000, in consequence of a reduction in the number of men to be raised, as well as a reduction of £15,000 in the purchase of horses for the Artillery. There was also some diminution in consequence of the postponement of the erection of a military prison in Canada. In the Works Department there was a reduction of nearly £76,000, chiefly in the carriage department, owing to the carriages having got ahead of the guns. As to the reduction in clothing to which an hon. Member referred, that arose on the free kits, which of course were not required by the men coming home from India, but would have have had to be given if the men had been newly raised.


said, it was unsatisfactory to see a reduction of the regiments at home. The nominal increase was 8,000 men, and that hardly compensated the force sent to China. There was a Vote of £322,000 for Embodied Militia, but the amount would supply the pay of 16,000 additional regular soldiers. It was most unsatisfactory to see the regular regiments so weak and ineffective.


reminded the right hon. Gentleman that he had not answered his question respecting the new purchase system.


begged pardon for having overlooked the gallant Member's question. He adhered to what he had stated on a former occasion that the new system would require considerable deliberation. He had in nowise departed from the views which he had previously announced on the subject.


said his question had not been answered.


could not hold out any hope that Government would increase the pensions in the way the gallant General proposed. Pensions might be desirable under the old system, when a man enlisted for life; but with the present short periods of enlistment he thought it was better to benefit the condition of the soldier by increasing his pay than his pension. The case of disabled men certainly deserved consideration.


asked for an explanation of the discrepancy between the strength of the Indian depôts, as given in the Returns and in the Estimates. In the former the number appeared as 15,000, in the latter 12,000.


said, the numbers of men at these depots were constantly changing; but in the Estimate he had taken 12,000 as the average. He might state also that the cost of these depots was borne by the Indian, and not by the English Government.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £3,236,701 to complete the sum for Pay and Allowances of Land Forces.


called attention to the increase that had accrued in the good-conduct allowances this year, and asked if that was owing to any change of system.


said, the amount for good-conduct pay was annually increasing. There was also an increase in consequence of a recent alteration by which the first badge would be acquired in three years instead of five.


said, the army was extremely indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for the last good-service warrant. On the old warrant, when a soldier completed eighteen years' service, and sixteen years' service clear of the defaulters' book, he was entitled to get a fourth good-conduct mark. The number of years was now reduced by which a soldier could gain a good-conduct mark, but he thought the period might with advantage be still further reduced. He thought that two more years might be taken off. He rose, however, principally to call attention to the position of field officers placed upon half pay on their removal from Staff appointments on the expiration of five years' Staff service. On the Staff an officer was usu- ally on half-pay of his regimental rank, but his Staff pay was altogether distinct from that of rank; in the case of lieutenant-colonel it would amount altogether to £400 a year. But when his five years' of service on the Staff were up, he was removed and fell back at once to the half-pay of his regimental rank—about £200. This he thought a great hardship. They wished to encourage their best officers to go upon the Staff, and they also compelled them to go through a very scientific education before they were appointed, and therefore it was a hardship to remove those officers and make them fall back upon what was perhaps a paltry pittance. If they really desired to encourage their best officers to go on the Staff they should not remove them on the ordinary half-pay, but give them some increased half-pay—something between regimental half-pay and the pay of Staff officers, in order to make their position at all palatable or agreeable to them. There was also another hardship to which they were liable. When a sudden emergency arose, like the Indian mutiny or the China war, a number of officers educated at the Staff College were placed on the Staff; the difficulty was suddenly arranged or got over; and these officers, being removed from the Staff before their five years were up, were liable to see junior officers to themselves passed over their heads.


said, that as this Vole included the case of General Grey, he was diposed to say "No" to it, in order to enter a protest against its being supposed that the defence set up by the Secretary for War was at all satisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman said that General Grey's being connected with the Court was no reason for his not being a fit man for the appointment; but what he ought to satisfy the House of Commons of was, not only that he was a fit man, but that there was nobody available at the time more fit.


said, that on a former occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War bad said that Staff appointments would shortly be closed against all who had not passed the Staff College. He wished to ascertain from the right hon. Gentleman how persons were to obtain appointments on the Staff, and what use for the benefit of the army he proposed to make of those officers who had received their education in the Staff College. The right hon. Gentleman said it had been proposed to form a separate Staff corps, but the objection to that course was that it might create jealousy amongst the other officers of the army. That jealousy might be created if the officers were selectd without reference to their qualifications; but if the best officers were selected then no jealousy could arise. Did they wish to have able officers on the Staff or not? Did they intend to adhere to the rule of five years' service, and then send the officers back to their regiments? If so, the effect would be merely to make a set of bad regimental officers. Who were to do their duty in the regiments while they were at the Staff? If they could spare officers from their regiments, it was a proof that they had too many. Adverting to the subject of the recent appointment conferred upon General Grey, great confusion had arisen from describing appointments to colonelcies of regiments as the reward of distinguished service. That was a mistake. They were given for distinguished services when the officer, upon whom the appointment was conferred, had not attained the seniority, which would, otherwise, entitle him to it. General Grey having served for the time required by the existing regulations, he (Lord Hotham) had nothing to say in opposition to his appointment. It was a perfectly just rule that in those cases in which officers had long and efficient foreign service to adduce in their favour, a preference should be given to them over those who did not happen to be so fortunate; but then the claims of the latter, though they might be somewhat postponed, should not, he contended, be altogether ignored. It was not granted to every officer to be afforded an opportunity of performing distinguished military service, and those, therefore, ought not to be shut out from reward who, although they might not have had the advantage of such opportunity, yet discharged with credit the duties which devolved upon them in the position in which they had been placed. While that, however, was the view which he took on the subject, he should wish to call the attention of his right hon. Friend the Secretary for War to the statement which he had made, to the effect that nothing less than six years' service as a field-officer could entitle an officer to receive the full pay of a General officer. Now, his right hon. Friend had not alluded to an important exception to that rule, and he would, therefore, take the liberty of asking him whether he thought it was fitting that an officer who had passed, say five years and nine months amid the and plains of India, or in some still more unhealthy climate, should not be held entitled to receive a General officer's pay, and that a person holding office about the Royal household—for instance, the office of Principal Equerry—altogether a political officer, and changed on every changes of Government, who, perhaps, had not passed a single day on foreign service, should have open to him the same reward as Sir John Inglis, or any other officer who had done active duty, and had gained the highest distinction abroad, while the regulation requiring six years' service as a field officer was administered with such strictness against those who had nothing but their own services to recommend them. He had always felt that the exception made in favour of those holding offices about the Court was a great scandal, and he alluded to it now because he feared, from what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, that an extension was about to be given to the principle that in future the honour of being an Equerry for a certain number of years would be sufficient to put such an officer on the same footing for promotion as long and faithful service in defence of his country.


inquired if the Vote now before the Committee included, besides the ordinary pay, the colonial allowances to the troops in Australia, for instance?


was understood to reply in the affirmative.


asked if it were true that the pay of the officers of the Royals at Hong Kong had been reduced after being voted by the House? He wished also to know whether any Roman Catholic chaplains had been sent out for the benefit of the soldiers in the 1st Regiment and others forming the China expedition?


said, that the reduction referred to had been made in mistake. He would ascertain the number of chaplains that had been sent out, both Protestants and Roman Catholics.


thought it much more convenient that the whole provision, including extra allowances, should appear in the Estimates, and that a deduction should be made of the contribution by the several Colonies, which, in the case of Victoria, was very considerable. In fact, that colony had for three years borne the entire expense.


would be very sorry to follow the example of the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Trelawny). He was an old Guardsman himself, and he was sure they would always be found doing their duty. But he would ask what was the use of a general commanding a brigade of the battalions of Guards? He believed there was no such appointment for forty years before the return of the army from the Crimea, and it appeared to be made for a particular individual. He should like to know, when the five years had expired, would that appointment be continued?


said, the Vote for the Staff was £18,687 more than last year, and there were several items which required explanation, having been charged for the first time.


wished for some explanation with regard to the troops employed in China, which exceeded the number estimated, and were to receive extra pay and allowances. As there were eight or ten battalions of these, besides Artillery, the sum must come to a very considerable amount.


with reference to the ease of the General officers unattached, brought forward by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wigan, must say, after the admission of the right hon. Gentleman that the question was one of doubt, this was the first instance in which the petitioners had not received the benefit of the doubt. These officers merely asked what they were entitled to, and it was extremely hard, it was pitiful, paltry, and mean, that seven General officers who had done their duty to their country should thus be bandied about between the Treasury and the War Office on a question of this sort in the richest country in the world.


did not wish at that late hour to raise a question as to the accounts of this country and the Indian Government, but there was a discrepancy in the Estimates which he wished to have explained. The number of men borne on the establishment last year was greater than the number voted. How was it that the deduction for the pay of men wanting to complete the establishment had been reduced from £267,000, the original sum proposed, to £126,000? Were they likely to have any statement of accounts as between this country and the Indian Government?


said, that the whole increase on the Staff was only £7,000—a sum which did not amount to the Staff employed on the expedition to China. As regards the giving of regiments, the rule that had obtained was that the officer who had seen colonial or even home service was entitled in his turn to have his regiment, although, certainly, with regard to the appointment of General Grey, officers distinguished by war service had frequently passed over his head. That had been the case with General Grey. He had never intended to say anything that would in the least degree bear the construction that had been put upon his words. With regard to the question put to him by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote), that hon. Member, from his cognizance of these mysterious transactions as Secretary to the Treasury, was a much better authority than he could be upon this matter. It was not usual to include in this Estimate the allowances to British officers serving in China. The ordinary pay and allowances only were taken in this manner, the rest being provided for by Votes of credit. In the first instance Indian allowances were paid from the commissariat chest, and the accounts were ultimately sent home to the Treasury. The process was a very complicated and cumbrous one. The hon. Baronet asked why a smaller deduction from the pay of men deficient from the establishment appeared in the revised Estimate from that which appeared in the original Estimate. The answer was, it had turned out that too small a sum was taken in the first Estimate. The local European troops disbanded in India had returned to England. Recruiting for the army fluctuated greatly at different periods of the year. At harvest time it was very slack, but it revived again during the winter; and he had therefore made a smaller deduction for the pay of men deficient from the establishment. Undoubtedly officers put upon half-pay on the expiration of their Staff service were thrown upon their backs, and their future career much interfered with. The Commander-in-Chief was now engaged in trying to make some arrangement that would at least mitigate this evil.


said, he could not alter his opinion with reference to the justice of the claims of the officers alluded to by his gallant Friend behind him. They were justly entitled to what they claimed.


said, the officers bad acted for their own advantage, and must abide by the consequences.


denied that they had done so for their own advantage—they got 14s. 7d. less pay than before, and no advance of rank. They had not enjoyed single advantage that had been promised then. It was one of the hardest cases he had ever heard of.


asked, why medical officers serving in India had not received the benefit of the Royal warrant improving their rank.


replied, that these gentlemen were paid according to the Indian rate, which was much higher than that allowed for home or colonial service.

Vote agreed to.

(3.) £287,285 Miscellaneous Charges for Land Forces.

COLONEL KNOX moved that the Chairman report progress.


assented, and, in reply to an hon. Member, stated that the Army Estimates would be proceeded with to-morrow evening.

House resumed; Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.

House adjourned at a Quarter after One o'clock.