HC Deb 16 March 1866 vol 182 cc473-80

said, he understood that Vote 14 was to be postponed. He should not oppose Votes not objected to, but it would be his duty to propose the reductions he had given notice of.

(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £162400, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge of the Establishments for Military Education, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1867, inclusive.


said, he had some observations to make on this Vote, but the hour (half past ten o'clock) was rather late to proceed with it. There were many hon. Members not present who were anxious to make some observations upon it.

MR. NORWOOD moved that the Chairman report Progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Norwood.)


said, he hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not persevere in the Motion. There was every disposition to meet the demands of hon. Members for delay, but it was, he thought, too early an hour to stay the further discussion of the Estimates. The understanding was that the Army Estimates would be taken if they were brought in before eleven o'clock.


said, that such was the understanding, but since then Vote 14 had been postponed, and a great many Members were not aware of the change.


said, he thought such a Motion should not be made before eleven o'clock.


said, he was quite certain that there would have been a greater attendance of Members if it had been thought likely that the Vote would have been proposed that night.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


said, that, pursuant to notice which he had given, he wished to call the attention of the Committee to the constitution of the Council of Military Education. That Council as at present constituted was, he said, the result of the disasters which had occurred during the Crimean War. A Royal Commission had been appointed in 1856, to take into consideration the subject of the military education of our officers, with the view to the introduction of improvements, especially in the Staff Department. That Commission made its Report in 1857, and a Council was shortly afterwards appointed, whose duty it was generally to supervise the education of the army, to control the preliminary examinations which all officers had to pass before obtaining their commissions, and, what was of more importance still, to conduct and control the competitive examinations in the higher branches of the service—the engineers and artillery. It was also its duty to conduct the examinations for appointments on the staff of officers below a certain rank. The duties performed by the Council, especially with regard to examinations, were very analogous to those discharged by the Civil Service Commissioners. They were extremely important, and it was therefore expedient that the Council should be not only composed of officers of great ability, but of considerable determination and firmness. Now, he had heard it rumoured that it was the intention to establish the rule that the staff appointments in future should beheld only for five years. If that change were introduced and were to apply to members of the Council, a fatal blow would be struck at the usefulness and independence of that body. If that rule were adopted it would be impossible to procure the aid of distinguished officers, who would be unwilling to retire from active service to accept the appointment for so short a period as he had mentioned, while those who did so would not be placed in that position of independence—for officers, after all, were only human beings—especially with respect to their superiors at the Horse Guards, which it was desirable they should occupy. He wished to know whether or not there was any truth in the rumour that the Horse Guards meant to apply the five years' rule to the members of the Military Council of Education? The middle classes of the country were deeply interested in this question, and he would regret if anything took place to weaken their confidence in the entire independence of this Council. He hoped the noble Marquess would resist any interference with the duties and integrity of this Council, which stood between the old system of patronage and the new one of competitive examinations. The members of the Council were, in fact, civil servants, and military regulations ought not to be applied to them.


said, he was not aware that there was any change in. the original intention with respect to applying the five years' rule to the Military Council of Education, or that any assurance had been given to the officers composing the Council that their appointments would be differently circumstanced from ordinary staff appointments. He did not see the grounds why the rule should not apply to those officers, but, on the contrary, it seemed to him that the rule applied with greater propriety and convenience to their appointments than to many staff appointments. One object of the five years' rule was, that positions of this description should be held by a succession of men, who would import new ideas and bring fresh minds to the consideration of many questions, also men who knew something of the feeling of the army and of the progress of public opinion with respect to the great question—education. With respect to many appointments, such as that of the Adjutant General, the Quartermaster General, and other staff appointments, considerable inconvenience must ensue when an officer who had held an office for five years, and had become efficient in the discharge of its duties, suddenly quitted it and was succeeded by one comparatively unacquainted with the duties; but surely, when a Council was composed of five or six members, the appointment of one new member every now and then could lead to no practical inconvenience. He had never heard it argued that the members of the Military Council were to be held incapable of receiving promotion; indeed, only a few weeks ago General Hamilton, President of this Council, had been appointed to a command. If the hon. Member wished to carry out his views, he must abolish these promotions. He was not aware that the Military Council and the Horse Guards came to any serious collisions. Differences of opinion there might be, but they were always referred to the War Office. The Council was the mainstay of the competitive examinations. They were conducted under the superintendence of the Council, but it was not true that the Council themselves conducted those examinations. All the Council did was to recommend the examiners, receive their report, be present at the examinations, and exercise a general supervision. For the selection from the candidates, the examiners, and not the Council, were responsible.


said, that there was an order which compelled every member of the Council to sign its reports, and if a report unpalatable at the Horse Guards was made, the officer who signed it might, after the term of five years, when he gave up his office as member of the Council find that he had lost all chance of promotion. He was strongly of opinion that the fact of the examiners of the Council sending back a friend of the Horse Guards from, the examination might be fatal to the subsequent promotion of the members of the Council, and this could not tend to their independence.


said, he wished to ask whether the resignation of the officer after the term of five years was to be compulsory? He thought it perfectly right that the Commander-in-Chief should have the power of retaining in office any of the members of the Council longer than five years, if necessary. One or two of the members had been appointed as far back as 1858. The Council was perfectly independent and had shown its independence. It would be seen from the Report of the Committee on Military Organization, that when the Commander-in-Chief suggested that, as there was a scarcity of officers, three young men who had attained superior marks, though they had failed to obtain the compulsory number, should be passed for commissions, the Council was against the Commander-in-Chief, and no one acquiesced more readily in their decision than the Commander-in-Chief himself.


said, that the rule was not peremptory in every case.


said, he should like to know whether the rule with regard to the five years' appointments was compulsory or not? He could not help thinking the system of the five years' appointments would be most detrimental to the service.


said, he wished to know what was the precise application of the rule as to these five years' appointments? The noble Marquess stated that it was not peremptory. Were the members of the Council to serve no longer than five years, or would it be competent for the Commander-in-Chief to re-appoint them at the end of five years? He could not agree that because the Council had hitherto been independent, they would always be so. Hitherto they had not been subject to this five years' rule, and, therefore, they had been independent. There must be very special qualifications for this service in connection with military education. He rather thought the noble Marquess had underrated the duties of the Council, and he could not agree that the five years' rule was at all applicable to the case. There was another point to which he wished to call the attention of the Committee—he meant the cost of the military schools. He considered the charge for education at military schools much too large. The cost of maintenance was as high in France as it was in this country, but that of teaching in this country enormously exceeded that of France. In Woolwich the cost of teaching was £60, of superintendence £30, and of living £80, making together £170. Another point was the entire division of the military supervision in these schools from the educational department. He thought it would be more economical, and of great advantage, if the military officers who had the supervision were also employed in teaching, as it would tend to promote more harmony and better feeling between the cadets and their teachers. An enormous amount of teaching power was apparently wanted, as there were at Sandhurst six teachers of mathematics, besides one in the Staff College; seven teachers of military surveying, and one in the Stall' College; and three professors of military history, in addition to one in the Staff College. As compared with any of the great public schools in the metropolis, University College School, or King's College School, the amount of teaching power at Woolwich was greatly in excess. For teaching 180 students in Woolwich there was as much teaching power employed as for teaching 330 students in University College. There would be no difficulty in getting clever officers to act not only as captains of companies in those schools, but also as tutors; and this arrangement would promote a better feeling between the authorities and the students.


said, he was not able at the moment to apply to the rule itself, but he thought he might say with regard to all staff appointments they were to be for a term of five years. There was, however, a discretionary power in the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary for War to extend the term if the exigencies of the service should require it. It only applied to military appointments. It had never been proposed to extend the rule. The only chance of collision between the Council and the Horse Guards was with reference to the examination of officers for staff appointments; but there was not much chance of the Council coming into collision with the Horse Guards on that subject. The rule had not yet been strictly applied, for the first officer about to retire under it had held office for eight years. As to what the hon. Member for Longford held to be the extravagant cost of the military educational establishments, in the first place he must remark that supposing any considerable reduction could be made in the expenses of those establishments, it would be of no great service to the Army Estimates, because a very large portion of the expenditure in those schools was met by payments from friends of the cadets, and if the cost could be reduced very considerably it would not be fair to charge the same amounts to students. Some reductions were made some time since, and so far as he could learn the Secretary of State at that time was satisfied that the efficiency of the Academy would be impaired if more extensive reductions were made. With regard to the number of professors, whether the figures of the hon. Member were correct or otherwise, he must remind him that mathematics, and the application of mathematics, required a much larger place in the military instruction at Woolwich than they did in public schools. As to the professors of fortification and of military surveying and drawing, he was informed that, as they had to teach their pupils out of doors, a much larger number of them was required in proportion to the number of students than if the instruction could be given indoors.


said, he thought that when the subject of the chronic state of rebellion of the cadets at Woolwich was brought forward, the answer referring the House to a Report issued in 1857 was insufficient. This state arose from alleged insufficiency of food and other matters, and the Report of 1857 could have no sort of connection with the present state of things whatever. The whole of the present system pursued at the military colleges had been formed since the Report was issued. And so with regard to the discipline at Sandhurst. If there was one officer more important than another at Sandhurst, it was the Major Superintendent of Studies, who was supposed to understand everything, and to be able to examine in the several branches of study, as well as the professors themselves, and yet he had only £300 a year, a sum infinitely less than the professors. That was a matter which required explanation.


said, he thought there was no good reason why boys should not go to Woolwich at fourteen or fifteen, and enter the army at an early age, as their fathers did before them. If that course were followed one-half of the professors and other persons employed in disciplining the cadets might be done away with.


said, that the change in the age was a consequence of the recommendations of the Commission to which he had already referred. It was then thought that the defects in the two institutions were owing to the extremely early age at which the cadets entered. The present discussion had resulted in a proposition to increase the pay of the Major Superintendent of Studies. That was the only practical suggestion that had been made, and it was remarkable that it often happened that some proposition for increase of pay was the only fruit of a discussion which turned upon an economical question. He was not able to give an explanation why the pay of the Major Superintendent of Studies was not higher, but he would endeavour to find out, and he had no doubt that next year they would have to propose to raise the cost of these institutions considerably. He should wish to know whether there was any ground for saying that there was an insufficiency of food, or that the quality was not good. He felt quite surprised to hear that there could have been any complaint on the subject.


said, it had been the alleged cause of the disturbances which had taken place at different times.


said, that if there were good authority for the statement the matter ought to be inquired into at once.


said, he hoped that a Commission would be appointed to inquire into the whole subject of the education of the army.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

(3.) £88,300, Surveys of the United Kingdom.

(4.) £94,800, Miscellaneous Services.

(5.) £26,100, Rewards for Military Service.

(6.) £72,600, Pay of General Officers.

(7.) £457,200, Pay of Reduced and Retired Officers.

(8.) £161,300, Widows' Pensions and Compassionate Allowances.

(9.) £26,700, Pensions and Allowances to Wounded Officers.

(10.) £34,600, Chelsea and Kilmainham Hospitals.

(11.) £1,173,900, Chelsea Hospital Out-Pensioners.

(12.) £27,000, Non-Effective Services, Disembodied Militia, and Yeomanry Cavalry.

House resumed.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.