HC Deb 14 May 1867 vol 187 cc557-9

, in moving for a Select Committee to inquire into the origin of the Military Reserve Funds, the sources from which they were derived, and the objects to which they were applied, said, that as he had received an assurance from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for War that he did not object to the Motion, he thought he should best consult the wishes of the House if he refrained from troubling them with any of the details which he should otherwise have felt it his duty to lay before them. A Return which daring the last few years had annually been laid upon the table of the House, showed that the Secretary for War was in receipt of large sums of money, of the raising of which the House had no knowledge, and as to the manner of disposing of which the House was equally ignorant. It appeared to him, however, that this was a matter with regard to which some information ought to be afforded. He also found that under the administration of these Military Reserve Funds great changes were being made in the system of the sale and purchase of military commissions. Although he did not concur in the opinions which had been expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the expediency of discontinuing the purchase system in the army—which, however it might seem objectionable in theory, he thought was, practically, advantageous—yet he strongly objected to an extension of that system; and from the examination which he had been in the habit of making for a long time past into that subject, he believed that a great extension of that system was taking place. He perceived that commissions were now sold, under the authority of the Secretary for War, which, according to the practice of the army, were formerly given to the sons of distinguished officers, and officers were now obliged to purchase commissions, to which they were formerly of right entitled without purchase, while commissions were sold in the junior ranks to a great and prejudicial extent—the consequence being that it was a matter of difficulty to find ensigncies for young men who have entitled themselves, by successful study, to commissions without purchase. He wished the Committee for which he was moving to direct its attention to these matters; but he also wished the House to understand that the Committee for which he was moving was one of inquiry, and not of inculpation; for he desired to attach no blame to the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for War (Sir John Pakington), nor to the right hon. and gallant General who preceded him (General Peel), nor to the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) who preceded the right hon. Member for Huntingdon. His only object in moving for the Committee was to have a full investigation of the subject, in order that if the system was found to be good and useful to the service it might be continued under the sanction of Parliament, and that if it were capable of improvement it might be improved.

Moved, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the origin of the Military Reserve Funds, the sources from which they are derived, and the objects to which they are applied."—(Lord Hotham.)


As has been already stated by my noble Friend, I have no objection to the appointment of this Committee, and it is therefore unnecessary for me to detain the House for any length of time. I shall follow the example of my noble Friend by saying very little on this subject. These Funds consist of considerable sums of money—the system has been in existence for more than forty years, and there is an ignorance on the part of the public, on the part of the army, and on the part of the House, as to the source whence they are derived, the purposes to which they are applied, and the advantages, whatever they may be, which the army derives from them. I believe my noble Friend is quite right in the opinion which he entertains, that the House ought to know whence these Funds are derived, and what advantages the country obtained from the expenditure. I see no reason why the administration of the Funds should be involved in mystery. On the contrary, I think my noble Friend is quite right in his opinion that it is far better that these Funds should be understood by the public, and that they should stand upon their own merits. Under these circumstances, I think my noble Friend has done well in moving for a Committee of Inquiry, and I am glad to support his Motion.


was glad to find that the right hon. Baronet did not oppose the Motion. These Funds had for many years existed without the knowledge of Parliament, although there had once or twice been whispers abroad concerning their existence, and recently accounts relating to them had come to light. He would venture to say that all these kinds of Funds at the disposal of public officers, whether in connection with the Army, the Law Courts, or with any other public Department, were extremely objectionable, and always ended either in bankruptcy, when the public had to make them good, or in something very much approaching jobbery, when a great public exposure had to be made. All expenditure in connection with any public Department ought to be voted by Parliament, and brought directly under its view, and the sooner these Army Funds were brought under the control of Parliament the better it would be.

Motion agreed to.

Select Committee appointed, "to inquire into the origin of the Military Reserve Funds, the sources from which they are derived, and the objects to which they are applied."—(Lord Hotham.)

And, on June 19, Select Committee nominated as follows:—Mr. BAXTER, Mr. CHILDERS, Mr. GOSCHEN, Colonel HOGG, The Marquess of HARTINGTON, Colonel NORTH, Colonel WILSON PATTEN, General PEEL, Mr. O'REILLY, Sir CHARLES RUSSELL, Mr. TREVELVAN, Sir JOHN TROLLOPE, Captain VIVIAN, Mr. PERCY WYNDHAM, and Lord HOTHAM:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.