§ (Mr. Secretary Cardwell, Sir Henry Knight Storks, Captain Vivian, and The Judge Advocate.)
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 25th May.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 3 (Compensation to officers holding saleable commissions).
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
rose to move an Amendment, in line 9, after the word "officer," to insert the following:— 1545On full-pay of any purchase corps shall receive such sums as he proves to the satisfaction of the Commissioners to have been paid by him for his commissions, such sums to be paid to him on his leaving the service, or on his death to his heirs, or sooner if the Secretary of State so decides, interest at the rate of three pounds ten shillings per centum per annum being paid to him until his capital sum is repaid.He said, that with regard to the compensation given by the Bill as it stood, the Government had adopted the course which was taken by the Commission which sat on the question of regulation prices, and which was presided over by the right hon Baronet the Member for Morpeth, which made no distinction between regulation and over-regulation prices, and that he also did not propose to do so. The scheme which he proposed was one of several which had been offered to the consideration of the Committee, based on the principle that the money which was to be returned to officers under the operation of the Bill should be returned at once. The money was paid under certain conditions of the service which were now about to be altered for the alleged benefit of the public, and it was merely an act of common honesty to place existing officers in the same position as it was intended that officers entering the Army hereafter should occupy. He must express his regret that the Government had not acceded to the Motion to refer that part of the question to a Select Committee, which might have been composed of such men as the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth, and which might have come to a satisfactory conclusion as to the principle on which the money should be returned in half the number of hours which had been occupied by the discussion of the Bill in Committee of the Whole House; and he thought the question of returning the money paid for their commissions to officers was one which naturally involved considerable detail, which could be much better dealt with by a small number of Members upstairs. There was a sum of £1,500,000, which was shown, by a Return for which he had moved, to have been received by the Government within the last 16 or 17 years from officers of the Army for commissions which, he maintained, ought never to have been sold at all. General Peel had commented strongly on a former occasion on the sale of commissions 1546 by the Secretary of State, and complained that young men went to Sandhurst in the hope of getting their commissions without purchase, and that many were unable to obtain them because the commissions had been sold by the Secretary of State for the purpose of putting money into the Exchequer. Now, though several insinuations had been thrown out to the effect that the officers of the Army were trying to see what could be made out of the Bill, his Amendment was open to no imputation of that kind, inasmuch as he merely sought to give to the officers the actual sums which they had disbursed. The opponents of the Bill had been charged with treating the matter as an officer's question, rather than as a question of public policy; but the Bill dealt with officers almost exclusively, and it was impossible to discuss the matter without treating it as an officers' question. The whole basis of the opposition, however, rested not so much upon the position of the officers as upon the absence of any information as to the ultimate cost of retirement. The Government had deliberately preserved silence upon this subject, and as long as it continued to do so opposition was justified in the interest of the taxpayer. The cost was so great, and the question of efficiency was so intimately connected with it, that it was the duty of everyone interested in the Army to insist upon knowing the cost, and to prevent the future character of the Army being left to the chapter of accidents. And, moreover, the Treasury bench might in the future be occupied by men more anxious about tiding over the Session than the efficiency of the Army; and, considering how largely this Bill increased the charge for the Army, the temptation to bring down taxation by reducing the strength of the Army might be too strong for them to resist. The right hon. and gallant Baronet concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice, with the addition specifying that, until the capital sum was paid, interest, payable annually, to the amount of 3½ per cent should accrue. That rate of interest would be fair, considering there would be a Government security.
said, he had heard an accusation of reticence made against those who had charge of this measure; but he could only assure hon. Gentlemen 1547 that no disrespect was meant to the Committee, or to those who had addressed it in opposition to the Bill. The right hon. and, gallant Baronet the Member for South Shropshire, who had moved this Amendment, had spoken for three-quarters of an hour, yet not until the last three minutes had he said a word as to the effect of the proposal that he had to submit to the Committee. He had referred to the Reserve Fund, which certainly had been misapplied in past times; but that had nothing to do with the question that the Committee had now to decide—which was, whether security should be given to officers for the money they invested in their commissions, and whether the present system should be absolutely changed. He had been charged by the right hon. and gallant Baronet with having said that the officers of the Army were trying to ascertain how much they could make out of the abolition of purchase; but he must qualify that expression, for day by day he was more convinced than before that officers outside the House were not dissatisfied with the principles on which the Bill was based. He would have been nearer the mark if he had said that those hon. Members who advocated the cause of the officers with so much zeal and earnestness—but they must forgive him for adding with so much questionable discretion—were trying to get the most they could for their clients. He did not pretend to have communicated, directly or by letter, with the commanding officers of regiments; but from what he could learn, either by himself or through friends, he could assert that the officers were satisfied with the abolition of purchase on the principles which the Government had adopted in their Bill. The right hon. and gallant Baronet, however, proposed to go on a totally different principle, for he asked the Committee to give to officers a security which they had not heretofore possessed. Hitherto an officer had only had a precarious hold on the money he had invested, for he might lose it by death; but the right hon. and gallant Baronet proposed that in future the money should be secured not only to an officer but also to his family. That was a principle which the Government, acting on behalf of the taxpayers of the country, must ask the Committee to resist.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
said, he must deny that officers would remain in the same position if the purchase system were abolished, and asked attention to a statement showing the present and future position of four officers, as calculated according to the Queen's regulations. Under the present system a lieutenant would be entitled to receive £1,700 for his commission if he desired to retire, his service having been 13 years abroad and three at home, and he having paid £250 for his commission. Under the provisions of the Bill that officer would receive the price of his lieutenancy, which would be £700, and, therefore, he would be a loser to the extent of £1,000. The second officer would lose £725, the third, £1,100, and the fourth, £950. That to him seemed to be a very curious way of putting officers in the same position as they would have occupied if that Bill had not been proposed. He would take the case of an ensign who joined a few years ago, paying £450 for his commission. If that Bill passed, another ensign would enter the Army without any purchase, and the two would receive precisely the same pay. But there would be this difference between them—that the one who came in without purchase had no vested right or interest in promotion; whereas the other, who had paid £450 for his commission, had purchased with that sum a right to promotion, if he conducted himself well and was not otherwise unfit for promotion. To whom was that £450 paid? He said, to the Government, because the Government sold to the parents of that young man his commission, and with it the right to promotion. Well, if purchase was to be abolished, the Government must before all things keep faith towards the officers, and were bound in honour to pay them back their money, not 25 or any less number of years hence, but immediately and down upon the nail. Again, the Government were bound to tell the taxpayers the exact sum which it would cost the country to do away with purchase, and also to do what they either could not or would not do—namely, to produce before that Bill passed their plan for re-organizing the Army. They might discuss those matters over and over again, and they were perfectly justified in doing it, for they would be guilty of a great want of duty if they let slip the slightest opportunity of ascertaining 1549 for their constituents the exact sum which that scheme would cost the country. Was he to imagine that the Government wished to cajole the country into incurring that expenditure, or that their reticence was to be attributed to the fact that they were afraid to let the country know its enormous amount? It was his intention to support the Amendment, because he felt convinced that if the Government were resolved to persevere with that measure, there was no other honourable way of dealing with the officers than by paying them their money at once; and the country ought to be told what the Bill would cost, in order that it might judge whether it was worth while incurring such a heavy outlay for a scheme which would not give them a single man or a single gun, nor in any manner improve their national defences.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he hoped he should not be deemed wanting in respect if he confined his remarks within what he conceived to be the rules of their proceedings and to the immediate question before them. The last speaker had asked to whom the purchase money received for an ensign's commission was paid. Well, it was paid to the officer whose retirement had caused the vacancy. The Government had substantially nothing more to do with it than the hon. Baronet himself had. The money, no doubt, was paid under Government rules; but it went into the pocket of the officer whose retirement had caused the vacancy. The hon. Baronet would find a complete answer to the case he had stated as to four officers, if he perused page 4, line 1 to line 11, of the Bill.
§ COLONEL C. H. LINDSAY
said, he thought it was time to return to the questions that were contained in the Amendment, which, though it was early in the debate, had been singularly departed from, and, as he had a few remarks to make in reference to the Amendment, he would, with the permission of the Committee, read it. [The hon. and gallant Member here read the Amendment.] Now, there was no doubt that this was a question of equity, and, as such, it ought to be dealt with in a judicial and in a compromising spirit. Compensation, to which this clause of the Bill especially referred, was a wide term, and it required judgment, care, and wisdom in 1550 handling it. Now, with all due deference to the hon. and gallant Member for Truro, this Amendment was one which possessed an important feature—namely, of novelty; it contained a suggestion which, as far as he knew, had never been so much as hinted at before; and it had the merit of doing full justice to the officers of the Army, and, at the same time, of reducing the liabilities which the Bill had sketched out for the taxpayers of the country—namely, payment by the State of the money which had been actually paid for commissions and no more; either on retirement, at death to the heirs, or at once. It offered another suggestion—namely, that in case the money was not paid down, a certain amount of interest—namely, 3½ per cent—should be paid. Now, he regretted to hear from the hon. and gallant Member that the Government had no intention of accepting either of those proposals; because he felt that if, for instance, it had accepted the first, one of many difficulties would have been bridged over, and much controversy would be saved. And even if it had agreed to the second proposal, a concession would have been made which would have been so far satisfactory to the officers of the Army that they would have felt that the Government were studying their interests. But as that result was not to be, and as the Government had declined both, he thought there would be a considerable difference of opinion in the minds of hon. Members opposite as to the expediency of forcing up to "another place" a measure composed, as it was, of such questionable machinery and of such doubtful necessity. Now, if such was the tone of Her Majesty's Government, they might look upon any concession at all as quite out of the question. Under these circumstances, it would be evident that the Government had decided upon forcing the measure, with all its objectionable provisions, through Parliament by the power of its majority. Now, the House of Commons, which was a shrewd judge, and one which, although severe in criticism, was, nevertheless, tempered with common-sense and justice, had not been over-fascinated with the Bill, and, if one might judge by its growing unwillingness to endorse the extravagant and doubtful policy which the Bill had enunciated, the progress of it would not be very encouraging. Now, 1551 let them see what was the difference between the Government proposals and those of his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Shropshire. The Bill engaged to pay, upon retirement, the regulation and over-regulation price of commissions which were given in this or that regiment to all the officers, whether they had actually paid it or not—that was to say, if the limitation clauses be repealed according to the Secretary of State's Amendments thereon. His right hon. and gallant Friend proposed that the Government should simply pay back to each officer what he had given for his commission according to the regimental price, and no more, either at once, if the Secretary of State so decided, or at death, or on retirement, of course leaving officers who had paid nothing, or whose commissions were unsaleable, to be squared with, according to the Warrant for the pay and promotion of the Army. He also proposed that as long as the money was not paid interest should be paid upon it. Now, there could be no doubt that such an arrangement would be a more acceptable one, and it would be a more economical one, than the plan of the Government—for his right hon. and gallant Friend laid it down that no officer should get more than he had given for his commission, which was only just and fair towards the unfortunate taxpayer; for, according to the wording of the Bill, it said that the officerShall be entitled to receive a sum equal to the estimated price at which the commission held by him on the said appointed day would have been saleable if this Act had not passed;" and where he proved that, he would, "if this Act had not passed, have on such retirement received, according to the custom of his regiment, a certain sum of money: he shall be entitled to receive the over-regulation price of the commission, which was held by him on the said appointed day,the effect of which would be that the taxpayers would have, in many instances, to pay for over-regulation prices that had never been given. That seemed to be plain enough; but whichever way the Government chose to take it, he trusted that the Amendment of his right hon. and gallant Friend would not be lightly regarded, for there was sound reason in it. Assuming, however, that no concession was to be made, and no money paid down at once, he thought the Committee would agree with him that it was only right that the money, 1552 if detained, should not remain idle; for it stood to reason that if the State appropriated the vested property of the officers of the Army—which it would do if it did not pay it off when it took it—and if it deprived them of the use of it during their period of service, and was only prepared to repay it on retirement—he said, it stood to reason, that upon all the principles upon which commercial transactions were based, interest should be paid upon the money so retained. Now, that was one of the two questions which ought to be fairly and honestly argued by those who thoroughly understood it, for it was not so much a military question as a commercial one, and also a taxpayer's question; but it was one of pecuniary interest to the officers of the Army, who, be it remembered, were not in a position to be heard, and who looked to the military Members in that House to attend to their interests. He said, he trusted that the question would be fairly argued, and, in doing so, that the sentiments which had been expressed by the Secretary of State before Whitsuntide might not be again pressed upon the Committee, for he did not think they were generous or tenable. That right hon. Gentleman said, in alluding to the question of compensation, thatIt was no part of the business of Parliament, in abolishing purchase, to make that system turn out more advantageous to existing officers than it actually was at the present moment.And, in the same breath, he said—The business of Parliament was to give complete indemnity, neither more nor less, to those affected by what it was now doing.Now, in the first place, officers of the Army did not want to gain any pecuniary advantage by the abolition of purchase—they merely wanted justice to be done to them; and, in the second place, how could complete indemnification—which was nothing more nor less than compensation in every shape—be given if the State withheld the usual payment of interest upon money not its own, the property of several thousand proprietors, and which was retained against the will of those proprietors, and when the money so withheld was forcibly appropriated by the legislation of a majority? The injustice was obvious. The Secretary of State also said—That it was impossible in minute arrangements to do perfect and accurate justice in every case, then the balance would be cast in favour of the officer.1553 Now, that being the right hon. Gentleman's opinion there ought not to be much difference between them, for what the Amendment asked was that accurate justice should be done, and that the balance, if favourable, should be applied to the transaction, and that the interest of money detained should be paid in the usual way of business. But the Secretary of State objected to the officers of the Army being allowed to remain in the position they stood in before purchase was abolished by giving them back the regimental price as soon as it was so abolished by Act of Parliament. And why did he? On ungenerous and unsympathizing grounds. He said—They should not be left in the position of preeminence which the regulation price had given them.And he qualified that opinion by saying—That if the Committee were to say that it would give back to the purchase officer the money he spent in obtaining priority, an injustice would be done both to the non-purchase officer and the taxpayer.Well, he thought such arguments were calculated to do more to confuse this intricate and difficult question than could possibly be imagined. Now, in order to explain the hard-and-fast views of the Government he would give another illustration. When the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) remarked a short time ago that the purchase officers came into the service expecting the purchase system would be continued, and that it was very hard upon a major who was expecting the command of a regiment not to be allowed to purchase the next step of lieutenant colonel, what was the reply of the Secretary of State—it was an interrogatory. He said—But what was the position of the non-purchase officer who happened to be the senior major," (mark, a non-purchase officer the senior major) "was he to be passed over by an officer who had obtained his position by purchase, and was the latter officer to receive back his purchase money, and, at the same time, retain his priority?That was a clear index of the right hon. Gentleman's mind that on no account would he pay any money to an officer while he was serving. Now, he wished to ask, had the right hon. Gentleman fully considered the relative position of those officers—namely, the officer who had become senior major without paying a farthing, and the officer who had only 1554 passed over his head to the lieutenant colonelcy, and who had not only paid for it, but for every step of promotion in the regiment besides? If not, he would find that the one would be a just setoff against the other, because the non-purchase officer had risked nothing and had got all his steps but one; and the purchase officer, who was only one step in advance, had for years risked a considerable sum for which he received no interest, and which would have been lost to his family if he had died in time of peace. Besides which, the non-purchase officer, it must be remembered, would not be left in the lurch—he would be provided for, if his commission was not saleable, by the Royal Warrant for the pay and promotion for the Army. It said in the Bill, that—In the case of an officer holding a commission the full price of which—if such commission had been sold—he would not be entitled to receive, shall include any allowance made in respect of such commission by the said Warrant and regulation on account of service, whether performed before or after a certain appointed day.And what was the rate at which the value of such service should be calculated? It said—It shall be £50 for every year of home service, and £100 for every year of foreign service;so that no injustice would be done to the non-purchase officer. With respect to the subject of interest versus pay, there was no doubt that they were two very different things. Pay could not be conjured into interest, because the money received by officers was nothing more or less than wages for military service, and everyone knew that it was, in all conscience, small enough. There was surely, therefore, no justice in withholding the interest of an officer's money because the State happened to become the temporary guardian of it. Officers must be placed on an equal footing to be just, and it could not be effected if the money was not paid down or interest given until it was paid: it must be either one or the other. For instance, take two officers serving in the same regiment, of precisely the same rank, and drawing, of course, the same pay, to obtain which, one had paid money and the other had paid none. How could they be on equal terms if the purchase officer was not to be allowed interest for his money so retained by the State, not only on account of the deadness of the capital as far as 1555 he was concerned, but because of the loss of interest, to neither of which results was the non-purchase officer liable? He confessed he could not understand why the Secretary of State should grudge a purchase officer priority—or pre-eminence as he called it—when he had paid for it, and purchased his prospective right to further promotion, and risked his money, which right, so purchased, was to be swept away without returning him his money on demand as an officer in Her Majesty's service. The scheme of the Government was no doubt fair and just to those who wished to leave the service at once; but not so to officers who wished to remain in the profesion they had adopted. He could hardly think that the refusal on the part of the Government to pay the money down was intended as a means to drive officers out of the service with a view of effecting an immediate flow of promotion, and thereby stave off the announcement of its plans till a more convenient season, when its immediate responsibilities might have ceased to exist. But what else could it mean? But whether it was so or not, all was still in confusion; the plan of selection was still unknown; the conditions and cost of retirement, half-pay and pensions, were equally dark. Therefore, until those matters were settled the Army would undoubtedly stop the way, and would remain in its present crysallis state, between disorganization on the one hand and unpopularity on the other, unsettled and discontented; so that he might well exclaim with Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing—which by-the-by was very applicable to the Government measure in question—O what men dare do! what men may do!What men daily do! not knowing what they do!
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he did not know how it was possible for the Government to adopt this Amendment with the slightest regard to the interests of the officers of the Army or to the interests of the taxpayers and the country generally. Nor could he see what claim in equity officers could have to the advantageous terms which the right hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for South Shropshire would give them.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
explained that he only proposed that officers serving on full-pay—not all officers of the Army—should receive the 1556 regulation and over-regulation prices of such commissions as they had purchased.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that being so, an officer commanding a regiment on full-pay might sell out to-morrow, and get from the Government the full price of every commission which he had purchased, including regulation and over-regulation, at fancy prices. Why, it had been given in evidence that in one case a lieutenant colonel of cavalry gave £17,000 for his commission, and the right hon. and gallant Member would allow such an officer to claim that amount from the Government. Or, if an officer had paid a more reasonable sum, he might claim from the Government, while serving in his regiment, the whole sum which he had given for regulation and over-regulation, although, perhaps, he had not the remotest intention of selling out, and might be within six months of becoming major general. What pretence could there be for giving such terms to officers who never meant to make money by the transaction; but who had invested the amount with the view of becoming major-generals and generals, and spending their lives in the Army? The proposal was so extravagant that he thought it was scarcely necessary to argue the expediency of performing it.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
observed, that he had particularly stated that he should be ready to restrict the operation of his Amendment to the officers who were at present affected by the Bill.
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, he was prepared to deny the statements of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that the sum of £450 paid by the ensign entering the Army as the price of his commission went into the pocket of the retiring officer. Since the Crimean War no less than one-third of the sums which had been extracted from the pockets of officers as the prices of their commissions had been appropriated by the Government. Not one of the arguments which had been brought forward in the House on behalf of the officers of the Army had been answered by those who sat upon the Treasury bench, for the Government had always evaded the point at issue—namely, that the contract which had been entered into with the officers had been broken. He admitted that the Bill was just as far as 1557 it affected officers about to leave the service; but what he and other hon. and gallant Members had been hammering and hammering at night after night, and should continue to hammer, into the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, was that it was unjust as far as it affected the officers who intended to remain in the Army, for those officers had paid certain large sums of money upon implied conditions, such as a certain amount of freedom to be enjoyed in exchanging about from one climate or regiment to another, and the absence of uncertainty with regard to promotion, there being no dread of favouritism, or exterior influences, so long as they did their duty, and the terms of those conditions the Bill proposed to alter. He had received from an officer a written communication to the effect that there could not be a greater mistake than to suppose that exchanges were made exclusively for the benefit of rich officers; exchanges were to the advantage of rich and poor, but the latter were very much the greater gainers by the old established custom, as it saved the commissions of many hundreds of good officers who, if there were no such practice, would have to sell out and leave the service to pay their debts. The officers of the Army were helpless on this question, and, therefore, the Government persevered with their proposals. They were not like the licensed victuallers, who got up an agitation that made the Government drop like a red-hot poker the Bill they had introduced with reference to publichouses. The hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Captain Vivian) had said that this Bill was popular among the officers of the Army. With regard to that, he (Colonel Anson) had repeatedly suggested that the Government should submit the 3rd clause of the Bill to a Select Committee of the House of Commons, who, in ten days or a fortnight, would be able to ascertain what was the feeling of the officers on this subject. He was aware that a number of persons were going about as War Office jackals to discover officers who wished to realize the value of their commissions, and who were, therefore, anxious that the Bill should pass in order to realize their money. But the great mass of the officers in the Army—the captains, lieutenants, and ensigns, were strongly opposed to the proposition 1558 of the Government, and if this Bill became law, the discontent among them would be greater than it was now. He would warn the Government against what they were now doing by reminding them of the result of that measure which was passed some years ago for the amalgamation of the Indian Army with our Army. That measure was passed without the guidance of anybody who could have warned the Government of the result, and that amalgamation had been a constant curse to every Secretary for War ever since. He trusted that the Committee, before inflicting a gross injustice on the officers in the Army, would carefully consider the subject, and especially the effect of the 3rd clause.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Colonel C. H. Lindsay) contended that the 3rd clause was a great protection to officers, and fairly secured them against loss by the proposed change. As to the Amendment now before the Committee, it simply amounted to a proposal to give an officer £175 a-year in addition to his salary in the British Army. That could not be called justice, and if it was a sample of the economy advocated on the Opposition benches, the Liberal Members might well have faith in the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. As for the officers not being in a position to speak for themselves, why, if justice were on their side, the English people would be on their side also. ["Hear, hear!"] Would the noble Lord opposite, who cheered so vigorously, point out the justice of the proposal?
§ VISCOUNT ROYSTON
said, he had cheered because he, too, believed the people of England would support him in the view he took of this question, in opposition to that of the Government. Hon. Members had talked very much about an appeal to the country. He would like very much to appeal to the country on this question. [Mr. CANDLISH: On this 3rd clause?] He was speaking of the whole question. The hon. Member had personally alluded to him, and therefore he rose to make a few remarks. The hon. Member had spoken of the question of justice. He would state that if the officers were to be placed on an entirely different footing to that in which they previously stood, 1559 justice would not be done to them until all claims and all vested interests existing at the present moment had been fully compensated. They ought to receive all the money which they had paid for their commissions, and they ought to receive a sum as interest for the money which they had so invested. The Press of the country—at least, a portion of it—said that if the officers did not accept the terms now offered them they would suffer hereafter; but the vested interests of Englishmen, whether officers of the Army or private individuals, must be respected, because the law of England was on their side. The Bill was so despicable that scarcely anyone in the House or out of the House could be got to support it, and yet hon. Members were day after day, and night after night, insulted by the Secretary of State for War—["Order!"] [The CHAIRMAN: The noble Lord is not in Order in saying that he was insulted.] He begged pardon if he were out of Order, and he would willingly withdraw any expression which he had used improperly. What he meant to convey to the House was, that while hon. Members who were opposed to the Bill persisted consistently in their opposition to it, they were accused by the Government of retarding the Business of the House. In "another place" he had heard a military authority, one lately raised by the Government to a high position, deprecate this Bill in language far stronger than anything which he had heard uttered by hon. Members in that House, and when he heard such opinions expressed by distinguished military officers, he thought that individuals like himself were not to be blamed for fighting an uphill-battle against so preposterous and shameful a measure. He felt assured that whenever the Government made an appeal to the country in reference to Army organization, they would find that there prevailed a decided opinion against the present measure.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
said, that believing justice would be done to the officers of the Army, sooner or later, whether in this Parliament or another, he would not trouble the Committee to divide on his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1560
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
then moved, as another Amendment to the same clause, to insert a proviso, that—If he has purchased the said commission or any step of the same, receive interest on the regulation price of such commission, at the rate of four pounds per centum per annum in addition to the established pay of his rank; and every such officer shall.By the Returns that had been issued it appeared that, in round numbers, the estimated value of regulation and over-regulation prices was £8,000,000, of which £3,000,000 were for the latter and £5,000,000 for the former. It was also expected that £1,200,000 would be paid off in the course of the ensuing year; so that the whole sum on which the Government was asked to pay interest to the officers was only £3,280,000; by so small an expenditure might they accomplish an act of undeniable justice to the officers of the Army. He thought that an officer should receive a fair percentage on his money—if not 4 per cent, he would be satisfied with 3½ or 3. He really was at a loss to understand how any man could deny that, so long as the Government retained the money and the services of the officers, they ought also to observe the conditions upon which the original compact was based. He trusted that, even if unable to announce his decision to-night, the Secretary for War would consent to take the matter into his careful consideration.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that he was sorry he could not accept the Amendment. The Government was not prepared to anticipate in any way the time when those payments were to be made.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
thought the payment of interest in case the money were not paid down was a simple matter of justice. The question was—"Do you, by this Bill, alter the status of the officers of the Army?" This was done both directly and indirectly, and therefore they ought to receive what was admitted to be due to them, or, in default, interest thereupon. For that reason he must support the Amendment.
§ SIR DOMINIC CORRIGAN
said, there were no worse enemies of the Army than those who opposed this Bill, for the discussions it had given rise to had enlightened the public as to the facts of the case. The middle classes were now asking upon what principles of justice they were required to pay an additional 1561 2d. income tax to recoup officers of the Army for over-regulation money for expenditure incurred by them as parties to an illegal practice. If the Bill were thrown out—and his constituents anxiously desired it should be—a new measure should be introduced next year less generous, but strictly just, giving to officers only the regulation money; for this is the view in which the commercial man will now regard the question before us. What course would the country pursue were the fact ever to occur that promotion in any Department of the Civil Service was regulated by a system of private bonus? It would let the wrongdoers be the losers; and if this Bill failed, the country would demand justice for itself in relation to the over-regulation money. Reference had been made to the Balaklava Charge as a proof that the present system produced brave officers; but if that Charge proved anything, it proved that it was high time science should take the place of purchase; for had there been men of science instead of men of purchase as guides on that occasion, that fatal Charge would not have taken place, and we should not now have to deplore the wanton sacrifice of some of our best blood. He would most earnestly counsel hon. and gallant Gentlemen to withdraw their opposition to the measure, for, like the look-out from the mast-head at sea, who sees the forthcoming storm arising on the horizon in the shape of a cloud no larger than a man's hand, he saw the rising of an opposition which would force terms on the Army much less liberal than those now offered.
§ COLONEL CORBETT
said, he must contend that the tacit sanction given by the authorities to the payment of over-regulation money made it obligatory on the Government to repay it. If no interest for their money was given to purchase officers after the purchase system was abolished, and if officers who had purchased and those who had not were to receive the same pay, heartburnings and a strong sense of injustice would exist in the Army. He believed, from the Petitions which had been presented, that the feeling of the country was rising against the Bill; he supposed it was because the taxpayers considered they had been humbugged into permitting the extra two-penny income tax to be expended for so little purpose. For the sake of consistency, he thought the right 1562 hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War ought to accept the Amendment.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that on a former night an hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Francis Goldsmid) had, by his injudicious support of that Bill, added fuel to a debate which had hardly any fire in it, and a conflagration, which the Prime Minister had reason to deprecate, raged for several hours as the consequence. That evening another speech of a similar character, calculated to stimulate and inflame debate, had been delivered by another hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Dominic Corrigan). For himself, he had had no intention of speaking on the present occasion; but he had fallen a victim to the seductions of the hon. Baronet, who had appeared before them in the double character of Cassandra and a small boy on board ship, who saw a storm brewing, he did not exactly say where. The hon. Baronet said, that on account of the opposition offered to that Bill in that House, the people of this country were going to turn against the officers of the Army. He, for one, did not believe that the people would do anything so unjust and so ungenerous. He quite admitted that if that Bill were once withdrawn, they probably would not see it again, nor any other Bill for abolishing purchase. The people did not know anything of that question, which was entirely new, and one peculiar to the Trevelyans. ["No!"] He would repeat that statement. Had that question been treated in any of the hustings speeches of any hon. Gentleman? ["Yes!"] In how many? [Mr. MUNDELLA: In the speeches of almost every Liberal Member.] Then they could not have been reported. They would not dare to say it was a question which had been before the country. [Mr. MUNDELLA: Yes!] What, at the elections? [Mr. MUNDELLA: Yes!] He maintained deliberately that the question of purchase had never been ventilated in the country—that the country was ignorant of it; and all he hoped was, that if that Bill were withdrawn, they would have a dissolution upon the question. And on what ground did he say that? Not in the interest of the officers. He had never stood up there as the advocate of the officers, although he wished, incidentally, in dealing with that question, that justice should be 1563 done to them. He took up the question in the interest of the British taxpayer; and when the Secretary of State and his two aides could not deny that every advantage they sought by the abolition of purchase could be fully gained under the present system, he thought that measure proposed a wicked waste of public money. The Petitions presented to that House, and also the divisions taken in it, showed that the question was beginning to be better understood, and that the eyes of the taxpayers were being opened. The whole of this great question, he thought, had degenerated into a squabble about the abolition of purchase. The Bill had been introduced not with the sole object of affecting the position of the officers in the Army, but to meet the national cry for safety and security, and to enable this country to occupy her proper position in Europe; and with regard to that object the proposal of the Government involved a great injustice to the officers, while, if the Bill were passed, the country would not be one iota the stronger for it. The whole Government scheme had been denounced root and branch by the noble Lord and gallant General who had been promoted to the other House for the purpose of advising the Government with reference to this measure. When this question came to be properly understood throughout the country, certain hon. Members would not fear to meet their constituents; but he begged to state that he in no way referred to those hon. Members who supported the Government in a wild and wanton expenditure for no purpose whatever. When a man rose with the gift of prophecy, he was inclined to turn a deaf ear to the prophecy, so far as regarded its tendency. Thus, in the present instance, the tendency of the prophecy was to frighten the House with regard to the future. But he hoped that the friends of officers, whether within or without the House, would not be alarmed at such a prophecy, for if the present Bill should be thrown out the officers would be much better treated in any future Bill which might be introduced. He did not know whether it was the intention of the hon. Baronet to go to a division upon this question; but he believed the object of the Amendment to be, as far as possible, to alleviate the hardship and the injustice of the Government scheme. He contended the measure was an unjust one, and thought 1564 that the Gentlemen who never served, who had no relatives in the Army, who had never attended to the question, but who had voted with the Government for fear of the result of an election, could not be either impartial or unexceptionable judges of the question at issue. He challenged those who sat on the Treasury bench to say whether or not the State had derived any benefit from the sale of commissions, and whether the payment made by the officer entering went into the pockets of the officer leaving the service. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Financial Secretary had assured the House that the officers of the Army were in favour of the Bill; but the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) had stated that he had received letters from 1,800 officers expressing an opinion adverse to it. He trusted that the hon. and gallant Member would, in the course of the debate, read those 1,800 letters, so that the House might ascertain what was the real opinion of the officers on the subject. It had been remarked that hon. and gallant Members of that House, being interested parties, had no right to give an opinion on this question; but when shipowners were listened to on shipping matters, naval men on naval questions, bankers on financial matters, and lawyers on legal reforms, he could not see why the only persons whose opinions ought to be disregarded on military matters should be officers in Her Majesty's service who had served with distinction in all parts of the world. As it was, the Government were advised in this matter by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Surveyor General of the Ordnance, who had not been actively engaged in military service, and by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Financial Secretary, who had served on several Military Commissions, but who had had no military experience whatever. If the Amendment were pressed to a division, he should feel it is duty to vote for it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Financial Secretary had stated to-night that the Government were prepared to attend to any reasonable proposition, and he trusted his right hon. Friend the Secretary for War would state what they considered a "reasonable" proposition, because the proposition which brought the Government down to a majority of 16 before the Recess, was supported by their great advocate 1565 in the Press, the leading journal The Times, which expressed a hope that the Government would adopt it.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
, replying to the noble Lord's (Lord Elcho's) first question, said, that when an officer sold out, the promotion went through the regiment, the purchase money of the ensign who entered the regiment going to make up the purchase money of the lieutenant colonel who sold out. Supposing that an officer applied for permission to sell his commission, and that he was not entitled to receive the whole sum, the balance which he did not receive went to the Reserve Fund. About this Reserve Fund a great deal had been said. The late Lord Herbert, when Secretary of State for War, sold a certain number of ensigncies for the purpose of adding to that fund. A great deal had been said also about the way in which that money had been laid out, and it had been alleged that officers of the Gentlemen-at-Arms had been paid the value of their commissions out of that fund. Admitting he was not prepared to defend all the payments which had been made out of that fund, he must, nevertheless, remind the Committee that many offices formerly held by, and paid for by civilians, had been bestowed on military officers of distinction, the original holders having, of course, been re-paid their money. Again, the Reserve Fund had been applied for the purpose of reducing half-pay. Before sitting down, he desired to remark that every time the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) addressed the House on this subject, his speech had contained a deprecation and a threat. In the first place, the hon. and gallant Gentleman always deprecated the introduction of any personal allusions into the discussion; but, in fact, no one had been more personal in his allusions than the hon. and gallant Gentleman, or had instilled more venom into his remarks. It was not worth while alluding to what the hon. and gallant Gentleman had said of him to-night; but as the noble Lord opposite (Lord Elcho) had referred to him by name, he would leave it to his own good taste to determine whether he had treated him in the way he ought to have done. As to the threat used by the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley, it was that discontent existed in the Army, and that it would probably increase. Now, 1566 that there was any feeling of discontent in the Army he distinctly denied, and he should not be convinced to the contrary, even by the 1,800 letters which had been referred to.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that if anything he had said had given the slightest pain to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, he regretted having said it. At the same time, however, he maintained his right to point out that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had not seen active service.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
remarked, that he had always gone where he had been ordered to go. In his judgment, it was not right to introduce these personal matters into the discussion. Every hon. Member would, he believed, do him the justice to say that he had never introduced them.
recalled the Committee to the question before it, and read the clause and the Amendment under discussion.
§ COLONEL WILMOT
said, he must remind hon. Members that only one-fourth of the extra 2d. of the income tax was required to compensate officers of the Army under this Bill during the present year, and that the remaining three-fourths was required to make up the deficiency of military stores due to the false economy of last year. As to the unpopularity of this Bill with the officers of the Army, he knew from conversation with them, the views of several commanding officers, senior majors, and senior captains, who unanimously condemned it as a bad Bill. Their dislike to the Bill did not arise so much from its treatment of themselves in regard to the purchase system as from the utter absence of any scheme to replace it. They had no confidence whatever in the reorganizing power of the Government.
§ SIR WILLIAM RUSSELL
said, he would support the Amendment, unless the Government showed some disposition fairly to consider the claims of those officers who intended to continue in the service. Hitherto the right hon. Gentleman had met every proposal made in their behalf with a determination to stand by the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. He (Sir William Russell) did not stand up for the rich man, who could afford to pay £15,000 for his lieutenant colonelcy, or his class, who wished only to remain in the 1567 Army for a year or two, but for the poor officers who intended to remain in it as their profession; and he was perfectly satisfied if the Committee really understood their case, they should insist on the Government modifying what he believed to be a most unjust proposal. He would almost call it an attempt at petty larceny upon those officers. ["No, no!"] He would take the case of the hon. Member who said "No, no!" He believed he had a son in the Army. He had paid £700 for regulation and £150 for over-regulation price. Under the Government scheme, he would never receive one shilling of that money till after 25 years' service, when on retirement he would receive £150, the Government pocketing the £700. On the other hand, the scheme held out to the rich man the prospect in a very few years of getting back every shilling of his money. The Bill was exceedingly fair to those who wished to leave the Army, but most unfair to those who wished to remain in it.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he wished to say a few words with reference to what had fallen from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Surveyor General of the Ordnance. In answer to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bewdley, the Surveyor General had declared it as his own opinion, that this Bill was not unpopular with the officers of the Army. Now, how did he support that opinion? He said it was all very well going into mess-rooms and barrack-yards; but where could they better learn the opinions of officers than in mess-rooms and barrack-yards? The Surveyor General said this measure was not out of favour with the Army. Now, admitting the weight which justly attached to any opinion of the Surveyor General, he must say he did not consider his unsupported opinion as equivalent to the number of letters received by the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley. But it was not only in mess-rooms, barrack-yards, and letters that the opinion of officers and the public had been declared. This question had been talked of out-of-doors by military men and civilians, by Whigs, Tories, and Radicals. He himself had talked with men of all classes, and he had met with no one who really approved and supported the Bill. There never was a measure which met with less favour.
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, he would quote the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War on the 16th of February—"That the object of his scheme of Army re-organization was to combine in one complete whole all branches of our military force," and said they wanted to know how that scheme was to be carried out. The Government had told them next to nothing, and right hon. Gentlemen were indignant when any questions were asked. What was the real origin of purchase? When the regiments were originally raised, the Government said to officers—"You shall have commissions, if you raise the men required;" so that the State actually purchased those regiments with the officers' money. Yet it was now doubted whether the officers had a right to that money. He hoped that the Secretary for War would postpone the present clause, and so give time to the country fully to consider it. Lord Sandhurst, and many distinguished officers, were now in the House of Lords, and he would bear testimony against a Bill that would certainly destroy the military power of this country.
§ SIR EDWARD BULLER
said, he must observe that with regard to the abolition of purchase, that question had been settled by the decided majority of the House, and as to compensation, everyone admitted that in reference to those officers who left the service the terms were liberal and just. Then the question arose, were the terms fair to those who remained in the service? In his opinion they were, for they would place every officer in as good a position as he stood in before. The officer who had purchased one or two steps would get his future steps without purchase, and would enter into fair competition with the officers entering the Army under the proposed new system. He confessed it seemed to him that those hon. Gentlemen who advocated exceptional claims on behalf of officers showed more zeal than discretion. He regarded the Bill of the Government as a very fair and just measure
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, that with regard to the vested interests of the officers, the Government seemed not to understand what they really were, but took a sort of commercial view of the matter, and regarded the officer as 1569 merely having his commission to sell, as a grocer sold a bag of sugar over the counter. The officers, however, did not care so much about their money as their promotion. The officer who bought his commission bought the customary, though not the legal, right of not being superseded, provided there was nothing against his character or capacity, as also the right of contributing to a fund, by means of which the advanced to the head of his regiment. All this was put an end to by the Government system of selection, to which the officers of the Army objected. The system of selection was the sting of the matter. It was all very well to say that the system would only deal with the incapable officer, but it was not fair to him, whose money the Government had taken and whom the Government had kept in the service, to turn round and tell him, if he did not like the new system, he might leave the service. It was only in a Select Committee up stairs that this subject could be properly considered. The Government had proposed that it should be inquired into by a Commission, but they had never given the names of the Commissioners; and unless they did, it would be impossible to know whether the officers of the Army would have confidence in the names of those the Government might propose. Unless the Government re-considered these clauses and the Amendments, with the view of securing justice to the officers, they would not be able to pass the Bill in "another place."
§ MR. R. SHAW
said, there was no force in the argument that compensation should be given to the officers who might be superseded under this measure, because they themselves had superseded other officers.
§ COLONEL NORTH
said, he had conversed with a great number of officers on this subject, and he believed that no Bill that was ever introduced with regard to the Army was viewed with greater dislike than this Bill by the officers of the whole Army. If it were a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence, the offer of the Government was as liberal as it could be. But his objection to the Bill, which he would oppose line by line and at every stage, was that it would be the destruction of the Army. If his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War would show what under this measure would be the chance of retirement 1570 and flow of promotion, he believed the opposition to the Bill would cease; but his right hon. Friend would not do so, and the House could not take a leap in the dark.
said, he wished to call attention to what the Amendment before them was; and he read it as it appeared upon the Paper.
§ MR. M. CHAMBERS
, as an old non-purchasing officer opposed to the abolition of purchase, begged leave to protest against the commercial principle of the proposition before the Committee, which was substantially that, as to the money invested in the purchase of commissions in the honourable profession of the Army, officers should be dealt with in the same way as a man who had invested capital in buying or carrying on a trade, or in any other speculative adventure.
§ LORD GARLIES
said, that this clause should have come as a corrollary to the 2nd clause, which provided that after a certain day, to be fixed by Her Majesty in Council, there should be no sale of commissions. But instead of that, the clause now before the Committee proposed that the commissions of the officers of the Army might continue for years to be sold to Her Majesty's Government. The leading principle of the 2nd clause was, that one officer who had purchased ought not to be serving side by side with another who had not. How, then, could Her Majesty's Government ask the Committee to pass this clause, when they retained the 2nd? If the Government wished to push on the Bill they should have accepted the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Norwich. From the division on that Amendment they must have seen that the Committee was against them, for Her Majesty's Government, though having a majority of 116 at their back, had defeated the hon. and gallant Baronet's proposal by a majority, not of 116, but of 16. Having served 15 years in the Army himself, and having three brothers, one in the cavalry, another in the artillery, and another in the infantry, he could not but take a warm interest in this matter. He had simply to say, in conclusion, that he could not approve the clause, which was framed, in his opinion, with anything but a sense of justice to the officers of the Army.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
said, that a question which had been put to the Government had been evaded at every step, and he would again press for an answer to it. It was, seeing that the officers of the Army had paid large sums of money to create half-pay and half-pensions, had the Government not profited by the money paid by these officers? The whole of the regulation money had been applied for the benefit of the Government, to the diminution of the military expenditure and of taxation; and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War knew that the half-pay and retiring allowances of the Army were ridiculously small as compared with the half-pay and retiring allowances of the Navy, although the force of the Army was four or five times as great.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
replied that when the question had been put to him by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), he had had no intention of evading it, and he thought he had given as plain and straightforward an answer as he could. If an officer was entitled to the whole of his purchase money the whole of the purchase money would be paid; but if he was not entitled to the whole of that sum, the officer got what he was entitled to, and the balance was paid into the Reserve Fund. His right hon. and gallant Friend called it a creation of half-pay. Now, his right hon. and gallant Friend had been appointed to the 82nd Regiment from half-pay. The officer whom he had succeeded, at the recommendation of Lord Clyde, had been permitted by the Secretary of State of the day (General Peel) to succeed to that half-pay. That officer had been brought on full-pay in 1859 for the purpose of selling his commission, and was replaced by an officer who had been 25 years in the service, and was entitled to go upon half-pay. Consequently that transaction was closed. In 1861, when he (Sir Percy Herbert) was appointed deputy quartermaster general at the Horse Guards, it was necessary for him to go upon half-pay. There was no half-pay available, and it was necessary to create half-pay to put him on half-pay, and a step was given as a purchase step in the regiment for the purpose of creating half-pay for the right hon. and gallant Member. With regard to the regimental agent, 1572 the regimental agent was a person in whose hands every officer lodged the purchase money, and that agent managed the pecuniary transaction between the officer going out and the purchaser.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
had not a word to say against the accuracy of the statement which had been made, but the question which he had put had not been answered. In the transaction to which allusion had just been made, there had been no favour or grace conferred upon him, and he believed his right hon. and gallant Friend did not mean to convey that there had been.
said, he would, in order to avoid misconstruction, point out that the Amendment was merely to the effect that officers who had invested their money on the faith of the Government, and to a certain extent under their absolute direction, should receive the value of their commissions at once, instead of being kept for years out of principal and interest. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would not give the Committee the trouble of dividing upon an Amendment which merely asked him either to pay down the regular price, or to pay a fair rate of interest upon it; but that, on the contrary, he would, as he had promised early in the evening, accept it as a fair proposal, and one that the Government might with perfect consistency grant. He had never opposed this Bill on the narrow ground of the interests of the officers; he had proceeded on the far larger and more constitutional ground, that this Bill was in its entirety a waste of public money, that it destroyed an Army while doing nothing to replace it, and that it was destructive, not constructive, in its provisions. They had been told that they would get a worse Bill next year if this did not pass—["Hear, hear!"]—and the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. White) cheered that sentiment. Did he think such a threat would weigh for one moment with the officers of the Army? Did he think they merely quarrelled about a mere question of money? The officers of the Army opposed this measure, not because their pockets would suffer, but because, in their opinion, the country would suffer. He did not believe the Bill represented the feelings or wishes of the country, nor did he believe 1573 that the House of Commons would see injustice done. Whether the Bill were delayed till next year, or till still later, the officers knew they might trust their interests in the hands of the House of Commons. They did not want to snatch from the good nature of the House anything to which they were not entitled. The hon. Baronet the Member for Dublin (Sir Dominic Corrigan) had used something like a threat. He said he saw a cloud no bigger than a man's hand, and he called for the withdrawal of the opposition, lest worse should befall them. He (Viscount Bury) also saw something in the distance. He saw arising among the people a clearer notion as to the real tendency of this Bill; and if he and others stood before their constituents, he believed they would be able to justify what was called their obstructive policy. They would say—"Here was a Bill introduced for the purpose of abolishing a system under which our Army had become renowned in all Europe for the discipline of its men and the gallant bearing of its officers, at the bidding of a Government which had evidently but little considered the question. There was no breath of such a proposal when the Prime Minister made speeches throughout Lancashire, or when the Secretary for War addressed the Druids at Oxford. The Government refused all explanation. They said to us—'Pass our Bill, and we will then tell you what our Army shall consist of.' We replied—'Tell us what our Army is to consist of, and then we will pass your Bill.' It was a Bill put before us without adequate information—a Bill which would cost an indefinite number of millions, and which had caused a sixpenny income tax, with little hope of its speedy remission; and, more than that, it was a Bill which did not in any way justify the anticipations which were formed previous to its introduction; for instead of removing the sense of insecurity to which the country had been aroused by the Continental War, by really effecting the re-organization of our Army, it did nothing of the kind, but on the contrary cut down recruiting, cut down the system of appointing officers, cut down everything upon which the Army had hitherto been based, and restored nothing." This is what they would be able to tell the country, and he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman not to refuse this small modicum of justice 1574 to the officers of the British Army, to which in his (Viscount Bury's) opinion they were so justly entitled.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, the noble Lord the Member for Berwick appeared to have been rehearsing his next hustings speech, and it was to be regretted that he had not performed it in "another place." For his part, he also was ready to go before his constituents, and justify his vote against an Amendment in favour of taking £200,000 a-year out of the pockets of the ratepayers and making it an absolute gift to the officers of the Army. The noble Lord had not shown that the position of the officers would be improved in any way by the change; and, if they did not like the different circumstances, there was in the Bill a provision under which they could receive their invested capital and relieve the country of their services.
§ MR. GREENE
said, he must maintain that this question was one of common honesty between the Committee and the Army, and he would ask whether it could make any difference whether the country repaid to the officers their capital or allowed them interest upon it. He had had some opportunity of ascertaining the opinion of the Army on this matter, and he submitted that it would only be honest to pay down at once the value of the commissions, so that the old purchase officers and the new non-purchase ones might start fairly together. He expected that on their return after the Whitsuntide holidays, hon. Members would have been told by the Prime Minister that he was satisfied as to the opinion of the country being decidedly against his measure. The right hon. Gentleman professed to be governed by the public voice; but the opinion of the country had never been taken on this subject, and he, therefore, would do all he could to prevent the Bill passing into law before there had been time for its consideration. Possibly, some hon. Members might think it doubtful whether they would return to this House in another Parliament; but he had always so much pleasure in meeting his constituents that he should like another contested election. He might say commonplace things; but the electors of this country were commonplace people, and they desired to know why Parliament wasted its time about the re-organization of the Army. The officers 1575 might not be perfection, but was anything perfect? Was this House perfect? Many hon. Members must know themselves to be so imperfect that they would never be returned again. His constituents asked who it was that introduced the Bill. He (Mr. Greene) told them it was not the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, for he did not trouble himself much about war. He was a man of peace. The Secretary of State for War was the man. Now, he had a high personal regard for the right hon. Gentleman, and he was sorry he had lent himself to the ideas of young philosophic aspirants to political honours like the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan). The Committee was wasting time about the Army and neglecting the Navy, to which they ought rather to look. ["Question!"] The question before the Committee related to the defence of the country, and it was important to those who had anything to lose to know that they would have both an Army and a Navy to protect our shores. If the Government desired to abolish purchase, they ought to pay like honest men, and hon. Members ought not to be afraid to tell their constituents they had been taxed with that object, for the country would not mind the money if it was well spent.
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, he must regard the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Berwick as a straightforward one; and, although it might be thought a hustings address, he trusted that at the next election many more such speeches would be heard from hon. Members who sat on the Government side of the House. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of Dublin had told the Committee that as a cabin boy he had looked down from the mast, yet he had no sooner said so than he came down the mast and ran away without giving anyone the opportunity to answer him. The Secretary of State for War, in bringing forward this Bill, said his object was to combine in one harmonious whole all the branches of our military forces. Would he tell the Committee how this Bill proposed to effect that object? If the right hon. Gentleman would do so, he would assist the Government to carry their Bill.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, he wished to refer to a remark make by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City 1576 of Dublin, which he could not allow to pass unnoticed. The hon. Baronet had observed that servants must be content to get what they could get.
§ SIR DOMINIC CORRIGAN
What I said was, that civil servants would have to be content with what they were allowed by law.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, the hon. Baronet had used those words, but he went on further to say that servants must be content to take what they could get. ["No, no!"] However, if the hon. Baronet's own version were accepted, they were not treating with civil servants, but considering the interests of military officers whose money had been taken under certain conditions. Instead of giving them promotion by seniority upon purchase, they were now to be promoted by selection. That was a distinct breach of contract, and therefore the State ought either to return their money or pay them interest upon it. In "another place," a noble Lord who had been sent there to bless the Bill had to-night done the other thing, and such opinions deserved consideration. His Amendment was a reasonable one, but he was quite content with the discussion which had been raised, and would not ask the House to divide. ["Oh, oh!" and laughter.] It was all very well for the Prime Minister to laugh at the course taken by an independent Member.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
was much obliged for the cheer; the cheers of the Prime Minister were always gracious. He repeated that he was satisfied with the discussion, and with the opinions the country was likely to form upon it, and therefore would not press his Amendment to a division.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ SIR WILLIAM RUSSELL
proposed, in page 2, line 20, after the word "commission," to insert the words "or where such officer shall be invalided, or shall die while serving." He thought it was reasonable that officers who were worn out in the service should receive the value of their commissions, and that 1577 the relations of those who died on service should also be placed on the same footing. He therefore moved the insertion in the clause of words giving this privilege in the case of officers invalided or dying on service.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 20, after the word "commission," to insert the words "or where such officer shall be invalided or shall die while serving."—(Sir William Russell.)
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he was sorry he could not accede to the proposal. As he had frequently said, the object of the Bill was not to confer new privileges; it was merely to indemnify those who would otherwise be prejudiced by the Bill. Under the Royal Warrant officers invalided, or the relations of those dying, did not receive the value of their commissions, and it would therefore be entirely foreign to the principles and objects of the Bill to agree to the Amendment.
§ LORD GARLIES
said, it did not seem to matter what the proposal was, or by whom it was made; the only answer given by the Secretary for War was that he could not accede to it.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, that poor officers who were worn out in the service suffered a great hardship in not being allowed to sell out, and this question and the case of officers dying in the service, ought to be considered by the Government.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 191; Noes 259: Majority 68.
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, that as the next Amendment on the Paper—that of the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands)—was of great importance and likely to lead to a protracted discussion, he would move that the Chairman do now report Progress.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he hoped the Motion would not be agreed to, as it was only 20 minutes past 11 o'clock. In the discussion, which had lasted all the evening, many arguments had been adduced which, in his opinion, were not entirely relevant to the point at issue.
§ COLONEL C. H. LINDSAY
said, he would point out that on the last occasion when the Bill was under consideration in Committee, the Prime Minister himself 1578 moved to report Progress at 20 minutes past 11, alleging that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Warrington was too important to be discussed at so late an hour. Surely that rule ought to apply to the present case.
said, he must admit that he had moved to report Progress on the occasion referred to; but not, however, at precisely the same hour. ["Yes, yes!"] It was past the half-hour. If the hon. Member for Warrington wished to proceed with his Amendment at once, he thought it would be right and conformable to the rule that the Committee should go on.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he was prepared to go on with his Amendment, if his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bewdley would withdraw his Motion for reporting Progress. He should not like the effect of the discussion on his Amendment to be rendered nugatory because of a conflict on a Motion for reporting Progress.
said, it would be taken at a reasonable hour, if it were taken at all. He was unable, however, to accede to the Motion that Progress be reported at 20 minutes past 11, especially after considering the manner in which this evening had been spent.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he must remark that there were upon the Paper 37 Notices, many of them being of the most important character, and he could not conceive why the Business of the House was to be brought to a standstill, because the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government endeavoured to drive three omnibuses at a time through Temple Bar. The right hon. Gentleman had undertaken an amount of legislation which it was perfectly impossible to get through during the limited period in which the House sat. Members had already been defrauded of part of their Easter holidays. The Whitsuntide holidays had been curtailed, and now they were called upon to work double time for the remainder of the Session, for the purpose of carrying out legislation which many hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House, and, he believed, more hon. Gentlemen on the other side, deemed not 1579 only wholly unnecessary, but most disadvantageous to the country. He should certainly support his hon. and gallant Friend's Motion.
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, he would withdraw his Motion on condition that there should be no Morning Sitting to-morrow.
said, the Prime Minister had been good enough to complain that the Committee had expended some hours in a rather fruitless discussion. It is true they had been discussing a question upon which they divided, but he could not believe that hon. Members who supported the Government knew what they had been voting about. In point of fact, they divided on one of the chief points of the clause now under consideration.
remarked that if the hon. and gallant Member was about to discuss the question just decided by the Committee, he was out of Order.
said, he was not going to discuss the question. He merely pointed out that the Committee had divided on a question which was one of the most important points of this clause. One of the main objections to it was that the Government were trying to make capital out of the deaths of the purchase officers. The Prime Minister now proposed that the Committee should proceed to discuss an Amendment which, as he himself said the other night, was unfit to be discussed at half-past 11. Was it fair to proceed with a Bill of this importance on a day when three-fourths of the Members would be absent? Hon. Members must know what had been the practice for the last century and a-half on the Tuesday in Ascot week.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he was quite willing to accede to the Motion, on the understanding that the Committee would resume the consideration of this Bill at a Morning Sitting to-morrow.
said, that for the sake of half-an-hour's discussion to-night, the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley asked him to alter the policy which the Government announced before Whitsuntide. He had heard of an exchange of golden arms for copper ones, which might be familiar to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but he never heard of terms so unequal as those which were offered in this bargain. He would accede to the Motion for reporting 1580 Progress, as the question whether the House should meet at 2 o'clock would arise immediately, and upon that the Government would take the opinion of the House. He thought it necessary to have a Morning Sitting for reasons he had already stated.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he was not aware that the Government had announced their intention of proceeding with this Bill at the Morning Sittings after Whitsuntide. He thought that at such Sittings the Westmeath Bill was to be taken on account of its urgency.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
rose to Order, and asked whether it was competent for the Committee to discuss what should take place on the following day.
said, it was not in the power of the Committee to decide at what hour the House should meet. On that a decision must be taken when the Speaker was in the Chair.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he had only intended to continue the debate on the Motion for reporting Progress. He was under the impression that the Morning Sittings were to be devoted to a question of urgency. To the two proposals already made he would add a third. He could not deny that at this period of the year, and especially with Public Business in such a state, it was not unreasonable to have Morning Sittings on Tuesdays and Fridays, but he suggested that the Government should take the Evening Sittings, and give the Morning ones to those private Members who had Motions, some of whom had been put in a ridiculous position already this Session. In that way an amicable compromise might be effected.
§ Committee report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will To-morrow, at Two of the clock, again resolve itself into the said Committee."
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, the question now before the House was, "That this House will To-morrow, at Two of the Clock, again resolve itself into the said Committee." Now, he objected to that course of proceeding, and in doing so, he might probably be told that he was trying to obstruct the course of 1581 Public Business. He begged to say that he had no such object in view—that he had taken no obstructive part and had not troubled the House on more than one or two occasions. Then, it might be said that he was actuated by a party motive; but he hoped he had said enough to relieve himself from any such imputation; and, moreover, ever since he had had the honour of a seat in that House he had always taken a very lively interest in this question, and had frequently raised objections to such propositions as that now before the House. It appeared to him that above all things hon. Members were bound to maintain the rights and privileges of private Members. He thought that this proposal of the Government was a direct infringement of those rights and privileges. It was the fault of the Government only that the Public Business of the House was now so encumbered. It was the business of the Government to determine at the commencement of the Session what those measures should be which the limits of the Session would admit of, and to estimate the amount of discussion to which they were likely to give rise. Yet, on last Friday, when there were many important measures upon the Paper, the Government allowed the House to be counted out at about 10 o'clock. The compromise suggested by the noble Lord the Member for Leicestershire, would, he thought, be making bad worse. If the Government were permitted to take the course they now proposed, the private Members might as well retire altogether, for the House of Commons as a House of debate would no longer exist. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was offering what he called "a bargain," by which all the gain would be on the side of the Government and all the loss on the side of the private Members. It would appear from the answer given by that right hon. Gentleman to a Question put to him in the early part of the evening that they—the Government—did not claim the right of initiating Bills in that House, but left that initiation, as it were, in the hands of the public; for, he said, in respect to the Scotch Education Bill, that the Government would proceed with it, provided the same feeling existed amongst the people of Scotland in respect to it as had been before expressed. Was that, he asked, the way the Government 1582 was to go on with the business of that House? If private Members were to sacrifice their rights and privileges, it should at all events be for the sake of facilitating the progress of measures initiated by the Government. ["Divide, divide!"] It was his intention to take the sense of the House upon this question, and on the result would, in his opinion, depend the character of that House in the eyes of the people. He would therefore move that the House at its rising do adjourn until a quarter before 4 o'clock to-morrow.
§ MR. CONOLLY
said, he wished to know what course the Government intended to pursue with regard to the Westmeath Bill. Hon. Members had been brought down on three different occasions in consequence of the declared urgency of that measure, which was to deprive a large section of the people of Ireland of their liberties; but there appeared, after all, so little urgency in the matter that he begged distinctly to ask the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government what they meant to do with that Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The question before the House is, that the Committee do sit again To-morrow at 2 o'clock, and the hon. Member's Amendment is that the House do adjourn till a quarter to 4 to-morrow. That is not a suitable Amendment. The Amendment must be relevant to the Question when the Committee should again sit.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he would raise the question by moving that the Committee should sit again on Thursday next.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Amendment by the hon. Member for West Norfolk is the one before the House, but as I have observed, it is not suitable to the occasion. The Amendment must refer to the time paid for the sitting of the Committee.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, he would beg leave to apologize. By a slip of the tongue he had moved "that the House do meet;" but he meant to move that the Committee do sit again at a quarter to 4 to-morrow.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has been advocating the rights of private Members, but his Amendment would obviously defeat his own object.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "To-morrow, at Two of the clock," in order to insert the words "upon Thursday,"—(Mr. Bentinck,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
said, he must repeat, with regard to the Westmeath Bill, what he had before stated, that it had been postponed for two or three days in order to enable some hon. Members to prepare a clause which they desired to insert in it. As to the Scotch Education Bill, he was surprised at the ingenuity of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck) who had contrived to misunderstand what had been stated at an early period of the evening, and had impeached the conduct of the Government on two grounds difficult to reconcile—namely, that they sought to destroy the rights of private Members, desiring to make them mere registrars of the decisions of the Government; and, also, that they abandoned all initiative, so that they were hardly worthy to bear the name of a Government. The Government were prepared with their measures at the commencement of this Session in as great a degree as any Government in the present day, and he did not think a single evening had been lost on account of Government not being prepared to bring forward their measures. But hon. Members were aware that one important measure now under discussion—the Army Regulation Bill—had been met with a description of opposition most unusual. For several nights in Committee one Amendment after another had been made the means of reviving the discussion on the general principles of the Bill. No doubt hon. Gentleman thought they were justified in taking that course; but, such being the case, it was rather cool for hon. Members to assume that everything connected with the difficulty of carrying on Public Business was to be set down to the fault of the Government. If it were the fault of the Government, there was a mode of dealing with the matter, but that mode, he must do the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Norfolk the justice to say, it was not proposed to adopt. As to the Government, the Crown had committed to 1584 it by the practice of the Constitution and by the will of the House of Commons a leading share in the initiative of legislation, and the Crown, at the commencement of the Session, made an announcement of those measures which it was thought material for the public interests to introduce and carry into law. But there had been years when the Government felt it their duty to grapple with great measures of an organic character connected with a sister kingdom, and they had been years of extraordinary difficulty with respect to the regular course of legislation. Under these circumstances, the Government find that the 6th of June was beginning to be a period of the year when it was usual to resort to Morning Sittings, not for the purpose, as the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) suggested, to give those Morning Sittings to private Members, but for the purpose of expediting the Public Business; and he must say, when he was told that the rights of private Members were to be sacrificed, that never had the rights of private Members been more fully enjoyed than during the present Session. ["Oh, oh!"] It was idle to meet the assertion with exclamations, which meant nothing, because it was capable of being brought to a question of fact; and it was no unprecedented or unreasonable course to resort to Morning Sittings about the 6th of June. The House resorted to Morning Sittings in 1867 on the 28th of May; in 1868, on the 16th of June; in 1869, on the 8th of June; and in 1870, Morning Sittings were adopted in April, abandoned in May, and resumed again early in June. Having business of no small importance to dispose of, it would be most discreditable to the House to allow measures of great moment—such as the Army Bill and the Secret Voting Bill—to lapse through failing to resort to those obvious and usual means for economizing time which have been adopted of late years. With respect to the rights of private Members, he must say those rights were respected by avoiding an undue prolongation of the Session, for at times the House had sat to September, and he asked whether that was now desired by hon. Members. There was the Army Bill on hand, and the House knew how much progress had been made with that measure in Committee. 1585 The Government intended to follow up that Bill with the Secret Voting Bill; and so long as they were supported by the House they were resolved whatever the time consumed or the discomfort experienced, to obtain the judgment of the House on both those measures. They asked the House to adopt no extraordinary course, but only the ordinary and usual course, which had been followed of late years, in order to enable them to go on with their measures; and whatever might be the profuse and unbounded eloquence discharged on the clauses, on the words, and almost on the letters of the Army Bill, yet if the rational course they proposed were adopted, they should be able, within a Session of reasonable length, to obtain the judgment of the House on that Bill and the other important Bill which was to follow, and to discharge the rest of the business of the Session in a manner which would not be displeasing to the House.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he must characterize the initiation of the present system of Morning Sittings in 1867 as an evil precedent. It had led to a state of the utmost confusion in the conduct of business from which that House had never recovered. He admitted, however, that there was another element in the case. It was true that hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House did not wish to displace the Government, and that was an anomalous position; but, at the same time, if the Government chose to take advantage of their good wishes, and announced that every measure proclaimed at the beginning of the Session was to be forced through the House by the dead weight of an unreasonable majority, they placed independent Members in the position of having no alternative but that of obstruction. By the course which he pursued, setting down the Westmeath Bill for to-morrow, and then, in deference to a suggestion from the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. W. H. Gregory), postponing it, and fixing another Bill for the Morning Sitting, the Prime Minister was treating the House more like a great school than anything else, and if an appeal were made to the country it would, in no small degree, be based upon the embarrassment which the course adopted by the right hon. Gentleman had produced in the transaction of Public Business. 1586 If the right hon. Gentleman wished the House to proceed in a business-like manner, let him invite attention to the recommendations of the Committee which sat on the subject, and provide that Notice should be given to Members on one day of the business which they would be called upon to take into consideration the day after. The confusion which now existed was caused by the fact that the proceedings of the House were conducted on no fixed or settled rules.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he regretted to have heard the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister allude to the probability of the House being obliged to sit until September, because an allusion of that kind was likely to be regarded somewhat in the light of a threat. He doubted, too, whether such remarks were likely to facilitate the progress of Public Business. As Morning Sittings were now carried on at the instance of the Government, there could, in his opinion, be no doubt that private Members were put to great inconvenience. The right hon. Gentleman, it was true, took credit to himself and the Government for having paid great attention to the preparation of the measures which they had introduced to the notice of Parliament; but the great cause of complaint against them was, that they brought forward too many measures to entertain any reasonable hope that they could be carried. The House was occupied night after night with Bills which had to be withdrawn, and the result was a great block to business. It was a case of delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi, and if the Government had only properly managed the business, the House might very fairly hope to rise at the usual time. As to the opposition to the Army Regulation Bill being unusual, he would reply to the imputation by asking the simple question, whether many of those hon. Members who ordinarily supported the Government were in favour of it, and whether objections to it were not justified by the complete silence which had been observed with respect to the total cost of the scheme, and the mode in which under its operation retirement was to be carried into effect?
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
, while denying that he was one of those eloquent Members alluded to by the Prime Minister who sought to waste the 1587 time of the House in discussion, expressed himself as being extremely anxious to support the rights of private Members, which were being invaded by the system of Morning Sittings to which the Government were having recourse. As to the opposition to the Army Bill being unusual, he should like to know whether it was not more unusual that the House should be asked to pass a measure with the details of which they were unacquainted. The example of the Westmeath Bill showed how very useless those Morning Sittings were apt to be; and he thought it would be better for the Government to proceed with the Army Bill in the evenings, without trenching on the rights of independent Members.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, he thought a great deal of valuable time would have been saved if the Government had brought in their Westmeath Bill without previously proposing a Committee. He begged to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
, in seconding the Motion, stated that he was engaged in the Select Committee on Indian Finance to-morrow, and his constituents strongly pressed him, at the same time, to be present at the discussions on the Army Bill. How was he to act under those circumstances?
said, he could not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Boston was serious in his Motion. The only legitimate reasons for adjourning a debate were two: either that the considerations to be taken into view were so extensive that they could not be handled at the time, or that the materials requiring to be discussed were not sufficiently prepared. Neither of these reasons applied to the occasion before them. It would be mere mockery were he to address to the hon. Member any arguments for or against his Motion. The only construction that he could put upon it was, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was determined to intercept the expression of the views of the majority of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Collins.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
Business is in an unusual and unsatisfactory condition, 1588 which I am sorry to perceive has been for some time arising. I have always felt it my duty to support the Government in any reasonable proposition for the prosecution of the Public Business. However unskilful may have been its management, that is no answer to the present proposal, the object of which is really to conduct Public Business with more efficiency. The claim that the right hon. Gentleman now makes is the use of Tuesday and Friday mornings. Now, no one denies that to yield up Tuesday and Friday mornings is a great sacrifice of the rights and privileges of independent Members; but I am not at all prepared to say that, under proper circumstances, they ought not to be ready to make a sacrifice of that kind; and I have no doubt that, if circumstances demanded it, there would be little hesitation. A Morning Sitting, however, under all circumstances, is an unsatisfactory meeting of the House. Ministers themselves are not very able to be here; many of the best Members of the House are in attendance on Committees; and all our commercial and professional Brethren are absent; therefore, a Morning Sitting is, under any circumstances, unsatisfactory, and it is the last resource of a Minister. My opinion is, that to ask the House to consent to Morning Sittings on Tuesdays and Fridays is a course that ought not to be taken unless there is a very general concurrence in it. I do not shrink from the responsibility of having myself first proposed the alteration in the mode of Morning Sittings, although it brought down on my head the denunciation of the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate); and I think that, on the whole, it is an alteration that has facilitated the progress of Public Business, and rendered Morning Sittings more satisfactory than they used to be. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman ought to call upon the House to divide upon this subject, or to attempt to carry his wishes in this respect by majorities. He will find, on the whole, that in the conduct of Public Business he must greatly depend upon the good sense and good temper of the House, and if, by force, he should attempt to carry into effect such an arrangement as would not be palatable, somehow or other Public Business, though you might meet in the morning, would not 1589 proceed. Unless the House is in a good temper, we gain nothing by these artificial arrangements. What can justify a Minister in asking for a concession of this kind? It is that he has on his hands matters of great exigency and emergency. Under such circumstances, would he appeal to the House in vain? I think everyone would agree that he would not. If, for example, the right hon. Gentleman had asked the House to grant him Morning Sittings to carry the Westmeath Bill, there would no doubt have been not only a general, but an unanimous acquiescence in that arrangement, although independent Members might have said it was very hard upon them to be deprived—as they practically would thus have been—of the opportunity of discussing the questions they wished to bring forward, because if the Government had acted as they ought to have done, and had early in the Session brought in their Westmeath Bill without hesitation, it would have been passed and forgotten, and they need not now have made that appeal to the House. But it is not for such purposes as these that the right hon. Gentleman is asking the House to hold a Morning Sitting to-morrow. It was not until hon. Members had come down to the House this day that they were let into the secret that the Westmeath Bill was not to be taken to-morrow.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I can answer for those who sit near me, that there was a general impression that the Westmeath Bill would be proceeded with to-morrow, and I am astonished to hear from the right hon. Gentleman such is not the case. But if that had been the case, I cannot doubt for a moment that the House would have consented to it. But is this a measure of emergency—a measure of that exigency which justifies such an agreement of the House? The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the Morning Sittings which I asked the House to consent to in May, 1867. I may again observe that then I appealed to the House to support me—I did not attempt to force the decision of the House on the subject. The House by a general consent agreed to those Morning Sittings, 1590 and I required them in favour of a measure respecting the details of which there was no doubt considerable division of opinion, but respecting the desirability of the carrying of which there was a general concurrence in the House. There was a general desire both in the House and out of it that the Reform question should be brought to a settlement. But is that the characteristic of this particular measure, which the right hon. Gentleman has brought forward respecting the Army? It has been discussed a great deal in this House, and the opinion of the House upon important portions of it has frequently been taken, and a very balanced state of opinion has been shown. It is a measure which has received some of the strongest opposition from the right hon. Gentleman's own supporters—hon. Gentlemen who sit behind him, many of whom are looked upon as among the pillars of his party. The opposition has by no means been the opposition of this side of the House; but it has been general, and I believe the greatest number of Motions in opposition to the Bill have been brought by hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side. Therefore, I cannot think that this is a measure which has the character of emergency; and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has been prudent in trying to commence these Morning Sittings—which, under certain legitimate circumstances and conditions, the House contemplated that in the course of the Session he would have recourse to—by asking the House to sacrifice its privileges, in order that he should advance a measure which is opposed, and so strongly opposed, by a considerable portion of his own Friends. It appears to me to be not a measure which commands the general concurrence of opinion of the House, so as to justify such a course. Although the business of the House is certainly in sad arrear, and although we have done very little this Session, still, practically speaking, this is now the only measure before us, with the exception of the Scotch Education Bill. It appears to me, therefore, to be the feeblest part of the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, for this great sacrifice to be made by the independent Members, that he wishes, I may say, to introduce a Ballot Bill, for we have had no discussion about the Ballot Bill, and no one can pretend that the Ballot Bill 1591 is a measure of emergency. Why, it was only last year that the right hon. Gentleman became a convert to its principle; and even the plan which has been introduced to us is not the plan which we were told last year would probably, in consequence of the recommendations of the Committee, be adopted. And, further, I believe that the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill at the beginning of the year, was not a Cabinet Minister at the time. He may have been, but I doubt it. But really, when the right hon. Gentleman adopts the highly serious vein, respecting his determination to keep us here until September, or even later, in order that we shall pass this Ballot Bill, there seems to me to be something approaching the comic in his conduct. It is my wish to assist the Government in conducting the necessary business of the House, and I should be very glad, with regard to the Army Bill, to come to some rational and reasonable understanding, upon which we might carry this year a Bill which would improve the military defences of the country, without involving us in this fanciful expenditure for what appears to be considered the somewhat eccentric and not very popular proposition respecting the abolition of purchase. If the right hon. Gentleman in due time felt it necessary to have Morning Sittings to vote the Estimates, I am sure the House would assent to any well-digested proposition. But the House wants to be satisfied that if this sacrifice is made, it should be for some effective purpose. They are not prepared to make it for this somewhat eccentric Bill, which I hoped originally would have much improved the military defences of the country; but it has taken another character, and it certainly is not popular in the country, as the Petitions presented to day show. The request that we should give up the opportunity of performing the duties which our constituents are pressing upon us to fulfil, in order that at some future period—this being the 6th of June—the right hon. Gentleman may proceed with a Bill to establish secret voting—and not merely Parliamentary secret voting—offers such a shadowy inducement to make a substantial sacrifice, that the right hon. Gentleman cannot be surprised at the difficulties he encounters. I should be glad to see them disappear, and to find the right hon. 1592 Gentleman could make some arrangement by which he will proceed with the Westmeath Bill. Nothing could be more unsatisfactory than the conversation which took place upon that Bill to-day. There is not the slightest reason why hon. Gentlemen interested in it should not have drawn their clauses on Friday last; and, having drawn them, it would have been the duty of the Government to see that the Bill was proceeded with; and the House would then have agreed to a Morning Sitting to-morrow. But I really hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not press it at the present moment. It has come upon the House in a most unexpected manner, for they naturally thought, when the right hon. Gentleman intimated his intention of asking for this concession, that he intended to use it for a wise and salutary purpose, and not for such a doubtful matter as this Army Bill. I trust, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will re-consider his decision, and will to-morrow proceed with the Westmeath Bill, which the country wishes us to pass.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he must deny that the House could have been taken by surprise in this matter, inasmuch as due notice had been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister of the intention of the Government to proceed with the Army Regulation Bill at Morning Sittings before Whitsuntide. The practice of holding Morning Sittings, which had been inaugurated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, had, he was bound to admit, greatly expedited Public Business. The right hon. Gentleman had remarked that at these Morning Sittings only such measures had been taken as had received the approval of the House, and it was impossible to say, after the repeated divisions of the House in its favour, that the Army Regulation Bill had not received that approval.
§ MR. DISRAELI
explained that what he said was that Morning Sittings should only be held with the general concurrence of the House.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he thought that the Bill in question had received the general approval of the House, and that therefore it came within the terms used by the right hon. Gentleman. He wished also to point out that this system of conducting business was first introduced 1593 by the right hon. Gentleman in 1867, for the purpose of going on with a measure which had by no means received the universal concurrence of the House. The right hon. Gentleman said that a great part of the opposition to the Army Bill proceeded from Gentlemen sitting on the Ministerial side of the House. He must remind him that a very considerable part of the opposition to the measure of 1867 proceeded from Gentlemen sitting on the Ministerial side of the House. He hoped that he had sufficiently distinguished the precedents of the right hon. Gentleman, and he trusted that, as he was always anxious to promote the course of Public Business, he would consent to the Army Bill being proceeded with at a Morning Sitting to-morrow.
§ SIR RAINALD KNIGHTLEY
said, that Government were apparently determined to make use of the very narrow and decreasing majority—[laughter]—yes, the very narrow and decreasing majority—to force a crude and ill-considered scheme through the House. The question resolved itself into this—if they were to come to a matter of physical endurance, and to go on dividing on adjournments and the Reporting of Progress, of course it was quite clear in the long run the Government would, have to give way. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman, however, would take care of his health, so that he might not be compelled to leave the conduct of Public Business in the hands of one or two of his Colleagues, considering the very limited amount of success which had attended some of their efforts.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, there were two points involved in the question of Morning Sittings—one affecting the interests of private Members, and the other affecting the nature of the Public Business. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government had stated that Morning Sittings generally commenced in the first week of June, but he should not forget that there had been Morning Sittings for the last three weeks already. If the Government found it necessary to have recourse to Morning Sittings, it ought to take them on their own days, and not on the days set aside for private Members. If there was any grave urgency he would not object, and that brought him to what the question they were required to have a Morning 1594 Sitting to-morrow upon was. He was not going into this measure; but it was a measure which ought to be discussed when there was a full attendance of the Members of the House, and not on a day when Government could command a majority of this House. ["Oh, oh!"] It was only put for that day and hour because Government had found it had raised such hostility, not only on the Opposition side, but on their own side of the House, that they did not believe they could carry it by fair discussion. ["Oh, oh!"] It was perfectly manifest. ["Oh, oh!"] It was as manifest as anything could well be, that that was the object and intention of the Government. ["Oh, oh!"] If it was not so, why did they not put it down for Thursday? He did not know how many Orders of the Day there might be. [An hon. MEMBER: Thirty-eight.] Why, then, did they not come forward with some of these measures? Among these 38 Notices were there none which interested the working man? Why there was a Bill which had been three Sessions before Parliament. [A VOICE: The Ballot.] Not the Ballot; but a measure which was not for the payment. ["Question!"] He thought he was speaking perhaps too much to the Question. ["Question!"] At any rate, he would not be deterred by cries of "Question" from saying what he had to say. ["Oh!"] The Government professed to be a Government which looked after the interests of working men. Why, then, did not they propose to proceed with a measure which had been brought in by the Government, on the Reports of Committees and Commissions, for the protection of life among one of the most industrious classes of people in this country? For three Sessions hon. Members had been endeavouring to induce the Government to proceed with that measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary almost gave a pledge to those interested in that measure—the miners—that it should be pressed through Committee before Easter. For that measure the Government would not give a Morning Sitting. [Cries of "Whose fault?"] Were not the miners honest, industrious men? [Renewed cries of "Whose fault?"] The groans when he said that came from the Liberal Gentlemen opposite. But now it was proposed to have a Morning Sitting for 1595 the Army Regulation Bill, which was becoming more and more unpopular, not only in the House but the country, as was testified by the Petitions that had been presented against it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 174; Noes 245: Majority 71.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. KNIGHT
said, he must express a hope that the Government would extend that courtesy which was usually shown to so large a minority under the circumstances, and would not press the whole Radical force on the other side against them. He begged to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Knight.)
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 154; Noes 225: Majority 71.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, that if the Westmeath Bill had been set down for the Morning Sittings, there would be no objection to such a course. But there was an election about to be held in that county, and the Government were no doubt anxious to render themselves as little unpopular in that quarter as possible. He should move the ad-adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Lord George Hamilton.)
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, he would suggest that the Prime Minister, who had been recently indisposed, and on whose illness hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to calculate for the success of their tactics, should retire to rest, and leave his supporters on the Ministerial benches to fight the matter out with hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were bent on taking a factious course.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, that if the conduct of the Opposition was factious, they had ample precedent for it in the line of conduct which had on former occasions been adopted by Members of 1596 the present Cabinet, especially by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board.
said, it was with extreme pain he viewed the present state of things. He had formed a strong opinion that upon the issue of this contention depended the legislation of the year and the credit of Parliament. The Bill had been met in a manner which had been mildly described as "unusual;" and he did not hesitate to say that in the course of his 39 years' experience nothing of the kind had happened before. On former occasions what had been termed factious opposition had consisted of minute scrutiny of the details of a Bill in Committee; but on this occasion it consisted of speeches on the principle of the Bill made at every step in Committee. So far as his knowledge went this was an absolute novelty; and now, when it was asked that Morning Sittings might be resorted to, the Government were met by an opposition which threatened to detain the Speaker in the Chair for the purpose of deliberately preventing the consideration by the House of a measure recommended by the Crown in the Speech from the Throne. ["Oh, oh!"] These were not laughing matters, but matters of extreme gravity; both political parties were upon their trial before the country. His own personal convenience was as mere dust in the balance, and nothing would induce him to leave the House without a firm conviction that the majority intended to vindicate its rights. A few more rounds of the hands of the clock might perhaps bring hon. Members to a more complete self-knowledge than they possessed.
said, he must repudiate the insinuation of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) that it was the aim of the Opposition to the Bill to take advantage of the indisposition of the Prime Minister.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
said, he would suggest as a compromise that the Government should postpone the further consideration of the Army Bill to a Morning Sitting on Friday.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he recollected that on a former occasion 13 divisions had been taken, each following the other with the utmost rapidity, and in the result the minority had to give way about half-past 5 in the morning. It was now a quarter-past 2 o'clock, and he saw no 1597 reason why they should go on debating the matter any further. He should rather suggest that hon. Members should walk in and out through the division lobbies until they were tired. Then it would be seen which side possessed the greatest physical endurance.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had said the Bill had been introduced at the instance of the Crown, and therefore the House had no choice. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Never!] He appealed to the recollection of the House. The Opposition had been compelled to adopt this course, and unless the House was prepared to adopt every measure brought forward by the Crown, minorities must vindicate their rights.
§ MR. DENISON
said, he must repudiate the imputation which had been cast on the Opposition side of the House, that they in any way calculated on the indisposition of the Prime Minister in the course which they deemed it to be their duty to take.
§ MR. CANDLISH
explained and apologized for having misunderstood a previous remark, which gave rise to his observation.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he would suggest that, on the understanding that there would be no objection to a Morning Sitting on Friday, the Government would not be disposed to press for one to-morrow.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
took occasion to explain that Government had never entered into any engagement that the Westmeath Bill should be fixed for to-morrow.
said, he would assent to the proposal to waive a Morning Sitting to-morrow (Tuesday), on the understanding that there was to be one on Friday, and subsequently on Tuesdays and Fridays, as long as was required by the state of business.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Committee to sit again upon Thursday.