§ (Mr. Secretary Cardwell, Sir Henry Knight Storks, Captain Vivian, The Judge Advocate.)
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 9th June.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 3 (Compensation to officers holding saleable commissions.)
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
rose to move in page 2, after line 39, the insertion of the following words:—When an officer on the appointed day has not attained to a higher rank than that of subaltern he shall, if he so elect, receive the regulation price of his commissions, if he has paid for them or interest at 3½ per centum until repaid), and where an officer has not purchased his commissions or commission, such sums as he is entitled to according to existing regulations upon retirement.He had already stated, at the commencement of the discussion, that he would not oppose the Bill if good faith were kept with the officers, and if the scheme of retirement were laid upon the Table. But the Government had declined to publish their scheme of retirement, which was, in his opinion, the most important part of the Bill. Then the Estimate that had been placed on the Table was of the vaguest kind:—it did not show how the sum was to be given, how the sum had been arrived at, and what ranks of the Army were to benefit by it. Now, he thought the Amendment he was moving could not be said to be unreasonable. A Return which was in possession of hon. Members showed the value of the regimental commissions of the officers of each rank in the purchase corps. It appeared from that Return that £800,000 was the value of the commissions of lieutenant colonels; something over £1,000,000 the value of the commissions of majors; about £3,500,000 the value of the commissions of captains; £1,600,000 the value of lieutenants' commissions; and under £600,000, the value of ensigns' commissions—making a total of about £7,600,000. All that he asked as a sort of compromise was, that the subalterns should have their money returned at once, or interest paid 1932 upon it. The amount in question was something like £2,000,000. There was a special reason why the subalterns should be treated in some such way as he proposed. The lieutenant who had paid £700 for his commission under the old system had a very good chance of succeeding to the company without purchase. From the Blue Book which contained the Report of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's Committee, it appeared that one-third of the companies on the 1st of January, 1870, and one-half of the majorities and lieutenant colonelcies had gone without purchase. Therefore, there was under the old system one chance in three of the lieutenant obtaining his company, and an even chance of his obtaining his majority and lieutenant colonelcy without purchase. Then he was in this position—if he retired from the service he had the option of doing so either upon half-pay or upon receiving £4,500 for his commission, whether he had purchased or not. But under the proposed system he would be entitled to receive only £700 on retiring. It was obvious that such an officer would not be in as favourable a position as before. He hoped, therefore, his right hon. Friend would not give the stereotyped answer, that this Bill was not intended to put the officers in a better position than before; and he also hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would not let it be thought that he was driving the hardest bargain possible with the officers, as it would most certainly be if he refused to accept this Amendment, in common with all others. It was because by the action of the Bill he would be placed in a worse position, that those who defended the rights of the officers claimed that whatever compensation it was thought right should be given should be paid at once. In conclusion, he begged leave to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice, and must say that no hon. Member on the Conservative side of the House had suggested any Amendment with the like view.
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, he had the following Amendment on the Paper, that in line 8 the words from "Provided" to "hereto," in line 12, be left out, and the following be inserted:—All subaltern officers who passed their examinations in the year one thousand eight hundred and seventy, and have received their commissions previous to the passing of this Act, shall at once 1933 receive back the regulation value of their commissions.As this Amendment was to something of the same effect as the one which had just been moved, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) would at the same time promise to consider it, and save the trouble of bringing it forward separately. The amount required to carry out this Amendment would be £38,430, and it would place the officers on one level. He thought the right hon. Gentleman should make some compromise on behalf of the officers to whom his Amendment applied, as it was only just that junior officers should be placed in the same category as the older officers.
said, he could assure the Committee it was with great regret the Government felt themselves unable to assent to the proposal. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who made it had assumed two things from the beginning of these discussions—that his right hon. Friend the Secretary for War was desirous of driving the hardest bargain possible with the officers, and of interfering with their professional prospects. Now, as to the first point, he could assure him that the principle upon which the Government had proceeded from the outset in framing the Bill was that of acting with the utmost fairness both to the officers and to the public. They had no interest in driving a hard bargain with the officers; on the contrary, they had endeavoured to advance their interests as much as possible. Well, with regard to the professional prospects of officers, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had compared the position of an ensign entering the Army in 1870, who had paid £450 for his commission, with that of an ensign who would obtain his commission under the new state of things. That, however, was not a fair comparison. What he should have done was to compare the position of the ensign of 1870, as it would be in the future, with that which it would be if the present Bill had not been introduced. If purchase were not abolished, as was now proposed, the ensign of 1870 would have to put his hand constantly in his pocket in order to obtain his promotion, paying £7,000 by the time he became a lieutenant colonel. Purchase being done away with, however, that ensign would, if professionally he were properly qualified, be in a position to rise as rapidly as 1934 heretofore without paying a single farthing. Again, if it were right in principle to pay money, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested, on what logical ground could its payment to subalterns only be defended. Why should captains, for instance, be excluded from the benefit of his proposal? But the right hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of his Amendment as a compromise. It must, however, operate either compulsorily on the officers, or its action must be of a voluntary character. Now, if the whole of the officers were compelled to take a less sum than that to which they were justly entitled, the proposal would operate very unfairly in the case of a very large number; while, if the arrangements were voluntary, the bargain would be a very one-sided one. As a matter of course, all those officers who had determined to stay in the Army would take the money which was offered to them; while those who were prepared to leave the service two or three years hence would refuse the option which would be given to them, and would wait until they got the over-regulation price. The result would be that the taxpayer would get the worst of the bargain, inasmuch as every man, being at liberty to do so, would make the best bargain for himself. In regard to the proposition of the hon. and gallant Member for Dungannon (Colonel S. Knox), he had to reply that the officers who purchased in 1870 and later had made their bargain with their eyes open. Parents knew that by waiting a few months they would get the ensigncy for nothing; but, instead of waiting, they wished to pay for it. He hoped the present answer would not be considered a "stereotyped" refusal to accept the Amendments offered; Government could not accept them without violating its duty to the State.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he thought the remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Truro (Captain Vivian) furnished another illustration of the inconvenience and unfairness of the reticence observed by the Government with respect to their scheme. The hon. and gallant Gentleman informed the House that, under the new system, purchase being abolished, an officer might pass through all the ranks of his profession as rapidly as before, without being put to any expense whatsoever. Now, he should like to know 1935 how that rapidity of promotion was to be obtained, and what security there was that such a result would ever be attained? This, however, was exactly what the Government would not tell them. The Government declined to give any information on the point.
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, it was already a recognized custom that if the ensign of a particular corps exchanged for his own convenience, or was transferred for the convenience of the Government to an Indian service corps, the value of his commission was returned to him. Why should not that be done in future in the case now under discussion, and which substantially resembled the instance he had quoted? Then it had been said that it would be hard upon the captains if the subalterns received their money. No doubt that was true; but they had tried their best to obtain the same privilege for the captains, although without success. The further progress they made in the Bill the more he was convinced that a compromise ought to be conceded. He himself had one to propose, in the shape of a clause, which he had great hopes might meet the acceptance of the Government, for a commutation of regulation and over-regulation prices. The hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Captain Vivian) objected that the result would be that only the officers who meant to remain would accept the commutation, and that those who intended to retire would take the Government terms. He was not of that opinion. Officers intending to leave the service this year would, no doubt, accept the terms of the Government; but the great majority of them who had no such intention, and whose future movements were uncertain, would accept the commutation, and thereby waive their choice either of selling out or remaining in the service.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, he must object to the Amendment, that it would block promotion by destroying all motives for retiring.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
said, that if the promotion of officers under the Bill was to be on the same footing as at present, what would become of the principle of selection, and why was the country called on to pay this large sum for the abolition of purchase? He suggested that the Government should state whether they were prepared to admit any, and which, of 1936 the Amendments proposed upon this portion of the Bill. He believed that some plan of commutation would be of considerable service to the officers of the Army, and would also insure a considerable saving to the country.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he had seen no intention on the part of the Government to meet the just demands of the officers. A proposal for a compromise was put forward in a leading article in the leading journal to-day, and these proposals contained nothing detrimental to the plans of the Government. On the contrary, their plans would be facilitated, and the Government would then find the opposition by no means of a "factious" kind. He asked what was to be the position under the Bill of officers of the Canadian Rifles, of the two West India regiments, and the Cape Mounted Rifles, which had been disbanded? The officers of these regiments had been placed on half-pay under the impression that they would be replaced upon full-pay at the first opportunity. But, under the Bill, this most deserving body of officers would have no claim to full-pay. As the Amendment seemed rather invidious, for all should be paid or none, he hoped his right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Percy Herbert) would not press it to a division.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
said, that he was very anxious to hear from the Secretary of State for War a confirmation of the sanguine views expressed by his hon. Colleague the Member for Truro (Captain Vivian), that promotion would be as rapid under the Bill as now. Would the right hon. Gentleman say what was the ground on which that statement was made?
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that he had invariably stated, throughout all the discussions on the Bill, that it was intended that a reasonable rapidity of promotion should be maintained—meaning by that, promotion about as rapid as it was now. But who could possibly say, until the experiment had been actually tried, what effect the abolition of purchase would have upon the rate of promotion in the Army, and whether it would be necessary to increase retirement in consequence? In regard to the suggested compromise, he would only say, once for all, that a compromise was only possible when there was somebody qualified to conclude it on the part of the body of men in- 1937 terested, and authorized to express their adherence to it. It would have been a great facility to him if a commutation at once just and acceptable could have been arrived at; but no such proposal had been made, or could be, because no one could show that he had authority to speak in the name of the officers of the British Army.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
said, he would ask whether, in the case of officers employed on the Reserve force, they would be employed on half or on full-pay?
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he thought, in regard to the number of officers receiving half-pay who might be employed in the auxiliary forces, that it would be presumptuous in him to return a definite answer to the right hon. and gallant Member. It was not in their power even to commence the new order of things that would prevail under the Bill until it had passed the House. It was quite impossible to draw a distinction between the subalterns of 1870 and other subalterns. He stated, in his opening speech, that he had put a stop to first commissions being sold, from the feeling that that was the right step to adopt; but the Horse Guards immediately informed him that it would be great injustice on those who had already lodged their money. He then decided to give them the option, and the result was that in no single case was the money withdrawn; but, on the contrary, there were plenty of other candidates who would have been willing to come forward and lodge their money also.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he cordially sympathized with the spirit which had led to the proposal of the Amendment, but, for the reasons given by the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), he hoped it would not be pressed. From what had fallen from the Financial Secretary of the War Department, it would seem that the Government really knew what the scheme of retirement was to be. He desired, therefore, to ask the right hon. Gentleman in distinct terms whether any such scheme had been drawn up and was now in existence, either in manuscript or print; if so, whether he would produce it? It had been said that eminent men had been engaged in drawing up the scheme; would the right hon. Gentleman say whether that was true or not? Also, whether any scheme for 1938 officering the Reserve had been drawn up, and, if so, would the right hon. Gentleman produce it? Lastly, was it intended that the Volunteer force was to be officered to any extent—and, if so, to what extent—by half-pay officers? Upon those points he invited the right hon. Gentleman to give him a simple and straightforward answer.
said, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell) had just left the House. The noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), as usual, was wishing to know a great deal. He had only to say that his statement that evening respecting the rapidity of promotion in future was only the same thing that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War had distinctly stated both on introducing the Bill and on the second reading of it; and he had also said—what everyone must admit to be true—that whether the present system of retirement would be sufficient to procure the due rapidity of promotion, or whether it would be necessary to supplement it by additional retirement, was a point that could only be decided by experience.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he must observe that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Vivian) had really given no answer whatever to the question he had put to him. He wished to know whether Her Majesty's Government had a scheme of retirement and promotion, and, if so, what were the conditions by which the new principle of selection would be regulated; whether any such scheme was actually drawn up in manuscript; and whether a part of that scheme was that officers on half-pay in the Army were to have commands in the Volunteer force, and, if so, what commands?
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, he thought that the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) had good reason to complain of the reticence of the Government, who had ample data in the average retirements in the non-purchase corps on which they might found a calculation as to the probable number of retirements that would occur in the Regular Army after their scheme came into operation, and as to the probable flow of promotion that would result therefrom.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that he was sorry to be troublesome, but that as the Government did not think fit to reply to 1939 his questions, and as the Prime Minister contented himself with giving utterance to ironical cheers whenever he rose to repeat his question, he begged to move that Progress he reported, in the hope that by taking such a course the Government might be induced to abandon the position which they had taken up on this matter.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he apprehended that the Committee were bound to confine their discussion to the question before them; but when the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) objected to ironical cheering, his conduct reminded him of the lines—Oh! wad some pow'r the giftie gie usTo see oursels as ithers see us.He had already answered the noble Lord's question ten times, and, in fact, if he might be allowed to use such an expression, he had answered it before it had been asked. Nothing could be clearer than that it would be absurd to base the calculations as to the probable number of retirements in the Regular Army under this scheme upon the data afforded by the retirements in the Marines and other non-purchase corps. In the opinion of many eminent persons, however, the retirements under the new system would be as numerous as under the existing one. Unless he were a prophet, he could not answer more of the noble Lord's question.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, no attempt had been made to answer two questions he had put—namely, first, whether the scheme for the proposed selection of officers had been drawn up and would be laid on the Table; and secondly, whether the scheme for the amalgamation of the Reserve and the Regular Army would extend to the Volunteer service, and to what extent it was proposed that the Volunteer force should be officered by officers on half-pay?
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, as he stated the other evening, when the Bill was passed the scheme of regulations would be laid on the Table of the House. With regard to Volunteers there would be very considerable changes in the appointment of adjutants of Volunteers.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he must express himself satisfied with the reply, and that he would withdraw his Motion for reporting Progress.
§ Motion and Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1940
SIR TOLLEMACHE SINCLAIR
said, he would move an Amendment, to the effect that in case an officer who had joined the Army before the proposed regulations were established, and had intimated to the War Office a wish to sell out, should die before his request to sell was granted by the War Office, his widow and children should be entitled to receive the price of his commission, provided that he would have been allowed to sell out by the custom of the service at the time when he received his commission.
In page 2, line 39, after the word "day," to insert the words "in case any officer who obtained his commission before the regulation was established by which officers are only allowed to sell their commissions provided they live for six weeks after sending in their papers, shall intimate to the War Office his desire to sell his commission at any time prior to his decease either by letter or telegram, the widow or children of such officer, in case of his death before such request is granted, shall be entitled to receive the regulation price of the commission held by such officer, provided that he would have been allowed to sell by the custom of the service and the regulations in force at the time be received his first commission."—(Sir Tollemache Sinclair.)
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, the Amendment of the hon. Baronet was entirely opposed to the principle of the Bill.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 16; Noes 78: Majority 62.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
rose to propose in page 3, line 21, after "if any," to insert—But no officer shall, under the provisions of this Act, in any case receive more money than he has actually paid for his commission or commissions, either for the regulation or the over regulation price; and every officer shall forward with his application to retire a statement of the sums paid by him for his commissions, both as to the regulation and the over regulation prices.The hon. Baronet said, his Amendment was in the nature of a compromise, and if accepted would not entail any extra expense, but rather the reverse, for the over-regulation price would be saved to the country. His proposal would benefit a great number of the poorer officers in the Infantry, men who had families to provide for, and who had borrowed the money to pay for their promotion. It might be said that the officers had not been con- 1941 sulted, and therefore would not accept this compromise. But as it was optional no harm could be done. He had never offered a factious opposition to the Bill, and it was in no factious spirit he made the present proposal. He might observe, in passing, that the statement of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Truro (Captain Vivian), to the effect that the promotion of officers would, under the new system, be as rapid as hitherto, struck him as being altogether paradoxical. If, he might add, the compromise which he now suggested were accepted by the Government, the officers might be induced to regard the measure as more just to them, while some of the hardships which it would inflict would be mitigated. By means of such a compromise the hardship of doing away with promotion by seniority, for instance, would be greatly diminished; for it must be borne in mind that if promotion by seniority were abolished and promotion was given only by selection, the condition on which an officer had paid his money would cease to exist. He was not one of those who were of opinion that the Bill was an entirely bad one. Indeed, he believed that for the rich it was a very good Bill, although it certainly was not for the poor man. By a Return which had been presented to that House it was shown that the immediate total payment of all claims for regulation and over-regulation prices would amount to £10,000,000, while according to another the cost of gradual abolition would be £8,000,000. It was, therefore, evident that the Government, in the proposals which they made, were trading to the extent of £2,000,000 on the chances of death among the officers of the Army, a course which he did not think would meet with the approval of the country. He hoped, under all the circumstances of the case, the Government would see their way to accepting some such compromise as that which he proposed.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, all these compromises were open to one obvious objection—they would be accepted by everybody to whom they were a gain, and would be rejected by everybody else. The person who suffered, therefore, would necessarily be the taxpayer. The Bill was conceived in a liberal spirit, and dealt very liberally with those who retired. Now, what was purchase but a system of retirement, under which no- 1942 body got anything except those who did retire. He was sorry he could not accept the Amendment; but he was not going to compliment away the public money merely to make it appear that he was "reasonable."
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, he concurred in the object aimed at by the Amendment, it being a small modicum of what the officers were entitled to.
§ MR. BOWRING
said, he must complain of the practice of not placing on the Notice Paper important Amendments which were proposed. The hon. Baronet (Sir George Jenkinson) had submitted an entirely different scheme from that which was on the Paper.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, the Amendment moved was only a modification of that which had appeared in print. As to the argument of the Secretary for War, it did not follow that a compromise which would suit one man would suit another; and it might suit many officers to take their regulation money and sink the over-regulation money, because they contemplated remaining in the Army for a long time. He should not divide the Committee; but regretted that the Government had given their usual answer, and would listen to no compromise.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, the object of the Amendment he would now propose was to remedy a grave defect in the Bill, which did not give adequate compensation to a class of meritorious and poor professional officers, to whom he was sure the House would wish to do justice. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) had been rather severe upon his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) and himself for their views respecting the breach of contract, implied as between the State and the officer in this Bill. Now, in saying that when buying a commission an officer bought the right not to be superseded, he did not intend to imply that the officer bought a legal right not to be superseded. There was, however, a professional understanding that the officer had a right not to be superseded except for great misconduct or incompetency. The Bill provided that for every year he served the officer should get £100 for foreign service, and £50 for home. Sup- 1943 pose the case of a major, who, having obtained his commission without purchase, had served, when the Bill passed, 18 years, and whose services for nine years' home service and nine years' foreign service had become worth, according to the Bill, £1,350, he would be in this position: if he remained in the Army for two years longer, and became a lieutenant colonel, and then wished to retire, he would only receive £1,550. Had, however, the Bill not been introduced he would have received £4,500 regulation value, and £2,500 over-regulation, or an aggregate sum of £7,000. The loss of the balance between £1,550 and £7,000 (or £5,450) would be the loss which this officer alone would suffer by the operation of the Bill, and what he (Lord Eustace Cecil) asked was simply common justice—namely, that after 20 years officers should be in the same position as heretofore, and should be allowed the regulation price and over-regulation price of the commissions they now held. He would, therefore, move to insert in line 17, after the word "service," the following words:—Officers who have obtained one or more of their commissions without purchase, and who would have been entitled according to the rules of the service to realize the full regulation value of their commissions at the expiration of 20 years' service on full pay, if this Act had not passed, shall at any future time, on retirement after that period of service, receive the regulation and over regulation price of the commissions they now may hold.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, "now" was not in the original Amendment, and the word being introduced he thought the Bill already provided for the object the noble Lord had in view.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, he thought this was rather doubtful, at least as far as he understood the Bill.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
concurred with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in thinking the Bill anticipated the noble Lord's Amendment.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he thought it would be safer to adopt the Amendment, and then if the words were found to be surplusage they could afterwards be omitted.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that what they intended was that an officer who had not served out his time should have an opportunity of completing his service, so as to get the value of his commission. If, however, he should have served so 1944 long as to be entitled to more than that amount, then he would have that extra sum. He would undertake that the clause should be re-considered in that view, and the necessary Amendment, if it proved that any was required, should be made.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ An Amendment moved, in line 19, to omit all words after "price."—(Colonel Anson.)
§ After short discussion, Amendment withdrawn.
§ An Amendment made, by inserting after "price," the words "or any part thereof."
§ SIR WILLIAM RUSSELL
said, the terms of retirement had been arranged, but the case of those who had made the Army their profession, and who wished to continue in it, deserved consideration. Were they to be forced out of the service in order to realize the value of their commissions? He asked that officers who wished to remain in the service should be at liberty to elect to take the same composition as was laid down in the Government Return—namely, the estimated price of their commission, less 30 per cent. With this view he would propose a proviso that every officer holding a saleable commission should have the option of applying to the Commissioners to pay him a fixed composition, in full satisfaction of all claims which such officer could have made on his retirement, and providing also that the Commissioners should draw up and issue a scale settling the amount of such fixed composition applicable to each rank, less such reductions as would be caused by taking into consideration the probable number of officers who would lose the value of their commissions in each rank respectively, either by death or by becoming general officers, and further by a reduction of 3½ per cent in consideration of making immediate payment.
At the end of the Clause, to add the words "Provided nevertheless, That every officer holding on the said appointed day a saleable commission in Her Majesty's Army shall have the option of applying to the Commissioners to pay him a fixed composition in full satisfaction of all claims which such officer could have made on his retirement from the service for 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 the Commissioners shall for this purpose, immediately on the passing of this Act, draw up and issue a scale settling the amount of such fixed composition applicable to commissions in each rank. The amount of such fixed composition shall be the average estimated present price of commissions in each rank, less such deduction as would be equal to the diminution in such average estimated price which would be produced by taking into consideration the probable number of officers (calculated on the average of the ten years then last past) who would lose the value of their commissions in each rank respectively, either by death or by becoming general officers and subsequently attaining the age of sixty years; and further by the deduction of discount at three and a-half per centum in consideration of immediate payment."—(Sir William Russell.)
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, this was only another form of the same proposal which had been made over and over again. As he had repeatedly said, purchase was a system of retirement. Even the strongest opponents of the Bill admitted that the arrangements made towards those who retired were very liberal indeed. They complained, however, that the Bill did not treat liberally those who remained in the service. Well, but the purchase system gave nothing to those who remained in the service. If, therefore, while indemnifying those who would have received anything under the purchase system, the Bill paid money down to those who remained in the service, it would do something more than the purchase system did. Now, the Government were not prepared to throw upon the taxpayers of the country more than had been thrown upon them already.
§ SIR WILLIAM RUSSELL
said, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that the Amendment did not propose to increase the charge to the country by a single farthing. On the contrary, it would probably reduce that charge by £1,000,000.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, it was clear, from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, that there was not the slightest hope of any concession from the Government. He asked the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, whether it would not be wise as regarded his own dignity and position, and as regarded the House of Commons, the country, and the well-being of the Army, to make this concession, which would find favour both with the taxpayers and with the officers 1946 of the Army? In a late division the majority upon an Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Norwich (Sir William Russell) was only 16, and that close division showed that it was the wish of the Committee to come to a compromise.
begged, in answer to the complaint that the Government made no concession to those who advocated the claims of the officers of the Army, the House to consider the principle on which the Bill was framed. The principle was, in the first place, to give to the officers that to which they were equitably and legally entitled; and, in the second place, wherever a doubt existed as to the amount they could properly claim, to rule that doubt in their favour. Now, however, hon. Members asked for a compromise, the effect of which compromise was to be to give to the officer that to which he was not entitled at all. This provoked him to quote Mr. Mill, who had not long since been quoted against him. The hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) would recollect that when, in 1866, the Government of the day proposed what many thought an inadequate measure, when they had reduced and clipped down a third of their measure for the sake of obviating opposition, they were then after all asked for a compromise. Mr. Mill, on that occasion, said that the Government having cut the apple into halves and presented half to their opponents, they were then asked to cut it again and give them another quarter. The Amendment of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwich (Sir William Russell) asked for officers a compensation to which under no circumstances could they be entitled. He asked, in fact, for a new endowment. He forgot what a boon the Bill gave to officers who intended to remain in the Army. It gave them the boon of advancing step by step without purchase. As representing the interests of the people, Government could not give the officers any more. They gave the officers a full equivalent for purchase, but they could not consent to give them a new endowment. It was impossible for the Government to accede to the proposal if, in their attempt to do justice to the Army, they were to recollect the duty they owed to the nation at large.
§ MR. DICKINSON
remarked that the Government scheme involved, besides the simple question of compensation to the officers, the reform of a vicious system, and it was unjust to make the officers pay for that reform. The system had been introduced into the Army by the Government of the country, and the money that the officers had paid under it ought to be returned to them. The scheme of the Government was unfair, inasmuch as it placed the purchase officers upon the same footing as the non-purchase officers. The just way to treat the purchase officers was to return them the money they had paid, and to give them the equivalent value of their prospects under the existing system.
said, he thought it was not fair to the officers, who were an ornament to their profession, to offer them such bad terms that they would be forced to leave the service. That was a false economy, and its object was to make the scheme of the Government appear to the country as little costly as possible.
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, the expenditure proposed by the Government was £7,955,000; the present value of the officers' commissions being £6,821,000. That calculation was based on a limitation clause, which limitation clause having been withdrawn, he wished to point out that a new consideration came into play with regard to the expenditure proposed by the Government—namely, that unless the Secretary of State for War inspired the officers of the Army with confidence in his sense of justice, and confidence in his future proposals with regard to the Army, there would be a panic, a rush to sell, a general disorganization, and a very large increase of the expenditure proposed by the Bill. The Bill did not inspire the officers with confidence. The Secretary of State for War refused to accept even verbal Amendments of the Bill. The officers knew that the Bill was based on injustice. It would compel the poorer class of officers to serve on. He thought the scheme of his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir William Russell) was a fair one. He (Colonel Anson) had proposed a scheme of commutation, and if every officer in the Army would accept that proposal of commutation——
said, it was not competent for the hon. and gallant Gentleman 1948 the Member for Bewdley to discuss a scheme which he intended to propose hereafter.
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, his only object in alluding to that scheme was to save time. He would simply state that if this scheme of his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir William Russell) was carried, it would effect a saving of £1,000,000 to the country. The Committee was told that the purchase system was immoral. Was it not a fact, notwithstanding this immorality, that Her Majesty's Government, who were so anxious to do away with the system, were yet so enamoured of the advantages that the country derived from it, that they were going to retain those advantages as long as they possibly could, and that by refusing commutation of any sort or kind they were to a certain extent relieving themselves from the necessity of going into the question of retirement. If that were so, then it was one of the most immoral transactions ever committed by a Government in this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had tried to delude the Committee into the belief that in future the retirement would be very much the same as at present; but if that were so, there was no reason whatever why he should try to carry on a purchase system for the next 26 years. He hoped his hon. and gallant Friend would not take the sense of the Committee on the Amendment to-night, but allow time for understanding what it meant, and whether the Committee would be effecting a saving or not by accepting it. He should, therefore, move that the Chairman do report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Colonel Anson,)—put, and negatived.
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ LORD GARLIES
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War objected to the Amendment on the ground that it would entail additional expense on the British taxpayer. But his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwich (Sir William Russell), on the contrary, showed that there would be a saving of £1,000,000 by it. What was the line taken by the Prime Minister? That right hon. Gentleman said that the 1949 effect of the Amendment would be to give the British officer that to which he was not entitled. But if there would be an actual saving to the taxpayer, and if, at the same time, a boon would be conferred on the officer, it seemed most extraordinary that Her Majesty's Government could not be brought to see not only the justice but the wisdom of coming to such a compromise as the one now proposed.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 139; Noes 222: Majority 83.
§ MR. PERCY WYNDHAM moved that the Chairman report Progress. He did so, he said, on the ground that the present Bill was not that which had passed a second reading. Not to mince the matter, the House had been brought to the present stage of the measure under false pretences. As to the opposition which had been offered to the Bill, it was quite clear that no class could have the power of sustaining it were there not something deeper than mere class interests in the background. The truth, he believed, was that the Bill was not acceptable to the majority of the House, and would be found, after time was given for reflection, to be as little acceptable to the country. There were, no doubt, hon. Members of the House—such, for instance, as the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright)—so adverse to a standing Army that they would not object to have our present military system pulled down, without knowing by what it was to be replaced. That was a view which was at all events clear and intelligible, which was more than could be said of the Government scheme throughout. The proposal of the Government was an attempt to break up the existing state of things without giving the country anything in its stead.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, That Clause 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill?
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he had opposed this clause compensating the officers because he thought it was unjust to officers who remained in the Army. It had been described as just and generous. He could not, however, understand how justice and generosity could go together. Where there was justice there could be no room for generosity.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) had added a new canon to our moral code. It was impossible, he said, that the same law could be both just and generous. It followed, therefore, that justice must always be ungenerous, and generosity must always be unjust.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.