HC Deb 13 June 1871 vol 206 cc1985-2011

(Mr. Secretary Cardwell, Sir Henry Knight Storks, Captain Vivian, The Judge Advocate.)

COMMITTEE. [Progress 12th June.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 4 (Compensation to officers of certain Indian regiments.)


rose to move, in page 4, line 32, to leave out all the words after "retire" to the end of the clause, in order to insert— Compensation equal to the sums they would have received from the junior officers of their regiments had they retired therefrom prior to the said appointed day. The hon. Gentleman said, his object was to secure to the officers of the Indian non-purchase corps that compensation to which they were fairly entitled under the bonus system. The bonus system of the 12 non-purchase system regiments formerly belonging to the Indian Army was substantially the same as the system of over-regulation prices in purchase regiments. If there was any difference it was in favour of the officers of the non-purchase corps, because the bonus system had been sanctioned by the Court of Directors. He did not complain that the bonus system was to be brought to a close; but, as he had voted in favour of paying the over-regulation price, and as the bonus system and the system of over-regulation prices was the same, his contention was, that a different measure of compensation should not be dealt out to the officers of the two branches of the same service. He therefore asked the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to apply to the officers of the non-purchase corps the same principle of indemnity which he had himself laid down with respect to the officers of purchase regiments. It had been suggested that he had better adopt the Amendments suggested by the hon. and gallant Members for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) and Harwich (Colonel Jervis); but his objection to their proposal was, that it would stillleave the amount of compensation vague and indefinite, whereas it had been very precisely defined in the case of the purchase corps. He therefore begged leave to move his Amendment.


seconded the Amendment.


said, he would admit the full force and validity of the principle with which his hon. Friend had pressed him. He was pleased to have the opportunity of making a reasonable concession, and as he had considered whether there was any necessary conflict between the application of the rule by the India Office prior to the date of the transfer of these regiments and the rules which would apply to the officers since the transfer, with a very slight Amendment he believed he could agree to the proposal, with the addition of the words, "according to the custom of the regiment," which he presumed the hon. Member would have no objection in inserting after the words, "they would have received."


said, he understood the object of this to be that the country should not only pay the over-regulation money in the case of the purchase corps, but in the case of the non-purchase corps also, by paying the money arising out of the bonus system.

Amendment agreed to.


suggested, and Mr. CARDWELL acceded to, the omission from the clause of the words "with the sanction of the Treasury."

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 5 (Provision for expense of compensating officers.)


said, that this was a very important clause, and one on which the alterations proposed by the Government during this discussion had an important bearing. The clause was the ordinary form of saying that the money required for the purposes of the Bill was to be voted in the Estimates, and that he understood to be the intention of the Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had made provision for a payment of £600,000 this year and for £1,200,000 next year; but at the time that that provision was made, a restriction was imposed upon the number of officers who should be allowed to retire. Now that that restriction had been removed, the estimate of £600,000 and £1,200,000, and all the other calculations which the Government had made, were valueless, because any number of officers were entitled to sell their commissions and demand immediate payment at the hands of the Government. Whether, however, the officers would, to any extent, avail themselves of this opportunity would in a great measure depend upon the system of promotion to be established by the Government. Under the existing system an officer knew what he was purchasing, and knew, moreover, what were the conditions of the service, and was able to make up his mind whether it was worth his while to purchase his commission or any of the subsequent steps. There was, however, on the part of the officers, a great apprehension as to what the nature of the system of promotion was to be. If it was to be a system of promotion by seniority, what was the use of this Bill? And if it was to be a system of promotion by selection, they ought to know on what principles that system was to be based, for among the officers there was a bonâ fide fear that the system of selection would develop into a system of favoritism. The limitation being withdrawn, there was no saying what might be for some years the annual charge upon the Votes for the purpose of purchasing commissions. That fact entirely altered the conditions under which Clause 5 came before the Committee. The Government estimated that the purchase of commissions would extend over 25 years. But now it might be that the greater part of these commissions would have to be paid for in three or four years. It was a question, therefore, whether the very considerable amount to be thus provided should be paid out of the annual Votes of Parliament. Had the original scheme been carried out, there was no reason why the amount should not have been charged upon the Votes. The restriction, however, having been removed, and it being necessary to incur the expenditure within a few years, it would be unwise that the House should pledge itself to defray all this expenditure by means of annual Votes. For that reason, he thought there ought to be some exposition from the Government as to what they foreshadowed would occur in the matter.

On Question, "That Clause 5 stand part of the Bill."


said, in reply to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt), that when the Bill was first introduced he heard very little objection taken except to this particular limitation, which was considered a great hardship. Now, he had been charged with an indisposition to yield to suggestions made. But the Government were very desirous to disarm opposition not only for their own advantage and convenience, but also, as he might truly say, from a desire to meet the wishes of opponents of the Bill; and, after inquiry, he saw no reason to believe that the limitation would be of any practical value. Officers were not less likely to wish to hold commissions after the new system was introduced than they were under the old. There was, indeed, an impression that officers would desire to serve under the new rather than under the old system, and no wonder. The taxpayer was about to be called on for a very considerable outlay. [Opposition cheers.] Yes, hon. Gentlemen opposite always cheered that statement; and they always endeavoured to make the outlay greater. The advantage of this outlay would be shared by those officers in the Army who were relieved from the burdens to which the purchase system now unjustly subjected them. Were they purchase officers, their position would be improved, because when they rose to a higher rank they would not be called upon to meet the outlay of a large sum in order to obtain it. Were they non-purchase officers, then they would acquire higher rank without being superseded by others who bought over them. The Government, therefore, naturally believed that there would not be any necessity for the limitation, and they were glad to have the opportunity of withdrawing it. They believed that the Estimate of £600,000 was a sufficient estimate, and that was his answer to the question of the right hon. Gentleman.


said, they were proceeding under Clause 5 to make an indefinite expenditure as to which they had no information. The Committee ought to be furnished with some idea of the outlay to which they were committed.


said, he thought the taxpayer was not the person who should pay for the abolition of purchase. The money ought to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund, or the National Debt might very well be increased upon a national question like this. The taxpayer did not care one straw whether the officers in the Army bought or did not buy their commissions.


said, the officers only wanted justice, but the Government made no concessions to them, and had only given way upon a point suggested by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Sykes), who was perfectly contented in consequence. If, as the Secretary for War had just stated, officers in future would not be superseded by other officers, what then became of the system of selection?


Of course, I meant superseded by purchase.


said, they were now considering a clause which provided that all expenditure incurred by the Commissioners should be defrayed out of means provided by Parliament. He (Mr. V. Harcourt) was very much disposed to agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite, who thought Paliament ought not to pay, though he was surprised at the quarter from which the movement came. The hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Colonel C. H. Lindsay) said that the taxpayers ought not to pay this money. Well, they had had a great deal of military finance; but if the hon. and gallant Member could produce a scheme by which £9,000,000 was to be paid without taking it out of the pocket of the taxpayer, he (Mr. V. Harcourt) would promise him his support.


From somebody else.


said, when they had the scheme of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite they would know how this £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 were to be raised without going to the pockets of the taxpayers.


It should be got from some other source.


said, he must challenge the hon. and gallant Member with having a scheme in the background which he would not develop. He (Mr. V. Harcourt) thought the clause before them was the one clause which would have led to no opposition, and he wished to know whether they did not want the moneys to be provided by Parliament?


said, with regard to what had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. V. Harcourt), they might be quite willing that the taxpayers should find this money, and he did not know who else was to do so. At the same time, it was a question whether the particular form of words should be employed. The words employed were those usually adopted when money was to be raised by animal Votes of Parliament, and therefore unless it was likely that these expenses would not be spread over a number of years, it would be advisable that an Amendment should be made.


said, he thought that part of the expense ought to fall on those hon. Members who went stumping the country last autumn, and on the large constituencies who had accepted their views. He would also throw a considerable amount of the cost upon those gentlemen in the War Office who, about the latter end of January, in default of producing anything, thought the most popular thing they could do would be to destroy everything we had got. As he stated last evening, the success of the scheme would depend on the confidence the officers of the Army had in it, as should there be a rush to sell out, there would be an inevitable increase in the expenditure, and he (Colonel Anson) wanted to know why the taxpayers of the country should be forced to pay £1,200,000 for the abolition of purchase. One of the chief arguments put before the country for the abolition of purchase was that it would reduce the cost of the Army. If that were so, the persons who in the future would be relieved of taxation ought to pay some portion of the cost of the abolition of purchase. The expense should be spread equally over a certain number of years.


remarked on the injustice of what fell from the Secretary of State for War, who said a cheer was always raised on that—the Conservative—side when anyone deprecated the large expense that was being entailed on the country. Now, hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House had quite as much objection to the system of purchase when there was no plan before them. The question of the re-organization of the Army was one for the Executive, and he had endeavoured to look on this matter not as one of pounds, shillings, and pence, and had only asked himself whether the plan produced by the Government would benefit the country. Nobody knew how much expense they were now entailing on themselves. He was not inclined to throw any bur- dens on posterity; but he felt satisfied that before they embarked in an expenditure of this nature they should be satisfied they were getting the value for their money in the shape of a good scheme which would improve our position as a nation, and render the fighting portion of the Army more efficient, in which case the question of expense would be a secondary matter in the eyes of the country. He had voted with the Government on two or three occasions when he could conscientiously do so; but it was a serious matter to vote for a system involving large outlay when the Government had never laid any plan before them, or given an accurate idea of what the expense would be.


said, he thought it was incredible that, after Parliament had decided to abolish purchase, they should now be asking how was the money to be provided? Who had decided to do this? Parliament, and Parliament must provide the money. With regard to selection, he thought it would be a good thing if his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War would only say distinctly what he meant, and remove at once all ambiguity. Every regiment would by-and-by become a non-purchase regiment, and the officers should rise by seniority; for he (Colonel Sykes) could not believe that the right hon. Gentleman intended men should come into one regiment from another and pass over men's heads, destroying the regimental system. When officers arrived at the rank of major, then the working of selection might come in. In the Indian Army, up to the rank of major, promotion went always by regimental seniority, and afterwards went in a Line seniority list.


I wish before this clause is passed to be allowed to say a few words. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. V. Harcourt) will agree with me, that, important as the Bill before us is, this little clause is the most important portion of the whole Bill. We have just passed the 3rd Clause of this Bill, and we have been told at considerable length how the claims of officers in Her Majesty's service will be dealt with. But, Sir, I venture to think that having told so much that interests the officers my right hon. Friend ought to think of the interests of the public. We ought now to consider what are the interests of the public in this question. And, Sir, I heard with regret what fell from the Secretary of State for War, when he forgot for a moment his usual suavity of manner, and told us on this side we had done what we could to make this Bill more expensive. That is a very unjust imputation, and I do not think it is an imputation that the right hon. Gentleman can fairly and reasonably substantiate. On the contrary, I appeal to the House whether the language of those who object to this Bill has not uniformly been directed against its extravagant expensiveness? We have again and again raised the question—and I hope we shall repeatedly raise again the question—whether the changes you are about to make are worth the money you are about to pay for them; and it is on this question we can get no satisfactory answer from the Government. What is the expense about to be? Is it not right that the public should be enlightened on this question? Is it not right that we, the representatives of the people, should know that the changes that are to be made, and should be able to say whether or not they are worth paying so large a price for them? What is the price? The Government tell us that the commissions of officers in purchase regiments will cost about £8,000,000. That is a pretty large outlay to begin with. What will be the next item in this expenditure? That is the point on which Her Majesty's Government are so reticent. You have before you two alternatives—one is that you should have your regiments filled with old decaying officers; or that you should enable officers to retire. The Government will not tell us what their plan of retirement is. But those who have gone into calculations on the subject have come to the conclusion—the correctness of which I have no reason to doubt—that the amount of money that will be necessary will be no less than £1,200,000 a-year. That is the general calculation of what must be added to the Army Estimates every year. That sum capitalized amounts to £25,000,000 or £30,000,000, and all that is to be thrown on the people. That is a most serious consideration, and I think it has been rendered not less serious by the answer given to my noble Friend behind me (Lord Garlies). The answer my noble Friend (Lord Garlies) received to his Question this afternoon, from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether the calculation of the Government was not that the cost would be £800,000 a-year, was evasive and unsatisfactory. There is a general opinion on this side of the House that the Question was not fairly answered, and I hope that on Thursday, when my noble Friend intends to renew his Question, a better answer will be given. If the Bill should pass and become law, it is a serious question whether the pay of the officers of the Army must not be raised. If you revolutionize the British Army, as you are going to do, and effect a complete change in the mode of officering it, it will be impossible for the officers of the Army to live on the pittance they will receive. This being so, I confess it was with extreme regret I heard one or two hon. Members of the House, who are opposed to the abolition of purchase, state that it was their belief that the purchase system was doomed, and that it had been condemned by Parliament. I hold that no man has a right to hold such language upon a question of this magnitude until Parliament has come to a decision upon it. And let me tell the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) that he takes rather a more limited view of what is the British Parliament than we do. He considers it has been sanctioned by Parliament. [Colonel SYKES: Hear, hear.] I say it has not. It has many more stages to go through before any hon. Gentleman can say it has received the sanction of Parliament. If the Government really think their plan worth all this money, why do they not tell us what it is? Questions have been put to them on this point time after time; but we can get nothing but vague answers. Yesterday evening the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War spoke. But what did they say? The whole tenor of their answer was sic volo, sic jubeo. We have been told that purchase meets the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War at every turn in dealing with the Army. I have asked him several times, and I will ask him again now, will he tell us what these turns are? Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in this House generally put forth what they deem their strongest case when advocating any measure. And what was the case of my right hon. Friend? Why, the old story about cornets and ensigns—a case which is disposed of in a single sentence. If you want to do away with cornets and ensigns you have only to ask Parliament for the money. They were saddling the country with millions of expenditure, and refusing to tell them in what respect the Army was to be better constituted or better conducted than it had been for the last two centuries. We ask the Government to give us a better reason than they have hitherto put forward for the course they propose to take. I must deny that either the Opposition, or hon. Members on the other side, have been open to the censure which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has passed upon them. He seems to think that the fault is entirely on one side and that the conduct of the Government is perfectly free from blame. But I think we have great cause to complain of the conduct of the Government—and we have not yet done complaining—on the ground that while they call upon the country to make this great sacrifice they refuse to give us the information which it is their duty to impart; and we must repeat, until we get that information, that they have not treated the House of Commons with that frankness, respect, and candour to which it is entitled. The other day the right hon. Gentleman complained that the majority of this House was not allowed to prevail, and he said that if it did not prevail, it would be better to close the doors of this House. I do not deny that as a general proposition; but I think a condition attaches to it—namely, that the majority ought to be in earnest. We all remember the discussions on the Irish Church Bill. Both sides of this House were in earnest then. Never was an opposition more seriously or vigorously conducted, but the majority prevailed without difficulty. Why do they not prevail now? Because the majority do not like the Bill. As I said before, I do not believe there are 20 Members in this House who really approve of this Bill. Everybody dislikes the Bill. This House dislikes it; the Army dislikes it; and the public dislike it. ["Hear, hear!"] At any rate, if they do not know much about the Bill, they very much dislike the income tax. I wish to ask the Government whether they are quite secure that when this Bill is passed, purchase will really be at an end? Are they sure the bonus system will not exist; or that purchase in a more objectionable shape will not take the place of the present plan? I very much doubt the power of the Government to prevent it, unless they adopt the most unpopular and odious system of selection to the extent of applying it to every rank in the Army. I believe you will find in a short time that there will be a secret purchase system; so that you are very likely to injure your Army, saddle the country with an enormous burden, and exchange a system which has worked well for one that has not. I desire before I sit down to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, when this clause is passed, and we have arrived at the end of this portion of the Bill, relating to purchase, he will consent to report Progress, and reprint the Bill in order that we may be able to judge of the shape it will eventually assume, and really know what the Bill is.


I was called out of the House just now; but I am informed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) has been kind enough to say that the answer I gave the noble Lord opposite (Lord Garlies) was evasive and unsatisfactory. The Question the noble Lord asked was, whether an estimate of the probable cost of a retirement scheme had been drawn up, and whether I would lay it on the Table? My answer was that no such document had been drawn up in my office, and that I had ascertained from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War that no such document had been drawn up in his office, and therefore I could not lay it on the Table. Now, I shall be very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman if he will tell me in what way my answer can accurately be described as being either evasive or unsatisfactory?


I have no objection to answer the question of the right hon. Gentleman. If he had given to my noble Friend the answer which he has now given to me, I should have found no fault with it. But his answer was given in very different language, and in such a tone that I believe I speak the unanimous opinion of my Friends around me, when I say that they think the noble Lord had much reason to complain of the manner in which his Question was answered.


The right hon. Gentleman does not answer my question. I did not ask his opinion as to my manner, or the tone of the answer, but in what respect it was either evasive or unsatisfactory. I defy the right hon. Gentleman to make any statement of my words tallying with the recollection of those who sit on this side of the House which will bear that construction.


said, he would ask whether the hon. Member for Stroud and other Members of the Committee were precluded from making Amendments upon this clause?


replied that it was the well-known Rule of Committees that after the Question was put "That the clause stand part of the Bill," no Amendment upon it could be moved, unless it were the pleasure of the Committee that the Question should be withdrawn, and it could only be withdrawn on the proposition of the Member in charge of the Bill. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Dickinson) could not be proposed from the Chair, because it was not in accordance with the preliminary Resolution which authorized the Committee to make provision for the expenses of the Bill.


said, that under those circumstances, he begged to draw the attention of the Committee to the burden which this clause would impose upon the British taxpayer, and expressed the objection he felt to a sum being annually voted by that House for the purpose of carrying this scheme into effect. It was the duty of that House to see that any taxation imposed for this object should be as little onerous as possible, and therefore he begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer what course he proposed to take in order to levy the taxation that this measure would render necessary? If the scheme of the hon. Member for Stroud had been considered, the burden might have been made less onerous.


, in reference to an accusation made against him by the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington), explained that when he said that Parliament had resolved that purchase should be abolished, of course he meant that the House of Commons, as representing the country, had come to that decision.


said, the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) took exception to the statement that the bur- den would fall upon the taxpayer; but it was evident that in whatever manner the expenses of this Bill were provided for, they must ultimately be defrayed out of money levied by additional taxation. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War twitted hon. Members on that side of the House for the cheers they gave when any reference was made to unnecessary expense, and said they were inconsistent, because they had proposed to add to the cost of the Bill. But he overlooked the fact that he had failed to get rid of two objections to this measure—namely, that while, on the one hand, the country would gain nothing by the great expenditure which this measure would involve, on the other hand, the measure did not deal honestly towards officers on the subject of abolition of purchase, and proposed to pay them a composition of 10s. or 15s. instead of 20s. in the pound. Before they left the discussion of this measure, he thought the right hon. Gentleman should furnish them with the grounds of his estimate of £8,000,000, and with a statement showing how that sum was to be expended. It was said that purchase met them at every turn; but he should like to have some proof of that, for it was evident that purchase could not affect such arrangements as the three years' enlistment, and the depriving of Lords Lieutenant of the power of nominations, or the portions of the Bill relating to the Militia.


said, he was of opinion that this important clause should not be disposed of in a summary way. His constituents were pressing him to obstruct this Bill in every possible way, for they considered that the Army had hitherto been well officered and efficient, and that as the aristocracy of this country found it for their benefit to pay for the privilege of serving their country, the constituencies were relieved from such charges as would be thrown upon them by this Bill. As trustees of public money they could not conscientiously sanction a measure of which the financial details were hidden in obscurity. They had to provide for the extinction of purchase and the transference of the Army from a profession to a trade. They would have to pay their officers better when they had removed every inducement which attracted to the Army the sons of monied men and of the aristocracy. ["Hear, hear!"] The aristocracy of money was represented in the Army equally with the aristocracy of birth, and it would be a loss to the Commonwealth if the sons of monied men were deprived of such a safety-valve as the Army. No doubt in the next half century colossal fortunes would be made by men of honesty and perseverance; yet their sons would be unable to enter a profession which brought them on a level with the society to which their parents had raised themselves. If the Committee were to grapple with this subject as a whole they must have an estimate. Otherwise the question would be left like the Maynooth Grant, to be brought forward year after year, and treated as a football for travelling showmen who went round the country. Those politicians who, in the manner of itinerant showmen exhibiting a double-headed woman or a pig-faced lady, perambulated the country for the purpose of creating excitement, would be sure to seize upon this question if it were left in an incomplete condition. He had taken the trouble of going through the Amendments, and so far from there having been any obstruction of an unnecessary nature, relatively speaking, from that side of the House, he found that the Amendments on the Paper were 54 Amendments from that side of the House, as against 35 from the other side. He could not see how the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government could charge the Conservative side of the House with obstructing the measure. They were there to guard the interests of the country, and were bound to consider a question which altered the whole defences of the country, and overthrew a system which, though parts of it could not be defended, had worked as well as any system could work.


said, he had hitherto abstained from taking part in the discussion, because, as a representative of a commercial constituency, he could not pretend to any professional knowledge of the subject. He had waited for the stage when the measure might be discussed on financial grounds. That stage had now arrived. He could not, however, see that any practical result would be attained by a discussion of Clause 5, because he presumed, even if the clause were negatived, Her Majesty's Government would be just as well able to carry the preceding clauses into effect. It would be, therefore, better to defer the discussion on the financial portion of the scheme, which they were only now beginning to touch. He wished, however, now to state that he would take an early opportunity, whether on the Report or the third reading, to raise the whole financial question.


said, that because the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had refused to furnish the House with a calculation of the probable cost of the measure, many hon. Members of the House had endeavoured to go into the question of the probable cost of the scheme. He had done so himself, and on a former occasion had brought forward his figures in no spirit of party or of hostility to the Bill. The question was what, according to the estimate of the Government, would be the probable cost, and, in his opinion, it was the duty of hon. Members of that House not to vote in support of any measure, the probable cost of which had not been distinctly ascertained. To make short work of it, he would move to report Progress, and he trusted that Motion would be persevered in until the Government chose to furnish the House with the estimated cost of the measure.

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


said, he must express his pleasure at the Notice given by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves). He had himself, some time ago, ventured to raise the financial question. At that time the country was not as fully aware of the cost of the abolition of purchase as it was now, and if the people had then the expense before them they would have thought twice before allowing their representatives to vote as they had done on the several questions that had come before the Committee. The country thought that the money to be expended was not simply for the abolition of purchase, but in order to place the whole military force of the country in such a position that we might look forward fearlessly, no matter from what quarter threats might come. But now that the Bill had been cut in two, and that the primary object for which it had been introduced had been abandoned, the Committee ought to have a full opportunity of discussing the mea- sure simply on financial grounds. He would certainly support the Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool at the proper time.


said, that the abolition of purchase had never been thought worth a moment's consideration until the January of this year, when an hon. Member of this House thought fit to go down to Leeds among his (Mr. Wheelhouse's) constituents and make a speech to a very small audience in a very large hall. The original belief was, that the question was to be one of re-organization; but now it had been reduced simply to the question how much should be paid to abolish purchase. What he wanted was, that the taxpaying part of the community should be acquainted with what they had to pay. It had been said that those constituencies where persons had "stumped" should be made to pay the cost; but he begged leave to state that a very large proportion of his constituents were against the proposed measure. He knew he spoke with a strong commercial spirit as a representative of a great commercial constituency (Leeds); but it was precisely because he represented such a constituency that he felt it to be necessary that the House, and through it the people, should be made fully acquainted with the cost of retirement and with every phase of the question from beginning to end, since until that was done, the subject could not reasonably be expected to have any other eventuation than that of being unsatisfactory to every constituency which contributed, in any large measure, to the Imperial or local taxation of this country. To use a phrase that had become somewhat common of late, he (Mr. Wheelhouse) ventured to think that when the people were rendered fully aware of the fact, that the plan was to involve a cost of £1,000,000 or more for 10 years to come, without any apparent correlative advantage, they might come to the conclusion that, after all, "the game was not worth the candle."


said, now that the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) had given the Committee reason to believe that the financial aspect of this question would be raised in a few days, he would confine himself to the expression of a hope that Her Majesty's Government, in preparation for that debate, would feel able and disposed to place clearly before the House the total cost at which they estimated this great scheme not only with reference to the abolition of purchase, but also to those ulterior measures which must form portions of it. Secondly, he would express a hope that Her Majesty's Government would clearly explain not the theoretical, but the practical advantages in the re-organization and increased efficiency of our forces, which they confidently expected to gain at the total cost which they should so submit to the consideration of the House. And, thirdly, he would express a hope that when Her Majesty's Government should have clearly placed those two aspects of the question before the House, they should then, for the first time, have from the professed economists of the House their deliberate opinion whether the practical results which Her Majesty's Government confidently expected to gain would be worth the cost and burden so to be imposed upon the country.


said, he would suggest the postponement of the clause for the present, and would observe that he had heard with great pleasure the announcement of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves). Though no doubt, theoretically, it was impossible to defend the purchase system, it was a question for their constituents, and one upon which it was fit to go to the country, whether, it being in existence, its abolition was worth the sum required for that purpose?

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 131; Noes 245: Majority 114.


said, he had hoped that on so grave a question, affecting the future of the Army of Great Britain, the Government would have conciliated the officers. On the contrary, from the beginning to the end, not a single suggestion made from his side of the House on behalf of the officers had been listened to. This Bill went to the very root of the organization of the British Army, not for the purpose of improving, but of destroying it. That, in his opinion, was the effect of the Bill, which offered even too large a compensation to officers withdrawing from the service, and did not adequately meet the just demands of those who remained. He was not disposed to accept the Bill as it stood, for he believed that it would tend to the destruction of the Army.


said, he conceived there existed some misapprehension as to the effect of the present clause. Some hon. Members were under the impression that it committed the House to an unlimited expenditure; but all the clause did was to point out the mode in which the expenditure should be defrayed.


said, that the clause only provided that Parliament was to raise the money; and if in any future Session it should be thought preferable to raise the money by loan that method could be adopted.


said, that, practically, by means of the present clause, purchase would be abolished and compensation given; and by now passing the clause hon. Members who could not command a majority on the Report of the Bill, or on the third reading, did, to a great extent, lose control over the matter. He protested against voting an unknown expenditure for an unknown result; and when it was stated that the scheme would cost £30,000,000 or £40,000,000, what was meant was that, in addition to the £8,000,000 or £10,000,000 the country would now have to pay, it must also make up its mind to pay a certain sum to induce officers to retire. The retirement had hitherto been paid for by the officers alone, and a surplus had been bagged by the Government for the Reserve Fund; but in future the money must come out of the pockets of the taxpayers. He defied the Prime Minister, who was now shaking his head in a most determined manner, to point out that he was wrong; and the House had a right, in consequence of that shaking of the Prime Minister's head, to a clear explanation showing that the statement was wrong that a large sum of money for retirement would in future have to come out of the pockets of people who now paid nothing for it. The Government called on the House to embark on this new expenditure for unknown results. He was against going on reporting Progress; let them be satisfied with the protest they had entered; and he hoped the facts of the case would sink deep into the minds of the people, and especially of the constituents of the economists—hon. Gentlemen who were trying to "square" it with their constituents by repudiating their political debts of honour. ["Oh, oh!"] The hon. and learned Member for Oxford knew what he meant. [Mr. VERNON HARCOURT: Debts of dishonour.] He could not detain the Committee by going into that; he was referring to the over-regulation prices; and if the Government did not think these were debts of honour, they were not justified in asking the House to pay them. As the constituencies got to know more and more of the truth of that matter, hon. Gentlemen opposite would find it very difficult to "square" it with them on the hustings; and he hoped it would always be remembered that the Government were embarking the country in an unknown expenditure for the sake of wholly unknown results.

Clause agreed to.

  1. PART II.—Army Enlistment. 3,143 words