HC Deb 11 May 1871 vol 206 cc636-96

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [8th May], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


said, it was not his intention to re-open the question of the abolition of purchase in the Army, which he thought had been fully discussed the other night, although there were many hon. Members who desired to express their opinions. But he quite dissented from the observation of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that the five nights' debate on the Motion for the second reading obviated all necessity for further discussion. He took issue on the ground that the House was now in possession of further information than it had on the previous occasion. He himself had a Motion on the Paper for further information on specific points; but the forms of the House precluded the Motion from being put. He knew that many hon. Members were desirous of supporting that Motion, and he was convinced that the matters to which it referred required discussion. But the Bill could now be reviewed by the light of questions which had been asked and answered, by those which had been asked and not answered, and by the light of the discussions on the various Budgets which had been introduced, all more or less connected with the Army Regulation Bill. His original opinion as to the faultiness of the measure had by these proceedings been confirmed, and he was by no means surprised that it should have been unfavourably received by the country, or that that opinion should not have been altered by the discussions that had taken place in that House. In their five nights' debate very few hon. Members spoke in favour of the measure; there had been ten or twelve Amendments or substantive Motions against it, every one of which emanated from the other side of the House; and although some hon. Members on the other side of the House had declared for some inscrutable reason that they would vote for the Bill they criticized it root and branch. Some spoke contemptuously of panics, but the panic in this case was the result of mismanagement; another was humorous about the dislike people had to paying for champagne which had been drunk, but his simile did not apply, because it was not champagne of the true brand. The Government had been asked for reorganization, and they had tendered a Bill; they had been asked for efficiency, and had given increased expenditure, and said, "This is the result of your panic." He could quote the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish), and the hon. and gallant Member for Cambridge (Mr. R. Torrens), who had both denounced the measure in strong terms; but perhaps the opinion of Mr. Mill, who was in favour of the abolition of purchase, would have weight with the Ministerial side of the House. Mr. Mill, at a large meeting in St. James's Hall, said the Bill as a whole was a step in the wrong direction; it did not appreciably strengthen our national defences, and contained no germ for a better system in the future; and he added that the least that could be done was to insure that £3,000,000 was not paid for a system which did not produce a better Army. In effect, Mr. Mill's opinion was that the Government measure did not come up to what the country had every right to expect. The subject now before the House might be treated broadly, and in order to present an analysis of the situation, he proposed to divide it into things known and things unknown. With regard to what was known—to what the Bill would do if it passed into law, and what the present intentions of the Government appeared to be—according to the Estimates, he found that the present system of officering the Army was to be entirely changed and overthrown, and first appointments were to be stopped. Assuming the Bill was to become law, the consequence would be—without any Resolution such as that passed before the Irish Church Bill was brought in—first appointments were ordered to cease, and additional duties imposed upon officers who remained in the service after the passing of the Bill. Then the terms of enlistment were also altered. In the Reserves the system of officering was to be changed, and especially the arrangement as to the appointment of adjutants. He knew of nothing more inconvenient to any commandant than to have sent to him an officer of whom he knew nothing, and in whose selection he had not a word to say. An adjutant so appointed might be a good soldier, but as his position was generally that of a confidential friend to the commanding officer, he might prove to be quite unsuited to the duties. This was something like a man having a wife sent to him without his having the opportunity of making the choice himself. Now with reference to expenditure, so far as it was known. It had been estimated that the abolition of the purchase system would cost £8,000,000; the Budget provided for increased taxation to the extent of £2,800,000 to carry out this Bill and for other purposes; an additional 2d., making a 6d. income tax, was to be imposed to meet the proposed charges; and, last of the things known, were the insufficient data and lack of the information upon which the Government Bill appeared to be founded. If the House demanded an illustration of this part of the subject he could direct their attention to what had occurred in the course of the discussion. An hon. Member on that side of the House, pointing out the excessive number of major-generals there were, addressed to the Treasury Bench the question whether that excess was not owing to a great number of colonels having retired on honorary rank? but although the Secretary of State for War, the Financial Secretary, and the Surveyor General of Ordnance were sitting there, not one of them vouchsafed an answer to his hon. Friend's question. What was it that the measure did not do? It did not alter the age or improve the physique in any way of the recruits. The enlistment of those wretched boys was still going on, and nothing could be more deplorable than the stuff which it was intended to work up into new soldiers at Aldershot. The Bill did not stop the competition that had hitherto existed between the Line and the Militia. It did not put the Army or the Militia Reserve on a better footing, beyond adding to their numbers; it did not augment the numbers nor increase the efficiency of the Militia. It professed, with regard to the Volunteers, to give the War Department better control over them; but in reality it did nothing of the kind. The Bill made no provision either as to the Artillery or the Reserve; it did not improve the Yeomanry; it provided nothing in the way of hospitals, transport, arrangements as to field equipments, for either the Militia or the Volunteers. Lastly, the Militia and Volunteers were not formed in any way into brigades. He now approached the most important part of this question — namely, the "things unknown" to the House and the country as to the intentions of the Government. What did the Government substitute for the change it contemplated in regard to the officering of the Army, the system of promotion, retirement, and first appointments? Nothing whatever, further than that the whole thing was to be altered by doing away with the purchase system. The House was not informed as to the terms of service, or as to the security the coun- try possessed for the appearance of men in the Reserve whenever they were wanted. He had been informed that the anxiety to get men was so great that 30s. had been paid to each recruit on account; and that it was the intention of many of these men to go over to America, so that when they were required they would have to be called from beyond the vasty deep. So much for the prospects as to the Army. With regard to the Reserve, the necessity was urged of combining, by some plan or other, the Reserves with the Regular Army. On a former occasion he endeavoured to show that all the advantages sought by the abolition of purchase, including that of officering the Reserve with regular soldiers, could be got without entailing upon the country the enormous cost of the Government scheme. He threw out the challenge to hon. Gentlemen opposite, whether what he proposed could not be done? The House were not yet informed how the amalgamation of the Reserves with the Regular Army was to be effected. Nor did they know what the first immediate cost would be: £600,000 had been spoken of; but he would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that if, as some persons said, one-half, and others one-fourth, of the officers should take advantage of what the Bill enabled them to do, and sell out of the Army, the effect would be entirely to upset the calculations of the whole financial scheme of the Government, unless some agreement were made as to the selling out. Lastly, the House did not know what would be the total cost, and the permanent charge entailed upon the country by this measure. Supposing that, by some clever arrangement with the officers, the scheme were made to act like a system of retirement, there must necessarily be a time—it might be 10 or 20 years hence—when any such arrangement must come to an end, and when we should have to face some change. Although the Financial Secretary now repudiated figures, brought before the House in 1868 on this subject, Mr. O'Dowd, who prepared them, did not appear to have changed his opinion. The question in 1868 was, whether in regard to pensions £1,000,000 might be saved, that sum being about the equivalent for the retirement. Questions had lately been put to the Government, and Motions made almost without end; but they had scarcely elicited any of the information which the House had so long and so urgently demanded. He had himself inquired of the Secretary of State for War what charges were to be considered transitory, and what not transitory; but he received the partial answer that transitory charges were such as those for the purchase of artillery horses, stores, and armaments for fortifications. But these things were required at all times; they ought to have been provided before; and therefore they could not be regarded as transitory. Turning to the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War, he searched in vain for light on the real questions involved in the Government scheme. Then came the question of valuation, which was the basis of the Bill. The Secretary of State for War said it was the intention of the Government to employ Army officers in commanding auxiliary forces; but he did not know to what extent, and no one could say with certainty what would be the results, and that he could not say what amount of money would be necessary to meet the terms of retirement; and that with reference to the terms of selection which it was intended to exercise, it would be done with a due regard to regimental considerations, from the highest to the lowest of the officers in the Army. With regard to the system of selection, the right hon. Gentleman said the eminent men who were now preparing the rules by which the system of selection would be guided would, he believed, be able to establish such a system as would give great satisfaction to those who believed that merit would gain them their selection; but who those "eminent men" were the House had not the most remote idea, and still more remote was the system that had been elaborated, but whether in London or in Ireland he did not know. But this and other important points connected with it were questions which the House would naturally suppose had been duly deliberated upon, and carefully considered by the Government in the Cabinet before bringing in the Bill; but so far from that the Prime Minister said they were questions that would have to be considered after purchase had been abolished. But the House required to know them before purchase was abolished, and that was the reason why so many attempts had been made, but in vain, to elicit information from the Government. He was inclined to think from the course taken by the Government that they had, in fact, no information to give—they were on the horns of a dilemma; either they had information which they refused to give—and that could only be upon the ground that if it were given it would endanger the Bill—or that they had no plan at all. If they were without a plan what was their position? In deference to the fallacious arguments and wild statistics of the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), they had sought to make political capital out of this question, and had brought in a Bill overthrowing what exists, and entailing unknown changes, and introducing a system unknown to themselves and the country. He did not believe they had a plan; and they had been told that "eminent men" were engaged in elaborating a scheme to fulfil all the purposes which the Prime Minister said would have to be done after purchase had been abolished— Ex uno disce omnes. Another reason for thinking that the Government had not any system was furnished by the Secretary of State for War, who, when pressed for some definite information, said — "I have not any definite plan for the moment." [Mr. CARDWELL asked when that was said.] In answer to a question on the Army Estimates. He ventured to think that it was not only strange conduct on the part of the Government towards the House, but that it was thoroughly novel. The Government on Monday night characterized the conduct of the Opposition as novel and unprecedented, and he rejoined that the course of the Government on this occasion was novel; but it would fail as others had done, and that to deal with this question in the manner proposed was not wholly unprecedented. As to the novelty of the proceeding, the Government were going to uproot what exists without giving the House an inkling of the cost of the plan, which was certainly a novel proceeding in contrast to what they did with regard to the Irish Church and the Irish land questions. Instead of bringing in a Bill at once, a Resolution was agreed to in one Session, and in the next a Bill was introduced giving most minutely the details of the plan, even so low as the interests of the organ blower and parish clerk, and thereby at the same time giving the cost as well as the mode and manner of the change. In this case the proceedings were entirely different, and the novelty of the course was on the part of the Government, and not of those who asked for information. In 1866 when Lord John Russell introduced his Reform Bill, he attempted a similar course by introducing a measure that would deal with the franchise only, leaving the question of the distribution of seats for further consideration. But that course was opposed by the present Marquess of Westminster, seconded by the present Earl of Derby, and the result was that the Government were only in a majority of five, which they considered equivalent to a defeat, but instead of resigning they acted on the result of the division, and brought in a Bill dealing with the whole question. And that was what ought to be done now. On that occasion there was delivered, according to the Annual Register, "a speech of great argumentative power" against the Bill, and the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman who delivered it were "received with vociferous cheers from the Opposition side." What did that right hon. Gentleman say— Although the Government had withheld the information necessary to enable this House to form an opinion, they nevertheless demanded their votes. He believed this information was kept back out of mere wantonness, and with the purpose of seeing whether the House of Commons could not be made to pass under the yoke? On the clearest grounds of self-respect and honour the House ought not to allow the Government to attempt anything of the kind."—[3 Hansard, clxxxii. 2088.] The right hon. Gentleman who said that was now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he was followed into the Cave of Adullam by the right hon. Gentleman who now represented Liskeard (Mr. Horsman), and who then said— The sound, strong, masculine, English common sense of Lord Palmerston would never have sanctioned a measure which had so little to recommend it and so much to which exception might be taken. He was curious to know what distinction the logical mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer could draw between the two cases, and he should be much surprised if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard was not, in reference to this Bill, of the same opinion that he held in 1866 as to the Reform Bill. This was the precedent to which he had referred, and which, though extremely encouraging to the House of Commons, was not encouraging so far as the Government was concerned; they had been defeated and compelled to show the whole of their hand. This brought him to a consideration of the course which, in his opinion, the House ought to take. The course was to follow the precedent to which he had referred, and stop the Bill unless the Government gave them the required information to which they were entitled, and which the Government, as responsible Ministers conducting the affairs of the country, were bound to give. He did not wish to defeat this measure by a sidewind; but he would venture to observe that Mr. Mill, whom he happened to meet by accident a few days ago, expressed an opinion that the course he was recommending to the House was the proper one to be taken. The Government, though they had had abundant opportunities, had not yet stated their scheme of retirement in full, and until they did so it was, in his opinion, the bounden duty of the House to stop the progress of the Bill. On Monday night a small band of determined Members took the course he was now recommending, and a proof that what they did was not regarded as factious was afforded by the fact that no single Liberal newspaper, so far as he knew, had written against the opposition then offered. He admitted that strong circumstances were necessary to justify such a course; but happily, though these were somewhat dictatorial days compared to others, and though there might be more democratic liberty coming, he doubted if they possessed such real liberty, both outside and inside that House, as they had seen. The forms of the House placed in the hands of a minority a weapon of great power and keen temper—a weapon not to be rashly drawn or recklessly used; but there were occasions—and this, in his opinion, was one of them—when it ought to be used to the full extent of its power. He wanted to know, among other things, how, under a system of selection, with the Secretary of State, who would have control of it, a Member of the House of Commons, it was intended to guard against favouritism, Parliamentary influence, and other abuses, and until he had information on that point he should avail himself of all the forms of the House to defeat the measure, in full confidence that his conduct would be approved, both in that House and outside the walls of Parliament.


said, that it was not his intention to take up the time of the House by again going over the various objections which he had to the abolition of purchase in the Army, upon which he had spoken in a former debate; but he felt that the rocks and shoals which appeared to have been surrounding the constitution of the British Army since the introduction of this Bill into the House, did not seem to be in any way cleared off by the announcement of the Secretary of State for War, a few days ago—an announcement which, no doubt, he made by way of concession to the officers, and in the spirit of justice, under the peculiar circumstances of the case. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to repeal the limitation which he had placed upon the redemption of the price of commissions alluded to in Clause 3 of the Bill, which meant to say that he was now prepared, at all hazards, and without regard to the immediate cost to the country, or to the prejudice it would be to the interests of the Army, to accept, without the possibility of check or control, the retirements of the whole of the officers of the Army, if they chose to close with him, and demand the full price of their commissions as soon as the Bill became law. He asked, had the right hon. Gentleman contemplated such a contingency? Had he calculated what number of retirements might or might not take place at the moment, consequent upon this wholesale and tempting offer as a ready money transaction? It was impossible; he could not; and therefore he could not tell the House of Commons what might be the liabilities which he was running the risk of heaping upon the shoulders of the taxpayers of the country; nor could he tell the House what would be the effect of this reckless bartering with the life and soul of the Army. If he had done so, could he not see the impossibility of dealing with such a question, either in a financial or in a military point of view, without further data to go upon—that is to say if he intended to be just—and that to be just, the confusion which he had already created in the ranks of the Army would be doubly confounded? Now it might be asked, why should this be? The reply was obvious; because, owing to the want of confidence in the future, intentions and promises of the Government of to-day, which, if delayed, might never be realized, and which might be upset by the opinion of discontented taxpayers next year, or the year after, a large proportion of officers would naturally take the ball at the hop, and sell at once their commissions to those unwilling buyers, the taxpayers, who, when they had paid their money, would have found out that they had gained nothing by the transaction, and that the officers, and the officers alone, for whom they did not care a straw, would be the gainers, whilst they themselves, and the Army for whom they ought to care, would be the losers. Now, the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) did not attempt so dangerous a scheme as that, for he, not believing in the possibility of this wholesale buying up of property ever being realized as a commercial transaction, and seeing the critical position into which the most important machinery of the Army was likely to be placed, proposed by way of making the best of a bad job, supposing that purchase was really to be abolished, that the regulation value should be paid down at once without retirement, trusting to the honourable pledges of the Government, and the provisions of the Bill, to pay the over-regulation upon retirement. He thought that the House was wrong in rejecting that proposal, which appeared to be a straightforward and safe compromise. He went on to say that the limitation alluded to would, no doubt, have been a great injustice to the officers, which had been thoroughly shown in a former debate, and the right hon. Gentleman must have felt it. But its repeal, just, no doubt as it was, if purchase in the Army was to be a thing of the past, would strike a severe blow at the prestige, condition, and, he would add, the discipline of the Army, by, as it were, deliberately bribing out of it in a wholesale manner, and before their time, a body of gentlemen, who as officers are second to none in the world. On the other hand, the repeal of this limitation would disturb the financial calculations which may or may not have been made; for as the demand for the immediate redemption of the whole value on retirement would be unlimited, it would be uncontrolable; and, as retirement is to be the sine quâ non, the effect would be disastrous in every point of view. This portion of the Bill, therefore, he considered to be in such a state of chaos that any satisfactory progress would be impossible, and, to attempt progress at all, would be only wasting valuable time, so that in the words of the dropped Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), this House should decline to proceed further with the Bill until the whole scheme of the Government for the promotion and retirement of officers, together with an estimate of its probable or possible cost, and also the plan for the amalgamation of the Regular and Reserve forces, had been laid on the Table. He could not agree with the doctrine which had been so pointedly laid down by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen during the debate on the Budget, and also by the Prime Minister, and the hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Captain Vivian), last Monday, that because the second reading of this Bill had been taken without a division, the principle of the abolition of purchase in the Army had been affirmed and approved of by the whole House. He protested against such a doctrine, and it was not right or fair so to mislead the public mind, when it was well understood by every Member opposite that, from the tone and decided character of the debate that preceded it, it was read a second time by the will of the large majority opposite, composed of the Liberal and Radical sections, but under the obvious protest of the Conservative minority. He confessed he thought it questionable to have allowed the Bill to be read a second time without a division, when the House of Commons was not thoroughly acquainted with the difficulties and results of the violent changes in prospect; but when it did allow it to pass that important boundary line, in the absence of any detailed explanation of the plan and specifications of the Government, it was surely incumbent upon a responsible assembly such as this to insist upon being better informed before it committed itself any further to the dangers of those blindfold experiments which were about to be applied to the military armaments of the country. Various Members had in their turn availed themselves of their privileges and the forms of the House, and had put Question after Question to the Secretary of State, for the purpose of gaining the necessary information; but each and all were as ignorant as before they asked their Questions. He asked, was it not trifling with the House of Commons—was it not ignoring the privileges of the Members, if the Government had the information required, and which it was bound to have to conduct such a measure as this, but did not choose to impart it. And if it was unable to afford the necessary information because it had not got it, as it had more than once confessed to the House, could there be a doubt but that the Government was rashly trading upon its voting power, and grossly abusing its position, which was rendered doubly responsible, owing to the very power which, it possessed? The Secretary of State had, indeed, foreshadowed a gigantic revolution in the future management of the Army and its Reserves. He had embraced a variety of subversive plans, for what? For the re-modelling of a new-fangled structure upon the site of an old and time-honoured institution—an institution which had sustained and maintained the honour and the prestige of England in the battlefields of the world for centuries past. And he had, in endeavouring to effect this violent change, left far too much to our imagination to allow the House to deal with his scheme without fear and trembling. The Government must, therefore, not be surprised at the opposition which hon. Members on this side of the House, as well as many on the opposite side, intended to give to the scheme of the Government; nor must the House of Commons refuse that patience which was due to the elucidation of so misty and intricate a question. The increase in the Army Estimates of £3,000,000 was obviously the result of a reckless economy. And what was the consequence? We were called upon to legislate upon the debris which that policy had created, and to do so blindfold. In saying this he was confident that the House of Commons would not have grudged a penny of the enormous sum demanded in the Army Estimates if it could have been convinced and assured of the bonâ fide efficiency of the Army and its Reserves being secured. The country had already expressed itself on that important subject, and there was no doubt that the general conviction was that every exertion should be made to render the military armaments of the country more efficient in theory as well as in practice; that the Army, though small, but tremendously expensive, should be perfect, and that the Militia, which was its great and reliable Reserve, should, if not largely increased, be thoroughly trained. Now what did they find? That although some £3,000,000 had been added to the Army Estimates, running up the Bill to about £16,000,000, neither the Army, or its Reserves, had a prospect of being placed in a satisfactory condition. But the whole constitution of the service was to be convulsed and turned upside down; and when the specifications and Estimates of the Government scheme were asked for, they were not forthcoming, because they never existed, because, to employ the words of the hon. and gallant Member for Truro— It was quite impossible to submit any scheme of retirement until the House and the country were able to judge what would be the effect of the abolition of purchase on retirement. And to quote the words of the right hon. Gentleman on Monday night, "information was asked for that nobody possessed." Therefore, if this portion of the Bill was to be forced through Committee the taxpayers would again have it thrown in their teeth in the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "That the dinner had been eaten, the wine drank, and there was nothing left but to book-up and pay the Bill." Now, this Bill was called an Army Regulation Bill; it certainly was not an organization Bill, for its effect would be to disorganize the best elements of the Army system. There was no doubt that the mainspring of the Bill was abolition of purchase; break that spring, and it would crumble to pieces. It was right, therefore, that we should understand what the character of those pieces was that would remain if the abolition of purchase was defeated. The Bill did not contain a single provision which would be likely to render the Army more efficient than it was at present. For instance, no one could suppose that the abolition of purchase would improve the tone and quality of the British officer; no one could suppose that what is called Army Enlistment in the Bill was intended for any other purpose than to create Reserves, as being in the eyes of the Government a more important branch of the service than the standards; and no one would imagine that the third part of the Bill, under the heading of "Auxiliaries," possessed any magic wand with which to conjure a myth into a reality. It really seemed as if the thoughts of the Secretary of State, when upon these subjects, had recalled his mind to the days of his childhood, when he first saw the famous trick of baking a pancake in a hat, the ingredients for the making of which being thrown into it, the article was produced at once. But the difference between that performance and this was, that the pancake was ready made—and a very good one it always was; but in this case the ingredients which had been thrown in were so unpalatable that they would not mix or amalgamate, and therefore the trick would prove a failure. Now, the right hon. Gentleman had said that he could not re-organize the Army, and make it fit for service, unless purchase were abolished, which was his excuse for bringing in this Bill. He should like to hear what the Duke of Wellington would say if he were to rise up from the grave at this moment, and be so fortunate as to catch the Speaker's eye during this discussion. He should also like to hear what his distinguished generals and colonels would say—such men as Hill, Picton, Ponsonby, Cole, Beresford, Kempt, Craufurd, Maitland, Pack, Colborne, Barnard, Blakeney, and a host of others who fought in the Peninsular War, and wound up their victories on the plains of Waterloo? They would have told the House that it was quite immaterial, as far as the organization of an Army was concerned, whether the officers purchased their commissions or not; and so it was. But he contended that there was no practical plan for re-organization explained in the Bill which was in any way dependant upon the abolition of purchase. For instance, there was not even an allusion made to one of the most important branches of true organization—namely, the power of the expansive element of the Control Department; and it was the duty of the House of Commons to analyze the capabilities of that mysterious department. Surely the existence of purchase did not stand in the way of that department. Then, again, the necessary information upon the working plans of the scheme for amalgamating the Regular and the Reserve forces had not been given, though repeatedly asked for, which showed how completely unable the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers were to cope with the difficulties which were continually cropping up, for which the Secretary of State was officially responsible as the main creator of the vast and violent changes which were about to be pressed through Parliament. The purchase system could in no way interfere in that respect, for no interchange of officers between the Army and Militia could be realized, when one officer was paid and the other was not. He wished to take the Bill and analyze it. What did it consist of in the way of making the Army more efficient, and its Reserves with it? The chief features of the scheme upon which the efficiency of the Army was to be based were abolition of purchase, Army enlistment, and general amalgamation. He had already spoken on the abolition of purchase. With respect to Army enlistment, he was at a loss to know why it was put into the Bill this year when it had been brought before Parliament last year, severely discussed, and passed into law. But there it was. Now, what did it mean? It meant nothing more or less than short service, which he thought was a great mistake, and which would be found out when it was too late. He had always considered that one of the most important features in the character of the British Army was its bonâ fide profession, and that to be regimentally perfect, it should be composed of a machinery of men and officers, closely allied with each other from their youth upwards, and who had entered the service with the intention of spending the best part of their lives in it—of men who had habituated themselves to the specialities of the service, and who had imbibed that esprit and knowledge which was essential to the tone and character of the service which they had adopted. Now, that appeared to be more or less ignored; but he was glad to think that, for the present, long and short service were to be allowed to run alongside of each other. He had always considered it a questionable policy to endeavour to get rid of the old soldier, and prefer the young and inexperienced man as a soldier, who was never likely to make so good a sample; because, for the purpose of creating an Army Reserve, his services were to be virtually dispensed with from the standards, just at the very time when he had arrived at the worth of the money that had been expended on him. He had serious doubts as to the satisfactory solution of that problem; and he said so because the constitution and prestige of the Army would be prejudiced if long service were to be discouraged, for it would eventually destroy the Army as a profession, and it would seriously damage the recruiting interests of the Army. In corroboration of what he said, what was the reply of the Secretary of State to the Question that was put to him at the commencement of the Session, as to how many men had enlisted during the previous six months? It was as follows—26,155 had been enlisted, out of which only 3,383 had enlisted on the short service system. The reason was obvious. There was no inducement on the short service system; there was no prospective advantage; the pension, which was the most important prospective advantage, was virtually abolished; and there was no doubt that the quality of the British soldier, which experience and habit could alone create, would be reduced. Indeed, he did not see how it would be possible to cope with any great emergency with, as it were, a comparatively mutilated Army, as it must be on the short service system, at the very moment when it should not only be perfect in seasoned efficiency, but also in that most valuable of all its attributes—the regimental system, which had never yet broke down, but which this Bill was doing its best to destroy. He confessed he was surprised to think that an hon. Member of this House should have risen in his place a few nights ago, and deliberately asserted that "so long as there was long service the Army would be a curse to itself and the community in which it existed." And why did he draw that damning conclusion? Because, he said, "a celibate Army could never be anything but an instrument of vice." He quite forgot, or did not choose to remember, or perhaps his experience had not prompted him, that the haunts of vice were not less frequented by unmarried civilians than by celibate soldiers. He should have borne in mind, as an Army reformer, that it was no fault of the soldier that he had so much idle time on his hands; but that the fault lay at the door of the system, which had not yet provided for trade and labour employment when off duty, which would render a man more contented, and better able to marry, and keep himself out of temptation. A system which the hon. Member for the Montgomery Burghs (Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) would agree with him when he said that it would be an economy to the State, and at the same time benefit the health and habits, and the pocket of the soldier, who, if able to work, was worthy of his extra hire. The Secretary of State acknowledged last year, in his speech upon the Army Estimates, that he had consulted several military authorities respecting the short service scheme, and that they did not think it would answer. What did he say to them? He said—"I respect your opinions, but I cannot accept your objections, as I hope for better things." And he added—"I look forward to seeing the broad line of demarcation between the Army and civil life in some way diminished." He thought, with all respect, there never was a greater mistake. The military profession should be pure, simple, and distinct, and so ought civil employment if it was to thrive; but when once they were converted into a sort of hybrid condition both must be prejudiced. The Secretary of State, also, on that occasion spoke of a better class of men for the Army. He contended that the Army did not want a better class of men. The right hon. Gentleman could not make a better soldier than had adorned the ranks of the Army from time immemorial. Hitherto, the profession of the Army carried with it the reward for long and faithful services as an acknowledgment to the man who had made himself a valuable and seasoned soldier, no matter from what class he originally sprung. A better class of man may sound very plausible, but if they excluded the lowest classes, they would seriously contract their recruiting field; besides which he had yet to learn the objection to that class, who, being idle and dissolute in their parishes, were better placed in the Army than anywhere else. Experience had shown that such men were as good, if not better, for active service than those who might be socially above them in the scale; besides which their becoming soldiers had over and over again proved the means of converting many a reckless character, under the law of military discipline, into a valuable member of the profession. It mattered not what a young man's character might be up to the moment of his enlistment provided that he was an ablebodied and healthy man. He trusted the House would not countenance any policy which would cut away the props and mainstays of the British Army which had stood the test of generations. The country had a voice in that matter, for it must surely be as anxious as ever to possess the guarantee of a hitherto invincible Army, and it could not sanction the calculations of experience being hastily overthrown which would render the Army comparatively impotent, at the very time when it ought to be strong for battle. He trusted, therefore, that it might remain optional for a man to enlist for long or short service. If for long, he would make the Army his profession, and become a valuable and seasoned soldier, according to the original sealed pattern. If for short, he would assist the right hon. Gentleman in the creation of the Army Reserve; but, whether it was long or short, he was convinced that the soldier should have the option of re-engaging, and that the Secretary of State should not possess the veto, or be in a position to disturb the career which he had chalked out for himself as a soldier—provided, of course, that he be a good and healthy man. With respect to the scheme of the Government for the auxiliary forces, the usual mistake was made, by mixing up the Volunteers with the general amalgamation, so as to render it liable to the same military law as the Army in time of peace—a system that could never work. Such a proposition was another proof how little was the constitution of the Volunteer service understood. There was no identity of composition between the Line or Militia, and the Volunteers. The ranks of the Volunteer service did not serve on the same terms, and until they were embodied they were wholly different, so that they could not, till then, be amalgamated by compulsion with any branch of the military service of the country without altering the whole character of the service, and running the risk and responsibility of creating discontent and its consequences. Then the Militia seemed to be left in the lurch as usual, for there was no scheme for rendering it a substance of future military reality by creating even a shadow of good things to come. The Bill finessed with the Ballot, liking it as an obvious necessity, but fearing the temper of the country upon its application. He observed, however, that the whole of the Ballot clauses (four) were proposed by the Government to be withdrawn in Committee. Now, there was no doubt that the Militia, and the Militia Reserve required the utmost consideration, for it was obvious that the expansive element so much talked of must principally emanate from the Militia. There was no lack of fighting power in the country; but it was not worth the paper upon which it was recorded unless it be trained in time of peace. They did not want a large Army, but what they did want—as was described a few weeks ago by a journalist—was "bones and sinews to be in perfect order, with a supply of flesh and blood to put on them when required." And, lastly, with respect to the Volunteer service which had been alluded to in the Bill, and upon which he was entitled to have a strong opinion—a service which, to quote the words of of the Secretary of State—"has most of the attributes of military life, and all the independence of the most perfect civil freedom." The right hon. Gentleman appeared to be playing a bold, and, he would add, a dangerous game, if he wished to keep it in its present condition; and, as one who had had some experience of, and had studied the exceptionable position of that great citizen Army, he had great doubts as to the feasibility or expediency of his intentions towards it; and he thought he should be borne out by a large majority of hon. Members on both sides of the House, who were Volunteers, when he said that any violent disturbance of the existing constitution of the Volunteer service, such as had been foreshadowed, would not only materially interfere with that special independence alluded to, but it would damage the prestige of the movement, and shake it to its very foundation. And he said so, because an institution which possessed so much unavoidable peculiarity, and whose records since 1859 were a history of no little credit and importance, had a claim upon the highest respect and consideration from the Government of the day. For when they looked back to that anxious time, they could not forget, nor could the nation, the nights upon nights which were spent by those who had undertaken to train the then little bands of recruits, and form them into corps and battalions; nor could they forget the perseverance and co-operation of every member enrolled, in the collecting of the bone and the sinew of the various localities throughout the country; and when they got it, how they fashioned it into military shape, and how they cherished every object of attraction and encouragement, and thereby blended duty with pleasure, and fascinated the country in the cause of self-defence. And the country and the Government were bound to remember how they had maintained their position, in spite of the antagonism of opinion, which was rendered powerless by its very conflict on so important and national a question. It had also to be borne in mind that the drill, and rifle practice, and discipline were in a healthy condition—a discipline which had been too much criticized in disparagement—a discipline that they created for themselves, and which lived on the esprit of patriotism and the dictates of self-respect. The Volunteer service, if it was to live, required encouragement, and not such an arbitrary pressure as was enunciated in the Bill. He wished to draw the attention of the House to a very grave question. He found in the Bill a proposal which would seriously endanger the very existence of the service — he alluded to the 15th clause, which provided for the application of the Mutiny Act when the Volunteer force was assembled, for the purpose of being trained and exercised, &c. The Secretary of State had explained that when all branches of the service were brigaded together under a general officer, all must be under one and the same military law. No doubt that was obvious in theory, but if the Volunteer constitution was to be changed and subverted, in order to take part in a brigade with the Regulars and Militia, although it might only be for a few days, a disturbance which would tend to break up the true character which it now enjoyed—the sooner it was wiped from the pages of history the better. It must be remembered that 11 years had passed over the heads of the Volunteers, during which time they had been constantly brigaded with the Regular forces, and under the command of many of their most distinguished generals—such as His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Clyde, Sir James Yorke-Scarlett, Sir Hope Grant, Lord William Paulett, Sir John Pennefather, and others, all of whom had reported favourably upon the conduct and discipline of the Volunteers. The argument was, therefore, that if such commanders were satisfied with them, why disturb or interfere with the privileges of an institution which, to use the right hon. Gentleman's words again, "Has all the attributes of military life and all the independence of civil freedom." It seemed to be treading on delicate ground, for it savoured of a want of confidence in the discipline of the Volunteers which had rarely been at fault, and a want of courtesy to the officers, under whom the men have elected to serve and obey. He should, indeed, be sorry to see this intention pressed, for reasons which must be obvious to everyone who gave it a thought. Such a proposal as this was imposing a badge of military bondage one day and removing it the next. And upon whom was this to be imposed? Upon citizens who were not soldiers, or paid servants of the Crown, in any sense of the word. And who might be those citizens? Some thousands of the leading merchants and tradesmen throughout the country who were giving their time and their money in order to maintain this great national service—citizens who were not to be reduced to the level of private soldiers. Then, as to enforcing attendance beyond what a commanding officer was able. He asserted that no Government pressure would succeed unless the Ballot for the Militia or its Reserve were in force, or exemptions, such as from serving on juries, &c., were allowed; then there would be no difficulty. For, as Colonel Macdonald of the 1st South London Regiment so truly expressed himself a few weeks ago, that most assuredly any attempt made by legislation to enforce attendance at reviews and field days would only prove either a dead letter or cause the resignation of half the force — that the members of the force were Volunteers; they were in it of their own free choice, and the very fact of their having joined it was a guarantee for their willingness to attend to their military duties as far as their civil duties and occupations would admit. These latter duties, by the performance of which they and their families lived, were paramount in joining the Volunteer force. Then as regarded Clause 14, which was margined—"Engagement of Volunteers to qualify them from exemption from Ballot." A man of business could not be bound to time or locality. The only sensible exemption should be the possession of an annual certificate of extra efficiency, because whoever held it must be already trained. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) said, a short time ago, that he would not exempt Volunteers at all; but what could be more absurd than that, for the object was to train men who were not trained, and not to go through the farce of drilling men, who, by their certificates, had proved themselves already proficient. He regretted that no allusion had been made to the practical efficiency of the Volunteer service, which was a very different thing from the theoretical organization which had been so much talked of, but which could not be advanced beyond its present self-created limit. By practical efficiency he meant personal equipment. He was glad to hear from the Surveyor General of Ordnance a few days ago, in answer to a question which he (Colonel C. Lindsay) had put to him, that personal equipment would be issued to those Volunteers who intended to take part in the field movements of the Army in September. But with respect to the position of the Volunteer service in the event of invasion, which was the only emergency with which it had anything to do, there was not a great-coat, knapsack, blanket, mess-tin, or, indeed, any article, without which no body of men could take the field even for two days. He confessed it was a difficult question, and he did not find fault with the non-issue of equipment, which might never be required in the active service of the country. But he maintained that the difficulty could be overcome without costing the country a farthing, until the crisis, for which the Volunteers were raised, arrived. He said, let there be a uniform pattern of equipment for all the military services, from the shako to the boot; establish Volunteer stores in the various military centres, capable of equipping, say 300,000 men at a moment's notice. Let the Army, which was always requiring equipment, draw upon those stores, taking care that whatever was taken out was at once replaced, so that those stores might always be available for the Volunteers whenever they were embodied; and it would be from and to these stores that any temporary equipment necessary for camp or barrack life should be issued, and returned when the occasion was over. Those stores should be on the expansive system, so as to be rapidly prepared to equip 300,000 more Volunteers in case of invasion, because, whenever that unhappy time should arrive, not only 99 out of 100 men who were then enrolled would answer to their names, but a vast number of the 200,000 or 300,000 who had passed through the ranks of the Volunteer service since 1859, and who had been trained to drill and to shoot, would rally round their old regiments and would demand admittance as second battalions, all of whom would require immediate equipment, to make them of any use at all. When those contingencies had been provided for and well considered, the Volunteer service would then, and not till then, be placed in their proper position, and above any future cavil and rough criticism, as to their non-efficiency when required for the defence of their country. He threw that out as a hint for the consideration of the right hon. and gallant General the Surveyor General of the Ordnance. But if by simply arming the Volunteers, by paying them an inadequate capitation grant, and by imposing an unnecessary screw upon their civil independence, the Government thought that it had done all, he could tell it that it had done little or nothing. It would be only continuing the farce of thrashing a sham into a mockery, because it gave them the power to drill and to shoot, but it struck them with paralysis by affording them no power to move. Besides which, the Secretary of State was taking stock in his Estimates of an article which, by his system, would be useless at the very moment it was wanted. He was, therefore, valuing his military possessions upon false calculations. It would, indeed, have been better if the Volunteer service had never existed if it was to be continued in its present inefficient condition for immediate action; and better that it should be dissolved at once than that the existence of some 200,000 men with arms in their hands, but without the power of taking them into the field, should in any way interfere with that national and hitherto unsullied glory, which the Army of England had so justly acquired on the field of battle, and which, though liable to be seriously compromised by the violent changes in prospect, could never be effaced from the glorious memory of the past.


considered a scheme of retirement most important, and was borne out in the opinion by the evidence given by Captain Arthur Harrison before a Committee of that House. The Surveyor General of Ordnance appreciated well a scheme of retirement, and in the Control Department had started a scheme of retirement. If such was the case he could not conceive why there should be any difficulty in coming to a decision, to a certain extent, as to what that scheme of retirement should be. From statistics prepared by the actuaries in the War Office, it was evident that the annual charge which would be entailed upon the country by the system of retirement proposed by the Government would amount to £1,200,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had stated that one of the objects to be attained in abolishing purchase was to enable the Militia to be amalgamated with the Army. But that was tried once; and what was the result? The House would remember the feeling which was roused when it was proposed to take an officer from a Militia regiment and place him in the Royal Artillery. That ground, therefore, for doing away with the purchase system was not a good one. It was most essential that the officers should be kept contented; but that could not be the case until they had a reasonable prospect of obtaining higher rank within a reasonable time. One word as to "transitional" Estimates. He would bike to know whether we had guns enough, and whether it was not really the fact that the Government would have to come year after year to the House to ask for some £500,000 to provide guns and stores? The Estimates, therefore, could not be fairly called transitional. He thought it desirable that the scheme of retirement should be placed before the House so that the country might know what it would have to pay for carrying out the system about to be established.


said, they were called upon to abolish the system of purchase without knowing how to supply the place of the officers whose services would be dispensed with by the introduction of young blood into the service. Some persons considered that everything German was worthy of imitation; but to adapt similar institutions to a state of things totally dissimilar might be a very considerable mistake. The system of purchase had enabled us to get young blood into the service, and had worked well as a regimental system. It had been said that the system had narrowed men's minds. Now, he could not see how officers living together and encouraging each other could at all tend to narrow their minds. It was proposed that we should have a system of selection, and it was understood that there were some gentlemen of great importance behind the curtain who would bring out a scheme which should be generally satisfactory to those officers who were to be put over the heads of others, but not to those who would be left in the lurch. Let them take the case of a major who had an officer put over his head to command the regiment. What was to become of that major, who might be abroad braving disease in a pestilental climate? We had heard of such things as "Take care of Dowb." It might happen that Dowb got killed and that the major who was not thought fit to command his regiment had to take it into action. What must be the feeling aroused in such a case as that? This major who was considered unfit to command would have earned his commission by competitive examination, and not only that, but he would have to conduct the professional examination of every officer up to the rank of captain. With regard to the system of selection, he would refer to the opinions of Sir Charles Yorke and Lord Raglan, both of whom had filled the office of Military Secretary. Sir Charles Yorke said he considered that the system of selection would be highly prejudicial to the officering of the Army, and he should be sorry to see the system introduced. Lord Raglan said that it might prove a great abuse, and would not be so useful as the system of purchase. And Sir James Scarlett, in addressing a meeting of Volunteers in this Metropolis, said that he looked upon the abolition of purchase as stagnation, and upon selection as favouritism. He believed that to be the general opinion throughout the British Army. He regretted that the forms of the House would not allow him to say "No" to the Question that the Speaker do leave the Chair.


considered the proposition of the Government, inasmuch as it gave a greater prominence to the standing Army, unconstitutional, uneconomical, and a real curse to the country — it saddled the country with an increased expense, and by taking away men from civil pursuits for exclusively military duties it disqualified the rest of the population for national defence; and the right hon. Gentleman might depend upon it that so long as the mass of the population were destitute of military training they would never escape the recurrence of those periodical panics which the right hon. Gentleman was so desirous of putting an end to. Reference had been made to Prussia; but it was not necessary to go there for an effective system of military defence, for we had the best system to be found in Europe in our Militia, which was rooted in the institutions of the country. That system was full of life and energy, and the only thing required was that the men should be more efficiently trained to the discharge of military duties. He believed that the military education of the Volunteers had been of the greatest social benefit, and had never been regarded as any serious tax or an undue interference with any civil occupation. In Switzerland all the men were trained to act as soldiers, and that was regarded as the best part of the education they received, and in Prussia, harsh as the system was in that country, it had been attended with many social advantages in bringing different classes together and in developing their moral and mental qualities. But the standing Army, which was an experiment that was first tried only a few generations ago, was a most unsatisfactory institution. A standing Army, in the words of the Mutiny Act, was obnoxious to the people of this country. It was a sign of weakness and a discredit to the nation, because in a time of war its safety and honour ought to be upheld not by a few mercenaries, but by every man in the nation. But by adopting the Prussian or Swiss system of military training we should revive our ancient Militia system for the defence of our country.


said, he could not help commenting on the smallness of the information which the Government had given to the House with reference to this measure. It was quite clear when the Bill was first introduced that it consisted of two points, the most momentous being the abolition of purchase, which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War said was necessary for the complete amalgamation of the Reserve forces. The question could not but arise when they met their constituents as to whether they—the country—got an equivalent for the bargain proposed and the outlay involved in buying up the abolition of purchase. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to increase, to a great extent, the numerical strength of the Army; but he declined to deal with organization, without which the men would be of no more use in the field than those now being led in Paris to indiscriminate slaughter. He wished to know whether the Government had or had not any scheme with which they proposed to deal with the amalgamation, be it complete or be it partial, of the Militia and the Regular forces. Was any definite proposal likely to be laid before the House during the present Session detailing the views of the Government with respect to the organization of those corps d'armée, which would be numerically larger than any that had hitherto existed in this country in a time of peace, and were to be put merely under colonels of the Staff? At the present time there was some discontent prevailing among the officers of the Army, not altogether with regard to the proposals of the Government, but rather on account of the want of confidence with which both they and the country generally had been treated in this question of amalgamation. Expressions had been used in this House which seemed to confirm the report that had been circulated to the effect that half-pay officers had been consulted as to whether they would be prepared, and, if so, on what terms, to rejoin in some capacity either the Regular or the Reserve forces of the country. At the same time, more than one Militia regiment had found a difficulty in recruiting its permanent Staff. Hon. Gentlemen who knew with what avidity non-commissioned officers would, in ordinary times, accept posts on the Militia Staff would appreciate that fact, the avowed ground on which these non-commissioned officers held back being their fear lest there should be imposed upon them additional duties, of which they were at present unaware, and the performance of which would alter the character of their employment. Without discussing the question of short service, he desired to impress upon the House the danger of raising large Reserve forces without being prepared with an adequate organization for those forces when raised. All who had seen large bodies of the Reserves brought together would admit the necessity of the Staff being first completed. But, judging from the Estimates, there did not seem to be any intention of increase in that direction. As to the Control Train, he hoped the House would receive some assurance more definite than the mere remark "that the system was capable of expansion," and he trusted that some detailed information would be given to the House as to the means by which it was proposed to effect that expansion, for the country was naturally anxious on this point, having seen last year how rapidly and completely there could be brought together the largest force that the world had ever yet seen. The Government had now embarked in a great and in some respects formidable change in the constitution of the Army, which, sooner or later, must, if the present arguments were pushed to their natural and logical extreme, lead to the adoption of the compulsory Ballot. Yet there was not, even now, that information before the House of Commons which they had a right to expect, although the Secretary for War had brought forward a scheme which, as far as the protection of the country was concerned, was, if properly carried out, certainly not second to any that had been proposed in the present century. If any delay or obstruction occurred to the passage of the Bill, no doubt the blame would be thrown on the Opposition, because they thought it necessary to endeavour to obtain some information, but a heavier responsibility would rest upon the Government which apparently declined to give it.


said, he could not help asking the question—"What more could be said on the subject of debate after the divisions that had already taken place?" Hon. Members had asked why no one had risen from the Treasury bench that evening; but he must remind them that it was necessary to hear what had to be urged before he could give any explanation. He was not going to follow the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), whose speech seemed very like the repetition of speeches they had heard on former occasions, and many of its criticisms were really more fitted for consideration in Committee than at the present stage. The noble Lord wound up in a tone of something like a factious opposition to the Government scheme. One of the arguments of the noble Lord was that as soon as this Bill was passed there would be an exodus of officers, who would either resign or sell their commissions; but since this Bill had been under discussion there had happened that which showed there would be a contrary result. His noble Friend wished the Government to explain, and, he supposed, to insert in this Bill all the rules and regulations which might be necessary in a scheme of retirement. [Lord ELCHO: Hear!] Now, this Bill had been introduced for the purpose of determining the great principle which should be laid down; but the points on which his noble Friend wished information were matters for regulations, to be subsequently made by the Secretary of State rather than for the determination of Parliament. He had no hesitation in saying that it was quite impossible for his right hon. Friend to present to the House the rules and regulations as regarded a scheme of retirement to be carried out to the letter. It was a simple impossibility. But when this Bill passed, and its provisions became law, he would be quite ready to consider, and place if necessary on the Table, such rules and regulations as he thought desirable and necessary for carrying out those provisions. The hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Colonel C. Lindsay) had entered into various details which were rather questions for consideration when the Estimates were before them than such as were fit for discussion in connection with this Bill. When the Army Estimates were under consideration he thought he would be prepared to show that if there was one principle more than another upon which he had acted it was this — never by economy in any one year to run the risk of increased Estimates in the next. The hon. and gallant Member said that the Duke of Wellington would never have submitted such a measure without a scheme by which it could be carried out. All that he (Sir Henry Storks) need say on that point was, that the circumstances of the time of the Duke of Wellington were very different from those of 1871. He did not believe that the Duke of Wellington could have submitted any scheme of rules and regulations necessary to carry out the Bill. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had used some strong expressions as to the character of recruits, and seemed to think that the dissolute men hanging about the streets would make very good soldiers; but there could be no doubt, when men of bad character and habits came into regiments, they proved a great injury to the service and corrupted the young soldiers who associated with them. He therefore hoped that a better class of men would make the Army more attractive, and enable them to discharge idle and dissolute characters. He believed that desire was shared by every military man in the House. The proper time for giving the explanations required by the noble Lord with reference to stores would be in Committee on the Army Estimates. He would then show satisfactorily what were the present supplies and the future demands, and that the Control Department was not so bad as it was made to appear, but was most efficient and effective and well reported on by every general officer who had anything to do with it. He would not now detain the House, and merely rose to say on the part of the War Department that it was impossible to produce the rules and regulations for a minute organization or retirement until this Bill was passed. When the Bill became law such a scheme would be produced not only with regard to the Regular Army but also the Reserve forces.


said, the imputation of something like factious opposition to the Government scheme which had been brought by the right hon. and gallant Officer against the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) was absolutely unfounded. Was it factious opposition in any Member to say before going into Committee, and committing, the country to a large expenditure the Government ought to state the amount of that expenditure, when it would cease, and what was intended to be done with the money that was voted? These questions had been asked 50 times, and had never received a shadow of an answer. And in the presence of those facts the Minister applied the word "factious" to their opposition. Well, they still insisted in their refusal to go into Committee on this Bill until they knew what the intentions of the Government really were regarding this expenditure. When his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War introduced this Bill he expressed his sorrow at having to say that the Estimates were greater that year than the previous one by £2,886,700; but he added that in respect to about £1,000,000 of that amount his right hon. and gallant Friend the Surveyor General of the Ordnance would show it could not again occur in the expenditure of an ordinary year. Well, they had waited patiently for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to give that explanation; but they had waited in vain. Instead of vouchsafing the information so much required the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that it would be more convenient to discuss such matters when they were considering the Estimates. That, indeed, might be a more convenient course for the Government; but it was absurd to suppose that it would be a satisfactory one for the party with which he acted on the present occasion; because then the clauses of this Bill would have been passed, and it would be then out of their power to stop the progress of a measure involving an expenditure which they believed to be undue, unwise, and uneconomical. He repudiated the imputation of factiousness the right hon. and gallant Gentleman attempted to fasten on those who demanded certain information before they proceeded further with this Bill. They were, however, determined to leave no stone unturned in order to elicit from the Government some explanation as to what their scheme of retirement was, and what they proposed to substitute in lieu of the Army which they meant partially to destroy. The Government said they intended to re-model our Army. What did they mean to substitute for that which they were about to demolish? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said he had never supported a policy by which the decrease of one year should be followed by an increase of expenditure in the next. Now the total decrease of the two previous years in the expenditure for the army amounted to £2,361,000, being much less than the increased amount which the Government demanded for the military forces in the present year. Let the House mark the conduct of the Government in respect to stores. For the two previous years the Government effected a saving in stores amounting to something like £2,500,000. In the present year there was an increase demanded under this head of £1,815,800. So that all those extra sums were required to make good the unwise and wilful deficiencies of the two previous years. What, then, he asked, became of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's principle that no decrease should be made in the one year that was likely to be followed by an increase of expenditure in the next? It would be impossible for the House to stop this expenditure if they agreed to the present Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the head of the Government knew that he (Viscount Bury) was no factious opponent of the Ministry. He had supported the right hon. Gentleman all along until he found it impossible to go any further with him. It was then with the deepest regret that he felt compelled to sever himself from the right hon. Gentleman, and his right hon. Friend the Minister for the War Department. Feeling as he did, he must endeavour to delay—even at the risk of being called factious—the passing of this measure by every means in his power, until he received the information he asked for as to the amount of the expenditure into which the Government were leading them. They had had various estimates made of the amount of that expenditure; it appeared to him that if they allowed the Government to have their own way in those matters, they were more likely to incur an expenditure of £40,000,000 than that conjectured by some Members on the Treasury bench. Many persons said that the abolition of purchase, far from producing the advantage its advocates anticipated, would destroy the British Army; and if they were to have a new Army, it was desirable that the House should be informed of what it was to consist. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for War said that within a short time he got 20,000 recruits by the new mode of recruiting. He understood, however, that recruiting had since very much stopped. The standard had been reduced to 29 inches round the chest in order to get together the number of "noses;" he could not call them "men" when he had a boy at school with a girth round the chest of 30 inches. As long as they recruited on the present system, and the Militia recruits were of the same description as those for the ranks, so long would the recruiting fail. There were many subjects on which he was anxious to speak; but he would refrain in the hope that the Secretary for War would furnish the House with that long-desired information. If he had not got the information the obvious course was either to postpone the Bill until it could be produced, or postpone the clause relating to purchase, and proceed with the regulation clauses. That would be only one more added to the "innocents," and surely the right hon. Gentleman could not be so fond of this particular child. If he persisted, it would be the duty of the House to amend the measure; but it did not become the dignity of the House that it should be driven forward by a numerical majority before it had been supplied with information to justify its votes before the country.


said, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Surveyor General of the Ordnance had said it was impossible for the Secretary of State for War to come down and lay on the Table a scheme of retirement for the Army. He believed, however, that in the sister profession something of that kind had been enunciated by the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Childers). But he thought that there were at any rate certain questions which the House had a right to ask, and which the Secretary of State had full opportunities of answering. It would be impossible for him to say in what year retirement from the Army would take place; but when it did take place, what was to be the scheme of retirement — after 30 years, for instance? When he had got the answer to this question he would be able to calculate the cost of the abolition of purchase. Before they passed a Bill which would destroy a system that had lasted so long, they had a right to ask on what footing the retirement was to rest, and what was the estimated cost? There were several circumstances connected with this Bill which justified most fully the demand made by the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) who opened the discussion of the evening, that the House should have ample information with regard to those points. The measure could have had but a very crude consideration on the part of Her Majesty's Government. Take, for instance, the restrictive clauses explained by the Secretary of State in introducing the measure. Although he had himself spoke against them on the first night of the debate, and this had since been alluded to two or three times by other hon. Members, they had never been discussed or defended on the part of the Government, and now they were entirely ignored. If it had been considered as a great measure like this should have been, would clauses of this intolerant and tyrannical nature have been inserted and then swept out of the Bill without a word of defence? Again, in stating that he could give no idea of the cost of retirement when purchase was abolished, did the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that he had been so negligent as to institute no inquiries on this point? The right hon. Gentleman had surely employed actuaries to make calculations as to the probable cost, and the House wanted to know something about it. Hon. Gentlemen were sent there by their constituents to defend the public purse, and protect the people from ill-considered and unnecessary expenditure. The cost of retirement in the Army was only one-fifth of what it was in the Navy, where there was non-purchase; and they ought to have the advantage of the calculations of the War Office, so that they might form some probable notion of what the cost of retirement would be under a non-purchase system. The Estimate of the cost for this year which they had been favoured with made the sum of £600,000; but that Estimate was formed before the restrictive clauses of the Bill were thrown up; and they ought to know whether this Estimate would not be most materially altered by the restriction being taken off. It was clear that the £600,000 would go but a little way when the tyrannical restrictions imposed had been taken off. These were matters which justified hon. Gentlemen in asking that those questions should be answered before going into Committee, which was the proper place for discussing details. He regretted very much that he did not see the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in his place. He did not say this by way of reproach, for he knew the right hon. Gentleman had been present the greater part of the evening; but he wished to receive some explanation of certain remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman on the 17th of March in the course of the debate on the second reading of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the misapprehension that arose from considering that the purchase system was divided into two parts, and that the regulation price was a transaction between the officers and the Government, and the non-regulation price a transaction between the officers themselves. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government were not recipients of the regulation price for their own use and benefit any more than the non-regulation price. These were very startling words coming from the Prime Minister, and, with all due respect for the right hon. Gentleman, he begged to say that if he had known the facts of the case he would not have said so. In answer to an expression of dissent the right hon. Gentleman went on to say— Certainly, in exceptional cases that may be the case; but what do those exceptions constitute out of the total? It would be idle for me to detain the House with these minute exceptions—for minute they are, compared with the great totals involved. Speaking generally, Government are the stewards of the transaction as regards regulation prices, and the payer and the receiver are the same in both cases."—[3 Hansard, ccv. 250.] In consequence of these remarks he (Sir Percy Herbert) moved for a Return, which showed that £1,700,000 had passed through the Reserve Fund since 1841, the greater part of it since 1854. Between the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny the sums in question amounted sometimes to £160,000 in one year. To show how that fund was accumulated he would state a case in which he was himself concerned, but not with a view to making any claim; for under the regulations of the service he had not a farthing to expect. After the Crimean War he was on the list of lieutenant colonels on half-pay. The Mutiny broke out, he was then a Member of the House, but he was sent out to India, having been appointed to a regiment in which there was a non-purchase vacancy, and thus was transferred from half-pay to the full-pay, the regiment serving in India. At the conclusion of the Mutiny he returned home and took a seat in the House. On leaving India he was appointed to a five years Staff appointment at the Horse Guards, and in order to to hold it he was replaced on the half-pay list. Therefore, as far as he was concerned, there was no increase of expenditure thrown on the half-pay list. What was the course taken by the then Secretary of State? Did he give this non-purchase vacancy for the benefit of the officers of the regiment without purchase? Not a bit of it; the Secretary of State sold the commission for £4,500, and he would like the right hon. Gentleman or the Prime Minister to explain when he said that Government were the stewards of the officers; for whom were they stewards, for him or for the officer who paid the money? The major who succeeded him and got the commission was of longer service than himself, but he had to pay for the step. During the last 30 years, by the system of pressure put upon officers by the Government, when a vacancy occurred, for the purpose of inducing them to purchase promotion, the Government had extracted £1,710,000 from the pockets of the officers, and that money the Government had applied in diminution of the half-pay list. And yet Members of the Government got up in their places to denounce the system of purchase as one that was a reproach to the officers of the Army.


said, the discussion on the second reading of the Bill was limited by the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) to the abolition of purchase only, and there had never been any discussion on the amalgamation of the forces or the re-organization professed to be intended but not carried out by this Bill. There was, no doubt, some reason in this, for although the Bill was called the Army Regulation Bill it ought to have been called the Abolition of Purchase Bill, for it really dealt with nothing else. The Government had no plan, and had embodied in the Bill no principle on which to found a plan. Everything was left to regulations to be framed hereafter at the caprice of the Minister of War for the time being. This was too vital a question, for the country to allow it to be played with in that way. He hoped the House would insist on the Government embodying in the Bill some intelligible principle before proceeding further with the Bill. The Army ought to know, and had a right to know, and the country would not be satisfied until it knew, how the Army was to be organized. They were anxious to extend the scheme of three-years' service men with the view of getting rid of pensions; but his belief was that if they did that they would get rid of their Army altogether. Their policy in this respect was a most dangerous policy. They had, apparently, a vague idea that three-years' service had worked wonders for Prussia; and that, therefore, it must work wonders for us; but they entirely forgot that the requirements of the two countries were quite different, and that the methods of raising and maintaining the Prussian Army would never be tolerated in this country. Prussia had a conscription; Prussia had no need of any long-service men. She had no India, and no Colonies. All Prussia required was a very highly-trained Militia for offensive as well as defensive purposes, which she obtained in no doubt a very effective way by subjecting every man to compulsory service for three years, which, although apparently cheap in the Prussian Budget, was carried out at an enormous cost to the country in the abstraction of so large an amount of labour for so long a time from the reproductive resources of the country. In the blaze of recent successes we had entirely lost sight of the struggles and fights, almost amounting to revolution, between the King of Prussia and his Parliament on this point. The country was groaning under the infliction. It had been temporarily forgotten under the excitement of the late successes; but now that the object for which all this preparation had been going on for the last 30 years was accomplished, no doubt the Prussian Parliament would soon insist on reducing the term of service to one year. Like the Prussians, we required a thoroughly-trained Militia; but ours would be only for home defence, not for aggressive war. It should be taken, not by conscription, but by voluntary enlistment. For our purposes this Militia school must be like theirs—permanently embodied; in fact it ought to be, he considered, 10 large Army depôts or training schools of 5,000 men each, located in 10 different districts of the country, officered by officers from the standing Army, and consisting of men between 18 and 21 years old, enlisted for one year's service in an embodied Militia, after that, returning to their homes and civil occupation, but under engagement to serve for five years in the regular Militia and ten years in the first Militia Reserve. We should thus secure as much of the Prussian system as would be suited to us. We might have a permanently embodied Militia, a depôt as a training school for men for one year's service, which was enough training for our requirements, which were purely defensive, not aggressive, instead of three years according to the Prussian system, which was, for offensive as well as defensive purposes, raised by voluntary enlistment — as suited to our national tastes and habits, as against conscription, which was suited to theirs—and of a regular quota of say 50,000 men a-year, between 18 and 21 years, instead of every man. There was a great distinction in our wants from Prussia's. She had no India or Colonies; she had no need for a standing Army of long-service professional soldiers. How were the duties of India and the Colonies to be performed? Certainly not by one-year's service men nor by three-years' service men. We must have a long-service standing Army of professional soldiers raised for these special duties. They must be taken from men selected by voluntary enlistment for long service out of the Militia after they had served their one year. This Army might be either a local Indian Army, as argued by some Gentlemen, or a standing Army. A local Army had already failed and been done away with, and he was satisfied would never again be established, as there were so many good practical reasons against it; but, whether local or not, it must be a standing Army of professional soldiers for long service. How, then, were we to get these men and keep them? We must take them by voluntary enlistment from our Militia after completing their one year, leaving these long-service men for our standing Army. What would the terms be? The sudden increase of the Army; and the equally sudden decrease and discharge of men in consequence of late years had much shaken the men's faith and increased materially the difficulty of enlisting. We must, therefore, keep our standing Army of professional soldiers as small as possible to fulfil the duties required of it; but the men taken into it should be made to feel that they were Government servants in that particular trade of professional soldiers for life; that they must thoroughly learn and practise that trade; and that if their conduct was good they were certain of continued employment. We must enlist them for long service, say for 12 years, in the Army; then they should pass, if their conduct was good, for 12 years into the first Army Reserve, with civil employment; and then if their conduct still continued good, into the second Army Reserve and Pensioners, allowing, however, married men of good conduct to pass at the end of eight years from the Army to the first Army Reserve. He was aware that one of the great objects of the Government was to do away with pensions; but it should be remembered that the men were not fools. They would naturally reason thus—"We see that the intention is to do away with pensions. To get service out of us for 6 or 12 of the best years of our lives, and then to cut us adrift to begin the world again and learn a new trade. We had far better, then, leave at the end of three years, when we are 20 or 21, and can learn a new trade easily, and begin life afresh, than wait until we are 29 or 30, have had our health shaken by Indian and foreign service, and then be sent adrift, when we may probably starve, or at any rate shall find it very difficult to begin the world again." The result would be that the majority of your men would take the Reserve as an excuse to get out of the Army at the end of three years, but not with any intention of sticking to the Reserve. They would accept their 4d. a-day for a short time, until it suited them to emigrate, or to remove, or give it up. By this means we should fritter away our standing Army, which would consist in a short time only of boys between 17 and 20 years, quite unfit for Indian and colonial duty, and we should have no reliable Army Reserve. So long as we had India and the Colonies we must have a certain small number of long-service men who are professional soldiers, and have taken to the standing Army as their trade, and as long as we require long-service professional soldiers, we must make them feel that they are certain of continuous employment, provided their conduct is good, and that they will have a pension when worn out in service, otherwise we shall not be able to obtain them by voluntary enlistment. Conscription could do without pensions, but long service by voluntary enlistment could not. The standing Army might be reduced gradually by 50,000 men, to be replaced by 50,000 one year's service men of a general Militia, from whom every other service might be drawn. And this would give a very much larger force of trained men for the same cost. 50,000 men must cost the same to keep for one year's embodiment, whether Militiamen or the Army; therefore they could keep and train 12 times 50,000, or 600,000 one year's service Militiamen, for the same cost as 50,000 12 years' service men. In this way the standing Army, although very small, would be of the very best material, and the Army Reserve would be thoroughly to be relied upon, being all old soldiers of 12 years' service. The existing Militia was not treated fairly, for 56 days' training could not make a good soldier; so that the system was a delusion to the country. He would suggest that the local or regular Militiaman, after being trained for four months, would require only a very few days' practice annually, and instead of being up 56 days for training and instruction, should only be up 14 days for practice, as 56 is four times 14. They could for the same cost have four thoroughly-trained local or regular Militiamen up for practice that they could have one indifferently-trained Militiaman under the present scheme. The men would be precisely the same class as the existing Militia only better trained, and would be quite as certain to be forthcoming when wanted, deducting the same proportions for casualties. There had been one point raised—that there would be a difficulty in obtaining 50,000 men annually for the proposed annual quota of Militiamen. It must be remembered that the standard for the 50,000 men would be the present Militia, not the Army standard, as only 18,000 or 20,000 would require to be selected, for the Army out of the 50,000 men enlisted. The last year we enlisted 24,600 men for the Army, took 4,000 from Militia for the Army, and enlisted 16,300 men for the Militia, making 44,900, or just 45,000 for Army and Militia. Although the whole 24,600 did not finally pass for the Army, they, in all probability, would have passed for the Militia, and the same men that were accepted out of them for the Army would equally have been accepted from them for the Army, had they all been in the general Militia, and the others would thereby have been secured for the local Militia after their one year's training. As the Government had given them no plan or no principle on which to found a plan, he had ventured to propose one, and to embody it in an Amendment to the Bill. They must have some plan on which to organize the forces, and if the Government had none to propose, he asked them to accept this and discuss it, or take back their Bill, embody some plan of their own in it, and let them have that for discussion. If not, he must go on, and endeavour by the assistance of the House to insert his Amendment. War as now carried on would not allow of unpreparedness. Want of organization meant national disaster. The House would not submit to any tinkering up of unsound machinery, or to experiments which could only result in destroying the small but efficient Army we had, and in giving us no reliable Reserves, nor an improved training and organization for our Militia and Volunteers. He trusted that if the House went into Committee on this Bill the Government would bring forward clauses of their own to embody some reasonable scheme in the Bill. He was anxious for the abolition of purchase, if the terms could be made satisfactory. No question was raised as to the right of the officers to the regulation price, and the Government in this Bill, acting on the Report of the Committee of last year, had acknowledged their right also to the over-regulation price. The matter simply resolved itself into a question of what was a just method and time for paying both. He could not but think that the fair course would be to give to the officers an option of two methods and times, and he believed that would result in entire satisfaction on the part of the officers, and a considerable saving of money to the country. The House might fairly say to the officers—"You shall receive the payment of the full regulation and over-regulation value of your present commission when you retire from the service, or it shall be paid to your executors in the event of your death while serving, provided you do not claim to receive the regulation value at once; but if you claim the regulation value at once you must accept that immediate payment in full satisfaction of all claims." That would be equitable; or the House might agree to pay the regulation price at once, and allow the proposal of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) to be carried out as to the non-regulation value. There were, no doubt, many advantages from his proposal; but there were some serious defects which would prevent its being accepted except by the junior ranks, to which it might be extended with great advantage. While it got rid of the greatest objection to the existing system of purchase—that was, purchasing officers passing over the heads of non-purchasing officers, it maintained the regimental system intact, while it accelerated and prevented any block in the promotion by the system of bonuses, as was done in the Indian Army when that was a non-purchasing Army. This bonus system would leave the existing over-regulation prices to be paid by the officers themselves, without asking the country to do so. It would also, by inducing officers to leave, save the country a very large sum which certainly would otherwise have to be paid as retirement, and that would be done at the cost of the officers anxious for promotion instead of at the cost of the country. To enable them to carry out the abolition of purchase most effectually, with justice to the officers, at the most moderate cost to the country, so as not to impede promotion, and not to demand a large sum from the country for retirement, the plan would be to pay to all officers up to, but not including, the rank of major, the regulation value of their commissions at once, and either grant them leave to use the bonus system, as proposed by the hon. Member for Birmingham, up to that rank, or establish a retirement of £75 a-year for every officer who, having served more than five years, up to fifteen, was willing to retire. For the rank of major, and all above it, to give them the option of taking the regulation price down, in full satisfaction of all claims, or receive on retirement from the service, or their executors, in the event of their death while serving, the full regulation and over-regulation values. As those officers who elected to remain on in the service and wait for their money would be serving for many years to come virtually without pay, side by side with officers receiving pay—for the pay they received would not be equal to 4 per cent on the money they left in the hands of the Government—he could not but think they must have a fair claim to say that the money ought to be considered their vested right, and to be paid to them on leaving, or, in the event of their deaths while serving, to their executors. As he had already said, he trusted the Government would submit some plan to the House; and if they did not, he trusted the House would support him in his endeavours to insert the Amendments of which he had given Notice.


said, he was of opinion that neither the country nor the officers of the Army had been sufficiently considered in this Bill, with which they had good reason to be dissatisfied. The House was being led by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War to take a leap in the dark into a bottomless pit of expenditure. Now, as he (Lord Eustace Cecil) had already, in the short course of his Parliamentary experience, taken "a leap in the dark" in the year 1867, he strongly objected to follow them. The Secretary of State for War and the Premier had repeatedly assured the House that they had no information to convey. Although they had been implored, threatened, and entreated to give some information, their answer was invariably in the form of a non possumus, which might be a good answer from the Pope to the King of Italy, but was not exactly the reply which they should give to the House of Commons if they wished this Bill to pass. The President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Stansfeld) had informed the House that the cost for the present year of abolishing purchase would amount to as much as a halfpenny in the pound of income tax. That fact could not be too frequently repeated. He was convinced that if the constituencies only realized what an amount of expenditure this scheme would involve, there would be an outcry raised throughout the country to get rid of the Bill as quickly as possible. His impression was that nobody in the country cared twopence about the Bill. As far as they could discover from the Prime Minister's recent utterances, he completely ignored the question of retirement in the Army; but with all due deference for the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, he contended that the right hon. Gentleman had entirely misrepresented what was necessary to the State as well as to the officers of the Army. The system of retirement was not only a boon to the officers, but an advantage to the State; and the State would be very foolish to incur such an expense as that contemplated, unless it were likely to derive some signal advantage from the expenditure; and he could not understand why, when they had a system of retirement in the Indian service, the artillery, and engineers, and marines, the Prime Minister should not have acknowledged that some provision of the kind was necessary if the present system was to be abolished. But he was afraid the right hon. Gentleman had become a convert to the doctrine which he had with great pain heard fall from the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Auberon Herbert), who expressed a wish on the second reading of the Bill that the Army of this country should be effaced, and replaced by the Swiss system of Militia. A system of Reserves with short service would, no doubt, be beneficial, if it could be carried out; but under the regulations that were likely to be adopted by the War Office, they would have grey-headed captains and subalterns, and mere boys as recruits for the Army. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Truro (Captain Vivian) had stated that the result of the Government measure had been to raise instead of to reduce the price of commissions, and that the officers of the Army were so convinced that their property would increase in value that a major of cavalry had given a sum rather over the customary over-regulation price for a lieutenant-colonelcy. The fact was, that that officer, having a certain sum at his command, and valuing his rank and promotion more than his money, and being afraid, moreover, of the new system of selection, preferred giving an extra sum to obtain the promotion which he was afraid he should not get under the Bill. It was not the general opinion amongst officers that this Bill would enhance the value of their property, but, if anything, the contrary, from the uncertainty that prevailed as to their regimental promotion in the future. They were a class who, unlike the brewing and railway interest, had no great Parliamentary influence, and they were thereby somewhat at a disadvantage in having their claims advocated in that House. The rules of the service prohibited their meeting together to petition the House. Their duties scattered them all over the world, and although they numbered between 6,000 and 7,000, there was not a class in the country that possessed less political influence than the officers of the Army. In a question like this of vested interests—of money laid out legally or illegally, the House was bound in honour to treat the parties tenderly, liberally, and even generously, when the conduct of each successive Government towards the officers of the Army upon this subject was considered, which would not be done under the provisions of the Bill. It was, however, a mistake to suppose that the only objection which the officers had to the Government measure was one of money. A distinguished officer had stated in a letter which he had received, that the officers of the Army complained that the Bill would deprive them of the right to rise to the highest grades in the service by purchase. That was the statement of a poor officer, and no doubt the sentiment was shared by the majority of the officers of the Army. He was much grieved when he read the speech delivered by the First Lord of the Admiralty at the Mansion House dinner on Easter Monday, wherein he stated that the policy of the Government "had been to buy back our Army, which at this moment belonged to the officers and not to the nation." The right hon. Gentleman had not apprehended the real state of the case. The Army had not belonged to the officers in the sense it might be understood to mean in that expression. The officers, whenever they had been called upon, had always done their duty, and if not, they were liable at any moment to forfeit their commissions, so that, instead of the Army being their property, they had really invested their own money as a security that they would at any moment be ready to do their duty, and to forfeit their money if they did not. And, therefore, looking at it from that point of view, it was not correct or accurate to say that the nation had to buy back its Army. He was quite aware that there had been a very prevalent idea that the Army was the relieving house for the aristocracy, and that to abolish purchase would be to aim a great blow at the Conservative party, but he was at a loss to conceive from whence such a delusion sprang. The abolition or retention of purchase was no object in a party point of view to the Conservative party, because he did not think the officers of the Army, as a rule, influenced by a single vote the elections in the country. He could say for himself and those around him that they had no party views in the matter. All that they had striven to do was to consider a national question from a national point of view, and the secret of their opposition to the measure was their objection to see a fine profession sacrificed to cover the shortcomings of Army organization by a Ministry who, for a little short-lived popularity, were ready to cast an enormous burden on the national taxpayer without any adequate return.


admitted that this was a question of the greatest possible difficulty, and what they had to consider was, whether if they went into Committee they could effectually solve it. There were four clauses to be considered before going into Committee. These clauses dealt with the abolition of the purchase system, and the question was this — was it desirable to abolish purchase? Let it be shown what injuries the Army had sustained in consequence of purchase, whether the advantages did not counterbalance any evils, and then what substitute was to be brought forward after it had been abolished. The most important consideration was how much the abolition of purchase would cost? Nobody had any idea of the expense that would be incurred if the Bill became law, and they were answerable to their constituencies for the expenditure that might be required in making a very doubtful experiment. It had, indeed, been said, with inconsiderate approval, that purchase was doomed; but the moment the expensiveness of the operation was made known opinion changed, and at that moment outside the House this was the question which was most seriously discussed. There should be ample explanation before they went into an expenditure about which they knew nothing.


Sir, when the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just addressed the House rose I expected that we should have had the variety of a speech in favour of the Bill. But the hon. and learned Gentleman has not relieved the monotony of this debate. We have lately been accustomed to one-sided debates. We had some very one-sided debates for four or five nights on the Bill now before the House, and if the Government had not abandoned certain other measures I think we should have had very one-sided debates on them. The debate—though I can scarcely call it a debate, for with one exception every speech has been on the same side—the discussion, I should rather say, that we have had to-night fully justifies the course adopted by my Friends on this side of the House and myself on Monday night, in demanding from Her Majesty's Government, as a point of fairness, that we should be allowed to have some further discussion on the merits of this most important and most difficult Bill. Sir, it is very true that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government told us we had a debate of four or five nights on the second reading. But in a debate on the second reading no Member had the power of addressing this House more than once. But we have had great experience — information we have not had — since that debate took place, and during the progress of that debate questions arose which the Government have failed to answer. We have had opportunities of learning what would be the effect of this Bill upon the country, and what was the real view of the country and of the House upon the subject. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government must acknowledge that the discussion we have heard to-night justifies the demand we made. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] And I venture to express one further opinion—that the discussion we have had to-night does not justify the attempt which has been made by Her Majesty's Government to crush discussion by silence on their part. We knew we could not expect to have speeches from the other side in support of a Bill of which the independent Members did not very much approve. But we had a right to expect that Her Majesty's Government would vindicate their own measure, and reply to the powerful speech with which the discussion was opened by my noble Friend (Lord Elcho), in regard to whose speech I have only one objection to make—that he assumed much more than I am willing to agree to, that the principle of the abolition of purchase had been sanctioned by the House of Commons. He and my noble Friend the Member for Berwick (Viscount Bury) most justly reproached the Government for their reticence with regard to their system of retirement and a great variety of matters which, before this Bill can be agreed to, must be explained to the House. But there is another view of this question to which I now desire to address myself. I want to put this plain question to Her Majesty's Government. Can they show to this House any advantages to be derived from the abolition of purchase worth the amount of money which the country has been called upon to pay for it? I wish to call the attention of the independent Members on both sides of the House—I wish to call the attention of the public to the financial bearings of this most important subject; and I challenge the Government to show that this measure can be productive of any effect with regard to the improvement of our Army, or the welfare of the country, to justify the Government in calling on the taxpayers of England to furnish millions of money to do away with this system. I am not prepared to deny the anomaly of the purchase system, and I admit the force of theoretical objections to which it is open. But is what you are going to do worth the money? And when you pass, assuming that you should do so, this Bill, will the country feel that they have had value received? I believe they will not. I have anxiously considered the arguments which have been used, and I believe I do not exaggerate when I say those who have spoken in favour of the abolition of purchase have brought forward arguments totally inadequate. They have been obliged to retire upon vague declamation. I heard the speech of the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), and have studied it since it was delivered; because if reasons in favour of this Bill are to be expected from any quarter, they might have been expected from that hon. Gentleman; for, judging from our recent debates, it is not going too far to say that the Bill has been brought forward chiefly to please two generations of the Trevelyan family. The hon. Member who spoke in favour of this Bill said it would have one great advantage in that it would introduce into the Army open competition. But open competition exists in the Army already. We have it at Sandhurst, where men must compete to show they are worthy of holding commissions, though looking at the importance of the subject, I say that those who advocate the abolition of purchase are bound to give us a better reason than that. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Surveyor General of the Ordnance did endeavour to give us some reasons; but he evaporated in smoke, and fell back on vague declamation. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government said he regarded the officers of the Army as the brains of the Army, and would be glad to take any course that would make them more efficient. But I challenge him to substantiate his language on a recent evening. I also wish to know upon what grounds the Government calculate that £600,000 will be the sum required for this year. That is a question affecting the Budget; but since that sum was announced the Secretary of State for War has withdrawn the limitation as to the number of officers who will be allowed to sell out at once. Upon this point, therefore, a clear explanation from the Government is what we have the right to expect. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] We have the authority even of the Secretary of State himself that there are strong arguments in favour of purchase, and on a former night the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) told us that if any one class more than another had benefited by the purchase system, it was the non-purchase officers. That point was particularly referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson); but we have not yet heard any reference to the manner in which the abolition of purchase will affect officers who have been promoted from the ranks. Supporters of the abolition of purchase are very prone to advocate an extension of the system by allowing men who rise from the ranks to hold commissions. But how can they rise from the ranks? They have a difficult struggle to maintain. But they always had before them the prospect, when the time came for them to leave the Army, that they would receive £100 for every year of their foreign service, £50 for every year of home service, and, if they had served 20 years, the regulation value of their commissions. The hon. Member (Mr. Trevelyan) said, the other night, that he did not advocate very extensive promotions from the ranks, and I agree with him; but I should be sorry to see it altogether abandoned, and I believe that if you deprive non-commissioned officers of the retiring pensions to which they are now entitled, the probability is that you would give great discouragement to promotion from the ranks. If the purchase system could be abolished to-morrow without the cost of a single farthing to the taxpayers of the country—if it could be got rid of by the mere signature of the Secretary for War, those who are best able to form a sound judgment on the matter would consider that, balancing the theoretical objections of the system against its practical advantages, the wisest thing you could do would be to retain it. Holding that opinion myself, I have a right to ask the Government what they have not yet told the House—namely, what are the advantages and the benefits to the country and to the Army which they expect will be derived from the expenditure of the enormous sum of money which their scheme will entail? I have also a right to ask the Government the question that has been so ably put by my noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho)—what do they propose to substitute for the purchase system? I have a right to complain of the reticence of the Government on this subject. In answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson), the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, in a moment of confidence the other night, said that he had nothing to tell, and to-night, in answer to the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, the right hon. and gallant Member opposite (Sir Henry Storks), in his brief speech, has told us that what the Government do know on the subject they do not mean to tell. But, at all events, whether from unwillingness or inability, the Government has told the House nothing on the subject. We have also a right to know what is to be the cost of this system of retirement. The Government has not condescended to let us know what even the approximate cost of this system will be, and, under these circumstances, how can the Government complain that hon. Members have set to work to make calculations for themselves on the subject? Has any answer been given to the published letter of the hon. and gallant Gentleman near me (General Herbert) in reference to this question? The right hon. Gentleman smiles, and, perhaps, he has a very good answer to that letter; but in that case the right hon. Gentleman is himself to blame for not giving us the information on the subject that he has it in his power to furnish us with. All sorts of estimates have been made of the cost of this system of retirement, from £500,000 to £1,000,000 per annum, the latter being the estimate of the hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Captain Vivian) when he was out of office, although doubtless he has changed his opinion since he has been in office.


said, he was sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman; but he had asked once or twice that when his figures were quoted the circumstances of the case at the time the figures were given should be taken into consideration. When he made that estimate, he was speaking on the Motion of the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), who proposed to abolish the purchase system, without adopting either the system of selection or the employment of officers in the Reserved forces, which were very material elements in the Government scheme.


I am sure that I had no wish to misrepresent the hon. and gallant Gentleman. All I can say is, that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not make the calculation himself, somebody else did it for him; but I may add that many persons now put the estimate much higher. We want to know the truth. We want to have some answer to the suspicion very generally entertained that the Government will not tell us what they really mean, because they think they can stave the matter off for several years, and that in the meanwhile they can go on trading on the retirement sales and the commissions which may fall in. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will disclaim any intention of that kind. We must have some information on the subject of the cost of this system of retirement. Either the Army will be officered by old men, or else a considerable expense must be incurred in getting rid of them, so as to enable the younger officers to be promoted. The British Army is already highly costly, and why should you add to that cost by an expenditure from which you are now wholly free? Then, again, we have a right to complain of the right hon. Gentleman for not telling us what is to be the system of promotion in the Army. It has been said that seniority, tempered by selection, is to succeed the system of seniority modified by purchase; but that will lead you into difficulties of the most delicate character, if not impossible of solution. It would never answer to adopt a pure system of selection in time of peace. Let me remind the House that Earl Grey, who is in a position to take a singularly dispassionate view of these questions, when before the Royal Commission of 1867, gave it as his decided opinion, that in times of peace the system of promotion by selection was practically impossible; because he did not believe that any Commander-in-Chief or any Government would be able to endure the charges of favouritism that were certain to be brought against them, and that, therefore, the system of promotion by seniority would have to be followed blindly. I think the Government and the House will do well to reflect on the weight which attaches to those words before they adopt any such system as this. When I formerly addressed the House on this subject I referred to the Report of the Commissioners, who expressed much the same views as Lord Grey, and who say that if you do away with purchase, and adopt a system of selection, the result will be a system of seniority, which will be inconsistent with the welfare of the British Army. What I have now been stating has been found by experience to be the views of military authorities in Prussia. We are all fond of referring to the Prussian models; but those models will not do for this country. The Prussians have no colonial Empire and no India. Their Army serves simply at home, and a system which is good for them will not do for us. It is a remarkable fact, worthy of the consideration of the Government, that at this very time the Prussian officers, and the best officers of the French Army, are regretting that they cannot in those countries adopt the system of purchase, which we are so rashly endeavouring to get rid of. These are matters which are well worth the consideration of the Government, and I ask them to give up this scheme, which is not worthy of them, and which is not right, either as regards the House of Commons or as regards the country. We talk of amalgamating the Militia and the Army; but how are we to do it? I maintain that before we allow this Bill to become law, it is only our duty as representatives of the taxpayers of the country to demand that to which we have an absolute right—better information. In the absence of such information I cannot refrain from repeating a former expression of mine, that I can only look upon this Bill as a "sop to democracy." Hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that that expression was unjust; but I cannot recede from it; on the contrary, I am bound to say that of all the sops to democracy that have ever discredited a Government acting in the vain hope of satisfying the appetite of that insatiable monster, in my opinion, this intention to draw from the pockets of the people millions of money for a change—the best that can be said of which is that it is of a doubtful character—is the most extravagant.


Whatever sops to democracy Her Majesty's Government may be charged with offering, they at least will not offer this one—they will not come forward in reality as the advocates of a rotten and condemned system, endeavouring to bolster up abuses which are almost universally condemned, doing it by modes and practices unaccustomed in the House of Commons, and then by way of a sop to democracy pretend that they do it solely to save the public purse. I know not whether it be a sop to democracy to say this; but I do say that our countrymen of every class are a vast deal too intelligent and acute not to perceive the real meaning of these expressions, and not to know perfectly well, when they consider the quarter from which they come, what is the spirit which actuates them, and what is the motive by which they are governed. It is, indeed, cheering to hear the doctrines of economy from the benches opposite; but it would be a little more satisfactory if we found them directed to some better object, and not connected with the maintenance of an institution which the right hon. Gentleman himself has told us he considers antagonistic to democracy, and, therefore, I suppose conducive to the influence of some other political section. The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by congratulating himself that there had been no variety in the debates—that all the speeches had been on one side. Then he found fault with us on the Treasury Bench, because we had taken so small a part in this discussion. But we are talking of military matters, and may be presumed to know something about tactics; and if it suits the tactics of our opponents to debate the thing after it has already been debated to the full, and to renew discussions after everybody supposed they had been terminated, they must at least be satisfied that we on this side of the House shall not play their game by prolonging these unnecessary discussions. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to give us the reason which entirely justified what was done on Monday night, because on the second reading of the Bill one could only speak once. That is a great discovery for the House of Commons. Hitherto I know it has been usual that on the second reading of a Bill you could only speak once; but now we seem to have adopted new modes of fighting. On the second reading of the Bill a Resolution is moved which is levelled at only one portion of the measure. That is disposed of, and when the Question is that you, Sir, shall leave the Chair, another Motion is levelled at another portion of the Bill. Then, having exhausted all their strength in debating those points, they say as a charge against the promoters of the measure, that the Bill has never been discussed at all, and that they must take a new and entirely unaccustomed mode of debating it. This appears to me a very small justification for the admitted novelty of the proceeding. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on with an air of triumph to say that he challenged the Government—and when he does issue a challenge there is something very formidable about it — to say what the people of England are to get for the money they will pay. Well, Sir, I will try to answer the challenge. The right hon. Gentleman says he has listened to former debates, and has found that all the reason was on one side, and all the declamation on the other, and that the only reason he has extracted from what we have been able to offer has been that this measure was promoted for the purpose of pleasing two gentlemen of one particular family. Now, I ask, is that reason or is it declamation? Somebody within my hearing suggested that it might be wit; but I confess I cannot satisfy myself with that explanation. The question then is, what authority have we for saying that the country will get its money's worth if it consents to this sacrifice? On a recent occasion a Motion was made declaring That, in the opinion of this House, the expenditure necessary for the national defences and the other demands on the Exchequer do not at present justify any Vote of Public Money for the extinction of Purchase in the Army. What was the result of the debate on that Motion? All the reason, it appears, was in its favour; all the declamation is said to have been against it; and yet, at last, the Leader of the Opposition rose and terminated the debate in these words— The animus of the measure is surely good, and the proposal of the Government is the first attempt to weld the three great arms of the country—the Regulars, the Militia, and the Volunteers—into one force. Though many of us may think that the machinery proposed is not sufficient for its purposes, these are not, in my opinion, reasons sufficient to justify us in opposing in any way the second reading. The Committee, then, is clearly the place for the consideration of the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend, and where I am in hopes we may come to some arrangement that may meet the views of my hon. and gallant Friend, as well as the full concurrence of the Government. I hold that to have been not declamation, but very good advice, by which I wish the right hon. Gentleman had profited; and I am sure when the House read the Bill a second time, after that Motion and advice, the House gave us as high authority as we could require, in saying that the public could get its money's worth if it consented to the passing of this measure. I will go on with the subject of reticence, and will answer the well-reasoned and most reasonable request of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Mr. F. Stanley) as well as I can. We have no desire for reticence. On the contrary, we feel that the more we can tell the House of Commons and the country what we are proposing the better for our case. All we desire is reticence where we could not speak without making statements for which we have no sufficient warrant; but what we know we are ready to tell you. The first question on which we are challenged is this. It is said—"Why don't you state what is the retirement you propose?" I have told you more than once why I did not state it, and will tell you again. We have actuaries who can calculate accurately anything submitted to them. What we want is, not the power of actuarial calculations, but the data on which they are to be founded. If anyone will tell me to what extent the disposition of officers to retire will be diminished by the abolition of purchase, and to what extent by employing officers of the Regular Army in the Reserve force promotion will follow, I will place a careful actuarial calculation on the Table in a very short time. For my part, I believe I stated there would be a tendency to a less rapid flow of young officers to the Army after the abolition of purchase. I hope so [An hon. MEMBER: Why?]; because I am convinced, in the days in which we live, we must have men to lead the British Army who entered the Army to make it a profession. The time has gone by to have gentlemen who make it an amusement instead of a profession. We live in times when heroism will not do—when natural ability will not do—when all the virtues which adorn the British officer will not do, if not coupled with the most careful professional training and the most unremitting attention to his duties. I hope and believe it will be found that the employment of a number of officers of the Regular Army in the Reserve forces will give a great stimulus to promotion and act in lieu of retirement, and taking the two facts together there will not be a greatly increased retirement. I sincerely believe that all this talk about retirement is a bugbear to deter the Government from going on with the Bill—that it is not a real alarm which ought to operate on the minds of a reflecting public. But some hon. Gentlemen are not so careful as I am, for there are Gentlemen who can give their estimate, and when they do so nothing is easier than for me to submit their calculations to actuaries. I have before me one calculation of this kind, and shall be happy to show to the right hon. and gallant Member for Shropshire (Sir Percy Herbert) the actuarial calculation on his proposition, so that he may have the opportunity of discussing it. He has made a calculation by which he makes retiring and widows' pensions, comparing it with the Navy, amount to an addition of £1,977,000—or we may say £2,000,000—to the present charge. I have had this calculated, and find, in the first place, that he includes as non-effectives 581 officers who are not on the passive but on the active list of the Navy. If you transfer them to the other side, the result will be that, while increasing the active list of the Navy from 1,239 to 1,820, you reduce its non-effective from 2,060 to 1,479. This would reduce the Army non-effective list—supposing it to be in the Navy proportion — from his 9,300 to 4,270. Then, with regard to widows, it is said there will be a great increase. He has considered 1,385 naval widows to be represented by 1,239 active officers. But they represent both active and retired officers to the number of 3,299. On this principle the Army widows would be reduced from the supposed 7,000 to 4,290.


I took the widows' pensions of the rank of admirals, post captains, commanders, and lieutenants, and therefore it cannot represent 3,300 officers.


The widows are the widows of both lists. I have the calculation before me, and I am told the result is that the £1,977,000 would be reduced to £727,000 upon the whole Army; and, after making the necessary allowance for the portion chargeable to India, what remains—and the calculation is made upon his own hypothesis, and not any hypothesis of mine—chargeable to our Estimates would be £456,670. I shall be very happy to show the calculation to the right hon. and gallant Member. But I have another illustration of the danger of being precipitate in making these statements, because I have been severely challenged to-night for putting a restrictive clause in the Bill that would limit the number of officers selling in a particular year. In opening the Bill I stated that unless that restrictive clause was inserted, we might find all the officers retiring at once and carrying with them a large portion of the Consolidated Fund. Then it is said I withdrew the clause before we went into Committee. Now, when I spoke in the first instance I could have no knowledge of what effect would be produced in the Army by the announcement I made, and perhaps I was too cautious; but I did think it was wise to have a limit inserted in the Bill; but after seeing the effect of my announcement on the Army, I thought as the result of putting a limitation in the Bill there might be at some particular moment a rush of officers anxious to sell for fear they might be excluded, and with the evidence before me that the price of commissions was rising instead of falling by the operation of the Bill, I thought myself quite justified in getting rid of the clause in the hope that it might diminish the objections to the Bill. It seems, however, that I have made a mistake, for now the opponents of the Bill object to the absence of the clause. The right hon. and gallant Member says—"Why don't you adopt for the Army what has been adopted with respect to the Navy." Now, my Colleague at the head of the Navy had before him the wants and necessities of the Navy, and knowing the extent of the mischief knew the remedy to be applied. But the case of the Army was different. If we had the data on which to found actuarial calculations, we should be able to propose a scheme of retirement, and perhaps the result would dispel the alarm which exists, and show the proposition of the Government to be economical. I really do not think that I need trouble the House much more. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Mr. P. Stanley) asked me for some information as to the nature of the amalgamation proposed to be made between the Regular Army and the Reserve forces. He asked what were to be the corps d'armée which were to be created in the different parts of the country, and if it was true that discontent had been caused by a circular issued to the half-pay officers, calling upon them to serve, and by threatening the permanent Staff of the Militia with the discharge of new and unmentioned duties. We do not propose to have local corps d'armée in this country upon the Prussian principle, for this reason — that our Army is one-half at home and one-half in the Colonies and India. You cannot allocate your Army so as to keep it stationary in certain districts, the Regulars must be moving by the very nature of their service; and as it is essential to our plan to unite in brigades for training the Regulars and Reserves, you must brigade the Reserves of a district with the Regulars who happen to be there at the time. You cannot constitute a separate corps d'armée for the particular districts of the country. Neither is it desirable, for with our very great means of railway communication, there is no prospect of there being any part of the country that you could not in any moment of emergency move your forces to in an incredibly short space of time. With regard to the circular to the half-pay officers and permanent Staff, it is the first time I have heard that any discontent has been occasioned. In the autumn of last year, when the alarm set in lest we should be involved in the Continental war, we thought it reasonable to ascertain the number of half-pay officers available, in case their services were required. Then, with regard to the permanent Staff, we have the very high authority of Lord Grey, who, I think, stated in one of the examinations to which he was subjected by a Royal Commission, that of all instances of waste of public money in this country, the permanent Staff of the Reserve forces exhibited the greatest absence of economy. I believe that to be perfectly true, and it is our hope that we shall in the new arrangement effect a considerable economy by imposing other duties on the permanent Staff of the Reserve forces.


said, he wished to explain that what he objected to was as to the uncertainty of getting men to enlist in the Militia Staff, owing to the uncertainty of future employment.


I am sorry there should be any uncertainty; but that is due to the delay which we encounter, and when we make progress we shall be able to put an end to the uncertainty. We ourselves are in uncertainty. I have been asked what the Government mean by Army organization, and I can only reply by saying that I have already stated the outline of the plan. Among other things, it is intended to have training centres, and to train the Militia conjointly with the Regular Army. The noble Lord the Member for Berwick (Viscount Bury) made a speech about recruits; but if he had had the Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting before him he would not have fallen into the errors which characterized his speech. We have made the arrangements we have about recruits, because in a voluntary system you must take recruits when you can get them, and when the recruiting for the Militia and the Regulars is placed in the same hands you will have facilities for selecting your recruits, which will tend to throw older men into the Army and younger men into the Militia. And when in the operation of this Bill you come to re-organize your battalions, you will have power to send to India older and more seasoned recruits, and to make reforms and changes which we very much desire. If our principal difficulty in the Army—namely, that the men will not go into the Reserve; and if our principal difficulty in the Militia—namely, that we cannot get subaltern officers; and if our principal difficulty in the Volunteers—namely, that the officers will not make themselves military efficients, are all overcome, I think you should not charge us with not being successful. I hope after this long discussion we shall be permitted to go into Committee on this Bill. I, for my own part, will not be ashamed to receive any suggestions made, and will co-operate with all to make the measure satisfactory and useful.

Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.