§ (Mr. Secretary Cardwell, Sir Henry Knight Storks, Captain Vivian, The Judge Advocate.)
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 11th May.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Short title of Act).
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War said the other night that he would be ready to listen to any reasonable proposal that might be made to him, and as he was about to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, he trusted he would give it his full consideration. The Bill was called the Army Regulation Bill; but, in his opinion, and also the opinion of many inside and outside Parliament, it was a Bill for the destruction of the Army, and not one for its regulation. The Government viewed it as a Bill for re-organizing the Army; but the measure was one for the destruction, and not organization, of that force, and the House was ignorant, from the contents of the Bill, both of what the regulations were to be, and who was to make them. Under these circumstances, he would move that this clause be postponed so that it might be hereafter settled what the designation of the Bill ought to be.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, his promise referred to reasonable suggestions only, and he would ask the Committee whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman's suggestions came within that category. He did not expect the Committee would debate the clause.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Sale of Commissions prohibited after a certain day).
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, he had placed several Notices on the Paper, the first of which dealt with this clause, and proposed to omit all the lines from 16 to 30, inclusive. It was a technical Amendment, and, if rejected, all the others which, depended on it must be rejected also, as a matter of course. They were designed to provide for paying down within this year to all officers of purchase regiments the regulation value—or price fixed by Her Majesty for every step in the service—of their commissions, 812 to ignore altogether over-regulation money, the payment of which was grossly illegal and in direct violation of the Queen's Regulations read every year by every officer, and imposing severe penalties on those who infringed them; and he trusted the House would remember that in these characteristics they were similar to the Motion of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. Headlam), which could not be brought under the notice of the House, in consequence of the hon. and gallant Member's for Bewdley (Colonel Anson's) Motion intervening. They would also negative the proposal to pay the bonus money, a very innocent arrangement existing in non-purchase corps, as in India, for instance, where the officers clubbed together to buy out the colonel so as to accelerate promotion. It had been wisely said that this was not to be a party question, but to consider how best they could devise a means to improve the condition of our defences, with as little burden as possible to the taxpayers, consistent with discipline; and in accordance with that dictum, the Amendment was drawn as soon as he obtained a copy of the Bill, and he assured the Government it was not done with any desire to throw objections in the way of the progress of the Bill. The Bill proposed to buy up all the commissions, and to pay the illegal over-regulation money as well as the acknowledged price of the commissions, and the payment was to be extended over 25 years; but he considered they were working in the dark upon the subject, and that the result would be that, after spending a large sum of money, and to a certain extent demoralizing the Army, they would have to fall back upon the principle of seniority. There were two classes of officers—there were the carpet knights who had gone into the Army for a few years, and who wanted to leave it, and these officers were to be paid the whole of the regulation and the over-regulation money; on the other hand, the class of officers who had entered the Army as their profession for life were, by a most invidious arrangement, to be paid only after an average period of 12½ years. Then, again, our Army was in a totally different position from any other in the world; our officers were liable to be sent to Bengal, Nova Scotia, or Gibraltar; and, under those circumstances, why should they not be 813 allowed to exchange with each other? A man with a large family and a weakly constitution might be ordered out to Bengal, the climate of which he could not stand, while a strong, healthy man would be very glad to get £1,000 or so to take his place and receive the increased pay for Indian service. Would it not be cruelty to prevent those men from exchanging? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Surveyor General of the Ordnance said that if they were to pay back to officers the regulation money the officers could only expect to be put in the same place as they were in before they paid that price. Now, a more extraordinary statement he had never heard, for how would the Surveyor General of the Ordnance like it if, after the many years he had faithfully served his Queen and country, he were told that he was to be rewarded by being merely paid back the regulation money he had given for his commission? If they violated their contract with the officers, and did away with purchase, they were bound to indemnify them by paying down at once the regulation price of their commissions. He now came to the taxpayers, and here some hon. Members had said they knew nothing about Army matters, and therefore they would vote as they were told. He could not tell what their constituents might think of that; but he knew his own did not send him there to vote taxes, but to oppose all taxes which were not for the benefit of the public service, and he suspected that when hon. Gentlemen went to see their constituents after voting next year an extra penny of income tax, or an equivalent charge on articles of necessity, they would find, whether they understood Army matters or not, that they would meet with a reception more noisy than complimentary. That Bill proposed originally to pay down, in round figures, £8,000,000; but the alteration since made in it would, he thought, require something like £2,000,000 more. In addition to that there would be £500,000 or £600,000 for bonuses for the non-purchase regiments, making altogether some £10,600,000. Then, with regard to retirement, he had taken the Report of the Committee of 1867, and worked it out as well as he could in two ways—the one making £480,000 a-year, the other £700,000; and, capitalizing those sums at 4 per cent, the one 814 would be equal to £12,000,000, and the other to £17,000,000, or an average of £14,500,000. Adding that to the £10,600,000, they would have a total cost of £25,100,000 under the scheme of the Government; whereas, by his own plan, on the other hand, and also spreading the charge, as he thought they were entitled to do, over a period of 40 years, the sum required would be only £7,400,000, thus showing a clear profit of £17,700,000 as compared with the scheme of the Government. That, he thought, was a very serious item. The hon. Member for the Border Burghs had little difficulty in persuading a Birmingham audience that the abolition of purchase was absolutely necessary; but at a large meeting subsequently held his constituents, when he himself distinctly put the matter to them, refused almost unanimously to pay a shilling beyond the regulation price. He denied that the House should entertain the question of over-regulation money, and he was astonished that the Secretary of State should have recommended the Legislature to indemnify men for violating the law. The Royal Commissioners themselves condemned any public recognition of claims for compensation which arose from deliberate violations of the most stringent statutes; but they admitted that legislation could not put a stop to such a pretension as long as the system of purchase continued in force. The question before the Committee was whether a stop could not be put to over-regulation prices; and with regard to that, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had said that it was the intention to make so many changes in the Army, that it would be impossible for any officer to know who was to be his successor; but if a system of seniority, tempered by selection, were to be adopted, then a sort of regimental assurance between the officers of the whole Army would be entered into, by which they would secure themselves against the chance of their being passed over. Such a system of assurance, although not yet adopted in the British Army, was formerly not unknown in the Austrian Army; and, as a matter of course, such a system could only come into force in an Army where the system of selection was adopted to a small extent. Therefore the question was, whether the House would adopt a system of seniority tem- 815 pared by selection, which would continue the bonus system, or a system of general selection, which he believed to be beyond the power of any Secretary of State for War to carry out, taking into consideration the difficulties that would have to be overcome, even under a despotic Government, before it could be got into working order? Even the changes of uniform would be a heavy burden, and he could not help expressing his regret at the constant changes that were being made in the uniform of our Army, which imposed an endless tax upon the officers, who had no sooner provided themselves with new uniforms than they were often required to go to the expense of changing them. A great deal had been said lately in favour of the various systems of promotion in force on the Continent; but which of those systems ought we to imitate? In France, the system of promotion, before the time that her disastrous battles were fought, was one of selection; and the result was, that in many of those battles, and on other occasions, like Montmartre, her men did not know their officers nor the officers their men, and, consequently, whole regiments crumbled away. In the Austrian Army, previously to the year 1848, a system of pure seniority was in force; but after the Hungarian Revolution a system of selection had been adopted, and the result was, that the country, having found that under the new system she had lost every battle she fought, was reverting to the system of seniority. The Prussian system again was one of modified seniority, and in adverting to that system he might refer to a letter which had appeared in The Times of the 15th of March last, written by Colonel Stoffel, who was the French military chargé d'affaires at Berlin. In that letter Colonel Stoffel said that in order to appreciate properly the advantage offered to Staff officers, it must be remembered that promotion in the Prussian Army was by seniority, selecting officers of distinguished merit for Staff appointments; that although the King had the power to promote any officer at pleasure, he seldom made use of his privilege; and that, therefore, as the proportion of officers so promoted did not exceed a thirtieth or fortieth of the whole, it might be said that the promotion was by seniority. It must be 816 recollected that among the Prussian officers were a large number of barons—for if a baron had 10 sons each inherited the title—who looked upon commerce as a pursuit to be despised, and whose only aim in life was to obtain the command of their regiments. The Prussian officer could not buy his promotion if he would, for frequently he had no money to buy it. [Laughter.] That was not so unimportant a matter as hon. Members appeared to think—many were younger sons who had nothing but their titles and their swords. In the opinion of an officer respected by everybody—Sir John Burgoyne—the proposal of the Government with reference to the promotion of officers would tend to destroy the esprit de corps so important to officers and soldiers, and, in many cases, would prevent a reasonable exchange of home and foreign service. Sir John was of opinion that the only object which the Government project as to the promotion of officers would gain—namely, a uniform rate of promotion throughout the whole Army, was not sufficient to compensate for the disadvantages of the measure, and he therefore trusted that, at the earliest opportunity, the military authorities would announce their intention of abandoning it. He trusted that he had proved to the Committee that the Bill would neither do justice to the officers nor to the taxpayers, and that if it passed without this Amendment, the system of general selection would be found impracticable, and that we should find in a few years that we had spent a large sum of money for nothing. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given notice.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 16, to leave out all the words from the word "After," to the word "therein," in line 30, both inclusive.—(Mr. Muntz.)
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, that having been Chairman of the Commission which sat last year upon the subject of the payment of the over-regulation prices, he was desirous to state, in the strongest terms possible, that the opinions which his hon. Friend (Mr. Muntz) had expressed with regard to those prices were not the opinions which he (Sir George Grey) had formed from the evidence, and he should be much surprised if 817 they were shared by any other member of that Commission. It was clearly proved before the Commission that it was notorious that the over-regulation prices were paid, and they unanimously came to the conclusion that although there had been no formal or legal sanction of the payment of those prices, yet that the whole conduct of successive Governments, and of civil and military authorities, for a number of years, with regard to the payment of them, had been such as to amount, in their opinion, to a virtual sanction of them. The reason why the Commission did not recommend that the over-regulation prices should be paid was, that the terms of the Commission precluded its Members from making any recommendation; but they stated their opinion that the officers had been encouraged to believe, and had good grounds for believing, that in making the over-regulation payment they were running no risk even of incurring censure or displeasure on the part of the military authorities, and that their claims in respect of them were entitled to equitable consideration in the event of the abolition of purchase. A young man now entered the Army with an understanding that he must conform to the ordinary custom with regard to purchase and retirement. One effect of the proposal of his hon. Friend would be to impose a useless burden upon the taxpayers, as they would have to pay the amount of the regulation price of Commissions, while they would leave the purchase system unchecked even by the letter of the law; because, to be consistent, his hon. Friend must propose the repeal of the statute which made it illegal to pay the over-regulation price. It had been said that there was great dissatisfaction among the officers of the Army with the terms proposed. Now, although the officers would be very glad to get the terms which the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) sought to obtain for them—namely, the regulation price down and the over-regulation price on retirement, yet, as far as his (Sir George Grey's) information went, he believed that, on the whole, they were satisfied with the fairness of the general arrangement made by the Government, which would give to every officer now entitled to sell his commission the amount which he would be able to get under the existing system, 818 including the over-regulation as well as the regulation price; while the effect of the hon. Gentleman's proposal would be to mulct the officers of the £3,500,000 which they had paid as over-regulation price on the purchase of their commissions, in pursuance of a longestablished custom. The subject of exchanges from one regiment to another, which had been alluded to by his hon. Friend, had nothing to do with the present question, and could be argued hereafter on its merits. In conclusion, he hoped the Motion of his hon. Friend would not be agreed to.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, as the House was now in Committee, and he was not prepared to vote any money, or any more money than he could avoid, to carry out the scheme of that clause, he should support the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), and on the very grounds upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) objected to it. He believed that in the Army of that country they ought to have some such system as purchase, because they had no alternative practically but political selection. Now, hon. Members opposite generally—he spoke of the great body on the Government side of the House—had two objects in their minds, and they seemed quite incapable of looking beyond them. In the first place, they desired to abolish the present regimental system, because it seemed to be inconsistent with their notion of what they called "social equality." In the next place, they appeared to have determined to break up the unity of the regiment. In short, that was altogether a civilian's scheme, proposed by a very worthy civilian. It had, in his opinion, as little regard to the real status, the office, and the maintenance of the character of the British Army as it was possible to conceive. No one had denied the obvious truth—that they had an Army which had never failed them for the purposes of meeting an enemy. It was also true—that they had an Army which, by its organization, was congenial to the genius and feelings of the people of the country. Consequently, whenever called upon, it had proved itself efficient in repressing disturbance by its mere presence; they knew that, even in Ireland, the mere 819 presence of the soldiers had often operated, owing to the congenial feeling of the people towards the Army generally, and the Army had thus prevented the necessity for the use of military force and the expenditure of blood. There could be no stronger proof of the value of the present Army organization than the manner in which the Army was regarded in Ireland. There was no country more liable to disturbance; there was no country in which the people had so often yielded to the mere persuasions of the officers of the Army. This was because the Irish people did not suspect them of having been appointed for any political or partizan purposes. Well, what was it that was now proposed? Conceal it as they would, they were copying the system of the French Army under the late Emperor. Now, everything connected with the late French Empire appeared so to commend itself to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), that he was willing to copy its failings as well as its merits. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman was the supporter of the Government in this scheme. He prevented any division on the principle of the Bill on the second reading, and again on going into Committee. He disliked the Bill for the reason that he could not see—except the inconvenience which was said to be experienced among the officers in consequence of the system of purchase—any ground whatever for its adoption. If the officers were discontented, they would quit the Army; if purchase acted as such an obstacle as they had been told to fair promotion, those who wished to make the Army their profession would not buy Commissions and join the Army. The fact was that the real objection to the present system was this—that it was supposed to create a social distinction. Such was the virulence of the feeling thus created that they were to have the regimental system of the English Army sacrificed. Such was the virulence of this feeling that, in consequence of it, they were threatened with the disestablishment of the Church of England. Such was the virulence of the feeling that it utterly blinded those whom it impregnated to every ulterior consequence of their action. His belief was that it was impossible to replace the operation and effects of the regimental system of the English Army by any of 820 the means suggested as consistent with this Bill. What were the effects of the system? In the first place the system of purchase operated as an insurance, carried out among the officers in the Army at their own expense, which enabled them to join the Army or to leave the Army according to their own judgment. More than that the regimental system also tested the qualities of every officer. There was no such criterion of a man's fitness of character for the position of an officer in the English Army as his being associated permanently with one regiment and a member of one mess. He had had many friends in the Army, some whom he had known from boyhood to be fit, and some whom from boyhood he had always thought to be unfit for the service; and he had observed this—he spoke it plainly—that he had observed gradually those whom he had known from want of courage or other qualities to be unfit, had left regiments not rejected by some arbitrary test which would blast their character, but induced to sellout by the consciousness that their brother officers would not like to trust themselves with them in circumstances of danger. Suppose that there was some other weakness in a man's character. There was no such criterion, as his being associated with a set of men with whom, he must live from day to day, and to whom the honour of the regiment was dear. He spoke from knowledge of what had occurred among those with whom he had himself been associated from youth to manhood; and the House might depend uoon it, that if they once broke up the unity of the regiment, they would deprive themselves of that criterion of fitness which operated without disgracing those who, perhaps, if they were to remain in the regiment, might disgrace themselves. It was that system—that criterion, which inspired the common soldiers with a confidence in their officers which no other process either of promotion or of retirement from the Army that they could devise would, he believed, afford. It was quite true, as had been stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, that they could not altogether adopt the Prussian system; but they could copy it in that, they could retain in their military system the regiment as the unit, whether it was regiment of the Line or of the Militia. The proposal of the Government now before 821 the House was, that they should spend at least £25,000,000—for no one had placed the cost under that sum in any of the calculations he had seen or heard of—in order literally to break up the regimental organization of the English Army; and that not only of the Regular Army, but of the Militia and the Reserve forces. Now, that was no small or insignificant scheme. He did not say that the expenditure required for that object was too heavy for that country to incur; but that proposal certainly involved a very large expenditure, and it was his firm belief that there never was a more shortsighted proposal. It was, he repeated, thoroughly civilian in its conception. They would organize the whole military force of the country as a police force, and not like the English police—because in England every county retained the control and management of its own police—but like a centralized foreign police. Was there anything in the circumstances of the United Kingdom so alarming that they must have an Army for police purposes? Whilst they knew that the present system of the Regular Army had, for very many years, failed for the defence of the country against all foreign aggression, they knew how high the character of the English Army stood. They had seen lately in France the difference between the conduct of the Prussian Army and the conduct of the French Army, even among their own countrymen. He had had friends coming from France, who had told him that the French people for the most part infinitely preferred having the Germans quartered upon them than their own Army. And why was that? Because each German regiment was treated as a unit; because each regiment had a character to lose; because each individual in that regiment knew that he would be judged by his fellows—that he could not escape their judgment, and that knowledge produced the good conduct and character which had so greatly distinguished the German Armies during the last year. Such conduct and character had ever been the glory of the British service. Such was the system which they were now trying to break up; and knowing that his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham spoke not only with English but with German knowledge, he should be happy to vote with him.
said, he did not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman who last spoke (Mr. Newdegate) into a defence of the party which advocated the abolition of purchase; but he desired to explain briefly the effect of the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), who had informed the House that no one was more desirous than he to see purchase abolished. Notwithstanding this, his hon. Friend's speech was a speech in favour of purchase, and he now asked the House to adopt a series of Amendments the effect of which would be to strike a deadly blow at the very principle he wished to affirm. No wonder hon. Gentlemen opposite welcomed the Motion of his hon. Friend; no wonder his noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire came forth from his Cave of Adullam in the hope that he would be able to induce his hon. Friend to follow him into that gloomy region. His hon. Friend's Amendment would, if adopted, convert the present measure into a Bill for continuing purchase in its worst and most pernicious form, for his hon. Friend proposed that we should pay the regulation prices down and allow officers hero-after to make their own bargains. The effect of this would be immediately to raise the price of all commissions to the present regulation and over-regulation prices, because if an officer was prepared to risk £7,000 or £8,000 when half of that sum was not guaranteed by law would he not be far more ready to risk it if the principle of over-regulation prices was legally affirmed? The Secretary for War, in introducing this Bill, explained that his object was to get rid of vested interests, but said that whatever he proposed he had staring him in the face the difficulty of getting it accepted. The House must remember that last Session, when his right hon. Friend made a proposal respecting ensigns and cornets, hon. Members opposite complained of interference with vested interests, and, in consequence of their opposition, the measure had to be withdrawn. If the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham were accepted, what guarantee was there that hereafter, when some future Secretary for War suggested a change which might affect the condition of the officers, the House might not be called upon to compensate them for any interest of which they might claim 823 to be possessed? The only system that could be substituted was one according to which none but rich men could enter the Army. Then, again, no plan was more mischievous or more obnoxious than the bonus system. The hon. Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) fairly remarked, in a speech, which he made two Sessions ago, that it had been argued, as one of the great advantages in the Indian system, that at certain steps officers were called upon to make contributions towards buying out officers at the head of the regiments; but those demands upon officers were made at uncertain and unexpected periods, and caused them to borrow money at usurious rates of interest; and an officer was scarcely a free agent in the matter, for it was well known that if he refused to make the contribution expected of him, means would be found to make him very uncomfortable in the regiment. That was the system which the hon. Member for Birmingham proposed to substitute for the present one, and as far as that went it would be better for the House not to make that change. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) had said that the Government contemplated doing a great injustice to the non-commissioned officers; but what they really proposed to do was to open the service to them, and to make true the old French saying that "a good soldier carries a marshal's baton in his knapsack." ["Oh, oh!"] Under the Government scheme a noncommissioned officer might rise through the regimental ranks side by side with the richest man in the service. [An hon. MEMBER: So he can do now.] The hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that it was not the case; that a non-purchase officer had to take advantage of such vacancies as might occur; that the man who could buy his steps mounted to the top of the tree, while the non - purchase officer remained at the bottom; and that if this Amendment were adopted, it would no longer be possible to promote from the ranks. The hon. Member (Mr. Muntz) further recommended the House to adopt his Amendment on the ground that the Government would not be able to stop trafficking in commissions; but they believed they would have sufficient power to do so, although it might require one or two summary examples to be made after the new system had been 824 put in operation; and, whatever else they did, the Government would not attempt to put officers into such a position that they could refer to a Vote of the House and say the Government had no right to interfere with their vested interests; and they, therefore, asked the House not to adopt the Amendment, which they felt convinced would utterly destroy the very principle they wished to see adopted, and on which they had founded their Bill.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, he could not vote for the Amendment, although he was opposed to both the abolition of purchase and the expenditure of any public money in effecting that object, because the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) only proposed to substitute a minor for a major evil, by desiring to carry out the scheme of the Government at a smaller outlay than they would make. Now, for his own part, he believed that purchases would cost a much larger sum to extinguish than was generally supposed, for he estimated the amount that would be necessary, including the capitalized sum for the retirement scheme, at £40,000,000. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, £11,000,000 would be required in the first instance, if justice was to be done to the Army; but, of course, it might meet with the fate of the Irish Church and the Irish landlords—namely, to be plundered. He was not yet prepared to say whether such would be the case or not; but if not, then it was clear that at 5 per cent the capitalized sum for retirement would amount to £30,000,000, and even if estimated at 4 per cent, the difference would not be very considerable; and it was proposed to expend that sum in order to do away with the regimental system—one of the few things of which nobody complained, and with regard to which a distinguished Trench General (Marshal Canrobert) once remarked to an English nobleman who held a command in the Crimean Army—"Your soldiers are the best and bravest in the world, with the exception of your officers." He (Mr. Bentinck) considered that distinguished officer almost as good a judge of a soldier as the authorities at the War Office. Then, again, how could the House sanction an enormous expenditure for a doubtful object when the country was only submitting to its present taxation for the purpose of increasing the defences of the country? He re- 825 gretted deeply that the second reading of this Bill had been allowed to pass unchallenged by a division, because the House had placed itself in a false position by assenting to that course, and objecting as he did to the enormous and wasteful expenditure involved in the abolition of purchase in the Army, and glad as he would be to give a vote against the Bill under almost any circumstances, he could not support the Motion of the hon. Member for Birmingham, but should reserve his vote for the proposal of the noble Lord (Lord Garlies) to omit the clause altogether from the Bill.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, that he thought the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Muntz) who had moved this Amendment ought to have placed the views he had expressed that evening before the Royal Commission. It was his decided opinion, as a Member of that Commission, that under no circumstances could over-regulation prices be "ignored:" on the contrary, it was certain that they would make themselves loudly heard. The hon. Gentleman was in favour of paying down at once the regulation price; but did he mean to suppress the over-regulation price, and to put in force the Act of 1809? If that was his object he ought to have boldly announced it, and it was certain that, in such a case, the Army would regard him as anything but a benefactor. The hon. Gentleman's proposal would prove utterly incompatible with selection or promotion by merit, and would land the Army in a system of strict seniority. He (Mr. Whitbread) also considered it manifestly unjust that officers should be compensated as purchase officers, and should still continue to hold their commissions as non-purchase officers. The one great advantage of the purchase system was that it made promotion rapid by affording to officers an inducement to retire; but if the regulation price was paid to officers they would have no inducement to retire, and the country would be compelled to adopt an increased retirement. But he thought there was no need to anticipate that day, which was what the Amendment did; and if they wanted to abolish purchase, it should be done on the lines marked out for them by a long practice, and on plans the cost of which could, in some degree, be computed. It had been said that this was a question of money between the officers and the 826 Government; but before the Commission sat last year the general body of officers would, in his opinion, have been prepared to accept the proposal now made by the Government, but their demands had since increased. What he wanted to see adopted was a scheme which would leave the officer in no worse position with regard to the value of his commission than that in which he was before the passing of the Act; and he thought they must endeavour to do justice as far as they could, but they must remember that they had a far greater end in view, and that was, to put the requirements of our Army in such a condition as to insure the safety of our country.
§ COLONEL ANSON
observed, that the hon. Member's (Mr. Whitbread's) speech was the first attempt to give an answer to one of the arguments he had employed the other evening, for the hon. Member was of opinion that the whole matter ought to be considered with regard to the future welfare of the Army; and he must say, on looking to the future prospects of that Army, he thought it a very bad one. Now, he would remark that it was impossible for any officer to speak upon this question without having a pecuniary interest in the matter; and he would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Truro that it was unusual, when an hon. Member objected to a particular tax, to endeavour to find out how much he might be interested, or to point out the exact pecuniary benefit he might have in any changes he might advocate. But the Financial Secretary had thought it right to explain to the world that he was interested to the amount of £2,300 in his Commission, and this was improved on by a Government organ at once, and it went forth to the public that he was trying to benefit himself to the amount of £10,000 or £20,000. Charges like these placed officers in a very unfair position, and were not calculated to promote the discipline of the Army. He had no fault to find with the hon. and gallant Gentleman for reading the letter the other evening which had been addressed by him to the officers of the Army. That letter, however, was marked "private," and he would say no more than that the officer who furnished it to the hon. and gallant Gentleman probably represented the type of men who would be brought to the front under the future 827 system of selection. Now, if a war was to break out, and that war were a bloody and unhealthy one, the nation, if this Bill passed in its present form, would be directly interested in the death of its officers, and that, he contended, was an immoral position for the country, and one in which it ought not to be placed. His proposal, instead of involving an expenditure of £12,500,000, would have cost only £5,000,000, which if spread over 40 years, as it easily might be, would not amount to more than £200,000 a-year. He had, therefore, carefully considered the economical aspect as well as the officers' aspect. He would cordially support this Amendment, because he believed it to be the best way of abolishing purchase, and, above all, because he believed it to be the death-blow to the system of selection as proposed in this scheme, and which would set officers scheming one against the other, and induce them to endeavour in every way to curry favour with the Minister. The value of the regimental system, he considered, consisted in the cohesion which had existed in the ranks of the regiments, for the officers had been able to fit themselves to the regiments, and there was no cause for jealousy or suspicion amongst them. But what would be the effect of the system of selection? Why, no colonel would be able to live on the same terms with his officers, and that would lead to the establishment of cliques in the different regiments. Many references had been made to the Prussian system; now, that system guarded against anything that might be likely to cause jealousies amongst the officers, and he believed that in the Prussian Army such a thing was unknown as the selection of one officer to go over the head of another; but under the system now proposed colonels might be taken from one regiment to another. And what might happen? Why, the colonel would be entirely dependent upon the adjutant, who would be really the commanding officer of the regiment. That system could never work well, and least of all in our own Army. Before handing over such a vast power and so much patronage into the hands of the Secretary of State for War, they ought to have some guarantee that the power of selection would be carried out in a fit and proper manner. The right hon. Gentleman at the head 828 of the War Department evidently relied greatly upon the Royal Commission of 1856, who had reported in favour of the principle of selection up to the rank of colonel; but the right hon. Gentleman had evidently lost sight of the fact that one-half only of the Members of that Commission signed that Report, and did so apparently in fear and trembling. All the witnesses upon whose evidence that Report was based were, with two exceptions, opposed to promotion by selection in any case other than for the command of a regiment. These two exceptions, men of stupendous common sense no doubt, but as ignorant of the Army as the man in the moon, were Mr. Higgins and Sir Charles Trevelyan. When Mr. Higgins was asked what he thought the feelings of a man would be if he were passed over by selection, he answered that it would lessen the dissatisfaction very much when a man could say to himself—"If I had been industrious, and attended to my studies and exercises, I should have been as efficient as my successful brother officer." A man who would say that deserved to be kicked out of the regiment. Why, Lord Sandhurst, who, he understood, had a considerable share in drawing up the Bill, appeared to be the only person in the Army in favour of the system, notwithstanding that he had recorded a most determined protest against it in 1859, when Sir Hope Grant was appointed to the command in China, Sir William Mansfield was nominated his lieutenant; but he declined to serve in that capacity, on the ground that it was "not conducive to good discipline that he should serve under his junior." As regarded the purse system, for such the proposal of the hon. Member would virtually establish, there was nothing immoral in it, and the evidence upon the working of the system in India showed that it was always carried out with due regard to the position of the officers concerned. There was one other matter which he wished to point out. It was most necessary for good discipline that an officer should have some pecuniary interest in his commission beyond the wretched pittance he received as pay, for if he had no such interest, what control would his superiors have over him? If he chose to disobey an order, he would do so and leave the service. Her Majesty's Government need not 829 be afraid that the adoption of this system would raise the over-regulation prices. On the contrary, these prices would fall, for one of the objections entertained against the system was, that it was mixed up with the regulation system, and when the regulation system was swept away there would not be the same inducement to pay high prices, for there would be no supercession of one officer by another. This was a subject of vast importance. It was all very well to say that the officers of the Army were very well contented with these arrangements; but he did not know what means those who said so had of ascertaining the feelings of the officers upon the subject, for the officers of the Army stood in a totally different position to any other class of the community. They were unable to meet together, or to express their opinions in the Press, or even to petition; they were the only class that could not make their feelings and wishes known to the Legislature; and it was very difficult to tell what the real feeling of the Army was on that question. It was perfectly true they were the servants of the country; but, nevertheless, they had as much right to be heard as any other section of the community. He utterly denied that the Secretary of State or his Colleagues, backed though they might be by large majorities in that House, ought to be the sole judges of that question as regarded the officers and the future efficiency of the Army; and he appealed to them to allow the subject to be discussed for a fortnight before a Select Committee of that House. It was only by some such means that they could do justice to the actual mode of abolishing purchase, and to the various minute points that must arise in respect to which the officers felt deeply injured; and he hoped the Government would find it consistent with their dignity to allow the purchase clauses to be discussed before a Select Committee, or to withdraw them and refer their subject-matter to a Royal Commission, while the rest of the Bill was proceeded with.
§ COLONEL NORTH
said, it had been stated by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) that the Secretary of State was to have the power of removing officers from one regiment to another, and what he had to complain of was that the hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Captain Vivian) did not deny that statement, 830 for nothing could be more tyrannical than that any man should have such a power as that. Another statement which had been made partook largely of the nature of clap-trap—he referred to the remark that every English soldier would carry a marshal's bâton in his knapsack. That statement was made in the face of the fact that there were hundreds of cases in which non-commissioned officers had refused to take commissions because they felt that they could not get on if they accepted them. What were the facts? An officer by purchase was enabled to get his step in two years; but these men were required to serve for six, seven, or nine years before they got their step, there being a sort of feeling with the authorities that an empty head invariably accompanied an empty purse. Fault had been found with the letter written by the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson); and, as an old officer himself, he could not exactly approve that step; but on a question like that, affecting the dearest interests of the Army, the Secretary of State should himself have got the officers out of the dilemma by ordering the commanding officers of regiments to ascertain the true feeling of the Army. If that had been done, that objectionable Bill would not have been introduced; and he should oppose it as long as he had power to do so, whether he was accused of factious conduct or not.
§ SIR CHARLES WINGFIELD
said, the bonus system in the Indian Army led to universal indebtedness, and officers, owing to their obligations towards the banks, often had not the means of keeping up a decent appearance; and, moreover, there were always some officers unable or unwilling to find the money, and their position was not very comfortable, though far more endurable in India than in this country, because they could reasonably hope to be removed to Staff or civil employment. He would also quote the opinion of the lieutenant colonel of a non-purchase corps in this country which had adopted the bonus system, to the effect that the system of allowing officers to make what pecuniary arrangements they pleased as to retiring was not popular with all, and that under it a degree of pressure was put upon officers which engendered ill-feeling. Another officer, a captain, stated 831 that the system, of purchase as it existed in non-purchase regiments was the worst possible; and that officers in such regiments would infinitely prefer the purchase system as it existed in other regiments. This appeared to him to be strong evidence against the proposal to allow a private purchase or bonus system. If the proposition of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) were adopted the Government would find themselves hampered hereafter by this system of private purchase when they might wish to reduce the number of regiments or alter their organization. Although at first they might decline to compensate the officers for the abolition of private purchase in their regiments, the force of public opinion—as it had done in the case of the amalgamation of the Indian with the British Army in 1861—might prove too strong for them, and they would be compelled to give compensation for putting a stop to a practice they had themselves encouraged. Objecting, as he did, to the purchase system as a whole, he still more objected to any particular part of it being retained. Although he admitted the force of the point urged by the hon. Member for Birmingham—namely, that it was a bad system to pay men for violating the law, still he must express his entire approval of the determination of the Government to pay the over-regulation prices, because the system of over-regulation prices could never have grown up had it not been for culpable negligence on the part of the military authorities and of the representatives of the nation, who ought, therefore, to pay for abolishing it. In conclusion he would say that, as far as he could gather, the officers of the Army would prefer that the system of purchase be retained; but admitting that it must be abolished, they were not dissatisfied with the terms of compensation proposed by the Government.
said, he felt sure that if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had ever served at the Admiralty he would have shrunk from undertaking the invidious task of introducing promotion by selection into the service over which he presided. In the Navy all promotions in the executive line under the rank of captain went by selection, and as he was always of opinion that promotion by strict seniority would be death to any service, he had 832 made it a rule, when First Lord of the Admiralty, to promote a limited number of junior lieutenants over the head of their seniors. His rule was to select only such junior lieutenants for promotion as had been mentioned with great distinction in The Gazette for service before the enemy, except in the case of two or three who had been recommended by their commanding officers as singularly efficient and deserving of promotion. This, of course, did not give satisfaction to those who had been passed over; but the soundness of his judgment was shown by the fact that the junior officers so promoted were selected, in almost every instance, by captains to serve as commanders almost immediately after they had received promotion. But notwithstanding this testimony in favour of his impartiality, he usually read in The Naval and Military Gazette on the Saturdays following these exceptional promotions "that he was one of the most jobbing First Lords that had ever sat at the Admiralty." The right hon. Gentleman hardly knew what a hornets' nest he would raise about him by introducing the system of selection into the Army.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, that as the principle of the Bill had been resolved upon it was a mere waste of time to go on discussing it. He had been astonished at the ignorance of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Truro (Captain Vivian), and of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir Charles Wingfield), both of whom had talked about the bonus system of India as being the worst system that had ever been invented; on the contrary, from his own personal knowledge he knew that ninety-nine-hundredths of the Indian officers supported it, and it was from their appeal to the Court of Directors of the East India Company and the Board of Control that the system was sanctioned in 1837, and without its aid the block in promotion could not have been alleviated. It worked in this manner—an officer who was obliged to retire from ill-health or old age received a certain amount or bonus, which was made up by the contributions of the officers generally, each paying a proportion according to his rank in the regiment; and he must again say that system had been found to work most beneficially and harmoniously. If the system of selection were adopted, he (Colonel Sykes) believed that it would lead to much traf- 833 ficking and favouritism; and, however anxious the authorities might be to act fairly in the matter, he was confident that it would lead to many abuses, and the authority making the selection, though he were an angel, would be exposed to suspicion.
§ COLONEL CORBETT
said, although he did not like the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), still he thought it was so much better than the proposal of the Government that he should support it. The system of purchase was, in itself, a system of self-acting retirement, for under a system of selection, where the mass of the officers of the Army were men highly qualified, how was selection fairly to be made? And selection would not ensure the retirement of those who were not promoted, as was fully proved by experience in the non-purchase corps and the Navy. On one point he should like to have further information—namely, as to the period of service of Militia adjutants. If the adjutants were to be removed every five years much of the valuable experience which those officers had obtained in the matter of recruiting would be lost. Now, in respect to the changes from the Militia to the Line, they were told that there were disturbing elements in the case; and one of these was the closer amalgamation of the Militia with the Line; and another was this precious scheme of selection. In regard to the former, he did not think there was any difficulty in passing from the Militia to the Line, for he recollected that during the Crimean War there were four Militia officers who obtained commissions in the regiment which he had the honour to command. But he could not well understand how the scheme of the Government in this respect was to be carried out, considering that the officers of the Line were paid the whole year round, but the Militia officers were only paid for the month; and, therefore, the proposed arrangement would, he thought, create much difficulty and inconvenience. And as to the system of selection, how could a fair system of selection be carried out amongst so large a number of officers, all equally well qualified? Why, during the last year of Lord Palmerston's life that noble Lord expressed a strong opinion against this system of selection, saying it was only fit for a despotic Government.
§ MR. SINCLAIR AYTOUN
said, he agreed so far with the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) that he thought it far better that this money should be paid to the officers at once. At the same time, he did not see upon what principle the country should be called upon to pay the over-regulation price. He had the strongest objection to the principle of selection in the regimental ranks of the Army, and if such a system were adopted, he thought it would lead to much jobbery and unfairness. As far as his experience went, he believed that interest did everything and meant little or nothing. He wished, however, to point out one inconvenience which he thought must follow the adoption of the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, unless some other alteration be made in the clause to remedy it. By the omission of the words proposed the effect would be to re-enact the offence of buying and selling commissions at the over-regulation price, whilst the clause would leave out that part of the Act of 49 Geo. III c. 126, which imposed penalties for such offences. While expressing a hope that some explanation would be given to the House on this point, he would conclude by saying that he desired to support the objects which the hon. Member for Birmingham had in view.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he should vote for this Amendment unless the Secretary of War could disprove the figures of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz). The primary object of the Bill was the re-organization of the Army, and if that could not be attained without the abolition of the purchase system, by all means let us get rid of it at once by adopting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham. We should then have to spend only £7,500,000, instead of something like £21,000,000, which would have to be expended if the plan submitted by the Government were carried out.
§ MR. G. B. GREGORY
admitted that the Amendment was not wholly free from the objection raised by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Sinclair Aytoun), and that if passed it might create an offence with no penalty attached to it; and he would suggest the introduction of certain words into the Schedule, or the adoption of a short clause reviving the penalties. He as- 835 sumed, however, that the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) intended to raise the general question of the over-regulation prices, thinking it would be easy at a subsequent period to remedy the defect which had been pointed out. He protested against the doctrine laid down by the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Sykes), that the House was precluded from raising this question because it had acquiesced in the second reading of the Bill. The question was whether the abolition of over-regulation price was practicable or advisable? He believed that if it were abolished to-morrow it would be carried on again in another form. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Truro (Captain Vivian) had stated, as the advantage of the present Bill, that it would enable men in the ranks to obtain commissions, and, in fact, realize the conditions of the French Army, where, as had been said, every soldier carried a field marshal's bâton in his knapsack; but he doubted whether in the British Army this would be much of an advantage, or whether the men themselves would thank Parliament for the privilege, unless accompanied with an increase of pay. There were instances of men who had declined commissions when offered to them; and, when accepted, they were generally regarded by the recipients as stepping-stones to some small appointment—that of quartermaster, for instance—in the regiment, by means of which they could live, for they could not hope to be able with their pay alone to mix on equal terms with their brother officers, who were men of fortune. Under these circumstances, he deprecated the expenditure that would be necessitated if the Bill passed.
§ MR. M. CHAMBERS
said, that when he read the Motion of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) he thought the expediency of the abolition of purchase was to be raised by it; but the speech of the hon. Member showed that he simply wished for one evil—admitting purchase to be an evil—to substitute another, the prevalence of which in the service of the East India Company had inflicted serious injuries upon officers compelled to subscribe to the fund or bonus to purchase out their superiors in rank. This system, it had been well observed, weighed with peculiar hard- 836 ship upon the subalterns and those who depended entirely upon their pay, who were obliged to borrow money at a high rate of interest, and their military career was relinquished or became a state of constant embarrassment and difficulty. The introduction of this plan, therefore, was not likely to encourage promotion from the ranks or to benefit men thus promoted; for instance, a non-commissioned officer, when made an ensign or cornet, could not be expected to raise the subscription which would be required for further promotion. He, for one, was not convinced that the abolition of purchase was desirable in the present state of the British Army. Many advocates of the abolition of purchase seemed to be unaware of the fact that, at the present moment, promotion by purchase and by merit existed concurrently in this country. There were certain commissions given without purchase to cadets from Sandhurst and to other persons after passing competitive examinations, and there were also other commissions which the Government held in their possession and conferred upon soldiers as the reward of distinguished merit. This fact ought to be carefully borne in mind in considering this question. Besides the two classes of commissions—those originally purchased, and those that officers were entitled to purchase on rising to the head of their respective ranks—there was a third class, those conferred on non-commissioned officers; and he agreed with the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Gregory) in thinking that this third class ought not to be given without an increase of pay. One inestimable, social, and constitutional advantage not sufficiently considered resulting from the mixed character of our Army in this respect was, that when revolutionary ideas were propagated officers did not begin to ask themselves, as they did elsewhere, whether they were to be benefited by change; but, their interest being already identified with the maintenance of the existing order of things, they became a source of safety and security, which they could not be under a different system, in which every man was expecting to find a marshal's bâton in his knapsack. It was true men had risen from the ranks to become general officers, but it was in time of war, and, if war occurred, similar promotion might be made with advantage; but the British officer, how- 837 ever noble or wealthy, had never shirked danger, even though the loss of a fortune might be involved in his death; and it was desirable to maintain for our officers the character they had universally won of generous enemies of humane gentlemen. It was clear that some at least of the German officers were not gentlemen of polished manners; and the misfortune of the French Army had been, that it contained many officers who had risen from the ranks, and that relaxation of discipline had been the consequence. The hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) had succeeded in persuading large meetings that it was easy to abolish purchase; but the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) undeceived many on that point, for, while favourable to the abolition of purchase, he came to the conclusion that the plan of the Government would be enormously expensive. In fact, he said, it would cost £30,000,000; but the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck) calculated the cost at £40,000,000: he might be partially wrong, but the result had been arrived at by two different modes of calculation. Such was the cost of this very doubtful experiment. He went entirely along with those who said that the system of selection, miscalled merit, was likely to be an exceedingly bad one, and he was decidedly opposed to the breaking up of the regimental system: he therefore asked what benefit they proposed to confer on the Army and the country for the enormous sum of money which must be expended for the abolition of purchase? It was next to impossible to deal with this large subject without giving the extra regulation price into which the Government had lured officers. In justice, equity, and honour they were bound to do this; he, therefore, trusted the Government would re-consider this important question. Let them just strike out of this Bill the four clauses relating to the abolition of purchase, and then they would have no difficulty in proceeding with the other clauses for the re-organization of the Army, and for making it a splendid, strong, and efficient force.
said, that assuming purchase was to be done away with, the only question was how it was to be paid for. Having looked into the figures, he must protest against this scheme. He 838 was going to visit his constituents next week, and he should be glad to have their opinion on the subject.
§ MR. MACFIE
said, he should be afraid to meet his constituents if he supported this scheme without much more definite explanations than they had yet received. He thought that, while they provided for the Army and Navy, the security of the coasts, and particularly the Scottish one, ought not to be neglected.
SIR TOLLEMACHE SINCLAIR
objected to the payment of over-regulation price, because he believed that such a payment would create a bad precedent; and when he recollected that the present Government introduced a Bill, by which the licensed victuallers were to receive a sum not amounting to one-half of the money they deemed themselves entitled to, he did not see how they could adopt the Government proposal for compensating officers in so very different a way; and for that reason he had proposed an Amendment, to the effect that if officers received prompt payment of the regulation price, they should give up their claim to the over-regulation money. He thought it iniquitous that the widow and children of an officer who died should be deprived of the value of his commission, and he had placed on the Paper an Amendment for the purpose of preventing that injustice being done. The officers of the future would have about £320,000 added to their pay, being about 4 per cent on £8,000,000, and he, therefore, wished to know why the present officers should be deprived of the same advantage. He thought it only fair to the present officers that they should receive the regulation value of their commissions down, and he should therefore support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham.
§ DR. BREWER
said, that if the regulation price was given, retirement must be made a sine quâ non. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) proposed not to allow the over-regulation price; and that, he thought, was a correct proceeding, for the over-regulation price being contrary to law was contrary to morality.
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, that the hon. Member opposite (Dr. Brewer) had said that the soul of discipline amongst the officers of the Army was promotion; but he (Colonel Knox) be- 839 lieved that the soul of discipline was loyalty, honour, and affection for the service. One thing seemed to have been forgotten during this debate, and that was the feelings entertained by the soldiers in reference to the proposed change. It had not been shown that they desired any change, and it was well known that they liked their officers, and would always follow them with pride and pleasure wherever they led. At present we had the best officers that could be got, and they could educate them to a higher pitch if it should be thought necessary. He did not particularly like the Motion of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), which was, that the regulation price should be paid, and that officers should be allowed, among themselves, to make all other arrangements with regard to retirement; but if purchase were to be got rid of, he believed that the carrying the Motion would tend to keep together the regimental system, upon which the English Army depended. He should oppose the Bill in every way that was open to him.
thought that his hon. Friend (Mr. Muntz) had raised this important question very fairly at the proper time immediately after the Preamble of the Bill. When the Bill was first circulated, he (Mr. Headlam) came, after consideration, to a conclusion similar to the one embodied in the present Motion, and expressed that opinion in the debate upon the second reading; and he was glad soon after to read a letter of Sir John Burgoyne to The Times to the same effect. He agreed that purchase ought to be abolished; but by "purchase" he meant that system to which the Government was a party—that system under which every young officer joining the Army was compelled to pay a certain sum, and under which officers were compelled to pay certain sums to the Government for every step of advancement in their career—all which sums were appropriated by the Government, or applied in discharge of liabilities which, the Government have incurred to other officers. It was clearly necessary, in order to get rid of this sytem, that the Government should repay the sums it had received, and if it was determined upon by the Legislature that the change should be made, then the sooner the repayment was made the better. There was no doubt force in the objection 840 that after the system were abolished, and the regulation prices paid, retirement would not be so rapid as heretofore; but that argument was no reason for delaying the repayment and postponing the commencement of the new system. If the argument were valid at all it was good for the retention of the whole system. There were, no doubt, advantages in the system of purchase, and it was in some respects economical to the State; but balancing the evil and the good, he had come to the conclusion that the system should be abolished; and, if so, the sooner the better. The argument had been used that with respect to regulation prices the Government incurred no liability, and was only the agent to transfer a sum from one officer to another. If this argument were good, it would be difficult to justify the present proposal to make the taxpayers of the country pay off these sums; but the argument was not valid, and the part the Government took in these transactions was not that of a disinterested agent for the transmission of a sum of money from one officer to another; but the Government was a principal in the matter. With respect to regulation prices, the liability of the Government was precisely the same as the liability of the owner of an estate which had been mortgaged a hundred years ago, and which had descended subject to the charge to the present time. The owner of the estate became liable in the first instance, and the subsequent assignments of the mortgage to different individuals never discharged that original liability. So, in like manner, the State became liable when it first sold the commissions, and the subsequent transfers of the charge from officer to officer never discharged the liability incurred by the State. But with over-regulation prices the case was totally different, for they were payments from officer to officer. The Government had never received them, and therefore, if it should be found proper to pay them also, the decision to do so must rest on grounds wholly different from those that had guided their judgment in the case of regulation prices. Now, what the Royal Commission had reported on this subject was undeniably true—and in this he concurred with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey)—that the country had acquiesced in the system. It seemed to him, 841 therefore, that if they meant to substitute the system of selection for the regimental system, they were bound to recognize the over-regulation prices, but that if they retained the regimental system, or promotion by seniority, they were not bound to recognize them. Over-regulation prices were the natural, the necessary, the inevitable growth of the regimental system, and if it were maintained, they would continue to flourish with it: there was no instance on record of the regimental system without them. The reason was obvious, for where regimental promotion depended upon the retirement of senior officers, pecuniary inducements would be held out to them to induce them to retire; and, consequently, if they suddenly altered the system they must, in fairness, pay to the officers the sum which they had invested on the natural presumption that the same system would continue. They had been told, indeed, that the Government had some hidden, unexplained method in view, by which approaching vacancies should never become known until they had been actually filled up; but it was safe to foretell that no such device could be practically possible. If the regimental system is to continue, then over-regulation prices will continue, and must be tolerated, even if we now paid a large sum to get rid of them who shared the regimental system, they would grow up again. The Duke of Cambridge, in his evidence before the Royal Commission, frankly admitted that though he would jump at any scheme for stopping the paying of over-regulation prices, no such scheme had ever been submitted to him, nor had he succeeded in devising one himself. That being so, the Government had, nevertheless, asked the taxpayers to supply a large sum of money, on the mere vague statement that they had discovered some unknown and unimaginable method of at once maintaining the regimental system and extinguishing over-regulation prices. All experience pointed the other way, and it was too much to expect the Committee to trust to an assertion that was not supported by any sort of evidence. He quite admitted that, under a rigid system of selection, over-regulation prices would cease to be paid; but the regimental system would at the same time cease to exist, and the Army would come to re- 842 semble the Navy, the central authority being the Secretary of State for War, to whom the eyes of all who expected or merited promotion would be turned, and under such a régime favouritism would most assuredly flourish to a large extent. He agreed with Sir John Burgoyne in objecting to the system of selection, and it would be for the Committee to decide whether it would be wise to pay a heavy price for it. For himself, he had no hesitation in saying that if the system of selection could be substituted for the present system without the payment of anything, he would not have it as a gift. He was quite prepared to accept the suggestion of Sir John Burgoyne, to the effect that the present practice of promotion by seniority should be so far modified as these incompetent officers should be passed over, and, in special cases, extraordinary merit cause exceptional promotion, seniority, however, being followed as a rule. If only such exceptions were made, there would be no necessity for paying the over-regulation prices. Sir John Burgoyne approved of the bonus system as beneficial to the service, and argued that private arrangements of this description between officers should not be interfered with. Moreover, as regarded the officers themselves, the bonus system was really of a provident nature, for the officer paid when young and received when old; and in the long run received as much as he had paid. The opposition to the Bill was founded on a belief that the regimental system would be destroyed, and a system of selection substituted for it. The opposition to the Bill was called forth by the general belief that the regimental system would be destroyed, and that no sufficient cause had been established for the destruction of it, and the substitution for it of the system of selection. The present system, as modified by the suggestions of Sir John Burgoyne, would be very near the German system, and he thought it would be much wiser for the Government to adopt these comparatively small modifications of the present system, and thus save the country the payment of the over-regulation prices.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
remarked that the arguments put forward during that debate had really been in support of the ancient custom of purchase, for no one had shown any necessity for abolition 843 of purchase, except upon sentimental grounds, and he would like those who took that view to point out how purchase had failed to supply the Army with good and efficient officers; but, if abolition of purchase was not sanctioned by the Committee, it would be unwise of the Government to withdraw their Bill. He believed some hon. Members would support the Bill simply because of the threat which the Government had held out. For his own part, he had no wish for the Government to go out at this particular time; but if hon. Members thought a measure unwise, imprudent, and opposed to the interests of the country, the Government had no right to turn round and say—"If you do not carry this measure we will go out." He regretted that they had not divided on the second reading; but they at the time had had five nights' debate on the question, and subsequently they had discussed the Amendments of the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson), and the noble Lord the Member for Haddington (Lord Elcho). Yet during that time they had not received any information from the Government, neither had they any guarantee that, if purchase were abolished, the reforms promised by the Government would be carried out. Under this proposal of the Government gross injustice would be done to those deserving officers who wished to remain in the service, and for that reason he should have preferred a return of the whole of the money which had been paid; but he approved of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), because it gave a partial return—namely, the regulation price. Even if that should be paid he should adhere to the opinion he had already expressed, that the over-regulation price could not be ignored. With respect to the system of selection, which was the very marrow of the question, he believed that it would destroy the esprit de corps which now existed. The hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) had mentioned the case of Sir Hope Grant and Sir William Mansfield, respecting the command of the former in China. Sir Hope Grant having brought the Chinese Expedition to a successful close, returned to his Presidency in Bombay, and served in that position after Sir William Mansfield was appointed Commander-in-Chief of India. 844 Sir Hope Grant was afterwards recalled, and appointed to a position in the Horse Guards. In cases of less note the ill-feeling that would be caused in a regiment by an officer being brought in to command that regiment could be easily imagined. Upon the subject of compensation, he would ask the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes), who had made a long speech in favour of the Amendment and then said he would vote with the Government, whether it was right not to return to officers the sum they had spent for their commissions?
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, the whole of the sum subscribed by officers for purchasing their commissions should be returned to them upon resigning.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he must contend that it was politic to pay the money down that a premium might not be offered for resignation, especially as the proposal to pay only those who resigned would be unjust to those officers who desired to remain in the Army from love of the profession. He must declare his intention of voting with the hon. Member for Birmingham, and would repeat the demand upon the Government for their retiring scheme, that the country might know what the full cost of the abolition of purchase would be.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, that he entertained a very strong objection against the recognition in any way of over-regulation prices, and should oppose the payment of them; but as a compromise, he should be willing to support an arrangement under which officers should at once receive the sum they had actually paid for their commissions under Her Majesty's regulations. But the Secretary at War said that "if you abolish regulation, and leave over-regulation, you will have paid your £7,000,000, and you will not have attained your end; you will have incurred the burden, and the system you have desired to abolish will remain in full force." But surely the right hon. Gentleman, on consideration, will not maintain that that is a correct statement of the case. If purchase were abolished by the payment of the regulation price, the most vicious element of the system under which a junior could buy promotion over the heads of his seniors would absolutely cease, and therefore the system would not in any case remain in full 845 force. He had understood his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson), to say that the officers of the Army would be ready to accept the regulation price down, on the understanding that they were not to receive the over-regulation prices. ["No, no!"] Well, that, at least, was the basis of the proposed compromise, and now he was surprised to find that another condition was introduced, and that it was contended that, as part of the arrangement, the Government should be bound to maintain the existing system of regimental promotion. He entirely declined to fetter the action of the War Office in their plans for the re-organization of the Army; if they believed that they could carry out the principle of selection, he was quite willing that they should try it. He entirely dissented from the opinion just expressed by his right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Headlam), that if the principle of selection were introduced, and the regimental system destroyed, the over-regulation prices must under those circumstances be paid. He (Mr. Rylands) contended, that no circumstances whatever could justify that course, and that if the Government paid a large sum of money out of the public taxes to compensate officers for committing acts for which they were liable by law to fine and imprisonment, they would adopt a policy that would have a very bad moral effect. His hon. and gallant Friend the Financial Secretary of the War Department (Captain Vivian) had said that, in order to stop such practices in future, in would be only necessary to make two or three summary examples. But did the Government mean to tell them that after paying men for doing that very thing, it would be at all probable that such breaches of the law would be prevented by making some summary examples? It had been stated by hon. Members that a sufficient safeguard against illegal payments would be secured by requiring a declaration of honour on the part of officers obtaining commissions, and when, on a former occasion, he alluded to the fact that such declarations were formerly taken and entirely disregarded, the right hon. and gallant Member for Shropshire (Sir Percy Herbert) objected, because the declaration was withdrawn in 1824. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman appeared to think that the question of honour was 846 barred by the statute of limitations; but he (Mr. Rylands) held in his hand a Circular from the War Office of so recent a date as October 1st, 1869. It was a Circular addressed to Lords Lieutenant of counties, and was signed "Edward Cardwell." It was to this effect—My Lord, I have the honour to inform you that I have decided on adopting the following course in regard to the appointment of Adjutants of Volunteers with a view of preventing the very discreditable practice of the purchase and sale of these appointments, which I am led to believe still exists to a great extent.Now, he wanted to know from the right hon. Gentleman, whether these words meant anything or nothing? The Circular then proceeded to lay down regulations of a stringent nature to prevent this discreditable practice. They were as follows:—
He again asked the Secretary for War whether these regulations meant anything or nothing, and whether any single step whatever had since been taken to give effect to them? But that was not all the precaution taken against this "very discreditable practice." The Lord Lieutenant's recommendation had to be accompanied by the following declaration:—
- "1. In the event of the retirement or resignation of an adjutant, no recommendation in favour of a successor will be made to this Office, until such retirement shall have been carried into effect, or such resignation shall have been accepted by Her Majesty.
- "2. In forwarding any recommendation of a successor, the Lord Lieutenant will append the following certificate, signed by the commanding officer of the corps or administrative regiment concerned, as the case may be:—I certify that A. B. has not been nominated by the late adjutant, and that I do not believe the late adjutant will in any way derive any recompense, reward, or gratuity in consequence of the resignation of his appointment, except the retired allowance granted to him under Her Majesty's warrant, dated 19th June, 1860, in consequence of his retirement from his appointment.
- "3. No promise can be made that any vacancy which may occur will be filled up, or, if it be filled up, that some officer whose services may not be required in his present appointment will not be transferred to it."I (A. B.) do hereby declare upon my honour, as an officer and a gentleman, that in order to obtain the appointment of an adjutant and acting paymaster in the—Regiment of Volunteers, I have not given, paid, received, or promised, and that I do not believe anyone has for me given, paid, received, or promised, directly or indirectly, any recompense, reward, or gratuity to any person or persons whatever.847 Precisely the same precautions were taken in the appointments of adjutants of Militia, and yet, despite the certificates of commanding officers, the watchful regulations of the War Office, and the declarations upon honour as officers and gentlemen, it was notorious that these commissions were invariably paid for. The Secretary at War had pointed to the only effectual means of preventing illegal payments for commissions, and that was by a general system of selection. The right hon. Gentleman said—If the Government are to select officers, over-regulation price will of itself die out, and the day after selection becomes the rule, over-regulation prices are gone.He (Mr. Rylands) did not venture to express any opinion as to the advisability of carrying out selection as the rule, and he wished to leave the question entirely in the hands of the War Office; but no one could have listened to the debates on that subject without feeling that promotion by selection as the rule was a matter of much doubt and difficulty. There was, at least, the possibility of the system of selection turning out to be one of favouritism rather than of efficiency, and of the exercise of the patronage of the Horse Guards, and of the War Office, creating dissatisfaction both in the Army and in the country. In that case, the plan of selection might break down, and they would have as a rule to fall back upon seniority. If such a break-down occurred would not a bonus system inevitably spring up?—and then the country would be in the position of having paid several millions to compensate officers for an illegal practice, while they would be unable to prevent another illegal practice of paying for promotions arising, although in a much less objectionable form. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) had urged that officers had a right to receive from the Government the over-regulation price, because they had paid it in the confidence that it would be recognized as legitimate; but he (Mr. Rylands) had reason to believe—and no doubt many hon. Members would have still better reasons for knowing—that officers in paying these prices felt that they did it at their own risk. He held in his hand a letter which he had received from a major general, who stated that he had served regimentally more than 30 years, and commanded a regi- 848 ment for seven years, and was all the time well aware that extra prices were illegal, and made at the risks of the officers concerned. There did not appear, therefore, to be the slightest reason for compensating these officers for breaking the law, and he should oppose it by every means in his power.
§ MR. A. GUEST
said, that every purchasing ensign paid the Government £450, the yearly interest upon which at 5 per cent would be £22 10s. He wished to know whether, after the abolition of purchase, every officer who had purchased his commission was to be placed in respect to pay in effect at a disadvantage of £22 10s. per annum until he left the service, as compared with officers who subsequently entered the service. He hoped the Secretary of State would make that point clear.
§ MR. ANDERSON
regretted being obliged to oppose the Amendment, because he highly disapproved of that portion of the Bill which recognized the over-regulation prices. He felt satisfied that a system of seniority tempered by selection, as it had been described, would only give rise to a second bonus system, and the country would ultimately find itself in the position of the Government having paid one over-regulation price, and the officers another. Such a contingency might be avoided by constant selection; but if that selection were merely to be confined to passing over individuals for incompetency, every man in the mess was quite as able to guage the qualifications of the next in succession as was the Horse Guards itself. Every man in the mess would know whether the promotion was likely to be kept in the regiment or transferred elsewhere, and thus it would be quite easy to get up a system of paying bonuses. With respect to the question before the House, whether the purchase money ought to be paid down at once, or when the officers retired, he thought that the right time was undoubtedly upon retirement. The transaction was to be regarded in the light of a selling out. The Government put itself in the position of a purchaser and bought out the officer. Therefore, the proposal to pay the money down now, either implied that the officers should go out at once, which the country could hardly afford, or that a gift of their commissions should be made to the officers, after having paid them 849 the regulation price. Such a procedure would be exactly analogous to that of a person buying a commodity and paying for it, and then handing it back to the merchant from whom it was bought. That certainly was not the way to manage any mercantile transaction. Unreasonable, however, as was this proposal, it was not so bad as the one proposed the other night, that the regulation money should be paid down now, and the over-regulation price upon retirement. He thought it would only be fair if the country were asked to put down the over-regulation price—that the officers should be asked to put down every step of their rank and every shilling of the extra pay they had gained through all those years by their purchases. That, however, was quite impracticable, and as such a scheme of accounting could not be carried out, he saw no reason either why the proposal to pay the over regulation prices should receive more consideration. Somebody had contended that it was an immoral thing for the country to gain by the death of its officers, but if that were true it was likewise as truly an immoral thing for officers to gain by the death of their seniors. For these brief reasons he felt it his duty to oppose the Amendment, reserving till the Amendment of the hon. Member for Warrington came on for discussion, his remarks upon the over-regulation price proper.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
, in explaining the reasons for the vote he intended to give, said, he would refer to the declaration of the hon. and gallant Member the Financial Secretary to the War Office—the only Member of the Government who had spoken on this subject to-night—that he should oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), on the ground of the effect it would produce upon the taxpayers of the country, and would point out that the question before the Committee could not be argued upon that ground. Indeed, as far as the proposal of the hon. Member for Birmingham went, it appeared to him to be in favour of the taxpayer; because, if the officers in the Army were to receive the price of their commissions at once, the Government would be under the necessity of raising the money by loan, and thus the taxpayer would be saved the burden of the penny income tax which the Govern- 850 ment had imposed upon the country, in a large degree, on account of the increased cost of the Army and the Navy. The hon. and gallant Secretary had referred to an argument he (Sir John Pakington) had made use of the other evening with regard to the effect which this proposed change would have on the non-commissioned officers, who might have their commissions conferred upon them—namely, that if they were to be deprived of their £100 a-year for foreign service and £50 a-year for home service, and the full value of their commissions at the end of 20 years as retiring allowances, they would not accept them. The hon. and gallant Gentleman in meeting that argument had repeated almost word for word the language that had fallen from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Surveyor General of the Ordnance (Sir Henry Storks) in his speech on the second reading of the Bill. On that occasion the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had said that the Government wanted to do away with purchase because the purchase difficulty always met them at every turn when they were attempting to re-organize the forces; but the question had been put to the Government over and over again—what were the difficulties they had so encountered? The difficulty with regard to the cornets might have been at once met by adding a small sum to the Estimates. He asked again for some reason to be given for the changes that were proposed to be made, which would involve such an enormous cost, and for the advantages that would accrue from that expenditure to be pointed out. Turning to the subject of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham, he must frankly say that he had had considerable hesitation as to the way in which he ought to give his vote with respect to it. In the first place, he entertained most serious objections to the whole of the Government plan. He thought their measure was unwise; that it would be dangerous to the welfare of the Army; and, above all, that it was the most extravagant plan that had ever been submitted to the House, because it called upon the country for an enormous expenditure for what he held to be an inadequate object. He knew the strength of the Government; whatever opposition was resorted to, it was probable that this measure would pass into law. Then, 851 in the next place, he must ask himself whether he would prefer that it should pass in the shape in which the Government had brought it before the House, or in the shape in which it would stand if the Motion of the hon. Member for Birmingham were adopted; and he had no hesitation in saying that he should prefer the shape which that Motion would give to it. One of the grave objections to the measure of the Government was, that it would impose an immense burden on the taxpayers of this country, and he believed that objection would be removed by the adoption of the Motion of the hon. Member for Birmingham. Another of the objections to the measure of the Government was, that it would establish a system of selection, which he held on the highest authority to be most dangerous, and which, he believed, could never be carried out in a way that would be satisfactory to the House or to the country; that system also would be got rid of by the proposal of the hon. Member for Birmingham. For these reasons, and in the interests of the taxpayers of the country, he felt bound to support the Amendment proposed.
§ MR. CARDWELL
I have observed for some time that the House is anxious to bring this discussion to a close. ["No, no!"] I know there are some hon. Gentlemen who are not anxious to bring it to a close; but I speak of the House generally, and I shall not think it necessary, after what has occurred in the course of the evening, long to stand between the House and the decision on this question, especially as the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Sir John Pakington) has a great objection to the repetition of arguments which have been already used. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the poverty of argument shown by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Truro (Captain Vivian). Well, that is a matter of taste and judgment; but I submit to the House whether my hon. and gallant Friend's speeches on this measure have not been such as to entitle him to the audience and attention of this Assembly? But if it be a proof of poverty of invention always to make the same answers, what proof is it of the wealth and power of invention always to be putting the same questions? If you were contented with the answer on the first occasion, 852 and thought it the right answer, what wiser course could you take than to repeat it when the same question was put again? The right hon. Gentleman supports this Amendment on the ground of the effect of this Bill upon the taxpayers. Now, let us see what that effect would be. According to the proposal of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), including, as I understand it, half-pay as well as full-pay commissions, the regulation price to pay for effectives would be £7,102,000, and for non-effectives, £2,557,000, or £9,659,000 in all; while the Government plan would only cost £6,821,000 for effectives, and £393,000 for non-effectives, or £7,214,000; there being a difference of £2,445,000 in favour of the plan of the Government. [Colonel ANSON: Does that include general officers?] All that is included on the one side is included on the other. How, then, are the interests of the taxpayers to be promoted by the adoption of this Amendment? It is urged, that these interests would be promoted by raising the money by loan; but that is the most extraordinary argument ever used in the House of Commons in favour of the taxpayer. It may be right to raise the money by immediate taxation, or it may be right to raise it by loan; but that is a separate question to be considered on its merits, and it is a most improvident and unreasonable proposal to say that the adoption of a much larger outlay will relieve the taxpayer by adopting that outlay in the mode of a loan. The right hon. Gentleman has objected to what he calls the sentimental argument of the hon. and gallant Member for Truro as to every soldier carrying a marshal's baton in his knapsack; but I maintain that that argument has much cogency and force. At present, if you give a commission to a man in the ranks, what prospect has he of rising with the slow rate of promotion of a non-purchasing officer? But by the abolition of purchase you give him a prospect of rising rapidly, for the vacancies are not taken up over his head by the purchasing officers. By his proposition the hon. Member for Birmingham seeks to establish in the Army, for the first time, the Indian bonus system, by which every man is compelled to contribute to a general purse, in order to furnish a bonus for retiring officers; but under 853 the purchase system the non-purchase officer need not contribute in this way if he chooses to be purchased over, while, by the bonus system, every officer must contribute in turn, or, if he declines, his position in the regiment becomes intolerable. My hon. Friend's argument, therefore, was no sentimental argument or poetical phrase; it bore directly on the question. In direct opposition to that of the hon. Member for Birmingham, the Government, by their measure, propose the abolition of purchase, retaining to the purchasing officer those rights and that priority which he has purchased, and giving him a fair start from the point at which he has arrived. I have been charged with proposing to injure officers who desire to remain in the Army; but, instead of that being so, we think we shall greatly benefit them, for if they are purchase officers, having started from the point which by purchase they have obtained, they have the prospect of rising, and will not be called upon to pay another farthing. That is an immense benefit—that having purchased for the comparatively small sum which they pay in the lower grades of the Army they are to have that priority secured to them, and a fair start for those higher places of promotion which they would have obtained only by the investment of large sums of money. If they are non-purchase officers, they will start fair in the race without any fear of future supersession by purchase. My right hon. Friend further said that he had great hesitation in giving his vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Birmingham; but that he should do so, because he preferred the shape which the Bill would then assume to its present shape. I am very much indebted to him for that admission. I believe that the abolition of purchase will be so great a benefit to the service, and so great a boon to the country, that even the large sum you are called upon to pay will be well invested in obtaining its extinction. My right hon. Friend thinks that purchase is a very excellent institution. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: No, no!] Yes, indeed. I have listened to all my right hon. Friend's arguments to-night, and I do not wish to misrepresent him; but I am sure if he does not think it an excellent institution, I shall be glad if he is a convert to the abolition of purchase. 854 It has been argued throughout this debate, as if regulation prices had been a creation of some Government, and speaker after speaker on the other side talks as if Government received purchase money. Any purchase money that passes into the hands of Government is only in transitu, from the incoming officer to the retiring officer. What has been the beginning of the system? It began originally in unregulated purchase; but it was objected to by every Sovereign since the day of its commencement. In the time of William III. it was prohibited by statute, and an oath was imposed on the officer; and it was not till the time of George II. that regulation was introduced, and why? In the vain hope of regulating the evils that the unregulated system had inflicted on the Army. I have already stated to the House that when the declaration was obliged to be abandoned, because it was perpetually violated and broken, the language of the late Lord Hardinge and Lord Palmerston, to go to no earlier authority, spoke of the mischief to the service which unregulated prices involved. But to get rid of the regulation, and to inflict on the service unregulated prices, and to do so at increased cost, the hon. Member for Birmingham asks us to go into the Lobby; and not only that, but, for the first time on record, to give the system Parliamentary sanction. Again, it is said we do not do justice to the officers; and, in reference to the proposal of my hon. Friend on this point, I maintain that it is unjust to the taxpayer to take money from him for the purpose of regulating the injustice and inequalities of the purchase system. Your business is the abolition of the system. But what does my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham do? In spite of the Report to which his name is annexed, which, if it means anything, means that over-regulation is to be recognized—[Mr. MUNTZ: No, no!]—No! Then I do not know what construction is to be put upon it, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) have put the same construction upon it—money will be taken away from the Guards and Cavalry, unless it be you are prepared to establish a pure system of seniority. I confidently appeal to hon. Gentlemen who hear me, whether in the evidence before us, espe- 855 cially the opinions and sentiments of the Commission of which the Duke of Somerset was Chairman, and which examined carefully and with much impartiality into the whole subject, there is any single point established if it is not that seniority would be fatal to the service. What said my right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry) to-night? He said that at the Admiralty he had had some experience of the principle of selection, and that seniority was death to the service. But you must either give this money to the Guards and Cavalry, or you must establish that seniority which my right hon. Friend says is death to the service, and which the Royal Commission has told you it would be fatal to adopt. We are told we cannot establish a system of selection. Why cannot we establish that which is established in every other country in the world? ["No, no!"] I know it is sometimes said that it is not established in Prussia. I do not wish to quote documents at this hour of the night; but I have before me a statement of the Prussian system, as it is stated in a Report laid on the Table by the Royal Commission on Military Education, and that shows there is selection in the Prussian Army. [Several hon. MEMBERS: No, no!] I will read a clause—Promotion in the Prussian service is in all ranks promotion by seniority, tempered by selection. The officer who is two or three times passed over may consider that he has received an intimation to retire from the service, and in the highest ranks, if he does not act upon it, he would be probably gazetted out.The Prussian system, in fact, was similar to that prevailing at the Admiralty; and what does my right hon. Friend say is the result of it? Why, he acknowledges that it has worked admirably; but that the exercise of the patronage is not always agreeable to himself personally. I say the proposal of Government terminates purchase, and it does so at as small an expense to the taxpayer as is consistent with justice and efficiency; it does justice to the officer, to the Guards and Cavalry, as well as the rest of the service, to the purchase officer and non-purchase officer. I say the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham in abolishing the system of purchase establishes another in its place; and it will do so at a greater cost, and would 856 not be consistent with justice to the officer or with the efficiency of the service.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
said, he had not the smallest intention of addressing the House but for some remarks which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had made. The other night he (Sir Percy Herbert) had pointed out how Government had accumulated £1,700,000, which had been extracted from the pockets of the officers of the Army for commissions which had been sold by the Government not for the purpose of holding it in transitu and giving it to other officers, but for the purpose of buying up annuities, which the House would not find in the shape of half-pay. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, who in the debate upon the second reading, when touching upon the matter under discussion, referred to them as minute sums, that he had no knowledge what ever of [Mr. GLADSTONE: In proportion.] In proportion? [Mr. GLADSTONE: In proportion.] He would read what the right hon. Gentleman had said—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 receiver are the same in both cases."—[3 Hansard, ccv. 250.][Cheers.] Well, if hon. Gentlemen thought that £1,700,000 was a minute exception, he (Sir Percy Herbert) begged leave to differ from them; and he believed the right hon. Gentleman, when he used the expression, had no knowledge that such a sum had been extracted from the officers, as it had since 1854, for the bulk of the money had accrued since the Crimean War. As to the money having been held only in transitu, he (Sir Percy Herbert) had already adduced the instance in which the commission which he had obtained without purchase in India was sold for £4,500, which was received by the Secretary of State, but which ought to have gone to the officers who served in India during the Mutiny. For whom were the Government stewards in that case?—for the officer who did not receive the money, or for the officer who paid it? If there was to be 857 rapid promotion, there must be rapid retirement, and yet the Government would not tell them anything on that head, whether it was to occur after 30, 25, or 22 years' service. What security, then, was there that officers applying for retirement would not have difficulties thrown in their way? One of the advantages expected by the Government was an increase in the number of scientific officers; but what was to prevent that increase under the present system? He believed that now, as compared with 15 years ago, there were 10 officers to 1 instructed so that they could discuss plans of campaigns and battles, and why should not instruction be carried further under the purchase system? In the remarks that had been made on the subject, he thought that scant justice had been done to the name of Lord Sandhurst, who, although he approved the abolition of purchase, would not father the scheme of the Government. He (Sir Percy Herbert) admitted that there were objections to the bonus system. But the system of purchase, though cheap to the country, was costly to the officers; and the one thing to be considered was the efficiency of the service—and how was that efficiency to be carried on without the flow of promotion? The hon. and gallant Member for Truro said that the officers were seeking for what they could make out of the Bill; now that accusation was especially unworthy coming from the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and he (Sir Percy Herbert) was prepared to make any sacrifice, if the interests and efficiency of the Army required such sacrifice; but he denied that the proposal of the Government would render the Army more efficient than it was, and it was mere clap-trap to talk of the people being taxed to make up the amount involved in this scheme. Again, he called on the Government to give them some statement as to what the retirement was to be—whether it was to be after a period of 20 or 25 years' service.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
wished to offer a few words in explanation. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that the money paid by officers for their commissions went into the pockets of the Government; but the facts of the case were these—When an officer wished to sell his commission, his application was sent to the War Office, who, after ex- 858 amining into his services, fixed the sum he was entitled to, and if he had not purchased, or had not served 20 years, he got a proportion of the amount, the rest going to the Reserve Fund. What had occurred in the case of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was this—The right hon. and gallant Gentleman was an officer of the Staff, holding the substantive rank of major, and he had been promoted to the brevet rank of lieutenant colonel for distinguished services at the Cape of Good Hope; in consequence of the Regulation of 1854, his brevet rank was turned into substantive rank, and he became a lieutenant colonel on half-pay, according to the Warrant then in force. In 1858, he was appointed to the 82nd Regiment, then serving in India, in place of the lieutenant colonel, who was placed on half-pay, and who took up the 11s. a-day half-pay vacated by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
said, it was not substantive rank. He stated before that it was a non-purchase vacancy, and his right hon. and gallant Friend had fallen into an error. He did not succeed an officer on half-pay, but one who retired from the service by the resignation of his commission, and who had resigned without half-pay, under circumstances to which he need not allude.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
said, he had no wish to refer to the circumstances under which that officer retired from the service; but he was permitted by the Secretary of State for War, under very special circumstances, he being an officer of very long service and being utterly destitute, to take up the half-pay vacated by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and he succeeded to the 11s. a-day.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
said, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman vacated 11s. a-day half-pay, to which this officer was appointed when his right hon. and gallant Friend was serving in India. After the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had served some time in India, he returned home, and was appointed deputy quartermaster general at head-quarters, and for that purpose he was placed on half-pay. As there were no officers on the list of his rank to come on full-pay, it was a creation of half-pay amounting 859 to 11s. per day. His right hon. and gallant Friend said the Commander-in-Chief was desirous that the step should go without purchase in the regiment; but the Secretary of State would not permit it, and the right hon. Gentleman was held up, he supposed, to the Army as a man who prevented the free flow of promotion. It was no such thing; for the Secretary of State for War was bound to sell the commission, which he did, allowing the whole promotion to go in the regiment, and the money was paid to the Reserve Fund for the purpose of purchasing up half-pay commissions. ["No, no!"] It was contrary to the regulations to create £200 a-year half-pay without getting a set-off, and in some instances the money in the Reserve Fund was applied to benefit officers who could not purchase. There was a case the other day of an ensign of long service, who could not purchase his promotion, but which was purchased for him out of the Reserve Fund, and the captain came to the Secretary of State for War with a grievance that he had not allowed the senior for purchase to buy the lieutenantcy of his company, whereby he had lost £150. He could not see how the right hon. and gallant Gentleman could have any cause of complaint. The Secretary of State for War was bound by the Treasury regulations not to create an annuity of £200 per annum without some set-off, which he did by selling the promotion.
MAJOR GENERAL SIR PERCY HERBERT
asked the indulgence of the Committee for a few minutes. He did not make any grievance the other night. ["Divide, divide!"] [Sir HENRY STORKS: No.] The other point on which he wished to explain was that the officer he succeeded was certainly not placed on half-pay until some time after he was appointed to the commission. That officer was given half-pay; but he believed his name did not appear in the half-pay list, but an annuity was allowed to him under special circumstances. That officer was removed from the service absolutely, and he was put in his place without purchase; and the result was, that when the Government wanted to give that officer an annuity because he was destitute, they made the officers of the 82nd Regiment pay £4,500 in order to recoup them for their charity.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
was sure the Committee would appreciate the motives that had induced the Government to give the officer in question his half-pay. The commissions in the 82nd Regiment were sold, not to provide half-pay for the lieutenant colonel, who was replaced by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but to provide half-pay for him (Sir Percy Herbert) when he was appointed to the office of Deputy Quartermaster General at the Horse Guards. Before I sit down I wish to refer to a statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) on the appointment of Lord Sandhurst to be second in command of the force destined for China in 1859, under Lieutenant General Sir Hope Grant, and which I consider calculated to convey an erroneous impression as regards the conduct of a brother officer. The facts are as follows:—Lord Sandhurst, in 1859, was junior to Sir Hope Grant, when that officer was appointed to the command in China. For reasons best known to themselves, Lords Canning and Clyde proposed to the Secretary of State for India, before informing Lord Sandhurst, that he should be substituted for Sir Hope Grant in that command. The reply from England was to the effect that Lord Sandhurst might go to China as second in command. Lord Sandhurst felt, with regard to the circumstances now stated, and to the influence and authority exercised by him, as chief of the Staff under Lord Clyde, as known to the whole Army in India, that it would not be for the advantage of the public service to associate officers in a manner which would make relations between them so very difficult, and he stated this opinion. Lord Sandhurst then proceeded to Bombay, and waited for final instructions from the home authorities as to his ultimate destination, which, having stated his views, it was for them to decide upon. These were the facts of the case, and they did not deserve the impression which the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley was likely to convey.
Question put, "That the words
After the said appointed day there shall be repealed so much of the Act passed in the Session
holden in the fifth and sixth years of the reign of King Edward the Sixth, chapter sixteen, intituled 'Against buying and selling of offices,' and of the Act passed in the forty-ninth year of the reign of King George the Third, chapter one hundred and twenty-six, intituled 'An Act for the further prevention of the sale and brokerage of offices,
stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 260; Noes 195: Majority 65.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.