§ (Mr. Secretary Cardwell, Sir Henry Knight Storks, Captain Vivian, The Judge Advocate.)
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 22nd May.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 3 (Compensation to officers holding saleable commissions).
§ COLONEL ANSON
, on rising to move an Amendment in the clause, which he held to be perhaps the most important in the whole Bill, said, he must protest against the language which had been used in that House by Ministers and private Members with regard to the conduct of officers in this matter, for from it, one would have thought that the officers of their Army had disgraced their country, or at least had failed in their duty. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Financial Secretary had said that the officers were now only trying how much they could receive; and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had taunted him (Colonel Anson) with not looking to the interests of noncommissioned officers, privates, or poor officers, but only to the interests of rich men. Now, he would not on the present occasion diverge into the question of non-commissioned officers and privates, as that would take up the time of the Committee; but this he would distinctly say, that every Motion which he had made or should make, would have for its object the interests of the poorer and not the richer class of officers. What the officers said was this—"If you are really going to do away with purchase, very well. We give no opinion upon that. But, if you are, you ought to look as much to the interests of the officers who will remain in the Army as of those who will leave." With regard to the question of promotion, he should like to know what would be the result under the new system 1268 in the case of a man who had purchased over two or three others, and had paid a considerable amount of money? These two or three officers over whom he had purchased might or might not be selected—most likely they would—to go over his head; or, in other words, after the State had taken this man's money the officers would all be placed in the same relative positions in which they stood at first, the man who had purchased being, perhaps, mulcted to the amount of £1,800. He asked any reasonable man whether that would not justly give rise to great discontent? Some hon. Gentlemen had said that they knew this Bill was viewed with satisfaction by the officers of the Army. Now, he could occupy the time of the Committee up to 12 o'clock that night by reading letters from officers, showing the deep feeling of dissatisfaction which the Bill had inspired, and that feeling was nothing compared with what it would be five or six years hence. There was just ground to apprehend that, if there was on the part of the Government what might be regarded as a breach of contract with respect to the pecuniary interest in commissions, there would be some discontent excited among the lower ranks of officers. Was it advisable to run the chance of that discontent? He submitted that it was not. The scheme which he brought forward on the Motion to go into Committee on this Bill had been misrepresented with respect to its cost, because he based his argument for the return of the purchase money on the assumption of a breach of contract. The Government proposal as to the lieutenant-colonels would be fair, provided the colonels were not forced to leave their regiments after having held command for five years; and the proposal as to majors would be fair if they were not prevented from succeeding to the command of their regiments, that being the ambition of their lives. But captains, lieutenants, and ensigns ought to have their money returned to them at once, because the system of promotion above their ranks would be wholly changed, as the Government proposed to have Army, instead of regimental promotion tempered by selection, a plan which would seriously affect some regiments, in which there might not be any promotion during the next 15 years. With regard to the non-purchase officers, the whole of their 1269 engagements would be put an end to on terms that amounted to the grossest breach of faith ever perpetrated. With respect to those who were on the half-pay list, his proposal—which had also been very much misrepresented, for it had been falsely said that he proposed to pay everybody on the list without exception the whole of their money back again—was that, unless within a reasonable time they were brought again into the service they should have their money returned to them at once. There was now raised a dispute as to whether the Government received the regulation value of commissions; but that they did so was shown by the Royal Warrant of 1720, in which there was a distinct order that an officer who sold his commission should not know who was to succeed him, a sale being transacted through the Government. There could not be a clearer case than that mentioned by the right hon. and gallant Member for South Shropshire (Sir Percy Herbert), in which an officer was obliged to retire while on foreign service. When he came home he appealed to the War Office, and with such effect that it was resolved to allow him the half-pay of his rank; but in order to be generous to that man the authorities mulcted the officers of that regiment to the amount of £4,500; moreover, it was well known that during the last 17 years the Government had, by the sale of commissions, made a profit of £1,700,000 out of the officers, who knew they had been plundered year after year. He did not desire to be extravagant, and maintained that his proposal would cost less than that of the Government. According to a Return which had recently been published, the Government plan, applied only to regulation prices, would cost £7,995,000, if liquidated by deferred payments; or, including over-regulation money, and by immediate payment, it would cost £9,924,000. If his proposal were carried out they would have to pay a lump sum of something like £4,700,000, which, if spread over a certain number of years—say 40—would not cost the country more than £150,000 to £180,000 per annum. He thought there was no reason why the taxpayers of the present day should pay for improvements from which they would derive no benefit for the next 20 or 30 years. If the regulation price were paid officers would not sell in order to realize 1270 the over-regulation price, and, therefore, a considerable saving would be effected in that way. If his proposal were carried purchase would, he believed, be completely got rid of in a very few years, while the officers of the Army would be contented. In order to effect that purpose, he was prepared to go before a Select Committee of the House to argue against the clause, or to meet the Law Officers of the Crown and fight the question out with them. Indeed, this clause, which related in great part to the expense, was one which, in his judgment, ought to be referred to a Select Committee. Without describing the other schemes which were before the House, he would merely remark that they were all very much of the same nature as his own. He believed the Government would be just to the officers for the next two or three years, as the over-regulation money would be given; but that was no reason why the officers who chose to remain in the service should be left discontented. On a previous occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had stated that when the Bill got into Committee, he should be ready to meet any hon. Member who showed just cause for alteration in a liberal and conciliatory spirit. He trusted he would do so, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would manifest such a spirit tonight, that he (Colonel Anson) could assure him that his sole object was to promote the efficiency of the service. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by moving the insertion, after the word "officer" in line 8, of the words "whether on full or half-pay, except in such cases as are hereinafter mentioned." He explained that the latter words were not in the Notice Paper, as printed, but were introduced in order to admit of exceptions being made in the Schedule in the case of officers who would not be affected by the operation of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 8, after the word "officer," to insert the words "whether on full or half pay, except in such cases as hereinafter mentioned."—(Colonel Anson.)
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, he agreed with the last speaker that this was the most important clause in the Bill. The proposal to withdraw the condition in the clause, limiting the number of officers to be allowed to retire, had most mate- 1271 rially changed the clause in favour of the officers, and it had, be believed, been accepted by them as a considerable concession; but circumstances might occur which would have the effect of taking away a much larger number of officers than they could at the time conveniently spare, such as unpopular service, or even a general desire to retire when the terms of the service had become modified so much to the disadvantage of the purchase officer; and these contingencies should be met at once—not left to cause disturbance if they arose hereafter. He should propose, therefore, that, instead of following the plan laid down in Clause 3, the Government should start by determining each year, before the Estimates were framed, the amount of money to be paid for abolishing purchase in that year. For the sake of argument, take it during the first five years at £700,000 a-year. Now, a reference to the Papers already before the House would show the number of regiments which that sum of money would enable the Government to absorb; that would be about ten infantry and three cavalry regiments. Then suppose the Government were to establish a Board, consisting of the Commander-in-Chief, the Secretary of State for War, and two or three other authorities, above all suspicion as to impartiality, who should determine the proportion of infantry and cavalry regiments to be absorbed by this money, and if they determined that ten infantry and three cavalry regiments should be absorbed, the whole of the purchase regiments should be balloted for, and the first ten infantry regiments and the first three cavalry regiments which came out should be absorbed. He would propose that all the officers of those regiments should then have their commissions paid for, both regulation and over-regulation prices; but they should be allowed to continue to serve, if they desired, the only difference being that these drawn and paid-off regiments would be no longer purchase regiments, and would then be in the same position as regards all the remaining purchase regiments whose turn had not yet come round to be drawn, as the 19th, 20th, and 21st non-purchase Hussar regiments, or the infantry regiments numbered 101 to 109, now stood in. If the House never granted less than £700,000 a-year, it would take 10 years to absorb all the purchase regiments. 1272 If, however, the Chancellor of the Exchequer found he could apply from his surplus revenue two or three times that sum, the operation would be proportionately advanced. In any case, the arrangement he had submitted, to the Committee would have the advantage that it would keep good officers in the service; and, instead of causing a disinclination on the part of young men to enter it, because they found they were only filling the places of others who were making a rush to get out of it, the plan would have the effect of encouraging young men to join the Army, because they would find in it men of their own social status who were content to remain in the service. That was an important element of the plan; and another, not less important, was that it only dealt with so much of the Army as the Government was at the time prepared to buy up and absorb; his proposal contemplated that, till each regiment was drawn and absorbed, the purchase arrangement should exist in it as now. Thus, this scheme would enable the Government to do gradually that which they proposed to do immediately, but without the means of doing effectually. He would only add, in recommendation of this plan, that he had discussed it in concert with a very clever officer of the King's Dragoon Guards, who originated it, and who gave him the advantage of all his practical knowledge in maturing it. He hoped the Secretary of State for War would give it his consideration, for he thought it a proposal well worth his attention, and also of the attention of the Committee.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
said, the question of the abolition of purchase had been settled by the House, and they had now to consider the means by which that change should be paid for, and how the government of the Army was to be re-constructed—upon what plan, under what system, and at what expense. This was a very important question, not only for the Committee, but for the country at large, for it might involve the expenditure of a much larger sum of money than the Committee had been led to understand, and the figures given by the Secretary for War, if that right hon. Gentleman's intentions were not realized, might be entirely falsified. He had received a letter that day from a gentleman named Lingard, late a captain in the 21st Regiment, North 1273 British Fusiliers, which had very much astonished him, and which he had authority to communicate to the Committee. Captain Lingard, not having so much faith in the promises of the Government as perhaps other officers might have, tried to sell out, and made application to the authorities, who informed him that he could not obtain the price of his first commission—£450—until such time as the Government could find it—honest? no—convenient to pay the same. After he had sold out, he was credited with the sum of £1,350, the value of his commission being £1,800, and he was not permitted to receive the £450. Now, he (Sir Lawrence Palk) considered that conduct involved a breach of faith on the part of the Government which that House and the country would never stand, and if officers were to be treated in this way, he believed the number of retirements anticipated by the Secretary for War would be quadrupled, and that the cost for the first year, instead of being £600,000 would be £2,400,000, or perhaps more, and would end in the country being impounded for the sum of £12,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman had complained of the factious opposition offered to this Bill; but he (Sir Lawrence Palk) thought that hon. Gentlemen would fail in their duty if they did not come down to the House night after night to discuss this matter in all its details, and let the country see what price it would have to pay for this change and disorganization of the entire Army. It was also said that this Bill was for the benefit of poor men, and to prevent the Army from being merely the prize of the rich; but there were two examples which might be looked upon with advantage, for the Prussian Army was the most aristocratic army in the world, and the French Army the most democratic; and while the one afforded an example, the Committee might draw their own inferences from the other. For himself, he must say that if they were to have persons of humble means holding commissions, those belonging to a higher class would not enter the service. He must protest against being dictated to by Her Majesty's Government, and called factious when he was only doing his duty; and he should be extremely unwilling to offer a factious opposition to the Government on any measure, but the opponents of this Bill 1274 had not been fairly dealt with, for they had a right to demand fuller information than they had yet received, and while that information was withheld, he was determined, so long as any hon. Member would support him, to oppose this Bill on every word, on every line, and in every way that the forms of the House would permit.
§ MR. DICKINSON
said, the Committee should consider this question in a judicial spirit. Their great object should be to satisfy themselves as to the right principle on which officers ought to be compensated; and there ought not to be any great difference of opinion either as to the principle to be adopted, or the mode of carrying it out to a legitimate conclusion, if a doubt existed that should be solved in a sense favourable to the officers. Primâ facie, the proposal of the Government appeared to lay down the correct principle of compensation; it ascertained the saleable value of the commission held by an officer, and secured to him the payment of that value when, and if, he retired; but it took no regard of the effects of the change of system from one of promotion by seniority, tempered by purchase, to one of seniority tempered by selection—it left untouched the injustice that officers now laboured under, and would continue to labour under, in the liability to lose what they had paid under compulsion, unless they retired; and it confirmed a relative injustice as between non-purchase and purchase officers in securing the same compensation to both, though the one having paid had a clear right to a refund, and the other having paid nothing had no claim to compensation at all—the change of system being in itself to his advantage. He held that the regulation price of commissions had, in fact, been received by Government. They had derived from it a large "Reserve Fund," which they had applied for their own purposes, regardless of the interests of the officers from whom it had been received. He could not understand upon what principle money compulsorily levied from officers under a system admittedly vicious could be retained when that system was abolished. It was not legitimate to retain it as a fund for securing retirement and promotion; because that, if necessary for the public good, should be provided at the expense of the public, and not of the officers. 1275 It appeared to him that the regulation prices should be returned to those who had paid them; but he could not bring his mind to admit that there was the slightest claim in justice for the return of the over-regulation prices.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, they had had some large admissions, for the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) had admitted that the Bill was just as regarded lieutenant-colonels, but he asserted that it was unjust to captains and lieutenants. Now, if the hon. and gallant Member had regard to the ages of the last-named officers, he would come to the conclusion that there was no class of gentlemen in the Army so little likely to be losers under the new system as those officers; and in that conclusion he (Mr. Cardwell) was backed by his hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Dickinson), who admitted that, primâ facie, the thing was just. The hon. Baronet the Member for East Devonshire (Sir Lawrence Palk) had no occasion to apprehend dictation from the Government; and, indeed, his whole conduct in Parliament showed that he was not afraid of any dictation from such a quarter. The hon. Baronet was exceedingly anxious to have information, and had accused him of speaking of faction. That was not his own expression, but was only a quotation from the language of those who were pursuing the course referred to, and he trusted that he had not shown any great impatience with reference to the opposition given to the Bill. With regard to the required information, he only declined to give it because he did not possess it. There was, moreover, no encouragement to furnish the hon. Baronet with information, for with regard to the figures already laid on the Table the hon. Baronet stated that he placed no faith in them, and raised the present value of the compensation to officers in the Army from £7,200,000 to £12,000,000. The hon. Baronet had read with indignation a letter stating that an officer had not received the sum of £450, being part of the value arising from the sale of his commission. Under the new system persons entering the Army would not be allowed to purchase, and therefore the money required for compensation to the present officers must be obtained by a Vote in Parliament; and, in consequence of the delay in regard to 1276 the Bill under consideration, the Government had not been able to submit a Vote to Parliament for the purpose, and the money to pay the £450 to the officer in question was not yet forthcoming. He believed, notwithstanding all that had been said about the unpopularity of the abolition of purchase, that there were many candidates ready to enter the Army with purchase if the Government would only take the money, though the hon. Baronet stated that no more candidates of the same class as formerly would be willing to enter the service.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
said, his statement was, that gentlemen would not be got to enter a service that was officered by a class beneath them.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he had presumed that the argument of the hon. Baronet was ad rem, and was to the effect that they would not get men to enter the Army—a line of reasoning completely refuted by the fact that while a Bill was in progress, which, when passed, would enable men to enter the Army without paying a farthing, there were candidates willing to pay £450. Could there be a more complete refutation of the argument? Dissatisfaction had been expressed in regard to the management of the Reserve Fund, and he would say he had never justified all that had been done with reference to it. Indeed, from the first moment he had anything to do with it, he regarded it as a fund for those who had supplied it, and had last year demanded £90,000 to be paid by Parliament to discharge the functions of the fund. But until Parliament had voted the money he could not pay it. The question really was, what should be done in the way of compensation to the present officers? and he contended that it was no part of the business of Parliament in abolishing purchase to make that system turn out more advantageous to existing officers than it actually was at the present moment. The business of Parliament was to give complete indemnity—neither more nor less—to those affected by what it was now doing. If it was impossible in minute arrangements to do perfect and accurate justice in every case, then the balance would be cast in favour of the officer. For the pecuniary value of the present commissions it was proposed to give complete compensation, both as to regulation and over-regulation prices. 1277 It was said that the Government ought to put every officer in the position he stood in before; but were they to give him back his regulation price at once, and then leave him in the position of pre-eminence the regulation price had given him? It was said that no injustice would be done to non-purchase officers in the event of that being carried out; but a more flagrant injustice to them he could not imagine. If the Committee were to say they would give back to the purchase officer the money he spent in obtaining priority over the non-purchase officer, and also to maintain him in that priority, an injustice would be done both to the non-purchase officer and the taxpayer. But that was the proposal now before the Committee. The hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) said the purchase officers came into the service expecting the purchase system would be continued, and that it was very hard upon a major who was expecting the command of the regiment not to be allowed to purchase the next step of lieutenant-colonel. But what was the position of the non-purchase officer who happened to be the senior major? Was he to be passed over by an officer who had obtained his position by purchase, and was the latter officer to receive back his purchase money, and at the same time retain his priority? Under the Bill, all that the purchase system professed to do was fulfilled to the uttermost.
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, that it was of no use to discuss the question, for the arguments of those opposed to the Bill were never fairly met. Under the Bill the purchase officer who, as captain, had spent £1,800, losing say £80 a-year interest on this sum for a great number of years, would get back his £1,800 and receive his full pay, while the non-purchase officer holding the same rank, who had not lost this £80 a-year interest, would receive his full pay and in addition a lump sum of money. If his proposal were adopted, he did not believe that two non-purchase officers in the Army would complain, because they would really have no ground of complaint; as it was, purchase officers would find themselves superseded by the very men over whose heads they had purchased. As to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that ensigns were now readily paying £450 to enter the 1278 service, they did so with their eyes open; but that had nothing to do with the feelings of officers already in the service, who had entered believing the purchase system would continue. Such officers had no faith in the system of selection, which they regarded as likely to become a system of personal favouritism or political jobbery. It was quite true that the prices now paid for steps in rank were higher than ever. And why? Because, distrusting the system of selection in the future, officers were willing to sacrifice their money and pay a higher price for a step which they might not otherwise obtain. For instance, he had received many letters asking his advice, and his answer had always been—"If you mean to make the Army your profession, pay any sum you can afford." The fact, however, that higher prices had thus been paid afforded no criterion whatever of the popularity of the Government Bill.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
quoted from a Paper issued by the War Office, with a view of showing that the cost entailed by the Bill would be £12,074,384.
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had accused them of being, and they had been assailed in other quarters as a faction. But the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister, in the case of the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, tried with a small band to defeat the measure. A letter had been read from an officer of a regiment in which he had himself served—and he knew that the officers felt that they could not have faith in the Government—or, to avoid personality, he would say nation—which withheld from them the money to which they were justly entitled. The right hon. Gentleman asked why they still wished to purchase. He would tell him. It was because the right hon. Gentleman had stated that those who having purchased remained in the Army would have certain vested claims which should hereafter be recognized, and therefore they would be in a better position than those who might afterwards come in without purchase.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."1279
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 62; Noes 81: Majority 19.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON moved to insert, in page 2, line 8, the word "new" in the first line of the clause, in order to make it read thus—"After the said appointed day no officer should acquire any new pecuniary interest in any commission." This was merely a verbal Amendment; but he thought officers would, under this Bill, acquire a vested interest in the over-regulation price, and he hoped that the Government would consent to the insertion of the word he proposed.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 8, after the word "any," to insert the word "new."—(Sir George Jenkinson.)
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, so far as he understood, the Amendment would really make no difference in the clause; and he appealed to the hon. Baronet as to whether it was worth while to alter the clause in that way.
said, the clause as it stood was simply nonsense, and the Amendment was necessary to make it English.
§ Question put, "That the word 'new' be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 38; Noes 58: Majority 20.
§ SIR WILLIAM RUSSELL moved to insert, in page 2, line 9, after "no officer shall acquire any pecuniary interest in any commission," the words "except as is hereinafter provided." He observed that, in moving this first short Amendment, and of which he had given Notice, he wished to say that it was one that in itself was entirely unimportant; but it formed part of the other Amendment of which he had given Notice, and he proposed, therefore, to discuss the two points contained in those two Amendments. In doing so, he wished it most clearly to be understood that this was not at all again raising the question of abolition or non-abolition of purchase. As he stated on the second reading of the Bill, that, well as the purchase system had worked, he was, for several reasons, in favour of its abolition, and that he considered this a very favour- 1280 able time for doing it. It was, he considered, definitively settled by the division on the Amendment of the noble Lord (Lord Garlies), by the majority of 39, that purchase was to be abolished. It was now only a question of the terms being equitable to those whose conditions of service they were about to alter, and of what were to be the new terms of service under which they would be for the future. And the point to which he wished specially to call the attention of his hon. Friends below the gangway was the cost of a future scheme of retirement; and they could not suppose after the votes he had given that he was anxious to increase expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War stated that he should be prepared in Committee to accede to any reasonable proposal as to a modification of the terms, and he trusted to be able to satisfy both him and the Committee that the proposals he now made were reasonable, strictly equitable, and advantageous. By the first part of the Amendment he proposed to give the officers an option of taking their regulation price down in full satisfaction of all claim; or, if they wished to receive the regulation and over-regulation price, their waiting for it until their retirement from the service. By the second part of the Amendment he proposed to give those who elected to wait a vested property in the money, so that in the event of their dying while serving their families would receive it. He thought the Government proposal required these modifications. There were two quite distinct sets of officers in the Army—those who had entered it for a few years with no intention of remaining—these were mostly the rich men; and those who intended to make it their profession, who liked the work and qualified themselves for it—the most part were the poor gentlemen, the best class in the world from which to take officers. Some, of course, of those who entered to make it a profession were rich men who, because they liked the profession, qualified themselves for it, but they were a minority. The Government said by their proposal—"You entered the Army with the understanding that you would have to pay money for your promotion; that whilst you were in the Army you would receive a certain small rate of interest for your money, which we would disguise under 1281 the name of pay for service; but, as the amount of this nominal pay would not really amount to ordinary interest on your money, you should really give your services to the country for nothing, on the understanding that if you left you should then receive back that money; but if you died in the service the money would be lost to your heirs. What we ask is that you shall continue to serve on these terms, but with this slight alteration, that you shall receive the money when you leave from us, and not from your brother officers." No officer could have the slightest objection to this if the other terms of his service were also left the same; but the Government also said—"We shall arbitrarily alter three of the conditions on which you set great stress, but we will keep you bound by such of the conditions as suit us." Now, this was, no doubt, a very plausible statement of the case, but a very one-sided one, on the part of the Government. They had, however, omitted two very important points in the terms of the original contract. The one was—"You shall be at liberty, by means of purchasing your further steps, to make whatever arrangements you like that will induce officers to leave, and so expedite your own promotion"—the sole object for which officers paid being quick promotion. The other was—"You shall have no one placed over your head by selection; so long as you do your duty properly you are certain of your promotion; and the fact of your being in India or elsewhere, under a tropical sun, doing your duty steadily and quietly, shall not tell against you, and it shall not be necessary for you always to be hanging about the offices of the authorities in London in order that your merit may be appreciated." Those two considerations the Government entirely ignored. They took from the officer the power to expedite his own promotion, and said—"We will select officers to be put over your head;" thus introducing a system of selection, which would become the greatest possible misfortune for the Army. He believed the Committee would agree with him, in thinking that, as the Government were proposing to alter the terms of the original contract in two such important points, and importing such entirely different arrangements on the Government side into the matter, that they were bound to grant to the 1282 officers some alteration in the terms of the original contract on their side, and not to stick to the pound-of-flesh principle on one side and not on the other. But that he feared was not likely to be got, and therefore he proposed a compromise which would be satisfactory to the officers, and would save the country certainly £1,000,000, probably more, of the over-regulation money. The Government proposal was most unfair to the officers who had made the Army their profession. The poorer men said—"We have educated ourselves for the service; we wish to remain in the Army; we have no intention whatever of leaving." Those surely were the men they ought to encourage. But the Government replied—"Oh, yes; we will be very liberal to you; we will give you money when you leave. You tell us you don't intend to go, so we intend to take advantage of it and pocket your money." This was a most barefaced mockery of justice, if not an insult to the officers. Now, if the Committee agreed to the first part of his Amendment, of giving an option to the officers of taking the regulation price down in full satisfaction of all claims, he believed the result would be that of the regimental officers no lieutenant - colonels nor majors would take it; no captains of cavalry or the Guards would take it, as they would lose so much money. About half the captains in the infantry, he believed, would accept it; certainly all who intended to continue permanently soldiers, and any who expected to stop more than seven years; say half, or about half the lieutenants and all the cornets in the cavalry and Guards, and all the lieutenants and ensigns in the infantry would accept it. By this means they would save out of the over-regulation of £2,821,912, a sum of £824,900, probably more, by an immediate instead of deferred payment of regulation, £2,684,840. That would be a very good arrangement for the country, as £824,900 would be a large discount to receive for £2,684,840. He could not believe that the Government would not agree to such an arrangement, as it would be, no doubt, very beneficial to the country as well as acceptable to the officers. The second part of his Amendment—that officers who did not elect to accept the immediate payment of regulation in full satisfaction, should have a vested property in both 1283 regulation and over-regulation, was, he submitted, a fair concession to make to the officers for altering their terms of service. Then, as to the future terms of service, he hoped Her Majesty's Government would at once place on the Table the regulations they had prepared. It was not unreasonable to ask this in the name of the officers of the Army, so that they might know whether they might retire after 20 years, or 25 years, or 30 years, or what would be the terms on which they would be permitted to continue in the service. He must say that, in the conduct of this Bill, the Government had shown the grossest incapacity and blundering. When the Irish Church and Land Bills were before the House the head of the Government had every detail fully worked out. He gave them the minutest details. Now, however, they were not at all prepared to state the amount it would cost the country; but he (Sir William Russell) thought, taking the artillery and engineers as a guide, the retirement necessary for the Army would certainly not be less than £1,000,000 a-year. Well, capitalize that and they had £30,000,000. Were hon. Gentlemen below the gangway prepared to meet their constituents with this proposal on the part of a Liberal Government? The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) put it at that amount, and he believed that he was right. In spite of the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, that he was prepared to yield to any reasonable proposal, he had not yielded one jot. If he wished to pass his Bill this year he should be prepared to make some reasonable sacrifice of his own particular views, and he (Sir William Russell) trusted that he would accept what was now proposed, and what he believed to be a very fair compromise. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 9, after the word "commission," to insert the words "except as is hereinafter provided."—(Sir William Russell.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he must oppose the Amendment, and he thought it hard that the Government should be told that they were obstinate when in fact 1284 they had already made concessions. At first the almost only objection was that there was a limit to the number of officers that should be allowed to retire in any one year, and the Government withdrew that limit. They had twice decided upon the question whether the money was to be paid down, and having done so they were now asked to allow the option of taking the regulation value or not. What would the taxpayers think if they gave such an option? Unless human nature in the Army were entirely different from what it was elsewhere, the result would be that everybody would take the money where it would be a gain, and no one where it was not.
§ COLONEL CORBETT
said, that that measure could hardly be called a matter of compromise at all, as it was a measure forced upon the officers against their will. He could not see the justice of withholding from the officers the money that they had laid out. The Bill would be very disadvantageous to the officers who had purchased not only for the present, but for prospective advantages, which latter would be taken away entirely. The non-purchase officers would be placed in a better position than they held now, because they would take their promotion just the same as the purchase officers. He was sorry for the taxpayers, because they would have to pay for that which would be no benefit to them; but it would not be just and honest to keep back the money which had been paid by officers, and which they wished to have returned to them.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, that having listened, so nearly as he could calculate, to about 50 speeches from hon. and gallant Officers, indicating a conviction that they and their comrades were very harshly treated by the Government Bill, he thought that he might venture, just for once, to state the very different conviction which he, having no military constituents, and looking at the matter on behalf of the taxpayers, entertained. When he first read the Bill, he had felt the greatest difficulty to understand on what principle the over-regulation prices were to be paid to officers. Their case, so far as respected these prices, appeared to him to be precisely analogous to that of the owners of close boroughs in 1832. The borough owners had privileges which were recognized by practice but condemned by law. 1285 When these privileges were abolished they received no compensation. Over-regulation prices also had been recognized by practice but condemned by law; and he did not see why, on any principle of strict justice, compensation was to be paid for them. The only ground on which he had made up his mind that he might support this provision of the Government Bill was, the hope that the officers of the Army, being treated with generosity rather than with mere justice, might be disposed, if not to consent to, at least to acquiesce in, the abolition of purchase, and that the measure might be carried without exciting the hostility of the gallant men whose services to their country all were inclined to recognize. But if the hon. and gallant Members for Bewdley and Norwich, and others who had spoken in a similar sense, were to be regarded, as they claimed to be, as representing their comrades, it must be owned that this hope was entirely disappointed. Not only had hostility not been disarmed, but it had been exhibited in an opposition more pertinacious, more avowedly obstructive, than any he had ever witnessed during the 10 years for which he had had the honour of a seat in that House, or in fact, he believed, than had ever before been offered. Now, if goodwill was not to be gained, nor hostility softened, by generosity difficult to justify, he must own he thought it would be better that Parliament should content itself with the payment of those regulation prices which alone, on the abolition of the purchase system, he believed that the officers were really entitled to claim. Hon. and gallant opponents of the Bill were delaying it to the utmost, and had more than once expressed a hope that it would not be passed without an appeal to the constituencies. He (Sir Francis Goldsmid) trusted that the measure would at once become law; but if those whose perpetual eloquence was poured out against the Bill, should unfortunately for the officers whose cause they were assuming to advocate, succeed in bringing about an appeal to the constituencies, he was persuaded that the result would be that the next House would be strongly impressed with the national conviction that the purchase system ought to be abolished, and that without any payment of over-regulation prices.
§ COLONEL NORTH
said, he thought that the hon. Baronet the Member for Reading should have thought more of the constituencies, in reference to the Government proposition to spend £12,000,000 or £14,000,000 of money—an expenditure which had never been asked for, either by the officers or the constituencies; and especially so as at the present time they were called upon to supply a deficiency of £2,700,000 by means of 2d. extra upon the income tax. He considered it his duty to oppose the Bill to the utmost of his power, because he felt that the interests of the British Army were at stake.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he was of opinion that the present proposal was the most objectionable one that had yet been made. The House had rejected the proposal that the sum should be paid down once for all; and now they were asked to give officers the option to demand the money, or to let it remain until they should retire. The effect of this would be that all those officers whose pecuniary interests were that they should have the money down would demand it, whilst those whose interest was that it should remain would let it remain. He could not, for his part, see how, as a matter of equity, officers were entitled to be paid the over-regulation price.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he agreed that the subject was not sufficiently understood; but the dwindling majority of the Government showed that it was being better understood day by day, at least, in that House. The majority of the Government was supposed to be 120; but on the crucial point, the abolition of purchase, the majority was only 39. [Mr. ANDERSON: 40.] The official declaration was 39 only. Contesting the statement that the officers were not in equity entitled to over-regulation money, he argued that as contracts made by the directors of a commercial concern were binding on the shareholders in that concern, so over-regulation money having been paid with the full cognizance of the highest authorities, though contrary to law, was a contract which should be recognized by the country, simply because it had grown up with the full knowledge of the representatives of the country, and therefore virtually under their sanction. With respect to purchase, he did not look upon it solely as an officer's question, but as a question 1287 of the interest of the taxpayer, and he maintained that the Government proposed to spend many millions of the public money for purposes that were wholly unnecessary. The five points which had been raised and advocated by the Government and their supporters as the very foundation of that measure could all be met by the existing system, without incurring the vast and unknown expenditure in which they were now invited to embark. They had been told that what the Government wanted for the Army was not officers who entered it for a short time and then sold out, but a class of officers who would remain in the Army and make it their profession; but that was the very class with whom the Government were dealing harshly, and one with respect to whom he had heard that measure called a swindle. Under the present system, which they had not got rid of, and which a majority of only 39 said they should get rid of, the cost of retirement was borne entirely by the officers of the Army. And not only that, but out of the officers' money they did a great many other things besides. Under the Government scheme that retirement would not be borne by the taxpayers or by the State, but, practically, it would be covered by the sum which the Government proposed that the House should vote—namely, £600,000 for the present year, £1,200,000 for the next year, and so on. But he would ask whether the time must not come—the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) had said it must come in about five years—when, besides the £7,000,000, £8,000,000, or £10,000,000, which they would pay in purchasing up commissions, the retirement, which had been borne hitherto by the officers, and which for a certain period under the Government scheme would not be borne by the State, would fall wholly and exclusively upon the taxpayers. That, he asserted, was undeniable; the only question was when it would begin. The sum requisite for that retirement had been variously estimated. For instance, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office had given them the calculations of Mr. O'Dowd two years ago. Since then the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Vivian) had repudiated Mr. O'Dowd's calculations; but Mr. O'Dowd himself did not repudiate them; and, according to them, that re- 1288 tirement would cost the State £1,000,000 sterling a-year at the least. Capitalizing that sum they would get at the amount which had been spoken of, and which varied from some £30,000,000 to £40,000,000. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Financial Secretary said that under that Bill they were going to alter the system of reserves and of recruitment, and to do away with pensions, and that that would meet that retirement at some future time. Now, he had read recently in the leading journal, which was very favourable to the Government on that question, an article that struck him as a very remarkable sign of the times, and that looked rather like a flag of distress, or the throwing out of skirmishers to protect them in their retreat, when they wished to take up some strong position. It was there pointed out that, as far as was at present known, their scheme of recruitment and of doing away with pensions was likely to break down altogether. He had always thought that no inducement was held out by their scheme of recruitment to labouring men to enter the Army, and, after a short period, to go into the Reserve with no pension and no prospect before them but simply the honour of serving the Secretary of State for three years, and then be cast adrift upon 4d. a-day. [An hon. MEMBER: Question.] He must respectfully tell the hon. Member the connection of the Secretary of State for War, and who gave his attention to these subjects, that he was endeavouring to keep to the question. [Mr. DODDS: Oh, oh!] The hon. Member for Stockton, who was always calling everybody to Order in that House, was himself generally out of Order; and the other night the hon. Gentleman called him to Order for walking across the House, without being able to show that it was irregular. This Amendment had been moved with the view of modifying the Government scheme for the abolition of purchase, and therefore he had said nothing that was not perfectly germane to the question under discussion. He was pointing out to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Financial Secretary that his figures were not accurate, and that even in the opinion of the leading journal the new system of recruiting had broken down. And now as to the question of the so-called vexatious opposition that had been offered to the Government scheme. A 1289 good deal would have to be said upon that subject in a more formal way before the end of the Session; but was it offering vexatious opposition to the Government measure to seek to know what their system of retirement was? The time would come when the Government would have to meet the people of this country face to face on this question of retirement. But he would assume, for the sake of the argument, that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would get men to come and serve for three years, and then to remain in the Reserve for 4d. a-day.
rose to Order. The noble Lord was discussing the state of the recruiting market, and not the question of the abolition of purchase.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, the hon. Member for Perthshire must blame, not himself, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Financial Secretary, for his being compelled to refer to the breakdown that had occurred in the Government recruiting system. But, in debating a subject which had been discussed for two months already, and which appeared likely to be discussed for two months more, it was impossible that hon. Members could omit from consideration all statements that had been made by Members of the Government with respect to it that had not been made since 5 o'clock that afternoon. The hon. Gentleman's partiality for the Government Bill had warped his better judgment, and in his cooler moments he would think better of the matter, and would be sorry that he had spoken. If the Government scheme were to be adopted, the country would eventually be the loser of £1,000,000 a-year by this system of retirement. He must protest against this wicked and wasteful expenditure. [Mr. DODDS: Oh, oh!] "When that cheerful voice I hear." The hon. Member for Stockton must know perfectly by that time that he was as unaffected by his groans as by his cheers. The hon. Member was always calling other hon. Members to Order when he was really out of Order himself. He (Lord Elcho) called an expenditure wicked and wasteful when it was unnecessary, for all that was promised to be effected under the new system might be effected under the present system with perfect ease. No incompetent officer could obtain the command of his regiment without the sanction of 1290 the Commander-in-Chief under the present system; under that system every officer might be compelled to show that he was fit for his post before he was appointed to it; and, if necessary, the British standard of efficiency might be raised up to that of the Prussian. If our officers were not efficient at the present time, that was the fault of the Government, who had neglected to require them to undergo the necessary tests to secure their efficiency. In his humble opinion, it would be better for the Government to render the present system efficient, rather than to plunge the country into an unknown expenditure for unknown objects.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) had spoken with his usual ability for half-an-hour; but he had heard him make the same remarks on the second reading, and it could not be for the public advantage that such speeches should be repeated night after night. If the Horse Guards and the War Office had, as the noble Lord said, sanctioned the illegal practices to which he referred, those military authorities were guilty of a violation of their duties, and, like dishonest directors, deserved to be turned out of their offices. He (Mr. Rylands) could not support the Motion before the Committee, for he considered it disadvantageous to the public interests, and fatal to the principle of the Bill; and in bringing forward the Amendment which he intended to move, he thought he should be able to show that there was no ground for asserting that the military authorities had sanctioned those illegal practices, and, therefore, that the country was not bound to recoup the sums which gentlemen had paid in defiance of Her Majesty's regulations.
§ MR. SALT
said, this question had been truly described as not only an Army, but a taxpayers' question. It was eminently a taxpayers' question. The officers had had their innings, and he believed the time had come for the taxpayers to have an innings. He was satisfied the people at large did not thoroughly understand this question of purchase—were not aware of the enormous sums they would have to pay for the abolition of purchase. The Returns which the Government had furnished to the House with reference to the amount that would have to be paid for that purpose 1291 were most indefinite. It might be £12,000,000 or £16,000,000; or, according to men who were competent to form an opinion, it might be double that amount. Besides the money was proposed to be raised in a manner most inconvenient to the country, because it would involve the country in an expenditure of from £500,000 to £1,500,000 yearly for an indefinite number of years. And, moreover, during that period of expenditure the country might have to engage in a war or to meet some great emergency. This country had often expended very large sums for great purposes; but, on these occasions, the country was distinctly informed of the amount that was wanted to accomplish those purposes. At present, however, the Government wished to pledge the House to something it did not understand. Consolidation or simplicity was wanted in our military arrangements. He had served in the Militia, and it struck him that in case of a sudden invasion he should not have the slightest notion what his place would be, and he felt that nobody else knew. It was exactly that feeling one wanted to remove. All were ready to fight; but they wanted to know where and when. To a certain extent, the Secretary for War had dealt with the question of a simple and efficient arrangement of our forces, and for that he was entitled to sincere thanks. The country wanted Army organization; but it wanted economy at the same time. Economy was the very battle-cry of the Ministerialists, and, if this Bill passed, every speech uttered by them on the hustings would be entirely violated. The Government said that if the Bill passed the Army would still be officered by exactly the same class of officers, and therefore the country was asked to pay an enormous sum of money in order to gain precisely the same services which it had at present. Now, he did not know whether the Government would deal with the private soldiers as they proposed to deal with the officers; he hoped they would be very cautious in altering their position, and not make changes too rashly. There were few men he liked better than real bona fide English soldiers, for there was a simplicity and an honesty in their character which he had never seen equalled among any other class of men. He had had a conversation with a very intelligent soldier 1292 on this subject, prior to the introduction of the present Bill, who had said—"What we soldiers want is to feel that when our service is ended we shall have a provision for life. Give us our shilling a-day pension when we are done for, and let all the old soldiers for the rest of their lives live respectably. As it is, you drive them into the gaol or the workhouse." A shilling a-day was something for a man to look forward to, and he might remark that there was no better recruiting officer in the world than an old pensioner in a country village. There was another matter which must be explained to one's constituents. The result of the Government proposal was a great increase of Army expenditure; but the present Parliament was specially elected for the purpose of promoting economy, and when hon. Members opposite canvassed their constituents and addressed them from the hustings, they used the term in its strongest and strictest sense. How, then, could hon. Members go back to their constituents and say—"We have been increasing our Estimates and spending millions of money?" During the many decades of the present century, which had been so prolific in great events, there never was a time when war seemed not only so unlikely, but so nearly impossible as at present. Poor France, the great creator of wars, was for the moment crushed; Prussia was satisfied; Austria had had her war and wanted no more; Italy had no money; Spain had her own affairs to settle; a treaty had been entered into with the United States which it was to be hoped would effect a permanent reconciliation between us and our American cousins; Russia threatened us, but we would not fight; and Turkey would not fight without us. Whence then, was war to come? Why should we spend millions in increasing the Army? We might organize and prepare; but we ought, at all events, to conduct that organization and preparation with economy. Constituents would say to hon. Members—"Do not spend money needlessly. Make our Army a thoroughly good one; but, before you spend these enormous sums, give us time to thoroughly consider and to understand the subject."
I was very unwilling to interrupt the hon. Member for Stafford who has just sat down, as I am 1293 always unwilling, consistently with my duty, to interpose in the course of a speech; but I must really remind the Committee that the Question before us is the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Norwich (Sir William Russell); and it is an Amendment dealing with the condition under which compensation is to be given to officers. The speech which we have just listened to was a speech which might have been construed in a liberal sense into one addressed to the Question that the whole clause stand part of the Bill—certainly, it was not a speech addressed to the subject before the Committee. I hope that hon. Members will address themselves more directly to the Question before the House.
§ MR. A. GUEST
said, he wished to repeat a question which he had put on a former occasion to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, but to which that right hon. Gentleman had not given a reply. The question was, whether an ensign or a lieutenant who paid £450 for his commission would be kept out of his money and the interest thereon while he remained in the service, and yet receive no higher pay than ensigns or lieutenants who had not purchased their commissions? If so, the former would practically receive £22 10s. a-year less than the latter, calculating the interest of his money at 5 per cent per annum. The British ensign was not so wonderfully well paid that he could afford to lose even so trifling a sum as that. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would give the Committee some explanation on this point.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, there could be no question that as between one officer who paid £450 for his commission, and another who obtained his commission without purchase, the advantage was on the side of the latter. That advantage, however, at present existed; and if it was likely to produce the disastrous consequences of which the hon. Member had spoken, his only answer was, that he wondered they had not discovered the ill effects before.
§ COLONEL RUGGLES-BRISE
said, he had voted against the 2nd clause of this Bill, because he found that his constituents did not approve the proposed large outlay being made without some further 1294 explanation being given as to what advantage the country was to derive from the expenditure. He had hoped against hope that party feeling would not be introduced into the discussion on this Bill, and the blame of its introduction must rest on those who sat on the Government side of the House, for many of them were in favour of the Amendment that had been proposed by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz); but as the Government turned that question into one of want of confidence, they were prevented from expressing their opinion on the real issue. It followed, therefore, that this Bill was the measure, not of the country, but only of the most strenuous supporters of the Government. Among the arguments advanced in favour of the Bill were—first, that by the abolition of the purchase system the Militia and the Line could be amalgamated; and, secondly, that the services of more scientific officers could be obtained; but both those advantages would be derived without abolition. The only argument that remained was the principle of selection, and then seniority in regimental promotion must be the rule and selection the exception. He wished to obtain from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War a clear statement of his intentions with respect to the transfer of officers from the Line to the Militia.
§ MR. ACLAND
rose to Order, and desired to know whether the hon. Member was speaking to the Question before the Committee?
said, he had already stated that the Question before the Committee was the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Norwich, which was concerning the manner in which compensation should be granted. He would again point out to the Committee the inconvenience and the irregularity of discussing the whole clause on an Amendment, because, in due time, he would have to put the Question, that the clause stand part of the Bill.
§ COLONEL RUGGLES-BRISE
said, he was about to speak on the subject of the amalgamation of the Militia with the Line, because the employment of officers that would ensue would result in diminishing the expenditure on retirement. The Secretary for War had stated what were his intentions with regard to the officers of the Militia, and does not 1295 propose to supersede them by officers from the Line.
§ MR. ACLAND
again rose to Order, and asked the Chairman whether the hon. Member was justified in returning to the subject?
presumed that the hon. Member was about to confine himself to the Amendment; but he would point out that it would not be conducive either to Order or to the credit of the Committee if hon. Members could not confine themselves to the Question in a business-like manner. It was not for him to be continually rising and pointing out to hon. Members what would really amount to what they ought to say. He trusted to their judgment to confine themselves to the Question before the Committee.
§ COLONEL RUGGLES-BRISE
hoped the hon. Member for North Devon would not interrupt him again after the admonition he had received.
asked the Chairman whether the admonition was not directed to the hon. and gallant Member for East Essex himself, rather than to the hon. Member for North Devon.
stated that, in the first instance, he had addressed the hon. and gallant Member for East Essex who was speaking; in the second, he had addressed neither admonition nor reproof to anyone.
§ COLONEL RUGGLES-BRISE
continued, by saying that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had announced his intention to find employment for retired officers on the Staff of the Reserve forces, but he contended that it was impossible to dispose of more than a limited number of officers in that way, there being now as many, or nearly so, as were likely to be required. He feared that the right hon. Gentleman had not sufficiently considered this subject, and he should advise him to limit the Bill for this year in its operation to the abolition of regulation prices, or withdraw it altogether.
§ MAJOR DICKSON
said, he would not have risen but for the assertion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Reading (Sir Francis Goldsmid), that the Members on the Opposition side of the House were thinking more of the interests of the officers than the interests of the country. He repudiated the charge. He opposed the Bill because he conscientiously believed that it was adverse to 1296 the best interests of the country. The theoretical beauties of the Bill might be very great; but if this clause unfortunately became law, it would entail on the taxpayers of the country a heavy and permanent addition to the taxation of the country, and would destroy the efficiency of the Army both with regard to the officers and the men. The whole of their legislation tended to drive officers from the service, and they would have to be replaced by young men, inexperienced, and physically and morally inferior to the officers driven out. The short-sighted policy which had induced the Government to forbid exchanges would also have the effect of driving hundreds of officers from the service. The officers knew not what might be the Government policy in the next Session, nor what course might be taken by Parliament, and hence arose the difficulty which was experienced by many hon. Members in deciding on the votes which they should give. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would, after Whitsuntide, lay on the Table of the House the regulation measures which were to be supplementary to the Bill, and without which the House could not satisfactorily determine how they ought to vote. In the absence of those regulations, he should vote for the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Norwich.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he should support the Amendment of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwich. The terms offered by the Government were not unfair to those who wished to leave the Army in a year or two; but they were unfair to those who wished to continue in the service. The Amendment of his hon. Friend remedied this defect, by paying down to those who wished to stay the regulation price of their commissions. Officers had already made up their minds what they would do on the presumption that the Bill passed into law; the Government would, therefore, have no difficulty in getting such information as would enable them during Whitsuntide to prepare a complete scheme of retirement. He looked at the Amendment in its broadest bearing. He had no wish to say anything that was not in accord with the feeling of the majority; but one significant fact had occurred, to-night. There had been one division with no fewer than 200 pairs, 1297 the numbers actually voting being 82 to 63, giving a majority of 19. Now, he did not think that majority would fairly represent the feeling of the country. His belief was it would be the other way. Let the Bill be fairly tested on its merits. Hon. Members below the gangway, if true to their instincts, and likely soon to meet their constituents, would be found opposing this Bill. The Government had adopted a "hard-and-fast line," and were determined to sit day and night until the Bill passed—they made no concession, and compelled the Opposition to contest the Bill in a way he disliked. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to show a little more conciliation, for, although his power and his genius commended him to their special consideration, they did not like to be dictated to. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would soon furnish them with the retirement scheme—[Mr. GLADSTONE smiled]—the right hon. Gentleman smiled; but he (Colonel Barttelot) could assure him that he had no idea of what his scheme was, and, for that reason, hardly knew what course to pursue in the matter.
said, that he should venture to address the Committee, in spite of the difficulties thrown in the way of independent Members, especially by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who had endeavoured to stop the freedom of debate in that House if he possibly could. He could not understand what difficulty the War Office could have felt in respect to estimating when a man should be held to have completed his term of service. But, in truth, during the evening they had been talking in the dark, for the absence of data on which to argue had been absolute. For the last two months they had been discussing this Bill, but without one word of enlightenment from any occupant of the Ministerial bench; and, moreover, whatever had been said on the other side had been frequently misrepresented by the Members of the Government, and their conduct with regard to the matter reminded him (Colonel Jervis) of the saying of Lord Palmerston—that there were two complimentary modes of meeting a proposition: the first was to say nothing about it; the other was totally to misrepresent the objections, and instead of answering it to answer something entirely different. If the right hon. Gentleman thought he 1298 could carry the Bill in that fashion he was in error. There was not a peasant looking forward to enlisting, nor a father who intended adopting the Army for his sons, who would approve of the measure that would make all their prospects uncertain. It was childish to go on as they were now doing. No profession was ever chosen by a man unless he could foresee pretty clearly his future progress in it; but the Army was henceforth to be a profession in which everything would be uncertain and confused.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he did not rise to address himself to the Amendment before the Committee, but to make a suggestion. He understood it had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, at an early hour in the evening, that it was intended to take a Vote of Credit on the Civil Service Estimates, and that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department wished to make some progress with the Water Bill. They had now arrived at half-past 10 o'clock; the progress they had made in Committee on this Bill had been extremely small, and he, therefore, wished to know what was the intention with regard to the two items he had mentioned? He also wished to take this opportunity of suggesting whether, in reference to this most important and difficult measure, it would not be better for the Government to avail themselves of the interval of the approaching Whitsuntide Vacation to re-consider the provisions of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!" and "Oh, oh!"] He was accustomed to those sounds from the Opposition side; but he would not complain of their rudeness, for they were divided; but as a frank and decided opponent of the Bill, he was now addressing the Government in good faith, and he asked them whether they thought that there were 20 hon. Members in the House who really approved the Bill? He conscientiously believed that there were not. There had been long and protracted debates upon it, and hon. Gentlemen rising alternately on each side of the House had spoken unanimously against the Bill. If the Government intended to persevere in their determination to pass this most unwise and obnoxious Bill, he recommended them to get some one on their own side of the House to support it; and he begged to suggest that they were not 1299 justified in throwing out against the Opposition side of the House accusations of factious conduct. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had not himself shrunk from making that charge of faction; but, before making such a charge, the Government were bound to take into consideration the extreme importance and difficult nature of the measure, and they had no right to complain and impute factious motives if, upon a Bill brought forward to saddle the country with millions of money and to revolutionize the Army, hon. Members exercised their undoubted right to protract the debates, not in a factious manner, but in a fair spirit of resistance to a measure which they considered most dangerous. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take these matters into consideration, and make up his mind, during the Recess, as to the best course to be taken with reference to this Bill. Was the feeling out-of-doors in favour of the Bill? Why, that very morning he had a conversation with a Friend who had been for many years a decided supporter of the party opposite, and a most respected Member of that House, and his opinion was that the Bill was a wanton waste of public money. He had also had a conversation within the last few days with an officer of one of the finest cavalry regiments, who said that he had asked three officers in his regiment, promoted from the ranks, what their views were with regard to non-purchase; and that their answer was that it would, be better to let things go on as they were, and that, at present, they knew what they had to retire upon. He believed that those men spoke the sense of the great majority of the officers who had risen from the ranks. Neither the opinion of that House, nor the opinion of people out-of-doors, was in favour of the Bill. The opinion of the public naturally was that the Government were proposing to throw on the country a pecuniary burden for an object not worth the money. He suggested that a division should now be taken on the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Norwich, and that, during the Recess, the Government should consider whether it would be desirable to persevere with a measure which was generally disapproved.
concurred with the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington), when he said that the time had come for taking a division, and was unwilling to delay the decision of the House on the Amendment, even for a few minutes; but he must observe that the right hon. Baronet was entirely in error in saying that he had charged hon. Members with objecting to the Bill with factious conduct, for whatever uncharitable thoughts might have arisen in the inner penetralia of his mind, he had studiously avoided making any such statement. [Sir JOHN PAKINGTON: I heard you use the words across the House.] That was like the other of the right hon. Baronet's private conversations, for the right hon. Baronet, having had a conversation with a distinguished officer, immediately assumed that that officer expressed the opinion of the people of England. Now, without attempting to discharge the functions of a lexicographer, and give the meaning of words, he must observe that the right hon. Baronet had declared that he meant to offer to the Bill an obstructive opposition.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, that not one word escaped his lips, except to the effect that he would offer a fair Parliamentary opposition to the measure.
said, that the right hon. Baronet did not deny absolutely that he had announced his intention to offer obstruction to the Bill; and what one side of the House called factious opposition, the other side thought a perfectly fair and honest opposition, necessitated by the extreme gravity of the case. At any rate, there was no doubt that the opposition to the Bill was one of an unusual character. On an occasion when his hon. and gallant Friend behind him moved an Amendment of an important character, but perfectly definite and intelligible, and capable of being discussed with edification and profit in speeches of five minutes' length, speeches had been delivered which he did not hesitate to say from first to last—and in some particular and distinguished instances which he had before his mind's eye—were speeches upon the second reading of the Bill; and the Chairman of the Committee, once spontaneously, and afterwards on being appealed to, had to deliver authoritatively his decision that the course of the 1301 discussion was not agreeable to the usual mode of proceeding, or to the convenience of the House. Therefore, he repeated that a somewhat unusual opposition was offered to the Bill—an opposition against which the Government had no means to employ, except patience, perseverance, persistence, and a resolute sacrifice of personal comfort, in vindication of the absolute right of a majority of this House, if it thought fit, to give effect to its opinions against the view taken by the minority. For that principle, apart from the importance of the Bill itself, it was the intention of the Government to spend and be spent as long as the majority thought fit to sustain its own opinions. The right hon. Baronet further said the Government could not obtain in this House speeches in favour of the Bill. Now, if they could presume to exercise any influence at all with their Friends, it would be to entreat them not to speak in favour of the Bill. Such speeches were a perfect godsend to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, though their command of words might be termed inexhaustible, yet, according to the law which governed all human affairs, did, after a certain time, begin to feel that they were near the end of their resources. A speech to be answered was a new starting-point—an access of life and vigour to orations like those made to-night; and, much as he valued the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Sir Francis Goldsmid), the Government had paid dear for it in the results it produced. As to the other business appointed for this evening, the Water Bill of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, important as it was, must take its chance along with other measures, the duty of the Government being to fasten its attention upon that which was of primary importance.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, as the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had announced it to be the intention of the majority to force their views upon the minority, it was right the country should know that in the division to-night 552 Members, including pairs, had taken part, the Government majority being only 19.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, on the question of exchanges the Government majority was 43; on the abolition of purchase it was 39; and to-night, as 1302 the noble Lord said, it was only 19. He asked whether, under these circumstances, the Opposition could be taunted with unconstitutional, factious, and obstructive proceedings? He had never joined in such opposition, and believed that during the holidays the middle classes, who were pinched by the increased income tax, would ask themselves why they should be so pinched to pay for the abolition of purchase?
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, he had at first thought purchase was a bad thing; but was convinced to the contrary on reading one of the speeches of the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), and his impression was confirmed by these debates. The feeling in favour of maintaining the purchase system was growing throughout the country, as he could, with confidence, say that he had confirmed it by personal observation. It was, therefore, important that the country should have more time for the consideration of the Bill, and, as he did not wish to "spend or be spent," he should now move to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Staveley Hill.)
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, the military Members in the House were not in the habit of wasting time, and it was only fair that they should have opportunities for submitting their views to the House upon a professional question of such importance, and that they should have a fair hearing. With one exception, no military man in the House supported the Bill, except those on the Treasury bench.
§ CAPTAIN GROVE
said, he must deny the statement which had been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that military Members on the Ministerial side were opposed to the Bill because they remained silent. Their silence did not, at all events, arise from want of interest in the measure, but arose from the fact that they did not wish to increase the confusion caused by the long speeches of hon. Members opposite. He, for one, was of opinion that the Army up to this time was in a most unsatisfactory condition, seeing that we were paying £16,000,000 a-year for a force which was ludicrous in point of numbers. He 1303 thought, therefore, that unless something like a scheme of re-organization had been proposed from the Treasury bench the country would have much reason to complain. The present Bill was, in his opinion, a move in the right direction, and that he believed was the general feeling of the country.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, he was glad to find a military Member of the House was alive to the fact that the Government Estimates for the Army were £16,000,000 a-year. He thought it possible that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Grove) would have also stated what the cost of the abolition of purchase would be, but he had entirely eluded the question before the Committee. As to the feeling of the country on the subject, he could only say that the number of Petitions which had been presented with respect to the Bill was only six, and that everyone of them was in opposition to it. Where, then, was the wonderful feeling of the country in its favour?
MR. OSBORNE MORGAN
said, he would observe that, while the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) had characterized the Bill as leading to a waste of public money, he regarded the speeches made in opposition to it as a waste of public time. He should like to know what hon. and gallant Gentlemen on either side of the House would think if members of his profession were to get up night after night and obstruct the passing of a great measure of law reform simply by talking against time? He could not help thinking that the feeling was rapidly growing up that the time of that House was being wantonly and undisguisedly wasted by the opponents of that measure.
said, the hon. and gallant Member for Wiltshire (Captain Grove) had remarked that the Army had long been going to the bad, and that it would be altogether destroyed unless some measure of re-organization such as that proposed by the Bill were inaugurated. Now, what he complained of was, that the present Bill was not a Bill for the re-organization of the Army, but a Bill for its destruction. His objection to the scheme of the Government was, that whereas the very foundation on which our Army was built was absolutely cut away by the Bill, no information 1304 was given to the House as to how the Army of the future was to be constructed. He should also like to know whether the sum of £16,000,000 which the hon. and gallant Gentleman said were expended on the Army had been increased or diminished this Session by the proposal of the Government? He, as well as others, who were opposed to the Bill were in favour of Army re-organization; but they were not supporters of a destructive measure which would increase the burdens of the country, but would not give it an effective Army. He had, he confessed, listened with astonishment to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who had characterized the remarks of those who opposed the Bill as being a perennial flow of eloquence. He thought such a flow was to be found in rather a different quarter.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that as some question had arisen as to the feeling out-of-doors with regard to the Bill, and the conduct of those who opposed it, he might mention that the leading journal, which always represented the feeling of the railways and the Mart and the Exchange of the day before, had, that very morning, stated that the course taken by the Opposition was justifiable, and that it was the duty of the Government to give an estimate of the cost of retirement, so that the House should be informed as to the exact nature of their scheme.
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, the Government were quite welcome to the arguments in favour of the Bill which had been advanced by the hon. and gallant Member for South Wilts; but he wished to congratulate the Committee, the Government, and the country, on the fact that the oracle had at last spoken—the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had at last given utterance to his views. One of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman was, that he did not wish for the assistance of his Friends, which must have been a very humiliating statement to those hon. Gentlemen who sat behind him.
§ MR. CLAY
said, he had heard it said of a work, which some years ago made some noise, that it contained many things which were true which were not new, and many things which were new which were not true. He certainly had lis- 1305 tened to several arguments for the last few weeks, which might be true, but which he had heard repeated 20 times over; and as to the new matter, he would only hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire was correct, and that the House was to have 10 days' holiday. He put it to hon. Members whether it was consistent with the dignity of Parliament to make in Committee on a Bill not one, but ten or twenty speeches which ought to have been delivered, if at all, on the Motion for the second reading, and then to move to report Progress at a quarter to 11 o'clock.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he hoped that, under the circumstances, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Coventry (Mr. Staveley Hill), who had moved to report Progress, would withdraw his Motion, and allow a division to be taken on the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Norwich (Sir William Russell). With reference to the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan), he was not quite sure, in the first place, that law reforms had been so speedy of late years as the hon. and learned Gentleman stated them to have been; and, in the second place, he was perfectly certain that no single cobweb had been swept out of Westminster Hall without the utmost deference being paid to the feelings and the pockets of the lawyers. He did not object to this principle; but he held strongly to the opinion that if it was right in the case of lawyers, it was equally right when Parliament was dealing with the interests of officers in the Army.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 154; Noes 170: Majority 16.1308
|Akroyd, E.||Barnett, H.|
|Arbuthnot, Major G.||Barrington, Viscount|
|Archdale, Captain M.||Barttelot, Colonel|
|Arkwright, A. P.||Bateson, Sir T.|
|Assheton, R.||Bathurst, A. A.|
|Aytoun, R. S.||Beach, Sir M. H.|
|Baggallay, Sir R.||Beaumont, Captain F.|
|Bagge, Sir W.||Bective, Earl of|
|Bentinck, G. W. P.||Laslett, W.|
|Benyon, R.||Learmonth, A.|
|Beresford, Lt.-Col. M.||Legh, W. J.|
|Bingham, Lord||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Birley, H.||Liddell, hon. H. G.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Lindsay, hon. Col. C.|
|Bourke, hon. R.||Lindsay, Col. R. L.|
|Bright, R.||Mahon, Viscount|
|Brise, Colonel R.||Malcolm, J. W.|
|Broadley, W. H. H.||Manners, rt. hon. Lord J.|
|Brogden, A.||March, Earl of|
|Bruce, Sir H. H.||Matthews, H.|
|Bury, Viscount||Meyrick, T.|
|Buxton, Sir R. J.||Milles, hon. G. W.|
|Cameron, D.||Montgomery, Sir G. G.|
|Cawley, C. E.||Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.|
|Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.||Muntz, P. H.|
|Clive, Col. hon. G. W.||Newport, Viscount|
|Clowes, S. W.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Collins, T.||North, Colonel|
|Corbett, Colonel||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. T. L.||Palk, Sir L.|
|Crichton, Viscount||Parker, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Cross, R. A.||Patten, rt. hon. Col. W.|
|Cubitt, G.||Pemberton, E. L.|
|Dalrymple, C.||Phipps, C. P.|
|Davenport, W. B.||Powell, W.|
|Dick, F.||Ridley, M. W.|
|Dickson, Major A. G.||Round, J.|
|Dimsdale, R.||Royston, Viscount|
|Dowdeswell, W. E.||Salt, T.|
|Dyke, W. H.||Sandon, Viscount|
|Dyott, Colonel R.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Eaton, H. W.||Scott, Lord H. J. M. D.|
|Egerton, hon. A. F.||Scourfield, J. H.|
|Elcho, Lord||Seely, C. (Nottingham)|
|Forester, rt. hon. Gen.||Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.|
|Fowler, R. N.||Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.|
|Galway, Viscount||Smith, A.|
|Garlies, Lord||Smith, R.|
|Gordon, E. S.||Smith, W. H.|
|Gore, J. R. O.||Somerset, Lord H. R. C.|
|Graves, S. R.||Stacpoole, W.|
|Gray, Lieut.-Colonel||Starkie, J. P. C.|
|Guest, A. E.||Steere, L.|
|Gurney, rt. hon. R.||Sykes, C.|
|Hambro, C.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Talbot, J. G.|
|Hamilton, Lord G.||Talbot, hon. Captain|
|Hardy, rt. hon. G.||Tollemache, J.|
|Hardy, J.||Tomline, G.|
|Hardy, J. S.||Trevor, Lord A. E. Hill-|
|Hay, Sir J. C. D.||Turner, C.|
|Henley, rt. hon. J. W.||Vance, J.|
|Henry, J. S.||Vickers, S.|
|Hermon, E.||Walker, Major G. G.|
|Heygate, W. U.||Walsh, hon. A.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||Waterhouse, S.|
|Hill, A. S.||Welby, W. E.|
|Holford, J. P. G.||Wethered, T. O.|
|Holmesdale, Viscount||Whalley, G. H.|
|Hood, Cap. hn. A. W. A. N.||Wharton, J. L.|
|Hope, A. J. B. B.||Wheelhouse, W. S. J.|
|Hunt, rt. hon. G. W.||Wilmot, H.|
|Hutton, J.||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Jackson, R. W.||Yarmouth, Earl of|
|Jenkinson, Sir G. S.|
|Kavanagh, A. MacM.||TELLERS.|
|Knox, hon. Colonel S.||Russell, Sir W.|
|Lacon, Sir E. H. K.||Anson, Colonel|
|Langton, W. G.|
|Acland, T. D.||Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Agar-Ellis, hon. L. G. F.||Gower, hon. E. F. L.|
|Amcotts, Col. W. C.||Graham, W.|
|Anderson, G.||Grant, Colonel hon. J.|
|Ayrton, rt. hon. A. S.||Greville, hon. Captain|
|Backhouse, E.||Greville-Nugent, hon. G. F.|
|Baker, R. B. W.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Bass, A.||Grove, T. F.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Guest, M. J.|
|Bazley, Sir T.||Harcourt, W. G. G. V. V.|
|Beaumont, H. F.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Beaumont, S. A.||Hibbert, J. T.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Hoare, Sir H. A.|
|Biddulph, M.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Holland, S.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Holms, J.|
|Bowring, E. A.||Hughes, T.|
|Brand, H. R.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Brassey, H. A.||Hurst, R. H.|
|Brassey, T.||Ilingworth, A.|
|Brewer, Dr.||James, H.|
|Brinckman, Captain||Johnstone, Sir H.|
|Bristowe, S. B.||Kay-Shuttleworth, U. J.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.||Kingscote, Colonel|
|Buller, Sir E. M.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, E. H.|
|Cadogan, hon. F. W.|
|Campbell, H.||Lambert, N. G.|
|Candlish, J.||Lawrence, Sir J. C.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Lawrence, W.|
|Carter, Mr. Alderman||Lawson, Sir W.|
|Cartwright, W. C.||Lea, T.|
|Cavendish, Lord F. C.||Leatham, E. A.|
|Cavendish, Lord G.||Leeman, G.|
|Chadwick, D.||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|Chambers, T.||Lewis, H.|
|Cholmeley, Captain||Loch, G.|
|Clay, J.||Lowe, rt. hon. R.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Lubbock, Sir J.|
|Coleridge, Sir J. D.||Lusk, A.|
|Collier, Sir R. P.||Macfie, R. A.|
|Colman, J. J.||M'Arthur, W.|
|Colthurst, Sir G. C.||M'Laren, D.|
|Cowper, hon. H. F.||Martin, P. W.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Mellor, T. W.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Merry, J.|
|Dalrymple, D.||Miller, J.|
|Dalway, M. R.||Monk, C. J.|
|Davies, R.||Monsell, rt. hon. W.|
|Dent, J. D.||Morgan, G. O.|
|Dickinson, S. S.||Morley, S.|
|Digby, K. T.||Morrison, W.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Mundella, A. J.|
|Dodds, J.||Nicol, J. D.|
|Dowse, R.||O'Brien, Sir P.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||O'Conor, D. M.|
|Dundas, F.||O'Conor Don, The|
|Edwardes, hon. Col. W.||O'Loghlen, rt. hon. Sir C. M.|
|Ewing, H. E. C.||Palmer, J. H.|
|Eykyn, R.||Palmer, Sir R.|
|FitzGerald, right hon. Lord O. A.||Parker, C. S.|
|Parry, L. Jones-|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord E.||Pease, J. W.|
|Forster, rt. hon. W. E.||Pelham, Lord|
|Fortescue, rt. hon. C. P.||Philips, R. N.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Platt, J.|
|Gladstone, W. H.||Playfair, L.|
|Goldsmid, Sir F.||Potter, E.|
|Goldsmid, J.||Potter, T. B.|
|Rathbone, W.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Reed, C.||Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-|
|Richards, E. M.|
|Robertson, D.||Trevelyan, G. O.|
|Russell, A.||Vivian, A. P.|
|Rylands, P.||Vivian, Capt. hn. J. C. W.|
|Salomons, Sir D.||Walter, J.|
|Samuda, J. D'A.||Wells, W.|
|Seymour, A.||West, H. W.|
|Sherlock, D.||Whitbread, S.|
|Sherriff, A. C.||White, J.|
|Simon, Mr. Serjeant||Williams, W.|
|Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.||Willyams, E. W. B.|
|Stapleton, J.||Wingfield, Sir C.|
|Stevenson, J. C.||Winterbotham, H. S. P.|
|Storks, rt. hn. Sir H. K.|
|Strutt, hon. H.||TELLERS.|
|Stuart, Colonel||Glyn, hon. G. G.|
|Sykes, Colonel W. H.||Adam, W. P.|
|Taylor, P. A.|
As I believe that the next point standing for discussion is the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), on which he would probably require to occupy the attention of the House for some time, and as the discussion could not be soon terminated, I beg to move, Sir, that you report Progress.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday 5th June.