HC Deb 15 April 1875 vol 223 cc975-6

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If it is intended to bestow any honours or rewards on any of those who fought the Indian famine for us, or if there is any regulation limiting such honours and rewards to strictly military services?


The hon. Gentleman apparently assumes in his Question that the honours and rewards conferred by Her Majesty are conferred only for military services; but that is not the case. On the contrary, many honours and rewards have been conferred, even recently, by Her Majesty for services which are strictly civil. There were, I think, three Knights Commanderships of the Bath conferred for Civil services even in this year, besides several Commanderships and Knights Commander-ships of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, and many Knighthoods for Civil services, or for distinction in science and otherwise, by which public respect is gained. There have also been some hereditary honours conferred for Civil services; and therefore I do not think the hon. Gentleman right in his assumption that the honours and rewards conferred by Her Majesty are strictly for military services. With respect to the great labours of those who successfully contended with the Indian Famine, I may say it is but very recently that their success has been attained. On all these occasions—I am not now speaking with reference peculiarly to the labours connected with the Indian Famine, but to labours of this character when the conduct is performed in a distant country and the exertions have been shared by many individuals—it is of great importance that the utmost care should be taken that no mistake is committed—that you should not, for instance, reward the wrong people—a mistake that is sometimes made and not easily remedied. I may also say to the hon. Gentleman that when you are considering such circumstances it should be remembered that all honours, excepting hereditary honours, are with very slight exceptions limited in number. It is not sufficiently known by the country—and, if I might presume to say so, even by the Houses of Parliament—that there is no Order of Knighthood which is not limited in its numbers, and vacancies may not occur for some time. The hon. Gentleman will see, therefore, that there are a great many considerations which have to be taken into account when the distribution of honours or rewards for services of the kind referred to has to be made; and I would say humbly to the hon. Gentleman that, on the whole, considering the difficulties attendant on a satisfactory distribution of such honours and rewards, it is best to leave the exercise of that Prerogative to Her Majesty and her responsible Advisers.