§ Order for Third Reading read.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
, in moving that the Bill be now read a third time, thanked hon. Members opposite for their courtesy in allowing it to pass this stage without placing Amendments on the Paper.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a third time."—(Mr. Gathorne Hardy.)
§ MR DILLWYN
said, he had given Notice of no Amendment, not from any liking for the Bill, but because he believed there was no use in doing so. He had seen throughout the debates that arguments were of no avail whatever. Every argument in Committee, he thought, had been made in favour of the opponents of the Bill; but still they were determined to pass it. He regretted that it should pass, because he believed it would re-establish a system of purchase of which they had got rid at such an enormous expense to the country. [Mr. GATHORNE HARDY: No! no!] The right hon. Gentleman says "No"; but he (Mr. Dillwyn), while he gave the right hon. Gentleman credit for believing the measure would not lead to a return to the system of Purchase, could not but express his apprehension that it was the thin end of the wedge, and that it would result in a return to that system. During the many years he had been in the House he had never seen, as regarded an important public measure, such an evident determination not to assent to any Amendment as had been shown by the promoters of this measure.
§ MR. CHILDERS
wished to say a few words as to the effect which he believed this Bill would have when passed. He considered it inconsistent with all recent legislation, mischievous as a precedent, and most inopportune. It was inconsistent with all our former legislation, because the position would be this, that while we should have two Acts—one passed in the reign of Edward VI. and the other in the reign of George III.—under which trafficking in offices had been declared disgraceful, and those taking any part in such transactions were held guilty of a misdeameanour and liable 67 to lose those offices; for all that, the present Bill proposed that one particular transaction—a payment for Army exchange—should escape the penalties of the Act, provided it were concealed from the military authorities. There was no instance of any such statute with regard to any other branch of the public service. Then the Bill was mischievous as a precedent, for if it passed, although the right hon. Gentleman opposite had not the least intention of re-introducing the system of Purchase, the re-introduction of that system was almost inevitable. Out of the five branches of which purchase consisted, three, at least, would be restored—exchange under this Bill, exchange to and from half-pay, and payment to induce an officer to retire. The passing of such a Bill was inopportune, because we should be asked next year to improve the pay and retirement of officers; and what would be the answer? The answer would at once be—"In 1875 you passed a measure the avowed object of which was to make up for the inadequate pay of the officer indirectly, and how can you now come and ask us to pass a law to add to his pay in a direct shape? "He would not offer any further opposition to the Bill; but for these three reasons he regretted that such a measure should be passed, and he believed that two or three years hence no one would regret its passing more than those for whose benefit it was said to have been brought forward.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he had heard no arguments during the debates which had altered his opinion that a more injudicious policy than the abolition of purchase was never adopted. The purchase system, in so far as it introduced the volunteer element into our standing Army, prevented it from becoming a mercenary Army, and kept it a constitutional force. He would therefore readily forget the sacrifice of the £7,000,000. which it cost to abolish Purchase if by any effort the system could be restored. When he, sat on the other side of the House he voted for the retention of the system of Purchase, and protested against the unconstitutional and violent means by which it was abolished. He thanked the Secretary of State for War for the manner in which he had introduced and defended his measure, which he accepted 68 as a judicious step towards the restoration of the system of Purchase.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.