HC Deb 16 June 1876 vol 229 cc1989-93

, in rising to call attention to the special allowances to the Foot Guards, said, that he did not wish to make any attack upon the administration of the War Office, or upon the brigade of Guards, but simply to call attention to certain abuses which had existed for some years. For instance, he found from Returns which he had obtained that while £13,190 was allowed to the Foot Guards as special allowances, £8,008 only were allowed to the Infantry regiments of the Line. He also found, among a variety of other items, that £11,079 were voted for hospitals and recruiting, whilst only £5,692 were spent upon those services; so that it would seem that £5,387 should be returned to the Treasury. This, however, was by no means the case, but, instead, £1,360 per annum were given in aid of the band expenses of the regiments, which was indirectly an allowance to the officers, who would, otherwise, themselves have to pay the band expenses. There was also £907 for Staff allowances for non-commissioned officers, and £6,278 for "profits" to field officers and captains; or in all a total of £8,545. He wished to know where the money came from. He did not wish to destroy any vested interests which the Guards had enjoyed for many years; but he thought the system was a bad one, because the money was voted under the wrong name; in the next place, it was not devoted to the purpose for which it was voted; and, thirdly, it was impossible to audit the accounts. Whenever the "profits," to which there was no legal title, were less than usual, there was simply added to the bottom of the account a sum that would bring it up to the usual amount. He thought they were entitled to know how these accounts passed the Controller at the War Office, for he could not conceive any system which would be more loose or irregular. For instance, a sum of £77 was paid for haut boys, which most certainly did not exist, and it was in order to end such charges as those that he desired to see the accounts placed on a proper and correct footing.


, in replying on behalf of the Government, said, he should like to point out the footing upon which the brigade of Guards stood. He could not help thinking that the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Moore) had put the case in a manner which told equally well both ways. Whether these allowances were right or wrong, they were payments which had been made from time immemorial, going back even to that remote time when the country did not possess a standing Army; and no public account of their disbursement has ever been rendered or asked for in connection with the Estimates. He did not say that that alone was an infallible argument for their continuance, but he had a right to point out that there had been many and careful investigations into the pay and allowances of the Army by Committees of very high class, both in that House and in "another place;" and notwithstanding alterations had been made, these allowances had been continued. The brigade of Guards had been allowed to remain upon the same footing; and that mere fact went a long way to prove that there were strong reasons for the continuance of these allowances. The Committee which satin 1850–1 took a considerable quantity of evidence, and made a carefully-drawn and valuable Report, from which it appeared that the cost per man in the Guards was £48 11s. 3d., whilst that of the regiments of the line was £46 19s. 6d., showing a difference of something like a penny per day, which was the actual amount of increased pay received by a soldier in the Guards. With respect to the form of accounts, there could be no doubt that it was not quite what was to be desired; but the subject was gone into with some care by Ms Predecessor (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) and the late Sir James Lindsay, and they came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to interfere with the matter without entering into much wider questions. He believed it would be in accordance with the feeling of the officers of the Guards that there should be an inquiry into the stock-purse expenses, and such an inquiry had been contemplated for some time past; but the question up to the present moment was not ripe for investigation. With respect to recruiting, the system of recruiting for the Guards—a full account of which would be found in the Report of 1851—had always been carried on upon a different principle from that of the rest of the Army, but under the new system of recruiting through the brigade depôts the Guards did not wholly depend upon their own recruiting resources. Then, again, other regiments had paymasters—at all events, up to a certain date—but in the Guards, owing to their regimental arrangements, the duty was performed by the quartermasters, who received £20 for each battalion, which was the extra allowance shown in the Return. However desirable it might be to place these Guards' allowances upon a footing more in accordance with modern methods of account-keeping, immense difficulty had been found in dealing with these questions without recognizing the fact that the officers of the Guards found their own lodgings and did not receive allowances which were made in kind or in money to officers in the rest of the Army. If put on the same footing they would probably require the same allowances at large cost to the public. There was also the difficulty of deciding whether the officers of the Guards had any, and, if any, what vested rights to the property in the regimental hospitals. These were presumably built out of public money, and yet the officers contributed to the hospital fund and received proportionate sums on retirement, and these sums had even been paid to the heirs of deceased officers, which appeared to show that they might be legally claimed. He should not like to express a strong opinion on the question until he had the results of an inquiry to guide him. Substantially, then, while there was room for improvement in the form of the accounts, there had been no misappropriation of money in the sense of diverting it from the purpose for which it was granted by the State, and there had been no undue expenditure upon the brigade of Guards as compared with the general expenditure of corresponding branches of the Army.


said, it was impossible to examine the accounts and history of the whole question as it had been his duty, when at the War Office, to do, without coming to the conclusion that the present arrangements were in a most anomalous condition; though, at the same time, he did not know that the country lost much, or that it would gain by a change if it had to provide barrack accommodation. The form of accounts was most extraordinary, and they were made more complicated from the circumstances which occurred during the Crimean War. Up to the date of that war, there was an annual sum of £158 odd per company granted to the Guards, which was supposed to cover their recruiting and hospital expenses; but during the war the battalions became so diminished in numbers, that the recruiting expenses to replenish the numbers were exceptionally heavy, and the officers complained that the sum allowed—£158—was not sufficient, and an arrangement was made by which they agreed to render items of their account, and that if they had a surplus, the balance should be paid over to the country, whilst, on the other hand, if there was a deficiency, it should be made up by the country. The items had remained stereotyped exactly as they were at that time, and that was the origin of the payment of £1,600 to make up the deficiency. But this was a small matter compared with the question of administrative efficiency, and in that respect he believed the system to be indefensible. With regard to the hospitals, they were not so efficient as the hospitals of the Army generally, and the claim set up by the officers that the hospitals belonged to them was one which could scarcely be allowed without considerable hesitation, because although they had given liberal contributions the public had also rendered considerable assistance. He trusted that these matters would be further inquired into—that a thorough and complete inquiry would be instituted, and that there would be associated with the officers of the Guards, to whom his hon. Friend had alluded, a certain number of outsiders, so that the country might be satisfied that the interests of the public would be duly cared for.


hoped the matter would now be thoroughly investigated. With regard to recruiting, the present system was certainly not so efficient as it ought to be; and as to the other point, if it could be said that the officers of the Guards had a vested interest in their hospitals, the sooner they were compensated for them the better. It was absolutely necessary that the question should be dealt with.


said, he did not think that the public suffered in the matter, but there were certainly points connected with it which appeared to be anomalous. There were difficulties in the way of coming to a practical conclusion on the subject. When it was known that money had been paid to the heirs of deceased officers, it certainly looked as if they had a vested interest in their hospitals. All he could say was that, having had his attention called to the subject, he would undertake to look very carefully into it, and see what was the best way of arriving at a satisfactory solution. But he might add that if he felt it his duty to institute inquiry it would be an impartial one, and not be by the Guards alone.