HC Deb 02 July 1877 vol 235 cc606-9

in rising to draw attention to the position of the Militia Surgeons under the Royal Warrant and Instructions of July 1870, said: Sir, in drawing the attention of the House to the results of recent Army reforms on the Militia surgeons, a few remarks will be sufficient. Formerly they held their position under various Acts which regulated their duties, allowances, and pensions. Their mere regimental pay during training was the least part of their remuneration. They had to inspect recruits both for the Line and Militia, they attended on the Staff, and examined the pensioners both for the Army and Admiralty. Of course, it was only in certain localities that Militia surgeons had all these additional duties imposed upon them, and their pay varied according to the extent of their public duties. Among the Militia surgeons were a few earning £300 a-year; there were 12 earning between £250 and £300; 50 earned between £200 and £250; and most of the remainder received annual sums from £100 to £200. When the new military reform, which established Depôt Centres, came into operation, many of the duties performed by Militia surgeons were transferred to Army surgeons. The effect of these changes was, however, to be partly compensated by the improved pay. The pay during training had been gradually raised to 17s. 6d. a-day, and by the new Warrant it was made £1 a-day. During the period of 27 days' training, the pay was thus augmented by £3 1s. 6d. a-year; but the loss of pay, owing to the transference of duties, was from £200 to £250 a-year. It is not an arithmetical puzzle to see that a gain of, say, £4 a-year is no compensation for a loss of £200 a-year. The Militia surgeons had their duties taken away from them, not at their own desire, though it may have been, and probably was, for the benefit of the Public Service that this change should be made. But it is a common rule of equity that if private interests are to be sacrificed for public good, compensation should be given. It was deemed expedient to get rid of Militia adjutants; but those who resigned were pensioned. In the Civil Service it is the same. We do not reduce even clerkships in a Department without some compensation to the holder. This was so obviously just, that Lord Cardwell promised in April and June of 1872 full consideration for instances of individual hardship; and on the 6th July, 1874, and on the 2nd June, 1875, the present Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hardy) again promised to consider each case according to its merits. This was a just promise. Some of the regiments are not affected by the new Regulations from not being near a Brigade Depôt; and when they are, the cases of hardships vary so much that they could not be dealt with en bloc, and therefore individual examination was right and proper. The Militia surgeons, relying on those promises, have sent in their cases to the War Office; but every one has been refused any redress or compensation. At a deputation to the Secretary of State for War, on the 23rd April, he absolutely refused consideration to the Militia surgeons' case; first, because he had no power to deal with it; and second, because they asked pay for duties which they were not performing. But it was not their fault that they were not performing these duties. They were both able and willing to do so. Now, their grievance lies in this—the Militia surgeons could not combine their military duties with an efficient attention to practice. They were liable under the old Acts to serve where their regiments were embodied, and they were embodied both in the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny. Under their old rules they might and were frequently absent from private practice; but they were fairly paid for their public duties and were satisfied to perform them. But now the case is entirely different. Instead of emoluments of from £200 to £300 a-year, you ask them to act for 27 days at £l a-day. This amount would scarcely suffice to pay an assistant while they were engaged in military duty. To old men who have sacrificed private practice for Militia duty, it is absolute ruin to be suddenly deprived of their former duties and emoluments without compensation. The State cannot have contemplated this when it made the changes. I presume and admit that the changes are right, but I ask that, as in all similar cases, public interests should not be procured by the sacrifice of private interests, but that these should receive a fair compensation for the injury inflicted.


rejoiced that the subject had been brought before the House, and expressed a hope that, if necessary, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lyon Playfair) would press the question to a division. He was certain that the Militia surgeons had lost by the changes which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had introduced, by which the responsibility of passing recruits and other duties had been taken from them. He was also certain that it had been a detriment to the Force to appoint a man a Militia surgeon only during the time when the regiment was in training. He should support the appeal that had been made for compensation to this class of deserving officers.


thought it most important that all recruits, whether for the Militia or the Army, should be examined by surgeons of the Regular Army; for no man with civilian practice had had sufficient experience in passing men for either Service, but that he might be deceived. The Militia surgeons were very excellent men; but, in very many cases, they wanted the experience of the surgeons of the Regular Army. With regard to recruiting that was essentially necessary. The Regular Army surgeon was the man best suited to pass men into the Army.


said, he would not attempt to discuss the expediency of the changes which had been made; but the question brought forward by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Lyon Playfair) was, whether, in carrying out the present scheme, they were not dealing harshly with Militia surgeons who had entered the Service prior to those changes. In his opinion they were dealing harshly, for the old Militia surgeons could not fall back on any private practice. The question for the House was whether, after a certain amount of service, a Militia surgeon could obtain some compensation, and whether it was to be given by the State or by an exceptional grant in each ease; his own feeling was in favour of the latter suggestion. At all events, this was a subject which fairly deserved consideration.


said, that it was hardly fair for the House to discuss then the Regulation made in 1873. He believed it would be very desirable to revert to the former system of the examination of recruits for the Militia by Militia surgeons, especially in agricultural districts. He trusted that in future every case would be dealt with on its own merits; for in the case of old Militia surgeons there were undoubtedly great hardships, while with the younger Militia surgeons there was no hardship at all. Treated in that way a very moderate sum of money would be required to give satisfaction to these gentlemen. Some of the older men had been deprived of three-fourths of their pay, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hardy) would comply with the request of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Lyon Playfair).


said, this was a simple question of justice. Anew system had been inaugurated, in effecting which he considered that the claims of these Militia surgeons, many of whom had been long in the Service, had not been justly or equitably considered. The House of Commons ought not to be satisfied with anything less than a promise from the Secretary of State for War that he would endeavour to obtain from the Treasury proper compensation for those officers. Should he do so, no doubt he would succeed. Compensation was always given in cases of interference with legal officers, and there was no reason why it should not be given in this case.