HC Deb 05 March 1877 vol 232 cc1380-1

, in rising, according to Notice, To call attention to the embarrassments and dangers that may result if officers are allowed to obtain by way of commutation or otherwise the full pecuniary value of retired or half pay, and at the same time to free themselves from the obligations and control attached to those allowances, said, it was a very important matter, and one that raised no less a question than this—that individual officers might possibly drag England into a war into which the country did not desire to go. Not far from that House, at the residence of a great Nobleman, a committee had been formed to give pecuniary assistance by subscriptions to the soldiers of Turkey who were collected together for the purposes of a possible or probable war against Russia, and they had also lately seen in the newspapers paragraphs stating that a certain number of British officers had gone to take service, some in the Turkish Army and others in the Turkish Navy. Whether those statements were true or not, they were likely to have a disturbing effect, unless they were officially contradicted; and he asked whether there was not some ground for Russians supposing that Turkey was receiving some assistance from England, and whether that was not an, impression calculated to injure the friendly concert between the two countries? He hoped that the Government would be prepared to show that there were means at their command by which British officers might and would be prevented from taking service under a foreign Power. Circumstanced as Turkey was, the danger of the present state of things was illustrated by the case of Admiral Hobart, a British officer who had entered the Turkish Service, contrary to the rules of his own Service, contrary also to the will and wish of the heads of our Admiralty, and with an eventual impunity the reasons for which had yet to be explained. In The Times the other day appeared a letter from its correspondent at Pera, in which it was stated that Hobart Pasha was the man who favoured bold and decided measures on all occasions, and suggested that Turkey had a right peremptorily to call on Russia to explain the intention of her armaments; and that if Russia refused Turkey should instantly declare war. It was added that Hobart Pasha had said that he himself would undertake to sweep the Russian Fleet from the Black Sea and to bombard the Russian ports. These were the threats ascribed to Hobart Pasha. He (Sir George Campbell) had reason to believe that this really was so. When statements of that kind appeared in a great public journal it was surely time for the Government to take some steps in the matter. At the present time Hobart Pasha was drawing retired pay from this country, and might at any moment apply to have it commuted for a capital sum so as to place himself beyond the power of Her Majesty's Government altogether; and there might be other officers similarly situated. He wanted to know, first, whether there was any rule of Her Majesty's Service by which an officer who might choose to commute his entire pay or pension might be prevented from carrying on hostilities against Russia? secondly, what were the means, with regard to the Foreign Enlistment Act, by which ordinary subjects of Her Majesty might be prevented from carrying on such a war? and thirdly, whether in times of excitement it was not possible that the rules of the law might be broken, and if so, how the breaking of that law would be checked? In answer he hoped to hear a declaration from the Government that they intended to put some check on the power of British officers to take service in Turkey or elsewhere and carry on an "unofficial war," to quote Prince Bismarck's phrase, against a Power with which this country was at peace.