HC Deb 04 March 1878 vol 238 cc638-46

in rising to move— That the consideration of the rank and retiring allowances of Adjutants of Volunteers be referred to a Select Committee, said, the Volunteers were formed in 1859, and he was one of their earliest lieutenant-colonels. In that year a War Office Circular was issued authorizing the appointment of adjutants to corps of four companies or 300 men, and a large number of adjutants were appointed. The duties which they had to discharge were arduous and almost incessant. Their pay at first was 8s. a day, or £146 a-year, without any allowances whatever. All the adjutants appointed in the years 1859, 1860, and 1861, really served without any pay at all. Allowances, however, to the amountof £ 138 odd, had since been given for a horse, a house, travelling expenses, and a servant; and deducting this sum from the £146 pay, which alone they received at first, there remained only between £7 and £8 a-year for the adjutants to live upon. These gentlemen were many of them captains in the Army on full-pay before joining the Volunteers; many of them had served more than 30 years in all climates in the world, and had been wounded. The allowances had been given by fits and starts, sometimes going up, sometimes going down; until at last his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, very much to the satisfaction of the gentlemen concerned and the public, had given them full-pay and allowances as captains in the Army. He did not think that this rise could be depended on. When these gentlemen entered the Volunteers they had the Queen's Commission of adjutant with the rank of captain, and he had always thought it hard that when ordered to serve as captains they should not receive captain's pay and allowances. Many of these gentlemen had served 18 and 19 years in the Volunteers in the rank of captains, and had been doing five times the work of captains of Militia, because they worked 10 months in the year. Having mewed these old officers up in our service; now that there had been a general rise in the retiring allowances of every rank in the Army, departmental and other, it was rather hard that they should have no rise in their retiring allowances. These allowances were 3s., 4s., 5s., and 6s. for 15 and 20 years' service. He had traced the matter back as far as 1829, and he had been told it had been traced back as far as 1820, and in that year he believed the allowances were not new. Some time after the Battle of Waterloo, when the country was flooded with retired officers, these allowances were given in addition to half-pay, and then they were fair allowances; but without half-pay, they would be starvation allowances. In 1862 there was a Royal Commission, before which he had the honour of giving evidence, to the effect that there was no use in giving the Volunteers old officers living comfortably in the country; what they wanted was Army men; that there were a thousand things occurring every day in the management of a regiment which must be learnt from those who had filled the post of adjutant and knew the business ab initio. These gentlemen ought to be treated as if the whole of their service was Army service, and have pensions accordingly. Three, four, or five shillings a-day was not sufficient for a gentleman to live upon who had spent his life in the service of his country. What he asked for was a Committee of the House to consider what had not been brought before the Commission, and if anything could be said in contravention of what he had alleged, let it be stated. The old scale had been raised from 3s., 4s., 5s., and 6s., to 7s., 8s., 9s., and 10s.; but it was proved, beyond dispute, that that scale was intended originally for half-pay officers, and not as a full compensation for the services of those gentlemen. On page 41 of the Volunteer Regulations, there was the declaration which every adjutant was obliged to make— namely, that he did not hold any office or employment, and was in receipt of nothing except his half-pay. That clearly proved that the scale was intended for half-pay officers. It was true that they had been obliged to sell their commissions; but the money they had received for those commissions was only their own money returned, and the country could not regard it as pay. He hoped the War Office would take the matter in hand in a kindly spirit. The adjutant in his corps had to look after 11½ companies, and he had to drive over 30 miles of country to drill at night time in school-rooms or large offices, and to travel home late at night. He also had to make himself acquainted with the feelings of persons in the various towns, so as to ascertain who would work well together. As a nation we should be proud of our Volunteers, and a very large Reserve had passed through these officers' hands. He only asked that these adjutants should be treated as if they had been serving in the Army, and be allowed the retirement of their rank. The form of his Motion was for a Committee; but he trusted he would be relieved from pressing it by receiving a promise that what he desired should be carried out. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.


begged to second the proposal which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Worcestershire (Mr. Knight) had made. He did not claim it for the adjutants of Volunteers as a matter of right. Last year the Secretary of State for War said these gentlemen had entered upon this employment under certain conditions, and it was right they should comply with them. But the view he (Colonel Mure) took of it depended upon the question what the service of these gentlemen had been, and what the effect of their service was on the condition of the Volunteer Force? It was asked that a certain indulgence should be granted to them, or that an inquiry should be made into a grievance that they suffered from, in order that the Volunteer Force on which so much depended should be put on a better footing. He had received a letter from a gentleman who was formerly adjutant of the regiment he (Colonel Mure) commanded, and who had served upwards of 35 years without a break, His age was 63; he was not incapacitated by old age; but, he said, without retiring allowances, the result must be that men, under such circumstances, would be disposed to take it easy. Putting aside the question of justice to those gentlemen, he (Colonel Mure) looked upon it as a bad thing that an active and ever strengthening Force like the Volunteers should have their drill conducted, in a great number of instances, by men who felt themselves growing too old for their work; but who could not afford to give it up under the present conditions, and were consequently discontented men. He did not know whether they had read the article by Sir Garnet Wolseleyin The Nineteenth Century. It showed the military condition of Great Britian; and, in speaking of the Volunteers, Sir Garnet said there was no body of men to whom this country owed so much. They had spread, he remarked, not a spirit of "militarism" such as existed abroad, and was one of the reasons why foreign nations were armed to the teeth; but a wholesome military spirit, of which we might soon be able to judge. Sir Garnet Wolseley went farther, and said that the Army owed much to the investigations which civilians had made in military matters. To the noble Lord the Member for Haddington they owed the fact of five or six inches being added to the bayonet, and the Moncrieff gun-carriage was one of the greatest inventions of the day. In expressing the hope that the claim would be favourably considered, he admitted that it was not made as a matter of right; but still it was a matter affecting the welfare of a branch of the Service which had contributed to the efficiency of the whole Army.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the consideration of the rank and retiring allowances of Adjutants of Volunteers he referred to a Select Committee,"—(Mr. Knight,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he brought the matter forward last year, when the Secretary of State admitted that the conditions imposed upon Volunteer adjutants as to retiring allowances were somewhat hard, considering the long service of some of them, and undertook that the subject should be carefully considered. The requests made were these—A certain retiring allowance was offered in 1875 to the old adjutants of Militia if they retired before a certain date, and the old adjutants of Volunteers asked that the same retiring allowance might be offered to them on the same conditions. The second point—the concession of which would cost the country nothing—was that they should have the rank of major granted to them on the same conditions as adjutants of Militia.


said, he could not but think that Volunteer regiments would be more serviceable, efficient, and better drilled if a great many of the adjutants who were now getting well up in years received a proper sum on which they could retire. The proposal to place Volunteer adjutants on the same footing as Militia adjutants, was one which, if adopted, would not burden the public Exchequer to a very great extent.


said, he could not allow the debate to go on without putting hon. Members in possession of the facts. The speech of the hon. Member for Worcestershire (Mr. Knight) was calculated to convey the impression that the Government had seized upon certain officers of the Army, and had compelled them to become adjutants with very bad pay, and without allowing them the means of retirement unless they were incapacitated by age and infirmity. Now, it had been admitted by the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrew-shire (Colonel Mure) that it was only as an indulgence that this concession could be asked. But those officers began with 8s. a-day; they had allowances added, and other advantages given to them, until they now received the pay of a captain while they served; so that, so far as service went, nothing could be said on the score of pay. Last year, when the hon. and gallant Member for Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) brought this question forward, he (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) had undertaken to look into the subject, and he had done so. He was now prepared—indeed, the Warrant for the purpose was on the eve of issue—to take away the condition of age and infirmity, and render the Volunteer adjutants capable of taking a pension after 15 years' service in the Army, and a similar number of years' service in the Volunteers. They would thus be enabled to retire, not, he was bound to say, upon an increased pension, but upon what was the half-pay of a captain in the Army. With respect to the retirement of Militia adjutants, the bargain made with them was a profitable one for the Treasury. The Government undertook to replace them by officers on half-pay, and half-pay was, therefore, at once saved. By this course the Government had been enabled to effect a saving of from £ 14,000 to £ 19,000 a-year. In the present case, however, Government could not adopt the same course, and it would, therefore, be a great loss to the country to give these adjutants what they never had stipulated for, that which it was admitted that they had no real claim to, and that which could only be given to them as an indulgence. It had also been asked that there should be some concession on the point of rank, and he was prepared to propose that the rank of Volunteer adjutants should date back to the real time at which they received that position. They would thus take their place in the Army according to their real rank, instead of only dating it from February 1874. He hoped the House would consider that this was fulfilling what he had undertaken, with justice to the adjutants, and without making too great demands upon the country. Before sitting down he must say that a Select Committee was a most unfit tribunal to consider a matter of indulgence. If it had been to try some question of injustice which he or some other Member of the Government had been guilty of, it might have been a proper tribunal; but he must resist a Motion to refer to such a body a question of a certain indulgence to be granted to certain gentlemen.


expressed satisfaction with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as far as it went. As one of the officers who had served in the Volunteers since the beginning of the movement, he felt that they owed very much to the adjutants, and wished to say a word on their behalf. It was never desirable that public servants should have what they considered a grievance; and, notwithstanding the concessions that had been made, it seemed to him that these adjutants had still a grievance in the fact that the Militia adjutants, who had only two months' service compared with their 10, should be better paid on retirement than Volunteer adjutants were. He hoped that his right hon. Friend would go a little further in his concessions to these useful officers.


admitted that the Volunteer adjutants had no sort of claim; but the country was under obligations to them for the present state of the Volunteer service. It was to the older adjutants of the force that the country was indebted for moulding what was at one time the roughest possible material into something like order, and it was a mistake to retain discontented servants. He thought that an honorary rank on retirement only prostituted the Profession, and hoped that any recognition on the part of the right hon. Gentleman towards these adjutants of Volunteers would take a more substantial form— namely, that of allowing them to retire on a more liberal scale, on condition that it was accepted before a certain date. The offer of honorary rank of major was simply an excuse for evading a liberal payment. The system, now too frequent, of making officers majors, colonels, or major-generals, as the case might be, when they retired from the Service, and ceased to be soldiers at all, was simply a prostitution of military rank.


said, it would be miserable economy to refuse this concession to the Volunteer adjutants, particularly as the officers in question now numbered only 182. No doubt those men had done excellent service in their time; but, on the other hand, there could be no question that many of them must be too old for their positions. Having received 11s. 7d. a-day, they would now retire on a guinea a-week after serving 15 years, or on two guineas a-week after serving 30 years. The right hon. Gentleman had said that these officers had no case, but what case had the officers who were given £200 last year for retiring from the Army? The proposal of the Government would leave the Volunteer Force in the hands of the old adjutants, and he thought it a piece of miserable economy which would do gross injustice to the old adjutants, as well as inflict an injury on the regiments.


said, he received with satisfaction the concession which had been made, and he believed the result would be satisfactory. He rose to call attention to the difference which existed between artillery adjutants and adjutants in rifle regiments. The former received 11s. a-day and the others l1s. 7d., though the duties of the artillery officers were not lighter than those of the officers in the rifle Volunteer regiments.


said, he was very glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman intended to make some concession, though he thought that concession insufficient to meet the grievance of the old adjutants. He thought no change would be sufficient which did not place the adjutants of Volunteers on the same footing as Militia adjutants. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that they had no case; but he thought they had as much case as the Militia adjutants. He had also told them that they had had frequent increases to their allowances, but it must also be remembered that they had some drawbacks for which they had received no compensation whatever. In 1874 they were gazetted back into the Service without their consent, subjecting them to all kinds of new duties. Surely some allowance ought to be made for that. He did not think it was a good principle to increase the pay of these officers by giving them increased allowances of the nature of the surplus on the stationery allowance; but he thought no change ought to be made in the former recognized allowances which would entail a sacrifice upon them. He read a letter from the War Office, dated 1869, written by direction of Lord Cardwell, when Mr. Cardwell, in which the right hon. Gentleman defined the purposes to which the postage and stationery allowance of £4 per company was to be put; and he added that any balance remaining on hand on the 31st March was not to be carried forward to the next account. He (Mr. Anderson) urged that that letter afforded the clearest possible proof that the War Office intended that any saving on that £4 per company should remain with the adjutants. Seeing that there was a very small number of these adjutants, and that many of them were old men, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would adopt the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member, and offer to the adjutants a retiring allowance equal to that of the Militia adjutants, provided they accepted them by a given day.


said, he sympathized with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State in resisting an additional charge on the Estimates, besides, primâ facie, there were great objections to sending a question of this sort to a Select Committee. He would venture to suggest, however, whether, when they were going from an imperfect system to a greatly improved system of appointing and retaining for a limited period Volunteer adjutants, it would not be well to conclude the matter at once, and so to arrange the retiring allowances of adjutants as to ensure that all the old adjutants would at once retire, It was quite certain that if they were to have the plan of the Secretary for War, and nothing more, they would not clear the. list of a number of adjutauts who, in the public interest, should retire as soon as possible. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to re-consider the question from this point of view, and he hoped under the circumstances the Motion would not be pressed to a division.


said, that he should have some remarks to make on the subject when he came to the Volunteer Vote, and, therefore, he would rather not make any observations at that time.

Question put, and negatived.