§ Order for Second Reading.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Secretary Stanley.)
§ MR. E. JENKINS
, in rising to move as an Amendment—That no measure for the Discipline of the Army will be satisfactory which does not secure to every officer accused of any military offence a speedy and impartial trial by a military tribunal, selected under regulations enacted by Parliament, in such a manner as to ensure 456 that the constitution of the Court shall be free from any suspicion of favouritism or prejudice, and act under the rules of evidence governing ordinary legal tribunals, and which moreover does not provide that any military officer accused of a military offence should be tried by a Court Martial, and not by the secret and informal proceedings of Courts of Inquiry,said, that when a Bill which had run the gauntlet of a Select Committee was brought in by the Government for the purpose of defining permanently what were to be the relations of the Crown and of Parliament to the discipline of the Army, it was natural that some hon. Members should wish the propositions submitted to the House to be narrowly examined and jealously scrutinized. It might be felt that he—a civilian—owed an apology to the House for venturing to intrude an opinion on military questions; but this ought to be borne in mind—that, in the present condition of Her Majesty's Army, it was scarcely possible for an officer happening to be a Member of that House to take so clear, so unprejudiced, and so impartial a view of the question raised by the present Bill as one who was free from the trammels of military influence. As the matter which he now brought before the House was one concerning the interests and, he might almost say, the efficiency of some 140,000 soldiers and 7,000 officers, it was well that he or some other hon. Member should represent the true state of affairs. If our Army was one of the most costly, it certainly was one of the most anomalous and irregular machines which existed in the world, and one of the most disorganized. Recently they had seen criticisms upon the organization of the Zulu Army; but he (Mr. E. Jenkins) ventured to say that, barbarian as the Zulu King was, he had greater common sense, a greater regard for efficiency, and, no doubt, greater regard for the interests of the various individuals composing his Army than was apparent in the system of the English Army. It was said to be governed by Prerogative and also by Statute; but no one knew when the Statute governed the Prerogative and when the Prerogative overruled the Statute. It was under the control of a Civil Administration which satin that House, and was also under the control of a Minister appointed by the Crown. At the present moment the Minister in charge was an officer under the Com- 457 mander-in-Chief. That officer, with supreme command of the English Army, was a Royal Duke, a brave, an active, and generous personage, against whose personal honour there was nothing to be said, in that House or elsewhere, but who from his position and power must be the centre of those prejudices and intrigues which were inseparable from the existence of Courts, and which could not be otherwise than detrimental to the welfare of an Army. The Commander-in-Chief had the discipline of the Army in his own hands, and, undoubtedly, as Clode says, to relegate such power to one man must open up questions of great importance. It was right and just, and, indeed, their duty, before they passed that Bill by which they proposed permanently to vest the administration of the Army in the hands of a single man, to see that the powers to be given to the Commander-in-Chief would be restrained within such a compass as to make it impossible that any injustice could be done to the interest even of the meanest private soldier. The Prerogative power for the government of the Army was unrestrained and irresponsible. The Commander-in-Chief, advising the Sovereign, promoted, he transferred, he placed upon half-pay, he was not obliged to give any reason for any of his acts, he had the authority to dismiss men from the Service without assigning any cause, he appointed courts martial or delegated their appointment to others, he appointed Courts of Inquiry, secret and irresponsible, by which reports could be made to the Commander-in-Chief, upon which steps were taken seriously compromising the position of officers; or in some cases he did not appoint courts martial or Courts of Inquiry, thus working as great an injustice as if he had actually appointed one in a wrong case. Before this terrible power no officer in the Army was secure in his position, and against its exercise he had no right or possibility of appeal. The Earl of Bath, Secretary of State during the great Rebellion, said—Nothing can be more terrible than to detach the Military from the Civil part of our Constitution, and establish in the former a blind obedience to the orders of the Commander-in-Chief.And although the House might now feel that it was absolutely necessary that a great power should reside in the Com- 458 mander-in-Chief, it was the duty of Parliament to see that the Crown should exercise the Prerogative under regulations clearly defined, so as to prevent an unrighteous exercise of that Prerogative. While, therefore, he did not wish to take the command of the Army out of the hands of the Crown, he maintained that the exercise of the power of the Commander-in-Chief should be subject to such regulations and restrictions as should secure it against abuse. Although he did not wish to say anything unpleasant, he could not avoid remarking that these powers were now notoriously wielded by influences surrounding the Commander-in-Chief, and it was inevitable that this should be the case unless the Commander-in-Chief was a man of iron will and of the greatest ability. He supposed it would be difficult to find an officer who was less charged with those characteristics than the Royal Duke who now held that position; but the truth of the matter was, and it was well to acknowledge it at once, that the position of the Commander-in-Chief was anomalous and intolerable, and that it ought to have formed the subject of inquiry by the Committee which had considered the Bill. The power he possessed was so terrible, it was so irresponsible, that it was absolutely necessary, not only in the interest of our Constitution, but for the benefit and efficiency of the Army, that that power should be restrained within ascertained limits. Parliament was bound to see that the officers and soldiers of the Army were protected from the abuse of that irresponsible power by strictly and rigidly defining limits within which it was to be exercised. The Bill before the House was of a narrow and restrictive character. It was simply a codification of existing rules, and no attempt had been made to inquire if it were necessary to remedy the abuses which were notoriously known to exist in the Army. The power which the Commander-in-Chief wielded was, indeed, so absolute, that it was necessary for the efficiency of the Army that it should be put into a strait-waistcoat. What he should propose was that in future no single man should hold the power now possessed by the Commander-in-Chief, but that the Officer in command of the Army, like the First Lad of the Admiralty, should be surrounded by a 459 Council of the best General Officers, and when the proper time arrived, he intended to propose the introduction in the Bill of some provisions which would enable them to carry that into effect. It might be said that it would be more convenient if the discussion on his Motion took place in Committee. But what he desired was to strike at the very root of the questions by which the military law of the Army was administered. He should, for the present, leave out of his Amendment the words "relating to legal assessors;" but he should in Committee ask, on the one hand, that military tribunals should be devised which should be at once trustworthy and efficient, and, on the other hand, that the practice which was growing up under the pretence of Prerogative of the Crown, of trying men behind their backs and dismissing them from honourable service without assigning the cause, should at once and for ever cease, for he looked with great jealousy on the proposition to give the Crown the right to alter the Articles of War. Looking to the fact that this was to be an annual Act, he did not see what necessity there was for it. With regard to his Amendment, it would be seen that its proposals referred, first of all, to the competence of the tribunals; secondly, to the promptness of trial; and, thirdly, to the doing away with unconstitutional, at all events with unjustifiable, tribunals, which were now established in the Army, and which, undoubtedly, were creating such widespread dissatisfaction. Courts martial were, in truth, Courts only in name, and not in fact. There was no judge nor jury. Their proceedings had no validity until they were confirmed by the commanding officer. When the confirming officer had once confirmed the sentence of the courts martial there was no tribunal of appeal to which a convicted officer or private could go for redress. Their decisions were an anomaly, their results too often a farce, and, as a general rule, they were formed of men who were in complete ignorance of the laws of the land; therefore, he asked first of all that the selection of courts martial should be placed in hands which should render it impossible that prejudice or partiality could find a place. Of course, in the field it would be necessary to give the commanding officer more discretion than he would otherwise 460 have; but when the House was asked in time of peace to grant such largo powers to commanding officers, care must be taken that the tribunals could be trusted beyond doubt. He was sorry to see, in The Army and Navy Gazette, that in one regiment alone nearly 200 courts martial on officers and men had been held in one year; and it was stated in the evidence before the Committee that nearly 8,000 courts martial were held during the year. It was said that the proceedings in courts martial and the reception of evidence by them were governed by the same rules which prevailed in civil tribunals. But, though many general officers were quite capable of conducting trials, it was certain that there were many officers whom it would not be safe to trust with the trial of the most trifling theft, such even as the stealing of a pin or the shooting of a rabbit, much less the reputation of an officer. In Committee he should move that in every case, except those of ordinary summary jurisdiction, a legal assessor should be present to assist the officers composing the court, and to see that the rules of evidence were duly observed. Then he should propose that the sentence of the court thus constituted should be final, without reference to a confirming officer, for nothing could be more anomalous, objectionable, and unjustifiable than the constitution of these courts and the prefunctory revision of their sentences. Mr. O'Dowd narrated the circumstances of a case in which a private was tried for wilfully making away with a ramrod; and, although the result was that he was neither morally, nor legally, guilty of anything more than neglect, and was entitled to acquittal, he suffered all the consequences of a conviction because the War Office objected, for financial reasons, to redress the injustice inflicted by the court martial. What had occurred in one case might occur in a hundred. Was it to be supposed the Judge Advocate General read over the documents in 8,000 cases? [Mr. CAVENDISH BENTINCK: Yes.] The right hon. and learned Gentleman intimated that he did, audit must be a satisfaction to the Army that they had so zealous a lawyer. There had been many instances of unrighteous trial by court martial, and it was time to say that such injustice should not be perpetuated. But perhaps one of the strongest reasons 461 why the Bill should not be allowed to pass in its present form was that there was growing up in the Army a practice—he could not call it a jurisdiction—of inquiry at the instance of the Commander-in-Chief into the conduct of officers under the name of Court of Inquiry—asecretirresponsible tribunal, before which the person against whom the charge was made might never be summoned.["No, no!"] He would be glad to have the contrary proved; but he repeated that persons were often not summoned, or even told of the charges brought against them. The report of this Court of Inquiry, which was in the nature of a confidential report to the Commander-in-Chief, need not be, and often was not, conveyed to the person dismissed from the Service. Was it possible for officers to feel comfortable in their position when there was the possibility of such action—when there was this sword suspended over their heads? The Commander-in-Chief, upon receipt of these reports, exercised the Prerogative of the Crown in transferring, dismissing, or placing on half-pay; and in a number of cases the power had been exercised with what the House must feel was not a righteous discretion. He (Mr. Jenkins) asked if it was proper that an officer of Her Majesty's Army should be subjected to such an anomaly, and whether such secret and irresponsible action as that on the part of the military authorities was calculated to maintain a desirable feeling in the Army amongst officers? Without detailing a number of cases, he would refer to one or two. Any Army and nation must feel ashamed when they recalled the case of Colonel Dawkins, and must feel it was a disgrace to the Army and the officers engaged in it. One of the results of the personal government to which he had alluded was that a number of miserable petty little cases were brought before these Courts of Inquiry, the members of which sometimes resembled a lot of monthly nurses sitting at gossip around a tea-table. They discussed questions which the Duke of Wellington always allowed to be settled by the officers themselves, and the result was that, in consequence of the system of personal government in the Army, the utmost dissatisfaction prevailed. Some droll instances of this had come out before Courts of Law, such as that where 462 an officer complained of Colonel Dawkins putting his tent so as to obstruct his view of the Black Sea. Whether one officer had rightly refused to shake hands with another was a question which never ought to go further than the informal court of honour which the officers of the regiment held among themselves. There was a great deal too much of this sort of thing, and it showed that the military and social condition of the Army had deteriorated. Another point—great injustice also was done to men by delay of trial after arrest; and in reference to the point, he would ask hon. Members to look at the case of Captain Hawtrey, of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley. That officer was placed under arrest, and though the Articles of War declared that an officer placed under arrest should be brought to trial as speedily as possible, yet it was 54 days before he was even acquainted with the charge upon which he was placed in his humiliating position; and, in spite of repeated applications, it was seven months before he was, at the direction of the Commander-in-Chief, released from arrest. The charge was of having appropriated certain articles the property of Government. In the end he was dismissed from the Service—after his release—on the proceedings of a Court of Inquiry, and from 1873 to that day he did not know what those proceedings were. This case would be sufficient to show how dangerous, how discreditable, such proceedings were to the efficiency of the Army, and if they were permitted to exist, it would not be creditable to the House; for surely that efficiency depended not only on exprit de corps, but on the feeling that should animate both officers and privates that in all cases of difference of opinion they could rely on the decision of a true, impartial, unprejudiced authority, with liberty of further appeal, he felt the difficulty of speaking with perfect frankness on one of those great institutions connected with their great fame, and of which this country was justly proud. If, unhappily, from temporary circumstances its administration had come into disrepute, he would say it was more from individual weakness than from any dishonourable intentions; but feeling that, he felt it all the more necessary the House should re-organize the administration of military discipline, making it impossible, 463 on the one hand, to make mistakes, and, on the other, taking means to prevent corruption and secure equal justice. He ventured to say that men to whom the glories of the country were intrusted ought not to be submitted to such a doubtful system, and he commended his Motion to the House as one which alone could assure the future of the Army. He urged that justice should be done in the Army, as by that means only could we retain an Army prompted by a loyal and patriotic devotion to the country, and which should be able to discharge the great and noble duties devolving upon it. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment, as amended, of which he had given Notice.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
, who had the following Amendment on the Paper:—That, in the opinion of this House, it is not desirable that any change should be made in the constitutional relations which at present exist between the Grown, the Army, and Parliament,said, that as the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) had withdrawn from his Amendment that part of it which referred to the appointment of legal assessors upon courts martial, he had much pleasure in seconding it. In doing so, he would address himself particularly to its latter part, relating to Courts of Inquiry, upon which he desired to offer some remarks to the House, with a view to obtaining their sanction that those Courts should be placed under certain regulations. But before proceeding to that part of the subject, he wished to refer to the general question of the Bill before the House. He thought that the Secretary of State for War would have saved a great deal of time if he had sent this new Bill, like the Bill of last year, to a Select Committee. Again, the Bill now before the House, although the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had stated that it was drawn upon the lines of the Bill laid before the Committee, was not, in point of fact, drawn upon those lines. The Bill which was laid before the Committee last year was called the Army Discipline Bill, and the draftsman had stated that the second part of the subject was included in what he called an Army Regulation Bill, but that it was not ready to be placed before the Committee. The Committee had gone very carefully through the Army Discipline Bill, but had never 464 seen the Army Regulation Bill; and the former contained only 117 clauses, while the Bill which the House was then asked to road a second time contained 180 clauses. The Committee were informed last year that the Bill laid before them had not received the approval of the military authorities, the Commander-in-Chief having stated that he could not be responsible for any part of it, and that neither he nor his Staff had had the opportunity of going over it. With regard to the Bill before the House, there was even then no security that the Commander-in-Chief and his Staff had examined it and approved its provisions, and therefore he was confirmed in his opinion that time would have been saved had the Bill been sent to a Select Committee; but as neither course had been adopted, hon. Members would have to thresh out the subject in Committee as best they could. Another point on which he was disappointed was that the House had not before it the draft of the annual Bill by which it was intended to bring the Army Regulation Bill into operation. A great deal depended on the wording of the annual Bill; and in a question of so much importance as that under consideration, the House should be in possession of the whole scheme of the Government. He could not, therefore, conceive why the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had not presented a draft of his annual Bill. Turning to Courts of Inquiry, he (Sir Alexander Gordon) held, in common with nearly all the superior officers of the Army, that those Courts as now used were most objectionable, and that they were not recognized either by Parliament or by any legal authority whatever. If hon. Members would turn to the 6th clause of the Mutiny Act, they would find that—For the purpose of bringing offenders against this Act and against the Articles of War to justice, Her Majesty may, from time to time, in like manner as has been heretofore used, grant Commissions under the Royal Sign Manual for the holding of Courts Martial within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.Such was the course laid down by Parliament when officers committed offences against military discipline. It would also be found that clear instructions on that point were further laid down by the 18th Article of War, which said, that— 465When any person subject to the Mutiny Act should be charged with committing an offence, he shall, if necessary, be put under arrest, and every soldier so put under arrest shall be brought to trial ….Nothing could be clearer than that the intentions of Parliament were that a court martial should be the tribunal before which every officer or soldier accused of an offence should have the opportunity of clearing himself. But a practice had been lately introduced, and was being gradually extended, of suspending an officer from his duty; and, instead of putting him under arrest and trying him by court martial, as required by the Mutiny Act and Articles of War, he was now brought before a Court of Inquiry. In the Mutiny Act and in the Articles of War, not one single word was to be found relating to suspension from duty, which was unknown and unrecognized. Neither did those Acts contain any instruction for the examination, by means of Courts of Inquiry, into the conduct of officers or soldiers; they were, therefore, not recognized by any laws passed by Parliament for the regulation of the Army. In his opinion, it was a very great injustice that the course defined by Parliament should not be followed; because the neglect of that course opened the door to every kind of irregularity and hardship. He was aware that it was said by the authorities with regard to these Courts that "they are never held;" "we know nothing about them;" "they are never recognized." But it was precisely for these reasons that the grievance existed. He had before him the record of the proceedings of two Courts of Inquiry. At the first of these, 14 witnesses were brought forward on the side of the prosecution by the commanding officer, and they were all civilians. For the defence there were three witnesses who were also all civilians. One of the witnesses for the defence was the dean of the diocese within the limits of which the Court of Inquiry sat; another witness was a lady who had for a long time boon an acquaintance of the dean. The officer on whom the Court of Inquiry was held was never allowed to know the decision at which it arrived; and to that day, therefore, he remained in ignorance as to whether or not he was cleared of the charge. In the next case, 12 witnesses were brought on the side of the prosecution by the com- 466 manding officer. They were all either non-commissioned officers or privates. But not one officer was brought to prove the charge alleged against the officer, who put forward in his defence but one witness, whose testimony scattered to the winds all the evidence that the commanding officer had brought forward. In that case, also, the officer was not allowed to know the decision of the Court. It could not be denied that such proceedings were a deviation from the law as laid down by Parliament, and constituted a great grievance. He would like the House to compare the case just referred to, in which 12 soldiers were brought forward to give evidence against an officer, and that relating to the imprisonment of a soldier in the guard-room, about which the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) had asked a Question of the former Secretary of State for War (Mr. Gathorne Hardy). The hon. Member asked—Whether it was true that Private George Mills, of Her Majesty's 94th Regiment, was, on the 29th day of January last, put under arrest, he having made a grave charge against an Officer of his Regiment; that he was so continued under arrest until the 10th day of February following; that in the meanwhile the Officer against whom such charge was made, having been placed under arrest, broke his arrest and absconded, and subsequently sent in his resignation, whereupon Mills was released; whether the imprisonment of George Mills in the above circumstances and his subsequent discharge without trial were in accordance with Military Law; and, whether he is entitled to receive any compensation for his imprisonment?To this Mr. Gathorne Hardy had replied—The statement contained in the Question of the hon. Gentleman is generally correct, but not altogether so. The private in question, George Mills, made a charge against an officer of his regiment for an offence committed in the August previous. He was put under detention. He was not imprisoned, but confined in the guard-room, and as his pay was continued to him he suffered no loss whatever. On the officer absconding an order was sent from the Horse Guards for his release on the 8th February, and on the 10th he was released. Under such circumstances, his detention was strictly in accordance with law, and was both legal and justifiable."—[3 Hansard, ccxxxiii. 11.]He (Sir Alexander Gordon) maintained that his detention was neither justifiable nor according to law; and he thought that, while they were dealing with the Act now before the House, steps should be taken to prevent a soldier being placed in confinement for stating of his 467 own accord what he knew in order that justice might be done. He would just read two lines of the evidence given by His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief before the Select Committee last year. His Royal Highness, on being asked whether the course pursued in the case of George Mills was according to law, replied—Of course, if a man merely wants to make a statement, you would not confine him; but if a man had used bad language or anything of that sort, of course then he would be confined, because it is an offence, however trivial it may be.That was precisely the argument which he (Sir Alexander Gordon) used. Again, with regard to Courts of Inquiry, he would like to quote the evidence of two witnesses who were examined before the Court Martial Committee. The first of these was Sir Henry Storks, one of the most able and practical soldiers in the Army, who, when asked his opinion as to Courts of Inquiry, replied—They are unsatisfactory, but they are useful in some respects; for instance, for inquiry into circumstances which took place, such as a fire or robbery, because there you really have a tangible form of evidence;but he never gave it as his opinion that they were a proper means of investigating crimes committed by officers, noncommissioned officers or privates; on the contrary, he said "he thought them very unsatisfactory tribunals" for that purpose. The Commander-in-Chief was also examined by that Commission; and he (Sir Alexander Gordon) asked the House to notice the practice of Courts of Inquiry as stated by His Royal Highness himself, because no hon. Member could doubt that his statement was a correct one. His Royal Highness said—When any grave offence is committed, and the case is not a very clear one, a Court of Inquiry is constituted to ascertain, as far as possible, the circumstances in which that offence has been committed.The House had already been shown the course ordered by Parliament, and hon. Members had now before them the statement of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief that another course was adopted. Again, being asked—Are Courts of Inquiry in practice ever followed by such consequences to officers as the loss of a commission?His Hoyal Highness replied— 468No; but a man may be advised, after a Court of Inquiry, that he had better resign his commission or else stand a court martial, and he often prefers to resign his commission.The Commander-in-Chief went on to say—That Courts of Inquiry could not be considered to be very satisfactory tribunals in one respect, as they could not compel witnesses to appear before them, nor could the evidence be taken upon oath.And he further stated, in answer to the question whether he could recollect any case in which hardship had been suffered by an officer in consequence of a Court of Inquiry having been held, that "he was not aware of any," and that the results which followed "were the act of the Crown and not of the Court of Inquiry." That was precisely the grievance of those who objected to these Courts of Inquiry. The Court sat, and although it passed no sentence, the Crown was advised to act upon the opinion of the Court of Inquiry, instead of subjecting the accused to court martial. Article 66 of the Regulations of the Army embodied his (Sir Alexander Gordon's) idea of what the functions of a Court of Inquiry ought to be—namely, that—It should be employed when required to give an opinion on any proposed question as to the origin or cause of certain existing facts.And if the practice had been confined to the Regulation, nobody would have had any objection to offer. As Sir Henry Storks had said, if a fire had taken place, or a robbery had been committed, those were facts which a Court of Inquiry might examine; but it was a wholly different thing to subject the conduct of an officer to the examination of a Court of Inquiry. With the permission of the House, he would read the Regulations of the United States with regard to military Courts of Inquiry. The Ordinance was dated as far back as 1786, and stated—In such cases, where the general or commanding officer may think proper to order a Court of Inquiry to examine into the nature of any transaction, imputation, or charge against any officer or soldier, the said Court shall be conducted upon the following regulations:—It may consist of one or more officers, not exceeding three, with a Judge Advocate and a suitable person as Recorder, all of whom shall be sworn to the faithful performance of their duties; this Court shall have power to summon witnesses, and to examine them on oath; it shall 469 give an opinion respecting the charge alleged, and the parties accused shall be permitted to cross-examine the witnesses brought forward; but as Courts of Inquiry may be perverted, and may be considered as engines of destruction in the hands of a weak and envious commandant, they are hereby prohibited, unless demanded by the accused.Thus it would be seen that in America, a century ago, they were so advanced in justice and equity that they would not allow a Court of Inquiry to assemble, unless asked for by the accused. That Act was amended in 1806 in the following manner, by adding the words:—But as Courts of Inquiry may be perverted to dishonourable purposes, and may be considered as engines of destruction, they are hereby prohibited, unless directed by the President of the United States, or demanded by the accused.Thus, after having had experience of the Act for 20 years, they added the President of the United States, as the only person authorized to order a Court of Inquiry. But in this country every commanding officer, every captain might order a Court of Inquiry, under such regulations as he might think proper to make. He might hold a secret Court, and put the record of its decision in the fire; he might let the accused know the result, or otherwise, just exactly as he pleased. He would remind the House that the originator of the Committee that sat last year was the late Sir Colman O'Loghlen, the former Judge Advocate General, whose Notice of Motion, made two years ago, implied that the Reference to the Committee should embrace, not only courts martial, but also Courts of Inquiry. He (Sir Colin an O'Loghlen) was strongly of opinion that Courts of Inquiry were objectionable, and had he lived he would have pressed on the Government that there should be no Courts of Inquiry. The Government, however, had not allowed the scope of the Committee of last year to extend to Courts of Inquiry, which they had accordingly struck out. He (Sir Alexander Gordon) thought he had shown that the law, as laid down by Parliament, did not recognize Courts of Inquiry, and that the sole judicial tribunals recognized by Parliament were courts martial. If, therefore, Courts of Inquiry were to be maintained—and he saw no objection thereto if they were properly conducted—he asked the House to put them under proper regulations, 470 so that all officers and men might serve their country with feelings of satisfaction and security, from their conviction that no secret charges could be brought against them without their knowledge, and without full inquiry, that they would be made acquainted with the result of that inquiry, and that the old English maxim ubijus ibi remedium would be acted upon.
To leave out the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "no measure for the Discipline of the Army will be satisfactory which does not secure to every officer accused of any military offence a speedy and impartial trial by a military tribunal, selected under regulations enacted by Parliament, in such a manner as to ensure that the constitution of the Court shall be free from any suspicion of favouritism or prejudice, and act under the rules of evidence governing ordinary legal tribunals, and which, moreover, does not provide that any military officer accused of a military offence shall be tried by a court martial, and not by the secret and informal proceedings of Courts of Inquiry,"—(Mr. Edward Jenkins,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be loft out stand part of the Question."
§ COLONEL ALEXANDER
said, that the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) had stated with perfect truth that there were as many as 8,000 courts martial in one year which were not attended by legal assessors. That was true, however, for the simple reason that in eight out of ten cases they were mostly of such a trivial nature as not to require any legal assessor at all. Any hon. and gallant Member in that House who had served as a regimental officer in the Army knew that these courts martial, and especially regimental courts martial, were convened mostly to try cases of absence without leave, and the evidence that was given was simply formal. They were mostly cases that might be settled at once by the commanding officer, and without a court martial at all. But in all difficult cases legal assessors were always appointed in the shape of deputy Judge Advocates, who had studied and passed a special examination in military law. The hon. Member for Dundee had alluded to the evidence of Sir Henry Thring. Sir Henry Thring had rather surprised the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), who was the Chairman of the Committee, by stating that a 471 court martial was not a Court at all, and for this reason, as stated by the hon. Member for Dundee, that its decisions were liable to be revised by a confirming authority. It was quite true that the confirming authority would send bask sentences for re-consideration; but it could not compel the members of a court martial to alter their decision. It was within his (Colonel Alexander's) own knowledge that courts martial had sent back the reply that they respectfully adhered to their former finding. Then, with regard to the statement of Sir Henry Turing that a court martial was neither a Judge nor a jury, he (Colonel Alexander) respectfully submitted to the House that it was both, and that the wording of the two oaths which the members took proved such to be the case. The first oath was that—You shall well and truly try and determine, according to the evidence in the matter now before you?They took the oath in their capacity of jurors. Then they took another oath in their capacity of Judges, which was—You shall swear that you will duly administer justice, according to the rules and articles for the better government of Her Majesty's Forces.As he entirely approved of the principles of the Bill, he intended to give it his hearty support. At present the penal discipline of the Army was dealt with by the Mutiny Act and also by the Articles of War, the latter being dependent on the former. Most of the witnesses who had been examined thought it was most objectionable to have two documents side by side dealing with that matter. As the hon. and learned Member for Oxford, who presided over the Select Committee, had said, either the two things were identical, and then one of them was useless, or they must be different, and then both were confusing. It was quite true that the Mutiny Act and the Articles of War were periodically read to the troops; but every officer knew what a complete farce that ceremony was. Not one man in 50 heard what was read; but that was of the less consequence, as they could not possibly understand it if they did hear. The plan of consolidating the Mutiny Act and the Articles of War was, therefore, in his humble judgment, an excellent one, and he could not understand 472 the suspicion with which it was viewed by hon. Members opposite. Parliament was not now asked to part with any of its control, but quite the reverse. Over the Articles of War it had exercised no control whatever, and he (Colonel Alexander) had ventured to point out, when the late Sir Colman O'Loghlen brought the subject before them, that they had never had any guarantee that the Articles of War were in accordance with the Mutiny Act. Mr. Clode had well said that while that House had been gradually asserting its authority over the Mutiny Act, the Crown had always claimed the prerogative of passing Articles of War. But henceforward, if this Bill became law, the Mutiny Act and the Articles of War would be embodied in one document, to which reference would be made in an annual Act, and then it would be competent for any hon. Member to propose to alter or repeal any particular clause of the permanent Act. It was quite true that the Crown would still retain to itself the prerogative of passing new Articles of War; but he thought it was a power which would very rarely be exercised, as he believed, as Sir Henry Thring had pointed out, that it would be impossible for the ingenuity of man to discover any crime which could not be dealt with and punished under the existing Act. He, while giving his general support to the Bill, could not, however, commend all its defects, one of which certainly appeared to him to be that it had been prepared with undue haste. Some very important and, indeed, startling changes were introduced into the Bill. Take the power of commanding officers. Although there was only one witness, the Commander-in-Chief, and although he expressed himself in the strongest terms as being opposed to the reduction of noncommissioned officers otherwise than by court martial, a clause of the nature already referred to had been engrafted in this Bill. The Duke of Cambridge said in his evidence that he was of opinion that—You ought not to give summary power to break non-commissioned officers; it should be done by a court martial;and he (Colonel Alexander) regretted that view was not adhered to in the Bill. With regard to half-pay officers, although the Committee thought it in- 473 expedient to pronounce any opinion, in the absence of any decided information, as to whether those officers should be brought within the scope of military law, a clause was introduced into the Bill rendering half-pay officers liable. That was a change of great importance, and one which he hoped the House would not sanction. There were also some alterations in courts martial on officers which were not very desirable. He was of opinion that cashiering as at present, and not imprisonment, as proposed in the Bill, ought to be the sentence on the conviction of an officer for scandalous conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman; and he should propose an Amendment to that effect in Committee, so that the clause might stand as it was in the present Act. With regard to the power which it was intended to give commanding officers to inflict 21 days' imprisonment on soldiers, he thought it would be well to limit it to cases of absence without leave where the evidence was purely formal and not to be given on oath. This was a rather dangerous power to give, and he thought the possession of it might tempt some commanding officers to make use of it more than they ought to do for the purpose of gaining the credit of keeping down the number of courts martial in their regiments. In conclusion, he must express his satisfaction that if the Bill became law a court martial would never be re-assembled for the purpose of increasing a sentence, and that a verdict of acquittal would be at once notified to the accused. He thought it would require very considerable amendment in Committee; but it went in the right direction, and he hoped that the House would consent to read it a second time.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK
, who had placed the following Amendment on the Paper:—That, in the opinion of this House, it is not expedient unduly to increase the powers of Commanding Officers as to the summary imprisonment of soldiers, and the summary reduction of Non-Commissioned Officers without trial by Courts Martial, nor to enlarge the powers of the executive by bringing half-pay Officers under the operation of the Mutiny Act, in the entire absence of any proof that such increased powers are necessary to the Discipline of the Army, or are called for by any existing defect in its working,said, he must formally recant the approval he had expressed of the Bill when 474 it was introduced. On that occasion he had been, no doubt, unintentionally, misled by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman into supposing that the Bill followed pretty closely on the lines of the recommendations of the Committee of which he had the honour to be a Member. He now found there had been a considerable departure, and he could not say that the changes had been improvements in any sense of the word, for it was almost impossible to recognize the Bill as a part of the original scheme. It was understood that the alterations were in the direction of simplification; but it would hardly be contended that simplification was the merit of this Bill. Indeed, it would appear that the drafters had gone about trying to make the language of the Bill as obscure and difficult to understand as it was possible. The two greatest objections he had to the Bill were those embodied in the Amendment which stood in his name upon the Paper. The first of these objections concerned the increased powers given to commanding officers as to the summary imprisonment of soldiers. The Committee desired to extend the soldier's power of appeal, whereas the Bill materially limited it, and there was no sufficient evidence for the necessity of the change. The powers of the commanding officer were delegated to all officers, however young, commanding detachments, however small, so that the practical effect of the change would be to give young officers an irresponsible power of awarding a soldier 21 days' imprisonment on inquiries conducted without sworn evidence. Such a change was not called for by any circumstances of the Service of which the Committee were aware. It would not reduce the number of courts martial; but, on the contrary, it would increase them, because it would induce soldiers, as often as possible, to avail themselves of the right of appeal. He would, therefore, in Committee, propose this limitation—that the power of imprisoning for 21 days should be confined to officers of the rank of field officers, except in cases of absence without leave. His second objection related to the bringing of half-pay officers under the operation of the Bill. That was a change that was entirely unnecessary, as the existing powers of the Secretary of State were sufficient to meet the requirements of every case. He should 475 therefore move in Committee the omission of this clause. Many matters were not in the Bill which he had hoped to find in it; and he could not discover that the Militia Reserve Act, or the Army Reserve Act of 1867, or the two Enlistment Acts of 1870 had been introduced. He could not support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) in its entirety, though he agreed with its intention, because it was so worded as to do injustice to the working of the military law in one or two particulars. The hon. Member made it appear, for instance, that it was necessary for legal assessors to be appointed at military trials. The hon. Member was probably not aware that legal advice was obtainable by the accused whenever it was considered necessary for the purpose of his defence. He (Sir Henry Havelock) had never known a case in which a soldier had desired legal advice and had not obtained it, even though his means were not large enough to provide it for himself. The hon. Member also fell into another mistake in speaking of officers being tried "by the secret and informal proceedings of Courts of Inquiry." A Court of Inquiry was not in any sense a judicial tribunal, nor could it try anybody. It was simply a Board of Inquiry assembled for the purpose of obtaining and bringing together evidence, so that those who had to adjudicate finally upon the case might be able to form an opinion from the summary thus laid before them. The defect in the existing Courts of Inquiry was not so much that they were secret and informal, for it was not the practice to hold them behind the back of the officer whose interests were affected, and the Regulations enjoined that the accused should have the right to be present and cross-examine witnesses, but that they were sometimes used for purposes for which they were not intended. He thought there was occasionally a tendency on the part of the military authorities to use them unduly; and in the interests of military administration itself, it would be better that a Court of Inquiry should never be opened except as the preliminary of a court martial. He believed that if that were the custom justice would almost invariably be done. Only two results ought to be possible as the end of a Court of Inquiry, either the full acquittal of the accused, or his sub- 476 sequent trial by court martial; so that in either case the justice of the process would be evident. When the House went into Committee on the Bill, he should move an Amendment to that effect. On the whole, it must be evident to everyone familiar with the administration of the Army that his hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, from imperfect information, had somewhat done it an injustice. He should have liked to have seen the Bill referred to a Select Committee; but as the Session was now too far advanced to permit of that course being taken, he hoped that in Committe of the House full opportunity would be given for the discussion of the several clauses, so that they might make the Bill a good addition to military administration.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that none would deny the importance of the measure before the House; nor would anyone acquainted with the Service oppose the second reading. In many respects he agreed with the criticisms of hon. and gallant Members; but he was surprised to find the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir Alexander Gordon) seconding the Motion of the hon. Member for Dundee, as the hon. and gallant Member's own knowledge of how Parliamentary Business was conducted ought to have told him that he was much more likely to obtain the provisions which he required by allowing the Bill to go into Committee than by meeting the second reading with a hostile Amendment. He quite concurred in what had been said of Courts of Inquiry by the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Sir Henry Havelock), and believed that they ought to be regarded only as the means of obtaining as much information as possible, and if it should then appear that there was any case coming under those cases for which a court martial was applicable, a court martial should follow. He believed that if such were the practice no objection would be felt to these Courts, and that in many instances they would prove efficacious and useful. Then, again, he agreed with the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for South Ayrshire (Colonel Alexander) as to the inexpediency of bringing half-pay officers under the Mutiny Acts. This was an absolutely new proposition, and ought not to be 477 introduced into any Bill of the kind; and he hoped that his right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State for War would be open to conviction on that point. The power of commanding officers to give 21 days' imprisonment was another question that might very properly be reserved for consideration in Committee. It would be found desirable, in some instances, that the power of commanding officers should be increased; in others, and particularly where young and inexperienced officers were in command, that it should be diminished. A branch of the general subject of the power of commanding officers was contained in Clause 173, from which it appeared that they had power to degrade non-commissioned officers, or, at least, such was his inference from the wording of the clause. The point was one that would deserve the attention of the Committee, together with the question raised by the hon. Member for Wenlock (Mr. A. H. Brown) as to the authority under which the Volunteer Forces would be placed if they were called out with the Regular troops. He was quite sure that he only echoed the sentiments of most of the Volunteers in hoping that both they and the Regulars might serve under precisely the same military regulations, and that they should, when called out, be treated in precisely the same manner as the latter. He could not say that the Bill was well drawn; but he hoped Her Majesty's Government would receive the assistance of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford in improving it when in Committee. He trusted the Bill would be read a second time that evening.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that whatever assistance he could render in Committee on the Bill would be at the disposal of the Government. But he wished to say a word or two on behalf of the Committee after what had been said by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins), who, he regretted to see, was not in the House to hear the answer given to the strictures he had passed upon it. That hon. Member was not a person who dealt in universal approbation. He (Sir William Harcourt) should say that the turn of the hon. Gentleman's mind was of an opposite description; and he doubted whether the work of any Committee would meet with. 478 his approval of which he was not a Member, and himself the Chairman, and on which he had his own way. But the Committee, which had not had that advantage, did their best, though they very properly, as he thought, set limits to their work. There were a great number of military questions upon which they declined to pass judgment, as they thought that a Parliamentary Committee was not the best body to settle questions relating to military discipline. They had, indeed, expressed their view that these were matters that must come before the House of Commons, on the recommendation of the military authorities. The administration of the Army was, in the highest sense of the word, the business of the Executive Government; but, of course, they required Parliamentary sanction for their recommendation, and the responsibility of adopting any recommendations on the subject which might be made belonged to them rather than to a Parliamentary Committee. How was it possible, for instance, that a Committee could form an adequate judgment as to the power with which a commanding officer ought to be intrusted? Any recommendation upon such a point should, he thought, come from the military authorities. The subject of half-pay was, perhaps, on rather a different footing, though on that point he was inclined to be guided by the opinion of those best able to form one; and upon that, too, the Committee declined to pronounce a decided opinion, believing that the same authorities were the persons best fitted to deal with it. Having received no strong opinion upon these points from the military authorities, they had left it to the Government to make such recommendations to the House of Commons as they saw fit, and to give such reasons for them as they thought proper. When the Bill came into Committee, the House would then be able to judge of the reasons. There was only one other point of serious consequence raised, and that formed the subject-matter of the Amendment. The hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir Alexander Gordon) had been anxious to bring this before the Committee; but the Committee did not pronounce upon it, because Courts of Inquiry were not by their very nature subjects of statutory enactment. They arose from the unquestionable Preroga- 479 tive of the Crown to dismiss an officer at its pleasure from its service. There were certain servants of the Crown, such as the Judges, who held their offices during good behaviour, and could not be removed at its pleasure; but if the tenure of a commission in the Army was to be placed upon the same footing, and not to be during pleasure—he would not say whether it was right or wrong—then a most revolutionary change would be made, and the officers of our Army would, in that respect, be put in a different position from that in which they had ever stood before, or from that which the officers of any other Army in the world occupied. The alteration was one, therefore, for which he thought very strong reasons should be given before it was assented to. The Crown had a perfect right to remove an officer, not for any military offence, but because he might be supposed not to be the most fit person for the particular appointment which he filled. There were, in fact, many things which might be good grounds for an officer's removal, but which would still not be proper subjects for inquiry by a court martial, and on which it might be desirable to have the opinion of a Court of Inquiry, consisting of those of equal rank with the accused. Such a Court, properly constituted, was merely what he would call a Court of Conscience, which guided the judgment of the Crown in the exercise of what was the absolute, but what might undoubtedly be made an oppressive, Prerogative. A court martial had a totally different function to fulfil. A Court of Inquiry might, as he suggested, possibly be used with great hardship for purposes for which a court martial should be employed, and it might be a very salutary change to prevent that abuse and to confine them to their proper functions. If some provision were made in the Queen's Regulations, or otherwise, as to the subject-matters to which Courts of Inquiry should be applied, that object might, without difficulty be effected. There were many parts of the Bill on which he was incapable of forming an opinion; but the great merit of it, to his mind, was that it was a consolidation of the Mutiny Act and the Articles of War. The consent by the Crown to bring the Articles of War into the Mutiny Act was a great concession and advantage. It had brought the whole 480 thing under Parliamentary revision and control. There was still left to the Crown the power of making Articles of War in unforeseen cases, which was very just and proper. There was only one criticism which he had to make on the Bill, and that was on the 40th section, commonly called "The Devil's Clause," which provided for offences "to the prejudice of military discipline." That clause dealt with those who were guilty of conduct that was a breach of military disclipline, such as had not been specified in previous clauses. The words "though not in this Act otherwise specified," were used in it, and under their operation a man might be tried for any offence whatsoever; and it had been recommended by the Committee that, although there should be some such general clause, it should not be used as a substitute for the other clauses in which particular offences were specified. He should, therefore, in Committee, move that the word "though" in the clause be struck out, with the view of giving effect to that recommendation. He hoped the Government would have the support of the House in the second reading, and that the House might soon set seriously to work to amend the Bill in Committee.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he entirely concurred in what had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir William Harcourt). He must observe that he had given Notice of his intention to move in Committee the omission from Clause 166 of the word "half-pay," and that he saw that word in the clause with astonishment, as the effect of its insertion would be to bring officers on half-pay within the operation of this Bill. He read the evidence which was given at considerable length on the subject, and he did not gather from that evidence that it was considered desirable by the Committee that any such provision should be introduced. In fact, one of the witnesses, who professed to speak for his right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State for War, distinctly took care to reserve his opinion. He hoped his right hon. and gallant Friend was still open to conviction, and that the word "half-pay" would be struck out without the necessity of moving its omission, and that the condition of half-pay officers would remain as before. Half-pay was in part 481 a recompense for past services, and in part a retaining fee for future service; but it was not in any sense a payment for the performance of any present duty. While officers received half-pay, they were liable to the civil tribunals of this country and not to martial law. There was one opinion of great weight to which his hon. and gallant Friend did not allude. Lord Mansfield said that an officer was amenable to a court martial for an offence committed when in actual service; but that he was not amenable to trial by court martial when he was not in actual service and full pay. What he (Sir John Hay) was quoting bore rather upon the Naval Discipline Act; but he was quite sure the general course of legislation in this country was in accord with his assertion that half-pay officers had hitherto been excluded from being "obnoxious"—he thought that was the expression—to trial by court martial. He desired to make an earnest appeal to his right hon. and gallant Friend to strike out the word "half-pay," so that when the Bill reached Committee it would not be necessary to move the omission of the word. If, however, it should still be necessary, he should be prepared to submit a proposition to secure that result.
§ COLONEL MURE
said that, like the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), he was anxious that the Bill should pass its second reading that evening. In reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins), he thought it contained much concerning courts martial which would meet with the approval of every soldier; but there was much which was open to objection; for instance, the hon. Member had compared the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to Cetywayo, and drew conclusions very much infavour of that eminent person. Whether the hon. Member compared His Royal Highness to Cetywayo did not appear; but in entering into questions of military discipline his hon. Friend had made what appeared to him as a military man uncalled-for and, to the minds of all soldiers in the House, ungenerous remarks on the Commander-in-Chief. He had, indeed, spoken of the Commander-in-Chief as an honourable and brave man; but that was merely a prelude to remarks derogatory to His Royal Highness. Now, 482 during the many years His Royal Highness had been Commander-in-Chief, he had year after year more endeared himself to the Army; and the general feeling of the public towards him, excepting, of course, such ardent reformers as the hon. Member for Dundee, was one of gratitude for the good he had done to the Army, of admiration for his administrative capacity, and also for the courageous way in which he had met the many difficulties, which other Commanders-in-Chief had not had to encounter, in the numerous changes which had taken place in the administration of the Army from time to time.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
denied that there was anything in his speech derogatory to His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief. He simply pointed out that the Commander-in-Chief was placed in a position of extraordinary responsibility, which it would require extraordinary powers adequately to fill, and had suggested that he should be assisted by a Council.
§ COLONEL MURE
said, that the hon. Member for Dundee, if he had not spoken derogatively of the Commander-in-Chief, had certainly said that the authority he exorcised ought to be placed in a strait-waistcoat.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
explained that the reference was to the prerogative of the Commander-in-Chief, and not to him personally.
§ COLONEL MURE
went on to say that he thought it difficult to separate the person from his functions in such remarks; but he accepted the hon. Member's disclaimer. Did his hon. Friend propose that we should have an Aulic Council instead of the Commander-in-Chief? He (Colonel Mure) could not approve of such a proposal, seeing that history was against the formation of such a body; for it was well known that the disaster which followed Austria in the Napoleonic wars was in consequence of their adoption of this system, and of the want of a responsible head for the Army. Suppose that Council did not satisfy his hon. Friend, would he recommend that its authority should be placed in a strait-waistcoat? With regard to the Amendment of his hon. Friend, he was surprised that it dealt exclusively with officers, leaving the common soldier, who stood far more in need of protection, utterly unnoticed. It was true that 483 the hon. Member for Dundee referred to the private soldier in his speech; but he had left him out altogether in his Resolution. He (Colonel Mure) should have thought the private soldier was more deserving of consideration than the officer, who had, both as regarded trial by court martial and general conduct, privileges which the common soldier did not possess; and he regretted, therefore, very much to find that the case of the officers had only been mentioned. Allusion had been made to the case of a soldier who had lost his ramrod, and an attempt had been made to build upon it a charge of wilful negligence against the War Office; but if the circumstances were carefully studied in the Report of the Committee, it would be seen that the allegation of unfair dealing on the part of the War Office had no better foundation than the imagination of Mr. Cornelius O'Dowd. With respect to Courts of Inquiry, the Crown retained in its hands a very valuable Prerogative, the exercise of which must, however, be painful. There were many officers in the Army who were men of honour and of excellent moral character, but who were afflicted with what he might call a feebleness of military instinct. Their cases were dealt with by Courts of Inquiry, because a great injury would be inflicted upon them, upon their families, and upon the Public Service, if they were obliged to appear before courts martial. Then, again, there was the question of the great power placed in the hands of commanding officers, which might, of course, mean officers commanding small bodies of men. In such cases as that of Rorke's Drift, Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead, who might have been isolated for a considerable time, were properly possessed of the power of commanding officers; but he thought that at home, where an officer of inferior rank was within reach of a higher military authority, reference to such authority ought to be made, and that in no case ought the great powers conferred be exercised by anyone below the rank of a field officer. He quite agreed with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) that the question of Courts of Inquiry was one which ought to be inquired into; and he hoped that what had fallen, both from his hon. and learned Friend, and from the hon. Member for 484 Dundee, would receive due consideration from the War Office with a view to remedying the faulty state of things existing under the present system. There was a great innovation introduced by the Bill with regard to placing half-pay officers, as it were, under military discipline. One hon. Member had suggested that they ought to be dealt with by a civil tribunal. His (Colonel Mure's) own view was this—that whilst offences committed by officers while in mufti might be dealt with by a civil tribunal, offences committed by officers in uniform, and tending to throw discredit on the Service, ought to be dealt with by a military tribunal.
§ MAJOR O'BEIRNE
, who had an Amendment on the Paper for the rejection of the Bill, said, he commended the spirit in which the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) had brought his Motion before the House. He (Major O'Beirne) agreed with the hon. Gentleman that Courts of Inquiry ought to be placed under well-defined rules as to what should form the subject for their consideration. No doubt, Courts of Inquiry led to great abuses, and, for himself, he must say that he altogether objected to the continuance of the system. It was a pity the Chairman of the Committee which sat on this subject last year (Sir William Harcourt) did not give more attention to the point when it was brought before the Committee. Only one witness was heard on the point—namely, the Commander-in-Chief—who, he observed, wished to retain such Courts, being perfectly satisfied with the manner in which they were conducted. It was, however, only natural that the Commander-in-Chief should wish to retain Courts of Inquiry, because they gave him immense power—which he could wield without let or hindrance—the power of retaining or dismissing any officer at his pleasure. He (Major O'Beirne) was aware of cases in which injustice was done to officers through the un-English system of holding Courts of Inquiry with closed doors. In proof of that statement, he might mention the case of Colonel Carter, commanding the 67th Regiment in Bengal, against whom a charge was brought by Colonel Gerard, and two of the witnesses whose evidence was received against him were officers whom he had previously had to report for intemperate 485 habits. By this Bill officers on half-pay would be placed under the Mutiny Act; and, that being so, he foresaw that the Courts of Inquiry might be made use of for political purposes; for he knew that, since the advent of the present Government to power, politics had not been altogether dissociated from the Army. Half-pay officers, for instance, might desire to attend political meetings, or might use some expressions offensive to the authorities, and then the powers given by this Bill might be brought into play. He could speak from personal experience as to the way in which the authorities sometimes used their power. In 1877, when he stood for the County of Leitrim, he was an officer on full pay, stationed at Newbridge. Having become a candidate, he applied to his commanding officer for leave. His commanding officer replied that he had heard of this candidature, and he had had a conversation with General Seymour, and that they had come to the conclusion that his politics brought discredit on the regiment. He (Major O'Beirne) said he would like to have the opinion expressed in writing from the Commander-in-Chief. He was then referred to General Seymour, and went to Dublin to see him, but he was not to be found; neither could he find any deputy. He therefore renewed the application to his commanding officer, who said he would give him 48 hours' leave; but that if he were absent an hour longer he would have him placed under arrest. Now, anyone connected with the Army would know that in ordinary circumstances, if an officer applied for urgent leave it was granted him, subject, of course, to his being recalled in case of necessity by telegraph. The fact was that, in this instance, his commanding officer and General Seymour had put their heads together and exercised their authority to his prejudice, in order to help the Conservative candidate for Leitrim. It was well known that in the case of an election contest like that, the delay of a few hours, such as was occasioned to him by the circumstances he had mentioned, might be fatal. Yet the Government evidently approved the conduct of that officer, for they gave him the command of a brigade depot in recognition of his political services, an appointment for which he was in no way qualified. His experience caused him to 486 have not the slightest doubt that the authorities approved of politics being introduced into the Army; and, therefore, he thought it necessary that officers on half-pay should be excluded from the operations of the Mutiny Act, otherwise they would be practically prevented from taking any independent part in politics. A Liberal officer engaged in a political contest might find himself summoned to a Court of Inquiry at the very time when he wanted to be at the election. Another objection he had to the Bill was that it contained no provision for the establishment of a Court of Appeal from the Military Tribunal for officers and privates, and the Commander-in-Chief could set aside the decisions of the Judge Advocate General. A Court of Criminal Appeal was to be established for the benefit of civilians, and why should soldiers be debarred from a like advantage? The establishment of such a Court, though discountenanced by the Commander-in-Chief, was supported by the Judge Advocate General, who, from the position which he held, was well qualified to form an opinion. He also objected to the present Bill because of the defective manner in which it had been drafted, its language being involved, perplexing, and puzzling in the extreme. He would, however, reserve further criticism until the Bill was in Committee.
§ CAPTAIN MILNE HOME
said, he could not approve the Bill in its present shape, but hoped that in a modified form it would speedily become law, as it dealt with many matters in respect of which reform was urgently demanded alike by the Service and by the public generally. He approved that part of the Bill concerning recruiting which proposed to do away with what was popularly known as "the Queen's shilling;" but he could not regard with favour the suggestion that recruits should, after three months of service, be allowed, on payment of £10, to claim their discharge, fie was not able to speak with perfect accuracy in regard to the Infantry branch of the Service; but, as far as the Cavalry was concerned, he felt certain that the first three months of a man's service cost the country at least £30, and that the training through which he passed fitted him to earn a higher wage than he would otherwise have received in the position to which he might return, and which he had left in 487 order to join the Army. Again, he I thought some difference should be made in the penalties attaching to officers discharged from the Service, as between those who had paid for their commissions and those who belonged to the non-purchase corps. With modifications, the Bill would give satisfaction to the Service and to the public at large; and he hoped the Government would see its way to make such alterations as would bring about so satisfactory a result.
§ MR. A. H. BROWN
, who had a Notice on the Paper to the effect that—While it is expedient to bring the Volunteer Force more under control of the Military authorities, it is inexpedient to sanction the provisions of this Bill, whereby the right of a Volunteer to resign, guaranteed to him by the Volunteer Act of 1863, is in certain cases abrogated,said, he agreed with much of the criticism that had been passed upon the Bill. He might point out that, when Volunteers were being exercised, the presence of the very smallest portion of Her Majesty's Regular Forces, even of a single inspecting officer, would bring the Volunteers on parade under the operation of the Bill. This he regretted. The Bill affected the civil rights of an immense number of Her Majesty's subjects. The proposal of the Bill was to punish the Volunteers as they would punish the Regulars, and that was a power which he thought would tend to diminish the popularity of the Volunteer Service. What was to be relied upon, in order to keep the Volunteer Force efficient, was a mixture of discipline and esprit de corps; and the imposition of pains and penalties would, in his opinion, cause the Force to melt away. He contended that it was not fair to apply the Mutiny Act to the Volunteer Force, seeing the different circumstances under which men became members of the Army and the Volunteers. The Volunteer Force could cease to exist in 14 days if they chose to resign; and in applying these provisions to the Volunteers they were committing something like a breach of faith. Two hundred and one commanding officers of Volunteers approved of the right of resignation in 14 days, and 86 did not, and it was well known that the power of resignation in 14 days was the foundation upon which the Volunteer Force was based, because, while trying to become as good soldiers as circumstances permitted, 488 they were civilians, and had their business to attend to; but if they were to be bound by a longer period they would cease to be Volunteers. Then as to the machinery of the Act, the offence of drunkenness was probably a crime which a Volunteer would commit. They had no pay that could be stopped, and to inflict imprisonment on them would be to punish them more severely than the Regular Force. The effect of that would be very serious on the Volunteer Force, for they would be punishing as a military crime what in civil law was considered no crime at all, and it would be a great injustice to their wives and families that they should be sent to prison. With regard to the power of imprisonment for 21 days in the hands of the commanding officer, it was a strong power to put in the hands of any Regular officer, however able he might be. If the House went to a Division, he should not vote for the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Dundee; but he trusted that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would reconsider his decision with regard to the Volunteers.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, he believed that the portion of the Bill which dealt with administrative changes would prove very good; but he was not at all certain that even that portion was necessary, because the Secretary of State could have effected by Royal Warrant everything he now proposed to effect by the Bill. They were told that it was to take the place of the Mutiny Act and the Articles of War, and that matters would thereby be simplified; but although it might simplify matters, he did not think they had been simplified to the extent which they might have expected. There were a great many more clauses involving considerable changes—changes which would have the effect of stultifying the action of those who wished to bring forward grievances. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) had stated that it was a concession from the Crown that Parliament should be allowed to put the Articles of War and the Mutiny Act into one Bill; but he (Major Nolan) did not think the hon. and learned Member was putting the case quite fairly. What did Parliament gain by it? In the old Mutiny Act they gave the right to the Crown to make the Articles of War, and it was very doubtful whether the Crown could make the 489 Articles of War without that authority. In fact, they gained very little while, on the other hand, they lost enormously. This Act would be passed once for all, and would be renewed every year by a continuing Act, upon which hon. Members would be precluded from going into the details of clauses. So that it was altogether a mistake to say that the Bill increased the power of the House of Commons. On the contrary, the Bill involved a great loss of power to the House and a great gain of power to the Executive. He objected to the Bill that it gave very undue power to commanding officers. To give an officer the power of ordering 21 days' imprisonment, instead of seven days as heretofore, was a very serious thing indeed. He did not think colonels of regiments were worse than magistrates; but they were more interested in giving heavy punishments. Such an officer would not very often be found fault with, although he might be found fault with for being too lenient. A. body of men like a court martial was less likely to be biassed than one man, and any increase in the power of the commanding officer ought to be looked on with great jealousy, inasmuch as it might work great injury to the men. The second in command was not in as good a position as the commanding officer. The commanding officer might disapprove of a lenient punishment, but would not be so likely to do so in the case of a heavy punishment, because he would be glad to have it thought that he was more lenient than his subordinate. It might be said that there was the right of appeal; but that was illusory, as an appeal to court martial would be almost certain to lead to increased punishment, unless it was specially provided that in no case should a court martial on appeal inflict a greater punishment than that ordered by the commanding officer. Unless some such provision were inserted, the soldier would never appeal. It had been argued that an increase in the punishing powers of the commanding officer would decrease the number of courts martial; but the decrease would, at the outside, be something under 500, so that as a regimental court martial occupied three officers for something less than an hour, the total possible saving was about 1,500 hours, or about one officer's time. The real object, therefore, could not be the gaining of time, and he submitted that 490 it must be the gaining of power. The court, martial was a great check in this respect, both on the War Office and on the commanding officer; but once allow the commanding officer to deal with crimes individually, and the check would be removed. He had always been of opinion that courts martial should have the power to give less punishments to sergeants and non-commissioned officers, and he was glad to say that power was introduced into the Bill for that purpose; but he was sorry that it was accompanied by anew power, by which for a single and trivial offence—say a very slight tipsi-ness—might be broken and reduced to the ranks, not by the court but by the colonel, who might easily find cause for reducing a man that he disliked. There was no check upon the action he might take in this respect, and the result would be that the non-commissioned officer would be placed more in the position of a servant to a commanding officer, and this could not be done without the one losing some respect for the other. The Bill also deprived warrant-officers and the large class of master-gunners of the protection which they now had. In reference to drunkenness, the position of the men was left unchanged; but that of the officers was very materially changed. A man was seldom punished for the first two offences, but then fines began; and he could be tried by court martial for subsequent offences, and heavy punishment could be inflicted. As to the officers, they were treated leniently for the first four or five offences; but now it was provided that they might be cashiered for being drunk whilst they were off duty; of course, on duty the punishments were different, amounting to death in some instances. Very severe Judges, seeing officers after dinner, might say they were unfit for this or that duty; and a man might in this way be cashiered. Such a system could not work. He did not believe there was more intoxication in the Army than in any other body in the Kingdom, and to give a commanding officer such arbitrary power as the Bill proposed would be a great disadvantage. In fact, it would enable him to cashier whoever he pleased, while, at the same time, he would be enabled to retain the services of those who were favourites of his, although their offences might be equally great. In nine times out of ten the power given might not be used, and the 491 tenth time be put in force, and to the great disadvantage of one man. Therefore, he regarded the proposed innovation as being very dangerous. Under the old Act, an officer drunk off duty could be tried for conduct unbecoming a gentleman, and this guarantee was amply sufficient for his good behaviour. Then, again, the liberties of the soldier would be curtailed, owing to commanding officers being empowered to place localities out of bounds. The difficulty of working the Act would be much increased by the fact that half-pay officers would be brought under it; and, indeed, this would be treating them very unfairly. The present rules as to half-pay officers were sufficient for all purposes, and this power ought not to be increased. The acts of half-pay officers, when they were placed under the Mutiny Act, might often bring us into difficulties in connection with foreign Governments. In doing so, the Government would be undertaking a great responsibility. The present rule he regarded as being amply sufficient, which enabled a half-pay officer to be tried for offences committed when on full pay; and he deprecated the Government becoming responsible for a man's actions when he was on half-pay, as they now proposed to do. He might also observe that the Preamble of the Bill contained none of those precautions against a standing Army which were to be found in the old Act, and that Parliament was thus far invited to leave the Constitution in a worse position. In voting against the second reading of the Bill he should not oppose the Mutiny Act, and he was willing for the present to continue that now in force, although it was capable of amendment; but unless a promise were given that some of the defects of the Bill would be corrected he should oppose the second reading.
§ MR. W. HOLMS
remarked that if the Bill were carried as it now stood it would deter many men from entering the Volunteer Force; and he asked the House whether it was advisable to do anything which would tend to diminish the popularity of that branch of the Service? As the measure was at present framed the Volunteers would come under its various and sweeping provisions. Some of those provisions, however, were utterly inapplicable to our citizen soldiers. He therefore suggested the introduction of a saving clause to the effect that the provisions of the Bill 492 should apply to the Volunteer Force only in case of their being called out in time of war.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
thought that, after making fair allowance for errors in details which occurred from a knowledge of technical matters in military duties, the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) had shown that there were serious defects in the Army management, especially in respect to the abuses made of the Royal Prerogative and of Courts of Inquiry, instead of sending officers before courts martial, there to be tried on properly drawn charges, in accordance with military law. He (General Sir George Balfour) therefore endorsed generally the arguments by which the Amendment had been supported, while taking exception to some matters of detail. In connection with this subject, he could not avoid expressing the hope that some day or other they would have a Judge Advocate General who would take care that courts martial were properly conducted. He thought that the Army had great cause of complaint in reference to that Office. He did not refer to the present holder of the position; but there could be no doubt that the post was one which had been filled by most incompetent men—men who were not qualified to discharge the duties which they were called upon to perform. Had they had competent Judge Advocate Generals, they would long before this have had a proper Army Discipline Bill. Another point to which he desired to allude was the position of the Commander-in-Chief. His Royal Highness was simply a subordinate of the Secretary of State for War. His duties were at first, under the Letter of Service of 1856, signed by the Secretary of State, and by the Orders in Council of 1870, strictly in subordination to the Secretary of State, who was alone responsible for the proceedings of His Royal Highness, who had no right to interfere, except in respect to the duties laid down in the Orders in Council of 1870, and even then only in the manner and to the extent which the right hon. Gentleman permitted, and he ought not, therefore, to be held responsible in any form or shape. He did not like to hear blame imputed to the Commander-in-Chief in matters in which he had no independent power, and where the fault, when faults arose, rested with the Secretary of State for War; but the 493 Commander-in-Chief, while possessing many good qualities, appeared to be afraid of responsibility. However, in order to render the Commander-in-Chief really useful, they ought distinctly to define all his functions, and after fixing the executive duties intrusted to him, then to place upon him due responsibility. As for the Bill itself, a more confusing or confused one, more full of useless verbiage, and wretchedly drawn out he did not remember ever to have seen; it was badly arranged and full of repetitions, and the best thing to do with it, in his opinion, was to send it to a Select Committee for revision.
§ COLONEL STANLEY
said, the criticisms which had been passed on the Bill were not of such a nature as to prevent the House from giving it a second reading. Before dealing with these numerous criticisms, which he trusted would not lead to a Division, he wished to say a word upon the question of responsibility in connection with the administration and government of the Army. A great deal had been said with regard to the position of the Commander-in-Chief, and the hon. and gallant Member who had last spoken accused His Royal Highness of being afraid of responsibility. Now, in this matter, as in many others, the illustrious Duke only showed his good sense and feeling. He did not assume a responsibility which he knew ought properly, and was by the Constitution supposed, to rest upon the shoulders of others. He, as an Officer of the Crown, performed his own responsible duties; but as for acts performed under the authority of the Prerogative, he knew that the Constitution had provided a responsible Minister in that House, whose conduct was always open to challenge, and who was there to defend himself. Coming to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins), he found that that hon. Member was of opinion that no measure would be satisfactory which did not secure for every officer accused of a military offence an impartial trial by a military tribunal; and he presumed the hon. Member did not wish to limit his sympathy to officers only, but also to extend it to the men. In regard to this matter, he ventured to say that in all cases courts martial were so constituted as to form as fair and impartial a tribunal as could be found in the world. The rules for their selec- 494 tion were distinctly laid down in the Queen's Regulations, and it was provided that for this purpose, as in all other duties, the officers should be taken from the senior downwards; therefore, when a court martial was ordered to be assembled, the general officer not only never did, but was utterly unable to interfere in the selection. That might be held to prove that the constitution of the court was free from any suspicion of prejudice; but, in addition to this, the Bill preserved the most perfect right of challenge on the part of the accused which already existed, and also made it compulsory that the rules of procedure should be laid before Parliament. Turning next to the second part of the hon. Member's proposition, he was compelled to say, taking the words in their strict meaning, that in a great measure he agreed with him that a military officer accused of a military offence should be tried by a court martial and not by a Court of Inquiry. With regard to the Constitutional point raised, his hon. and learned Friend opposite (Sir William Harcourt) had so completely dealt with the question of the retention of an officer in the Service that it required no further discussion. It was plain, from the showing of his hon. and learned Friend, that unless the House was prepared to give an officer a statutory right in his commission, it would be impossible not to allow, in certain instances, the exercise of Prerogative to continue or dispense with his services. Now, as for the Courts of Inquiry, he had been asked to place rules for their regulation within the Bill; but that was a matter requiring consideration, from various points of view. If it were simply a question of these Courts being used for the particular purposes mentioned by hon. and gallant Members, then there would be a good deal to be said for the inclusion of rules to regulate them even within the limits of a Bill such as the present; but, on the other hand, the House would bear in mind that Courts of Inquiry embraced the widest range of subjects both in nature and importance, and though it might be perfectly proper with regard to the greater subjects sometimes brought before them, those rules might become entirely inapplicable to other cases which came before such tribunals. The subject, no doubt, deserved examination; but he would not 495 lead the House to believe too confidently that the wishes of certain hon. Members could be carried into effect. Now, what was the nature of a Court of Inquiry? It was an assembly called together for the assistance of an officer, on whose authority it usually acted. Any action on his part might be perfectly well taken without the Court of Inquiry, the court being only a means of ascertaining facts, and not being designed either to relieve the officer of his responsibility, or for any other purpose. Another subject, on which more than one speaker had dwelt, was the extension of the powers of commanding officers; and although that extension had met with favour in some quarters, there were many hon. Gentlemen who thought that the excess of power would lead to its abuse, and that the process by which a commanding officer was enabled to act was far too summary. It was not a new question, or he would acknowledge the force of the criticism directed against it; but, in fact, when he introduced the Bill, he explained the motives with which he had inserted the clause conferring additional power. It chiefly came to this—that the commanding officer could now inflict a sentence of 21, instead of seven days' imprisonment. Now, it was not to be supposed by the opponents of the Bill that the punishment was merely increased for an offence usually visited with seven days' imprisonment; the extension of power was really intended to provide a speedier and quicker tribunal on many matters now brought before courts martial, and which in the very large majority of cases were merely matters of evidence, where the person accused acknowledged the offence with which he was charged. At present, a man had to remain at least 24 hours in the guardhouse before a court martial assembled. The Government thought a more prompt method of dealing with him would be satisfactory to the soldier, and, at the same time, better meet the ends of justice. But there was the further question, which had weighed with the Courts Martial Commission—namely, whether the frequency of courts martial did not tend to diminish the amount of dread which they had for the soldier, and detract from their proper weight in deterring him from crime. That was one of the grounds on which the extension had been proposed, and there were 496 others which would be explained in Committee. Then, again, something had been said about the power which had been taken as to the reduction of non-commissioned officers, and he did not think that was a step which there would be any reason to regret. We knew that in this country, as in all other countries, owing principally to short service and partly to other causes, it was becoming more difficult to obtain and to retain good non-commissioned officers. It had been frequently urged, he thought by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan), and by others, that hardship was done to the individual, and loss inflicted upon the country, by the fact that non-commissioned officers, if guilty of any offence, could only be dealt with in one way. The commanding officer could either pass over the offence with a mere admonition, or he could send him to a court martial, which was the only punishment that could be awarded; and if the court martial found him guilty—which was almost certain to be the case—no sentence could be given short of reduction to the ranks. Well, though it was quite true that the Government had given the commanding officer the power of reducing a non-commissioned officer to the ranks, they had also introduced a new rule by which the punishment might be mitigated. There were many cases in which the good service and good conduct of a man should be recognized when dealing with him in respect of an offence; and it was proposed that, in such a case, a man should be reduced only one grade in the scale of the non-commissioned rank. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kincardine (General Sir George Balfour) had spoken just now of a case of arbitrary dismissal from which there was no appeal; but this Bill provided an appeal, and such a case of hardship as the hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of could not occur under this Bill. He now came to a subject on which he felt considerable difficulty—namely, that of bringing half-pay officers under the provisions of this Bill. He was quite aware what the feeling always had been and what the feeling now was with regard to that matter. It would be for the House to bear in mind the position in which the Government were placed with respect to those officers. The House 497 would remember that there was now a fresh class of officers growing up under the plan for the promotion and retirement of officers. There were officers who left the Army under a liability to serve again, and who might at any time be recalled to the Colours. The argument he ventured to put before the House was this—that while they might be anxious to diminish individual freedom as little as possible, yet there were on the other hand, obligations resting on those officers which ought to be matter of regard between themselves and the State, and that it was well that the State should in some manner have power to deal with such officers in case of grave misconduct, so that authority should not be weakened when they were recalled to the Colours. It might be said that they could be now dealt with under the powers vested in the Secretary of State, and that in the case of any gross misconduct a recommendation might be made that the name of an officer should be removed from the Army List; but this power had always been viewed as a very extreme one, and therefore he had felt it his duty to place the Bill before Parliament in its present form. He could not agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Leitrim (Major O'Beirne) in thinking that the fact of an officer having been mixed up in some scandal was no sufficient reason for getting rid of him, for surely such a fact was in the interest of the honour of the Army a quite sufficient reason for causing the officer implicated to be removed from the Army. The present was the first occasion on which he had heard that the Government had interfered with the election prospects of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. As far as he remembered the facts, the hon. and gallant Gentleman, when he wished for leave in order to contest the seat he now held, failed to send his application to the proper quarter, and when the fact became known instructions were sent by the Government that matters should be made as easy as possible. As for the question of recruiting, it was one which might better be dealt with when the Bill went into Committee. There had often been an accusation that recruiting was principally carried out by traps laid by the recruiting sergeant. The Government, in order to put an end 498 to that, now proposed that the enlistment should be before a civil magistrate, and had extended the time during which the recruit could leave the Service. If, within the first three months, he wished to be rid of his bargain, the State had no wish to hold him to it on the repayment of the expenses which he had caused the country. These were matters not so much of principle as of detail. As far as the penalties which should fall upon officers guilty of offences were concerned, he could not see why there should be any difference between members of purchase and non-purchase corps, the offences being the same. In reference to the question as to the Volunteers raised by the hon. Member for Wenlock (Mr. A. H. Brown), he saw no reason why Volunteers, when serving with the Regular troops and performing similar duties, should not be similarly treated as far as discipline was concerned. It seemed to him altogether beside the question to argue what the particular status of a man might be when he was not performing these duties. If a man going along a railway tampered with the signals, his position would have nothing to do with the punishment to which he would have rendered himself liable. It must be borne in mind that Volunteers were no longer playing at soldiers; they performed the same duties as Regular soldiers, and that week some of the large guns at the forts on the Thames would be worked by Volunteers quartered there exactly as they would be by Regular Artillerymen. No complaint had been made on the part of the Volunteers that the powers to be taken under this Bill were too severe, and many Volunteer officers gave evidence before the Committee, on which, also, the Volunteer element was largely represented. The Committee recommended that the power of resigning on 14 days' notice should not operate to prevent a man being tried for an offence with which he was charged before the notice was given. It was necessary, when large armed Forces were collected, that there should be greater control than was necessary at other times over the individual. Threats had been made against officers, and though of late years they had been less frequent, the liability to them could not be lost sight of, and discipline must be preserved. He did not 499 think the Volunteers objected to the proposed restraints, or wished for the same freedom of language when they were performing military duty which they enjoyed as civilians. He had only one other criticism to answer. It had been said that the Bill had not been referred to the Select Committee. So far as the Government were concerned, no doubt it might have been a great convenience, if it had been practicable, to have referred the Bill to a Committee, and obtained its imprimatur, as was done with part of the subject last year. But the previous Secretary of State had given a distinct pledge to this House that the Mutiny Act should not be brought before the House again in its present form, if it were possible; and, accordingly, he had felt it his duty to endeavour to fulfil that pledge and lay this Bill before the House as soon as he could. They could deal, therefore, with only one part of the subject—the Army discipline. If the Committee had assembled this year, it would have saved much trouble to have sent the remaining portion of the Bill to them also. That had not been possible, and not a single day had been lost in the preparation of this Bill. No doubt there were repetitions in the Bill, and they might have been avoided by bringing in a Bill of two or three clauses and saying the Crown should have power to make Articles of War; but that would not have been carrying out the intention of Parliament that the law should be consolidated, that punishments should be classified, and that different punishments should be awarded for offences committed on active service. But the Articles of War and the clauses of the Mutiny Act could not, in the view of those whose able services he must acknowledge, be embodied in a code of lesser dimensions than this Bill, which, with the assistance he hoped to derive in Committee, would, he trusted, be passed into law. He would say, in conclusion, that the Bill had been very carefully prepared; and although far from claiming that it was in any way perfect or incapable of amendment, he believed it would be found to be a very material improvement of the present law, and what it originally purported to be—a consolidation of the existing law with such improvements as the circumstances of the case seemed to render necessary and de- 500 sirable. He hoped that the second reading would now be agreed to without further debate.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
said, it was not his intention to make many observations; but he wished to say one word with reference to the Volunteer Force. It did appear to him, speaking as a civilian of long standing in the ranks of the Volunteer Force, to be important to note that they were a body of men controlled by moral suasion, whereas in the Army it was nothing of the kind. If he might venture to say so, he thought it would be better for officers in the Army if they received their training first as Volunteer officers, for then they would find out that men could be controlled without intimidation, or the imminence of pains and penalties if they disobeyed. With reference to the Committee upon the Volunteer Force, he did not think that the Volunteers generally were sufficiently represented upon it. No doubt, the names of the Committee were those of eminent men—there were one or two colonels of Volunteers—but all were, in one way or another, officials. Every one of them was an officer in the Army, and came to the Committee with military ideas of discipline, and determined to introduce that discipline into the Volunteer Force. Volunteers could not be made into soldiers, as they were frequently informed by their military Friends; who, yet, with some degree of patronage, condescended to receive their services in the field. The fact should not be lost sight of that Volunteers could not be brought under the strict and severe discipline of military life. If it were made known that a man, through zeal as a Volunteer, prompting him to go to Shoeburyness, or other places, and to undertake work along with the Regulars, might make himself liable to imprisonment, it would be a great surprise to many Volunteers. He ventured to say that, unless Volunteers were on actual military service, they should not be put in the position of becoming liable to 50 lashes through a breach of some trifling regulation.
§ COLONEL STANLEY
said, that the hon. and learned Member was not correctly describing the effect of the Bill.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
would take it as sufficient for his purpose that a Volunteer might, under certain circumstances, find himself liable to two 501 years' imprisonment. He went down to do his duty and to amuse himself; and for some not quite exact performance of his duty, for some loss of temper, or something of the kind, he might find himself court-martialled and sentenced to undergo three months' imprisonment, or a longer term. It was nonsense to say that officers of Volunteers informed their men of the risks they ran in undertaking the Service. He would ask—Was it desirable to maintain the Volunteers? If they were to believe the testimony from certain high quarters, it was most desirable. It was said—"Here is England's gallant Army of Reserves," and the toast was publicly fêted at dinners; and then the House gave a substantial provision for the maintenance of the Force. Supposing a case such as he had indicated occurred, he thought his right hon. and gallant Friend was perfectly correct in saying that it would not happen, and he hoped it would not be dared, in any single instance of a man's going down for a fortnight's holiday, to inflict three months' imprisonment upon him. But still, if it were done, the man would be ruined for life. He might be a labourer from Lancashire, and might have taken the opportunity of his holiday to serve with the Volunteer Force; and yet he was to be treated in this manner, and punished in a way which would be his ruin. In his opinion, this was another illustration of the way in which military matters were treated generally. Though he spoke as a civilian—and he knew this was a complicated subject—yet he might say there were absurdities of the most flagrant description in the present, as there were in the old, Mutiny Act. When looked at by military eyes the faults were not seen; but when handed to civilians attention was drawn to these matters, and he now ventured to point out to the Government that that boasted discipline which he had heard spoken of in military matters was not quite so good a thing as it was made to appear. In some cases it was talked of controlling others where men were not able to control themselves. It was now suggested that half-pay officers should be controlled and tried by courts martial. But he would remind the House that there were other Professions that did not need the same violent inducements to a good behaviour of its members. This plan with 502 regard to the Volunteers should be well considered before jeopardizing what was a very powerful Force, and what was at present a popular Force. He believed that, by the proposal of the Bill, both the popularity of the Force and its numbers would be greatly reduced.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
wished to explain, with regard to the appeal to him of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Secretary of State for War not to divide the House upon this question, that he should be very anxious to accede to iris wish; but seeing that this was not the usual annual Mutiny Bill, but was intended as a permanent measure, he must take this opportunity of protesting against it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 138; Noes 32: Majority 106.—(Div. List, No. 63.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday 21 st April.