HC Deb 16 June 1881 vol 262 cc632-3

asked the Financial Secretary to the War Department, Whether his attention has been drawn to a statement in the "Carnarvonshire Herald" of the drunkenness and disorder created by the present mode of paying Militiamen; and, whether he will take steps, both with regard to Militiamen and Army Pensioners, to establish the same mode of payment by remittances which has been found to work so advantageously with Navy and Police Pensioners?


In answer to my hon. Friend, I have to say that I have seen the article referred to, and have made inquiry into the circumstances, and I find the statements made in it are, to say the least, greatly exaggerated. The Carnarvonshire Militia, a regiment about 800 strong, was dismissed from training on Saturday, May 21. On the following Monday 25 persons were brought up before the magistrates for drunkenness. Of these only 13 were Militiamen—all residents in Carnarvon—and they were not charged with being disorderly, but only with being drunk. At Bangor also, which is a few miles distant, at the first petty sessions after the breaking up of the Militia, out of 19 cases of drunkenness brought up three only were Militiamen. Saturday, the 21st, was market day, and was also a monthly pay day among the quarrymen, so that a much larger sum was distributed in the town than was paid to Militiamen on that day. I have also seen a Report from the Chief Con- stable, in which he says that on the occasion referred to drunkenness did not prevail to such an extent as to attract any special attention, and that the men of the Militia were, for the most part, quiet and orderly. I have thought it right to mention these facts in order to clear the character of the regiment. With regard to the system of payment, I can assure my hon. Friend that we are quite alive to the importance of adopting any method which would prevent abuse or avoid temptation. Under the Militia Regulations a commanding officer may, at his discretion, use Post Office orders for paying the bounty, and this power is employed, in many cases, with great advantage; but it depends upon the circumstances of the residence and occupation of the men whether such a plan is applicable. As regards the payment of Army pensioners, we are, at present, inquiring whether some other arrangement, such as that suggested by my hon. Friend, may not be substituted for the method now in practice, and a Committee of consultation with the Post Office will consider the question. I must add, however, that we cannot but foresee serious difficulties in carrying out such an arrangement.