HC Deb 22 November 1884 vol 294 cc205-8

Resolution [November 21] reported.


said, he thought it would be more convenient that he should now call the attention of the House to the subject of the allowances to the Marines in Egypt rather than pursue the practice of putting down Questions on the Paper to add to the enormous number addressed to the Government. That appeared to him a most inconvenient way of bringing a subject of this kind before the notice of Parliament. As he understood the explanation just given by the Secretary to the Admiralty, what he might call the properly-constituted authority at Suakin, whoever he might be, had sanctioned the payment to the officers of Marines serving in Egypt a certain rate of pay under the designation of "climate allowance." Having been so sanctioned, those payments had been made, and now, as he understood, the authorities at home had not only ordered the discontinuance in future of the very moderate emoluments of officers discharging very trying and arduous duties, but had actually ordered that the sums which had been paid should be refunded by reductions from their future pay at the rate of £5 per month. If that really were the case, it was a decision of the Admiralty which it would be very difficult indeed for the hon. Gentleman (Sir Thomas Brassey) seriously to defend. He did not understand whether the fault was due to the British Government or whether they were giving a lesson to the Egyptian Government in the art of how not to discharge their obligations. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty, although he had obtained an honourable position in the Government, had not yet learned to speak of the so-called Egyptian Government without a smile. That was a qualification to which he had yet to attain. It was unnecessary to refer to the admirable services done by the Marines. When increased pay had been sanctioned, and such payment had been actually made, he thought the honour of the country was pledged to the arrangement, and they should be very jealous in sanctioning any action on the part of the Executive Government by which that increased pay should be subsequently deducted. That increase of pay was, he understood, made nominally by the Egyptian Government, but Her Majesty's Government had been a party to the transaction. Was it, he asked, intended that there should be deducted from the officers of Marines serving at Suakin, and other places in Egypt, money which was officially sanctioned, and which the officers had actually received? If he were right in thinking that the Admiralty had not yet decided this matter, he would ask the hon. Gentleman to weigh it carefully before the Department committed itself finally to an act of repudiation, and, he might add, of dishonourable conduct towards those who were serving the country in such a gallant manner. Though he believed it was not in the power of a private Member to move a distinct Amend- ment to any of the Estimates of the country, in the event of the Admiralty persevering in the course of which he complained, he should certainly take such steps as lay in his power to obtain the judgment of Parliament in the matter.


wished to add his appeal to his right hon. Friend's on this matter. It did seem to him a most impolitic thing, when officers were serving abroad, and. extra payments were made to them, that through some mistake of a paymaster they should be asked to refund them—especially in the case of officers of Marines, who, having received the money ostensibly from the Egyptian Government for good services, were about to have it reclaimed by our own Government. He trusted the Marine officers who were serving their country so well would not be treated in this very unhandsome manner.


also appealed to the Admiralty on the matter. The course that had been pursued towards these officers simply meant this, that a Department having made a blunder the officers of the Marines were to be called upon to repair the blunder out of their own pockets. In this House there was unbounded admiration for the Marines, and the Secretary to the Admiralty himself bad not been slow to express his admiration of that Force. He thought it would be exceedingly ungrateful to call upon these officers to repay the money, as the order required, and he hoped the Admiralty would not carry out their intention.


asked whether the Secretary to the Admiralty would inform the House what allowance was given to the Egyptian officers who were serving in the same district and under the same conditions? What were the relative positions of the Egyptian and English officers?


said, that through the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Lowther) he had received an intimation that this subject was to be raised, but he had necessarily only had very short Notice. He had come down to the House prepared with such information as he could obtain with regard to the orders which had actually been issued, and he had stated the effect of those orders to the House. He understood that the sole object of the Ad- miralty had been to place the officers and men of the Marines serving in Egypt on exactly the same footing with regard to pay and allowances as their comrades in the Army. There was no desire whatever to put the Marines in any inferior position.


remarked that he had never even hinted that there was.


said, he had already specified the orders which had been issued. He had said the Admiralty were in communication with the War Office with reference to the adjustment of the pay of the Marines in the future. With regard to the order which had been actually issued for the repayment of the pay already given to the Marines, he would take care that the expressions of opinion he had heard to-day in the House were carefully considered by the Admiralty. He might add that he was himself quite aware of the general and strong objection there was to calling for repayment of money already paid to these officers.