HC Deb 21 May 1886 vol 305 cc1659-62
MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether his attention has been called to the presence of the band of one of Her Majesty's Regiments of Guards at a meeting held on Wednesday last in the Haymarket Opera House, by the "Grand Habitation of the Primrose League," an Association which it is understood exists for party objects, and at which meeting party speeches were made by the Marquess of Salisbury and others; and, whether, in view of the fact that regimental bands consist of enrolled soldiers, receiving pay and clad in the uniform of the regiment to which they belong, he will take steps to prevent henceforward their presence at party demonstrations?

MR. COOTE (Huntingdon, S.)

Before the right hon. Gentleman answers the Question, I wish to ask him whether his answer will equally apply to bands connected with Her Majesty's Militia with regard to attending political demonstrations in the country districts?


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers the Question, perhaps I may be allowed to ask him whether there is a notable precedent for the practice of Militia bands attending political demonstrations; and whether it is not in his recollection that in 1882, at a large meeting of the Liberal Party, held in the Westminster Aquarium, the band of Her Majesty's Household Troops did attend?


I am not aware of that. My memory does not retain the fact. I can only answer the Question put to me by the hon. Member for Northampton. In answer to my hon. Friend, I have to say that the Queen's Regulations, Section VI., paragraph 9, lay down that— Officers, non-commissioned officers, and private soldiers are forbidden to institute or take part in any meetings, demonstrations, or processions for Party or political purposes, in barracks, quarters, or camps or in their vicinity, and never when in uniform. The Question of my hon. Friend only appeared on the Paper this morning, and I have not been able to ascertain, by communication with the officers commanding the Guards regiments, whether one of their bands was present on the occasion referred to. Assuming, however, that the fact is as stated, I have then to inquire into the nature of this so-called Primrose League; and I regret to say that I am without any definite information on the subject. There is, however, an organization in Ireland called the Orange Society, in whose demonstrations it would be most improper and contrary to rule for bands to take part; and, if I were to judge from the relation of the two colours, I should conjecture that this Primrose League was somewhat similar to the Orange Society, only more sickly and effeminate in tone. At all events, if there was anything political in the meeting referred to, I agree with my hon. Friend that no band of a regiment in the Queen's Service ought to have attended it.