HC Deb 08 August 1890 vol 348 cc359-63

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £294,800, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Pay of Medical Establishments, and the Cost of Medicines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1891.

(1.0.) DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

I appeal to the Government not to take this Vote to-night. It is rather late and we are to sit again at noon. Matters arise on the Vote in which many people are interested, but obviously no Press report of our proceedings can be given at this late hour. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree to Report Progress.


I hope that there will be no necessity for a long discussion. I would suggest that the Vote should be taken now, and further discussion could take place on the Report. ["No!"] I do not wish to press it. Possibly we might go on with the next Vote.


Will the Vote be taken to-morrow?


Well, that I cannot say.

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

Seeing that we are to be here again at 12 o'clock, is it not time we were going home?


I think we might sit for a little time and dispose of one or two Votes.

(1.2.) SIR W. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)

There was an understanding with the leader of the House that we should not go on after 1 o'clock. We have been here a long time, and have to be here again this day early. The Army Votes are important, and except on the statement of my right hon. Friend we have never had the opportunity of discussing them.


If there is a desire to postpone the Vote now, we do not wish to press it. But I would suggest we might take non-contentious Votes upon which discussion will not arise, and proceed with this Vote tomorrow (Saturday).


I think the Committee might take the Votes 8, 12, and 13, for Military Education, Pensions and Non-Effective Charges, and Superannuation and Allowances. There are no notices of Amendments to these.

(1.3.) DR. TANNER

Really, I do not think the Government have any claim upon us that we should depart from the understanding to break off at 1 o'clock.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

One o'clock, I understand, was only a general indication, and it is not unreasonable to take the non-contentious Votes. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer can tell us what is to be taken after the Army Votes to-morrow; is the Foreign Office Vote to be taken?


The Army Estimates will be taken first, the Foreign Office Vote next, and then Class II.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

6. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £112,500, be granted for Establishments for Military Education."


Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can give us some explanation with reference to the Royal Military Academy. I believe the Government have raised the amount to be paid by Cadets from £125 to £150. That is a very considerable sum, and, as I think, too much. I know there are a number of Cadets, sons of General Officers and others, who get their education at a cheaper rate, and I do not complain of that. But I do not think that in consequence of this civilian fathers should have to pay an extravagant rate. I think the State should make up the difference.


The committee, after careful inquiry into the subject, made various recommendations, all of which we could not see our way to adopt, but it was deemed desirable to raise the fees. The whole matter is, however, still under consideration.


I am glad the Government are going to re-consider the matter. I would suggest that in dealing with the Royal Military Academy and the institution at Sandhurst, comparison should be made with similar institutions on the Continent and at West Point. Compared with these, it will be found the cost of military education in England is extravagantly high.

Vote agreed to.

7. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £1,366,700, be granted for Pensions and other Non-Effective Charges for Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Men, and others."


I think we are creating an impression among the people that we are getting rid of the system of pensions for old soldiers, and the feeling is growing that men do not get sufficient return for service, and the risk of being shot. I refer to privates, for it is not one man in four who is fit to be a sergeant or cares to be, and it is fortunate this is so, else the competition would be troublesome. Under the present system there is a complaint that old soldiers do not get their pensions when they are most needed. This matter was brought before Parliament some years ago in a Bill introduced, I think, by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale, which was intended to meet those hard cases which constantly arise. That Bill, however, was not proceeded with, and I would suggest to the Secretary for War that he should turn his attention to this subject. Certainly I think our constituents are apt to make comments on our pension system, as it applies to officers and to men, and I fear the feeling that has arisen cannot but have a deteriorating effect upon the character of recruits for the Army.


It is different to deal with the number of men who under the short service system go away without pensions and who claim that their health has been broken down in the Service. An immense number of cases come before us; Members of Parliament and others are constantly sending them; but I am bound to say that in the great majority of cases inquiry shows that the break-down has been due to causes within the control of the men themselves or in civil life. As regards the system of deferred pensions, I quite agree that it is desirable that the Secretary for War should have some latitude in awarding pensions, but that opinion is not shared by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury, who think that no Secretary of State is safe unless closely bound by warrant. I daresay there is much to be said for that view, but, at the same time, I can tell the hon. and gallant Member that the powers of the Chelsea Commissioners have been considerably increased at different times, and I do not think that the Board could discharge their duty more conscientiously than they do.

(1.16.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I desire to bring to the notice of the Department two cases which illustrate what has fallen from my hon. and gallant Friend. They are cases which arise in my own constituency, and they have been brought under the notice of the present Government.


If the hon. Gentleman will furnish me with the particulars, I will undertake they shall be inquired into, and I will acquaint him with the result.


I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but still I think it is my duty to mention the cases across the floor of the House, and I will hand the particulars to him afterwards. The complaints are that the men do not get the deferred pensions of 3d. a day to which they are entitled at 60 years of age, and a further increase at the age of 65. Application was made to the Commissioners at Chelsea, but the reply was that they were not entitled under the regulations to the pension claimed. I will not dwell upon this further than to say that such cases of alleged injustice deserve more careful investigation than they appear to have received from the curt letter of the Commissioners. Men will be deterred from entering the Army if they have the fear that in their old age, and after an honourable record, faith may not be kept with them, and they may be deprived of the pension to which they consider they have a just claim. I accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, and will forward him the particulars which he has undertaken to look into.




I cannot say that I altogether endorse the action of the Chelsea Commissioners. I am sure that the question is of growing importance. I wish to ask the Financial Secretary is it possible to make some distinction in these charges which are now lumped together? Could we not have the amount for privates kept separate?

(1.21.) MR. BRODRICK

I will see whether it is possible to separate them, but I do not think it will be very easy.

Vote agreed to.

8. £162,600, for Superannuation and other Allowances and Gratuities.

Resolutions to be reported to-morrow.

Committee to sit again to-morrow.