HC Deb 11 August 1890 vol 348 cc612-4

Order read, for resuming the Consideration of Postponed Resolution, That a sum, not exceeding £1,366,700, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for Chelsea and Kilmainham Hospitals and the In-Pensioners thereof, of Out-Pensions, of the Maintenance of Lunatics for whom Pensions are not drawn, and of Gratuities awarded in Commutation and in lieu of Pensions, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1891.

(2.30.) MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)

This Resolution was postponed, at my request, in order that I might bring forward certain complaints made by veteran soldiers of Her Majesty's Army, who have served in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, and who are either without pensions, or are receiving only inadequate pensions. In many Scotch towns there are veterans who have served in these wars, and at large public meetings in Dundee, Aberdeen, and other great towns, presided over by the Chief Magistrates, resolutions have been passed calling attention to the hardships undergone by those deserving soldiers, who are either unpensioned or drawing very meagre pensions. I have a list of 16 cases connected with the Dundee district, and verified by the Commanding Officer of that district. One is that of a man now 61 years of age, and unable to work, who served in the Crimean war and received the Crimean medal, since which he has been an Instructor of Rifle Volunteers; he receives no pension. There is another veteran, who served 13 years, and is 67 years of age, unfit to work, and who has received the Crimean and the Lucknow medals. He has no pension. There are other cases in which men, all of about the ages just given, who have rendered distinguished service, are either without pensions, or receiving pensions of not more than 4d. to 8d. and 10d. a day. One soldier, now 63 years old, who served 17 years, and was wounded at the Battle of the Alma, and is now unable to work, receives no pension. He is said to have been a splendid soldier in the field, but in his early service he happened to have deserted, a fact which, doubtless, is the cause of his having no pension. It may be possible that some of the other cases may be similarly explained, and I am not complaining of injustice in the matter; but I think the cases I cite deserve compassionate consideration, and I put them ad misericordiam. I think it is not asking too much that the Secretary for War should consider the desirability of even going beyond the law in order to recognise by some compassionate allowance the services of these men. I would point out that in another matter, affecting Scotland, Parliament has gone beyond the contract made with a particular class of servants. It has given the police over and above what they are entitled to, a prospective allowance, which is worth an additional 6s. a week. I only ask the Government to treat our soldiers in the same generous spirit. I think it wise policy to do this. I cannot imagine anything more likely to prove attractive to men desirous of entering the Army than such a proceeding. I do not ask for any specific declaration of general policy at the present moment; but I do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman for some consideration of this important question.

(2.40.) CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N.)

Having myself served in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, I may say that I constantly have appeals made to me such as those referred to by my hon. Friend. If anything be done for the Army I trust the Navy will receive the same consideration. And I would point out that, although the pensions awarded in those days may have been suitable for the times, circumstances have materially changed since then, as will be seen when we remember the great advances in the prices of food, clothing, and house rent that has since been made. I should be glad if the Government can see their way to deal with this matter in a liberal spirit, as I am sure that, by doing so, they will give great satisfaction to the country, and help to popularise its two chief Services.

(2.42.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE, Lincolnshire, Horncastle)

There is no doubt that, owing to what occurred the other day in reference to those who have survived the Balaclava charge, a great deal of public sympathy has been evoked for soldiers who have served their country in the wars referred to. But I would point out that every man who has been in the Army is not necessarily entitled to a pension, and it is utterly impossible to entertain such a proposal for a moment. Men who have not earned a pension ought not to receive one. There may, of course, be a few cases which are on the border lines that may fairly be considered, but it would be ruinous to entertain the proposition that because a man had served a few months in the Crimean War, or the Indian Mutiny, he should therefore be pensioned. It should be remembered that at the present moment we are paying something like 80,000 pensions to those who have really earned them by good service.

Resolution agreed to.