HC Deb 23 July 1890 vol 347 cc662-7

"That a sum, not exceeding £258,400, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Salaries and Miscellaneous Charges of the War Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1891."

(5.35.) MR. HANBURY (Preston)

Perhaps the House will allow me to make only one or two remarks. I learn that yesterday evening, after I left the House, an hon. and gallant Gentleman made a personal attack upon me in regard to something which I had said with reference to a regiment with which that hon. and gallant Gentleman is connected. It is quite impossible for me now to go into any lengthened reply to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I have only two remarks to make. In the first place, I think if the hon. and gallant Member had heard my speech, he would not have made the remarks he did. The observations which aroused the hon. and gallant Gentleman's criticism were confined to two points. I stated that I had seen officers of the Guards omit to return the salutes of their men, and to that statement I adhere, and no amount of declamation can overcome it. I also referred to the special privilege enjoyed by officers of the Guards of not living in barracks, and I expressed the opinion that the Guards ought not to be treated differently in this respect from the officers of any other regiment. I expressed that opinion, and I do so still, and upon the Barrack Vote I shall take a Division upon the point. These are the only two points raised in my speech so far as this regiment is concerned, and though there was a good deal of fervid eloquence besides in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech, it does not touch other points mentioned by me. As to the omission to return salutes, I have seen this with my own eyes, as I have passed Wellington Barracks on my way to and from this House; and to that statement I adhere. With regard to the other point, in reference to Guards' officers living in barracks, I not only repeat the statement, but I will take the opportunity on the Barrack Vote of testing the opinion of the House on the point.

(5.37.) MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)

The observations made by the hon. Member now and the observations made on the subject last night prove the great disadvantage under which this House labours in attempting to discuss events like these upon no information at all, or, at the best, on hearsay information. The statement of the hon. and gallant Gentleman last night, however impressive from its earnestness, was nothing more than hearsay to the Committee, and the hon. Member for Preston does not pretend to give evidence to the House. This is my justification for renewing on this opportunity the point I ventured to raise last night, and to impress upon the Secretary for War that this House is entitled to have laid before it full and accurate Reports of proceedings at Courts Martial. I am not going now to express any opinion on these unfortunate events, much less to say that the right hon. Gentleman was not right in enforcing to the full all the powers he possesses for suppressing insubordination in the Army. My point is to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the fact that it has not been the practice for Governments to refuse to give these Reports of Courts Martial. Let me invite attention to one or two entries in the General Index of Proceedings of the House of Commons. Taking one volume at random, I find the following instances of records of proceedings at Court Martials being laid on the Table. In 1863 a Report of the proceedings at a Court Martial held at Aldershot upon Colonel Crawley; in 1862 an account of the proceedings against Paymaster Smales; and again, in 1866, I believe the Report of proceedings at Simla upon Colonel Trotter was laid. These are cases from a volume of the Index taken at random, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say how these cases differentiate from the case now under discussion. I say it has been the practice to lay these proceedings. We must not entrust to any Government the duty of making Constitutional Law; we must defend our own privileges. I again invite the right hon. Gentleman to say upon what rule he founds his refusal, or how the proceedings in reference to the Guards differ from those other cases I have mentioned.

(5.40.) COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)

I had hoped that the only reference I need make to the hon. Member's speech again would have been to accept, as I would willingly do, some expression of regret for words he used last night, which did not recommend themselves to his conscience this morning. The hon. Member says he only alluded to two points, and I, Sir, only alluded to those two points, and I am glad to see from the Report of the hon. Member's speech this morning, that my quotation from his speech was perfectly accurate. Therefore, I do not see my way to withdraw one word or syllable I may have used last night. The point I did not discuss or allude to was that of officers of the Guards residing in barracks, and on that I agree that there would be considerable advantage in those officers thus being brought into close association with the men. I do not take exception to the hon. Member's remarks on this account; what I do take exception to is the expression of the hon. Member, that officers of the Guards, by their behaviour towards their men, had acted in a manner unworthy of officers and gentlemen.


If the hon. and gallant Member will allow me, what I said was that, in coming down to the House time after time, I have seen officers of the Guards entering the barracks and not returning the salute of the men. This I said I have seen, and I must adhere to the statement.


I find no fault with the hon. Member's statement of what he has seen, but I take strong exception to the opinion he founded upon that, that it was conduct unbecoming officers and gentlemen. He was proceeding to speak upon that when he was called to order. The hon. Member is not conversant with military affairs, and he is not aware, probably, that many officers enter and leave the barracks who are not officers of the Guards. It is possible he may have been mistaken in supposing the officer belonged to the regiment, or it is possible that an officer might, by inadvertence, have forgotten to return a salute. I repeat I do not find fault with the hon. Gentleman for making that statement, but I do take exception to his going on to state that in so omitting to return a salute the officer was guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. This is only a trivial point, and an officer who omits to return the salute of his men is guilty of much the same offence as an hon. Gentleman who omits to return the salute of a policeman at the door. I am informed that the hon. Gentleman himself left this House last night without returning the salute of certain policemen. Would it not be monstrous to say that he has, therefore, been guilty of conduct unbecoming a legislator and a gentleman? As a matter of fact, there is in the Guards the most scrupulous observance of this point as to the returning of salutes. It is to be hoped that when next the hon. Gentleman indulges in military criticism he will be more happy in the subjects he chooses to animadvert upon.

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

I think that the House will regret that my two hon. Friends were not both present in the House at the same time yesterday. I am bound to say that when my hon. and gallant Friend got up to protest against the language which had been used earlier in the evening, hon. Members must have recognised that the hon. and gallant Gentleman, speaking on behalf of a gallant regiment, was entitled to make those observations. There appears, however, to be on one point no great difference between the two hon. Gentlemen. It is the wish of the Government to provide for the officers of the Guards accommodation they have hitherto not had—namely, rooms in the barracks. With regard to what the hon. Member for Preston has said about salutes, it may be true that he has seen officers of the Guards neglect to return the salute of their men, and, of course, he has the right to state it, but when he went so far as to say that, whether the omission was inadvertent or not, they had acted in a manner not becoming officers and gentlemen, the hon. and gallant Member for Shropshire was fully justified in protesting against it. In answer to the hon. Member for Dundee as to whether I will lay the proceedings of the Court Martial on the Table of the House, I venture to say that, in the interests of the Army and the Public Service, it is not expedient that the matter should be discussed by the House, and certainly, so far as I myself am concerned, I am not prepared to produce any Papers of that description.

(5.47.) MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK (Whitehaven)

I saw in the Times' report this morning of the embarkation of the Guards on board the Tamar that the soldiers had been deprived of their ration of porter. It is stated that the Blue jackets and Marines on board the same vessel would be served with the ration, though the soldiers would not, and that considerable dissatisfaction had been caused in consequence. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this statement in the Times is correct?


I sympathise with my right hon. Friend; I should be sorry myself to be deprived of a ration of that description. I am not acquainted with the facts, however, and will make inquiry.

(5.48.) MR. HANBURY

I beg permission to say a word or two of personal explanation. In the statement I made I did not mean to say, with regard to these particular officers, that their omitting to return the salute was conduct unbecoming officers and gentlemen. What I said was this —that I had seen some of the officers neglect to return the salute, and I am free to admit that it may have been due to inadvertence. But I certainly followed up this statement by the general remark to which I adhere—that if, as a rule, officers do not return the salute of their men, it is conduct not becoming officers and gentlemen.

Resolution agreed to.