HL Deb 09 June 1854 vol 133 cc1301-5



rose to put a question to the noble Duke (the Duke of Newcastle). Their Lordships had no doubt heard that arrangements had lately been made in reference to the mode of dealing with wounded men upon the field of battle, and that the noble Duke had acceded to the advice of Mr. Guthrie, a gentleman of great ability, who had done everything in his power to carry out his judicious recommendations upon the subject. A corps had been established, and the necessary steps taken for attaching to that corps such implements as were necessary for the purpose of conveying wounded men from the field of battle in the manner that would afford the best chance of saving their lives, and he believed that everything had been done which the Government could do. He understood that the corps and its machinery were still at Woolwich; and as some anxiety had been felt in reference to the conveyance of that corps to the place where it ought to be stationed, the question he wished to put was, whether any such corps had been established, and whether any exertions were being made for the purpose of conveying that corps to its destination?


said, that the corps of which his noble Friend had spoken had now been established for the first time, and he had every reason to believe that the example of its establishment would be found worthy of imitation by other nations, and that it would be advantageous to our own country. He was happy to say that he thought he should be able to give a satisfactory answer to his noble Friend's question. The corps, being of an entirely novel character, both as regarded its machinery and as regarded the men who were to act in it, had not been organised in a single day, but the arrangements with respect to it had now been completed for some time, and a screw-steamer had been chartered for its conveyance, with a large quantity of stores, to the East. He understood that this vessel would start from this country in the course of the day after to-morrow.


I do not know whether the noble Duke answers the question of my noble Friend in his capacity of Colonial Secretary or of Secretary of State for the War Department, and I think it is desirable that an explanation should be given to your Lordship's House at the earliest possible moment with respect to the important changes now supposed to be in the contemplation of the Government, in the creation of a new office of Secretary of State for the War Department, separate from those of the Secretary for the Colonies, and with respect to the arrangements which are to be adopted in consequence of those changes. I understand that an announcement was made last evening in the House of Commons on the part of Her Majesty's Government, of their intention of forming the new office. I am further informed—if it is not irregular now to refer to the fact—that a new writ has been moved for the City of London in the room of the noble Lord who lately held the office of leader of the House of Commons on his acceptance of the office of President of the Council. I wish, therefore, to ask the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government whether I am right in supposing that that noble Lord has accepted the office of President of the Council. It may not be improper to ask also, whether, if he has accepted it, he will still remain a Member of the House of Commons? and I wish further to ask Her Majesty's Government, with regard to the office of Secretary of State for the War Department, to explain to this House and to the country what are the precise functions and duties which it is proposed to devolve upon that office, how far they will interfere with or be superior to those of the departments now in existence, and whether the new Secretary of State will exercise a control over all matters connected with the administration of the military affairs of the country?


In answer to the noble Earl, I have first to inform him that my noble Friend the Member for the City of London has accepted the office of President of the Council, and that he will remain in the House of Commons. I have further to inform the noble Earl that it is intended that a division of the functions of the Secretary of State for War and for the Colonies shall take place, and will be carried into effect before the next meeting of the House. The functions of the Secretary of War will be those which are at present exercised by the Secretary of State for War and for the Colonies in the War Department. What further changes may hereafter take place in the administration of the Departments immediately concerned in the military service of the country I am not prepared to say; but the Secretary for the War Department will possess all those powers and exercise all those functions which are now exercised by my noble Friend near me, who is at present Secretary of State for War and for the Colonies.


inquired whether the Secretary of State for the War Department was to have anything or nothing to do with the control of the financial department of the Army?


He will have nothing whatever to do with the control of the financial department, as we are at present advised.


I was somewhat interested in the debate which took place in this House a short time ago with regard to the establishment of a Minister of War; and I am happy to find that Her Majesty's Government have at last, owing to the opinions which have been expressed in both Houses of Parliament, and also owing to public opinion as it has been expressed through the press, adopted that course which will eventually turn out to be the only one by which military affairs can be administered in this country. I am glad to hear from my noble Friend that it is not j intended to constitute a Minister of War as a mere decoy to deceive the public. I have no desire to see things done hastily; but if the office of Minister of War is to be established, the officer who fills it must have a department as well as a name. In my opinion, as soon as it can be conveniently done, the Minister of War should take charge of the administration of the finances of the Army; he should take charge of the Commissariat Department; and, in my opinion, he should also have transferred to him, as soon as possible, the management and direction of the militia force of this country. I do not at all wish to see the functions of the Commander in Chief interfered with as far as regards the executive government of the Army, nor do I wish to put into the hands of the Government the administration of what is called the patronage of the Army. For six years I had experience as to the manner in which that patronage was administered under the present system; and I believe that it was never more honourably or more efficiently administered than when it was in the hands of the late Duke of Wellington, and, under his orders, of Lord Raglan. I have every reason to believe that the same system of administration is pursued by the present Commander in Chief, and I have no desire that the Government should interfere in the matter at all; but if we are to have a Minister of War, he ought to know what is going on in every military department of the Government—whether at the Horse Guards, the Ordnance Office, or any other department—and he ought to act by his own authority, not under that either of the Colo- nial or of the Home Secretary. If the troops are to be moved they should be moved by his authority—that is, by his authority to the Commander in Chief to move them. All my observations aim at making this Ministry of War a department that will exist in time of peace as well as in time of war, and that will, at all times, have control over everything connected with the military administration of the country.


I think it is desirable that the noble Earl should state more in detail the duties that are to be performed by the new Secretary of State; as it appears to me that, if he is not to have control over the financial department of the Army, and is to have nothing to do with the patronage of the Army, the new Secretary will have something very nearly approaching to a sinecure in time of peace. I wish to ask whether the new Secretary of State is to be deprived of the control over the finances and the patronage of the Army; and, if so, whether it is intended to appoint that officer only during time of war?


The Secretary of State will not be deprived of the control over the finances or the patronage of the Army, as he now possesses neither the one nor the other; but he will have the control over the whole administration of the Army, and that will be found quite sufficient to employ his utmost exertions, certainly during war. As for what may happen in time of peace, the noble Earl will, perhaps, have the goodness to wait until time of peace before asking us to settle what will then be the functions of the new Secretary of State; and if that time happily should ever come, we shall then be able to say more satisfactorily what his functions shall be. At present it is quite sufficient that he has ample duties to perform, and I have no doubt the division which has taken place of the functions of the War and Colonial Departments will be such as to add to the efficiency of the public service.

Back to