HL Deb 05 July 1855 vol 139 cc434-44

I wish to put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the War Department with reference to the plan which he announced to your Lordships on Thursday last for increasing the pay of the soldiers engaged in service in the field. I had the misfortune of not being present on that occasion; but the noble Lord is reported to have said that be proposed to add 1s. to the daily pay of every soldier employed in actual service against the enemy, and that this should have a retrospective effect and date from the time when the army landed in the Crimea. [Lord PANMURE: That is a mistake.] And a most important one, as it concerns nearly half a million of money. I suppose, however, that I am not incorrect in thinking that this additional pay will not at once be given to the men, but will be held back and invested in the savings bank. The noble Lord stated that this was a more economical arrangement than that of increasing the bounty, because that course led to desertion. Of course the noble Lord, from the returns showing the number of men enlisted and the cases of desertion, is enabled to form a correct judgment with reference to the effect of increasing the bounty; but with regard to the economy of his arrangement, in comparison with the expenditure by increasing the bounty, I must state that, if we were to add 14l. to the bounty now given, and supposing 50,000 men were to be enlisted in the course of the year, still the plan proposed by the noble Lord would be more expensive than this enormous addition to the present bounty. Calculating that the number of men who will be entitled to this additional pay will not be less than 40,000, the expenditure in consequence of this new arrangement will amount to 730,000l. a year. It is found by experience that there is always a considerable difference between the number who are actually ready for service in the field when their services are wanted, and the numbers who come forward to demand any reward that is offered for a particular campaign; and, therefore, although the noble Lord may not probably be able to produce 30,000 bayonets in the field, I apprehend that there will not be fewer than 40,000 applicants for the additional pay. I confess, my Lords, that I object on principle to the arrangement proposed. When I last alluded to the absolute necessity of our adopting immediate measures for strengthening our military resources, I was anxious, if the noble Lord had not then been absent, to make a few observations on this particular subject. I should myself have recommended an increase in the pay of the army; but, undoubtedly, my suggestion would have gone to secure that the addition should be in reality paid into the soldiers' hands; for my firm belief is that, unless the money is so paid, it will not have the effect of inducing recruits to join the service. The object of your measure I take to be to increase the number of recruits; and therefore you should do nothing inconsistent with, or that goes beyond, that object. You do, however, act inconsistently with your object when you defer the payment of the additional remuneration, because we all know how comparatively little people care about any reward which is thus postponed, and which, on that account, does not operate as an active Stimulus. I think, therefore, that the noble Lord will be incurring an expenditure of 730,000l. a year without any reasonable prospect of obtaining additional recruits. I hold it to be inexpedient to attempt to engraft a moral lesson upon the giving of smart-money to recruits. When you ask a man to enter the army, you do not ask him to do the most prudent thing in a worldly point of view. Poets and philosophers have often represented the various pursuits which offer themselves to man as appealing to different motives to induce him to enter them; and each has been depicted as endeavouring to win votaries by depreciating the charms of its rival. The noble Lord has—I cannot say improved upon the inventions of poets and philosophers, but—gone beyond it. By his measure he offers the soldier the threefold advantage of economy, self-denial, and enjoyment. He holds out to him at once all the attractions of saving money and all the pleasures of getting drunk. The expense of the noble Lord's scheme must, however, be very serious to the country, and therefore I wish to know whether it is his intention, while offering the prospect of largely increased pay to the recruit, at the same time to continue to him the high rate of bounty which has been given within the last few months? If he means to do so, he will be establishing two conflicting kinds of inducements. It is worth while considering this question of bounty. That which appears in the public accounts as "levy money" is composed of these three different items—first, the bounty actually paid to the recruit for his own use and benefit; secondly, the money paid into his hands under the name of bounty, but which is afterwards taken from him for the purchase of necessaries; and thirdly the portion which entirely goes to defray the expenditure of the superintendence and the allowances to the recruiting officers. Now, I think it is desirable that in all future statements of the public accounts these distinct items should be separated; and that the amount which is paid as bounty to the soldier should be a net sum, clear of any deduction for the purchase of necessaries, the expense of which should be borne by the country. There are several other things besides additional pay which I think would largely increase the influx of recruits. I am told, for instance, that an over strictness is enforced in approving recruits, by which too much weight is given to trifling blemishes, such as a slight cast in the eye or a varicose vein in the hand, which are not defects interfering in any degree with their efficiency as soldiers. When you refused to receive a man unless he reached a certain standard, it might have been all very well to require that he should also be perfect in every respect; but, after you altered your system and consented to accept inferior men, you ought likewise to lower your standard of perfection as well as that of height. I am informed that the number of men rejected on frivolous grounds is very great; and, when these persons go back to their own districts and tell their tale, they dishearten others who would have been inclined to enlist, and thus your recruiting service materially suffers. Again, men are deterred from entering the army by the excessive rigidness with which the regulations for granting pensions are applied. I believe that some old soldiers who have served for years in India have been exposed to extreme hardships from this cause. Now, however necessary it may be for the protection of the public that regulations should be established, it is at the same time absolutely essential that the power of relaxing them, under particular circumstances, in favour of men who have done good service in the field, should be intrusted to some person or body of persons in authority. Another matter of great importance is, that it would be advisable for the purpose of acquiring a pension that a campaign should count for two years. This would be a rational as well as a liberal arrangement. Another point deserving attention was this:—few things could be more gratifying to the army than an arrangement that could be made, by a modification of the poor law, to render an old pensioner no longer compellable, before receiving relief, to enter the workhouse as a test of his destitution, and to enable him to enjoy, in the shape of outdoor relief, a larger amount of comfort than is extended to persons who have never done service to the State. My Lords, I am an advocate of any measure that will render the militia complete and effective. I am satisfied that that force is a reserve on which we may always fall back; and I believe that a man who has previously served in a militia regiment which has been actually embodied will be invariably found more desirous of joining your army than one who has never seen any such service. But, in dealing with these militia-men, to induce them to volunteer for the regular army, it would be far better on all occasions as far as possible to employ the intervention of officers and gentlemen rather than that of the ordinary recruiting sergeant, and also to afford the largest choice in regard to the regiments to which the men might be desirous of attaching themselves. The particular question which I wish to put to the noble Lord is, whether it is the intention of the Government to leave the bounty at its present amount when the pay of the soldier in the field is doubled?


said, he was glad the noble Earl had put this question, for it would afford him an opportunity of stating more particularly the nature of that change of which he thought it right the other day to make an announcement. The object of it, no doubt, was to effect that which he was bound to say existed at present only partially, namely, the encouragement of the youth of this country to enter into the regular forces. But, at the same time, he (Lord Panmure) could not say that he had altogether left out of sight the intention of doing something to benefit and improve the condition of those gallant men who were bravely and nobly exposing, and too frequently sacrificing their lives for their country before the enemy in the Crimea. The expense which would be incurred by this change was an expense which he was afraid the country must make up its mind to endure if this war was to be prosecuted with the vigour which we all desired. And when he stated that it would be a measure of economy, he meant that it would be far cheaper in the end, instead of being obliged to rise to the high bounties of the last war, to institute at once a system by which, without further raising the bounty, we might obtain for the army a sufficient number of recruits. But it was one of the great features of this plan that the promised addition to the soldier's pay was to be given only to those engaged in actual war, or to those at present serving in the Crimea, but that this extra shilling should not come into the hands of the soldier until the termination of the war, or until the period of his service had expired. Since he made that announcement he had been informed by a great many military officers, to whose opinions he felt bound to listen, that unless the soldier got the pay into his own hands, the plan would not be likely to succeed. In the face of these representations, he did not think it would be right or proper for him to ask the nation to risk entering upon so great an expenditure, for the purpose of trying a plan which he was told by experienced officers would perhaps fail to produce the result intended. But, on the other hand, putting at once into the soldier's hands an amount of pay increased to the extent which he had named, would, in his opinion, go far to affect the soldier's discipline: if he had too much money, he might find it pleasing, and perhaps convenient, to incur a breach of discipline. He (Lord Panmure) had therefore so far altered the scheme that, instead of investing a shilling a day for the soldier's benefit at a distant period, he now proposed immediately to put the additional sum of sixpence a day into the hands of the soldier as an extraordinary field allowance, precisely in the same way in which extraordinary field allowances were now paid to the officers. He proposed, instead of putting it into the savings bank, to give the soldier the benefit of an arrangement which existed in the navy, and which was voluntary on the part of the men themselves, but encouraged by their officers; and to enable the soldier to allot any part of that sixpence to his family, instead of receiving it himself. He proposed, also, that this sixpence, if not so allotted by the soldier, should, under certain circumstances of insubordination, be put in the power of the commanding officer to stop it from the hands of the soldier; but that whenever this sixpence a day was so stopped by the commanding officer, it should be invested for the soldier's benefit, and not forfeited entirely. Of course, like all the rest of the soldier's pay, it might be forfeited under the sentence of a court martial. Such were the modifications he now proposed to make in the scheme he announced the other day. He must say he did not think that the noble Earl had shown that discretion which might be expected of him, in saying that the profession of a soldier was, perhaps, one of the most imprudent which a man could adopt. He (Lord Panmure) was not sure that, even in a worldly point of view, it was so. The profession of a soldier, he thought, taking all things into consideration, was as well paid as that of a labourer. In addition to this, the soldier, if enlisted at the age of eighteen, had the advantage of receiving as good an education as it was possible to give him, by which his mind was cultivated with various branches of literature, and he was qualified for an useful member of society. These advantages, it appeared to him, should be a great temptation to heads of families, to advise their children to embrace the military profession, though at present, in time of war, people might be unwilling to send their children into it. He maintained, without fear of contradiction, that the condition of a professional soldier was not, by any means, the worst a man could choose. Upon the other questions put by the noble Earl—namely, with respect to the distribution of bounty—he (Lord Panmure) very much agreed with him; and had long had it under consideration to propose, although there might be some difficulty in doing it, a separation between the bounty paid from that which was subtracted from that fund for the purchase of necessaries. Those who knew soldiers must be aware that when the bounty was fixed at a particular figure, they sometimes would understand as little about the taking off of a certain sum for the purchase of necessaries as they would understand, after joining the regiment, their not receiving that sum, because such, necessaries had been purchased out of it; and so any such arrangement would cut both ways. On the whole, he thought it would be best to be fair and honest and open with the soldier; that we should name as bounty that which was actually given to him, and that we should provide him with necessaries according to a certain list and a certain tariff, which he might always have in his possession. This could be done more easily and systematically now that the provision of all these things was under Government control, and they could he furnished in the same manner and at the same price, so that the recruit might be enabled to understand it. With regard to the levy money, it was at present distinctly understood, and there was an estimate for so much on account of it every year, but the bounty consisted properly of that which was immediately paid to the recruits. The noble Earl had asked whether it was intended to reduce the bounty; in answer to which he (Lord Panmure) could only say, that he had no intention whatever of doing so—at least, until the conclusion of the war; the bounty had been only once increased since the war began, and if we had gone upon the old plan it would have been twice, or probably a third time, raised already. He did not intend to return to the lower rate of bounty, because, although this extraordinary allowance was to be given to the army in the field, it was still fair that some encouragement should be given to many of those who were enlisting, not for the Crimean service, but for the colonial, Indian, or any other service. The noble Earl said difficulties had been put in the way of recruiting, by various causes. He said, firstly, that there was too stringent an adherence to medical requirements, in passing the doctor's examination. It would be very difficult, and, indeed, very unwise, to relax them, as one of the cases mentioned by the noble Earl would show. If a man were accepted with a slight varicose vein, he might in a year or eighteen months be totally and entirely unfit for service, in consequence of any severe exertion aggravating such a defect. There were a great many other such defects, which, although at first they might appear to be very slight, would afterwards, if they were passed over, make a man quite unfit for duty. He could, assure the noble Earl that every relaxation of the rule in these cases that could with safety be made would be adopted, but there were many points in the medical examination which could not, and ought not, to be departed from. With regard to the interpretation of the pension warrant, he did not exactly understand to which warrant the noble Earl alluded, for there were several warrants under which the soldier received an allowance. He had assisted in drawing many; and they were all so drawn as to give the utmost latitude to the intention with which they were drawn. When, however, a warrant came to the War-office, they were obliged to adhere to it strictly, because, such was the multitude of cases that came before them, that if an exception were made in one case exceptions would be asked for in a thousand other instances, and there would be no use in passing a pension warrant at all, because ultimately, under such circumstances, the whole pension system would resolve itself into a question of the discretion of the Secretary for War. There was, however, a power, when any exceptional cases occurred, which enabled the Secretary for War to refer these cases to the Treasury. With regard to the question of a campaign counting for so many years' service of the soldier, that was not a new principle in the British army, for in the case of Waterloo, a single battle, it counted to the soldiers engaged in it for two years' service towards a pension. He saw no reason, therefore, why, at the end of the war, there should not be a regulation made in the case of the Crimean campaign similar to that in the case of Waterloo. With regard to the last question of the noble Earl, that of out door relief, that was a subject which he hardly felt competent to deal with. All he could do was to take care, in administering military pensions, that no poor-law guardian should lay his hands on the pension of an old soldier. He did that while he was formerly Secretary at War, and he would do so now. He had it in his power as Secretary for War to pay the men their pensions daily or quarterly as he should think fit. If a man was improvident it was paid daily, but if he was provident it was paid quarterly; and if he had a family and was provident, there were even cases in which an advance of pension could be made; and therefore he could protect the soldier altogether against the poor-law guardian. But, as regarded out-door relief as an addition to the pension, that was rather a question for the Legislature to decide than the Secretary for War. When the pension warrant, which was issued when he (Lord Panmure) was Secretary at War, came into operation, he thought there would be no occasion for any pensioner to receive out-door relief; for any well-conducted soldier, after a service of twenty-one years, would retire at the age of thirty-nine with a pension of 1s. a day. That is, he was entitled for service to 8d. a day, and he could add 4d. a day to it by good conduct, any man who received four good conduct stripes receiving a 1d. a day for each stripe; and any man receiving 1s. a day ought to be above the necessity of applying for poor-law relief. He had now answered the questions of the noble Earl, and he could only add that he hoped the alteration in the mode of giving the increased pay to the soldier in the field would be found satisfactory.


said, he was aware that even under the system which had hitherto prevailed, a man of long and good service might obtain a pension which would suffice for his comfortable maintenance. He happened to have himself in his service two old sergeants who were each in the receipt of a pension of 1s. l0d. a day. But he apprehended that, as the law stood, a board of guardians in granting relief to an old pensioner would be compelled to take into consideration the amount of pension he received. There was one point which he wished to bring under the consideration of the noble Lord, although he was not anxious to elicit any statement of his opinion with respect to it at that moment. He had heard with great satisfaction the proposed modification of the plan which the noble Lord had originally announced; but he would throw it out for the consideration of the noble Lord whether the whole of that additional pay should be given to a soldier when he was in the hospital. Formerly a portion of the pay was kept back from a soldier in hospital, but at present it was all retained for his benefit, and given to him when he came out of the hospital. It appeared to him that it was a matter well deserving of serious consideration, whether at present, when the increase of pay was so large, the existing arrangement upon that subject should be allowed to continue in operation. He regretted that the noble Lord should have thought that he (the Earl of Ellen-borough) had been indiscreet in expressing his opinion that in a worldly point of view a man acted imprudently in becoming a soldier. He could only say that upon every occasion on which he had an opportunity of advising a man upon that subject, he had told him to discard worldly considerations, and to become a soldier, for he had always held that the first of all professions was that of a soldier, and the first of all rewards was military honour.


wished to ask whether there were any stoppages of pay while the men were in hospital in consequence of being wounded, and whether any difference was made in the case of men who were sick and those who were wounded? He thought that it was not fair even when a soldier lost his health in such a campaign as this and was sent into hospital that there should he any stoppages of his pay, hut it would be a still greater hardship if he was compelled to be in hospital in consequence of wounds received in action. He should like to know if that was the case.


said, in reference to the subject he wished to inquire of the noble Lord the Secretary for War whether it was meant that the non-commissioned officers, the sergeants and corporals, should also receive increased pay as well as the privates. He must take the opportunity of venturing to express his great satisfaction at the explanation given by the Minister for War. He highly approved of the additional pay which was intended to be given, and he was sure the army would hail it with the greatest satisfaction. He also thought that the modification of the plan which had been just stated would be of great advantage, as it did not merely hold out a reward to the soldier on his retiring from the profession, but would have the effect of giving him an additional amount of pay while he was actually in the service. He understood the noble Lord to say that facilities would be given to the soldier to remit money to his family. That was a most important part of the scheme, and it ought to be so arranged as to enable the soldier to do so without being embarrassed by unnecessary forms. He was also much gratified to hear that the increase of pay would not be accompanied by a diminution of the bounty on enlisting, because in that respect he thought it impossible to draw a distinction between the recruiting for the army in the Crimea, and the men on service in the Colonies and India, and he thought that the bounty ought not to be diminished. He was delighted to learn from the noble Lord the opinion he had expressed with regard to the manner of dealing with the bounty, a question which he had long thought was worthy of the consideration of the Minister for war. Many men enlisted with the idea that they were to receive the whole amount of the bounty; and he thought it was important, recruiting our army in the manner we did, that there should not be the least appearance of breaking faith with the soldier, and that we ought to give the men in money what was stated to be the bounty, and that their necessaries should he provided from a separate source. He begged to have an answer to his question, whether the noncommissioned officers were to receive increased pay. If so, he could not but congratulate the noble Lord on his plan, and he believed it would have the effect of procuring a great many men for the army.


in reply to the question put by the illustrious Duke, had to state that it was certainly his intention to give to non-commissioned officers, namely, sergeants and corporals, the same additional pay as the men. It would be a field allowance such as existed in the case of commissioned officers, beginning with 2s. for ensigns, and going up, through every grade of the army, till it reached 1l. for the General Commanding in Chief. With reference to the question about the remission of money home by the soldiers, he understood that in the Navy each seaman could allot a certain portion of his pay, to be issued to his friends in this country, without any transmission from abroad being necessary. On the same principle, if any soldier wished to allot the whole or part of his pay to his relatives in this country, it would be issued to them by the authorities here on their producing the proper documents to prove that they were the parties to whom it should be paid. He agreed with his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) that it was an extreme hardship to those who had been wounded in the service to have a stoppage made from their pay in hospital. Though the regulations required such stoppages to be made, they had been in the first instance reduced in the course of the present war, and were now entirely got rid of; and he might state, that it was not intended to reimpose those stoppages, which had been very considerable, without further consideration.


said, that the noble Lord the Secretary for War had stated that in the event of a soldier committing any offence which was to be dealt with by the infliction of secondary punishment, the additional pay would be stopped; but it would, nevertheless, be invested for him. The noble Lords opposite were better able to judge whether in secondary punishments pecuniary fines would be found effective, but he would suggest that if the money was invested for the man from whom it was stopped, he might borrow it if he wanted to have the money to spend.


said, if the money was invested in the savings-bank, it could not be drawn out without leave from the commanding officer.