HL Deb 11 March 1856 vol 140 cc2224-6

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.


wished to ask the Secretary of State for the War Department whether there was practically any reason why the Army Estimates should not show the actual effective strength of the army in the same way as was done in the navy? In the Navy Estimates the number voted and the number actually borne on the books was given for every month in the year, and the deficiency or excess for each month noted in the margin. On looking at the Army Estimates, it would be found impossible to arrive at any conclusion as to the number of effective men; the number voted was given, but there was a deduction of £50,000 on account of the number deficient; that sum would represent 2,700 men, but in another part of the Estimates he found it was proposed to raise 78,400 recruits this year, to fill up the vacancies. With regard to the militia, he found that the embodied regiments were set down at 127,000 men, but £650,000 was deducted on account of the numbers deficient; and bounty was voted for 60,000 men which it was proposed to raise. It therefore appeared that 138,000 men were required to bring up the military force of the country to the number voted. He could see no reason why the real number should not be stated to the country. To tell this country that she had 400,000 men in arms was a deceit. Any person who looked at the return would see it was an utterly false statement. He could not think such a course consistent with the credit and advantage of the country. She was prepared to look at the truth, and would gladly carry the Government over their difficulty, if they only explained what the difficulty was.


said, it had never been the custom to state the exact number in the arm)'. It was found to be extremely difficult, even in time of peace, to ascertain the actual state of the army within 5,000 or 10,000 men, as the necessary return had to be collected from the most distant points, and were very long in coming. In time of peace, perhaps, there might not he so much difficulty in letting the public know from time to time what the state of the army was; but it would he impossible in time of war, with a large army in motion. It was very right to let the public and our enemy know the number of men we proposed to raise; but it might not be as wise to let him know the difficulty we experienced in doing so. In the Royal Artillery return there was a calculation always made of the number of non-effective men. He would consider whether the other returns could not be put in a better form, and if so he would have no objection to do so.


said, that in the last war, our great struggle with France, the Minister used from time to time to lay before Parliament the results of recruiting, and other valuable information which it was possible to produce. If he remembered rightly, almost every year during that war this important information was laid before Parliament. If that could be done during a struggle for life and death on the part of this country, it certainly could be clone at a time like the present.


called the attention of the House to the Act as it affected the billeting of soldiers. Considerable dissatisfaction prevailed in Scotland, inasmuch as soldiers could be billeted on private houses, which was not the case in England. He did not wish to oppose the second reading of the Bill, but should be contented with having directed the attention of the Government to the subject.

On Question, Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly; Committee negatived; and Bill to be read 3a, on Thursday next.

House adjourned to Thursday next.