HL Deb 22 May 1857 vol 145 cc699-700

I wish, my Lords, to take the present opportunity of stating that I think some mistake, which I do not clearly comprehend, has got abroad with respect to the Report of the Commissioners on military education. In another place, and also in the public press, the Government and myself have been accused of endeavouring to "burke" or suppress that Report. It would be impossible, my Lords, to advance a more groundless or, let me add, a more malevolent insinuation. When the Commissioners were appointed the greatest pains were taken to let the public know that the duty assigned to them was to elicit facts illustrative of the system of military education in all the countries of Europe, with the view of guiding Her Majesty's Government and the military authorities in establishing some plan of education for the officers of our army. The Commissioners completed their inquiry in July last, and, so far from our attempting to "burke" or suppress the result of their labours, my right hon. Friend (Mr. Monsell) informed the House of Commons, by means of a minute which he laid on the table, that the Commissioners had returned, and were in the act of preparing their Report, to which we intended to give publicity. That Report was made. It was very voluminous, and, in the first instance, was presented to me for my perusal. It was then sent to the Messrs. Spottiswoode, the gentlemen who print for the War Department, and also for your Lordships, and when it was put in type a certain number of copies were printed and distributed, some of them among your Lordships. I had 300 copies thrown off which I sent to the House of Commons, 150 to be given to such Members as might particularly desire to have them, and 150 to be placed in the library, where all the Members would have access to them. I adopted that course, because I did not wish to incur the expense of printing an unnecessarily large number of copies, and because I knew that not above one-fourth of the Members of the House of Commons would care to read a bulky blue-block upon such a subject. My desire for economy has been turned against me, and I am blamed for not having printed the Report, although I put it where every Member who chose might see it. That Report, my Lords, is well worthy your attention. The Commissioners go rather beyond their instructions, and I do not pledge myself to subscribe to all the opinions they have expressed; but I must say that their Report is one of the most able documents which I have seen upon the subject. It comprises in a very clear form accounts of all the systems of military education abroad, and I hope will receive from your Lordships, and from the Members of the other House of Parliament, an attentive and careful perusal. I may state, in addition, that the Commander-in-Chief and myself have been in communication for the purpose of establishing a system of education for the officers of the army; we have almost arrived at a conclusion upon the subject; a system has been sketched out which I hope we shall soon be able to promulgate; and your Lordships may be assured that no time shall be lost in carrying into practical operation that which is a great desideratum in our army—namely, a scheme for affording to our officers the means of acquiring the information requisite to fit them for staff and other appointments, rendering them as distinguished for their professional and technical knowledge as they had already proved themselves to be for their courage and gallantry in the field.