§ Order of the Pay for the Second Reading read.
THE EARL OF LONGFORD
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, it proposed to repeal two former Acts relating to enlistment for the army, and also to substitute a uniform term of enlistment for soldiers in all branches of the army for the three different terms now applicable to the cavalry, the infantry, and the artillery respectively. After the passing of the Army Service Act of 1847, it was arranged—upon what principle he was not quite certain—that soldiers for the cavalry should be enlisted for twenty-four years, in two periods of twelve years each; soldiers for the artillery for twenty-one years, in periods of twelve and nine years respectively; and soldiers for the infantry for twenty-one years, in two periods of ten and eleven years. There seemed to be no reason for maintaining those distinctions; and when the Recruiting Commission examined the subject they came to the conclusion that it would be advisable to adopt the term now in force for the artillery—namely, a term of twenty-one years divided into two periods of twelve and nine years—as the uniform scale to be applied to all branches of the service; and that was the term adopted in this measure. The second clause of the Bill gave facilities, which were not enjoyed before, to soldiers who before the completion of 1383 their first term were disposed to renew their engagement. The last clause conferred a new power upon the military authorities to enlist for general service recruits who had declared no preference for any particular regiment at the time when they came forward to enlist:—within twelve months the Commander-in-Chief would post such a recruit to some regiment, to which he would remain attached in the same manner as if he had originally enlisted for that regiment. There were two other Bills before the House of Commons referring to military subjects, which would be pressed forward whenever the state of public business would permit.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Longford.)
said, he thought the proposed alteration totally unnecessary, and that the change it made was in the wrong direction. They must not look at the Bill as an isolated proposal, but must view it in connection with the whole question of general policy with reference to the army. In another measure now before the other House—the Army Reserve Bill—the Government had introduced a clause enacting that a militiaman who had deserted might be sentenced by a court martial to serve in the regular army for twelve years. The mere fact of such a clause having been proposed showed how utterly inconsiderate and inconsistent the whole policy of the Government had been with reference to the discipline of the army. Such a provision was contrary to every sound principle which should regulate such matters. The Bill was a retrograde step from a sound policy in vogue twenty years ago.
said, he thought the clause referred to by the noble Earl would be fatal to the prosperity of any regiment. It was necessary, in his opinion, to have one uniform system of enlistment throughout the army, and not different periods of enlistment for different sections; but the great evil oppressing the army was the faulty system of reliefs.
THE EARL OF LONGFORD
said, in reference to the unfortunate clause spoken of, that it had been taken from the old Militia Act, which had been in force, although not acted upon, during all the time that the noble Earl who now objected to it had been in office. He believed it was unfortunately true that under the present 1384 establishment of our regiments, it was impossible in all cases to provide for the regular relief of troops in foreign service.
§ Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday next.