HL Deb 21 July 1871 vol 208 cc83-7

Seeing the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in his place, I beg to put a Question with reference to the future course of business in regard to the Army Regulation Bill. I understand that Her Majesty's Ministers have entirely dispensed, with the concurrence of this House, with regard to the abolition of purchase, and that they have likewise intimated their intention again to submit the Army Regulation Bill to the consideration of the House. I wish to ask whether, in this state of things, they will not, as a matter of course, reprint the Bill, removing those portions of it to which they no longer ask the concurrence of this House? This would enable us to know what it is to which we are asked to agree.


I have only received Notice of the noble Lord's Question within the last two minutes; but I apprehend there can be no doubt as to the answer which I must return to it. I believe that it is impossible to make any alteration in the Bill at its present stage.

Lord NORTHBROOK presented (by Command) the. Royal Warrant, dated 20th July, 1871, to cancel and determine all regulations authorizing the purchase or sale or exchange for money of Commissions in the Army from the 1st November, 1871.

Which Warrant is as follows:—


WHEREAS by the Act passed in the Session holden in the 5th and 6th years of the Reign of King Edward VI., Chapter 16, intituled "Against buying and selling of offices," and the Act passed in the 49th year of the Reign of King George III., Chapter 126, intituled "An Act for the prevention of the sale and brokerage of offices," all Officers in Our Forces are prohibited from selling or bargaining for the sale of any Commission in Our Forces, and from taking or receiving any money for the exchange of any such Commission, under the penalty of forfeiture of their Commissions and of being cashiered, and of divers other penalties, but the last-mentioned Act exempts from the penalties of the said Acts purchases or sales or exchanges of any Commissions in Our Forces for such prices as may be regulated and fixed by any regulation made or to be made by Us in that behalf:

AND WHEREAS WE think it expedient to put an end to all such regulations, and to all sales and purchases and all exchanges for money of Commissions in Our Forces, and all dealings relating to such sales, purchases, or exchanges.

Now, OUR WILL AND PLEASURE IS that on and after the 1st day of November in this present year, all regulations made by Us or any of Our Royal predecessors, or any Officers acting under Our authority, regulating or fixing the prices at which any Commissions in Our Forces may be purchased, sold, or exchanged, or in any way authorizing the purchase or sale or exchange for money of any such Commissions, shall be cancelled and determined.

Given at Our Court at Osborne, this 20th day of July, in the 35th year of Our Reign.

By Her Majesty's Command,



I wish to know whether the Government, before proceeding to the second reading of the Army Regulation Bill, will give some Notice of the Amendments which they propose to introduce into that measure.


My Lords, I venture to appeal to my noble Friend the noble Earl opposite to fix the second reading for Monday week. There has been an idea that it would be fixed for Monday next; but I find that it is not so stated in the Votes, and it would be extremely convenient if my noble Friend would appoint the day I have named. I take this opportunity also of giving Notice that on the Motion for reading the Bill a second time I shall move to add at the end of the Motion these words— But this House in assenting to the Second Reading of this Bill desires to express its opinion that the interposition of the Executive during the progress of a measure submitted to Parliament by Her Majesty in order to attain by the exercise of Prerogative and without the aid of Parliament the principal object of that measure is calculated to depreciate and neutralize the independent action of the Legislature, and is strongly to be condemned: and this House assents to the Second Reading of this Bill only in order to secure to the officers of Her Majesty's Army the compensation to which they are entitled consequent upon the Abolition of Purchase in the Army.


The proposal of the noble Duke with regard to Monday week has taken me by surprise, because I understood it had been arranged between the noble Duke and my noble Friend the Under Secretary for War that the second reading should be fixed for Monday next. I believe that that arrangement, however, was not made till after the adjournment of the House, and therefore could not be announced in the Votes. Her Majesty's Government are anxious to consult the convenience of the House, and if Tuesday or Thursday would be more convenient to the noble Duke Her Majesty's Government would be willing to meet his views. But considering the constant complaints made by noble Lords opposite of business being deferred, I fear that to put off a matter of such importance for ten days would be open to misconstruction.


After what has fallen from the noble Earl (Earl Granville), the question seems to be a small one—it is merely as between Thursday next and the Monday following, and the postponement seems only due to those who, being unaware that the Bill would be brought forward again, have made engagements for next week.


The noble Duke has given a very important Notice, and if he asks to have the second reading postponed till Monday week, it is but reasonable that his request should be complied with.


My objection to the postponement is that it is in opposition to the arrangement which I understood was come to with my noble Friend the Under Secretary for War. The best course would, perhaps, be for my noble Friend to fix the second reading nominally for Monday next, so that we may have a little time to consider the point. ["No, no!"]


Her Majesty's Government ought to consider that the proceedings they have themselves taken are of a most extraordinary and exceptional character; and to enable them to be properly considered by this House I think that sufficient time ought to be given to bring up to town those of your Lordships who, supposing that the matter was settled, have made other arrangements. Nothing could be less befitting the dignity of your Lordships' House than to precipitate its decision on a constitutional question of the magnitude of that raised by the action of the Executive Government.


I understand from the Notice given by the noble Duke that—although it is couched in terms which I need not now characterize—it is the intention of the noble Lords on the other side to give a second reading to the Bill. If that is to be the case, I can assure your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government are most anxious to meet the convenience of the House, and will assent to the noble Duke's request.


In order that there may be no mistake I will read my Motion again. Therefore it both recites at the beginning, and repeats at the end, that the House assents to the second reading for a certain object.


Do not let there be any misunderstanding. Do I understand that, whether the Motion is carried or not, the second reading will be agreed to? ["No, no!"]


I understand that the words of the Resolution are contingent upon the second reading.


Or rather the second reading is contingent on the Motion. ["No, no!"] We propose to pass the second reading, including with it a Motion condemnatory of the action of the Government.


It appears then that the noble Duke asks us to depart from the arrangement made with my noble Friend the Under Secretary for War, in order that Her Majesty's Government may take the Bill accompanied by a vote of censure, or that the second reading may be rejected.


I do not object to the noble Duke's moving a vote of censure, but I do not quite see how the second reading is to be connected with the vote of censure.


The noble Viscount cannot suggest that it is out of Order to submit a Notice of Motion on the second reading; but whether that Motion will be in Order when moved is a question to be decided when it is proposed. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) asks whether it is to be understood that under any circumstances the Bill is to be read a second time. I do not see how anyone can guarantee that; but the Motion of my noble Friend carries on the face of it our assent to the second reading. If the Motion should not be carried, it is impossible for any one Member or for any number of Members of your Lordships' House to bind the action of the House.


That is, of course, the case. I am perfectly satisfied with the noble Duke's statement of his own views.


said, that as this was a Money Bill their Lordships could not amend it in detail; and it was in so crude and imperfect a state at present that he hoped it would not receive the sanction of the House.


In the midst of this conversation my Question has been entirely forgotten.


was understood to say that he would consider what course he would take in reference to the Question of the noble and learned Lord.

The Army Regulation Bill was then ordered to be read 2a on Monday, the 31st instant.