HL Deb 21 July 1873 vol 217 cc621-47

said, he had now, pursuant to Notice, to move an humble Address to Her Majesty for the issue of a Royal Commission to inquire into the allegations of officers of Her Majesty's Army in reference to grievances which they state they suffer consequent upon the abolition of Purchase. He had refrained till this very late period of the Session from bringing forward the Motion in the hope that Her Majesty's Government would see fit to recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission as their own act, and because he was most unwilling that the discipline and the management of the Army should be made a subject of discussion in either House of Parliament. We had not as yet "nationalized" our Army—it still continued to be the Army of the Queen, and was commanded and managed by officers appointed by Her Majesty, and for this reason, if for no other, 'he thought it undesirable that, without good cause, questions affecting its interior organization should be brought before Parliament. There were, however, exceptional cases even in respect of a matter like this, and had he not believed the case of those officers was an exceptional one, he should not have brought it under the notice of their Lordships three months ago, and he should not now be coming forward with a Motion for an Address to the Crown. He asked their Lordships not to suppose that in any remarks he might make he intended to ask for a restoration of the system of Purchase which was abolished in 1871. That abolition was an accomplished fact, and it furnished him with one of the strongest arguments in favour of his Motion. For himself, he then thought, and he thought now, the abolition of Purchase a great mistake, because the system of Purchase, though ate anomaly, had worked most satisfactorily for a very long time, and because by doing away with it so much money was unnecessarily taken out of the pockets of the taxpayers. But Her Majesty's advisers had recommended that Purchase should be abolished, and had supplanted it by certain rules which were intended to facilitate the change, and Parliament had sanctioned their proposals. Therefore, whatever might be his opinions as to the effect of the change upon the Army, and the expediency of laying this heavy burden on the taxpayers of the country, he accepted abolition of Purchase as an accomplished fact not to be reversed, and should argue his case upon that basis. The first question was—did any grievances in reality exist? and the next was—was there any case for the redress of such grievances? He believed that there were real grievances; but even supposing there were not, he would still contend that there was a case for inquiry; because even if there were no grievances, he defied anybody to contradict him when he said there was great discontent. He could name several of the alleged grievances, and go into details to prove their existence; but, except so far as referring to one or two cases by way of illustration, he did not intend to go into details which, in his opinion, were for a Commission of Inquiry rather than an Assembly like their Lordships' House. He would, for example, mention the case of those officers who had been placed compulsorily on half-pay, and who, when they went before the Commissioners for their money, found themselves placed in a much worse position than they had any reason to think they would have been reduced to by reason of the abolition of Purchase. He would direct their Lordships' attention to a Return which he had moved for, and which had been presented to their Lordships' House, of the officers who, previously to the 1st of July, 1873, had memorialized the Commander-in-Chief with reference to their position and prospects consequent upon the abolition of Purchase. That Return showed the number to be 2,245. Those were officers quartered at home or in the home colonies. Now, what did such figures represent? Of Cavalry regiments they represented 9; of the Brigade of Guards, they represented 7 battalions; and of the Infantry of the Line they represented 68 battalions. Now, what were the total numbers of the officers of all ranks serving at home and in the home colonies? In the Household Cavalry there were 66; in the Line Cavalry, 333; in the Guards, 190; in the Infantry of the Line, 2,274 —making a total of 2,863, exclusive of colonels, who were not so much affected by the regulations for carrying out the abolition; so that their Lordships would see that rather more than two-thirds of Her Majesty's Army serving at home and in the home colonies felt themselves ill-used and ill-treated, and were therefore discontented. Although the General Officers who sent forward the memorials to the Horse Guards merely acted as machines in the transmission of the statement of grievances, some of them did express opinions which he would take the liberty of quoting to their Lordships. The first was from Major General Steele, commanding the forces in Ireland. He said In forwarding these representations, I beg to say that it would appear therefrom that the officers serving in this command generally feel they have a grievance arising out of the abolition of the purchase system, and that they trust His Royal Highness may be able to devise some measures that may lead to the matter being duly considered. Then Major General Horsford, commanding the South-East District, said— I have the honour to state that, while in no way offering an opinion on the merits of the various claims, it appears to me that it would be a satisfactory way of silencing complaint on the part of the officers that their claims should be referred to inquiry of such a nature as would satisfy them as to its impartiality. Major General Greathed expressed this opinion— There is a very strong feeling among officers that they have been dealt with in a summary manner, and I am of opinion that a very great relief would be given to this feeling of dissatisfaction by a full and impartial inquiry conducted by men whom the Army could trust. A letter from Lord Strathnairn, forwarding a memorial, was in these terms— I have the honour to enclose to you, for submission to His Royal Highness the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, a letter from Colonel Baillie, commanding the Royal Horse Guards, conveying the individual expression of the grievances of himself, five captains, and ten lieutenants, arising from the recent Army Warrants for the abolition of purchase, and to express the hope that their respectful request for an impartial inquiry into the subject may be granted. In transmitting a memorial from officers of different regiments serving under his command at Aldershot, Sir Hope Grant stated— I am fully convinced as to the strong feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction which prevails amongst the mass of regimental officers on the subject. This is mainly owing to the idea they have that their case has never been gone into before an impartial tribunal. Without some such investigation I am certain that this feeling will go on increasing in intensity. I would, therefore, beg very respectfully to suggest, for the consideration of His Royal Highness, that a Royal Commission, before which the officers could unfold their views, and state the points in which they regard themselves as having been unfairly treated, would do more than anything else could to allay the feeling which now so unfortunately prevails. He would ask, was it a satisfactory state of things when 2,245 officers were discontented, and one of the most distinguished officers in the service stated that nothing but a Royal Commission would remove that discontent? If he had nothing more than those facts, they would have made out his case for a Royal Commission. No inquiry would be satisfactory if it were not conducted by a perfectly independent tribunal. When the scheme for the abolition of Purchase was before the House of Commons, Mr. Cardwell, Sir Henry Storks, and Captain Vivian, speaking for the War Department, stated that they did not wish to place the officers of the Army in a worse position than they occupied during the existence of the system of Purchase. He (the Duke of Richmond) quite believed that the Government were perfectly sincere in these statements, and that they had no intention of injuring these officers in the way they had been injured:—what he complained of was that the Government, in passing this measure, did not foresee the evils which would result from the operation of their scheme. But if they were sincere in their statement that they did not wish to place the officers in a worse position, and if the officers now said that they were in a worse position, were not the Government bound to grant them an inquiry, in order that the officers might have the means of showing how they had been injured and in what manner their grievances might be redressed? When the Army Regulation Bill was under discussion, the Government quoted the evidence of officers of distinction who were in favour of abolition. In March, 1871, Sir Henry Storks made this quotation from the evidence of Colonel Cameron, a distinguished officer commanding one of our infantry regiments. I am entirely in favour of the abolition of Purchase, and think the Government have acted in the matter with the greatest liberality. The Purchase System, in my opinion, is bad in every way."—[3 Hansard, cciv. 1739.] But something must have happened since then to change Colonel Cameron's views—for when he looked to the Return containing the memorials sent in to the Horse Guards "consequent upon the Abolition of Purchase." he found attached to a memorial transmitted by Lieutenant General Lord Templetown, commanding the Southern District, the name of "Colonel Cameron, 4th Regiment." So that this gallant Colonel, who, when the scheme was under discussion, thought "the Government have acted in the matter with the greatest liberality," now included his name among the officers who had grievances to complain of in consequence of the operation of a scheme which he had commended so highly. Did not this show the necessity for inquiry? He would quote the testimony of another distinguished officer who had not only been an advocate of the scheme, but had himself acted as one of the Commissioners for the abolition of Purchase. On the 10th of March last, when the subject was before their Lordships' House, the late Lord Dc la Warr said— He would now point to a defect in the new system. He thought the powers of the Commissioners for the abolition of Purchase ought to be enlarged, so as to enable them to include among those entitled to compensation officers who ought never to have been excluded—for instance, old officers who, at the time of the reduction, were placed on the half-pay list without any desire of their own. They had lost an opportunity, and he thought they ought to be compensated for the loss; but if that one inequality were redressed, he would say that a large measure of substantial justice had been and would be meted out to the officers of the British Service under the arrangements of 1871."— [3 Hansard, ccxiv. 1598.] There was one great blot in the scheme which had given rise to the present state of things—there was no appeal from the Commissioners—their decision was final. If the officer who went before them did not like what they had to say, there was nothing for him but to make his bow and walk out. Nor was that all—for the Commissioners were not bound by the Act of Parliament to exercise their functions at all. Section 13 of the Act provided— No appeal shall be had from any decision of the Commissioners under this Act, and the Commissioners shall not be compelled by mandamus, injunction, or order of any Court to exercise or abstain from exercising any power conferred on them by this Act. So that if any officer represented his case as one of hardship, and the Commissioners chose to say they would not entertain it, there was an end of the matter—they could not be compelled to go into the merits of the case. He must say that he thought the fact of there being no appeal from the Commissioners was an additional reason why a Royal Commission should be granted. By the Members of the Government the British Army had always been spoken of in the handsomest terms. The Secretary of State for War had stated—he was not sure whether it was not at the meeting of "The Druids" of which their Lordships had heard so much—that all which could be wished for was that the Army should be the same as the Army of Wellington and Marlborough. He quite concurred with the right hon. Gentleman, but he did not think the Government were going the right way about it. The servants of the Queen in the Army should not be put in a worse position than Civil servants; and what had the Chancellor of the Exchequer said as to the position of the latter?— The Civil servants make a bargain with the State, and the State makes a bargain with them for their whole lives, and every man comes into the service under well-known rules and conditions, and neither the Government nor the servant can depart from those rules and conditions. We hold the Civil servants to their bargain, and they hold us to ours, and beyond this we cannot go. Surely, officers serving in the Army ought not to be placed in a worse position than that? But the officers of the Army were not treated in that fashion—the bargain under which they entered into the service of the State had been broken by the State, and it was not to be wondered at that discontent should be the result. He now came to the point that the tribunal of inquiry ought to be an independent one—he would not say an impartial tribunal, because he assumed that the Secretary for War would not make it anything but an impartial one. He ventured to say that no tribunal would be satisfactory if its members were nominated by the War Department. He meant no offence by this; because, with all respect for His Royal Highness the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, he should say the same of any tribunal nominated by the Horse Guards. He held that no one sitting on the Commission should have the slightest interest, official or otherwise, in the subject matter of investigation. If a railway company proposed to take a man's land, he was reconciled to the proceeding because it was allowed only after an investigation by a thoroughly independent Committee. When it was remembered that Purchase was put an end to by an exercise of the Royal Prerogative, it could not be expected that officers who felt aggrieved would be satisfied with an inquiry conducted by a tribunal named by the Ministry who had advised that exercise of the Royal Prerogative. It might be said that the terms could not have been so bad for the officers, or they would have thrown up their commissions. The obvious answer to that argument was, that as the Act of 1871 had passed the officers could not sacrifice everything, but must put up with the terms of that Act, unless redress were given them by means of an inquiry. It would be a mistake to suppose that the discontent was only among the officers. It was felt by the men. Everything which affected the interest of the officers the men felt— and rightly felt—to affect themselves; and they felt that their chance of getting any grievance of their own inquired into by an independent tribunal was very remote, when their officers failed in a case like this. He would now anticipate an objection which might be urged against his Motion. Such a Motion was not without precedent. On the 28th of April, 1863, Colonel Lindsay moved— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that she will be graciously pleased to a appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the claims of 21 Officers of the Army, who were promoted to the rank of Colonel in 1855 and 1856, as Aides de Camp to the Queen, and for distinguished service in the Crimean War, who, by a recommendation of the Royal Commission of 1858, which had reference to another class of Officers, have been deprived, to an undue extent, of the position they attained by the promotion conferred upon them; and to report to Her Majesty whether they are entitled to any redress; and, if so, to recommend in what form such redress should he accorded to them."—[3 Hansard, clxx. 864.] At the end of the debate Lord Palmerston said— Sir, there are two things which I think it desirable to avoid, if possible. One is, the habitual interference of this House with the detailed management of the Army, because that is no part of the Constitutional functions of the House of Commons, and, if continued, must naturally lead step by step to very objectionable results; and the other is, the presence in the public mind of any circumstances which give rise to the opinion that injustice has been done to any class of deserving public servants …. The course which I would venture to suggest to the hon. and gallant Member opposite would, in my opinion, meet both objections. I should propose to him to withdraw his Motion, thereby avoiding committing this House to an interference with the detailed military administration of the Army; and, if he adopts that course, I will, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, engage that a Commission shall be issued. I trust that that will show that Her Majesty's Government have no desire to avoid inquiry, and have no wish to resist any suggestion which is founded upon a sense of injustice, whether rightly or wrongly entertained."—[Ibid, 873–4.] Under these circumstances Colonel Lindsay did not press his Motion—a Royal Commission was issued; General Peel was appointed Chairman, and the Commission was in these terms— Whereas it has been represented to us that 21 officers who were promoted to the rank of Colonel in the years 1855–1856 as our aides-de-camp, &c., 'consider that by the operation of our Royal Warrant of the 14th October, 1858, founded on the recommendation of the Royal Commission of 1858, they have been deprived to an undue extent of the position they attained by the promotion bestowed upon them;' and whereas it has been represented to us that certain captains and lieutenant-colonels of the Guards, &c., 'consider that their positions have been unduly injured by the operation of the said Warrant, &c. . . . . . Commission to report whether these officers are entitled to redress, and if so, to recommend in what form such redress should be accorded to them. But it might be urged, by way of objection to the Motion, that it would be against precedent to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of an Act of Parliament. He thought he would be able to show that there was abundant precedent for the course he asked to have adopted in this case. In 1837, when the Marines complained of the inferiority of their position, as compared with the rest of the Army, a Royal Commission was at once issued to inquire into their complaints. When the Indian officers were transferred to the Royal Army in 1858 they received a Parliamentary guarantee that all their privileges should be preserved to them, and when certain Petitions were presented to Parliament complaining that this guarantee had been violated, a Royal Commission was at once issued to inquire into the alleged grievance. When the Royal Artillery complained of the slowness of their promotion, inquiry was at once made into the question. After that a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the laws regulating the sale and consumption of excisable liquors in Scotland. In 1862, one was appointed to inquire into the operation of the Act to substitute in certain eases other punishments in lieu of transportation, and an Act to amend that statute. In 186;5, there was one appointed to inquire into the operation of the marriage laws; in 1866 there was one on capital punishment, and in the same year one on oaths and affirmations, and in 1870 one to inquire into the operation of the Contagious Diseases Acts passed so recently as 1866 and 1869. He would now leave the case in their Lordships' hands, feeling perfectly satisfied that by their votes they would grant to the officers of the Army that justice which the humblest man in this country had a right to demand. Moved that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty that she will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the allegations of the officers of Her Majesty's Army contained in the memorials mentioned in the Return made to this House (Parliamentary Paper 196.) as to the grievances which they state that they suffer consequent upon the abolition of purchase.—(The Duke of Richmond.)


said, it was always a matter of regret to him to differ from the conclusions of the noble Duke opposite, and on the present occasion he regretted it the more because he felt he was differing not only from the conclusions at which the noble Duke had arrived, but also from those of no inconsiderable number of gallant officers whose confidence the Government desired to retain, and whose interests the War Department was always anxious to promote. But the question now brought before their Lordships was of such importance that he thought it was his duty to look beyond the mere approval or disapproval of any class or profession, and to take care that nothing should be done which could impede the future administration of a Department or disparage the authority of Parliament. Their Lordships were confronted upon the present occasion with one fact of great importance, the large numerical signature of the officers' memorials, and from that fact the noble Duke drew two inferences, first, that there existed widespread discontent among the officers of the Army; secondly, that the only legitimate remedy for that discontent was the appointment of a Royal Commission. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) would endeavour to ascertain what were the limits and what was the cause of the discontent, and then endeavour to show that the remedy which the noble Duke proposed was not the one which their Lordships should concur in. He thought the House would agree with him when he said that the fact that these memorials had been signed by so many officers was a very important event in the history of the British Army; and he proposed to treat it with that kind of treatment which an historical event generally received. He proposed to make some inquiry as to its antecedent circumstances; then to refer to external evidence in order to see whether the explanation suggested by the antecedents was confirmed by it or not, and thence to pass on to the evidence contained in the body of the memorials themselves. As to the antecedents, he would remind the House that the Government had found, as the result of inquiries by a Royal Commission, that an illegal system of Purchase was in existence, and that it was impossible to put an end to the over-regulation payments without putting an end to the regulation payments also. Purchase was accordingly put an end to by Royal Warrant, and a measure was submitted to Parliament providing the terms, on which officers should be compensated for any loss which they might sustain, and he thought it would not be denied that the scale of compensation agreed to by Parliament was not only liberal, but amply liberal. But during the discussions on the subject, a strong opposition to the abolition of Purchase had been offered by a large body of the officers and their friends. He did not say that opposition was an universal one, but there was unquestionably a wide and determined opposition to the general policy of the proposition of the Government, and not to the terms proposed. Now, he ventured to think that if their Lordships looked into the memorials referred to by the noble Duke they would detect in them that old opposition to the policy of the Government rather than dissatisfaction with the terms. In the first place it might have been supposed that if the position of the officers was so unbearable as had been represented, an exodus from the Army would have taken place; but nothing of the kind had occurred, though those gallant officers would have been entitled to the full value of their commissions had they at once taken advantage of the Act. The Estimate voted on this account last year amounted to £2,035,000, and the sum voted on the 31st March this year was £2,056,000. Again, beyond all question the memorials had been signed by a large number of officers who could not pretend that they themselves had suffered anything from the change. He would give their Lordships one or two instances. A colonel of the Household Brigade complained that he was deprived of the power of exchange; that he sustained injury in respect of chances of promotion, and that he suffered in consequence of the amalgamation of the English and Indian Armies. He had inquired into the case of the gallant officer and found that there being no corresponding rank to that held by him in any regiment except the regiments of Guards, he could not have exchanged. He had not suffered in respect of promotion; and the amalgamation of the English and Indian Armies was in no way connected with the abolition of the Purchase system. There was no system of Purchase in the Indian regiments, although there were bonuses for which officers would be compensated, and on account of which they would certainly not be losers. Another officer in the Household Cavalry complained generally that he was aggrieved and prayed for an inquiry; but as a matter of fact, that gallant officer had obtained his colonelcy since the abolition of Purchase, and had thereby retained £3,250 which otherwise he would have had to expend in obtaining his promotion. The list of memorialists was closed by one or two sub-lieutenants, who, having joined the Army subsequently to the abolition of Purchase, had had nothing to pay, and must, he should think, have been under the impression that they were signing a vote of want of confidence in the Sandhurst system or a petition against the Civil Service Commissioners. Turning to the contentions contained in the memorials themselves, without going into much of detail in regard to the grievances complained of, he would mention a few in order to prove how groundless many of them were. In the first place, there were grievances to be attributed to alterations in the position and prospects of officers, which alterations were clearly foreseen and contemplated at the time when Purchase was abolished. Certain officers said they entered the Army while the Purchase system was in existence, and that they held the Government bound to continue that system until the end of their career. But the answer to this was that the Purchase system was abolished by Parliament in order to terminate such a right as this, and also the further right which was claimed to purchase higher steps because admission to the lower grade had been paid for by them. Another class of complaints was directed against alterations which had been made with a view to the efficiency of the Service, and with which no guarantee or understanding could possibly be held to interfere. That class of grievance was well described in the Report of a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the position of the Indian Colonels, a Commission of which the noble and learned Lord opposite was a member. In the Report occurred this passage,— The guarantee does not in our opinion secure the Indian officers from changes in the rules of the service which may he desirable to be made with a view to the improvement or exigencies of the service. These changes could without any breach of faith, have been made by the East India Company, and can be now made by the Crown. These words, read as bearing upon the ease now before their Lordships, seemed to establish beyond dispute that no guarantee could secure an officer against changes which, upon their own merits and for the sake of the efficiency of the Service, the Crown might subsequently determine to make. Such changes had been made repeatedly by different Governments—for example in 1856, Lord Panmure decided that majorities and lieutenant colonelcies in the Guards should be for the future un saleable; and by this arrangement several gallant officers lost the value of the higher commission which they might have sold. One of them was a Member of their Lordships' House, for Lord Abinger lost £3,500, and Colonel Stevenson £700 by this regulation; but he had not heard that any claim was made for compensation in consequence of their loss. Another category of grievances was that in which the position and prospects of officers were prejudiced as compared with those of their brother officers, in consequence of their ill-luck; such cases must always arise whenever large reorganizations were made; but these were losses not previously ascertainable, for which therefore it was impossible to provide compensation. There were some of the grievances mentioned by the noble Duke which he must admit seemed to involve hardship. One of these was that of the officer who had remained for a long time at the top of his rank waiting for an unbought vacancy which would give him a saleable commission which he could turn to account. A further instance was that of officers upon the reduced half-pay list, who might have been placed by the Commander-in-Chief on full pay in order to sell, but who were now, if brought back, unable to sell their commissions. There was a hardship there undoubtedly; but, as far as he could see, this was the misfortune of these officers rather than the fault of anybody else concerned, and any scheme of compensation for them would have entirely given up the whole principle of the settlement of 1871. There was another small and unimportant class of grievances which might be described by the phrase "mares' nests." Certain cavalry officers for instance said that the terms of compensation to cavalry should be higher than in the case of any other branch of the Service, because the over-regulation in cavalry regiments was higher than in the other branches; but those who thus contended seemed to forget that the Army Purchase Commissioners in fixing the compensation took this fact into their consideration. The whole of the grievances were, in his opinion, reducible into narrow limits. There was an element of gain and an element of loss; and, on the whole, he thought the element of gain to the officers outweighed the element of loss. The pledges of the Government in regard to the matter were based upon a belief that this would be the case, and he believed that everyone of the pledges had been faithfully redeemed. Now, with respect to the remedy proposed by the noble Duke. The remedy proposed took the form of a Royal Commission; but upon what assumption could the demand for such a Commission proceed? It could only proceed upon the assumption that neither from Parliament nor from the Government was there to be expected any such redress as that for which, said the noble Duke, the situation of the officers called. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne), on the other hand, contended that the War Department had always been prepared to deal with cases which came within the equity, but not within the letter, of the Act of 1871, and that the House of Commons had on several occasions been asked to provide compensation for officers who by a strict interpretation of the Act of Parliament were not entitled to it. Their Lordships were aware that by the Army Regulation Act, a limitation was put on the number of officers who might be allowed to sell out in any one year. When that limitation was found to work to the prejudice of those officers, it was without difficulty withdrawn, a similarly liberal concession had been made to the staff officers of pensioners, and he could give their Lordships other instances of individual officers who had been similarly treated by the Government. It seemed to him that if a case of individual and particular hardship were submitted to the responsible Department of the Government a remedy would be afforded. But he wished to ask this question—would it be a right thing to set a Royal Commission in motion to revise a settlement effected by a statute passed so recently as 1871?—because it was a revision of that settlement which the noble Duke's Motion aimed at. It was perfectly conceivable that the noble Duke might have asked for an independent inquiry into the measures taken by the Government to carry out the Act; but he sought to set aside the principle itself of the settlement of 1871. The noble Duke would pardon him for saying that not one of the cases mentioned by him in which a Royal Commission had been issued had the slightest bearing on the subject of his Motion. The noble Duke had mentioned that Royal Commissions had been issued to inquire into the operation of the Contagious Diseases Act, into Capital Punishment, into the sale of Excisable Liquors, into the operation of the Marriage Laws. Did the noble Duke seriously moan to contend for a moment that the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the Marriage Laws was any precedent for issuing a Royal Commission to re-open the great and important settlement made in 1871? Why, in no one of the cases instanced by the noble Duke had there been such a settlement as that which he now desired to disturb—a settlement between parties— between the officers of the Army on the one hand and the public on the other, as recipients and payers of the sums payable under the Act, for something like £2,000,000 had already been expended, or would shortly have been expended, subject to its provisions. Were all these awards to be re-opened and the whole of the financial arrangements consequent upon the abolition of Purchase to be re-cast without a sign of dissatisfaction on the part of the other House of Parliament which had made so liberal a provision in obedience to the Motion of the noble Duke and the request of the memorialists whose cause he supported? Then there was the precedent of Lord Cranworth's Commission. There was no resemblance whatever between that Commission and the Commission which might be appointed in compliance with the noble Duke's Motion. In the case of Lord Cran- worth's Commission a statutory guarantee had been given to certain officers, and an inquiry was instituted in order to ascertain whether as was alleged, warrants subsequently issued by the Government were or were not consistent with that guarantee. In the present case it was not the subsequent action of Government which was questioned, the noble Duke himself did not dispute the fairness of the interpretation placed by the Government and by the Army Purchase Commissioners on the provisions of the Act. It was the first principles of the Act itself which the noble Duke attacked, and which the memorialists objected to. Lord Cranworth's Commission told directly against the noble Duke. If he wished for a Commission analogous to that of Lord Cranworth he would not be opposed by the Government. They had no desire for an inquiry which could lead to little good; but if their conduct in carrying out the Act, or that of the Army Purchase Commissioners, or that of the Secretary of State, was impugned, they were prepared to abide the results of an investigation. Therefore he would not object to a Motion limited to this object; but if the noble Duke persisted in his present Motion, involving as it did a reinvestigation of the principles of the Army Regulation Act, then the Government would resist, and would resist to the utmost, a course fatal to the proper administration of the affairs of the Army and perilously subversive of the authority of Parliament.


My Lords, I am bound to say something on this settlement, and also to say that nothing would induce me to utter one word on this occasion if it were not that I feel called upon to point out in the strongest manner to every Member of this House that anything more detrimental to the interests of the Army, to the interests of the service, or to the interests of the country, than to have a discontented set of officers it is impossible to conceive. Therefore, I hope, whatever your Lordships may decide—it is not my province to interfere in any political question—your Lordships will decide with the object of putting an end to that discontent which I am grieved to say I believe does exist. I think it is very much to be deplored that anything should engender among the officers of the Army a spirit of discontent which up to this moment, so far as I know, never has existed in the Army. So far as I am concerned, I should like to see an independent inquiry; but I must say that, in my opinion, an independent inquiry would at once put on one side the great bulk of the grievances of these officers. I think it would be deplorable if anything were now done to interfere with the Act. The Act was accepted by the country, and it must now be carried out in its integrity. Although I believe the bulk of these complaints would be eliminated by any tribunal which might undertake the task of inquiring into these grievances, there are minor points which, in my opinion, are entitled to an equitable consideration for the purpose of ascertaining whether they might not be brought within the intention with which the Act was passed;—for I do not suppose, nor can anybody suppose, that the Act was brought forward to do injustice to anyone. If injustice has been done in any individual case, I have no doubt a rectification would be most acceptable to the Government. Every endeavour has been made to meet the cases of those officers with regard to whom the Act has been found to work harshly. In one instance, whore a clear ease in equity had been made out in favour of a certain class of officers, the sum necessary to meet their case had been voted by the other House at the instance of Her Majesty's Government, and full justice had been done them. As I understand the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne), Her Majesty's Government intend to deal with every case of acknowledged hardship on the same principle, it will become my duty to bring all such cases under their notice—and I can only express an anxious hope that in every instance justice will be done. Since the passing of the Act it has been my anxious endeavour to carry out the intention of the Act in a spirit of fairness, and as far as possible to avoid all friction in its working. All I can say is, that in any case which may come to my knowledge where an officer has equitable claims to consideration I shall not shrink from bringing it under the notice of Her Majesty's Government, or from expressing my opinion as to how it should be dealt with. I must conclude these few obser- vations by expressing a hope that the discussion that has taken place in your Lordships' House to-night may tend in a large measure to allay the discontent among certain of the officers, the existence of which I most deeply deplore as being highly injurious to the public service, and which I trust all those who possess influence amongst the officers will do their best to check and alleviate. I trust also that the officers themselves will feel satisfied when they more completely understand that their claims will be dealt with not so much according to the strict letter of the Act as according to justice and equity.


said, that the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had attempted to excuse the harshness of the Army Regulation Act, on the ground that its provisions had been agreed to by a considerable majority of the other House; but he appeared to forget that in passing the compensation clauses the Government majority had fallen from considerably over 100 to about 15 or 16. The noble Marquess had stated that the present discontent of the officers was merely a remnant of their old opposition to the abolition of the Purchase system; but whether that were the case or not, it was undoubted that the present discontent was bonâ fide and genuine. It was clear that the officers were not satisfied with the provisions of the Act. They felt that they had lost the interest of the money they had paid, as well as all prospect of the advancement and the other advantages they were certain to have obtained under the old system. As the illustrious Duke had remarked, those of the officers who were discontented with the working of the Act had a right to have their cases considered and their alleged grievances inquired into, and he trusted the Government would grant the inquiry. He had been greatly surprised at reading in the reports of what had occurred in the House of Commons the other night that Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Cardwell, in speaking on this subject, had said that if the officers were really aggrieved they had only to go to Victoria Street and get the money for their commissions. The fact that they did not do this was no proof whatever that they were not discontented with their position. A large number of officers, however discontented they might he, could not afford to sell their commissions, because they were too old to enter into any other profession, and would have no means of earning their living if they quitted the Army. The discontent among the officers was widespread and deeply-rooted, and after the speech of the illustrious Duke tonight it was impossible that an inquiry into their case could be longer refused. The noble Marquess had said that it would not do to alter the compensation clauses of the Act now, because by doing so the Estimates would be disarranged;—but was justice to the officers to be based solely upon the financial arrangements of the War Office? To show the opinion of eminent authorities on the subject, he would read the following extracts from letters which had been written by officers of high rank:— The officers of the Army feel that they are deprived of what, by every code of honour is theirs. This may be right or may be wrong, but it is the unanimous feeling of the Army. The effect of this continued agitation on the discipline of the Army is, and will be most disastrous, and I sincerely trust this prayer for an impartial tribunal may be successful. Every barrack-room is ringing with this question. I saw with pleasure the abolition of Purchase, and have seen no reason to change my opinion had the substitution been carried out equitably. That the dissatisfaction is widespread and deep-tongued there cannot be the slightest doubt, and the state of affairs is most damaging to the morale of the Army. What the officers complained of was, not the abolition of Purchase, but the terms which had been offered to them, which they regarded as not being equitable under the circumstances. When the Bill abolishing Purchase was before the House he stated that, in his opinion, the fairest mode of proceeding would be to pay the regulation money down and to give the over-regulation money on retirement. Another suggestion then made was that the interest of the purchase money should be paid and the money itself when an officer left the Army. Neither of those suggestions had, however, been adopted, and the officers were sufferers in that respect—as well as by the abolition of the system of exchanges, which they looked upon as a great boon. He begged leave to tell the noble Marquess that the officers of our Army did not conjure up imaginary grievances—that they were able, conscientious, and honest, and that they were men who would not put their hands to anything which they did not thoroughly believe and understand. He wished merely to add the expression of his satisfaction that after the speech of the illustrious Duke on the cross-benches the House could have little doubt as to the vote which it would give on the present occasion. If we desired to have an efficient Army we must take care that it was a contented one.


said, he felt that he would be wanting in a sense of duty if he failed to bear testimony to the fact that in the district in which he commanded, great discontent prevailed among officers of all ranks. Strict measures were taken to prevent the soldier from making any representations with regard to an increase of pay; and when that was so Parliament ought surely not to refuse to take steps to protect that which was the property of the officer—the value of his commission. He hoped the House would not forget that it had it now in its power to do something which would greatly tend to promote satisfaction in the Army and to remove the existing discontent.


said, he could not but regret that the Government had not thought fit to assent to the proposal for the issue of a Commission. He would fully confirm the statement that great discontent prevailed among the officers, and expressed it to be his belief that the Government did not even yet really understand all that was involved in the abolition of Purchase. Considering that the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had never been in the Army, he had spoken with great ability on the question; but it was evident that the Government was only now arriving at a due sense of the fact that the Army was a very complicated and delicate piece of machinery, which they had been pulling about for the amusement of the more Radical section of their supporters—extremely to the annoyance of the officers—and which they were beginning heartily to regret they had not let alone. He (the Marquess of Hertford) had always maintained that the abolition of Purchase affected the poor officer even more than the rich; and when the Bill doing away with it was before the House he had produced the letters of 20 or 30 old officers who had been promoted from the ranks, almost everyone of whom was opposed to the Government measure, and which letters he had forwarded to Lord Northbrook, but without result. Out of the 2,245 officers who complained that they had been aggrieved, he believed a great number would be found who had not paid a farthing for their commissions, but would never have allowed themselves to be promoted were it not for the prospective advantages which had been held out to them by the Warrant of 1866. He was, he might add, informed that there was at the present moment the greatest difficulty in getting adjutants from the ranks in cavalry regiments. One of the provisions of the Warrant of 1866 was that a captain retiring should receive £1,800, and, if he rose to be a major, and finally a lieutenant colonel, £4,500, and many a captain had allowed himself to be superseded by his juniors in the hope of obtaining promotion by death vacancy or augmentation, and of then selling what he had never bought. But by the new Act, under no circumstances, whether he went now, or 20 years hence, would an officer ever be allowed to receive more than the £1,800, instead of the £4,500, the value of his Commission being no longer cumulative. Further, the poor officer was prevented from exchanging either from full pay to half-pay, or from half-pay to full pay, or from one regiment to another. The sub-lieutenant of infantry who came from the ranks had not the prospective advantages he formerly enjoyed, while his pay was very inadequate—namely, £95 16s. 3d., his necessary expenses at the most moderate computation amounting to no less than £115 15s. 1d. He did not see how they could ever again get noncommissioned officers to accept promotion from the ranks under the present rate of pay, or how they could secure the services of the sons of poor clergymen and other professional men—the very classes they wished to obtain for the Army. Now, that the conditions under which poor men entered the service had been so much altered, he was convinced the Government would find that they must increase the pay of officers. The purchase sub-lieutenant who entered before that Act was passed had probably borrowed money to enter into the service, and also on going abroad with his regiment to insure his life. Such an officer, it was evident was even worse off than the poor man who was shown to have only £95 a-year, although his expenses amounted to £115. The pay was positively not sufficient to defray their necessary regimental expenses, leaving out uniforms and family expenses. Was it singular, then, that there should be discontent in the Army? The purchase officers, more particularly from the majors downwards, complained that the Government were actually in possession of their money, which money was being kept to keep up a fictitious promotion. In five or six years' time, however, there would and must be a stagnation. Could their Lordships wonder, then, if the officers were without hope? Whether or not the Government, in consequence of their Lordships' vote that evening, granted a Royal Commission, he appealed to them to treat the Army with far more consideration and justice than they had hitherto done. By doing so they might, perhaps, lose the support of their extreme and advanced followers; but, on the other hand, they would earn the gratitude of the Army, and also, he believed, the approval of the country. There was the same chivalry and high sentiment in the Army as was displayed at Waterloo and at Inkerman; but men who entered the service liked to cherish the idea that if they imperilled life and limb, and underwent any hardship in the discharge of their duty, they did it not for the War Office, but for their Queen and country.


said, the Motion before the House was confined to the grievances of officers consequent on the abolition of Purchase; but the noble Marquess who had just sat down (the Marquess of Hertford) had referred to various matters of complaint which had little or nothing at all to do with that measure. The noble and gallant Lord who commanded the Southern district (Viscount Templetown) said that it was undoubted that great dissatisfaction existed among the officers of the Army, and that it was most desirable that that dissatisfaction should be put an end to; but his noble and gallant Friend neither stated from what that dissatisfaction arose, nor did he state to what extent he believed it to be well founded. With regard to the non-purchase officers of the Line, their case was met by the regulation of the Act of 1871 under which they were to receive £100 for every year of foreign service, and £50 for every year of home service. The noble Duke who brought forward the present Motion said he would be content to rest his case on the fact that discontent existed in the Army. But what was the nature of the grievances of the officers? His noble Friend the (Marquess of Lansdowne) had been obliged to pick out of the memorials the grounds of complaint which he supposed, if the inquiry were granted, would be urged, but the Motion did not show what causes of complaint existed. As for the precedent relied on by the noble Duke, the Motion proposed by Colonel Lindsay in the House of Commons in 1863 distinctly stated the grounds for the discontent that then existed among certain officers; whereas the noble Duke might content himself with saying that discontent existed, but he did not attempt to say what cause there was for it. Nothing could be more unfortunate than widespread discontent among the officers; but as a matter of fact a great portion of the complaints were, as remarked by the illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge), of a minor and comparatively unimportant character, and it had been shown that many of them did not spring from the abolition of Purchase. One complaint was that the post of commanding officer of a battalion had been made terminable; but such complaints were occasionally preferred before the abolition of Purchase, and indeed formed one of the strongest arguments against its continuance. Lord Dalhousie, whose absence he regretted, and who did not advocate the abolition of Purchase, always laid down that officers had no vested rights of that kind which they could urge against measures required for the improvement of the Service, and it would be dangerous now to admit claims which during the existence of Purchase were uniformly denied by the military authorities and the War Department. He knew too well the character of the officers to doubt that they felt they had distinct complaints; but they had not drawn a distinction between grievances attendant on the abolition of Purchase and those arising from alterations required in the interests of the Service, and from the changes going on everywhere in military systems. The noble Duke had also adduced an argument of another kind— he stated that the discontent not only prevailed in the mess room, but had extended to the barrack room. That was a very grave statement; but he ventured to think that it was one in respect of which it would be very difficult to produce any evidence, nor if the Motion were adopted could any grievances but those of the officers be inquired into. His noble Friend (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had been represented as saying that the opening of this question would interfere with the financial arrangements of the War Office; but all that he had said was that if compensation were given it would be necessary to re-open the case of the officers, to whom something over £2,000,000 had been already paid. His noble Friend distinctly said that Mr. Cardwell had in several instances gone beyond the law and entered into the equity of the case, and that in no instance had he experienced any difficulty in obtaining the sanction of the Treasury and of the House of Commons to the payment of an increased sum, and it had been distinctly stated by the illustrious Duke the Commander-in-Chief, and by the noble Marquess who spoke on behalf of the Secretary for War, that Mr. Cardwell would continue to give the most equitable consideration to any such cases which might be brought before him by the illustrious Duke. He had understood the illustrious Duke to express no opinion on the course he should adopt on this occasion, but to express a hope that their Lordships would take the course most calculated to allay any discontent which might exist among the officers, and he (the Marquess of Ripon) concurred most cordially in the expression of that desire. At the same time he asked their Lordships not to agree to this Motion, not only because the Government were quite willing to take every step in their power to allay any discontent arising from reasonable causes, but also because if their Lordships adopted this vague Motion, which did not define or confine the matters to be inquired into, they would give rise to large and unfounded expectations which it would be impossible to gratify, and thus, instead of allaying, they would only increase any discontent that might exist.


in reply, said, he was fully justified in pressing the Motion by the statement of the illustrious Duke, which nobody acquainted with the Army could dispute, that discontent existed. The person more eminently qualified than any other to describe the feeling of the Army had told their Lordships in unmistakeable terms that discontent existed among the officers. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had taken him to task for not having entered into the details of the grievances alleged by the officers. But he had a perfect answer to this. In the first place, he thought it extremely irregular and inconvenient for the noble Marquess who represented the War Department to have quoted from documents which were not before the House, and to which there was no possibility of his obtaining access. The complaints had been addressed to the illustrious Duke the Commander-in-Chief, and he should have thought it the height of impertinence to have knocked at the door of His Royal Highness and asked permission to inspect the documents in order to support the view which he was putting before their Lordships. To have done this would have been to put the Commander-in-Chief in a position in which he ought not to be put by any Member of their Lordships' House. It had been urged that it was out of order to ask for a Royal Commission to inquire into the operation of an Act of Parliament. But in answer to this he would call to their Lordships' recollection the fact that in 1870 a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the operation of the Contagious Diseases Act, which had been passed in the previous year. It was not with any view to obtain a decision in favour of the reenactment of Purchase in the Army that he had brought this question forward—he should as soon think of obtaining a re-enactment of the Corn Laws by the issuing of a Royal Commission to inquire into the operation of the Act of Parliament which repealed them—he had brought the question forward because he believed that the officers had a substantial grievance to complain of, and on the grounds which he had stated he asked their Lordships to accede to the Motion for an Address.


supported the Motion. He believed that the officers of the Army had many and great grievances to complain of, arising out of the abolition of Purchase—that they had made out a good case for inquiry, and that the facts and arguments in favour of the issue of a Royal Commission had not been answered.

On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 129; Not Contents, 46; Majority, 83.

Resolved in the Affirmative:—Ordered, That the said Address be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.

Beaufort, D. Waldegrave, E.
Buckingham and Chandos, D Westmoreland, E.
Wicklow, E.
Leeds, D.
Northumberland, D. Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.)
Richmond, D. Falmouth, V.
Somerset, D. Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)
Wellington, D.
Bath, M. Hardinge, V.
Bristol, M. Hawarden, V. [Teller.]
Bute, M. Hood, V.
Hertford, M. Sidmouth, V.
Salisbury, M. Strathallan, V.
Winchester, M. Templetown, V.
Arundell of Wardour, L.
Abergavenny, E.
Airlie, E. Aveland, L.
Amherst, E. Bagot, L.
Aylesford, E. Bateman, L.
Bantry, E. Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)
Carnarvon, E.
Cawdor, E. Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Dartmouth, E.
Denbigh, E. Cairns, L.
Derby, E. Calthorpe, L.
Devon, E. Carrington, L.
Chelmsford. L.
Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.)
Feversham, E. Clements, L. (E. Leitrim)
Fortescue, E.
Gainsborough, E. Cloncurry, L.
Harewood, E. Colchester, L.
Harrington, E. Colonsay, L.
Howe, E. Colville of Culross, L.
Ilchester, E. Crofton, L.
Lanesborough, E. Delamere, L.
Leven and Melville, E. De L'Isleand Dudley, L.
Lichfield, E. De Saumarez, L.
Lonsdale, E. Digby, L.
Lucan, E. Dormer, L.
Macclesfield, E. Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)
Malmesbury, E.
Mansfield, E. Dunsany, L.
Manvers, E. Ellenborough, L.
Nelson, E. Elphinstone, L.
Powis, E. Fisherwick, L. (M. Donegal.)
Rosse, E.
Rosslyn, E. Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)
Selkirk, E.
Stradbroke, E. Gifford, L
Strange, E. (D. Athol.) Gormanston, L. (V Gormanston.)
Verulam, E.
Hartimere, L. (L. Henniker.) Redesdale, L.
Rivers, L.
Heytesbury, L. Saltoun, L.
Howard de Walden, L. Sheffield, L. (E. Sheffield.)
Hylton, L.
Keane, L. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)
Sinclair, L.
Ker, L. (M. Lothian.) Skelmersdale, L.
Kesteven, L. [Teller.]
Leconfield, L. Sondes, L.
Lismore, L. (V. Lismore.) Stewart of Garlies, L.(E. Galloway.)
Lovel and Holland, L. Stratheden, L.
(E. Egmont.) Strathnairn, L.
Lyttelton, L. Strathspey, L. (E. Seafield.)
Manners, L.
Monson, L. Templemore, L.
O'Neill, L. Thurlow, L.
Oranmore and Browne, L. Vernon, L.
Vivian, L.
Penrhyn, L. Walsingham, L.
Raglan, L. Wigan, L. (E. Crawford and Balcarres.)
Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)
Wynford, L.
Selborne, L. (L. Chancellor.) De Mauley, L.
Eliot, L.
Foley, L.
Saint Albans, D. Gwydir, L.
Hanmer, L.
Ailesbury, M. Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)
Lansdowne, M. Hatherley, L.
Ripon, M. Hatherton, L.
Westminster, M. Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)
Camperdown, E. Kildare, L. (Mr. Kildare.)
Chichester, E. Meredyth, L. (L. Athlumney.)
Cowper, E.
Essex, E. Methuen, L.
Granville, E. Mostyn, L.
Kimberley, E. O'Hagan, L.
Morley, E. Poltimore, L. [Teller.]
Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Canterbury, V.
Eversley, V. Robartes, L.
Halifax, V. Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)
Sydney, V.
Torrington, V. Seaton, L.
Stanley of Alderley, L.
Barrogill, L. (E. Caithness.) Sundridge, L. (Dr. Argyll.)
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.) [Teller.] Waveney, L.
Wenlock, L.
Camoys, L. Wrottesley, L.
Carew, L.