HL Deb 17 May 1881 vol 261 cc675-7



moved for a Return of the officers of the Army who have received the thanks of Parliament by name from 1813; showing the date at which and the rank in which they would have been retired from the Army under the proposed rule of five years' non-employment, and the appointments they may have held subsequent to that date; how many officers of distinction would have been excluded from employment by the proposed five years' regulstion, and the nation thus deprived of their services. The Return would be confined to those who were thanked as General Officers, as officers of inferior rank were not mentioned by name in the Votes of Parliament.


said, he would be the last person to demur to giving information to the House on any important questions relative to the Army when he considered the information really useful, whether in favour of or against the scheme of Army Organization; but he submitted that this Return would serve no purpose whatever, because the conditions under which the officers who would be included in the proposed Return served would be entirely different from the conditions under which officers would serve in the new scheme. Had the rule which would in future enforce retirement after five years' non-employment been in force in former days, it was more than probable that many, if not all, the distinguished generals referred to by his noble Friend would have been retained by employment on the active list. He would point out that the effect of keeping a large number of officers of high position on the active list would be to keep younger men out. Those who had not been employed for five years, and who were not likely to be employed for some time, should go off the list, in order that the promotion might not be blocked. He hoped the noble Earl would not press for the Return.


said, he had heard of Returns being refused because the information which would be contained in them was difficult to be arrived at, or because they would be so voluminous and expensive; but he had never before heard of their being refused because their production, in the opinion of the Minister, would not furnish cogent arguments against a system of which he approved. It was obvious that the motive of the noble Earl (the Earl of Powis) in asking for the Return was that noble Lords who were not so well acquainted with military matters as he was himself might have put before them in precise and intelligible terms the argument against this five years' rule. Upon the cogency of that argument, he (the Marquess of Salisbury) did not desire to express an opinion. In the opinion of his noble Friend behind him, it was a valuable and an effective argument; and he thought that to withhold information from the House simply because the noble Earl opposite did not agree with him was a very unusual course.


said, he did not altogether agree with the noble Marquess opposite. What his noble Friend (the Earl of Morley) said was not that the argument to be founded upon the Return would not be cogent, but that no argument could be founded upon it at all. Suppose a Return was asked for which had no application to the subject, he should say that was a reason for refusing the Return. No argument of any importance could be founded upon the Return asked for. However, as it would be neither voluminous nor expensive, his noble Friend would not resist the Motion if it were pressed.

LORD DENMAN (not having heard the speech of the noble Marquess)

said, that the noble Lord who made this Motion had pointed out that Viscount Hill and Viscount Hardinge could not have been employed as they were if this proposed system had existed in their time. He (Lord Denman) wished to point out the fact that the rule as to colonels retiring at the age of 58 had been re-considered; and as the Minister for War might refrain from employing a general for five years, and so dismiss him from active service, it would be an injury to the Profession if this regulation, or anything approaching to it, wore established. Lord Lynedoch was 40 years old before he joined the Array. If he had been a general on retirement, he could not have again been employed—though vigorous till 80. This and other schemes for forced retirement were caused by the sudden abolition of purchase, without regard to the majority of 80 in their Lordship's House, who desired, on the Resolution of the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon), that a sound system of retirement should be established before the sudden revocation of the Royal Warrant. He looked upon the five years' rule of non-employment as a system of enforced retirement which was most objectionable.

Motion agreed to. House adjourned at Six o'clock, till Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.