HL Deb 24 April 1882 vol 268 cc1236-8

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Morley.)


said, that with regard to the manner in which this Bill had passed through the other House, he had to complain that many of the most important national Bills were either put aside or dealt with in a hole-and-corner fashion. He had endeavoured to learn something with respect to the efficiency of the Army; but he found upon inquiry that it was in a state of transition. In October last the Secretary of State for War made a public announcement of the satisfactory condition of the Army. He (the Earl of Longford) had thereupon written to him, asking him to name one single battalion possessing its full complement of men, and in every other respect efficient. The Secretary of State had adopted the clôture system, and never even answered his letter. He believed that no single battalion was at that moment in a state of efficiency. Last year there were several changes, the changes to territorial regiments, which had created more confusion than anything else since Babel; then there were various changes in the uniforms. The system of paying pensioners had also been changed, with the result that the pensioners, who were poor men, upon one occasion had to wait for their pensions. He did object to change in itself; he disliked changes which produced no advantageous result. He would like to know, as he was addressing the House, whether the recent change in the form of Gazette announcements to the commands of regiments and battalions indicates any change in the position or pay of commanding officers?


, in reply, said, the criticisms of the noble Earl upon the Army were of so general a character that they did not require answering upon the present occasion. As regarded the Question put by the noble Earl, he would say that the change in the form of Gazette announcements to the commands of regiments indicated no change whatever in the position or pay of commanding officers. The reason for the change in practice referred to was that there were now two lieutenant colonels in each battalion—one subordinate, the other in command—and it would be on many grounds desirable and convenient that the appointment to the command of a battalion or regiment should be announced in The Gazette, though the officer so appointed had already reached the rank of lieutenant colonel. In reference to the new scheme for paying military pensions by post-office orders, he differed from the noble and gallant Earl, who stated that the change would produce no beneficial results—he believed, on the contrary, that it would be of great benefit to the pensioners, who would not in future be obliged to attend at their pension offices every quarter to receive their pensions, a practice which often interfered with their employments, and was productive of other inconveniences. The scheme had been put in operation, for the first time on April 1st; and some little friction had arisen, as might be expected, in bringing it into working. Delay in issuing pensions had, no doubt, caused inconvenience—it did not deserve the name of hardship—to the pensioners in some districts who, it must be remembered, received their payments three months in advance; but the greatest care would be taken to avoid any such delay on future occasions—it having now only been caused by temporary circumstances incidental on introducing a large change of system. As regards the condition of the battalions forming the First Army Corps, he admitted that at present there was a larger proportion of young soldiers in these battalions than was desirable; but this was the unavoidable result of having suddenly to raise their establishments to a strength much in excess of what they had been hitherto. This increase could only be made by rapidly recruiting into them. It must take some time to harden these battalions; but as soon as the newly-fixed establishments were in order, this hardening process would progress rapidly, and in future years the condition of the battalions in question would be satisfactory.


considered that there was much to be said in regard to the administration of the Army, and asked that the next stage of the Bill should be put down as the first Order, so that noble Lords who took an interest in the Army might have an opportunity of addressing the House.


said, he wished to point out that, as regarded the appointments of two lieutenant colonels, it was not a new regimental arrangement. In 1858, when he was appointed to the 95th Regiment, there were then two lieutenant colonels in all regiments in India. No practical inconvenience was then found in gazetting these appointments in the manner which existed before the recent change was made.


said, that he proposed to put this Bill down for Committee to-morrow.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.

House adjourned at Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.