HL Deb 21 June 1883 vol 280 cc1099-103

(The Earl of Northbrook.)


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I have to ask your Lordships to give a second reading to this Bill for the purpose of making a grant to Lord Alcester. It has seldom happened that the Services of the Army and Navy have been so closely associated as they were during the recent operations in Egypt. I therefore ask to be permitted, in moving the second reading of Lord Alcester's Grant Bill, to make such observations as will apply to an identical Bill in respect to Lord Wolseley, to which also I shall have to ask your Lordships to give a second reading. In October last Resolutions were passed in your Lordships' House, nemine dissentiente, thanking Admiral Sir Beauchamp Seymour and General Sir Garnet Wolseley for their distinguished skill and ability displayed in the operations in Egypt. The Queen was subsequently pleased to confer upon them the distinction of the Peerage, followed, in accordance with precedent, by a recommendation to both Houses of Parliament to make a provision in support of that high honour. Your Lordships, in April last, agreed upon a humble Address of Thanks and concurrence with Her Majesty's Most Gracious Message. The Bills for which I have to ask a second reading are for the purpose of carrying Her Majesty's gracious recommendation into effect. My Lords, I should have been pleased to dilate somewhat upon the skill shown by Lord Alcester in the attack on the forts of Alexandria, whereby his object was gained with hardly any damage to the city, the energy of his subsequent action on shore, the admirable arrangements made for the occupation of the Suez Canal, and the effective support given under his directions to the advance of the Army. I should have been glad to dwell upon the remarkable foresight of Lord Wolseley in planning the military operations, the decision and genius he displayed in carrying them out, especially in the attack on the Egyptian lines at Tel-el-Kebir, and the cordiality and consideration shown in all his relations with the Navy, which are highly appreciated by all ranks in that Service. But this has been said before, and better than I could hope to say it, by my noble Friend beside me (Earl Granville), the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury), and His Royal Highness the Field Marshal Commanding-in- Chief. The noble Marquess then cordially accepted the position which Her Majesty's Government have desired to take with respect to these proceedings. I mean that, whatever differences of opinion there may be as to the policy of the Government, such differences should not be permitted to cast a shadow upon the recognition of the services of the officers whose duty it was to execute their instructions. While, however, it would be wearying your Lordships were I to dwell longer upon the particular services rendered by my noble and gallant Friends in Egypt, I may be allowed briefly to refer to their previous careers. It is a curious coincidence that they saw their first active service together. It is 30 years ago, in the Burmese War, that Lord Alcester, then Commander Seymour, serving upon General Godwin's Staff as a volunteer, led the storming party at the capture of the works at Pegu, while Ensign Wolseley led another storming party at Donabew, where he was severely wounded. Lord Wolseley next served in the trenches at Sebastopol, where he was twice wounded. He was then engaged with distinction in the Indian Mutiny, where he obtained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and afterwards in the China War of 1860. In 1870 he directed, with signal success, the Red River Expedition. In 1873 he successfully conducted the Ashantee War, for which he received the Thanks of both Houses of Parliament and promotion to Major General for distinguished service. In 1879 he commanded the troops in the operations which concluded the Zulu War. Lord Alcester has embraced every opportunity of service which presented itself. He took out to the Crimea one of our first two iron-dads, and in 1860 he commanded the Naval Brigade in New Zealand on shore for 13 months, when he was severely wounded. He commanded the Flying Squadron in 1872, the Channel Squadron in 1874, and the Mediterranean Squadron from 1880 till a few months ago, when he showed high diplomatic ability, emulating the distinction gained by Sir William Parker in the same important command. But however distinguished the recent services of my gallant Friends may be, and however meritorious their previous careers, I feel confident they will agree with me that the honours conferred upon them are not to be regarded solely in reference to themselves, but also as awarded to worthy Representatives of the two great Services to which they belong. I may be allowed also to express the satisfaction which is felt by the Navy, that the Queen has been pleased to confer the honour of a seat in this House upon a distinguished Naval Officer, no opportunity of a purely Naval Peerage having occurred since the time of Lord Exmouth. Both the noble and gallant Lords are, I venture to think, admirably qualified to assist our deliberations upon military and naval questions, and well deserve the welcome which your Lordships have already accorded to them. I need say but a few words upon the provisions contained in the two Bills which have come up to your Lordships from the other House. The Government originally adopted the latest precedent, and proposed to confer upon my noble and gallant Friends annuities of £2,000 for two lives; but so strong a feeling was shown in the other House of Parliament that the provision should take the form of a grant rather than that of an annuity, that Her Majesty's Government, desirous as every Government must be to meet in such matters the general sense of Parliament, changed the form of their proposal into grants of £25,000 to Lord Alcester and £30,000 to Lord Wolseley, which roughly but fairly represent the value of their respective annuities—a change which, I may observe, has not been disagreeable to either of the noble and gallant Lords who are principally concerned. I beg to move the second reading of the Bill.


My Lords, in seconding this Motion I have to express my hearty concurrence with the noble Earl opposite, and I do not think it necessary to enter into any of the matters with which he has dealt. In this House, at all events, it is not our duty to scrutinize narrowly the manner or form of any pecuniary measures which the Crown may think fit to recommend to Parliament in order to express its approbation of distinguished services. In the other House discussions were raised dealing with precedents and instituting comparisons; but all such subjects I put aside entirely. We assent—cordially assent—to this proposal, because we are glad to concur with the Crown in offering our recognition of the merits of these distinguished officers who have done so much to promote the interests of the country, and have shed so much lustre on its annals.

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

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

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