§ EARL COWPER
My Lords, I need not go into the question of the disbanding of the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, because that has been already decided upon; it was referred to in this House last year, and I think all your Lordships, like everybody else, seemed to be of opinion that, whether it is right or not to disband these men, they are at all events a most praiseworthy body and deserving of every consideration, on account of their patriotic and energetic services, and the way in which, for the whole of the last 18 years, they have performed the duties which they have had to do. My Lords, it is now decided that these men are to be disbanded, and they are too loyal a body not to bow at once to any decision of the Admiralty deliberately come to, and which is to be carried into effect. They are most of them, I may say almost all of them anxious to continue to serve their country in one form or another; in this they hope to be under the War Office, for which I believe every facility will be given to them. I believe the War Office are now taking into consideration how far they can meet their wishes and make them into companies; so that they may remain together as much as possible. The question of compensation, to which I desire to call attention at this moment, is rather a pressing one; for I believe a Committee has been appointed, and is now sitting, to determine what compensation they are entitled to. I may say that a report has got about, whether rightly or wrongly founded I do not know, that they are not to receive compensation for these particular matters which I have noted down—for money expended on drill batteries and premises and on the fittings of ships. Now, my Lords, these amount, I believe, to a good deal. I hope this report may not be true. It may be said perhaps that 457 we ought to wait until we see whether this report is well-founded, or whether these things are to be taken into consideration, before moving in the matter; in other words, that we ought not to cry out before we are hurt. But we should remember the common answer to that remark—that it is no use crying out after you are hurt: it may be too late; the moment this Committee has reported the whole thing will be wound up, and it will be too late to do anything. That is my excuse for moving at the present moment. As I say, it will make a great deal of difference whether these things can be taken into account or not. Nobody, of course, would propose that the whole value of what they have spent from the beginning, in this or any other matter, should be paid to them; but I think it is only fair that the value of these improvements should be taken as it now stands, and that they should be treated very much in the same way as a tenant farmer is treated when he is turned out and receives compensation for what he has spent upon buildings. My Lords, I need only say further that an enormous amount of money—I may say tens of thousands of pounds—has been spent by the officers of these corps during the last 18 years, for which they can receive no compensation; anyhow they must be very much out of pocket. I think, therefore, there is all the more reason for being liberal where you can be liberal. I am quite sure your Lordships will feel that a body of men who came forward at the invitation of the Government, who have been praised in every Report which has been made year by year by those who have inspected them, should be not only justly but generously treated, and that, if necessary, a point should be strained in order, as far as possible, to meet their wishes in a liberal spirit, instead of the contrary, which is what I am very much afraid is going to be done. Without more remarks I will ask Her Majesty's Government the question of which I have given notice: whether the compensation proposed to be given by the Admiralty to the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers on their disbandment is to include compensation for money expended on drill batteries and premises, and on the fittings of ships?
§ LORD ELPHINSTONE
My Lords, when this question was before the House in June last, I, among other noble Lords, bore ample testimony to the value, the deal, and the ability which this corps had shown, and to their ability in gunnery. I then stated, in answer to Viscount Sidmouth, that the Admiralty, having decided that this corps should be disbanded, would appoint a Departmental Committee to inquire into all just claims for compensation. That promise was carried out, and the Committee was appointed in November last. It consisted of Mr. Scott, Assistant Accountant General; Mr. Maxfield, Surveyor of Coastguard Buildings; Mr. S. Smith, of the Artillery Volunteers; and also an officer to be nominated by the commanding officer of each brigade to represent his old corps when the circumstances of that particular corps were under the consideration of the Committee. The instructions given were, I think the noble Lord will bear me out in saying, extremely liberally worded. They were as follows:—The official members of the Committee are instructed to deal with all claims for compensation in a spirit of liberality; they are to assume, on the part of the Admiralty, all financial obligations undertaken by the various corps; and they are to recommend grants of compensation to the officers and men for the unused value of their uniforms.The drill sheds, of course, come under this qualification. The Committee have been down to Brighton and investigated the claims of that corps; but the Report has not been received by the Admiralty, because the official members have recommended certain things from which the members of the Volunteer Corps dissent—therefore the Report has been sent back for the Minority Report to be appended. The Committee are now at Glasgow inquiring into the expenses which that corps has entailed However, no steps can be taken until we have got a full Report on the whole of the different districts before the Admiralty; and, that being the case, it would be premature for me now to say what or what not will be considered just claims for compensation. But I will repeat again that, according to the 459 terms and, instructions to the Committee, the Admiralty are anxious to deal in every respect with extreme liberality.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Five o'clock.