HL Deb 21 July 1905 vol 150 cc465-71

rose to bring to the notice of His Majesty's Government the discrepancy in the financial treatment accorded to the two classes of Reserve officers called up for service during the late war in South Africa; and to move to resolve, "That, in the opinion of this House, the emoluments received by the pensioned officers of the Reserve who were called up for service during the late war in South Africa compare most unfavourably with those of other Reserve officers up called for similar service, but who had retired with gratuities; and the consequent grievances of the pensioned officers should be favourably considered by His Majesty's Government with a view to removing the disparity complained of."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, having drawn your Lordships' attention on several occasions to the decided disparity in the financial treatment of the two classes of Reserve officers who were called up for service during the late war, it is not necessary for me to repeat what has already been said. I do not, therefore, propose to take up much of your Lordships' time, but to content myself with stating a few of the facts. I first drew the attention of your Lordships to this matter on May 11th, 1903, in the form of a Motion very similar to the one which I am now moving. I withdrew that Motion on the suggestion of the then Under-Secretary of State for War, who informed your Lordships at the time that in the opinion of the Secretary of State there were special cases among Reserve officers in which some redress might be necessary. For that reason the right hon. Gentleman had recently appointed a Committee which was inquiring into the whole subject. On August 7th in the same year I appealed to His Majesty's Government for some information in regard to the Report of the Committee in question, and I received a reply which, in my humble opinion, was not at all satisfactory.

Again, on February 26th of last year, I brought the matter to the notice of your Lordships in the form of a Question, and on that occasion was informed by my noble friend the present Under-Secretary of State for War that I was under a misapprehension as to the exact purposes of the Committee, the appointment of which had been announced on May 11th of the previous year. The Committee, said the noble Earl, was not appointed to inquire into the grievances of Reserve officers during the late war, but into the general question of the past, present, and future re-employment of Reserve officers in time of war. I bowed to the superior knowledge of my noble friend, but that was not what I was led to believe by his predecessor. On February 26th of last year the noble Earl further informed your Lordships that this mysterious Committee did emphatically report against making any proposals retrospective. Had I been aware of this on May 11th, 1903, I need hardly say I should have declined to withdraw my Motion on that occasion.

The officers of the Reserve who were called up for service during the late war are divided into two classes—those who retired with a pension and those who retired with a gratuity or lump sum down. The former, when they were called up for service during the war, had their pension suspended, whereas the gratuity officers not only continued to enjoy the benefits of their gratuities, but drew the full pay of their rank during service. Your Lordships are informed that the reason why no actual reduction was made in the pay of the gratuity officers was that the noble Marquess who was Secretary of State for War at the time they were called up for service did not consider such a course altogether fair. I entirely agree with the noble Marquess. I do not attempt to say which proceeding is the correct one, but this I do contend, that both classes of Reserve officers should have been treated alike while they were on service. In other words, what was sauce for the gratuity goose should have been sauce for the pension gander. In the actual circumstances of the case there were many senior pensioned officers who obtained less remuneration than gratuity officers of half their service—a condition of things which would be ridiculous if it were not so grossly unjust. I beg to move the Motion standing in my name.

Moved to resolve, "That, in the opinion of this House, the emoluments received by the pensioned officers of the Reserve who were called up for service during the late war in South Africa, compare most unfavourably with those of other Reserve officers called up for similar service, but who had retired with gratuities; and the consequent grievances of the pensioned officers should be favourably considered by His Majesty's Government with a view to removing the disparity complained of."—(Lord Rosmead.)


My Lords: This Motion which my noble friend has brought forward is in danger of becoming a hardy biennial in the proceedings of your Lordships' House. My noble friend alluded to the fact that he had already raised the question on previous occasions, and I have had the privilege of already delivering the speech which I shall deliver to-night, with this exception, that on this occasion it will be much shorter. It is nothing more than a difference of opinion between us. My noble friend maintains that the circumstances underlying the case of the gratuity officers, if I may so call them for the sake of brevity, are exactly on a par with those of the pensioned officers, and we have argued, I regret without convincing my noble friend or his friends in another place, that their state of existence is entirely different, and therefore the difference of treatment was warranted.

Very shortly, the difference is as follows. The War Office felt that had the gratuity officer had deducted from his emoluments when re-employed the actuarial value of his gratuity he would have suffered an injustice, because that actuarial value would have been considerably greater than the interest he could have expected to obtain from that money when invested. There was also the belief that in very few cases would it be found that officers who had obtained a gratuity some years before would still be in possession of that gratuity. It was again felt that it would be a hardship to call upon them to do active service on active service pay minus the value of their gratuity, which in all probability they would not be in possession of.

The position of the retired-pay officer is entirely different. Retired pay is a reward for past services, and it is also, as is clearly shown in the paywarrant, a retainer for future service. We have power to stop the retired pay if, on calling upon an officer to come up for service, he refuses to do so. I therefore trust your Lordships will not accede to the Motion which has been brought forward not for the first time by my noble friend. I deny that we have treated harshly retired officers who were re-employed during the recent war in South Africa. They were liable to re-employment on certain conditions, which included £100 for outfit and other details; but it was decided that all officers who had been re-employed should receive a war gratuity of £100 for every year they served during the war, and an extra £100 or £50 according to detailed arrangements into which it is not necessary to enter, for a further year's service. These re-employed officers when they retired could not possibly put forward any case entitling them to this war gratuity. It was an act of grace on the part of the War Office that they were granted it; and I merely mention it to show your Lordships that we are not open to the charge of having treated harshly officers whom we re-employed during the war.


My Lords, I should like to give your Lordships a concrete instance of how this works. I will take the case of a major who is in I receipt of a gratuity and a major who is in receipt of a pension, and compare the results in each case. Take the major in receipt of a gratuity, supposing he had served for two years mobilised. In virtue of those two years he would be entitled to a higher grade of gratuity. He would receive his pay, £600, and his gratuity, £400, a total of £1,000. A major who retired with a pension would receive only £300, the difference between his pension and the pay, and that man with a service, perhaps, of twenty-five years as against the gratuity major's fifteen years. In May, 1903, the late Lord Hardwicke stated that the subject was one in which Mr. Brodrick took the greatest interest and it would be thoroughly inquired into. The inquiry promised has not taken place. What has happened is that the conditions of service have been revised, so that the major with the pension is precluded from being treated in the same way as the major with a gratuity; the conditions of service have been changed for the express purpose of preventing it. I do not think that is justice. I do not think that is the way to encourage the sons of officers to follow in the steps of their fathers in the service of the King.


My Lords, if the noble Lord goes to a division, I shall certainly vote for his Motion, because it advocates what seems to me not only justice, but policy in dealing with officers. I will state a case as given by one of these officers. In the late war, captains in the Reserve who had retired from the Army with gratuities and were mobilished for duty in various capacities in the United Kingdom during the Boer War, were more highly remunerated than majors and lieutenant-colonels who had retired with pensions after many years longer service, and several of whom served before the enemy in South Africa. There was an unjust distinction drawn between senior officers of longer service, but who had retired on pensions, and junior officers who had received gratuities. Mr. Brodrick on May 8th, 1904, said— I recognise now, as I did in 1903, that certain, officers had grievances with regard to the terms under which they were employed. There is an admission from the War Office that the officers had a grievance. It will be fresh in your Lordships' recollection that when we debated this question on a Motion moved by Lord Tweed-mouth a few days ago, it turned out that, taking the Regular Army and Auxiliaries, we are short of 10,000 officers. That is a terrible state to be in; but I can conceive nothing more likely to deter men from entering the Army as officers than the fact that the War Office should treat one class of officers more liberally than another. I, therefore, think the Government, instead of refusing to accept the Motion, would have done well to accept it. The Motion which was moved by Lord Tweedmouth on Tuesday and accepted by the Government declared that the present state of things as regards the shortage of officers requires the instant attention of His Majesty's Government, and I would strongly recommend my noble friend the Under-Secretary to give his instant attention to doing justice to a class of officers to whom it is clear an injustice has been done.


My Lords, I do not rise for the purpose of continuing this debate, but merely to say that, after the clear way in which it has been proved that inequality has taken place in the treatment of two classes of officers, I hope my noble friend will not be induced to withdraw the Motion, but will go to a division.