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Army—Militia Desertion

Volume 203: debated on Monday 8 August 1870

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said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for War, If his attention has been drawn to the cases of four Militiamen, by name John Collins, William Osgood, Philip Kearns, and Henry Ives, who were tried on Monday last at the Police Court, Chatham, for being deserters from the Kent Militia Artillery, and in conformity with the Militia Act (1859), 22 & 23 Vict., c. 38, s. 12, were fined forty shillings each and costs, with the option of two calendar months' imprisonment, the case being that the said four prisoners, being artizans, had accepted an engagement on board the Great Eastern Screw Steamer while that vessel was employed in laying a submarine cable, and did not return to England in time to serve with their regiment during the training; and, whether he will, early next Session, propose an Amendment to the Militia Act, giving a discretionary power to magistrates to deal with similar cases according to their merits?

said, in reply, that he did not see anything unusual in the case. The men were absent without leave, and when brought before the justices they were condemned to the smallest possible penalty under the statute.

Army—Supplying Reserve Ammu- Nition— Question

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for War, Whether, in his opinion, the present system of supplying reserve ammunition to troops in the field is likely to work satisfactorily in action, and, if so, whether he would not consider it desirable that the system, should be practised occasionally at our camps of instruction?

Sir, the general system of supplying reserve ammunition to troops in the field is already laid down, and is likely to work satisfactorily. A Committee has been sitting to consider it in its details, and the details which they recommend are about to be tried at Aldershot and elsewhere.

The Franco-Prussian Corre-Spondence— Question

said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, If he has observed and can explain the remarkable difference in the dates in the two extracts given below from the Franco-Prussian Correspondence (No. 2), Despatch No. 5, page 4, Count Bismarck to Count Bernstorff—

"When the more modest French designs with reference to Luxemburg had been counteracted by events which are publicly known, the more extensive propositions embracing Belgium and Southern Germany were renewed. It is at this time, in 1867, that Count Benedetti's manuscript was communicated to me."
Despatch No. 7, pages 5 and 6, Lord Augustus Loftus to Earl Granville—
"With reference to my telegram of yesterday, I have now the honour to transmit to your Lordship a lithographed copy of the draft of the Treaty of Alliance, offensive and defensive, which M. Beneditti proposed for the acceptance of the Prussian Government at the commencement of 1869, on the eve of the Belgian railway question."
And if it was not Count Bismarck who gave Lord Augustus Loftus the information on which his Despatch above quoted was based?

Sir, the noble Lord is correct in the reference that he makes to the Papers he has quoted. But we are not aware that it was Count Bismarck who gave Lord Augustus Loftus the information upon which the despatch quoted was based. With regard to the affair of M. Benedetti, I think, considering the transactions between the two foreign Governments, and that it is possible the whole of the elucidations of those transactions have not yet been produced, it would be better that I should abstain from giving an explanation which might be imperfect.

The Custom House—Question

said, he wished to ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Whether Her Majesty's Commissioners of Customs cannot make some arrangement for the safe custody of goods landed at the Custom House in London from steamers in the river till such time as the persons to whom the goods are consigned can attend themselves, or by their agents, bearing a written order to open the packages, the present practice being for the Custom House Officers to allow any self-constituted agent to seize a package, break open even locks, and carry off the goods when passed without any authority whatever, and to conduct the examination in a yard or shed, which is not even the property of Her Majesty, whereby several robberies have recently been committed, and much loss of property has occurred; and, whether the Custom House Officers are not amenable to the law as accessories to these robberies?

said, in reply, that he was sorry he had not had an opportunity of discussing this question personally with the noble Lord, for he might have shown him that he was under considerable misapprehension as to the rights, powers, and duties of Custom House officers. It was not correct to say that the practice was that the Custom House officers should allow any self-constituted agent to seize a package, break open the locks, and carry off the goods. The state of the case was this—The functions of the Custom House officers ceased when they had ascertained whether there were any goods on which duty had to be paid. The right to seize these goods depended on the bill of lading forwarded by the consignee from a foreign port.

Writers Under The Board Of Customs— Question

said, he wished to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, Whether the result of his communication to the Board of Customs will secure to the "Writers" in that department during this summer a fortnight's leave of absence without loss of pay?

, in reply, said, that this was one of the questions now under discussion between the Treasury and the Board of Customs, and he hoped a decision would be come to in the course of 10 days or a fortnight.