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Army—War Office—Chief Clerk, Military Department

Volume 217: debated on Monday 28 July 1873

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asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether it is a fact that the Chief Clerk of the Military Department, whose appointment was struck out of the Army Estimates (which were in the hands of Members of the House of Commons in February last), has not yet been informed what provision has been made for him by way of superannuation; whether the Chief Clerk (Mr. Freeth), who has served nearly thirty-five years, retires voluntarily or in consequence of the abolition of his appointment; whether, as far back as the 4th of April last, His Royal Highness the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief was pleased to recommend Mr. Freeth for full pay, or the highest rate of retirement to which his special services seemed to His Royal Highness justly to entitle him; and, whether such recommendation, together with Mr. Freeth's appeals of the 22nd and 25th of February, and 8th of March, containing high testimonials from Generals Sir Richard Airey, Sir Charles Yorke, and Lieutenant General Forster (under whom Mr. Freeth served) have been laid before the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury; and, if so, with what result?

Sir, the question between the War Office and the Chief Clerk of the Military Department, has only now been finally settled between the Departments, and therefore, the final result has only now been communicated to Mr. Freeth. He retires not voluntarily, but in consequence of the abolition of his appointment. The usual course has been taken—namely, that the recommendation of His Royal Highness has been laid by the Secretary of State before the Lords of the Treasury. The letters referred to in the Question were not given to me, except that of the 8th of March, on which the recommendation of His Royal Highness the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief was made, which formed the substance of the official letter to the Treasury. The Lords of the Treasury have assigned to Mr. Freeth a retiring allowance of 40–60ths of his pay, being the highest amount they considered they had it in their power to give under the Superannuation Act.

Duchy Of Lancaster—Guide Over Lancaster Sands—Question

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Whether the report that the guide over the Lancaster Sands has been or is about to be dismissed is correct; and, if so, whether it is contemplated to abolish the office?

Sir, in consequence of charges brought against the guide over the Lancaster Sands, a public inquiry was held, at my request, by the Chairman of the Ulverstone Petty Sessions. As the result of that inquiry I found it necessary to dismiss the guide as from Michaelmas next. But, so far from abolishing the office, I propose to put it on a much more satisfactory footing. The justices have consented to appoint a committee who will supervise this officer, and I have every reason to hope that his duties will be more effectually performed.

Spain—Recognition Of The Carlists—Question

asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the Despatches forwarded by Her Majesty's Representative at Madrid confirm the accounts received from other sources in Spain, that the Carlist cause is rapidly gaining ground in that Country and that Don Carlos is advancing on Madrid; and, if such be the case, whether Her Majesty's Government are prepared to consider the propriety of recognizing the supporters of Don Carlos as belligerents?

Sir, the information which can be obtained at Madrid respecting the operations of the Carlists is necessarily meagre; but from it and from the accounts in the public journals, it would seem that Carlist bands have over-run large districts in the north of Spain. Matters have not arrived at a state to call for a consideration of the question of the recognition of Carlist belligerent rights.

Royal Commission On Loss Of Life At Sea—Mr Plimsoll And The Board Of Trade—Question

asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether he has yet had any Reply from the honourable Member for Derby to the inquiry addressed to him on the subject of the charges made by the honourable Member for Derby against the officers of the Board of Trade?

What has happened, Sir, is this—On the 8th July I wrote to the hon. Member for Derby calling upon him to furnish the names of the many officers of the Board of Trade whom he charged with corruption and bribery, or else to withdraw the charge. On the 18th of July I received a. note from the solicitors of the hon. Member for Derby, stating that he was absent from ill-health, and that they had reserved the letter until he should be in a condition to have it submitted to him. I must add that a few clays afterwards I saw a letter addressed to the Editor of The Times by the hon. Member for Derby, in which he referred to a Question asked me in the House of Commons and my answer to it, and said it was necessary for him to take the advice of his solicitors and counsel before he answered my letter. The answer to my letter reached me on Saturday last, the 26th instant. It is a letter of considerable length, which will no doubt be made public without delay. It complains of the violent attack which, in the opinion of the hon. Member, I had made upon him by asking those questions; it alleges that the inquiry into the evils of the merchant service is being steadily resisted by the Board of Trade—the inquiry before the Royal Commission; it goes on to say—

"Here let me say that a money bribe is not the only form of corruption. Underhanded social pressure may he scarcely less mischievous and no less powerful than a gift in bank notes."
The letter then goes on to state three or four cases or classes of alleged misconduct by the Board of Trade which are most inaccurate and unfounded in point of fact and information, and which, if inquired into, would not afford any ground, in my opinion, for anything approaching to a charge of corruption. The letter then contains a passage which I am glad to read to the House. The writer says—
"Nevertheless, I have confidence in the independence, zeal, and ability of the Royal Commission as a whole, and I trust that its labours will result in the accomplishment of the objects I have in view."
The letter ends by proposing to refer the conduct of the Board of Trade to a Committee of this House, to be appointed by the Committee of Selection. What I have to say in answer to that is, that an inquiry into the conduct of the Board of Trade, if necessary, would be most legitimate; but that is not the question I asked the hon. Member. My question was, who were the individuals among the officers of the Board of Trade whom he accused of corruption, and the charges against whom it was my duty to investigate. The result is, that the hon. Member has furnished me with no materials whatever for investigation. He has mentioned the name of no person; he has given no grounds of the slightest validity, even of a primâa facie kind, to enable me to discover the unnamed and imaginary persons whom he charges with corruption. Under these circumstances I will not trust myself to characterize the charges that have been made against a number of officials whose character I am bound to protect. I shall leave it to the House and the public to judge of this case, because I hope the hon. Member will move for the Correspondence.

Navy—Chatham Dockyard—New River Wall—Question

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether it is true that a portion of the new river wall supporting the extension of Chatham Dockyard has fallen or seriously given way; and, if so, what length of wall has been so affected, and whether there is any reason to fear that other portions of the wall may give way in a similar manner; and, whether he can give any estimate of the probable cost of re-instating the wall? He also wished to know whether the Government have abandoned the intention of erecting the new factory, for which no definite designs have yet been submitted, nor any provision made in the Estimates?

said, in reply, that it was not true that a portion of the wall in question had given way, therefore no apprehension was entertained as to further portions giving way. The Government had not abandoned their intention of erecting the new factory.