§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Mr. Speaker, I wish to ask your permission, and the indulgence of the House, in order to offer a few words of personal explanation with regard to an answer I gave in this House on Thursday last to a Question put to me by a noble Lord behind me, with respect to the failure of the Commissariat to supply the troops coming up from Aldershot to Hounslow with rations and forage. Upon that occasion I made use of this expression—I am also bound to say that the officers connected with this brigade were not altogether free from something like want of care. The General commanding the brigade decided upon marching 1524 at a very unusual hour; and I believe the officers commanding the regiments of which the brigade consisted might have received some portion of the provision which they required if they had taken care to apply for it.This is an incorrect statement, and I wish to explain to the House the authority upon which I made it. When what occurred at Hounslow came to my knowledge, it became my duty to require the Commissary General-in-Chief to make a Report to me upon the case, he being the officer whose duty it is to supply me with information upon such subjects, and upon whose statement the House will see that I was not only entitled but it was my duty to rely. I hold in my hand the Report made to me by the Commissary General-in-Chief, which contains the following passage:—As regards the 3rd July the time for marching was not fixed by general orders, but was left to Major-General Hodge, who determined on the unusual hour of two a. m., without notice to the Commissariat at Aldershot or in London.I hope that the House will agree with me that, with this official statement before me, without desiring to throw any undue blame on any one particular party, I should not have been acting with justice had I passed over this official statement, throwing, as it does, some blame upon the officer commanding the cavalry regiment. That statement was, however, altogether untrue. No sooner had that statement appeared in the newspapers, than it attracted the attention of the officers commanding the troops in question, and Major-General Hodge very properly made a communication to the Horse Guards complaining of the inaccuracy of this statement, and informing that Department that instead of starting at two o'clock in the morning he had marched the first regiment at six, the second at half-past six, the third at seven, and the fourth at either half-past seven or eight o'clock. Under these circumstances I called upon the Commissary General-in-Chief to explain how and why I had been furnished with an inaccurate statement with regard to the matter, and I am happy to say that the answer I received from that highly esteemed and respected officer was completely satisfactory. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen would be acting rather more justly if they would reserve their laughter until they had heard the whole of my statement. As soon as this occurrence took place, this respected officer wrote to the Commissariat officer at 1525 Aldershot to know what information he could give, and what light he could throw upon the subject, and the answer from Aldershot contained these words—Had they (the cavalry) marched from this at the usual time this would not have been the case, but the time of setting off was left to Major-General Hodge, who fixed on the unusual hour of two a. m., which brought the troops at Hounslow much sooner than, no doubt, they were expected.The Commissary General-in-Chief was not satisfied with this answer, and he called upon the Commissariat officer at Aldershot for an official answer. The official answer of that officer was couched in language conveying exactly the same sense as his previous communication. It was therefore the incorrect statement of that officer which misled the Commissary General-in-Chief, and which caused me to be misled. I thought it right, under these circumstances, to call upon the Commissariat officer at Aldershot to explain, and I am sorry to say that his answer was by no means satisfactory, as it appeared to me that he had assumed without any adequate information, that in consequence of the Military Train having moved at a somewhat earlier hour the troops had also moved at the hour he had originally stated; and, therefore, it is with him, and not with the Commissary General-in-Chief, that the blame rests. [Cries of "Name!"] It is known to every one that the Commissary General-in-Chief is Sir William Power, and the officer at Aldershot is a gentleman named Rugg. I have thought it my duty, in justice to Major-General Hodge and the other officers commanding the troops in question, to make this statement in order to exonerate them entirely from the blame which, acting under erroneous information, I have thrown upon them. I wish to add to my statement that the occurrence of errors of this description, with regard to the Commissariat, seem to point to the necessity of some reform in this Department. The changes we have in contemplation will make it highly improbable, if not impossible, that such an occurrence can again take place.
said, that if it were necessary he would put himself in Order by moving the adjournment of the House. He trusted to be able on a future occasion to show that the officer in question was not so much to blame as the right hon. Gentleman appeared to suppose, and therefore he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would not take action in the matter until 1526 further inquiry into the subject had been made.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, the hon. and gallant Member had not concluded with the Motion for the adjournment of the House, and was about to reply when
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the House had permitted a personal explanation to be made; but the right of moving the adjournment of the House was reserved for occasions on which questions of gravity were to be brought before it.