HC Deb 04 May 1854 vol 132 cc1250-2

Order for Second Reading read.


said, he wished for an explanation of an alteration made in the Bill from the previous terms of service.


said, his noble Friend the Home Secretary had already explained the proposed change; but the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) was not in the House at the time the statement was made. His noble Friend stated that, in the present circumstances of the country, the fact had been brought to his notice that, under a strict interpretation of the old Militia Act, it would not be possible to embody the militia, even under considerable pressure, from the absence of the regular forces. No doubt, in case of invasion, the militia might, by stretching the meaning of the Act, be embodied without any such alteration as was now proposed; but it was not desirable that the law should remain in this condition. The circumstances of the country were now such as to render it important that the Government should have the power of embodying some portion of the militia. There was no danger of an invasion; but the absence of this danger did not diminish the public necessity for the change proposed. With regard to the militia regiments themselves, there was no objection whatever to the change. So far from it, he had just received several applications from regiments asking to be selected for embodiment; and one, belonging to a midland county, expressed their willingness to serve in any part of the country. An excellent spirit animated the whole force. All were desirous of serving their country. But the Government would take every measure in their power to select regiments for embodiment from parts where there was the least pressure for labour; and by not calling out any whole regiment, but only employing a portion of it, it would be in the power of the colonel to grant such leaves of absence to the men as would prevent any great inconvenience.


said, he had been unaware that the Bill would come on that night for a second reading, or he would have been prepared to state certain objections which he entertained upon the matter. He had before submitted to the House the propriety of having the whole military power of the country placed under one distinct authority; and he felt in this instance that great inconvenience and augmentation of the public expenditure would be the result of embodying a militia, the officers of which were appointed by an authority over which the Secretary at War had no control. He thought the time had arrived when the distinction between the militia and the regulars should cease. He was not at all unwilling to place at the disposal of Government a proper military force, but at the same time he thought such a force should be of the most efficient character. At present the militia entailed a great expense upon the country, and, instead of being, as it ought to be, under the control of the Secretary at War, it was under that of the lords lieutenant of counties. He could not understand why two kinds of military forces should be kept up instead of one uniform system. He would prefer the abolition of the militia altogether, and an augmentation to the regular forces, with the entire military power of the country under one management and control. An expenditure of several millions was now about to be entered into, and such arrangements ought to be carried out as would ensure the best appropriation of that money. He was not desirous of throwing any obstacle in the way of Government, but he believed the time was now come when the difficulties which were seen years ago by the majority of the Cabinet should be inquired into, and remedied. He certainly could not understand why, when reform was the order of the day, some attempt should not be made to render our Army as efficiently managed as that of any other country in the world.

Bill read 2°, and committed for tomorrow.