HC Deb 09 March 1876 vol 227 cc1775-7

SUPPLY—considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

(1.) £672,700, Militia Pay and Allowances.


called attention to the deficiency in the ranks of the Militia, mounting to 33,858 men, and urged that the only way to remedy it was to carry out the Brigade Depot system completely. The Vote had been growing of late years; this year it had been greatly increased, and no satisfactory accounts had been produced.


explained that the reason so many regiments were so far below their full strength was that the quota assigned to them was beyond their power of completing, and it would be best to fix the establishments according to the resources at their disposal. He intended to institute a searching inquiry into the condition of the Militia, and he hoped to be able to put it in a satisfactory condition.


stated the Militia officers had to undergo a searching examination before they could obtain promotion. He called attention to the fact that sergeants of the Line who helped in the training of the Militia regiments received higher pay while engaged in that duty than their superior officers, the Militia sergeant majors.


expressed an opinion that a great mistake had been made in substituting the system of enlistment for that of enrolment in the recruiting of the Militia. If the enlistment system were persisted in, the Militia force, especially in Ireland, would cease to exist.


said, he was glad there was to be such an inquiry into the condition of the Militia as the Secretary for War had indicated, that the nation might see how far they could rely on that Force. We heard the First Lord of the Admiralty speak of our Navy as a Paper Fleet, but the designation was far more applicable to our Militia. The test of the state of that Force was afforded by the figures in the annual training Return. Out of 3,859 Militia officers only 2,835 were present on the day of training; one-fourth of the sergeants and corporals were absent, and 10,069 privates were absent without leave, and only 84,316 privates out of a total of 123,668, forming the established strength, were present. If from these he deducted the Militia Reserve, available for the Regular Army, then we had only about 55,000 privates remaining in the Militia; the most serious evil was the rivalry for recruits between the Militia and Regular Forces. It was useless to assert that these two classes of soldiers were drawn from different parts of the population. All our experience in the early years of this century was at war with that assertion. The latest and best evidence was that of Sidney Herbert, who, in his speech of 17th February, 1860, distinctly asserted that the class of men who entered the Militia for permanent service were— In point of fact exactly the same as those who are embodied in the Army, so that you are establishing a competition against yourself. But there was also another, and a more serious objection, and that was the positive want of men to meet the recruiting requirements of the Forces now maintained. Theoretically those Forces ought to be entirely replaced in six years, allowing for the various casualties, and consequently needing about 60,000 recruits annually. But judging from the numbers obtained by conscription and universal service in France and Germany, the population of the United Kingdom could not supply 130,000 youths in each year fit for military service, even if the conscription were inforce. And deducting from that number the classes of youths who at present refused to serve either in the Militia or Regular Army, as private soldiers, then the numbers available out of the classes who now supplied recruits, could not equal the number of 60,000 he had mentioned. In proof of that, there was seen to be no fewer than 26,069 privates of Militia actually wanting, so that they had nearly one year's supply deficient. All that proved how necessary it was to investigate the state of this Force, in order to decide as to whether its old constitution of a purely local Force was not more suitable.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) £74,400, Yeomanry Cavalry Pay and Allowances.


explained that, in reality, there was no reduction made in the amount of the Vote. The whole question was under the consideration of his right hon. Friend, who would no doubt do justice to all parties.

Vote agreed to.

(3.) £458,000, Volunteer Corps Pay and Allowances.


said, it was very satisfactory to find that so large a proportion of the Volunteers were in an efficient state. A very large proportion of the officers also was efficient. With respect to firing the Volunteers were very much superior to the Militia.


observed, that there was a great deficiency of Volunteer officers, and urged that something should be done to increase their number.


admitted there was a deficiency of officers, but with regard to the Volunteers themselves there was an increase of over 7,000 this year. He could hold out no hope of increased payment except for increased efficiency.

Vote agreed to.

(4.) £132,000, Army Reserve Force.


asked what steps were being taken to accelerate the formation of a First Class Army Reserve? He knew that the new system had hardly come into operation; but it would be satisfactory to know that the right hon. Gentleman had the subject under his consideration, and that he intended urging upon the commanding officers the duty of passing through the ranks men who would form a good reserve.


reminded the Committee that the system inaugurated by his Predecessor would not come fully into operation until next year. Unless the recruiting enabled commanding officers to keep up the regiments to their establishment, the Government could not call upon the commanding officers to pass on their men into the Reserve before the time at which they could claim their discharge. It was calculated that in 1879 the total addition to the Reserve from the present date would be 20,437, a considerable force. He assured the noble Lord he would do his best to expedite the formation of the Reserve.

Vote agreed to.