§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON,
in rising to move—That, in the opinion of this House, it is not desirable to bring under the provisions of the Mutiny Act any Militia officers, except officers belonging to regiments embodied for Service or assembled for training, and such officers as are already specially provided for by sections 56 to 58, and 66 to 70 of the Militia Act of 1875 (38 and 39 Vic. c. 69),said, that before going into Committee on the Bill, he wished to draw attention to the important change proposed to be made in it, and if necessary to take the opinion of the House upon the question, as he thought it was the duty of the Government to state their intentions with regard to it. It was proposed to place the whole of the Militia officers under the Mutiny Act, and no reason had been assigned for that step, so far as he was aware, except that he found it recommended in the Report of the Select Committee which sat last year on the Militia Acts, and which formed only a part of a series of recommendations agreed upon by that Committee. The Secretary of State for war, in moving the Army Estimates, drew attention to the point, and said that he would fully dwell upon it when the Mutiny Bill came before the House, and it was with some surprise that he (Sir Alexander Gordon) found that the Mutiny Bill was read a second time without any notice being taken of the change. The Secretary of State for War had said that the change was necessary because the Militia, being no longer a civilian corps, it was thought desirable to bring it more into conformity with the Regular Army. In Paragraph 103 of their Report, the Committee gave it as their opinion that—It is highly desirable that officers of the Militia should be placed under the Mutiny Act not only during the training, but also during the non-training period,and the grounds on which they justified their recommendation were—first, that the subject had been prominently 818 brought before the Committee; secondly, that His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief was in favour of the proposal; and, thirdly, that other officers of experience had expressed a similar opinion. In reference to those assertions, he undertook to show in a few words that the question had not been prominently before the Committee, that the Commander-in-Chief had not expressed an opinion in favour of the proposal, and that other officers of experience had not expressed a similar opinion. He would refer to the Blue Book containing the evidence, and he must complain that it had been presented to the House in a most incomplete form, and without any index, so that great trouble had been incurred in going through the 10,030 questions which it contained. Thirty-one witnesses were examined by the Committee, including 17 Militia officers, and of those 17, only three had been asked questions on the subject. The hon. and gallant Gentleman then referred to the evidence given by Lord Norreys, Major Garnham, and Sir Robert Cunliffe, and contended that it showed that they had not brought the subject before the Committee in a prominent manner, and yet that was all the evidence which was brought before the Committee. Then as to the evidence of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, he submitted that it did not show that he was in favour of the proposal. Indeed, His Royal Highness spoke with uncertainty on the matter, because he did not appear fully to comprehend the questions put to him. He had his attention drawn to the 107th clause of the Mutiny Act, which provided that any man enrolled and not complying with the provisions of the Act should be tried by a court-martial, and was then asked his opinion as to the propriety of bringing military commanding officers into connection with the Mutiny Act, and His Royal Highness said—"It has always been so, has it not?" Nine other officers of the Regular Army were examined, but not a single question was put to one of them as to Militia officers being placed under the Mutiny Act. General Peel and Mr. Clode, the legal adviser to the War Office, were examined, but to them no question on the subject was put, and therefore he was justified in saying that the Report of the 819 Committee was not borne out when it said that experienced officers were in favour of the proposition. Seventy officers of Depôt Brigades, who were examined by the Committee by means of written queries, had not been asked a question on the subject, nor had the 156 Militia colonels, to whom a series of questions had been submitted, and therefore he was justified in stating that, with the exception of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, no experienced officer had expressed any opinion on the question. For 100 years, at least, the well-established and recognized principle on that matter was that the State had a right to control those whom it paid, and Militia officers did not belong to that category. The principle to which he referred was settled in 1792 by the decision of Lord Loughborough in the case of Sergeant Grant, who appealed against the sentence passed on him, on the ground that he had never been enlisted, and therefore was not liable under the Mutiny Act. The case came before the Queen's Bench, and it was decided that he had received pay as a soldier, and was therefore subject to the penalties of the Mutiny Act. The Army Reserve men, who received 4d. per day, were not under the Mutiny Act, because they were not upon full pay, nor was his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sunderland (Sir Henry Havelock), or any other officer who was on half-pay, liable to those penalties. Much less, then, were Militia officers, who received no pay, liable. He could not tell what was the object of placing these officers under the Mutiny Act, since the Crown could at present remove them from their position in the same way that half-pay officers were removed in cases of misconduct. The change, however, which was now proposed was to be made by inserting one line in the Mutiny Act—namely, "whether they be the Regular Forces or the Militia." The effect of that alteration, if it were agreed to, would be to place the officers of the Militia upon a different footing from the men of the same Force, and that would be a very anomalous thing to do. Beyond that it would place upwards of 3,000 Militia officers who had entered the Service on the understanding that they should not be liable to the Mutiny Act during the non-training period, under its provisions at all times. At present the 820 Militia were only under the Mutiny Act when embodied for service or called out for training, and under no circumstances could they be subjected to the penalty of death. By the insertion of these little words Militia officers would be placed on the same footing as ordinary officers of the Army. Again, the Militia could not be embodied unless Parliament was called together within 10 days; but under this Act, the Government had power to call any number of Militia officers out for duty. Now, he contended that it was unconstitutional to call out a Militia officer unless his regiment was embodied. As things now stood, a Militia officer was at liberty to go where he pleased; but if the Bill passed in its present shape, he would not be able to go abroad, even to take his wife to Boulogne, without the permission of the Horse Guards, and he certainly would not be able to go to Khiva if he wanted. The proposal had been made without a single word being said in its favour by any Minister, and therefore he was at a loss to know on what grounds it had been brought forward. He had no opportunity of calling the attention of the House to the subject except by the present Motion. He hoped, therefore, the House would not assent to this part of the Bill, or that before it went to the House of Lords the Government would consult the Law Officers of the Crown as to the legality of the step which they were about to take. The hon. and gallant Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. J. HOLMS,
in seconding the Motion, said, the question which it involved was one of great constitutional, as well as financial, importance. Ever since the days of Charles II. the House of Commons had very jealously guarded its power over the Army, and, indeed, it was in that very jealousy that the Mutiny Act had its origin. As the law now stood, the Militia when embodied came under the operation of the Mutiny Act, but when they returned to their homes they again formed part of the civil community. It was, however, proposed by the Bill before the House that officers and non-commissioned officers of Militia should always be under the Mutiny Act, and in another Session the men might be placed in the same position. When the measure was introduced, the 821 Secretary of State for War said not one single word upon the Bill. What was the reason for this novel proposal? Had he found any serious difficulty in dealing with the Militia officers? Were they not amenable to control, or was it aiming at bringing the whole of the Militia ultimately under the Act because there had been so many desertions from the ranks of late? The right hon. Gentleman had not said anything of the kind, and had apparently never considered the officer his chief difficulty. Yet he asked for power to place the whole of the officers and non-commissioned officers under the Mutiny Act. What was the reason of this request? Militia officers themselves were divided on the question; one side were in favour of the Bill and the other opposed to it. He would take the last first. At present, when the Militia were called out they were under the Mutiny Act; but when they were disembodied, they became part of the civil community, and were under its laws. Although he (Mr. Holms) was personally opposed to the Militia, yet he was in favour of doing justice to everyone — the officers and privates of the Militia as much as anyone else; and it was only fair to them that we should protect their interests; we had made a contract with them, and were bound to do them justice; and those who were in favour of maintaining things as they were considered that the 105th Article of War bore completely upon the question, and provided adequate punishment for all crimes not capital. He now came to the other class who were in favour of the Bill; and the reason they were in its favour was the fact that the measure would offer increased facilities for getting into the Regular Army through the Militia, a step they were anxious to take. When the measure for abolishing Purchase was passed, the nation expected great results; but all the benefit of that change was quickly disappearing. When Purchase was abolished, the understanding was that there should be but one road into the Army—namely, competitive examination. Had that system been maintained or not? At first, it was declared that there would be great difficulty in getting men to offer themselves for commissions in the Army after Purchase was abolished; but the fact was that in 1873, 1874, and 1875, the number of Cavalry and Infantry appointments was 1,180, 822 or a yearly average of 393, while the average number of candidates was 1,300; and at the half-yearly examination in July last the number of vacancies was 135, for which 675 candidates presented themselves, or five for every place. Looking at the justice which should be done to the Army and the country, it might have been thought that the Secretary of State for War would not have permitted candidates to enter by any other door; but there was a side-door to the Army, and one which he (Mr. Holms) thought, should not be opened so wide—namely, the Militia. Year by year this door was opened wider. In 1873, 81 officers of Militia qualified; in 1874, 91; and in 1875, 100; so that in the three years 272 Militia officers qualified for the 1,180 places, or 23 per cent of the whole; and, within the last three months an Order had been issued increasing the number that might enter up to 142, so that about one-third of the whole of the commissions in the Army would be obtained through the Militia. If the House passed that Bill, they would have a great influx into the Army of officers with but slight examination. The condition of the Army was such that the House of Commons could scarcely separate this Session without knowing what the policy of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the Army was for the future. The right hon. Gentleman this Session had scarcely treated the House of Commons with due respect in relation to the Army. On the 5th of March, the Secretary of State for War made his speech on the Army Estimates, and informed the House that that morning hon. Members would find delivered to them a Report of the Committee on the Militia and Brigade Depôts.
§ EARL PERCY
rose to Order. The question was whether Militia officers should be put under the Mutiny Act? and the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Helms) had commenced to speak on the general question of the conduct of the Government with respect to Army matters, which was not the subject before the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the question before the House was whether it should go into Committee on the Mutiny Bill. That being so, it appeared to him that the observations of the hon. Member for Hackney were relevant to the question.
§ MR. J. HOLMS
said, that although hon. Members had not been put in possession of the Report when the right hon. Gentleman made his statement, in the course of which it was referred to at considerable length, yet it was ready for delivery several weeks before, because on the 17th of February The Times gave many extracts from it. The Report ought to have been delivered to hon. Members in time to enable them to form an intelligent opinion as to what the right hon. Gentleman was saying regarding it when referring to it on the Army Estimates. Again, although more than a month had elapsed since the discussion was postponed it had never been resumed, while £11,000,000 of the Army Estimates had yet to be voted. Yet hon. Members were now called upon to consider this Bill at a period when it must become law if the Army was not to go to pieces. He thought it would be but fair to hon. Members that the debate on those Estimates should be resumed with as little delay as possible, but that a day should now be named and that the resumed debate should be the First Order of the Day. Why was it that the Bill contained the words relating to Militia officers? It was because it was part of a great scheme embodied in the Committee on the Militia and Brigade Depôts Report. The right hon. Gentleman said, in his speech on the 5th of March, that the Committee had recommended that Militia officers should be subjected to the Mutiny Act. The Committee said that they had not made that recommendation without the knowledge that it must lead to a large increase of expenditure, and he thought it ought to be made clear to the House what that large expenditure was for. This was a very important question, and it was intimately connected with the Localization Scheme, for which the country had to pay £3,500,000. He maintained that it ought to be submitted to the House as a whole, accompanied by a Ministerial Statement, and he warned the House not on any consideration to accept the proposal which was now under discussion, but to ask the Government to declare in a bold and open way what their military policy was. The House should remember that this was a very important question. The Government had asked them to consider the whole Localization Scheme, 824 for which the country paid the large sum he had mentioned. Were they to understand that the Localization Scheme was a failure? If the right hon. Gentleman said it was, he entirely agreed with him. It had not in the least degree answered its purpose. To show that that was the case, he would lay before the House a picture of one Brigade Depôt, drawn from the most reliable authority, and which was a fair sample of many others, which, he thought, would help the right hon. Gentleman as to the necessity of his undertaking the work of reconstruction. It appeared from a table which had been supplied to him that a considerable percentage of the men in the Brigade Depôt in question were for various reasons non-effective, some being under forfeiture of pay, and others undergoing imprisonment for military crimes. Fully 75 per cent of the defaulters were known to the police prior to enlistment. Another table showed that 30 per cent of the Depôt might be described as sick, lame, lazy, or useless. If that were a true picture of the Brigade Depôts, he would ask would not the House support the right hon. Gentleman in his desire to have a full investigation into this subject? But after he had completed that investigation, the House was entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman to state fully the intentions of the Government as to the future. They had here a small measure apparently; but it introduced changes of very great importance, and would tend to enormously increased expenditure. Two other Committees had been sitting at the War Office—one relative to the enlistment of boys, and the other on the subject of the retirement and promotion scheme. Before the House was asked to give any Vote with respect to those schemes it was entitled to the fullest information, and opportunity of discussion. He hoped, therefore, the House would support the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is not desirable to bring under the provisions of the Mutiny Act any Militia officers, except officers belonging to regiments embodied for service or assembled for training, and such officers as are already specially provided for by sections 56 to 58 and 66 to 70
of the Militia Act of 1875 (38 and 39 Vic. c. 69),"—(Sir Alexander Gordon,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. STANLEY
said, that before he proceeded to answer his hon. and gallant Friend behind him (Sir Alexander Gordon) he hoped he might in all good humour be allowed to congratulate his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms) on having at length delivered himself of his speech against Brigade Depôts, which some of them had anticipated hearing at an early period of the Session. How far that speech was connected with the question before the House, he did not think it necessary to discuss. He would only say that he did not see how, from a self-compounded table, from which the hon. Gentleman recited to his own satisfaction columns dividing the men into classes of lazy, useless, and so forth, they were to throw discredit on a system which the hon. Gentleman never lost an opportunity of attacking.
§ MR. J. HOLMS
The hon. Gentleman can scarcely have caught what I said. The table is not self-compounded in any way whatever. It has come from the best possible sources.
§ MR. STANLEY
said, that the hon. Gentleman would allow him to say that the tables from which he had quoted contained divisions, such as lazy and incorrigible, which were not recognized in the Service; and in the absence of any authority for those tables he might perhaps be allowed to set his opinion against that of the hon. Gentleman's. As to the practical question before the House, he would endeavour to show that the dreadful consequences anticipated were not likely to follow from the proposal made. His hon. and gallant Friend complained—and the hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to agree with him—that no general announcement had been made in respect to the policy which was to be pursued with regard to the Report of the Committee as to Militia officers. Now, no one who had known the conduct of his right hon. Friend while he held the office of Secretary for War could think for a moment that he wished in the slightest degree to keep back information from the 826 House; and indeed, as he (Mr. Stanley) had before had the honour of explaining, the very incompleteness of the Report to which his hon. and gallant Friend had taken exception, arose from the fact that his right hon. Friend was anxious to lay it before the House as early as possible, though it was a Departmental document which did not strictly concern the House. After the Report was laid upon the Table on the first night of the Session, a slight delay arose as to its circulation, in consequence of a re-casting of the printing arrangements of the Appendices being found requisite, in order to bring them into harmony with other Parliamentary documents. A copy had been placed in the Library on the first night of the Session, and he thought he might quote a remark in illustration of the fact that there was no overpowering demand for intelligence on this subject. On asking the librarian whether he should like to have a few office copies of the Report, he replied that he should, but that no one at all had asked for it. He wished to impress upon the House that his right hon. Friend, so far from keeping back information, was anxious to take the earliest opportunity of explaining to the House his policy on the subject of Brigade Depôts. When the Militia Vote came on, that would be the proper occasion for doing so; and it was intended that a statement should be made by him (Mr. Stanley), as Chairman of the late Committee, as to those points in the Report of the Committee which were or were not to be carried out. His hon. and gallant Friend took exception to placing Militia officers under the Mutiny Act, and demurred generally to the opinion of the Committee. He should endeavour to disprove from the statements of the witnesses quoted by his hon. and gallant Friend, the deductions he had drawn from their evidence. It was true that three witnesses were asked the questions cited by his hon. and gallant Friend; but during the inquiry, it came prominently to the notice of the Committee, that according to the rules which they had found laid down by their Predecessors in office in actual practical working, the Militia and the Brigade Depôts were so inseparably mixed up that they found it was absolutely necessary to go one step further, and to recognize that for certain pur- 827 poses they were part and parcel of one unit. With regard to the first of the three witnesses who were asked as to the question of placing the officers under the Mutiny Act, he had followed his hon. and gallant Friend very closely in his quotations, and it seemed to him that he read it in an entirely opposite sense to that which it was intended to bear. Lord Norreys thought it would be advisable to place the Militia officers under the Mutiny Act at all times; that it would define their position better; that they would take no objection, it being understood that they could be on leave 11 months of the year. Another witness cited by his hon. and gallant Friend, Major Garnham, the cross-examination of whom was not directed to the main question, but to the minor question whether an officer should report himself to the general officer of the district, expressed himself strongly in favour of officers being placed at all times under the Mutiny Act, and a third witness, Sir Robert Cunliffe, said he thought it would be a good thing, and that there would be no objection on the part of the officers to being so placed. He feared that there was some feeling on the part of his hon. and gallant Friend that the status of the Militia officer might be unduly raised, and that in his remarks there was a trace of what he might call the old trades union jealousy between the officers of the Army and the Militia. [Sir ALEXANDER GORDON said, he entertained nothing of the kind.] He was glad to hear the disavowal of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and had no doubt it would be agreeable to the Militia. With regard to the evidence given by His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, he was very fully examined as to the working of the depôts, and he pointed out, that to expand the number of officers to the proportionate number of men would be a very great absorption of officers, and would lead to an undue promotion of the officers. Exception had been taken to the principles involved in the measure, and he was free to admit that the Report of the Committee pointed to an extension of the liabilities of those officers beyond what at present attached to them. The hon. Member for Hackney had said that the House was jealous of the state of the Army, and he went on to draw a terrible picture of the carelessness of the 828 Secretary of War with regard to the Estimates, and appeared to think that if the first year the officers should be placed under the Act, that the non-commissioned officers would be placed under the Act in the second, and that in the third year the men would be placed under the same Act. But the hon. Member for Hackney based his argument on the question where was to be the limit, for they might increase the Service indefinitely; but he must remember where the limit was at present. It was the officers alone who were included, and the right hon. Gentleman the Judge Advocate General would move a technical Amendment which would place this beyond a doubt. It was by the voluntary consent of the Militia officers that they were brought under the Mutiny Act, and any officers who chose came under this liability at present when they were attached to depôts and to regiments. The hon. Member asked what they wanted with all these things, and said it would be thought the Militia force was in a state of insubordination. He would ask the hon. Member whether he considered it right to wait until difficulties actually occurred, and it might be necessary to impose the Act, or did he not think it was a better and more proper course to see beforehand what the War Office and Parliament might wish to be done, and to take steps for carrying out such measures as they were shown to be wise and valuable? Both the hon. Member and his hon. and gallant Friend laid some stress upon objections which might be raised. With regard to the Report, he had seen many criticisms of it, but he had not seen one where exception had been taken to placing the Militia officers under the Mutiny Act, nor had he heard of one objection on the part of the Militia officers themselves. Weighing on the one hand the advantages which would accrue to the Service generally, and what was believed to be the well-founded opinion expressed by officers who were questioned on the subject, also taking into account the fact that no objection was taken to the proposal, the Committee felt justified in coming to the conclusion that it was desirable that Militia officers should be under the Mutiny Act not only during training, but also during the non-training period. The proposal was, in fact, one to place under the Mutiny Act officers who could already be brought 829 under it by their Volunteer Act, officers who entered the Service voluntarily and could quit it to-morrow. It was not proposed to repeal those clauses of the Militia Voluntary Enlistment Act which reserved all their civil rights, and he repeated that not one single objection had been raised among the whole body of these officers. In depôts it was absolutely essential for many reasons that Militia officers should be brought under closer relations and placed under the Mutiny Act. Before the year 1875 a militiaman could be tried by court martial for offences committed during the period of training, and officers were also liable to be tried for disobedience of orders. Again, accounts had to be made up, for which an officer was nominally responsible, and it was not found possible practically to bring to a conclusion at the moment when his liability ceased duties which he could only perform when brought under the Mutiny Act. He maintained, therefore, that during the non-training period a Militia officer must be treated as being on long leave, but as being, although practically from military duty, still liable to the rules of the Service. He had no doubt he should be able on a fitting occasion to explain the rules which, laid down by the military authorities, would, he believed, recommend themselves to those acquainted with the Service, and which could not, he thought, except by wilful misrepresentation, lead to any confusion as to the position of Militia officers. His hon. and gallant Friend had said that no question had been asked of any of the depôt officers, and it was quite true that it had not been deemed necessary to press them on hypothetical points, seeing that they only had a general knowledge of the subject; but all the evidence which had been obtained from them seemed to show more and more clearly how inexplicably the Militia and the Line were mixed up together in the performance of the duties of the Brigade Depôt. Under all the circumstances, the Committee thought they were best discharging their duty in making the recommendation in question. The Government, also, were of opinion that they would best discharge their duty by taking the course which they had adopted, and he trusted he had succeeded in removing some of the fears which his hon. and gallant Friend seemed to entertain on the subject.
§ MR. H. B. SAMUELSON,
as a Militia officer, said, that no policy could be more constitutional than that of blending, as far as possible, the Militia with the Regular Army, while preserving the characteristics of the former ancient and constitutional force, of which the character would not be altered materially by the proposed change. The objections urged against the scheme were exaggerated; it could do no harm, and, in his opinion, would be productive of good; and, while advocated by all the authorities examined by the Committee, it was not opposed by a single Militia officer in the House. He supported the proposal, not as tending to raise the status of his brother officers, for their status was already sufficiently established, nor for the purpose of causing their position to be confounded with that of officers of the Regular Army, for Army, Militia, and Volunteers had each their own place in our national system of defence which they would continue to occupy without jealousy or contempt, one of another, ready at all times to serve their country in their proper spheres; but he supported the change as being convenient in the interests of discipline. The argument that it was inexpedient to bring Militia officers under the Mutiny Act, at times when they were not in the receipt of pay was neutralized by the fact that they held Her Majesty's commission, and were not only entitled, but obliged to wear Her Majesty's uniform on many occasions out of the training. The objection of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms) should be taken cum grano salis, for he was an advocate of the abolition of the Militia. Militia candidates for commissions in the Army had to work very hard to pass a test examination, and to know their drill perfectly, and he believed that those who had obtained commissions had given satisfaction. The Force had immensely improved of late years. If deficiencies still existed, they could easily he removed; and, if the Militia were encouraged and treated well, it would amply repay the care bestowed upon it. The proposal under discussion was part of the recommendations of the Militia and Brigade Depôts Committee; and he believed that if the Militia officers throughout the country could be polled, it would be found that the great majority were in favour of it. If the Brigade 831 depôt system had not yet fully answered its purpose, it was only because it had not yet come fairly into operation; but he was sure that some day excellent results would attend it. He thanked the Secretary for War for the attention which he was paying to the Militia, and heartily supported him in his present course.
§ EARL PERCY
said, that the objections taken by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir Alexander Gordon), and by the hon. Member who seconded him (Mr. Holms), were entirely opposite. One said that the Militia officer's position would be improved; the other, that he would be subjected to serious penalties, capital punishment, and other disagreeable consequences. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had said that martial law depended on those who were subject to it being paid by the State. But Volunteers under arms were subject to it. He thought that if any real dissatisfaction existed in the Militia they would be certain to have heard of it, as the Militia was very much like the Army in grumbling at anything it did not like. He could not think, however, who the officers were who had written to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Holms) on this subject, and made him the representative of their views. He was quite sure, however, that esprit de corps was not to be destroyed so easily as they seemed to think, nor did he believe that that was the natural tendency of the system.
§ MR. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN
observed that much had been said in this discussion which had no real bearing upon the point at issue, which was a very small one—namely, whether during the non-training period Militia officers should be subject to the provisions of the Mutiny Act. He held that the proposal should be dealt with on its own merits. His hon. and gallant Friend who moved the Amendment had criticized the report of the War Office Committee, whose inquiry had been directed with so much industry and ability by his hon. Friend the Financial Secretary, and he had endeavoured to prove that their recommendation in this respect was not based on sufficient evidence from Militia officers. But he would remind his hon. Friend of the composition of the Committee itself. There sat upon it the Duke of Buccleuch, Lord Exeter, Lord Limerick, 832 the hon. and gallant Member for Shropshire, and the Financial Secretary himself, who commanded a Militia regiment, and he (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) questioned whether a more influential body of Militia officers than these could be named. But the House would not accept the proposal or reject it because it had or had not been recommended by any Committee. They would look at it on its merits, and there might, no doubt, be considerable difference of opinion on the subject. The advantages of placing Militia officers under the Mutiny Act were obvious, and by doing so they would get rid of many anomalies. There was, first of all, the fact that if they were not so placed the military authorities would have no control over them during the greater part of the year, since they had no power to take cognizance of their conduct during the whole of the period they were not in training. Again, Militia officers were often mixed up in the Brigade Depôt, in an awkward way, with officers who were already under the Mutiny Act; and, lastly, if they were not under the Mutiny Act, all correspondence with them which took place during the non-training period passed through the civilian department of the War Office, while during the short period of training it went to the Horse Guards. These were obvious anomalies and inconveniences which the House would see it must be desirable to remove. A Constitutional question indeed had been raised in relation to this subject, and he would admit that, perhaps, there might be something of that nature involved; but he might ask whether there was not such a thing as a pedantry of Constitutionalism, and whether hon. Members who had urged Constitutional considerations as being involved in this matter had not somewhat strained their point. He submitted that there was no evidence whatever either that there would be danger to the State in placing these officers under the Mutiny Act, or that the officers themselves had complained that their being so placed would interfere inconveniently or seriously with their personal liberty. That being so, the countervailing advantages which he had mentioned, as well as the expediency on general grounds of assimilating so far as they could the position of Militia officers to that of officers of the Regular Army, 833 were sufficient to justify the House in supporting the Government on the present occasion.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK
said, as a Member of the Committee, he felt it would be his duty to oppose the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. The provision of the Bill, he thought, would raise the status of the whole body of the Militia, as officers would be very chary of their conduct when they knew they were liable to be tried and dealt with by court martial. The Committee had carefully guarded the rights of the non-commissioned officers. The objection to what was proposed to be done was a purely technical one, and the proposal itself was strongly supported by almost every Militia officer in the Kingdom. The position of an officer on full-pay was entirely different from that of an officer on half-pay in reference to the Mutiny Act, the former being under its provisions, and the latter not. The proposal under consideration had been brought forward for some time without evoking any complaint that he was aware of on the part of military officers, and he believed its adoption would be beneficial to the Army and the country.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
pointed out, as an objection to the Government proposal, that it would place the Militia officer on a different footing from his brother officer of the Line, inasmuch as it would put him under the operation of military law when he was receiving no pay, which was quite contrary to the rule which obtained in all the Continental Armies. When a Line officer was absent on leave, he was not subject to military discipline, and he could take it out of the district. That was the rule in this country; but the Militia officer being always at home must take it in his district, and rubbing against other officers, he was not so free from restraint. This seemed to be hard upon him, as he had no pay; and it would be harder still to bring him under the operation of the Mutiny Act.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
thought the blot in the whole of the arguments which had been advanced against the proposed change was, that no account seemed to have been taken by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir Alexander Gordon) of the great alteration which had been of late made in the Militia itself, which was no longer a county and 834 local Force, but formed part of the Regular Force of the United Kingdom. The commissions of Militia officers were now made out in the same form as for the Regular Army, and everything was being done to bring it into conformity with the Army. Regulations were laid down suitable for the Militia; but it was intended that the law should be equally enforced against them when necessity required that it should be so. He need not, however, after what had fallen from his hon. Friend beside him (Mr. Stanley), say anything further by way of explanation of the reasons which had induced the Government to introduce into the Bill the provisions on which the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Amendment had, he thought, laid too much stress. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms) seemed to think that he had sought to keep something back with regard to the Army. That was not at all the case. On the very first day of Parliament he laid before the House the Report of the Committee, and every effort had been made to supply the House with all the information, but the digest, which was in progress, had not been completed, but he hoped it would be in the hands of Members very soon. The hon. Member with his experience of the House must know that it was not in his power to command the time for discussion. He could only say that when the Army Estimates came on, or any other matter relating to the Army, he would be very happy to discuss them fully with the hon. Gentleman. At present he thought he would best consult the convenience of the House by allowing it to go into Committee.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR
I was quite taken by surprise, Sir, at the proposal that the Speaker should leave the Chair, and the House go into Committee on this Bill. The Government surely cannot intend to go on. I have several times asked the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Gathorne 835 Hardy), at what time he proposed to take this Committee, and he has always said not after 11 or half-past 11. I must protest against this yearly attempt to cram this Bill down our throats as a thing which we have to accept and not to discuss. The right hon. Gentleman has again this Session attempted to force a second reading before the Bill was printed, and I shall certainly divide the House against the proposal that we shall go further to-night.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
denied altogether that he was cramming the Bill down the throat of the House. The Bill had been printed last year for the first time. As the hon. Member had said, he had said he would not bring on the Bill after a certain hour, and as far as was in his power he had kept his word. He hoped, therefore, they would be allowed to go on.
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR
If I used any expression stronger than was warranted by the facts, I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I am aware he at once gave way last year when I objected to the Bill being read a second time before it was printed, and I should have thought that would have been a precedent for this year. But there are matters of detail connected with this Mutiny Bill, which excite considerable interest in the House and in the country, and I beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman that minorities have their rights as well as majorities, and that we ought not to be asked to discuss matters of this importance at 1 o'clock in the morning, when all power of appeal through the Reporting Gallery to the country is gone. I beg to move that Progress be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."— (Mr. P. A. Taylor.)
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
rose, and said he would agree to the Motion. He would not contest it, nor engage the House in a contest at that late hour on this question; but he hoped that on another evening he would be allowed to 836 proceed, even though at a rather late hour.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.