HC Deb 09 March 1880 vol 251 cc690-1

asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether Her Majesty's Government would make arrangements to supply great coats on loan to those Volunteers who are intending to take part in the march out to Brighton at Easter?


said, that before the Secretary of State for War answered that Question, perhaps he would allow him to put another on the same subject. Paragraph 419 of the Volunteer Regulations of 1878 provided that no Volunteer demonstration should take place at any place between the period of the issuing of a Writ for an election and the return of a Member to Parliament, and he wished to know what affect that regulation would have on the forthcoming Dissolution and the holding of the Review?


Sir, perhaps I had better answer the Question put by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) first. Under the existing Regulations, which are based on the recommendations of the Volunteer Committee, great coats are allowed without expense to Volunteers only while in camp and under canvass, and otherwise the issue of great coats, except on payment, is invariably refused. Volunteers can purchase the great coats on the same terms of payment as are charged in the case of other clothing. We have 15,000 of these great coats, which could be purchased by the Volunteers on the same conditions as their other clothes; but if great coats were to be called for and supplied on all occasions of marches out and reviews it would lead to a considerable expense, because new coats once issued for this purpose could only be issued again as part worn. With regard to the Question put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Alderman Cotton), it will be my duty, in answer to that Question, to make a statement that causes me some regret. I am sorry to say that the Dis- solution of Parliament announced yesterday will very materially influence the question of the proposal to hold a Volunteer Review on Easter Monday next. Under the Volunteer Regulations that have been laid down, the Volunteer corps are not allowed to assemble for any purpose whatever between the period of the issue of a Writ and the termination of an election, at the place at which headquarters are situated; and it is possible that the proceedings connected with the election may be going on in some—very few—boroughsonEasterMonday. Moreover, if troops of the Regular Forces should take part in the Review, as was anticipated, the Volunteers would be liable to the Army Discipline Act, and would then come under the 18th of Viet., c. 2, which makes it illegal for them to assemble within two miles of any city or place on the days of nomination, election, or polling. There is the possible alternative, of course, of allowing the Volunteers to assemble without any of the Regular officers or troops—that is to say, under their own commanders; but this would seem very inadvisable. But there also arose the further question whether, if the Review were held, they would not run the risk of failure by Volunteers who were electors absenting themselves for the purpose of attending the elections in their own boroughs. On the whole, in view of the legal and other difficulties, I have come to the conclusion, though with great reluctance, that it would be desirable to postpone the Review. If, however, any general desire is expressed to hold the Review at Whitsuntide, the War Office authorities will, no doubt, be ready to grant the same facilities as we were prepared to have granted with regard to the intended Review at Easter.