HC Deb 04 May 1885 vol 297 cc1511-2

asked the Secretary of State for War, If it is true that candidates for Commissions in the Army are prohibited from competing at the examinations in March, July, or in any subsequent month, unless they have attained the age of nineteen previous to the 1st of January in the year in which such examinations are held; whether such rule was made by the War Office or the Civil Service Commissioners; and, whether he will consider the advisability of altering an arbitrary regulation which involves, in many cases, the loss of a year's seniority to the candidate, and entails a heavy expense on parents, without any advantage to the public service?


The rule referred to by the hon. Member applies only to the Militia candidates for Line commissions. It was made in 1879 by the War Office, and was a concession in the interests of the candidates. If the ages of candidates were reckoned from July as well as from January, those who at the beginning of the year were approaching the maximum limit of age, and had only served for one training, would be permanently disqualified for commission, for, not having served for two trainings, they could not compete in March; and if they reached the age of 22 between January and July, when the Militia training takes place, they would by age be ineligible for competition in September. Consequently, as regards the maximum age, the rule confers a great advantage on candidates. As regards the lower limit of age to which the hon. Member's Question is directed, candidates whose birthdays fall in the early months of the year are under some disadvantage. Their admission into the Army is postponed for some months. The rule, however, has been in force for six years, and parents can make arrangements for their sons' education accordingly. If they desire their sons to enter the Service at an earlier age than the Militia rule allows, they can resort to admission by open competition. In fixing the lower limit of age, care must be taken not to give Militia candidates an advantage over those who enter the Army by open competition. Whatever date is fixed, apparently hard cases must inevitably occur when candidates' birthdays fall immediately after that date. The advantage given by the rule in question to the older candidates, who would, if it were altered, be permanently excluded from the Army, appears to me to be so much more important than the inconvenience which some delay in obtaining their commissions may cause to the younger candidates, that I see no reason for making any change in the regulations.