§ Bill considered in Committe.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Short title) agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Calling out for actual military service of yeomanry and volunteers).
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."—(Mr. Brodrick.)
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid.)
said, he wished to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that there was a certain amount of tautology in the drafting of the clause, and he wished the Committee to understand that these provisions for calling out for actual military service and the disembodying when releasing from actual military service were all contained in the Militia Act of 1882. Accordingly he thought it would be a great deal better if the clause was shortened by the recision of all the words after the word "Volunteers," in line 12. If the Forces were embodied and called out in some time of national emergency—possibly on the occasion of some invasion—they would be then called out for actual military service. He, therefore, could not see the use of the last four and a-half lines of the clause. He regarded them as so much surplusage, for under the Act to which the clause referred, those lines were already retained. He would like the right hon. Gentleman who happened to be in charge of the Bill to explain the necessity for retaining those words. He, therefore, begged to move that from the word "volunteers," in line 12, to the end of the sub-section, the words should be omitted.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 12, "That all the words after 'Volunteers,' in Sub-section 1, be omitted."—(Dr. Tanner.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY, WAR DEPARTMENT (Mr. BRODRICK) (Surrey, Guildford)
said, that the hon. Member who had just spoken did not 458 appear quite to have appreciated the object of the words. The object of the words which the hon. Gentleman proposed to omit was to make it perfectly clear, not only under what circumstances Volunteers had to be called out, but under what conditions they might be embodied and disembodied. If the clause ended at the word "Volunteers," as the hon. Member proposed, the solo power given by the Bill would be that of calling them out, and as to the disembodiment of them—which the hon. Member would see was alluded to a few lines lower down—the circumstances of the embodiment and the disembodiment of the Force would not be clearly set forth.
§ DR. TANNER
said, the hon. Gentleman had not alluded to the three first lines of the clause—Whenever an order for the embodiment of the Militia is in force, it shall be lawful for Her Majesty the Queen to call out for actual military service, &c.;and he considered it tautology for the clause to proceed—In like manner as if embodying were calling out for actual military service.Are not those latter words clearly unnecessary? It was simply in the interests of common sense that he moved his Amendment, and he hoped that nothing unnecessary would be included in the Bill. There was no use in leaving the Bill, which was intended for the guidance of the Public Service, utterly absurd, as it now stood, from the way in which it was drafted.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, that the only reason for the retention of the words was that as far as the annual embodiment of the Militia was concerned or contemplated in times of peace, it had been different from the Volunteers, who had not been called out for military duties, and it had been anticipated that a difficulty might occur if those explanatory words were not put in. He therefore thought they were useful under the circumstances, and ought to be retained.
§ DR. TANNER
asked, had the hon. Member read the Act of 1882? He (Dr. Tanner) had just been trying to study the case, and he could not quite understand how it was that the hon. Gentleman who was in charge of the Bill had allowed this surplus matter to be inserted and introduced into this Act—an Act permitting the Militia to be 459 called out in times of emergency. He did not wish to harp upon that one point, but, practically speaking, and taking into account that he understood the same thing had to be done in connection with the Yeomanry and Volunteers, and that being the case, he failed to see the use of putting this supplemental matter into that clause.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir JOHN GORST) (Chatham)
said, he thought it would be rash if the Committee on the advice of the hon. Member were to strike out words that were absolutely necessary. The Bill had been most carefully drafted. Attention would however be given to the suggestion of the hon. Member, and if he allowed the Bill now to proceed, the matter would be considered on Report.
§ DR. TANNER
asked, was he to understand that on the Report Stage, if these words were shown ultimately to be useless and worthless, they would be struck out?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
, in moving the following Amendment, in Clause 2, page 1, line 19, after "Great Britain," to insert "or Ireland," said, that his Amendment was simply to insert the words "or Ireland" after "Great Britian," so that if it should be necessary to call out the Volunteers for actual military service, the Authorities should not be restricted as to the place where they might be employed. Now, it might be suggested by hon. Members that as there were no Volunteers in Ireland, therefore it was unnecessary to talk about what the Volunteers might be required to do in Ireland. But the whole drift of the Bill appeared to him to be to enable the Volunteers to usefully supplement the Militia, when the Militia supplemented the Regular Forces; and from that point of view he would remind the House that on the last occasion when the Militia was embodied, at the time of the Crimean War, it was found necessary to send a large part of that Force over to Ireland, while, no doubt for some good reason, it was found necessary to send 460 some of the Irish Militia over to England. As the whole object of the Government must be to make entire the Forces of the Crown as available for every purpose as possible, it was extremely desirable that they should not be hampered in this particular matter, and that they should be able to use the Volunteer Forces wherever it might be most convenient to employ them.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 19, after the words "Great Britain," to insert the words "or Ireland."—(Mr. Brookfield.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ DR. TANNER
said, that, of course, any suggestion made by the hon. Member opposite would be treated with the most thorough respect. But on this occasion such an Amendment as that which he had moved, and the object of which was to include Ireland as well as Great Britain, should not be accepted. He would respectfully submit that not only the draughtsman—to whom such a tribute of respect had been paid by the right hon. Gentleman opposite—but also Her Majesty's Government, who had drawn out and formulated the Bill, were entitled to some little tribute of respect, even by hon. Members who sat on the opposite side of the House and supported them. For his own part, he should hesitate to speak too strongly against—in times of necessity, in times of invasion and when the National interests were imperilled—the Forces which were properly constituted being employed for the National Defence in every portion of the Empire. But, certainly, it struck him that bringing over the Volunteers to Ireland would in the first place be very inconvenient to the Volunteers themselves. He should imagine that their interests would be likely to suffer, and also that they might be asked before they were sent. For this reason—most of the Volunteers had entered only for a certain time and under certain stipulated conditions—which were that they would not be removed from Great Britain. He knew of no law which would permit of the Volunteers being called upon to pass beyond the sea limits—not even as far as Ireland, or as far as Guernsey, Jersey or Alderney—or, in fact, any place outside Great Britain. Accordingly, when 461 they had entered into a contract to defend their country under certain specific conditions, he thought that formulating such a precedent as that proposed by the Amendment might have the effect of creating objection on the part of the Volunteers, and of practically interfering with the third line of defence of the Empire. Accordingly he would certainly vote against the Amendment—although he, for his own part, did not attach very much importance to whether the Volunteers went to Ireland or not. If they did go he was certain they would be very well received, in the same way as he hoped their own Irish Volunteers—which probably at that time might be established—would be received—with a cead mille failthe—if they came to England. But at the present time he thought it was inadvisable, he thought it was indiscreet, and he could think of no reason why such a rule as that should be adopted as that suggested by the Amendment. It would, as he had said, interfere with the Volunteers themselves who were not provided and not organized for being transported out of the country, and if they went over to Ireland their capitation grant did not provide for their maintenance or support. Accordingly he thought that the hon. Member would himself see that the Amendment was, practically speaking, ridiculous, and he ought, therefore, to withdraw it.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, his hon. Friend had introduced an Amendment which would very considerably enlarge the scope of the Bill. The object of the Bill was to render the Military Forces of the Crown available, as far as possible, to resist invasion; but, at the same time, it was a very great object not to in any way increase the calls upon the present Volunteers or upon the Volunteers that might yet be raised in Great Britain, and the duty of serving in Ireland, which was not a portion of the Empire in which they had hitherto been expected to serve, and as to which, if the Amendment was adopted, very considerable inconvenience would arise. He thought the Volunteers should be aware that the object of the Government in reference to mobilization was, as far as possible, while calling out the Volunteers, to make arrangements that as few as possible would be called upon to serve for any prolonged period; and it was hoped that while the 462 head-quarter staffs of the Volunteer regiments would be maintained very largely in a state of efficiency, after mobilization, but few of the men would have to give up their ordinary employment until at the moment when it would be necessary for them to serve in the field. As the hon. Member who had just sat down had said, it would interfere very considerably with the Volunteers themselves if the Government were to extend their service to Ireland. He feared there was some point in the apprehension that had been expressed as to the result of in any way increasing the liability of the Volunteers. Upon these grounds he hoped his hon. Friend would consent not to persevere with his Amendment, which he must repeat would very largely increase the scope of the Bill.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
said, he hoped the hon. Member for the Rye Division of Sussex (Mr. Brookfield) would withdraw the Amendment, because the proposal he made was not supported by any plausible, or indeed by any very intelligible, argument. The hon. Member simply thought, because there was an exchange of the Militia Force between Ireland and England in 1851, power should be given to enable England to flood Ireland at any time with Yeomanry and Volunteers. Now, the Yeomanry and Volunteers were the least disciplined forces for available purposes in England, and to flood Ireland with men of that kind at any time would be a dangerous experiment—almost as dangerous as to permit the landing of a foreign foe. There could be no doubt that the Regular Military Forces already in Ireland, together with the Militia which could be called out, would be adequate for the purposes of defence in that country, and to take the power proposed by the hon. Member would be most unreasonable, seeing that Ireland was prevented from organizing a Volunteer or Yeomanry Force. The Government were not even able to ask their loyal friends in Ulster to form a Corps of Volunteers, and Ireland, therefore, would be placed at a disadvantage, as she would be totally unable to give this country any return for any valuable assistance she would be able to render Ireland by sending her Volunteers and Yeomanry over to resist an invading force. It was altogether without prece- 463 dent to propose to take powers for running over to Ireland a semi-organized force like the Volunteers for the defence of the country. It was not only unprecedented, but would to a violation of the present Volunteer Act to do anything of the kind. It would practically be sending the Volunteers themselves out side the Kingdom, and from the point of view of the Volunteers themselves, such a step would seriously injure their organization and cause an immense falling off in the number of men who at present formed the Volunteer Corps. When the Committee considered the disadvantages which the adoption of the proposed arrangement would entail, both to the military organization in England and to the Volunteers themselves, he trusted that the Amendment would be strenuously resisted.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
said, he should gladly support any hon. Member in any proposal he might make for legitimately increasing the strength of the Empire so far as our Auxiliary Forces were concerned, and he should be glad to see an improved organization and combination between the Auxiliary and General Forces such as in time of war might be found of great importance. But his fear was that the Amendment of the hon. Member opposite, if accepted, would not bring about a simplification and a better organization of our Military Forces, but the very reverse, and on that ground he (Mr. Childers) certainly was not able to support the hon. Member. The fact was that at this moment there were no Volunteers and no Yeomanry in Ireland, and, therefore, it looked on the face of it an anomaly to say that in the event of an invasion the Government should be able to introduce forces into Ireland the presence of which would be liable to create great jealousy. But he would mention another point which he thought had not been mentioned by the hon. Gentlemen the Under Secretary, although it must be clear to everyone who for a moment considered the matter. The 3rd sub-section of Clause 2 said that nothing in the clause should apply without his consent to a man enrolled in any great Corps of Yeomanry or Volunteers on the passing of the Act; but, as regarded all men enrolled after the passing of the Act, the Acts specified in the First Schedule should be repealed to an extent named. 464 Well, if the proposed Amendment were carried under this sub-section, great difficulty would be very likely to arise. At the present time, we had in the Volunteers and Yeomanry men who had belonged to those Forces for 10, 15, or 20 years. Experience shoved that men remained in these Corps for that time, and he could not imagine a greater misfortune than if, when they came to put this clause into operation in an amended form, a large number of the men belonging to these Forces should draw attention to this clause, and claim to be excused from its application on account of a disinclination to serve in Ireland. It might be a very unpopular thing to be called upon to serve in Ireland. The effect of the Amendment would be to create great confusion in the event of the Volunteers being called upon to serve in Ireland, and, so far from assisting the Government, the adoption of the proposal before the Committee would seriously hamper them. Therefore, on these grounds, he trusted the hon. Member would not persist in the Motion, the object of which he (Mr. Childers) entirely sympathized with, but which, in his humble judgment, would defeat the object which the hon. Member had in view, and would only add to the confusion when the Volunteers had to be brought out for active service.
§ MR. BROOKFIELD
said, he could not help regretting that on this occasion it had not been possible for the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) to be himself present. The whole question was one of great importance, and he ventured to think that the Amendment he had moved was also a matter of importance, inasmuch as the point of view from which he (Mr. Brookfield) looked at the matter, he would repeat again, was this—that by having the Volunteers at the disposal of the Military Authorities they might, in time of emergency, be able to release the very large Regular Force at present maintained in Ireland. However, he saw that the Amendment had no prospect of being accepted by the House on the present occasion, and as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War—whose views he should have liked to hear on the matter—was not present, he would reserve to himself liberty to raise the subject again on 465 Report, but on the present occasion would ask permission to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question proposed, "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill."
§ SIR EDWARD HAMLEY (Birkenhead)
said, he wished to observe that the clause appeared to be intended to provide that if it were necessary to use the Volunteers in case of apprehended invasion, they should be called out in sufficient time to have the necessary training. At the present moment, by the Volunteer Act, the Military Authorities were empowered to call out the Volunteers only in case of apprehended or actual invasion. It seemed to be considered by the Government that their embodiment might be facilitated by an enactment to the effect that they might be called out whenever the Militia were embodied, and by providing that those sections of the Militia Act relating to the embodiment and disembodiment of the Militia should apply also to the Volunteers. Now, that Act authorized the Government to call out the Militia on different grounds—namely, in case of imminent danger or great emergency. It would be seen, therefore, that an innovation of two kinds was proposed in the present clause—first, in the phraseology to be used in calling out the Volunteers; and, secondly, in making the Militia Act apply to the Volunteers. As to the phraseology, it had been considered by the Government a very important thing that the words used in calling out the Volunteers should not be such as to tend to the augmentation of the panic which would naturally prevail in the country at such a time. Now, it appeared to him to be pretty much the same thing, in point of tendency, to create alarm, whether that announcement was made on account of an "apprehended invasion" or on account of "imminent national danger and great emergency;" but in choosing between the two forms, they differed in value when applied to the Volunteers, because the one was applicable to that force and the other was not. They must remember that the object in creating the Volunteers was to meet an apprehended inva- 466 sion, and the wording of the Volunteer Act naturally was such as to make them liable in the future to be called out only in time of that particular emergency. It appeared to him that the words of the Act were sufficient for the purpose, because if we were either at war or likely to be at war with a Power capable of invading us, that fact alone might be said to constitute the apprehension of invasion and to justify the embodiment of the Volunteers. It was in vain to say that there were other cases of national emergency besides invasion, because such did not apply to the Volunteers. Then, as to making the wording of the Militia Act apply also to the Volunteers. By the Militia Act the Militia might be called out at times when invasion was not to be apprehended. It was so called out at the time of the Crimean War, and at the time of the Indian Mutiny, on both of which occasions no invasion of this country was possible. Therefore the Government were about expressly to take powers to call out the Volunteers at a time when invasion was not to be apprehended. It might be said that although the Government took these powers, they might not exercise them, and he had no doubt whatever that if occasion arose for calling out the Volunteers, the Government would use a wise discretion, and would take care that the Force was not called out except when invasion was to be apprehended. And if this measure were certain to attain its object there would be no possible objection to it unless it entailed certain disadvantages. He feared that it would entail serious disadvantages which he would briefly touch upon. The words of the clause were such as were likely to raise a suspicion in the Volunteer Force that to call them out at the same time as the Militia was embodied would mean that they should to a certain extent take the place of the Militia, and that—as the hon. Member who moved an Amendment just now seemed to wish—if a part of our Auxiliary Forces were sent to Ireland or to garrison our Mediterranean fortresses, the Volunteers should take the place of the Militia, and that in that way the Government might make use of the Volunteers in order to avoid the necessity of resorting to the ballot for the Militia. Well, he believed this idea to be altogether groundless. He did not 467 think the Government had any such intention. But, nevertheless, the idea did prevail, and the result would be that many Volunteers would refuse to accept the new conditions of service. He did not say that the majority of the Volunteers would not accept the new conditions; but he maintained that many would not do so, and the consequence would necessarily be that there would be one law for one part of the Volunteers and another for another. It would, he apprehended, be found very inconvenient that one section of the Volunteers should be called out with the Militia on an emergency, and another section only in case of apprehended invasion. But there was another and a more serious objection. There was a part of the public which was especially interested in the liability of the Volunteers to be summoned to the field—namely, the employers of labour. The Volunteer Act was expressly framed to obviate an objection on their part. The employers had accepted the Act, and had, he imagined, become reconciled to it; but he understood that now a great deal of distrust had been excited amongst them, and they imagined that as this measure entailed increased liabilities on the Volunteers, it was a fresh encroachment upon their own interests, so much so that he understood there were many firms in the country by whom Volunteers were employed who had given notice to their employés that they must either resign their Corps or give up their employment. It would, he held, be most unfortunate if any such question as this were allowed to exist between the Government and the employers of labour in the country, and the difficulties seemed to him to be entirely due to making the Militia Act apply to the Volunteers. What he could therefore wish was, that that part of the clause which made the Militia Act apply to the Volunteers should be rescinded, and that the clause itself should be remodelled so that it might be made to express clearly its own scope and intention, and, moreover, that it should be made to provide for the calling out of the Volunteers in such time as to ensure their due preparation. If this were done, it appeared to him that no objection would be made either on the part of the Volunteers or the employers. But what was done should be made known gene- 468 rally throughout the country—which he was afraid had not been the case hitherto. This Bill had so far slipped through the House in such a very modest and unobtrusive manner, that he was convinced there were a great number of Volunteers, both officers and men, who were in a state of complete ignorance with regard to it. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would, during the remaining stages of the Bill, take measures to make the Volunteers throughout the country thoroughly acquainted with these new proposals, and that he would ascertain the feelings of Volunteers and employers before it became law, for he need not point out how unfortunate it would be if, after such a Bill became law, it should be discovered that it was regarded with distrust by the classes whom it especially concerned.
§ COLONEL LAURIE (Bath)
said, the Volunteer Corps throughout the country would owe a deep debt of gratitude to the hon. and gallant General who had just sat down for placing so clearly before the Committee the very serious effect of the change the Government proposed to make in the constitution of the Volunteer Force. He was glad it had not devolved upon one of those who, like himself (Colonel Laurie), had for years been connected with the Volunteer Force, to speak first on the matter; but he ventured to hope that the Government would seriously consider the recommendations of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. He was quite prepared to say that the Volunteers themselves would gladly accept the conditions the Government desired to impose upon them; but the question arose to his mind whether they would be wise or unwise in accepting them. His own opinion was that they would be unwise. He was certain that, sooner or later, there would be a considerable amount of jealousy amongst the employers of the men. He had had considerable experience of the difficulties officers commanding Volunteers had, even under present conditions, to encounter in securing recruits; and he was sure that large numbers of employers of labour would, in the event of this clause passing in its present shape, place difficulties in the way of their servants becoming members of the Force. 469 But he wished also to say this, that he had the authority of no less a person than General McMurdo, who, with the Marquess of Ripon, was then most distinguished at the War Office—and of the highest draftsmen in the country, for saying that the Government had taken this question fully into consideration at the time the Volunteer Act was drawn and enacted, and that it was then considered that these words "apprehended invasion" covered every possible condition of the service of what he might call our "Civilian Army." He was entirely out of sympathy with his hon. Friend the Member for the Rye Division of Sussex (Mr. Brookfield), who said that the Volunteer Force might be taken out of Great Britain. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) in the remarks he had made on the subject, and ventured to think that in this new departure there would be a danger to the Volunteer Force. He ventured to think that the good old maxim of "let well alone" was not one which had been considered by the Government. If it was remembered that the Volunteer Force had, not only in the opinion of this country, but in the opinion of all Military Authorities, thriven under the present system, he thought they ought to pause before they altered the system as the Bill proposed. But he must also draw attention to the 3rd sub-section of this clause. At the present moment he had men in his own regiment who had served 25 years, and he had recruits whom he hoped would serve for a similar period; but if the clause passed in its present shape they would impose upon the commanding officers the necessity of keeping two classes of men in the Corps for 20 or 25 years. If the Committee adopted this clause, with this new principle in it—which he hoped they would not—he trusted they would make the change compulsory at once. He had no doubt the Volunteers, as a body, would accept it. A certain number of men, however, would, he thought, hold back, and the measure would produce that inconvenient condition of things, from a military point of view, which had just been referred to—namely, that part of the Volunteers would be out with the Militia and part would not. He thought that would produce a bad state of things; and he 470 therefore trusted that the Government would very carefully consider the representations which had been made before finally adopting this clause.
§ MR. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said, he was sorry to be in disagreement with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley), who spoke against this clause, and to hold views in some respects antagonistic to those of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bath (Colonel Laurie). He (Mr. Howard Vincent), for his own part, thought that a great debt of gratitude was due from the Volunteer Force to Her Majesty's Government for laying this proposal before Parliament. He believed he was speaking the sentiments of very many Volunteers when he said that they felt that something of this sort was required in order to put the Volunteer Force in the position to which it had long aspired. He did not think that there was any fear of there being two classes amongst the Volunteers, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bath supposed, because he (Mr. Howard Vincent) felt certain that the whole Force would readily accept the proposed change in the service proposed by Her Majesty's Government. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead—if he would allow him (Mr. Howard Vincent) to say so—was in error in saying that the Volunteers had not full information as to what was passing at this moment in the House. As a matter of fact, the proposal of Her Majesty's Government had been fairly canvassed in the Volunteer papers, and had been freely discussed and commented upon. He had no hesitation in saying that, although there were some who thought that the change was not quite necessary, the great majority of the Force welcomed it most heartily. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead thought it was converting the Volunteer Force into Militia; but he (Mr. Howard Vincent) ventured to submit to the Committee that what the Government were really proposing was to put the Volunteer Force in that condition in which it would be able to render that service to the country which it had been established for, and for which it existed. If the Volunteer Force was not to 471 be called out until the enemy was actually in sight of the coasts, or had effected a landing, then he thought it would not be able to render that service which every man in the country believed it capable of rendering. It was absolutely necessary that the Force should be called up in ample time before an invasion occurred, or before an enemy was in sight of the shore. In fact, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead himself had pointed out the necessity of the Force being called out in sufficient time to receive the instruction necessary to render it efficient to resist an invasion. Well, that was all that the Bill suggested. All it said was, that when there was apprehended danger the Volunteer Force might be summoned to receive those instructions which were absolutely necessary in order that they might fulfil efficiently the functions for which they had been established. He heartily supported this section, and trusted the Government would adhere to it.
§ MR. J. C. STEVENSON (South Shields)
said, he thought the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley) had done great service to the Volunteer Force in calling attention to the effect of the proposed alterations in the conditions of their service. He (Mr. J. C. Stevenson) had himself received strong representations from a very largo and influential meeting of Volunteer officers representing the Volunteers of the North of England on this subject. One of the resolutions they passed was to the effect that this attempt to put the Volunteers and the Militia on the same level ought not to be entertained. He (Mr. J. C. Stevenson) had been commanding officer of a Volunteer Corp from the beginning of the movement until a few months ago. He was acquainted with the cordial relations which had hitherto existed between employers and those of their employés who belonged to their Corps. Employers gave facilities to their servants for attending drills and for rendering themselves efficient in the Service, and he thought it would be a very unfortunate thing if anything were done to interfere with the wholesome Sentiment at present prevailing on this matter. As had already been suggested, 472 the wisest course would be to "let well alone," and to make no change which would tend to affect the relations of employers, upon whose goodwill towards Volunteers so much depended.
§ COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, S.W., Ince)
said, he thought that some hon. Gentlemen who had preceded him entertained very exaggerated views as to the effect of the clause. He took it merely to be an improved machinery for the calling out of the Volunteers. In the Memorandum accompanying the Bill it was stated that by the present law the Yeomanry could only be called out "for actual military service in case of actual invasion or the appearance of an enemy in force on the Coast of Great Britain; or, in the case of rebellion or insurrection arising or existing within the same on the appearance of any enemy in force on the coast, or during any invasion; "and that the Corps of Volunteers could at present only be called out for actual service "in case of actual, or apprehended, invasion of any part of the United Kingdom." Now, to his mind, such conditions in the present day were an anachronism—they contemplated the locking of the stable door after the steed was stolen. He thought all that was wanted was for the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to state that there was no intention on the part of the Government to call out the Volunteers in this country except in case of great emergency. Everybody knew that the men forming the Volunteer Corps were employed in trade and commerce, and that it would never do to call them out compulsorily for continuous military service unless under the most dire necessity. The very last thing that any Secretary of State for War would be likely to do, would be to interfere unnecessarily between the Volunteers and their employers; and all that was wanted was for the Secretary of State for War to make some statement of that kind.
§ MR. TROTTER (Colchester)
said, he thought it only right that all the Members of the House connected with the Volunteer Force of the country should express their views on this subject. He admitted that this clause did change the status of the Volunteers, and imposed upon them a great deal of additional responsibility, and he could only 473 say that, for his own part, he had not heard a word which led him to suppose that the Volunteers were not ready to accept the responsibility the Government desired to put upon them. He believed the Volunteer Force was actuated by only one motive—namely, to do their best, in any capacity in which they might be called upon to act, to meet the requirements of the Government. So far as he was acquainted with the circumstances of the case, he had no reason to suppose that the Volunteers had any reason to fear the loss of their employment by the adoption of the Bill as it now stood. He hoped the Government would bear in mind the cheerful manner in which the Volunteer Force would accept the change, and that they would adopt any measures which they thought calculated to foster the Force; and he would suggest the possibility of giving commissions in the Regular Army to Volunteer officers under certain conditions.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
said, the officers of the Volunteers in that House who had spoken on that clause up to the present had spoken entirely from the point of view of officers. He had a large acquaintance amongst the Volunteer officers—no doubt, most people had; but he, perhaps, had an unusually large acquaintance in that direction—and he quite admitted that those officers, as a body, would be very glad to be made more military than they were. When the Volunteer Force was established its officers were not recognized as military men. For instance, when the Volunteers first came out, a Volunteer officer was never addressed in this House as "the hon. and gallant Gentleman." A step in advance, however, had been made in that respect, and now every Volunteer officer was designated "the hon. and gallant," just as in old times that courtesy was given only to naval and military men. Of course, he found no fault with that; but he would point out that the argument, for instance, of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Mr. Brookfield), who had been a Volunteer officer for a good many years, was entirely from the point of view of the Volunteer officers, and not of the men. There was a great deal more in the clause than appeared at first sight. The clause was a first step, and no doubt was so intended 474 by its promoters, to enforced military service in this country. It behoved hon. Gentlemen who were opposed to any measure of enforced service to scan this proposal very closely. At the present time the Volunteers held an exceptional position. They were not subject to rules and requirements which applied to the Militia or the Regular Forces; but, so far as he read the clause, it was intended that in the future, whenever the Militia was embodied, the Volunteers might be put in exactly the same position—that was to say, that they should be no longer Volunteers, but should become Militia to all intents and purposes. That was clearly a step towards enforced service. We had a large body of Volunteers in the country, and everybody in the least degree acquainted with the Militia Service would admit that it was a most efficient body—certainly, as riflemen, he supposed it was the best body in the world. As rifle-shooters and marksmen there was no body in the world to equal them. But they were a Volunteer Body; and, under ordinary circumstances, they would continue a Volunteer Body. No doubt, in time of invasion, they would be called out on active service; but in time of invasion it would not be necessary to call them out by such an Act as this. They would come out of themselves, in order to protect that which was their own. No doubt, invasion was one of those scares invariably put before the House when the Military Estimates were moved. In Germany and France, just before the Military Estimates were brought on, there was always a war scare got up, and so it was in this country. But, as a matter of fact, the invasion scare in this country was about as ludricous as anything could possibly be. The only attempts at invasion which had taken place had been too ridiculous to be spoken of. Therefore, those arguments as to invasion were only used for the purpose of blinding the eyes of Members, as he took it, and to induce them, by a side wind, to take a step towards enforced military service. Now, he undertook to say that, apart from the question of the officers and those Volunteers of whom there were a certain number in some corps who had no particular occupations, and were not obliged to earn their own livelihood, the whole Body of the Volunteers of the country, if they understood the meaning of this 475 clause, would refuse it. Those who were anxious to obtain some kind of military rank were in favour of the clause; but amongst the men who had to earn their bread the feeling was altogether different. What would be the result? We had a large number of Volunteers employed in manufactories, and he maintained that any steps taken which would spoil the effect of the Volunteers in this country would be an injury from many points of view. From a sanitary point of view, from the point of view of the health of the men, it would be a great injury; from the point of view of discipline and self-restraint it would be a great injury. It was essentially necessary that they should consider what would be the result to the employers by this measure. Let him give the Committee an example. Mr. Siemen's was probably one of the largest manufactories in Germany. Mr. Siemen employed a large number of clerks. When he (Mr. Molloy) was over there, he visited that gentleman and said to him "What a military set of looking clerks you have got?" and the reply was—Yes, unfortunately it is so, it is the curse of our country. Here are men who may be called out at any moment. I have three here," pointing to three in particular. "I have had to train them during the last three or four months, and yet they will shortly be called out for a month or three months' service. It is utterly impossible to carry on our business if we are interfered with in this way.The same thing would take place in this country if there were a number of employers employing men who were Volunteers, and if when any Government, be it the present or any other, got up a scare for purposes of their own, the Militia would be embodied, and the Volunteers would be called out, or would be in a position to be called out. How could any man in business rely upon men who might be called out, or could be called out? He considered that the clause was one which ought to be rejected by the Committee. If they meant to introduce forced service in this country, if they meant to make the Volunteers part of the Regular Army, let them do so by a distinct Bill. What would be the effect of introducing forced service by a side wind? It would be that the number of Volunteers would decrease. There was considerable difficulty even at the present time 476 in keeping up the Volunteer Force in the country. [Cries of "No, no!"] Hon. gentleman cried "No, no;" but he maintained that the Volunteer Force of the country ought to be a much larger force than it was. Did hon. Members deny that? What was the reason that it was not larger than it was? Because of the difficulties which existed. In his opinion, both from a sanitary and disciplinary point of view, all persons ought to join the Volunteers. But he feared that by the Bill the number of Volunteers would be reduced, because they would make the conditions of service still more difficult. The difficulty hitherto had arisen between the Volunteers and their employers; that difficulty would by this Bill be increased probably ten-fold. They would not attain their object by the Bill; but in all probability they would injure one of the best branches of the Service, for the Volunteers were the best branch of the Service that the country had or ever had had. He entirely and absolutely objected at any attempt, by a side wind, to introduce even the first stage of forced service in this country. He was aware that on the question of forced service, there were a great number of different opinions; but as he objected altogether to the system of forced service, especially when introduced as he had said by a side wind, he should certainly vote against the clause.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he did not think the Government had any reason to complain of the discussion which had been initiated by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley). He entirely agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman that it was extremely desirable that the whole purport of the clause should be thoroughly considered, and although the hon. and gallant Gentleman thought that the Government had rather slipped the Bill through so far, the hon. and gallant Gentleman would remember that the Bill had now been before the House for two or three months, and had, as the hon. Member for Central Sheffield (Mr. Howard Vincent) had observed, been very carefully considered by bodies and associations of commanding officers and Volunteer officers, representations from whom had been laid before the Secretary of State for War. He (Mr. Brodrick) 477 was happy to be able to inform the Committee that those representations had been, in the main, although some criticism had been offered, extremely friendly to the Bill, and the objections taken to this clause had not been from the rather extreme point of view adopted by the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Molloy). The main information which had come to the War Office from the commanding officers and the officers of Volunteers generally—from those who were serving in the Force—corroborated, in a very strong sense, the observations made by the hon. Member for Central Sheffield, by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Trotter) and by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Ince Division of South-West Lancashire (Colonel Blundell)—namely, that it was recognized that the clause was intended to improve the machinery of mobilization, and not in any way to increase the liabilities of the Volunteer Force. The hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead pointed out the difference in the phraseology which had hitherto been employed and which it was now proposed to employ. He (Mr. Brodrick) would like to point out that the phraseology which had been in force with regard to the Volunteers up to this time—namely, "actual or apprehended invasion," was very wide. He believed it would he competent for the Government to call out the Volunteers under the words "apprehended invasion" in any case of war with an European power, in which it was apprehended that cruisers would make descent on different parts of our coast. He was sure the Committee would bear him out in saying that under that phraseology, it would be competent for the Executive to make use of those powers almost immediately on our becoming at war with any European Power. The reason for the alteration was that it had been impressed on the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War by the military advisers of the War Office, that it was essential that the mobilization of the Forces of the Crown, including the auxiliary Forces, should be put on a definite basis; that one and the same process should be adopted in making those Forces available, although it might not be necessary to call them out immediately. It was said a few moments 478 ago that it was most desirable to guard against confusion and panic which might occur in case of a premeditated invasion. He submitted to the Committee that the only way in which they could avoid confusion, and in which they could guard against panic, was by every man knowing what his position was going to be in case of invasion, by every commanding officer knowing what he would be called upon to perform, and by steps being taken to place each regiment and each commanding officer in a position to fulfil their duties. He submitted that that could not be done under the existing law. If they adopted the idea that the mobilization of the Militia was to be entirely apart from the mobilization of the Volunteers, it might be necessary to send regiments of Militia to garrison fortresses which, within a few days, might have to be occupied by Volunteers. On the other hand, if it was known that Volunteers were available immediately after the Militia had been mobilized, then those positions would be left to be taken up by Volunteers at the moment it was necessary they should be taken up. There was no possibility of this mobilization being lightly undertaken by any Government. No Government would lightly undertake to create a panic by demanding the embodiment of the Militia, because the actual calling out of the Volunteers would involve a very large expenditure. Under the Bill, the Government would be liable to pay each Volunteer who was called out the sum of £2 2s. That alone would necessitate the expenditure of £500,000 sterling the very day the Proclamation was made. Therefore, as between the Government and the convenience of the Volunteers, it was obvious that the Government would have to consider very carefully before any step was taken. His hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Edward Hamley) laid great stress on a most important point, and that was the attitude of the employers of labour to the Volunteers in their employ. He (Mr. Brodrick) quite agreed that that was a point which should be very carefully considered by those to whom representations had been made by employers of labour. But the Bill had been very amply discussed. [Cries of "When?"] It had been amply discussed by Volunteers themselves, and a good many 479 printed papers had been sent about which had penetrated almost every locality, and there really had not reached the War Office that there was any sort of feeling, general or special, on the part of the employers of labour at the change proposed. If there had been, no doubt it would be a matter for serious consideration. He believed that the employers of labour would see that the words previously employed—namely, "actual or apprehended invasion," were words which might be interpreted even more loosely than the words "embodiment of the Militia." In connection with this subject, he must point out that under the old Volunteer Act it was contemplated to call out the whole body of Volunteers, and keep them embodied in a mass until they were required. But the whole object of this scheme was to call out, first of all, the Reserve—such as the Militia—and, at the same time, to make available a portion of the Volunteers, a large number being left on leave, until the emergency reached a pitch at which it was necessary that every man should be at his post. The number provided for would be such that it might be possible for the great majority of those who lived by daily labour to continue to earn their living, and with that object instructions had already been given to the Brigadiers who had been recently appointed to ascertain how many of their men, without inconvenience, without undue cost, could at a moment's notice be brought to a given spot. In the mobilization tables regarding the Volunteers, a large deduction had been made for those who would not be present except at the last moment. On the other hand, he did, in the interests of the country, ask the Committee to consider very carefully a remark which fell from his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Birkenhead. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, with his great experience, told the Committee that he thought it absolutely necessary that the Volunteers should be called out in time for due instruction. He (Mr. Brodrick) had no wish to interpret that remark; but, at the same time, it must be obvious that if the Volunteers were to be of any service in the defence of the country they must be called out so that they might be properly instructed, and not have to be hustled here and there, at 480 the last moment, in the great confusion of railways which would ensue if they were not called upon to act until the enemy was at our doors. He would not detain the Committee any longer. All he had to say, in conclusion, was that it was the desire of the Government to carry out the view of the hon. Member for Colchester, and to develope the utility of the Volunteer Force in every way possible. It was for that reason that a large number of guns of position and also 16-pounder guns, had recently been distributed, and that a considerable increase had been made in the capitation grant. He hoped the Committee would support the Government in carrying the clause, and would thereby set their seal of approval upon the evident willingness of the Volunteers to take their place in the common defence of the country.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgton)
said, that he awaited, with very great interest, the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Guildford Division of Surrey, and certainly that interest was not disappointed. The hon. Gentleman gave them an extremely valuable description in principle of the use to which Volunteers ought to be put in time of great national emergency, and the observations of detail which came into his speech showed his thorough mastery of the whole question of national defence. But he did not find in the hon. Gentleman's speech reasons for the passing of the clause, and he would state very shortly what his objections to the clause were which had not been removed by the hon. Gentleman's speech. The clause would have a practical effect in one respect. On that, they were all agreed. That practical effect would be to divide the Volunteers, and divide them, as the hon. and gallant Member for Bath (Colonel Laurie) had said, for a great many years to come, into two portions. [Mr. BRODRICK dissented.] The hon. Member for the Guildford Division of Surrey shook his head. By that shake of his head, he had no doubt the hon. Gentleman intended that the Volunteers would one and all accept the new conditions. He (Sir George Trevelyan) thought that that was very much more than doubtful. In his opinion, the practical effect of the clause would be to divide the Volunteers into two categories, the 481 Volunteers who must come under the conditions of the Bill, and the Volunteers who might not come under those conditions. He now passed to the question of the wording of the clause, because it appeared to him that the words either meant a very great deal, or they meant very little. If the clause meant much, it meant that the Volunteers might be embodied for active service under conditions in which they were not liable or likely to be embodied now. The present position of the Volunteers was everything one could wish. There were two sorts of Governments. There was the Government that was vigilant and bold in the case of a great national emergency, a Government which was not rash, and which did not seek military glory and prestige at the cost of national security and national interest. Such a Government he believed to be the Government that ordinarily held power in this country. Such a Government had, at that moment, the means of utilizing the Volunteers for all the purposes that were required. What were those purposes? Those hon. Members who were old enough to remember, it might be as boys, the years 1848 and 1852, might recollect clearly the distress into which the country was thrown at the least threat of war. The country felt itself weak, and it was, consequently, anxious and timid. But ever since 1861 the men of this country had felt that they had their fate in their own hands; and, whatever form talk had taken since, it had not taken the form of uneasiness and timidity. The reason why the country had that sense of self-reliance was that it had an enormous force—a force, as he believed, of soldiers equal to any soldiers there ever were in the world—who were under conditions in which they might be relied upon in the last resort, and in the last resort alone. As was seen in the American War of 1861, the Anglo-Saxon Volunteers were the finest soldiers in the world, if only they were given time to be embodied, to know their officers, and to come under full military discipline. That time was given at present by the conditions under which Volunteers might be called out in the case of apprehended invasion. He supposed that no Government which was engaged in war, or which saw the prospect; of war, in which the safety of our shores 482 was threatened, would hesitate to call out the Volunteers for the purpose of giving them that last touch of concentration and organization which was required. But though under the present state of things everything, in his opinion, which was required for the full efficiency of the defence of the country, as far as the Volunteers were concerned, existed, he agreed that the other changes of the Bill—the changes respecting re-organization—were of value. He was bound to say, however, that Parliament, by sanctioning the clause under discussion, would, if another sort of Government was in Office—he did not mean such a Government as was in Office then, but such a Government as had been in Office in the past, in the far past—he believed that Parliament would place in the hands of that Government the means of taking steps which would be greatly contrary to the highest national interests. He was bound to say he was one of those who thought that of late years the tendency of military re-organization in this country had not been altogether in the right direction. He deeply regretted that that military re-organization had not been concentrated more upon the defence of our shores—that we were not content with having an Indian and Colonial Army and an exceedingly powerful Army at home. He believed that the time might come when we might regret having concentrated our efforts upon providing two Army Corps for the purpose of standing in line, in case of an European war, amongst the gigantic Armies of the Continent. That he believed to be about as fatal a mistake as the organizers of the military resources of the country ever committed. He believed it to be exactly the mistake which, to compare great things like ours with small things, was committed by the statesmen of Athens when they endeavoured to stand opposed to Sparta on the land, and were not content with their magnificent Fleet and their powerful Expeditionary Army; and that being the case, see the temptation which would be placed in the hands of an ambitious and reckless Government. They would think they could with those two Army Corps renew the glories of Talavera and Blenheim—glories which were won in days when an army of 60,000 was an enormous army, and when 30,000 red-coats might 483 well turn the tide on any field of battle in Europe; but where would our two Army Corps be in a Franco-German War or in an Austro-Russian War now? Then imagine the Government, having sent those two Army Corps abroad, relying upon the fact that they had a second Army in the Militia and the Volunteers at home. They would be emboldened by the fact that the moment they called out the Militia, they were not only legally, but by the sanction of Parliament, empowered to treat the Volunteers exactly as they treated the Militia, providing they did not take them actually out of the boundaries of the country. What gave us our sense of security at home, and what gave us abroad the position of a country which, whatever mistakes she might make in her small Colonial countries, was still impregnable on her own shores, was the fact that we had 190,000 or 200,000 men who, in case of serious danger, would very rapidly be increased to an almost in definite number—Infantry, equal to any Infantry in the world, who could make our shores absolutely secure from the danger of invasion. It had been said—"Oh, we shall make a very partial use of this power. We shall only require to have a few regiments of Volunteers for the purpose of garrisoning certain towns." They might call out a few regiments of Volunteers only, under the new circumstances, but they would alter the conditions of service of the whole Force. He did not know what effect the Bill would have upon the numbers of the Volunteers. Even with the immense love our nation had for fighting, he did not believe it was the case that the most thorough-going Volunteer officers amongst us were by any means agreed upon the wisdom of the change. What might be the feeling in the neighbourhood of London he did not know; but in his county (Northumberland), where the officers were not only very keen citizen soldiers, but were large employers of labour, he thought the officers were opposed to the clause. He could not see what this clause would give a good Government; but he was very much afraid of what it would give Governments that were not good Governments. If they voted boldly against the clause they might be beaten; but he could not help thinking that 484 if there was a considerable vote—a vote backed up by the eminent military authority of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead—the Government might look into the matter and, preserving what was very valuable in their Bill, might see fit either to withdraw the clause on Report, or to alter it in the sense which had been proposed by the hon. and gallant Member.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)
said, he desired permission to say a few words on what had now become a really important question. He was extremely surprised to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan) that he had no wish whatever that this country should be fully or even fairly prepared for war. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] The right hon. Gentleman had stated most distinctly—no man could state it more clearly—that he thought it a most fatal thing that there should be two Army Corps at all, prepared to face any danger which might arise.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
hoped the hon. and gallant Gentleman would allow him to correct him. What he said was that the defence of the country was such a paramount object that we ought to concentrate our efforts upon the Fleet, and he thought it a mistake to concentrate re-organization around the fact of having two Army Corps thrown on the Continent.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that if we were to be prepared for an emergency, we must be prepared, at any rate, to place a certain number of troops in the field. Looking at the position of the country, he was quite certain that his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Sir Edward Hamley), although he was paid a compliment by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow, would not accept the compliment, if he thought that anything he was doing to-day would prevent in the least degree the defence of this great and magnificent Empire. He was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Trevelyan) talk of the Army, for he thought they were dealing not with the Army, but with the Volunteers and the Yeomanry. Now, as to the Volunteers, let him (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) 485 say, as one who having served for some considerable time in the Army, and then in the Volunteer Force, he knew full well the real worth of the Volunteers. In his opinion, it would be a most unfortunate thing for the country if anything done in the House of Commons should in any way detract from the value of that Force, and make that Force feel that it was not in the position which it thought it ought to occupy in the defence of the country. He meant by that that it would be a very unwise thing if the Volunteers did not exactly know the footing on which they stood, supposing they were to be called out for the defence of the country. Here he came to a point on which he did not think his hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Brodrick) was quite as clear as he might have been. His hon. Friend said that if the Militia were embodied, the Volunteers and the Yeomanry could, on account of that very fact, be called out for service.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, that what he said was that they were rendered liable to be called out, and, in the dispositions by the Military Authorities, they might be taken into account.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that that was an important part of the whole question, and he did not think it had been quite clearly understood. Let him put the case as he understood it. Supposing, which he hoped would never occur, we were again engaged in a war with Russia, and we had sent a number of Militia regiments to the Mediterranean. He did not suppose for one moment that the fact of a certain number of Militia regiments being embodied would, of necessity, cause the calling out of the whole of the Volunteer Force. That was a question they ought absolutely to be sure upon, because it was one of those questions which would naturally be asked and canvassed after the debate of that day. Again, supposing it was necessary to embody a very considerable number of Militia regiments, it would not be necessary to call out the whole of the Volunteers, but only a certain number. In his opinion, no Volunteers would be called out unless there was some absolute necessity and some immediate danger. Reading this from a common sense point of view, one could surely see that the Govern- 486 ment looked upon it as absolutely necessary that they should have it in their power to call out, when the Militia was embodied, such a number of the Volunteers and Yeomanry as they might think indispensable for the efficient defence of the country. No one would, for a moment, contend that we were in the same position that we occupied a few years ago. No one denied that if danger did come it might come quickly, and very likely far quicker than people were aware; and, surely, after what they had heard from the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Sir George Trevelyan), everyone must agree that it was absolutely necessary that the Volunteers should be efficiently trained. When they came to look at the new arms in use for military purposes, the necessity of giving the Volunteers the opportunity of making themselves acquainted with them must be apparent to everyone. And he should now sit down, were it not for one other point that he thought it desirable to mention, and that was the relations existing between the men who formed the bulk of the Volunteers and their employers. The attitude of many employers was a thing to be deeply regretted—was a thing he had grieved about more than anything else connected with this question. Here we were in this country under, not compulsory enlistment, but a voluntary service; and we might depend upon it, despite what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway opposite (Mr. Molloy), we should never have anything but a voluntary service, and it would be a bad day, indeed, for any Ministry that ever proposed that we should have any but a voluntary service in this country. Here we were under a voluntary service, in which the employers of the country were not called on themselves to take part; and although the only object of the men who were Volunteers was to serve their country and protect it from foreign invasion, and, in so doing, protect the trade and commerce of the country, which, of course, included, in a marked degree, the interests of these employers, those employers were not always inclined—though he admitted there were many honourable exceptions—to give their servants the necessary time to become efficient Volunteers, but threatened to turn them off if their duty in connection with their 487 corps interfered with their ordinary employment. That, he maintained, was a question which deserved the serious attention of all men in the position of employers who were making—and, he hoped, would continue to make—large fortunes out of trade and commerce. They should consider the matter from the point of view of their own interest, if not from that of the country at large, and the instinct of self-preservation should restrain them from placing any obstacle in the way of their men becoming efficient Volunteers.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
said, he was glad the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had suddenly awakened to the fact that this was a most important question. Some of them, before the hon. and gallant Baronet had spoken, already thought it a most important question—indeed, looked upon the clause as one of the most important matters which had come before the Committee this Session. He was extremely pleased that the Front Bench on that (the Opposition) side had taken up a position with hon. Members below the Gangway, and would go with them in the Division which would undoubtedly take place. The hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had said it would be a bad day's work for any Government to try to introduce the conscription in this country. Well, undoubtedly it would, if a Government attempted to do it in broad daylight and in an open-handed manner; but, instead of that, they were attempting to get as near it as they could by invidious and insidious measures like the 2nd clause of the Bill. If the 2nd clause meant anything, it meant another step towards that system of conscription which was the goal to which many hon. Gentlemen opposite were anxious and were endeavouring to attain. He could promise hon. Members that there were some on that (the Opposition) side of the House, himself amongst the number, who would fight them to the death before they carried out their wish in that respect. ["Oh, oh!"] He spoke figuratively, of course, as he had thought hon. Members opposite would have sufficient sense to understand. He had listened to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Brodrick), but was not quite sure whether he had spoken in 488 favour of the clause or against it. It seemed to him that if any weight was to be attached to what fell from the hon. Gentleman, his words were rather more against the position the Government had taken up than in favour of it, because he told them that if they looked into the law as it at present stood they would find that there was full scope in that law for doing that which was proposed under the clause. The hon. Gentleman was not sure that there was not more scope under the existing law to call on the Volunteers than there would be when the Bill was passed. He had said—"I am not sure, if you carefully go into the matter, you will not find that the words 'actual' or 'apprehended invasion' cover more than the clause of this Bill." Well, let the hon. Gentleman stand by what he had said; and if he and the Government of which he was a Member really thought that the law as it at present stood gave them as much power, or almost as much power, as they would have when the Bill was passed, why were they not satisfied with that power, and why did they seek to alter it? What justification could there be for legislation, unless the Government desired to obtain something which was not within the scope of the law at the present time? If they had the slightest idea—or if there was nothing but a little doubt on the question—that they had as much power under the existing law as they would if this new law was passed, why should the Government go to the trouble of harassing the Legislature by asking it to pass a new clause in a Bill like this? But, as a matter of fact, they were now dealing with this matter from the standpoint that some hon. Members opposite did not believe the Government possessed under the existing law the same power that they would possess under this Bill. They wished to alter the whole constitution of the Volunteer Force. That Force, as its name implied, was a Volunteer Force. What did hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to do? Why, to put the Force in a position that he never yet found any Volunteer desirous of getting into. It was all very well to quote the opinion of officers; but the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office had not given them the opinion of the men. The officers, of course, looked 489 forward to having as much military command as possible; but what the Committee had to consider was not the opinions of the officers, but that of the vast body of the Force.
§ MR. BRODRICK
said, he had, in his speech, alluded to the fact that in a great many places the men had been consulted.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS
said, he was sorry the hon. Gentleman had not supplied them with some information as to where and how the men had been consulted on the question. The Committee would have been very glad to have had placed at its disposal all the information procurable on the point. Did the hon. Member, or did any other hon. Member opposite, for one moment contend that the Volunteers would care to be put in the same category as the Militia? Would any hon. or right hon. Gentleman contend for one moment that the Volunteers had been desirous of being considered in the same category with the Militia Force? Had they not considered themselves something different? The Volunteers had always considered that their services would only be availed of when some event directly threatening the country occurred. He had not the slightest doubt that at a time of great emergency—which hon. Gentlemen opposite were always foreseeing—they would readily obtain the voluntary service, not only of the Volunteer Force, but of a large number of persons outside the Volunteer Force; but there must still be a necessity for such a call upon the citizenship of the country to render the service which would, he thought, be desirable under such conditions. What he was afraid of, and what he thought they could plainly see, was that the Government were not going to wait for events of that description, but wanted by the Bill to get a power over the Volunteer Force of this country which they had never yet possessed. And having that power, the country was to trust to their good sense as to whether at some time or the other they would put it in force or not. The Committee were told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Government would not put the power in force until a great emergency arose. Well, he did not think that their experience of the manner in which the Government had carried out other powers entrusted to them was such as to induce 490 them to trust the Government with any new powers to be used according to the dictates of good sense. If the Government were entrusted with the power of calling out the Volunteers, looking calmly at what these Gentlemen had done on previous occasions, he was afraid that at some future time many people would have reason to complain that the men were called out when there was no necessity for it. The working classes had had their business relations needlessly disturbed by the calling out of the Reserves; men had been called out, and kept in the ranks long enough to lose their situations, and the trading and commercial arrangements of the country had been disorganized by the stupid action of certain Governments on former occasions. If the power now sought were bestowed upon the present Government, it would be liable to much greater abuse even than the existing law applicable to the Regular Reserves. The country was not, he thought, prepared to entrust these new powers to the Government at that moment. They wished to maintain the Volunteer Force purely as a Volunteer Force. The Government had had experience of what certain members of the Force would be prepared to do when there was a legitimate call upon their services. He was sure of this—that they would not, so readily as hon. Gentlemen seemed to believe, be prepared to be engrafted on the Militia of the country as the Bill, if it became an Act, would engraft them. The Government were asking that they might have power to treat the Volunteers just as they treated their Militia. The Militia were not a Volunteer Force. The Militia stood in a different category altogether to the Volunteers. The Militia were treated differently, and he asserted that the Volunteers did not wish to be treated in the way the Bill sought to treat them. He could not see why the Government should go out of its way to carry the clause of the Bill, especially after the very weak defence of it which had been given by the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office. If the hon. Gentleman believed in his own argument, if he believed that the power he had described existed under the present law, he had all the power he required—all the power any Government, which did not intend to act in a way prejudicial to the welfare 491 of the country, could require. No legislation was required. The Government wished to get power with regard to the Volunteers which did not exist at the present time, and the granting of that power he should resist as long as he was able.
MR. A. L. BROWN&c.) (Hawick,
said, he was sorry to intrude upon the attention of the Committee upon a Military Bill; but perhaps he would be excused if he spoke from an employer's point of view. The hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Brodrick) said that the Bill had been well discussed, and he was asked to explain when. The hon. Gentleman then said the Bill had been well circulated, and he supposed that Volunteers and employers of labour knew all about it. He (Mr. A. L. Brown) made bold to say that not one employer of labour in 500 knew anything about the measure. He made bold to say that the majority of employers did not know that Militiamen even were liable to be called out. He begged the hon. Gentleman to dismiss from his mind the idea that employers of labour knew anything whatever about the proposal. What he was satisfied of was, that if Volunteers were put on the same footing as Militiamen, the first time they were called out it would be the last time they would get employment where they had been engaged. Personally, he kept open at his works the places vacated by Militiamen during the time of training; but he wished the Committee to understand that employers were not their own masters; they required to consult their foremen, and over and over again, when he had gone to his foremen, they had grumbled that they had to keep places open. Unless employers kept their eyes on the foremen, the foremen would, in most cases, dismiss men who were liable to be called out, and get men on whose services they could rely for the whole year. What was the result? Why, that when employers found thoroughly respectable men they advised them to cease their service in the Militia; if such men could not buy themselves out, employers advanced them money to enable them to do so. There were two ways of managing our national defences—by the present system of Regular soldiers and Volunteers, or by Conscription. We could not have Volunteers and Conscription. The 492 Militia was our weak point, and the sooner it was done away with the better. He spoke as an employer, anxious to keep the places of Militiamen open, but who found it impossible to do so.
§ MR. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)
said, that whatever the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. A. L. Brown's) intentions might be, he had thoroughly confirmed the statement of the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) with regard to the dangers which might arise from selfishness and want of patriotism on the part of employers of labour. The hon. Gentleman said there were two ways of keeping up the defences of the country in a proper way; he might have mentioned a third way, and that was by employers of labour awakening to a proper sense of their duties and responsibilities.
MR. A. L. BROWN
said, he explained that he had endeavoured to keep the places of Militiamen open, but had found it impossible to do so.
§ MR. BROOKFIELD
said, he would admit that it was impossible from the hon. Gentleman's point of view. Certainly, there was one weak point in the clause, and that was the possibility of difficulties between Volunteers and their selfish and unpatriotic employers. The hon. Member for East Finsbury (Mr. J. Rowlands) spoke of this as an insidious attempt to institute conscription. The hon. Gentleman, like a great many other people who had only received an imperfect education—[Cries of "Oh, oh!"]—an imperfect military education——
§ MR. BROOKFIELD
said, he should be sorry to be at all offensive; but he must remind the hon. Gentleman that he himself indulged in a good deal of invective. As a matter of fact, conscription did exist to this extent—it was not generally known—that all subjects, with a few specified exceptions, were liable to the ballot for the Militia. The fact that this law was only in abeyance was emphasized by the circumstance that Volunteers, on being enrolled, were expressly exempted from the ballot for the Militia. It would be a matter for serious consideration if, when this clause became law, as he trusted it would, em- 493 ployers dismissed Volunteers from their employment. It would be very hard that Volunteers, who had hitherto enjoyed exemption from the ballot for the Militia, should find their services rewarded by loss of employment and the means of livelihood. He thought the Committee must be of opinion that the matter had now been sufficiently discussed, and therefore he begged to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ MR. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
said, it was not easy for him to speak with coolness in answering the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Brookfield). If it were not for the patriotism, the generosity—he might say the self-denial—of the large employers of labour in the country, the Volunteers would be a very small body. The hon. Gentleman opposite had spoken of the deficiency of military education on the part of the hon. Member for East Finsbury (Mr. J. Rowlands). The hon. Gentleman, however, showed his own ignorance of the Volunteer Service when be spoke of the selfishness and the want of patriotism of employers of labour. He (Mr. Brunner) could speak freely upon this subject, because he had done very little for the Volunteers. He was brought up in the principles of the Peace Society. He confessed he was not fond of a Militiaman, but he might say that he had a number of Volunteers in his employ, and he recognized them as amongst the smartest, most upright, and most trustworthy men he had. His experience, however, had been the same as that of his hon. Friend the Member for Hawick (Mr. A. L. Brown). When, a good many years ago, a foreman had found fault with the fact that a Volunteer in his service wanted time to go into camp, he (Mr. Brunner) had remonstrated, and had begged he would keep his post open for the man, simply for the reason that he thought the man was doing his duty by the country, and that these Volunteers were not only a credit to the country, but a credit to him.
§ MR. M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)
said, he desired to say a word or two from the employers of labour point of view. The London and North-Western Railway Company had, at Crewe, a very 494 large and fine force of Volunteers. They would probably increase greatly in numbers. The men were commanded by the hon. and gallant Member for the Wirral Division of Cheshire (Captain Cotton), who would agree with him that if the clause was to be passed in its present form, and if Volunteers might be called out as suggested, the whole of the London and North-Western Railway system might be brought to a standstill. That railway system might not be able to go on if, at some future time, the whole of the Volunteers in the service of the Company were carried off; and, therefore, the Government were embarking in a very much more serious thing than he was convinced they had any idea of. It was not a case of a very few Volunteers or Militiamen employed by one firm or another being taken away from their work, and their positions being kept open for them. It was a very grave thing to a town like Crewe, and to the London and North-Western Railway Company, if a large body of men were to be taken away from the town and from the Crewe works upon which the town and the railway system were dependent. There were engines, carriages, and trucks being sent to Crewe every day for repairs; there were new machines to be made; there were improvements to be made; and he maintained that they would do an infinitely greater amount of harm to the country by bringing the London and North-Western system to a standstill, than they could possibly do by leaving matters as at present. It was impossible for him to consent to the passing of the clause without some modification which would, at any rate, meet the case he had put, and which would protect a great system like that of a Railway Company. He strongly urged the Government to take time to reconsider the question. He felt that the Committee should not be pressed to come to a decision now, especially in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope). He did not know where the right hon. Gentleman was; but if he was necessarily absent——
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.