HC Deb 07 July 1896 vol 42 cc923-4

I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War, if he will be able to announce, before the Second Reading of the Army Reserve Bill [Lords], whether Her Majesty's Government has resolved to carry out the recommendation of many Committees and Royal Commissions by equalising the number of battalions at home and abroad, or, if that cannot be done, by establishing in each case where both linked battalions are abroad a depot battalion, 600 strong, to feed them from; and, whether he could shortly explain what means the War Office propose to take to prevent the increased liabilities to service abroad from acting prejudicially on the recruiting of the Army, by checking the engagement by civil employers of soldiers of the reserve during their first year of reserve service?


My hon. and gallant Friend is, I think, aware that the question of equalising the number of battalions at home and abroad does not in any way depend on the decision of the House respecting the Army Reserve Bill. The War Department is fully alive to the desirability of taking steps to meet the present disproportion. I can assure my hon. Friend that the matter is not being lost sight of, but I am not yet able to make any announcement on the subject. It is one which involves large considerations of Imperial and financial policy. The occasions upon which Army Reservists might be recalled to the colours under circumstances such as those contemplated by the Bill have been of very rare occurrence. No such occasion, indeed, arose between 1885 and 1895. The military authorities anticipate no difficulty in respect of recruiting from the adoption of the measure.