HC Deb 29 March 1898 vol 55 cc1306-7

Adjourned Debate on the Second Reading of this Bill resumed,

*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

Mr. Speaker, I will not detain the House for more than a moment, but I think we ought to point out on the Second Reading of this Bill, what a serious condition of our land forces it reveals. The term of seven years' enlistment was adopted against the wish of the Government of India, and has always been held to be unsuitable to that country. It was extended to eight years as regards men serving in India, to meet the protests of the Indian Government. Now, Sir, the Home Army, which, under the system of our present Reserve, is supplemented in time of war by five contingents of men who have served seven or eight years, instead of being supplemented, as some of us think it ought to be, by 10 or 12 contingents of men who have served three years in the Home Army, is short in its Reserve and declining in numbers; and while there are some who believe that the Government are supporting Lord Cardwell's system of short service, this Bill is really a Bill for increasing the present long service, which, in the opinion of many of us, is too long for our home needs, and gives us far too small a Reserve. I think the Bill will be detrimental to our system of Reserves, as it will practically increase the term of service in the ranks by permitting the drawing from the Reserves for one year of a certain number of men for small wars. Even those of us who dislike the provisions contained in the first part of this Bill admit that the other clauses of the Bill are important to the country, and none of us are, therefore, disposed to take a Division against its Second Reading.

Question put.