HC Deb 26 July 1900 vol 86 cc1445-7

Considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

said that by the Act of 1859 Parliament specifically stated the number of men to be engaged in the Naval Reserve at 30,000. He believed that up to this time we had not got that number. But this Bill authorised the raising of an indefinite number of men—anything from 15,000 to 50,000 men.


said that the number of Volunteers of the second class was fixed at 15,000. The other class included pensioners who were in future liable to be called out for a certain number of days drill in the year, but they could not say what that number of pensioners would be.


said he quite admitted that. Under the Royal Navy Act of 1859 they authorised the raising of 30,000. Under this Bill they authorised 15,000 men, and in addition they were going to call out the old pensioners on stated occasions. But what about the artificers? The point, however, to which he wished to direct the attention of the Committee was that by the Bill they were authorising the Admiralty to raise an indefinite number of men without the authority of Parliament. In that they were departing from the ordinary constitutional rule that Parliament should have the control of the men engaged or enlisted as soldiers or sailors whether in the Regular Army and Navy or in the Reserve. It was a new departure, and whether it was right or wrong, it was a departure that it was hardly right to expect the Committee to discuss at 1.30 in the morning. Every man who was in receipt of a pension was liable to be called out in times of emergency, so that the principle was already in force; but in future the pensioner would have to drill during the year, which made all the difference. He desired to move to leave out Subsection 3, in order to elicit some explana- tion from the right hon. Gentleman. That sub-section made one important change by making the term of service under the Naval Reserve Act five years and no longer. At the end of that time the men were entitled to their discharge, subject to their being engaged in active service.


pointed out that the enlistment was for five years, at the end of which period a man could take his discharge, or could re-enlist for a further five years and continue to do so until he had reached the age of fifty-five. The Reserve was an entirely different one to that which existed under the Act of 1859.


called the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the fact that he had lost sight of the fact that it was plainly stated in the Bill that Section 2 of the 1859 Act should not apply to this. It was plain to him that the Government had brought in this Bill having evidently no knowledge of its contents, and no one could tell what the result of it would be.

* SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)

thought it was desirable that the House should know what was meant, because it did appear that all the Government was doing was to repeal the Act which would have limited the enlistment for five years. It made a great difference with regard to the efficiency of the Reserve. How was a man to escape from it? Did his service extend until there was a vacancy in Greenwich Hospital for him?


said that after the Bill became law there would be an option given to the men, either to take their discharge or to volunteer for another five years service. At the end of each five years they would be entitled to their discharge, or they could re-enlist. In some cases the enlistment would not be five years, because if a man's time expired when he was fifty-two he would not be eligible to serve for more than another three year's.


understood that the repeal of Sub-section 2 only referred to marine pensioners.


saw nothing in the Act with respect to five years, and so far as the present Bill was concerned the measure which exempted men from the five years clause—Section 2 of the Royal Naval Reserve Volunteer Act—did not apply to money received under this Act. It appeared to him that a very great change was about to be made. He desired to raise another point under Sub-section 4, the moaning of which was that the men in certain cases would be treated under the Military Services Act, and not under the Act of 1859. In this case another very great change was being made in the existing system by this Bill, and no explanation had been given for that change, nor was the matter limited to service on shore.


said if the men wore at sea they would come under the Military Service Act, and if on shore, under the Army Act.

Bill reported without amendment; to be read the third time upon Monday next.